So You Want to Visit London

This post was written by Alexandra of The Library of Alexandra. Now she blogs about books but she started blogging to chronicle her life abroad at the University of Exeter. Since she spent so much time in London while abroad, she wanted to share her experience!

If you have a trip planned to the London, it can be easy to get swept away by the more typical tourist attractions. While it is absolutely worth it to visit the Tower and the London Bridge, there are museums and restaurants off the beaten track that make the whole experience more fun.

Here’s my suggested itinerary for a five day trip to London:

Guide to Visiting London

Day 1: For your first day in London, get acquainted with the city. Spend some time wandering around Bloomsbury before taking the Tube to Kensington Palace. Spend a few hours wandering around the exhibits and then head out to the Orangery for Lunch. Full of food and the beautiful atmosphere, take a stroll through Kensington and Hyde Parks where you’ll find the Peter Pan statue and the Diana memorial.

Though the day has already been quite full, grab a quick dinner and then head to Westminster Abbey for Evensong. It’ll get you into the Abbey for free and you’ll get to see the popular tourist destination as it was meant to be seen – in liturgical use.

Guide to Visiting London

Day 2: Now that you’ve spent a day soaking in London, it’s time to head out. Catch the earliest train you can manage to Hampton Court Palace, of Henry VIII fame. You can use your Oyster card if you added pay as you go money. Warning: the walk from the train station to the palace is a little long. If you have little ones (or are just worn out from the day before) try your hand at hailing a black cab. Though the grounds and palace are incredible, it’s the kitchens that are a “can’t miss” so leave yourself plenty of time to wander. When you’ve had your fill of Tudor finery, head across the street to the pub for a late lunch. Hike back to the train station and head back to old London-town for an evening in the East End where you’ll learn all about Victorian debauchery on a Jack the Ripper tour.

Guide to Visiting London

Day 3: Baring any bad weather, today is the day to hit the major tourist sites. You’ll want to head out early to the Tower of London. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to spend all day there but if you breeze through the exhibits, swing by the Tate Modern, Shakepeare’s Globe and St. Paul’s Cathedral (pick and choose your sightseeing poison!). These sights are all on the London Sightseeing Tour so you might want to pick up a pass. I highly recommend ending the day with a nighttime viewing of London in the Eye and a stroll by Big Ben and Parliament before hopping back on the Tube and heading to your hotel.

Guide to Visiting London

Day 4: Today is the day for shopping (and/or fitting in everything you missed yesterday). I suggest hitting up Harrod’s, Liberty’s, the Silver Vaults, Daunt Books, and Office but beauty shopping is in the eye of the beholder!

Guide to Visiting London

Day 5: Now you have two options for your last day in London. You can explore Buckingham Palace and Mews and soak in some good ole British history or you can venture further afield to the Harry Potter exhibit at Leavesden studios. It’s a hop, skip and jump away from London by Golden Bus charter or by train from Euston Station. You’ll definitely want all day to travel and explore.

Before you go:

  • Download the Tube map onto your phone. You’ll stand out like a sore thumb if you consult a Tube map underground, plus you’ll be more vulnerable to pick pockets.
  • Learn the lingo. Bangers and Mash. Strippy Bacon. Full English. Loo. Quid.
  • On that note, learn the money. If you can figure out pound coins, 50p and 10p you’re golden. Be glad you’re not visiting before they adopted the decimal.

When you arrive:

  • Take the train from Heathrow to a Tube station, then take a taxi. Taxis to and from the airport charge exorbitant rates.
  • Pick up an Oyster card and load it with 1 week unlimited + a few pounds of pay as you go. The unlimited money only works within certain Tube zones. As fun as walking all over the city sounds right now, your feet will thank you later.
  • Carry or wear a raincoat. You may not be allowed into certain attractions with an umbrella. Save yourself the time and money of checking it in the coat room by bringing along a lightweight rain jacket.

Stay at: The Harlingford Hotel. Located in the center of literary London, it’s the perfect jumping off point for your adventures. You’re a quick walk to the Russell Square tube or a slightly longer jaunt to St. Pancreas station. (Added benefit: the full English breakfast every morning is included in your room rate)

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