Need Help from London Experts

Discussion in 'Community Board' started by Twilight Sparkle, Mar 15, 2019.

  1. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    My family will be visiting London in late October of this year. It will be our first visit, and I'm not sure how to spread our sightseeing out over our 9 night trip. Would anyone familiar with London be willing to offer advice?

    Wish list:

    Regents, Hyde, St. James, and Green Parks
    London Zoo
    Little Venice Canal boat ride
    River Thames boat ride
    Tower of London
    Westminster Abbey
    Cereal Killer Cafe
    Bea's of Bloomsbury Afternoon Tea
    St. Paul's
    British Museum
    National Gallery
    Tate Modern
    British Library to see special collections
    Hampton Court Palace
    Kensington Palace and Gardens
    Windsor Castle
    Royal Observatory and Prime Meridian
    Seven Dials
    Cecil Court
    Borough Market
    Sky Garden
    Possibly SEA aquarium if we buy the London Pass
    Dickens Museum
    Natural History Museum
    Science Museum
    day trip with private guide to Bath and Stonehenge - might see if Windsor could be tacked on to this day
    Harry Potter Studios or at least Kings Cross for Platform 9-3/4 and shop
    Paddington Station visit to buy Paddington Bear
    maybe a visit to a board game cafe if time allows (suggestions for one are welcome)
    Harrod's
    a West End show
    Globe Theatre (for tour, not show)


    We will be staying in Bloomsbury near Russell Square tube. I'd love to fit in more afternoon tea breaks if possible, but unsure where since we will mostly be in street clothes (nice casual - not too casual but not fancy).

    My initial thought for arrival day is to check off the British Museum and British Library since we will need to stay on our feet until bedtime and those are close to our VRBO.

    We leave too early to fit anything into our departure day.

    Also, if anyone has recommendations for good - but not fancy - places to eat in Bloomsbury (since that's our home base), I'd love to hear them. We're also open to lunch places around the attractions we'll be visiting.

    I fully expect this list to be way too ambitious, so if you have advice about what to drop, please feel free to share that, too.

    Thank you for any help or insight you might be willing to share!
     
  2. tazdev3225

    tazdev3225 <font color=darkorchid>I sucked my thumb up with t

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    If you go to the UK Community Board you may find some help. I'm heading to Glasgow before a tour in Scotland and they were quite helpful. There are several threads on visiting London.
     
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  4. CynBeth

    CynBeth DIS Veteran

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    Can’t offer any advice but wanted to say hi as we are visiting for the first time as well. We are going on a 2 week London and Paris trip with a day and a half at DLP this summer. We want to do a lot of the same things you mentioned. We have a travel agent so do not know how our days are to be broken down yet.
     
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  5. fla4fun

    fla4fun DIS Veteran

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    I bought the Historic Royal Palace annual pass which covers the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Kensington Palace and a few other places (as well as giving a dining and merchandise discount) so check to see if that is an economic option for you. Kensington was nice, but I loved Hampton Court and the Tower (enjoy Tudor history). Harrods was OK but it’s a department store, so I just popped in for lunch and a little shopping while touring museums in that area. I recommend taking a verger tour at Westminster Abbey. They are cheap, and not horribly long, but you get a lot of information and some exclusive access. I can’t really comment on the Bloomsbury area, as I stayed next door to Buckingham Palace on my first trip, and across the river from the Tower on my second trip.
     
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  6. MouseMomx2

    MouseMomx2 DIS Veteran

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    There is a great place called Tea and Tattle right near the British Museum.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2019 at 12:17 AM
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  7. A Small World

    A Small World <img src=http://photopost.wdwinfo.com/data/500/509

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    I live in the North of England and have visited London quite often in the past few years.
    I would also recommend the Historic Palaces annual pass as mentioned above - I found it really good value.

    You have a lot of things on your list but a lot of them can be combined - eg Hyde Park joins onto Kensington Gardens where you will find Kensington Palace.
    London Zoo is in Regents Park.
    You can take a trip on the Thames to the Tower of London or the other direction to Grenwich where you will find the Observatory

    If you are doing the British Library on your first day you could also pop to Kings Cross Station which is just up the road and see the Harry Potter things.

    The Harry Potter Studios Tour will be a full day visit as its outside of London

    I stayed in the Bloomsbury area on one visit and there were a lot of eating places round about.

    There are also a lot of places in London where you can get afternoon tea without being totally dressed up - casual but smart is fine. We enjoyed afternoon tea in the Orangerie at Kensington Palace.

    You also mentioned seeing a show - there are loads all over London so perhaps look and see whats on where and then book that and there may be things around that area you can do before hand

    I would suggest getting a good map of London and plotting on all the places you want to see and then take it from there.
     
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  8. fla4fun

    fla4fun DIS Veteran

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    Another thing . . . I downloaded an app of the Tube that was very helpful. You just entered where you were and where you wanted to go, and it would show where the nearest stat was and which trains to take. It was much handier than a paper map. It also had the street map, so you could toggle back and forth between them. Once it was downloaded it did not require data or WiFi to work. That was good when actually on the Tube where signals can be weak. It did use a lot of memory, which is why I removed it when I got home, but it was invaluable on the trip. I am sure there are even better products now, as this was a few years ago.
     
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  9. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    Thank you. I will take a look over there.
     
  10. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    :wave2: Sounds like you have a fun trip planned. We want to visit DLP, too, someday - possibly 2022 for DD's graduation. Thought about taking the train to Paris for a day on this trip, but our list for London already feels too packed. A full two weeks overseas like you guys are planning would be wonderful!
     
  11. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    I have not heard of that pass, so thank you for mentioning it. I will look into it. We're considering the London Pass but have not quite decided. We need to try to figure out what we can comfortably fit into a day before determining if it's worth the money.

    Thank you, too, for mentioning the verger tours. I'm sure we'd enjoy one.
     
  12. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    Wonderful! Thank you so much! Will add that to our list of tea places.
     
  13. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    Thank you so much for all of this info. I will definitely add Kings Cross to our arrival day plans. So glad you suggested that. And glad to know Bloomsbury has plenty of restaurants around. I'll check into the Orangery for our Kensington Palace visit.
     
  14. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    Thank you for this suggestion. Is the app called City Mapper?
     
  15. ofcabbagesandkings

    ofcabbagesandkings DIS Veteran

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    Do you have kids? What ages?

    OK, we did a London trip this past October. We had a 2 and 6 year old so we were VERY conservative about the number of sights we tried to hit in a day. We rarely tried to do more than one sight a day, we had 10 days total. But, I should note that I've been to London several times before, so I skipped some of my favorites that I thought the kids would find unappealing. We stayed mostly in South Kensington but briefly near Westminster because our original apartment booking had a gas leak issue. Here is what we did, with notes for each:

    Get the Mission:London book if you have kids between the ages of 6-12. Kept mine engaged with some of the less kid-friendly sites. Available at Amazon.

    Hop on/Hop off bus - As a native New Yorker, I normally cringe at these, but it's really a great way to take in the sights of London while being off your feet. Try to get a live commenter as they have more personality. Save it for the 2nd or 3rd day when you're tired of walking everywhere. Best place to buy the passes is near Buckingham Palace. They often include a free River Thames ride that will take you to Tower of London if you use it within 48 hours, so try to be strategic.

    Buckingham Palace - everyone crowds at the Buckingham Palace gates to see the changing of the guard. Don't do this. Go to the Wellington Barracks nearby instead for a front row view of the troop movements without being blocked by gates and hordes of tourists. Check the times here so you can be there at the right time: https://changing-guard.com/times-routes.html I expected my kids to be bored but they loved this and insisted on staying for the troops return. There is also a really good playground directly across the street from Wellington Barracks.

    Westminster: I've done this before, we only returned with kids because we were staying nearby. Get reserved tickets online beforehand, for the earliest possible timed entry. There were a ton of people lined up for the standby entrance by 9:30, we waltzed right in. Don't be those people. We did the hop off/on bus same day as Westminster Abbey.

    Hyde Park: We did this twice, on arrival day, as I didn't think we would be up for much more, and a weekend day. Go on a weekday if you can, it's a zoo on the weekends for obvious reasons. The Princess Diana memorial playground in the NW corner, also known as the Peter Pan playground because of the big pirate ship, is the best playground we have ever visited. Our kids LOVED it. Also a decent food stand and bathrooms at the entrance.

    High Tea: Just south of the Peter Pan playground is the Orangery at Kensington Palace. Phenomenal afternoon tea with a menu for adults and kids. Slow service, so don't be starving. Not too stuffy, either, we were dressed pretty casually. You could do this before or after a visit to Kensington Palace.

    London Zoo - It's great. If buying tickets online, be sure you don't accidentally buy ones for their other location at Whipsnade. Take a photo in front of the reptile house featured in Harry Potter 2.

    Natural History Museum - A favorite. Amazing animatronic T-rex, awesome moving earthquake exhibit. If you have the misfortune of planning your trip during the British Fall break like we did it will be packed. Try to get there at opening. Save money by packing a lunch, it's allowed.

    Science Museum - Get tickets in advance for Wonderlab, try to get them as early to opening as possible. My kids had full run of it for pretty much the first hour until camp groups came in. My kids were begging to go back the next day.

    Victoria and Albert Museum - Don't sleep on the V&A. They had a video game exhibit and one on new technology that the kids loved. Those have closed but the V&A always has something interesting on when we visit London.

    London Eye- Get express pass tickets in advance online. We waltzed right on, again past a long line. Go in the morning for good, not too harsh light. Big hit with kids. Aquarium nearby if interested.

    Tower of London - Get there at opening if you have any interest in seeing the crown jewels, otherwise expect to wait in a LONG line. There is a kids activity center just past the crown jewels entrance where they can get a little passport book stamped if they complete the activities (pick the book up at guest services just past where you get your tickets). If they get all the stamps they get to participate in a ceremony at the end of the day where "Queen Elizabeth 1 and Sir Walter Raleigh" give them gold medals with the Tower emblem on it. Do a free Beefeaters tour somewhere in there. Food onsite is quite good.

    Harry Potter Studios: This is a LONG day. Try to get admission for as early as you think you can make it there, because it gets progressively more crowded as the day wears on and the line for lunch was so long we just skipped it and got Butterbeer ice-cream for our lunch instead. Hit the shops before you start the tour if they're open, as they are unbearable after you get through the tour and you're exhausted anyway. In October they usually have the pumpkins in the Great Hall and other Halloween touches like fighting the Death Eaters on the bridge. Great photo opportunities. Prepare to pay obscene sums to get all the special green screen photos, but they're such great souvenirs. I don't recommend taking the tour bus because it doesn't give you enough time to get through the whole studio tour unless you rush.


    Kings Cross/Platform 9 3/4. Not really worth doing if you've already done the HP Studio tour, however we hit it the evening before since we had dinner right nearby at the Booking Office restaurant. I recommend this because going late at night is actually a brilliant hack for the Platform 9 3/4 line. There was no one in it and we got our picture right away, then I went in and paid for it along with a high quality wool house scarf for my oldest son, it's closer to the ones in the films than you see in most shops. A stand nearby was selling Turkish Delight for the Narnia fans out there.

    We didn't buy the London Pass, it's a bad value as it's impossible to hit enough spots in one day without limiting your time in each. We didn't hit the shops because I find with the exchange rate that shopping in London is rarely a good deal. Since we rented an apartment, we hit up the local Sainsburys and got breakfast things and a load of easy to heat meals for dinners, usually having lunch out so we didn't have to go back to the hotel midday. Also because the children had better energy for meals out during the day than at night. Saved a fair bit of money that way too.

    Have a great trip!


     
  16. CarolAnn856

    CarolAnn856 DIS Veteran

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    I've been twice, the first time with my daughter and last summer with her and DH. My thoughts...

    London Zoo - It was okay, but I wish we'd skipped it in place of other sights.

    Tower of London - Loved it...do the tour with a Beefeater! A few hours is enough to see everything.

    St. Paul's - Gorgeous, so glad we went.

    British Museum - Loved it. You could spend days here. Choose a few things that are must-dos and focus on them (the Rosetta Stone was my #1). You'll see tons as you go from one to another.

    Kensington Palace and Gardens - We did the gardens. A nice way to spend an hour or two. Be sure to visit the Peter Pan statue.

    day trip with private guide to Bath and Stonehenge - might see if Windsor could be tacked on to this day - We did Stonehenge and Bath. Spectacular, even though the stones are a bit smaller than you realize (still huge, though!). Really enjoyed Bath as well. Did these as a bus tour. Very nice way to visit them.

    Harry Potter Studios or at least Kings Cross for Platform 9-3/4 and shop - Did both. Platform is okay, but lines for pics with the trolly can be huge. Studio tour was AMAZING (I'm a huge fan of the books and movies). We booked one of the last tours of the day and it wasn't terribly crowded. We spent the morning in Camden Market, which is so much fun. Lots of quirky shops.

    a West End show - Yes!!! If you love theater, this is a must.

    Globe Theatre (for tour, not show) - Saw Taming of the Shrew, but would have done a tour if we couldn't see a show.

    Harrods - Over-crowded, over-priced, over-hyped. Skip.
     
  17. fla4fun

    fla4fun DIS Veteran

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    London Tube Pro - it’s by a company called Visual IT Ltd. It looks like they have upgraded it since I used it, but it’s free so you could download and play with it a bit and see if you like it. I hope it still works offline, as that was the biggest help to us. There may be others just as good if not better.
     
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  18. Twilight Sparkle

    Twilight Sparkle DIS Veteran

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    Thank you!
     

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