London in winter is glorious. Travelers be warned: you may feel as if you’ve been transported to the time of great writers past like Dickens or Shakespeare. Chestnuts literally roast on open fires (as do delicious sugar roasted peanuts), the weather and river are moody making pictures look like they’re taken on a green screen, and holiday markets are abound selling mulled wines, ciders, fudge and pastries.
To make the most of your visit, here is a multi-part day-by-day walking itinerary to follow. All ticket information is at the bottom of the page.
Day One: A pay day. Walk or Take the Underground, more commonly known as “the Tube,” to Westminster, which is on the District, Circle and Jubilee lines (respectively shown on the tube map as green, yellow and gray). It is recommended that upon arrival to London that you purchase an Oyster Card which can be used on the tube, bus and some regional trains. This card gives deep discounts on travel by tube and bus and places a maximum fee that can be charged per day. You can purchase an Oyster Card online here before you go, or you can purchase one at nearly any tube station, including if and when you land at Heathrow Airport.
Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster, are as iconic to London as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Tourists flock to take pictures of the beautiful building, the oldest part having been built in the year 1097 under King William II*. Most tourists stick to pictures of the outside, but tours are available on Saturdays and through the summer break showing off the ornate Chambers of the House of Commons and House of Lords, and various other areas open to the public. Tours typically run 75 minutes and UK citizens can sign up for a tour for free, while overseas visitors must purchase tickets in advance, the cost ranging from £9.25 to £15. This tour is well worth the money and best for families with kids age eight and up due to the amount of walking and length of tour.
After an early morning tour of Parliament, walk across Westminster Bridge and follow the pathway along the Thames River, towards the London Eye. Avoid the Eye’s high cost (at £18.60 for an adult) and instead, if you’re visiting during winter months, visit the market that sprouts up just past the Eye selling crafts, goods, food and wonderful picture opportunities. Enjoy mulled wine here with roasted chestnuts or one of the stands more substantial meals and continue walking until you reach the Tower Bridge.
The Tower Bridge was completed in 1894 and is the most iconic bridge in London. Visitors can walk one or both levels of the bridge. The top level offers beautiful views of the city and the exhibitions offer the history of the bridge (viewing the exhibition does cost, but walking across the lower level is free).
Continue across the bridge, turn left and walk around the side of Tower of London, and stop by to view the winter ice skating rink before entering the Tower or go past the walls of the Tower and to the left just past the Tower Shop (visit this after if you have the energy) is the ticket office.
The Tower of London is steeped in history, lore, romance and gore. On a recent trip to the Tower, a Beefeater gave a list of the three things not to miss:
- Take a tour with a Beefeater. The tour lasts 60 minutes and is fun for all ages. They give fun and interesting historical background on the Tower, and its inhabitants both imprisoned and residential.
- Go see the Crown Jewels. Completely amazing, dazzling, glittering real jewels used and worn by royalty through the ages.
- Finally, see the White Tower. The original residence of the royals currently houses an exhibition of armor worn by Kings and Princes and their royal steads.
Fun fact: 36 Beefeaters live on the grounds of the Tower of London. Their residences and be viewed from the top of the Inner Tower Wall.
Budget two to four hours for this site keeping in mind last entry is at 4 p.m. Budget two hours to take a Beefeater tour and blaze through the compound, three for a more moderate pace and four hours to read every posting, video exhibit, shopping and food.
After a long day of site-seeing and walking, treat yourself to a tube ride and to a bona fide Indian restaurant. From the Tower Hill tube stop take the District line (green) to Whitechapel (towards Upminster Underground) which takes about 6 minutes. From Whitechapel Underground, walk out of the station and take a right on Whitechapel Road, left on New Road and right on Fieldsgate Street and on the right you will find New Tayyabs.
New Tayyabs: Open Noon to 11:30 Tayyabs is close to the famed Brick Lane (known for its Indian restaurants lining the streets) and serves traditional Punjabi dishes. Try the marinated chicken, or lamb grills, karrahi dishes, side of rice and a must; fluffy naan breads to wipe up the sauce and top it off with a mango lassi (traditional yogurt drink that will combat any overheated mouth). If you are unfamiliar with Indian or Punjabi cuisine, ask the waiters, they are kind and knowledgeable and ready to offer advice.
Parliamentary Tour: Tours are given every Saturday and during summer break they are given every weekday. Adults: £15, Children 5-15: £6; Students over 16, Armed Forces and Senior Citizens (all with ID): 10, Family ticket pack with 2 adults and 2 children: £9.25 per person for a total of £37.00. For more information visit Parliaments Overseas Visitors webpage.
Tower Bridge: To visit the exhibition the cost is as follows: Adults: £8, Children 5-15: £3.40, Students and 60+ (with ID): £5.60, Children 5 and under: FREE. Ticket packs for families are also available at great cost savings. They are available in the following arrangements: 1 Adult + 2 Children: £12.50, 2 Adults + 1 Child: £16, and 2 Adults + 2 Children: £18. Visit Tower Bridge here.
Tower of London: It is prudent for visitors to purchase tickets online prior to visiting the tower as it saves roughly £2 per ticket. You can purchase your tickets on the Tower of London webpage. Adults: £19.80 at the gate or £17 online, Children 6-16: £10.45 at the gate or £9 online, 5 and under: FREE, full-time Students/60+: £17.05 at the gate or £14.50 online, Family of up to 2 Adults and 6 Children: £55 at the gate or £47 online.
New Tayyabs: 83-89 Fieldgate Street, London E1 1JU Tel: 020 7247 9543 You can view the website here and the Yelp reviews here. In a recent visit, for two adults, it cost $37.00 for two main dishes, two mango lassi’s, a side of rice and 2 naan.
Stay tuned for Day Two: London sites for free.
Note: At the time of this article 1.00 USD = 1.55 GBP