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1 week in London next April - seeking suggestions
Old 12-13-2015, 12:33 PM   #1
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1 week in London next April - seeking suggestions

I have a very exciting trip coming up next April. My beloved brother accepted our offer to take his family (DB, DSIL, their daughter age 14 and son age 12) to Europe next spring. We are straddling spring break so the kids won't miss too much school and our itinerary: 7 nights in London, fly to Berlin, 6 nights in Berlin, is one that they are excited about, especially London. It will be the first time on an airplane for the kids, my brother's second trip to Europe in his lifetime, the 1st one was in 1984 when I was 15 and he was 14. So needless to say this is a big deal. I think his family is a little overwhelmed thinking about this, so DH and I are coming up with the basic itinerary. My plan is to give the rough draft itinerary to DB in the next week or so, so that they can start thinking about what they would like to see and start planning. I would love the advice of the knowledgable travelers on this forum.

So I'll start by asking for suggestions about London. I have reserved an apartment for the 7 nights in the area of Crouch End, so we will plan on getting 7 day travel cards for everyone. I am also planning on ordering the 3 day London passes ahead of time so that we can get discounted rates. I would love ideas about must see places, favorite sites, and if anyone has ideas about what would appeal most to children those ages. I have Rick Steves books and will be compiling information on which sites don't charge admission, which are covered by the London passes, days which the sites are open, etc, etc.

Another question is about possibly visiting Stonehenge. DB asked if it would be possible to go there, and my first thought was that it would be a challenge taking trains/buses to get there. Then DH suggested renting a car and driving there. Any thoughts on that? Thanks in advance!
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Old 12-13-2015, 02:15 PM   #2
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a minor expense in comparison to the entire trip, but the free museums to me fill more then enough time for a 7 nite stay. Instead of more museum expenses, I'd consider half-price or reduced same day play tickets or going on the London Eye. The museums that aren't free have pretty stiff entrance fees. The V and A, Science Museums, the British Museum, the library and art galleries will take care of most museum lovers.

We found on a solo couple trip that we were constantly optimistic about how much we could do in one day and we didn't have teenagers along.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:19 PM   #3
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+1 on the same day theater tickets.

I love the walking tour company London Walks. London Walks "first and best of the walking tour firms" Fodors They employ excellent guides - many of them actors with a flair for the dramatic in their guide info. The kids might enjoy the Harry Potter tour - my older son and I enjoyed that.

If you decide to rent a car to go to Stonehenge - consider getting out of town before doing so - when we went to Stonehenge years ago - we took the train to Salisbury, toured that town, picked up our car, went to Stonehenge and Avebury. I actually preferred the ring/big stones of Avebury because, at the time, you could walk among them, climb on them, etc. (Bring good shoes - you walk through meadows and dodge sheep.)

We were in London this past summer with my kids ages 12 and 14 (at the time). My boys both enjoyed High Tea (pricey - but they had fun holding their pinky's out and pretending to be upper crust). And the theater. They also didn't hate seeing the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:26 PM   #4
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I think a 12 year old boy might like the Imperial War Museum, which is in Lambeth (Elephant & Castle Tube Station is closest, I think).

Edit to add link http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:31 PM   #5
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Yeah I've gone on London Walks too.

Most of the major museums are free and if you go to them, you may not want or need to go to paying museums at all.

If you don't have Paris on the itinerary, maybe consider using 2 of the London days for an overnight to Paris using the Eurostar. If nothing else, likely better weather there.

But you can certainly fill your time around London for the first week. One thing to consider is one of those coach tours. I went on one that took me to Windsor, Bath and Stonehenge on one day. You could take trains to those locales but they don't line up on the same rail line so I remember when I researched that it would be very difficult to hit all those places in one day without a car (or coach in this case). You might have had to return to London on one train and hope on another to get to another of the locations.

I haven't been to Cambridge and Oxford but I think it's a similar situation, hard to visit both as a day trip on public transport because they're not on the same lines.

London Eye is touristy and costly but definitely worth doing on a nice clear day. I bought a combo ticket for both day and night so I went twice on the same day.

Did the Tower of London once, was okay but would not spend the money going to it again.

Haven't gone inside St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey.

Another underrated place, if you have good weather, is take the boat all he way to Greenwich. Lot of green space, people sunning themselves on the lawn, hike up to the observatory.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:33 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by ivinsfan View Post
a minor expense in comparison to the entire trip, but the free museums to me fill more then enough time for a 7 nite stay. Instead of more museum expenses, I'd consider half-price or reduced same day play tickets or going on the London Eye. The museums that aren't free have pretty stiff entrance fees. The V and A, Science Museums, the British Museum, the library and art galleries will take care of most museum lovers.

We found on a solo couple trip that we were constantly optimistic about how much we could do in one day and we didn't have teenagers along.
Thanks for your post! I agree, there is so much to see even amongst the free museums! I should have said that I was going to buy the London pass, rather than the museum pass, so that covers admission to sites like Tower of London and Westminster Abbey among others. I am embarrassed to say that in my previous trips to London the only museums I visited were the British Museum and the National Gallery. I am especially looking forward to the V and A.

Thanks for the suggestion about theater tickets, I will definitely look into that.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:39 PM   #7
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+1 on the same day theater tickets.

I love the walking tour company London Walks. London Walks "first and best of the walking tour firms" Fodors They employ excellent guides - many of them actors with a flair for the dramatic in their guide info. The kids might enjoy the Harry Potter tour - my older son and I enjoyed that.

If you decide to rent a car to go to Stonehenge - consider getting out of town before doing so - when we went to Stonehenge years ago - we took the train to Salisbury, toured that town, picked up our car, went to Stonehenge and Avebury. I actually preferred the ring/big stones of Avebury because, at the time, you could walk among them, climb on them, etc. (Bring good shoes - you walk through meadows and dodge sheep.)

We were in London this past summer with my kids ages 12 and 14 (at the time). My boys both enjoyed High Tea (pricey - but they had fun holding their pinky's out and pretending to be upper crust). And the theater. They also didn't hate seeing the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum.
Those are great suggestions! Years ago I went on a walking tour of Bath and absolutely loved it, I will definitely look into a London walking tour - thanks for the link.

Do you think the trip to Stonehenge is a reasonable day trip from London? In a perfect world I would love to spend a few days in Bath and take a day trip from there, but unfortunately there are time constraints. I also went to Avebury and Salisbury Cathedral years ago and enjoyed them so will keep that in mind.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:40 PM   #8
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I think a 12 year old boy might like the Imperial War Museum, which is in Lambeth (Elephant & Castle Tube Station is closest, I think).

Edit to add link IWM London | Imperial War Museums
Thanks for the suggestion and the link! I would like to visit that museum too.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:45 PM   #9
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Thanks for your post! I agree, there is so much to see even amongst the free museums! I should have said that I was going to buy the London pass, rather than the museum pass, so that covers admission to sites like Tower of London and Westminster Abbey among others. I am embarrassed to say that in my previous trips to London the only museums I visited were the British Museum and the National Gallery. I am especially looking forward to the V and A.

Thanks for the suggestion about theater tickets, I will definitely look into that.
The V and A is very close to the Science Mus and also right down the block from Harrod's which is a must see. That alone will fill one entire day, for free.
I also second the idea of the Imperial War Museum... it's great.
The Tower of London is pricey in my opinion but can be another all day outing.
On the London Eye, I treated my Auntie and Uncle who were lifelong residents to a ride on the Eye and they were just blown away.

We got reduced tickets to a daytime performance of Phantom of the Opera in one of the old school theaters, it was unforgettable and a chance to rest our feet. I think we bought them at a kiosk for unsold tickets.
You will fun out of time and/or stamina before you see everything.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:45 PM   #10
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There is a website, I believe it is called VisitLondon, where you can prebook all manner of things.
I would suggest getting Oyster cards to use on the buses and tube. The London Eye is great for the views, but one of the funnest things we did was take a jet boat down the Thames.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:50 PM   #11
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Yeah I've gone on London Walks too.

Most of the major museums are free and if you go to them, you may not want or need to go to paying museums at all.

If you don't have Paris on the itinerary, maybe consider using 2 of the London days for an overnight to Paris using the Eurostar. If nothing else, likely better weather there.

But you can certainly fill your time around London for the first week. One thing to consider is one of those coach tours. I went on one that took me to Windsor, Bath and Stonehenge on one day. You could take trains to those locales but they don't line up on the same rail line so I remember when I researched that it would be very difficult to hit all those places in one day without a car (or coach in this case). You might have had to return to London on one train and hope on another to get to another of the locations.

I haven't been to Cambridge and Oxford but I think it's a similar situation, hard to visit both as a day trip on public transport because they're not on the same lines.

London Eye is touristy and costly but definitely worth doing on a nice clear day. I bought a combo ticket for both day and night so I went twice on the same day.

Did the Tower of London once, was okay but would not spend the money going to it again.

Haven't gone inside St. Paul's or Westminster Abbey.

Another underrated place, if you have good weather, is take the boat all he way to Greenwich. Lot of green space, people sunning themselves on the lawn, hike up to the observatory.
Thanks for your post! I am quite afraid of heights so I don't think I would choose to go on the London Eye, but if the kids want to and none of the other adults want to I will brave it.

I had wondered about going to Greenwich and will definitely keep that in mind.

I agree about Tower of London, once was enough for me, but since they haven't been there I will do it again. I do think Westminster Abbey is worth a visit, the only time I went in was in 1984, so I am looking forward to seeing it again, I have never been in St. Paul's so that is one of my must see places.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:57 PM   #12
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Very close the the London Eye is an underground museum of the cabinet war rooms..absolutely fascinating and that one is worth the price of admission especially for military history buffs.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:58 PM   #13
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the London Eye is attached to a wonderful coffee shop for the non-riders in the group.
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Old 12-13-2015, 03:58 PM   #14
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The V and A is very close to the Science Mus and also right down the block from Harrod's which is a must see. That alone will fill one entire day, for free.
I also second the idea of the Imperial War Museum... it's great.
The Tower of London is pricey in my opinion but can be another all day outing.
On the London Eye, I treated my Auntie and Uncle who were lifelong residents to a ride on the Eye and they were just blown away.

We got reduced tickets to a daytime performance of Phantom of the Opera in one of the old school theaters, it was unforgettable and a chance to rest our feet. I think we bought them at a kiosk for unsold tickets.
You will fun out of time and/or stamina before you see everything.
Excellent suggestions! I have never been in Harrod's and would love to go, that sounds like a perfect day of sightseeing to me.

A daytime theater performance could also be a chance to escape possible bad weather, I like the idea of buying unsold tickets so we wouldn't have to commit too far in advance.

Ok, I may have to reconsider going on the London Eye despite my fear of heights.....
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Old 12-13-2015, 04:00 PM   #15
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There is a website, I believe it is called VisitLondon, where you can prebook all manner of things.
I would suggest getting Oyster cards to use on the buses and tube. The London Eye is great for the views, but one of the funnest things we did was take a jet boat down the Thames.
Yeah I meant to mention this. I used a 7-day Travel Card like the OP mentions.

It's okay but on the last trip, I tried getting an Oyster Card and loaded it up with credit.

There is a daily limit on how much they deduct. Like after 2 or 3 fares, it's capped, like 5 or 6 pounds a day is the most they will deduct.

Oyster Cards to require a deposit, which you can't get back for some number of weeks I think. So some people use these contactless credit cards, you can use to directly charge on the same readers used for the Tube and the buses. Those also are capped with a daily limit.

Supposedly also iPhones with Apple Pay will now work on those readers.
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Old 12-13-2015, 04:01 PM   #16
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Very close the the London Eye is an underground museum of the cabinet war rooms..absolutely fascinating and that one is worth the price of admission especially for military history buffs.
That is definitely on my list of must see places. I am one of those military history buffs.
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Old 12-13-2015, 04:02 PM   #17
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It's like looking out a skyscraper, though it's not very high like the Empire State building.

It moves very slow, slower than a ferris wheel, so no sensation of motion.

Great view over Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
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Old 12-13-2015, 04:05 PM   #18
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Yeah I meant to mention this. I used a 7-day Travel Card like the OP mentions.

It's okay but on the last trip, I tried getting an Oyster Card and loaded it up with credit.

There is a daily limit on how much they deduct. Like after 2 or 3 fares, it's capped, like 5 or 6 pounds a day is the most they will deduct.

Oyster Cards to require a deposit, which you can't get back for some number of weeks I think. So some people use these contactless credit cards, you can use to directly charge on the same readers used for the Tube and the buses. Those also are capped with a daily limit.

Supposedly also iPhones with Apple Pay will now work on those readers.

Did you find the Oyster Card to be a better deal than the Travel Card? I must admit I find these options confusing. Except for the day we arrive at Heathrow and the day we depart from Heathrow, we likely will only be traveling in zones 1 and 2.
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Old 12-13-2015, 04:09 PM   #19
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That is definitely on my list of must see places. I am one of those military history buffs.
I see this is actually called the Churchill War Rooms and is included in the London Pass.. I see they have a sale on the passes until December 15....20% off at the London Pass site..
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Old 12-13-2015, 04:20 PM   #20
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Did you find the Oyster Card to be a better deal than the Travel Card? I must admit I find these options confusing. Except for the day we arrive at Heathrow and the day we depart from Heathrow, we likely will only be traveling in zones 1 and 2.
In my case, it was only a 4 or 5 day visit so the 7-day made no sense at all. I loaded up 20 and still have left over credit.

But it will depend on where you stay, how far you intend to travel, etc. since they charge by zones. For central London with the usual attractions, the lowest fares good for zones 1-2 should be enough.

Otherwise, this page has a good chart on the difference:

https://visitorshop.tfl.gov.uk/help/ticket-comparison/

And this one shows you the daily caps, which may allow you to plan a lot of travel on one day but then on some other days, when you don't travel as much, you don't use the credit.

https://www.londontoolkit.com/briefi...ard_oyster.htm

I also liked to take the bus a lot because you see the city more. Of course that means the potential for traffic jams, certainly not as fast as the Tube when you're going for a trip of more than 2 or 3 Tube stops.

Buses are a bit cheaper IIRC.

Also, indispensable is to have a smart phone with data. I am on T-Mobile which gives unlimited roaming overseas at a slow speed. However, it will still work with Google Maps, checking email, doing some light browsing.

So I use an app. called Citymapper on the iPhone and it will use your GPS location and all you do is search for your destination and it'll tell you the next bus, where the stop is and so on. Or tell you how far to walk to the nearest Tube station to get you on the train to your destination.

You can print out bus schedules or use the TFL Journey Planner web site which will also tell you how to get from point A to B and list all the options. But I like the interface of the Citymapper app.
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