Planning a city break can be a bit of a quandary. Firstly, the choice must be made where to visit, which is in itself a laborious task because there are so many options available. Then, once a destination has been chosen, it will be necessary to do some homework in order to work out an itinerary of exciting, but not overpriced tourism spots of local art, culture and history. It can seem a pretty daunting task in all honesty; however, as long as you steer clear of attempting to overfill your limited days in a new city, the task can prove to be rather exciting.
London is usually one of the first places that spring to mind when choosing somewhere new and exhilarating to explore, and with a vast array of things to do and see, it’s not difficult to understand why. No matter what your interests and hobbies, you’ll be sure to find somewhere of interest to visit once you arrive in England’s well-loved capital. There are museums and galleries a-plenty to keep art and culture enthusiasts happy, whilst the shopping destinations are second to none for those who love to indulge in a spot of retail therapy. And, of course there are also a tonne of tourist attractions too that are all ready and waiting to be discovered. So, how can you tell which ones are worth a visit and which ones to avoid at all costs?
The truth is you won’t really know at all. The trick, however, to building up an interesting and varied itinerary is to firstly make a list of things that you personally want to do and see specifically. Avoid listing places because your friends and families have mentioned them in passing, or said you simply ‘have to go’. By all means take on board recommendations, but avoid places that have too much hype built up around them. This is because often your expectations of such places will become impossibly high and the reality may be very different leaving you with a sense of deflation or dissatisfaction. Time would be much better spent exploring an unheard of treasure that you can then go on to tell your loved ones back home all about. The beauty of such less well-known places are that they will also usually be far less busy than over-marketed centralised spots such as The London eye experience, for example.
If you’ve opted to stay in one of the many budget hotels central London has to offer, then you might be able to use the money you’d have saved by avoiding more expensive accommodation, to good use when planning where to visit. If your budget allows for it, you may want to splurge on one or two expensive tourist attractions, such as a tour around Buckingham Palace or visiting the waxworks at Madame Tussaud’s. However, if you’re travelling in a large group or family, bear in mind that admission costs for some of these places can soon add up and eat away at your travel budget. Therefore try and limit how many of these you allow yourself to place on the itinerary, as this will help to keep you focused on seeing the side of London that you’ll get most out of. You don’t want to waste precious time queuing for the pricey London dungeons just because it’s well-talked about, if you have no passion for history for example. Remember that some well-marketed attractions will appear gimmicky too, much like the Blarney Stone in Ireland where tourists queue up to kiss a stone that will apparently make them more confident and then pay for an overpriced photo as evidence. Therefore, be cautious not to get suckered into tourism hype and stay focused on the things that truly interest you.
Another thing to consider is that if you’re travelling with children, you’ll want to avoid high energy activities during the late afternoon or early evening as young children could become tired and grizzly by this time, and older children may get too over-stimulated and not be able to sleep! To avoid these situations, try to keep exciting trips pencilled in for morning time when children’s energy levels are high and they won’t be tired, hungry or sleepy. Museums, (which are usually free too!) are always a good choice as not only are they interactive and fun, but educational too. You could even take a picnic lunch and head for one of London’s Royal (free!) parks afterwards to round off the day splendidly. The Princess of wales memorial park features a Peter Pan themed play area that even has Wigwams and a sandpit to encourage imaginative play- it’s sure to delight and excite children of all ages.
If instead you plan to shop ‘til you drop whilst in the city then try, where possible, to avoid the stores first thing in the morning or during the throes of lunch time. This is because they will be noticeably busier during these times when Londoners are on breaks from work and are able to make a quick dash to the shops. Late Afternoon or early evenings are probably the quietest spells allowing you to enjoy the experience fully. Also, where possible try to bypass visiting Harrods, which is another tourists’ spot, as it is located in the elite area of Knightsbridge and is incredibly expensive, even for the most basic of items. Opt instead to peruse Selfridges, which is also a London flagship department store, but is much more sensibly priced.