When I set out planning our itinerary for London, I knew I wanted Jacob and I to see as much of the city as possible, in case we never get a chance to revisit. I plan on creating a post specifically on how I planned out our itinerary, but for now all you need to know is that I prioritized the top attractions and planned our five days there based on regions of the city.
A handful of London’s most notorious and recognizable attractions are in very close proximity to each other. Very convenient for us tourists, right?! Needless to say I felt very accomplished after this particular day of exploring, albeit tired!
The Tower of London
Jacob and I got up early, got ready, and after a quick breakfast at our hotel, we made our short walk to King’s Cross station. A short Tube ride later and we found ourselves just steps away from the Tower of London!
We arrived at The Tower of London at opening to see as much as possible before crowds began to get heavier around late morning. I purchased our admission tickets online weeks prior to save even more time, and these tickets did not require a specific entry time.
We were able to visit all exhibits, take part in a Beefeater tour, eat lunch and rest our feet a bit before heading on to our next destination for the day.
You can read more about our time at The Tower of London here.
Tower Bridge might be one of the most common backdrops for London tourist photos. Luckily for us, the way out of the Tower of London leads directly to some great views and photo ops of the bridge. Jacob and I played around with our selfie stick and the panoramic mode on our cameras.
You don’t need to spend too much time at Tower Bridge. Just long enough to snap some pictures for the scrapbook/photo album/Instagram! Once Jacob and I had a few nice photo souvenirs, we were on to the next stop!
Westminster Abbey is another London spot that is not to be missed. After our time at The Tower of London and Tower Bridge, Jacob and I hopped on the tube again via the Circle Line and made our way towards Westminster Abbey.
Rich in history and filled with amazing architectural and artistic feats, Jacob and I soaked up every second inside the Abbey’s walls.
I did not purchase our tickets ahead of time for Westminster Abbey. Being in the middle of the day, I wanted to give myself a big enough cushion in my planning so that if our morning plans ran too long, we wouldn’t be out the cost of the tickets. However, you can save 2 pounds on each ticket by buying in advance online! Once admitted, there is a short line to obtain free multimedia guides, available in 14 languages.
For obvious reasons, photography is not permitted inside the Abbey’s walls. However, you can view the Abbey’s online photo gallery and even download photos here.
One is free to explore the Abbey at any pace. Jacob and I went at a pretty leisurely pace and made it through in about two hours. It could easily be done in more or less time. Our favorite spots were The Poet’s Corner and grave sites of Sir Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton.
Houses of Parliament
Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster are just across the road from each other, making them perfect London attractions to knock out in the same day! Again, I booked online ahead of time for the self-guided audio tour at 3:00 pm.
For those who don’t know, the United Kingdom’s governing body, Parliament, is housed inside of the Palace of Westminster. There are those that may not agree with me that a Parliamentary tour is a “major” or “must-see” London attraction. To some, it may be a bit dry, and it’s definitely not as “Instaworthy” as some of the other spots in the city. However, we didn’t want to miss out on the beautiful architecture and artwork, not to mention we were interested in learning more about British government. What else do you expect from a couple of nerds?!
In any case, don’t completely discount the option of visiting Parliament. There truly are many beautiful sights within the walls of the Palace of Westminster, and for you pop culture buffs, there are countless movie and tv scenes set it either the House of Lords or the House of Commons!
Also, if these last couple paragraphs seemed like jibberish to you, that’s probably a good sign that you should carve out some time to visit and learn something new for yourself. Knowledge and perspective are the greatest souvenirs!
This one is technically a cheat because Big Ben is actually part of the Palace of Westminster! However, it is one of the most, if not the most, iconic aspects of London. I would venture to say that most Americans don’t know that it’s part of the Palace of Westminster, and even less know that it’s actually called Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben refers to the bell within the clock tower!).
Similar to snapping pics of Tower Bridge on our way out of the Tower of London, we snapped a few pics of Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben to our fellow Americans) as we exited the Palace of Westminster. It was pleasantly quiet in that area and gave us a shot with a different perspective than most of those taken on the surrounding streets of London. In all, I would estimate we spent about two hours touring the Palace of Westminster.
Bonus Attraction: Our Dinner Spot!
When someone recommended the Sherlock Holmes pub to me I knew it was somewhere I had to surprise Jacob with for dinner. I make all of our travel plans, and though I fill him in on most our itinerary for any given trip, I always like to keep one or two surprises for him.
We’re both big Sherlock Holmes fans and literary fans in general, so the Sherlock Holmes pub was the perfect end to the day for us! After we finished up our time at the Palace of Westminster, we hopped on a double decker and got off at Trafalgar Square.
As we entered, we were greeted by a fabulously kitsch atmosphere mimicking Sherlock’s cluttered home. It was like walking right onto the page of one of Sir Doyle’s books! We were promptly brought to a booth and spent the next two hours there eating, drinking, enjoying the atmosphere, and resting our feet after our action-packed day.
I was expecting more traditional British cuisine here, but was surprised to find pub burgers, nachos, chili dogs, and the like. The food was delicious, though! Jacob enjoyed a Guinness and I had my share of Coca Cola (the fuel that keeps me going on any trip).
We were in bed before 8:00 that evening! A day full of sites plus jet lag made for two tuckered out tourists.