My husband and I are from Australia and are arriving in London on 1 January 2012 and will be there for 8 days. We would like some advise on the top 10 sights to see, as well as opinions on whether it is better to book tickets to sights before leaving Australia, as well as any other tips for someone going to London for the first time.
London is an amazing city and there is a lot to see so 10 days is a really good choice for your stay. In order to get a good understanding of the city center, I would advise you to try a free walking tour:
They are extremely good ( I have tested quite a few around Europe). In 3 hours, you will see all the main sights, with a good historical and cultural background.
In terms of getting around, since you're there for 10 days, it will be worth it to get an Oyster card, on which you can put money and every time you use the metro/bus, the fare gets deducted. It will give you 50% the normal price ( e.g. 1 single journey in the center costs £4 , but £1.90 with the card). All tickets and fares here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14416.aspx
On a nice day, you can also go for a "cruise" on the Thames with your Oyster card - but beware here: I mean no touristic overpriced tours! Use the River Bus or Tour service: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/15544.aspx
River bus: You can embark at the London Eye pier and flow down the river until you reach Tower Millennium pier( for the Tower Bridge), or go all the way down to Greenwich Pier for Greenwich village, and get a view of the O2 stadium (Next stop: North Greenwich).
River tour: Embark at Westminster (you can go to the Tower Bridge and Greenwich
In terms of museums, I would advise - quite obviously - the British Museum (free), the Tate Modern (free) if you like contemporary art, or the Tate Britain (free) if you're more into Renaissance, Classicism and 19th century art. The Natural History Museum is also very interesting and can be combined with a visit to Harrods.
In terms of big tourists attractions, Madame Tussauds is REALLY not worth the extortionate entry price, and the same goes for the Aquarium and the London Dungeon. The Tower of London however, is worth every penny. Plus, it is near the world-famous Tower Bridge! Similarly the "Churchill's Britain at War" museum is cheap and extremely interesting ! (And if you're interested in military history, you must see the Imperial War Museum (free) ! ).
A more "authentic" London experience would be a visit to the Shakespeare's Globe: http://www.shakespearesglobe.com They usually have a few performances around Christmas and New Year's so you might be lucky enough to catch one (check the website for updates on the programme).
As for the nice areas in London for a walk, don't miss Hampstead village and the Heath ( a huge hill in northern London which is absolutely beautiful - and in wintertime, when covered in snow, even more fairy-tale like ! ).
Greenwich is another extremely nice part of the city, where the Maritime Museum is located. There are very nice cafes and restaurant and is ideal on a sunny day.
You might also want to go to Richmond for an afternoon trip (south west of the centre, on the District line), it feels like a small village with nice coffee shops and is close to Kew Gardens, which will be a must-see if you're interested in botany and wildlife.
Last but not least, you cannot go to London without enjoying theWest End !! Welcome to the heart of London's entertainment! Countless theatres and musicals from which you can choose: http://www.londonwestendtheatretickets.com/?gclid=CICbsZamhqwCFUMm3godfBFwBg You can either book in advance, or try your luck on the day in one of the many "50% off tickets booth" around Leicester square. The West End lies next to Soho, where you will find bars, clubs , and inebriated students
There we are! I hope this is useful to you If you have anymore question, please feel free to contact me: I've lived in London for the past 5 years and got to know the city pretty well.
Best of luck
Thanks Alexandra for the very useful information. If I have any more questions I will definitely contact you
Great advice! As a Londoner, I can also recommend:
Jack the Ripper walking tour - do this at night, and in January it will be nice and cold. Very scary and authentic!
Grab some cheap and cheerful food in Chinatown (Near Leicester Square tube)
Go on the London Eye, great views of the city
London Bridge is a great area to start a stroll along the Thames Path. From Tower Bridge right up to Vauxhall Bridge (and probably further!) you can walk along the Thames taking in many sights along the way.
If you want a tasty curry go to Brick Lane - it's the heart of our Asian Community with many restaurants, bars and interesting stalls to check out.
Columbia Road (near Bethnal Green) flower market is a real London experience on a Sunday morning. Get there early and hear the street traders shouting out their wares! You can also buy some beautiful flowers / plants there, and there's loads of pubs to stop off in for lunch
London has some brilliant parks - Regents Park is near Camden (North), Victoria Park near Mile End (East) are my favourites.
Ooh that reminds me - Camden Market! A must see - it's a British institution with lots of colourful characters - punks, rockers, hippies etc!
Also check out the Grand Union Canal path walk - it runs from Hackney to Angel to Camden anbd is a lovely and stress - free way of walking from place to place. A lot of people think London is bigger than it is. My advice would be to not use the tube if you can help it. Stations which are 1-2 stops away are easily walk-able, and you'll see much more.
the Ripper tour is amazing !!! Very good point Beckiboo ! :D My mother being a big fan, we did that one:
And our guide was simply amazing: so much good historical details ! Go for it, definitely!
Some excellent ideas One thing I thought I'd mention is that our London guide is also pretty good. You can of course visit the link, but if you send an email to guides[a]travellerspoint.com (obviously replace [a] with @) with the subject being London, we'll also automatically email you a PDF version. That can be quite useful on a mobile for example
Oh, and the emailing thing works for all guides, just swap out the subject with whichever guide you'd like to receive.
[ Edit: Edited on 27-Oct-2011, at 01:30 by Sam I Am ]
Don't forget Covent Garden as a must do!! Not a garden but a collection of little unique shops and cafes all set around a lovely square. Well worth visiting but do put aside at least 2 hours to visit it....there's lots to do!
South bank is also a great area, very laid back feel and great for exploring if you're going on the London Eye. I also second Camden market.
It's worth visiting the Soho and the West End and walking from Picadilly Circus, Leicester Square and up to Covent Garden. The Tower of London and the Crown Jewels are a pretty incredible sight. If you get your travelcards from an overground station you can use http://www.daysoutguide.co.uk/ although it's less convenient than an oyster card.
The London Eye would be a good place to go. It has one of the best views of the city. Also, I agree with the rest of the guys here with the walking tour. Walking around the place is very much possible and is very fun.