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London, anybody been there and how many days for a first time visitor?


renaissancewoman101

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After talking with my uncle, I am probably NOT going to Hong Kong as I wanted to, for my 40th birthday. Right now my mom is so against me going that I just don't want to create a ruckus with her. Also, I don't want to put uncle in a bind with keeping secrets, etc.. Consequently, I am thinking of going elsewhere for a few days for my bday in April.

 

Someone suggested London because of my interest in European and Renaissance history (I have a BA in Renaissance history). To fly non-stop from my home city, tix for April are running around $1150 on British Airways non-stop, which isn't too bad.

 

Is London see able in 4-5 days??? T and his bf have been there before, and they suggest I take daily tours to places like Stonehenge. Also, check out the London Tower, etc.. Exchange rate does NOT favor the $ though. Hotel seems reasonable, and they tell me the Tube is easy to get around in.

 

I'm just a bit afraid to go to a new country by myself where I don't know anybody.

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On a practical level, the advantages of London for you are that you speak the language, and that you'll broadly speaking understand Britain culturally; there are differences but there won't be a big culture shock. The major practical disadvantage is that it is a very expensive city in an already expensive country (Brits go to New York for the weekend to shop!). However, you can minimise that; the expense needn't be impossible.

 

In four to five days you can see quite a lot. Bear in mind that you will lose most of the first day to getting from the airport to the hotel/checking in/sheer exhaustion, and you will lose most of the last day to last-minute rushing around and getting back to the airport. So, don't plan to do too much on those days.

 

In terms of your specific interests...London is wall-to-wall history.

 

There is very little building remaining from the Renaissance (because the city was largely destroyed by the Great Fire in the late 17th century) - architecturally the overwhelming impression is Victorian - so if you want to see Renaissance architecture, you're better off heading to Florence, to be honest.

 

However, London has an extraordinary concentration of world-class museums and galleries, nearly all of them free to enter, and you could easily spend four to five weeks, let alone days, exploring them!

 

To answer some other points you raise: Stonehenge is quite a long distance from London - it's a long day out - and probably over-rated. You can't even get close to the stones. There are many interesting places closer to London, although if you only have five days at max, the city will easily eat them up.

 

Public transport in London is pretty good. The Tube can be a bit confusing at first but it's quick. It stops fairly early in the evening, but buses run all night, and even in the daytime buses - although slower - are much more interesting because you can see so much from them.

 

Please feel free to ask more questions!

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EssexMan, thanks for the info. Shooting Star, also thanks for letting me know that Tube runs often.

 

if I do this trip, my main objective would probably be to see museums, go on the Eye, see the Tower of London, do a bit of browsing in old, used bookstore, etc. I am not a big fan of souvenir shopping. I prefer to take pictures to remember the places I've been too. My last trip to Hong Kong, I took almost 1200 pics with my DSLR.

 

If going to Stonehenge eats up a whole day and one can't even get close to the stone formations, then probably I'd skip touring that.

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stonehenge is in a place called Salisbury Plain ...and it is ...sparse , nothing to see but the henge ....

 

if your very spritual and need that ..for me it would be fulfilling , but as mister essex said , they have stopped you getting close to the stones ..you will literally be just stood looking at them ...and fields .

 

if you can get round Hong Kong then you will conquer London ...I have been to Hong Kong and it is the fastest place I have ever ever been to .

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Yes, I've been to the UK and London a couple of times. There is lots to see and I found the transport, taxis, buses and the Tube all very efficient! It was a pleasure getting around. As for Stonehenge - unfortunately I found it overrated and slightly disappointing (it was soooo much smaller than expected!). Sure it was interesting, but for such a long drive out (a day can be taken up with this) I would find something else to do/see, as there is NOTHING else to see around there - absolutely nothing - just fields. Oh, and the stones are fenced off too - so that was very disappointing too.

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Hi,

 

There is lots to do in London. Many Markets all over from Borough(mostly a delight to the tastebuds) to Brick Lane and then there are some good ones out near Haggerston on the eastern side. My most recent trip a friend took me to Primrose Hill at night and there were many people just hanging out talking with each other. I asked some folk if they knew each other which they didn't. I thought it was a very nice vibe. It has a lovely view in the daytime and many of londons upper crust and fantastic actors have property surrounding it. link removed

 

If you have any specific questions please ask. I know London well and I am sure shooting star will be able to help muchly as well

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I went to London for the first last year. It was great! I went for 5 days and saw most things in London. I didn't get a chance to go see Stonehenge though. The tube was super easy to use and I didn't use a cab once and traveled everywhere by Tube. As someone mentioned, lots of markets if you like food. The tour of Parliament and Hyde Park were my favorite destinations, but London Tower was a good visit too.

 

I think London's a great place to go as far as new countries to travel to go since it's English speaking so there are no language issues and it's a big metropolitan/international city so quite diverse.

 

Happy upcoming birthday!

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I have been to London a couple of times and one day trip that I LOVED was to Oxford. My friend and I did a self-guided walking tour, and it was so great. So much of what Americans think of when they imagine England!

 

ETA- Also, I went to Vienna last year and connected via London. Ren, I think you are in SoCal? I flew British Airways and got a great deal on Expedia from LAX-> London. I was able to get Economy Plus class for about $1200- and honestly, their Economy Plus was pretty darn close to american airlines first class. It made a huge, huge difference in comfort. Same meals as first class, seats reclines to 75%, etc. It was wonderful. I left LAX at 4 pm, had a great dinner and wine, slept for hours and awoke refreshed in London! I highly recommend Economy Plus if you can swing it.

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Yes, LAX-London is a long haul and it's worth paying for that upgrade (I think they call it World Traveller Plus). I don't normally bother with it but I did for London-Buenos Aires a few years ago (an even longer flight) and was grateful I had.

 

Not sure off-hand if Virgin operate out of LAX, but if they do I'd recommend them even over BA. Nothing nationalistic here, but both are better than any American carrier I've flown with, in any case.

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Oh just a thought. If you can do a day trip to Bath it is very very pretty (Really old England) and you can see the old baths of Bath (not in use) and use the new baths which include pools on the roof, which with the dark clouds of England the sun poking through makes a lovely afternoon. The steam rooms are the best I have been in but I would liked to have seen a sulfur bath there.

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There are lots of pretty old buildings and Royal Crescent is very very British.

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There is a taphouse that do the besssst pies ever (and we are talking UK style not the sweet American style)

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I think from memory there were 9 different kinds of pies and maybe 5 different kinds of gravy.

Oh I just love Bath.

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Yes, LAX-London is a long haul and it's worth paying for that upgrade (I think they call it World Traveller Plus). I don't normally bother with it but I did for London-Buenos Aires a few years ago (an even longer flight) and was grateful I had.

 

Not sure off-hand if Virgin operate out of LAX, but if they do I'd recommend them even over BA. Nothing nationalistic here, but both are better than any American carrier I've flown with, in any case.

 

Actually Virgin DOES operate out of LAX . Tix for London around that time are close to $1000, not bad. To upgrade to Economy Plus (which is what you are referring to) is about another $400 extra.

 

I dunno. London sounds interesting to see for a few days and I love the historical aspect of it. Only thing is I will be alone out there (no relatives around should I get into issues, aka get sick, hurt myself, etc).

 

Thanks everybody for their suggestions.

 

Whatever I do, I will probably make my decision by end of the month.

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Only thing is I will be alone out there (no relatives around should I get into issues, aka get sick, hurt myself, etc).

 

That's no more likely to happen than at home! Just make sure you have travel insurance that covers medical care. (Or your existing U.S. health insurance may cover you overseas too, I don't know how that works.)

 

One thing you might consider if you don't mind slumming it a tiny bit is staying in a youth hostel (not limited to youths) - much easier to meet people than in a hotel.

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You can always contact people through link removed I have hung out with quite a few travellers in my home town and shown them the local ropes.

In my experience the people I have met are more like catching up with friends you don't know so well, they are always a delight and chose to contact you specifically based on whether they think you will be compatible so ive not had any awkward moments.

You could try it out in London

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If you are into history on more than a basic level, you hardly can do any major European city justice within a week, but if you want to get an overall impression of a country and its different aspects/views you may want to travel around to see multiple cities (you just lose time for traveling to/from places).

 

If London is not 'sufficient', trips to Hampton Court, Windsor Castle, Greenwich may be attractive with a lot of history to explore.

 

PM me, if you need more ideas (have lived there for 3 years, but it has been some time and the modern aspects of the city have changed quite a lot since I left)

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if I do this trip, my main objective would probably be to see museums, go on the Eye, see the Tower of London, do a bit of browsing in old, used bookstore, etc. I am not a big fan of souvenir shopping. I prefer to take pictures to remember the places I've been too. My last trip to Hong Kong, I took almost 1200 pics with my DSLR.

 

London is an awesome place for doing all the above. I've been twice. The second time, before going home I had to give away some of the books I'd bought because I had too many and they were so heavy that no one could lift my suitcases.

 

Hit the museums for sure. The British Museum and the Victoria and Albert are wonderful. My favorite is the Courtauld Collection because it's smaller yet very complete with major works. And the whole thing is located in this sweet 18th century mansion, so you get architecture as well as the art. If you like modern art too, try the Tate.

 

When you get there, grab a Time Out London magazine from a newsstand to find out what's going on locally during your stay. Have fun!

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Penelope13, I REALLY want to go see Hampton Court. I am really into studying about King Henry VIII and life during Tudor times. That would be a cool place to visit.

 

If I do go, I may spend about 5 days there. Air tix is not too bad.

You can get a pretty interesting trip from London by boat to Hampton Court along the River Thames. Not far from there is Kew Gardens.
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If you like walking start fairly early at Buckingham Palace (taking in St James's Palace), and then walk down the Mall by St James's Park. That will take you past Marlborough House and a number of other interesting buildings. At the end of the Mall take a short detour through to Horseguards Parade (where the Trooping the Colour takes place for the Queen's Birthday Parade), there you can see a number of historic government buildings including the Admiralty, the Horseguards Building and the back of 10 Downing Street.

 

Go back to the Mall and through Admiralty Arch into Whitehall, and you can take in The Banqueting House (in front of which Charles I was executed) The Old War Office, the Cenotaph and look into Downing Street through the iron gates.

 

Then go onto to Parliament Square, where you can see The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and The Middlesex Guildhall. Then go along Victoria Street and find Westminster Cathedral and end up at Victoria Station Underground to find your way way home.

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Anybody know which airline is better to take, British Airways or Virgin Atlantic?

 

They're both fine. I do prefer Virgin, but BA is absolutely fine, so you can make that decision on schedule/cost.

 

If it is BA, though, check that it's an actual BA-operated flight and not code-shared with another airline. (I don't think Virgin code-shares.)

 

Having said that, frankly, even a bad airline is bearable for 12 hours. But you might as well get a good one unless the bad one is drastically cheaper.

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  • 2 weeks later...

London is now a reality . Bought my air ticket on Virgin Atlantic (was able to get it for a little less than $1000). Will be in London for one week (mid-April). Based on some recommendations from friends, I plan to stay in Baywater or Kensington areas. Still need to look for hotel.

 

Wish the exchange rate was better though.

 

DN, I'm thinking of take a boat tour on the Thames to Hampton Court.

 

I was reading on a travel guide and I see that a lot of stores and things close early in London (like around 8 PM). Is that true, or do you guys have late hours like towards weekends? I guess I am used to the hustle and bustle of larger cities in the US, where you can find stuff to do (eat, etc), late into the evening, esp on weekends.

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