London (United Kingdom) Travel Guide

london-guide

One of the world’s biggest travel destinations, London is a huge city, full of history, charm and old pubs with plenty of great beer. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive cities of the world, but if you follow a couple of tips, you can save a lot of money and still keep your London experience a fun one. Step outside London for a bit, and those prices will drop considerably.

First of all, you can visit London and stay there comfortably as long as you have at least $75 (50 pounds). This would include a hostel stay at $30 per bed (20 pounds) and cheap food from supermarkets for another $15 (10 pounds), plus some eating out in the town, from cheaper restaurants. Fish and chips is a meal that is cheap and found everywhere, and the beer will cost around 3 pounds ($4-5). The $75 budget I mentioned earlier isn’t the smallest one (you can make do with $50), so it allows you for a little bit of spending on food or souvenirs.

Its name, London comes from the "Square Mile" during the original Roman city when it was named "City of London" or simply “The City".

Now London is more than that. It is a modern metropolis. The city has expended a lot and has absorbed the surrounding towns in the last few years. Many people also use the term Greater London to talk about the city of London and the suburbs all together with the lower Thames valleys.

Even if it is densely populated, London has big and beautiful green parks and open space places. The Greater London are comprises 32 London suburbs and the London city. Some of the boroughs are: Westminster, Hackney, Tower Hamlets or Camden.

This city has a very good transport system. It is one of the best in the world. The public transport remains the best way to travel in the city even if sometimes it is very crowded, especially in summer when the tourists arrive. And the locals think this too because one third of all the households don’t have a car.

London is the home of some fantastic museums. They have many impressive collections that date from ages ago. And the best thing is that many museums have no admittance fee. In this way, no matter what your budget is you can explore all you want. But keep in mind that London is an expensive town.

The museums that are free of charge are: British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, National Portrait Gallery and some others in Greenwich. Even if they do not have a fee, they accept donations.

Sometimes, the temporary exhibitions have an admittance fee. In the center part of the city there are many beautiful parks, full of green. The bigger ones are St James Park and Hyde Park. Many of the parks have previously been royal estates or hunting grounds. They are owned by the royal family even it the access is public.

London is a great world leading financial center and offers employment opportunities for many people in and outside the city. London is heavily popular and it is also a working destination for many people. The salaries are good and you can easily get work in the hospitals or bars. The wages are a bit higher in the city of London than in the other parts of UK but the cost of living is much higher.

Places that shouldn’t be missed

Buckingham-Palace

Buckingham Palace would be the first of all. It is where the Queen lives and it is an impressive construction. Don’t think that by visiting the palace means you will be able to go talk to the Queen herself. It is not an opened tourist attraction but you can see it from outside. You should be there when he guards are changing so that you see this famous ritual. During the summer months there are big crowds waiting there.

After that, see the Big Ben Tower plus the Westminster Abby. This location is for sure one of the most beautiful and photographed in the world. Also many movies have been made talking about the big tower or with the action centered there.

You can then walk across the bridge and see the Aquarium. It is amazing. You must also get some pictures with the Thames river.

The Trafalgar Square was once full of pigeons. They covered the ground and they were pretty annoying since they filled the place with dirty stuff.

These days Trafalgar is more pleasant without the pigeons. You should also know that it is illegal to try to feed the pigeons.

Piccadilly Circus is a huge mass of light and neon signs. It is a mini version of the Times Square. The statue of Eros is filled with tourists taking pictures.

You will also spot some pink Mohawks people and some may have pierced faces. They are the locals.

From the Piccadilly Circus you are able to go to the Leicester Square or to Oxford Street, the place to be for shoppers with many interesting brand boutiques and fashionable stores.

Moving Around

Everybody knows there are no easy ways to move around in a big city. London makes no exception of that. The easiest way is to go down and take a subway. The locals also call it the Tube. Or you can take a red bus and explore the surroundings.

cabAnother way is to catch a London Black Cabs. Old traditional double decker buses are hard to find these days because they were retired. Only the two "Heritage Lines" have remained intact. But the best way to see London, if you have the time, is to explore it by foot.

So grab some comfortable shoes, take the camera and some water in a bag and tour the London city. At first sight, the town can be a little intimidating. But you will soon see that you don’t have to walk that much because most of the tourist attractions are located in one place.

You can begin your tour at the London Eye, then stroll pass the Big Ben, see the Whitehall and then end it at Trafalgar Square for the afternoon lunch or a visit to the National Gallery and see some famous art pieces, paintings or sculptures.

In the afternoon visit the Piccadilly Circus and also the Leicester Square because they are close by. You can also wonder the Covent Garden and buy something from the street vendors.

If you do not like to walk that much, you can buy a ticket valid for one or three days. This travel card can be purchased from different areas and usually it costs much cheaper than buying individual tickets.

If you are visiting London for a few more days, buy an Oyster Card. It will charge the price of the trips but they will not be more than one day travel pass.

This card also allows you unlimited travel with the buses and the London Underground in the areas which you specified when you bought the card. Most of the times, by buying a card valid for the Zone 1 you can see most of London. Still, the tube is the fastest solution to get around.

Museums & Attractions

London is the home of countless museums and art galleries. There is something to see where ever you may look.

National-Portrait-GalleryIf you are interested in art, you should definitely go to the National Gallery or to the National Portrait Gallery. You should know that the National Gallery is located in Trafalgar Square. It is the home of great European paintings and they are about 1250 in numbers. The gallery can be visited for free but the visitors can make some small donations when they leave if they liked what they saw.

The National Portrait Gallery is close to Leicester Square and has vast portrait collection showing many famous British people from way back in the Henry VII’s era till now.

The next stop should be the Tate Galleries. There are two of them in London. There is an original Tate Britain that hosts works of the British artists in the 16th century till today. The gallery is the host of the yearly Turner Prize for the contemporary art.

The Tate Modern gallery reunites an impressive collection of international Modern Art pieces from 1900 till today. Victoria and Albert Natural History Museum and Science Museum can be found in South Kensington and can provide you a full educative day. This museum has over 3000 years and has pieces from all over the globe.

The Museum of London is a remarkable museum that holds all you need to know about London’s history. And the best thing is that it is free.

St. Paul’s Cathedral was made by Sir Christopher Wren, and it has an imposing structure. The fee is £10 for the adults.

British Museum is a world famous museum that is the home of the fabulous Rosetta Stone and also the Elgin Marbles. It has many breathtaking pieces and the admission is also free of charge.

Events & Festivals

In many surrounding areas of London and in the city, there are many music festivals. Most of them happen in summer time. In that time, almost every week a festival is going on. You can find more information about these music festivals online, on the dedicated websites. You can begin planning your trip to a music festival right this year because many tickets sell months ahead.

One of the biggest festivals is the O2 Wireless Festival which started in June 2005. Now the festival is an annual famous event. Usually, more than 100 bands are performing in Hyde Park. They play on many stages, and people are coming from all over the world to see them, dance and get happy. For example, in 2006 the festival had James Blunt, the Strokes and David Gray, as performers.

But the biggest musical fee festival is called the Rise: London United Festival. This event takes place in July, every summer and the theme is love and the respect. This is because London is quite a melting pot with many different ethnics. The music event is just a desire to come together in peace and harmony. Many performers come from Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Caribbean.

London Day Trips

London city is without a doubt one of the most impressive cities in the world. But it is not the single place worth visiting in Great Britain.

You can take part in some great day-trips that will take you out and far from the busy city life. You can visit the country and experience what England real life is all about. There are some places close to the city and some far away.

The Bath, also called the World Heritage City is almost one hour and a half outside London if you take the train from Paddington tube Station. You can also take a bus from the Victoria Station. You will see some architectural impressive buildings and the great Roman Baths.

StratfordThe second place would be Stratford Upon Avon. It is the place where the great modern literature writer, William Shakespeare was born. While there, you may also see a show performed by The Royal Shakespeare Company. Make a reservation if you want to see that. On the way you can make a short stop and see the big Holy Trinity Church, where W. Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway were buried.

Try to not leave London without seeing the two famous towns Oxford and Cambridge. The atmosphere there is great to take in. Cambridge town is one hour away from London and has almost 30 colleges. They let you wonder the streets there and visit the colleges or you can just sit there on the steps and take in the intellectual atmosphere of the place.

Oxford is also a true gem. People have come to study there since back in the late 12th century.

Brighton is one single hour if you go with the train leaving the Victoria Station. If you go by car the road trip will take you two hours. This place has a beautiful stony beach where you can delight yourself with a quick dip in that sea. You can also sit down and soak up the sun or walk on the Pier. Also visit the Royal Pavilion and do some shopping down at the marina.

London Nightlife

London is filled with clubs and finding the right one for you and your friends is an easy task. You may want to go to a drum-n-bass club, techno, house, hip hop, or a jazz one. Each neighborhood has quit a different club vibe and it is enough to get you well entertained.

There are many VIP clubs in London but many jeans and sweatshirt kind of clubs too. The attitude is all that counts. There are some clubs which are strictly about one type of music and there are many others which play a different kind of music every night. In order to get grounded and up to date with the schedule, you should read the Time Out magazine before getting out to party.

In London you can also do some celebrities spotting. You will find some VIPs if you manage to get in Mo*Vida club in Soho. This is one of the most exclusive places in all of London and you have to dress up if you want to get in. No T-shirt allowed.

In Covent Garden you are able to find the greatest gay clubs in all of London.

You should also not miss the all known Ministry of Sound located in the South of London. The club will celebrate 14 years this year and it will be quite a party.

Leicester Square is where many cheesy and tourist oriented pubs and clubs are. You may not want to go there unless you want to meet other tourists. Covent Garden is very crowded also with tourists, but it is less ridiculous.

Shopping in London

HarrodsWhether you are a bargain hunter or you plan on spending most of your holiday budget on shopping, the stores in London will take care of that for you. The city is called a shopping nirvana and you will quickly find out why.

You should first go to Oxford Circus. It is situated at the intersection between Oxford Street and Regent Street. This is a very famous area in London but not for the history filled sites. The place is a shopping bliss for anyone.

You can visit stores like H&M, Jigsaw, Marks and Spencer or Selfridges. These stores are changing the stocks so rapidly that you may find items that you can not get anywhere else. Marks and Spencer is also named by the locals Marks and Sparks is a brand known to have the world’s most comfortable pieces of underwear.

The M&S underwear pieces will be an incredible souvenir for the loved ones. You have to stop by the small boutiques and souvenir shops too. You can avoid the crowds if you do that.

The world famous Harrods has many great stores. It is in Knightsbridge and that is a presentation card by itself. You should take the time to see the newly decorated Food Halls.

There is a more expensive place called Selfridges, on the Oxford Street. They only sell the trendiest items. The place also has some great eateries with a good food department.

Eating in London

In London there are many good restaurants and this article will help you with a selection of the most visited:

Boisdale Restaurant

It is a great Scottish restaurant close to Victoria Station. In this restaurant you will be able to taste some proper haggis and also the Angus steak. The restaurant also offers live jazz entertainment every evening. Besides the great food, there is a big selection of whiskeys and also a cigar terrace, something rare in London.

Cafe Des Amis

Londoners love this cafe restaurant located in Covent Garden. Mainly, the restaurant serves French food and the atmosphere is very relaxed.

Matsuri

When you go towards High Holborn city, up from Holborn station, you will see this fabulous Japanese restaurant. A meal here is more expensive than in the average restaurants but it is the best Japanese restaurant in all of London.

Al Volo

It is in the east end, near the Whitechapel market and offers Italian meals.

Weather in London

WeatherWhen it comes to weather, London is mainly recognized for just two things: fog and rain.

But these popular historical images are wrong. Fog rarely happens and when it does it is usually in winter time in the early morning and it disperses easily in a few couple of hours.

But the rain is a constant presence in London. It can appear all of the sudden, without any warning. Sometimes there are just short bursts of rain, or even some light rain that pours almost all day long.

But still, London is a dry city. Many times, there are water shortages during the summer months. Actually, with all the rain, the average rain that falls in one yea is no more than 25 inches less than happens in Rome or New York.

The rain average is a bit more than the dry city of Jerusalem has. The summer weather pattern can differ from sticky and hot to quite unpleasantly. But usually, the medium temperatures are comfortable. Just like the rain, the average temperatures can switch rapidly in just one day. Most of the times, riding a bus in the summer can be quite unpleasant. The good thing is that the pubs and restaurants have air conditioners and so do the hotels.

In spring or fall the weather is nice. But during winter the temperatures can be a bit brutal. In UK snow happens very rare and there are people who say that the constant grayness sets them into depression.

Staying Safe

London is quite a safe city to be in. The violent crime rates have dropped constantly in the last few decades and it is a safe tourist travel destination. Even if the number of people who posses guns in Great Britain has increased a bit in the last few years, the rate of guns hooting has dropped a lot.

There are also few police men that have guns with them and they are mostly positioned in the airports, main railways or the underground tube stations. They also can be found near the embassies or the government buildings. The security has been increased since the last terrorist threats. In London most of the crimes are pick pocketing and also bag-snatching. So there is no point in worrying to much and ruin your vacation plans because of that.

You should also know there are many CCTV cameras in the city, and the police maintain a kind of “Big Brother” presence in London. Sure, there are some dangerous suburbs in London too with a high level of drug related crimes and violent crimes.

But they are away from the center of the city the tourist places. It is not like in U.S where the tourist can ran into dangerous slums in the center of the city. So try to avoid the suburbs as much as you can. If you do find yourself there, stay calm and act rational. One more thing would be to not travel alone at night and always be aware of the surroundings.