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London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

Joshua Tree...
Level Contributor
1,256 posts
204 reviews
London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

Starting August 4, 2018, my husband and I are taking a cruise departing from Cutty Sark Gardens, Greenwich, through the British Isles ending in Bergen, Norway on August 18. One day of Greenwich sightseeing is included.

We thought we'd fly into London and check out the city (area?) for up to a week before the trip then take a cab or bus to the ship pick-up point.

I have never been to London (my husband was there on business years ago) and we have no agenda but I will say that being a native Californian, of course I've heard about Harrods and the pubs in London yet flying all the way to London just to shop or drink beer is not really of interest. (Sorry, I don't mean to sound jaded!)

My husband and I have traveled extensively in Europe as well as Guatamala, Mexico, China & USA.

We are 63 & 61 respectively - athletic, hikers, like museums, appreciate history & since London is such an old and historic city - we would like to see things that teach us about that or at least so that we can appreciate or learn about the uniqueness of the city or area. Sure, being older & of the Beatles generation - crossing Abby Road would be fun but what else would you recommend? Day tours or bus trips are also fine with us.

What airport should we fly into? (My husband hates airports in general if that makes a difference.)

What would be a good hotel or location or area to stay in? We are happy to walk and take buses, or? What does "greater London" mean - is that where we want? If you don't specify a hotel name, please give me a landmark or cross streets so that I can locate the area you are talking about. We've had great luck in the states with Best Western and I see there are a LOT of them in London and with reasonable prices -recommended?

https:/…rooms-1

It doesn't have to be Best Western! We'd rather not pay more than 250 euro.

Thank you in advance!

52 replies to this topic
Manchester, United...
Destination Expert
for Pollenca, Port de Pollenca
Level Contributor
11,880 posts
54 reviews
1. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

<<yet flying all the way to London just to shop or drink beer is not really of interest>> wholly agree.

Don't stay in Greater London (that streches much too far out from where your visit will probably be focused), stay in central London. A week based in central London before your cruise is a sound plan..

Consult the tube/underground map and stay somewhere within the yellow Circle Tube line. As a starting point (there are very many more options) have a look at Bloomsbury area, or perhaps Kensington (lots of museums there).

Fly into either Heathrow or Gatwick, whichever gives you the best combination of flight departure/arrival times and prices.

PS - we don't use the euro. it's GB Pounds you should be referencing

Edited: 11 December 2017, 23:34
Scottsdale, Arizona
Level Contributor
580 posts
7 reviews
2. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

Can I suggest a look at forum FAQs? Also, the U.K. uses pounds as currency, not the euro. Posting your budget in pounds will get more suggestions for you.

Usually you don’t have much choice which airport you fly into. I’ve only flown to Heathrow, but that is nice because you can take the tube into town. The tube and buses are the easiest and cheapest way to get around.

Museums I love:

British Museum

Victoria & Albert Museum

Museum of London

National Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

Imperial War Museum

Places a first timer should visit (in my opinion):

Tower of London

Westminster Abbey

Hampton Court

I’m sure others will post their suggestions, too! Have fun!

Illinois
Level Contributor
19,083 posts
16 reviews
3. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

A week is a good amount of time for an intro to London. What you should see depends on your interests, although if I were choosing my top two places for a first time visit, they would be the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey.

If your budget is £250 (not €), you shouldn't have any trouble finding a room. I usually pay about £100-150/night but that is for a fairly budget hotel. The top range was when we were there in July and paid for AC. I would probably pay for it in the future in July and August. However, I was there in August a different year and needed heat more than AC, so you never know. I just have trouble sleeping when it's hot. Your heat tolerance may be different, and most of the year AC is not needed. I'd hate to ruin my vacation by not sleeping for the whole thing though. That rate includes full English breakfast.

I usually stay near King's Cross - it's on the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow and convenient to public transport, although it's not walking distance from many of the sights - I usually take a tube or bus to whatever area I'm visiting, walk around, then take the tube back. Many double rooms in London will have an actual double bed (not queen or king), so that's something you should consider. Also, many hotels are not purpose built and so don't have an elevator (lift) if that matters to you.

County Dublin...
Level Contributor
31,936 posts
4. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

Maybe enjoy a show or tour at the RAH. Tony is an excellent guide.

www.royalalberthall.com/

United States
Level Contributor
1,964 posts
5. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

I'd go to your local public library and get a pile of guidebooks for London. They will tell you all the basics and answer questions you didn't know you had, and more. The DK Eyewitness ones have excellent photographs.

After you've done some research, you can make a rough draft itineraries, or list of interests and questions, and return here for more specific advice.

You might also look at others' questions and trip reports here on TALF, to get some ideas.

Hope you enjoy your travel planning and your trip next year.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for London
Level Contributor
59,118 posts
12 reviews
6. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

'of course I've heard about Harrods and the pubs in London yet flying all the way to London just to shop or drink beer is not really of interest.' Good idea about the first. In terms of visiting a pub, you may be interested in visiting one or two merely as a place to stop for a break and a chat over a glass of cider, another type of drink or a soft drink.

'What airport should we fly into?' Very probably Heathrow. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand and United all offer nonstop direct services from LAX to LHR Heathrow. You may have your favourite from that group or may be members of an alliance with one of them so choose which suits your needs. I like BA, but Air NZ gets very good reviews.

Heathrow is busy and can be crowded. To reduce your husband's potential dislike of it, allow sufficient time to make your way through it as that can make it less irritating. If you choose BA you can book a flight from Bergen to Heathrow to connect to the flight to LAX, but again allow sufficient time to change planes.

Premier Inns may approximate the BWs you like in the States; some of the PIs are well situated for sightseeing but you will need to use transport in London. Would you consider a short stay flat for a stay of a week? Let us know your (approximate) dates and your budget in pounds; use www.oanda.com if needed.

Joshua Tree...
Level Contributor
1,256 posts
204 reviews
7. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

Thank you KWUK and all other comments. All excellent tips and advice which I will heed.

Joshua Tree...
Level Contributor
1,256 posts
204 reviews
8. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

BTW: Du-uh yes I knew that England uses the pound but my brain went to another planet and I wrote "Euro" in my post. Everyone mentions buses and the tube, does no one take taxi's? Are they too expensive or unnecessary?

Scottsdale, Arizona
Level Contributor
580 posts
7 reviews
9. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

Taxis are definitely more expensive. And if you learn how to read a bus map, you can get just about anywhere. I also love the Tube!

Houston, Texas
Level Contributor
39,636 posts
659 reviews
10. Re: London for the first time - basics? Suggestions?

How long for London itself?

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