Biggest city of western Europe with many lively districts such as Bloomsbury, Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Notting Hill, Soho, Chelsea, Camden town, Hampstead
Despite a perhaps unfair reputation, London enjoys a dry and mild climate on average. Only one in three days on average will bring rain and often only for a short period. Winter in London is mild compared to nearby continental European cities, average daily maximum is 8°C (46°F) in December and January. Snow does occur, usually a few times a year but rarely heavy. Summer is perhaps the best season for tourists as it has long daylight hours as well as mild temperatures. The average daily high temperatures in July and August are around 24°C (75°F). London can feel hot and humid for several days in the summer months. Also, because of urban heat effect, during night time it could feel muggy. Regardless of which time of the year, the weather in London could change quickly from sunny to rain and from hot to cold.
Due to London’s huge global city status it is the most served destination in the world when it comes to flights.
London is served by five airports. In addition there are a number of other regional UK airports conveniently accessible from London. Since they offer a growing number of budget flights, choosing those airports can be cheaper.
– Heathrow is London and Europe’s largest airport and the world’s busiest airport in terms of international passenger movement.
A fast transfer is by Heathrow Connect rail (terminal 3), Travelcard & Oyster card not valid to Heathrow. Does not serve Terminal 5. Follows same route as Heathrow Express but stops at several intermediate stations to London Paddington so journey is 25 minutes and trains less frequent. Unlike Heathrow Express trains, the Heathrow Connect trains are poorly marked both at the airport and at Paddington. Ask a Heathrow Express attendant how to get to the train from the airport. For the return trip, Heathrow Connect leaves from Paddington Platform 12. One way £9.10, round trip £17.80.
Cheapest transfer is by London Underground (Piccadilly line). Every few minutes, journey time approximately 1 hour, however this depends on your destination. For the cheapest single fare ask for an Oyster card (£5 refundable deposit). Zone 1-6 Travelcard valid. The first train leaves at 05:14 and the last train leaves for central London at 23:46 (Monday to Saturday). When travelling from central London to the airport check your destination carefully – some trains don’t go to the airport and those that do go have 2 distinct routes. With Oyster one way £2.90 (off-peak) to £4.80 (peak).
Bus N9 operates service from midnight-05:00 between Heathrow and Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, roughly following the Piccadilly Line into Central London. Buses depart every 20 minutes and take about 1 hour 15 minutes to reach central London.
– London Gatwick is the second airport. It is the world’s busiest single runway airport and is split into a North and South Terminal. The two terminals are linked by a free shuttle train (5 minutes). The train station is located in the South Terminal. Transfer to the city are:
EasyBus run every 15-20 min, journey time 60-90 min. To Earl’s Court/West Brompton. One way prices start from £2 if booked online
National Express bus runs every 30 min, journey time 75-110 min. To London Victoria. One way prices start from £7. Book online.
– Stansted is London’s third airport, and is dominated by the two low-cost airlines EasyJet and Ryanair. There is only a free Wi-Fi hotspot, it’s in the arrivals gate area, next to the phone booths offering fixed internet. Be aware that lines are very common at Stansted, security check can easily take an hour. Also getting to the airport can take longer than the proclaimed 90 minutes, expect more like 120 minutes. Arriving in the airport, queueing for passport control can easily take up to 2 hours for non-EU passport holders, especially for Sunday night arrivals.
Transfers to central London are:
National Express bus runs every 15-30 min. Journey time to Stratford: 1 hour. To Victoria: 90 min. To Stratford (tube: Stratford) or Victoria (tube: Victoria). To Stratford: £8 one way, £14 round trip. To Victoria: £10, £16. Travelcard not valid.
Terravision bus run every 30 min. To Liverpool St Station (tube: Liverpool St) or Victoria (tube: Victoria). To Liverpool St Station: £9 one way, £14 round trip. To Victoria: £9, £14. Travelcards not valid.
Stansted Express train to London Liverpool Street runs every 15 min, journey time 45-60 min. One way £21.50, round trip £29.50. Travelcard not valid. Most budget carriers’ websites offer reduced price deals for the Stansted Express, allowing you to save a few pounds.
Stansted Express train to Tottenham Hale then London Underground (Victoria line) runs every 15 min. If you are going to South London, the West End or West London then take Stansted Express to Tottenham Hale then the London Underground (Victoria line). At Tottenham Hale ask for an Oyster card
– London Luton If your train ticket says Luton Airport (rather than Luton Airport Parkway), then the bus ride is included in the ticket.
Green Line coach. Every 20 min, journey time 90 min. To Victoria (tube: Victoria) via Brent Cross, Finchley Rd tube station, Baker St, Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner. £14 one way if bought from the driver, tickets can be purchased in-advance on-line from £2. Service is run by Greenline and in conjunction with easyBus (but can be used by all travelers regardless of airline you travel with). Travelcard not valid.
National Express coach. Every 20 min, journey time 90 min. To Victoria (tube: Victoria) via Golders Green and Marble Arch. From £1 (advance web purchase) one way. Travelcard not valid.
By rail. Journey time: 20-55 min. £12.50 one way. Travelcard not valid. The airport has its own railway station “Luton Airport Parkway”, and is served by trains 24 hours a day from Central London using “First Capital Connect Trains” and connects with St Pancras International. There are up to 10 trains an hour, depending on the time of day. All trains go to London St Pancras International, but many also continue on to Blackfriars, London Bridge and Elephant & Castle, Gatwick Airport and Brighton. The station is nearly 2 km (1 mi) from the terminal building, there is a shuttle bus service running between the terminal and airport every 10 minutes, costing £1.50 each way. At rush hour times, this journey can take up to 25 minutes.
– London City Airport close to the City’s financial district. This may be the cheapest London airport to fly to, considering the cost savings of NOT coming from the distant larger London airports with £10+ transfer costs. Transfers to city:
By Docklands Light Railway (DLR). The DLR runs to Bank station (27 minutes). There is a convenient change to the Jubilee line at Canning Town. Travelcard valid.
By bus 474 to Canning Town station and then the 115 or N15 into central London. Travelcard valid.
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Most international and domestic long distance bus (UK English: coach) services arrive at and depart from a complex of coach stations off Buckingham Palace Road close to London Victoria rail station or from the Green Line Coach Station across Buckingham Palace Road. Main coach operators are:
- National Express operates services to / from London from throughout England, Wales and Scotland. Advance ticketing is required and recommended. Fares are low when booked in advance via the web.
- Eurolines runs coach services to / from London with various cities in Northern Ireland, the Ireland and continental Europe. Advance ticketing is required.
- Megabus operates budget coach services to/from several regional cities and to continental Europe. Fares can be very cheap if booked far enough in advance
- Greyhound coach services from/to London (Victoria Coach Station) to/from several cities. Fares can be very cheap if booked far enough in advance.
Tube maps are freely available from any station, most tourist offices and are prominently displayed in stations and in the back of most diaries. Trains run from around 05:30 to about 01:00. They are usually the fastest way to travel in London, the only problem being the relative expense, and that it can get extremely crowded during rush hours (07:30-10:00 and 16:30-19:00). On warm days take a bottle of water with you.
Beware of pickpockets
When using the escalators, always stand on the right to allow people in a hurry to pass.
Allow passengers to get off the train before boarding yourself by standing to the right or to the left of the train doors.
Move down your backpack if standing during busy periods
‘Mind the Gap’ is not only a souvenir t-shirt, be careful when you get off the train
Give up your seat to the elderly and those less able to stand, especially if the seat is reserved for such a purpose.
For any information about getting around with public transportation, ticket fares etc visit wikitravel page.
Because Britain drives on the left hand side of the road remember to look right when you cross the road.
London hosts an outstanding collection of world-class museums, which mostly have no entrance fee.
Same suggestion applies for the beautiful city parks. Hyde park, Regent’s park, St. James’s park and many others are worth a visit.
Do-it-yourself bus tour If you don’t feel like splashing out on one of the commercial bus tours, you can make your own bus tour by buying an Oyster card and spending some time riding around London on the top deck of standard London buses. Of course you don’t get the open air or the commentary, but the views are very similar. You will likely get lost but that is half the fun; if it worries you go for a commercial tour.
Spitalfields Markets, 65 Brushfield St E1 6AA (Straight down Bell Lane past 66-68 and keep walking). Visit the thriving old Spitalfields markets which were the original London fruit markets. They have a daily market selling amazing vintage odds and ends and new fresh clothes! Visit 66/68 Bell Lane nearby to see a wealthy merchants house, rumor has it John Lennon once played on the roof of this building with Yoko Ono.
Discover Walks, Meet actual Londoners in addition to exploring major landmarks. Join a walk with locals who will “decode” the city with you, and also learn from an insider about local events and festivals, about where to shop, good places to eat or drink, secret places locals keep to themselves.
Free Tours by Foot (Free London Tours), Free Tours by Foot is pleased to present name-your-own-price sightseeing tours of London. Platform for licensed, professional, freelance tour guides to lead tours at no upfront cost, so that you may enjoy a quality sightseeing experience no matter what your budget. Everyone should be permitted to take a guided tour for a price they feel it was worth – even free! No two tours are the same. All tours are memorable
For a guided tour of London check out The Literary London Walking Tour – an interesting, informative and funny walk through London and its literary hotspots of the past and present. Meet local writers and poets and listen to them perform their works (£15 per person).
- Eating tips
It is a huge task for a visitor to find the ‘right place’ to eat in London – with the ‘right atmosphere’, at the ‘right price’ – largely because, as in any big city, there are literally thousands of venues from which to choose, ranging from fast food joints, pubs, and mainstream chains all the way up to some of the most exclusive restaurants in the world which attract the kind of clientele that don’t need to ask the price. Sorting the good from the bad isn’t easy, but London has something to accommodate all budgets and tastes. Following is a rough guide to what you might get, should you fancy eating out:
– Up to £5 – you can get a good English pub or cafeteria breakfast with a rack of bacon, beans in tomato sauce, egg, sausage, orange juice and coffee or tea. Most pubs stop this offer at 11:00, but there are literally hundreds of backstreet cafes (collquially known as “greasy spoons”) which will serve this sort of food all day.
– £7 – will buy you a couple of sandwiches and a soft drink, some takeaway fish and chips, or a fast food meal. There are also a number of mostly Chinese restaurants which serve an all you can eat buffet for around this price. These are dotted about the West End and it is well worth asking a member of public or a shopkeeper where the nearest one is. These restaurants make much of their revenue on drinks although these are usually still moderately priced. The food whilst not being of the finest standard is usually very tasty and the range of dishes available is excellent. There are literally thousands of so called takeaways in London and a cheap alternative to a restaurant meal. Check with your hotel management if they allow food deliveries before ordering in. Most takeaways will offer some form of seating, but not all do.
– £6-10 – will get you a good pub meal and drink or a good Chinese/Indian/Italian/Thai/Vietnamese buffet. Be aware that many pubs have a buy-one-get-one-free offer, and you can either order two main dishes for yourself or bring a friend.
Do not eat at venues closest to major tourist attractions (so-called tourist traps). The worst tourist trap food, in the opinion of many Londoners, is served at the various steak houses (Angus Steak House, Aberdeen Steak House etc all around the West End and near to the main train stations). Notorious areas for inflated menu prices trading on travelers’ are also the streets around the British Museum, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.
Pubs within the touristy areas of London are usually a poor choice for food although there are some brilliant ‘gastro-pubs’ hidden away – use the internet or a good guide (such as Time Out or Datemojo) to find them. In general avoid all pubs that have graphic-designed and printed menus – it’s peoples experiences in these kind of places that gives Britain a bad name for food! Look around you – see any locals tucking in? No? – then you shouldn’t either. The other rule to follow when avoiding poor food is the same as in any other part of Europe – is the menu available in multiple languages? If yes then start running!!
In the suburbs, the cost of eating out is reduced drastically. Particularly in large ethnic communities, there is a competitive market which stands to benefit the consumer. In East London for example, the vast number of chicken shops means that a deal for 2 pieces of chicken, chips (fries) and a drink shouldn’t cost you more than £3 especially on Brick Lane. Another good (and cheap) lunch option is a chicken or lamb doner (gyro) at many outlets throughout the city, though meat quality is often poor.
There are some areas where the majority of diners are Londoners, rather than tourists, and in general you will get a much more pleasant, better value, and less crowded eating experience than you will find in the West End. These places are best visited in the evenings.
Upper Street Head to Highbury & Islington (Victoria line) or Angel (Northern line). Dozens of excellent restaurants, popular with young professionals.
“Stoke Newington Church Street” has a fantastic range of independent restaurants and cafes. Stoke Newington Rail Station or the 73 bus.
Drummond Street in the Euston area has a fine mix of Indian restaurants – a short walk from Euston railway station.
Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia has a wide range of chain and independent restaurants covering all cuisines. It is particularly popular with workers in the media industry, especially during weekday lunchtimes.
Clapham Junction is not just a train station – but also home to many good restaurants and bars, in particular on Lavender Hill and Battersea Rise
Lordship Lane in the southern suburbs – head to East Dulwich station – a good selection of european restaurants and a few award winning gastropubs
High Street Croydon Croydon is derided by most Londoners as the end of the earth, however this suburban gem of a road has at least 30 decent restaurants, including three Argentinians, a South African curryhouse, a couple of fancy modern European brassieres, and just about every over type of cuisine you can think of. Sadly chain restaurants are moving in (Zizzi’s, Pizza Express) but most of the places are still independent. Get a quick train to East Croydon station from Victoria or London Bridge.
Brick Lane in the East End is famous for Bangladeshi curries; Brixton for African/Caribbean. Chinatown just off Leicester Square for Chinese; Edgware Road in Marylebone and Paddington is popular for Middle Eastern cuisine; Drummond Street (just behind Euston railway station in the London/Camden district) has lots of vegetarian restaurants – mostly Indian; Kingsland Road for good cheap Vietnamese; Finsbury Park and nearby areas for Greek and Turkish; Tooting, East Ham, Wembley and Southall for authentic & cheap Indian eateries including authentic South Indian restaurants serving hot pongal, dosas, idlis and other South Indian “tiffin” items; Kings Street this extends on to Chiswick High Road from Hammersmith Tube Station and is one long road of a choice of restaurants at very reasonable prices, some bargain mentions are the Thai restaurants offering 2 course lunch for £7. Nearby Shepherds bush is about a 15min walk and is alive with bars and pubs in the evening.
Convenience stores such as Tesco Metro, Sainsbury Central/Local, Budgens, Costcutter, SPAR, Somerfield as well as privately-run ‘corner shops’ sell pre-made sandwiches, snacks, alcohol, cigarettes, drinks etc. Most are open from 05:00-23:00 although some such as Tesco Metro or convenience stores located at petrol stations may open 24 hours although they will stop selling alcohol after 23:00. Be aware that Whistlestop convenience stores (located in or around train stations) are notoriously overpriced and should be avoided.
London is a huge city, visitors will do well to pick up a copy of a cultural magazine like Time Out London (available at most corner shops and newsagents) which gives detailed information and critiques on what’s around town including show times and current attractions.
Live Music London is one of the best cities in the world for concerts, spanning from new musical trends to well known bands. Between huge concert facilities and small pubs, there are hundreds of venues that organise and promote live music every week. Many concerts, especially in smaller or less known places are free, so there is plenty of choice even for tourists on a budget. Kilburn’s important venue is The Good Ship. Due to its inclusive policies and fair payment system, The Good Ship is a favorite place for young aspiring bands to try to get a foot off the ground. Good for those who would like to see bands “before they were big”, who appreciate £5 entrance fees, good beer and friendly staff.
Many local pubs, especially those run by chains like Wetherspoons and Scream tend to be more reasonably priced with good drink promotions on weekday nights and during the day.
In the Bloomsbury area, check out The Court (near the north end of Tottenham Court Road) and The Rocket (Euston Road). Both are fairly cheap to drink at, given that they cater for students of the adjacent University College London. Directly opposite the British Library is The Euston Flyer, popular with locals and commuters alike given its close proximity to St Pancras International railway station.
Classier bars and pubs can be much more expensive. However, the cost of alcohol drops significantly the further away you go from the centre (though be aware that West London tends to be an exception, with prices pretty much the same as the centre).
If you’re looking to save money and meet travelers then pub crawls are guided tours that run nightly in central London. The ‘Camden Pub Crawl’ is a local favorite. Another Operator “1 Big Night Out” pub crawl starts from near Leicester square underground station.
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London has hundreds of options for accommodation to suit all budgets from hostels through historic bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), Prices invariably become inflated close to major sporting tournaments (such as the London Marathon, Wimbledon or major England football/rugby fixtures), or other important events taking place in the city – so it pays to plan your trip around such occasions or book your accommodation well in advance.
In general, most people tend to stay within “Zone 1” of the underground, however do your research carefully – sometimes being that extra five minutes away from a station can make the difference in cost and quality and local food and drinking options. In any case, you can always catch a bus anyway – by the far the best way to see the city and get about generally.
Some of the better value options are to be found in the following central districts:
– Bloomsbury. Relatively quiet district with a wide range of accommodation, and has enjoyed a surge in popularity following Eurostar’s move to St Pancras International station.
– Cartwright Gardens features a dozen small B&Bs in historic houses. Many budget options are located on Argyle Square (just off the Euston Road). Gets a little seedy towards and beyond King’s Cross railway station.
– Earl’s Court and West Kensington in west central London. Budget and modest accommodation as well as good 4-star hotels. Be careful with the cheapest accommodation in this area though as it will likely be very seedy indeed.
– Paddington and Bayswater in north west central London. Has undergone a lot of change recently largely resulting from the Heathrow Express train coming into Paddington station. Good hotels can be found in the immediate area of the station and in quieter spots a short walk away as well as in the traditional mid-range accommodation area further south in Bayswater.
– Westminster. Lots of small B&Bs around the back of Victoria railway station in the Pimlico area.
The “official” Youth Hostel Association of England and Wales (YHA) operates five hostels in Central London. Like everything else, you should book online well in advance – the hostels usually fill up on Friday and Saturday nights about 14 days before. A top tip is don’t be put off if there is no availability left online, phone the hostel in question to see if there are still beds available or if there has been a cancellation.
There are a number of other, independent hostels throughout the city and these are listed in the relevant district articles.
In the summer season, many of the colleges and universities in Central London open up their student halls of residence as hotels during vacations, at usually much lower rates than proper hotels, but expect very basic facilities (e.g. communal bathrooms, no catering facilities), but you will get the personal privacy that you don’t get in hostels for not very much more cost. London University vacation accommodation providers include; UCL Residences LSEVactions, TravelStay.com and Cortisso.
Travellers can choose from a variety of homestay styles such as homeswapping (lovehomeswap.com), living in a temporarily vacated room (anyfriendofours.com) or the high end version where companies specialize in homestays with full hotel services such as housekeeping and concierge (viveunique.com). Most of the time these options are safe but it is important that guests and home-owners take equal precaution to ensure their valuables are safe guarded. Home-owners should always provide guests with terms and conditions of their live-in house rules to ensure there are no mishaps and both parties are at ease. This new trend allows guests to enjoy a less touristy version of London as most of these homes will be in residential areas which each have their own unique charm and experiences. This new trend also allows them to generate additional income or to cover their rental bills whilst they do so.
Act like a local
Be a Londoner and only use the tube as a way of travelling longer distances – you’re here to see London – you can’t see it underground! Londoners joke about the tourists who use the Tube to travel between Leicester Square and Covent Garden stations. This is especially true since the walk from a tube station entrance to the platform at some central stations can be extensive.
As with the rest of the UK, chain pubs abound which Londoners tend to avoid like the plague. A good place to get cheap beer is at any one of the Sam Smith’s run pubs that are dotted around Soho and north of Oxford Street. These pubs are good traditional boozers which are frequented by the local working population.
Londoners wouldn’t dream of eating at venues closest to major tourist attractions (so-called tourist traps) you shouldn’t either! The worst tourist trap food, in the opinion of many Londoners, is served at the various steak houses (Angus Steak House, Aberdeen Steak House etc all around the West End and near to the main train stations). Notorious areas for inflated menu prices trading on travelers’ are also the streets around the British Museum, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.
For more authentic Cockney food, try pie and mash, which originates from the working-class in the East End. Usually minced beef and cold water pastry pie served with mashed potato, mushy peas and ‘liquour’ gravy, it tastes a lot better than it sounds. Some of the best pie houses are M. Manze in Peckham or F. Cooke in Hackney Broadway Market. Water Souchet and London Particular (green-pea and ham) are classic Cockney soups, though hard to find on menus. For those game, jellied eels, pickled-cockles and whelks are all traditional London seafood. For cheap, quality fish and chips frequented by many black cab drivers, try Super Fish near Waterloo station
Watch football Take in a home match of one of the city’s 15+ professional football clubs for a true experience of a lifetime as you see the passion of the “World’s Game” in its mother country. London will have six clubs in the top Premier League in the upcoming 2012–13 season: Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers (QPR), Tottenham Hotspur, and West Ham United. A level down, in the Football League Championship, finds Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace, and Millwall. Five other clubs are in lower levels of the professional league system—Brentford and Leyton Orient in Football League One; and AFC Wimbledon, Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge in Football League Two. Many of the bigger clubs will require booking in advance, sometimes many months ahead, but smaller clubs allow you to simply turn up on match day and pay at the gate. You will be able to find a ticket to a quality football match on any Saturday during the season.
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely considered the most prestigious. Naturally it is a regular feature on the Tennis calendar. London goes “tennis crazy” for two weeks when the competition commences in late June and early July. One of the greatest traditions is to eat Strawberries and Cream, with sugar.
London has a large number of superb art house cinemas. In the summer months, there are often outdoor screenings at various venues, such as Somerset House and in some of the large parks.
ISLE OF WIGHT FESTIVAL 2013 (Festival, Rock, Indie) Seaclose Park, Newport 13/6 2013 – 16/6/2013
READING FESTIVAL 2013 (Festival, Rock, Alternative, Indie, Electro) Richfield Ave, Reading RG1 03/8/2013 – 25/8/2013
NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL 2013 (Carnival, Street event) Notting Hill, London 25/8/2013 – 26/8/2013
Download Festival (Festival, Rock, Alternative) Derby nel Leicestershire 14/6/2013 – 16/6/2013
Glastonbury Festival (Festival, Rock, Alternative) 26/6/2013 – 30/6/2013
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