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coachdj5 Feb 4th, 2013 08:33 AM

London Itinerary Help
 
My daughter and I are taking a 3 week trip to Europe. The first leg is London, We have 6 full days and will be leaving at noon on the 7th day by train to Paris.

I have looked all through the forums for itinerary suggestions. So far this is what I have come up with. I have looked at so many posts my eyes are going crossed so I thought I could stop where I am and get some advice if I was even remotely heading in the right direction with grouping stops, etc. (Many of our stops are short and will be for photo ops, my daughter does modeling so everything is a photo op LOL)

Day 1 (Friday) arrive at Heathrow at 9 a.m.
Taking a car to Hotel (Doubletree by Hilton VIctoria) Drop off bags as room will not be ready and then take bus out to Kensington Palace area. We want to see Diana memorial fountain and then Hyde Park, then head to Harrods, then Wellington Arch and then Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. (We go to every one every time we go to a new city) Return to hotel to rest and freshen up. Take a night time bus tour of city.

Day 2 (Saturday)
7:00 am Portobello Market
10:00 Rest of day free (need to fill with some of the misc. places we want to see)
Maybe a HOHO to see some of the places that are not close to each other?

Day 3 (Sunday)
Buckingham Palace (Royal Mews, Queen's Gallery, Changing of the Guards)
Green Park
St. James Park/Palace (just to take pics)
The Mall to Trafalgar Square (Admiralty Arch, Nelson's Column)
Head over to Piccadilly Circus, then Regent's Street,
Possible stop at Hamleys toy store
Oxford Street windown shopping/shopping

Day 4 (Monday)
We have to change hotels this day, I didn't want to do this but ended up saving about $700 for the week by doing it. New hotel is Crowne Plaza London St. James.
We will check out early and leave our bags at new hotel.

Westminster Abbey -Verger Tour
Walk around and tour Westminster, Big Ben, Jewel Tower, Houses of Parliament,
Churchill Museum
Banqueting House Whitehall Palace
Westminster Cathedral

Day 5 (Tuesday)
Day trip to Stonehedge/Bath/Windsor Castle

Day 6 (Wednesday)
Be at Tower of London a little before it opens (head to crown jewels first) (take beefeater tour) (allow about 4 hours for this)
Tower Bridge
Head to Borough Market for lunch
Southwark Cathedral
London Bridge
St. Paul's Cathedral
Covent Garden????

Other things we want to see and need help putting in where we might have time
British Museum
London eye
Horse guards?
Madam Tussaurds Wax
Marble Arch (possibly on HOHO)
Thames Cruise

I feel like I am missing something "big" but can't put my finger on it. Like I said, I have looked at stuff so long I can't see anything anymore. Thanks in advance for any help. And yes we want to do the touristy stuff so skipping things like changing of the guard, etc. is not an option.

Thursday we are leaving on the Eurostar to Paris at noon.

jamikins Feb 4th, 2013 08:55 AM

Some quick thoughts:

HOHO buses are very expensive and get snarled up in traffic. Its difficult to get the best seats upstairs and I can never really hear the commentary. IMO there are better uses of time and money - 1 being just take the regular buses. If you search here for HOHO I am sure you will find loads of advice on scenic bus routes in the city for just a fraction of the cost.

Marble Arch isnt really much to see.

I would spend your Sat afternoon doing one of your other must sees.

Have you already booked your day trip? I am guessing it is quite an expensive bus trip. The thing with this is that you dont really get enough time at any of the locations. I always recommend what I consider a much better use of time and money - select 1 location and use www.walks.com explorer days. They are much cheaper and you get some great walks included, plus discounted travel on the trains. The Stonehenge walk includes 1/2 a day in Salisbury and tour of the famous cathedral. Bath is also a lovely day out, but you likely will want to spend more time there than your bus tour gives. Same with Windsow. So I recommend dropping the bus tour and using www.walks.com

They also have some fabulous tours of London including St Pauls, and pub walks. You may want to consider a walk if the weather is suited on your Sat afternoon or your evenings.

Leave your decision about the Eye until you know what the weather will be like.

I hope this helps!

bilboburgler Feb 4th, 2013 08:58 AM

Well, and I am being sincere about this, day one is full of rubbish items so, since you will be nodding off by 5pm there will be nothing much missed. If it were me I'd plan for a pleasant restaurant meal but close to your hotel so you can pull it forward as you get tired. If you want to do the tour bus I might try and do it earlier in the day.

BigRuss Feb 4th, 2013 09:37 AM

HOHO is useless, especially if you're taking a nighttime bus tour - you're paying for repetitive redundancy.

Unless the girl is really young, you need seven-day zone 1-2 travelcards from a national rail station - you'll save up to 20 quid on the Tower and 13 on the War Rooms by printing off vouchers from www.daysoutguide.co.uk and getting the travelcards in PAPER form (flimsy, orange, plastic-coated) and not Oystercards (hard, blue). Easy enough to do - just take passport-sized headshots of yourselves with you for use on the travelcards and go buy them at a manned ticket booth in Victoria station. London Walks also participates in the Days Out Guide 2for1 offers and currently St. Paul's does too.

How old is the girl? Madame Tussaud's costs a ton(ne) and all to see wax figurines. Seems like a waste of money. British Museum is worth what Madame Tussaud's costs, but is free.

Regent Street is shopper's paradise (and will be a bloody mob scene on a weekend), but for more truly British brands and top styling, go to Jermyn Street, which is just off Piccadilly Circus. You'll need a good map too - London's streets are not gridded like Washington DC or central Manhattan.

The original London Bridge is somewhere in Arizona. The current one is a stone arch bridge of little distinction. Tower Bridge is iconic. You'll see it from the Tower. Might as well stop by the Monument whilst you're in the Tower to St. Paul's area.

jent103 Feb 4th, 2013 10:05 AM

How much of a must-see is Madame Tussauad's? It's expensive and pretty low on my list of priorities.

Totally agree with jamikins on London Walks. I did one of their day tours to Oxford & the Cotswolds and really, really enjoyed it; their prices are reasonable as well. Trying to do all three of those sites in one day is really crammed too full.

It will be good to be walking around outdoors on day 1, though your list is not what I personally would do. If you're not strongly attached to any of those things, you might head to Covent Garden instead that afternoon. That'll put you on the Piccadilly line so you can easily get to Hard Rock for dinner.

The Changing of the Guards will require you to stand around for quite awhile in order to see a few minutes of action (if you're lucky and get a good spot). For me, the time investment is not worth the payoff.

You can easily walk by Horse Guards on your Westminster day. It's up the street from the War Rooms. Not really anything to do (or much to see), so it won't take you long.

coachdj5 Feb 4th, 2013 10:14 AM

Madame Tassauds is extremely low on the list so if it can be cut out it is no big deal at all. For day 1, I was trying not to do anything too structured that is why it is planned as it is. I know a lot of people would pass on the changing of the guards, but it is on my daughters must do list.

I probably will not do the HOHO since I am reading so many people say traffic gridlock. We are buying the travelcards zone 1 and 2. The night time tour is no a HOHO, it is just a scenic drive.

nytraveler Feb 4th, 2013 11:08 AM

Bag the HoHo - a huge waste of time and money. Also bag Mme Tussauds - another huge waste of time (lines are hours long and the human brain).

You really ned to find time for the British Museum, the British Library (MAGNA CARTA!), the Museum of London - fascinating.

Window shopping on Oxford Street will resemble your local mall - except everything costs twice as much - another huge waste of time. (Harrod's is a sight worth an hour - or more if you have the budget and want something specific - but again - it's just a very large, upscale store.)

Tower Bridge is another must miss unless you are interested in the mechanics of bridges.

You day trip will be frustrating since you will spend so much time on the bus and see so little of each sight - but given your limited time I guess better than nothing.

My fear is that you will start to run down near the end of each day and miss whatever is at the end of your list. I understand you want to see everything - but you really can't (I've been to London at least 20 times and am still always running out of time to see what I want.)

BigRuss Feb 4th, 2013 12:00 PM

NYTrav is basically correct, but here's a bit more positive spin on things (even from me, and I'm not Mr. Sunshine):

Determine what you really want to see on a day trip. The Walks day trips are usually on weekends, so if you want to do one during the week, you'll be left wanting more. Bath and Windsor Castle are easily 1/2 to full day trips by themselves. If you go to Windsor, you can also take the girl to Eton College, which is nice. And either is easy enough to do by yourself - just take the train from Waterloo to Windsor or from Paddington (I think) to Bath. Hampton Court Palace is also on a train line from Waterloo.

Oxford and Regent Streets are big shopping centers, but as I noted above, they are primarily chains. You can find HMV elsewhere. There are certainly boutiques to be discovered elsewhere.

Fortnum & Mason's food halls are, at worst, the equal of Harrod's and probably superior.

The Speakers' Corner at Hyde Park is an interesting detour - go see what the nutters-of-the-day say about their conspiracy theories that usually tie together the usual suspects like the US, the Illuminati, Jewish cabals, etc.

janewb Feb 4th, 2013 12:07 PM

If London is your 1st leg, are you arriving on overnight flight from US? When are you going?

Personally, I like the HOHO bus - especially if it is yours and/or your daughters 1st trip to London. I find it is a good way to spend part of a first day, as you will be tired from traveling and it will give you the lay of land, so to speak. I never experienced traffic gridlock.

You may want to check when Changing of the Guard is at Windsor Castle. I also agree that you can do that independently simply by taking the train from London and then be on your own schedule.

I second the recommendation for London Walks. One that we did was a boat trip to Greenwich and it was very interesting. Also one thru Kensington that showed secret gardens that one would never find on their own.

What about tea? Always a fun thing for a mother and daughter, IMO. One of my trips to London was with my Mom and our favorite place was the Orangery at Kensington Palace.

laurie_ann Feb 4th, 2013 12:49 PM

I think that Kensington Palace area is good for first day. Fresh air and exercise are the best antidotes to jet lag. While out there you might visit the Kensington Palace itself and if you are wanting traditional English afternoon tea the Orangerie there is recommended.

I would skip Harrods that day and on the day you were considering to do Oxford street do Liberty department store instead. Great old building. Interesting and unusual merchandise. Could do tea there too. http://www.liberty.co.uk/store_detai...le/fcp-content

I would skip changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and instead do Horse Guards. Lots of pomp and circumstance (and horses!). Then you can walk from there through St James Park up to Buckingham Palace which is a nice way to enjoy it. http://www.londontown.com/LondonInfo...s_Parade/5274/

surfmom Feb 4th, 2013 04:11 PM

Laurie_ann beat me to it! I would also recommend skipping Ch of the Guards at B. Palace and do the Horse Guards. But pay attention because I think, in winter, it is every other day. (What season are you going?)

I would recommend Fat Tire Bike Tours - we've done them in Paris and a favorite of the kids.

Find something outside to do the first day - the bus tour is a baaaaaad idea - you will be nodding off.

Consider an annual pass for HRP (Historic Royal Palaces) - that way, if you like, you could break up something like the Tower of London into 2 different days. We found this effective for our family. (btw, walk over to St. Katherine's Dock and have lunch or dinner at Dickens Inn).

How old is your daughter? Mine loved going to St. Martins in the Fields and making brass rubbings. This may be too young for yours, though.

have a great trip!

coachdj5 Feb 4th, 2013 04:42 PM

We are going in mid May and my daughter will be 20. Such great suggestions, I am researching them all. Thanks!

latedaytraveler Feb 4th, 2013 05:53 PM

Coach, I vote for the National Gallery and Portrait Gallery right in Trafalgar Square - and free!


A place to consider lunch is the Crypt in St. Martin in the Fields Church across the way.


So much to do and see in London - you will return...

janisj Feb 4th, 2013 07:00 PM

You've received a lot of good advice/suggestions.

My random thoughts - some duplicated above . . .

• I would not do an evening bus tour - you will sleep through the whole thing

• I'm not quite sure about the kvethching re Tower Bridge. It is VERY worth seeing (not touring mind you - <i>seeing</i>). But you won't be able to miss it since it is sitting there right next to the Tower. It isn't something you have to 'schedule'.

• Borough Market isn't running on Wed. There are places open to eat lunch. But the only real reason to go there is the market and that is only Thurs-Sat. You can have lunch inside the Tower or somewhere on the southbank including the cafe at Southwark Cathedral.

• I love Windsor. I love Stonehenge. I LOVE Bath . . . But I would not do that coach tour. Either do Bath on your own - a loooong day trip. Or do Windsor on your own - an easy 3/4 day trip.

• Bag the changing of the guard (unless your daughter simply 'MUST'). Ditto for Mme Tussauds. Ditto the H-o-H-o

• You don't need to be at Portobello Rd that early. Early, yes, but not any 7:00. Most place won't be open yet. 8:00 or 8:30 is <u>plenty</u> early enough. Even then some shops won't be open. Plan on being there by 8-8:30 and leave by 10-10:30. That would be a better day to go to Kensington Gardens/Palace. You'll be walking distance when you leave Portobello Rd. You could have morning coffee/tea at the Orangerie

car1286 Feb 4th, 2013 07:08 PM

Latedaytraveler is right. Those museums are not to miss. I'd try to change daughter's mind about Madame T. We were in London May 2012. London Walks are perfect. Look it over before you get there and decide which ones you want. These guides are awesome and full of information. London Eye is great - next time I would like to do it at night. Go early in day and get tickets for later to avoid long waits. We used tube and regular buses and skipped HOHO.
As surfmom said - don't get on a bus tour the day you arrive or you'll just sleep the tour away. Go on a London Walk to keep moving in the sunshine and then collapse after dinner.
Have fun, you two!


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