Noisy, vibrant and truly multicultural, London is a megalopolis of people, ideas and frenetic energy. The capital and largest city of the United Kingdom, it is also the largest city in Western Europe and the European Union. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of a little over 8 million, but the estimate of between 12 and 14 million people in the greater metropolitan area better reflects its size and importance. Considered one of the world's leading "global cities", London remains an international capital of culture, music, education, fashion, politics, finance and trade. Among international tourists, London is the most-visited city in the world.
The name "London" used to refer only to the once-walled "Square Mile" of the original Roman (and later medieval) city (confusingly called the "City of London" or just "The City"). Today, London has taken on a much larger meaning to include all of the vast central parts of the modern metropolis, with the city having absorbed numerous surrounding towns and villages over the centuries, including large portions of the surrounding "home counties", one of which - Middlesex - being completely consumed by the growing metropolis. The term Greater London embraces Central London together with all the outlying suburbs that lie in one continuous urban sprawl within the lower Thames valley. Though densely populated, London retains large swathes of green parkland and open space, even within the city centre.
Greater London is all of the area surrounded by the M25 orbital motorway, and consists of 32 London Boroughs and the City of London that, together with the office of the Mayor of London, form the basis for London's local government. The Mayor of London is elected by London residents and should not be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London. The names of several boroughs, such as Westminster or Camden, are well-known, others less so, such as Wandsworth or Lewisham. This traveller's guide to London recognises cultural, functional and social districts of varying type and size:
Settlement has existed on the site of London since well before Roman times, with evidence of Bronze Age and Celtic settlement. The Roman city of Londinium, established just after the Roman conquest of Britannia in the year 43, formed the basis for the modern city (some isolated Roman period remains are still to be seen within the City). After the end of Roman rule in 410 and a short-lived decline, London experienced a gradual revival under the Anglo-Saxons, as well as the Norsemen, and emerged as a great medieval trading city, and eventually replaced Winchester as the royal capital of England. This paramount status for London was confirmed when William the Conqueror, a Norman, built the Tower of London after the conquest in 1066 and was crowned King of England in Westminster.
London went from strength to strength with the rise of England to first European then global prominence, and the city became a great centre of culture, government and industry. London's long association with the theatre, for example, can be traced back to the English renaissance (witness the Rose Theatre and great playwrights like Shakespeare who made London their home). With the rise of Britain to supreme maritime power in the 18th and 19th centuries (see Industrial Britain) and the possessor of the largest global empire, London became an imperial capital and drew people and influences from around the world to become, for many years, the largest city in the world.
England's royal family has, over the centuries, added much to the London scene for today's traveller: the Albert Memorial, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Royal Albert Hall, Tower of London, Kew Palace and Westminster Abbey being prominent examples.
Despite the inevitable decline of the British Empire, and considerable suffering during World War II (when London was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe in the Blitz), the city is still a top-ranked world city: a global centre of culture, finance, and learning. Today London is easily the largest city in the United Kingdom, eight times larger than the second largest, Birmingham, and ten times larger than the third, Glasgow, and dominates the economic, political and social life of the nation. It is full of excellent bars, galleries, museums, parks and theatres. It is also the most culturally and ethnically diverse part of the country, and arguably of the whole of Europe as well, making it a great multicultural city to visit. Samuel Johnson famously said, "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life". Whether you are interested in ancient history, modern art, opera or underground raves, London has it all.
If you ask a Londoner where the centre of London is, you are likely to get a wry smile. This is because historically London was two cities: a commercial city and a separate government capital.
The commercial capital was the City of London. This had a dense population and all the other pre-requisites of a medieval city: walls, a castle (The Tower of London), a cathedral (St Paul's), a semi-independent City government, a port and a bridge across which all trade was routed so Londoners could make money (London Bridge).
About an hour upstream (on foot or by boat) around a bend in the river was the government capital (Westminster). This had a church for crowning the monarch (Westminster Abbey) and palaces. As each palace was replaced by a larger one, the previous one was used for government, first the Palace of Westminster (better known as the Houses of Parliament), then Whitehall, then Buckingham Palace. The two were linked by a road called The "Strand", old English for riverbank.
London grew both west and east. The land to the west of the City (part of the parish of Westminster) was prime farming land (Covent Garden and Soho for example) and made good building land. The land to the east was flat, marshy and cheap, good for cheap housing and industry, and later for docks. Also the wind blows 3 days out of 4 from west to east, and the Thames (into which the sewage went) flows from west to east. So the West End was up-wind and up-market, the East End was where people worked for a living.
Modern-day London in these terms is a two-centre city, with the area in between known confusingly as the West End.
Despite a perhaps unfair reputation for being unsettled, 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. In some years, 2012 being an example, there was no rain for several weeks.
Extreme weather is rare. Occasionally there may be heavy rain that can bring localised flooding or strong winds that may down trees and damage roofs, but overall you are unlikely to encounter anything too lively.Winter
Winter in London is mild compared to nearby continental European cities due to both the presence of the Gulf Stream and the urban heat effect. The average daily maximum temperature is 8°C (46°F) in December and January. The coldest temperature recorded in London stands at −16.1 °C (3.0 °F) and was recorded at Northolt during January 1962, but this occurred during one of the coldest winters ever seen in the UK.
Daylight hours become increasingly shorter with darkness falling at 15:00 in December. Days continue to be short up until March when sunset starts to occur after 19:00.
Snow does occur, usually a few times a year but rarely heavily (a few years being exceptions such as the winters of 2009 and 2010, with temperatures dipping down to sub-zeros regularly). Snow in London can be crippling, as seen at the end of 2010. Just 7 cm (3 in) of snow will cause trains to stop running, airports to see significant delays, and the postal service to come to a halt. London is a city which does not cope well with snow; walkways, stairs, and streets will not be cleared by shovels or ploughs. The streets will be salted/gritted, but will remain slick and snow/slush covered until the sun melts it away. This is due to a lack of widespread snow-clearing infrastructure as the city does not often see snow.Spring
Spring in the capital can be something of a weather rollercoaster with big variations in temperature day by day. It can be a very wet time of year, but the increases in day length from March onwards and steady temperature increases as the season progresses can make it a pleasant time to visit.
Days can be mild and warm, but the temperature will often dip at night as the sun's warmth dissipates.
The beginning of spring in March can be as cold as winter, so be sure to bring something warm to wear!Summer
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). The highest temperature ever seen in London stands at 38.1°C (100.6°F), which was recorded on 10 August 2003 at Kew Gardens.
Humidity across the city can increase and stay high over the course of several days and nights, leading to unexpectedly muggy conditions. Also, upon occasion, clouds of dust from storms in the Sahara desert can be blown across Europe and lead to increases in pollution levels.
Despite the increased warmth, the weather in summer can be variable. Occasional prolonged instances of rain and unexpected dips in temperature can occur. If you're coming during the summer it is still advised to dress in layers and bring some waterproofs!Autumn
Autumn in London can vary from year to year: In some years September and October can see temperatures not far below those seen in summer due to a phenomenon known as an "Indian summer", but in other years the temperature can decrease rapidly to winter levels and stay there. Day length at the beginning of autumn is near that of summer, meaning that a September trip can still be as easy to plan as an August one.
Mid-autumn is also a wonderful time to wander one of London's many tree-filled parks as the leaves fade from green to gold. Another benefit of a September trip is that school-aged children return to school at the beginning of the month, meaning that some tourist attractions may be quieter.
Autumn tends to be the wettest and windiest season but, again, this can vary from year to year.
It's best to see autumn in London as being like a box of chocolates: You never know what you're going to get!
Since the closure of the Britain and London Visitor Centre in December 2011 due to cost-cutting by the government, London has no centrally located tourist information centre.
The City of London Information Centre, as the last remaining information centre in any of the Central London boroughs, is now the only impartial, face-to-face source of tourist information in Central London. It is located in St. Paul's Churchyard, next to St. Paul's Cathedral, and is open every day other than Christmas Day and Boxing Day, from 09.30-17.30 Monday to Saturday, and 10.00-16.00 on Sunday.
There is no office for tourist information for the whole of the UK nor for the whole of England.
London receives more flights than any other city in the world. It is served by five airports (all airports code: LON). Travelling between the city and the airports is made relatively easy by the many public transport links.
If transiting through London, check the arrival and departure airports carefully as transfers across the city may be quite time consuming. Other regional UK airports are conveniently accessible from London. They offer a growing number of budget flights, which may be faster, depending on where in London your destination is.
National Express offers fast, direct inter-airport coach service between Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton at least hourly. Heathrow-Gatwick take 65 min (£18), and Heathrow-Stansted services take 90 min (£20.50). Services between Stansted and Luton run every two hours. It's essential to allow leeway, as London's motorways are often congested to the point of gridlock. Some of these coaches have toilets on board.
1 Heathrow Airport (IATA: LHR). is London's largest airport and the world's busiest airport in terms of international passenger movements, with services available from most major airports world-wide. It has 4 active terminals. Terminal 1 has been closed and is being demolished.
Here's a quick summary of transport options from Heathrow to central London:
2 Gatwick Airport (IATA: LGW). is London's second airport, also serving a large spectrum of places world-wide. It is the world's busiest single runway airport and is split into a North Terminal and South Terminal. The two terminals are linked by a free shuttle train (5 minutes). The British Rail train station is located in the South Terminal.
Transport options into central London:
When departing, no drinking fountains are to be found in the South Terminal departure lounge after passing through security.
3 Stansted Airport (IATA: STN). is London's third airport, and is dominated by the two low-cost airlines EasyJet and Ryanair.
Transport options into central London:
4 London Luton Airport (IATA: LTN). is London's fourth airport after Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. It's nearer to central London than the latter two airports at 35 mi (57 km) north of central London and situated 1.7 mi (2.8 km) east of Luton town centre. It's a major hub for easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air, Thomson Airways and Monarch Airlines. The vast majority of routes served are within Europe, although there are some charter and scheduled routes to destinations in Northern Africa and Asia.
Like Stansted, it is commonplace for some passengers on early morning flights to sleep in the terminal before their flights. There can be heavy traffic congestion on the access road caused by the surge of early flights. The Parkway Airport station, which serves the terminal, is about 20 minutes walk back into town, although there is a regular shuttle bus charging £1.60 to take you to the station. If your train ticket says Luton Airport (rather than Luton Airport Parkway), then the bus ride is included in the ticket.
Other airlines using the airport include Aer Arann, FlyBE and El Al, to cities primarily in Scotland, Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. If leaving on a morning flight (departing between 0700-0830), it is advisable to leave extra time to check in and clear security.
5 London City Airport (IATA: LCY). is London's fifth largest airport. A commuter airport close to the City's financial district, and specialising in short-haul business flights to other major European cities. There are also routes to holiday destinations that include Malaga, Ibiza and Mallorca.
The airport is located 11 km / 6.9 miles east of the City of London and a short distance from Canary Wharf. It mainly offers flights to major European cities by full service carriers. British Airways operates two services a day to New York JFK on weekdays and a daily service on weekends using an Airbus A318 in an entirely business class configuration.
You may indeed find that in some instances this may be your cheapest London airport to fly to, especially if you add £10 or more in transfer costs from outlying airports. It has a convenient link to the Docklands Light Rail (DLR). Minimum check-in time for most airlines is around 30 minutes, with some offering 15 minute check-in deadlines. Queues for security can be long at peak business times. Touchdown to the DLR (including taxi, disembarkation, immigration and baggage reclaim) can be as fast at 5 minutes, although 15 minutes is normal.
To get to the city centre the following options exist:
Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.
London is the hub of the British rail network - every major city in mainland Britain has a frequent train service to the capital, and most of the smaller, provincial cities and large towns also have a direct rail connection to London of some sort - although the frequency and quality of service can vary considerably from place to place.
Rail fares to London vary enormously from very cheap to prohibitively expensive - the golden rules are to book Advance tickets for a particular train time, don't travel into the city on Friday afternoons and Sundays, and avoid leaving buying tickets until the day of travel. There are three basic types of ticket, which are summarised below. Much of the advice applies to rail travel in general within the United Kingdom.
The local and commuter rail companies within the London and Home Counties area also have a bewildering array of special fares which are all in essence, variations of the Off-Peak ticket and are far too detailed to cover here - go directly to the website of the operator concerned for more information. If you only intend to use trains within the Greater London boundary, then the Oyster Card (explained below) is by far the easiest and cheapest option to use.
Seats can be reserved for free on all long-distance trains to London - the reservation is always issued automatically with an Advance ticket, and with most Off-Peak and Anytime tickets bought on-line. If, for whatever reason you hold an Anytime or Off-Peak ticket and there is no seat reservation coupon, then it is highly recommended you get one from any railway station ticket office - if you want to avoid camping out in the vestibule for all or part of the journey!! First Class is available on all long distance services to London, the standard of service varies from operator to operator, but in general you get a wider, more comfortable seat, free tea/coffee for the duration of the journey, and some sort of complimentary catering service. If can be great value if you get an Advance first-class fare, but it is extremely expensive otherwise, and to be honest - not really worth it. You can pay a Weekend supplement (generally £15-£20) to sit in the first class section of the train on Saturdays and Sundays, - useful if the service you are on is hideously overcrowded - but you don't get the same catering service as during the week.
If you are the holder of a Britrail pass, things are simpler - reservations are not required. However, if you wish to be guaranteed a seat, rather than standing for a lengthy journey (trains can be very busy, especially at peak times) then you can make a seat reservation at any station. If you intend to use the overnight Sleeper trains to London, you will have to pay a berth supplement for every member of your party - provided there is berth availability on the train.
London has one international high speed rail route (operated by Eurostar) that runs between Paris (2hr 15min), Brussels (1hr 50 min) and a selection of French cities, diving under the sea for 35 km (22 mi) via the Channel Tunnel. The service terminates at St Pancras International station.
For domestic train services, there are no fewer than 12 main line National Rail terminals. With the exception of Fenchurch Street (Tube: Tower Hill) all of these stations are also on the London Underground with most being on the Circle line. Clockwise starting at Paddington, major National Rail stations are:
Most international and domestic long distance coach (U.S. English: bus) services arrive at and depart from a complex of coach stations off Buckingham Palace Road in Westminster close to London Victoria rail station. All services operated by National Express or Eurolines (see below) serve 15 London Victoria Coach Station, which actually has separate arrival and departure buildings. Services by other operators may use this station, or the 16 Green Line Coach Station across Buckingham Palace Road. The following are among the main coach operators:
Since the opening of the French long distance bus market in 2015, several companies have entered the market and many also serve a London-Paris route, which crosses under the Channel via the Channel tunnel. Travel time tends to be upwards of seven hours, but fares are accordingly low in order to compete with airlines and Eurostar. Companies offering this service include ouibus, Flixbus and the companies Megabus and Eurolines mentioned above
London is the hub of the UK's road network and is easy to reach by car, even if driving into the centre of the city is definitely not recommended.
Comparatively few people will actually drive into (or anywhere near) the centre of London. The infamous M25 ring road did not earn its irreverent nicknames "The Road To Hell" and "Britain's biggest car park" for nothing. The road is heavily congested at most times of the day, and is littered with automatically variable speed limits which are enforced with speed cameras. Despite the controversial "congestion charge", driving a car anywhere near the centre of London remains a nightmare with crowded roads, impatient drivers and extortionate parking charges (if you can find a space in the first place, that is!). From Monday through Friday, though, parking in the City of London is free after 18:30; after 13:30 on Saturday and all day Sunday.
Pay-as-you-go car rental companies operating around London include Sixt , Car Clubs and Season Car Hire
Greater London is encircled by the M25 orbital motorway, from which nearly all the major trunk routes to Scotland, Wales and the rest of England radiate. The most important are listed below.
A roads are major roads which can vary in scale from local routes to major thoroughfares.
The North Circular Road and South Circular Road are two roads are connected at the east end of the circle in North Woolwich by the Woolwich Free Ferry. The ferry runs approximately every 10–15 minutes and is free of charge, but has limited space and can get very busy at peak times. The ferry stops running after 22:00, so at night it's advisable to travel through Docklands and use the Blackwall Tunnel instead.
London has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite residents' perpetual (and sometimes justified) grumbling about unreliability, public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere for visitors and residents alike.
In central London use a combination of the transport options listed below - and check your map! In many cases you can easily walk from one place to another or use the buses. 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!
Transport for London (TfL) is a government organisation responsible for all public transport. Their website contains maps plus an excellent journey planner. TfL publishes a useful 'coping guide' specially designed for travellers who wish to use public transport during their visit to London. This can be downloaded in PDF format and printed as an 18-page brochure. TfL also offers a 24-hour travel information line, charged at premium rate: tel +44 843 222 1234 (or text 60835) for suggestions on getting from A to B, and for up to the minute information on how services are running. Fortunately for visitors (and indeed residents) there is a single ticketing system, Oyster, which enables travellers to switch between modes of transport on one ticket.
The main travel options in summary are:
Oyster is a contactless electronic smartcard run by Transport for London. Unless you have a contactless credit card (see above), Oyster is the most cost-effective option if you plan to be in London for any more than a couple of days, or if you intend to make return visits to the city: the savings quickly recover the initial purchase cost. You can buy an Oyster card from any Tube station for a deposit of £5. You can "top up" an Oyster card with electronic funds. This money is then deducted according to where you travel. The cost of a single trip using the Oyster card is considerably less than buying a single paper ticket with cash. Prices vary depending on distance travelled, whether by bus or tube, and on the time of day. You can also add various electronic seven-day, 1 month and longer-period Travelcards onto an Oyster, and the card is simply validated each time you use it.
The deposit is fully refundable if you hand it in at any staffed Tube station's ticket office, and you will also get any pay-as-you-go credit refunded. If you have less than £10 credit on your card, you can claim an instant refund of the credit and deposit at some ticket machines after 48 hours of purchase of your Oyster card. However, your Oyster card, and the credit on it, never expires, so keep it around in case you return to London. Be prepared to give your signature on receipts or even show ID for refunds over a few pounds.
Oyster is valid on all red London buses, and almost all trains in London: a list of destinations is available on the London Tube and Rail Services map. Oyster is not valid on buses or trains outside London: if you need to travel beyond the stations on the map, you will have to pay for a paper ticket. (If you do not, you may be liable for a penalty fare or prosecution!) Oyster is also not accepted on long-distance coaches, nor on tour buses, charter buses or on the community bus route 812 in Islington.
Also, Oyster can not be used on:
If you have a National Railcard, such as the 16-25 Railcard or the Senior Railcard, you can register this with your Oyster card at a Tube ticket office to receive substantial discounts on your off-peak pay-as-you-go fares.Visitor Oyster card
Visitor Oyster card is a version of normal Oyster card targeted to travelers. This version of Oyster could be purchased from some travel agents outside London and overseas or ordered by mail. Also this card could be send back to TFL by mail after a trip to London to claim a refund for a card and its unused balance.
Visitor Oyster cards come pre-charged with with pay as you go credit: £10, £15, £20, £25, £30, £35, £40 or £50. The card itself costs £3 plus postage.
With a Visitor Oyster card you can get some discounts in various venues across the city.Using your Oyster
When using your Oyster card to travel, make sure the reader is displaying an orange light, then place it flat against the reader. Listen carefully for a single beep, and watch for a green light: if this happens, it means your card has been accepted, and you can proceed. If you hear two beeps and see a red light, this means your card has not been accepted. Take the card off the reader, wait for the orange light, and try again; if this continues to happen, ask for help from a member of staff.
You can sign up for contactless and Oyster account. This will allow you track your journeys and apply for a claim of some money for incomplete journeys (see below).On Tube and similar
When getting on any kind of train, such as the Tube, the DLR, the London Overground or National Rail, you must touch your Oyster card on the yellow circular reader at the start and end of your journey:
Failure to do this when you begin a journey is regarded as fare dodging, and if you are caught you could be charged a Penalty Fare or prosecuted. Equally, failing to touch out when you leave a station will result in you being charged a maximum fare for your journey, since the system doesn't know which station you left at. The exact value of a maximum fare depends on a station where you started a journey and it can be between £5.40 and £14.20.
Usually you will not need to touch your Oyster card on a reader when changing trains. However, some stations have pink Oyster "route validators" on the platforms: if you are getting off one train and getting onto another at one of these stations, touch your Oyster on the pink reader so that the system charges you the right fare for the route you have taken. There are a few other situations where you might need to touch out when changing trains: always ask a member of railway staff if you are in doubt.On bus and tram
When using a London bus or a tram, you only touch in once, when getting on it. You don't need to touch out when you get off the bus - if you do, you will be charged twice.
Most buses have their Oyster reader next to the driver. Trams and some buses have Oyster readers on poles next to the doors. Some buses on routes 9 and 15 in central London are operated by heritage Routemasters. These buses have only one entrance, at the back, and are operated by conductors. Simply take your seat on the bus, and have your Oyster card ready: the conductor will take your card and scan it with a hand-held ticket machine.
You can make a change to another bus or a tram free of charge during one hour. You'll still have to touch your Oyster at the 2nd bus or tram, but no money will be deducted then.Tips
You can top up your Oyster card with cash at any Tube station ticket machine or ticket office (you can use a credit card if it has a PIN number) with Oyster pay-as-you-go, also known as PrePay. Money is then deducted from your Oyster card each time you travel. When travelling by train, the fare is calculated based on where you started and ended your journey. Pay-as-you-go is much cheaper than paying by cash for each journey. For instance, a cash fare on the Tube in Zone 1 costs £4.70, while with an Oyster Card it costs £2.40. Bus fares are flat and you will be charged the same fare every time you get on the bus, regardless of whether you're getting off after one stop or going right to the end of the route.
The amount of Oyster credit deducted from your card in one day is capped at the cost of the equivalent day Travelcard for the journeys you have made. This means that on a day-to-day basis, you will always get the best fares when using Oyster pay-as-you-go. If you travel by bus only, your total fares are capped at £4.40 each day: this makes bus travel very good value in central London if you are making lots of journeys.
Don't forget: when travelling by train, make sure you touch your Oyster in and out at the start and end of each journey, or you will be charged extra!
A Travelcard gives you unlimited travel on trains within the relevant zones, and unlimited travel on all red London buses, even outside the zones of your Travelcard. You can have your Travelcard loaded onto your Oyster, or you can have it as a paper ticket. For periods longer than 7 days, you will usually need to register your Oyster card or provide some form of photographic I.D. Especially for the Zone 1-2 tickets, the paper Day Travelcard is substantially more expensive than the maximum Oyster fare (£12 vs. £6.40). Therefore, an Oyster card will generally offer much better value.
The above prices are adult prices and are correct throughout 2015. For an up-to-date and comprehensive list of fares, see TfL's web site.
If you are using Oyster and travel beyond the zones of your Travelcard, you will be charged an extension fare from your pay-as-you-go credit when you touch out at your destination. If you are using a paper Travelcard and need to travel beyond your zones, you should get off at the boundary of your last valid zone and buy a ticket for the rest of your journey: if you do not, you will be charged a penalty fare and may be prosecuted!
A contactless payment, debit or credit card can be used directly to pay fares on buses, trains and the Underground. Some pre-paid cards may work as well. A contactless card bears a four waves logo on it and there is a RFID chip fitted in. These cards were earlier branded under ExpressPay, PayPass or PayWave names. Most of Visa, MasterCard, Maestro or American Express cards issued outside the UK are accepted. Some V PAY and Visa may not work though.
When you enter a station or get on the bus, you just touch the card against the yellow validation reader, as if it were an Oyster card. The price is the same as with an Oyster card. The price per day is automatically capped at the price of a day ticket. You also avoid the (sometimes very long) queues at ticket machines, and the deposit of £5 for an Oyster card. A contactless credit card has an advantage over Pay-as-you-go using Oyster as there is no need of topping it up. A Travelcard can not be loaded onto a contactless card. The same card cannot be used by two or more different passengers.
Using a contactless card may be a tricky though. Your bank may be asking for additional confirmations, so TfL may suspend accepting a card until you release a pending payment. Also sometimes you may end up with an unfinished journey even though you've touched an exit gate probably because a card may require a bit longer to process after a gate is opened. Perhaps it would be prudent to keep a card at a reader until the gate opens fully.
It seems to be useful to sign up for contactless and Oyster account to be able to check for these issues.
It's still possible to pay for a journey by a paper single or return ticket albeit it makes sense perhaps if you make only a couple of journeys on public transport during your trip to London as they cost significantly more in comparison with the other means of payment.
Day Travelcards, One-Day Bus & Tram passes and season tickets could be also purchased in paper.
The following table summarises the validity of the different tickets you can use on Oyster. For most tourists, trains and buses are the only transport you will use, but Oyster is not valid at all on airport express trains to Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted or Southend. However, Oyster is valid on the Piccadilly line to Heathrow Airport, as this is an Underground train.
The London Underground has connections to all terminals at Heathrow (including Terminals 4 & 5) and most major London rail termini, with the exception of Fenchurch Street. Interchange hubs are also served, (such as Farringdon, Elephant & Castle, Harrow & Wealdstone and Stratford.
London is a surprisingly compact city, making it a walker's delight. In many instances, walking is the quickest method of transport between two points.
Because Britain drives on the left hand side of the road, for most foreign visitors it can be all too easy to forget that traffic will come at you from the opposite direction than you are used to when crossing a street - for this reason remember to look right when you cross the road. If you are using a pedestrian crossing, don't think it's safe to risk it, even if you can't see any traffic coming: always wait for the green man to appear, and then cross quickly and carefully.
Particularly on Central London's busiest streets, it is easy to spot native Londoners as they weave in and out of the large crowds at fast speed; tourists who cannot will stand out. Make sure you're aware of your surroundings when in London—Londoners are usually very considerate, but a group of tourists standing in the middle of the pavement can be a major annoyance! Try standing to the side of busy pavements and footpaths, especially if you're with a group.
In some instances it can be more pleasant or faster to walk your intended route instead of taking the Tube. Walking to another Tube station can also help you to avoid crowds. By looking at a map you'll notice that some central London Tube stations are very close to each other. TfL have produced a map detailing the walking time and number of steps between various popular stations. Here are some more specific instructions for some of the stations that tourists use:
Oxford Circus station can become extremely busy on weekday evenings and, if convenient, it is worth walking to other Tube stations.
The London Underground, known popularly as the Tube due to its tube-like tunnels drilled through the London clay, is a network of 11 lines which criss-cross London in one of the largest underground rail networks in the world. It was also the first: the oldest section of the Hammersmith & City Line opened as the Metropolitan Railway in 1863. The Tube is an easy method of transport even for new visitors to London and is equivalent to subway and metro systems in other world cities.
The routes operated by the London Underground fall into 2 broad types: the older "sub-surface" lines, encompassing the Metropolitan, District, Circle and Hammersmith & City lines, date from the 19th century. The "deep level" routes were largely constructed in the early-to-mid-20th century. The sub-surface lines are usually accessed by walking down a short set of stairs, whereas the deep-level lines are accessed by a complicated network of escalators or lifts. It is the deep lines which are served by the iconic tube-shaped trains which, despite their small size, can only just fit through the tunnels.
Each line has stations with interesting architectural and artistic features typical of the era they were opened. As you travel around the network, look out for Victorian finery, Edwardian glazed tiles, smooth Art Deco symmetry, and striking modern masterpieces. Various conservation pieces are also present, such as the heritage 1900s station name roundel sign at Caledonian Road on the westbound platform.
Trains on most days and on most lines 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 they 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, as there is no air conditioning on most of the trains. Engineering works which can't be completed overnight usually take place during weekend. TfL's website has a notifying tracking delays, closures and planned engineering works, which you should check if you plan to travel on a Saturday or a Sunday, when entire lines may be shut down.
In central London, taking the Tube for just one stop can be a waste of time; Londoners joke about the tourists who use the Tube to travel between Leicester Square and Covent Garden stations, a journey which can take over 10 minutes on the Tube, despite the two stations being only a couple of minute's walk apart. This is especially true since the walk from a Tube station entrance to the platform at some central stations can be extensive. The Tube map also gives no information on London's extensive bus and rail network. For more information see the 'By foot' section.
The Night Tube, introduced in 2016, is a limited 24-hour Tube service that operates on certain lines on Fridays and Saturdays. As of December 2016, it runs on the following lines:
Travel on the Tube system will always require the purchase of a ticket or the use of an Oyster card or contactless payment card if you have one; fare evasion is treated as a serious matter.
Single tickets are charged at two rates, depending on the payment method. Cash fares are zonal, Zones 1-2 being £4.70 between any two stations in those zones, a zone 1-6 single ticket is £5.70. Single Oyster fares are charged by the number of zones crossed, starting at £2.20 for 1 zone up to £5 for 6 zones. There are additional fares payable for zones beyond 6, but these are mostly outside what is considered London. Paper travelcards valid for 1 day, 3 or 7 days are also available and can also be used on buses, National Rail trains, the DLR and Croydon Tramlink. They are priced by zones: a 1-day travelcard for Zones 1-2 costs £9 (Day anytime). Under operator-specific schemes, registered students, seniors and the disabled can claim specific discounts by showing a suitable photocard having been obtained in advance of travel.
Almost all stations have automatic ticket barriers. If you pay by Oyster card or a contactless payment card, just tap your card against the yellow pad to open the barriers (ensure that you do this upon both entrance and exit). If you have a paper ticket, insert it face-up into the slot on the front of the machine, and remove it from the top to enter the station. If you have a single-ticket it will be retained at the exit gate. If you have luggage or if your ticket is rejected there is normally a staffed gate as well.
Paper tickets can be purchased from vending machines in the station's ticket hall. There are two types of machine: the older machines that have buttons for different fare levels and accept only coins and the new touchscreen machines that have instructions in multiple languages, offer a greater choice of ticket and accept bills and credit/debit cards (if your card has no embedded microchip, you cannot use these machines and you must pay at the ticket counter).
All lines are identified by name (e.g. Circle line, Central line, Piccadilly line). Many lines have multiple branches rather than running point-to-point, so always check the train's destination (which is shown on the front of the train and the platform indicator screens, and will be broadcast on the train's PA). Some branches, such as at High Street Kensington station, run as shuttles and require a transfer onto the "main line".
Signs can be seen to be vague, especially if you are unfamiliar with what compass point direction (e.g. northbound) you're travelling in, as these are most often given rather than destinations. A person new to the Tube can become very frustrated trying to work out where a particular connection at a particular station is found. Even regular travellers will tell you they can become confused when going to unfamiliar stations. Just be patient and realise mistakes can be made and you can recover. Each station is staffed by at least two personnel at all times who can advise you on your route and full system maps are on the walls of every platform and ticket office. Additionally, on every platform, there are individual line maps showing all the stations served by trains calling at that platform.
The Northern line has two routes through central London which split at Euston and rejoin at Kennington. One (the Charing Cross Branch) runs through the West End, while the other route runs via the City of London (called the Bank branch, or the City branch). It is fairly easy to work out which way your train is going; check the signs above the platform, and on the front of the train. The train's destination and central branch will also be announced on board, for example "This train is for Edgware, via Charing Cross."Tube maps
The Tube is made up of 11 lines each bearing a traditional name and a standard colour on the Tube map. You can change between lines at interchange stations (providing you stay within the zones shown on your ticket). Since the Tube map is well designed it is very easy to work out how to get between any two stations, and since each station is clearly signed it is easy to work out when to exit your train. The Tube map is a diagram and not a scaled map, making it misleading for determining the relative distance between stations as it makes central stations appear further apart and somewhat out of place - the most distant reaches of the Metropolitan Line for example are almost 60 km (40 mi) from the centre of the city.
Tube maps are freely available from any station, most tourist offices, and are prominently displayed in stations. The National Rail map also shows National Rail services is displayed as a large poster at most Tube stations.
Finally, direction signs for the platforms indicate the geographical direction of the line, not the last stop of the line. It is always advisable to carry a pocket Tube map to help you with this.
Be considerate of your fellow passengers as best you can. Pushing and rushing are seen as extremely rude - there's not much need to run for a Tube train unless it's the very last one of the day! Also, trying to strike up a conversation with strangers is seen as peculiar and will instantly mark you out as a tourist. Despite having a reputation as being aloof Londoners are usually happy to help out if you have a problem, but otherwise they'd rather you didn't try be overly familiar.
Although the doors on some Tube trains have buttons, they have been disconnected from the electricity & don't do anything. Pushing a button will only mark you out as a tourist. If the train pulls into the station and the doors don't open immediately then wait for a few seconds - the driver undershot the station and will need to drive the train forward a short distance.
Crime levels on the Tube systems are comparable to but typically lower than many other subway systems, and traveller advice about watching luggage and valuables is reasonable. Owing to a heightened security climate, and a history of political violence targeting the Tube, unattended baggage may be treated as a suspect or explosive device and may be destroyed. Lost items (if not destroyed) will end up at the Lost Property Office (Tube: Baker Street). You can fill in a form online describing your lost item and TfL will contact you if it is found.
The Tube system is covered by an extensive CCTV system, although it is not advised to be reliant on this fact when travelling.
The London Underground considers its safety record to be a matter of professional honour, major accidents being incredibly rare. Front-line staff are well trained for emergencies and will follow well rehearsed procedures. In addition front-line staff are generally appreciative of traveller vigilance, if concerns are politely expressed. If you notice something that concerns you please speak to a member of staff or a British Transport Police officer.Photography
Although there is no specific bylaw barring casual photography, owing to the increased threat from terrorism, some front-line staff can be nervous about the intent and nature of photographers. If you are visiting a station for the sole purpose of photography, or you plan to be in the station for some time, you should let a member of front-line staff know your intentions. At busy stations you should take care not to cause an obstruction. Under no circumstances should direct photography of security critical equipment (such as CCTV cameras) be taken, and it is advised to ask before photographing front-line staff. Flash photography is explicitly prohibited on safety grounds, as it could distract safety critical personnel. Tripods are also prohibited due to the obstruction they can cause.
Large scale or commercial photography or filming requires a specific permit which can be obtained through TfL. More information about filming on TfL property is available at this website.
London's iconic red buses are recognised the world over, even if the traditional Routemaster buses, with an open rear platform and on-board conductor to collect fares, have mostly been phased out. These still run on the central section of route 15 daily between about 09:30 and 18:30, every 15 minutes.
Buses are generally quicker than taking the Tube for shorter (less than a couple of stops on the Tube) trips, and out of central London you're likely to be closer to a bus stop than a Tube station. Most buses in London are very frequent (at least every ten minutes.) Buses are usually accessible for buggies and wheelchairs. Buses also have a flat rate fare which stays the same no matter how far you travel (you will need to pay the fare again if you board a different bus).
Transport for London produces all Bus route maps
Over 5 million bus trips are made each weekday; with over 700 different bus routes you are never far from a bus. Each bus stop has a sign listing the routes that stop there. Bus routes are identified by numbers and sometimes letters. It is not possible to buy tickets for cash on the bus so you must have a valid Travelcard, Oyster card or contactless credit or debit card before you get on. Alternatively, tickets may be purchased from most newsagents in London, or from ticket machines at certain central London stops.
Buses have very clear blinds on the front, with their route number and their destination. When you see your bus approaching, signal clearly to the driver that you intend to get on their bus: the way to do this is to stick your hand out, with an open palm. The driver will indicate and pull into the stop.
Most buses have two doors. Form an orderly queue at the front door: when you reach the driver, touch your Oyster or contactless card on the reader, or show them your Travelcard or pass. Some buses are worked by the 'New Routemaster': you can get on this bus at any of its three doors, as long as you touch in your Oyster or contactless card as soon as you board. Some buses on routes 15 over the central section from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill are run by the original heritage Routemasters: take a seat on the bus, and wait for the conductor to come round to scan your Oyster card. Always wait for people to get out of the bus before you enter.
Hold on tight - especially if you can't find a seat! Buses can accelerate and brake very fast so always grab hold of one of the handrails.
Most buses have a system that provides visual and audible announcements of the bus's destination at every stop, the stops and nearby landmarks. On Routemasters, the conductor will usually make announcements.
When you are nearing your stop, press one of the red "STOP" buttons on the handrails once only. You'll hear a bell, or a buzzer, and the words "Bus Stopping" will appear on the iBus screen. Get off the bus using the middle or rear door.
If you're travelling on a heritage Routemaster, there are only two bell-pushers: alternatively, there is a cord hanging from the ceiling on the lower deck which you can pull to ring the bell. Be very careful only to ring it once: two bells is the signal the conductor uses to tell the driver to continue past the next stop!
Finally, always watch out for moving traffic when you get off the bus, especially if you are on a bus with an open platform at the back (a Routemaster or a New Bus for London) Don't try to get off the bus until it has stopped, or is moving very slowly, and always be careful of cyclists and pedestrians.Tips
The adult bus fare is £1.50. Cash is not accepted: so you must pay with an Oyster card, contactless credit or debit card or a paper Travelcard you have already bought.
Unlike on the Tube, you are charged for each bus you travel on. If you change buses then you will normally be charged a new bus fare up to the daily/weekly price cap. However, the Hopper fare allows you to make two bus or tram journeys for the price of one if you use an Oyster card or contactless payment method. Your second journey must be made within an hour of touching in on the first bus or tram you are travelling on and you must also use the same card for both journeys.Oyster
If you have a seven-day or monthly Travelcard or Bus and Tram Pass on your Oyster, that includes free bus travel across all of London, even outside the zones of your Travelcard (buses aren't subject to zones). You still need to touch in when you get on the bus, but you won't be charged.
If you do not have a Travelcard, the fare of £1.50 is taken from your Oyster pay as you go credit as soon as you touch in when you get on the bus. The most you will be charged for single bus journeys in one day is £4.40: daily bus and tram travel is 'capped' at this level.
If you have some money on your Oyster, but not enough for the full fare, the system will let you go into a negative balance to make one more journey, but you will not be able to use your Oyster again until you top up to clear the negative balance. You should be given a paper slip telling you that it is time to top up when this happens.
Touch your Oyster on the reader as soon as you get on the bus or may be liable to a Penalty Fare or prosecution.Contactless credit, debit or prepaid cards
You can also pay for with most contactless debit, credit or prepaid Visa, MasterCard/Maestro or American Express cards. You touch the card flat against the reader, like you would with an Oyster card, but your account is charged instead. Some foreign-issued cards will not work for contactless payment.
The total charges for that day are calculated and taken out of your account overnight. As with Oyster, you are charged £1.50 for each bus fare, up to a cap of £4.40 each day. In addition, a weekly price cap applies from Monday to Sunday, so you will never pay more than £21 for bus travel on a contactless card in any one week.
If you have more than one contactless card, or an Oyster and a contactless card, be careful and keep them in separate pockets, and only touch one on the reader. The system is supposed to reject both cards if it doesn't know which one you want to pay with, but there is a small chance you may be charged twice for the same journey. You may also be charged transaction charges with foreign cards, and some cards might not work if they are older or not programmed correctly: contact your card issuer in the event of problems.
NFC payment chips, for instance on a wristband or a mobile phone, may also work, but be prepared to have a backup payment method if they do not work.
For full information about contactless fares, including caveats, see TfL's web site.Concessions
Children aged 10 and under travel for free on the bus when accompanied by an adult. Children between the ages of 11 and 15 must touch in using a Zip card, yet journeys are still free. If they do not have a Zip card they must pay the full fare using an adult Oyster or contactless card. 16-18 Student Oyster cards (only available to students studying in London) go up to age 18 and journeys are still free. Residents of England who have an ENCTS free bus pass (for the elderly or disabled) also get free travel: simply show your pass to the driver or conductor.
Standard bus services run from around 06:00-00:30. Around half past midnight the network changes to the vast night bus network of well over 100 routes stretching all over the city. There are two types of night buses: 24 hour routes and N-prefixed routes.
24-hour services keep the same number as during the day and will run exactly the same route, such as the number 88, for example. N-prefixed routes are generally very similar to their day-route, but may take a slightly different route or are extended to serve areas that are further out. For example, the 29 bus goes from Trafalgar Square to Wood Green during the day; however, the N29 bus goes from Trafalgar Square to Wood Green and then continues to Enfield.
Night buses run at a 30 minute frequency at minimum, with many routes at much higher frequencies up to every 5 minutes.
Prices stay the same, and daily travelcards are valid until 04:29 the day after they were issued, so can be used on night buses. Most bus stops will have night bus maps with all the buses to and from that local area on it, although it is good to check on the TfL website beforehand, which also has all those maps easily available.
While Britons on public transport are normally a model of reserve, those using night buses have a bit of a reputation for loud and rowdy behaviour. This is mainly because passengers are often people who have been having a good time in central London's clubs and bars; particularly true on buses leaving central London between 01:00 and 03:00. While the buses are normally quite safe, if this is a concern for you, consider taking a pre-booked minicab instead, or failing that sit or stand on the lower deck of the buses nearer the driver. Always call out to the driver if you are pickpocketed, threatened or attacked.
Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is a dedicated light rail network operating in East London, connecting with the Tube network at Bank, Tower Gateway (close to Tower Hill station), Canning Town, Heron Quays (close to Canary Wharf Tube station), and Stratford. As the trains operate automatically, it can be quite exciting - especially for children - to sit at the front and look out through the window, whilst feeling as though one is driving the train oneself. The DLR runs above ground on much of its route, and travels through many scenic parts of London, including the Docklands area where most of London's skyscrapers are located.
Unlike on the Tube, most DLR stations do not have ticket gates (except for Bank and Stratford). Also, unlike the Tube, you do need to push the buttons to open the doors. You can top up an Oyster card, buy a Travelcard or buy a paper ticket (at a substantial premium) from the ticket machines at the station. (Most stations are unstaffed, so if you want to pay by cash, make sure you have plenty of change!) As there are no gates, when travelling by Oyster you must always remember to touch in at the start of your journey and touch out at the end. Even if you are changing to the Underground at Canary Wharf/Heron Quays, you must still touch in/out at the DLR station: the system will recognise that you have made an interchange between the two stations and treat it as part of the same journey.
The DLR can be a little confusing as the routes are not easily distinguished. Check the displays on the platform, which will show you the destination and the wait for the next three trains, and also check the destination displays on the front and side of the train and listen for announcements. At busy times, some trains do not run the full length of the route. Take the first train, listen for announcements, and change where necessary.
Be extra careful at Canning Town station as it is very busy and the line divides into two sections - one heading to Woolwich Arsenal and the other heading to Beckton. Always check the destination on the front of the train before getting on, especially at off-peak times.
Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom, with information applicable to using the National Rail system within London.
The British railway system is known as National Rail (although some older signs still refer to it as "British Rail"). London's suburban rail services are operated by several private companies under tightly-written government contracts, and mostly run in the south of the city, away from the main tourist sights. Only one line (Thameslink) runs through central London - on a north-south axis between London Bridge or Blackfriars stations, and the underground level of St Pancras main line station. There is no one central station - instead, there are twelve mainline stations dotted around the edge of the central area, and most are connected by the Circle line (except Euston, Fenchurch St and those South of the river like Waterloo and London Bridge).
Most visitors will not need to use National Rail services except for a few specific destinations such as Wimbledon, Hampton Court, Kew Gardens (Kew Bridge station), Windsor Castle, Greenwich, or the airports, or indeed if they are intending to visit other destinations in the UK. It's important to know that the quickest route between two stations is often a combination of the Tube as well as National Rail trains. For instance, if you are going from central London to Wimbledon, it will usually be much quicker to go to Waterloo and take the first Wimbledon train (around fifteen minutes, maximum) rather than take the District line, which can take up to 45 minutes.
Your pay-as-you-go Oyster card is valid in London zones 1-6, but not beyond, so be careful—if you want to travel beyond, you will need to buy a paper ticket from the ticket office at the station. If you travel beyond the London zones with no valid ticket, you will be charged a Penalty Fare (on National Rail services this is usually £20), you will have to buy another ticket for the remainder of your journey, and you will also be charged the maximum Oyster fare because you didn't touch out. This adds up to a lot, so be careful and make sure you plan your journey! If in doubt, ask at the ticket office.
There are express trains to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports. Tickets are often sold at a substantial premium, so you may want to consider taking the slightly slower 'stopping' services instead: for instance, an Anytime single from Victoria to Gatwick costs £19.90 on the Gatwick Express, and only £14.40 when marked "Route Southern Only"—taking a Southern train to Gatwick is only eight minutes longer. Don't forget: Oyster cards are not valid to the main airports, except for London City Airport and to Heathrow when travelling by Tube.
Don't throw your ticket away until you're out of the station at your destination! Many stations have ticket gates which you will need to put your ticket through to exit; also, you need to retain all the parts of your ticket throughout your journey, as a member of railway staff may need to see it.
In common parlance, Londoners may refer to travelling by "overground", meaning going by National Rail (as opposed to going by Underground). However, only London Overground is a Transport for London rail service, which serves most boroughs of the capital. Oyster cards are accepted. Trains will usually run a minimum frequency of every fifteen minutes, and some stations have a considerably more frequent service. The trains have big windows allowing for great "urban scenic" views.
The Overground appears on the Tube map as a double orange line. TfL also produces a map only showing Overground services. At many stations, trains leaving from the same platform will go to different destinations, so listen carefully for announcements and always check the destination on the front of the train. The Overground can be a great way to avoid changing trains in central London by skirting around the centre. It's also well-connected: you can frequently change for Underground trains, other Overground destinations, or for mainline National Rail services from Stratford, Clapham Junction and Watford Junction.
The Tramlink network is centred on Croydon, where it runs on street-level tracks around the Croydon Loop, providing transit to an area not well-served by the Tube or National Rail. Route 3 (Wimbledon to New Addington - green on the Tramlink map) is the most frequent service, running every 7 or 8 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and every 15 minutes at all other times. Beckenham is served by Routes 1 and 2 (yellow and red on the Tramlink map), which terminate at Elmers End and Beckenham Junction respectively. All services travel around the Loop via West Croydon and run every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and every 30 minutes at all other times. Between Arena and Sandilands, these two services serve the same stops.
Due to the expense of other forms of transport and the compactness of central London, cycling is a tempting option. Free cycle maps can usually be obtained from your local Tube station or bike shop.
Most major roads in London will have a bus lane which is restricted to buses, taxis and bicycles.
Many improvements have been made for cyclists in the city over the last few years, Noticeably, there are many new signposted cycle routes and new cycle lanes as well as a review of junctions considered dangerous for cycling. Despite recent improvements, however, London remains a relatively hostile environment for cyclists. The kind of contiguous cycle lane network found in many other European cities does not exist. The safest option is to stick to minor residential roads where traffic can be surprisingly calm outside rush hours.
Critical Mass London is a cycling advocacy group which meets for regular rides through central London at 18:00 on the last Friday of each month. Rides start from the southern end of Waterloo Bridge. The London Cycling Campaign is an advocacy group for London cyclists. With active local groups in most of the city's boroughs, it is recognised by local and regional government as the leading voice for cycling in the capital.
Normally a cyclist should keep to the left of the lane when cycling on a road with traffic, to allow faster-moving traffic to overtake. However, it is legal for a cycle to dominate a lane by maintaining a central road position like any other vehicle. This will make you unpopular with any traffic behind you but it is recommended in London on approach to right-hand turns at junctions. Making a right-hand turn from the normal left-position means crossing the lane of traffic, which may often ignore you and any turn signals you might have been using, leading to potential accidents.
Permission to take bikes on trains is very limited in London due to overcrowding. Non-folding bikes can be taken only on limited sections of the Tube network, mostly only on the above-ground sections outside peak hours. For this reason, folding bicycles are becoming increasingly popular. Most National Rail operators allow bicycles outside peak hours.
London offers a bicycle hire scheme known as Santander Cycles (colloquially referred to as "Boris Bikes" after Boris Johnson, a former London mayor), operated by Transport for London. Docking stations can be found across central London and slightly further out into areas such as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and Hammersmith.
The bikes, all coloured a distinctive red, can be unlocked and ridden around the city with a credit card. A bicycle is hired from automated docking stations around the city. After a each journey it must be returned to some docking station of the network by locking the bike into the rack which must be confirmed by a green light at the dock.
There are 2 payment plans:
A Santander Cycles app can be used to make hiring process faster. NB: sometimes the app doesn't show a journey as finished even if the bike was successfully docked back at a station. If in doubt it's better to check your activity log at their official site.
Cycle lanes exist in London with both on road and off road routes. The network is not comprehensive, and on the road lanes vary in quality and size (normally between one and two metres wide). Some are indicated just with an stencilled image of a bike on the road.
If the line between the traffic lane and cycle lane is solid, then vehicles may sometimes enter the space. A dashed line indicates a recommended cycle lane and motorists may make use of this road space, but it is recommended they don't.Cycle Superhighways
Cycle Superhighways are cycle routes that run into central London from outer London and across the capital. They are designed to provide safe, fast routes for cyclists who commute and are painted blue to indicate where they are. Some are segregated from the road but some may be on the main carriageway. Lists and maps of all routes are available here.Quietways
Quietways are in a simliar vein to Cycle Superhighways. They still link key destinations in the capital but utilise side streets, waterways and parks instead of busy roads. As of February 2017 there is only one designated route - Waterloo to Greenwich - but more are due to follow. Click here for a map and more information about the scheme.Towpaths
The towpaths in north London along the Grand Union Canal and Regent's Canal, as well as in London's parks and other green areas, provide a traffic-free cycle path through the capital. The Grand Union canal connects Paddington to Camden and the Regent's Canal connects Camden to Islington, Mile End and Limehouse in East London. It takes about 30-40 minutes to cycle from Paddington station to Islington along the towpaths.
NB: Pedestrians have a priority on towpaths. Respect their right of the way!
London has two types of taxis: the famous black cab, and so-called minicabs. Black cabs are the only ones licensed to "ply for hire" (i.e. pick people up off the street), while minicabs are more accurately described as "private hire vehicles" and need to be pre-booked.
The famous black cab of London (not always black!) can be hailed from the kerb or found at one of the many designated taxi ranks. It is possible to book black cabs by phone, for a fee, but if you are in central London it will usually be quicker to hail one from the street. Their amber TAXI light will be on if they are available. Drivers must pass a rigorous exam of central London's streets, known as 'The Knowledge', to be licensed to drive a black cab. This means they can supposedly navigate you to almost any London street without reference to a map. They are a cheap transport option if there are five passengers as they do not charge extras, and many view them as an essential experience for any visitor to London. Black cabs charge by distance and by the minute, are non-smoking, and have a minimum charge of £2.20. Tipping is not mandatory in either taxis or minicabs, despite some drivers' expectations - use your discretion. If you like the service you may tip. If the ride has been uncomfortable or unsafe, or if the driver was rude, don't. Most Londoners will simply round up to the nearest pound.
Taxis are required by law to take you wherever you choose (within Greater London) if their TAXI light is on when you hail them. However some, especially older drivers, dislike leaving the centre of town, or going south of the River Thames. A good way to combat being left at the side of the curb is to open the back door, or even get into the cab, before stating your destination.
Minicabs are normal cars which are licensed hire vehicles that you need to book by phone or at a minicab office. They generally charge a fixed fare for a journey, best agreed before you get in the car. Minicabs are usually cheaper than black cabs, although this is not necessarily the case for short journeys. Licensed minicabs display a Transport For London (TfL) Licence - usually in the front window. One of the features of the license plate is a blue version of the famous London Transport "roundel". A list of licensed minicab operators can be found at TfL Cabwise.
Uber is available in London and generally charge cheaper fares than black cabs, although higher "surge" prices are charged at times of high demand. Vehicles can only be booked via the smartphone app.
Some areas in London are poorly served by black cabs, particularly late at night. This has led to many illegal minicabs operating - just opportunistic people, with a car, looking to make some fast money. Some of these operators can be fairly aggressive in their attempts to find customers, and it's now barely possible to walk late at night through any part of London with a modicum of nightlife without being approached. These illegal cars are also regularly unsafe: women are assaulted every week by illegal minicab operators (11 per month) and there is also a risk of robbery. You should avoid minicabs touting for business off the street and either take a black cab, book a licensed minicab by telephone, or take a night bus. Always remember: if it's not licensed and it's not pre-booked, it's just a stranger's car. Never get into an un-booked minicab.
TfL operate a service called Cabwise, which will determine your location and provide three local, licensed cab numbers. If you have an iPhone or an Android smartphone, you can use the Cabwise application (search your platform's app store) or text CAB to 60835 (be careful - this might not work from some phones!) You can also use an app such as Hailo, which allows you to summon a black cab to your location and will provide a map and approximate wait time for your taxi to arrive. Most railway stations will also be able to provide a list of good local cab firms (many will display this outside the station, even after the last train of the night has gone.)
Londoners who drive will normally take public transport in the centre; follow their example. Unless you have a disability, there is no good reason whatsoever to drive a car in central London.
Driving into central London on weekdays during daylight hours incurs a hefty charge, with very few exemptions ( that rental cars also attract the charge). Cameras and mobile units record and identify the number plates and registration details of all vehicles entering the charging zone with high accuracy. The Central London Congestion Charge M-F 07:00-18:00 (excluding public holidays) attracts a fee of £8 if paid the same day, or £10 if paid on the next charging day. Numerous payment options exist: by phone, on-line, at convenience stores displaying the red 'C' logo in the window and by voucher. Failure to pay the charge by midnight the next charging day incurs a hefty automatic fine of £80 (£40 if paid within 2 weeks).
Despite the Congestion Charge, London - like most major cities - continues to experience traffic snarls. These are, of course, worse on weekdays during peak commuting hours (i.e. between 07:30-09:30 and 16:00-19:00). At these times public transport (and especially the Tube) usually offers the best alternative for speed and reduced hassle. Driving in Central London is a slow, frustrating, expensive and often unnecessary activity. There are many sorts of automatic enforcement cameras and it is difficult (and expensive) to park. A good tip is, that outside advertised restriction hours, parking on a single yellow line is permissible. Parking on a red line or a double yellow line is never permissible and heavily enforced. Find and read the parking restrictions carefully! Parking during weekdays and on Saturday can also mean considerable expense in parking fees - fees and restrictions are ignored at your extreme financial peril - issuing fines, clamping and towing vehicles (without warning!) has become a veritable new industry for borough councils staffed by armies of traffic wardens.
For the disabled driving can be much more convenient than using public transport. If disabled and a resident of a member state of the EU then two cars can be permanently registered, for free, for the congestion charge.
Motorcycles and scooters are fairly common in London as they can pass stationary cars, can usually be parked for free and are exempt from congestion-charging. Scooters and bikes with automatic transmission are much more preferable - a manually-geared racing bike is completely impractical unless you have excellent clutch-control (although it has to be said you will see plenty of them being ridden aggressively by motorcycle couriers and locals as it can be the fastest way to get around!) Likewise to bicycles, car-drivers can show disregard to anyone on two wheels and larger vehicles have an unwritten priority so take care when crossing junctions. Crash helmets are mandatory. Parking for bikes is usually free - there are designated motorcycle-parking areas on some side-streets and some multi-level parking lots will have bike parking on the ground level.
London is now promoting a network of river bus and pleasure cruise services along the River Thames from Hampton Court in the west to Woolwich Arsenal in the east. London River Services (part of Transport for London) manages regular commuter boats and a network of piers all along the river and publishes timetables and river maps similar to the famous Tube map. While boat travel may be slower and a little more expensive than Tube travel, it offers an extremely pleasant way to cross the city with unrivalled views of the London skyline. Sailing under Tower Bridge is an unforgettable experience.
Boats are operated by private companies and they have a separate ticketing system from the rest of London transport; however if you have a Travelcard you get a 33% discount on most boat tickets. Many boat operators offer their own one-day ticket - ask at the pier kiosks. Generally, tickets from one boat company are not valid on other operators' services. Oyster cards can be used as payment for the 'Clipper'-styled commuter services but not for tour boats.
All the central London sights in Westminster and the South Bank tourist attractions are easily accessible by boat as are:
Consider a trip along an old Victorian canal through the leafy suburbs of North London. The London Waterbus Company runs scheduled services (more in summer, fewer in winter) from Little Venice to Camden Lock with a stop at the London Zoo (pick up only). The 45-minute trip along Regent's Canal is a delightful way to travel.
Inline skating on roads and pavements (sidewalks) is completely legal, except in the "square-mile" of the City of London. Roads are not the greatest but easily skateable. Central London drivers are more used to skaters than those in the outskirts.
The Emirates Air Line is a cable car that runs across the River Thames in east London and connects the Greenwich Peninsula on the south bank (near The O2) and the Royal Docks on the north bank (near the ExCeL Exhibition Centre). The Greenwich Peninsula terminal connects to the North Greenwich Tube station on the Jubilee line. The Royal Docks terminal connects to the Royal Victoria DLR station.
Although it is part of the TfL network and uses Oyster cards, the Air Line is mostly used by tourists and is therefore usually at its quietest during the week. It tends to be busiest when there is a large event at the ExCel Exhibition Centre.
If you are travelling to The O2 for an event that finishes late, the Emirates Air Line service usually finishes much earlier than the Tube and DLR. You should have an alternative for getting back across the river.
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles and only an overview is presented here.
Central London hosts an outstanding collection of world-class museums and galleries, several of truly iconic status.
Even better, London is unique among global capitals in that the majority of the museums have no entrance charges, allowing visitors to make multiple visits with ease. Special or temporary exhibitions usually attract an admission charge.
London museums and galleries with no general admission charge (free entry!) include:
and most museums in Greenwich.
Aside from these world famous establishments, there is an almost unbelievable number of minor museums in London covering a very diverse range of subjects. The British Government lists over 240 genuine museums in the city.
The "green lungs" of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city including Hyde Park, St James Park and Regent's Park. Most of the larger parks have their origins in royal estates and hunting grounds and are still owned by the Crown, despite their public access.
English Heritage runs the Blue Plaques programme in London. Blue Plaques celebrate great figures of the past and the buildings that they inhabited. These are among the most familiar features of the capital’s streetscape and adorn the façades of buildings across the city. Since the first plaque was erected in 1867, the number has grown steadily and there are now more than 800. Recipients are as diverse as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sigmund Freud, Charles de Gaulle, Jimi Hendrix and Karl Marx. Look out for these around the city.
Whereas some London museums offer free entry, some other top London attractions are ridiculously expensive. For example, entry to Westminster Abbey costs £20 per person (adult), and entry to the Tower is £23.10 per person if bought online (2015). These prices can be sometimes mitigated by a purchase of London Pass, which needs to be done at the London Pass website. The pass comes in several varieties and gives access to over 60 attractions, including both Westminster Abbey and the Tower. For example, a day pass costs £52 for an adult (2015). The best strategy, if one wants to visit several expensive high-profile attractions, is to buy a day pass and to try visiting all of them in the same day. This requires some advanced planning.
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles. To make the most of the city's tremendous cultural offerings (performing arts, museums, exhibitions, clubs, eateries and numerous others), 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. The Time Out London website also has major shows listed. There is also a Time Out iPhone/iPod app available although the print version tends to be more detailed.
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.
London has long been a launchpad for alternative movements, from the mods of the 1960s, punks of the 70s, new romantics of the 80s, the Britpop scene of the 90s, and the indie rock movement spearheaded by The Libertines and their ilk. It has one of the world's most lively live music scenes: any band heading a British, European or World tour will play London, not to mention the local talent. London's music scene is incredibly diverse, covering all genres of music from electro-jazz to death-metal, and all sizes of bands, from the U2s and Rolling Stones of the world to one man bands who disband after their first gig. This diversity is reflected in prices. As a rough guide: £20 and up for 'top 40' bands in arena-sized venues, £10 and up for established bands in mid-sized venues, £6 or more for up-and-coming bands and clubnights in smaller venues, £5 and up for new bands in bars and pubs.
London has hundreds of venues spread out over the city and the best way to know what's going on where is to browse online ticket agencies, Music Magazine's gig directories and bands' MySpace pages. A few areas which have higher concentrations of pubs and venues than others. Kilburn in North West London has long been known as an Irish area; though their numbers have somewhat declined, a visit to a local pub will show their influence remains today. Kilburn's The Good Ship is a favourite place for young aspiring bands to try to get a foot off the ground, due to its inclusive policies and fair payment system. Good for those who would like to see bands "before they were big", who appreciate £5 entrance fees, good beer and friendly staff.
One of the easiest to use and most comprehensive listings websites is LondonEars.
The West End, especially the areas concentrated around Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Haymarket, is one of the world's premier destinations for theatre, including musical theatre. Covent Garden has the only actor-sponsored school in the city, the Actors Centre, which also gave way to the London Acting Network, a London acting community support group. In the centre of Leicester Square there is an official half-price TKTS booth. Be wary of other ticket offices -including those claiming to be the "Official Half-Price Ticket Office" - as these may have higher prices, and have been known to sell fake tickets. For up-to-date listings see the weekly magazine Time Out or check the Official London Theatre site.
The South Bank is another area well known for world class theatre, and is home to the National Theatre and the Globe Theatre, the latter of which is London's only thatched building and an attraction in itself. Each Globe performance has over 700 £5 tickets. London's theatre scene outside of these two main districts is known as "the Fringe". Several of the larger and more established fringe theatres are an excellent way to see top quality productions of plays that may move to the West End, but at lower than West End prices. The most significant of these are:
London is a natural place to learn and improve spoken and written English. There are a huge range of options, from informal language exchange services to evening classes and formal language schools. There unaccredited schools charging hefty fees and offering qualifications that are viewed as worthless. If choosing a course from a privately-run school or college, it is important to ensure the institution is accredited by the British Council.
Some links to British Council accredited schools:
London is one of the world's leading financial centres and so professional services is the main area of employment, although this sector has been hit hard by the global financial crisis. As of mid-2010, the job market in London has recovered somewhat. It is best to check with recruiters and staffing agencies.
London is hugely popular as a working holiday destination - work in bars and the hospitality industry is relatively easy to find.
Wages are generally higher in London than the rest of the UK, in part due to the addition of London weighting, although the cost of living is higher still.
London is one of the world's most fashion-conscious cities: it has an abundance of clothing shops from the flagship stores of Oxford Street to the tiny boutiques of Brick Lane.
Though not particularly known for bargain shopping, nearly anything you could possibly want to buy is available in London. That being said, during major sales, such as the annual Boxing Day sale after Christmas, prices for certain items have been known to be slashed by up to 70%, meaning that it is possible to find bargains for genuine luxury-branded goods if you are there at the right time. In Central London, the main shopping district is the West End (Bond Street, Covent Garden, Oxford Street and Regent Street). On Thursdays many West End stores close later than normal (19:00-20:00).
Borough Market is a great (if expensive) food market, offering fruit, vegetables, cheese, bread, meat, fish, and so on, much of it organic. The market opens Th-Sa. For market shopping, it's best to go in the morning, or after 14:00, since it starts to get very crowded by around 11:30 when the lunch crowd comes in. Lunch here is good though because there are many stalls that offer fresh made fast food on the spot; from ostrich burgers to falafel, most tastes are catered for. (Tube: London Bridge)
Old Spitalfields Market is an excellent market for clothes from up-and-coming designers, records, housewares, food, and all things trendy. Find it at 65 Brushfield St, E1 6AA (straight down Bell Lane past 66-68 and keep walking). Visit 66/68 Bell Lane nearby to see a wealthy merchants house, rumour has it John Lennon once played on the roof of this building with Yoko Ono. (Tube: Liverpool Street)
Also be sure to check out Brick Lane Market, Greenwich Market and Portobello Road Market.
Tax-free shops in airports are not strong in variety, prices are equal to London, and they close rather early as well. Shop listings at airport web sites can help to plan your tax-free (vs traditional) shopping. In the evening allow an extra half hour as closing hours are not always strictly respected.
Many big department stores in central London have an information booth where they can give you the paperwork needed to reclaim tax on purchases made at the store when you get to the airport.
London, like the rest of the UK, uses the British Pound Sterling.
Retail prices for most items, with a few exceptions, always include VAT (at 20%). Visa and MasterCard/Maestro are the two most commonly-accepted debit/credit cards, although most large shops will also accept American Express. If your card does not have a microchip (for Chip & PIN) some machines (for instance, at Tube stations) will be unable to read your card. Some shops may ask you for additional identification, especially in relation to high value items, or items that are under age-related restrictions. Most shops no longer accept personal cheques. Contactless or NFC-enabled VISA and MasterCard cards can also be used for purchases of usually up to £20 in lieu of Chip & Pin, even on London Underground fare gates and buses.
£50 notes are not often used in everyday transactions and most shops will not accept them. When exchanging money at a bureau de change make sure to ask for £5, £10 and £20 notes only. The Bank of England's guide to bank notes may be of use.
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. As London is one of the world's most multicultural cities, it is possible to find virtually every cuisine from around the world here if you look hard enough.
Following is a rough guide to what you might get, should you fancy eating out:
Prices inevitably become inflated at venues closest to major tourist attractions - beware the 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. - they are all dotted around the West End and near the main train stations). Londoners wouldn't dream of eating here - you shouldn't either! Notorious areas for inflated menu prices trading on travellers' gullibility and lack of knowledge are the streets around the British Museum, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. Even the major fast food chains charge a premium in their West End outlets - so watch out.
Pubs in the touristy areas of London are usually a poor choice for food although there are some brilliant "gastro-pubs" hidden away. In general avoid all pubs that have graphic-designed and printed menus - it's people's 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. Brick Lane is also known for being home to London's version of the beigel (spelt "bagel" in the United States and Canada, but pronounced the same way), with Brick Lane Beigel Bake and Britain's First & Best Beigel Shop being among the sole remnants of what was once a thriving Jewish community in the neighbourhood. Both shops are also known for their salt beef, London's version of Jewish-style cured meats, and a popular filling in their beigel sandwiches. 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.
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 "liquor" 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.
Central London's Borough Market offers wholesale produce as well as individual stalls that sell small bites and drinks for a casual and cheap meal. Kappacasein Dairy has a popular stand in the market famous for their grilled cheese which has earned the praise of Giada De Laurentiis and Ruth Reichl.
Of course, the quintessential British dish fish and chips is widely available in London, but the standards can be pretty disappointing in the tourist trap pubs. The best-rated fish and chips shops in London are generally located in the suburbs, away from all the tourist fare in central London.
Tipping may also be different than what you're used to. All meals include the 20% VAT tax and some places include a service fee (10-12%). The general rule is to leave a tip for table service, unless there's already a service charge added or unless the service has been notably poor. The amount tipped is generally in the region of 10%, but if there's a figure between 10-15% which would leave the bill at a conveniently round total, many would consider it polite to tip this amount. Tipping for counter service, or any other form of service, is unusual - but some choose to do so if a tips container is provided.
While central London is full of restaurants and cafes, 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.
Drummond Street in the Euston area has a fine mix of Indian restaurants - a short walk from Euston railway station. (Tube: Euston)
High Street Croydon Croydon is derided by most Londoners, 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 other type of cuisine you can think of. (Overground: East Croydon)
Kings Street 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 15 minute walk and is alive with bars and pubs in the evening. (Tube: Hammersmith)
Lordship Lane in East Dulwich provides a good selection of European restaurants and a few award winning gastropubs. (train: East Dulwich)
Upper Street in Islington has dozens of excellent restaurants, popular with young professionals. (Tube: Highbury & Islington, Angel).
Wardour Street, in Soho, is full of nice cafes and restaurants. (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)
As one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, you can find restaurants serving food cuisine from nearly every country, some of it as good as, if not better than in the countries of origin.
Indian food in London is especially famous and there is hardly a district without at least one notable Indian restaurant.
If you are looking for other particular regional foods these tend to be clustered in certain areas and some examples are:
Other nationalities are equally represented and randomly dotted all over London. It is usually wisest to eat in restaurants on main thoroughfares rather than on quiet backstreets.
Like other capitals in the world, London has the usual array of fast food outlets. Sandwich shops are the most popular places to buy lunch, and there are a lot of places to choose from including Eat and Pret a Manger. Some Italian-style sandwich shops have a very good reputation and you can identify them easily by looking at the long queues at lunchtime. If all else fails, central London has lots of mini-supermarkets operated by the big British supermarket chains (e.g., Sainsbury's, Tesco) where you can pick up a pre-packed sandwich.
Fast food with an Asian flair is easy to find throughout the city, with lots of Busaba Eathai, Wagamama, and Yo! Sushi locations throughout the city. Nando's, a popular pseudo-Portuguese restaurant chain, has spicy peri-peri style grilled chicken. For burgers, GBK (Gourmet Burger Kitchen) has been joined by other franchises such as Byron and Haché.
London has plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants many of them championing organic foodstuffs, and a quick search in Google will produce plenty of ideas, so you never have to see a piece of cooked meat all week.
If you are dining with carnivorous friends most restaurants will cater for vegetarians and will have at least a couple of dishes on the menu. Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants are generally fruitful, as they have plenty of traditional dishes (good Indian/Bangladeshi options can be found in the Brick Lane area of Spitalfields or further afield in East Ham, Tooting Broadway and Southall. These also tend to be very cheap eats with authentically prepared dishes with a true local ambience). There are also many vegetarian Thai buffet places where you can eat fake meat in tooth-achingly sweet sauces for under £5. These can be found on Greek and Old Compton Streets in Soho and Islington High Street.
Mildred's is a great veggie restaurant in the back streets of Oxford Circus.
Due to the mix of cultures and religions, many London restaurants cater well for religious dietary requirements. The most common signs are for Halal and Kosher meat, from burger joints to nice restaurants. There are lots of Halal restaurants  and shops all over London including Whitechapel Rd and Brick Lane in the East End, Bayswater, Edgware Rd and Paddington and in many parts of north London. There are plenty of Kosher restaurants in Golders Green, Edgware and Stamford Hill along with some central delis such as on Charing Cross Road.
Convenience stores such as Tesco Metro, Sainsbury Central/Local, Budgens, Costcutter, SPAR, Co-op, and privately-run "corner shops" will 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 some will stop selling alcohol after a certain time). Whistlestop convenience stores (located in or around train stations) are notoriously overpriced and should be avoided.
If using a petrol station convenience store late at night (i.e. after 23:00) the store will be locked and you should order and pay through the external service window.
Although Tesco, Sainsbury's and other supermarkets run smaller stores in central London, full-size superstores (including Morrisons and ASDA) are rare in the city centre and you will usually have to take a 15-20 minute Tube ride to reach them. The closest large stores to central London are:
Marks & Spencer also operate food halls branded as "Simply Food". They can be found across central London. The smaller ones, such as those found in train stations, tend to focus mostly on "ready to eat" food such as sandwiches, drinks, and snacks.
London is home to a great many pubs, bars and nightclubs. The online city guide View London and the weekly magazine Time Out tell what's going in London's night life, as well as cultural events in general.
London is an expensive place and your drink is likely to cost more than its equivalent elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Expect to pay around £4 for a pint of lager or Guinness (or around £3.50 for a pint of ale) in an average pubs. As with restaurants, pubs close to major tourist attractions cash in on travellers' gullibility so be on your guard for the tourist traps where higher prices are not unheard of. Despite this however it is still possible to find a sub-£3 pint in central London - it takes some determination. If you're looking to save money and meet travellers then pub crawls are guided tours that run nightly in central London. You'll save the ticket price on the savings you get from discounted drink deals and what you would have spent on club entry. The "1 Big Night Out" pub crawl is the biggest operator and starts from near Leicester square underground station.
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. 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 pubs found across Central London, including Soho and the City.
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 (West London tends to be an exception, with prices pretty much the same as the centre). For a more reasonably priced (but brilliant) cocktail bar than you'll find in the central and West End areas Lost Society in Clapham situated on Lavender Hill, cocktails here cost around £7-8 each.
Two historic London breweries are Young's and Fullers. Young's was founded in Wandsworth in 1831 (but has relocated to Bedford) and nowadays it has 123 pubs in central London alone. The Founder's Arms next to the Tate Modern on the river embankment, is one of the brewery's most well known establishments with a great view of the River Thames. Fullers was founded a bit later in 1845 at Chiswick (where you can take a most enjoyable tour of the brewery, including beer-tasting) and the jewel in its crown is probably the Grade I listed Old Bank Of England on Fleet Street, thanks to its breath-taking interiors. Fuller's flagship beer is the famous 'London Pride', however to try a truly authentic Cockney pint, ask at bars if they serve a seldom seen now Porter, a dark style of beer originating in London in the 18th Century, similar but less heavy then a Stout. For a different taste, try a gin and tonic.
It's hard to say which pub in London is truly the oldest but it's easy to find contenders for the title. Many pubs were destroyed in the Great Fire of London – indeed, Samuel Pepys supposedly watched the disaster from the comfort of the Anchor in Borough. Pubs were rebuilt on sites that claimed to have been working pubs since the 13th century. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street is on the site of an old monastery and its cellar dates back to the 13th century. The Princess Louise and Citty of York are two lovely pubs close by, along High Holborn with interesting decor; as is the Jerusalem Tavern of Farringdon, a converted Georgian coffee shop, which sells the Norfolk beer, St. Peters. The Royal Oak of Borough, is another pub which is the only representative of an out-of-town brewery in London, that of Harvey's of Lewes. The food is fantastic as is the atmosphere. Those interested in London's historic and literary connections can't miss The Spaniard's Inn in Hampstead. Dick Turpin is said to have been born here; John Keats and Charles Dickens both drank here; it's mentioned in Dickens' The Pickwick Papers and Bram Stoker's Dracula. The Goose at Catford, was reputedly a favourite hole of Karl Marx.
For the best view in the city, try pubs on the banks of the Thames. The South Bank has lots of good bars with plenty of iconic bridges and buildings in sight the cocktail bar in the OXO tower is a secret that most tourists walk by everyday. Heading towards Bermondsey, pub crowds become a little less touristy.
If you're after gastropubs, you may like to visit London's first, The Eagle, in Clerkenwell, established in 1991. You can also try Time Out's favourite newcomer, The Princess Victoria on Uxbridge Road, Shepherd's Bush.
The "Bermondsey Beer mile" is home to many craft breweries which are open in the middle of the day most Saturdays. Situated under the railway arches on lines going to London Bridge, these quaint breweries are home to high quality beer at cheap to average London prices (~£2.00 per half). Best places include Kernel Brewery and Brew by Numbers.
Wine buffs can enjoy the famous Davys wine bars that dot the city. The company, established in 1870, import wines and own over thirty bars in the centre. Other big names in wine include the Michelin-starred Cellar Gascon and Vinoteca, both in Smithfield. For a posh wine tasting experience, there is Vinopolis by Borough Market, though a tour price will be as eye-watering as the produce sampled.
Big hotels, such as The Langham, The Dorchester and The Ritz, and upmarket clubs around Leicester Square and Soho are reliable bets for a date at the bar. The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair-Marylebone boasts its house bar, plus the Time Out magazine favourite, The Coburg. Still in Mayfair, The Polo Bar at The Westbury is very intimate.
You can rely on most up-and-running bars to offer a short cocktail menu and there are also bars that position themselves as cocktail specialists.
Nightlife is an integral part of London life and there are countless nightclubs in and around Central London with music to suit even the most eclectic of tastes. Districts in London tend to specialize to different types of music.
The Farringdon/Hoxton/Shoreditch area has many clubs playing drum and bass, techno, house and trance music and is home to the superclub Fabric (which is closed, and due to re-open). The clubs in this area are often home to the world's top DJs and attracts a lively, hip and friendly crowd. Big name drum and bass, house and techno DJs also appear at clubs scattered around Kings Cross (Egg, Scala), Elephant (Ministry of Sound, Corsica Studios), Southwark (Cable), Whitechapel (Rhythm Factory), and at mixed nights at the Vauxhall clubs (see below). Nights are also hosted in disused Hackney warehouses or south London car parks.
The area around Mayfair is home to the more upmarket clubs in London. This area attracts a rather more showy crowd who love to flaunt what they have and is a must go to celebrity spot. Beware that drinks are ridiculously expensive and many clubs operate a guestlist-only policy. Music played here is often of the commercial chart, funky house, hip hop and R&B genre. Notable clubs include China White, Luxx, Maddox, Jalouse, Funky Buddha, Whisky Mist, Mahiki, No 5 Cavendish Square, Embassy, Vendome and Maya.
Nightclubs around the Leicester Square area hold the same music policy, but are rather more accessible, with numerous club and pub crawl promoters scattered around the area offering deals on entry. Notable clubs are Cafe De Paris, 1 Big Night Out pub crawl, Penthouse, Sound, Tiger Tiger, Zoo bar and Ruby Blue.
The Camden area is home to clubs which play Indie, metal and rock music and notably the Electric Ballroom, the world-famous Koko (Fridays) and Underworld. Camden clubs are mostly shut (or empty) on the weekdays.In South London, London's Afro-Caribbean centre Brixton is home to numerous venues with all kinds of music, including a particular presence in reggae, ska, afrobeat, hiphop, and dubstep. In recent years more venues have opened in Peckham and New Cross.
London has a vibrant gay environment with countless bars, clubs and events in almost every district in the city.
The nucleus of London's gay scene is undoubtedly Old Compton St and the surrounding area in Soho but over the last couple of years Vauxhall has seen a boom in Gay venues. You will find that many areas, particularly in Camden Town and Shoreditch, that straight bars will have a mixed clientele. To find out what is going on during your visit, you can check:
Gay Pride is held every year in June with parade and street parties. The choice of places to go sometimes seem to be unmanageable.
London has hundreds of options for accommodation to suit all budgets from hostels through historic bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), mainstream chain hotels and apartments all the way to some of the most exclusive luxury hotels in the world such as The Savoy, The Ritz and Claridges where a stay in a top suite will cost upwards of £1,000 per night. The average cost of hotel accommodation in London is higher than in any other major British city. 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 of local food and drinking options. In any case, you can always catch a bus anyway - by far the best way to see the city and get about generally.
Your budget will have a lot to do with what part of London you will want to stay in. Tourist-standard prices range from £20-200 per person per night. Expect smaller than average rooms especially at the low end of this range. As a general rule, expect to pay between £75-150 per night for a 2 or 3 star hotel in the central area of the city. Many of the big name chain hotels now offer substantial discounts (with rates often down as low as £30-£50 per room per night) if you book well in advance, but the drawback is that you have to pay the full amount upfront at the time of booking and there are no refunds if you cancel. The heart of the West End is the most expensive place to stay and most hotels are either 4 or 5 star and most will command a hefty price premium.
The City can also be very expensive during the week, as it relies heavily on the business market but prices often drop over the weekend and it can be a good way of getting into a higher standard of accommodation than you could otherwise afford. Bear in mind though that this part of central London becomes a ghost town over the weekend, and you will find that few (if any) bars and restaurants will be open.
A top tip however is to always check the likes of LondonTown.com, Expedia and LateRooms as well as the hotel's own website - since there are often deals to be had which can reduce the costs significantly.
The extra cost of getting around is probably not significant compared to savings made by staying in a hotel further out near an Underground or railway station. Always be sure though to check where the closest Tube station is to your hotel. Staying further out will be cheaper but when travelling in allow 1-2 min per Tube stop (near the centre), around 2-3 min per stop (further out) and 5-10 min per line changes. This can easily total up to a 1 hour journey if there is a walk at each end. There are many hotels close to transport hub stations such as Stratford, Greenwich, Ealing Broadway, Wimbledon and East Croydon.
A more imaginative alternative could be to stay in a nearby town with quick and easy train travel to London. For example, lively Brighton (otherwise known as 'London by Sea') is only an hour away, but your budget will go much further and there are excellent accommodation options.
Some of the better value options are to be found in the following central districts:
A slightly left-field option is to check the Landmark Trust, a building preservation charity who purchase notable old buildings in the UK, renovate and run them as holiday lettings. An interesting approach to saving old buildings for sure.
Try booking a hotel in Canary Wharf if you are staying for the weekend - 4* hotels can be very cheap due to a lack of business customers. This also goes for the small area around Bank tube station.
Not necessarily as unpleasant as you may think, and as long as you don't mind sharing with others, they are the most cost-effective option and also offer breakfast, and kitchens for self-catering.
There are independent hostels throughout the city which 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.
Some apartment-hotels offer good value accommodation for those travelling in a group - often better quality than many hotels but at a cheaper individual rate per person.
Capsule-style crash spaces are just arriving, but they are only in central locations.
Short-term apartment or flat rentals are an attractive option for many travellers to London, and there are innumerable agencies offering them, almost all of them nowadays through the internet. A key consideration for renting a short term flat is if you are visiting in a large group or a family. In such cases a short stay in London can be more affordable compared to staying in a hotel. Your best protection is to deal only with London apartment rental agencies which have been recommended by independent sources you feel you can trust, and to deal only with those that accept confirmations via credit card.
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 homeowners take equal precaution to ensure their valuables are safe guarded. Homeowners 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.
Hotels are generally expensive in London when compared with other European cities. As a result the city has a vast number of self-catering accommodation on offer, many of them are apartments in various central areas of the capital. Well established local sites include Holidaylettings.co.uk, Perfect Accommodation,Space Apart Hotel, Owners Direct and Alpha Holiday Lettings. If you are looking to stay in just a room or part of the property, Airbnb matches holiday makers with hosts who only rent out part of their homes.
London is unfortunately not noted for free public wifi access - although the number of hotspots is continuing to grow.
In an emergency, telephone "999" (or "112"). This number connects to Police, Ambulance and Fire/Rescue services. You will be asked which of these three services you require before being connected to the relevant operator.
Like many big cities, London has a variety of social problems, especially begging, drug abuse and theft (mobile phones are a favourite, often snatched by fast-moving cyclists).
London has the oldest police force in the world, The Metropolitan Police Service, and on the whole, London is a safe place to visit and explore. Alongside the regular Police, there are over 4,000 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) that provide a highly visible presence on the streets and can deal with low-level crime. Normal precautions for the safe keeping of your personal possessions, as you would in any other city, are suggested.
The Metropolitan Police have placed significant resources in combating street level crime. Working in conjunction with borough councils, they have brought the level of theft and pickpocketing in major retail areas in London to a manageable level. Pickpocketing in London is in general not as rampant as in other major European cities, though it still pays to be vigilant and take the usual precautions in securing your valuables.
Street gang culture is a growing problem in London as with many other cities in England. While most groups of youngsters are not likely to present any danger to tourists, some people feel the need to be slightly more vigilant in certain areas, especially certain outer suburbs. Violent crime is in general not common, and typically occurs in impoverished neighbourhoods that tourists are unlikely to wander into by accident.
Keep valuables out of sight: Many crimes are opportunistic - a lot of mobile phones are snatched from restaurant tables. By keeping items such as cash and mobile phones out of sight theft can easily be prevented. Don't flash your cash unnecessarily!
Keep bags zipped up and close to your body: If your bag is hanging open it's like putting up a flashing neon sign saying "Steal from me!" Use zips and inside pockets to secure items wherever possible. Never leave valuables such as mobile phones, wallets or travel documents in an outside section of your bag.
Be aware of your surroundings: Before using your mobile phone have a look around you. Put your back against something solid such as a wall or window so you can't be approached from behind. Constantly look around you even if you are in a busy area. Don't walk and talk/text!
If you're planning to go out late at night and are worried about safety try to frequent crowded areas such as the West End. There are always plenty of people on the street, even at 04:00. Generally, outside central London, the South, and East suburban areas are considered more dangerous, notably Brixton, Peckham and Hackney, although some parts of North-West London such as Harlesden and northern Camden are also known trouble spots.
The main problem right throughout London to various degrees is drunken behaviour, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights and after football matches. Loud and rowdy behaviour is to be expected and fights and acts of aggression also occur. If you are harassed, it is best to simply ignore and walk away from those concerned. Trouble spots can be expected around popular drinking locations such as Soho and in various suburban centres.
London has a large number of con artists around, all trying to convince you to hand over your money one way or another.
Cup and ball game: This is perhaps the most common scam and is frequently seen on the busier pedestrian bridges such as Westminster Bridge. A person will lay out a mat with three cups on it. They will pretend to hide a ball under one of the cups, move the cups around, and then ask you to place a bet on where the ball-containing cup has landed. There is no ball - the con artist will have spirited it away! This con always has people acting as lookouts in the crowd and they will pretend to win every now and again so it looks like the game is winnable. Also beware if you are just stopping to watch as you could be pick-pocketed! The best defence is to walk straight past these events and not engage at all. If you have a mobile phone/cellphone that works in the UK you can phone the police on 101 (the non-emergency equivalent to 999) and report them, but it is advised to move away to do this as you may be harassed by the con artist or their lookouts if they overhear you.
Overzealous street performers: Most street performers are happy to just do their thing, let you watch, and then you can throw them a few coins if you liked the show. However, some street performers will actively grab and harass passers-by in order to get attention and money. They may forcefully pose with you and ask you to take a photograph and then demand money for the photo opportunity. They may also take this opportunity while you're distracted to pick-pocket you. Don't engage with any street performer who is pushy or forceful - try and walk away, or call out "Get off me!" or "No!" and draw attention to yourself if you can't escape easily. Again, you can report these street performers on the 101 number as above.
Tissue sellers on trains: Beggars will get onto a train and place tissues on the seats with a note begging for money. They want you to feel pity for them and buy the tissues. This is an organised scam and the money goes towards criminal enterprises. If you see this happening on a train don't buy the tissues and ignore anyone who asks you for money for them. If you're above ground you can text the British Transport Police on 61016 to report it.
"Clip joint": 'Every night, Soho presents a particular danger: the "clip joint". The usual targets of these establishments are lone male tourists. Usually, an attractive woman will casually befriend the victim and recommend a local bar or even a club that has a "show". The establishment will be near-desolate, and, even if the victim has only a drink or two, the bill will run to hundreds of pounds. If payment is not immediately provided, the bouncers will lock the "patrons" inside and take it by force or take them to an ATM and stand over them while they extract the cash. To be safe, if a woman you just met suggests you a place, try to recommend a different bar. If she insists on hers then walk away and do not listen to her suggestions. Sometimes this con trick takes place when someone is lured into a private club with the promise of something perhaps more than a drink (like a 'private show' or sex for a small amount of money). A 'hostess fee' will appear on the bill for several hundred pounds, even though there has been nothing more than polite conversation.
"Stress tests": If anyone offers you a free "stress test", they are likely trying to recruit you into the Church of Scientology. The best option is to walk away or just say "No thank you" politely, as people are commonly harassed into giving personal details.
Needing money for phone/train tickets/the bus/et al.: A man or woman will approach you asking for money for public transport. They will claim that they have lost their Travelcard or that it has been damaged somehow. Most people upon losing their Travelcard will seek aid at a train station and not approach random strangers! Another variant of this scam exists wherein a man or woman will ask for change so they can make a call at a phone box (this is a frequent scam in the Shoreditch area). Occasionally a man with a very convincing fake gash on his arm will ask for money so that he can get to hospital (strangely refusing the offer of you calling an ambulance, as you would do for most injured people in the street).
Ticket machine scam: One of the most popular scams in London, is the ticket machine scam: while buying a ticket at a train station someone will approach you and act as if they want to help you buy the right ticket. In reality they will wait until your money is in the machine, then lean across, cancel the transaction and pocket your cash. Say "No thanks" politely - you know what ticket you want to buy!
Selling/asking for a donation for "lucky heather": This scam, usually operated by women, involves someone handing you "lucky heather" (a small flower usually wrapped in foil) and then either trying to sell it to you or asking for a monetary donation. They will come up with a vague charity ("money for sick children", "money for orphaned babies", and so on) and show you a purse full of supposed "donations". If you are handed one of these flowers either hand it back or drop it on the ground and leave. Be aware that you if you take the flower and leave without "donating" you could be chased and harassed by the people involved in the scam. This scam has been seen in Chinatown around the time of Chinese New Year.
Although not illegal, London is a known hotspot for charity collectors, some of whom can be extremely persuasive in trying to obtain a donation; therefore they have earned the name "charity muggers" or "chuggers". If you do not want to donate, be polite but forceful, and under no circumstances provide any form of bank details. Larger charities ask their collectors to have specific and verifiable identification.
Don't take illegal minicabs (see Get around for details). Minicabs are not allowed to ply for trade on the street and any minicab doing this should be avoided.
Travelling on the lower deck of a night bus is generally safer, as there are more passengers around, and you are visible to the bus driver.
If you have been the victim of crime on the railways or the London Underground you should report the crime as soon as possible to the British Transport Police, who have an office in most major train and Tube stations. Or if you have been a victim of crime in the City of London you should report the crime to the City of London Police. Elsewhere, you should report your crime as normal to the Metropolitan Police.
If you've lost an item on the Underground, Overground or Docklands Light Railway, in a licensed black cab or on a red London bus you should contact the TfL Lost Property Office (Tube: Baker Street) as soon as possible. In respect of other rail and coach services, the relevant service operator should be contacted.
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) will provide emergency treatment for anyone in the UK, irrespective of whether they reside in the UK, but if you are not UK resident you will be expected to make a contribution (up to the entire cost) towards such treatment. The UK Government has, as of 2015, announced it intends to start charging for the use of the NHS (including emergency treatment) by visitors from outside the EU, to reduce the impact of so-called "health tourism".
You can find NHS services near you here.
For a serious medical emergency (unconsciousness, stroke, heart attack, heavy bleeding, broken bones, etc.) dial 999 or 112 and ask for an ambulance. These numbers are free of charge from any telephone. As emergency response is prioritised in London, do not be concerned if the telephone operator asks you for details about the nature of the emergency. Depending on the urgency an ambulance will probably be dispatched while you are talking to the operator so don't be worried about wasting time. The operator will also be able to reassure you and offer you advice on how to help the patient until the ambulance arrives. You should also try to have an address or general location of the patient before you call as this will help to save time. Please also try to stay with the patient even if you do not know them.
London's ambulance coverage is excellent with highly trained and friendly staff. For instances of major trauma there is also London's Air Ambulance, two helicopters that can deliver an advanced trauma team within minutes to anywhere in London. At night the helicopters do not fly and a rapid response car is dispatched instead.
Emergencies can also be dealt with at most NHS hospitals with an A & E (Accident & Emergency) department. In A & E, be prepared to wait for a long time (the average is 4 hours) during busy periods before being given treatment if your medical complaint is not too serious. For less serious problems, try a GP's ("General Practitioner", or family doctor) surgery, Urgent Care Centre, or a high-street pharmacist.
Major A & E hospitals in London are:
For advice on non-emergency medical problems, you can ring the 24 hour NHS Direct service on 111.
Treatment for non-emergency conditions, or for hospital admissions resulting from emergencies, is normally free for people holding a European Health Insurance card (EHIC) issued by most European governments, or certain other countries listed here. In the absence of such a card you would be well advised to get private travel health insurance.
At large organised events, and in many theatre productions, basic medical assistance and first aid is provided through the support of organisations such as St John Ambulance or the stewards for the event.
Pharmacies (often referred to as chemists) are found across London, with chains such as Lloyds Pharmacy and Boots being prevalent. Many independent pharmacies also exist. Most large supermarkets also have pharmacy counters, although these do not stock some of the stronger remedies. Unlike other European countries, pharmacies are often not marked by prominent neon 'green cross' signs.
Pharmacists are also able to offer advice on many health problems and recommend medicines that might help. For certain remedies (for example stronger painkillers) you may have to ask at the counter, as for regulatory reasons these can only be sold by pharmacists under strict protocols. Don't be alarmed if the pharmacist asks some basic diagnostic questions, or for ID.
If you need to see a GP but either don't have time to or can't register with an NHS GP, a new service called DocTap exists in which you can book with a 15 minute appointment with a private GP in one of the service's central London clinics.
London is also home to some of the most renowned - and most expensive - private medical treatment facilities, the most notable of which being the host of private consultants and surgeons on Harley Street in Marylebone.
Some countries have a separate consulate for issuing visas, passports, notary services, etc., found in a different location than the main embassy/high commission. It is advised to check their website or call them ahead of time if you need these services.
Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver of the St. John Hotel
It's been nearly eight months since we last looked at London's hottest restaurants, so today we circle back and focus on eight new openings that have been garnering serious buzz. For this installment, food writer and Eater National contributor Ali Kurshat Altinsoy has kindly shared with us his picks for the hottest dining his city currently has to offer.
Here, now, London's Restaurants of the Moment.
I used to hate flying into England. When the plane came into land, I’d feel a soft fog of gloom settle upon me as I thought about the horrible weather, the inflated prices, the lack of good coffee.
Pin me on Pinterest!This time, though, I realized that things had changed: I didn’t feel sad, I was actually enthusiastic. There was plenty to look forward to: time with my brother and his fiancée, the Rugby World Cup final, an enormous conference, evening events with people I liked… It was shaping up well.
The first few days were a blur of excursions: we explored central London on a Dickens tour with Context (it was awesome, I’m feeling inspired to read more Dickens); we headed to the Fanzone in Richmond to watch New Zealand beat Australia at rugby with Simon, Katie, and Jackie, a friend we hadn’t seen for ten years; we partied at our friend Dylan’s house with many of our favourite people; we went to Bath.Go All Blacks!
Ah, Bath. It’s such an elegant place. As we explored the Assembly Rooms and tried to photograph the Royal Crescent, I couldn’t help but imagine characters from Jane Austen’s novels strolling past arm-in-arm, dressed in Regency clothing and talking about bonnets. Unfortunately, though, we were stuck firmly in the present, where fog made driving a challenge and completely scuppered our plans to visit Stonehenge on the way home.We’d visited Bath once before, but the autumn leaves put on a real show this time.
The fog continued for two more days, causing huge travel disruptions. A strike on the DLR train line exacerbated the problem but meant that journeys on the Emirates Air Line cable car back in London was free for two days; we made the most of it and flew across the Thames four times during the strike.Travelling by cable car really spiced up the commute.
The main reason we were in London was to attend World Travel Market, an annual travel trade event that brings tens of thousands of travel professionals to the city. Our three days there were full of meetings, talks, drinks with friends, and more meetings. One evening we went to an event, another we had drinks with our friends Lance and Laura, and another we went to the cinema to see Spectre with Simon and Katie.It’s always nice to spend time with Simon and Katie.
It was a busy week, and I found myself wishing I had more time in the country I previously disliked so much. The prices are still inflated, the coffee is only marginally improved, and the weather put on a spectacular display of changeability, but England has grown on me. We’ll be back.
What do you think about London? What’s your favourite thing to do there? What would you love to see in England?
I’m often surprised when I look back over photos from the last twelve months to see how much I’ve done… and this year is no different. 2015 has been an amazing year, full of good times, not-so-good times, and time with friends and family.
We saw the new year in in our temporary home of Alcalá de Henares, where I was doing a master’s degree. We’d been based there since September 2015 and stayed until the end of June, so it was a pretty long stretch for us. Luckily, we loved it — and who wouldn’t? Not only is it Unesco world heritage listed, it’s full of lovely people and delicious tapas.We spent a lot of time in the Plaza de Cervantes.
We’re always happy to have an excuse to visit our old home of A Coruña, so we took advantage of a long weekend to fly up to visit our friends Oliva and Guille at Carnival time. They (and another friend, Alba) had created some spectacular costumes for us to wear, and we enjoyed watching the parades and looking like idiots while eating tapas.
I had to knuckle down to work and study, but Craig headed off to Berlin to attend a conference and hang out with awesome people. I wasn’t too jealous — after all, it was at least ten degrees warmer where I was.I got to go to Berlin later in the year, so I wasn’t too jealous…
April was a month of family visits. First, my brother Simon and his fiancée Katie hopped over from London to spend Easter with us, and then Craig’s parents visited for a week in the middle of the month. We made sure to explore Alcalá and Madrid with them, and headed over to Valencia for the weekend.Katie, Simon, Linda and Craig at the Puerta de Alcalá.
The big event of the month was a trip up to Lloret de Mar in Catalunya to attend the TBEX travel bloggers’ conference. It’s always great to catch up with our travel blogger friends, some of whom we’ve known for almost ten years — as long as Indie Travel Podcast has been running.
After TBEX, Craig headed up to the Baltics with JayWay Travel and I returned to Alcalá with my friend and workmate Alisa. While Craig explored Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, I finished my thesis and went on school camp with a hundred preteens.However, I was jealous of missing the trip to the Baltics.
Our last month in Alcalá was spent in good company. My sister came over for a visit with her son Henry, and our friend Janine joined us part way through the month. We all hopped in a car together for a quick trip around Portugal with a stop in Segovia along the way, and Janine and Craig finished the journey with a week-long surf school in Peniche.
After my graduation, Janine, Craig and I headed north to take part in the Haro Wine festival — yep, we threw wine at each other for a beautiful, sticky morning.We got a little damp.
Janine had never walked a Camino de Santiago, and we are always keen to do another, so we hiked 300km from Oviedo to Santiago over two weeks or so. We started as a group of three and finished as seven, and for some reason we called ourselves the Smurfs.One of the many views on the Camino Primitivo.
After a quick stop in Coruña (to show it off to Janine) we hopped in Alba’s car to head to Toledo for Oliva and Guille’s wedding. It was a beautiful day in a gorgeous location and we felt privileged to be invited to take part in it.
We had a few days in Madrid, during which we caught up with a few friends and ate tacos, then flew to Berlin for something completely different.
We were housesitting in the outskirts of the city and thought we’d just get down to work — but it didn’t work out like that. Instead, we spent heaps of time with our friends Claudia and Holger; Frankie and Jesus; Adam; Javier; and Natalie and Stephanie from Context Travel. We did find time to walk the dog twice a day, though!We even spent time at the beach while in Berlin!
From there, we caught a bus down to Prague, where we stayed with the excellent Charles of JayWay Travel. Our friends Graham and Jon were over from New Zealand, and Janine and our Camino friend Clothilde joined us for a wonderful couple of days together.
Too soon, it was time to go — we flew to England for another housesit.
We’d never heard of Oundle before we accepted the housesit, and it wasn’t anything like what we expected. There was so much to do — pub visits with the neighbours, walking tours, a visit to the theatre. I even went to a blogging festival near London (where I almost froze, but at least in good company). We were sad to leave, but not too sad — we were going to Moldova!Oundle was beautiful and surprising.
We’d wanted to attend the Moldovan wine festival for at least eight years, so you can imagine our disappointment when it was called off when we finally had tickets to the country. No worries, though: alternative activities were put on, and we enjoyed them in the company of a group of Moldovan and Romanian bloggers.The Moldovan flag flies over the Et Cetera vineyard.
Our trip to Ukraine was postponed as a result of my incompetence, but we got there eventually. We loved spending time with local people in Odessa and having a Performance Foundry mini-conference on a boat in Kiev.St. Sophia Cathedral is one of the most spectacular buildings we’ve ever seen — and we’ve seen a few.
The weather really started to cool off at the beginning of November, and heading back to England probably didn’t help matters. However, we had a stunning day for watching New Zealand win the Rugby World Cup final, and only shivered a little while travelling across London for the World Travel Market conference.Go All Blacks!
Most of the month, though, was spent in Mexico with Janine and our other best friend, Ange. We hung out in Cancun for a week before starting our epic road trip around the Yucatan Peninsula, during which we ate a lot of tacos and only had to pay three bribes.
Pin me on Pinterest!It was sad to say goodbye to Ange, Janine, and Luis, but they had other plans and we were heading back to Mexico to hang out with other friends. Pete and Dalene had told us they would be spending Christmas in San Miguel de Allende, so we decided to crash the party and head there too, with a one-week stop in Querétaro along the way.
2015 has been an epic year, especially since we thought we’d be travelling slowly. Next year though, we really should be slowing down: we’ve got a housesit lined up in Panama, and we’re heading to Colombia for three months after that. We hope to explore a bit more of this part of the world before heading south again to hang out with family and friends in Australia and New Zealand towards the end of the year.
What are your plans for 2016? What was your highlight of the last year? Leave a comment below.
Want to know what it’s like to give everything up and escape to more exotic climes? These inspiring travellers have made it work in all sorts of ways
Emma Robson, 35, from London is an adventure tour leader I was a cardiac physiologist working at St Thomas’s hospital in London and had spent seven years working, studying and watching the NHS struggle. It was a rewarding job and I had great colleagues, but I was always restless. The idea that I could do something else came after I took a four-week overland trip to Africa with overland adventure specialist Dragoman. It was the longest time I could get off work and it was amazing. I cried when it finished – the idea had been to cure me of my wanderlust, but it backfired! The trip was led by two young women and I thought, “If they can do it, maybe I can”. I applied for a job with the company as soon as I got back. The interview went well, then there was a week’s trial before the training, which started last May. The hardest part was learning to drive a 13-metre long coach around London.Continue reading...
When visiting London for the first time there are so many ‘MUST DO‘ lists. Selfie Big Ben? Taking in the panoramic views from the London Eye or perhaps catching a glimpse of the Queen at Buckingham Palace? It is like a conveyor belt of iconic tourist destinations. If this is your first trip to London, of course, you will want to see all these, but what about heading somewhere else. Somewhere not as busy that offer a different, local, experience.
Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.
Greenwich ParkLondon, United KingdomFresh air with amazing views of London – what more do you need? Greenwich park is great with friends or for taking a wander and escaping the hustle and bustle. #viewpoint #london #free #hiking
Take in the views of Greenwich Park. This is a free viewpoint offering great alternative views over London. While getting to Greenwich Grab a beer from the bar on board the Thames Clipper and take in the sights along the river towards Greenwich. After checking out the Cutty Sark, head up the hill in Greenwich Park to check the Prime Meridian with a longitude of 0’ and then take in one of the best views over the city of London.
Docklands Light RailwayLondon, United KingdomThe DLR is a good way of getting around. Not as busy as the underground and generally above ground allowing you to see where you are going. It can be a bit slower, but you can play train driver ? #publictransport #train #railway
This is the Docklands Light Railway that operates around the Docklands area in London. These driverless trains are a great way of traveling around that offer alternative views over the city. Get to the front and you can be the driver.
Canary WharfLondon, United KingdomLondon’s major business district is home to some architecture. It is deserted on the weekends making it rather eerie and great for taking pictures of London’s skyscrapers. #skyscrapers #businessdistrict #quietontheweekend
Canary Wharf is in the Docklands area and is home to the second largest building in the UK, One Canada Square. This is a major business district and is very busy Monday to Friday. It is deserted on the weekends, making it the best time to go and check out the metal and glass architecture. While here, Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a must see, hidden oasis with beautiful flora and fauna that is completely unexpected in London’s major business district.
Phone Booth Book ExchangeLondon, United KingdomThis phone box is a book exchange ! Swap your book for a “new” one ! What a cool place. I was here for ten minutes and three people came by. I don’t think there is wifi like a library would have though ? #free #londonbookexchange #bookexchange
Pop along to the coolest little book exchange in London. It is in a Red Telephone Box. There is a surprising selection and you do not know what you may find.
Brixton is a multi-ethnic population that is predominantly Caribbean. It is an area that has seen gentrification and is now home to independent bars and coffee shops offering fantastic food and a buzzing nightlife. It is also where David Bowie was born and his mural is worth a visit.
MonumentLondon, United KingdomAfter climbing 311 tight steps you are greeted with a great view of London. Take your camera and you can get pictures through the mesh #viewpoint #london #lotsofsteps #greatforyourstepcount #history
The Great fire of London is a very important part of London’s history. There is a monument that stands 202 ft tall, that has a viewing platform at the top. After climbing the narrow staircase of 311 steps you can look at the sites of London through mesh fencing. It is £4 to climb to the top, but the view is worth it and is great for your step count.
St Thomas’ HospitalLondon, United KingdomWestminster and the Southbank are crazy busy. Head to the tranquil garden of St Thomas hospital and relax on a bench while taking in the view #viewpoint #free #relax #london
Head to the garden of St Thomas hospital, find a bench to relax on while taking in the views of the garden and of Big Ben. This is a nice peaceful hospital garden that is well maintained and is the perfect spot to sit for a while and reflect on your visit to London. More like this: 14 outrageous things you had no idea you could do in London
Written by locals, Fodor's travel guides have been offering expert advice for all tastes and budgets for 80 years. People travel to Great Britain for the hipness of London, the cozy thatched-roof villages of the Cotswolds, or the wild moors and lochs of Scotland, but all want the most worthwhile destinations and savvy travel tips at a glance. The full-color Fodor's Essential Great Britain provides this with a selective collection of the best of England, Scotland, and Wales. This travel guide includes:· Dozens of full-color maps plus a handy pullout map with essential information· Hundreds of hotel and restaurant recommendations, with Fodor's Choice designating our top picks· Multiple itineraries to explore the top attractions and what’s off the beaten path· Coverage of London; The Southeast; The South; The West Country; Oxford and the Thames Valley; Bath, The Cotswolds, and Stratford-upon-Avon; Manchester, Liverpool, and the Peak District; The Lake District; Cambridge and East Anglia; Yorkshire and the Northeast; Wales; Edinburgh; Glasgow; The Borders and the Southwest; The Central Highlands, Fife, and Angus; Aberdeen and the Northeast; Argyll and the Isles; The Great Glen, Skye, and the Northern Highlands Planning to focus your trip? Check out Fodor's travel guides to London, England, and Scotland.
Fully illustrated with more than 250 color photographs and 33 mapsPart of the international 111 Places/111 Shops series with over 150 titles and 1 million copies in print worldwideExperience the less explored nooks and pockets of Britain's capital through the eyes of a passionate local. With its labyrinth of characterful streets and alleys, charming squares, open green spaces, monuments and museums, public artworks, bustling markets, and tempting boutiques and restaurants, London is a walker's paradise. Whether you're a first time visitor or longtime local, the city offers endless surprises - fascinating sights and stories, both ancient and modern, hidden in plain view. London insider and native Nicola Perry leads you away from the famed attractions on 33 strolls through the city's most interesting enclaves, sharing entertaining insights, historical anecdotes, and engaging tips at every cobblestoned turn. Each walk burrows its way into the heart of a neighborhood, crafting and curating a path that reveals its individual essence and personality.
The Rough Guide to London is the ultimate travel guide to one of the world's most exciting cities.
With full color throughout and dozens of photos to illustrate London's great buildings, iconic landmarks, and distinctive neighborhoods, this updated guidebook will show you the best the city has to offer, from Big Ben, the London Eye, and Olympic Park to markets and museums, gourmet restaurants, and hidden pubs.
London has something for everyone — art galleries and shopping arcades, spacious parks and grand palaces — and The Rough Guide to London uncovers it all. Detailed color maps for each neighborhood, plus a tube map and practical information on all the essentials, make getting around easy. With chapters dedicated to the best hotels, restaurants and cafés, pubs and bars, live music and clubs, shops, theater, kids' activities, and more, you'll be sure to make the most of your time in this city with The Rough Guide to London.
Series Overview: For more than thirty years, adventurous travelers have turned to Rough Guides for up-to-date and intuitive information from expert authors. With opinionated and lively writing, honest reviews, and a strong cultural background, Rough Guides travel books bring more than 200 destinations to life. Visit RoughGuides.com to learn more.
Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher
Lonely Planet England is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Ponder the mysteries of Stonehenge, visit Shakespeare's home town or take in a London show; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of England and begin your journey now!
Inside Lonely Planet England Travel Guide:Full-colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, art, literature, cinema, music, architecture, politics, landscapes, food, drink, sport Free, convenient pull-out London map (included in print version), plus over 95 colour maps Covers London, Newcastle, Lake District, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Midlands, the Marches, Nottingham, Cambridge, East Anglia, Oxford, Cotswolds, Canterbury, Devon, Cornwall, and more
The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet England , our most comprehensive guide to England, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.Looking for a guide focused on London? Check out Lonely Planet London guide for a comprehensive look at all the city has to offer; or Pocket London a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip. Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet Great Britain guide for a comprehensive look at all the region has to offer.
About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.
Headed to London with kids? Want to ensure your young explorers get the most out of their incredible opportunity to experience the British capital? Then you've come to the right place!
Mission London takes your young travelers through the famous sights of London, engaging them in an exciting scavenger hunt as you explore city landmarks together.
Say 'goodbye' to a trip filled with the stress of keeping everyone entertained. Instead, say 'hello!' to a memorable family vacation. Imagine - your kids will be excited to sightsee (yes, even at museums!) as you discover the wonders of London as a family.
Get Mission London today for your young jet-setters...and make sure it's in their bag when they take off for London!
Mission London offers a fun vacation for everyone - with a captivating, spy-theme scavenger hunt packed with entertaining activities. When your kids set off on their mission, with the goal of earning enough points to become a special agent, they'll gain points as:
-Culture Detectives: They'll discover the fascinating stories behind landmarks like Tower Bridge and Parliament/Big Ben and sample British fare like fish 'n chips, tea, and scones.
-Monument Investigators: They'll uncover clues on the façade of St. Paul's Cathedral, the statues of Westminster Abbey, and the walls of the Tower of London...and many more engaging activities.
Experiencing the British capital is an amazing opportunity for anyone, especially a young person. Make your kids' trip one to remember. Get Mission London today for your young explorers...and be sure it's in their suitcase when they set off for London!
Our series also includes books for Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Washington, D.C., New York, and St. Augustine.
Here's what Amazon customers have to say about Mission London.
"Mission London is probably one of the best travel books I've seen for kids. I'm highly impressed with this one. Perfect for kids from 8-14, this is a great way to keep your kids entertained while learning a lot about London. Full of gorgeous pictures and fascinating tidbits about history, this turns travel into a game." - Outlaw Poet
"Really great. The writer understands what kids like and don't like. The idea of going on a mission really motivated my son -- who is 8 years old -- to check out the sites of London and he learned a lot in the process." -Iseprof
"We enjoyed this book as a family and it kept our 10 year old entertained." - Marsha Flores
City Maps London United Kingdom is an easy to use small pocket book filled with all you need for your stay in the big city. Attractions, pubs, bars, restaurants, museums, convenience stores, clothing stores, shopping centers, marketplaces, police, emergency facilities and the list goes on and on. This collection of maps is up to date with the latest developments of the city. This city map is a must if you wish to enjoy the city without internet connection.
Designed specifically for Rick's travel audience (or users) these maps highlight choice destinations throughout Britain and Ireland in a colorful, easy-to-use format on high-quality paper that lasts over many trips:• Cuts the Clutter: While big cities are left for navigational purposes, this map is otherwise stripped clean and filled in only with places that matter to travelers.• Guidebook-Friendly: At a glance, all the places you read about in Rick's Britain, Ireland and London guidebooks pop right out in a crisp, easy-to-read format.• Rail or Road: Includes important train lines and highways (and ferry routes) for easy route-planning, no matter how you'll get around.• The Back's Even Better: The reverse side includes a colorful, detailed heart of London map, locating sights, hotels and restaurants from Rick's London guidebook. A handy London Tube map, too!
Named Best Guidebook of the Year” by the Society of American Travel Writers in a previous edition, this fiercely opinionated guide not only tells travelers what to see and do, but also what’s not worth their time. In a city with an overwhelming number of attractions, lodgings, restaurants, museums, and shops. Cochran, as the judging panel noted, is also unusually talented at bringing culture and history to life, in an accessible and fun-to-read fashion. Whether your budget is large or tight, Cochran shows you London like a localsomething many guides claim but few do as well as this one.This book is fully updated yearly, has large easy-to-read type, and contains:- Exact prices and tube stops for every listing in the book, so there’s never any nasty surprises- A handy pull-out map, with helpful bulleted maps throughout, including a London Tube map- Insightful discussions of London’s history and culture- Opinionated reviews of attractions, nightlife, hotels, restaurants and shops in all price ranges-16-page photo guide with vibrant photographs, at the front of the book plus black and white photos throughout
Temperature: 44°F / 7°C
Air pressure: 1016 hPa
Windspeed: 2.6 m/s