Advanced Itinerary for the Frequent London Visitor

August 2, 2018

If you are one of the lucky ones who have visited London many times, this is the itinerary for you! Planned by days of the week and by neighborhood, it is designed around times when there are fewer visitors. No reason to be fighting the crowds at the major attractions that first-timers want to see. Of course, this will take you several weeks to visit all the ideas listed below. Choose one or two each day that interest you to begin. Spend your time exploring these venues that Londoners enjoy.

  • Monday: Jubilee Market, Mayfair, and Covent Garden
  • Tuesday: Southbank and Ceremony of the Keys
  • Wednesday: Day outside of London
  • Thursday: Regent’s Park to Knightsbridge
  • Friday: Westminster Area
  • Saturday: Portobello Antique Market & Queen Victoria Tour
  • Sunday: Cathedrals, Choirs, and British Library

Arrival Day: Get to Know Your Neighborhood

As you know, the goal of Day One is to stay awake! Take an hour to get settled in your flat, then get outside to remain upright. Walk through your own neighborhood and become acquainted; find the nearest Tube stop and restaurants. For history lovers, get a copy of the Greater London Council’s Blue Plaque Guide or download the app for Android or Apple before you leave home. Then you can take a fascinating walking tour filled with English heritage facts to keep moving. While out and about, purchase a few groceries at your nearby market for breakfast and snacks for the next day or two. Have a nice dinner and finally give way to your jet lag with a good night’s sleep in your London Connection vacation apartment.

Monday: Jubilee Market, Mayfair, and Covent Garden

  • Jubilee Market opens at 8am. If you are interested in antiques, Patrick is the “picker” to watch for. Tell him Tom Moore sent you; he will smile and show you his best items.
  • The Silver Vaults are stunning to behold. The shiny treasures seem to be endless and most are available for purchase.
  • When all of the books owned by King George III were given to British Museum, they were overwhelmed! See the rows and rows — entire walls behind glass. Also, Baron Rothschild donated his father’s collection of Renaissance art. Some of the most priceless artifacts, jewels, and cabinet pieces are on display. One visitor was overheard exclaiming: “I can’t move my eyes, it’s so beautiful.”
  • Burial vaults in the lower level of St. Paul’s Cathedral have a reverence all their own. Note the memorials to Lord Nelson, Duke Wellington, Sir Christopher Wren, and many others. Finally, even though you have probably done this a dozen times, climb the dome of St. Paul’s once again. See the BEST VIEWS OF LONDON from the lantern just to be reminded of the grandeur.
  • Visit the museum at the Bank of England and hold a real bar of gold. Since it is a place of business, formal tours aren’t given of the actual bank. But step inside and you will feel you are in the scene from Mary Poppins when the children visited the “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank.”
  • Costumes at the Museum of London are fascinating. Dress and textiles exhibit shows clothing for past centuries and you feel swept back in time.
  • Barbican Conservatory is a hidden tropical oasis in the heart of London. See exotic plants, trees, and fish and then enjoy afternoon tea there.
  • Public art by David Shillinglaw at Brick Lane on the East end of London — Shillinglaw is a well known contemporary public artist. His murals can be found in Denmark, Jordan, Gambia, Netherlands, Munich, Cape Town, and Paris.

Tuesday: Southbank and Ceremony of the Keys

  • HMS Belfast was in service from World War II until 1963. It is now located on the Thames South Bank and open daily for tours. A wonderful way to remember the “Greatest Generation,” as Tom Brokaw would say.
  • Imperial War Museum in London features experiences of those who served in battle from World War I to current conflicts. The museum is open every day from 10-6, and the admission is free.
  • Graffiti Tunnel, South Bank graffiti walls near Waterloo Bridge — see the legal graffiti art and the skateboarders along the South Bank of the Thames.
  • Southwark Cathedral is where Shakespeare went to church and his brother is buried. It was the first Gothic style church in London, built sometime in the 12th century.
  • Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London is worth the trip to England! Apply for tickets well in advance; they are booked over a year ahead. Get your tickets, then book a trip around them! You will have that rare chance to walk with the guards as they lock the tower for the night. A real treat.

Wednesday: A Day Out of Central London

Travel North today to Hampstead Heath to view two of the most elegant homes

  • Begin at 10am with Kenwood House that was built as an elegant residence in the 17th century. Its many owners added to the original home. Edward Guinness, the Lord of Iveagh filled it with the finest paintings including Vermeer and Rembrandt. He was the final resident and willed the estate and contents to England upon his death in 1927. Since then, it has been open to the public and is now cared for by the English Heritage foundation. There is a shop and cafe, and tours available. Entrance to the house is FREE.
  • John Keats House on Hampstead Heath was awarded “Best Hidden Gem” in 2016. The former residence of the romantic poet is now a museum and literary center. Open Wednesday through Sunday, there are family activities and tours of the home that give insight into the life and writing of Keats. Visiting the garden is free. Keats House 11am to 5 pm, closed Monday and Tuesday.

Travel East to Greenwich

  • The Fan Museum in Greenwich celebrates the history of fans and fan making. You won’t believe how much there is to learn! Closed on Mondays. Have afternoon tea in their lovely Orangery.
  • Queen’s House is the masterpiece palace in Greenwich designed by Inigo Jones. Construction of the palace began in 1617 for Queen Anne as a gift from her husband King James I, supposedly as an apology for swearing in front of her. Only the first floor was completed when Anne died, and the building ceased for a decade until her son Charles I finished it for his wife, Henrietta Maria.
  • Gondola above the Thames at O2 Dome (Millennium Dome) runs every day but Christmas and during routine maintenance. The time it takes to cross varies, depending on the time of day; the gondolas slow down in the evening for a more memorable experience. The ride is wheelchair accessible and very affordable, with a discount given if you use your Oyster card. And good news, they will also transport your bicycle with you across the Thames.

Travel to the West of London

  • Ham House on the south bank of the River Thames in Richmond was built in the 17th century for the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale, and the gardens still produce the fresh kitchen crops. The estate has been featured in many recent films, including Anna Karenina, Pride and Prejudice, and Young Victoria.
  • Kensal Green Cemetery was established in 1833 as the first commercial cemetery in the area. With a central chapel and a picturesque colonnade, a walk through the almost 80 acres allows you to see many styles of architecture that honor those buried there.
  • Kew Gardens is always a delight, and a good way to get some exercise. Carts are available if walking long distances is a challenge.

Thursday: Regent’s Park to Knightsbridge

  • Queen Mary’s Gardens in Regents Park opened in 1934— visit in May and June when the roses are in bloom. This is London’s largest collection of roses, with about 12,000 rose bushes planted. Many other flower varieties are there, as well. A fitting tribute to the elegant and stately grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.
  • St. John’s Lodge Gardens at Regents Park is a private residence, but visitors are allowed to enter the small gate on the Inner Circle near the park office. It is an oasis of solitude, unlike the rest of the busy park. 
  • Tour the British Telecom Tower. Access is very limited now, so check ahead if you want to go up inside the tower for special events allowing entrance that are hosted there.
  • Enjoy Afternoon Tea at Harrod’s or if you can afford it, put on a tie and jacket and experience the elegance of this London tradition at the Ritz.
  • Jewels at Victoria and Albert Museum are free to view — you can spend hours just looking at the tiaras. This is the only area in the V & A Museum where you can’t take photos. I found out through experience; the jewel guard was very kind with his reminder/reprimand.
  • Wallace Collection at Hertford House in Manchester Square (including some of Marie Antoinette’s personal furniture) is best of the best of the best furniture — equal in quality to Buckingham Palace furnishings. Well dressed people in suits and a wonderful place to eat. Smallest crowd on weekdays; busiest on Sunday.
  • The Chelsea Physic Garden is the oldest botanical garden in London. Founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries, the garden beside the Thames now includes 5000 edible, medicinal, and useful plants. The first pineapple in England grew here in 1723. Further studies and development throughout the centuries has included rubber, quinine, cork, cinnamon, ginger, tobacco, chocolate, and coffee. Workshops include compost, beekeeping, photography, and medicinal plants. Reconnect to nature within this jewel in the heart of London. Closed Saturdays.

Friday: Westminster Area

  • Visit Westminster Hall as part of the tour of Parliament. Oh the stories this hall could tell — everything from coronation banquets to funeral services. Note the plaques on the floor denoting where royals and dignitaries have been honored as they lie-in-state. When the huge rafters were recently cleaned, they found tennis balls lodged in the beams by Henry VIII from 500 YEARS BEFORE.
  • Don’t miss The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries, just opened in June 2018. Items hidden from public view for over 700 years just waiting for you to enjoy!
  • Visit St. Margaret’s Church next to Westminster Abbey.  Step inside to see where the members of Parliament attend church and have their marriages. Smallest crowds Sunday afternoon and Friday
  • Buxton Memorial fountain is a monument to those who abolished slavery anywhere the British flag flew. You will find it next to the Palace of Westminster in the Victoria Tower Gardens.
  • Guards Chapel near St. James Park is the only Royal Military Chapel in London. You can visit M-F from 10am to 4pm, or attend one of their music recitals or concerts.
  • Spend some time at Wartski on Grafton Street to see the Faberge. They are the Royal Jewellers, so there are many breathtaking pieces to view. Closed Saturday and Sunday
  • Find the burial site of a Nazi dog that belonged to the German ambassador Leopold von Hoesch in the 1930’s. Giro, a German Shepherd, is buried in the gardens of Carlton House.
  • Royal Academy of Arts is open 10-10 on Friday. If you are there June to August, don’t miss the  open-submission Summer Exhibition.

Saturday: Portobello Market & Queen Victoria Tour

  • Portobello Antique Market on Saturday morning is not to be missed. Yes, this is the most crowded day at this market for a good reason!
  • Read the London Connection blog about places to visit that celebrate Queen Victoria’s life. Choose the most interesting areas to you, then take a day-long tour on the life of Queen Victoria. If you don’t want to go it alone, I recommend Marilyn Collis, a blue badge tour guide that has worked with London Connection for years.
  • Walk past the Rose Garden at the southeast corner of Hyde Park, especially in the summer months. As you come out of the Hyde Park Corner Tube station, just head across the street to Hyde Park, and you’ll be there. Sit on a bench and soak in the beauty.
  • In the summer, it gets extremely hot in the Middle East, so the wealthy ship their most expensive cars to London to escape the scorching heat of their own countries. The cars come out on Saturday night like a spontaneous exhibition. You can stand at the corner on Sloane Street in Knightsbridge and watch the fabulous fleets worth 1-2 million POUNDS as they come rolling by. It is like a parade of the finest vehicles — some wrapped in GOLD!

Sunday: Cathedrals, Choirs, and British Library

  • Attend church and soak in the choir and organ music: St. Paul’s, St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster Abbey are all well-known. A good way to feel peaceful and visit the cathedrals without cost.
  • For a new experience, All Souls Church at Langham Place at the head of Regents Street was designed by John Nash, the favorite architect of King George IV. Walk by to see the beautiful example of neoclassical style, or go inside to see the fabulous organ. They have a well known orchestra and choir, and it would be worth going to their Sunday worship service just to hear the music!
  •  Visit the Middle Temple Church — one of the Inns of Court. The circular design was built in the 12th century to resemble the temple in Jerusalem. This was the holy center for the Knights Templar, the sacred order of monks founded in 1118 to protect Christians traveling to the Holy Land. The Temple Church has Communion at 8:30am and Choral Matins at 11:15 am with one of the finest choirs in London. Special events, worship services, and sacred music are open to visitors, but are closed throughout August and September.
  • View the Magna Carta at the British Library; smallest crowds are Sunday 11am-5pm.

Whenever you are in London, there is always something unique to see. Be sure to check for new exhibitions at the National Gallery, V & A, and other museums before you leave home. Hopefully, you now have a few NEW ideas that have you itching to return to London at the earliest possibility. London Connection can find your perfect accommodations filled with home-like atmospheres and conveniences. You will experience London as Londoners do.