Let me start this post with a caveat. If you are into travel photography and a master of short itineraries, don’t visit London during winter especially if you only have 2 days in London. Two undeniable reasons for this:
1. It’s too cold to venture out. More than the temperature, it’s the freezing wind and icy drizzle that sucks. And if you have just a few days in hand, you should be super lucky to see the sun. Without the sun all the pictures turn up dull and trust me, you don’t want to end up with Photoshop as your savior.
2. The days are too short – the biggest disadvantage if you are into travel photography. By the time you fix up your tripod, adjust your focus and aim at your subject, the sun is long gone below the horizon, leaving you alone to fight the dark and cold.
Now since we are done with the caveat let’s start with the fun part, our whirlwind 2 days in London voyage. We were in London for a week but chose the wrong time to be there in spite of family advice. The effects of a full-time job I guess 😉 . I must admit I underestimated the English winter. The weather was so bloody freezing that we had to remain indoors for most of the time. We could effectively make out only 2 days in London to explore this beautiful city. But the same weather can work wonders if you are just visiting family. With nothing to do outdoors, your indoor time will be amped up. Our trip was a mix of family visit and sightseeing so in the end, we got what we planned.
2 days in London is not enough to explore this beautiful city. But if you plan it right and prioritize your targets, you might just be able to visit the top destinations London is famous for. An early start would definitely give you the best chance at getting the most out of the limited daylight hours. Apart from that an early start can also save your some bucks if you are staying in the suburbs.
We were staying at Crawley with family, far from central London. The best part of being in Crawley is the short distance from Gatwick airport. The ride from the airport to home was about 15 minutes. From Crawley, it takes about an hour to reach central London by train which is the best way. We saved a lot on our train travel as well as city tours just by listening to our London expert (my brother in law). So, let me return the favor by sharing the tips with our traveling community. If you are staying in the suburbs, the tips below can help you save a lot.
We highly recommend traveling on off-peak hours to and from central London. Fairs are lot cheaper that way. And if you book online in advance that is an additional saving of few pounds. For information on peak/off peak hour timing and prices, you can refer to the website www.nationalrail.co.uk. There are various train companies in the UK with their own websites like www.southernrailway.com, www.southwesttrains.co.uk etc. So buying online is always cheaper than buying directly at the station.
Day1 of our 2 days in London
We decided to walk central London on day 1 of our 2 days in London. The reason for this was because we wanted to spend maximum time at the top three destinations on our list. And there’s no better way to soak the London sun than walking under it. Yes, it was sunny finally after 3 days of cold and rain.
We purchased an off-peak train return ticket with a London day travel card from Three Bridges station (Crawley) to Blackfriars station (central London). Now there are several stations to get to central London and the ticket prices differ to all these stations. We chose Blackfriars because it was the cheapest off-peak option as compared to London Victoria.
As I said before, browse through www.nationalrail.co.uk and dig out the best fair options with or without a travel card. A travel card means unlimited travel by London Tube/Bus. Another great way to plan your train, tube or bus route is to use the “Transport for London” government website.
A recent development is the introduction of contactless cards, which can save a lot of money as it only charges point to point and is a good option if you don’t travel several locations or several times.
From Blackfriars, we boarded the tube to Westminster station and emerged right next to the Palace of Westminster with the Big Ben standing tall in front of us.
Pirates Tip: It’s a good vantage point to capture London Eye from the Westminster end of Thames. You can do some cool framing.
We bought a combo pass for London Eye and Thames cruise (which is cheaper than booking separate). We availed a 2 for 1 voucher at Westminster station beforehand which is valid if you have the day travel pass. Another advantage of having a day travel card 🙂
Now comes the interesting part – the queue. It took us about half an hour to get to our pod. The queue here can get nasty long and half an hour is considered a very good time to get in. I have read reviews of people standing for more than an hour ruining the whole experience. We took a corner as soon as we entered our pod for the best view. As we went higher the view got better and better. As expected, from the top we got a spectacular view of central London. With the sun at horizon, everything was shining in a golden yellow hue.
The river cruise queue was small compared to London Eye. We took our seats on the upper deck to enjoy the excellent view with some nice humor filled commentary. It was very cold especially with the wind hissing on our ears. The cruise starts from London Eye towards Westminster abbey where it takes a U-turn towards Tower Bridge and returns back from Tower Bridge to London Eye.
Pirates Tip: if you are doing this in winter, make sure you are covered fully right from your head to toe. There is a significant change in temperature once you are off-land, mainly because of the unobstructed wind. I could barely feel my fingers on the camera by the time the cruise was over.
Whatever be the conditions you must never skip this. The cruise is fun and for someone interested in photography, adds a new perspective and frame to capture Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge and lot more.
Day 2 of our 2 days in London
On day 2 of our 2 days in London, we decided to take the Hop on Hop off bus service to cover the remaining destinations in our itinerary. I knew from the start that this was a tough shot. As I said before, 2 days in London is too demanding to cover this beautiful city. If you don’t want to cram up your itinerary we would highly recommend a hop on hop off tour for at least a day. The best thing about taking a hop on hop off tour is that you can maintain a flow while exploring the city and never get lost in the map. Since the routes are already planned, you can select your desired route and entry point and hop off to explore the ones of interest while passing the others. There are three main companies offering hop on hop off services and you can choose anyone matching your requirements. We chose Big Bus London as the reviews were good and the route was covering pretty much everything we wanted to visit. Make sure to book the tours online at least a day in advance. This will save some money for sure.
We took the morning train to Victoria station and boarded a bus from right outside the station. Our first stop was Hyde Park for a short walk followed by a quick visit to the Marble Arch.
2 days in London is hectic and would demand a lot of energy and planning just to visit the top attractions. Hope this post can help you plan out a quick itinerary. Do let us know if you have any updated information that can make this post even more helpful.
Signing off for now…….