Day Five: South BankKnowing we would never hear the end of it if we went to London and didn't check out at least one London museum, we headed for the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square (admission is free!). The museum is immense and takes a few hours to explore, but is worth it even for the most casual art lover. With artists like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Seurat, Degas and Monet on display, everyone is bound to find something they're interested in.
We then headed for the South Bank for a trip on the London Eye. The trip itself was sort of anticlimactic, as there isn't any audio commentary to accompany it (and you have to share your pod with potentially annoying strangers), but the clear and sunny day lent itself to some fantastic photographs of the city. We then walked along the South Bank Walk, heading towards Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. The Walk runs alongside the River Thames and took us past such sights as the London Aquarium, Jubilee Gardens, Royal Festival Hall, the National Theatre, Tate Modern, and several bridges, such as the Millennium Footbridge and Waterloo Bridge. There's also an abundance of street vendors, street performers and restaurants along the way to keep you entertained and well fed.
After our walk we toured Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (a replica, since the original was demolished some time ago). There are several displays on hand to entertain any literary geeks, including costumes and special effects used during performances of Shakespeare's time. There is also a guided tour of the theater itself where you can experience what it was like to see one of Shakespeare's plays and be thankful that theaters now offer cushioned seats. We then capped the day off with some actual theater by attending one of the West End musicals.
- South Bank Photo Tour
- How To Get Cheap London Theater Tickets Wicked The Musical Review
Day Six: Library, Tea and More ShoppingWe started our last full day in London at the British Library, where there is a room full of literary treasures on display (in addition to, well, a lot of books). From behind panes of glass you can view Shakespeare's original folio, the Magna Carta, Jane Austen's writing desk, original music manuscripts from artists like Mozart, Ravel and the Beatles, and original writings from authors Lewis Carroll, Charlotte Bronte and Sylvia Plath. There are also temporary displays in the lobby of the library, where we were able to check out the history of the Old Vic theater.
Finding that we needed to get more shopping done, we made our way to Oxford Street, which is a shopper's paradise and offers everything from high-end shops, exclusively British shops (like Marks & Spencer and Top Shop) and touristy souvenir shops. The end of Oxford Street (or the beginning, depending on where you start) meets up with Hyde Park, which we walked through, heading toward the west end of the park to have afternoon tea at the Orangery in Kensington Palace.
Afternoon tea overlooking the lawns of Kensington Palace was a beautiful and relaxing way to end a very busy week touring London. Nothing can help prepare you for a long flight home quite like a relaxing afternoon in a palace!
- London Department Stores
- Afternoon Tea at The Orangery, Kensington Palace
- Best Afternoon Tea in London