Things to see in London.

Staying in London before the trip begins is a good way to start the tour. I don't know how many days you will be here, but there is a lot to see. I was on this trip in 2012. It was the last trip my wife and I took before her death in 2013. We had a great time. We were in a small group tour (England, Scotland and Wales)so it was easy to get everyone from point A to point B.

I have been in London since 1 June 2015 and am spending two months here this summer. London offers more to see than you can do even in two months. There are a lot of artsy-artsy things to do. I've been to two plays and both were very good. I saw "The Mousetrap" (63 years and still running) at the St. Martin's Theatre and "Matilda" at the Cambridge Theatre. Both were very good. There are all kinds of theatres and shows here. I also attended a concert by the London Symphony Orchestra and Choir at St. Paul's Cathedral. It was excellent. I had tickets for the Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga concert at Royal Albert Hall but Mr. Bennett became ill and it was canceled. I have tickets to a London Proms Concert in July at Royal Albert. There are ticket bargains at kiosks all over London.

This response is similar to one I made to someone in another post. British asked me to start another one so more people might see it.

The Shard. I went to the Shard with the intent of going to the top. It is £30 (~$45) and I didn't see the value. You might though. It is a choice. An alternative for that is the London Eye (~£21). I went in 2012 and my daughter bought a ticket for me last week so I went again. I told her I didn't need to go since I had been there; done that. It is a one time deal in my mind, but everyone has their own choices to make.

The Tower of London, markets near the London bridge, Spitalfields, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Soho, Trafalgar Square, etc. All of those are places to research and figure out which ones you want to see. Don't forget the thousands of pubs. You'll meet some very interesting people and gather more information of places to go.

There are a ton of museums in London...most of them free. I would strongly suggest the Churchill War Museums (not free) in the Westminster area (between Trafalgar Square and Westminster Park). I don't think Tauck goes there (at least they didn't in 2012) but it is a fantastic experience. It is underground and where Churchill and the British staff planned the war effort. I went again this year and there have been volumes of additional things added to the museum since 2012. I was surprised. I am actually going again next week when some friends come to visit. If you like history and are a Winston Churchill fan I strongly suggest this venue for a visit. (If they still do it, you will visit Blenheim Palace which is Churchill's birthplace and childhood home. I loved that place too. You don't get enough time to really see it but any time you get there is fantastic.) My friends and I are going there next week. It will be my third time and I am looking forward to it.

I don't know what hotel you are staying in, but if it is the Royal Horseguards it is just down the street from the War Museums. My favorite museum is the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The National Museum is right next door....both are free and very close to Churchill's Museum, Parliament, Westminster Abbey. Of course you'll see, with Tauck, "Big Ben." Although you won't really see "Big Ben" since that is the large bell inside of Elizabeth tower on the east side of Parliament. The other big tower at Parliament is the "Victoria Tower" and where the monarch enters Parliament if she/he has business to take care of there. Of course, right now it is called the "Queen's Entrance." On top of this tower is a flag that is the size of a tennis court.

You will find London easy to get around with the Tube and buses and walking. I typically am walking about 12-15 miles a day. Unlike New York, London is concentrated in a rather small area. Almost anywhere in zones 1 and 2 are walkable. I know that Tauck will take you by Buckingham Palace, but if you go on your own you can walk around the entire site (probably 1.5-2 miles) or go sit in Green Park and people watch. The Queens Gallery and the Mews are nice places to visit also. They are right on the Buckingham grounds. Of course there is always the Changing of the Guard. That takes place everyday at 11:30. If you want to get a good vantage point, get there at least an hour early.

I could go on and on, but if you have any questions just respond to this with some specifics and I'll do my best to help you out. There are always the On-Off tour buses to orient you to the city. I've been to London four times and still do those the first day or two. Again, I don't know how much time you have here before you leave for Edinburgh. There are a variety of Tube ticket options, depending on how long you are here.

I haven't even touched on some of the places just outside of London. You'll see some of those on the trip. If you are a sports fan you can check on the cricket, football (soccer), and rugby schedules, among others. There are a bunch of riverboat tours on the Thames. I know because they float by my flat every day and evening. There are a lot of clubs in the area. The ones you might want to see depend on your age mostly.

If you have any other specific questions just respond here. I don't come in a lot but when I do, I'll be glad to give you information.

Enjoy your trip here, it is a great city to visit. I am off for a walk somewhere. Take care.

Comments

  • We are staying at Royal Horseguards & have a preday arriving 9am. Assume 3-4 hours to get to hotel & take a short nap..and THEN
    We have full mid-afternoon & evening & next day till say 2pm ..before meet tour at 3

    Thoughts on London Dungeon, Madame Tussauds, Shrek... for 13 year old girl. Some say pricey and not that professional- I believe even Rick Steves said something like that- but for family's & kids- some say differently?


    Hard part is selecting what would be good for the pre time vs the free time Tauck gives you
    CHurchill sounds good
    changing guard or the site where they leave to go do it sounds better- is that st james?

    National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The National Museum is right next door....are they best on the free time from Tauck & better to plan something else with the pre day?
  • edited July 2015
    Arrive at Heathrow 9am, walk as quickly as you can when you get off the plane so you do not get at the back in a long line at immigration. Once you get your luggage, hope that you are being collected by Tauck transport , just your group and not waiting for stragglers who might also be on your flight, or that is going to delay your departure from the airport. We once waited a whole hour for another couple who were on the same flight, and no we weren't in business class and had any advantage of getting off the plane extra early. About a 45 min to 1 hour drive to the hotel , but it will still be heavy traffic at that time.
    I just don't think Shrek, madam Tussauds or London Dungeon are the things I would take a thirteen year old to see. You are visiting London, you want to see iconic sites. (The last time i went to Madame Tussauds was about twenty years ago and I posed next to Arnold Swatznegar , sorry too lazy to check spelling) You can go to Vegas and see Madame Tussaud's and I am sure if Shrek is that good it will get to New York, but really Shrek is a bit past it don't you think? Stroll around London and get the 'feel' of the place choosing a route where you can pass some of the famous sites. The walking and daylight will help you get to sleep the first night, then set the alarm early the next day and do a nearby museum, you will barely have time to do it justice before getting back for when the tour begins. The War rooms sound perfect, I know I was there many many years ago but can't remember it too well, it sounds wonderful now and everyone writes great reviews about it.
  • edited July 2015
    Get through customs and find your driver as best you can. You don't have a lot of control over that.

    Shrek, etc. are not what I would send the kids to. I just had a 7 and 8 year old here and the only one of those I even considered doing was Madam What'sHerFace. I heard there are some new things in there that might be ok. I didn't care.

    You aren't going to see everything so you'll just have to pick out what you want to do. There are a couple of walking tours that our kids liked: Harry Potter and Jack the Ripper.....I wasn't real up for either.

    I don't know what your kids like so it is hard to give you concrete suggestions. My grandkids are kind of artsy-fartsy so they liked the National Portrait Gallery in particular. They really enjoyed the Natural History Museum and the National Science Museum, which are right next door. Dinosaurs and Space....(there is a special exhibit on Churchill's War Scientists).

    Kensington Palace is close by and can be toured also. You can look for William, Kate and the kids, but good luck. It is a nice place to visit. Depending on the date of your trip, you might be able to tour Buckingham Palace. It only happens a couple of weeks a year, I think in August....check their website to make sure. The Queen has to be away. It is a GREAT tour. I think you get to see everything but the Queen's bed and bathroom...just kidding....don't leave the seat up!!!!

    The Mews have all the carriages and cars for the Royal Family....well, some of them. The kids liked it. Some of the horses are there too. You can go to the theatre with the kids ("Matilda" is at the Cambridge Theatre). Tickets can be bought online or in a kiosk in Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, etc. There aren't any big bargains on that one, like there are on others.

    London Eye? I don't think it is all that great, but it does give a bird's eye view of the city. It takes a while to make the circle, so again, time is a factor.

    Lots and lots of choices and so little time!!!!

    Have fun.
  • I have a question, ndvb. It's years since I was a regular visitor to London and even longer since I was on the Thames. Do you have any advice/preferences for river transport? I would like to visit the new (for me, at least) Museum of London at Docklands. I see that it's quite close to Canary Wharf pier. I am hoping the heat wave has passed by the time I arrive next month!

    Cheers,

    Jan
  • DrPepper; I just toured London with two 13 year old grandkids. We went to the London Dungeon and I would not even consider it. My 13 year old granddaughter and wife left after the first foolish elevator ride down to the dungeon. I was stuck with my 13 year old grandson doing the tour and it was pathetic. We had the "London Pass" so it was included in the cost of the pass, but if I had to pay just for this, I would have felt ripped off. Did this 30 years ago with my own kids when they were this age, but it was in a different venue and was not as bad as this is. The Dungeon is located adjacent to the London Eye, which both young and old would enjoy. Just get the fast pass tickets and if you aren't certain as to the time, you can get a ticket good at any time during your stay without a wait. Buy on-line and you won't regret the few extra dollars. But, stay away from the Dungeon. As others have said as well as my earlier post, don't miss the Churchill War Rooms. Our two 13 year olds thought it was great. BTW, for 13 year olds, do plan on visiting Hanley's toy store on Regent Street. It is worth the visit, even for adults and a 13 year old is the perfect target for their super in store marketing. There is nothing like this in the States, including F.A. Schwarz, going out of business. Enjoy your trip.
  • Thanks all It will help us plan wisely.
  • Jan, Thames River transport is easy to use. If you have an Oyster Card or a Travel Card you'll get a discount on the fare but still have to pay more than the Tube fares. I am living at St. George's Wharf and have traveled using the river boats to Greenwich. Canary wharf is near Greenwich and is served by the boats. In fact, the boats go further east to Woolwich Arsenal and come from as far west as Putney. You'll have no problem using them.

    We haven't really had a heat wave. It has been just the opposite...rather cool. It has been in the 60's and 70's for most of my time here in fact, many nights are in the low 50's, with a couple in the 40's. There were two days last week with temperatures in the 90's. That's it. It is cold today. I went out for my walk earlier and wished I had put on a jacket.

    There is a Tube strike today from 1800 until 1800 tomorrow. The buses and rivers transports aren't effected. The porter at my building warned me as I left. I came back a bit early to avoid the crowds that will start around 1600. Have to love unions!!! At least they gave a warning and only made it one day. I'll go for a walk this evening and stop in the pub for a Guinness. Thank goodness pubs don't go on strike.

    Enjoy your trip.
  • Thanks for the reply, ndvb. The last time I looked up the Oyster Card I thought I might not be able to justify it .... since, like you, I plan to do lots of walking. I thought a daily ticket might suit me better for the times I would actually use it. Might have to re-vsit that! By my calculations, my local pier might be Westminster, since I'll be staying in Marylebone. Sounds like I'll have ample opportunity to travel up and down river.

    One of my most fun memories of London from the 80s is being there on a day of a general transport strike. I needed to get from Marylebone to High Holborn which basically meant walking down Oxford Street, then just keeping on keeping on. Because I always had a well thumbed A to Z in my bag I ended up directing many Londoners who only knew their way round underground! I wonder if I can still remember all the shortcuts along some of the tourist-free footpaths! And I'll cross my fingers that summer will turn to a benign early autumn while I'm there. But surely early August is too early for an early autumn ... even for London? ;)))) Have layers will travel!

    Cheers,

    Jan
  • You can order a Visitor Oyster Card before you go. It's a pay as you go card that gets you the discounted fares. There's a 10 GBP minimum. They charge you 3 GBP for activation, plus postage. It's nice to get it in advance, so there's no hassle or time wasted when you get there. Reload it at any station. It never expires, so you can use it again if you go back. You can also get a refund of unused amounts before you leave. It works on the buses, tube, ferries and rail transport in the London area. More information is available at the Transport for London website.

    https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/visiting-london/visitor-oyster-card
  • Jan, we had a strike yesterday to today (1830-0630) for the Tube. I went for a seven mile walk this morning and the walkways were jammed packed, as were the buses and highways. The only good news was it was announced days in advance, including the time. I'm not sure what the union got out of it but a lot of bad feelings toward them and loss of pay for a day. I'm sure the union bosses didn't lose a day's pay.

    Any transportation issues can be researched on the London transportation website. They will even answer emails with specific questions quickly. There are workers at every tube stop, bus center, and rail center who gladly and politely help take care of any issues you might have.

    I have used my Oyster Card by getting monthly passes. Obviously, if you are only here a couple of days that isn't an option.

    Westminster Pier is in the middle of the river boats. You'll have no problems using them, except the cost. I told you before that you get a discount with a travel or Oyster card. It still doesn't cover the entire trip.

    Enjoy the walking.
  • Just a little information on the Oyster Card. I think this is the only payment accepted on the bus if you want to jump on for a short ride. BUT, they won't let you share the Oyster Card for another passenger. I had one with enough money on the card for several rides, but when I boarded a bus, the card worked for me, but when i tried to swipe it again (really not a swipe - you just hold it up against the pod in front of the driver) it didn't work as I just used it for the first passenger. Driver said it was not good for the kids with me, but they just ran to top deck and we "got away" with sneaking the two kids on. You can get the card in any station, but get one for each person that needs one.
  • Thanks for all the tips, everyone. So much to see, so many choices! Since I'm still not seeing as well as I'd like thanks to shingles in my eye earlier in the year and a slow recovery, I will have to to leave a lot of decisions till I arrive ... sometimes literally in a particular place. I am expecting the weaker sunlight will actually be a help, with less glare. Before any Poms among you berate me for being mean, I am merely commenting on the difference in light. My comment has nothing to do with cricket, about which I know little and care even less! ;))

    As for a transport card good for two people ... that would be just too logical, wouldn't it! Doesn't work like that here, either. :(

    Glad to hear the strike didn't affect the Guinness, ndvb. I'm sure you would have mentioned that if it had! ;))

    Cheers,

    Jan
  • The Guinness and pubs were unaffected by the Tube strike. Well, maybe more people took off work and went to the pubs....not a bad thing.

    As for the brightness factor...unlike the traditional views of London, most of my stay here has seen bright, sunny, clear skies..as I write this, there isn't a cloud in the sky. Bring your sunscreen.

    I'm off to the British Museum today. The nice thing about living here for an extended period is you don't have to rush through museums or spend all day there. I go for a couple of hours see part of the exhibitions and come back another day to see more.

    The flat I'm living in went on the market yesterday. Ridiculous price!!!! But, it will sell. It's a nice place with a great location, but to me, it isn't worth the price....it wouldn't be if I wanted to move here. I learned a long time ago anything is worth whatever one person will pay for it.

    Enjoy it Jan. I've had a great time. I still have three weeks to go.
  • Northern European light versus Australian light. A note for ndvb. :))
    As Australian born, to me light is light ... right? Well, no, not if you're an artist. So you analyse the paintings and write your report. You test the theories of light and dark, colour over colour, particularly if you're working on Impressionist art. Until you see that difference in a painterly way you don't "see" the difference. The key innovation in Impressionist art was painting outside in the environment, rather than in the studio. And Australian light is different to European light. That's what made the Australian Impressionist painters, particularly of the Heidelberg School, famous in the salons of Paris in the 1890s. Our light is "brighter" than the softer European light. And northern European light, say in Holland, is "paler" again. That's what my eye is counting on ... softer summer sun. :)) I'm sure there is a scientific reason for this, but I'm limited to art!

    So next time you go to the National Gallery or the Tate Britain, have a look at the Impressionist art. Look at Constable and Turner, too. What a lovely way to spend a couple of hours.

    Cheers,

    Jan
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