Almost daily, I receive a call for a suggested itinerary for first-time visitors to London. It is a difficult request because everyone comes to London with different interests and expectations. Let me sequence some activities which might be helpful. This itinerary is designed for visitors to THE LONDON CONNECTION flats in London, but there is enough of a structure which can be modified and redesigned for those coming to London staying in numerous accommodations.
SAMPLE ITINERARY – Level #1
DAY 1: Depart from home for London. Bring PASSPORT, CREDIT CARDS, ACCOMMODATION DOCUMENTS, PLANE TICKETS, DRIVERS LICENSE, PRESCRIPTIONS, LONDON CONTACT NUMBERS (Driver and let-in lady), and THEATRE TICKET information. Leave your London phone # with friends and family at home. Pack light, and get a good night’s rest before departure. DO NOT pack the last minute –you will take far too many clothes. Do not stay up all night thinking you will sleep on the plane. Bad planning. Take your MICHELIN GUIDE TO LONDON to read on plane. Be to the airport 2 1/2 hours before scheduled flight departure. ALWAYS CHECK WITH THE AIRLINES TO BE SURE THE FLIGHT IS ON TIME AND THERE ARE NO COMPLICATIONS. Best to have no surprises on departure morning. If there is time and a CHANGE BUREAU is convenient, purchase 100 Pounds Sterling–good to arrive with a bit of cash in hand. I STRONGLY ADVISE NOTIFYING YOUR MOBILE PHONE COMPANY TO ARRANGE YOUR USE OF YOUR MOBILE WHILE IN LONDON. It is IMPERATIVE that you notify your credit card companies that you will be using your card while in London so they don’t refuse charges thinking FRAUD. I myself have forgotten to notify the bank and had to call them from London to notify them that I would be using the credit card in England. BE SURE TO TAKE YOUR BANK PHONE NUMBER TO NOTIFY THE BANK IN CASE OF A STOLEN CARD. I also carry a xerox copy of my information page of my passport which I keep in my accommodation just in case someone decides to pinch my original. Going to the American Embassy with a xerox copy of the original is a much better idea than arriving with no identification in hand. MY FATHER USED TO SAY, TRAVEL WITH YOUR VALUABLES IN YOUR FRONT POCKET; IF SOMEONE GETS THEM THERE THEY DESERVE WHAT THEY GET.
DAY 2: Flights from North America arrive Heathrow and Gatwick usually before noon. Some come as early as 6:30 am. Our excellent team of drivers headed by DAVID NORMAN (telephone: 07904232782) will collect you. 55 pounds for pick-up for up to 5 persons. I strongly recommend being met; the arrival at the property is problem free–everyone knows where “everywhere ” else is on the morning of arrival/let-in.
They will meet you as you come through Her Majesty’s Customs at the INFORMATON BOOTH with a card with your name and THE LONDON CONNECTION. Pay the driver directly. Pick up English pounds at an ATM so you can pay the driver directly at the time of service. IF YOU ARE HELD IN CUSTOMS OR IN BAGGAGE CLAIM DUE TO A LOST PIECE OF LUGGAGE, BE SURE TO CALL THE DRIVER (07904232782) WHO IS WAITING FOR YOU OUTSIDE–remember, his parking meter is ticking away. The driver will call your let-in lady at the property to coordinate your let-in orientation; we don’t want people waiting. That’s not a good way to start a trip especially when you are tired and want A SHOWER. Enjoy the LET-IN LADY who will give you a thorough introduction to the flat and then give you her contact details in case you need her during your stay. (Cristina: 07956583747)
Take a quick shower and find the local grocery store to buy a few supplies for breakfast and snacks like juice, bread, coffee, jam, eggs, back, butter.
Then go to the local tube station and buy your OYSTER CARD which will give unlimited use of the tube and public busses for your week in London.
I SUGGEST A ONE-HOUR SLEEP–no more or you won’t sleep at night. For the evening, I suggest my favorite walk: tube to GREEN PARK STATION and walk through GREEN PARK to BUCKINGHAM PALACE.
The Palace in the evening when no one is there is a wonderful start to a trip. The setting is fabulous. Begin your walk down the Mall past Lancaster House, Clarence House (home of Prince Charles and his wife and two sons William and Harry), Marlborough House, and on to TRAFALGAR SQUARE. Continue down Whitehall past the Admiralty Building, the Banqueting House, Horse Guards, 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. Remember this is an evening walk, so expect to see these fabulous monuments all lighted up. You will enjoy them in the day when you will visit inside. Take a cab back to your flat and FALL SOUND ASLEEP. You might wake up during the night because your brain is still on your home time. That will go away. BUT GET A GOOD NIGHT’S REST.
Day 3: First thing, take the tube to TOWER TUBE STATION to visit the TOWER OF LONDON. Some people like to take the free tours. I prefer to enter the medieval fortress and go directly to the JEWEL HOUSE to beat the long lines.
THE CROWN JEWELS ARE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT VISITS OF YOUR TRIP. Then return to the free tour group and enjoy the guide who is always very, very informative and fun. When the tour is over, be sure to visit the NORMAN CHAPEL, the church where some of the wives of Henry VIII are buried, and the site of the public and royal executions. Have your MICHELIN GUIDE with you for all the wonderful details.
After a good visit to the Tower, take bus #15 to ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL.
There are several eating places in the area, and I recommend a bowl of soup or a quick sandwich/drink before entering the cathedral. For those who are able, I strongly urge you to climb to the LANTERN on the top of the dome for the most amazing views of London. You will first arrive at the WHISPERING GALLERY and then up the stairs, through the walls of the dome–dome upon dome in the Michelangelo style–to the lantern. For me, this is one of the most amazing moments of any trip. When you come down and visit the main floor, be sure not to miss the vaults below and the window behind the ALTAR where the seal of every USA state is found–a memorial to American service men in World War II. Walk or take the bus to TRAFALGAR SQUARE and admire NELSON’S COLUMN and the lovely facade of the NATIONAL GALLERY. Spend the afternoon in the Gallery. (Option: THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY)
As you walk up the stairs to go into the NATIONAL GALLERY, get your camera ready for the amazing view from the balcony, over TRAFALGAR SQUARE and NELSON’S COLUMN down WHITEHALL to BIG BEN. This is my favorite London view.
Good places to eat in the area is CHANDOS PUB and the VAULT OF ST. MARTIN-in-the-Field. Before leaving the area, be sure you visit ST. MARTIN’s Church where many of our Patriots attended services before the Revolutionary War. The Church’s design will be familiar to visitors as most of the churches in North America follow this architecture pattern including NORTH CHURCH, Boston. Return to your flat, have a warm drink and a snack, and fall asleep watching British television.
Day 4: Take a tube ride to WESTMINSTER TUBE STATION. When you come out of the station, you will see BIG BEN in front of you and Westminster Bridge to your left. You will see the river boats which take visitors down the River Thames to Greenwich. It is a great ride. WATCH OUT FOR THE NASTY PICK-POCKETS–this is their favorite place! The ride down the river is enjoyable, and the town of Greenwich is interesting. Visit the CUTTY SARK, the QUEEN’S HOUSE, and the Royal Naval Museum.
Have a lunch in Greenwich and return to Central London.
Walk over to the LONDON EYE, and hopefully, there will be short lines. Grab a cab to the QUEEN’S GALLERY at BUCKINGHAM PALACE and enjoy the current exhibition.
I would not do a theatre this night; you will be thoroughly exhausted. Rather, I would wander around Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square for lots of London laughs. Sleep well. You will need the rest.
Day 5: Take a day trip to WINDSOR CASTLE after a good breakfast in the flat or a fabulous breakfast at VALERIE PATISSERIE.
Take a cab to PADDINGTON STATION and purchase your round-trip ticket to Windsor. You will change trains at Slough. Don’t let that worry you. Everyone on the train will hop off the train at Slough, and just follow the crowd. Walk to the castle entrance past the massive walls of this fortification dating back to William the Conqueror.
ENJOY THE STATE APARTMENTS. Off season visits usually allow entrance into the Red, Green Drawing Rooms and the State Dining Room in the semi-private apartments. Don’t rush. There is a free electronic guide to improve your visit. Also, I would recommend a visit to the ROYAL MEWS near the Castle where the Queen keeps some of her carriages. Return to London and enjoy a short sleep before going to the theatre. (OPTIONS: Borough Market, the HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT, OXFORD by train, London Paddington to Salisbury to see the Cathedral, taxi from Salisbury station to Stonehenge, return to Salisbury and train to Bath–a long day)
Be sure you collect your tickets an hour before the show starts, and perhaps have a pre-theatre meal in one of the little restaurants near the theatre. Restaurants are all over Covent Gardens, and the food is usually very good. Lots of Indian and oriental restaurants.
Day 6: You will be tuned in by now, and London transporation and restaurants will be “old hat.” If this is MUSEUM DAY, I would first visit the BRITISH MUSEUM to see the ELGIN MARBLES, the ROSETTA STONE, on and on. Take your Michelin Guide with you and pick out the items in the Museum you want to see for sure. I would take a cab from the BRITISH MUSEUM to THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM in South Kensington. Have LUNCH in the dining room–it is buffet and the DINING ROOM is ***SPECTACULAR*** AND MUST NOT BE MISSED.
The food is wonderful; I have BEEF WELLINGTON, and it is always superb. Again, have your MICHELIN GUIDE with you to choose the exhibition rooms you wish to see for sure. I would choose a local restaurant/pub, and just hang out to relax after this very busy day. THIS IS SERENDIPITY EVENING. (OPTION: Natural History Museum)
DAY 7: This is the day for an OUTSIDE-LONDON experience. From April to October, my favorite day-out-of-London visit is to QUEEN VICTORIA’S home at OSBORNE HOUSE on the Isle of Wight.
Take a cab to WATERLOO STATION and purchase your ticket and return to the ISLE OF WIGHT/Ryde for a visit to Osborne House. The getleman at the ticket window will help you. The train rolls along through beautiful English countryside to Portsmouth. Stay on the train until it stops at Portsmouth Harbor, the end of the line–follow the other travelers as they are all probably going where you are going. Leave the train and jump on the SEA LINK which is the ferry which will take you to the small town of Ryde on the ISLE OF WIGHT. Have fish and chips in Ryde , and then ask a local which bus to take to OSBORNE HOUSE–everyone is very helpful. It is a short ride until the driver will tell you where to get off. When you walk through the gates of PRINCE ALBERT’S FAVORITE VILLA–his dream creation in the Italian style–you will experience one of the most amazing visits you can imagine. You will be guided to the “State Rooms” and then you will visit Prince Albert’s DRESSING ROOM and BATH and then Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s lounge where their two desks are placed next together as they always were during the lives. The family memorabilia is intriguing and very interesting. Then you will visit the Queen’s dressing room with a magnificent Minton china mirror and toilette, her shower, and her loo–all nicely tucked behind beautiful mahogany doors. You will then enter the Queen and Prince Albert’s bedroom. THIS IS REALLY HISTORY. Queen Victoria died in this room, and it has been preserved for curious generations to come. For me, this is one of the great highlights of a visit to the UK. When you are finished with the house visit, wander in the gardens and through the Durbar Room. Return to London after the most wonderful day.
Day 8: This is your last day in London. The MUST-DO visit for today is WESTMINSTER ABBEY.
Again take your MICHELIN GUIDE and wander through the Abbey just soaking in all the history, tradition, architecture, and music (if the organ is playing). For me, I would take the afternoon off and do a bit of shopping and spend the later part of my day at the WALLACE COLLECTION with exhibits of the finest pieces of 18th century decorative art–Sevres.
FABULOUS. Then home to pack, making sure I have all my documents on my person and NOT IN THE SUITCASE. (OPTION: RULES RESTAURANT – Maiden Lane, Covent Garden reservations 020 78365314 FABULOUS!)
Day 9: Depart the flat 3 1/2 hours before departure time from either Heathrow or Gatwick. I prefer to have spare time JUST IN CASE…….
If David Norman (07904232782), Maureen (07850851592), or one of the team is collecting you, be sure you have confirmed with David on 07904232782 the day before. He will be on time, and he will see to it that you are delivered at the airport in ample time. If you get nervous the morning of departure, give him a quick call, and he will tell you where he is and how long it will be before he collects you. David, Maureen, and the other drivers are wonderful, professional, and caring. MAUREEN is known for being sitting in front of your flat for return-to-airport collection half an hour early. Look out your window, and I assure you, she will be waiting to give you a feeling of security!)
We always recommend LONDON WALK TOURS www.walks.com for more options for your trip. And we recommend Justin Roxburgh, guide, who can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
WELL, that is a start. Vary the itinerary to fit your family’s wishes, but this is at least a start for your planning. Throughout the BLOG–Blog.londonconnection.com– you will read about many, many other choices–but for a first-time visitor, this is a good itineary. HAVE A WONDERFUL VISIT.
Call me anytime, and I will be happy to help you. 801.791.9918
Thomas Moore III
Telephone: 801.791.9918; toll free: 888.393.9120