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London: A Visitor’s Guide

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Idea #1Major sights, and theatre shows

Day One – What you will see:Sightseeing bus, St. Paul’s Cathedral, view from the Shard, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London… ending with a West End show

We’re going to start the first day with a sightseeing bus – a great way to get an overview of the city. The ticket will be valid for 24 hours so we’ll be jumping on and off the bus throughout the day.

We suggest catching the ‘Red Route’ at Trafalgar Square, travelling towards The City. The journey will take you up the Strand and Fleet Street, dropping you off outside St. Paul’s Cathedral (allow for 30 mins).

St. Paul’s was built by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. Have a good look around and climb up to the famous Whispering Gallery (allow for 2 hours).

Now jump on the same bus again and ride it over London Bridge. The Shard will loom up ahead. If you’d like to check out the view from London’s tallest observation deck then get off here and allow yourself 60 mins.

Now jump on the same bus again and ride it over Tower Bridge. Don’t worry about the photos – you’ll get a better view when you get off at…

…the Tower of London. This world heritage site is home to the Crown Jewels. Why not do a Yeoman Warder tour with one of the Beefeaters? (allow for 3 hours in total)

The best way to end the first day is with a memorable show. Check out our theatre guide to see what’s on.

The same bus will take you all the way back to Trafalgar Square via the Victoria Embankment (remember to look out for Cleopatra’s Needle along the way). If you’re pushed for time, then you can get the District line from Tower Hill to Embankment instead (10 min ride, 2 min walk from Trafalgar Square).

Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Shaftesbury Avenue are all within walking distance of Trafalgar Square – the three most likely places for your theatre.

Alternatively, you could just stay on the bus and ride it all the way round Westminster, Victoria, Marylebone, and back to Trafalgar Square (but it will take ages – we don’t recommended it).

Day Two – What you will see:London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus

The London Eye will give you a great view of the city. It’s best to buy your tickets beforehand, as the queues can get quite heavy (allow for 30-45 minutes queuing, and 30 minutes on the wheel).


Cross over Westminster Bridge and take some snaps of Big Ben and Parliament (allow for 30 mins) and then walk over to Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is London’s most prestigious religious building – the setting for coronations, state funerals, and the burial place of many celebrated kings and queens (allow for 90 mins).

Now head down Whitehall, past The Cenotaph and Downing Street. You might like to spend 10 minutes in front of the famous gates to see if you can spot the Prime Minister.

Continue along Whitehall until you get to Trafalgar Square again. If you like art, then you might like to visit the National Gallery (allow for 90 mins).

Continue through Admiralty Arch and up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace (allow for 15 mins walking time). Once you’ve taken some snaps, head north through Green Park to Piccadilly (10 mins walking time).

A stroll down Piccadilly will take you past the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington Arcade and Fortnum & Mason, ending up under the neon lights of Piccadilly Circus.

There are plenty of good restaurants around Piccadilly, Leicester Square and Covent Garden.

Day Three – What you will see:Two of London’s best museums, souvenir shopping at Harrods, ending with a show

Take the train to South Kensington and pick just two of the following three museums. Our recommendation would be the Natural History Museum plus one other. All three are within five minutes walking distance of each other.

The Natural History Museum is called the “dead zoo” because it is full of stuffed animals from all around the world. The most popular exhibits are the age-old dinosaur bones (allow for 2 hours).

The Science Museum covers everything from the earliest computers and cars to the Apollo moon landings. They’ve also got an IMAX cinema (allow for 2 hours).

The Victoria & Albert Museum explores the history of art and design. You will see fabulous furniture, jewellery and clothes, and the world-famous Cast Room – containing replicas of the world’s greatest monuments and statues (allow for 2 hours).

All three of those museums are free, so you should have plenty of money left to splash out at Harrods. You’ll find it a short walk down the Brompton Road (allow for 1 hour shopping time, or more if you use the restaurant).

The best way to finish off your trip is with a show. You’ve already been to the theatre, so how about some music? The Royal Albert Hall is a short distance from Harrods (find out what’s on here). You can catch a 10-minute bus from Knightsbridge (numbers 9, 10, 52 or 452).

Alternatively, you could ride the No.9 bus to the Royal Festival Hall in 25 minutes (find out what’s on here). But if you really want a treat, how about watching a concert at The O2? (Find out what’s on here.)

You will need to get a tube to North Greenwich for this one, because it's miles away in Greenwich. It's a 40-minute ride, and you’ll have to change trains at Green Park.

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Idea #2Major sights, museums, shows

Day One – What you will see:Trafalgar Square, Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Churchill War Rooms, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and a ride on the London Eye

Let’s start the day off in Trafalgar Square, home to one of London’s most famous landmarks – Nelson’s Column. Then venture up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace (allow 15 minutes for the walk).

Now comes one of the must-see sights in anyone’s stay – the Changing of the Guard. The ceremony starts at 11.15 AM but we recommend getting there by 10 AM for a spot up against the gates. Bear in mind that that it sometimes operates every other day, so check the schedule.

Now we’ll have a leisurely stroll through St. James’s Park towards the restaurant for a bite to eat. But remember to cross the bridge first, which cuts across the middle of the lake. It has one of the finest views in London (allow for 60 mins).

If you’ve got a soft spot for Winston Churchill, then you might like to visit the Churchill War Rooms – home to his wartime government in World War II. It can be found at the south-eastern edge of the park (allow for 90-120 mins, although you’ll have to skip one of the following places to compensate).

At the eastern end of the park is Horse Guards Parade. If you walk through the central arch you will emerge into Whitehall, where you can take your photo standing next to one of the sentries (allow for 30 mins).

Take a right towards Parliament Square, stopping only to have a nosey look through the gates of Downing Street. If you’re lucky you might see the Prime Minister emerge from No.10.

Big Ben will soon loom up on your left, alongside the Houses of Parliament. If you happen to be visiting during the ‘Summer Opening’, then we definitely recommend doing a tour (allow for 90 mins, although you’ll have to skip one of the following places to compensate).

Now cross over Parliament Square to Westminster Abbey – London’s most prestigious religious building. This is the setting for coronations, state funerals, and the burial place of many celebrated kings and queens. It is well worth a visit (allow for 2 hours).

Let’s end the day with a ride on the London Eye. It’s best to buy your tickets beforehand, as the queues can get quite heavy (allow for 30-45 minutes queuing, and 30 minutes on the actual wheel).

Day Two – What you will see:British Museum or Museum of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, followed by Covent Garden and a West End theatre show

There’s a choice of two different museums to start this day off, depending on which one you prefer (just pick one).

The British Museum has exhibits from ancient Egypt, Greece, Italy, Africa and the Orient, including colossal works by the Romans, Greeks and Persians. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon Marbles, and the world-famous Reading Room (allow for 2 hours).

The Museum of London tells the story of the city all the way back to prehistoric times, through its Roman period, the Great Fire of London, the Blitz, and right up to the modern-day (allow 2 hours). There are also some remains of the Roman Wall around the Barbican, if you’re a history buff.

If you went to the Museum of London then you can walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral, otherwise you’ll have to get the 521 bus (15 mins ride). No trip to London would be complete without looking around Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. We recommend going inside and climbing up to the dome for a fantastic view of the city (allow for 2 hours).

Now we’ll catch the No.15 to Covent Garden for a bite to eat. There are plenty of great restaurants in the Covent Garden piazza, and you can also sit back and enjoy a bit of street entertainment.

A great way to end your second day is with a West End show. Check out our theatre guide to see what’s on. A lot of the theatres are around Covent Garden, but you might have to walk to Shaftesbury Avenue or Piccadilly Circus.

Alternatively, you might like to watch a big blockbuster movie in Leicester Square instead – home to three of the biggest cinemas in the capital (allow for 3 hours).

Day Three – What you will see:Tower of London, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, the Shard, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Royal Festival Hall

Let’s start off at the Tower of London. It was originally built by William the Conqueror in the 11th-century, and is now home to the Crown Jewels. Why not do a Yeoman Warder tour, with one of the famous Beefeaters? (allow for 3 hours in total)

A short walk from the Tower of London is the world-famous Tower Bridge. If you’d like to go inside and see the exhibition (we suggest that you give it a miss) then you’ll enjoy some fine views from the top walkways (allow for 60-90 mins).

There’s are four different options now, depending on what you’re interested in (you won’t have time to do them all, so just choose one). If you like World War II battleships, then cross over the bridge past City Hall, and explore HMS Belfast (allow for 2 hours).

Alternatively, you could catch the RV1 bus from Tower Bridge to The Shard. If you’d like to check out the view from London’s tallest observation deck then allow yourself 60-90 mins.

Another option is to continue on the RV1 to the Tate Modern gallery. This is home to the country’s modern art collection, and includes works by Dali, Matisse, Rothko, Pollock and Pablo Picasso. If you’d like to have a look around then allow yourself 90 mins.

The third option is a guided tour around Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (allow for 90 mins). If you come during the summer then you might be able to catch a play (allow for 3 hours, but you’ll probably have to jiggle your day around to get it in).

If you still have time then you might like to continue on the RV1 to the Royal Festival Hall (find out what’s on here), or watch a play at the National Theatre (find out what’s on here).

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