Places to Sightsee in London in a Week

London is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and was in my bucket list since a long time. This year in July I could finally manage to tick if off the list.

The climate is wonderful though one moment it is sunny and the next moment it’s raining.. extremely unpredictable ( Moral of the story is : Always carry your umbrella along for sightseeing).

Sightseeing in London requires a lot of walking . Most of the attractions are situated close by so taking the public transport is not feasible ( Moral of the story is : Wear sturdy & comfortable shoes )

London has a lot of places with history and art. In this post I am going to share the main sightseeing places in London . Like I have mentioned in my previous post on How to Travel to London on a Budget ( Do read it ) , London is divided into 6 Zones. The main attractions are in Zone 1 and a few in Zone 2. 

Atleast a week is required to sightsee the major attractions. And it is preferable that all the tickets for the attractions are booked online on their official sites since there are huge queues at the ticket windows plus the rates of tickets purchased online are a lesser than the ones purchased at the ticket window

I have clubbed the sightseeing itinerary day wise based on their proximity to each other to save time on travelling and avoid using public transport.

What to see on Day 1 : Tower of London, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast ,All Hallows by the Tower, The Monument,Sky Garden The Shard, Tate Modern , City Hall & the London Bridge are all in the same vicinity. The famous food market Borough Market is also situated close by. This market has stalls of different cuisines and desserts. The St Pauls Cathedral can also be visited which is a little distance away

The White Tower in the Tower of London
The iconic London Bridge ( not to be confused with the Tower Bridge)

There are many buses going to these places . The London Bridge station, Tower Hill station are also close by.

What to see on Day 2 : Westminister Abbey , London Eye,Big Ben, Buckingham Palace ( including the Royal Mews & The Queens Gallery ) & the Imperial War Musuem (Churchill War Rooms ) . You could also relax at the St James Park or the Green Park next to Buckingham Palace.

The Westminister Abbey opens at 9.30 am and takes about 2 hours to view.

Westminister Abbey

The Buckingham Palace has the change of guards on the foregrounds of the Palace at 10.45 am ( it gets real crowded so recommend to go early to get a prime spot ) . It is advisable to visit the Palace first lest you miss this event and then visit the Westminister Abbey and the nearby attractions.

The change of Guards outside Buckingham Palace

Note : The lavish interiors of the Buckingham Palace are open for display to the public only from July – October . Book online in advance to avoid disappointment. The slots for viewing get filled  fast . Rest of the year the Palace can be viewed from outside.

What to see on Day 3 : Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus,Leicester Square , China town.

China Town

Shopping at Selfridges, Primark on Oxford street or at the highend shopping destination in Mayfair and Bond street. All these places are at a walking distance .

What to see on Day 4 : Covent Garden ( an upscale shopping market ) , Madame Tussauds, The Lords Cricket Ground, Camden Market for shopping . Relax at the Regent Park and also visit the Portbello Market which is closer to The Lords

Covent Garden

What to see on Day 5 : Musuems : There are excellent musuems in London for History Buffs . The British Museum with its amazing ancient cultural exhibits from around the world takes an entire day or more. So plan your tour dates accordingly taking into account the days to be spent in the museum. Do check out their Egypt & Greece exhibits atleast if pressed for time .

The National Gallery with paintings dating back to the mid 13th century by some of the famous artists like Rembrandt ,Vincent Van Gogh, & Michelangelo . The National Gallery is at Trafalgar Square so can be combined while exploring Trafalgar Square

The Musuem of London can be visited along with the The Kensington Palace, Princess Diana’s Memorial Foundation and the Marble Arch . Hyde Park is adjacent to the Kensington Palace 

What to see on Day 6 -7 : Book Day tours to the scenic countryside . You can club Oxford, Warvick Castle,Stratford Avon and Cotswold in one trip . Windsor Castle, Bath & Stonehenge can be combined in another trip. You can book the tours through local tour operators like Viator , Evan Evans.

Warvick Castle
Roman Baths-Bath

London is a big city. It’s not possible to cover each and every tourist attraction within a week . However , the major and most visited and famous attractions are mentioned above.

Hope you find this helpful . Do follow me to read my blog on ‘ How to explore the London Tourist spots alongwith the history behind the places ‘.

How to plan a Budget Vacation to London- Travel Guide

When planning any trip locally or abroad , the main criteria should be maximum sightseeing in minimum cost. Value for money is the motto followed by us or any avid traveller. Well , this motto was initially difficult to apply for our London vacation which is one of the costliest city in the world. Plus the continuously depreciating value of the Rupee against the British pound added to our planning woes. After months of brain racking sessions calculating costs combined with tick marking all major sightseeing spots,various permutations and combinations there was a point where due to sheer mental exhaustion I was all ready to go and book a tour with a tour operator. But better sense prevailed finally and Whew ! finally we arrived on a London vacation plan at a reasonable cost. Just sharing what I learnt and will follow in future for further trips

Book a tour off season : Try to book a vacation during the off season period of that country / city. The airfare rates, accomodation rates are quite low during that time . If unable to do so do read the points mentioned below.

Air tickets : The first step to a cost saving holiday is planning much ahead of schedule and thus booking the air tickets at a lower rate. Closer the date of travel , higher the airfare. Put price alerts on sites like Skyscanner, Make my Trip, Kayak around dates which you are likely to travel or else book the air tickets through a travel agent. They get bulk discounts which can be passed on to you. We got a good deal on our airfare flying Emirates Mumbai-Gatwick Airport( London ) & Edinburgh (Scotland) -Mumbai through Kedar Ubhayakar a staff of Travel Tours ( Part of FCM Travel Solutions ).

Food : Food is a major expense in London. But through our travel we found cost saving ways in that too. We normally had our lunch and dinner in small cafes or restaurants . Generally on an average a meal costs about 9 -10 GBP per person and drinks 1.50-3 GBP.

Fish & Chips and Hunter’s Chicken ( the pic on the lower level ..A British speciality )costs about 9-10 GBP
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Britain’s signature dish -Fish & chips
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Pimms a delicious gin based lemonade topped with strawberry, oranges

There are Supermarkets like Sainsbury or Tesco with many outlets spread out in London city which sell Veg/ Non Veg Sandwiches , ready to eat meals ,pizzas , bakery items like doughnuts cup cakes , variety of breads , soft drinks and fruits ranging between 1.50 GBP to 4 GBP which also substitute for a hearty breakfast or a light lunch- dinner.

Sandwiches in the Meal Deal Scheme 1.50 GBP
A Ready to eat meal at Sainsbury’s Supermarket

Travel by local transport : London has the best transport system in the world. The network of transport like Tube ( Underground train) ,Metro train and bus is so well connected that there is no need to take a Cab or Uber which works out very expensive. There are Maps printed at every Bus stop displaying the Bus No and the route ( stops ) it will take.

A map outside a Bus stop

Similarly for the Metro and Tube ( Underground ) there are maps outside every station with the destination stops clearly mentioned . Plus there are announcements and screen displays made on the Bus and the train / tube about the next destination where the bus/train / tube will make a stop. So it makes it easy for us to alight at our destination . It takes about a day to master how to read a map and once you have understood it, travelling in London is a dream.

The indicator on a bus displaying the destination stops

It is advisable to buy an pre paid Oyster Card when travelling in London. It can be used for travel in a Bus,Metro or Tube. We found it an excellent way to travel fuss free. Buses only accept Oyster Card ( no cash ) while cash can be used for Train or Tube tickets which can be purchased at the ticket window. The tickets rates are quite high for the train in peak hours ie 6.30 am – 9.30 am and 4 pm-7 pm so bus travel where the peak hour rates don’t apply is preferred. In that sense buying an Oyster card works out more economical . Oyster card can be bought at the airport or at railway stations too. There are helpful railway personnel at the railway stations to guide you on how to purchase a Oyster card or help you board the right train.

Using an Oyster Card at the Railway station
The Double Decker Red Bus

Plus travelling in a Double Decker Red Bus taking in the sights of the city is an pleasant experience.

Travelling to places outside London like Lake District or Scotland, the National Express Bus is a cheap mode of transport. We used this bus service while travelling to Lake District. It cost us just 17 GBP-per person . The tickets can also be booked on their official site. Trains like the Virgin Trains , National rail also depart for Lake District or Scotland but they are very expensive than bus travel.

Accommodation : Hotels in London especially Central London can be quite expensive. It is advisable to book with AirBnb which work out cheaper than a hotel room . If in a group an entire AirBnb flat can be booked which works out still economical. We stayed in a AirBnb flat at Islington , Upper street which was quite a convenient place to stay considering there were bus stops just below our hotel plus the Angel Train station was just 5-7 mins at a walking distance.

London is divided into 6 Zones . The main attractions are situated in Zone 1. There was a debate whether to book an AirBnb in Zone 1 which is expensive or stay in the far away Zones to save on the accommodation cost. But we realized that travelling from eg Zone 6 to Zone 1 would cost us on travel plus time of travelling . Hence we decided to stay in the AirBnb accommodation in Zone 1 thus saving on travel time and travel costs .We reached all the happening places in Central London in less than half an hour so had more time to explore the city .

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Tower Bridge

Online booking of Sight seeing places : London has a lot of places of historical importance and pleasure too. Since we were travelling in July which is a peak holiday season we had expected huge queues at the ticket windows for all the major sightseeing spots. So the first prudent step was to go on the official sites of these places and book the tickets online. eg to book online tickets for Madame Tussauds go to their site and follow the instructions on the screen . The procedure is quite easy.

Normally the payments to these online sites can be made using a Credit card . There is a small fee charged for using the Credit cards . A printout of your ticket should be carried with you to be shown at the ticket window on the day of the sightseeing.They either scan the bar code on the ticket printout or issue tickets. The queue at this ‘online booked tickets’ window is quite less than the ‘on the spot ticket booking’ window.

Another benefit of booking tickets online are the rates . The ticket rate is a little less when booked online than booking across the counter. And even a little lesser rate while paying in pounds makes a whole lot of a difference . Some places have a group discount. Check on their sites to avail of a group discount.

Warwick Castle

Hope you liked this blog. Do share your views in the comment section .

Next Blog will be on how to cover the major attractions of London with tips on sightseeing

Stunning Lake District(England) Travel Guide

Lake District,located in Cumbria is the largest National Park in England and famous for its lakes,forests & mountains and picturesque locales. Since 2017, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The major towns in this National Park are Keswick, Windermere,Ambleside & Bowness-on-Windermere. Ullswater , Borrowdale are also scenic places in the Lake District

How to reach : It can be easily visited from London by train or bus.We boarded a National Express night bus from Victoria Coach station in London and reached Manchester in the wee hours of the morning .The bus journey is comfortable and smooth. There was a 3 hour halt at the Manchester Bus station and then a two hour drive to Windermere . There are direct buses too to the towns of Lake District but slightly expensive than a break journey. Trains start from Euston Station of London to Oxelhome Lake District, however the tickets are quite expensive so bus is a cheaper option.

Windermere :The first glimpse of Windermere town is jaw dropping. Typical medieval British homes with grey coarse stone masonry work and sloping roofs. Cobbled streets with narrow lanes and a riot of colourful flowers blooming outside every home and restaurant highlighting the grey stone homes. The clear blue sky in the background makes it all the more captivating

On entering Windermere town ,there is a tourist information centre. The first thing we did after disembarking from the bus was to obtain a Map of the Lake District . (I always recommend keeping/buying a map of a region/ city when travelling. It really helps . You can get the maps for free in Information centres or railway stations ).

Windermere in the evening

How to travel to places in Lake District from Windermere :

By Bus : There are buses which shuttle to & fro from Windermere just at the start of the town ( Bus Nos 555, 505 ,599 ) to Keswick, Grasmere, Rydal, Ambleside on one route and Bowness on Windermere ,Kendall on the other route at the duration of 5 -10 mins. We can take a pass for a day which costs nominal and which allows us unlimited travel the entire day to spots between all these locations . Groups ( 4 or more persons) have a further concession on the pass. Since we were four of us ,we took the group pass.Buses have a partially open roof on the top so viewing the scenic countryside is a dream.

By Ferry : There are ferry rides/Steamer rides between different locations from the Windermere Lake Jetty.

Windermere Lake : is a large lake in Cumbria’s Lake District National Park, northwest England. It’s surrounded by mountain peaks and villages, including Bowness-on-Windermere on one side and Ambleside on the other.

A stunning view of the Windermere Lake in the evening

Ambleside : is a pretty quaint town with lots of cafes.It is on one side of the Lake Windermere. The entire town is picturesque. Potted flower plants in pink,red,purple strategically placed to contrast the dark local stone houses. A stroll around the streets and capture the visual beauty of the place is worth it

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Note the cute miniature stone house in the garden

Bowness -on-Windermere : is a fishing village with old houses , narrow streets and quirky corners.A visit to the Bowness Pier and sit watching the geese which abound on the lake shores , watched tourists enjoying their boat ride and just relax oblivious of the hectic world we have left behind home.

Bowness on Windermere Pier
A beautiful house amidst the greenery

Grasmere : is a scenic village with a lake by the same name and the place of birth of the greatest poet William Wordsworth. He lived in a house called Dove Cottage for 14 years and has called it as “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found Grasmere” . He is also buried here along with his family in St Oswald’s churchyard. Next to the Church is a tiny shop called the Sarah Nelson’s ‘Grasmere Gingerbread’. It was started in 1854.

Isn’t the sight ethereal ?

A block citing Wordsworth at the entrance of the churchyard where he lies buried
William Wordsworth’ s tombstone in St Oswald’s church

A must visit and a must buy- Gingerbread
The Grasmere stone bridge

Keswick : is a pretty and vibrant market town with lots of cafes. Close by is the Lake Derwentwater famous for its scenic beauty. It is surrounded by hills (known locally as fells), and many of the slopes facing Derwentwater are extensively wooded. A regular passenger launch operates on the lake, and you can hop on and off at various jetties and explore the woods around the lake.

Near Keswick is the famous Castlerigg Stone Circle built around 4500 years ago by pre historic farming communities and served as a place for rituals or ceremonial activities or movement of goods

Lake Derwentwater
The jetty at Derwentwater to take a cruise

Keswick Market

Lunch is delicious bakes from a Cornish Bakery
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Castlerigg Stone Circle

Borrowdale :is a picturesque valley in the Lake District and close to Keswick.

Miniature green slate houses in the background

Ullswater : is the second largest lake in the Lake District . The lake flows in a serpentine fashion and is considered to be the most beautiful lake in Lake District

A meaningful message on every table in the garden near Ullswater Lake

Kirkstone Pass : is a mountain pass in the English Lake District, in the county of Cumbria. It is at an altitude of 1,489 feet. This is the Lake District’s highest pass that is open to motor traffic and it connects Ambleside and Ullswater. There is the Kirkstone Pass Inn built in the 15th Century and is still functional

Kirkstone Pass Inn

A wood seating to view the scenes around Kirkstone Pass