If you missed yesterday’s post and love London, or want to visit one day, you’ll want to hop back to start at the beginning of the 3 Day Itinerary where I have recommendations for places you should visit in the City & East London.
Today we’re going to jump right in to Day 2 of the itinerary where we’ll get a little taste of an area quite different than Whitechapel and Brick Lane that we visited yesterday. Today we’re headed to…
Day 2: Westminster and the South Bank
9:00 AM | Start at Tower Pier to catch the Thames Clipper to Westminster Pier
London has so many ways to get around, in fact one day we tried to take all the methods of transportation and succeeded in taking the overground train, underground train, DLR, Emirates Air line cable car, double-decker bus, boat, a taxi, and our feet! Did we miss anything? Of those one of my favourites of the day was taking the Thames Clipper between piers for a new perspective of London by seeing it from the Thames so that is how I propose you kick of your second day in London– with a ride on the Thames Clipper river bus service.
Hop on board and enjoy the cruise to Westminster…
10:00 AM | Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
So yes, technically Big Ben isn’t the beautiful tower that stands above the Houses of Parliament but is the 13.5 ton bell within the Elizabeth Tower instead. No matter what you call it this tower and the clock atop it are stunning. Nothing gives me more goosebumps in London than when I emerge from the underground at the Westminster station and there it is towering above me. Beautiful. And you absolutely know you are in London then. If you are a UK resident you are one lucky duck as you can go to the top of the tower (for free!) with your MP or Member of the House of Lords. For the rest of us, well we can still enjoy that wonderful chime and it sparkling in the sunshine.
In the early days the Houses of Parliament were called Westminster Palace and was where England’s rich overlords met to decide how to rule their peasants at this, the king’s house. Most of the original palace was burned down and then rebuilt in Gothic-revival architecture to show off Empire riches which we can now check out by a guided tour or a self-paced audio tour.
Both tours include visits to the extravagant House of Lords that are full of gilt and gold, and then the plainer House of Commons decorated with wood. Visitors can also stroll through beautiful corridors, sitting rooms, and the “Robing Room” where the sovereign comes through to kick off sessions of parliament once a year.
The massive Westminster Hall, built in 1097, with a wonderful oak hammer-beam ceiling was the site of condemnation of Charles I, where monarchs lie in state, and is now where you can pick up your audio guide and buy souvenirs. While no photos are allowed in most of the Houses of Parliament, you can take them in this part of the building and along the corridor just past it. We were disappointed with this photo policy but this UNESCO site is still very much worth a visit.
Save Time and Money:
- Tickets can be purchased in person or in advance online. There is no discount available if bought online but it’s best to purchase in advance to guarantee you’re able to get them. Children are free under 5 years and one child (age 5-15) is free per paying adult- just be sure to reserve their tickets too.
- If Parliament is in session visitors can view the debates of current issues and legislation from the gallery for free.
Related Posts: 8 Great UNESCO Sites to Visit from London
12:30 PM | Lunch at the Red Lion Pub
Is there anything more British than grabbing a pint and some fish and chips at a pub? Nah! And it’s delicious too. And how about a pub that’s on the site where a tavern has stood for about 600 years and the likes of Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill have visited? Too cool.
The Red Lion pub is located just down the street from the Houses of Parliament so makes a good option for lunch. Along this street you also can get a peek at 10 Downing Street and the Cenotaph, and you might just see a politician or two too.
It’s then a quick walk back to Westminster Abbey where you’ll be spending the next part of the afternoon.
1:30 PM | Westminster Abbey
Ah Westminster Abbey, a UNESCO site of incredible cultural, historic, and religious significance which can be seen in so many ways throughout the side chapels and the nave. Throughout the Abbey there are many royal, military, and cultural nobles buried here and the poignant Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in the nave. Side chapels include the tombs of Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Edward V and his brother Richard (the little boys found dead in the Tower of London). Literature buffs will enjoy Poet’s Corner where they will find dedications to Chaucer, Robert Browning, Dickens, and many others; science buffs need to be on the lookout for the graves of Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin in the nave.
Commissioned by Edward the Confessor, the Abbey was consecrated in 1065 and since then has been the site for the coronation of kings and queens, starting with William the Conqueror, for the past 1000 years. Visitors can even see the Coronation Chair that’s been used for every monarch since 1308, under which goes the much fought over Stone of Scone which spent seven centuries in the Abbey but has since been returned to Scotland and now rests in Edinburgh Castle.
All this history and the beautiful architecture of the Abbey is what I love about it and that is why I recommend Westminster Abbey, if only for one visit. Just be prepared for the crowds of people and the jumble of stuff inside (SO much stuff). I realise its been around 1000 years but sometimes I just felt like things were crammed in without any thought or planning. Some people might love this even more about it though because we all have different tastes. For a little space from the crowds it’s worth a little time to visit the Little Cloister and College gardens.
Save Time and Money:
- Three ways to save money on Westminster Abbey tickets: Visit the Abbey as one of your attractions if using the London Pass (but does not include Fast Track entry); or if traveling by National Rail check out London 2FOR1 tickets for a free ticket for a companion (check for availability as these are not always on offer); or attend a service or Evensong for free.
Related Posts: 8 Great UNESCO Sites to Visit from London
4:00 PM | London Eye
Built in 1999 as the Millennium Wheel and meant to be temporary, the London Eye is now permanently at home along the South Bank of the Thames River overlooking the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the rest of London and all the way out to Windsor on a clear day. As you take the 30 minute ride in one of its 32 pods, you’ll climb to 135 m for an unobstructed view of as many of the sights in London as you can likely name. And if you’re not sure what you’re seeing, no problem- there are tablets in the pods to help you out.
What I love best about the London Eye, besides the climate-controlled pods which so appreciated on warm days, is that it doesn’t take you so high that you can’t see things well. I like to get a bird’s eye view of cities but sometimes the observation decks are so high up that everything is just a little speck. This takes you as high as you need to go to appreciate the view and 30 minutes is just right to give you the time to do it.
Also included with your ticket is a 4-D movie at the end with more views of London from the sky and some special effects, but unless you aren’t in a hurry or have kids with you it could likely be skipped. Personally I didn’t really think it added anything to the quiet and peaceful experience that came with riding in the pod overlooking the city.
Now what is a cool extra for the London Eye is the Day & Night combo ticket. For only about £6 more you can buy this ticket and ride once between 1000 and 1630 and then again from 1630 to closing. This is a great way to end a day out in London as you see the city lights sparkling below. In fact this day of the itinerary ends with a walk along the river and dinner so coming back later in the evening would certainly be possible.
Save Time and Money:
- Three ways to save money on London Eye tickets: Buy in advance online for a small discount; if traveling by National Rail check out London 2FOR1 tickets for a free ticket for a companion (check for availability as these are not always on offer); or purchase the Day & Night Combo ticket for two rides for only a few £ more than one ride. The London Eye is not included on the London Pass.
- To save time the London Eye offers their own Fast Track tickets, which again are cheaper if you purchase them in advance. These allow you to enter through a dedicated entrance to skip the regular queue (which can be quite long during the day).
- If at all possible purchase your tickets in advance for this attraction, no matter which type of ticket you buy. The ticket lines are always long for the London Eye, in addition to the line you’ll wait in after you have tickets.
5:00 PM | Wander the Banks Along the River Thames and Dinner
After another full day there is not much that is better than just a stroll along the banks of both sides of the river in the Westminster area. Take your time, watch the sun set and the lights come on around the city, find a little place for a relaxing dinner, and think “I’m in London. I’m really here.”
So far, so good? Are you itching to visit London yet? I hope so. I love hearing from people how much they love this city when they return home with their stories. If you’ve been already, or if you do go, I’d love to hear your stories too.
Up next tomorrow for the third and final day of this itinerary we’ll be out seeing sights that London is very well known for- it’s Royal Family. We’ll visit a palace, a park, and then do a little shopping where the Queen shops!
This post is part of my London Love series.
For more information on common (and some not so common) sights in London, as well as itineraries to help you plan your time, please visit my growing collection of posts in London Love.