London Calling: things to see and do in the city

I am off to the UK for a summer study tour in a couple of weeks, and will have a few days to myself in London at the end of the tour before I have to return to the US. I don’t have any concrete plans for that time, so I thought I’d pick the collective brains of the SDMB membership. What should I be sure not to miss while in London? What should I be sure to miss? I’ve never been to England at all before, so any advice at all would be most welcome.

I love the bookshop in Westminster Abbey—they sell actual old magazines and newspapers; and by “old” I mean as far back as the 1700s. Oh, yeah, I guess check out the actual Abbey, too, while you’re there . . .

If you have time, take a boat ride up the Thames from the Victoria Embankment to Hampton Court. A lovely ride up, and Hampton Court itslef is a sight to see.

Don’t forget to stroll through some of the parks in the city! And if you run into Francesca, for chrissakes don’t call her “quaint!”

My favorite memories of my trip there several years ago were the Tower of London, the Globe Theater, a Jack the Ripper evening tour, and a show on Picadilly by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. (Not the Royal, the Reduced.)

Hey, if there’s a furriner in London that’s a good excuse for another Londope. (See International Londope 2002 thread. No I don’t have a link.)

When are you going to be around?


I was just there a couple of weeks ago for the first time, and was totally blown away by:

  1. The Islamic art collection at the British Museum; and
  2. The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Have lots of fun! I hear theater is great there, too, but was only in London for about 36 hours, so didn’t make it to any plays.

For events and entertainments you’ll need a copy of the Time Out listings magazine, but to help us answer your question, Lamia, you’d better give us some more hints about what sort of stuff you normally like to do.

For instance, the Americans I was with this evening enjoyed our trip to Brick Lane to eat Indian food, but had no interest in the Jack the Ripper tour andygirl has recommended, even though these were yards apart. There is a lot to do and see here, so advice really depends on what normally floats your boat.

Alex B’s Londope thread is here by the way.

I will be sure not to miss the boatride to Hampton Court or a play at the Globe – and I really mean that, because they are already a scheduled part of the study tour. :slight_smile:

Alex B, my free days in London will be May 25-28.

The Londope is on May 25 and May 26. Well, May 25 for certain.

Noooo… Saturday May 26th for certain. Check out the Londope thread - you’re welcome to join myself and a select few of choice Londers as we show do “Woo! London!” things on the afternoon of the 26th and then go drinking in the evening.

Oops. Got my dates muddled. Sorry.

Francesca, May 26th isn’t a Saturday.

I lived near King’s Cross, avoid it unless absolutely necessary - Unfortunately it is a hub of several rail/tube lines and is often unavoidable. Circle line trains are always slow and delayed, also Central line is pretty slow. If you want to see a nice tube however jump on the Picadilly line and go south toward Canary Wharf. Northern line is filthy. Camden tube is closed for entry on Sunday afternoons in the Summer. Oh, parts of London above-ground are nice too.

My goodness, you’re right SmackFu - it was me that got it wrong, not Crusoe. It is Saturday May 25th. Oop.

Near the Eye there is usually an art exibit of some sort. When I was there is was obsucre original Dali stuff. Also, Definitely go see the Globe. Take the tour. Near that part of town there is a place called Vinopolis. It take you on a “tour” of different wines throughout the world, where the grapes come from, how sparkling wine is made, and (the best part) you get to taste 5 wines as you walk around. They teach you how to properly taste them too.

everton, the thing is that I don’t really know. This will be my first visit to any big city by myself, and my first trip abroad since I was a child. I was hoping in this thread that people could just tell me things that they enjoyed in London, and then I could see what sounds good.

There should be a spot on the Speaker’s Corner (St James Park?) commemorating where I fell flat on my face in March of 1979.

Well the things I’ve enjoyed most as a visitor to London have been sports events, but I don’t know whether I’d recommend them to a casual visitor.

Unless your study group has already made its own arrangements the easiest way to get around the city is by Underground railway (Tube). If you’re going to be here for a couple of weeks it’s cheapest to buy weekly travelcards, which are good for other forms of transport too. You’ll need a passport-size photograph to buy one. If you’re only arranging your own transport for four days it would be cheaper to buy a new ticket each day (no photo needed).

Because the weather is less than 100% reliable here there are many things to do indoors. If you like museums and art galleries you could easily spend the rest of your life here and see something new every day. The Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum are all in a row on Cromwell Road (Gloucester Road tube station is nearest), and are all worth a visit. But the British Museum and Museum of London are very popular too.

I’m sure you’ll love Hampton Court, but you can also take a trip eastwards along the river to Greenwich, which is pretty too.

Anyway, I’ll post some more advice when I think of it. In the meantime, here and here are another couple of links that might give you some more ideas. I hope you have a great time.

The new Glaxo-sponsored wing of the Science Museum is excellent. Most of the museum is the traditional mix of planes, trains and cars, but the new wing is all high-tech and ‘interactive’ – retina scanning, computers morphing digital photographs of your face, really impressive stuff. The clincher for kids is that you can save all of the results of your interaction onto a web page that they build for you using simple templates:

My page, listing all of the interactive exhibits (okay, I was regressing to my childhood – I couldn’t resist!)

The National Gallery is good if you’re short on cash, since it’s free (well, donation-based) and centrally located. I’ve been told the British Museum and Museum of London are very good, but to allow about a week to see the former thoroughly.

And that from someone who knows a good ride when they see one…har, har…Just wanted to add to this excellent idea the thought that you can walk back into the city from Hampton Court Palace along the Thames tow path (where horses used to tow the barges) - I knows cos I’ve done it.

What’s especially nice about it is that you can walk as far as you want before catching a tube or train, you get to see London (or the more attractive suburbs) from a quite different perspective (a country-in-the-city thing) and there are lots of olde watering holes en-route. You also pass Kew Gardens, which is a lovely wander itself on a summer’s day.

The key to this is to take a map and to remember to switch river banks (from norf to sarf) at Kingston Bridge.

On that theme, another excellent walk is along the canal from Portobello Market to Camden Market – it takes you through Little Venice, Regents Park and much trendy urban decay/renewal (shop-street kulture-shop). Very, very pleasant and you can’t get lost – on a map, look for the thin blue line running roughly East-to-West and access it where a road bridges the canal.

Not sure what I’ll be going on the days mooted but, if around, I’d be very happy to join the throng.

Oh, and don’t forget Tate Modern - just 'round the corner from Shakespear’s Globe and essential viewing, IMHO.

Go to the British Museum, pick a couple of things you want to see, and give them a damn good seeing.
My personal favourites are the Sainsbury African Galleries, the Near East Galleries, and Indian statues.
The Tate Modern is very, very good, if you like 20th century art.

There’s a little guidebook you can get called Harden’s London For Free (link), which lists all the free museums and things to see.