What are the must-sees in London at the end of May?
April 27, 2004 8:43 AM   Subscribe

I have two and a half days in London at the end of May. What are must-sees? Also, anyone want to meet a group of travelling American bloggers at a pub for a drink the night of May 29?
posted by LeiaS to Travel & Transportation around London, England (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try RoughGuides.
posted by plexi at 8:52 AM on April 27, 2004

Color me envious.

If you're into history and archeology, the Museum of London. If you're into the history of technology, the Victoria and Albert. If you're feeling a need for exercise and the weather is halfway decent, climb the dome of St. Paul's for an amazing view. If Shakespeare does good things for you, try to catch a performance at the Globe. I love the new Tate, more for the building than for the art. The National Gallery is one of my favorites in the world. Mostly, though, get outside, walk, and take it all in... and when your feet get tired, stop in any pub for a beer. I love London.
posted by Alylex at 9:15 AM on April 27, 2004

As a first time visitor you'll want to take in the Houses of Parliament/Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Tate Modern, St Paul's, National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, the London Eye, and a river trip to Greenwich. A night at the theatre, opera, concert or musical is a must. You'll want to try a pint of best bitter in a old City pub, drink in the decadence of Soho with a cocktail, quaff designer beer in a hip Shoreditch bar and take semi-legal substances at a Brixton club. Mingle with the crowds at Covent Garden, Camden and Portobello Road markets; shop in Oxford Street, Knightsbridge and Kings Road, Chelsea. Have a vindaloo in Brick Lane, fish & chips in Notting Hill, a kebab in Edgware Road, a roast in a gastropub and the ménu dégustation at Gordon Ramsay's.

There's far too much to see & do here to narrow it down to a few "must-sees" in two and a half days. Take your pick and have fun. I'm always up for a pint by the way.
posted by cbrody at 9:23 AM on April 27, 2004

Spend an afternoon at the British Museum. You won't see even near all of it, but it's the best museum in the world.

And the Eye is wicked touristy, but it's really amazing!
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:50 AM on April 27, 2004

i used to visit the museums (there's loads - we're especially good at keeping stuff we "found" in other countries, centuries ago...), camden mkt, and buy a bunch of "chicken tail buns" (no idea if that's the correct name) in chinatown. personally i'm not sure staring at old buildings is much fun, but if that's you thing there's lots of those too.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:51 AM on April 27, 2004

Some friends and I did this back in November as part of a British Airways package deal.

Arrive, get to hotel, drink.

Westminster Abbey, got engaged to fiance, Portobello Road market, Yo! Sushi, drink.

Tower of London, book shopping, Platform 9 1/2, Lord Mayor's Parade, drink.

British Museum, get on plane, drink.

Also, while the breakfast sausage may seem like a good idea, it is not.

Our only problem was finding places to drink into the night. Many locales seemed to close wicked early, which made us sad and left us drinking either in high-posh clubs or the hotel bar.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:53 AM on April 27, 2004

as others pointed out, sightseeing's OK, but if you teel us your interests we'll be able to narrow the choice for museums and such, since your visit will be so short.
but I second Alylex, if you're into paintings especially, the National Gallery is a must-see

outside of the subways' zone 1, Camden Town and Hampstead are a lot of fun, too
posted by matteo at 9:55 AM on April 27, 2004

Kew Gardens is beautiful if the weather is good.
posted by bifter at 10:13 AM on April 27, 2004

Also, if you're into paintings, the Courtauld Institute is great, but the National Gallery should be your first stop. Tate Britain if you like Turner (although my favorite Turner is in the National Gallery.)

If you're into architecture, I'd definitely poke my head into St. Stephen Walbrook and St. James, Piccadilly -- two nice Wren-designed churches. St. James' also has a nice cafe, the Wren at St. James. And if you're near the National Gallery, you can get good -- and relatively inexpensive -- food at the Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

I also like wandering around Soho, stopping for a pint at the Nag's Head near Harrods (and also gaping at the bounty in the Harrods Food Halls), and visiting my favorite museum in London, Sir John Soane's Museum (a marvelous hodgepodge of everything the Regency-period architect collected in his lifetime.)

And definitely London Walks -- two-hour walking tours on tons of topics. I've taken Kensington, Little Venice, Ghosts of the West End, Oscar Wilde, Legal London, Spies' London, and a bunch of other walks, and they've all been great.

What sorts of things do you like?
posted by Vidiot at 10:24 AM on April 27, 2004

tate modern is dope. if you like modern art, you will see a lot of classic pieces there. don't rob yourself of the opportunity.
posted by fishfucker at 10:42 AM on April 27, 2004

The Tower Bridge is a must-see for gearheads. I made the mistake of seeing it with a group that included a mechanical engineer. It was all we could do to drag him out of the place. It's near the Tower of London (obviously), so it's not a bad destination at all if you have time.
posted by tommasz at 11:10 AM on April 27, 2004

I can't believe nobody's mentioned the science museum yet. The collection they have is very nice, and add to that the large kids section which is also great fun for grownups (called launchpad iirc) and you have a lot of educational entertainment for young and/or old.

I second the British Museum idea btw.
posted by fvw at 12:22 PM on April 27, 2004

Response by poster: Wow! Thanks for all the amazing suggestions (keep them coming!). As far as interests go, I'm not only asking this for me, but for my seven travelling companions. So, our interests vary wildly. I'm probably more inclined to see the historical sights like the Tower of London, but the Eye is definitely on my list. The London Walks look very intriguing.
posted by LeiaS at 12:37 PM on April 27, 2004

My wife and I used Rick Steves' books and had a wonderful trip last year. I highly recommend them.
posted by ssmith at 12:44 PM on April 27, 2004

I'll second the Tate Modern. I'm not a general fan of modern art, but I was absolutely awed by it both times that I went. Even the building is an amazing conversion.

Don't miss the video exhibit of the clown jumping up and down screaming "NO!"

And, also, I should have mentioned the Imperial War Museum, which sounds off-putting, but is a close second to the British Museum on my list of favorites. Last time I was there, I walked through the "1940's House," which is on site.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:44 PM on April 27, 2004

we very much enjoyed our london walks. actually, we really enjoyed walking around london and stumbled across a number of things we weren't planning to see that we were glad to find, like the temple of mithras and westminster cathedral.

we spent about ten days there last spring and i can't say there's anything i'm sorry we made time for.

(and since i don't see it mentioned: the tour of the new globe theatre was quite enjoyable.)
posted by crush-onastick at 12:56 PM on April 27, 2004

get up early and go to the portabello road market (2-3 blocks from the NottingHill tube stop) on saturday morning. You can see a brilliant array of stuff before anything else opens. You can always sleep on the plane.
posted by jmgorman at 1:12 PM on April 27, 2004

tip: if you are going to move via tube, check on a map just how far the walk would be. it took me years before I realised the joy of walking for twenty minutes instead of taking a 2 - 3 stop tube journey. you can see some great things off the beaten track and get a well needed break from some of the crowds.
posted by Frasermoo at 1:16 PM on April 27, 2004

A bit morbid, perhaps, but Highgate cemetery is amazing. I think they offer guided tours.

Given your lack of time, I'd probably suggest Tower bridge, Tower of London and the houses of Parliament as being quintessential touristy things to do in London. Museum recommendations are very difficult as there are so many of such size and breadth of display that you would need a month at least just to scratch the surface.

The British Museum is peerless. Half the world's ancient treasures in WC1, and no, you can't have them back. I've always thought of it as the world's biggest trophy cabinet. Its got whole temples in it. The National Gallery is exceptional. Tate Modern is awe inspiring. The Science and Natural History museums are educational. The V&A is my favourite. Go see one.
posted by davehat at 1:49 PM on April 27, 2004

I second the London Walks--they're great fun. If you go to the Tower, take the guided tour even if you're normally allergic to such things. Westminster Abbey is awe-inspiring. Sir John Soane's Museum has an interesting small collection, very ingeniously arranged; if you're a literary type, you can also head for the Charles Dickens Museum or Carlyle's House. Being a bibliophile, I also make a point of checking out the bookstores on Charing Cross Road (warning: some won't ship to the USA). You should definitely go to the theatre if you have a chance (see What's On Stage for useful details).
posted by thomas j wise at 1:56 PM on April 27, 2004

Highgate cemetery is where Karl Marx is buried - just up the road from me in fact. Guided tours are definitely offered.

The Science Museum is pretty cool if you're into that kind of thing. Covent Garden is cool. Walking along the river you'll find a bunch of stuff - the Eye, Tate Modern, Houses of Parliament (seem them before they erect a big concrete wall). There is a lot to do, and you wont do it all.
posted by Orange Goblin at 3:50 PM on April 27, 2004

Do get to St James's Park (it's right near Parliament and all that stuff, so it's not out of your way); it's one of the nicest urban parks I know, and you'll need a little quiet relaxation after tramping around for hours. Sit by the pond and watch the ducks. You'll be glad you did.
posted by languagehat at 4:57 PM on April 27, 2004

I know this sounds dumb, but there are those open top buses that tour you round for the day for about US15-US20 I think, get off whenever you like + rejoin when you fancy - one company is Big (something) Bus Company... damn memory.

I've heard that visitors to London like seeing "everything", like that - I'm from London so I've never been on them. You get to see Trafalgar Sq, Westminster, Regent/Oxford St, Tower Bridge etc. and like I said if a place takes your fancy hop off the bus, explore and get back on the next bus when it comes along.

I'll 2nd, 3rd of 4th the British Museum and also the Victoria & Albert.

Also Kew Gardens is very nice, but a bit of journey (40mins from Central London tube or train). Also that would account for almost a whole day out of your visit.

The Science Museum, Natural History, Victoria & Albert are all very very close to each other (South Kensington tube station)

Another museum well worth seeing is the Imperial War Museum, that has an amazing and very moving Holocaust exhibition (close to Elephant & Castle tube)

All those museums are free and big enough to take at the very least 1/2 a day each to even scratch the surface. The major galleries (National, the two Tate's etc. ) are big also.
posted by selton at 12:02 AM on April 28, 2004

I know I'll lose my traveler-cred for saying this, but selton's suggestion of the hop-on, hop-off tour bus is a really good idea. They tend to be not-bad, and I've heard the London one is pretty good. They're great if you don't have much time and are not sure exactly what you want to see -- they're a good overview of what's out there and will help you plan your attack while moving from point A to point B.

And second languagehat's suggestion of St. James' Park. It's lovely. And if you take the tube to the St. James' Park stop, turn left and walk toward the Palace. Wellington Barracks on your left will have the Guards Museum (moderately interesting) and is where the Guards form up for inspection and a few tunes before they march over to Buck House for the Changing of the Guard. Much less crowded and easier to see than the actual C.o.t.G. ceremony.
posted by Vidiot at 11:44 PM on April 28, 2004

« Older Error message when accessing my own blog   |   Refinishing Hardwood Floors Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.