What to see and do in London for a week?

Old Jun 6th, 2013, 05:01 AM
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What to see and do in London for a week?

I'll be going to London for a week in mid-September and so far I don't have much of a plan.
I don't really know what's worth seeing or what I would like and I'd appreciate some help deciding on what to do.

I know a few must sights like
- London Tower
- Tower Bridge
- Big Ben
- Windsor Palace
- Buckingham Palace
- London Eye
- Piccadilly Circus
- Madame Tussauds
- Westminster Abbey
- St. Paul's Cathedral
but that's about it.
Any tips for other must-see sights or great activities?

And maybe even some more recommendations for me in particular?
I mostly like
- architecture
- historical sites
- parks, etc.
- (non- contemporary) art
- museum (there are so many, I don't know which are good or not, I mostly prefer those which visually appealing exhibitions)

But I'm also open for other things that are interesting or fun

PS: Is there a site where you can schedule sightseeing or something like it? I want to avoid trying to visit sites on opposite ends of town

Thanks in advance!
Megidolaon is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 05:21 AM
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The best thing to do is get a map of London and map out where the sites are that you want to see. Plan to do 1 main site in the morning, 1 in the afternoon and then you can add a few minor sites nearby.

I would group them like this:

1 full day:
- London Tower
- Tower Bridge: you can see from the Tower
- St. Paul's Cathedral

1 full day:
- Westminster Abbey
- Big Ben
- London Eye
- Buckingham Palace
- Green Park

- Windsor Palace - this is a good day trip

I think these two are a waste of time
- Piccadilly Circus: just a traffic circle really
- Madame Tussauds: horrible wax museum

Get yourself a good guide book as well.

I also like www.walks.com for great and affordable day trips and walks.
jamikins is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 05:26 AM
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"I want to avoid trying to visit sites on opposite ends of town"

Consult a tourist/sights map and an Underground map. Both are easily available online. I've tried to group sites that are "close together" (less than 15 min away from each other by foot) below:

The Eye is skipabble. You get a nice view of the city but that's about it. Across the river from The Eye is Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, etc. So you can tie it in with those if you really must go for a ride on it.

Skip Madame Tussaud's as well. It's nothing but a tourist trap.

If you get started in the morning, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge you can knock out by the afternoon.

Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and other interesting sites are more or less right beside each other and Picadilly Circus is a mere 20-25 min walk away. Starting in the morning, you should be able to see everything. If you want to see the changing of the guard, consult this site and show up early: http://www.royal.gov.uk/royaleventsa.../overview.aspx

The British Museum is a must-see. Check their website to see what the latest special exhibitions are.

Trafalgar Square has the National Gallery and some impressive fountains.

You might want to check out Kew Gardens, too.

Interesting architecture will be everywhere so all you need to do is keep your eyes open.

Do get an Oyster card. The Underground is pretty easy to figure out.
sparkchaser is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 05:30 AM
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If you like "visually appealing" museums, visit the Victoria and Albert.
mamcalice is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 05:41 AM
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Walk across the Millenium bridge fron St Paul to South Bank site of London Eye and the Globe theater and not far fron Borough Market , a sight I particularly like but only on Thus Fri, and Sat though.Skip Madame Tussard's. St Martin in the Fields while at Trafalgar and the National portrait Gallery along with the National Gallery. Somerset House is nearby with the Courtald gallery
Avalon2 is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 05:47 AM
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"Is there a site where you can schedule sightseeing or something like it? I want to avoid trying to visit sites on opposite ends of town"----yep, want to avoid that, as London's major sites are very spread out. I don't know of a particular website, BUT

This forum has many many threads and much information. Everyone is going to have personal favorites and personal styles of travel. So I'd suggest you dedicate some time to reading some trip reports here and other people's threads, and maybe a bit of time with some good guide books, and come back soon with some specific questions.

Here's my trip report from 2 weeks in London, with several day trips. You can see how we grouped our sites:


Here's another trip report; the first part is about our few days in London and you can again see how we grouped things:


It's the TOWER OF LONDON, not London Tower.

Having said that, here's my take on what you listed:

1. Good starting list, having many of my faves too (except haven't been and will never go to Mdm. T's and haven't made it to Windsor yet).

2.When you start to plan, I'd urge you to plan only 2-3 "major" sites per day and with a map, group them by neighborhood. If you do that, your list above would about fill up 2.5, not counting that wax thing and counting Windsor as a half-day trip.

3. OH--do you actually have a whole week there, or does week include travel days, which might leave you with only 5 or 5.5 days?

4. Where you stay will make a difference, because of transportation time and logistics.

5.Plan to get to major things like The Tower, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's the first thing, before opening, and avoid some of the lines, although September might be less crowded than summer. But if you planned those 3 as the first thing on 3 different days, the rest of your day would be dictated a bit by being in that general area.

As my interests sound very similar to yours (with literary interests added to mine), I'd add these at the least:

The British Museum is a must, almost.

The Victoria and Albert (V&A) is tremendous.

The National Gallery and possibly the National Portrait Gallery

I haven't made it to the Churchill War Museum but would love to; the Imperial War Museum is wonderful.

You mention architecture--you should pop in the Tate, even though it's modern art, to see the building. It's right across the pedestrian bridge from St. Paul's and makes a good pairing with that.

In St. Paul's plan to walk up to the top of the dome for a spectacular view!

With a week for your first visit, I'd also urge you to avoid the temptation to look at day trips; just stay in London and enjoy it. There are several half-day trips you can make (Windsor, Greenwich, Hampton Court) but don't try to go further afield. IMO.

So take some info and make yourself an itinerary, remembering to factor in travel time and seeing if anything is closed, and remembering about arrival jet lag and time needed for travel on departure day. Post it for specific feedback.

(if you use google maps and put in sites, use the public transport or walking option to see approx. times. Also there's a great webite Transport for London (TfL) that will give you all sorts of info about the Tube and travel times. Another website for mapping walking distances is walkit.com)
texasbookworm is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 06:04 AM
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Those are all great places! If you like parks, I highly recommend making a trip up to Hampstead Heath, which is one of the most beautiful parks in London. If you don't have time, St James's Park is another great one, and it is right in central London.
ALadyInLondon is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 06:09 AM
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>>"I want to avoid trying to visit sites on opposite ends of town"
PatrickLondon is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 06:13 AM
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I love it when several posts, all within a few minutes of each other, say a lot of the same thing! Kinda like getting "reliable source" material when doing research!

So Meg, sounds like you should toss Mdm. T's! Do post your plan.
texasbookworm is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 06:22 AM
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The question half as old as time itself

"Madame Tussaud's. Why?"
Havana128 is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 06:30 AM
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The Guardian attempts to answer your question

Also, it's Trafalgar Square, not Trafalgar ;-)
MissPrism is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 07:18 AM
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Windsor Castle, not Palace.

Go to Londontown.com and get self-guided walking tour ideas - that helps with grouping sites. It also lists activities, shows, concerts, etc.

If there are more than one of you, go to daysoutguide.co.uk for discounts - Tower, Hampton Ct Palace, Cabinet War Rooms are covered; St Paul's is on occasion.

These are free admission:

National Gallery
National Portrait Gallery
Tate Modern
Tate Britain
National Maritime Museum
British Museum
British Library
Imperial War Museum
and more

Go to www.walks.com for more ideas.
BigRuss is offline  
Old Jun 6th, 2013, 07:27 AM
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Depending on what you want out of this trip and when you'll return, etc., I would get out of town for a couple days, even if on a day tour. London is a bit overwhelming and exhausting, IMHO.

Plan to visit a couple historic pubs for lunch, even if you don't drink.

Consider a couple guided walks with London Walks or similar.
Bitter is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2013, 07:13 AM
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If you enjoy architecture and are in London the weekend of Sept. 21-22, London Open House is on that weekend. This will be my first year in England while this is on and I hope to have more access to the buildings there. Can't say if it will be worthwhile until I get the "program" book I purchased (for 7 GBP) that is to be shipped mid August.

This information may be available for free elsewhere, but I didn't have the time to do much research on it.

Hope you have fun!
ChgoGal is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2013, 08:27 AM
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Based on your interests take a day trip to Windsor Castle or Hampton Court Palace. I like gardens as well as architecture and history so would choose HCP if I had time for only 1.

I highly recommend the Churchill War Rooms which are close to Buckingham Palace. I have not been interested in an inside visit to the BP so can't really say if it's worth a visit. We made a photo stop there after church, before lunch at Inn the Park in St. James Park then went on to the War Rooms. Food was good at Inn the Park but restaurant has a split personality (dine in/take out) which detracted from the dine in experience. Perhaps have tea Rubens at the Palace Hotel across the street from Buckingham Palace.
Scootoir is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2013, 09:24 AM
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The best thing to do with London is look at a map and don't see the Thames as an obstacle but an opportunity. You generally don't have to travel far to find a bridge over the Thames so there's little need to restrict yourself to one side on a given day.
alanRow is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2013, 09:30 AM
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The British Museum and the British Library.
eastenderusvi is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2013, 01:34 PM
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Meg, you are certainly getting some excellent advice here from London experts.

TEXASBOOKWORM, I just loved reading your whole TR from July 2008, such delicious, practical, and fun details. You certainly did your homework. Like you, I am another English teacher (retired but called to sub most days with the same literary interests.

Our one difference is that I never take pictures – that puts me in a very small category I know. However, when I return to London in a few weeks (yeah), I may take a few pics with my new Iphone which my DD gave me a few months back – she is also paying for it on her family plan because I babysit frequently and there in no other way to go but texting, right?

Taking note of many of your suggestions. Although I won’t be going there, I was very interested in your account of visiting C. S. Lewis’s home Kilns in Oxford. Wow, you folks really trekked to get to your destination but were richly rewarded. I don’t know Lewis that well but recently read his bio C. S. LEWIS Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet – A Life by Alister McGrath. Fascinating and includes a great deal of information about Kilns, his rather dependent brother, the real story about Joy – not the SHADOWLANDS view exactly. Read it because I love all that Oxford stuff I guess. Highly recommend this book for a Lewis fan like yourself.

Hope that you and DH are well. It’s good to know that all the work that you put into your trip report five years ago is still available on Fodors, eh? Thanks again and happy travels….
latedaytraveler is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2013, 01:56 PM
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Thanks LDT--glad it amused and helped!

Back to the UK with students in 3 days! and we end in Paris where I will stay and DH will meet me for our first visit to France--which is info that doesn't belong here, but just responding to latedaytraveler's well wishes--Merci! Happy travels back at ya! Are you only going to London?
texasbookworm is offline  
Old Jun 8th, 2013, 06:18 PM
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Hi Texasbookworm,

As our poster Meg will find out, no matter how much we plan – we can never do it all. More reason to return I guess.

This time my first stop is the Courtauld Gallery, then Royal Academy of Art. Also the V & A. Will drift through the National and Portrait Galleries again near my hotel on the Strand. Off the beaten path – want to visit MANSION HOUSE, official residence of the Mayor of the City of London, only open on Tuesday afternoons at 2 and SPENCER HOUSE near Green Park (of the ancient house that included Sir Winston and the late Princess Diana) which is only open of Sundays. May take a trip to Cambridge, then joining a tour to Wales.

Also want to explore THE SHARD. The-Shard.com Decisions, decisions. Enjoy your return to London...
latedaytraveler is offline  

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