How To Get 9/11 Museum Tickets And Skip The Lines

How To Get 9/11 Museum Tickets And Skip The Lines

Getting 9/11 Museum tickets is easier than you can imagine. This post will highlight the various options available.

9/11 Museum and Memorial (whose official name actually is National September 11 Memorial Museum) is one of my favorite attractions in New York, and for very personal reasons. If you have been following my blog for a while, you may already know that I, indeed, was in New York on 9/11.

Back then I was an intern at the United Nations, working at the headquarters building in 1 UN Plaza. That day, my roommate had left to go to work before I did. I had been talking to my parents on the phone, and then hopped in the shower just as the radio mentioned something about the Twin Towers. Between the sound of water and my usual optimism, I thought they may be talking about a party at Windows of the World, the bar at one of the top floors of the North Tower. 

Once ready, I got to work following my usual trail: walk to Penn Station, get on the subway all the way to Grand Central, walk to the UN building. It was the typical rush hour. Then my cell rang. My dad was asking me if I was ok. We had talked literally 30 minuted before, so I couldn’t understand the urgency in his voice. Meantime, I could see the UN building being evacuated. 

Two weird days followed. My family over in Italy was worried sick. My friends back in Denver called to beg me to “go home.” 

As expected, New York got back on its feet soon afterwards, the World Trade Center has been rebuilt and where the Twin Towers once stood, there now is the 9/11 Museum and Memorial – a place you really can’t skip if visiting the city, for there you can learn more about the history of those horrible days, honor the many victims, and be warned about the terrible things humans can at times do. 

My recommendation for those of you that want to visit the Memorial Museum is to get 9/11 Museum tickets in advance, so that you can avoid the lines at the counter. In this post, I will highlight the various options available to get them, so that you can decide which one suits you better. Before doing so, however, let me tell you a bit more about what you can expect from your visit. At the end of the post, I will also share some information that will help you plan your visit and make the most of it.

Are you in a rush? Here’s a shortcut to the best 9/11 Museum tickets:

9/11 Museum tickets

The Survivor Tree – Photo by Jin S. Lee.

The Highlights Of 9/11 Museum And Memorial

The 9/11 Museum and Memorial certainly is one of the most interesting places to visit in New York.

The Memorial is made up of twin reflecting pools (called Reflecting Absence) representing the footprints of the Twin Towers. There you will see the largest man made waterfall of North America, as well as the inscriptions of the names of those who died in the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks.

While visiting the Memorial, make sure not to miss the FDNY Memorial Wall, a tribute to the firefighters who died in the aftermath of the attacks. You should also take a moment to admire the Sphere, a sculpture by German artist Fritz Koenig that is meant to represent “world pace through trade” and that was actually recovered after the terrorist attacks. 

America’s Response Monument, known to tourists as the “Horse Soldier Statue” is a tribute to the first soldiers sent to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the attacks. 

Finally, make sure to go to the Survivor Tree, a series of white oak trees that line up the Memorial (the one that is worth mentioning is a Callery pear tree that was saved from the site where the Twin Towers collapsed and replanted at Ground Zero); and to the World Trade Center’s Cross.

A proper visit of the Museum shouldn’t last less than two hours, as the exhibition is quite comprehensive and detailed, and there is lots to see and read. When I visited last time I was in town, I spent more than three hours there. In fact – should you visit when there are talks, lectures and special exhibit – you may even end up staying longer. 

Once you walk in, you have the option to pick an audio-guide which will walk you through the exhibit, sharing important information.

The highlights of the National September 11 Museum are the Historical Exhibition, which with the help of artifacts, images, audio and video material will take you through the 9/11 facts – it is divided into 3 parts: the Events of the Day, Before 9/11, and After 9/11; the Memorial with the photos of the more than 3000 victims – by touching them, you can learn more about them; photos by French photographer Stephane Sednaoui, who witnessed the incidents from his place in Lower Manhattan; Rebirth at Ground Zero, a 270-degree panoramic media installation; Sports After 9/11, an exhibit on how sport and sport personalities worked to cheer the nation after the tragic events.

9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial Glade – Photo by Jin S. Lee

What To Expect When Visiting 9/11 Museum And Memorial

Let me be clear about something: this is not a place you visit for a joyous kind of entertainment. Much like the Human Rights Museum of Santiago de Chile, or the American War Museum of Saigon, the 9/11 Museum and Memorial will leave a strong impression on you. This is a museum most people visit in silence, in awe at a part of history most of us remember, yet we still know little about. 

You will become overwhelmed with sadness and anger at some point – my sister and I walked through the exhibit in silence; we had to pause at some point, and sit down to cry. Good thing that there are tissue stands throughout the exhibit. 

If you are planning on visiting New York with your kids, take care to notice that the 9/11 Museum is not recommended for children below the age of 10. First of all, the exhibit may not be best suited for such a young audience. Secondly, younger kids may end up getting bored in a place that is so quiet. If you are set on visiting, you may want to find a babysitter to take care of your children while you’re at the museum. 

Finally, continue reading to discover how to get 9/11 Museum tickets.

 
9/11 Museum tickets

The 9/11 Museum and Memorial is a touching, yet incredibly interesting place to visit

6 Smart Ways Of Getting 9/11 Museum Tickets

There are five main ways to get 9/11 Museum tickets in advance and thus skip the lines at the ticket counter. Below, I will highlight the various options available. Pick whichever one is most suitable to your needs. Should you care about my opinion, my favorite way of getting 9/11 Museum tickets is via third party reseller sites – I find them easier to use than the official attraction sites, and they have very clear cancellation policies.

Finally, here are the best ways of getting 9/11 Museum tickets.

Way N. 1: Buy your 9/11 Museum tickets on the official website

First thing first: you can get 9/11 Museum tickets on the day of your visit at the ticket counter. Having said so, I don’t recommend doing that as the lines may long – you can expect to wait up to 45 minutes and, once you manage to get hold of your tickets, discover that they are not for the next time slot.

Just get your tickets in advance, as they have the advantage of being skip-the-line and you can select your preferred time slot.

This is the official website of 9/11 Museum and Memorial.

9/11 Museum tickets bought via the official website cost $28 USD for adults ($26 for the tickets and $2 for the online booking fee). Reduced tickets for senior, college students and visitors up to 17 years old pay $22 ($20 for the ticket and $2 for the booking fee). Children up to the age of 12 pay $15 and US veterans pay $18.

Once you get to the site, make sure to select how many tickets you need – and whether they are for adults or reduced fares – and pick a time slot for your visit of the museum. As soon as the payment goes through, you will get an email with the voucher. You need to print the voucher or make sure that you have the barcode on your smartphone so that the staff can scan you in.

GOOD TO KNOW: All 9/11 Museum tickets have a timed entry, save for those purchased for the same day, in which case you may be prompted to visit later in the day when there are less visitors.

The official website also sells guided tours. You can pick among various options (check their webpage for tours) such as the 60-minutes museum tour; the 60-minutes early access tour (it starts at 8:15, so before the museum is officially opened to the public); the 45-minutes memorial tour and the 90-minutes museum and memorial tour.

GOOD TO KNOW: At about 500 meters from the 9/11 Memorial, the 9/11 Tribute Museum is a good place to visit to get a better understanding of the events during the terrorist attacks and the response to them. The museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Tickets cost $15 for adults and can be purchased here. The visit usually lasts around 45 minutes.

9/11 Museum

Way N. 2: Buy your 9/11 Museum tickets on third party reseller sites

This is the way of getting 9/11 Museum tickets I recommend the most. There are many third party reseller sites online. My favorite is GetYourGuide.

I know that many will tell you that getting tickets on third party sites is more expensive but that isn’t always the case. Besides, the extra money you pay is for an extra service – easy cancellation up to 24 hours in advance, responsive customer service, easy-to-use websites etc. 

Have you noticed how official website of attractions are often complicated to navigate? You only want to buy a ticket, and you can hardly find the exact page to do so; then a million windows pop up; then you are sent to a different page; then you can’t for the life of you find the cancellation policy. 

Third party reseller sites are SO. MUCH. EASIER. On the same page, you will find all the relevant information – cancellation policy, opening hours, prices and whatever else you need to make an informed purchase. Most will also offer you to download their app so that you can keep tickets all in one place; make modifications and cancellation in a few easy steps; and you even get a notification a day before the activity. 

You can get your 9/11 Museum tickets here. They are even more convenient than average, as you don’t need to book a time slot! a

Make sure to read my post A Completely Honest GetYourGuide Review to find out more about third party booking sites.

Way N. 3: Take a guided tour of 9/11 Memorial and Museum

I love guided tours – they usually are very enriching experiences. They are the best way to enjoy a place of historical and cultural significance such as the National September 11 Museum. A tour guide will be able to share with you important information about what you are seeing, and in the case of 9/11 Museum, most guides have a specific personal connection to the events. 

Guided tours are obviously more expensive than just the plain tickets, but it is an investment worth making for a completely hassle free time. 

The guided tours below all include 9/11 Museum tickets and a guided visit to the Memorial. Here are the best options:

9/11 Plaza

9/11 Plaza – Photo by Jin S. Lee

Way N. 4: Take a guided tour of the Memorial, Museum and World Trade Center Observatory

Another great way of getting 9/11 Museum tickets that is inclusive of all the most significant places linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks is joining a guided tour that goes to the World Trade Center Observatory and the Memorial. 

The tour lasts 5 full hours. At the time of writing, the only time slot available is at 2:00 pm, but more may open up in the future. 

During the tour, you go all the way up the World Trade Center Observatory, which is located on the 100th, 101st and 102nd floors of the Freedom Tower – the tallest building in the USA with its 417 meters.

The tour costs $109 and can be bought here.

Way N. 5: Take a guided tour of the Statue of Liberty and 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Another cool tour is the one that takes you all the way to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, where you visit the Immigration Museum. You then go all the way to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This guided tour costs $125 and lasts 5.5 hours; it includes the ferry from Battery Park to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island and back – from there you will walk around 800 meters to the Memorial; 9/11 Museum tickets; and Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island National Park fees. You can opt for an upgrade if you want to access the Pedestal at the Statue of Liberty. 

You can buy the tour here.

Way N. 6: Buy the New York City Pass

Another way of getting 9/11 Museum tickets is via a New York City Pass. If you plan on visiting a number of attractions, this may be a good way of saving *some* money. Personally, I don’t think that the savings are that much – unless you plan on visiting 5 attractions on the same day (which I don’t recommend!), you really don’t end up saving that much. Another thing I don’t like about city passes is that once you get them you have to book entrance to all attractions separately. Also keep in mind that you get the plain tickets but not guided tour – so it is just the very basic option.

Anyways, if this is an option you want to consider, these are the best New York City Passes:

9/11 Museum Tickets

The 9/11 Memorial Glade -Photo by Jin S. Lee

Other Useful Information For Visiting 9/11 Museum and Memorial

Opening times

9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero is open daily from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm.

9/11 Museum is open Sunday to Thursday from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm, whereas on Fridays and Saturdays it closes at 9:00 pm. The last entry is 2 hours before closing time. 

On December 26 and 27 and December 30, the museum is open until 9:00 pm.

9/11 Museum and Memorial tickets price and free visits

9/11 Museum ticket prices are as follows:

  • Adult: $26.00
  • Senior (65+): $20.00
  • Students: $20.00
  • US Veterans: $18.00
  • Youth between the age of 13 and 17: $20.00
  • Children between the age of 6 and 12: $15.00

There is an additional $2 USD fee for tickets bought online.

Children up to 6 years and US Military can visit for free.

The museum is free to visit every Tuesday after 5:00 pm, but take care to notice that you are still requited to make a (voluntary) donation of $10 USD. You can get the free tickets for Tuesday evenings a couple of weeks in advance, and at the ticket counter – but keep in mind it is on a first come first served basis.

The 9/11 Memorial is free to visit.

Book in advance

9/11 Museum and Memorial is one of the most visited attractions in New York, and you are requested to book your tickets beforehand. You can get yours here.

What to do if 9/11 Museum tickets are sold out

It’s easier to find last minute 9/11 Museum tickets on third party reseller sites, as they buy them in bulk and as such always have something available (plus you can count on last minute cancellations). Check out this site for last minute tickets.

The best time to visit 9/11 Museum 

9/11 Museum tickets are timed, so it’s never too crowded inside. Most tourists will try to visit between 12:00 and 3:00 pm so I recommend avoiding visiting at those times. 

9/11 Plaza

9/11 Plaza – Photo by Jin S. Lee

How to get to 9/11 Museum and Memorial

The National September 11 Memorial Museum is located in the Financial District in Lower Manhattan, more precisely at 180 Greenwich Street.

There are 4 entrances to the building:

  1. Between Liberty Street and Greenwich Street
  2. Between Liberty Street and West Street
  3. Between West Street and Fulton Street
  4. Between Fulton Street and Greenwich Street

The easiest way to get there is by public transportation.

BY SUBWAY: Lines 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and A, C, J, Z will take you all the way to Lower Manhattan. You can also take trains E and R. The best stations to get off are Chambers Street Station or Fulton Street Station, Park Place, World Trade Center, Rector Street or Cortland Street Station. 

BY BUS: You can get to the Financial District by bus from other places in Manhattan. You will likely need to take a bus that is southbound. The buses that stop nearby are the M55 (you will need to get off at Broadway and Thames Street); the M20 (get off at South End Avenue between Liberty Street and Albany Street); and the M22 (get off at Vesey Street between North End Avenue and West Street). If you are taking the M55 Northbound get off at Trinity Place and Rector Street.

BY HOP-ON HOP-OFF BUS: Another convenient way of getting there is by hop-on hop-off bus. You can get your pass here.

BY CAR: Considering traffic and the lack of parking spaces nearby, I don’t recommend trying to get to the National September 11 Memorial Museum by car.

FROM NEW JERSEY: If you are traveling from New Jersey, you can get to the World Trade Center Terminal by PATH Train. 

 

Modification to the reservation and refunds

The official website of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum makes no mention about the possibility of changes to the reservations, cancellations and refunds. You may want to book your tickets via a third party reseller site just in case. You can get your ticket here.

Security checks

All visitors to the 9/11 Museum have to go through security checks. To speed up the security checks, make sure to avoid carrying any of the following objects: radios, markers, tripods, cameras, glass bottles, powders and sprays; large umbrellas; large backpacks and bags; food.  

Smartphones and strollers are allowed. 

Photography

You can take personal photos (ie photos that are not for commercial use) inside the museum. Keep in mind that flash photography is not allowed.

Toilets and other facilities at 9/11 Museum and Memorial

The National September 11 Memorial Museum is equipped with toilets, a Museum café and a museum store.

Accessibility

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is fully accessible to visitors with limited mobility and wheelchair users. Guide dogs are welcome.

Luggage storage 

The museum is equipped with a coatroom. 

Other nearby attractions

There are many cool attractions close to 9/11 Museum and Memorial. Among those you shouldn’t miss there are the Oculus, which acts as the local transportation terminal and is free to visit; the One World Observatory, which is located in the Freedom Tower and for which you will need to purchase tickets in advance (you can get them here); and the 9/11 Tribute Museum (get your tickets here). You should also visit St. Paul’s Chapel, which is right across where the Twin Towers used to be and was miraculously spared from any damage.

Further readings about New York

Planning a trip to New York? Make sure to read my other posts!

Pin It For Later!

Discover how to make the most of your time at National September 11 Museum - via @clautavani

 

The Best 5 Days London Itinerary

The Best 5 Days London Itinerary

Drafting a London itinerary can be a daunting task. This is a spread out city, with more than 9 million people living there and with lots and lots to see. Don’t worry if you feel at a loss not knowing where to start. 

Although 5 days in London are just about the right amount of time to fully enjoy the city (though I must say, if you had more time there’d still be a lot to see), I recommend not to swing it. First of all, some attractions required advanced bookings and if you show up without having previously purchased a ticket, you may end up stuck in a line at the ticket counter – not a very good way of spending your time in the city. Besides, in a city that is so large you either go with a good itinerary and a plan to visit places that are close to each other on the same day, or just waste precious time commuting.

As I have lived in London for 8 years (that’s where I got my education and academic experience from), I thought I should spare you from the task of coming up with a London itinerary that makes sense and prepare one for you. Inevitably, this London itinerary will reflect my taste – but rest assured that you will discover the very best of London, including some gems and off beat places. 

Continue reading for a perfect ready-made 5 days London itinerary and for helpful tips to plan your trip.

Make sure to check out these guided tours of London:

London itinerary

The London Eye offers jaw-dropping views of the city

A 5 Days London Itinerary

Day 1: Settle down; guided food tour; London Eye.

Day 2: A walk around Westminster, the National Gallery, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden

Day 3: London classics

Day 4: British Museum and the best sights of London

Day 5: Off-beat London

Shepher's pie

Start exploring London with a guided food tour

Day 1 London Itinerary

Settle down into your accommodation

If you are just getting in from the other side of the world, you should take it easy on your first day in town. Make your way to your hotel (I will explain how to get from the airport to the center of London in the practical information section at the end of this post), take a shower and a power nap, then head out for some easygoing activities.

Option 1: Guided food tour

Start your London itinerary with a food tour. I know, food in the United Kingdom has a reputation for being flavorless and not interesting but I – the number one of all picky girls in the world – dissent. You can get good food in this country, especially if you stick to traditional dishes. 

I recommend this Secret British food tour which has 3 daily departures – it’s a great way to taste some local food and to visit places such as Borough Market, one of the coolest ones in London. You can book it here.

Option 2: Hop-on hop-off tour

If you don’t feel like eating, you may want to opt for a hop-on hop-off tour. It’s probably the most touristic thing you can imagine doing in London, but you are a tourist, aren’t you? Besides, this is a good way to take in some of the highlights of the city and it really is a no-brainer. Just make sure to bring your camera along and photo opportunities will be many! 

Being London the incredible city that it is, you actually have two choices here. Either go for the classic hop-on hop-off bus tour which you can book here or here or opt for a hop-on hop-off cruise along the river Thames for even better views – you can book it here.

London Eye

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: London Eye observes different opening hours depending on the season. The usual opening time is 10:00 am and it closes between 6:00 and 8:30 pm. 

Finish off your day 1 London itinerary with the most incredible views of London from the London Eye. Once again, this is a rather touristy thing to do but even I won’t ever get tired of it. The sight of the Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey are just out of this world!

Make sure to get skip-the-line tickets in advance either here or here.

GOOD TO KNOW: Close to the London Eye, London Dungeon is a truly fun place to visit. You can get joint tickets to visit both attractions for a discounted price here. Visit the London Dungeon first. The tour lasts around 90 minutes.

views of London

The Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben as seen from London Eye

Day 2 London Itinerary

During the second of your 5 days in London you will visit some of the city’s most iconic attractions. It will be a long day of walking – though the distance is only 2 miles. Some of the attractions mentioned require advanced bookings. Other are completely free.

Map of day 2

Download your London itinerary for day 2 here. 

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

NEAREST METRO STATION: Westminster

Your London Itinerary will inevitably include two of the most iconic sights in town. The Houses of Parliament, seat of the British Parliament, is usually seen from the outside – but there are guided tours of it if you want, such as this exclusive Houses of Parliament Tour & Skip the Line Westminster Abbey Tour. Take care to note that it’s a 4 hours tour, so factor that in against the rest of the day. Otherwise, just do what most people do and take some nice photos from the bridge! Keep in mind that the Big Ben is currently under restoration so the view somewhat obstructed.

Westminster Abbey

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Westminster Abbey is open Mondays to Fridays from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. It remains open until 6:00 pm on Wednesdays and it’s closed on Sundays.

This is probably the most beautiful church in London. Founded in 960 AD, since 1066 it’s been where most coronations and royal weddings have taken place. It’s also the burial ground of notable historical figures of Britain. 

It will take you between 1 and 2 hours to visit, and you are better off getting tickets in advance. Here are a couple of options:

Churchill War Rooms

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Churchill War Rooms is open every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

This is a nice addition to a London itinerary for history geeks. It consists of two museums – one is dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill; the other (the Cabinet War Rooms) is the bunker where Churchill hid and directed WWII efforts during the London Blitz. 

The museum can be visited independently. If you prefer, this WWII Westminster Walking Tour and Churchill War Rooms is a good guided tour option. You can book it here.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, a popular hang out place for locals an tourists

National Gallery and Trafalgar Square

FREE ATTRACTION!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The National Gallery is open every day from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Friday closing time is 9:00 pm.

Any proper London itinerary will include the National Gallery. This fantastic art gallery is at about 10 minutes walk from Churchill War Rooms. Chances are you will be tired by the time you make it there but – good news – it’s free to visit. So make sure to pop in even just for one hour, and grab a map so you can go directly to the section you are interested in. If you want, you can get an audio-guide for £5 (around $6.2 USD) at Sainsbury wing. 

TIP: Check out the website of the National Gallery for more and if there is one that grabs your attention make sure to book it in advance.

Piccadilly Circus

FREE ATTRACTION!

Chances are you will pass by Piccadilly Circus more than once during your 5 days in London. The way I have placed it in this day 2 London itinerary is such that – depending on the season you are visiting – you will get there in the evening, just in time to catch the flashy lights of all the advertising signs. Hope you can catch that on photo!

London itinerary

Piccadilly Circus is one of the most popular places to visit in London

Leicester Square

FREE ATTRACTION!

Another truly easy addition to this London itinerary is London’s former nightlife hotspot. Home to the Hyppodrome and Equinox, two very popular clubs in the 1990s, Leicester Square is at a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus. It’s surrounded by movie theaters and touristy restaurants, but there also is a nice small garden in the center.

5 days in London

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

FREE ATTRACTION!

Last but not least, your first day London itinerary will take you to Covent Garden. Once a covered flower market, it now is a place for street performers with some nice shops and a few stalls, pubs and cafés. You will see someone playing on the ground floor pretty much at any time of the day. Lovely any time of year, if you happen to be in London at Christmas make it a point to go, as it is truly splendid with the decorations up!

London itinerary

Buckingham Palace in the distance, as seen from St. James Park

Day 3 London Itinerary

The third of your 5 days in London is all about the most famous attractions.

Map of day 3 

Download a map today’s London itinerary here

St. James Park

FREE ATTRACTION!

NEAREST METRO STATION: Green Park or (a bit further) Hyde Park Corner.

You will be able to pop into this beautiful park just before heading to Buckingham’s Palace. Your experience will depend on the season – go on a sunny day in the spring or summer time and it will be packed with families, children, and people having a good time.

Buckingham Palace

No London itinerary is legit if it doesn’t tell you to go to Buckingham Palace. Residence of her majesty the Queen Elizabeth II, this is one of the city’s most famous attractions. Most people go there to observe the Changing of the Guard ceremony, but give it a miss if you are not a fan of crowds. 

You can visit Buckingham Palace inside, but it’s best if you go on a guided tour. Here are some good options:

St. Paul's Cathedral

A quirky view of St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: St. Paul’s Cathedral is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is £17 British Pounds (little over $21 USD) and includes an audioguide. Get your tickets in advance here.

NEAREST METRO STATION: St. Paul’s. 

HOW TO GET THERE: From Buckingham Palace, head to Green Park metro station. Get on a northbound Victoria Line train and change at Oxford Circus (beware it is just one stop), and from there get an eastbound Central Line train. Get off at St. Paul’s

Destroyed by the Great London Fire in 1666 and soon rebuilt, this church is one of the most famous in London. Inside, you can visit the church, the crypt and the dome. Personally, I don’t find it as nice as Westminster Abbey so if you are pressed for time or not a fan or churches feel free to skip it. 

Tower of London

A view of the Tower of London from the South Bank

Tower of London

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Tower of London is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday and Monday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. 

NEAREST METRO STATION: Tower Hill on the District and Circle lines. 

A former prison – this is where political prisoners were executed (the most notable one being Anne Boleyn), the Tower of London remains one of the most famous attractions in London. Inside, you will find the Crown Jewels exhibit.

I recommend getting advanced skip the line tickets:

Tower Bridge

A proper London itinerary must include Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Walking on the bridge is free. There is a fee for the Tower Bridge Exhibit, which is open from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.

Turn left once you exit the Tower of London and you will get to Tower Bridge. Simply walk across it for photos, or visit the Tower Bridge Exhibit – you can get tickets here – for a chance to walk the glass walkway.

Sky Garden

FREE ATTRACTION!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Open Mondays to Fridays from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; Saturdays from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm and Sundays from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Free to visit but book your time slot here, unless you plan to go after 6:00 pm, in which case reservations aren’t necessary.

A short walk from Tower Bridge, this new attraction offers great views of London and is 100% free. If you plan to go for sunset, make sure to wear something nice as there is a dress code. Keep in mind that drinks are expensive!

London in 4 days

The main hall of the British Museum

Day 4 London Itinerary

Pick between the two options for an incredible day. At the end, you can go see a show. 

Map of day 4

This is your map for your London itinerary for today (option 1). Take the metro to commute from the British Museum to Borough Market.

OPTION 1

British Museum

FREE ATTRACTION!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The British Museum is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. It closes at 8:30 pm on Fridays. Free admissions. The audioguide costs £7 GBP (around $9 USD)

NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street. 

The British Museum has one of the most incredible collections of antiquities and art you can imagine, and it would be a pity to miss it. My favorite piece there is Rosetta’s Stone – it’s just stunning how much history and culture can hide behind one simple piece. 

You can browse around on your own with or without an audio-guide, or opt for a guided tour such as these two:

London in 3 days

Borough Market

FREE ATTRACTION!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

NEAREST METRO STATION: London Bridge

You will wonder why I am not including Camden Market in this London itinerary, and the reason is simple: I truly dislike it! Crowded, far from the center and a hassle to get to, terribly touristy: Camden Market has lots its charm many years ago. If you want to see a really nice market, opt for Borough Market. You’ll find food from around the world. It can get crowded at weekends. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Feel free to skip this market if you have already visited during your London food tour on day 1.

The Shard 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Open daily from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm in the summer time, and from 10:00 to 7:00 pm Sunday to Wednesday and from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm Thursday to Saturday in the winter time.

TIP: Only go on the Shard if you have skipped the London Eye and / or the Sky Garden.

The viewing deck, opened in 2013 and located on the 59th floor, is a great place to get views of the city. Book it in advance from the official website or here (the price is the same). 

5 days in London

A view of The Shard from a side street

A walk along the South Bank

FREE ATTRACTION!

The South Bank is one of my favorite places in London. It’s a popular place on sunny days and during the summer – you will find lots of cafés, bars and pubs to stop for a drink. The views of the city from there are stunning!

4 days in London

St. Katherine’s Dock

St. Katherine’s Dock Marina

FREE ATTRACTION!

If you want to check out a truly nice hidden corner of London that is hardly known to tourists, head to St. Katherine’s Dock. I visited the first time when I went to see a friend that lives nearby and fell in love with it. There are some bars, restaurants and cafés and an overall relaxed vibe you will definitely enjoy. 

OPTION 2

Harry Potter tour

Harry Potter fans will appreciate a guided tour that goes to the best places they may have spotted in the movies. The tour lasts 2.5 hours, it starts at 10:00 and goes to places such as Borough Market and Trafalgar Square and ends at Palace Theater, near the British Museum.

This GetYourGuide Originals tour is budget friendly and comes highly recommended. You can book it here.

The British Museum

Done with the tour? It’s a 10 minutes walk to the museum!

A show

Once you are done exploring for the day, head to the area of Covent Garden / Leicester Square or Charing Cross for a show. Take a look online before flying to London to know what’s on while there and try to get tickets online. If you are a fan of Abba, Mamma Mia! is the show for you. You can book it here

Shoreditch

Street art un Shoreditch

Day 5 London Itinerary 

Your last day in London will take you to some of the off-beat places, but I promise you they are fun. 

Map of day 5 

You can get a may of the itinerary for day 5 here.

Shoreditch and Brick Lake

Shoreditch is one of the coolest up and coming neighborhoods in London. During my recent visits I have always stayed there – I enjoy the local atmosphere, the many fantastic pubs and restaurants, and the nice shops. It’s a cool place for street art so many sure to add it to your London itinerary is that is one thing you like. 

Brick Lane is another truly cool part of town. Known for the many Bengalese restaurants it is a very artsy area, with nice new designer stores and an easygoing vibe. Make sure to stop at Beigel Bake for a snack – that place has been open forever and a real local institution!

These guided tours will take you to Shoreditch and Brick Lane: 

Brick Lane

Spitalfields Market

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The market is open every day from 10:00 am. Closing time varies – it’s open until 8:00 pm Monday to Friday and until 5:00 or 6:00 pm at weekends.

This is another really cool market in London, where you can have a taste of street food from around the world, explore art galleries and antique and vintage shops. There are stalls and shops that you can browse. 

Jack the Ripper Walking Tour

One really cool, quirky thing to do you may want to add to your London itinerary is a visit to Whitechapel with a Jack The Ripper Walking tour. These tours usually start in the afternoon or evening – I guess it’s so that you can have more of an eerie atmosphere. They are lots of fun and they take you to a truly unique part of town. 

These are the two best guided tours:

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral as seen from the Millennium Bridge

Using A London Pass 

For the purpose of this itinerary, you may want to get a London Pass. I have grouped all the mainstream attractions in two days so I think a 2-day pass would be your best option. Keep in mind that a city-pass only included skip the line tickets, but not guided tours. You will have to book each attraction separately.

These are the 2 best London Pass options:

Some Tips On How To Follow This London Itinerary

For this itinerary, I have assumed you have 5 days in London – and 5 nights. You can adapt it and spread out if you have more time. For example, if you have an extra day you can visit Kensington Palace and Gardens, Hyde Park, Harrods following the itinerary I have outlined in my post An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London.”

You are obviously free to skip places you are not interested in and add others that I haven’t mentioned – but keep in mind that I have grouped together attractions that are close to each other. 

Here are some extra tips to help you make the most of this London itinerary:

  • Go to bed early, and rise early. Going out early means beating the crowds.
  • Eat lunch on the go – this itinerary often mentions markets where you will likely be just around lunch time, ready to grab a bite.
  • If a museum is open late on the day you are visiting, leave it as the last attraction!
  • Wear comfortable shoes!
  • Skip any attraction that doesn’t fit in your budget.

London

Planning Tips

Where to stay in London

There are plenty of good places to stay in London, but be prepared to spend if you want to stay somewhere central and clean. My advice is to stay in areas such as Kensington or Westminster Borough. Definitely avoid Camden.

I have selected a few good places for you:

When to visit London

Any time is a good time to visit London. I love it around Christmas when the lights are up, but it does get cold. For longer days and better weather, opt to go in April and May, or September and October. 

London in 3 days

London Underground

How to get to London

There are 5 airports in London. London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City are all served by main airlines; Stansted and Luton are by budget ones.

London City is in the Docklands so close to the center of London; the others are further away but well connected by public transportation. The best way to get from either airport to town is by train – faster, easier, more comfortable than the bus or metro.

From Heathrow: express train to Paddington every 15 minutes. You can get your train tickets here. 

From Gatwick: express train to Victoria every 15 minutes. You can get your train tickets here

From Stansted: express train to London Liverpool Street every 15 minutes. You can get your train tickets here

Here are some good shuttle options:

How to move around London

The metro in London is called Tube or Underground  and is the best way to get around.. There are 11 lines, plus all the light-rain ones, so you can easily reach the various places in town. I personally don’t recommend the buses: they are mostly late, and they drive like mad! 

Unfortunately, London Underground is very old so the trains are a bit slow and some stations closed for renovation works. Stations are generally not wheelchair friendly and the metro doesn’t run 24/7. 

At night, you can use the night buses or Uber.

You will need to get an Oyster Card to use public transportation. It’s a touch in – touch out system you can top up when you need. You can get yours here

Luggage storage in London

You will find luggage storage at all train stations in London. Stasher is a good reliable company but you need to book in advance.

London in 2 days

Other useful tips 

Get a guide book

A guide book may come in handy with information and maps.

These are some good ones:

Get a data plan

If you think you will need to use Google Maps or Uber, a data plan is essential – make sure you can use your phone in England!

Drinking water 

Water in London is safe to drink but tastes bad. Using a foldable bottle like this one makes you save on plastic.

Mind the scams 

Scams and pickpockets are common in London. The latter “work” mostly at crowded metro stations. Common scams in London are the 3 cups or card game – you will notice it on the South Bank; the fake theater tickets – especially see in Leicester Square; and the fake charity collectors – around all major tourist attractions.

Get a good travel insurance

Make sure to get a good insurance for all your trips! Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.” Get your travel insurance here.

Further readings about London

For more ideas and itineraries for London, make sure to read these posts:

Pin It For Later!

Discover the best London itinerary to see the city in 5 days - via @clautavani

 

 

 

An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London

An Easy To Follow Itinerary For 4 Days London

You can see a lot with 4 days in London. 

More than 9 million people live in London. This massive city is so large that it can well take you a couple of hours to commute from one side to the other. This is to say that if you are planning to spend 4 days in the city, you will definitely be able to see the most important landmarks. But you can’t expect to see it all, or to get off the beaten path. 

Planning a trip to a city so large can be quite a job, I know. Some may say you can improvise it, and that 4 days in London is plenty of time to allow yourself to be a bit flexible. But – and especially if it is your first time in the city – I dissent. London is one of the most visited cities in the world, with millions of visitors every year. It is so spread out that moving from one place to the other may require some time. And there often are lines at the most popular attractions so you simply can’t show up hoping to get in swiftly. 

In other words, unless you have a good itinerary, you may end up see just a portion of what you may otherwise. 

That’s why I am here for you. I have spend 8 years living in London. This is to say, I know it really well. And I am happy to draft an itinerary for your 4 days in London which will help you to make the most of the city. 

Keep on reading to discover what to see and do in London in 4 days and for tips on how to plan your trip there.

In a rush? These are some of the best guided tours of London:

London in 4 days

The Shard, London’s most famous skyscraper

A Few Notes On This 4 Days In London Itinerary

Before getting to the details of what to see and do in 4 days in London, let me stress that this is a huge city with lots and lots of tourists, no matter the season. So, if you want to avoid the long lines at tourist attractions, you need to book some of them in advance. I will make sure to let you know which ones you are better off booking ahead of time.

For this itinerary for 4 days in London I am going to give you a good mix of paid attractions and others that are free. In a city that is so expensive, knowing that some of the best places to visit don’t actually charge is much of a relief. 

This itinerary is based on the assumption that you have 4 days in London – and 5 nights. It’s based on personal taste (mine, indeed – because I am the expert here, and I am the one writing the post). But, if you have any questions about it, would like to substitute some attractions with others that I don’t mention, etc, definitely let me know in the comments and I will be happy to let you have my opinion. 

Keep in mind I am not including places such as Camden Market, Oxford Street and a few others which I think have lots all of their local character and have become massive tourist traps.

You will see that the first two days of this 4 days in London itinerary appear to be significantly more packed than the others. Trust the expert! If you are anything like me, you will have plenty of energy and be unstoppable on the first couple of days, and you’ll start feeling a bit worn out afterwards – hence why I left the last couple of days a bit lighter. 

Here are some extra tips to help you make the most of your 4 days in London.

  • Get out early – it’s the best way to beat the crowds. 
  • Go to bed early – remember that the best way to beat jet-lag, in case you are coming from the other side of the world, is to drink lots of water and take some melatonin supplements.
  • Go on a food tour. Food in the United Kingdom has a reputation for being boring, but I dissent – and I am Italian so my opinion counts more hehe. Traditional British food is actually tasty. I recommend this Secret British food tour which has 3 daily departures – it’s a great way to try some local flavors and to visit Borough Market, one of the coolest in London. You can book it here.
  • You much eat lunch on the go to save some time. You won’t have trouble finding sandwiches or salads to go in London. My favorite chain for that is Pret-A-Manger. You’ll find several stores in town.
  • Get an Oyster Card if you intend to use public transportation (more about that below).
  • Double check the opening times of museums and if they are open late, leave them as the last activity on your day.
  • London is an easy going city – no need to dress up. Comfortable is the way to go.
  • Feel free to follow this itinerary in the order you prefer in terms of days, but I don’t recommend swapping attractions – I have drafted it in a way that is logic, so that you visit attractions that are close one to the other on the same day.
  • Ignore any attraction in this 4 days in London itinerary that doesn’t fit with your interests or budget. 

Follow my directions and I promise you will have a memorable 4 days in London.

2 days in London

Buckingham Palace

A Fantastic Itinerary For 4 Days In London 

Day 1

The first of your 4 days in London will take you to some of the most popular attractions. You will end your day with impressive views of the city.

Map of day 1 

You can get a map for today’s itinerary here

St. James Park

FREE ATTRACTION!

NEAREST METRO STATION: Green Park. Alternatively, you can also get off at Hyde Park Corner.

This is one of London’s nicest parks. You can walk around it a bit on your way to Buckingham Palace. Depending on the season, it can get packed with families hanging out with children, people basking in the sun, and squirrels and ducks having fun in the bushes and on the pond. 

Buckingham Palace

Think about London and your mind will inevitably go to her majesty the Queen Elizabeth II and Buckingham Palace, where she lives. If you have 4 days in London, you can’t skip this! In case you want to see the Changing of the Guard Ceremony make sure to get there early enough as it does get very crowded. 

Should you want to visit inside, you need to book in advance. Here are some good options.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral as seen from the Millennium Bridge

St. Paul’s Cathedral

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: St. Paul’s Cathedral is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is £17 British Pounds (little over $21 USD) and with that you get an audioguide. You can get your tickets in advance here.

NEAREST METRO STATION: St. Paul’s. 

HOW TO GET THERE: From Buckingham Palace, walk to Green Park tube station. Get on a northbound Victoria Line train and change at Oxford Circus (just one stop), where you need to get on an eastbound Central Line train. Get off at St. Paul’s

Destroyed by the Great London Fire in 1666, St. Paul’s was completely rebuilt. It is one of the most easily recognizable sights in London. The dome is huge, so you will spot if from a distance. You can visit the inside of the church, the crypt and the dome (for which there will be a line). I find this church to be rather bare compared to Westminster Abbey, so if you are not a massive fan of churches and decide to visit only one in your 4 days in London, skip it.

Tower of London

A view of the Tower of London from the South Bank

Tower of London

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Tower of London is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm and Sunday and Monday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. 

NEAREST METRO STATION: Tower Hill on the District and Circle lines. 

At about 20 minutes walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London is a former prison (it’s where Anne Boleyn was held and then executed) and one of the most impressive sites in the city and you shouldn’t skip it in your 4 days in London. I can’t even remember how many times I have been there, but each time I am just as impressed. Make sure not to skip the Crown Jewels exhibit.

In this case, advanced bookings are necessary. These are some of the best skip-the-line ticket options:

Tower Bridge

You can’t miss the Tower Bridge if you have 4 days in London!

Tower Bridge

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can walk on the bridge freely. The opening times of Tower Bridge Exhibit are 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.

Once you exit the Tower of London, turn left and get on Tower Bridge. This is the kind of place you can immediately recognize – it is so iconic! If you want to learn more about the history of the bridge or walk the glass walkway, you need to get inside for the Tower Bridge Exhibit – you can get tickets here

Sky Garden

Sky Garden

FREE ATTRACTION!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Sky Garden is open Mondays to Fridays from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; Saturdays from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm and Sundays from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Admission if free but you need to book a time slot for your visit, unless you plan to go after 6:00 pm. You can do it here.

From the bridge, you will have to walk back and past the Tower of London to reach the Sky Garden.

There is no better way to end your day of exploration at a place from where you can get stunning views of the city. And if you have 4 days in London, you will have plenty of chances to see it from above.

This high garden is free to visit, but keep in mind that if you are going after sunset (I really recommend that, and I have structured this itinerary with this idea in mind) you need to dress up a bit as there is a dress code. Another thing to keep in mind is that drinks are expensive – but worth it in my opinion!

London Eye

The iconic London Eye is a must see when you have 4 days in London

Day 2

The second of your 4 days in London is about more iconic places to visit – some require pre-bookings. Today you have a good mix of free attractions and others you need to pay for

Map of day 2

Download your map for your day 2 itinerary here. You will occasionally need to use public transportation.

London Eye

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: London Eye closes at different times depending on the season. The usual opening time is 10:00 am and it closes between 6:00 and 8:30 pm. 

More views of London, at a different time of day, from a different perspective and over different things. I thought I’d include London Eye among the list of places you should visit in your 4 days in London because – albeit touristy and crowded – it really is one of my favorite places in town. I went up for the first time in 2010 and truly enjoyed the views of the Houses of Parliament, the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. 

Make sure to book your ticket in advance. You can get your tickets here or here.

GOOD TO KNOW: Close to the London Eye, London Dungeon is a real fun place to visit. You can tickets that will allow you to visit both places for discounted price here. If you visit both, go to the London Dungeon first. The tour lasts 90 minutes.

views of London

The Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben as seen from London Eye

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Another great sight not to miss during your 4 days in London is the seat of the British Parliament. It will take you about 10 minutes to walk there from London Eye. You can go inside and join this Exclusive Houses of Parliament Tour & Skip the Line Westminster Abbey Tour if you want. It includes the Abbey as well. But keep in mind it lasts 4 hours. If that is not your thing, just opt for what most people do: stand on the bridge and take some photos! 

GOOD TO KNOW: Keep in mind that the Big Ben is being restored, so the views aren’t the best at the moment.

Westminster Abbey

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Westminster Abbey is open Mondays to Fridays from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, and Saturdays from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. On Wednesdays it closes at at 6:00 pm. It is closed on Sundays.

Westminster Abbey was founded in 960 AD. It’s been the church where most coronations and royal weddings have been taking place since 1066, a burial ground to some notable Britons, and – most importantly – a truly beautiful church. 

Factor in up to 2 hours for your visit. Get tickets in advance to avoid the lines at the counter. These are some good options:

Churchill War Rooms

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Churchill War Rooms is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Westminster, St. James’ Park.

Not far from the Abbey, Churchill War Rooms is a very interesting place and a nice addition to this itinerary. It is made of two connected museums: Churchill Museum, dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill; and The Cabinet War Rooms, a bunker from where Churchill hid during the London Blitz and from where the WWII efforts were directed. 

You can visit the museum independently or join a guided tour. This WWII Westminster Walking Tour and Churchill War Rooms lasts 2.5 hours and also goes to nearby places. You can book it here.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, a popular hang out place for locals an tourists

National Gallery and Trafalgar Square

FREE ATTRACTION!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The National Gallery is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. It closes at 9:00 pm on Fridays.

At about 10 minutes walk from Churchill War Rooms, in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is one of the best museums in the country and shall be included in this 4 days in London itinerary. It’s free to get in – so you can pop in for a quick visit if you are getting tired – and well organized (make sure to grab a map at the entrance). If you want a more in depth visit, get an audio-guide for £5 (around $6.2 USD) at Sainsbury wing. 

TIP: Special exhibits ofter required advanced bookings and payment. Check out the website of the National Gallery for more.

London in 3 days

Piccadilly Circus is one of the most popular places to visit in London

Piccadilly Circus

FREE ATTRACTION!

You will probably walk by Piccadilly Circus a few times during your 4 days in London. To be honest, if you go during the day it is just a major crossroad with lots of traffic and noise. Go at night though, and you will be fascinated by the charming lights and commercial signs. 

Leicester Square

FREE ATTRACTION!

Once the center of London nightlife with clubs such as the Hyppodrome and Equinox, Leicester Square, at a few minutes from Piccadilly Circus, is now a major tourist hub with a bunch of cinemas. There is a small garden at the center where it is nice to hang out. Beware, as it is scam-land!

3 days in London

Covent Garden

Covent Garden

FREE ATTRACTION!

At about 5 minutes walk from Leicester Square, Covent Garden once was a beautiful flower market. Nowadays, it is a place for street performers and musicians (there is always someone playing on the corner of the ground floor) and you will find some nice but expensive shops and stalls, a bunch of good pubs, and little else. It’s great at Christmas time when the decorations are up – but beware it can be extremely crowded.

London in 4 days

The main hall of the British Museum

Day 3

The third of your 4 days in London is all about free attractions, if you pick option 1. Option 2 includes a fun tour

Map of day 3 

This is your map for day 3. You will need to take the metro to go from the British Museum to Borough Market.

OPTION 1

British Museum

FREE ATTRACTION!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The British Museum is open every day from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm. On Fridays it closes at 8:30 pm. 

NEAREST METRO STATIONS: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street. 

This is one of the best museums in the world, and you really have to visit if you have 4 days in London. It has a fantastic collection that includes Rosetta’s Stone, ancient Egypt mummies and Athen’s Parthenon pieces. 

There is no admission fee (but check for special exhibit in advance). I recommend getting an audioguide for your visit – it costs £7 GBP (around $9 USD). Or else, go on a guided tour. Here are some options:

London in 3 days

Borough Market

FREE ATTRACTION!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Forget about Camden Market – this is where the real thing is! With stalls selling food from all over the world, this easily is one of my favorite places in London – I used to go there every Saturday to stock on my favorite Sardinian Pecorino when I lived in London. It’s a cool place to stop for lunch. Keep in mind it can get crowded on Fridays and Saturdays.

London in 4 days

A view of The Shard from a side street

The Shard 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Shard is open every day from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm in the summer time, and from 10:00 to 7:00 pm Sunday to Wednesday and from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm Thursday to Saturday in the winter time.

If you have already been on the London Eye, there really is no reason to go up The Shard. If you are set on it, make sure to book it in advance from the official website or here (the price is the same). The Shard was inaugurated in 2012, and its viewing deck, at the 95th floor, in 2013.

A walk along the South Bank

FREE ATTRACTION!

On your way to St. Katherine’s Dock, make sure to walk along the South Bank for some of the most impressive (and free) views of London. The photos of the Tower of London and of Tower Bridge in this post were taken from there. It’s a lovely part of town with plenty of bars, cafés and pubs were you can stop for a drink or a meal. Extremely pleasant on a spring day.

GOOD TO KNOW: Touts and scams are common on the South Bank – especially those playing the 3 cups or 3 cards game. 

4 days in London

St. Katherine’s Dock

St. Katherine’s Dock Marina

FREE ATTRACTION!

This is one of my favorite hidden corners in London. I first discovered it when I went to visit a friend that lived nearby, and have been going since because it is a pleasant place, a million miles away from the tourist crowds, and with nice restaurants and pubs. I wanted to add it to this itinerary to show you a bit of London not many tourists see. 

OPTION 2

Harry Potter tour

If you are a fan of Harry Potter, scrap option 1 and get on a guided tour instead. It’s a great way to spend one of your 4 days in London, discovering the sites that you will definitely have seen in the movie. The tour starts at 10:00 am and lasts about 2.5 hours. It goes to places such as Borough Market (which I have mentioned above) and ends at the Palace Theather, which is at about 10 minutes walk from the British Museum. 

This GetYourGuide Originals tour is quite budget friendly and very recommended. You can book it here.

The British Museum

Once you are done with the tour, just head to the British Museum for some incredible art and history pieces.

Holland Park

A lovely corner in Holland Park

Day 4

The last of your 4 days in London is all about Kensington. This is a beautiful part of London, which I am sure you will enjoy. It’s an easy going day, so you can take your time.

Map of day 4 

You can get a may of the itinerary for day 4 here.

Holland Park

FREE ATTRACTION!

NEAREST METRO STATION: High Street Kensington, on the District and Circle lines.

Start your day with one of the prettiest parks in London that is lesser known to tourists. You would hardly imagine how large it is judging by its small gate, but go inside and you will find yourself immersed in a forest and forget you are in London for a bit!

kensington palace

Kensington Palace and Kensington Gardens

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Kensington Palace is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Admission is £17.50 ($22 USD).

At about 15 minutes walk from the main gate of Holland Park, Kensington Palace is a nice place to visit if you have 4 days in London. It’s a good place to learn a bit more about the Royal Family. Built in the 17th century, it first became a royal residence under Queen Mary II, and was so until George II. Since then, it’s been used by members of the royal family but not by queens or kings. 

It’s where Princess Margaret, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, as well Prince William and Prince Henry until a short while ago lived.

The Palace is well organized in terms of itineraries, but if you want a guided tour this one is a good option. 

Once you are done exploring the Palace, you can continue with the gardens, where you will find some beautiful statues such as that of Prince Albert.  

Harrods

FREE ATTRACTION!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Harrods is in Brompton Road.

NEAREST METRO STATION: Knightsbridge. 

Harrods is more than a department store. It really is a London institution! That’s why I thought to add it to your 4 days in London itinerary. It’s a nice place to spend an hour or so, where you literally can find a bit of everything – quality groceries on the ground floor, designer clothes on the others. You can’t take photos when trying clothes on – I was once caught snapping a photo of a friend as she tried a funny hat and we both got told off! 

Hyde Park 

FREE ATTRACTION!

If you haven’t had enough of parks, head to the largest one in London. On sunny summer days it is a favorite hangout for families, groups of friends, and people who enjoy basking in the sun. In the winter, you will spot people exercising. 

A show

London is one of the best places in Europe to see a show, and you will have ample choice. Most theaters are located in the area of Covent Garden / Leicester Square and Charing Cross. Have a look online to see what’s on during your visit and make sure to book in advance. If you are a fan of Abba, make sure to opt for Mamma Mia! You can book it here

3 days in London

Guided Tours Of London

You can easily follow this 4 days in London itinerary by yourself. If you want to completely switch off for a day, the following guided tours are some good options – all you have to worry about is booking them in advance and bringing your camera. They follow the itinerary for the second day. 

These are some good options:

Using A 4-Days London Pass 

I am not a fan of city passes, because if I have to book all tourist attractions separately, I may as well buy separate tickets and tours anyways. However, if you want to save a few dollars here and there, a 4-day pass may be a good idea.

These are the 2 best London Pass options:

3 days in London

I honestly do not recommend moving around by bus

Practical Tips To Plan Your 4 Days In London

Where to stay in London

London has no shortage of accommodation options but – sorry to break the news – if you want to have something decent in terms of location and cleanliness you have to be prepared to pay. I have had my good share of truly horrible places in London to recommend shedding in the extra cash for that. 

If you are spending 4 days in London, stay somewhere central such as Kensington or Westminster Borough. Avoid Camden as it is not central and honestly dodgy at night. 

The following are some good places I have picked for you:

When to visit London

London gets busy with tourists in any season. Beautiful when the Christmas decorations are out, it can get bitterly cold in the winter, and terribly hot in the summer. You may want to visit in April and May or September and October if you are hoping for milder weather.

How to get to London

London is served by 5 airports. London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City are all served by main airlines; Stansted and Luton are budget airlines hubs. London City is in the Docklands and you can get there by bus from the center of London.

Other airports are at the outskirts of the city but well connected by bus, train or metro. I recommend using the train to get from the airport to the center of London. Buses are cheaper but slower; the metro is cheaper but terribly uncomfortable; cabs will cost you an arm and a leg.

From Heathrow take the express train to Paddington. Trains depart every 15 minutes and take just 15 minutes to get there. You can get your train tickets here. 

From Gatwick take the express train to Victoria. Trains depart every 15 minutes and take around 15 minutes to get there. You can get your train tickets here

From Stansted take the express train to London Liverpool Street. Trains depart every 15 minutes. The journey takes 47 minutes. You can get your train tickets here

Here are some good shuttle options:

London in 3 days

You will be using the subway if you spend 4 days in London

How to move around London

London Tube or London Underground is the best way to move around town. There are 11 lines and to those you can add multiple light-rail lines. There are about a million buses moving around London (I haven’t counted them, but it sure feels like it), and none of them ever punctual. 

The main downsides of London Underground are:

  • Endless renovation works with closure of stations which will force you to find alternative routes.
  • Old, slow moving trains.
  • Most stations are not accessible – a real inconvenience if you have a physical impairment. 
  • It doesn’t run 24/7. 

There are night buses – but they come with the same problems of the day ones. 

My tip is to use London Underground to move around during the day, and opt for Uber for when the metro shuts. 

Remember to get an Oyster Card if think you will be making use of public transportation. It’s a touch in touch out system, and you can top it up as you go. You can get yours here

Luggage storage in London

Luggage storage facilities are located in all train stations. Stasher is a good company with reliable service. You need to book ahead of time.

London in 2 days

Other useful tips 

Get a guide book

Get a guide book with a good map to guide you around town.

These are some good ones:

Get a data plan for your smartphone

Make sure to have a data plan that you can use in London too – I am sure Google Maps and Uber will come in handy!

Drinking water 

Water in London tastes vile, but it is safe to drink. Bring a foldable water bottle such as this one to carry with you during the day. 

Mind the scams 

Pickpockets are common on the metro and in the busiest metro stations, so keep your wits about. The most common scams in London are the 3 cups or card game – which you will see along the banks of the river; the fake theater tickets – which is common in Leicester Square; and the fake charity collectors – common around the most touristy sites.

Get a good travel insurance

Whether you are spending 4 days in London or more, subscribe to a good travel insurance. Check out my post Why You Need A Good Travel Insurance.” Get your travel insurance here.

Further readings about London

Looking for more ideas about London? Check out my other posts:

Pin It For Later!

Learn about things to do in London in 4 days - via @clautavani

Read about the places to visit in London in 4 days - via @clautaavani

 

24 Stunning London Hidden Gems

24 Stunning London Hidden Gems

Make sure to discover London hidden gems before others do!

If you are planning to spend more than a handful of days there, you should make the effort to discover some of the most unusual places to visit in London. These are the kind of places that are well known to locals, and really pleasant to visit, but hardly ever make it on travel guides or itineraries. 

Mind you, I am all for tourist attractions – after all, if it is your first time in the city you really can’t skip places such as the Tower or London or Buckingham Palace. But if you are anything like me, you will get a real kick at discovering some of London hidden gems. It took me years of exploring the city to discover them – most of them by complete chance, and because I was a local living and working in the city. But I want to make sure you get a chance to see at least a couple. 

In this post, I highlight the most unusual places to visit in London, those London hidden gems that you may not even know exist and yet are a real find. 

Sky Garden

24 Incredible London Hidden Gems

Sky Garden

One of my favorite London hidden gems (again, not for long I suspect) is the Sky Garden – and it is so central that you really should not miss this! This beautiful garden is at a short walk from Tower of London and Tower Bridge – so you have no excuse not to go. The bonus? It is 100% free to get in – though you do need reservations if you intend to go before 6:00 pm. It’s also a great place to catch sunset! 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Sky Garden is open Mondays to Fridays from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm; Saturdays from 11:00 am to 10:00 pm and Sundays from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. Make sure to book a time slot for your visit here, unless you plan to go after 6:00 pm, in which case reservations aren’t necessary but you have to be dressed smartly as there is a strict dress code. Mind you, drinks are expensive!

unusual places to visit in London

Leadenhall market is one of London hidden gems

Leadenhall Market

If you’ve been on my site before, you should know that I am a massive fan of markets. The great news is that London is packed with good ones. Forget about the ones that are for tourists, though! One of the most unusual places to visit in London, indeed, is Leadenhall Market. It’s tucked away between Monument and Liverpool Street metro stations, in Gracechurch street – to give you an idea of the rough location in town. 

This is a covered market with a gorgeous roof and glass windows. The colors of the shop windows are nice and colorful – so it’s a great place for photos. Although a market existed in the area already in the 14th century, the covered market was built in the 19th century. 

GOOD TO KNOW: This market became more popular as it was a filming location of Harry Potter. You can visit it during this GetYourGuide Originals tour which is a best seller tour in London. You can book it here.

Postman’s Park

Not far from St. Paul’s Cathedral you will find one of London hidden gems. This park owes its name to the fact that it is a favorite of workers in the central post office located nearby. The main feature there is a memorial wall – George Frederic Watt’s Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice – which houses tables with the names and brief stories of people who lost their lives when trying to save the lives of others. 

The park is unknown to tourists, an oasis of peace despite the chaos of the city surrounding it, and a truly nice place to spend a few moments. 

unusual places to visit in London

St. Katherine’s Dock is one of the unusual places to visit in London you are bound to love

St. Katherine Dock Marina

One of the nicest London hidden gems is St. Katherine Dock. London’s only central marina is tucked away between the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Tower Hill metro station, yet for some reason I only made it there after years or living in the city, when a friend of mine moved in the area. 

Let me tell you, this is one of the most pleasant surprises London had for me! What you will love about it is that it is right in the center of town, yet tourists never make it there so you are in for a real local experience – and you won’t get to see any of those crowds that are so typical of London. At the dock you will find some bars, pubs and restaurant and a small square where you can hang out. 

Dicken's Inn

The Dickens Inn is one of the nicest pubs in London

The Dickens Inn Pub

If you visit St. Katherine Dock, make sure to stop at Dickens Inn pub for a meal or a drink. It looks lovely – especially in the spring and summer months when the flower decorate the balconies and everything is in bloom. 

The building where the pub is located dates back to the 18th century and used to be a warehouse probably stocking tea or owned by a brewery. The management of the pub says that Charles Dickens used to hang out at this pub back in the day. What we know is that in fact he did spend quite some time in East London and the Thameside, so chances are that he did visit this place. 

Unusual things to do in London

Kynance Mews is tucked away and beautiful

Mews Streets

A mews is a narrow cobbled alley. You will find several in London, usually perpendicular to larger and busier streets. They are lined with very expensive buildings where very rich people live, but they are so quaint and pretty that it is worth popping by at least one of them for photos. You will find several mews in Kensington – among them Kynance Mews photographed above, Cornwall Mews which is a parallel, Osten Mews and McLeod’s Mews a bit further south. These truly are some of London hidden gems.

Old Operating Theatre Museum

The Old Operating Theater Museum is by far one of the most interesting London hidden gems. Located close to London Bridge metro station, this is one of the oldest operating theaters in the world – think of a time when anesthesia was not a thing yet. During your visit, you will be able to get a good idea of how surgeries were carried out at a time when anesthesia, antiseptics and antibiotics were not used. There also is a small exhibit of herbs that were used in medicine.

St. Dunstan In The East

St. Dunstan In The East is undoubtedly one of London hidden gems

Saint Dunstan In The East

Between London Bridge and St. Katherine Docks Marina there is one of the best London hidden gems. Saint Dunstan in the East church was originally built between the 11th and 12th century. It was partially destroyed during WWII and never restored, so all that is left are the walls and gates to the church which are set in a lovely garden. It’s a truly pleasant place to visit!

Holland Park

A lovely corner in Holland Park

Holland Park

I like to think this is one of London hidden gems – even though chances are it is not. Sure enough, compared to other parks like Hyde Park, St. James’s Park or Regent Park, Holland Park gets significantly less tourists and visitors. It’s the kind of place where you walk in through a narrow gate you don’t make much of, and find yourself in a park that is gorgeous and makes you feel a million miles away from the city. 

The nearest metro station is High Street Kensington, on the District and Circle lines, so you can pop in if you are on a shopping spree on that part of town.

London hidden gems

Neal’s Yard is one of the most unusual places to visit in London

Neal’s Yard

This is the kind of place you stumble upon and then want to go back again and again as it is so pretty! It’s surprising not so many people know it as it is really close to Covent Garden – one of the city’s most popular attraction. Neil’s Yard is a series of tall brick buildings adorned with flowers and plants pouring out of windows and where you will find many lovely, quaint small shops that sell organic goods and cafés and health food stores. 

My tip is to visit this spot before it becomes more popular and has to be written off this post on the most unusual places to visit in London!

Unusual London

Did you know that London has its own Little Venice?

London’s Little Venice

London has its very own Little Venice and it is just minutes away from Paddington station! This series of canals lined with trees is the kind of place where you will see canal boats – some used as actual homes and others are cafés where you can stop by for tea. The canals run all the way from Hyde Park to Warwick Avenue, so you can walk along for quite some time and get all the way to Camden Market!

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Sherlock Holmes Museum

Opened in 1990 near the very well known Regent’s Park, this museum is among the unusual places to visit in London to recreate what is intended to be the home of Sherlock Holmes. Everything inside reproduces to maniacal detail the house of Sherlock as described in the books – including the bookshelves and the 17 steps that take to the living room.

Despite being one of London hidden gems, you may find a line to get inside so make sure to get tickets in advance. You may even want to join a guided Sherlock Holmes tour. These are the ones I recommend:

GOOD TO KNOW: At 5 minutes walk from Sherlock Holmes Museum, Madame Tussauds is actually one of the most popular places to visit in London. You can get tickets to visit here.

Primrose Hill

It’s nice to hang out at Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill is right on the other side of Regent’s Park. It is a very well known place to people who live in London, yet very much a secret for tourists – so I guess it is fair to mention it among London hidden gems. It really is a lovely neighborhood and the views of London from the actual hill are splendid (and free to enjoy, which really means a lot in a city that is so expensive!). You can even see the Shard and London Eye on a clear day. 

unusual places to visit in London

Spitalfields Market – one of the coolest and most unusual places to visit in London

Spitalfields Market

One of my favorite London hidden gems is very much in plain sight. If you want a market that is local, central and great to browse on any day of the week, head straight to Spitalfields (the nearest metro station is London Liverpool Street). You will find anything from street food and nice local pubs to vintage and antique shops (my friends and I once stumbled upon a fantastic vintage camera shops!), clothes of all sorts (but especially of emerging London designers) and even art galleries. In other words, this is one of the most interesting despite unusual places to visit in London. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The market is open daily from 10:00 am. Closing time varies – it’s open until 8:00 pm Monday to Friday and until 5:00 or 6:00 pm at weekends.

Whitechapel

Whitechapel definitely deserves to be mentioned in a post about the unusual places to visit in London, though I feel this is going to change quite soon as the area is attracting more and more tourists! First of all, it is very central. But, most importantly, it has that eerie feel of a place you know hides a story. In fact, this is where Jack the Ripper killings took place. 

Nowadays, one of the most unusual things to do in London is a Jack The Ripper walking tour. It’s the kind of thing that really takes you through the history of the area, and in a very interactive way. 

If this is something you are keen on doing, I recommend joining this Jack the Ripper interactive walking tour. It’s a GetYourGuide Originals, which means a small group tour you won’t find sold anywhere else and for which you are led by an expert local guide that will take you to London hidden gems during a carefully curated itinerary – we are talking about places tourists don’t regularly get to see. 

This specific tour goes to Brick Lane, Christ Church, Spitalfields Market, Mitre Square, Petticoat Lane and Ten Bells Pub, taking you back to 1888 Whitechapel by following the footsteps of the victims. The guide will even have photographic evidence to show you and you can do your best to help solve the mystery! 

If this is something you are keen on trying, you can book the tour here.

Shoreditch

Street art in Shoreditch

Shoreditch and Brick Lake

Another friend, another area of London I got to discover. Nowadays, Shoreditch is the area where I decide to stay any time I am in town. This up and coming neighborhood has a multitude of good pubs and restaurants, shops, art galleries and lots and lots of street art. It’s one of the most unusual places to visit in London, but something tells me it won’t be like that for a long time. 

Not far from it, Brick Lane is another London hidden gem that is actually well known to locals. It’s a super artsy area famous for the many Bengalese restaurants and the many new local designers shops. A place you should make sure to stop by is Beigel Bake. Go there for a sandwich or a snack – at whatever time of day. Beigel Bake is a local institution!

If you want to explore this part of London a bit more in depth, opt for one of these tours:

Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

North of Shoreditch, this is one of the most fun and unusual places to visit in London. It’s a store, really, but with a kick. It’s the kind of place where you will see for sales things such as human bone dust, salt made from tears of anger (which actually is just smoked salt) or cubed earwax (caramels). The shop was first opened in 1818 and re-opened in 2010 after having being refurbished. It’s only open 3 days a week – Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – and you can easily add it to any itinerary to visit the areas of Shoreditch and Brick Lane. 

London in 3 days

Borough Market

If visiting a market is a must in London, skip Camden Market – it has become nothing more than a tourist trap – and head straight to London Bridge where you will find Borough Market. Mind you, it’s becoming a more and more popular place, so it really be one of London hidden gems for long. But it’s such a cool place that I thought I’d mention it – and it is easy to insert in itineraries to visit central London. 

The market is the kind of place where you can find all sort of fresh produce, literally from all over the world (I’d go there to get Sardinian Pecorino!). There are some nice wine bars in case you need a drink and a place to sit!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The market is open from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The nearest metro station is London Bridge. 

Chiswick

The beautiful Chiswick House

Chiswick

One of London hidden gems which is never mentioned in guidebooks is Chiswick. This actually is one of my favorite parts of town – a place I discovered when one of my friends moved in the area and invited me over for dinner. I liked the area so much that I kept going again and again. 

What you will enjoy about Chiswick is the neighborhood feel – something that is often missing in London. It is a chilled place where you can sit in a café and enjoy a drink, looking at passersby; or just browse the many lovely shops. 

Among the places of interest you should not skip Chiswick House, a fantastic example of Palladian architecture; St. Nicholas Church, whose tower that dates back to the 15th century. Christ Church is another nice sight. You can also pop in at Duke’s Meadows, a truly nice park beautiful park. Finally, for one of the most unusual things to do in London, go for a walk at Gunnersbury Triangle, a nice nature reserve that will make you feel a million miles away from London, even though you are still very much there.

For a drink, stop at Mawson Arms, one of the nicest pubs in the area.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Chiswick is not in central London. To get there, hop on a westbound District Line train (the Piccadilly Line also stops there, but only at certain times) and get off at Turnham Green. Once you walk out of the station, turn left and you will be heading to the lovely High Street. 

London hidden gems

Hampsted Pergola and Hill Garden are among London hidden gems

Hampstead Pergola and Hill Garden

Coming from Sardinia, where there aren’t too many people in such a vast land, I am used to a lot of wide open spaces and spending time outdoors. One of my favorite London hidden gems is Hampstead Pergola – probably one of the best ‘secret gardens’ I’ve ever found, not to mention that visiting is one of the best things to do in London for couples – so go there if you are feeling romantic!

Essentially a raised, colonnaded walkway constructed by a wealthy philanthropist to join two gardens divided by a public walkway, it must have been beautiful in its prime but is even more so now that nature has reclaimed much of it.

The ornate stonework and latticed domes are almost overgrown by climbing vines and other creepers including rambling roses, jasmine and honeysuckle – making for quite a heady perfume on a warm summer day! It overlooks the gorgeous Hill Garden below and both are eerily beautiful, elegant and a popular destination for artists of every kind.

The Hill Garden also has a formal pond and little benches with sweet inscriptions for to enjoy. Make sure to go before everyone else does!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Hampstead Pergola and Hill Garden is located in The Pergola, Inverforth Cl, London. The easiest way to get there from central London is to get a northbound Northern Line train, getting off at Hampstead Station. From there, it is an easy 15 minutes walk.

London hidden gems

In search for something unique in Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery

I am not normally one to count a cemetery as a tourist destination, but this one is incredible, and one of the real London hidden gems, because there are so many famous people buried here and it has become a kind of nature reserve filled with mature trees, shrubbery and wildflowers that are a haven for birds and small animals. In Victorian times, people also had quite a romantic attitude towards death so there are hundreds of elaborately carved headstones, Egyptian sepulchers and Gothic style tombs.

It is no longer free to tour either section, but exploring the heavily wooded 20 hectares and trying to read the inscriptions on overgrown, often crumbling headstones while marveling at the beauty and intricacy of others is something you will enjoy immensely. And if you are into that kind of thing, one fun thing to do is searching for the graves of Highgate Cemetery’s more famous residents or check out the Queen’s Wood or Highgate Wood nearby for a less morbid day out.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Highgate Cemetery is located in Swain’s Ln, Highgate, London. Before visiting, make sure to check the website to double check it is open on the day you wish to go. The easiest way to get there is by metro. Get a northbound Northern Line train and get off at Archway Station. From there, it is about a 15 minutes walk.

Pickering Place

Pickering Place truly is a hidden gem

Pickering Place

You may want to visit Pickering Place for a number of reasons, the first of which is the fact that it was home to the Texas legation (effectively a small embassy) from 1842 – 1845 as commemorated by a small brass plaque.

This is one of the most interesting London hidden gems, located almost directly opposite King Henry’s old barn at St. James Palace and is accessed by a narrow passageway running next to the famous Berry Bros & Rudd wine merchant – their one day wine school being the main reason you may want to go all the way to Pickering Square to begin with!

Legend says that it was the venue for the last sword duel in London, although I couldn’t find anyone to tell me who the two duelers were or what they were dueling about! Yet, it is easy to believe it, because it is hidden away and quite close to the royal court of the time. The seclusion of the square made it a notorious bear baiting venue – but now it houses nothing but some potted plants, a sundial and a snapshot of the 16th century frozen in time!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The closest metro station to Pickering Place is Green Park, which is served by the Piccadilly Line. From there, it is a 6 minutes walk.

Hidden in Trafalgar Square is Britain’s Smallest Police Station

Britain’s Smallest Police Station

Any visit to London has to include a trip to Trafalgar Square and with all the other attractions it would be easy to miss the little building that is discreetly located in one corner of the square – this definitely is one of the cutest London hidden gems.

Calling it a building is a bit of a stretch really, especially considering the fact that the structure that used to be Britain’s Smallest Police Station was made out of a hollowed out ornamental lamp post! But apparently it was supposed to be able to hold up to two prisoners, or at least one policeman with a direct line to Scotland Yard.

There is a little conspiracy surrounding its construction as there was originally some objection to a police presence in the square, which being in the center of London has been host to many public demonstrations and protests over the year. It would be nice if this little police station was dressed up and opened to the public in some way – basically used as more than a storage closet but for now it is fun to just peer through the windows and imagine a policeman inside!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Britain’s Smallest Police Station is located in Trafalgar Square.

London hidden gems

Isabella Plantation doesn’t even look like London!f

Isabella Plantation

As I mentioned already, I love the outdoors in all shapes and forms, but there is nothing more beautiful to me than flowers in full bloom – whether it is in the wild or in a garden somewhere! And Isabella Plantation takes that idea to a whole new level with a 40 acre woodland garden that is home to 100 different varieties of azaleas, 50 species of rhododendrons and more than 125 hybrid rhododendrons varieties. This is one of the true London hidden gems!

The best time to visit Isabella Plantation is obviously in spring and the beginning of summer, when the majority of the flowers will be in bloom. But thanks to a few evergreen varieties of both flowers and trees, little ponds and mini lakes scattered throughout the plantation – it is beautiful year round and always worth a visit. Last year I was lucky enough to see the plantation in what was probably the most vivid display in years, and the best part is that it is completely free!

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Isabella Plantation is located inside Richmond Park. It is a bit of a way to get there but I promise you it is worth it. Take the Piccadilly Line, westbound, and get off at Earl’s Court. From there, hop on a District Line train to Putney Bridge Station. Then, take bus n. 85 heading to Warren Road Coombe, from where it is a 15 minutes walk.

Final Thoughts On London Hidden Gems

London is old, and dates back all the way to the Roman times – so there is a lot of history in this beautiful city. And with many years to explore it I found many more London hidden gems that I will never forget, although I am pretty sure that there are many other treasures I walked right past! But it just goes to show that no matter how well known and popular a destination is, there are secrets waiting to be discovered everywhere you go! As I have said throughout this post, make sure to hit these London hidden gems before everyone else discovers them!

Have you ever been to London? What’s your favorite part of the city?

Further readings about London

Planning a trip to London? Make sure to check out my other posts:

Pin It For Later!

Read about the most unusual places to visit in London - via @clautavani

Discover the most unusual places to visit in London - via @clautavani

Discover where to find London hidden gems - via @clautavani

A Fantastic Day Trip To Castel Gandolfo

A Fantastic Day Trip To Castel Gandolfo

Castel Gandolfo is just about the perfect place to visit on a day trip from Rome. Easily reached from the center of town by train or by car (it’s an easy 45 minutes ride from Termini train station), this small town on the Castelli Romani (a group of small towns on the Colli Albani) is located on the shores of the beautiful volcanic Albano Lake. 

Once a favorite of Roman aristocracy, Castel Gandolfo is home to the Pope’s summer residence and one of its main landmarks is indeed the Papal Palace. But if you think this is the only place to visit there, you are mistaken. 

In this post, I will share everything you need to know to visit the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo, and tell you about the other things to see and do during your day trip. Before doing that, however, let me share some background information on Castel Gandolfo.

In a rush? Check out this guided tour of Castel Gandolfo departing from Rome. On sale on GetYourGuide for less than $65, it lasts almost 7 hours and it includes round trip train tickets, a tour guide, tickets to the Papal Palace and more. If you cancel within 24 hours of the tour, you can also get a full refund. You can book the tour here.

Castel Gandolfo

A lovely view of Castel Gandolfo

Some Background Information On Castel Gandolfo

The lovely small town of Castel Gandolfo was erected over the ruins of Alba Longa and located at an altitude of 436 meters above sea level. The village takes its name from the Gandolfo family, who owned most of the local land in the 12th century and built the castle overlooking the lake. Already from 510 BC, the area saw the construction of many residencies, including the magnificent Villa di Domiziano which was used between 81 and 96.

It was in July 1596 that Castel Gandolfo and Rocca Priora became property of the Vatican, once Pope Clemens VIII seized it from the Savelli family, who would not honor its debts. That’s when the Pope established his summer residence here, to escape the heat and hustle and bustle of the Vatican.

The Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo – also known as Papal Palace or Pope’s Summer Residence – are by far the most beautiful sight in the village. 

In 2014 Pope Francis open the gardens to visitors, and in 2016 also the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo was finally open to the public. Soon enough this has become one of the most popular places to visit on day trips from Rome. 

The best way to enjoy the Pontifical Villas and the gorgeous gardens is on a guided tour, which you can book here.

Papal Palace

The stunning Papal Palace

5 Unmissable Things To Do On A Day Trip To Castel Gandolfo

Visit the Papal Palace and the Gardens

Overlooking Lake Albano and dominating Castel Gandolfo, the Papal Palace was built over the ancient villa (Albanum Domitiani) of Emperor Domitian upon orders of Pope Urban VIII, who wished to have a place to escape from the summer heat of Rome, in the 17th century. The only period during which it was not used as a summer residence was between 1870 and 1929. 

Surrounding the palace, there are stunning Barberini gardens which you can explore on foot or on an electric bus. 

The Pontifical Villas have a surface of 55 hectares, including the gardens and the Pope’s Farm.

Among the highlights of the visit, there are the Papal Apartments, where you can admire the beautiful furnishing, the papal portrait gallery and a papal throne, as well as various objects belonging to the different popes. The apartments include seven rooms and the Pope’s summer offices.

The Papal Gardens include the Bernini Gardens, with evergreen plants, terraces, and beautiful fountains; as well as the Belvedere Gardens, which offer beautiful views throughout and along whose right-hand side there’s the ancient cryptoporticus built by Emperor Domitian to provide shade during his walks – and which during WWII was used to provide shelter to families escaping Nazi persecution: as this was Vatican territory, the German Army could not enter. 

Finally, the Pope’s Farm, located inside the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo, are used to produce fresh milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt used by the Vatican, as well as an array of vegetables. It’s a proper family-run farm where you can spot sheep, cows, donkeys and chickens too.

Castel Gandolfo Papal Palace gardens

The gorgeous gardens of Castel Gandolfo Papal Palace

Practical information for visiting the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo

The Papal Palace is open Monday to Friday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and on Saturdays from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm.

Tickets to the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo are currently sold for €11 on the official website of the Vatican. Tickets for a bus ride across the garden cost €20. If you book the bus ride tour, tickets to the Papal Palace will be €7. Reduced fees are available for children – who get in for free until they are 5 years old.

GOOD TO KNOW: Keep in mind that – once bought on the website of the Vatican – tickets are not refundable. Considering that, should you want to visit both the Pontifical Villas and the Gardens (which you should), the final costs are €31 and that the tickets are not refundable, you are definitely better off joining this guided tour which, on the other hand, has a flexible cancellation policy up to 24 hours before your booked date and includes a guide, transportation for Rome, tickets to the Papal Palace and the gardens, for a total of $65  (€55). You book it here.

Be careful to notice that there is a set of rules for visiting the Papal Palace. Here are the ones you need to keep on mind:

  • Modest clothing is required – no matter the season. Avoid wearing shorts and tank tops.
  • Bring your own headphones so you can plug them into the audio-guide device and have your hands free to take photos.
  • You can take photos but flash is not permitted. Selfie sticks and tripods are not allowed inside the Papal Palace.
  • Large bags and suitcases are not allowed.
  • Large umbrellas are not allowed.
  • Smoking is prohibited anywhere in the Papal Palace and Gardens.
  • You can’t take food inside. 

GOOD TO KNOW: The Papal Palace is not an accessible attraction.

Castel Gandolfo Piazza della Libertà

Piazza della Libertà is the heart of Castel Gandolfo

Explore the town center

Castel Gandolfo is small but pretty and you should not miss on the opportunity to wander the streets of the town center. From small squares to expansive views over the lake, this is a fantastic place to get away from the chaos of Rome. 

Among the main sights there is Piazza della Libertà, where you will find a great array of small cafés and souvenir shops, and restaurants where you can eat alfresco overlooking the lake. In Piazza della Libertà you will also find the beautiful Bernini Fountain and the world’s first (or so they say) postbox.

Another place you should visit, which is also located on the main square right outside the Papal Palace, is the parish church of San Tommaso da Villanova. Built between 1658 and 1661 and designed by Bernini upon orders of Pope Alexander VII, inside you will find beautiful stuccos and paintings by Pietro da Crotona.

Albano Lake

From the town, you can easily reach Albano Lake

Hang out at the lake

Castel Gandolfo is gorgeous enough, but the setting is just as beautiful. Make sure to walk downhill towards Lake Albano – the road that takes you there is lined with restaurants and cafés, so you will recognize it easily. If you visit in the summer, you may even spent a couple of hours sunbathing or enjoying some water sports – you will find plenty of places renting out boats, pedal-boats, kayaks and even bikes to explore the area. If you walk beside the restaurants, you will also find some nice hiking trails.

Along the shores of the lake there are the Doric Nymphaeum and the Bargantino Nymphaeum, two nicely preserved Roman nymphaea (man-made caves that were used for religious ceremonies).  

GOOD TO KNOW: The water of Lake Albano is freezing cold. Don’t even think about swimming there!

TIP: If you plan on renting a boat, bring your ID card.

cat in Castel Gandolfo

A kitty welcomes tourists in Castel Ganfolfo

Gorge on good food

Italy is a perfect destination for food lovers, and Castel Gandolfo won’t disappoint in this sense. Here, you can savor dishes of the Roman tradition in nice restaurants with views of the lake. 

Ristorante Pagnanelli is by far the best known restaurant in town – a place beloved by locals. The restaurant has been run by the Pagnanelli family since 1882. You will be able to taste delicious dishes of fresh fish; classics meat and vegetable dishes, all accompanied by an incredible selection of wines and with the best views you can hope for.

GOOD TO KNOW: If you actually care to learn a bit more about local food, you can even enroll in a cooking class at the Papal Farm. The main focus of the class is on pasta, which will be obviously prepared using ingredients sourced directly from the farm – including the olive oil!

Wine tasting

Speaking of wine, the area of Castelli Romani where Castel Gandolfo is located is famous for its celebrated wines, and while there you should definitely take the chance of doing a little wine tasting. Skip a vineyard tour and go straight for the wine at Art e Vino, a lovely small wine bar where you can also sample some local dishes.

Barberini Gardens

Barberini Gardens at Castel Gandolfo Papal Palace

Other Useful Information To Plan Your Trip To Castel Gandolfo

How to get to Castel Gandolfo

Castel Gandolfo is easily reached from Rome, thus being the perfect place for a day trip. Here are the main ways of getting there. Of all the options available, my favorite is the guided tour. It is completely hassle free; it includes a tour guide (meaning you can get lots of insightful information about Castel Gandolfo and the Papal Palace) and it won’t have you fiddling with having to get a million separate tickets.

Join a guided tour

The easiest way to visit Castel Gandolfo is on a guided tour departing from Rome. This Castel Gandolfo day trip from Rome is sold for $65 and includes transportation by train from Rome; a guide that will be with you all day; tickets to the Papal Palace; an audio-guide and even lunch – in other words, it is great value for money. The tour has a very flexible cancellation policy, and you can cancel within 24 hours from the day of the tour. You can book it here.

Independently by train

A one way train ticket from Roma Termini station to Castel Gandolfo costs €2.10 (a total of €4.20 euro for the roundtrip). The journey lasts about 40 minutes. Try to get one of the early trains so that you can spend as much time as possible in Castel Gandolfo.

TIP: Get your return ticket in Rome Termini station as there is no vending machine in Castel Gandolfo. Remember to validate your ticket before getting on the train.

The train will leave you at the station, from where you will have to cross to the main street and then walk the trail uphill to get to the village – you will just end up in Piazza della Libertà – and the Pontifical Villas. It will take you around 10 minutes. 

By Car

If you have a car rental, you can get to Castel Gandolfo following the A90/E80 or Appia Nuova/SS7. The journey should take you around 40 minutes. You can park the car near the Apostolic Palace.

Final tips for visiting Castel Gandolfo

I wholeheartedly recommend getting tickets to the Pontifical Villas well in advance – this attraction regularly gets sold out, so if you are set on visiting make sure to plan well ahead. I suggest booking on a third party booking site such as GetYourGuide to take advantage of the flexible cancellation policies. You can get your tour here.

As I have already mentioned, modest clothing is required to visit the Papal Palace. You should also wear comfortable shoes, as there is quite a bit of walking to do on a cobbled street – flips flops or heels aren’t the best to walk on such terrain.

Further readings about Rome

Make sure to check out my other posts about Rome:

Pin It For Later!

Discover how to visit Castel Gandolfo on a day trip from Rome - via @clautavani