We dedicated our last five days of the England trip to London.
This city offers many attractions and five days are not enough to cover all of them, but it is enough to get acquainted. Let’s begin!
Map of the city:
Day #1 – London Eye and City Hike
On our first day, we mainly walked, to get a taste of the town.
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’ll waste. Therefore, I would recommend getting familiar with the attractions you are planning to visit and getting tickets in advance, which will save you time and money.
London Eye has a daily guided tour at 14:30. It’s 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’s the size of a tennis field. Next to Palace of Westminster is the Westminster Abbey. And if you take the Victoria street, after 10-15 min of walking you will reach Westminster Cathedral. From there a short walk will lead you to Buckingham Palace:
Buckingham Palace is surrounded by parks. We’ve 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 isn’t the tower’s name. It’s the name of the bell inside the tower (the biggest of three in Palace of Westminster). What I didn’t know is that Ben was the name of the man that made the bell. He was a big fellow and when he stood next to the bell people saw they a 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’ll save both time and money.
Reaching Tower of London is uncomplicated by the tube, Tower Hill station is right next to it. You can also get there by ferry or by bus (Tower Hill stations).
Regarding transportation, I would recommend getting an Oyster card. You can buy it at any train/underground station. When you charge it with money, five pounds is a deposit, and the rest is used for your trips. You can always recharge it, and on the last day of your trip you can return the card and get the money left on the card plus the deposit back.
If you don’t want to recharge the Oyster card, you can charge it with 8 pounds per day per person. If you are three days in London then 3*8+5 (deposit) = 29 pounds. Why 8? It’s my lucky number 🙂 No it’s 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 won’t 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 12:00 the line’s length was about 1.5km long.
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 when the last raven flies away, the Tower will fall. 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’ve visited it later on.
|Tower Bridge from The Tower of London|
After walking on the Tower Bridge, we took the tube to Westminster Abbey. It was Wednesday, and usually, on Wed it’s open till 18:00 (while on other days it’s usually open till 15:30). As I mentioned before, prepare in advance.
Check the official site for opening hours.
Audio guides are included in 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, in London it’s about 18-22 pounds.
Westminster Abbey’s interior is gorgeous. Many different kings, scientists, writers and other famous people are buried there. It’s quite impressive since science and religion didn’t always get along. Nonetheless, Darwin, Newton and other distinguished scientists are buried in the Nave (next to the screen). But, the audio guide doesn’t mention scientists at all.
Unfortunately, photography inside is prohibited. Thus, I have only photos of the exterior. Like this one:
I’ll finish this post 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’ve 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’ve joined two such tours: Japan and Mexico. It was fascinating and surprisingly few people join 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 to 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 the photo below) measured time differently. They split light hours to 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. For that purpose, there are two weights on the top of the clock. The weights can be moved and the length of the six-time units adjusted accordingly.
Another interesting detail that I was not aware to is the reason for Samurai armor to have a mustache. Since Japanese had little contact with other nations and Japanese men didn’t have a mustache, for them seeing a man with a mustache was uncommon. A man with mustache meant that this wasn’t 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.
When the museum closed, we visited Chinatown and then walked on Regent Street. I’ve heard about Hamleys toys (that’s located on Regent Street) years ago due to their Build-A-Bear-Workshop. It’s an interesting concept where you take part in the construction of your teddy bear (whether the bear will be talking and if yes, what he will be saying, what clothes will he wear and so on). Moreover, it’s one of the oldest toy stores, and as they state on their site, it’s a seven-floor store. The visit was a little disappointing. It’s a seven-floor store, but each floor is not that big. Thus, the selection of toys is less then I expected. Moreover, the toys are very pricey. If you already in the area then you can visit, but I wouldn’t recommend making a special detour for it.
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 B&W:
|St Paul’s Cathedral|
You can also use an elevator to get to the top of the mall and make 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 central dome (inside), the second is outside, and the third one is again inside between the dome that is seen from inside of the cathedral and the top of the dome that’s seen from outside.
After the tour, we’ve climbed to the second stop. You can take nice looking city panoramas from there. And it’s 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’ve finished our fourth day on Trafalgar Square. We’ve reached there since it was Friday and on Fridays, The National Gallery is open late, till 21:00 (official site). There is also free guided tour (19:00 – 20:00). We’ve 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
On our last day in the city, we decided to soak London’s atmosphere at Camden Market.
Reaching by tube is easy, use Northern (black) line and get off at Camden Town station.
The first thing you’ll see when you exit the station are many small clothing shops. Don’t 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’ll 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’ll start seeing food stalls. Get off the main street (either 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’ve 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 with sugar, nuts, and you are ready to go.
After some testing, we’ve continued to other parts of the market:
|Horse Tunnel Market|
Overall, it is a nice place to mingle. But if you are looking for 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 – Summary
London has many things to offer and as you can see five days were not enough to visit all 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 stay, and you will find enough attractions. Moreover, there are attractions for kids, delicious food and it is easy to get around with the tube. And to top all that, if you know English, it will 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.