London Journals

London, Free and Easy

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A March 2008 trip to London by callen60

Trafalgar Square Photo, London, England More Photos
Quote: London has lots to offer, and lots that's free. Here's what we explored on a five day trip.

London, Free and Easy

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Overview

Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament Photo, London, England
Quote:
My wife and I visited London in Jan 2001, after the successful conclusion of my high-pressure campaign to splurge and take a trip sans children. Paradoxically, but not surprisingly, a major outcome was a desire to come back with the kids. That put an even higher premium on being sensible with our time and our money; hopefully all the reading and planning that preceded this trip will be of use to you, too. It’s overwhelming to think about just what to pick out of the lifetime’s worth of things to do in London. Let the fact that there are few bad choices, and absolutely no way to do everything, set your mind at ease a little. This journal focuses on free attractions and experiences fr...Read More

British Library

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Attraction

British Library Photo, London, England
Quote:
Near Euston Station, and adjacent to the newly renovated and resuscitated St. Pancras Station, sits one of London’s best places to visit. The British Library is the UK equivalent of the Library of Congress, but only received its own building in 1998. Until then, it was housed in the British Museum, which cramped both institutions. The new building is about a mile straight north of the British Museum, and its size makes it hard to imagine how it could ever have been relegated to sharing space. The website claims it was the largest building 20th century building constructed in the UK, but for most visitors, it hides its size well. You enter through a gate off Euston Street, with ‘British Lib...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 22, 2008

British Library
96 Euston Road
London, England NW1 2DB
+44 20 7412 7000

British Museum

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Attraction | "British Museum (The)"

British Museum Photo, London, England
Quote:
If you were some millennial Rip Van Winkle, waking with a need to catch up after missing most of human history, where would you go for a crash course? Should I ever be asked to provide such a recommendation, there’s no doubt about the answer: The British Museum is your only real choice. An amazing byproduct of empire, this nearly overwhelming collection has something to offer on every great civilization our planet has known—in fact, it probably has more to offer on every culture than can be found anywhere else.It’s well known as home (at least so far) to the Elgin Marbles, the beautiful metopes and friezes removed from the exterior of the Parthenon by Lord Elgin in the first decade ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 22, 2008

British Museum
Great Russell Street
London, England WC1B 3DG
+44 (207) 7323 8299

Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament

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Attraction | "Houses of Parliament"

Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament Photo, London, England
Quote:
We arrived in London on a cold, rainy Sunday morning. My plan to take the number 15 bus across town to our hotel in the City on a nearly free tour of London landmarks hadn’t yet collapsed behind the foggy windows of the upper deck. We left Victoria Station, turned east, and there were the Houses of Parliament, behind Westminster Abbey, and in front of the Thames. It was true—we were in London. My exhausted kids promptly fell asleep.We returned to this area two days later, walking along the Embankment to Westminster and Whitehall, my family heading off without me as I stopped to take picture after picture. After touring neighboring Westminster Abbey in the morning, emerging for lunch across P...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 22, 2008

Palace of Westminster/Houses of Parliament
North Bank of River Thames
Westminster, London SW1A OAA
+44 (20) 7219 4272

Imperial War Museum London

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Attraction | "Imperial War Museum"

Imperial War Museum London Photo, London, England
Quote:
If you’re planning a visit to London, this place might not be on your itinerary—but it should be. I’ve visited the IWM during both of my trips, and each time I’ve left wishing that I’d been able to spend more time here than I did. And this time, with my kids along, they had the same feeling, much to their surprise.If your first reaction is (much like a friend of mine confessed) ‘thanks, but I’m not that into tanks and guns’, then you’ll miss out on one of the finest museums in a city of great museums. However, the approach to the building, and the collection in the entry hallway, won’t initially dispel your concern: a massive two-gun pair is poised to defend the entrance, and just inside y...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 22, 2008

Imperial War Museum London
Lambeth Road
London, England SE1 6HZ
+44 (20) 7416 5000

Museum of London

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Attraction

Museum of London Photo, London, England
Quote:
I didn’t know about this museum until a friend raved about it before I first visited London in 2001. Now, I wouldn’t skip it. After a half-day exploring a terrific exhibit about Roman London, as well as the permanent collection, it was high on the list of places we wanted to take our kids on a return trip. It’s a great introduction to London, and although the lowest level (from the Great Fire of 1666 to the present) is closed through 2009, there’s still plenty to see.The Museum is directly north of St Paul’s, a 10-minute walk up Aldersgate. We left the Cathedral and circled around it to the north along Paternoster Row, stopping to admire the recently relocated Temple Bar. After lunch at Pizz...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 22, 2008

Museum of London
150 London Wall
London, England EC2Y 5HN
+44 (207) 814 5613

National Gallery

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Attraction | "National Gallery (The)"

National Gallery Photo, London, England
Quote:
On our first trip to London, we ended up in the Trafalgar Square area on the first day, fighting jet lag in late afternoon. Looking for something help us stay conscious, we popped into the National Portrait Gallery, and decided to save the National Gallery around the corner for a later visit.And we never made it back. I was determined not to let this happen again. As the website matter-of-factly states, the National Gallery "houses one of the greatest collections of Western European painting in the world." Botticelli, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rubens, Rafael, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Velazquez… and you have yet to reach the 18th century. Even with two short visits this time, I went home wishing ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 22, 2008

National Gallery
Trafalgar Square
London, England WC2N 5DN
+44 (207) 747 2885

Tate Britain

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Attraction

Tate Britain Photo, London, England
Quote:
My plan to remedy the dearth of galleries on our visit was in trouble. We’d arrived at the Tate in late afternoon, after finishing a visit to the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum, where I had to cut my time short in favor of family unity. We were all in need of a little solo time, so we split up in the Tate’s foyer, and I headed off to the north wing and the fantastic collection of J.M.W. Turner’s work. I splurged on the multimedia guide, which featured a special addition for the Turner galleries. Loaded on a handheld, it really was a great supplement for the tour, and I thought it was reasonable at £3.50.Somewhere around my third painting—an early work that was probably his last wit...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 22, 2008

Tate Britain
Millbank
London, England SW1P 4RG
+44 20 7887 8000

Trafalgar Square

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Attraction

National Gallery Photo, London, England
Quote:
I’m not alone in picking this as one of my favorite places in London. Particularly after walking the narrow, claustrophobic side streets (or even the wider Strand), the open space here is exhilarating. Admiral Nelson sits atop his column at the south edge, so high up (150 feet) that he might only be a natural part of your experience if you’re back by the National Gallery on the Square’s northern edge. Otherwise, you’ll be craning your neck to see him. He’s amply guarded by a quartet of dark, metal 20-foot lions. The square honors his most famous victory at Trafalgar in 1805, which saved Britain from invasion in the Napoleonic wars, but cost Nelson his life.The current version of the Squar...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 22, 2008

Trafalgar Square
Northumberland Avenue
London, England WC2

Wesley's Chapel and Museum

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Attraction

Wesley's Chapel and Museum Photo, London, England
Quote:
For English-speaking Christians, London isn’t quite Jerusalem, but it’s close. Even if you’re not Episcopalian (and I’m not), there’s a lot of history and practice that makes London’s churches and history worth exploring. On our first visit, one of the highlights was exploring places beyond Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s: St. James Piccadilly, St. Martin’s in the Fields, All Hallows by the Tower, and especially Temple Church (in its pre-he-who-will-not-be-named anonymity) were among the places we visited. Of course, you could spend a whole visit just chasing down Wren’s repopulation of the city worship spaces after the Great Fire (and it did occur to me to do so).When I saw on a map that o...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 22, 2008

Wesley's Chapel and Museum
49 City Road
London, England EC1Y1AU
020 7253 2262

London on the Cheap

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Story/Tip

Tate Britain Photo, London, England
Quote:
It’s odd to have a place with a collection as worthy, extensive and well-known as the British Museum charge nothing for admission, and then hand over £16 to see the Tower of London. Other attractions and museums in London fall rather neatly into these same two categories: free, or really expensive. The list of places that charge nothing is so long, and contains such treasures, that you could build a wonderful visit just from this list. That is, if you could cope with not visiting all those other sites that aren’t free. (Just try to imagine leaving after a first visit to London, never setting foot in St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, or the Tower of London). But if you’re willing to give it a ...Read More
Changing of the Horse Guards Photo, London, England
Quote:
The weather had held off at least long enough to ride the London Eye. We'd boarded first thing at 10am, and our 30 minute spin was under overcast skies, but with decent visibility. We looked down on the Palace of Westminster, and then headed upriver to Westminster Bridge for one last look at Parliament. We stopped midspan to trade pictures with an Italian couple, and then turned up Whitehall as the Sun came out.We were in the center of English government, with white stone buildings trimmed out with shiny brass plaques flanking either side of the Street. In the middle stood the Cenotaph, the somber, empty tomb honoring the millions lost in the Great War, just south of the statue of General Ha...Read More