I haven’t been in many cities around the world, but among some of the major cities I’ve ever visited, London is my most favorite city to stroll around and to be alive (especially when the sun is up!). London is vibrant, dynamic, diverse in atmosphere, and of course spectacularly beautiful. Be it on a subway or on the main street, you can feel the vibrant energy and the electric that surge you alive. You can have green beauty and the silent solitude warm you in the morning at Hyde Park, and being cheered and lifted up by the crowd passerby on the same place in the afternoon. You can feel being zipped up to 17th or 19th century in the morning at Westminster abbey, and back to 21st century in the afternoon walking around The Shard. It’s everlasting, and it’s refreshing. I’ve been there twice, and I still want more and more.
But that’s the traveler’s dilemma, you have such a short time, with many things to see and experiences. And somehow it’s just never enough. Well, some place can fulfill your satisfaction from exploration. But London has never given it to me. I just keep wanting more. So here’s my advice: Try not to spend less than three days to explore London, unless you’re days are numbered and you’re pocket thinning. Because there’s just so much to see and I would say 4 to 5 days are the best number to get the best of London (depends on your interests as well).
What to Visit
When I arranged the itinerary for London City Tour and the Great Britain trip as overall, I only had 12 calendar days and there’s just so much to see up north in Scotland as well. So I gave two days to explore London in order to buying more time exploring Isle of Skye.
The “what” part was difficult, there’s no place i don’t want to miss that it started becoming Mission Impossible: The London Chapter. And I didn’t plan to copy Amazing Race either. So I started by selecting famous historical buildings and parks. I love staring for hours at beautiful architecture and London is the perfect place to be. Last but not least, insert some adventure inside by including Warner Bros Studio’s Harry Potter Tour and Chelsea Stadium Tour. I mean, you haven’t visited Great Britain without visiting Football/ watching football game.
You can refer to Lonely planet or many sources from search engine to lists London's Places of interest. From there, you can look through them and decide which place you want to visit.
There are lots and lots of attraction London can offer such as:
1. Museum: British Museum, Natural History Museum, Sherlock Holmes Museum, Greenwich Observatory
2. Park/Garden : St. James’ Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Garden, Regent’s Park, Green Park,
3. Historical Building: Tower of London (My all-time favorite), House of Parliament and Big Ben, St. James Square, Horse Guard Parade
4. Galleries: Somerset House, Tate Modern Art
5. Modern Architecture:
6. Football Stadium: Arsenal FC, Chelsea FC
7. Palace: Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace
8. Shopping Arcade: Burlington Arcade, Harrods
9. Others: London eye, London zoo, Thames river boat ride, Arcelormittal Orbit
And many others…
How to get Around London – “The Magic Card”
Determining the places to be visited came together with “how to get around” part and this is why I love London so much. The transportation is integrated, reliable, and punctual. All we need is subway/bus schedule and information of where the entrance to the underground station. This makes the mobility easier, systematic, and flexible as well. To make it even easier, there’s this thing named “The London Pass” (This is not a sponsored blog). The combination of London Pass and Oyster Card had made my zig-zagging in London more time and cost efficient. Although, I believe the more days you spend in London, the more cost-effective London Pass is.
To summarize the “magic cards” I mentioned above; London Pass is a visitor pass that gives you “more value” than the purchase value, and allows you to visit as many attraction as you CAN. You can select Pass from one to ten days with various price. The idea of London Pass: the more attractions you visit, it gets more economic (the more money you can save compared to regular purchase in each attraction). It also free you from queuing in locket. That being said, the 10-days London Pass give you the best money you can get with only 14 GBP per day (the normal entry to Westminster Abbey is 20 GBP).
Summing up the normal entry cost for places we visited in 2 days and compared it with using London Pass give me number of GBP 114 VS GBP 75 (the price of 2-days London Pass). So i saved about 40 GBP. But, if you don’t plan to enter those places and just looking around from outside, you may want to consider individual purchase at each attraction’s ticketing office. Of course, there are places that are free for visitors such as City’s Park, Tate Modern, and Natural History Museum (for NHM, it’s free for entrance but prices apply for certain exhibitions or events) and places that are not covered in London Pass such as St. Paul’s Cathedral. That means, you have to pay the normal price at attraction’s ticketing office.
The other “Magic Pass” is Oyster Travelcard. Oyster card has many type of packages and “Travelcard” is one of them. It gives you the freedom to travel as much as you like on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and National Rail services in London.
Where to buy the “Magic Cards”
The London Pass is sold online, you can choose the card to be shipped to your home (certain fee applies), or collect it on arrival (for free). Or, you may choose to buy the Card in major railway and underground station, as well as the airport. You can read the detail in the FAQ section on Contact Sub-Tab of London Pass website. In my case, I bought the card soon as I arrived at London Heathrow Airport at the Hotel & Travel Reservation Desks. It may not be immediately clear, so you have to ask them if they sell the London Pass. At that time, the seller kindly advised us not to buy London Pass that also has “Oyster card” on it since it’s more economical to buy it separately. So that’s what I did. I purchased the Oyster Card down in the Heathrow Terminal 2 Tube-Station.
The detail Itinerary
I like to have a plan in place when travelling, but also be spontaneous. When you travel abroad with everything new, it is good to have a detailed plan. This is so every moments are well spent. Having a detail plan also gives you options, although you don’t necessarily stick to it. Having a detailed plan is like having a back-up plan. When you can’t go to A, you still can go to B. So without further ado, here’s my detailed two-day London City Self Exploration Tour.
Did I go through it as planned? The answer is no, but I’d say 75% of them are met. If we didn’t had a chance to explore inside, at least we stopped by outside. And thus, like I said earlier, depends on your intensity of exploration and your travelling style, 4-6 days are considered suitable to get the best out of London. Following is the route of the walking tour. You can click on each Letter to find out what place is it.
Last but not least, this is written based on my personal experience. If you have a better and more efficient / more economic way to explore London don't hesitate to share your experience :) and again, this post is not sponsored ;).
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