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Sabrina21 Sep 13th, 2013 09:43 PM

Visiting London?
Hi guys, I need some advice on when to take day tours to London, as my family can only visit britain in the winter - december/january.

I am going to book us a blue badge guide to show us around London - might as well, since it's our first time.

Should I tour London on the 30th of December or on the 5th or 6th of January. Apparently, those are the only days we have free after our tour.

I understand that it gets pretty packed in the city b/w christmas eve and new years, so I am confused.

Any advice?

janisj Sep 13th, 2013 09:55 PM

>>I understand that it gets pretty packed in the city b/w christmas eve and new years, so I am confused.<<

Not really IME. The shops are busy of course. But many people leave London over the holidays and w/ Christmas and New Year midweek there will be lots of folks stretching out the weekends.

But I'd personally pick the 6th, or possibly the 5th (sunday), depending on if your Blue Badge recommends doing his/her tour on a weekend or weekday.

janisj Sep 13th, 2013 09:57 PM

>>Not really IME. The shops are busy of course.<<

That really applies to the days between the 27th and 31st. Christmas day is a 'special case' in London w/ no shops open, no public transport and few restaurants serving.

flanneruk Sep 13th, 2013 10:07 PM

"I understand that it gets pretty packed in the city b/w christmas eve and new years, "

Where do people learn such nonsense?

London's always crowded, though there's a myth among people who've never been there that day that it empties out on Christmas Day (it doesn't: it just wakes up late on Christmas morning). Overall though, there are a lot fewer people around throughout the Christmas/New Year fortnight, which this year runs from Dec 20 to Jan 5, and traffic flows much more easily throughout the period.

Some shopping streets get a bit more crowded on Dec 26 and 27 as Sales begin to start (though that's also really a myth among people who get their knowledge of London from TV news shots of the first three minutes of Sales). The riverside is impassable from about 1800 on New Year's Eve till about 0200 on New Years Day.

Otherwise, these are just relatively quiet London days. There's no reason I can think of for preferring any of your three dates over each other. EXCEPT that if your tour is by road, traffic returns to its usual state on Jan 6 (so possibly best avoided), and access to some churches is restricted on Sundays.

sparkchaser Sep 14th, 2013 09:49 AM

<i>Where do people learn such nonsense?</i>

I wonder that when I click most threads here.

Sabrina21 Sep 14th, 2013 09:16 PM

Okay, so If I wanted to visit the tower of London....with by blue badge guide, would that be crowded? Basically, I'll be visiting the major sites....including harry potter attractions, etc.

janisj Sep 14th, 2013 09:23 PM

The Tower of London is crowded just about every day of the year (except 24-26 Dec and 1 Jan when it is closed)

It is a bit more crowded on Sundays than other days of the week -- but basically - if it is open it is crowded.

>>Basically, I'll be visiting the major sites....including harry potter attractions, etc.<<

Over how many days. Hiring a Blue Badge is pretty expensive even for just one day. Are you sure you need a guide?

Sabrina21 Sep 14th, 2013 10:13 PM

Mmmmmh, what would you suggest?

Do you think we should instead get the London pass with travel for the weekend?

or a hop-on-hop bus.....(but they don't include entrance fees for attractions)

janisj Sep 14th, 2013 11:30 PM

>>Do you think we should instead get the London pass with travel for the weekend?<<

Absolutely not! The London Pass is a terrible rip off for most visitors.

But what does having/not having an (overpriced) London Pass have to do w/ what day of the week yo visit the Tower. apples and oranges.

Your questions aren't really all that clear. What are your actual plans. How many days will you be w/ the Blue Badge and where all is s/he taking you? Just around London - or is the BB taking you out of town?

And again, a H-o-H-o is apples and oranges. It is a sightseeing bus and is neither a guided tour where you go inside any sites, nor a 'pass'. Some enjoy the H-o-H-o as a way to get over the jet lag on arrival day -- fresh air and no serious walking. But otherwise they are very expensive for what you get.

Maybe give us more details of what you are planning/how many days, and where the BB is taking you and we can give you some direction/advice.

Sabrina21 Sep 14th, 2013 11:39 PM

So, I am going on a Backroads tour

After the tour, I will book a blue badge guide to take us to Cambridge & Ely (full day)

And then maybe two days around London - the city itself (westminster abbey, tower of london, etc). First day with a blue badge, second day by ourselves - museum, hp, musical

Sabrina21 Sep 14th, 2013 11:43 PM

Oh yeah, the dates for that tour this year is already full, so I would need to book early next year

propita Sep 19th, 2013 01:01 PM

I was in London with my parents for Christmas week way back in both 1986 and 1987. The weather was cold-ish but not freezing. Walking kept us warm.

Back then, the city was deserted on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. We were at Westminster Abbey, trying to flag a cab. I looked waaaaaaay down the street--there were NO cars at all! But a cab far down said that he saw me in my burgundy sweater with bright yellow scarf and gloves.

jamikins Sep 19th, 2013 01:02 PM

Boxing Day is now a shopping day like in the US - things have changed since the '80's!

Still no transit on Xmas day though...

flanneruk Sep 19th, 2013 10:12 PM

"Still no transit on Xmas day though"

But Eurostar, budget airlines, temporary migration and the infrastructure investments connected with the Thames Path have transformed the centre of London on Xmas Day over the past quarter century, though contributors to forums like this haven't noticed.

30 years ago, all of central London was deserted all Christmas Day. Now Europe's high speed railways and the budget airlines have created a culture of frequent short city breaks, which London seems to have exploited more successfully at Christmas than many other cities.

West central London stays empty till about 1100, when lots of European tourists start taking over much of central Westminster, and Middle Eastern expatriates start moving into the cafes and shisha places around their enclaves. By early afternoon, many bits of Westminster have pavements almost as crowded as a Sunday.

The City obviously stays empty much of the day, as it does most Saturdays and Sundays. But even here, as on the South Bank, there's far more people around the riverside where it's accessible than there were 30 years ago (when much of it wasn't so accessible).

And of course it's not true that there's no transport in London on Christmas Day. Boris bikes suddenly, for 24 hours only, become utterly safe.

Real cities like London keep changing, and as travel gets easier and cheaper in real terms, extraordinary tourist spectacles (like a London almost free of the internal combustion engine) rapidly get sniffed out.

MissPrism Sep 20th, 2013 01:15 AM

Where do people learn such nonsense?

I wonder that when I click most threads here.

I recently had a look at the Fodors app for London. It has what it calls a "subway map", nothing like as detailed as the proper London Underground map. I wonder how many poor souls go down subway steps only to end up on the other side of the road. It also advises people not to visit during the October half term, because the city will be knee deep in children

janisj Sep 20th, 2013 08:14 AM

>>It also advises people not to visit during the October half term, because the city will be knee deep in children<<

Which may be why one recent poster was "Horrified" that she had inadvertently booked a visit during half term because the city would heaving. We all told her that was silly and she'd be fine - but I'm not sure she believed it.

Sabrina21 Sep 22nd, 2013 10:23 PM I've decided to do London itself on the 5th/6th January.

In that case, should I visit Cambridge on the 30th or Winchester?

I understand it'll be sort of crowded, but which area would be easier to tour.

janisj Sep 22nd, 2013 10:29 PM

>>I understand it'll be sort of crowded, but which area would be easier to tour.<

Where are you asking about? Cambridge and/or Winchester?? Neither will be especially crowded while you are there. In fact - less crowded than normally because the colleges won't be in session.

Who is giving you these ideas?

Visit which ever one you prefer. Both are interesting. What do you want to see?

historytraveler Sep 22nd, 2013 10:57 PM

Reasons that places such as Winchester and Cambridge will actually be less crowded during Christmas holidays:

1) colleges will not be in session
2) some locals will be traveling to warmer climes for their holidays or off to visit aunt Sally in Nottingham or wherever
3) There will not be a great influx of tourists,especially Americans, because they believe the weather will be Antartic-like.

Now you do need to know that hotels and restaurants can get crowded. Locals still like to celebrate and many hotels offer 2,3 day specials usually starting the 24th and continuing through Boxing Day on the 26 th

Sabrina21 Sep 22nd, 2013 11:02 PM

Brilliant!! I'll visit Winchester and Chawton then. THanks for the advice!

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