One of the things I love about living in a new place is the freedom you have to really get to know it. You’re not rushed. When touring, it’s much harder to figure out what’s close to what and what you’d like to do. So I thought I’d do a little series of fun “afternoons” and “mornings” (ideally 3-5 hours) of activities located together to help those wanting to enjoy London.

A Westminster Afternoon

Westminster is a typical stop for first-time tourists, but it’s also an area worth a closer look if you have the time. Naturally what most people think of is the Palace of Westminster with its Houses of Parliament and Big Ben (which is silently hidden beneath its renovation until 220180116_143418022). Tours are available on Saturdays.

Founded in 960 CE, Westminster Abbey is a must-see and even an option for those on a budget. Wednesday evenings from 4:30-6 PM you can get tickets at the door for half-off. Evensong (daily except Wednesdays) is a free way to see (parts) of the Abbey and to worship (or observe worship) in this history-laden sanctuary, but you will not be able to wander around afterwards. If you arrive before it closes at 3:30 PM, you can visit St. Margaret’s for free next door to the Abbey. (St. Margaret’s church was built so that locals would leave the monks alone in the Abbey to have their own services–I’m not kidding.) Also you can now go into upstairs filled with treasures as of June 2018!

Just a quick walk away are the Churchill War Rooms, part of the Imperial War Museum. It’s a great way to explore World War II for an hour or two. Think about dining at England’s first “posh” Indian restaurant, the Cinnamon Club.

 

A Buckingham Morning

20180221_111841The Changing of the Guard is a great experience, but it is not every day so check the schedule. Different people have different preferences on best views (the Victoria statue on the Mall, just in front of the gates, etc.), but expect that this experience will take two hours once you’re in place. You’ll want to arrive at least fifteen to thirty minutes early and likely well before that if the height of summer. If you’ve taken the Tube in, get off at Green Park and find some breakfast to tide you over (ceremony often starts about 11 AM).

Of course once you’ve see the guards and/or the palace, you realize you are in St. James’s Park, so take a stroll. You can also cross the Mall to see St. James’s Palace. If you head along the eastern edge of the park, maybe you’ll spy a horse or more at the Horse Guards Parade. At this point you may look to your right and recognize that you’re next to the Churchill War Rooms.  If you want more horses, check out the Household Calvary Museum. Passing through the museum, you’ll find yourself on Whitehall Street where there are options for a late lunch. Walking just a bit further, you can crane your neck to see 10 Downing St, home and office of the Prime Minister.

Additional: Tours of Buckingham Palace, Carlton House, and other royal abodes are often limited during the year (details here). For example, Buckingham Palace only opens for visitors in late July-end of September, but the Royal Mews is open most of the year.

If you find that your morning near Buckingham has turned into a day, consider trying the late Queen Mother’s favorite drink (Gin and Dubonnet-pronounced Du-bon-nay) at her hotel of choice, The Goring.

Note: I’ve listed these all together because of their close proximity, but you would have trouble doing all of this in one single day. Listing them together though might help you decide what you would want to fit into a single day.
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