A city that is home to over 8.5 million people and has welcomed over 17.4 million visitors in 2014, London is one of Europe’s perpetually popular cities.
Beyond just being the nation’s capital, the so-called Big Smoke has plenty to offer visitors hailing from the UK and overseas. From the historic city centre to world-famous landmarks, restaurants, shopping and much more; travellers passing through London have a great deal to explore.
There are numerous apps and maps that can help you navigate around London’s vast cityscape and various different methods of travel depending on what you want to see, your budget, and your level of fitness.
If taking in the main sights in central London (Travel Zone 1), visitors can make do with walking. However, if travelling throughout the remaining zones (Zones 2-6), availing of London’s excellent transport system is a great way to get around. While Day Passes are available, visitors planning to spend more time in London may want to consider an Oyster Card. Available to use on the tube and buses, this plastic card is reloadable with pay-as-you-go fares, and often works out to be the most cost-effective method of getting around if you will be travelling a lot throughout London.
Of course, these aren’t your only options. There is no shortage of historic black cabs in London, and the affectionately nicknamed “Boris bikes” for rent are a great way to explore the city, especially along the waterways of the canal.
(Helpful hint – the Citymapper app can help you navigate around London, calculating routes via tube, bus, car and on foot).
Things to See
When it comes to visiting iconic landmarks and historic sites, visitors to London are spoiled for choice. Some of the most popular attractions in the city include:
Big Ben – Officially called the Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben as it’s more commonly known is the clock tower situated at the end of the Palace of Westminster. Arguably one of the most recognisable sites in London, the clock has stood since 1858, and visitors can hear the bells ring out each hour, on the hour.
Tower of London – Built at the dawn of the 11th century by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London has served as both royal residence and of course a prison to house some of the most high-profile criminals of the day. Today, visitors can explore more than 20 towers in this fortified stronghold, along with an impressive collection of Crown Jewels.
The Shard – Once the tallest building in Europe, The Shard is an impressive glass skyscraper situated in Southwark. From the top of the building’s 72 floors, you can enjoy incredible 360-degree panoramic views of the city.
London Eye – Another popular way to take in views of the city skyline is via a 30-minute “flight” aboard the London Eye, a large observation wheel on the South Bank of the Thames. Standing 443ft tall, the wheel enables visitors to view many of the key landmarks in the city.
St Paul’s Cathedral – St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with only the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica being larger. It was built under Sir Christopher Wren, making it a true wonder to behold especially for lovers of Baroque architecture.
Buckingham Palace – Of course, no trip to London would be complete without a visit to the official London residence of the Royal family. Tours inside are available during the summer months, while visitors throughout the rest of the year can enjoy the majestic palace along with a walk down the historic mall.
Other points of interest include the British Museum, Tate Modern, Westminster Abbey and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Areas to Visit
There are many distinctive neighbourhoods to discover in London. Mayfair is one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods, having been home to many famous artists, writers, scientists and philosophers over the last few centuries. In Mayfair, you’ll discover some of the most beautiful parks in London and some of the finest dining in the country. Many of the parks are lined with a number of breathtaking 18th century mansions, including the former studio of legendary fashion photographer Terence Donovan, which is currently on the market for a cool £18million.
Notting Hill is also one of London’s most desirable and recognisable areas, filled with world-famous events, restaurants, galleries and theatres. Vintage lovers should flock to Stoke Newington to take advantage of pubs, cafes, and boutiques, while those who love the nightlife will have no shortage of things to do in Soho.
- Buying tickets in advance can often help you save money, and there are plenty of free attractions to enjoy too.
- Keep an eye out for happy hour offers to save on food and drink.
- Explore markets to find great deals and experience authentic London.