Lonely Planet is a popular guidebook that many uses to travel with but is it a waste of money? I thought I’d follow the London Lonely Planet Guide and see what happens.
When I first started travelling, I used to use the Lonely Planet Guidebook as my source of what to do in a place. Now that I’ve been living in London for quite some time, I thought I’d follow the Lonely Planet Guide and see what happens.
The day one itinerary is the classic route through London, so I started off at Trafalgar Square. I picked up a coffee from Pret because this is a classic London thing to do. However, if you want something a bit more substantial, there are different cafes and restaurants in the area.
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Trafalgar Square was built to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar and is one of the last public Squares in London. One of the main features is the statue of Admiral Nelson, he has four lions surrounding him. Make sure that you don’t climb on the lions because that is not allowed.
Check the latest works of art on The Fourth Plinth. It started in 1988 and ever since then, they’ve been putting artworks there. The 13th Plinth is made by artist Heather Phillipson.
Entitled THE END, it suggests both an exuberant and unease, responding to Trafalgar Square as a site of celebration and protests. There is a live feed from the Square picked up by the drone’s camera and is visible on a dedicated website. It’s meant to give you a perspective from the sculpture.
The area has so much more to do than just seeing the Square and statues. Nearby you have the theatres, Chinatown, Soho, Covent Garden, and much more. Oddly, the book mentions doing this on day two. I personally find that crazy to go from one side of London to the other each day, there is so much to do in Soho.
My main concern with the itinerary was that the timings!
Around the corner is the National Portrait Gallery and is closed until 2023. However, today is all about the National Gallery and it’s my first time exploring inside.
I had a booking at the National Gallery at 10:00 AM and at this point, I was already running 10 minutes late in my schedule. Once I got out from the lift, I was presented with this map where it suggested 25 minutes to 35 minutes for each route.
I just knew I didn’t have enough time to complete a whole loop and make the changing of the guard. I quickly just walked over to Van Gogh’s ‘Vase With 12 Sunflowers’ and then rushed out.
Honestly, it was a shame as I wanted to see all the other artworks and I’ll just have to go another time.
Which Route to Follow
When I look at the itinerary, I assume that they go in order that the places are listed, but in this case, you will end up walking in circles.
When it says to go to Buckingham Palace, the best route is to walk down The Mall and then through St. James’s Park towards Westminster Abbey and Houses of Parliament.
Rushing down to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards was some serious failure on my part because once I got there, I realized that it didn’t run on Tuesdays. I didn’t double-check the running times before visiting. So to avoid any disappointments confirm running times.
Although I missed the changing of the guard, I did see the Queen. It’s actually the first time she’s been here since April.
Buckingham Palace became the Principal Royal Residents in 1837 on a session of Queen Victoria, who was the first Monarch to reside here. It’s still one of the few remaining working Royal Palaces and the official home to the Queen.
However, she spends most of her time in Windsor Castle nowadays.
St James Park
St. James Park is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Buckingham Palace. I love watching all the birds and wildlife. They are honestly not scared of anybody. Around 2:30 PM you can see the keepers feeding the pelicans as well, but there was no time for that today.
Westminster Abbey is probably one of the most striking churches in London, apart from St. Paul’s. Benedictine monks set up the original church around 1050, but in 1245, Henry III pulled it down and replaced it with the Abbey we see today, impressively since William, the Conquer way back in 1066, the Abbey has been where the British Sovereigns has been crowned with the exception of Edward the fifth and Edward the eighth.
Westminster Abbey is still a working church so you can go to Sunday service or pay a fee to walk around and see inside.
The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are right next door.
Big Ben is going through a couple of repairs at the moment as it’s sinking. It needs a little TLC. Expect to see a lot of scaffolding on Big Ben and around parts of the Parliament Building.
Fun fact, the bell is actually called Big Ben and it’s the biggest bell that has ever been made. The tower is located inside. It’s called Elizabeth Tower prior to 2012, the tower’s called Clock Tower, not very inventive. The name was changed to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
If you walk on the right hand side of the path across the bridge. Once you reach the end, there’s a staircase that goes down and that will give you good views of Parliament and Big Ben.
Afterwards, just walk under the bridge through the tunnel and you’ll arrive at the London Eye. The London eye is one of London’s iconic attractions.
On a clear day apparently, you can see all the way to Windsor Castle. So it’s quite pricey. It’s not one of the attractions I’ve ever gone on because there are plenty of free views in London worth their weight and gold.
However, if you book your ticket seven days in a balance, you can get 20% off and the wheel goes around slowly. So you get 25 minutes on it, which is plenty of time to take lots of photos.
Lonely Planets Lunch Recommendations
As the day was all about following Lonely Planet recommendations. I chose one of the restaurants from the book to try the book was published in 2012. This was a little bit of an issue and not all of them were open.
Skylon seemed to be the best one to go to. The restaurant is located in the Royal Festival Hall with panoramic views of the South Bank and river Thames. I am always a sucker for a view. This sounded great until I got seated at a table that didn’t have any views. It literally was just like a pillar next to the wall.
Overall, the food was nice, but it didn’t have a great vegetarian range. I was so shocked when the bill came and my wine was 17 pounds. I did not mean to spend almost the same amount of money on wine as food. That was a big mistake!
There are definitely plenty of places you can go eat in the area for a lot less money.
The Southbank Centre Food Market is one of the best street food markets in London due to its wide variety and great prices! With so many options to choose from, it’s hard not to find something that will satisfy your cravings. The markets are open Friday to Sunday and bank holidays.
Alternatively, there is a range of options such as Las Iguanas, Slice, Honest Burgers, Spiritland, Ping Pong and Wahaca.
Royal Festival Hall
As I was at the Royal Festival Hall, I went up the lift to the fifth floor to see the free views from the viewing deck, but some of the bushes just kind of hid the views. I saw glimpses of Big Ben, Parliament and the London Eye in the background.
Southbank Buildings, Second Handbook Stalls and OXO Tower
Back to the mission, the Southbank Centre is one of the largest art complexes in the world. It includes places like the Royal Festival Hall, Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, and the Poetry Library. You can’t miss it.
They are big concrete blocks. Buildings and they’re really in your face and a bit different from some of the lovely architecture you see around London.
I continue to walk underneath Waterloo Bridge and it has a vintage bookstore that you’ll find there daily. They have secondhand books and maps around London. It’s a great place to pick up a souvenir.
Following the Thames path along. I came across the OXO tower. It was built in 1929 in an Art Deco design. The building has been transformed into a creative space. You have restaurants, viewing deck shops, pop-up venues, and much more. There is quite a bit to explore here, but there is no time for that today.
In 1897, the Tate Modern opened its doors to a small collection of British artwork. Since then, it has over 70,000 modern art pieces that they have collected. It is free to enter, but I recommend booking online before visiting, so you get a space.
St Pauls Cathedral
In front of Tate Modern is St Paul’s Cathedral and you can see it across the river, over there is Millennium Bridge and it has the perfect line of sight to St. Paul’s. It is perfect for a photo opportunity or come down during sunset to watch it set over the Thames.
Not far from Millenium Bridge is the Globe Theater. It burnt down over 350 years ago and since then, it’s the only thatched building that has been built in London since the Great Fire of 1666.
From April to October, the theatre runs plays and in Shakespeare’s time, it would’ve cost one penny to stand and watch a play. Today groundlings can enjoy performances for just five Pounds.
Tours operate in the Globe all year round. Stand where some of the famous plays have been performed. You can imagine the actors on stage, their voices echoing throughout the theatre. The lights go down and they begin to recite some dialogue from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet.” It really is amazing how these words have lasted all these years!
Swan at the Globe
Attached to the Globe is the Swan. At this point I was dying to rest my feet and get a few drinks in, of course, there was a theme to some of their cocktails. One of Shakespeare’s most famous love potions is used by Fairy Park. In our Midsummer’s Night Stream.
I had to get the Love Potion, just like the Love Potion, where the petals turn from white to purple. So does the drink. They give you a glass of bubbles and this like little love potion that you pour into the drink and it creates the purple drink.
It’s such a nice fun element. When it came to the table, I was like, “Ooh, what have I got here?.” I think I get over excited by little fun elements when you’re like mixing drinks by yourself.
This one had way better views than my lunch did with the river Thames and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background, chatting to the waitress, she said, “The best time to come is in the evening when all the buildings are lit up.” She said,” It was magical.”
I knew that I would never make Borough Markets in time before they close. Ideally, you need to arrive before 4:00 PM to get the most out of Borough Markets. There is still a lot happening in the area, and it’s a perfect place to grab dinner.
For the last stop of the day, I ended up at the George Inn for half a pint. It is the only remaining gallery coaching inn, in London.
The pub can be traced back to 1542, although an inn probably stood in the spot even earlier, Shakespeare used to live and work in the area. It’s likely he would’ve been one of the patrons that used to drink here.
Personally, I only ever come here for a drink and not their food. I don’t think the food is spectacular here and there are plenty of other places in the area worth visiting.
Is It Lonely Planet Guide Book Worth It?
My whole day was spent rushing from one spot to the next, without really experiencing any of the attractions. If I was only here for 24 hours, this would’ve been a perfect day.
I would’ve been happy with it as I would’ve gotten the basics down, but I couldn’t imagine following the full four days as I’d be back and forth and all over London.
Here is where you can book tickets if you wish to visit any locations mentioned:
- National Gallery
- The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace
- London Eye
- Westminster Abbey
- Tate Modern
- Shakespeare’s Globe
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.