3 Days in London
Sublime abbey, medieval architecture
Adorers of medieval, gothic architecture and British history will be in heaven at this sublime abbey and hallowed place of the coronation for the Nation’s sovereigns. Almost every nook and cranny tells a story, but few sights in London are as beautiful, or as well-preserved, as the Henry VII Lady Chapel. Elsewhere you can find the oldest door in the UK, Poets’ Corner, the Coronation Chair, 14th-century cloisters, a 900-year-old garden, royal tombs and more.
(20 Dean’s Yard, SW1; adult/child £18/8, tours £3; check the most up-to-date opening times online at Westminster-abbey.org/times)
You can enjoy a snack or meal at the unique Cellarium Café and Restaurant, where 14th Century monks stored their provisions.
Riverside view of the city’s sights
Take a boat trip and discover London by river. Boats travel east or westbound along the River Thames and can be boarded in either direction from piers dotted along both banks. Most services call at Westminster Pier, beside the Houses of Parliament. From Westminster Pier you can sail west towards Hampton Court Palace, stop off at London’s iconic Battersea Power Station or visit Kew Gardens. Board an eastbound vessel at Westminster and you will pass the Shard, City of London and under Tower Bridge to reach historic Maritime Greenwich for Royal Museums Greenwich and Greenwich Park or the Greenwich Peninsula, home to The O2. Remember, boat departure times and destinations vary depending on the operator and time of year.
The View From The Shard
Enjoy Sunset at The View From The Shard
The View from The Shard offers visitors a unique chance to gain a bird’s eye view of London from two platforms situated at the very top of the tallest building in our city. The viewing galleries, one indoor and one outdoor, have floor to ceiling windows on all four aspects of the Shard and give a full 360° vista out over London and beyond.
Soak up London pub culture
London without pubs would be like Paris sans cafés or New York shorn of its bars. Pub culture is part of London’s DNA, and pubs are the place to be if you want to see locals in their hops-infused element. Longer hours have only cemented the pub’s reputation as the cornerstone for a great night out. Mix your ale-drinking with history in one of London’s older pubs, starting with magnificent Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. (Wine Office Court, 145 Fleet St, EC4; 11am-11pm Mon-Fri, noon-11pm Sat)
Locals have included Dr Johnson, Thackeray and Dickens.
St Paul’s Cathedral
World-renowned, astonishing Church. In a superb position that has been a place of worship for more than 1400 years, St Paul’s is one of London’s most majestic structures. The vast dome has stood tall for more than 300 years and still dominates the skyline despite the far higher skyscrapers of the Square Mile.
Viewing Sir Christopher Wren’s masterwork from the inside, and climbing its height for sweeping views, is exhilarating. Use the provided multimedia guide (adult and child formats) to bring the Cathedral’s stories and characters to life.
(St Paul’s Churchyard, EC4; 8.30am-4.30pm Mon-Sat; adult/child £17.00/£7.20)
Brilliant botanical collection
Breathtaking natural beauty, world-class science, and over 260 years of history combine at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Founded in 1759, today Kew’s plant and fungal science and conservation research are tackling some of the world’s most urgent challenges.
Get swept up in the wonder of nature as you explore the largest and most diverse collection of living plants in the world – it is just one of the reasons Kew has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stunning landscapes, iconic buildings, and inspirational art make this the perfect day out for visitors of all ages.
Opening hours: 10:00am daily. Closing times vary by season, please check www.kew.org for more information. Closed 24 and 25 December. Prices from £17.50 adult, £5 child.
West End Show
London’s glitzy Theatreland
London’s Theatreland stretches in the east, past Shaftesbury Ave to Regent St in the west. Its concentration of English-speaking theatres (more than 40) is rivalled only by Broadway. With the longest theatre history, it is also the world’s most diverse, from Shakespeare classics to boundary-pushing productions to raise-the-roof musicals that run and run. The Royal Opera House, right in Covent Garden, is also a sumptuous location for opera and ballet.
Chinatown is close to many theatres; Golden Dragon (28-29 Gerrard St) is a good choice for quality and value
Originally built in 1703 and named Buckingham House, Buckingham Palace replaced St James’s Palace as the monarch’s official London residence in 1837 when Queen Victoria came to the throne. Buckingham Palace continues to serve as both the office and official London residence of Her Majesty The Queen, and is one of the few remaining working royal palaces in the world today. During the annual Summer Opening, when the Palace is not being used in its official capacity, visitors can enjoy the 19 magnificent State Rooms that provide the setting for ceremonial occasions and official entertaining. Please visit www.rct.uk for up to date information on opening dates and purchasing a ticket.
On the day of your visit you may also wish to watch the Changing the Guard ceremony at the front of the Palace if it is taking place on that day. Information on its schedule can be found online.
A short walk from the Palace you will find St James’s Palace and Clarence House, the official London residence of TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall. You can also walk down The Mall, the grand processional route in honour of Queen Victoria, which has seen innumerable historic royal processions including coronations, weddings, funerals and Jubilee celebrations. The Mall also plays an important part in ceremonies such as Changing the Guard and Trooping the Colour.
In nearby St James’s Park, Inn the Park offers terrific British cuisine and great views, an idyllic setting in the heart of London.
London’s most elaborate and ordered park
The most elaborate and ordered of London’s many parks, Regent’s Park was created around 1820 by John Nash. Today it’s a well-organised but relaxed haven in the heart of the city. Among its many attractions are the London Zoo, Regent’s Canal along its northern side, an ornamental lake, an open-air theatre in Queen Mary’s Gardens, ponds and colourful flowerbeds, rose gardens that look spectacular in June, and sports pitches.
Regent’s Park is a great picnic spot on a warm day and each June the park hosts the Taste of London food festival.
Royal Albert Hall
Splendid Victorian concert hall
This splendid Victorian concert hall is Britain’s most famous concert venue and home to the BBC’s Promenade Concerts (the Proms) every summer. Built in 1871, the hall was never intended as a concert venue but as a ‘Hall of Arts and Sciences’, so it’s acoustics were less than perfect until renovations in 1969 and 2004. The huge, domed, red-brick amphitheatre, adorned with a frieze of Minton tiles, also hosts classical music, rock and other performances.
(www.royalalberthall.com; Kensington Gore, SW7)
Just around the corner, Queen’s Arms (30 Queen’s Gate Mews) is a blue-grey pub in a cobbled mews, ideal for an after-show drink.
If you like...
Begin at the British Museum and tick off the historical highlights, including the Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies. Then take the DLR to the Royal Observatory and visit the Greenwich Meridian, the universal benchmark of time. Step even further back in time for an evening show at Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstructed Elizabethan theatre.
You’re spoilt for choice for free attractions in London: all state-funded museums and galleries are free. If you’d prefer to be outdoors, start the day browsing in Camden market, where the people watching won’t cost a thing. Spend the afternoon in Hyde Park, then round out the evening in a London pub: you’ll pay for the drinks, but the atmosphere is free.
Older kids will enjoy seeing history come to life at the Tower of London (though parts may be a little gruesome for the little ones) and view the magnificent Crown Jewels. After lunch take a Thames cruise to see many of London’s most well-known sights from the water. Then in the evening see the city from above, with a ride on the London Eye as night falls.