With the eyes of the world on London June 2 to 5 for Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebrations, there are many of us not on the royal guest list who'll also want behold the spectacle of this monumental occasion firsthand. Flights and hotels are booking fast as travelers from around the globe make plans to be in London for the official anniversary celebrations of her Majesty's 60 year reign.
Kerstin Sowden, admitted anglophile and UK Manager at Kensington Tours has created both a variety of premium and luxury Jubilee packages for tourists going to the festivities. Below find a list of her travel tips for planning your own Diamond Jubilee adventure. So grab your Union Jack and get ready to experience British history in the making. Long Live The Queen!
Where to Stay: For those monarchy enthusiasts who plan to celebrate in style, stay at the Royal Horseguards Hotel overlooking the river. There you can watch the spectacle of the Thames Boat Pageant from the luxury of your own suite. If five stars are beyond your budget, there are plenty of great hotels nestled in the heart of London's Jubilee festivities. My pick for travelers is The Strand Palace in the West End.
The Royal Events: London will be packed with a variety of fun filled British traditions, activities and events. From time-honoured customs like the Thames Boat Pageant (June 3), Beacon Lighting Ceremony (June 4) and Royal Carriage Procession (June 5), to festivities such as the star-studded BBC concert (June 4), Andy Warhol's tribute at the National Portrait Gallery's The Queen: Art & Image (May - Oct.), the city wide Big Lunch (June 3) and sipping pints with the locals during street parties, there is something for every type of traveler.
If You Want to See the Queen, Get There Early: For the stately ceremonies such as the Thames Boat Pageant and Royal Carriage Procession where you have a chance to see the Queen, be sure to wake up early in order to claim your spot amongst the crowds. Stake your place along one of the many bridges crossing the river or the South Bank's promenade for a premium view of the majestic boat pageant. To truly experience the pomp and circumstance of the Queen's Carriage Procession from Buckingham Palace to St Paul's Cathedral, I recommend standing anywhere along The Mall or Strand.
Save Time and Money with a London Pass: The most popular historical highlights like the Tower of London, Windsor Castle and Westminster are going to be just packed and entry queues long. I give every Kensington traveler a London Pass that lets them bypass the lines and offers free admission to over 55 of the city's top attractions, museums, tours and adventures.
Sightseeing on a Budget: A trip to London is never cheap, but surprisingly it also doesn't have to be expensive. There are heaps of things to do that even commoners can afford. Feed the birds in Trafalgar Square, catch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, grab a £5 standing ticket to watch Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre or simply stroll through Hyde, Regent or St James Park. In addition, all the top museums and galleries don't charge for entry. I recommend Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate Modern, the British Museum and the National Gallery. With regards to celebrating the Jubilee, good news as all the official public events are free!
How To Get Around: The streets are going to be far busier than normal with street parties and road closures. Taking hackney carriages (the city's quintessential black cabs) or hiring a car could just result in spending your vacation in a traffic jam. The fastest way to get around will be the Tube or a red double-decker bus. I've made sure that every Kensington traveler has a Travelcard that offers unlimited trips during their visit.
Kerstin Sowden, Kensington's United Kingdom Manager and Destination Expert is no stranger to the ins and outs of London at its busiest. She created Kensington's popular Royal Wedding Tours showcasing the nuptials of Will and Kate last year and designed the company's upcoming Summer Games Experiences.