A guide to visiting London
If you’re planning a city-break to London, it can be a bit of a daunting city. Here’s a guide on a few options on how to tackle it.
Choose your accommodation wisely
Accommodation options in London can be a bit expensive, and while you might think that you’re saving some money by choosing accommodation a little out of town, you really need to ensure that you don’t compromise on the location of your accommodation.
Staying in a hotel in central London doesn’t have to totally break your travel budget — there are a range of different styles of accommodation available. By being central, you’ll save on taxi and travel costs, and you’ll also be able to walk around the city and get a real feel for the pace and rhythm of how people live in London.
Embrace public transport
London’s underground rail network is known locally either as The Underground or The Tube.
At first glance, the tube map can make you feel a little dizzy, but it’s by far the easiest way to get around the city. The ticketing system is relatively straightforward, but to save time at the ticket machines you can use one of the stored value ticket cards known as Oyster — you simply touch in when you enter a station and touch out when you leave, with the correct fare automatically deducted from your balance. You can also use a contact-less credit or debit card in the same way that you’d use an Oyster card.
While the tube is a great way to travel, there are some occasions when you might actually find it quicker to walk. Because the tube map isn’t drawn to scale, if you’re in central London it will probably only be a few blocks to get where you want to go. So, rather than descending into the tube and changing trains a few times, walking could be the quickest and most direct way to your destination.
Buses and hire bikes are also handy options depending on where you’re trying to get to.
See the sights
It might sound a bit touristy, but an open-top sightseeing bus is a pretty good place to start. The hop-on-off sightseeing bus services in London are a pretty effective way of ticking off some of the major sights and getting a bit of an overview of how the city operates. The commentary is also surprisingly informative, with plenty of insights about the history of the city.
Another good sightseeing option is to take a ride on the London Eye. This is a giant, slow-moving ferris wheel, and on a clear day the views are spectacular. The capsules move so smoothly that it doesn’t really feel like you’re moving at all, but before you know it you’re high up in the clouds looking down on the city below.
Immerse yourself in history
There’s a surprising number of attractions in London that are experiential. From the iconic Madame Tussauds, to the London Dungeon, or the Clink Museum. They’re spooky, frightening experiences but they’re also pretty reasonable history lessons. It’s a bit frightening to imagine the barbaric world that London used to be in the not too distant past, but it does give you some insight into how this city developed into what we see today.
A trip out to Hampton Court Palace is worth doing. This is a fascinating and stunningly beautiful palace. Often there’s concerts held there, plus there’s an annual flower show.
Spend a couple of hours at Westminster Abbey. This is a cathedral that is overwhelming in its scale, grandeur, and history. So many iconic people are buried here, all representing such key periods of history throughout the ages. The site of Westminster Abbey is believed to have been a place of worship since around 960 AD. Construction of the Abbey as we know it today was begun in 1245 by Henry III, who had selected it as the site for his burial. Construction was completed in the early 1500s. A further major addition to the Abbey was in the 18th century when Nicholas Hawksmoor added the two western towers. Since the first of the Norman Kings in 1066, coronations of the British monarchs have been held in the Abbey. With many kings and queens buried within the Abbey, it became one of the country’s most significant honours to be buried or commemorated in the Abbey. Generals, admirals, politicians, and notable figures can all be found here. One of the most notable features is the tomb of The Unknown Warrior - an unidentified British soldier killed on the battlefield during WWI. A beautiful building and a fascinating part of history.
Whatever you’re into, there’s bound to be some sort of show or concert on in London that is going to appeal. Whether it’s a musical in the West End, a concert at the O2, or a new film at Leicester Square. Make the most of the wealth of entertainment options on your doorstep.
Don’t be easily offended
It’s not that Londoners are particularly rude or unfriendly, everyone just seems to be very focused on their own affairs.
Locals won’t casually start up a conversation with you. If you’re standing somewhere, looking confused as you study a map — it’s highly unlikely that anyone will offer to assist you. If you’re causing a hold-up at the ticket barrier to the tube, they will stand behind you glaring rather than trying to help you work out what you’re doing wrong.
Don’t be offended, it’s nothing personal — everyone is just very busy going about their business, trying to survive life in London.