Saturday, January 09, 2010

Question from Louise - Tips for travel to London

I'm going to England in February. I have six days. I've been once before but it wasn't "my" trip, so I didn't get to choose the sites to see.

Can I get some tips?

I have been to Westminster. I NEED to see the Tower. I have heard good things about the British Museum and the Museum of London. So I'll be visiting those. I just got a tip on the National Portrait Gallery's audio tour. What else?

Also, as fellow Tudor lovers, any suggestions of other aspects of British history that might interest me and be accessible to me during my trip?

[Like with the book suggestions posts, it never hurts to have additional discussion on travel suggestions, especially with new exhibits, etc. coming along every so often. - Lara]


Lara said...

Hampton Court is always worth a visit. I also made an effort to seek out the remnants of Richmond Palace on a trip, and that could be combined with the trip out to HCP.

The Victoria and Albert Museum recently unveiled their new Medieval and Renaissance galleries, so you might enjoy those. I've definitely got them on my "next visit" list (assuming I'm ever able to get back over there!).

And while you're in the area of the National Portrait Gallery, you might want to check out the National Gallery (it's basically right around the corner). Depending on when in February you'll be there, there is a new exhibit about the Delaroche painting "The Execution of Lady Jane Grey" opening at the end of the month.They also have a free iPhone app, if you happen to have one.

Although the Henry VIII exhibit is done, I love the British Library and think it's always worth a visit.

I'm sure there are some things I'm missing, but others are sure to have more suggestions. Have a great trip!

Louise said...

(Deleting my first comment. I didn't realize it showed my last name. Not a huge deal, but still...)

Thank you Lara! I saw the Delaroche painting last time and it made me want to learn about Lady Jane Grey. I just checked, the exhibit starts during my trip! It's now on the list.
I had seen Hampton Court on the "Historical Royal Palaces" website. Thanks for the recommendation!

Lara said...

I'll go in an delete your first comment as an admin, so it will be completely removed. I don't think a user deletion gets rid of the whole thing.

Kathy said...

Louise, what you see totally depends on exactly what your interests are. Do a lot of research and see what is where and then match it with your interests. If your interests are Tudor and you have just a short time, I'd totally agree that you have to see the Tower of London. The British Museum, Museum of London, V&A, National Portrait Gallery and Hampton Court are probably "must sees" too. It's a shame you couldn't have gone in 2009 because of all the Henry VIII exhibits.

I'd only add Windsor (as it's a very short train ride from London) and Greenwich. There is very little Tudor left in Greenwich, but I found a boat ride down the Thames and back to be a very evocative experience of what life on the river must have been like in Tudor times. (Many of the boats dock at The Tower of London so you might be able to kill two birds with one stone there.)

Also, if your interests run to later Tudors, a visit to the Globe Theatre would interest you. February is too early for the season to start, but you can tour the facilities.

Above all, do your research before you leave, see what is available and what interests you the most.

I hope you have a great trip!

Marilyn R said...

Have you been to Windsor Castle? The Henry VIII exhibition is on until 18th April and he & Jane Seymour are interred in St George's Chapel.
As it is a roysl residence in constant use you should check opening times at

Laura said...

Hever Castle would definitely be on my list of sites to see. And as Lara said, I'd include Hampton Court. Hatfield might be interesting as there is supposed to be a good exhibit of Tudor artifacts. I also don't think I'd pass up a chance to see Canterbury Cathedral. And because my best friend is an archaeologist and insists that should I ever make it to England she would disown me should I not spend some time along Hadrian's Wall, so I'd definitely look into one of the Roman forts, and, of course, Stonehenge...

Louise said...

Thanks Lara!

Kathy, I know! I was in England in 2008 and going back in 2010. It killed me to realize that 2009 was the big year for Henry! Oh well...

I spent a few days in Canterbury last time and got a GREAT tour of the Cathedral. I also loved the ruins of St. Augustine's Abbey.

I didn't realize Henry and Jane are at Windsor. That makes it very enticing! Too bad I only have six days. It's clearly not enough time!

Tamise said...

There is also a free Lady Jane Grey exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery until July.

This display will explore how artists constructed an idealised image of Lady Jane as a Protestant heroine and martyr.

More information here:

Marilyn R said...

Do check 2010 opening times on their own official websites for every place you intend to visit - many attractions close for the winter months here, others open later and close earlier than in the proper tourist season. For example, Hever Castle will not be open at all until March and Hatfield House not until April.

Michelle said...

I agree with the other postings and will reiterate that Hampton Court is an absolute MUST! If you love Tudor history, this simply can't be missed.

I'll say the same for the Tower, with the suggestion that you take the guided tour. If I'm not mistaken, the only way to see the inside of the Chapel, St Peter ad Vincula (which holds the remains of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, among many others) is on the guided tour, and it is worth seeing. Plus going in February, you likely won't have to wait in any lines or tour with lots of others. I've been in the winter and summer and much prefer the winter; the guides have much more flexibility to answer questions and give more details when they're not having to manage a large group.

While I've not been to Hever, it's been on my list each time, just haven't made it there. But have heard great things. Would definitely do that if you have the time.

Have a wonderful trip! Oh, how I can't wait to get back there! Hopefully 2011. Enjoy!!

Alexandra K said...

If you're only in the country for six days, I don't know if you'd be able to get all the way up to Hadrian's wall. It's definitely worth a look and a bit of a hike - when I was there this summer we walked from Once Brewed to Housesteads, which was more arduous than we had thought it would be, but most definitely worth it. But with the time it would take to get there and back (if you're staying in the south) is just too long for a daytrip.

I think all my London recommendations have been covered already, except for All Hallows by the Tower church, which is (appropriately) right by the Tower of London. Besides the fact that some famous people attended church here (I think Samuel Pepys also watched the Great Fire from the spire), it has an arch that dates back to a Saxon church and was built on top of a Roman villa or something like that. It's free to get into, and well worth it to poke your head in.

St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey are both really neat, but if you are strapped for time and aren't sure if the admission is worth it, you can attend services there for free. You can't wander around after, but at least you can say you've been there.

Salisbury is about a two-hour train ride from London, so you could definitely do a day trip and go see Stonehenge. While you're in the area, I would also highly recommend Salisbury Cathedral. It has the tallest spire in Britain, contains a copy of the Magna Carta and you can even climb to the top of it on a guided tour. Old Sarum (the original site of Salisbury) isn't too exciting, but you can stop by on your way to Stonehenge.

Hope you have a great trip!

Marilyn R said...

Evan Evans Tours do some great days out from London such as



Warwick Castle/Stratford-upon-Avon/Oxford

Oxford & Cambridge

Also half-day tours of London itself.

Trezza said...

I will agree that Hampton Court is a must see. I have only been to London once, but that was by far the excursion I enjoyed the most. I hope one day to make it back.

DeclareJeNos said...

If you're feeling energetic and have flat shoes on, you should consider taking a day/half day to walk around the "City of London" (ie. the 'Square Mile') which includes the Tower*, St Paul's*, The Monument*, The London Stone*, The Guildhall (the mayor's residence, not the uni), Leadenhall Market, Bank*, The Museum of London** etc etc.

As a square mile resident who regularly entertains non-London visitors who fancy a stroll, I assure you that it is possible to walk to and see (although maybe not browse the nitty gritty at ALL of them!) all these places in one day and have time for lunch too!

For a whistle-stop tour of quite a lot of these take the No.15 bus from outside the Tower into "central London" (to the West) and passes all the attractions mentioned above with a * next to them.

** "Modern" places/architecture to see include The Millennium Bridge, The Gherkin (which is really called St Mary Axe), Tower 42


Aly said...

If you have the time to check out markets, there are some amazing ones. They open in the morning on different days. One of my favorites was Petticoat Lane. If its not in Whitechapel itself its really near there. 'Spitalfields Market is pretty cool too. Portobello has antiques on certain days (its near Notting Hill).
And I'll reiterate Hampton Court. It's incredible. I was disappointed that the Base Court entrance was under construction when I was there, but it was still pretty cool.

Unknown said...

Base Court is all finished at HCP now and the Henry 2009 stuff continues there until April, so you'll catch it. If you want a tourguide, give me a shout. If I'm available, I'll come and show you round as I work there. Send Lara an email and she'll pass on my details. I did it for Kathy last year so she can vouch I'm not an axewielding maniac ;)I'm also at the Tower, so can show you bits of that as well, if you prefer?

I would recommend that you go to a walking tours company like Original London Walks. They're very cheap(around a fiver) and provide great information and a great way to see the city. They offer loads of different types of walks every day of the week so you'll find something to suit you.
If you go to the Tower, I recommend that you get off at Monument and, as you leave the tube, on the right will be the monument to the Great Fire of London. Climb up it for fantastic views of the city.The Tower is over a 5 minute walk from there and you avoid the huge tourist crowds at Tower Hill.
Like Kathy, I really recommend the boat trips. Travel from Westminster to Greenwich, for wonderful views and a real sense of the city's artery. PLus, when you get to Greenwich, walk along the banks at low tide and look out for pieces of red brick. That's the old Tudor Palace, which they used to build up the riverbanks when They pulled it down. You can take a bit of Tudor history home with you and for once no one will complain!

If I think of anything else, I'll come back again and let me know if you want a free guide for the palaces but otherwise, enjoy! Jo x

Unknown said...

Forgot one: as you missed the BL exhibition on Henry, there's a good one on at Windsor which is just outside London and absolutely worth the trip. It's a beautiful, fairy tale castle still used most weekends by the current queen and very popular with ol' Henry.
here's a link:

Kathy said...

I will totally vouch for Jo! She is a charming person and an incredible tour guide! She is extremely intelligent and knowledgeable about Tudor times and very enthusiastic about sharing her knowledge. Being with her at Hampton Court and the Tower of London were two of the most memorable experiences in what was the best trip I have ever had to England.

And while I'm on the subject, I probably never did properly thank Marilyn R and DeclareJeNos for their incredible kindnesses in making sure I got safely to and from where I wanted to go and being thoroughly charming companions to share the adventure with. Thank you both!

(Oh, and Louise, if you do meet up with Jo, be sure to ask her about ghosts!)

Unknown said...

Aww thanks Kathy!! I was just expecting a "Yes, she's not a lunatic" post and now I'm blushing ;)

Kathy said...

*LOL* I totally forgot to mention that Jo definitely is not a crazed ax-wielding serial killer.

A couple of more items I forgot to post. If you haven't found Trip Advisor yet, get right on over there. That is an invaluable source of information. Start on the London Forum. There is all sorts of information there. And the local experts are very well-versed in just about anything you would be interested in. They have been invaluable to me.

And, as Jo said, London Walks has a wonderful reputation for putting on walks and other tours of all sorts on every day of the year. I don't think you can go wrong with them. Here's a link to their site: London Walks.

We are going to want to hear all about your trip when you get back!

Anonymous said...

I too encourage you to go to Hampton Court. The grapevine and tennis courts are a must see. Along with the armor and furnishings of the day. If it were summer, I would recommend you take the boat trip up the Thames. However, being February, I'd take the train. Sorry you'll miss the most beautiful gardens.

Louise said...

Thanks everyone!

Qe have a connection in Oxford, so we're doing a day trip there.

We're probably going to have to pick between Windsor and Hampton Court. I'm not sure which to go to!

Joanna, thanks for the offer! I'll keep it in mind as my traveling companion and I start to nail down our itinerary. I trust that you're low risk, but I'm not sure how my traveling companion will feel. =)

P.S. I'm reading a great book called "Watching the English" by Kate Fox. I'm hoping to avoid too many embarrassing breaches of etiquette while I'm in England. ;-)

Unknown said...

LOL. That's a great book, stick with that, you'll be fine. We're fairly tolerant, especially in London when most people are used to tourists and will help if they can. Having said that, have a great trip!

Leigh said...

Hi go to Shakespeares Birth Place in Stratford-On-Avon.Lots to do and see.Lovely Elizabethan buildings,waterfront & historical properties.Leigh

Declarejenos said...

Louise - just to add, if you need any help while you're over, especially with the City of London, please feel free to ask Lara for my contact details and I will be happy to help if I can.