London is one of the greatest cities on the planet, attracting over 25 million visitors every year, making London the most visited city in Europe.
London City Breaks: London is the most diverse and sophisticated of cities and remains the cultural, political and economic heart of the United Kingdom. There are many reasons to fall in love with London, so read on for inspiration and tips on how to discover and experience this great capital city of culture.
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London is famous for its royal palaces, world-class museums, art galleries, world class shopping, West End shows and award-winning restaurants. Whatever the reason for your visit, you'll find an abundance of low-cost schedule flight services operating in and out of London's two main international airports, Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW).
Introduction: Many of London's top city centre attractions are within walking distance of each other. Most attractions can be reached via public transport (London Bus or Underground). London has an abundance of historic sites and must see attractions, so plan your sightseeing time carefully. Always prepare your sightseeing itinerary well in advance, and pre-book theatre & attraction tickets to avoid disappointment.
(1) Plot the venues and attractions you want to visit on a London City Tourist Map, (see London's top 10 attractions list below).
(2) Group together the attractions easily reached on foot or by public transport on the same day, and avoid zigzagging across London between venues.
(3) Book attraction tickets in advance - its often cheaper than buying on the day. Always contact the attraction or venue directly to check whether pre-booking is required.
(4) Try to include 3 or 4 main attractions each day and remember: plan more - save time - fit more in.
(1). The London Eye. At 135m tall, the London Eye is one the most popular attractions in town and attracts over 3.5 million visitors every year. The London Eye is situated right at the tourist heart of London, on the South Bank of the Thames opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
The London Eye gives you spectacular 360-degree views of London’s skyline, and includes some of the capital's most iconic landmarks,
such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Each capsule is fully air-conditioned and rotates on a special axle device designed to keep everyone
upright, as the wheel makes a slow 30 minute revolution.
Top Tip: Time your ride to start at dusk to experience nightfall, and watch as the city lights transform the skyline into a glittering wonder.
(2). Buckingham Palace. The home of The Queen and the focus of national and royal celebrations. The Buckingham Palace Tour includes access to the magnificent State Rooms which are open to visitors for 10 weeks each summer and on selected dates during winter and spring. The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is weather dependant, the ceremony usually takes place at 11.00 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday and daily in the summer months.
(3). The Tower of London. The Tower of London is a medieval fortress located on the north bank of the River Thames. The Tower is officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace, it marks the history of England as well as being an infamous prison and housing the 'Crown Jewels' the official jewels of the English monarchy. Discover captivating stories of pain and passion, treachery and torture and view the spectacular world famous collection of jewellry containing 23,578 gemstones. Your ticket includes entry to the Crown Jewels, the White Tower, the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula, Battlements, Medieval Palace, Bloody Tower, Torture at the Tower exhibition and the Royal Mint exhibition. Checkout the link above for opening times and ticket prices.
(4). Big Ben & Houses of Parliament. Big Ben is probably the world's most famous clock, located at the north end of the Houses of Parliament - formally known as the Palace of Westminster. The Clock towers 315 ft. above central London and directly above Westminster Abbey, the finest and largest of Europe's great medieval cathedrals.
The Palace of Westminster serves as the center of British government and the meeting place of Britain's two houses of Parliament. The massive gothic structure has more than 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases, 11 courtyards and the great Westminster Hall - with some of the hall's structures dating back to it's original 1097 construction. You have to book the Palace of Westminster tour in advance. See above link for the Houses of Parliament opening times, tickets & tour prices.
(5). Madame Tussaud's. Madame Tussaud's the world-famous waxworks is located on Marylebone Road in north-west London. The closest stations are Baker Street tube station on the Bakerloo, Circle, Jubilee lines. Spend some quality time with remarkable life like wax replicas, have tea with Her Majesty the Queen, stand next to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, take a selfie with Kim Kardashian and meet-up with classic Star Wars heroes like Yoda, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Meet all kinds of celebrities from today and yesterday; including movie stars, pop stars, historic characters and world leaders.
(6). St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral. St' Paul's was designed by the great architect Sir Christopher Wren in the seventeenth century, and stands proudly in the business district of the city, 2 minutes walk from St Paul's tube station (central Line). St Paul's was built on the highest point of the city, with its world-famous dome remaining an iconic feature of London's skyline.
When you first enter the Cathedral take advantage of a new touch-screen multimedia guide or better still, join one of the many guided tours to properly explore and appreciate this iconic building. Climb up the dome to the Whispering Gallery and try out its unique acoustics, or venture down into the crypt to discover the magnificent tombs of Admiral Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington. If your feeling energetic, climb to the top of the Golden Gallery at the very top of the dome, where you will be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views across London's skyline.
(7). The Shard. The Shard is a 72-storey skyscraper located in Southwark, on the south bank of the river, the Shard forms part of the exclusive Shard Quarter development. The building is more than 1,000ft (300 metres) tall and is almost twice as high as any other building in the city. The Shard's main attraction is the 360-degree views over London from it's viewing platforms on levels 68 and 69, and from the Skydeck on level 72. Level 72 offers spectacular views of London from it's open-air platform. There are three main restaurants in the Shard, they include: Aqua Shard, located on level 31, Oblix restaurant and cocktail bar situated across the entire 32nd floor, and Hutong which is situated on level 33 serving northern Chinese cuisine. The closest tube is London Bridge underground station (Northern and Jubilee Lines), nearby attractions include Borough Food Market, the Monument, HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
(8). ZSL London Zoo. London Zoo is one of the world's most famous zoos and also a major player in world wildlife conservation. The zoo is ideally located in the quiet north-east corner of Regent’s Park, allowing you to forget the world outside, while enjoying the magic of the animal kingdom inside. Meet over 720 different species of animal, along with 1000's of surprising and fascinating fun facts waiting to be discovered. The zoo is famous for designing and building natural enclosures that resemble the animals' natural habitats, which helps to give visitors a realistic impression of being in different parts of the world.
London Zoo is a haven of nature in the heart of the city, the perfect educational and fun activity for all family and friends to enjoy! Pre-book your zoo entry tickets if possible, as the zoo can be extremely popular and busy during peak holiday dates. Tickets can be bought on the day at the main entrance, but be prepared to queue. The nearest Underground station to ZSL London Zoo is Camden Town, about a 10 to 15 minute walk. Alternatively Regent’s Park tube station is a relaxing 20 minute walk to the zoo through the park.
(9). The National Gallery. The National Gallery houses one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world and is located in Trafalgar Square close to Covent Garden. The National Gallery Collection contains over 2,200 paintings which are all owned by the nation. The works of art date from between the 13th and the 19th centuries and include works from the following artists: Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Degas, Goya and Cézanne, masterpieces include: Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus, Turner’s Fighting Temeraire and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. The closest main line station to the National Gallery is Charing Cross, with just a two minutes' walk away. The closest underground tube stations are Charing Cross - Northern and Bakerloo lines and Leicester Square - Northern and Piccadilly lines. The National Gallery is among the most visited art museums in the world and has free admission to the main gallery. Apart from the main gallery collections, there are regular exhibitions, talks and informative daily tours.
(10). The Natural History Museum. The Natural History Museum is part of the 'Museum Quarter' which is an area in and around Kensington that also includes both the Victoria and Albert Museum plus the Science Museum, so you could easily spend a whole day visiting all three museums. The Natural History Museum is all about discovering the natural world, its history and many specimens. In fact the museum's collection includes over 60,000 species and objects related to the natural world.
Firm favorites at the museum include dinosaur fossils and skeletons, including life-size models of dinosaurs and an impressive life-size model of a blue whale, plus real meteorites from outer space. How to get to the Natural History Museum, the nearest tube station is South Kensington (Circle, District and Piccadilly lines) and is a 5 minute walk away, or Gloucester Road tube station which is a 7 minute walk. Entry to the museum is free but it's best to book your entry ticket in advance, alternatively become a museum member and enjoy free entry to all exhibitions, priority access (no need to queue) and entry to exclusive events. See website for membership prices and further details.
(11). London's Nightlife: London is famed for its varied and colourful nightlife, with world-class theatres, concerts and an abundance of bars and clubs catering for all tastes and moods. London is one of the world's major nightlife hubs and provides everything needed to keep your evenings occupied and entertained. Here's a small taste of some of London's most popular entertainment districts:
Kensington. Upmarket and the wealthiest neighbourhood in London, Kensington is known for its sophisticated and stylish restaurants, exclusive cocktail bars and night clubs.
Soho. London's Soho is famed the world over and should be on every visitors shortlist. Located in central London and once famous for it's red light entertainment, it's now very much 'the place' for trendy live music venues, cool bars & clubs plus a mix of laid back inexpensive eateries and expensive restaurants. Soho is also the main hub for London's gay entertainment, with plenty of bars & clubs open through to the early hours.
Mayfair. Mayfair is located in the heart of the city and is one of the most expensive areas of London, (the most expensive property square on the London Monopoly board), the area is renowned for five-star luxury everything from boutique shops, trendy bars, exclusive hotels, and is home to no less than 16 Michelin Star restaurants.
East End. East End London is a vibrant and culturally interesting neighbourhood and home to some of the coolest nightlife and trendiest watering holes in the capital. Shoreditch and Dalston are areas to head to, the East End is known for offering something different along with the best bars in London.
Getting Around London - Introduction: London is the most visited city in Europe, it also has one of the world's largest public transport systems that conveniently connects all 32 London boroughs. There are plenty of transport options available to visitors, including Buses, Taxis, the Underground (also called the Tube), the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and river bus services.
The London public transport system is divided up into 9 zones that radiate out from the city centre, central London is covered mostly by zone 1 & 2 which include most central hotels and most of London's main attractions. The majority of visitors will only use the most central zones. If you plan on travelling outside the central zones consider how many ‘Zones’ you will need to travel through to reach your destination, as this will affect the fare you pay and the type of ticket you buy. The ‘Zone’ system does not apply to London Bus services – you can travel anywhere by bus in zones 1-6 using any travelcard mentioned below, including Oyster Cards.
You can download the TfL London Transport Zones map here.
How to buy London transport tickets: One of the cheapest and most convenient methods of travelling London's transport network is to use the Oyster Card system (reusable electronic ticket), or alternatively use your contactless payment card, both methods are acceptable on London's public transport network. You can buy tickets online and direct via the official Transport for London website.
Visitor Oyster Cards: Oyster Cards can be bought in advance and can be preloaded with payment/credit saving you time on arrival. You can use Visitor Oyster cards to pay for journeys on all public transport on the Transport for London (TfL) network, including the Underground, London Bus, DLR and River Boat/Bus services and most National Rail services in London. The card is valid in all travel zones and automatically calculates the cheapest total fare for all the journeys you make in a single day. The Visitor Oyster card offers daily capping, which means you can travel as much as you like in a single day and the amount you pay for your travel is limited (or capped).
Remember, the Oyster Card is a permanent reusable electronic ticket which is topped up from time to time by its user, please keep the card safe and check the card's credit regularly to avoid delays to your journey. You can buy an Oyster Card before you leave home and it will be delivered directly to you: You can buy tickets online at the Transport for London ticket shop.
Contactless Payment Cards: Alternatively travellers can use contactless payment cards (standard credit or debit cards that support the contactless payment technology), if you make multiple journeys in one day the total cost of all the journeys made is calculated at the end of the day, with one single charge made direct to your Contactless payment card account.
London Travelcard's: London Travelcard's are another option, they allow you to enjoy unlimited travel on London's public transport, including the Tube, Buses, Overground and National Rail services. Travelcard's are available to purchase for 1 or 7 days or 1 month durations and provide unlimited travel for a fixed flat fee. You also receive a 33% discount on the Thames Riverboats and a 25% discount on the Emirates Air Line cable car.
How to use Oyster Cards: If your visiting London on a short trip then the Oyster card is (for most visitors) the best way to travel. To use the card simply touch your Visitor Oyster card flat on a yellow card reader when you enter a station to start a journey, at the end of your journey touch your card flat on the yellow card reader as you leave the station; this will trigger a charge for the correct fare for the journey you've taken.
However there are exceptions; on bus and tram services ONLY touch your Visitor Oyster card on the yellow card reader at the start of your journey. Do not touch out when you leave a bus or tram, or you will be issued with a penalty fare.
On the Thames Clippers River Bus services only touch on the yellow card reader when asked to do so by a member of staff, and remember to touch out again at the end of your journey.
The London Underground: The London Underground is a convenient and popular way to travel in and around central London. The Tube operates 11 lines covering 402km of track and serves 272 stations that cover the majority of London's main attractions. The tube operates daily between 5am until midnight, with Night Tube services operating on some lines on Friday and Saturday evenings. Try to avoid the tube during rush hour (Weekdays between 7am - 9.30am and 4pm - 7pm), at peak times there are more than 543 trains whizzing around the Capital so stations and platforms can get very busy.
As with any major city most commuters make full use of the cities rapid transport systems, however the London underground can be particularly busy during commuter times. Remember, the London Underground Map is not geographically accurate, often you'll find it easier to walk instead of getting on the tube to travel just a few stops, if you're unsure of the distance between stops simply refer to a city map to roughly gauge the distance. Alternatively download the Transport for London's 'walking time between tube stations map' this useful PDF map shows how much time it takes to walk between stations on the same line.
The London Bus: London's iconic Red Bus service may seem confusing to use at first, but there are plenty of online journey planners and bus route apps to guide you should you need help. The Bus service also has an extremely convenient route network covering the entire city with a 24-hour service. Travelling by Bus is very cost effective and offers great sightseeing opportunities along the way. London buses operate a cashless ticket system, so you need an Oyster card, Travelcard or contactless payment to use the service. The Bus network does not use the ‘zone’ system, it uses a flat fee fare of £1.50 for a single journey, no matter how far you’re travelling or where you’re going to. You also have the option to hop on unlimited buses or trams for free within one hour of touching in for your first journey. Top Tip: The London for Transport (TfL) manage a bus fleet of around 9,300 vehicles operating across 675 routes, with so many bus routes don't forget to check out the TfL route planner, and remember, London buses don't accept cash, so you'll need an Oyster or contactless to get on board.
London Thames Riverboat Services: If you’re not in a rush, the river boat service is a great way to travel around the city and enjoy great views of London’s riverfront. You can Hop on and Hop off with stops at 22 piers along the river - between Putney in the West and Woolwich in the East. Sometimes known as the River Bus, it's a great way to explore London's major attractions dotted along the river, including the Houses of Parliament & Westminster Abby, London Eye, Tate Modern, Tower of London, Shakespeare's Globe theatre and Tower Bridge. River Bus services are operated by Uber Boat by Thames Clippers and all boats have inside seating with a small outside deck area. On-board there are bars serving drinks and snacks and most boats have accessible toilets. You can use contactless or Oyster cards as payment, touch in on the yellow card reader (but Only when instructed to do so by a staff member). Remember to touch out again at the end of your journey, this includes interchanges.
London Taxi: The iconic London black cab can be hailed on the street or can be found at taxi ranks at mainline train stations. Taxis in London can be pricey, but are sometimes the preferred mode of transport (especially by locals) to save on travel time. It's also convenient to use the Uber app which is very popular in the city.
Top Tip: Make use of the Transport for London online Journey Planner, it will help you find and plan the most direct and convenient route from A to B by combining tube, bus and tram services. The journey planner will show the approximate price, station name and journey times of each segment. Watch out for 'card clash', keep your contactless and Oyster cards separate when touching in and out, and make sure you touch in and out with the same card.
London Shopping: London is a shoppers paradise, it also has the busiest shopping street in Europe, Oxford Street. Oxford Street has over 300 shops and over 500.000 daily visitors. With so much variety and choice London shopping can sometimes appear bewildering, so read on for tips on where to start your shopping adventures.
For department stores and everyday fashion head to the West End and the two streets - Regent Street and Oxford Street, here you'll find big British & International names like Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Selfridges, H&M, Gap, Liberty and the oldest toy shop in the world - Hamleys. For exclusive boutiques and all things expensive, head to Knightsbridge and Chelsea. Knightsbridge is home to the biggie - Harrods, with over 300 departments it's the largest store in Europe, where you can literally buy anything.
Top Tip: If your feeling stressed-out from over-shopping, over-spending and over-sightseeing take a stroll off the high street and loose yourself down London's side streets, here you'll find London's smaller, independent and perhaps slightly more interesting retail outlets. You might even stumble across a traditional London pub or two tucked away down a side street (there's plenty of them still around). When you find one, don't hesitate to go in for a break and enjoy a refreshing and well deserved British Pint.
London Heathrow Airport (LHR). Heathrow is located 27km west of the city in the London borough of Hillingdon, the airport operates two runways and has 4 active terminal buildings (numbered 2-5). All terminals are easily accessible by public transport and by car via the M4 and M25 motorways, with an average journey time into London of under 1 hour.
Heathrow Airport is the UK’s largest and busiest airport and handles over 80 million passengers a year and is the second busiest airport in the world based on international passenger traffic. London is also one of Europe's major commercial hubs and has the largest city airspace in the world.
Approximately 84 airlines fly from London Heathrow to over 200 destinations around the world. The airport is the primary hub for British Airways and the main operating base of Virgin Atlantic. The most popular destinations departing Heathrow airport include: New York (JFK), Dubai, Dublin, Amsterdam and Hong Kong.
Airport Transport and City Shuttle Services:
London Heathrow Express Trains. Heathrow is easily accessible from London City Centre. The Heathrow Express operates every 15 minutes from London Paddington rail station to Heathrow airport, with a journey time of just 15 minutes. The Heathrow express connects London to Heathrow's Terminals 2 & 3, with an extra 6 minutes to Terminal 5. A free transfer is available to Terminal 4.
London Underground at Heathrow. Underground trains operate on the Piccadilly Line from Heathrow to central London. Heathrow has three underground stations with all trains stopping at Heathrow Central Station at Terminals 2 and 3 with some trains going on to Terminal 4. Journey time is around 45-60 minutes with waiting times usually no longer than 10 minutes. The plus side to using the underground is frequency, choice of city centre underground stations and journey time, however it can get overcrowded the closer you get to the city, especially during peak rush hour. If your travelling with lots of luggage the Heathrow Express may be a better transport option. Heathrow Airport is in Zone 6 of London's zoned transport system which is explained in more detail in section 3 above.
Taxi. Fully-licensed London black taxis are available at the taxi ranks located outside of each airport terminal. Taxi fares start at around £80.00 and are convenient and usually plentiful.
Car Hire: All major car rental companies are represented at London heathrow LHR airport, Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.
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