London Travel Guide
By Ross Williams, Contributing Editor
London is right up there as one of the world’s most popular cities, and for good reason. It is the thriving capital city of England and has something of interest for everyone, from iconic landmarks to grand museums and superb architecture. Visitors will find the lure of the London pizazz simply irresistible. This city is steeped in a fascinating history, which is one of the main features of the city, but there is so much more to it than the Royal Family.
This large city is separated into 32 boroughs, each with their own unique set of characteristics, sights and activities for visitors to get immersed in. The main boroughs of interest for visitors are located within the Central London district and include the City of London, which has become the hub of London’s business activities, Covent Garden, which is a popular shopping district that is full of character, and Leicester Square, the bright and modern center of attraction.
Venturing further afield you will be able to discover much more about London in areas such as the eclectic Camden Town, Greenwich, and the East End. It is not really possible to get a full appreciation of this city in one short visit, but some careful planning ahead of time should help you to get the maximum out of your trip.
Getting in and around London
There a several airports in London including City Airport, Stansted, and Luton, but the biggest and most popular ones are Gatwick and Heathrow. Heathrow is currently the third busiest airport in the world and is a hub for many international carriers. International travelers coming from countries such as the America, Australia, or China are likely to end up at Heathrow.
Connection to and from the airport is made relatively easy by a selection of transportation options that include rail, underground trains, coaches, and taxis. Arriving at Heathrow, the fastest option for getting into the heart of London is the Heathrow Express rail service. A one way ticket for the Heathrow Express costs £20 if booked in advance or bought at one of the ticket machines at the station. The journey time from Heathrow to London’s Paddington station is just 15 minutes. A cheaper option would be to take the underground train service, which takes around 1 hour depending on your destination and costs approximately £5.
Most of the major boroughs of London are connected to the underground train service, and everywhere can be accessed by the bus service. These are the best options for getting around the city. For the cheapest way to travel on London’s transport system you should get yourself an Oyster Card for visitors. This can be ordered from the Transport for London’s website or purchased at any tube station..
What to see in London
There is an abundance of things to see and do while in London. First time visitors will want to dedicate much of their time to visiting the major landmarks. Here is a list of the most popular, and must see landmarks in London:
• The London Eye – This is one of the biggest observation wheels in the world, and offers the opportunity to get some great views of London.
• Buckingham Palace – The palace which is situated in Westminster is the official London home of the Queen. It is only opened for tours during the summer months, but worth visiting even if you are in London outside of these times.
• Tower of London – The Tower is over 900 years old and as well as being home to the Crown Jewels it is also considered to be haunted. For visitors keen on experiencing some ghostly goings on there are often guided ghost tours on offer.
• Trafalgar Square – The Square is home to the world famous Nelson Column and the lions as well as several hundred pigeons.
• Westminster Abbey – The Big Ben clock and the Houses of Parliament are both within walking distances of each other. Tours of the Houses of Parliament are available during the months of August to September.
As well as the more popular landmarks other must see features of London include Hyde and Regents Park, the British Museum, and the newly built Shard building, which is currently the tallest building in Europe. The Shard has an observation deck for yet more spectacular views across the city.
Once you have taken in all the customary visitor sites you may want to explore some of the lesser known places in London and get fully immersed in the London culture. A good place to start is by going to a football match. Londoners are passionate about the game of football (soccer) and each weekend there are hundreds of games to choose from. It might be a little difficult to get a ticket for a game featuring the bigger teams such as Chelsea and Arsenal, but the chance to see a match featuring Millwall or Crystal Palace is certainly possibile.
If football doesn’t tickle your fancy then why not head over to Wimbeldon for some tennis and strawberries or avoid sports altogether by spending a few hours at Spitafields Market. There are also many places to spend your evenings watching a movie, watching a live band, enjoying a play at a West End theater, or tucking into a meal at one of the many restaurants available.
Where to Stay in London
Like any respectable city, London has a wide range of accommodation available to suite all kinds of different tastes and budgets. If you are on a tight budget then you may want to search for accommodation outside of the west end of London as these can be a little pricey. With that said, a diligent search can often throw up some nice deals in good locations. In general you can expect to pay between £120 and £400 per night for a decent room in the heart of London.
If you are prepared to bed down in a hostel type accommodation then something like the Clink78, which is found in Hampstead and North London, would set you back around £17 per night. If staying in a hostel is not your cup of tea then you could consider a 3-star hotel such as the Oxford Hotel in Nottingham Hill with prices starting from £55 per night. If you intend to go all luxurious and splash out on yourself during your trip to London then the Rubens at the Palace is as good as they come. This sophisticated hotel is located in the West End and offers rooms starting at around £210 per night.
Things to Watch Out For
It is worth bearing in mind that cars drive on the left in this part of the world. You will need to take extra care when crossing roads and ensure that you look both ways before crossing.
In the center of London where it is crowded and often frequented by tourists there is a high level of crime involving pickpockets and snatches. Be sure to keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times and ensure that they are secure. Take extra care if you are using an expensive mobile phone as these are big targets for the criminals.
Lastly, you should take care not to get into illegal minicabs, which often operate in the city at night. You can easily identify London’s official Black Cabs, which are the safest option for tourist, but often most expensive. All licensed taxies will be clearly marked as such, and the drivers will be wearing identification. If you are in doubt do not get into the car. THE END
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