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Seeing London in 4 Days

How to cram the best of London into just four days

Day One

Spend your first morning in the British Museum, a catalog of human achievement spanning the world and the ages. During lunch at Wagamama, call the Globe Theatre to see whether a play is on for tomorrow at 2pm (if so, book tickets).

Head over to Trafalgar Square to have lunch in the cafe in the crypt at St-Martin-in-the-Fields church, followed (if one's on) by a free 1pm concert in the church itself. (Even if there's no music, pop in to see the church; it's lovely). Then plunge right into the Old Masters at the National Gallery just a few yards away. Have a traditional British dinner at Rules or Porters and try to get to bed early; you'll be arising early in the morning (and, chances are, you're beat from the overnight flight that got you here).

Day Two

Today is a day devoted to the London of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Be at the Tower of London by 9:30am to get in on the first guided tour of this medieval bastion and its Crown Jewels. Afterward, visit St. Paul's cathedral and then grab some lunch.

Cross the Thames River on the Millennium footbridge to tour the newly rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and experience the open-air setting in which a play by the Bard was meant to be seen. If possible, see a play here (afternoon shows start at 2pm). The tour itself only takes an hour; a play takes two to four hours.

After a particularly long play, you'll have to grab a quick dinner; if you just do the tour, you have the late afternoon to spend as you'd like; perhaps squeeze in a visit to the nearby Tate Modern to indulge in some of the best art of the 20th century. Either way, finish dinner by 6:30 or 7pm so you can join whichever historic pub walk (or something more kid-oriented, like the Jack the Ripper walk) London Walks is running that evening (they start at 7 or 7:30pm; the brochure will tell you where to meet). After your introduction to British ales and pub life, call it a night.

Day Three

Yesterday was medieval; now its time to stiffen your upper lip with some Victorian-era British traditions. Start out at 9am paying your respects to centuries of British heroes, poets, and kings buried at Westminster Abbey.

Drop by the Victoria & Albert Museum for miles of the best in decorative arts and sculpture. Have a snack (not lunch) on your way to the world's grandest and most venerable department store, Harrod's. After a bit of high-class browsing inside, stop by the fourth floor's Georgian restaurant at 3pm sharp for a proper British afternoon tea. Linger and enjoy it.

Head over to Big Ben and the buildings of Parliament around 5:30pm and, if government is in session (October through July), get in line to go inside and watch Parliament at work, vilifying one another in a colorfully entertaining way that makes the U.S. Congress seem like a morgue. Or, if you go ga-ga over musicals (or are itching to see a cutting-edge London play), go see a show. Either way, you'll be getting out late, so make sure you have reserved a restaurant that specializes in late, after-theater meals (Chor Bizarre is a good choice).

Day Four

Not that there's not still a ton of thigns to see and do in London itself, but I'd take a break and take a day trip out of town.

You can go where youre fancy takes you.

Those interested in scitentific and seafaring history should spend the day in Greenwich by the Thames at London's eastern doorstep, so close to town there is now Tube service (though arriving by river boat is far cooler), visiting the Royal Observatory (where the world sets its clocks by Greenwich Mean Time and where they keep the Prime Meridian of 0º longitude), the Marittime Museum (with excellent interactive displays on Britian storied history of naval exploration and warfare, including the coat in which Neslon was shot at Trafalgar), the Cutty Sark clipper ship, and other sights.

In a day trip from London you could also easily visit one of Europe's most famous icons: Stonehenge, the prehistoric stone circle on the Wiltshire plains—and also tour the magnificent Gothic cathedral at the region's capital of Salisbury.

Or you can take in the Roman ruins and genteel Georgian atmosphere of Bath (some tours will link Bath up with Stonehenge and Salisbury for a Western England greatest hits day).

Or you go relive your Uni days at Oxford, a conglomeration of ancient University campuses straight out of Harry Potter in a lovely small town by the Thames River just a short ride from London.

1 day in London | 2 days in London | 3 days in London | 4 DAYS IN LONDON


Intrepid Travel

This article was last updated in May 2007. All information was accurate at the time.

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Copyright © 1998–2010 by Reid Bramblett. Author: Reid Bramblett.