The UK holiday visa, my name is Glen Hargreaves I am happily married to my Thai Wife Patcharee, we have been married now for over two years. Patcharee lives in the suburbs of Bangkok Thailand and I live in what is known as ‘Geordie land’, Newcastle. I currently work in the offshore oil & gas industry as an engineer, this allows me plenty of time off to visit Patcharee in Thailand. However, I have always promised Patcharee one day I will take her to see the sights and sounds of the UK. In early May this year Patcharee applied for and received her ‘Family Visit Visa’ from the UK Embassy in Bangkok, great we could put our long-held holiday plans into place.
Upon Joys arrival into the UK in early June we obviously set about discovering the area in which I live, meet family and friends and gradually let Patcharee acclimatize to the daily life in the UK, in Newcastle where I live. We had always wanted to explore London together. This sounds strange but living Oop North, I too was a Tourist the very same as Patcharee, I too was excited by the prospect of spending time in London with my Wife and experiencing what London had to offer. We, therefore, set about auctioning our plan to visit London, as she had a 6 month UK holiday visa we had plenty of time to travel around the UK.
When we booked our holiday flat/apartment in London, we found ourselves located pretty much in the center of London. I was a bit hesitant when initially choosing the place to stay, simply because I know the City of London (that’s the name of the central London neighborhood) is the business center of the capital city. “Business center” is the type of neighborhood I usually want to be farthest from, but as it turns out, it’s actually quite a good location to be based in while in London.
Our flat/apartment was just steps away from the Monument, a column commemorating the Great Fire of London in 1666. Within walking distance, all of the following things to see were no further than a ten to fifteen-minute walk. I’m sure there’s actually more to discover in the neighborhood, but this list of things to do should be enough to keep you covered for a one week trip to the city.
Things To Do and See in the City of London
St. Paul’s Cathedral
One of London’s most iconic buildings (and trust me—there are many!), St. Paul’s Cathedral is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. The Baroque cathedral dates back centuries and its famous dome provides a dramatic view over London.
Cost to entry isn’t cheap (£16 adults; £14 students) so if you want to splurge and have a particular passion for cathedrals, spend a few hours at St Paul’s. Otherwise, enjoy a picnic lunch in the churchyard gardens and just make sure you snap a pic from the Millennium Bridge.
St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD
The View From the London Monument
Perhaps the cheapest view of London from above (if you can handle the 311 steps up) the view from the Monument is one of London’s best. Erected by famous London architect Sir Christopher Wren, it’s the tallest isolated stone column in the world and was built in 1677—just 11 years after the fire destroyed so much of the city. The Monument is located just steps away from where the Great Fire of 1666 is believed to have started—famously caused by a spark in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane.
The claustrophobic climb isn’t for the faint-of-heart. But trust me—when you make it to the top and see the light, it’s a view worth climbing for. Entry to the Monument is affordable (£3 adults; £2 students) and convenient. Just bring your hiking shoes.
Fish Street Hill, London EC3R 6DB
London Bridge is probably not what you think it is. When many think of London Bridge, they’re actually picturing Tower Bridge (see below). London Bridge is actually quite boring, but it’s conveniently located and connects the City of London to Southwark on the other side of the Thames River. While the bridge’s architecture and design is nothing to write home about, its’ story is quite funny.
The current location of London Bridge has been home to various bridges over time — many have been destroyed by the ravages of time, fire and war. So, in 1967 when the London Bridge needed repairs, the City of London decided to sell off the bridge before replacing it. As the story goes, an American businessman purchased London Bridge at the time, thinking that it was actually the significantly more iconic London Bridge. London Bridge was shipped overseas and now sits in a small town in Arizona.
On the Southwark side of London Bridge, you’ll find several great tourist sites to visit. Borough Market, Southwark Cathedral and the Queens Walk are all places worth seeing.
Arguably one of London’s best markets, the Borough Market operates every day but Sundays during lunchtime and is home to some of London’s best street food operators and cheap eats. Students flock here for the good deals (expect to pay £3-£7 for a hearty lunch), and celebrities stop by on occasion. (Jude Law was rumored to have been spotted among the food stalls just a few days before my visit.)
Food stalls at Borough Market range from traditional English foods (meat pies!) to Indian curries, vegan and vegetarian options, greasy burgers and of course fish & chips. There are a few food tours through the market, but you might also consider joining a Harry Potter themed tour with MuggleTours.co.uk which starts here and walks you through notable scenes and spots of inspiration from the books & movies.
8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL
This complex structure is everything and nothing at once. The multipurpose Barbican Centre includes the Museum of London where you can learn more about the first days of this global metropolis—its fires and its plagues. The entire centre stands as a once perfect solution for a real state crisis. The brutalist architecture mixes fluid and solid forms, satisfying both the housing needs of London’s many citizens while providing food for the soul; libraries, workshops, cinemas and more are hidden in the Barbican core.
Some remnants of the ancient London Wall can even be spotted if you know where to look. Get lost in this architectural monster (trust me—it’s easy) and imagine how your life would be if you were one of the residents of this symmetrical nightmare. It’s a love it or hates it a relationship. Guess how I feel.
Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
Tower of London
The site of some rather grisly tales from the British monarchy, the Tower of London is also one of the world’s longest running tourist attractions. Throughout its thousand-year history, the Tower of London has been used as a royal residence, an armory, a treasury, a zoo and the Royal Mint.
Today if you visit, you can get a glimpse of the Crown Jewels if you’re willing to splurge on a ticket (£21 adults; £18 students). Look out for special exhibitions about British Monarchy history.
London EC3N 4AB
London’s most iconic bridge (though the newer Millennium Bridge could probably give it a run for its’ money), Tower Bridge is often referred to as London Bridge. The short and stubby bridge connects the Tower of London with the southern side of the Thames but makes for some great photography.
It’s possible to visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition and get some decent panoramic views of London for under a tenner (£8 adults; £5.60 students). There are so many things to do in London, but if one thing you’re almost certain to do is getting a photo of Tower Bridge—try to get one from the popular Queen’s Walk promenade along the southern side of the Thames. And for a truly special London experience, check the Tower Bridge’s official website (below) to find out the bridge lift times.
Probably one of the most important art institutions in our world, the Tate Modern has a well-deserved reputation. Surprising you with both its permanent and temporary exhibitions, the major goal when you visit it is to challenge your perceptions of aesthetics and beauty. Is this art? Or not? It doesn’t really matter.
If you get tired and need a rest from the Mondrian’s and Lichtenstein’s, then go to the store and check the products or visit the terrace for a lovely view of the Thames flowing by. As the entrance is free for everyone (the museums work mostly on donations), be generous. Art needs a place to sleep…or maybe to dream. The Tate Modern gallery is open every day, from 10 to 18 o’clock, except Fridays and Saturdays when you can hang around until 22:00.
Bankside, London SE1 9TG
No matter if you prefer to stand like the people or sit as the nobles did centuries ago, the Globe Theatre will enchant you. The performances are simply superb. How much time do these artists need to learn their lines, to move so soft? Book in advance if you want to be certain you’ll get a place.
On stage, the usual: Laughs, cries, blood, wine and human nature. Actors screaming from above, ships moving at your side, the magic of theatre is everywhere. And if Shakespeare did his part-writing these wonderful plays—and here we are ignoring all the debate about his writing—the staff would do its best to protect you from the rain, to have your food and drink ready for the intermission (preorder is amazing) and to welcome you with a smile. Sound good? Well, then be sure to visit in the summer. No winter performances. Tickets are from £5 to £39.
1 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT
For those into the darker side of history, a visit to London’s Clink Prison Museum is a good place to start. One of England’s oldest prisons, it was the site of countless tortures since it’s operation in the 12th century. The prison was so notorious in its heyday, that it’s now become part of our everyday vernacular to refer to prisons as “the clink.” Visits to the museum are relatively affordable (£7.50 adults; £5.50 students). Inside you’ll find torture equipment and educational guides about former prisoners and what it was like inside the prison.
1 Clink St London SE1 9DG
The London Eye
Also known as the Millennium Wheel, the Eye is a great Ferris wheel situated on the Thames across from the Palace of Westminster. It is approximately 443 feet tall and the wheel has a diameter of 394 feet. It is not only Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel, but also the most popular tourist attraction in the UK, clocking over 3.5 million visitors annually. For a greater cost, you can also reserve one of the capsules for a private ride. The views of London are magnificent.
The West End
Many tourist locations are in this part of central London, but the real reason you should go is that it is home to the theatre district. Much like New York’s Broadway, the West End represents some of the best theatres in the English-speaking world and many top shows can be found there. Also referred to as “Theatreland”, there are some 40 venues within the district, presenting visitors with many opportunities to see a great show and perhaps a television or film celebrity.
George IV commissioned the public space in tribute to Lord Nelson’s famous naval victory against Napoleon. Lord Nelson’s column is a central feature of the square and is dedicated to his memory, and is guarded by four lion statues. Several other statues dot the area dedicated to other important Britons such as King George IV, Major-General Sir Henry Havelock, and General Sir Charles James Napier. The square is also a regular gathering place for Londoners and one of the regular political demonstrations. And the National Gallery is always worth a visit.
One of the oldest and greatest department stores in the world, it’s hard to find many like it in modern times. From clothes to toys to groceries, you can find a little bit of everything at Harrod’s. If you happen to find yourself a bit peckish (or hungry, as it were), there are several restaurants in the store from the more elegant establishments, cafes, and even a Krispy Kreme donut station. The store famously has two memorials dedicated to the late Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed, installed by Mohamed Al-Fayed (though some say it’s tacky, we leave that judgment to you).
Summary of our holiday in the UK
In summary BOTH Patcharee and I really enjoyed our visit and did indeed visit the attractions mentioned we can highly recommend a trip to London both for the foreigner and indeed someone who has live in the UK all there life but never visited. My only recommendation is do your homework first before traveling, we have listed some useful links below that we used when planning our trip. Enjoy your visit to London as I and Patcahree did, so much so Patcharee and I are now planning a life in the UK together and are preparing Patcahree’s UK Spouse Settlement visa ! – good luck with your trip.
- 101 FREE things to do in London – http://londontopia.net/101-free-things-to-do-in-london/
- 100 Top London attractions –http://top100londonattractions.com/
- Visit London site – http://www.visitlondon.com/
- Official City of London Site – http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/visiting-the-city/Pages/default.aspx
- Map and trip planning tool – http://www.tripomatic.com/lp/London-Printable-Tourist-Map/
Take your partner for a short stay then you must apply for a UK holiday visa.