The capital and largest city of both the United Kingdom and of England, 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 roughly 7.5 million people — although the figure of over 14 million for the city's total metropolitan area more accurately reflects London's size and importance. London is one of the great "world cities," and remains a global capital of culture, fashion, finance, politics and trade.
London will host the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The name London originally referred 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. 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 by New World standards, London retains large swathes of green parkland and open space, even within the city centre.
Greater-London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London that, together with 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 Hackney or Tower Hamlets. This traveller's 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 and with the rise of England to first European then global prominence, 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 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 city, Birmingham, and ten times larger than the third, Glasgow, and dominates the economic, political and social life of the nation (much to the annoyance of some people in the provinces i.e. everywhere except London). It is full of excellent bars, galleries, museums, parks and theatres. It is also the most culturally and ethnically diverse part of the country, making it a great multicultural city to visit. Samuel Johnson famously said, "when one is tired of London, one is tired of life." Whether you are interested in ancient history, modern art, opera or underground raves, London has it all.
London possesses one of the best collections of museums and galleries anywhere in the world. World cultures throughout history are well represented, for example, at the British Museum. The Museum of London (admission free) makes an ideal destination for the traveller who wants to understand the history and ongoing legacy of this great city.
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 the dense population, and all the other pre-requisites of a medieval city: walls, a castle (the Tower of London), a cathedral (St. Pauls), a semi-independent City government, a port and a bridge across which all trade was routed so the Londoners could make money (London Bridge).
About an hour upstream (on foot or by boat) round 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 better 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, west and east. The land to the west of the City (part of the parish of Westminster) was prime farming land (Covent Garden etc.), 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 where people worked for a living. You now have a two-centre city, with the area in between known confusingly as the "West End". Except now the docks have closed, and been replaced by developments like Canary Wharf, making parts of the East End as expensive and full of offices as the City.
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. From June through to September average daily high temperatures peak at over 20C with July and August the warmest months at 23C while London's highest temperature since 2000 was recorded one August at 38C. This means London can feel hot and humid in the summer months. Winter days are rarely cold and frost is rather rare, and while sunshine is at a premium and wet days are more common, the average daily maximum is 8C in December and January, making London milder than most nearby continental European capital cities.
The International Olympic Committee decided in 2005 that London will serve as the host city for the Games of the XXX Olympiad , the Summer Olympic Games of 2012. This will make London the first city to hold the Olympic Games three times, having hosted the games previously in 1908 and 1948. The vast majority of events will be held in a regenerated area in East London.
Due to London's huge global city status it is the most served destination in the world when it comes to flights.
London (all airports code: LON) is served by a total of five airports. Travelling between the city and the airports is made relatively easy by the large number of public transport links that have been put in place over recent years. However, if transiting through London, be sure to check the arrival and departure airports carefully as transfers across the city may be quite time consuming. In addition to London's five official airports (of which only two are located within Greater London), there are a number of other regional UK airports conveniently accessible from London. Since they offer a growing number of budget flights, choosing those airports can be cheaper (or even faster, depending on where in London your destination is).
For transfers directly between London's airports, the fastest way (short of a taxi) is the direct inter-airport bus service by National Express . Buses between Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton run at least hourly, with Heathrow-Gatwick services taking 65min (£18) and Heathrow-Stansted services 90min (£20.50) (note that services between Stansted and Luton run only every two hours). However, it's essential to allow leeway, as London's expressways, especially the orbital M25 and the M1 motorway, are often congested to the point of gridlock. Buses have toilets on board.
Easybus offers transfers to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted starting at (£2) (http://www.easybus.co.uk/gb/bookGB.php)
Main article: Heathrow Airport
Heathrow (ICAO : EGLL, IATA : LHR) is London and Europe's largest airport and the world's busiest airport in terms of international passenger movement, with services available from most major airports world-wide. There are five terminals. Flights landing at Heathrow are often delayed by up to an hour as a simple result of air traffic congestion and waiting for parking slots. To complicate the matter, airlines that fly into Heathrow are currently playing a system-wide game of musical chairs as gate assignments are cycled through the new terminal, making it even more necessary for travelers to check their terminal and gate assignment in advance. A quick summary of transport options (also see Heathrow Airport):
Fastest: by Heathrow Express rail , 0845 600 1515, Every 15 minutes, journey time 15 minutes, Travelcard not valid. Despite the Heathrow Express & Connect's speed, they are often not the fastest way to a final destination in London. These train lines terminate at London Paddington which for most people will require a tube, bus, or cab ride to their final destination.
Second fastest: by Heathrow Connect rail , 0845 678 6975, Follows same route as Heathrow Express but stops at several intermediate stations to London Paddington so journey is 25 minutes and trains less frequent.
Cheapest: by London Underground (Piccadilly line) , 0845 330 9880, Every few minutes, journey time approximately 1 hour, however this depends on your destination, For the cheapest single fare ask for an **Oyster** card (£3 refundable deposit). Zone 1-6 Travelcard valid.
Taxi, A taxi from Heathrow to central London will cost £45-60. You may wish to consider taking a taxi if you have a lot of baggage or small children. Alternatively catch public transport into the city centre and then catch a taxi. There are two types of taxis: Black cabs (usually slightly more expensive - can be hailed on a street) or licensed mini cabs (cheaper - must be booked over the phone or on the web). There are over 1000 minicab companies in London.
Dot2Dot Shuttle (Dot2Dot) , +44 (0) 845 368 2 368, A door 2 door shuttle service, running 24/7. Costs about half of the Taxi, climate controlled with wide leather seats and plenty of room for luggage. It is recommended you pre book to guarantee a seat on the shuttle.
Also: to South London , 0845 748 4950, Bus 285 (or taxi) to Feltham railway station (20 minutes) then a train to London Waterloo on the South Bank or Clapham Junction in South West London. Furthermore, bus X26 (limited stop) is an express route stopping in three of South London's district centres: Kingston, Sutton and Croydon. Zone 1-6 Travelcard valid on all London buses and trains.
Dot2Dot Shuttle (National Express Dot2Dot) , +44 (0) 845 368 2 368, A door 2 door shuttle service, running 24/7. Costs about half of the Taxi, with wide leather seats and plenty of room for luggage. Pree bookings are required for Gatwick services.
By car, 29 miles (47 km).
When departing, note that after passing through security you will find no drinking fountains in the South Terminal departure lounge.
A large number of budget flights depart from Stansted as early as 6AM (when the lowest fares are available). However, this presents travellers with a problem, as the airport's location is a long way outside London, and transport to the airport is sporadic before 5:30AM. Due to the high price of accommodation in the city and near the airport, and the fact that many budget airlines don't pay for accommodation in the event of cancellation, an increasing number of travellers choose to spend the night in the airport prior to their flight. A crowd of around 100 travellers (up to 400 in summer) camp in the main departure/arrivals hall every night, effectively turning it into a giant dormitory. Tips for sleeping at Stansted Airport:
Arrive early, preferably around 10PM, and stake your territory immediately. Benches without armrests are in limited supply and fill up quickly.
If you arrive later, take a floor mat and sleeping bag. Sleeping on the floor is tolerated by the staff, but avoid pitching your bed in front of shops and counters.
A sleeping bag is generally recommended as the automatic doors constantly open and close as passengers arrive, and it can get chilly in winter.
Safety is not a problem. The airport is miles away from any settlement and security guards overlook the open-plan building 24/7.
Ear plugs and eye covers are a must, as the cleaning staff are noisy and shop assistants start arriving at 4AM to open shutters.
At least one cafe is open all night, offering snacks and hot drinks. Boots the chemist is also open 24/7
Toilets remain open and are normally in good condition. There is a drinking fountain to the left of the Accessorize storefront and the security entrance "Door 1", where you can fill water bottles for the night.
(ICAO : EGSS, IATA : STN) Currently London's third airport, the base for a large number of budget carriers (for example EasyJet and RyanAir ) and flights within Europe and a few inter-continental flights. There are several commercial wi-fi hotspots covering most of the airport, but they charge extortionate rates. A free wi-fi hotspot is in the arrivals gate area, next to the phone booths offering fixed internet. Transport options into central London:
By rail then London Underground: Stansted Express to Tottenham Hale then London Underground (Victoria line) , 0845 600 7245, Every 15 minutes, If you are going to South London, the West End or West London then take Stansted Express to Tottenham Hale then the London Underground (Victoria line). At Tottenham Hale ask for an **Oyster** card
By coach: National Express , 0870 580 8080, Every 15-30 minutes. Journey time to Stratford: 1 hour. To Victoria: 90 minutes, To Stratford (tube: Stratford) or Victoria (tube: Victoria). Folding bicycles only.
(ICAO : EGGW, IATA : LTN) Has traditionally been a holiday charter airport, but is now also served by some budget scheduled carriers. As per Stansted, and for the same reasons, many choose to spend the night here before flying, although "First Capital Connect" trains run 24 hours. To get to central London the following options exist:
By rail , Journey time: 30-60 minutes, The rail station is not actually in the airport, but there is a shuttle bus from the airport to Luton Airport Parkway station which runs every few minutes and takes five minutes. It costs £1 single, or £2 return, if you are buying a rail ticket, Otherwise it costs £1.5 single or £3 return. From there, Thameslink trains run by *First Capital Connect* run four or more times an hour to London St Pancras International.
By coach: Green Line number 757 , 0844 801 7261, Every 20 minutes, journey time 90 minutes., To Victoria (tube: Victoria) via Brent Cross, Finchley Road tube station, Baker Street, Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner. £14 one way if bought from the driver.
By minibus: EasyBus number EB2 , To Baker Street (tube: Baker Street) via Hastingwood Motorway Services and South Woodford. They now run from the city centre (Victoria), but terminate in Baker St on the way back from the airport.
By car, 35 miles (60 km).
(ICAO : EGLC, IATA : LCY) A commuter airport close to the city's financial district, and specializing in short-haul business flights to other major European cities. You may find that from some origins, this may be your cheapest London airport to fly to, without even considering the cost savings of NOT comming from the distant larger London airports with £10+ transfer costs. Then there is the added bonus is that it is close to London City Centre! To get to the city centre the following options exist:
London Southend Airport , +44 (0) 1702 608100 , (IATA: *SEN*, ICAO: *EGMC*) Currently undergoing redevelopment and is set to become London's sixth international airport once the new rail link is completed. At present it serves destinations in the British Isles only.
Southampton Airport , +44 (0)870 040 0009, Every 30 minutes, journey time 1 hour, (IATA: *SOU*, ICAO: *EGHI*) is not officially a London airport, though accessible enough to conveniently serve the capital, especially South West London. A couple of budget carriers serving an increasing number of European destinations are based here. Direct trains connect Southampton airport to London Waterloo station.
Birmingham International Airport , +44 (0)8707 335511, Every 30 minutes, journey time 75 minutes, (IATA: *BHX*, ICAO: *EGBB*) is another non-London airport worth considering as a less congested and hectic alternative to Heathrow, being just over an hour away from London. As a major airport serving the UK's second largest city, there is a good choice of long distance and European destinations. Direct trains connect Birmingham International to London Euston and Watford.
London has one international high speed rail route (operated by Eurostar 08705 186 186 ) from Paris (2h15) and Brussels (1h50) diving under the sea for 22 miles (35km) via the Channel Tunnel to come out in England. It terminates at St Pancras International Station. There are no fewer than 12 main line National Rail terminals (although in conversation you may hear the brand National Rail infrequently if ever it differentiates main line and London Underground services; journey planner online or phone 08457 48 49 50). With the exception of Fenchurch Street (nearest tube: Tower Hill) these are on the London Underground. Most are on the circle line. Clockwise starting at Paddington, major National Rail stations are:
London Paddington, serves South West England and Wales including Slough, Maidenhead, Reading, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and Cardiff and Swansea. Also the downtown terminus of the Heathrow Airport Express (see above) and serves some suburban stations such as Acton Main Line and Ealing Broadway.
London Marylebone, serves some north western suburban stations such as Amersham, Harrow on the Hill and Wembley Stadium. Also serves Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Banbury, Stratford-upon-Avon and the city of Birmingham. It is much cheaper but slightly slower to take a train from Marylebone to Birmingham instead of a train from London Euston. Recently a new service to Shrewsbury, Telford , and Wrexham has been launched by the Wrexham & Shropshire railway company .
London Euston, serves the Midlands, north-west England and west Scotland: Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Oxenholme Lake District, Carlisle, Glasgow, and Holyhead for connecting ferries to/from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Sleeper trains to Scotland leave from Euston.
London King's Cross, serves East Anglia, north-east England and east Scotland: Cambridge, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Kingston upon Hull, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter books is marked with a special sign, although platform 9 itself is actually in the fairly unpleasant metallic extension used by Cambridge trains.
London Moorgate, serves some northern suburbs.
London Liverpool Street, serves East Anglia: Ipswich and Norwich. Also the downtown terminus of the Stansted Airport Express.
London Fenchurch Street, serves commuter towns north of the Thames estuary to Southend.
London Bridge, London Cannon Street, London Waterloo East and London Charing Cross, serve south and south east London and England: Brighton, Dover, Eastbourne, Hastings and Ramsgate.
London Blackfriars, serves Gatwick Airport and Brighton.
London Waterloo, serves south west London and England: Portsmouth, Winchester, Southampton, Bournemouth, Weymouth, Salisbury and Exeter.
London Victoria, serves south east London and England: Brighton, Dover, Eastbourne, Hastings and Ramsgate. Also the downtown terminus of the Gatwick Airport Express.
In South London many areas have only National Rail services (no London Underground services but there are buses). London Bridge, Victoria, Cannon Street and Charing Cross serve the South East. London Waterloo serves the South West. First Capital Connect (frequently referred to as Thameslink) is a cross London route between Bedford and Brighton via Luton Airport (Parkway), St Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, London Bridge and Gatwick Airport.
Most international and domestic long distance bus (UK English: coach) services arrive at and depart from a complex of coach stations off Buckingham Palace Road in St James's close to London Victoria rail station. All services operated by National Express or Eurolines (see below) serve Victoria Coach Station, which actually has separate arrival and departure buildings. Services by other operators may use this station, or the Green Line Coach Station across Buckingham Palace Road. The following are amongst the main coach operators:
National Express , 0870 580 8080, is by far the largest domestic coach operator and operates services to / from London from throughout England, Wales and Scotland. Advance ticketing is usually required and recommended practice in any case
Eurolines , +44 08705 143219, is an associate company of National Express, and runs coach services to / from London with various cities in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and continental Europe. Advance ticketing is required.
Megabus , 0900 160 0900, operates budget coach services from/to London (Victoria Coach Station) to/from several major regional cities, it is even possible to get to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Fares are demand responsive but can be very cheap (£1.50 if you book far enough in advance).
London is the hub of the UK's road network and is easy to reach by road, even if driving into the centre of the city is definitely not recommended. Greater London is encircled by the M25 orbital motorway, on which nearly all the major trunk routes to the rest of England and Wales radiate from. The most important are listed below.
M1: The main route to/from the North, leading from the East Midlands, Yorkshire and terminating at Leeds. Most importantly, Britain's longest motorway - the M6, branches from the M1 at Rugby, leading to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, the Lake District and onwards to the Scottish border, and ultimately Glasgow.
A1/A1(M) The A1 is the original, historic "Great North Road" between England and Scotland's capital cities and has largely been converted to motorway standard; it runs up the eastern side of Great Britain through Peterborough, York, Newcastle and continues north through Northumberland and the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh.
M40/A40: Arrives in London from a north westerly direction, linking the city with Oxford and providing an additional link from Birmingham.
M4: The principal route to/from the West - leading to Bath, Bristol and cities South Wales (Cardiff and Swansea). It is also the main route towards Heathrow Airport.
M3: The main route to London from the shipping port of Southampton.
M2/M20: Together, these motorways are the main link to the coastal ferry (and Channel Tunnel) ports of Dover and Folkestone from Continental Europe.
M11: The M11 connects Stansted Airport and Cambridge to London, and it terminates on the north eastern periphery of the city.
In addition to the M25, here are two inner ring roads in London which skirt the central area:
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 (that's if you can find a space in the first place, that is!). Parking in the City of London is free after 6.30PM Monday to Friday, after 1.30PM on Saturday and all day Sunday.
The city has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite residents' constant, and sometimes justified, grumbling about unreliability, public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere for visitors and residents alike and is far more reliable than locals would have you believe. Indeed, nearly a third of households do not feel the need to own a car.
Transport for London (TfL) is a government organisation responsible for all public transport. Their website contains maps plus an excellent journey planner . They also offer a 24-hour travel information line, charged at local rate: tel +44-20-72221234 (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 - but even this has a few limitations (see the guide below) and it is not yet universally accepted by many of the private rail operators.
The main travel options in summary are:
By tube / underground 11 colour-coded lines cover the central area and suburbs mostly north of the River Thames, run by TfL.
By Docklands Light Railway (DLR) Runs only in the east of the city, privately run but part of TfL's network.
By boat Commuter boats and pleasure cruises along the River Thames, privately run but part of TfL's network.
Airport Express Express rail services run to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports (tickets are generally sold at a premium), privately run and not part of the TfL network.
By tram (Tramlink) A tram service that operates only in southern suburbs around Wimbledon and Croydon.
By Overground 3 orange-coloured lines circling the northern suburbs, part of TfL's network. The Underground's East London Line is now closed until 2010 when it will become part of London Overground.
By National Rail A complex network of suburban rail services, mostly running in the southern suburbs, privately run and not part of the TfL network.
Be careful - while Oyster pay-as-you-go is valid on London Underground, London buses and London Overground, pay-as-you-go is not valid on many National Rail trains - you have to use a Travelcard (which can be loaded onto an Oyster card or a paper ticket) or buy separate paper National Rail tickets. Refer to the Oyster Pay-as-you-go on National Rail map to help you, or ask at the station. Don't get caught out as staff are generally unsympathetic! However, if you are using only the tube, bus and tram, Oyster pay-as-you-go makes a lot of sense.
Oyster is a contactless electronic smartcard run by Transport for London. You can get an Oyster Card from any Tube station for a deposit of £3. You can also get a Visitor Oyster card for a deposit of £2, although these cards can be used only to pay as you go and cannot be loaded with 7 Day Travelcards. You can "charge up" an Oyster card with electronic funds. This cash is then deducted according to where you travel. The cost of a single trip using the Oyster card is 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 1 week, 1 month and longer-period tickets onto the card, and the card is simply validated each time you use it. The deposit is fully refundable if you hand it in at the end of the trip. However, there is no expiry date on the Oyster Card or any pay-as-you-go credit on the card. If you have any pay-as-you-go credit left this will also be refunded. You will get refunds in cash only if you paid in cash. Be prepared to give your signature on receipts or even show ID for refunds over a few pounds.
You can charge up your Oyster card with electronic cash at any tube station ticket machine or ticket desk (you can even use a credit card to do this if your credit card has a PIN number) with Oyster pay-as-you-go, also known as PrePay. This money is then deducted from your card each time you get on a service. The fare is calculated based on your start and end points. Pay-as-you-go is much cheaper than paying in cash for each journey. For instance, a cash tube one way in Zone 1 is £4, while with an Oyster Card it costs £1.60. Furthermore, a cash bus fare is £2 while with Oyster it is £1.
The amount of PrePay deducted from your Oyster card in one day is capped at the cost of the appropriate paper day ticket (day Travelcard) for the zones you have travelled through, less 50 pence. For zone 1-2 (central London including everywhere inside the Circle line and some places outside) this is £5.10 (£6.70 M-F before 9:30AM).
On the tube, be sure to touch in and touch out again at the end of your journey. If you forget to touch your Oyster card at the start and finish you will be charged extra!
Oyster also saves time getting onto buses. If you don't have an Oyster, tickets have to be bought at a machine by the bus stop in the central area, and from the driver outside the zone.
A Travelcard may be loaded onto an Oyster card or may be purchased as a paper ticket.
Day Travelcard - Zones 1-2 - Anytime: £7.20, Off-Peak £5.60
3 Day Travelcard Zones 1-2 - Anytime: £18.40, Off-Peak None (If the three days you are travelling on include a Saturday, Sunday or Public Holiday, it may be cheaper to buy a combination of Day Travelcards)
7 Day Travelcard Zones 1-2 - £25.80
Monthly Travelcard Zones 1-2 - £99.10
Annual Travelcard Zones 1-2 - £1,032.00
The above prices are Adult prices and only for Zones 1 & 2. For a more comprehensive list of the prices visit the TFL website:
Weekly, monthly and longer-period Travelcard season tickets can be purchased at all tube station ticket offices. These can be used on any tube, DLR, bus, London Overground, National Rail or tram service. You have to select a range of zones when you buy it, numbered 1-9. If you happen to travel outside the zone, you can use PrePay (see above) to make up the difference. Note that they can not be used on any Airport Express trains (Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express and Stansted Express). However, a Zone 1-6 Travelcard can be used on the London Underground (Piccadilly line) to/from Heathrow Airport.
Touch the card against a yellow disc, prominently displayed on the entry and exit gates for the Tube (do not try to insert it into the slot!) and on buses and trams.
For the tube, be sure to touch the card on the yellow disc both when you enter the tube AND when you exit at your final destination; otherwise you will be charged £4.
Theoretically you don't need to remove your Oystercard from your wallet or bag to do touch in/out - the card reader can work through a bag, but in reality you may need to take the card out to get it to work.
Be careful standing near the readers on some bendy buses, they are often quite sensitive and may read your card from several centimetres away, even if you did not intend this.
If you keep your Oystercard in your wallet try not to sit on it as sometimes they will crack and stop working.
The following table summarises the validity of the different tickets you can use on Oyster. For most tourists, tubes and buses are the only transport you will use, but be aware of the limitations if you travel on National Rail or on Airport Express trains.
Travelcards are valid only within the zones you buy.
Piccadilly line to Heathrow is a London Underground train, so PrePay and Travelcards are valid.
Airport Express trains are Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Express.
Travelcards are valid on Thameslink but if you are heading all the way to Luton airport, you will need a ticket between the edge of your travelcard zone and the airport.
London is a surprisingly compact city, making it a walker's delight and often being the quickest method of transport.
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.
Beware of pickpockets.
Drinking alcohol anywhere on the underground is illegal.
When using the escalators, always stand on the right to allow people in a hurry to pass. If you are standing on the left people will occasionally ask grumpily for you to get out the way.
Move down the platform when waiting for a train. Try not to crowd the entrances to the platform.
Allow passengers to get off the train before boarding yourself. While passengers are trying to get off, do not stand in front of the doors. Stand either to the right or to the left of the train doors, and allow passengers to disembark before attempting to get on.
Have your Oyster card or ticket ready for the top of the escalators so not to obstruct barriers.
Be careful at the ticket barrier of people coming up close behind you in an attempt to get through the barrier on your ticket. This isn't a huge problem, but it does happen.
Move clear of the foot of escalators, ticket halls and station entrances.
Some platforms in Zone 1 have the words "Mind the Gap" written on the platform edge. When the train stops, the carriage doors will usually line up with this warning.
Do not expect to get a seat, the Tube is often busy.
Give up your seat to the elderly and those less able to stand, especially if the seat is reserved for such a purpose.
Keep yourself and any luggage you have away from the doors at all times.
NEVER try to board or leave a train when the door warning is sounding.
Do not be alarmed if the train comes to stand for a time in a tunnel.
The London Underground - also known popularly as The Tube - has trains that criss-cross London in the largest underground rail network anywhere in the world (it was also the first, the first section of the Metropolitan Line dates back to 1863). The Tube is an easy method of transport even for new visitors to London.
Tube maps are freely available from any station, most tourist offices and are prominently displayed throughout stations and in the back of most diaries. The Tube is made up of 11 lines each bearing a traditional name and a standard colour on the Tube map. To plan your trip on The Tube work out first which station is closest to your starting point and which closest to your destination. You are able to change freely between lines at interchange stations (providing you stay within the zones shown on your ticket). Use the Tube Map to determine which line(s) you will take. 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 and announced it is easy to work out when to get off your train. Visitors should be aware, however, that the Tube map is actually 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. 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. 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 overground bus network and its orbital rail network.
Trains run from around 5:30AM to about 1AM. This mode of transport is usually the fastest way to get from one part of London to the another, the only problem being the relative expense, and the fact that it can get extremely crowded during rush hours (7:30AM-10:00AM and 4:30PM-7PM). On warm days take a bottle of water with you. Also note that engineering works usually take place during weekends or in the evening. Contact TfL or visit their web site especially if you plan to travel on a Saturday or a Sunday when entire lines may be shut down.
You can use the Oyster to pay, or you can also buy magnetically encoded paper tickets from the information counters or the self-service machines. The smaller machines take only coins, while the larger touch-screen machines also take bills and credit/debit cards (note that they accept only cards with an embedded micro-chip: old-style cards with only a magnetic stripe cannot be used). Paper tickets are relatively expensive with a flat fare of £3 for up to 4 zones and £4 for up to 6-zones. However, most machines also issue day-tickets that are also valid on other methods of transport. Keep hold of your ticket for the whole journey, you'll need it to exit the station as well.
London's iconic red buses are recognized the world over, even if the traditional Routemaster buses, with an open rear platform and on-board conductor to collect fares, have been phased out. These still run on Heritage Route 9 and 15 daily between about 9:30AM and 6:30PM, every 15 minutes. Buses are generally quicker than taking the Tube for short (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. On some busy routes, extra-long buses known as "bendy buses" are used. Routes served by these buses always carry a yellow route sign as detailed below. Care should be taken as it is possible for those unfamiliar with them to get on then have no way of paying. This could be related to the relative ease of hopping on and off without paying (doors open along the length of the bus and there is no on-board conductor). This is, however, illegal and can be very risky - large teams of inspectors frequently descend on these buses accompanied by police, and it's possible to be arrested and prosecuted.
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 routes that stop there. Bus routes are identified by numbers and sometimes letters, for example the 73 runs between Victoria and Seven Sisters. Yellow signs indicate you must purchase your ticket before you board. You must either have a Pay-as-you-go Oyster card, travelcard season ticket, bus saver ticket, bus pass, or have bought a one way ticket from a machine at the bus stop. These machines don't provide change (all the more reason to use one of the other options). From age 11 and up you must show an Oyster card on buses, yet journeys are free. Student Oysters (only available to students studying in London) go up to age 18 and journeys are still free, failure to show an Oyster means a £2 fare.
Buses display their route number in large digits at the front, side and rear. All bus stops have their location and the direction of travel on them.
The iBus system has now been rolled out the iBus on every bus and garage in London. This new system provides bus times and destination information on a audio-visual display.
Unlike The Tube one way tickets do not allow you to transfer to different buses.
Standard bus services run from around 6AM to 12:30AM. 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 the exact same route, such as the nr. 88 bus 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 on to Enfield.
Nightbuses 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 4 am 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.
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 tube station), Canning Town, Heron Quays (close to Canary Wharf tube station) and Stratford. As the trains often operate without a driver, it can be quite exciting - especially for children - to sit in front and look at through the window, whilst feeling as though one is driving the train oneself. The DLR also runs above ground on much of its route, and travels through many picturesque parts of London, including the docklands area where most of London's skyscrapers are located. Apart from the trains looking slightly different and running slightly less frequently than the Tube, visitors may as well treat the two systems as the same.
Unlike the tube, the DLR uses the honor-system at all stations apart from Bank and Stratford. Tickets are available from the machines at stations (most stations are unstaffed so make sure you are armed with a handful of coins or low-denomination notes) and are distance-based. Travelcards are also accepted, as are Oyster cards, which must be validated when entering the platform, and then validated again when exiting the station.
The DLR can be a little confusing as the routes are not easily distinguished - generally trains run between Bank - Lewisham, Stratford - Lewisham, Bank - Woolwich Arsenal, Stratford - Woolwich Arsenal and Tower Gateway - Beckton. Displays on the platform will tell you the destination and approximate wait for the next 3 trains, and the destination is also displayed on the front and side of the train.
The British railway system is known as National Rail (although some signs refer to it as "British Rail"). London's suburban rail services are operated by a large number of independent private companies 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 many mainline stations dotted around the edge of the central area, and most are connected by the Circle line (except those South of the river like London Waterloo and London Bridge). Most visitors will not need to use National Rail services except for a few specific destinations such as Hampton Court, Kew Gardens (Kew Bridge station), Windsor Castle, Greenwich or the airports, or indeed if they are intending to visit other cities in the United Kingdom.
Airport Express Rail services run to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports - tickets are generally sold at a premium. Visitors should take care as pay-as-you-go Oystercards are generally not accepted.
In common parlance, Londoners may refer to travelling by "overground" (or "overland"), meaning going by National Rail (as opposed to going by Underground). However, only one service is officially called Overground - London Overground is a Transport for London rail service. It is operated and promoted just like the Underground, with the logo like the Tube (except orange) on stations and full acceptance of Oystercards. London Overground appears on the Tube map as an orange line, and services run across North London suburbs from east to west. Overground services can be a useful shortcut for crossing the city, bypassing the centre, for example from Kew Gardens to Camden. London Overground services also connect busy Clapham Junction railway station in the Southwest to West London (Shepherds Bush and Kensington) and Willesden Junction in the Northwest.
Tramlink, opened in 2000, is the first modern tram system to operate in London. South London is poorly served by the Tube and lacks east-west National Rail services so the network connects Wimbledon in South West London to Beckenham in South East London and New Addington, a large housing estate in South Croydon. The network is centred on Croydon, where it runs on street-level tracks around the Croydon Loop.
Route 3 (Wimbledon to New Addington - green on the Tramlink map) is the most frequent service, running every 7 1/2 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. Both 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. Excellent free cycle maps can be obtained from your local tube stations, bike shop, or ordered online.
Despite recent improvements, London remains a relatively hostile environment for cyclists. London motorists seem reluctant to acknowledge the existence of cyclists, especially at busy junctions. 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. The towpaths in North London along the Grand Union Canal and Regent's Canal are the closest thing to a truly traffic-free cycle path in 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 30-40min to cycle from Paddington station to Islington along the towpaths. In summer they are crowded with pedestrians and not suitable for cycling, but in winter or late in the evening they offer a very fast and safe way to travel from east to west in North London. Care should be taken as to where you choose to park your bike. Many areas, some surprisingly busy, attract cycle thieves, while chaining a bicycle to a railing which appears to be private property can occasionally lead to said bike being removed. Cycling on the pavement (sidewalk) is illegal.
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. There is a map showing this on the Transport for London website. Most National Rail operators allow bicycles outside peak hours also.
Critical Mass London meets for regular rides through central London at 6PM on the last Friday of each month. Rides start from the southern end of Waterloo Bridge. The London Cycle Campaign is an advocacy group for London cyclists and organizes regular group rides and events. Many improvements have been made for cyclists in the city over the last few years, even if they remain no more than gestures in most places. Noticeably, there are many new signposted cycle routes and some new cycle lanes, not to mention more cyclists since the 2005 public transport attacks.
In the United Kingdom helmets are not compulsory for cyclists. In London, many cyclists, especially those seen in rush hour, also wear filter masks, but their efficacy is even more disputed.
You must have working front and rear lights during hours of darkness. Flashing LED lights are legal. Reflective clothing is always a good idea even during the day.
London has two types of taxis: the famous black cab, and so-called minicabs. Black cabs are the only ones licensed to 'tout for business' (ie 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 curb 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 take an extensive exam in central London's streets to be licensed for a black cab, meaning 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 otherwise don't. Londoners will often just 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 many, 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 licenced 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) License Plate - usually in the front window. One of the features of the license plate is a blue version of the famous London Underground "roundel". A list of licenced minicab operators can be found at TfL Findaride: . Note that some areas in London are poorly serviced by black cabs, particularly late at night. This has led to a large number of 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. You should avoid mini-cabs touting for business off the street and either take a black cab, book a licensed minicab by telephone, or take a night bus. These illegal drivers are unlicensed and sadly they are often unsafe: a number of women are assaulted every week by illegal minicab operators.
Londoners who drive will normally take public transport in the centre; follow their example. There is no good reason whatsoever to drive a car in central London.
Car drivers should be aware that driving into central London on weekdays during daylight hours incurs a hefty charge, with very few exemptions (note 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 7AM-6PM (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, online, 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 (take note!) 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 7:30AM-9:30AM and 4PM-7PM 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. Traffic is slow and heavy, 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.
Motorbike is arguably the fastest way around London, but also the most dangerous. The congestion zone does not apply, and thus for anyone commuting it's usually the cheapest option (possibly excluding bus rides). Parking for motorbikes and scooters is free at many of the reserved areas.
London is now starting to follow the example of cities such as Sydney and Bangkok by promoting a network of river bus and pleasure cruise services along the River Thames. 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 - Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, etc. 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 comapny are not valid on other operators' services.
Boats run on the following routes:
Bankside - Millbank
Barrier Gardens - Greenwich - St. Katharine's - Westminster
Blackfriars - Embankment - Cadogan - Chelsea Harbour - Wandsworth (RQ) - Putney
Canary Wharf - Hilton Docklands
Canary Wharf - London Bridge City
Embankment - Blackfriars - Chelsea Harbour - Cadogan
Embankment - London Eye - Bankside - London Bridge City - Tower - Canary Wharf - Greenland - Masthouse Terrace - Greenwich - QEII for the O2 - Woolwich Arsenal
Embankment - London Eye - Blackfriars - London Bridge City - Tower - Canary Wharf - Greenland - Masthouse Terrace - Greenwich - QEII for the O2 - Woolwich Arsenal
Embankment - London Eye - Blackfriars - London Bridge City - Tower - Canary Wharf - Greenwich - QEII for the O2 - Woolwich Arsenal
Embankment - London Eye - London Bridge City - Tower - Canary Wharf - Greenland - Masthouse Terrace - Greenwich - QEII for the O2 - Woolwich Arsenal
Greenwich - Tilbury - Gravesend
Greenwich - Tower - Westminster - London Eye
Hampton Court - Kingston (Town End Pier) - Kingston (Turk's Pier) - Richmond (St Helena)
Hampton Court - Richmond - Kew - Westminster
Hilton Docklands - Canary Wharf
London Bridge City - Canary Wharf
Millbank - Bankside
Putney - Wandsworth (RQ) - Chelsea Harbour - Cadogan - Embankment - Blackfriars
Richmond (St Helena) - Kingston (Turk's Pier) - Kingston (Town End Pier) - Hampton Court
Tilbury - Gravesend - Greenwich
Westminster - Embankment - Festival - Bankside - London Bridge City - St. Katharine's - Westminster
Westminster - Embankment - St. Katharine's - Westminster
Westminster - Kew - Richmond - Hampton Court
Westminster - London Eye - Tower - Greenwich
Westminster - St. Katharine's - Greenwich - Barrier Gardens
Woolwich Arsenal - QEII for the O2 - Greenwich - Masthouse Terrace - Greenland - Canary Wharf - Tower - London Bridge City - Bankside - Embankment - London Eye
Woolwich Arsenal - QEII for the O2 - Greenwich - Masthouse Terrace - Greenland - Canary Wharf - Tower - London Bridge City - Blackfriars - Embankment - London Eye
Woolwich Arsenal - QEII for the O2 - Greenwich - Masthouse Terrace - Greenland - Canary Wharf - Tower - London Bridge City - Embankment - London Eye
Some key tourist attractions that are easily accessible by boat include:
plus all the central London sights in Westminster and the South Bank
As well as the Thames, consider a trip along an old Victorian canal through the leafy suburbs of North London. The runs scheduled services (more in summer, less 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 sidewalks (pavements) is completely legal, except in the City of London (a district). Roads are not the greatest but easily skatable. In the centre drivers are more used to skaters than in the outskirts.
London can be stressful with kids - check London with children for slightly less stressful sightseeing
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles.
London hosts an outstanding collection of world-class museums. Even better, it is the only one of the traditional "alpha world cities" (London, New York City and Paris) in which the majority of the museums have no entrance charges, thus allowing visitors to make multiple visits with ease. Although London can be expensive, many of the best museums and galleries are free including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, British Museum, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and most museums in Greenwich. Donations are welcome. Note that admission to many temporary exhibitions is not free. The 'green lungs' of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city including St James Park and Hyde 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.
Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament) in St James's. The seat of the United Kingdom parliament and World Heritage site, as well as setting for royal coronations since 1066, most recently that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
St James's Park - Charming and romantic, these gardens are ideal for picnics and for strolling around. St. James's Park is situated between Buckingham Palace on the west and Horse Guards Parade on the east.
Buckingham Palace - The official London residence of the Queen, also in St James's. Open for tours during the summer months only, but a must-see sight even if you don't go in.
Trafalgar Square - Home of Nelson's Column and the lions, and once a safe haven for London's pigeons until the recent introduction of hired birds of prey. It recently attracted controversy over the 'Fourth plinth', previously empty, being temporarily home to a Marc Quin sculpture, 'Alison Lapper Pregnant'. Overlooked by the National Gallery, it's the nearest London has to a 'centre', and has recently been pedestrianised.
The London Eye. The world's third largest observation wheel, situated on the South Bank of the Thames with magnificent views over London.
Tower Bridge - Is the iconic 19th century bridge located by the Tower of London near the City. It is decorated with high towers and featuring a drawbridge and you can visit the engine rooms and a Tower Bridge exhibition.
The Tower of London - Situated just south east of the City, is London's original royal fortress by the Thames. It is over 900 years old, contains the Crown Jewels, guarded by Beefeaters, and is a World Heritage site. It is also considered by many to be the most haunted building in the world. If you are interested in that sort of thing its definitely somewhere worth visiting. Sometimes there are guided ghost walks of the building.
St Paul's Cathedral, also in the City, is Sir Christopher Wren's great accomplishment, built after the 1666 Great Fire of London - the great dome is still seated in majesty over The City. A section of the dome has such good acoustics that it forms a "Whispering Gallery."
Regent's Park (officially The Regent's Park ) is one of the Royal Parks of London. It is in the northern part of central London partly in the City of Westminster and partly in the London Borough of Camden.
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely considered the most prestigious. Naturally it is a regular feature on the Tennis Calender. London goes "tennis crazy" for two weeks when the competition commences in late June and early July.
Drury Lane Theatre, drury lane, said to be haunted....
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles.
Live Music, London is one of the best cities in the world for concerts, spanning from new musical trends to well known bands. Between huge concert facilities and small pubs, there are hundreds of venues that organise and promote live music every week. Many concerts, especially in smaller or less known places are free, so there is plenty of choice even for tourists on a budget.
Theatre, See a musical, play or comedy in the West End. For Broadway-like musicals the Leicester Square area is highly recommended. In the centre of the square there is an official half-price *TKTS* booth. For listings buy the weekly magazine **Time Out** .
London Open House Weekend , Explore many of the city's most interesting buildings during the London Open House Weekend - usually held on the third weekend of September. During this single weekend, several hundred buildings which are not normally open to the public are opened up. See website for details of buildings opening in any given year - some buildings have to be pre-booked in advance - book early for the popular ones!
Natural History Museum , Cromwell Road, tube: South Kensington, One of the first of its kind in the world. The museum houses many permanent and temporary exhibitions covering plants, animals and geology from the worlds natural history. Of interest to most would be the permanent dinosaur exhibition. Although many displays feel dated this is an excellent museum and is always, deservedly, crowded.
Winter Skating. London has a number of outdoor ice rinks that open in the winter months. Considered by some to be somewhat overpriced and overcrowded, they nonetheless have multiplied in recent years, easing congestion and increasing competition. Most charge from £10-12 (adults) for an hour on the ice, including skate hire. See the district articles for the City of London, Docklands and Trafalgar Square.
Summer Skating. In summer (and also in winter, for the more dedicated) there is also a thriving roller skating (on inline and traditional "quad" skates) scene in London, catering to many disciplines including street hockey, freestyle slalom, dance, general recreational skating (including three weekly marshalled group street skates) and speed skating. This mostly centres around Hyde Park (on the Serpentine Road) and Kensington Gardens (by the Albert Memorial). See the district articles for Mayfair and South West London.
If you don't feel like splashing out on one of the commercial bus tours, you can make your own bus tour by buying an *Oyster* card and spending some time riding around London on the top deck of standard London buses. Of course you don't get the open air or the commentary, but the views are very similar. You will likely get lost but that is half the fun; if it worries you go for a commercial tour.
Open top bus tour, Every day, These offer a good, albeit somewhat expensive, introduction to the sights of London. Two principal operators tend to dominate the market for this kind of tour: (The Original Tour +44 (0)20 8877 1722 and The Big Bus Company +44 (0)20 7233 9533). Both provide hop-on/hop-off services where you can get off at any attraction and catch the next bus; both provide live commentaries in English and recorded commentaries in other languages (not necessarily on the same buses).
London Ducktours , +44 (0)20 7928 3132, Every day, If you are in the mood for a view of London by boat. The tour bus is actually a D-Day landing water/land vehicle that has been refurbished complete with tour guide.
New London Tours (by foot) , +49 30 510 50030, Old City of London Tour starts everyday at 10 am by the sundial directly opposite the Tower Gateway exit at Tower Hill Station. Royal London Free tour starts daily at 11AM by Wellington Arch. Use EXIT 2 when leaving Hyde Park Corner station.
London attracts more students from overseas than any other city in the world, and is home to a huge variety of academic institutions. Its universities include some of the oldest and most prestigious in the world.
University College London (UCL) , The first university established in London, offering a wide range of courses. UCL academic research is cited more than any other university in the UK, and its courses are regarded as amongst the best
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) , Offers highly regarded courses in law, languages, social sciences and humanities, with a unique focus on Asia and Africa. Its glittering list of alumni include many foreign leaders.
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. London School boasts of being the oldest accredited English language study school in the world. You can also opt for United International College (UIC London) and choose a quality and affordable English course in London
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.
London is hugely popular as a working holiday destination - work in bars and the hospitality industry is relatively easy to find and well paid.
Wages are generally higher in London than the rest of the UK, although the cost of living is higher still.
One of the world's great metropolises, anything and everything you could possibly want to buy is available in London, if you know where to look, and if you can afford it (London is not particularly noted for bargain shopping, owing to high prices and high exchange rates (depending on where the traveller is from) - though it can be done with some determination). In Central London, the main shopping district is the West End (Bond Street, Covent Garden, Oxford Street and Regent Street). Visit Fortnum & Mason , "the Queen's grocery store." On Thursday many West End stores close late (7PM-8PM).
Oxford Street. Main shopping street home to flagship branches of all the major British high street retailers in one go including Selfridges , John Lewis (includes a food hall), Marks & Spencer and other department stores.
Regent Street (between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus). Includes such gems as Hamleys, considered to be London's flagship toy store, on seven levels, and the London Apple Store.
Bond Street. Some of the world's most luxurious designer stores such as Cartier, D&G, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and Versace.
Tottenham Court Road. Contains some of the world's most luxurious designer interior stores such as Heals and many stores selling electronic items.
Covent Garden . Fashionable area home to quaint outlets and relatively expensive designer stores. Around Seven Dials chains include Adidas Originals, All Saints, Carhartt, Fred Perry, G Star Raw and Stussy. For shoes head for Neal Street. Also the London Transport Museum whose gift shop has some of the best souvenirs in the city (old maps, vintage Tube posters, etc).
Charing Cross Road (near Covent Garden). A book lovers haven! New, second-hand, antiquarian and specialist.
Camden Town in North London. Alternative clothing and other alternative shopping, popular with teenagers and young adults. Also nearby Camden Lock market.
Chelsea in West London. The King's Road is noted for fashion, homeware and kids. On Wednesday many stores close late.
Markets. Borough (tube: London Bridge) is a great (if expensive) food market, offering fruit, veg, cheese, bread, meat, fish, and so on, much of it organic. It's open Th-Sa, and it's best to go in the morning, since it gets unpleasantly crowded by around 11AM. Spitalfields is an excellent market for clothes from up-and-coming designers, records, housewares, food, and all things trendy. Also Brick Lane, Greenwich and Portobello, .
Airports. 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 extra half an hour as closing hours are not always strictly respected.
Remember - smoking is banned in all UK pubs and restaurants.
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 attact the kind of clientele that don't need to ask the price. Sorting the good from the bad isn't easy, but London has something to accommodate all budgets and tastes. Following is a rough guide to what you might get, should you fancy eating out:
£3 - you can get a good English pub or cafeteria breakfast with a rack of bacon, beans in tomato sauce, egg, sausage, orange juice and coffee or tea. Most pubs stop this offer at 11AM.
£5 - will buy you a couple of sandwiches and a soft drink, some takeaway fish and chips, or a fast food meal. There are also a number of mostly Chinese restaurants which serve an all you can eat buffet for around this price. These are dotted about the West End and it is well worth asking a member of public or a shopkeeper where the nearest one is. These restaurants make much of their revenue on drinks although these are usually still moderately priced. The food whilst not being of the finest standard is usually very tasty and the range of dishes available is excellent. There are literally thousands of so called takeaways in London and a cheap alternative to a restaurant meal. Check with your hotel management if they allow food deliveries before ordering in. Most takeaways will offer some form of seating, but not all do.
£6-7 - will get you a good pub meal and drink or a good Chinese/Indian/Italian/Thai/Vietnamese buffet. Be aware that many pubs have a buy-one-get-one-free offer, and you can either order two main dishes for yourself or bring a friend.
£10 - some more expensive French, mediterranean and international restaurants do cheaper two or three course lunch menus.
£20 - offers you a lot more choice. You can have a good meal, half a bottle of wine and change for the tube home. There are plenty of modest restaurants that cater for this bracket.
£50+ - with more money to spend you can pick some of the city's finer restaurants. It may be a famous chef (like Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay) or simply a place that prides itself on using the finest ingredients. Worth the splurge to impress a special someone. Note that these establishments often need to be booked well in advance, and most will enforce a dress code of some sort.
Prices inevitably become inflated at venues closest to major tourist attractions - beware the so-called tourist traps. The worst tourist trap food is, in the opinion of many Londoners, is served at the various steak houses (Angus Steak House, Aberdeen Steak House etc - there are all dotted around the West End). 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 like KFC, McDonalds and Burger King all charge a premium in their West End outlets - so watch out.
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 KFC-style chicken shops means that a deal for 2 pieces of chicken, chips (fries) and a drink shouldn't cost you more than £2, and will satisfy even the largest of appetites. Another good (and cheap) lunch option is a chicken or lamb doner (gyro) at many outlets throughout the city.
Tipping may also be different than what you're used to. All meals include the 15% 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 and 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.
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 the countries of origin. If you are looking for particular nationalities these tend to be clustered in certain areas: Brick Lane in East London is famous for curries, but for better quality Tooting in South West London has a good reputation and is cheaper. Brixton for African/Caribbean, Chinatown in Soho for Chinese, Edgware Road in Marylebone for Middle Eastern and Drummond Street (just behind Euston railway station) for a selection of good value Indian vegetarian. Golders Green for Jewish and Kingsland Road for good cheap Vietnamese. Other nationalities are equally represented, but are 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 London's most popular places to buy lunch, and there are a lot of places to choose from. Some Italian 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.
Eat, Ready-made sandwiches, soups and pies, all made with quality ingredients.
Wagamama , M-Sa noon-11PM, Su noon-10PM, Japanese noodle bar; good quality freshly cooked food at a reasonable price, in a well-designed canteen style restaurant. Diners are seated on benches opposite each other, so not a good place for an intimate meal. Two dozen restaurants around Central London.
Yo! Sushi , Dependent on location, Japanese sushi and noodle bar dishes; Nearly everything is served on a conveyer belt, there are staff on hand to help out. You pick up a plate, colour coded for price. Then, pay at the end of the meal.
Nandos , Mon-Sun 11:30am-10pm on weekdays and about 12am on weekends, Located all around London spicy peri peri style grilled chicken like you never tasted before. Extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Main course around
London has plenty of vegetarian-only restaurants, 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, then most restaurants will cater for vegetarians, and will have at least a couple of dishes on the menu. Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants are generally more fruitful, as they have plenty of traditional dishes that use only vegetables. There are also many vegetarian Thai buffet places where you can eat somewhat unconvincing (but tasty) meat substitute grub for £5. These can be found on Greek Street, Old Compton Street and Islington High Street.
Food For Thought, Neal Street, Covent Garden, Tasty range of choices for vegetarians and vegans.
Red Veg, Dean Street, Soho, opposite Tesco, For those of you looking for veggie fast food, this has some great options.
Mary Ward Cafe, Queen Square, Bloomsbury, nearest tube stations are Holborn and Russell Square, A selection of veggie and vegan dishes that changes daily. £3.60 for a heap of food. Cakes, pastries, and salad available as well. Busy, eat in or take away.
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 loads of Halal restaurants and shops all over London - including east London (Whitechapel Rd, Brick Lane), Edgware Rd and the WC postcode (e.g. Bayswater), and many parts of north London, and plenty of Kosher restaurants mainly in Golders Green and Edgware. And there are hundreds of London Mosques. The most famous being Regents Park Mosque. There are also lots of Sikh Gurdwaras with the Showcase one being in Southall. And the Best Hindu Temple in Neasden
For more details on London's nightlife with attention on the alternative, try Indie London.
London is home to a great many pubs, bars and nightclubs. The online city guide View London and the weekly magazine Time Out can inform you of what's going in London's night life, as well as with 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 £3 for a pint of beer in an average pub. However many local pubs, especially those run by chains like Wetherspoons and Scream tend to be more reasonably priced, the latter catering for a student audience where you can find a sub-£3 pint. 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 in, given that they cater for students of the adjacent University College London. Directly opposite the British Library is The Euston Flyer, popular with locals and commuters alike given its close proximity to St Pancras International railway station. Classier bars and pubs can be much more expensive. However, the cost of alcohol drops significantly the further away you go from the centre (though be aware that West London tends to be an exception, with prices pretty much the same as the centre).
Two important London breweries are Young's and and Fullers. Young's was founded in Wandsworth in 1831: nowadays it can boast 123 pubs in central London, the Founder's Arms on the South Bank being one of the brewery's well-located establishments. Fullers was founded a bit later in 1845. The jewel in its crown is probably the grade-I listed Old Bank Of England on Fleet Street, thanks to its breath-taking interiors.
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 Chesire Cheese on Fleet Street is on the site of an old monastery and its cellar dates back to the 13th century. 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 Papersand Bram Stoker's Dracula.
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. Heading towards Bermondsey, pub crowds become a little less touristy. The following pubs are a good place to start:
Doggetts Coat & Badge, near Blackfriar's Bridge
Founder's Arms on Hopton Street, South Bank
The Dove Upper Mall, Hammersmith; also London's smallest pub
The Ship, Jews Row, near Wandsworth Bridge
The Waterfront, Baltimore House, near Wandsworth Bridge
The Grapes, Narrow Street, Limehouse
The Mayflower, Rotherhithe Street, Bermondsey
The Horniman, Hays Galleria, near London Bridge
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.
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.
Big hotels, such as the Dorchester and the Ritz, and upmarket clubs around Leicester Square and Soho are reliable bets for a date at the bar. The Connaught Hotelin Mayfair boasts its house bar, plus theTime Outfavourite,The Coburg. Still in Mayfair,The Polo Barat the Westbury is very intimate.The Sanderson' has a spectacular 80ft 'Long Bar' at the heart of the city but, be warned, it's members-only.
You can rely on most up-and-running bars to offer a short cocktail menu. However, if you want to find a cocktail expert, the following bars are popular amongst buffs:
The International, St Martin's Lane, Covent Garden; competitive Happy Hour
Lab, Old Compton Street, Soho; popular Martini bar
The Lonsdale, Notting Hill; menu includes some recipes from the 16th century
Trailer Happiness, Portobello Road, Notting Hill; a kitsch tiki cocktail bar
Townhouse, Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge; excellent service
Low Life, Marylebone; basement bar with DJs
Frieda B, Battersea Rise, Islington; sociable, relaxed atmosphere
Loungelover, Shoreditch; popular Shoreditch venue
Jetlag , +44 (0)20 33 70 5838, Mon-Thurs 10am to 11pm, Friday/Saturday open to midnight, Under the iconic BT Tower, Fitzrovia, International cocktail bar delivering cocktails from around the world with Japanese and global inspired food menu. Jetlag has a cinema screen showing high definition sport and can be hired out for special functions. You've Arrived.
The Devonshire Arms, Camden, A little more rock and metal oriented but be prepared to look the part.
George Inn , +44(0)20 7407 2056, Archway off Borough High St, London Bridge Station, The current Inn was built in 1676 after the original establishment was burned down in the Great London fire of 1666. The George is London's only surviving galleried coaching inn, and is one of the oldest pubs south of the Thames.
The Foundry , Closed M, off Old Street, One of the most interesting pubs in London. It's got a unique atmosphere, and serves excellent organic ales and stouts from Pitfield's, a local brewery. Make sure to go downstairs to the bathrooms, as there is usually an art exhibit in the halls.
JD Wetherspoon chain, The Knights Templar, Chancery Lane.
Sam Smith's, The various pubs are very well priced, central and as traditional as you could want. Chandos, St Martin's Lane; The Cittie of Yorke, Holborn; The Lyceum, Strand; The Crown, New Oxford Street; Princess Louise, High Holborn; Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street.
Nightlife seems to be an integral feature 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 mainly consists of clubs playing drum and bass, house and trance music and is home to the superclub Fabric (arguably the best nightclub in London). The clubs in this area are often home to the world's top DJ's and attracts a lively crowd.
The area around the West End (Leicester Square, Mayfair, Piccadilly) is home to the more upmarket and exclusive clubs in London. This area attracts a rather pretentious 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 chart funky house, hip hop and R&B genre. Notable clubs include Cafe De Paris, China White, Funky Buddha, Mahiki, Number One Leicester Square and Paper.
The Camden area in North London is made of clubs which play Indie, metal and rock music. Notable clubs include Electric Ballroom, the world famous Koko, and Underworld.
London has a vibrant gay scene with countless bars, clubs and events. The nucleus of London's gay scene is undoubtedly the western half of Old Compton Street in Soho and the surrounding area, but over the last couple of years Vauxhall has seen a boom. You will probably find that most places, particularly Camden and Shoreditch, straight bars will have a mixed clientele. To find out what is going on during your visit be sure to visit qxmagazine.com a weekly magazine that comprehensively covers the London gay scene with handy night by night listings available on-line and in print (distributed in bars and clubs), scene-OUT.com or pick up a copy of Boyz magazine is published fortnightly and is freely available at most London gay venues, and contains listings of everything that is happening in all the major clubs in London and the South East. Gay Pride is held every year in June with parade and street parties. The choice of places to go sometimes seem to be unmanageable.
Heaven , 7930 2020, The Archers, Villiers and Craven St, The Worlds Most Famous Gay Nightclub - A must visit while in London, Heaven is one of the biggest and most established institutions in the city.
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 through to some of the most exclusive establishments in the world such as the Savoy, The Ritz and Claridges where a stay in a top suite can cost upwards of £1000 per night. Your budget will have a lot to do with what part of London you will want to stay in. 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-£100 per night for a big name 2 or 3 star hotel in the central area of the city. The heart of the West End is the most expensive place to stay - most hotels are either 4 or 5 star and the few budget establishments that exist 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 that you could have otherwise afforded. 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 hotel savings further out. With the excellent Tube available where you stay won't limit what you see but be sure 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 5min per line change. This can easily total up to a 1 hour journey if there is a walk at each end. 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 for excellent food and accommodation options.
Bloomsbury. Relatively quiet district with a wide range of accommodation, and has enjoyed a surge in popularity following Eurostar's move to St Pancras. Cartwright Gardens features a dozen small B&Bs in historic houses. Many budget options are located on Argyle Square (just off the Euston Road). Gets a little seedy towards and beyond King's Cross railway station.
Earl's Court in West central London. Budget and modest accommodation as well as good 4-star hotels.
Paddington in West central London. Has undergone a lot of change recently largely resulting from the Heathrow Express train coming into Paddington station. Good hotels can be found in the immediate area of the station and in quieter spots a short walk away.
St James's. Lots of small B&Bs around the back of Victoria railway station, in the Pimlico area.
Hostels are not necessarily as unpleasant as you may think, and as long as you don't mind sharing with others, they can be the most cost effective option, and also offer breakfast as well as kitchens for self catering. The "official" Youth Hostel Association of England and Wales (YHA) operates five hostels in Central London. Like everything else, you should book online well in advance - the hostels usually fill up on Friday and Saturday nights about 14 days before. A top tip is don't be put off if there is no availability left online, phone the hostel in question to see if there are still beds available or if there has been a cancellation. Some of the YHA's properties also offer a limited number of private family rooms - expect to pay around £60 per night.
Keep in mind that for foreign visitors, the YHA hostels will require to see a form of ID (a passport or national identity card) and a valid membership card from a local YHI (Youth Hostelling International)-recognised Youth Hostel association. For British visitors, a valid YHA (SYHA for Scotland) membership card is all that's required. For all non-YHI members, the YHA will levy a £3 welcome stamp per day.
London Central , +44 (0)845 371 9154, +44 (0)845 371 9154, 104 Bolsover Street, tube: Great Portland Street/Warren Street, The newest of the five, with state of the art interiors, and a short walk from Regent's Park
Holland Park, +44 (0)870 770 5866, Holland Walk, Kensington, tube: High Street Kensington, Spectacular location in one of London's most prestigious areas.
Oxford Street, +44 (0)870 770 5984, 14 Noel Street, Located in the middle of the shopping district.
St Pancras International , +44 (0)870 7706044, +44 (0)870 7706044, 79-81 Euston Road, tube: Kings Cross St Pancras / Euston, The largest of the five, minutes walk from St Pancras International railway station.
St Paul's , 08707 705764, 08707 705764, 36 Carter Lane, tube: St Paul's, Small hostel converted from one of the City's oldest buildings. Cheap for Central London accommodation, range of room sizes, basic facilities.
There are a number of other, independent hostels all through the city:
St Christopher's Inns , +44 (0)20 86007500, +44 (0)20 86007500, tube: London Bridge, Camden, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith, Greenwich, St Christopher's Inns run 7 independent hostels in London Bridge, Camden, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith and Greenwich.
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 currently these are only in central locations.
In an emergency phone Shelter on 0808 800 4444 (8AM-midnight) (Shelter is a British housing and homelessness charity).
Short-term apartment or flat rentals are an attractive option for many travelers to London, and there are innumerable agencies offering them, almost all of them nowadays through the internet. 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.
The Savoy Hotel , +44 20 7836 4343, Strand, London, WC2R 0EU, Located on The Strand in the heart of the West End theatre district, The Savoy offers spectacular views of the River Thames. This landmark hotel opened in 1889 and is still considered to be the place to stay in London. The hotel's 268 rooms and suites, with Art Deco and Edwardian touches throughout, are elegantly appointed yet offer an extensive array of modern amenities.
The Ritz Hotel London (The Ritz, London) , +44 (0) 20 7493 8181, 150 Piccadilly, London W1J 9BR, The Ritz : The world's greatest hotel, as conceived by the world's greatest hotelier. For over a century The Ritz has been the benchmark by which other hotels are measured. A London landmark at 150 Piccadilly, The Ritz has been home to the great and the good, the intelligentsia, the glitterati and thousands of discerning guests since 1906.
Unlike some other cities, London is unfortunately not noted for free public wifi access - as yet. That said, a number of projects are in place or in development. See for a map containing free wifi locations.
Online-4-Free.com , One of the most promising (it seems) for traveller-frequented areas, a service that provides blanket coverage along the banks of the River Thames (and some surrounding streets) from Millbank down to Greenwich Pier, and a small 'cloud' in Holborn - the free service asks only that you view a short advertisement every half hour in order to get 256 kbps (higher rates and ad-free come at a small charge).
Another good place for free wi-fi would be McDonald's, where free 24-hour period wi-fi are offered to customers.
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, 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 very safe place to visit and explore. Alongside the regular Police, there are over 4000 Police Community Support Officers (PCSO's) that provide a highly visible presence on the streets and are able to deal with low-level crime. Normal precautions for the safe keeping of your personal possessions, as you would do in any other city, are suggested.
Don't take illegal minicabs (see 'Getting Around' for details). Travelling on lower deck of a night bus is generally safer, as there are more passengers around, and you are visible by 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. Elsewhere, you should report your crime as normal to the Metropolitan Police.
If you're planning to go out late at night and are worried about safety, frequent crowded areas such as the West End. There are always plenty of people on the street, even at 4AM. Generally, outside central London, South and East suburban areas are considered more dangerous, notably Brixton and Hackney, although some parts of North-West London such as Harlesden and Northern Camden are also known trouble spots. The main problem which is present 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 do occur. If 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.
Even busy night time 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. If it appears you are being lured into a "clip joint", the easiest way out is to recommend a different bar to the new "friend" trying to get you into her "favourite local place" - and if she staunchly refuses, be very suspicious. Sometimes this con trick takes place when someone is lured into a private club with the promise of something perhaps more than a drink (e.g. a 'private show' 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.
The Metropolitan Police have placed significant resources in combating street level crime. Working in conjunction with borough councils they have been able to bring the level of theft and pickpocketing in major retail areas in London to a level that is manageable.
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 outer suburbs.
Henley on Thames. About 35 miles west of London, a lot more quaint and more typical English town, great for walks by the Thames.
Bath. Rich in Georgian architecture and makes an easy day trip
Bournemouth. Large beach resort on the edge of the New Forest, with seven miles of golden sand, a short ride on the train from London Waterloo. Some of the best night life outside of London in the UK.
Brighton. Beach resort about 55 miles away (less than an hour by train from Victoria Station)
Canterbury. Site of the foremost cathedral in England, constructed during the 12th-15th centuries.
Gravesend. Relaxed heritage town on the River Thames 45 minutes from central London by train. A good day or weekend away from the hustle and bustle of London.
Oxford and Cambridge. The university cities make for ideal days out of London.
Portsmouth. Home of the British Navy and of real interest to nautical enthusiasts.
Shrewsbury. A very traditional town full of medieval black and white timber-framed buildings along winding, steep, narrow streets set on the River Severn easily reached by using the train from London Marylebone station.
Southampton. A large city with excellent shopping and nightlife, a popular student city with over 45,000 students.
Southend-on-Sea. Seaside town in Essex, and a short train ride away from Liverpool Street or Fenchurch Street.
Winchester. Former capital of England and attractive cathedral city with lots to see, about an hour away by train from Waterloo.
Windsor. Nearby Thames-side town with magnificent castle and Royal residence.
Manchester. If you have time it is worth visiting Britain's other great cities and Manchester has very much to offer. Manchester can be reached in around 2 hours by train and is about 200 miles to the north. It is the 2nd most visited city in England (after London).
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