Visiting London This Spring....

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by JDR, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. JDR macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2008
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #1
    Hi all,

    I'll be visiting London (the England one ;) ) at the end of this month with my family (5 of us total), and I have a few questions that hopefully some of the Londoners on this site could give their opinions to:

    1. What is the easiest way to get to the city from Heathrow, with our baggage? Our hotel is near the Knightsbridge tube station--so should we take the Underground? The Heathrow Express? Other? We do plan on getting Oyster cards.

    2. Is it worth it to get a London Pass?

    3. Is it worth it to visit the Cotswolds for a day? (We would take a train to Cirencester)

    4. What are some lesser-known attractions that you find interesting?

    5. I'm an amateur photographer, so what sites would you recommend to fulfill my eager index finger?

    Also, feel free to add any more suggestions ;)

    Much thanks,
    JDR
     
  2. jSunbeam macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2007
    #2
    Heathrow express. I can't imagine it would be much fun to get 5 people from heathrow into town on the tube after a long flight! The Heathrow Express gets you to Paddington which is only a short cab ride to Knightsbridge.

    Hmm. That London Pass seems quite pricey. I'd be hesitant to get one - maybe make a list of places you really want to go to before you leave and see if it seems worthwhile. Remember that you never manage to get everything done on holiday!


    No idea. Never been. I'll leave this one to someone else.
    I spend most of my free time in the pub, so i'll leave this one to someone else as well!

    You can never go wrong with a nice climb up Greenwich park (greenwich observatory is pretty interesting actually, there's a suggestion for your previous question!). Primrose Hill offers a beautiful view of the city as well. If it's a nice clear day, I enjoy walking over the bridges (waterloo, lambeth, westminster) around sunset and marvelling at the famous views...

    Off the top of my head, here's a list of some good places:

    Galleries - Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery.

    Museums - Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood (this place is wonderful - if you have kids then they'll love it - http://www.vam.ac.uk/moc/), Science Museum, Natural History Museum, London Dungeon (great fun!)...

    Parks - Hampstead Heath (lovely, just don't go late at night), Greenwich Park, Primrose Hill, Regent's Park (take the kids to the zoo!).

    Others - Borough Market (good fun for fancy food and posh weird stuff), Portobello market, Camden Town.

    Restaurants - Not so up on these, but check out the Oxo Tower for some spectacular views whilst eating your dinner. There's always places like Claridges and the rest of the posh ones, but depends on budget/taste.

    There's a million things to do in London. Enjoy it!
     
  3. JDR thread starter macrumors regular

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    #3
    Thanks jSunbeam for the excellent advice! I'll definitely have to visit Greenwich Hill and the observatory there.
     
  4. Applespider macrumors G4

    Applespider

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    #4
    I'd say just hop on the Piccadilly line since it stops at Knightsbridge. Use the £60 or so that you save on something better once you're in London. You'll get seats on the Tube at Heathrow and it should take 45 to 50 minutes to Knightsbridge. The Heathrow Express does only take 15 minutes but it only runs every 15 minutes and then you'll have a cab ride so unless you time it perfectly, it's not that much quicker for the expense. I might be prejudiced since every time I've taken it since I was in a hurry, it's been delayed and taken closer to 30 minutes.

    It looks extortionate unless you can add up the entry prices to everything you know that you want to do or might do and then see whether it's worth it. It's also kind of dependent on how much you want to squeeze into the day. You could get round the Tower, HMS Belfast, The Tower Bridge Exhibition, The Globe and St Pauls in a day and get a bargain.... but not sure how much value you'd get from the trip!

    The extra price for the kids' travel ticket is odd too since I'm pretty sure that kids under 11 go free on the Tube when accompanied by an adult and are free on the bus regardless.

    Any particular reason for the Cotswolds? If you want a day out of London, then heading to Windsor or Stonehenge might have more options. Guess it depends on how long you have.

    There are few London threads that will list out some interesting places for you - and places to eat. Have a search in the Community Forum and you should find a few.

    I'd definitely suggest a walk along the South Bank in general. It's great fun and if you can time it for a Friday/Saturday morning, then Borough Market is excellent. The boat ride to Greenwich is also generally pretty good.

    I love the Tate Modern and the British Museum. Lesser known places other than those already mentioned under the good photographing subject? There's the Chelsea Physic Garden which is good for gardeners although perhaps not so much at this time of year - or Kew Gardens.

    Take the time to wander around and enjoy the parks etc. Hyde Park is lovely and sitting on a park bench for a bit and people watching can be fun.

    It's a little too close now but, if you're ever returning, you can apply to the Tower of London to watch them lock up the Tower at the end of the night. It's free but I think you usually have to give them 8-12 weeks notice.
     
  5. geese macrumors 6502a

    geese

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    #5
    1: Get the tube - your kids will love the novelty and there are some views to be had. Not brilliant ones mind, but views. Unless you;re landing in rush hour, in which case get the Heathrow Connect which is like the Heathrow express, but cheaper.

    2: Nah, i wouldn't do you really want to spend the whole trip in museums?

    3: Heard nice things about it- didnt realise it was close to London. Am reading up on it at this site now. A day out in the country side is nice, although there are some lovely parks in London- Greenwich and Richmond being 2 examples. If you fancy a day out at the sea-side, Brighton is only an hour away on the train, and its a nice little place to wonder, eat fish'n'chips and lie on the beach (although half of London might be there)

    4: Take a ferry ride down the Thames. Dont get ripped off on those bus tours. Jump on the number 15 bus then runs through the city on an old Routemaster. I like the London Eye, as would your kids. Hampstead Heath is lovely. St Katherines dock, 5 mins walk from Tower Bridge is nice, lots of yachts to look at. Walking down the Thames is nice.

    5: Great views from Hampstead Heath, and lots of wildlife. Walking around the Southbank is nice and might crop up a few pics. The Jack the Ripper walking tour around Whitechapel is supposed to be recommended and would give you lots of photo ops. Go up City Hall, you can go to the top for free. Nice pics to be had from there.
     
  6. BBC B 32k macrumors 6502

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    #6
    You would have to be completely bonkers to use the LHR Express to get to Knightsbridge. Get the tube, both are crowded and fairly unreliable, but one is cheaper and stops nearer! Anyhow a ride on the tube is part of a visit to London. You will also benefit from it not being summer - no air con and lots of sweat.

    Ages?

    Do not miss Monument (to the great fire of London), near to Bank and the City. Long walk up the stairs for the best view in London. Usually nice and quiet, especially on a Sunday. As I recall it should only cost a few quid and you get a certificate at the end. Walk from there to photograph Lloyds of London, St Pauls and the Wobbly Bridge etc...

    Depending on the kids ages a trip on the Thames. You can take a Duck tour (sort of boat 4x4 hybrid does half river half road tour), Std boat tour, Disco party boat or even a Jet Boat. There are usually offers on Lastminute which may give a free dinner.

    Keep clear of Oxford Street unless you like mindless chickens. Obviously a visit to Regent Street is a given :D

    The Princess Diana playground in Hyde Park is great for kids under 12ish ???

    Namco station for arcade games and cheap dodgems. Next to the London Eye (nice view, long queue, large price).

    Any other questions - just ask.
     
  7. steveza macrumors 68000

    steveza

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    #7
    If you are planning to get out of London by train I would recommend heading out to Oxford or Warwick (both on the same line between Paddington and Birmingham).

    You can take in the university and colleges at Oxford, you can also walk around the grounds at Christchurch College which include the Oxford rowing club. Failing that you can keep going on to Warwick and visit the castle and surrounding area.

    It's worth bearing in mind that you may need to change trains so make sure you check this out before travelling. Also you can book train tickets onlince and in advance to get a better deal - it is possible to collect your tickets at the station before you travel.
     
  8. BBC B 32k macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Where are you visiting from? Stonehenge is not too far and very historical, but a bit 'touristy' and there is nothing else around except for some fields with burial mounds.

    Bath? Great city with loads to do for all ages. Roman baths and you can drink the water straight from the spring. Trust me you will only drink one mouthful - I have tried it. :(
     
  9. JDR thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #9
    Thanks all for your fantastic suggestions!

    We'll probably end up taking the tube to our hotel, as you guys said, as it will be easier.

    The Monument to the Great London Fire definitely looks cool--I'll be sure to stop by there
    edit: seems like it's closed until 2009.

    Going to Oxford/Warwick seems to be a nice alternative to Cirencester...(we would want to spend at least a day in the "English Countryside"...us crazy Americans ;) )


    Also, I haven't said anything about kids....because I myself happen to be a high school student :p...abeit one that likes historical architecture, photography, history in general, sightseeing, etc. ;)

    BBC B 32k: We're from Chicago. Yeah, we've been considering Bath....so it's between Oxford/Warwick, Cirencester, Bath, and Windsor for our day out of the city.

    I'll keep you guys updated on our planning, and I can't thank you all enough!
     
  10. JDR thread starter macrumors regular

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    Chicago, IL
    #10
    One more question:

    Would any of you know if there's some sort of nice coupon book available, preferably on some of the finer dining?

    (Speaking of dining, what are some of your favorite restaurants?)


    Ok, so I guess that was two questions...:D
     
  11. LouisBlack macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2007
    Location:
    Balham, London
    #11
    Not really an attraction, but a really good building to take photos of is Battersea Power Station. It's my favourite building in London. The Gherkin is another really striking building.

    Some of my other favourite places/things in London include

    - Blah Blah Blah (Vegetarian restaurant)
    - London Dungeon (so cheesy it's fun)
    - Camden Town (although it is getting a bit commercial, you can still see some great interesting people)

    I'll probably be asking the same questions when I embark on my epic holiday in June. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Auckland, Tokyo and Hong Kong :D
     
  12. sreedy macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    I am biased but I'd recommend Bath, the photo ops are great and the food is pretty good too. I guess the minus side is it can get quite touristy, if it does then you are only a short ride to Bristol (20 mins) or Cardiff (1 hour) too!
     
  13. Unspeaked macrumors 68020

    Unspeaked

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    #13
    If you're planning on seeing a lot of museums and want to get some meal specials, the London Pass that was panned earlier up might not be a bad choice.

    You can use it for several 2-for-1 dinner deals plus other discounts at various restaurants. It might pay for itself with the dining alone if you use it wisely.

    If this is your first trip to England, your family should really brace itself for the enormous dining costs. Most places are priced higher in pounds than the same things would be in dollars in the US (even in a large city like Chicago), and when you take in the 2 to 1 exchange rate, you're talking $13-15 McDonald's value meals, $7 slices of pizza and $40-50 sit down meals at what is the UK equivalent of a TGI Fridays - and that's all per person.

    And I just know I'm going to get blasted for this, but high prices or not, I've never been impressed with the London dining scene. I'd take most metropolitan US or Canadian cities well ahead of anywhere in England for dining, and other European countries like France, Italy and Greece simply blow it away.
     
  14. geese macrumors 6502a

    geese

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    Location:
    London, UK
    #14
    No, you're not too wrong. There are some great places to eat in London, but it is expensive.

    There are alot of good places to eat that are inexpensive in London however, pick up a copy of Time Out or ask some locals. The best affordable places tend to be hidden away however. One such place is Zigni house, near Islington. Cheap, unique Eritrean food, and is one of my favourite places to eat on London. Its a bit of a pain to get to though.

    There are some good Lebenese cafe's and restaurants in Bayswater (not far from where the OP is staying. And some good to mediocre curries in Brick Lane, east London.

    Here's a good Fish'n'Chip shop near Tottenham Court road. You need to eat proper fish'n'chips in London. Its hard to find really good F'n'Cs now.
     
  15. Unspeaked macrumors 68020

    Unspeaked

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    #15
    Yeah, I've had luck eating on Brick Lane and other run down East End shops.

    Ethnic foods like kebabs and curries seem to be good beds in London, for inexpensive and tasty meals.

    Zigni House sounds interesting. Exactly how hidden away is it?
     
  16. YeahIKnow macrumors member

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    #16
    Hey JDR,
    You didn't mention how long you'd be staying or how much luggage you'll be hauling?
    Well, either way the Heathrow express may be a teeny-tiny bit more comfortable when hauling luggage but is not worth the expense, particularly as it isn't very convenient to your destination. Though the Tube can take up to about an hour at times to get into central London it's mostly above ground all the way and will give you that first "We're not in Kansas anymore" feeling! :eek:) It's a wonderful mix of beat up areas and funky back gardens. On arrival do not wave your camera about too much and please watch your bum bags (fanny packs?) and wallets while on this line into London and at the stations on your arrival when you'll be tired, off guard and particularly looking like tourists. I'm sure you're a well seasoned traveller but London does have some of the lightest fingers on the planet. Once your just one of the masses though you'll probably be in one of the safest, cleanest and most beautiful cities on earth.
    So with this and the other opinions posted here consider that question sorted - Tube it is!

    2: The London pass is really, expensive, but it entirely depends on what you want to do and how much time you have. London is incredibly overwhelming - you can easily walk around and be slack-jawed by the sights all day for days. Some of the tourist attractions are decidedly underwhelming once inside, particularly considering the amount of time you spend queuing and the expense. For example the London eye is an engineering marvel, but a trip around in it is pretty boring actually and the view through the glass and through the often murky London air is nowhere near the Picturesqueness(?)of the view from the Greenwich park. The Tate modern is amazing, even for non artys, in fact all London museum's are among the best in the world with many hands-on exhibits. Best of all is that there's a tube station right next to every major attraction. I have in the past brought "done" London in just one day whenever showing friends around. Lastly on this, don't go on one of those open top buses - you'll end up stuck in traffic, listening to a largely incomprehensible tour guide shouting in your ear.

    Oh,i'm just thinking of the very unfavourable exchange rate. Yikes! Have you booked a hotel yet? - that's another potential minefield!


    Cotswolds? - Yeah, yeah, yeah! :eek:)

    Great that you're not just going to be stuck in just one place. Oxford, Windsor, bath are pretty, Stonehenge is impressive, (I prefer Avesbury for pure scale) but these are reasonably large places needing some time to explore properly. Consider then taking the train to a larger town just outside the London urban area or in the Cotswolds that offers car rental. Car rental can be so cheap, particularly in rural areas. Though you'd be insane to rent in London a car, besides a bicycle, is the best way to see the winding country lanes, lakes, countryside and, of course, very close to my heart the many local pubs, tea-houses and cake shops. There is nothing quite like the cotswolds anywhere on earth and it's both a wonderful contrast to London and so stereotypically English you'll have a Griswald moment there.

    As for photography, Hah! In London you will turn a corner and seee something new worth taking MANY photos of, then the next day, because of the changeable wether, you'll see the same thing again in new light and take the same photos again, only better. London was the capital of a huge Empire and they used all this plunder to build one of the most ostentatious displays of imperialism in the world. all those classical images of London? wait till they're within your viewfinder. Just don't forget you have a wife and children there with you!

    Eh, hope I was of some help! :eek:)
     
  17. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #17
    Not exactly true, to get to Warwick (and Warwick Castle) its best to take the Chiltern Line from Marylebone, otherwise you end of having to change trains twice, at Reading and Leamington Spa, rather than not at all. Reading is a pretty big station, and the Cross Country train between Reading in Leamington is fairly unreliable, whereas the Chiltern Train is always on time.

    If you want to go to Oxford you can then get a train their from London and then change onto the Cross Country train to Leamington there, but there are more trains from London to Reading so its better to change there. Cambridge is also easily accessible from London by train.

    The Oxford (and Cambridge) colleges are very beautiful. In Oxford, the Radcliffe Camera and Bodleian library are very beautiful, as are most of the colleges. I've personally never been to the rowing club, but that part of the river is quite nice.

    Its worth noting that in Oxford Cars are a very slow means to get around and that car parking is very expensive, as are Taxis.
     
  18. YeahIKnow macrumors member

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    #18
    Once more, about food

    Forgot to mention about this part but was reminded when I saw someone wrote about fish & chips. Do not eat fish & chips, it's awful. Not only can the standard vary enormously but it's a heavy, stodgy food that will fill you up easily, but leave you feeling bloated and lethargic. Not desirable when you want to be light on your feet. Though Brick lane and chinatown offer cheaper eating because of the competition my favourite is to pop around the swankier areas or Camden market where they offer amazing bakeries (Try the pasties for lunch!) and many cheap and cheerful pastas, salad bars and up-market delis. I've worked in many restaurants in London and 2 for 1 coupons are frowned upon and they'll always come up with a catch. But if you like to assert your rights then that guy was right - the london pass will definitely be advantageous.

    One last thing until i remember something else - there's a really interesting tour to occupy the evenings. It's the Jack the ripper tour around that part of London he "haunted". There are different tours but look out for one that meets outside Tower Tube station. They don't have a price - you only pay at the end if you want, and as much as you want. It's so good people always pay. Sometimes you get an off-duty beefeater from the tower as a guide in which case you get an exceptionably knowledgeable person instead of the usual student guide just looking for a bit of pocket money. Besides, those west-end musical, though worth every penny, will easily set you back over a hundred dollars per person! :eek:(
     
  19. YeahIKnow macrumors member

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    #19
    Its worth noting that in Oxford Cars are a very slow means to get around and that car parking is very expensive, as are Taxis.[/QUOTE]



    Oh yeah, screw that - if you're going straight to a city then your two feet are your best friends. parking is a headache too and it's with good reason that Oxford centre is incredibly bike friendly. Besides, it's preferable not to bring another stinky, noisy car into these beautiful places where they're neither wanted nor needed. I meant only rent a car to see the really rural areas and small villages which are largely inaccessible by public transport.
     
  20. weckart macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    #20
    Agree on the avoiding of fish and chips - for exactly the reasons mentioned by YeahIKnow. Furthermore, by way of example, the chippie mentioned by geese is one that I avoid as being substandard. YMMV.
     
  21. TravisReynolds macrumors regular

    TravisReynolds

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    #21
    I can't answer all of those questions, but I have been to london for a day (We were tourning england) and let me tell you, it's pretty cool

    I would just recomend going around, you will be fascinated by everything I promise you
     
  22. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #22
    On food if you want world-beating food, go to one of Gordon Ramsey's restaurants, though they are very expensive, expect to pay £100/head, but it will be amazing.

    Otherwise the advice given so far on food is solid.
     
  23. Applespider macrumors G4

    Applespider

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    #23
    You need to book several weeks ahead but they do have a set lunch for £45 (no drinks included).

    Have a read through this recent thread - there are lots and lots of tips on affordable London eating in it.
     
  24. JDR thread starter macrumors regular

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    #24
    Thanks guys for all your input, especially YeahIKnow.

    We'll definitely have to do the Jack the Ripper tour, and I think I am leaning towards the Cotswolds now (as I was originally).


    I can't really thank you all enough---I never expected this many replies and good advice! :eek:
     
  25. Applespider macrumors G4

    Applespider

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    #25
    It's London Walks that do the best Ripper tour. I've been on a few of their other walks and want to do their Thames beachcombing one and they're excellent value for money.
     

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