We just arrived back from a packed and fun visit to London.   Compared to Paris, London is big and more difficult to navigate.  Nonetheless, we went to museums, Harry Potter events, and more.


Some of the highlights.

  • Many/most of the major museums are free.  We visited in the evening mostly in the hour before closing.  It was the perfect time to visit since it wasn’t at all crowded.  The great thing about the museums being free is that you can go for an hour one day then go back the next.   Conclusion: You don’t have to do it all at once.
  • The “tube” can be incredibly crowded at rush hour.  Three times in six days while we were on the tube stations were closed because of overcrowding (Oxford Circus is one of the worst).  Another time Oxford Circus was shut down and evacuated due to a possible terrorist threat.  Conclusion:  Avoid the tube at rush hour (actually, avoid the tube anytime if possible.)
  • Most buses are still double-decker.   They are inexpensive and a great way to get around without the hassle of the tube.   An added bonus is that from the top deck you have a great view of the streets.  Conclusion: If you are only going a relatively short distance and you can, take the bus.
  • Harry Potter is everywhere.   Well not quite.  But there is a quite a bit of Harry Potter to take in.  We went to the Harry Potter exhibit at the British Library (great! and on until Feb 28, 2018 and you need to book ahead), we also went to the Warner Bros studio tour on the far outskirts of London (great!  far but worth it and you must book ahead) and finally, we went on the Harry Potter on Location in London Town walking tour  (great!  no need to book ahead but not given every day).  We didn’t see the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child because tickets are booked for months ahead.  There were last minute cancelations but not when we could go. Conclusion: Plan ahead.  Tickets sell out fast and you also need to align your schedule with what’s available.
  • Go see a “panto” which is a uniquely British Christmas activity.  It is a comic play for parents and children where the audience participates. The audience boos at the bad guys and cheers the good guys.  The panto we went to, Cinderella at the Hackney Empire, was superb as was the venue.  It had great music from all genres for all ages and the storyline and acting were excellent.  Conclusion:  Make time for this uniquely British activity.
  • There are Christmas lights on many of the major streets and shopping areas (Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Carnaby Street, Regent Street, Bond Street).  By far the best was Carnaby Street because it was the most extensive and colorful.  Otherwise they are all pretty much the same throughout London.  Conclusion: You don’t really need to go out of your way to see Christmas lights, they are everywhere.