London visit, help me please!

(36 Posts)
golondrina Thu 08-Nov-18 22:23:17


We live in Spain. DCs have been to the UK once (10 and 7 yo) and London briefly to see the dinosaurs at the Nat History museum.

We're coming over for a flying visit in a couple of weeks, central London and then 2 nights near Windsor to see friends.

I grew up near London and worked in central London briefly but apart from a brief UK visit 2 years ago, haven't been back for years.

We've only got from the Wednesday afternoon (arriving Gatwick at about 330pm) to Friday lunchtime, so feel we need to plan what to see. We're staying at the County Hall Premier Inn.

We want to not spend too much and see/do:

Big Ben/parliament (outside)
Changing of the Guard or just the guards standing there
Trafalgar Sq
Covent Garden
Picadilly Circus
Science museum
Mummies at the British museum
Fish and chips somewhere
A curry
Tower Bridge (either the tour, did it with DH years ago) or see the bridge open.
Ride a double decker (I think there's one that does a particularly scenic route?

I've been on but getting a bit overwhelmed with too much choice. Do I need an Oyster? Where can I get them? How can I get the children added to one? Is a London Pass worth it as we're not interested in most of the expensive attractions really.

Argh, help?

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golondrina Fri 09-Nov-18 19:57:20

What should we do on the afternoon we arrive? Trafalgar Square and Picadilly circus and round that way? Christmas lights up regent Street?

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SmilingButClueless Fri 09-Nov-18 20:04:25

I’m not great on tourist attraction planning, but if you want to see Tower Bridge open, the times / dates are here - doesn’t open every day but you might be lucky!

nancy75 Fri 09-Nov-18 20:10:34

Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly & Covent Garden are all so close you might as well do those together ( there’s not actually much in Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly Circus so is do this if the afternoon you arrive as it can be quite quick) there is a nice fish & chip shop in Endell st in Covent Garden so that ticks that box too!

golondrina Fri 09-Nov-18 20:14:38

Oh brilliant nancy, thank you! I feel overhwlemed with choice!
I used to work in Picadilly Circus, which is why i want to at least walk through it.
Maybe when we get in on the Wednesday afternoon we should do trafalgar square, picadilly, regent street, covent garden combo and we ccan have fish and chips then and see some sights and lights.

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PinguPengo Fri 09-Nov-18 20:17:04

You don’t need Oyster cards if you have contactless bank cards - you can just use the card in the same way on the underground, buses etc. Children under 11 go free so just take them through on your account.

Bus route wise the 15 starts in trafalgar Sq and takes in lots of sights, goes to Tower Bridge I think.

There is a fish and chip shop called the laughing halibut in Strutton Ground, Westminster that you could combine with the Big Ben / Guards etc part of your trip.

Pretty much everything you have listed is free so I wouldn’t get a London pass unless you have more you want to do as well.

nancy75 Fri 09-Nov-18 20:17:13

Yes, if you’re at Picadilly you might as well see the lights in Regent street, if you’re feeling brave you could walk up to Hamleys ( it’s hideous but the kids will like it!)
For the British Museum if all you want to see is the mummies do that early morning - it’s the busiest bit by far.

BehemothPullsThePeasantsPlough Fri 09-Nov-18 20:18:27

I’d skip the Science Museum if I were you. It’s huge and it’s not a good logistical fit with the rest of your itinerary. If you ditch that, and catch a Clipper boat from London Eye pier to Tower Bridge one day then I think you could reasonably do everything else on your list.
Don’t bother with a London pass. Yes you’ll probably need Oysters for the adults, unless you have contactless bank cards that don’t sting you on the exchange rate. Children are free though.

And yes a wander around looking at lights on your first day will be good. I recommend 7 Dials, and Carnaby Street as well as the obvious Oxford St/Regent St/Trafalgar Square/Covent Garden.

And as ever on any MN London tourist thread, I conclude with the compulsory “Download CityMapper to your phones!” It’s a lifesaver on the buses.

nancy75 Fri 09-Nov-18 20:20:10

As you’re staying at county hall you can wander over to Tower Bridge/ Tower of London anytime, something else you could look at is the Sky Garden, just over the bridge at Fenchurch street - it’s free & has great views. Tickets are here

Waterlemon Fri 09-Nov-18 20:45:08

Tate modern on the south bAnk also has a viewing platform facing St. Paul’s, it’s nowhere as high up as the sky garden, but it is free and you can go straight up without the hassle of booking.

There is also a vintage routemaster bus route that goes from Tower of London to Westminster (I think’)

The south ken museums get very busy. I’d avoid unless you are here during term time.

MotherOfDragonite Fri 09-Nov-18 20:58:23

When you go to the British Museum, go in by the back door (Montague Place) rather than the front entrance on Great Russell Street. There's much less of a queue.

If you want to do the Sky Garden (which is free, and fun!) then you need to book asap as tickets go quickly. You can always cancel them closer to the time if you end up wanting to do something else instead.

We love taking the Thames Clipper boats along the river. From the London Eye to Tower Bridge, or on to Greenwich to see the Cutty Sark... the boat trip is definitely as much fun as the things you see when you get off.

And I think there are a couple of red double decker buses that specialise in tourist trips and you can get afternoon tea on them while you ride around and see the sights. Not sure what they're called but I want to do that sometime, and I live here!

golondrina Fri 09-Nov-18 20:59:53

waterlemon it'll be 21/22 Nov, that's term time in the UK, right?

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golondrina Fri 09-Nov-18 21:01:30

Pingu, the only other time we've been in the UK my chip and pin credit card wouldn't work on the tube, so I think maybe I should get oyster cards at Gatwick when we arrive

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golondrina Fri 09-Nov-18 21:04:39

Thanks for the British museum tip, and to the other pp who suggested not the science museum. Ds quite interested in nat history, earth stuff, so not sure if it's worth trying nat hist minus.dinos

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Waterlemon Fri 09-Nov-18 21:40:35

You should be ok then with the south ken museums, although there might be lots of school groups. Particularly in the wonder lab. If you want to visit the wonderlab, the best time is late afternoon when the school groups filter out.

Yes clipper boats are a great way to see the sights. We usually get DLR to royal Victoria then cable car over to the 02, then clipper from 02 to Waterloo. You can pay for both cable car and clipper using an Oyster card, but it’s cheaper to get a combi deal from the ticket office.

golondrina Fri 09-Nov-18 21:54:28

OK. Plan so far then is:

Arrive Wednesday afternoon and check into the County Hall PI. Then do Trafalgar Sq, covent Garden, Picadilly, Regent's Street/Oxford Street/Hamleys area and xmas lights. Eat fish and chips.

Thursday morning British museum to see the mummies. Would like to do some typical Big Ben, Buck Palace type sightseeing, what's the best way to do that? Bus? Any good routes? What to do in the evening when it's dark? No point sitting in the hotel and we'll need to eat. DH wants a curry ;)

friday morning, maybe tower bridge. We won't manage to see it open but I did the museum/tour of tower bridge years ago with DH and it was good and inexpensive, so maybe that? Then lunch somewhere and off to Windsor in the afternoon.

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SubtitlesOn Fri 09-Nov-18 21:55:16

Harry Potter studios in Watford/Leavesden but Watford junction from Euston - 20 mins journey

Not in London and probably not tickets available but worth a look if you/your DC are interested

Christmas will have just started there


SubtitlesOn Fri 09-Nov-18 21:56:16

Sorry see you are on budget time wise and money

golondrina Fri 09-Nov-18 21:59:10

Yeah, thanks for the suggestion tho. DC not into HP at all.

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BikeRunSki Fri 09-Nov-18 22:03:39

I grew up in Central London. My dad always used to take visitors on the No. 11 bus - World’s End (Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood), Kings Rd (Punks), Sloane Square, Victoria, Buckingham Palace, The Mall, Trafalgar Square, The Strand, Fleet St, The City. It was the 70s/80s, when the Kings Road and Fkeet St were exciting.

nancy75 Fri 09-Nov-18 22:05:46

Thursday night have a walk around the south bank, or over tower bridge to St Katherine’s dock for dinner? Plenty of places to eat all around where you will be & it’s always busy early evening. London eye is really quiet at night & London looks great all lit up!

BikeRunSki Fri 09-Nov-18 22:07:55

If you are staying at County Hall, i’d Hold in a wander down the South Bank to see street entertainers and maybe street food. You are also right by the London Eye there too.

golondrina Fri 09-Nov-18 22:23:52

That's a good idea, I know the southbank a bit.

I've been looking and I think the number 11 bus from Victoria goes through Westminster, so we could hop off at Horse Guards and so on.

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golondrina Sat 10-Nov-18 14:44:46

And the RV1 between Tower Bridge and Covent Garden sounds scenic too, so will maybe catch that back from Tower Bridge on Friday morning

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golondrina Sat 10-Nov-18 14:46:01

ooh we could maybe hop off and eat in borough market, have heard good things?

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