Where to Stay in London
Greater London is comprised of some 32 boroughs, each of which offers a different experience of the city and its surrounding areas. Generally, the inner London boroughs are considered the city proper, as the outer districts include other towns which are distinctly separate from London’s urban area. For most tourists, The West End, which encompasses Covent Garden, Soho, Leicester Square, Oxford Street, and Mayfair is likely to be the most desirable area, as this is where many of the city’s top theatres, art galleries, restaurants and nightspots are to be found. However, this central location inevitably makes it one of the more costly areas to stay in.
Similarly, the Square Mile, or the City of London, is the Captial’s Central Business District and home to Canary Wharf. This is where the financial institutions and offices of global organisations are to be found. Naturally, this makes it the primary destination for those visiting London for business, which in turn puts it at the higher end of the cost scale.
As a capital city, the centre of London is comparatively safe and whilst tourists are advised to be on the lookout for pickpockets, there is relatively little risk of a serious incident occurring. As such, there are several alternatives to the prime tourist areas for those looking to reduce costs. Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia, for example, are within walking distance of the West End, but generally less expensive. Outside of the centre, Bexley, to the east and Richmond to the south-west, are affluent, safe areas that offer excellent public transport connections to the city. Richmond in particular, is popular with tourists, as it is close to both Kew Gardens and Hampton Court.
Facts about London
For centuries, London was the centre of the English speaking world and to some extent, that legacy endures today. Over the years, huge amounts have been invested in London’s cultural attractions and landmarks, so that today many of them, including Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, are recognised all over the world. A city of over 9 million inhabitants and comprised of 32 boroughs over 600sq miles, England’s capital is a diverse melting pot of cultures and one of the most visited cities on earth.
- London is the largest capital city in Europe
- England’s capital welcomes some 20 million tourists every year
- The Tate Modern is London’s top attraction, with some 5.86 million visitors annually
- Tourists spend approximately £15 million in London every year
However, aside from being one of the world’s top city destination for tourists, The City of London is also one of the world’s most influential business and financial hubs, as well as a leading innovator for fintech. As such, London is a hugely important centre of international trade. The economy of London’s metropolitan area is the largest in Europe, producing an estimated 30% of the UK’s GDP and, as of 2015, the GVP was £43,000 per capita. It has also been revealed recently that London tech hubs receive more venture capital investment than anywhere else in Europe.
To deal with its high volume of visitors, London is served by several international airports. The inner city has Heathrow (LHR) - Europe’s busiest airport, as well as City Airport (LCY). Slightly further afield, but still within an hour’s commute, are Luton, Stansted (STN), Southend (SEN) and, of course, Gatwick (LGW).
Things to Do in London
London is a modern, thriving city that offers just about every pastime and activity imaginable. Whilst people visit England’s capital for a myriad of different reasons, most will likely be looking for a way to enjoy their leisure time.
Q. What are the most popular things to do in London?
London is famous for its iconic landmarks. Most first-time visitors are likely to want to explore the sights and sounds that make London one of the world’s most visited cities, so spending a day or two exploring the top sights is one of the most popular ways things to do.
Q. What are some free things to do in London?
One of the great things about London is that many of its major museums are completely free to enter. Whilst some special exhibits may charge an entry fee, entry to the main galleries costs nothing unless visitors decide to make a donation at their discretion. Alternatively, London’s stunning open spaces and urban parks are also free to enter and have a great atmosphere during the summer months.
Q. Does London have many romantic attractions?
London offers some wonderful places to enjoy a romantic afternoon or evening out. Popular romantic itineraries include dining out at one of the many fine-dining restaurants in the city - many of which offer spectacular views - taking a scenic cruise on the Thames, or enjoying a night out at one of the West End’s historic theatres.
Q. What are the most family-friendly things to do in London?
Many of London’s most famous landmarks are fantastic learning opportunities for young children, offering interactive exhibits and activities intended for youngsters. There are also plenty of entertainment and leisure complexes in the city, offering everything from the latest movies to ten pin bowling and laser tag.
Q. What are the more unusual things to do in London?
England’s capital is known for its quirkiness, with plenty of unusual things to do. This means that those seeking more alternative activities will not be found wanting. Amongst other things, the London offers axe throwing, indoor skydiving, craft ale tasting and ghost tours. The more adventurous can even go kayaking on the thames and silent discos are the perfect late-night attractions activity with a difference.
Places to Visit in London
London is a huge city with a history that can be traced back thousands of years. As such it features an abundance of historical sites and iconic landmarks that form a regular part of the tourist circuit. Whilst it is unlikely that anyone will be able to cover everything in a single visit, below are a few top sights that every trip to London should include:
- The Tate Modern - London’s most visited attraction housing some of the world’s finest modern artworks.
- The British Museum - Famous for its incredible collection of ancient artefacts - including the notorious Rosetta Stone.
- Westminster and the Houses of Parliament - the seat of UK government and one of the world’s most iconic buildings. Home to the infamous Big Ben.
- Covent Garden - the heart of London’s theatre and entertainment area, with a host of bars and eateries.
- The Tower of London - The iconic palace-fortress is one of London’s most recognisable landmarks and houses numerous historical exhibits within its walls.
- The London Eye - a 135-metre observation wheel that offers spectacular views of the Thames and London cityscape.
- Buckingham Palace- the London residence of Queen Elizabeth and a stunning example of 18th-century architecture.
- Leicester Square - Famous for its movie premiers, Leicester Square is one of London’s most iconic locations and a popular place for tourists.
- Kew Gardens- the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew showcase stunning flora from around the world in a sprawling 326-acre landscape.
Places to Eat in London
London is also famous for its incredible range of restaurants and eateries - boasting some sixty-nine Michelin-starred establishments. Some of the top restaurants in London, such as Bibendum in Chelsea, Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner in Knightsbridge, or The Connaught in Mayfair, offer some of the finest dining available anywhere in the world. However, these establishments are usually in high demand so it is advisable to book well ahead of any planned visit.
However, there’s more to eating out than fine dining and visitors will find that there are also plenty of fun and quirky restaurants in London. Archipelago in Fitzrovia, for example, features a host of exotic dishes including snake meat and barbequed insects. For something a little less adventurous, there’s Bob Bob Ricard in Soho, which features an Art Deco interior tables that come equipped with a ‘champagne button. Many of the more unusual places to eat in London are also family-friendly, such as the Rainforest Cafe on Shaftesbury Avenue, or the Bertie and Boo children’s cafe in Battersea.
Despite its reputation as an expensive city, there are also plenty of cheap places to eat in London. Those visiting on a budget can head to no-frills open kitchens, such as the famous Roti King, or Bun House or Del 74. There are also plenty of fantastic cafes that offer snacks and sandwiches at affordable prices, including Café Sou and Brasserie Zedel - in Piccadilly and Bank respectively.
Street Food London
Of course, London isn’t all quirky restaurants and fine dining. There are numerous places throughout the city where high-quality street food can be enjoyed. Some of the most popular street food venues that offer a variety of different cuisines include Street Food Union in Soho, Vauxhall Street Food Garden, Pepe Italian Street Food, Model Market and Indi-Go - Indian Street Food in Spitalfields. Further to these, the Southbank has a surprisingly high concentration of street food vendors, with popular favourites being Beboz Italian Street Food, The Street Pig BBQ and the Southbank Centre Food Market.
Shopping in London
England’s capital is also one of the top shopping destinations in the world, with Oxford Street being the most famous London shopping street - known the world over for its huge array of flagship fashion stores, global brands and cutting edge technology retailers. Bond Street has an abundance of high-end brands, whilst Carnaby Street is famous for its independent boutiques and quirky fashions. Alternatively, Camden Market has long been associated with sub-culture fashions and offers a great day out as well as a unique shopping opportunity.
Aside from these diverse regions and shopping streets, London also benefits from several large malls and shopping centres, including:
Transportation in London
London benefits from an excellent public transport network, comprised of the Underground, buses, trams and overground rail services. Between them, these services cover the entire urban area and present a variety of options for getting around the city. What’s more, the major overground terminals, such as Victoria, Waterloo, Kings Cross and Blackfriars, offer train connections across the rest of the UK.
The Tube is the most convenient and cost-effective way to navigate the central areas. London Underground prices vary depending on the time and distance of travel, however, a day Travelcard for zones 1 - 5 will cover the entire network and currently costs £18.10. The London Underground’s 270 stations can be found in each of these zones and are connected via 11 different lines. Key tube stations include:
- Oxford Circus
- London Bridge
- Canary Wharf
- Bank & Monument
Finally, London is of course famous for its red buses and there are almost 700 routes in operation across the city - including 52 that run throughout the night. These are often the preferred mode of transport for anyone needing to reach the city suburbs.
Weather in London
London weather - as with the rest of the UK - can be somewhat difficult to predict. The city can have cold winters, with the temperature dropping below freezing on the coldest months. However, by contrast, London weather in July is usually warm and dry, with temperatures reaching average highs of 24 degrees. Whilst August can be a little hotter, typically the city doesn’t experience temperatures high enough to make it uncomfortable. British summers are notoriously unpredictable, however, so wet-weather clothing is essential packing at any time of year. The month of September is often a good time to visit, as the temperature is usually still warm, whilst being a little cooler than August in the evenings, making for a more comfortable stay.