Our last five days of the England trip were dedicated to London. During that period we will visit London’s top attractions.
This city offers many attractions and five days are not enough to cover all of them, but it is enough to get acquainted.
Map of the city:
Table of Contents
- 1 Day #1 – London Eye and City Hike
- 2 Day #2 – The Tower and Westminster Abbey
- 3 Day #3 – British Museum
- 4 Day #4 – St Paul’s Cathedral
- 5 Day #5 – Camden Market
- 6 Summary
Day #1 – London Eye and City Hike
We mainly walked to get familiar with the town on our first day.
We also booked in advance London Eye tour, from top of which you can see spectacular views of the city, like this one:
|Westminster from top of London Eye|
There are many tourists in London. Thus, the more you prepare in advance, the less time you waste. Therefore, I would recommend getting familiar with the attractions you are planning to visit and getting tickets in advance, saving you time and money.
London Eye has a daily guided tour at 14:30. It is the same half-hour ride (the time it takes to make one round), but with a guide. Besides the helpful explanations of the guide, you are going through a particular queue. It took us about 20min to get into a cabin. The regular line was at least two hours long.
After the ride, we continued our walk to Palace of Westminster.
|Palace of Westminster with Elizabeth Tower|
The flag at the top of Elizabeth Tower (top-right in the photo above) may seem small from a distance, but it is the size of a tennis field. Next to the Palace of Westminster is the Westminster Abbey. And if you take Victoria street, after 10-15 min of walking you will reach Westminster Cathedral. From there, a short walk will lead you to Buckingham Palace:
Parks surround Buckingham Palace. We have walked through St James’s Park back to our hotel.
Another view on this iconic building:
|Palace of Westminster with Big Ben|
As most of you probably know, Big Ben is not the name of the tower. It is the name of the bell inside the tower (the biggest of three in the Palace of Westminster). I did not know that Ben was the name of the man who made the bell. He was a big fellow, and when he stood next to the bell, people said they were roughly the same size. Thus, the bell got Ben’s nickname: Big Ben.
Day #2 – The Tower and Westminster Abbey
For the second day in London, we had tickets to The Tower of London. As I mentioned previously, pre-book tickets and come early. This way you will save both time and money.
Reaching the Tower of London is uncomplicated by the tube, Tower Hill station is right next to it. You can also get there by ferry or bus (Tower Hill stations).
Regarding transportation, I would recommend getting an Oyster card. You can buy it at any train/underground station. Five pounds is a deposit when you charge it with money, and the rest is used for your trips. You can always recharge it, and on the last day of your journey, you can return the card and get the money left on the card plus the deposit back.
If you do not want to recharge the Oyster card, you can charge it 8 pounds per day per person. For example, if you are three days in London, then 3*8+5 (deposit) = 29 pounds. Why 8? It is my lucky number 🙂 No, it is not. As far as I remember, 7.50 is the maximum amount Oyster card can be charged per day. Meaning you can ride as much as you want, and you will not be spending more than 7.50 per day.
After you buy or collect tickets at the entrance you will see this.
|Entrance to The Tower of London|
If you come early, the first thing I would recommend is to see the crown jewels:
|The line to the Crown Jewels|
At 9:30, there was no line, and at noon the length of the line was about 1.5km.
Beside crown jewels, there are many different things to see. There are Henry the Sixth’s chambers, Tower Torture, Royal Armories and many other things to see (official site).
|Royal Armories at the White Tower|
And of course there are the ravens:
The legend says that the Tower will fall when the last raven flies away. They took this very seriously. There is a cage with ravens near the White Tower, and there are also free ravens. Most of them are jumping in the vicinity of the White Tower. They cannot fly away since their wings are clipped.
When you stand by the White Tower, you can see another of London’s iconic symbols: The Tower Bridge. We have visited it later on.
|Tower Bridge from The Tower of London|
After walking on Tower Bridge, we took the tube to Westminster Abbey. It was Wednesday, and usually, on Wednesday, it is open till 18:00 (while on other days, it is usually open till 15:30). As I mentioned before, prepare in advance.
Check the official site for opening hours.
Audio guides are included in the Westminster Abbey entrance ticket’s price. But, if comparing London to other cities in England, attractions in London are much more expensive. While a standard attraction ticket in York, Canterbury, Cambridge, Brighton, and other towns costs 10-12 pounds, it is about 18-22 pounds in London.
Westminster Abbey’s interior is gorgeous. Many different kings, scientists, writers, and other famous people are buried there. It is pretty impressive since science and religion did not always get along. Nonetheless, Darwin, Newton, and other distinguished scientists are buried in the Nave (next to the screen). But, the audio guide does not mention scientists at all.
Unfortunately, photography inside is prohibited. Thus, I have only photos of the exterior. Like this one:
I will finish this part with my favorite picture from that day:
|London Eye and Palace of Westminster|
Day #3 – British Museum
Most of the third day was dedicated to British Museum. I have mentioned previously, attractions in London are expensive, but most museums and galleries are free.
Entrance is free, and there are also free tours and talks (see additional details here). We have joined two such tours: Japan and Mexico. It was fascinating, and surprisingly few people joined these tours.
But first thing first, when you enter the British Museum you get to the main hall. It is an impressive building, and the ceiling lets natural light get in.
This photo was taken from the third floor (above the main entrance):
|The main hall in British Museum|
We rarely think about accepted standards in our life. For example, we all agree that a day consists of 24 hours, an hour includes 60 minutes, and so on. But, old Japanese clocks (shown in the photo below) measured time differently. They split light hours into six units. And since the number of hours from sunrise to sunset varies (depending on the season), the length of the six units should be adjusted. There are two weights on the top of the clock for that purpose. The weights can be moved, and the length of the six-time units adjusted accordingly.
Another interesting detail that I was not aware of is Samurai armor’s reason to have a mustache. Since the Japanese had little contact with other nations and Japanese men did not have a mustache, seeing a man with a mustache was uncommon. A man with a mustache meant that this was not a Japanese but somebody else (Mongol, for example). Somebody else meant war, and this frightened them. Thus, the mustache was added to the armor to intimidate the enemy.
Gallery of Clocks and Watches
Another exhibition I liked was the Gallery of clocks and watches. You can find there different types of clocks with different mechanisms.
In the entrance to the gallery you can find a big open clock that demonstrated the working mechanism:
|Gallery of clocks and watches|
Less used method of measuring time is by movement. In the clock below ball movement from end to end should take exactly 30 sec. I wrote “should” because I saw people with stopper applications on their smartphones measuring and they got little less than 30 sec.
|Gallery of clocks and watches|
Another famous exhibit is The Lewis Chessmen:
|The Lewis Chessmen|
The image of Rosetta Stone can be found on magnets/postcards/cups and other souvenirs sold in the British Museum. There is a good reason for that. With the same inscription written in three different languages, the Rosetta Stone let scientist understand Egyptian script.
We visited Chinatown and then walked on Regent Street when the museum closed. I heard about Hamleys toys (located on Regent Street) years ago due to their Build-A-Bear-Workshop. It is an interesting concept where you take part in constructing your teddy bear (whether the bear will be talking and if yes, what he will be saying, what clothes he will wear, and so on). Moreover, it is one of the oldest toy stores, and as they state on their site, it is a seven-floor store. The visit was a little disappointing. It is a seven-floor store, but each floor is not that big. Thus, the selection of toys is less than I expected. Moreover, the toys are very pricey. You can visit if you are already in the area, but I would not recommend making a special detour.
Day #4 – St Paul’s Cathedral
The fourth day of London’s trip started with St Paul’s Cathedral (official site). You can quickly reach it by tube. Possible tube stations:
– St. Paul’s on Central (red) line
– Mansion House on District (green) and Circle (yellow) lines
– London Blackfriars on District (green) line
– Bank on Central (red), Northern (black), and Waterloo & City (turquoise) lines
Viewpoint of St Paul’s Cathedral
Tip for photographers and not only: there are two places where St Paul’s Cathedral is frequently photographed from. The first one is from the mall next to it (click to see this point on google maps). I loved this spot due to the added reflections from both sides. And this is the result in Black and White:
|St Paul’s Cathedral|
You can also use an elevator to get to the top of the mall and take some pictures there (I have some photos in the video at the end of this post).
Second frequently used location is the Millennium Bridge.
For some reason, I did not find any details on the official site, but when we visited, there was a free tour. Not sure regarding the time it started (10:00 or 10:30). It lasted 90 minutes, and it was a lovely tour. The guide showed and told us many interesting things. And strangely, few people join such tours. Shortly, highly recommended.
You can climb to the top of the Cathedral. There are three stops. The first one is just beneath the central dome (inside), the second is outside, and the third one is again inside between the dome seen from inside of the Cathedral and the top of the dome seen from outside.
After the tour, we have climbed to the second stop. You can take nice-looking city panoramas from there. And it is no wonder since St Paul’s was the tallest building in London till 1962.
Here is one of the views:
|The south-west tower – St Paul’s Cathedral|
You can even see London Eye and Elizabeth Tower in the top left corner.
Unfortunately, photography inside is prohibited. So here is another photo of the exterior:
|St Paul’s Cathedral – West Front|
From St Paul’s Cathedral, we took Lugate Hill street (and then Strand/A4) towards Covent Garden (1.2 miles about 30min walking). On the way you pass near King’s College London and Somerset house:
Covent Garden Market is a great place to wonder. There are many stores, restaurants, and street performers. You can find singers, music players, magicians, and clowns.
|Covent Garden Market|
|The invisible man defies gravity|
We have finished our fourth day at Trafalgar Square. We have reached there since it was Friday, and on Fridays, the National Gallery is open late, till 21:00 (official site). There is also offer free guided tour (19:00 – 20:00). We have tried joining it, but it was packed. There were 100-150 people, and we could not hear anything. So, we abandoned the tour and continued by ourselves.
|Trafalgar Square: view towards The National Gallery|
Day #5 – Camden Market
We decided to soak London’s atmosphere at Camden Market on our last day in the city.
Reaching by tube is easy, use Northern (black) line and get off at Camden Town station.
The first thing you will see when you exit the station are many small clothing shops. Do not be tempted to buy there. The sellers know you are only starting your visit and not familiar with prices. Some of them will try to push stuff at “special” rates.
Then you will encounter many pieces of jewelry and souvenir shops. If you have not bought gifts and souvenirs for your friends & family, this might be the place.
There is an alley of buildings, while each one is uniquely decorated with different figures:
|Buildings at Camden market|
When you continue on Camden High St. and pass the bridge, you will see food stalls. Get off the main street (left or right) and explore this area. For me, the food stalls were the highlight of the day. Not because I was hungry, but because I do not think I have ever seen representatives of so many countries, i.e., such food variety, in one place. There were: Brazilian Churros, Spanish Paella, Polish Grill, Mac & Cheese, American Grill, Mexican Street Food, Malaysian food, Mediterranean salads, Louisiana Chile Shack, Sushi, Hummus, Italian food, Polish Kielbasa and much more.
In the photo above, you can see the process of preparing Churros. First, they make the dough. Afterward, deep fry it for several minutes. If you want the traditional Churros, then they fill it with dulce de leche and sprinkle it with sugar, nuts, and you are ready to go.
After some testing, we have continued to other parts of the market:
|Horse Tunnel Market|
Overall, it is an excellent place to mingle. But if you are looking for a traditional English experience, not sure it is the place since many sellers and buyers are foreign.
All photos from these five days can be seen in the following video:
London has many things to offer and as you can see five days were not enough to visit all the main attractions. For example, I wanted to visit the Science Museum, but there was not enough time. Thus, you can comfortably plan even a week’s stay, and you will find enough attractions. Moreover, there are attractions for kids, delicious food, and easy to get around with the tube. And to top all that, if you know English, it will be easy to get around. So start packing 😉
Have you ever been to London? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
Here are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.
And if you have any questions then check out Useful Information For Tourists To Israel.