Day 2: Museums, London Tower & Queen’s Walk
Day two of our 3 days in London will be spent on both banks of the River Thames. We’ll cover a lot of ground so it will make sense to use the London Underground in certain portions. We’ll start with a visit to one of London’s fine museums, followed by lunch in a buzzing market. We’ll then explore some of the city’s most famous monuments before wrapping up in the London Eye.
Morning in the Museum
A morning visit to one of London’s fine (and free to enter) museums is a great way to start day number two. Keep in mind that, whatever your choice may be, you won’t be able to cram all of the museum’s exhibits into a single visit.
Option 1: Museum Park
The city’s “museum park” is a few city blocks-worth of museum heaven, but you’ll need to pick just one and save the rest for a return visit to London. Art and design lovers can head to the Victoria and Albert Museum, but in my mind, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are the recommended options. Your children might be inspired to become engineers thanks to the movies and virtual simulations at the Science Museum, and the Dinosaurs and Mammals exhibitions at the Natural History museum are exceptional.
After your museum visit, you can go for some tapas and Spanish wine at Casa Brindisa. Alternatively, you can buy something to go and head to Hyde Park if the weather is nice for a picnic lunch. Hyde Park is one of the largest in London. It was established by King Henry VIII in 1536 as a hunting ground and it opened to the public way back in 1637!
Option 2: The British Museum
If hardcore history is your thing, consider starting your morning at the British Museum on the other side of town. The British Museum is one of the largest in the world, a “Louvre-like museum” where its various grand halls peel away the layers of time. There are nearly eight million works on display so you’ll need an attack plan for game day, choosing from the likes of Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, the islands of Oceania and more.
St Paul’s Cathedral to Borough Market
From your choice of museum, head underground and emerge at St Paul’s Station to check out St Paul’s Cathedral. This 17-century cathedral is one of the most iconic London landmarks. You can skip the lines and visit the cathedral’s interior, including the underground crypts and sensational views from the dome. Alternatively, you can cross the Millennium Bridge and snap “the money shot”.
Crossing the Millennium Bridge brings us to the South bank for the first time, and twenty minutes later, you’ll reach Borough Market. This market has been around in some form since the 12th century and these days, it’s a popular market for fresh produce and fine foods. If you haven’t had lunch yet, this is the time!
Panoramic Views from The Shard
Stretching to a height of over 300 meters, the glass-covered Shard is one of the most striking skyscrapers in the world. Visitors on the hunt for unobstructed 360-degree views of London can venture to its observation deck and admire the city’s many landmarks from the heavens.
Tower Bridge & Tower of London
It’s back to the North Bank, this time via the Tower Bridge. Completed in 1894, this suspension was an engineering marvel at the time and, in many respects, it still is. With its moveable roadways that lift up for passing ships, the bridge is one of London’s most recognizable landmarks. It just so happens that Tower Bridge leads us right to our next stop – the Tower of London.
The Tower of London is not a tower, per se, but more of a fortress castle. Gradually built beginning in the 11th century, the fort has played a major role in British history. Inside its walls, warriors, royals, and prisoners all took turns sharing the space, but these days it is one of the UK’s top tourist attractions. The Tower of London is a great stop for history buffs and for families with not-so-young-children.
Queen’s Walk to the London Eye
Back to the South Bank, with a stroll along Queen’s Walk all the way to the London Eye. Perfect for days with good weather, Queen’s Walk stretches between Lambeth Bridge and Tower Bridge. Along the way, you can visit additional attractions if you have the time and energy, like the London Dungeon and the National Theatre. The London Dungeon is a good way to teach kids about London’s history, well, when I say kids I suppose teenagers are at a more appropriate age to find this attraction enjoyable.
It’s slightly scary inside, and the whole point is to frighten you while telling the story of how life was in London back when Sweeney Todd dispatched his victims by pulling a lever as they sat in his barber chair. Lovely, right? I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise, but as visitors move inside from room to room, different characters act out scary urban tales of the London of old. They don’t spare the gruesome details and they have real rats inside. Also, expect a lot of audience participation.
A great way to end the second day is with a ride on the London Eye (priority line tickets available). This giant Ferris wheel was the tallest of its kind when it opened for business at the turn of the millennium. At night, those who ride the wheel will enjoy awesome views of Westminster, including Big Ben. For dinner, enjoy a romantic stroll along Queen’s Walk and choose from a number of river-facing restaurants. Got room for a nightcap? Head to Gordon’s Wine Bar back on the North Bank – a 19th-century candlelit wine bar.