Things to do in London

by Richard on November 25, 2008

Regular connexions commenter DH is coming to London next year. What are your ‘top 3 things to do in London’? Try to keep a first time visitor in mind.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }


Ted 11.25.08 at 10:08 am

Is DH a Methodist? Wesley’s Chapel and museum should be on the list.

The London Eye. Definitely.

Shopping. We need all the cash he can spend…


Will 11.25.08 at 10:34 am

1.) The Tower of London
2.) Westminster Abbey
3.) The Lion King (stage show - fantastic)

I will cheat and add a fourth since he is an American - All Hallows by the Tower [of London] Church - it’s where John Quincy Adams (the first unpopular president who was also a the son of a previous president) was married.


alice m 11.25.08 at 10:49 am

London Eye
Walk through Hyde Park
National Gallery

oh - and stop for tea and cake in as many places as possible!


Dr Who fan 11.25.08 at 11:23 am

1. Ride an open top bus to see the main sights
2. See a west end show
3. Catch a train out of London and see something of the rest of Britain


fernando 11.25.08 at 12:38 pm

A gallery - Tate Modern, National or Portrait Gallery
A walk in the park - Green Park, Hyde Park or Kew Gardens
Take a bus - catch the no 14 from Tottenham Court Road to Fulham Broadway, then the 11 back to the Strand. Sights include theatre district, Picadilly Circus, St James, Hyde Park, Knightsbridge/Harrods, Chelsea, Stamford Bridge, King’s Road Shopping, Sloane Square, Victoria, Parliament/Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square - all in a non-touristy and local mode of transport. Lots of other similar bus combinations are possible.


tortoise 11.25.08 at 1:05 pm

Yep, London Eye definitely has to be on the list.
Lion King - yep, amazing stage production. But equally any of the biggies in the West End - Les Mis springs to mind as a good’un for a first-timer.
Westminster Abbey? Maybe, but I’d go for St Paul’s Cathedral instead.

Or, for the more ‘authentic’ London experience:

Stand-up comedy at one of the many pub comedy venues in North London. Bonus points for heckling in as thick an american accent as you can muster.
Take a night bus from central London to the suburbs in the early hours of Saturday or Sunday. Bonus points for evangelising fellow passengers.
Hire a car and drive anywhere in London between the hours of 8am-9am on a weekday. Bonus points for manual transmission (stick-shift), roundabouts, and timely arrival at intended destination.


Andy 11.25.08 at 1:59 pm

From Tower Bridge wander up the South Bank, passing Borough Market, Southwark Cathedral, The Globe, Tate Modern and the Eye, plus lots of restaurants, pubs (just of Borough High Street is the George, once a coaching house and haunt of Charles Dickens) and cafes, before crossing over at Westminster Bridge - all with fantastic views of St Pauls, The Millenium (wobbly) Bridge, Whitehall and Parliament. If you then have time turn right down Whitehall past Downing Street and the Cenotaph to Trafalgar Square for a look around the National Gallery. You can do this all in any time frame appropriate from one hour to one week, depending on how often you stop and look around.

Other things highly recommended are a guided walking tour of the City (of London, rather the Westminster) to get a sense of history, and equally importantly try some real cask ales in a proper pub, one of the best is the Princess Louise on High Holborn.

Two tips are to get an Oyster card for the tube and bus - it’s so much cheaper and take a look at for good restaurant offers.

And finally avoid at all costs the tackiness that is Harrods and the unpleasantness of Oxford Street


Kim 11.25.08 at 3:06 pm

Go by bus, train , or car to Heathrow and take a flight to New York, Paris, or Rome.


dh 11.25.08 at 3:24 pm

Thanks everybody. I’m kind of excited by all of the many wonderful comments and advise. Thanks so much Richard, for the wonderful care for my wife and I on our trip. :) Just to give you guys some idea of what we were planning on and a few more details: We will be staying at the Sofitel-St. James. My wife listed these things she wanted to do (I have been to London but she hasn’t, it is her dream since a little girl to go): 1) walk through Hyde park, see London and Tower bridges, Tower of London, Piccadilly, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Kensington Palace, boat on the Thames, shop at Harrod’s and take an excursion trip to Edinburgh to see the castle and a few other sights.

Are there any other must do’s and see’s that have not been mentioned or that I forgot? Also I would be interested in any advise and protocol’s to follow. I don’t want to be considered the “crazy American tourist”. Although heckling a Comedy Club in my perfect immitation of Ross Perot sounds awfully fun. :)


Toby 11.25.08 at 3:38 pm

Surely its:

1) Wesley’s Chapel
2) Central Hall Westminster for lunch
3) Gaze at the beauty of Methodist Church House from the queue outside Madame Tussauds for a few hours. (Don’t actually go into Madame Tussauds: it is very expensive and not all that good).

If you can do all that in a day you automatically become a Methodist minister. (If you can do all that and still smile, you become a circuit superintendent. Don’t ask what you need to do to become a district chair).

Seriously though:

British museum.
25 or 264 bus to St Paul Cathedral
Walk across millennium bridge to Tate Modern
Tate Modern
River bus to Westminster

That’s three great buildings (two of which are free to enter, the other has a suggested donation) and three great journeys, only one of which is expensive, and you wind up at Westminster.


(this is my own opinion and not that of the Methodist Church. If you get lost or the boat sinks, don’t bring a Memorial to the Conference blaming me.)

All the other suggestions are good as well.


dh 11.25.08 at 5:47 pm

Toby, as a non-Methodist, would I still enjoy Wesley chapel?

BTW, what is Tate Modern? Is that a museum of modern art?

OBTW, is the Sofitel-St. James a good hotel? It says it is 5 star and a good location but are there any other with a good location and 5 star as well? (Remember 5 star because my wife turns 30, so that is the reason for the extra special hotel :) )


Richard 11.25.08 at 6:15 pm

I’m sure it’s a very splendid hotel. Way out of my price range! I’m sure you’ll be well looked after there.
Tate Modern has a website - if art is your thing, you’ll want to go there.
I think you would find Wesley’s Chapel and museum interesting.

Have you thought about going to York or Chester instead of Edinburgh? Both very interesting places. And Chester is only a few miles where I live.


Paul Martin 11.25.08 at 6:16 pm

1/. Highgate Cemetry - grave of Karl Marx

2/. Wesley Chapel - actually I’ve not been there yet but some of the history of the place is I am sure of interest to non Methodist Christians

3/.Just walk from Parliament (by all means try to go inside) up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square - so much history to imbibe.

Anyhow enjoy your time in London. As Dr Johnson once said, a man who is tired of London is tired of life!


dh 11.25.08 at 7:22 pm

Richard, great suggestions, I have been to Chester and York. Both are wonderful places and I even suggested it to my wife. She says she really wants to go to Edinburgh. We’ll see if I’m able to change her mind. :) As you know with wives that can be sometimes difficult. Honey, Kara, hope you know I was just kidding. :)

Paul, I really enjoyed your suggestions. However, why would I want to see some “Commy’s” gravesite? Are there any other famous people beside the old Commy there?


Paul Martin 11.25.08 at 7:50 pm

As well as dear Karl, there are a number of other famous peoples’ Highgater. Here is a sample;

Douglas Adams - of Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy fame
George Eliot - the novelist who was really a woman
Christina Rossetti - thepoet who wrote In the bleak midwinter
Sir ralph Richardson - actor
Ralph Miliband - Marxist theorist with two sons in Cabinet
Alexander Litvinenko - murdered Russian dissident
Charles Cruft - founder of Crufts dog show

And the list could go on. Also there are some incredible tombs and buildings within. A lot of history is there even if you do not see Karl as a prophet.


dh 11.25.08 at 8:03 pm

Paul, it still looks like we have Adams-an atheist, Eliot-a transvestite, Rossetti-I never heard of her, 3 other people I didn’t know and an English Commy. I’m still not impressed and my question still stands from my previous reply.

I ask again, are there any other famous people burried there?

Karl a prophet? You truly are delusional. Don’t believe it is Godlike to force people to have their goods stolen as opposed to out of ones heart for the poor.


Richard 11.25.08 at 9:26 pm

Eliot wasn’t a transvestite DH! She just took a male pen name. But you were kidding, right?
I know you don’t think much of Marx, but look at it this way. If you went to Highgate cemetery, you’d be able to dance on his grave. From some of what you’ve said in the past, I’d have thought that alone would make the trip worthwhile.

On no account should you try to change your wife’s mind about the itinerary of your trip.


Tony Buglass 11.25.08 at 9:37 pm

You could stop off at York on the way to Edinburgh - it’s the same train journey, and well worth it. You could try Durham, too - same train journey, magnificent cathedral (you’ll see it from the train). The train will also stop in Newcastle, which doesn’t have a Norman cathedral, but it is the heart of God’s own country. As you run north through Northumberland (which is definitely God’s own country, whatever Yorkshire might say) the train will run up the coast by Alnmouth, whiich is simply wonderful.

So even if you can’t change her mind, you’ll see a lot of places which would have been worth a visit, and might suggest a return trip to the best bit of the UK (the north).

Biased, moi? ;)


Paul Martin 11.25.08 at 10:02 pm

Karl knew that the time would come to exporpriate from the expropriators. Sure he was wrong on much but he was wiser than most

As for Rossetti as well as “In the bleak midwinter” she wrote “Love came down at Christmas and No other Lamb which you may well like. For other well known people I suggest you look up the list on Wikipedia’s article for Huighate Cemetry - what am I doing? I don’t even like cemetries as a rule.


Richard 11.25.08 at 10:04 pm

The East Coast Mainline is definitely worth riding. Just a pity that you won’t have the chance to be pulled by a Deltic. But if you got off at York, you’d be able to see one at the National Railway Museum. Steam? You can keep it. Nothing compares to the thunder of those Napier diesel engines…

I’m kind of with you on Northumberland, Tony. Although I’m a Yorkshireman by birth, my ancestry is a mix of lancastrian and Northumbian. On my father’s side, I have traced my family tree in Northumberland back to the mid 1700’s.


Kim 11.25.08 at 10:19 pm

… or Madrid, Vienna, or Berlin …


Kim 11.25.08 at 10:24 pm



Paul Martin 11.25.08 at 10:30 pm



Rick O'Donnell 11.26.08 at 1:24 am

Kim, stop it! You remind me of my eldest sister Marjorie. Her first, middle, and last names were Sarcasm. Please be nice, it’ll only hurt for a little while. :-)


Kim 11.26.08 at 8:01 am

Okay, Rick, the other six were sarcasm, but not SWANSEA. SWANSEA is an invitation!

(Btw, how long will it take for the pain to go away? Will paracetamol help?)


Toby 11.26.08 at 9:42 am

Edinburgh is a great city - I lived there for five years and miss it every day. If you want to start another thread on things to see in Edinburgh, I’m happy to add to that.



Richard 11.26.08 at 10:15 am

OK, Toby. The floor is yours.


John Cooper 11.26.08 at 10:25 am

Surely its:

1) Wesley’s Chapel
2) Central Hall Westminster for lunch
3) Gaze at the beauty of Methodist Church House from the queue outside Madame Tussauds for a few hours. (Don’t actually go into Madame Tussauds: it is very expensive and not all that good).

If you can do all that in a day you automatically become a Methodist minister. (If you can do all that and still smile, you become a circuit superintendent. Don’t ask what you need to do to become a district chair).

I am sad enough to have done all these things….(except become a Methodist Minister!)

On a complete tangent - didn’t realise you’d lived in edinburgh Toby. Gracious that was home for 15 years for me so rather miss the place - I suggest time to reminiss and catch up soon.

Back on topic: I’ll leave some edinnburgh suggestions soon

Warmest Regards



Richard 11.26.08 at 11:29 am

>> “I am sad enough to have done all these things….(except become a Methodist Minister!)”

There’s time, though. ;)


dh 11.26.08 at 3:11 pm

Richard, I was joking about the “tranvestite” thing. However, you did give me some credence with the whole “dancing on Marx’s grave”. Interesting concept but still seems rather cold. I’m not sure it is the Christian thing to do but my flesh sure would enjoy it. :)

I have a lot of time till May 2009 I still might ask my wife “are you sure you don’t want to go to Chester or York?” I truly love those cities and it would be great to go there again.

Tony, love the idea of stopping on the way to Edinburgh to York. Our Edinburgh trip is scheduled to be a day trip. I hope I’ll have time for York. Maybe another day trip to York with additional stops along the way? :)


alice 12.01.08 at 11:28 am

‘day trip’ to Edinburgh from London, uhmmm, it is still a good 5 hour train journey from one to the other despite new technology. With checking in flying there and back would take most of a day.


John Cooepr 12.02.08 at 1:19 pm

Something to note…

If you have purchased train tickets for the jaunt to Edinburgh (which, as a good environmental bod I would heavily suggest) you can often break your journey back and stop off at York and even Durham for FREE if your ticket states ‘Any route permitted’ on the route option!

If you fly then I’m afraid you don’t have such options… and the train route to/from edinburgh is so beutiful I would have to say you’ve missed something otherwise (although approaching by air is quiet amazing).

Warm Regards



dh 12.02.08 at 3:36 pm

Wow John, I’m not doing a flight from London to Edinburgh so it sounds like that excursion and the following suggestion to York and/or Durham sound great. Thanks for some great advise and the additional excitement. :)


Funthingsinlondon 02.24.09 at 10:34 am

My favourite things to do in London are
1. National Portrait Gallery on a Friday night with live music
2. Free Wednesday at the Comedy Cafe in Shoreditch
3. Science Museum - Adults only night - once a month

And for a more religious thing to do - check out Tyburn convent near Marble Arch that gives a short tour on Martyrs and has lots of spooky relics


Big Smoke 03.10.09 at 2:30 pm

If you’re looking for somewhere to go for lunch then check out St Matins in the Fields for a free lunchtime recital and the Royal Opera House also do free performances on a Monday Lunchtime.


DH 03.11.09 at 1:45 pm

Thanks Big Smoke and Funthingsinlondon and all others for all of the great advise. It looks like it is a done deal that we are going the last week in May. We are planning two day trips: one to Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath; the other we are going to Bruge and Brussles. When my wife found out we were going Belgium, a country she had never been to, she was so excited. The first time I went to Europe my family went to Brussels and I totally loved the Old Square of Old Town. It is a place everyone should go to but only stay for a few days. It is a must see city but only a few things to do. I had never been to Bruge but when I checked it out on the internet it was lovely. I even found out there is a movie where the setting is in the city called “In Bruge”. Fascinating.

We will be staying for 7 days and 6 nights in the St. James district.


Tony Buglass 03.11.09 at 5:36 pm

Ah, Belgium - such beer: Chimay, Westmalle, Duvel… And such chocolate… Just not at the same time! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor Castle in the same day? Pushing it a bit, I reckon. We visited Windsor last summer, and spent the whole day in the castle. And Bath could easily fill a day - the Baths, Royal Crescent, the Abbey, Pulteney Bridge - wonderful!

You’ll be back, I’m thinking - this can only be a taster!


DH 03.11.09 at 6:41 pm

I’m not a beer drinker but the chocolate sounds good. :)

Yeah, it is pushing it a bit but the excursion had this way. It seems to be a 16 hours tour. I had been to Windsor before and the tour was 4 hours. It seemed to be the right amount of time but I might have missed stuff that I was unaware of. The funny thing about my wife is that she loves museums but tours them fast. She wants to see every single thing but she tours it briskly. She also doesn’t linger at a particular item in a museum or historical sight. What I have found is that I’m the little kid who says “wait for me” so I get to linger at a sight but ultimately run to catch up with her a different times.

I will say that my wife is a BIG Jane Ayer fan. So I think she will try to linger at Bath. :)

Linger, I’m sounding like the “Cranberries” song. With regard to this response I shouldn’t “…let it linger. I don’t have to, don’t have to; don’t have to let it linger.” This thread has “got me wrapped around its finger tips.” :)


Tony Buglass 03.11.09 at 9:53 pm

D’you mean Jane Austen? My wife is a big fan, and Bath ‘feels’ Jane Austen. We were in Winchester Cathedral a year or two back, and saw her grave and monument, and then visited her house a few miles away. Wonderful.

Where we live now, we’re just a few miles from the Bronte home in Haworth. Totally different environment - bleak, moody and magnificent - you can understand Wuthering Heights when you live in the Pennines.


Kim 03.12.09 at 8:00 am

Hey, DH, you’re not by any chance visiting as an extraordinary rendition, are you? If you are, the Tower of London is a must. ;)


DH 03.12.09 at 3:12 pm

Tony, thanks for the clarification. Jane Ayer is a character in her book. Gosh, I’m “green” when it comes to these things even though I enjoy the culture of the Austen and Bronte books. Thanks for bring up Austen and Bronte. My wife is a HUGE fan of both. Can’t wait to see all of that.

Kim, what is an “extraordinary rendition”? If you are suggesting torture which I don’t think you are, then my goal is not to “torture” the Brits by coming but to enjoy the culture of the Brits. Gosh, who do you think I am some isolationist across the lake? :) I love to travel and see the world. No Kim, I don’t impose my Americanism on others however proud of it I may be. :)

Yes, we will be touring the Tower of London.


DH 03.12.09 at 3:14 pm

KIm, just having some fun. I’m sure you can appreciate the humor like do toward you. Like you have always said. We may disagree but you figure if we sat down and to eat “fish and chips” you would find we would get along fine. :)


Dr. Beth 03.12.09 at 4:19 pm

DH, you should visit Oxford if you have the chance. It’s easy to get here from London, and well worth a visit. If you’re here when I’m here, I’ll happily play tour guide!


DH 06.02.09 at 6:19 pm

Hey everybody, I just got back from our trip to London!!!! (ye haw) :)
We had a wonderful time. I came back with a greater appreciation for you British than never before. I love your music, pull yourself by the bootstraps attitude, consideration for others, hospitable, etc.

Here are my top twenty things I enjoyed about London:
1) Tons of things to do, sight and sounds
2) music, particularly the latest London rock of combining the British 60’s and the British 80’s (both I love individually) into a whole new style of music. Very enjoyable.
3) rarebit with Haddock (Kim and Richard you Welsh, what do you think? :) )
4) Sitar (co) Indian Restaurant
5) Portobello Road(co) Restaurant
6) Notting Hill area
7) Thames
8) Templar church (built in 1066AD? wow very well maintained. My wife even loved the cute column with the cute little Templar knights at the top. Crusaders being cute may seem a little strange but the visual and them being small on top of a column was cute nonetheless. Even I thought is was cute, if you can believe it. :) )
9) St. Pauls Cathedral (Christopher Wren? a genius. absolute genius)
10) the Buckingham Guards playing the works of my favorite composer John Williams. I truly felt “at home” when I heard all of the many pieces played at the changing of the guard.
11) Harrod’s food area (however the place is crazy as a whole absolutely crazy)
12) Madam Trussauds (to get my picture under all of the great people and my favorite US presidents and UK Prime Ministers was great)
13) Tower of London, everything about that place is facinating.
14) the gardens of Kensington Palace, absolutely beautiful.
15) clotted cream
16) tea
17) lamb
18) marmalade
19) Trafalgar Square
20) Subway, taxi’s and public transport; fast and efficient

We also went on a day trip to Brussels and Brugge. We got to take the Eurostar(co) under the Channel. Brugge is the most underappreciated city in the world. The boutiques, shops, chocolate, canals with tiny boats, etc. was a place my wife and I will go back to for a few days.
Brussels and the Grand Place were great but I was a little disappointed compared with when I was there in 1992. They were cleaning the buildings and to me I was surprised how that took away the “character” of the buildings. Typically I enjoy when buildings are restored but to me the “patena” was taken away not unlike the patena antique piece of furniture being removed during restoration.

All in all. I came back feeling a sense of “pride” for you as a people. My admoration was made stronger and the hospitality and consideration personally received from the Brits was second to none. I want to personally apologize if any of my comments relating to WWII were offensive to any of you as a people. Seeing the American chapel at St. Paul’s, the commeration of the first American who died in 1940 (notice the date) were paradigm shifts for me. While on first meeting you Brits might state a joke about us but when one scratches the surface you can see how great a respect we have and can have across the “lake”.

Richard, is it possible to make a new thread about this? People who read this might want to ask me questions or have additional comments about this wonderful trip my wife and I had. All of you and others advise was of great help. The weather was absolutely beautiful from May 24th to May 30th.


Richard 06.02.09 at 6:50 pm

Consider it done, DH. Welcome back.

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