Only have one weekend to spend in London? Here is how I turned 3 days in London into a successful trip.
Over the summer I spent 2 weeks visiting family in England, my first time to the country. My Nana, sister & I spent 3 days in London at the end of our trip to Manchester & Blackpool. Obviously it is impossible to see everything in just a weekend but if you research and strategize, you are able to see a lot!
First thing you need to figure out is how you are going to travel around one of the largest cities in the world. London has an amazing public transit system with the underground railway system,called the London Underground, in the 1860s.
This by far is the easiest, fastest way to get around. Many large metropolitan areas have a similar form of public transportation but this is quite expansive and gets you where you need to be quickly. Best way to take advantage of this? Purchase an oyster card which is reloadable and prevents you from having to buy cards to specific stations each time you ride the Tube. Also available is a large bus system which accepts oyster cards. Walking around London for short distances or taking a famous black taxi are also great alternatives!
Next thing you need to do is narrow down what you really want to see. I have been dreaming of going to visit England since I was young enough to realize what it meant. With the exception of my dad, uncle, and grandparents, my entire paternal family lives there. With that being said I have always dreamed of going to see the Buckingham Palace. Obviously it is a staple of British History and a must see. Luckily for us we went during the summer when the State Rooms are open to the public.
I can hands down say that this was one of the most interesting tours that I have ever taken. Each person, once through security, is given a personal audio device. Occasionally, videos come up when you get to each section which are numbered throughout the palace. You are given an inside look at the areas in which HRH The Queen entertains diplomats and state leaders who come to Buckingham Palace. The art collection is reviewed in detail as well as the means in which they go over the preparation for state dinners. An exhibit is on display showing the invitations, menus, outfits the Queen has worn to past state dinners, etc.
Moving on from this exhibit area you are able to watch a time-lapse style video as the table is set up over numerous days and the opportunity to walk around the table to see the final product.The amount of work it takes to set up the state dinners is incredible and it takes so many people to make it happen. You then follow through additional rooms leading you out to the gardens where there are kid activities and a chance to buy some coffee, tea and pastries as well as a large gift shop. This tour overall took about 1.5 hours. Although there are multiple tours per day, you were able to walk at your own pace. Make sure if this is something that interests you, you look into the schedule and buy your tickets online early.
Sometimes a large city can be overwhelming to experience, especially in just 3 days. We took advantage of the Big Bus Tour Hop On Hop Off System and it made our trip planning so easy! There are multiple routes that cover all the major tourist attractions. You can buy a 1,2, or 3 day pass and get on or off where ever you feel like. The bus stops were so easy to find and the commentary (both live or recorded in multiple languages) was amazing. We were able to scoot around seeing so much from the bus without the need to walk to each place. We got off where necessary or where we wanted to take a tour and continued on our way at all the other stops. These buses are typical double deckers, some of which were completely open, some were completely closed and others were open at the back but closed in at the front.
The pass also included a river cruise along with River Thames which I also highly recommend, even if you do not do the bus tour. BBT partnered with City Cruises which offered multiple piers to start our River Cruise. Our two level boat was quite large and gave everyone the views necessary to take amazing selfies with the Tower Bridge and Big Ben! The ride took about 30minutes with a stop at each pier. We did not do the entire loop, choosing instead to get off at the London Eye Pier.
Want to see a real piece of British History? Make sure you make time to see Westminster Abbey. Whether you are religious or not is irrelevant, it is breathtaking. Similar to Buckingham Palace, everyone is given a personal audio player and there are different numbers throughout. Here there are definitely some numbers I could not find. Some rooms can be very tight which means that you have to keep moving so I didn’t exactly give it all I had to see everything. There is an option to have a private tour with what appeared to be a 3rd party company but I don’t think that is necessary. The inside of Westminster is beautiful and the amount of history the building holds is incredible. it it pretty cool to walk around where so many important events have taken place.
After making sure we were able to fit the above into our schedule, we also made time to do some honorable mention activities such as tour Tower Bridge, take a ride on the London Eye, and visit Harrods. The bridge tour was nice but a little drawn out. Although you do it at your own pace it does get bottle necked in some areas. Walking on the glass floor scared me half to death but I did a little bit just to say that I did.
The line for the London Eye was long but the views were incredible. The time and cost make it something you can easily save for another trip if you are short on either. Just like walking on the glass floor, I can say I did it but I don’t think I will be doing that again. Harrods is definitely something you can skip. The prices in the store are very high and it is crowded with tons of people, doing the same thing as you, window shopping. There are multiple eateries inside but, like the store, prices are high and the lines are long.
I hope this information helps you to have a successful trip to London. Whether you are there a few days or few weeks, London is beautiful and you will most definitely want to visit again soon.
June 16, 2017