Visiting [London] for the first time in October. Suggestions for places to see?

Hi everyone,

I know we have a loving compliment of UK denizens around here, but I am scheduling a trip to the UK in October over a weekend. I arrive on a Friday morning (after a red eye flight from NY), and I have commitments on Saturday for most of the day. That leaves Friday afternoon/evening and Sunday before I return on Monday morning. I'd like to see some sights, and I am staying right in downtown London. Clearly there's lots to see but I may not be able to see it all.

Also, I am terrible at geography, but if I wanted to see Stonehenge... doable?

Thanks all!

Skull2185 wrote: »
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  • Dis'Dis' Registered User regular
    edited September 2014
    You can do Stonehedge easily...if you want it to be the main thing you do Sunday. Paddington to Salisbury is 90 minutes, then its a 30 minute bus journey to the Henge. Both run every hour at least.

    'Downtown' London is a big place, and London has several 'centres'.

    Do you like muesems? Looking at historic buildings? Parks? Nightlife?

    Ye Olde Tourist crawl of the city of westminister is pretty good 3 hour stroll for your first time in London (leicester sq, trafalgar sq, buckingham place, hyde park corner, palace of Westminster & st stephens tower)

    Dis' on
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  • DBReedDBReed Registered User regular
    The last time I was in London, my wife and I went to the Dennis Sever House. It's a house museum that tries to portray a Victorian home that looks like a family actually lives there, so it's less sterile and more engaging than most house museums I've been to. It was enjoyable and it doesn't take that long. It's also close to Brick Lane, where we had some great Indian food.

  • Pure DinPure Din Boston-areaRegistered User regular
    If you're a Sherlock Holmes fan, the museum (at 221b Baker Street of course) is really fun. They set the house up to look like how it's described in the books, and they have costumes you can try on and have your photo taken sitting in his chair, etc.

  • seasleepyseasleepy Registered User regular
    One thing you will probably want to keep in mind is many of the museums or galleries close around 5 or 6 (though several are open later on Friday).

    Obviously the British Museum and the National Gallery are both amazing and you should def check those out but I'm guessing you want some recommendations beyond those.

    I overlooked the Science Museum when we first were planning out our visit but it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip because we are nerds about science (they have the Difference Engine there, like the actual one) and it's right next to the Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum (the cafe at the V&A is bonkers) which are both enormous and really cool buildings and museums in their own right, and if you want to goggle at how the other half lives it's a short walk to Harrods when the museums close.

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  • flowerhoneyflowerhoney Registered User regular
    edited September 2014
    Stonehenge is totally doable but it'll probably take up most of sunday. I did this recently when my family came to visit. You can combine it with a trip to Bath as well (which is I think is a good idea because Bath is beautiful).
    Basically what you would do is take the train from London to Bath, which takes about an hour maybe a little more, and then get on a tour bus to Stonehendge. I would advise you to book in advance (aka now) so you get a good price. If I remember correctly, the tour was about 3 hours total from getting on the bus to getting back off at the very end. In addition to being really pretty, Bath also has the famous Roman Baths (its like a museum/ruin) which are a really fun visit.
    Its really fun and super cool, but bring warm clothes cuz there can be a bitter wind.

    Museums do close around 5/6 but if you like bars there's TONS of amazing bars and fun nightlife. You can also check and see if any of the museums are doing late nights on friday. That would give you a chance to see them.

    flowerhoney on
  • DietarySupplementDietarySupplement Registered User regular
    Thanks for the suggestions, all.

    Do these tours and such operation on Sundays as well?

    Skull2185 wrote: »
    Basically, (PlayStation) Home is Second Life Ultra Light? Most of the cool stuff, none of the creepy blimp on blimp fucking.
  • TastyfishTastyfish Registered User regular
    edited September 2014
    If you're into Real Ales, check out Brew Dog's pub in Shoreditch - there's a underground speakeasy hidden behind a painting by the door to the toilets, who do the most amazing cocktails based on various reductions of Ales. All done up like some Steampunk Gentleman Scientist's lair - complete with ferret angels and the like. Right at the end of Brick lane if you were going to combine this with a curry from there and a visit to the house mentioned above.

    Here's a link

    Tastyfish on
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  • hsuhsu Registered User regular
    edited September 2014
    If you'll be in London only during the weekend, I wouldn't suggest taking the 4 hour round trip to Stonehenge.
    I'd suggest nearby stuff like the Tower of London, Maritime Greenwich, or a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre.
    Besides, it's much more fun to visit Stonehenge during the summer solstice, when you can dance on the rocks.
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    Edit: if it's not clear, Stonehenge is normally roped off to the public, and only during the summer (and winter) solstice festival does Stonehenge allow unrestricted access to the rocks, the only time you can touch them, wander within the circle, to see the inner ring, to dance on the fallen stones, making a dozen new friends whilst doing so. It's free, lasting from sunset the night before to sunrise the day of the solstice, and is really the way Stonehenge should be experienced. Any other day is a disappointment in comparison.

    Basically, if you want to see Stonehenge, book a trip that covers the solstice festival, and see it then.

    hsu on
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    DietarySupplementJulius
  • djmitchelladjmitchella Registered User regular
    As Dis mentioned, you can see an awful lot on foot, and walking down the Thames / through Trafalgar Square / etc is a heck of a lot more fun than the Underground. If you want to have taken the Tube, then it's potentially worth doing, but the center of London is very walkable (if crowded).

    The double-decker bus tours of London are surprisingly entertaining, too, and they'll take you further around than you can walk and may spawn an idea that you otherwise hadn't had.

    If you like art, then the Tate Modern is usually worth a look, or the Tate, or the National Gallery (off Trafalgar Square, so two for one); the British Museum has a bunch of very old stuff if you like that, (for instance, the actual Rosetta Stone).

    As mentioned, the Science Museum is pretty awesome; _the_ Difference Engine, _the_ Stephenson's Rocket, etc, etc -- and it's not ridiculously large, so you don't have that sense that you need to go to every wing to make sure you've seen it all, whereas the bigger galleries/museums get a bit out of hand if you don't have all day. The Natural History Museum is just round the corner from the Science Museum, too, which is worth a look.

    Hyde Park is also very close to those, and worth a wander if you want some green space.


    If you think you can manage the jetlag, go see a show -- there's a bunch of big musicals on, and London does them every bit as well as Broadway / etc.

    CroakerBC
  • ShadowhopeShadowhope Baa. Registered User regular
    I am NOT a Londoner or a UK resident (Canadian, eh). Having said that, I've been a tourist in London multiple times, never with a tour group, so I have some idea of what it's like visiting from a solo tourists perspective.

    First off, Stonehenge is an outside possibility for your Sunday - it's about a two hour drive from London, so if you have a rental car and feel like braving the wrong-sided roads it's doable. If you go, be sure to visit Salisbury as well. There's an impressive cathedral there, with one of the original copies of the Magna Carta in it, and it's a great town for walking in. If you're not comfortable driving, you could take a train, but you might need to leave London quite early, head back sooner than you might like, and it'll eat up a lot of your day. Also, you can/should book ahead for Stonehenge if I recall, as access to the site is restricted.


    If you decide not to go to Stonehenge, and instead stick to London (this is what I recommend - you can see more in an hour in London than you can in an afternoon at Stonehenge!) I recommend picking out a couple major goals - one for Friday afternoon, one for Sunday morning, one for Sunday afternoon, and then potentially picking things for the evenings.

    In the evening, consider seeing a show in Shakespeare's Globe or in the West End. London theatre scene is some of the very best in the world. Alternatively, there's almost always some band worth seeing playing somewhere every night. You can definitely find worthwhile bars all over the city. Depending on when you're going to London, you might be able to catch some sporting events. And some walking tours run at night, and you can generally book ahead - my parents absolutely loved these, and did three or four of them when they went to London.

    In the days, I'd recommend picking whatever kind of museum or site interests you and going to some of them. The British Museum is incredible, as is the Victoria and Albert. I loved the Imperial War Museum, and the Tate Modern. The National Gallery is a must see for some people, as is the Tate Britain. The Tower of London is probably my single favorite tourist site in the city, and in my opinion if there's anything that's a must in London for a tourist it's the Tower. The Museum of Natural History was great. National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory are slightly out of the way, but worthwhile.

    I also strongly recommend taking a long walk through London. The day I landed (after a red eye) the last time I went I took a long walk through the city, and my route hits a ton of major tourist sites. Starting in Green Park (from the Underground station, if convenient), go south towards Buckingham Palace. From Buckingham Palace, you walk up the Mall to Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square, and then south down Whitehall to Westminster. Going past Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament, you cross to the south side of the Thames. You then walk north along the banks of the Thames past the London Aquarium, and continue on until you reach Shakespeare's Globe, just past the Tate Modern. You backtrack to the Tate Modern and cross the Millennium Bridge, and head up towards Saint Paul's. The route gets a little trickier after that, as you walk through the City of London. Down Cheapside, then down Cornhill, until you reach the Leadenhall Market. From there, head south back towards the Thames, and see the London Monument. Finally, head west until you reach the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

    On my trip, I then walked back along the north side of the Thames, which was absolutely gorgeous in the spring, until I reached the Duke of York theatre in the West End, where I saw Jeeves and Wooster: In Perfect Nonsense (which was fantastic, but which I think is now touring). That walk I took would be somewhere between 2.5-6 hours, depending on your walking speed and how many pictures you take, and you hit a TON of the major tourist sites in London along that route.

    People on the Internet are more discourteous than in the real world because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.
    TechnicalityDis'djmitchellaCelestialBadgerCroakerBC
  • TechnicalityTechnicality Registered User regular
    edited September 2014
    As a Londoner, one of my favourite things to do is:
    -go to Bank station
    -get on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to the Royal Docks. This is a lovely little railway that rides on raised rails through the docklands. Its like a little rollercoaster and because it's automated you can sit and look out the front.
    -take the Emirates Air Line over to Greenwich (this cable car has at least as good a view as the london eye, but without the waiting and huge expense)
    -catch a river taxi up the river into the heart of the city (to somewhere like London Bridge), and go walk around/do a bunch of stuff (see above posts for some excellent suggestions).

    All three of these join together, give you a fantastic view of different parts of the city, and are cheap as they are public transport.

    I too would advise against stonehenge. Its a long way out in the middle of nowhere. I seem to remember they don't even let you get that close to the stones except on special days either due to vandalism, so its worth checking that so you aren't disappointed on the day.

    Technicality on
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  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    Tip for jaunting about london: Get yourself a Zone 1-6 travelcard; lasts until 2AM (or 4AM? I can't remember now?) the following day and means that all your bus, train & tube travel is covered.

    If you want a bit of nightlife, then Camden's pretty reliable & diverse if you like low-end, but make sure you have some ID; quite a few of the places wont let you in without a photo ID.

    Also there are plenty of pickpockets about, so be aware. If you have a nice smartphone then dont flash it around and then drop it in to an easily accessible pocket and so on.

  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    Oh yeah one other thing: English people generally have a larger personal space zone than Americans seem to. Arms length is fine.

    CroakerBC
  • Dis'Dis' Registered User regular
    V1m wrote: »
    Tip for jaunting about london: Get yourself a Zone 1-6 travelcard; lasts until 2AM (or 4AM? I can't remember now?) the following day and means that all your bus, train & tube travel is covered.

    4.30 AM, plus they've made it so its pretty impossible for a tourist without an Oyster to get anything other than a Travelcard

  • JeedanJeedan Registered User regular
    edited September 2014
    As other people have said down the Themes (I'd start or finish at tower of london) through to westminster is pretty much a perfect route if you want to see lots of shit.

    Jeedan on
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  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    I'd skip the henge if I were you. You don't really get to go very close to them, and when it comes down to it it's a pile of rocks in a field.

    Worth visiting if you're in the area, not worth using an entire day of your very limited time to get out from London to. Especially as London has so much to see.

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  • DietarySupplementDietarySupplement Registered User regular
    Thanks everyone, I am using all your suggestions to compile a list. I appreciate everyone contributing!

    Skull2185 wrote: »
    Basically, (PlayStation) Home is Second Life Ultra Light? Most of the cool stuff, none of the creepy blimp on blimp fucking.
  • V1mV1m Registered User regular
    Dis' wrote: »
    V1m wrote: »
    Tip for jaunting about london: Get yourself a Zone 1-6 travelcard; lasts until 2AM (or 4AM? I can't remember now?) the following day and means that all your bus, train & tube travel is covered.

    4.30 AM, plus they've made it so its pretty impossible for a tourist without an Oyster to get anything other than a Travelcard

    Well there you are then. You can shell out your £10.30 and ride around all day looking at museums, landmark and so on, go out clubbing and still get a tube home.

    NB: I was going to advise going to my most favouritest pub in London but apparently it has closed :(

  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited September 2014
    Sister is a londoner. What speaks to you as a tourist very much depends on you. I like museums and castles, you may not. One thing I would rec to anyone it taking a ferry or water taxi down the Thames. Very nice way to kick it and just leisurely watch the skyline. I love the tubes and blackies as well, but I still do this every time I visit.

    Djeet on
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    Stonehenge = disappointing, long bus journey. In October, will probably rain damply all day. Avoid.

    I highly recommend Shadowhope's suggestion of a long walk through London near the Thames.

  • ShadowhopeShadowhope Baa. Registered User regular
    edited September 2014
    Stonehenge = disappointing, long bus journey. In October, will probably rain damply all day. Avoid.

    I highly recommend Shadowhope's suggestion of a long walk through London near the Thames.

    I wouldn't say that it's disappointing, but perhaps I went in with low expectations. I expected it to be a circle of stones about thirty or forty feet across, and it was. It provided me with a few nice desktop wallpapers, one of the guides on site answered my question about what the yellow crop was that I saw growing in British fields everywhere (it's rapeseed, for canola oil!), and I got a lovely walk out of it. And a hilarious anecdote from seeing an American tourist stepping in cow poop.

    But honestly, the cathedral and town of Salisbury was probably more interesting to me overall.

    EDIT: Thank you, Geth.

    Shadowhope on
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  • WezoinWezoin Registered User regular
    Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
    Lunch at Borough Market on these days.

    Incredible food for about 5quid a meal.

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