Lots of London questions

Apr 13th, 2011, 06:10 PM
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Lots of London questions

My husband and I, our three kids (15, 13, 8) and hub's parents (late 60s) are traveling to London in early July.

We arrive July 4 and will be on the ground for nine days. We've rented an apartment near Notting Hill Gate.

Here's a list, in no particular order, of places we'd like to see:
Westminster Abbey
Big Ben
London Eye
Globe Theatre
St. Paul's
Tower of London
Tower Bridge
The British Museum
Buckingham Palace (guard changing, etc. -- I know it won't be open)
Kensington Palace
Covent Garden
Kensington Garden
Sherlock Holmes museum
Museum of London
side trip to Salisbury/Stonehenge

Plus we're planning to take a London Walk (ghost walk at Tower of London) and go to the theater (got the kids -- probably will see Shrek)

1. What's the most economic way to purchase public transporation tickets? I'm confused by the Oyster, etc. Can't figure out what we should do.

2. Is that list of places to visit too much? I know that's a lot of ground to cover, but I figure some places won't take a lot of time to see. You can see some on the way to others. But are we crazy???

3. What are we missing? What is not on that list that you consider a must-see?

4. We'll arrive early on July 4 and won't go to bed until bedtime. What should we do the first day to give us a good overview?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
ksbeem is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 06:17 PM
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Sorry -- needed to edit:

Also, we'll be there in the busy summer. Should we try to buy anything ahead of time or just wait and buy tix there?

And does anyone have an opinion about using a taxi service to get from Salisbury to Stonehenge vs. going by bus to Stonehenge from Salisbury?

Thanks mucy.
ksbeem is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 06:17 PM
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Aaaaaggghhh! Meant "thanks much." Drinking wine while I type...
ksbeem is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 06:19 PM
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Your list is very doable in 9 days. Another possible half day trip is Windsor castle or Hampton Court. When we travelled with our young teen son, we did the hop on hop off bus on our first day. You get a good orientation of the city and get a glimpse of some of the sights you,ll see in detail later in the week.
gh21 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 06:23 PM
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You think we could do two half-day trips and still get to see all the stuff in London?
ksbeem is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 06:37 PM
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Absolutely unless you are a very slowpoke family. On our first trip to London we did about 75% of your list in 4 days. We did no day trips. You should have plenty of time.

Theater tickets can be purchased ahead directly from the theater or I've used playbill.com. Or if you are flexible about what show to see, you can try purchasing half price tix at the booth in Leicester square.

Official London tube site explains the options for tube tickets-Pay as you go Oyster card vs visitor travel card http://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk/english/ticket-types.htm
gh21 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 06:41 PM
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I think nine days would be plenty of time for me to cover all of that. A lot will depend on how your kids and in-laws travel (does anybody need a lot of down time, any mobility issues, etc). But for a mobile/fit group, I think you'd have no problem doing all of that.

Your first day might be a good time to either walk through Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens near your apartment, or head to the Westminster/Parliament area and see the quintessential London spots. Anything that keeps you outside and moving around.

The changing of the guard will involve a lot of time standing around, since you want to arrive early enough to get a good spot. A lot of people (me included) feel like it isn't worth it, but that's a decision for you to make.

Westminster Abbey/Big Ben/Parliament/London Eye make sense to do at one time. If you have a lot of time left in your day or before whatever you're planning to do, you could also walk up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, then walk down the Mall to Buckingham Palace. You could also save Trafalgar/Buckingham for another time and go to the National Gallery and/or the National Portrait Gallery at the same time. The Portrait Gallery is one of my two favorite museums in London - not sure how your kids will feel about it, but I love it.

I felt like the Tower Bridge Experience was kind of cheesy, but it's been awhile since I've been on it. Personally I think you'd be good just looking at it and taking pictures. For your main Tower tour, get there right when it opens so you miss the longest lines. Are you planning to take a tour or the Globe or see a play there?

The British Museum and Covent Garden are in walking distance of each other. Covent Garden is one of those things where you can spend 30 minutes or hours, depending on how much time you want to spend shopping, watching performers, all that.

The Museum of London is great - you could do a St Paul's/Museum of London day.

My other favorite museum in London is the Victoria & Albert. It's full of things like jewelry and sculpture casts and textiles, and has a relatively new entertainment gallery with things like Mick Jagger's jumpsuit.

As far as the Oyster goes - really and truly, the easiest thing to do is just to wait till you get there and ask the ticket agent for help. Most likely, you'll want seven-day Travelcards loaded on your Oysters, plus a little pay-as-you-go credit to cover the last couple of days (think of the Oyster like a debit card and whatever you put on it like money - the Oyster just holds whatever pass or cash you put on it).

That said, there may be discounts you can get for the kids that you may need a photo for (I don't know the rules on that). And if you want to use any of the Days Out 2for1 deals, you'll need to buy a paper travelcard from a rail station rather than using an Oyster.

jent103 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 07:11 PM
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London Walks does an excellent daytrip to Salisbury and Stonehedge. Go online to Londonwalks.com to see their schedule.
Elainee is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 07:34 PM
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In 2008 DH and I and in 2010 DH, DD, and I did most of what you are doing in pretty organized ways; one trip we had 9 days in London and took 5 day trips, one of which was to Salisbury by train and then a bus tour company thing from the train station to Stonehenge--great for us. Another trip we had 4 days and repeated some but had new stuff. Anyway, you might look at how we arranged our times. If you want to read my trip reports, just click on my name and go to trip reports at the bottom of the page--one is from 2008 and one from 2010.

I would only suggest the Tower Bridge Experience if you can get a discount (2 for 1 perhaps?)--couple it with your Tower day. It was cool but pricey. I've heard Kensington Palace isn't that terrific, at least not as cool as others. Also heard that seeing the changing in peak tourist season ends up taking all of a morning and you still might not see it well--might want to decide how important it is. You all might like the Imperial War Museum--kids and your parents both would find stuff to enjoy (free).

Just be sure you group things by neighborhood and remember that London is huge so transportation takes a long time. Plan maybe 2 major must sees per day with a few hope-tos. And don't buy anything ahead of time.
texasbookworm is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 07:44 PM
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Good advice. Don't even buy theater tix ahead of time?
ksbeem is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 08:04 PM
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Nine days is enough. Good for you-- for not cramming in TOO much. Once there, you'll find loads of enjouable distractions--so stay flexible.

Personally, i would NOT make the half-day trip to Stonehenge, unless you have a very strong interest in it. I'd instead do a half day or longer trip to Cambridge (take train) and go punting on the river--a classic experience.
Have you considered the Ceremony of the Keys at Tower of London? LOVED it.
Don't miss Shepherd market area of London, sort of between Park Lane and Piccadilly--like a village within the city.

Consider a trip to Speaker's Corner on Sunday.
Tea at the Orangerie nr Kensington Palace when you are there.
CaliNurse is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 08:08 PM
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p.s Madame Tussaud's is crowded and expensive, but great fun . The kids would love it.

For the first day, I'd recommend just walking...you wont be far from Kensington Gardens if you are in Notting Hill. That first day's walk, with stops for food, will definitely get you in the mood for more of what is-along with NYC IMHO!) the greatest city in the world.
CaliNurse is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 08:09 PM
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We are trying to get tix to the Ceremony of the Keys, but not sure it will happen.

I think our kids would love to see Stonehenge up close. That's something they've kind of asked about. But I do like the idea of Cambridge, too.

What about Greenwich?
ksbeem is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 08:44 PM
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Theater tickets - if there's a show you definitely want to see, or if it's a must for your whole group to sit together (or see the same show), you might buy ahead of time. If you're not picky about the show or seating, you can probably wait. I've gotten tickets at TKTS (and at the boots around there - some will tell you never to do that, but I've never had a bad experience). I also got tickets to see 39 Steps using lastminute.com a couple years ago. So there are a few ways to do it.
jent103 is offline  
Apr 13th, 2011, 10:59 PM
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Just a couple responses now - will add more later this morning:

1. Madame Tussaud's is hugely expensive and is just a big wax museum like they have in all big towns - I would not waste time standing in line and seeing that when in London - there are so many better things to spend your money on.

2. London Walks does great Explorer Days and take care of all the logistics, which might be good for your day trips with so many people. Their website is www.walks.com
jamikins is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 02:12 AM
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OK here is my full resonse. Given your time and what you want to see here is what I would do:

July 4 Mon – arrival day

I would head out and go for a walk around maybe Hyde Park, stop at Harrods for food and have a picnic in the park. Here you can see Kensington gardens as well. Another option is to head to Waterloo and walk along the river in the fresh air and do the London Eye.

Also get your transit worked out.

Oyster passes are likely the best option (7 days). Also check out the www.daysoutguide.co.uk and if there are sites there you want to see and can get a discount then instead of buying an oyster get a 7 day travel card from a train station (national rail) not a tube station. If you do a search here for Oyster there are tonnes and tonnes of threads about this. Basically it’s the same 7 day pass – 1 on Oyster, 1 on paper – but only the paper one qualifies you for discounts. Tower is one of them….

July 5 Tues - St Paul’s and the Museum of London

I always send my family on this walk with London Walks:


and then there are lots of places to grab a picnic and eat in St Paul’s courtyard.

The Museum of London (http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/ ) is a short walk up the street and well worth a visit early on to set up your knowledge of London. On the walk up St Martin Le Grand there is a small park called Postman’s Park that has a lovely lesser known memorial to people that have died saving others. Its lovely and worth a few mins stop on your way: http://www.nothingtoseehere.net/2008...rk_london.html

July 6 Wed – Covent Garden area

This is a fun area to shop and see street theatre. Lots of nice pubs etc. You can also hit Leicester Sq TKTS booth to buy cheap theatre tickets (be sure to use the official booth in Leicester Sq and not the other ones around the area) for the week. You may even want to hit a matinee. http://www.officiallondontheatre.co.uk/tkts/

You may also want to hop on the Bakerloo Line from Charing Cross (just a short walk down the Strand from Covent Garden) and hit the Imperial War Museum in the afternoon at Elephant and Castle/Lambeth. http://www.iwm.org.uk/

July 7 Thurs – Tower, South Bank

Head to the Tower first thing and go straight to the crown jewels to avoid standing in lines. Then go back to the gate and pick up a beefeater tour (free). Expect to spend 3-4 hours here. http://www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/

From here head across Tower Bridge to South Bank and walk along the river to London Bridge. Then head to Borough Market (open Thurs – Sat but its very busy Fri-Sat so Thurs is a good day to go). Pick up lunch at the market. Walk along the river again to see the Globe. http://www.boroughmarket.org.uk/

The southbank is a lovely place to walk.

July 8 Fri – Royal Westminster

Instead of the changing of the guard I recommend this walk that combines Changing of the Guard and Westminster Abbey with London Walks – very worth it:


After this you can see Parliament and Big Ben and I highly recommend a picnic in St James’ Park.

If it’s a nice day walk across Westminster Bridge and do the London Eye.

Also it’s a short walk to Trafalgar Sq and West End so this is a good day to do theatre.

July 9 Sat – Portobello Market

Since you are staying at Notting Hill Gate you may as well hit the famous market on Saturday. http://www.portobelloroad.co.uk/

You could fit in more here – maybe the Sherlock Holmes museum?

July 10 Sun - Hampton Court (also can you daysoutguide 2for1 with your train tickets)

This is in zone 6 so you need to go to Waterloo and get an extension train ticket – this will be good to get you 2for1 entrance so be sure to print the coupons) Definitely worth a day.


If it’s nice you can take the river cruise back.

July 11 Mon – British Museum and Library (it will be less busy than on weekends)

You may also want to add the British Library. http://www.bl.uk/

I find the museum a bit overwhelming, but there are some guides online to make it more manageable: http://www.britishmuseum.org/visitin...our_visit.aspx

July 12 Tues – Stonehenge Salisbury day trip


July 13 Wed – Anything you have missed (Sherlock Homes Museum – I was underwhelmed…)

July 14 – fly home?

Hope this helps!
jamikins is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 02:13 AM
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Oh forgot to add - the day you are at parliament you may also want to do the Churchill War Rooms (you may be able to get 2for1 on the daysoutguide website as well if you have a paper travel ticket).

jamikins is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 02:30 AM
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On day one, you could explore the locality on foot and you are just a stone's throw from Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park. There's plenty of it if you want a long walk, but close enough to pop home if you're tired.

A dedicated Stonehenge tour bus operates from Salisbury railway station, or you may want to simplify the event with one that operates from London. Google "Stonehenge tours" for plenty of options. How "up close" do your kids want to be, though? You cannot touch the stones any more; instead they are roped off and you can only walk around the outside ring. It's a long way to go for a half-hour visit.

If you do go anyway, you could couple it with a visit to Salisbury cathedral. It's big, it's beautiful and is much more interesting and photogenic. It has the oldest working clock in the world (you can stand right by it), one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, beautiful stained glass windows, a decent cafeteria for hot and cold refreshments and, if you book it in advance, a fantastic spire tour ending with 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside. Of course there is a classy souvenir shop too. For more info to see if you think it's worth it, see: http://www.salisburycathedral.org.uk
Driver is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 04:12 AM
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Your list is very doable. We spent 10 days last summer and were there for the first time so wanted to cover a lot of ground.

One thing I highly recommend along with Jamikins is to take the London Walks Royal London Walk on Friday's because on that walk they take you to a spot to see the changing of the guard and without waiting for hours and without having tons of people in front of you, the guards pass right by you. I have fabulous pictures of the guards passing right by me with no one else in front. We loved it. They then take you in small groups to visit inside Westminster Abbey for about a 45 minute tour. The London Walks tour is only about 2 and a half hours so then you have the rest of the day to explore and would have covered two of the things on your list in the morning. We went to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery after.

You can click on my name and check out the trip report I made last year to see what we did each day. It is very long. We had a senior with us and still managed to see quite a lot in the 10 days. Never made it to Oxford because son got sick so that will have to wait until next time.

The museums in London are free and are wonderful. National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are next to each other. Those are not on your list but I highly recommend. Also across the street is St Martin in the Field so you can do brass rubbing. It was fun.

Definitely recommend a visit to Hampton Court Palace. It is easy to get to and we loved the Palace and gardens. Try to schedule your visit when the live kitchen demonstrations take place. My son had a great time lighting the tinder box and turning the meat on the spigot. The gardens are gorgeous too.
europeannovice is offline  
Apr 14th, 2011, 05:56 AM
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You can do the Eye and Globe then walk across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul's. Be aware StPaul's charges a very large admission fee. I think it was around 12 GBPper person. We'd seen it before on previous trips so skipped it this time. You can walk to the Museum of London from St Paul's. Been to London over 40 times and never felt the need to do a London Walk.

I'd bet the kids , especially if any boys and the 60 s0mething parents would enjoy the Imperial War museum. The Children at War exhibit is most interesting , let's kids see what their fellow kids lived through
avalon is offline  

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