London is huge – an obvious statement, I know, but if you’re a first time visitor it’s easy to try and cram everything in and end up rushing round all the tourist sites only to end up exhausted and with no feel for the real London. So try and give yourself time to relax – visit a local pub, take afternoon tea, walk by the river, take in a sporting event – anything that gets you in touch with what’s really going on. And think about venturing out of central London for at least one of your days if only to give yourself a break from the hustle and bustle.
Before you come ……all London airports are not equal! Just because it says London in the title it doesn’t mean that it’s actually in London. London Stansted airport for example is over 30 miles from central London and a taxi to get you there is likely to cost £100. Fly to Heathrow and City airports instead and you can hop on the underground and get to central London for as little as £6. So it’s worth checking this out before you book – what you save on a cheap flight you could lose on other transport costs not to mention the time you’ll waste ….
London Luton airport does have one thing to recommend it though….a direct rail link to St Pancras station and one of my favourite places in London – the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. You might recognise it’s grand staircase from the Spice Girls Wannabe video – it’s a lovely hotel and a perfect place to base yourself for a few days. If you’re a Harry Potter fan you’re just minutes away from Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station so that’s definitely worth a look.
If it was my first time in London and it was a nice day I think the first thing that I would do is head for the London Eye – it’s a great way to get your bearings and get a birds eye view of places you want to visit ….and if you don’t make them all at least you can say you’ve seen them! From there I’d head across Westminster Bridge to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, take in Westminster Abbey then head down Whitehall (passing Downing St and Horse Guards) ending up eventually in Trafalgar Square. From there you have a huge choice of pubs and restaurants – I’d try Covent Garden or Chinatown .
Day 2 and it’s time for some culture. Head to the Tate Modern to take a look at the modern art collection – from the balcony there you get a view of St Paul’ s cathedral and the Millenium footbridge – go and visit if you like but personally I’d head to Borough Market for lunch and spend some time exploring around there. Later on Shakespeare’s Globe is worth a visit and you may be able to catch a play in the open air – performed just as it was when Shakespeare was alive.
I think it’s time to get out of the City centre for day 3 – I love the boat trip to Greenwich – get on at Westminster Pier and on the way you’ll have fantastic views of The City, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf. I’d plan my day round lunch at one of the old pubs in the town centre and then have a walk round Greenwich park and maybe take in the Royal Observatory or the Cutty Sark.
On day 4 I’d head out towards Regents Park – you could go to Madame Tussaud’s on the way (get tickets in advance though because the queues are horrendous) or skip this and spend some time exploring the park and London Zoo. Follow the Regents Canal and you’ll end up in Camden Town with its lively nightlife.
Day 5 and time for some retail therapy – if you want to see Buckingham palace do that in the morning then head up towards Oxford St and Regent St – there are so many choices for shopping that you’ll be exhausted just thinking about it …. Selfridges is the iconic London department store or try Marylebone High St for some more eclectic shops. Wherever you end up afternoon tea is a great way to revive yourself – try Fortnum and Mason but remember you need to book. If you’ve got any energy left try and fit in a West End show…..if not there are worse ways to end a trip to London than in a good old fashioned pub and eat Fish and Chips!
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