Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Countdown to London Begins

In exactly 30 days, Fabian and I will be heading across the pond for our first visit to London. I picked up a copy of Rick Steves' 2009 London Guide, but need a little help planning our itinerary. We will be there for 7 days, two of which will be spent traveling. I guess that leaves five full days for sightseeing. I think we would like to take a day trip to Oxford as well. Is it worth visiting for a day? Does anyone have any suggestions for the order in which we should see the sights in London? I would really appreciate any insight you might be able to give me. Also, if you know of any "can't miss" spots for sightseeing, shopping, or dining, please do share! Thanks a million!


Mrs. Limestone said...

I never made it there on my last trip but Im hearing good things about the Bermondsey Market.

If you don't mind the crowds, Tower of London.

Anonymous said...

You can easily spend 5 days sightseeing just in London. My favourite spots are the National Portrait Gallery, the Churchill Museum & Cabinet War Rooms and the Tate Modern. Oh, I would recommend taking in some theatre as well. In terms of side trips, I really liked Bath and also Windsor Castle. Both are easy day trips from London. I've not been to Oxford but hear that it's pretty.

PS. Your blog is great !

Things That Inspire said...

I would also recommend focusing on just London if you only have 5 days...if I were to do a day excursion, it would be to Bath or to Blenheim Palace, not Oxford (although Oxford is not too far from Blenheim Palace, and it a lovely place to visit).

London is truly my favorite city in the world! I have a walking tour book of London, and do a different walking tour each time I visit. The best one so far is the Chelsea and Kensington walking tour - you see a lot of London that tourists don't usually see, so much history too
! I will look it up and send it to you in an email, as well as my favorite pocket map of London.

I usually visit London with the kids, so I don't know all of the great places to eat, but my all time favorite fish and chips is the Golden Hinde in Marylebone - supposedly Madonna's favorite fish and chips - it is fish and chips owned by a Greek family, so there are lots of great Greek entrees too. It is BYOB, but there is a liquor store next to it. Very reasonable, and outstanding!

Places to see - love the Tower of London, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Victoria and Albert (outstanding decorative arts and clothing collection - you would love it).

I usually go to London every year, but was not able to go this year...I wish I could be there with you!!!!

Ashley said...

I went to England a few years ago and spent about half a day at Oxford. It's pretty cool and it has beautiful architecture (I think part of it has even been in a Harry Potter movie). I say if you have free time, visit it, but most of the more noteworthy stuff is in London. :)

Jessie {A Punctuated Life} said...

Oh I'm super jealous of your trip but I know you're going to LOVE it!! You'll want to go back as soon as you leave because there's definitely more to see than can be seen in a week.

One of my favorite memories is venturing down Portobello Road Market to shop. It's a combination of antiques, mom-n-pop shops, vintage, bakeries and so much more! I highly recommend hitting up the Hummingbird Bakery for a delicious cupcake and Rellik for some fun vintage clothing finds. Oh, and you can't leave without buying some fresh food from one of the street vendors... this is making my taste buds tingle for fresh blackberries and scones... so yummy!!

I also really loved Buckinghamshire which is right outside of London. It's got a million stately homes and it's not too touristy. Unfortunately I can't give you too many tips for that area because I had a personal tour from a friend, but it was beautiful. Salisbury is also a great place to visit: Stonehenge and the Salisbury Cathedral, plus an adorable little town!

If you want to see a show while you're there, go down to Leicester Square (it's so much fun by itself, too) where you'll find the TKTS booth. Also, Piccadilly Circus is amazing at night (much like Times Square)!

And two pieces of random information: The British Museum is only open until 5:30pm except Thursday and Friday till 8:30pm (I found out the hard way on a Wed at 6pm); and you might consider getting an Oyster card depending on how much you will be using the tube and buses (it can make your trips much quicker because you just scan the card for access).

I've heard that the Moleskin City Guides are great for their portability, so you might like that as an additional guide.

Sorry for the disorderly information, but once I got started thinking about London my brain just goes in a hundred directions remembering the sights and sounds. I know you'll come back with equally as wonderful memories!

Mimi's Poor Blog said...

You have to go to the following places:

Covent Gardens: Rules Restaurant, Neal's Yard, Carlucci's

Harrod's food halls

Harvey Nichol's 5th floor

Camden Passage on Weds or Sat for the outdoor/indoor flea market where Rachel Ashwell's parents had a stall

Jacqueline said...

Near Pimlico there is a street of beautiful antiques and homegoods...my favorite shop is called Daylesford Organic..gorgeous little store. Have fun!

Lauren said...

London is so fabulous! Two of my favorite museums in the world are the Tate Modern and the National Gallery. Though it's touristy, I really enjoyed the London Eye - you get such a great view of the city. At night it's always fun to see a show (you can get half price tickets like in NYC) because you'll be so exhausted! What a fabulous trip!

Anonymous said...

I agree with a few of the other posts. My husband and I lived in London for 2 years about 8 years ago. I think that Oxford might be a little far and not quite as interesting as London. Going to Bath is a GREAT day trip. Windsor Castle is also BEAUTIFUL-the town around the castle is very cute and also great for a day trip. Go to Harrods (the food court is amazing) If you feel like you can drive on the other side of the road, rent a car and drive through the "Cotswalds" (it's an area just outside London. You will see the most adorable towns with english cottage gardens, thatched roofs, babbling brooks, pubs galore and great people with great stories. You really don't need a plan per se to drive through there, every time we went we just winged it and had a great time. You will have a blast! Lucky you!

Caitlin said...

I think I will have to send you a separate email.
But a few of my top spots happen to be portobello market, national library, liberty of london, kensington palace, stratfors upon avon, and of course, Topshop.

Also, there is a great home store in the UK called Habitat.

lizawiza said...

Don't miss Knotting Hill.

Sarah - La Jeune Marie said...

What a lucky girl you are Paloma! I hope you have a wonderful time "across the pond"! Bon Voyage!

Blushing hostess said...

Oh, it iwill be so great. Have tea at the Brown Hotel for me!

Jessica Rain's A La Mode Blog x said...

Hey There. I'm a fellow Londoner and I think that London is a great city. My top spots are The royal gallery- There is an amazing art exhibition on called the modern pre raphaelite. It's on until the 13 September and I suggest if your into amazing art, culture and beautiful archictecture that you dont give this a miss. Also ,take a look in a great home design shop called..Liberty. It is very chic and sells everything with a big dollop of style. Anyway, there my reccomendations.. and whatever you do just have a great time! :)
Happy Holidays.
Jessica Rain.

B E L D E C O R said...

in June we visit Cornwall and the last tree days we spend our time in London. There is really much to see… For the first impression of London I would recommend a tour with Hop-on-hop-of busses. You can by a ticket for a day (24 hr) and the busses will drive along the sights, there you can drop out, with the next bus you can go to another sight. So you can save a lot of time, because the ways between the sights are often very far away from each other. You have a view, and you can visit the most beautiful sights perhaps again…

This year we visit the aera of Marylebone Hight Street, south of the Regents Park (also great to visit if you like to have a quiet break), which is really beautiful, interior shops, nice small restaurants and a great atmosphere. Look at my blog, there are some picture of our visit this year.

If you like to go in a very hip restaurant I can recommend the www.cecconis.co.uk. Stylish London people and real italian food. Please make a reservation before you go there. The restaurant is situated at the Burlington Arcades and Bond Street.

To Portobello Road i have to say that it is very busy on Saturday. Two years ago we went there on Wednesday or Thursday, some shops are not open, but it is nice quiet and you can have a relaxed stay.

The Cotswolds near Oxford I can also recommend, it is a very beautiful landscape with lovely small villages. There are special offers for a one day trip to the Cotswolds. On this web page are some offers http://www.londontown.com/.

If you like gardens, you can have a day trip to one of the most famous gardens of England: Sissinghurst (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-sissinghurstcastlegarden).

Have a great Time in London
Greeting from Germany

Amanda said...

Blog fan here.. we just got back from the UK. Long story short, we miss our connecting flight to Scotland and flew into London. Went site-seeing there in 5 hours and then drove to Edinburgh Scotland. All that to say, driving around the English country side was beautiful. It was amazing. I would recommend doing that. Also, if you want to go on the London Eye (big ferris wheel) you should probably pre-book as it is a long wait. Looks like you will have plenty of time to take it all in though. Have fun.

Kamela Cody said...

Have lunch in the basement at St. Martin's in the Field, the legendary church that has recorded some of the finest classical music in the world! The food is divine & the atmoshpere is totally unforgetable-think vaulted ceilings, dim lights, and world class musicians looking for a bite between recordings. It's located at Trafalgar square, as memory serves, right across from the National Museum. So..it's close to everything too! London is so fantastic! Have fun & take lots of pictures!!!!

Kamela Cody said...

Oh...I had to add that I visited Cambridge because that's where Alice in Wonderland was written by Lewis Carroll. It was so--oooo amazing!!!!! Beautiful, beyond words, and something I never forgot!!

Emily said...

Be sure to make it to Cambridge University if you can. It's a beautiful school. I studied in London and it remains my very favorite city!

The museums are fabulous so be sure to stop by the Tate Museum. Victoria & Albert along with the National Gallery are fabulous!
Don't forget about the infamous Topshop and Harrod's.

Also, I love your blog!

Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous! I hope you have a great time and the weather stays nice.
I've lived in London all my life til I moved to another country last yr.
Here's a few handy tips:
Travel is v. expensive in London- pick up an Oyster card (at the tube station) which requires a deposit of 3quid and top it up with either a weekly travel card zones 1-2 if staying and travelling central or with 10-15 pounds. This will allow you to swipe in and out of the stations with ease. The Oyster card covers buses and tubes. Overground trains need another ticket unless you have purchased a travel card. With the Oyster you should get some 2for1 deals for tourist attractions such as the London Eye-but do check i which they apply to!
Eat at the following chain restaurants which you'll find everywhere in town and they are decent - Wagamama's - inexpensive Noodle bar. Ping Pong - dim sum and cocktail eaterie. GBK - best burgers at fab prices.
You have to visit the Root-master bustaurant which my friend owns. It's basically a restaurant in an old fashioned London Bus serving delicious organic Vegan food. It's near Spitalfields market which is very cool. Info here: http://www.londontown.com/LondonInformation/Restaurant/Rootmaster/bab5/
Have brekkie at The Woleseley - it's a divine experience and really not as expensive as you think it is! Also Automat is very cool and foods amazing esp. breakfast! Jude Law was there a few days ago.
Agree when hitting Notting Hill gotta go to Hummingbird cafe. Best to go (to NH) on Fridays as Sat is packed with Tourists, plus you never know what Fashion eds/stylists/celebs you're going to run into.
Covent Garden is lovely too-great for shopping and loads of restaurants! Make sure you also head down Neal street.
Both Oxford & the Cotswolds are gorgeous, so hire a car for that!
Shopping: Topshop at Oxford circus, Selfridges, Primark - a v. successful and mega inexpensive fashion store, Oasis, Warehouse, French connection, Carnaby street, Liberty's, H & M, Miss Selfridge, House of Fraser, Pinko, Harrods (Hyde Park is just around the corner), Harvey Nics, then walk along Sloane street for Designer gear towards the top of Kings road...then walk down the Kings rd for a Chelsea experience. You'll come across Heals, Habitat and other Home, furniture shops along the way.
The Natural History Museum is still free admission and next door is the lovely V & A. Tate Modern is a must see too.
Ok, i've just realised that i've been going on and on for ages now, hope this info helps!

Have a great time & enjoy the English pubs - The Westbourne and The cow are good ones in Notting Hill area.

Toni Dosik and Len Kramer said...

Our all time favorite guidebooks are the Access Guides. Access LA, Access NY, Access London, etc.

We use them everywhere we go. What makes them special is that they take an area, say Oxford/Bond Street, and give you a map and list all the things along the street. The shops (stores to us Yanks), the restaurants, the main attractions, parks, etc. So you can go to one area of a city and know exactly what is around the corner or up two blocks.

Cities are made for walking around, and these books are perfect.

shoppingsmycardio said...

london is such a wonderful city! i do think a day trip is a great idea, but may i suggest bath instead of oxford? i found oxford very touristy and not that interesting. bath, on the other hand, is so picturesque and lovely, and you can tour the roman baths and have tea at the main hotel there. it's a wonderful day trip!

while you're in london, all of those guidebooks will be wonderful to ensure you don't miss the basics. beyond that, go to st. martin's-in-the-field for a free concert, if they're having one...it's an amazing experience. and i think the best spot for high tea (yes, i just love it!) is at the orangerie at kensington palace (princess di's old digs). and, of course, if you go nowhere else, don't miss harrods - have lunch at the food halls! and the tate modern, of course (in honor of your little tate). personally, i thought the globe theater was a miss...if you were considering it at all. for true 'tourist' spots, the houses of parliament and westminster abbey are my very favorites...so amazing and full of history!

have a wonderful trip!!

La escritora said...

Hey Girl, London is such a unique place -- you'll love it! I happened upon the London Dungeon while visiting some friends who were stationed over there for the Air Force. Visiting the dungeon is like getting a mini-history lesson while being part of a live play. The tour is interesting -- albeit a bit gory and strange -- but I enjoyed it more than I anticipated.

You can check out some reviews for the tour here. Seriously, I was skeptical about this (I'm more Legally Blonde that Jack the Ripper) but really recommend going.

Jaime said...

I ADORE London. If I could live one other English speaking place it'd be there, in a heart beat!

My favorite place besides Top Shop is enjoying tea and scones at The Orangery at Kensington Palace. It's AMAZING- a cute, quaint, jasmine smelling cafe with teas, scones & jams, cucumber sandwiches, etc. Here's a link to the address: http://www.london-eating.co.uk/2551.htm

It's a MUST DO for me!

Me said...

Went to London 5 years ago and loved it!
Would recommend a day trip to Bath if you can swing it. We did a one-day excursion to see both Stonehenge (boring unless you like big rocks and sheep) and the Roman Baths. Would have rather had the entire day to walk through the city of Bath which was gorgeous!

While in London check out Portabello Road for the shopping and spend time in Hyde Park. We also took the Tube to Greenwich Village (to where see "mean time" originated) and it was much more fun than any of the museums within the city of London.

thoughts running through my head.... said...

I live in London and would definitely say get a tour bus ticket-you can buy them off the reps at the bus-stops(check they are proper reps though!)-you will see more of London that way.Borough food market is fab,near London Bridge,Notting Hill is fun as is Camden if you like a more grungy feel.Spitalfields/Brick Lane/Columbia road flower market are just a few more ideas.

Caitlin said...

Lucky Magazine has a shopping guide. http://www.luckymag.com/sites/cityguides/london

I highly recommend using www.tripadvisor.com. I use it for every trip I plan.

Here is a suggested itenerary from about.com. http://golondon.about.com/od/planningyourtrip/a/oneweekplan.htm

I just returned from my second trip to London 3 weeks ago. It was much cooler than I had expected. Everyone there was wearing scarfs, jackets, and leggins. Be sure to pack an umbrella and have fun!

Tamstyles said...

i love every picture there is here.

Anonymous said...

In addition to all the fab comments posted, you also have to go to the Electric on Portobello rd, this is a place where good food and great get togethers take place. It's fab for Sat afternoon people watching if sat outside and also next door is the Electric cinema where big comfy sofas allow you to enjoy the film so much more, oh and they serve beer too!

London is extremely easy to get around on foot, so comfy footwear is a must unless you're a Carrie and can hot foot it in heels.

Not sure what to do or where to go in the evenings... London has so much to offer i don't know where to begin. If you love jazz and music in general, check out the famous Ronnie Scotts and see if you can get tickets for Soul Family who are performing Sun 9th Aug - they are a must-see!

Soho area, Hoxton-E.Ldn, Notting Hill are some fine areas to have fun.

Somerset house is lining up their usual outdoor summer screenings of films (in winter it's all about ice-skating). Check out the link:

Fave website to pick up cheap theatre tickets:

If you can getaway from London, Hampton Court Palace and the gardens are lovely and you can reach there by boat on the River Thames too. If not, a train from Waterloo will get you there in around 40mins.

Have a super time, bring a brolly though.

The Antiques Diva™ said...

Must Shops include Portobello Market and Alfies Antique Market!

Morgen said...

If you go to Oxford, you HAVE to go to Blenheim Palace. I loved the decor, architecture, and the grounds. That and Castle Howard are the best castles in England. I think Buckingham Palace is open in August, if it is, you HAVE to go.

My Decor Style said...

I went to London a few weeks ago. You must go to Portobello Market for great antiques, clothes, and people watching, and food. The market at Greenwich is also great - lots of handmade items - WONDERFUL! Skip the London Eye - too much time and not that exciting. The London Tower is a must see. The Victoria and Albert Museum is also something to see. Westminster Abbey is mind boggling especially if you are a history buff. The National War Museum was so neat - especially the exhibit on how the children were sent away during the Blitz. You are going to have a great time! I went to Oxford on a previous London trip. It is very beautiful. Have fun!