Planning Stonehenge Tours or Visits? Read These Tips First!

Stonehenge is a bucket-list item for many tourists heading to the UK. But it’s one of those attractions that are a little outside the city that force you to make plans in order to plan a good visit. Here are some tips for anybody planning their Stonehenge tours or visits in the near future.

A word on Stonehenge

Stonehenge and the surrounding structures date back as far as 5,000 years ago. Today, the location is still full of mystery with some speculating that the site was for astronomical purposes while others have pointed to more sinister happenings like human sacrifice. Considering that the structure has existed for so many centuries it probably served a multitude of purposes.

Just recently, geophysicists discovered around 15 more underground monuments that may take our understanding to a whole new level (pun unintended). Clearly, there’s a lot more to Stonehenge than just the monolithic stones that make it up.

If you can get into the fascinating history and mystery of Stonehenge and take advantage of a few simple practical tips, you’ll  have a great trip to Stonehenge even if you aren’t excited about the prospect of paying to see “a bunch of rocks.”

Stonehenge day time
Stonehenge on a nice September afternoon.

To make your Stonehenge tours or visits better, here are some things to know about Stonehenge.

Stonehenge ticket prices

  • Book online: Adult prices are £16.50 per person; kids (5-15) are £9.90 per person
  • Walk-up prices: Adult prices are £19.30 per person; kids (5-15) are £10.50 per person
  • There are also family prices you look into
  • Free! – We didn’t do this but apparently some people will simply walk from the parking lot to the outside barriers of Stonehenge to see it. This is actually not that bad of an idea if your goal is to simply see the structure.

Book in Advance

If you just show up to Stonehenge, you are not guaranteed admission any longer. Thus, you really need to book your tickets in advance, plus you save a pound if you do so. Generally, you can book your tickets the day of or day before so there’s usually not a huge rush to book them but the morning time slots will fill up sometimes.

Stonehenge tours from London

A lot of tourists visiting London want to make it out to Stonehenge. The problem is that not everyone has a vehicle or is willing to drive through London to get there.

The good news is that there are Stonehenge tours from London! If you’re interested in booking a roundtrip tour from London to Stonehenge, then click here.

It’s going to be a day trip since the entire trip will last around six hours. But if you really want to see Stonehenge and you’re staying London, this might be the best option for you.

Stonehenge tour from London
Book a Stonehenge tour from London.
  • Quick tip: while it’s a good idea to respect the time slot you selected, the admission folks don’t require you to enter during that time. We happened to show up an hour early and we were able to get in just fine.

Getting to the Stonehenge parking lot 

If you put Stonehenge into your GPS it might just lead you to the rocks and not the entrance like it did us. However, just follow the signs showing Stonehenge and you will eventually wind up seeing a huge parking lot with big charter busses parked inside.

Find a parking spot and then head towards the ticket booth. Another reason why you want to book online is that the line is much shorter to get in.

The hike or the trolley?

You have a choice to walk or ride a trolley to Stonehenge from the visitor center area. Because we had some little ones with us and the wind was pretty brutal we opted to take the trolley. However, the walk to the rocks would definitely add more excitement to the trip as well as an adequate build-up to seeing the stones.

There are tons of burial mounds that you will see along the way and it’s really cool and fascinating to think about the stuff that probably occurred in and around the area. So if the weather’s not too bad, go ahead and make the walk to the site; you can always take the trolley on your way back.

Stonehenge Burial Mound
Photo by Amanda Slater.

You’ll be walking in a circle… enjoy it

Stonehenge seems to receive a fair amount of criticism for being a boring destination. A lot of that stems from the fact that the visit is a bit anti-climatic (and to some over commercialized). You show up, walk around in a circle, head to the gift shop, and then it’s over.

So my advice is to take your time, admire all of the different view points, take plenty of photos, and really take time to ponder the history of this place. And like I mentioned, that’s key to having a great visit. Try to read up on at least a little bit of history before your visit so you can appreciate this place.

There’s some truly fascinating history to find out about. And not just stories of the past, read up on some of the recent developments and breakthroughs that historians and scientists have discovered — it’s pretty mind-blowing that we are just now discovering more about what this civilization was all about.

Stonehenge tours
Embrace what Stonehenge has to offer.

It can get pretty windy and a little crowded

We went to Stonehenge on a relatively cool and calm September day in southern England.

However, when we arrived to Stonehenge the wind was really strong and whipping us in the face pretty much the entire time. For that reason, you want to be sure to bring some sort of defense against the wind because you will likely be standing still as the wind batters down on you.

Also, around peak times mid-day it can get a little crowded. The good news is that there is room for you to wander off into the grass and get away from the crowds a bit.

Cloudy days are great for Stonehenge photos

Don’t be discouraged by the forecast upon your visit to Stonehenge. While I prefer the look of the sun casting stark contrasting shadows among the stones, even cloudy days will offer you spectacular view of the site. In my opinion, the cloudiness allows you to capture the mysteriousness of Stonehenge in a way that a bright blue sky doesn’t offer. So regardless of what the weather looks like, you will be in able to capture this place in unique and interesting ways and shouldn’t feel discouraged.

Stonehenge tours.
Stonehenge is full of mysteries.

You either appreciate it or you don’t

At the risk of sounding slightly offensive, in my opinion, visitors to Stonehenge fall into two categories: those who appreciate it and those who don’t. And I’m not saying that if you don’t appreciate Stonehenge you’re somehow ignorant, uncultured, or less of a traveler or something along those lines.

I think it’s just a personal preference thing.

Some people enjoy hiking, others don’t. Some people enjoy ruin sites, others don’t. For me, seeing Stonehenge was an absolute bucket list item. For others, it’s just a “bunch of rocks” that you have to pay to look at.

Hopefully, you’ll fall into the “appreciator” category and will enjoy the visit as much as I did. Otherwise, you’ll probably be ready to leave after about 10-15 minutes, honestly. If you are fairly confident that Stonehenge will not do much for you but still feel the urge to visit it, then perhaps the free option described above will best for you.

Stonehenge tour
Hopefully, you’ll appreciate Stonehenge as much as I did.

Consider a Stonehenge private tour

A Stonehenge private tour or private access will allow you to actually walk amongst the stones. Here’s the deal, though: it’s not easy to book. If you book a private tour through a company it’s usually going to cost you close to £100 per person (though these tours usually offer more than just seeing Stonehenge).

There is a way to book a private Stonehenge tour (non-guided) without paying that much, however.

English Heritage Association Stonehenge tours

You do this by applying with the English Heritage Association. The inner circle access costs 38.50 for adults (16+) and £23.10 for children aged 5-15. The times available for the tour differ throughout the year — you can find out more about these inner circle tours here and here.

You can only book for either sunrise or sunset times (which happen to be the times for the best pics). The only real catch is that you have to plan this well in advance. You will likely have to plan this at least a month in advance unless you get lucky and there are some open slots.

I recommend doing the private access route because I think that being able to move about the inner circle adds a whole other dimension to your experience —  not to mention plenty of unique photo opportunities that are not available to the general public.

The new visitor center ain’t too shabby

They recently built a visitor center and gift shop and it’s pretty nice. Take some time to stroll through the shop and you’ll find plenty of quality souvenirs for all budgets. There’s also a cafe on-site, though we didn’t choose to eat there so I can’t comment on the quality of the restaurant.

Final word on Stonehenge tours and visits

So there you have it. The recipe for successful Stonehenge tours and visits: read up on the history, book in advance (really try to get the inner-circle access), choose the walking option from the entrance gate, take your time soaking in and marveling at the site, and bring plenty of wind-resistant/cold weather apparel. If you do all of these things and harness the power of your imagination along the way then you are setting yourself up for a great visit.

Top 17 Tourist Attractions in London

If you’re coming to London it’s really hard not to be a tourist for at least a day or two. Even after spending months and months living there, I still enjoyed putting on my tourist hat and venturing to different tourists shops and attractions from time to time. However, London is absolutely full of tourist attractions. I had the luxury of time on my side when it came to trying out these attractions but if you only have one or two weeks then it can be a littler harder to narrow down your choices. Hopefully this list of MY top 17 tourist attractions in London can help you plan a little better, especially if you’re into the broad range of interests like myself.

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17. Hyde Park (Free-£)

Hyde Park, one of the largest parks in London, is a great place to go for a nice walk and get a little relaxation from the city life for a bit. Together with Kensington Gardens it encompasses 253 hectares (625 acres) and while a bit smaller than Central Park in New York, it’s still pretty easy to find some solitude in this park, at least momentarily. If you’re in the mood to expend a little bit of energy then consider renting pedal boats for about £10 on the Serpentine for an hour or so and enjoy the scenery from the lake. Check the events calendar to see if anything interesting is coming up and consider stopping by Speakers’ Corner, a traditional site of public speeches and protests since the mid 1800s.

Hyde Park
Hyde Park

16. The National Gallery (Free)

The National Gallery in London is one of the best places in Europe to see tons of renowned art work. Come here to see Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers (the most famous of the bunch he painted) and some other works of his as well. There’s also tons of Rembrandt and works from countless other famous artists like Johannes Vermeer and Titian. Apart from the art, the building’s architecture, both inside and out, is also a site worthy of a visit on its own.

Van Goghs famous Sunflowers

15. Big Ben and Westminster Palace (Free)

If there’s one thing you’ve got to see while you’re vacationing in London its Big Ben, right? Make your way to the Westminster Tube Station and step on out and bam! Big Ben is right in your face! Take a stroll across the River Thames on Westminster Bridge as you listen to the bell’s echo from inside the clock tower and feel like you’ve officially made it to London. This area is usually filled to the brim with tourists about 99% of the time so be prepared for swarms of people. However, I’ve found it to be relatively calm to visit it at night when far fewer people are around so consider an evening visit for a less stressful experience.

Big Ben London at night

14. The British Library (Free)

The British Library might not be at the top of your list but it should definitely be a strong contender for a place to see in London, especially if you’re even remotely interested in history. It’s free to get in and the place is full of fascinating documents like the Magna Carta, original Shakespeare print books, original music sheets from greats like Mozart and Bach, works from the Beatles, and even Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook. That’s just a small fraction of what there is to see there and if you catch an exhibit at the right time, you can see a lot of other cool stuff (we saw Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Declaration of Independence alongside an original copy of the Bill of Rights).

Sculpture outside The British Library
Magna Carta The British Library

13. Take a double-decker bus (£)

When you think of London these big red busses are probably one of the first things that spring to your mind. While you’re in the city you might as well take advantage of a great (and cheap) way to take in the scenery. (Go straight up to the second deck and try to sit in the front row for the best views.) Sure, you can always go for the hop-on-hop-off busses but taking one of the official red busses will allow you to get up close with some real Londoners and it’s a great way to people watch as you navigate through the busy streets of London. The bus fare is only £1.50 and they accept Oyster Cards, contactless payments, and even Apple Pay making it very convenient for tourists.

Red double-decker bus London

12. Watch a West End Show (££-£££)

London’s great theatre scene is one of the best in the world. There are numerous theaters available for you to choose from and countless plays to see like Wicked, Stomp, The Phantom of the Opera, and my favorite, The Lion King. I’ve actually seen the Lion King in both New York and London and I think that both are equally spectacular. West End shows are going to cost you a pretty penny usually but in some cases you can find reasonable rates for the tickets, all depending on where you want to sit of course.

The Lion King - Lyceum Theatre
The Lion King – Lyceum Theatre. Photo by Andy Roberts

11. Tower Bridge (Free-£)

To many, Tower Bridge is the most famous bridge in the world. It’s one of the many iconic sites around the city and is always a great place to take a few memorable photos. Built in the late 1800s, it was originally considered an eye sore to many locals but as time went on, the love for the bridge began to grow. Today, you can go inside the bridge and walk across the glass floor walkway for only about £8 — it’s an interesting experience and offers you a slightly dizzying view of the River Thames below and panoramic views of the London skyline. If you’re not interested in going inside the bridge, then try to plan your visit for a time when the bridge will be opening for ships to pass through, it only happens a few times a week so witnessing it is a pretty cool feat.

Tower bridge London
Tower Bridge London

10. Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio (££)

So if you’re not a Harry Potter fan then this option may not excite you much and there’s nothing I can really do for you. However, if you are a Harry Potter fan then you really can’t turn down the option of going to see the Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour because it will blow your mind. This “studio” is more of a Harry Potter museum to me and it’s chock-full of thousands of props, amazing sets like Diagon Alley, and full of a bunch of inside info on the Harry Potter movies. Make sure to get you some butterbeer and maybe a chocolate frog or two before you leave but be weary of overpriced gift shop at the end! Tickets start at £25-33 for children/adults.

Diagon Alley Harry Potter London
Weasleys Dining room Harry Potter tour London

9. The London Eye (£)

London Eye

There are a number of options for you to get a great view of the city of London. You’ve got the Shard, Tower Bridge, The London Eye, and a great deal of other options around the city. While the “Coca-Cola” London Eye is about as touristy as it gets, I still give it the nod because of the great shots you’re afforded of Big Ben and Westminster Palace — I’m not aware of any other easily accessible views as good as this one, though they may be out there. A full rotation on the Eye takes about 30 minutes so you have more than plenty of time to take in and photograph your views, and if you’re feeling the need to splurge on champagne or chocolate, there are plenty of options for you to do so here. But if you just want to keep it simple, tickets start at about £20.

The Shard London

8. The Natural History Museum (Free)

The Natural History Museum is a perfect destination to bring the family to. But even if you don’t have kids, it’s still a great place to entertain yourself for a few hours as you discover fully assembled dinosaur remains, massive whales skeletons suspended from the ceiling, intricate displays of birds and creepy-crawlies, and get a taste of what a real-life earthquake feels like while standing in a quivering mini-market. And the best part is: the museum is free. The museum is home to over 80 million items so you don’t need me to tell you that there’s a lot to see here. Try to allocate between 2-3 hours if you really want to see a lot of it, though if you’re a science lover you might still need more time than that.

Outside Natural History Museum London
Dinosaur Bones Natural History Museum London

7. Westminster Abbey (Free-£)

This iconic building is one of the most beautiful structures in the entire city of London. The history of the site dates all the way back to the 11th century when Edward the Confessor founded it in 1065. Everything about the place has an almost scared feel to it. It’s been home to every Coronation since 1066, 16 royal weddings, and it’s where thousands of prominent British figures have been buried, including 17 monarchs. There’s a lot to see inside including St. George’s Chapel, the portrait of Richard II (the oldest surviving portrait of a British Monarch, the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, plenty of other memorial sites, along with the stunning Gothic architecture. Tickets for tours will run you £20 for adults and you can book online.

Outside Westminster Abbey London

6. Day trip to Stonehenge (£)

If you’re coming to London for a week or so and you’re interested in doing a day trip there are more than plenty of options. There’s Oxford, Bath, and any number of small towns and villages you can check out only about an hour or two away. If you’re into “wonders of the world” type attractions then consider giving Stonehenge a visit. I’ve got some tips for visiting Stonehenge but the best word of advice I have is to do your best to read up on the history of the site and try to get yourself excited about seeing such a mysterious and legendary structure. Otherwise, you may fall victim to the “it’s just a bunch of rocks” mindset. Also, try to book an inner-circle private tour if you can spare the extra £ because your experience will be much more intimate with the “Henge.” Standard tickets start at about £15.


5. Fish-n-chips/Pubs (£)

This one is a given but you’ve got to try to make sure that you give yourself the opportunity to try some good ole fashion British fish and chips while you’re here. I tried at least a handful of places over the year’s time that I was in England and just about any pub I tried them at in London left me pretty satisfied  (the meat pies are always a solid option as well).

British fish and chips with peas

In addition to feasting on fish and chips do your best to try to experience one of the over 7,000 pubs in the London area. The pub culture is really something that sets London/Britain apart from many other places in the world and is a major part of London’s charm. You may notice that people are always at the pub, especially from about 4-7 when many of the pubs have lads lining the exterior of the pub because there isn’t any room inside. That’s how dedicated Britons are to their pubs.  Try your luck by just hopping into the nearest pub or check out some of the top pubs in London.

4. Catch a game at Wembley Stadium (££-£££)

Wembley Stadium is a brilliant stadium and one of the coolest venues I’ve ever watched a sporting event at. I didn’t manage to catch a soccer (football) game there but I did catch an NFL game and it was a really cool experience. Fans from all the different teams showed up and it created a unique sporting atmosphere. We were there to see the Dallas Cowboys take on the Jacksonville Jaguars but a lot of people were there just to rep their team (in full game-day attire). If you’re visiting in the fall and you’re an NFL fan, then I highly recommend you attending one of these games! (Just try to get your seats a little early because the prices can get a little high.)

Wembley Stadium

3. Buckingham Palace (Free-££)

Checking out Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard may be one of the most quintessential London things there is to do (for tourists, that is). When you visit the Palace, take a look to see if the flag is flying on top of the palace — if it is that means the Queen is home. If the Queen happens to be out and about then you can actually arrange a tour of the state rooms and the Queen’s Gallery for about £35. Not looking to drop the extra quid on a tour? Then take the free option and check out which days you can witness the changing of the guard ceremony, always starting at 11:30 am.

Royal Gibraltar Regiment Soldiers Take Part in Changing the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace
Photo by UK Ministry of Defence

2. The British Museum (Free)

The British Museum is one of the finest museums in the world and one of my all time favorites. And once again, it’s yet another free attraction in London! The highlights of my trip to the British Museum were seeing the Greek Parthenon marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and the Easter Island statue. Of course, there were hundreds of other remarkable exhibits including Egyptian, Roman, and Asian artifacts so whatever your appetite is for history it will likely be appeased here. This place is very busy during the day and on weekends, though, so try to plan your visit for early in the morning if you want to a little bit of time to enjoy the exhibits in peace.

British Museum
Rosetta Stone

1. The Tower of London (£)

The Tower of London is a must-see destination for anyone coming to London, even if you’re not into touristy destinations. That’s because there’s so much history in these walls that it’s hard to imagine not stopping by it for at least some time. If you pay to go in (about £20) you’ll have the chance to follow along on an official Beefeater tour as they take you by Traitor’s Gate and old execution sites. You’ll also get a chance to see the astonishing display of the Crown Jewels, which is a brilliant collection of crowns, sceptres, and spoons (Coronation spoons — they’re kind of a big deal). In addition to that, it’s a great feeling to just  walk along the castle walls like people have done for hundreds of years and ponder all the rich history of this site that dates back to the 11th century. If you’re planning way ahead, then look into booking a slot at the Ceremony of the Keys, a nightly ceremony that’s been going on every night for over 700 years! Not many tourists find out about the ceremony until it’s too late for them to book, so be sure to get on it if you’re interested.

Tower of London

London’s Newest Tourist Attraction: The Glass Floor at Tower Bridge

Last weekend Brad and I ventured to one of London’s newest tourist attractions: the glass floor walkway at the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Overall, it was a fun experience and for the relatively cheap price I think it was worth it. Here’s what you need to know to plan your own trip to Tower Bridge.

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I felt admission was reasonably priced, at least for London’s standards. Make sure that you book online to save a few pounds and if you’re a student or hold some other special status, don’t forget to claim your discount. There are no specific time periods to select for your visit but rather you just select a day and you’re ticket is good for a visit on that particular day. Here are the prices:

  • £8 per adult (if booked online)
  • £9 per adult if purchased on site

The entrance to the exhibition is at the northwest tower. To get there, make your way to the west side of the bridge and simply follow the sidewalk until you arrive at the Exhibition Center. The lobby is pretty small and I can only imagine how packed it gets inside there during peak summer hours. Still, the line went by pretty quickly and we were giving them my phone to scan my eTicket within minutes.

Once you arrive at the top floor but before you enter the walkway, there’s a short film presentation on the history of the bridge. It’s fairly entertaining and an interesting way to get some background information on the history of the bridge. Once that’s over, you’re ready to head to the walkway toward the glass floor.

In the walkway there are a lot of different interpretive panels on the history of Tower Bridge and other fascinating bridges across the world. A quick aside: these panels, and many others, claim that Tower Bridge is the most famous bridge in the world. I think that might be up for debate, however. Personally, I think that the Golden Gate Bridge is worthy of the most famous bridge title. Sure, that could be my West Coast bias coming into play, but I’d be willing to bet that Tower Bridge is often confused with London Bridge so much that the Golden Gate Bridge is more readily recognized by the average person. Regardless of who is really #1, however, there’s no denying Tower Bridge is still a spectacular bridge.

Tower Bridge London

But back to the point… the hall housing the glass walkway was a little busy for my liking. Not quite overwhelming but every section of the small glass walk was occupied pretty much at all times making it kind of difficult to really get the kind of photographs I was hoping for. And just when it started to thin out, more tourists poured in. I really think that the walkway would be a much bigger hit if it were much longer but I could understand how that could pose problems to both the structure and architectural integrity of the bridge. Despite dealing with the crowds a little bit, it was still an interesting experience just stepping out onto the glass platform.

Tower Bridge London

Once you step on the glass and are looking way down at the River Thames, the view definitely plays tricks with your mind. I felt a little dizzy and as if my brain was on adrenaline stand-by mode as I took my first steps onto the glass. It’s really cool to look down on all of the pedestrians walking across the bridge and to see all of the classic London taxis and busses making their way across. If you really wanted to make the most out of your experience then I recommend that you plan your visit for a time when the bridge will be opening. That would really make the experience a lot more worthwhile to me, as you’d have a bird’s eye view of Tower Bridge rising up right beneath you.

Tower Bridge glass walkway
Looking down at Tower Bridge from the glass walkway
Tower Bridge London
Glass walkway from under Tower Bridge
A view of the glass walkway from under the bridge.

It was pretty funny to see how different people reacted on the glass walk. On the one hand, there were people laying down carefree on the glass taking selfies and posing precariously. On the other hand, there were quite a few people who were actually too scared to even step foot on the glass. These people tiptoed on the outside of the glass to make it by as if there was nothing there to protect them from falling.

The view from the walkway of the Thames, downtown London, and the Tower of London were okay but not really phenomenal. The crossbeams and thick glass windows made it a little difficult to get great views of the city but there were good enough views to appreciate the city. I’m sure the views are much better up in the Shard or even the London Eye, but for a fraction of the price, these views were good enough.

Tower Bridge London
View of downtown London from the Tower Bridge Exhibition
View of downtown London from the Tower Bridge Exhibition

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After you make your way to the south tower there’s another film on the construction of the bridge you can watch. This film was mid-way through when we stepped into the room so we just continued on. To get out, you go through a number of flights of stairs and on your way down there’s some cool views of the interior of the towers as well as the city of London. Also, take some time to check out some of the min-exhibits set up along the way and don’t forget to look up to see some manican-workers perched up on the beams.

Tower Bridge London
Tower Bridge London
Tower Bridge London
Tower Bridge London

Once you make your way back down you can follow the blue line to get a glimpse of the engine room. Since we were on a bit of a time crunch (as always) we opted not to do the engine room tour and so I can’t give my review on that.

Overall, the glass walkway at Tower Bridge is a worthy tourist destination, if only because of the cheap price. The views may not blow you away but the feeling of stepping on glass over the bridge is moderately thrilling enough to warrant a visit. I’d probably mostly recommend this for those folks looking for a cheaper alternative than the Shard or the London Eye but it’s still a worthy attraction in its own right.