A Glimpse of London
A city steeped in history, culture, and modernity, welcomed me and my family for an unforgettable 3-day sojourn. This bustling metropolis has something for everyone, from its iconic landmarks to enchanting attractions, and efficient transport options. Join me as I recount my exploration of this vibrant city.
Central London Attractions: A Tapestry of History and Modernity
My adventure began in Central London, where I delved into the heart of the city’s history and grandeur. Must-see attractions included Tower Bridge, majestic Buckingham Palace and the splendid Westminster Abbey, steeped in centuries of British history. A leisurely stroll along the Thames offered breathtaking views of the iconic Big Ben and the London Eye, which I later enjoyed riding for panoramic views of the city.
If you are short on time, below are the attractions that you can easily cover in a day but would recommend to plan for 2 days to do it a more relaxed way. Here’s what you can’t miss:
- Tower Bridge: An engineering marvel, the Tower Bridge is an iconic symbol of London. If you are interested to do the glass-floored walkway, book your tickets in advance. The borough market is close by the tower bridge if you are interested to explore the local shops and stalls.
- London Bridge: While not as ornate as its neighbor, London Bridge offers a picturesque view of the city and is a great starting point for a Thames River walk.
- London Eye: This giant observation wheel offers breathtaking panoramas of the city. You can see the London eye from Big Ben, via a river taxi ride and not an easy attraction to miss. We did not climb the London Eye as our group was not much interested in this activity. You will need to purchase the tickets in advance if you want to explore this ride.
- Big Ben: Though officially known as the Elizabeth Tower, this iconic clock tower is fondly referred to as Big Ben. Its chimes resonate across London. I did not get tired to capture photos of Big Ben in so many directions :-).
- Westminster Abbey: A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, this abbey has hosted countless historic events, including royal weddings and coronations.
- Buckingham Palace: Witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the official residence of the British monarch. The palace’s grandeur is a sight to behold. However I felt the changing of guard ceremony was slightly hyped up attraction and extremely crowded. This ceremony is usually done on Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s at 11 AM for like 45 minutes. If you need a good spot to watch the ceremony, plan to be there atleast 30 to 45 minutes ahead.
- Trafalgar Square: A vibrant public space, Trafalgar Square features the towering Nelson’s Column and is surrounded by cultural institutions like the National Gallery. A lot of restaurants around this area and if you are like me to taste the South Indian food, the famous Saravana Bhavan restaurant is located in this area.
- British Museum: Explore a treasure trove of art, history, and culture from around the world, including the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles.
Nestled in the heart of London’s West End, Piccadilly Circus is a bustling hub known for its neon signs and vibrant atmosphere. It’s often compared to New York City’s Times Square. Here, you’ll find a blend of historic architecture and contemporary energy. The famous Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, topped with the winged figure of Anteros (Eros), is a central feature. Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by theaters, shops, and restaurants, making it a lively spot to soak in the city’s pulse. Don’t forget to snap a photo with the iconic illuminated billboards that make this square truly iconic.
Warner Bros. Studio Tours: A Magical Half-Day
A highlight of my London trip was a half-day visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour – The Making of Harry Potter. This enchanting experience transported us into the wizarding world, from exploring the Great Hall at Hogwarts to wandering through Diagon Alley. Reliving the magic of the Harry Potter films was an enchanting experience that left us spellbound.
Inside the studio, don’t miss these must-do activities:
- Green Screen Technology: Step onto the green screen set and experience the magic of special effects. You can fly a broomstick, just like Harry, or get a taste of the wizarding world’s whimsy.
- Boarding the Hogwarts Express: Relive the excitement of Harry’s journey to Hogwarts by boarding the iconic Hogwarts Express. The meticulously recreated train platform is a favorite photo spot.
- Butterbeer and Ice Cream: Savor the wizarding world’s famous beverage, Butterbeer, and indulge in delightful ice cream flavors like Butterbeer and Chocolate Chili.
Ticket Cost and Purchase Information:
Tickets for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour can be purchased online in advance to secure your spot, as they tend to sell out quickly. Prices may vary, so it’s best to check the official website for the most up-to-date ticket information. We purchased from Golden Tours company that’s quite popular website to get your London tour tickets.
Commute Options to the Studio:
Getting to the studio from Central London is easy. You can take a train from London Euston to Watford Junction and then catch a shuttle bus directly to the studio. If you have purchased tickets from Golden tours or other company, bus transportation is offered to the studio or you can opt in for a private car transportation as well. The journey is well-marked and convenient, making it accessible for visitors.
Studio Hours of Operation:
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour typically operates from morning to late afternoon. Hours may vary, so it’s advisable to check the official website or contact the studio directly for the most current information on opening times.
Duration of the Tour:
Plan for a half-day adventure at the studio. The tour is self-guided, allowing you to explore at your own pace. Most visitors spend around 3-4 hours immersed in the magic of Harry Potter, but you can stay longer if you want to savor every detail.
Commute Options in London: Navigating the City with Ease
London’s efficient public transportation system made getting around a breeze. I explored three key options:
1. The London Tube
The London Underground, known as the Tube, is the lifeline of the city. Its extensive network connects all major attractions. You can manage your travel with a contactless credit cards or with an Oyster card. We used the contactless cards that was very much convenient and cost-effective travel, avoiding the hassle of purchasing individual tickets. If you are a family of 4 traveling, each person should have their own contactless cards. also appreciated the iconic Tube map, which made route planning a breeze.
2. Double Decker Red Buses
Riding the classic double-decker red buses was a quintessential London experience. These buses provided a unique perspective of the city, especially from the top deck. I found the hop-on-hop-off option on the London Sightseeing buses particularly convenient for exploring major landmarks.
3. River Taxis: Sailing the Thames
For a scenic twist, I opted for river taxis along the Thames. We stayed in Hilton Docklands riverside that had the option to board a river taxi from their hotel premise that was easy and convenient. These offered a tranquil and picturesque way to reach attractions like the Tower of London and you can go all the way to Westminster. The Thames Clippers services were efficient, offering a different perspective of London’s skyline.
Cost Options and Maps
Budget-conscious travelers will appreciate the cost-effectiveness of the Contactless Card for Tube and bus travel. Maps, both digital and paper, were readily available at tourist information centers and online. These maps, coupled with mobile apps, Google maps made navigation a breeze, ensuring we didn’t miss any of London’s hidden gems.
Best Time to Visit London:
The best time to visit London largely depends on your preferences for weather, crowds, and activities. Here’s a breakdown of the seasons based on my research from friends and internet forums:
- Spring (March to May): Spring in London is beautiful, with blooming gardens and milder weather. It’s a great time for outdoor activities and sightseeing. Crowds are generally manageable, but keep in mind that April and May can see an uptick in tourists.
- Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in London. The weather is warm, and outdoor events, such as festivals and open-air theater productions, are in full swing. However, expect larger crowds and higher prices during this period.
- Autumn (September to November): Early autumn can be a fantastic time to visit London. The weather is still pleasant, and the crowds begin to thin out. You can enjoy the city’s parks as they transform into a palette of autumn colors.
- Winter (December to February): London is magical during the holiday season, with festive decorations and events. While it can be cold and damp, it’s a lovely time for indoor attractions, cozy pubs, and exploring the city’s Christmas markets.
Consider your weather and crowd preferences when planning your trip.
Approximate Travel Cost for a Family of Four:
The cost of a trip to London for a family of four can vary widely depending on several factors, including the season of travel, accommodation preferences, dining choices, and activities. Here’s a rough estimate to give you an idea:
- Flights: The cost of round-trip flights for a family of four from a major international airport to London can range from $1,200 to $2,500 or more per person, depending on the airline and time of booking. So, for four people, it could be around $4,800 to $10,000. For a family of 4 in the month of September, our flight expenses came out around 4000$.
- Accommodation: Hotel prices vary greatly depending on the location and type of accommodation. On average, a mid-range hotel in central London might cost $150 to $350 per night. For a 3-night stay, this would be $450 to $1050.
- Food: Dining costs can vary widely. Eating at inexpensive restaurants may cost around $15 to $25 per person for a meal. For a family of four over 3 days, this could range from $180 to $300.
- Attractions and Activities: The cost of tickets to attractions like the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, the London Eye, and museums can add up. Budget around $50 to $100 per person per day for activities and tickets, which would be $600 to $1,200 for a family of four over 3 days.
- Transportation: Transportation costs in London can vary depending on the use of public transport. Budget for around $10 to $20 per person per day for travel within the city, including the use of the London Tube and buses.
Taking all these factors into account, a 3-day trip for a family of four to London could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8000 or more, depending on your choices and preferences.
Exploring London’s Culinary Delights
London is not only a city of history and culture but also a food lover’s paradise. During my 3-day visit, I had the pleasure of indulging in some remarkable dining experiences. Here are a few of my favorite restaurants that left a lasting impression:
1) Saravana Bhavan:
For a taste of authentic South Indian cuisine, Saravana Bhavan is a must-visit. Located in the heart of London, this restaurant offers a diverse menu of dosas, idlis, curries, and other delectable dishes. The flavors were simply exquisite, and the ambiance was welcoming. Whether you’re a fan of Indian cuisine or trying it for the first time, Saravana Bhavan will not disappoint.
2) Cinnamon Club:
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience that combines Indian flavors with a modern twist, Cinnamon Club is the place to be. Situated in a stunning, historic library setting, this Michelin-starred restaurant offers a creative and refined take on Indian cuisine. The dishes were a symphony of flavors and textures, making it a truly memorable dining experience.
3) Gunpowder Dosa:
For a taste of London’s vibrant street food scene, Gunpowder Dosa stands out. This trendy eatery specializes in serving innovative and delicious dosas. From classic to fusion creations, their dosas are a treat for the taste buds. The cozy atmosphere and friendly service made it an excellent choice for a casual meal.
Busaba is a Thai restaurant that delivers bold and authentic flavors in a contemporary setting. The menu features a range of Thai dishes, from fragrant curries to tasty stir-fries. The communal dining style adds to the convivial atmosphere, making it a great place to share a meal with friends or family.
These restaurants added a delightful culinary dimension to my London adventure, showcasing the city’s diverse and dynamic food scene. Whether you’re craving traditional South Indian fare, modern Indian fusion, innovative dosas, or authentic Thai cuisine, London has a restaurant to satisfy every palate.