Why visit London, UK?
London is a real world city – with some of the most famous buildings, museums and galleries in the world and 2000 years of history to go with them.
But it’s not just looking backwards, there’s always a new bar, play or concert to see. London is also one of the most international cities, with people from all around the world making their home here, so it’s just as easy to get Indian street food as it is a roast dinner.Yes, it might rain a lot and no people won’t smile on the Tube, but whatever you’re interested in – from museums to shopping, rock to opera, budget to luxury – there’s a London that will suit you.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN LONDON, UK
- Walk along South Bank: follow the Thames from the London Eye along to Tower Bridge and you’ll pass some of London’s most famous buildings, like the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe and Tate Modern.
- Get a great view: to see the city from above, you can climb to the top of the Monument and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, and from February there’ll be a viewing platform at the top of London’s new tallest building, the Shard.
- Visit the museums: the permanent collections at London’s museums are free so you can dip into as many as you like. Choose from big names like the British Museum and National Gallery, or check out some of the smaller museums like Sir John Soane’s Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms.
- Escape the city into the parks: London has plenty of parks and gardens, from the manicured gardens of Hyde Park and St James Park to huge, hilly Hampstead Heath and the hidden gardens tucked away in residential squares.
- Walk through London’s history: London Walks run themed walking tours around London, from the haunts of Jack the Ripper and night-time ghost tours, to Harry potter films location and Olympic London.
BEST NEIGHBORHOODS TO EXPLORE IN LONDON
Covent Garden was one of London’s early markets and the original marketplace still stands in the Piazza.
But today it’s one of the city’s main entertainment and shopping areas, with stalls selling crafts and gifts rather than fruit and veg, with street performers and musicians, surrounded by bars and restaurants. South Kensington is the place to go for museums, with the Natural History Museum, Science Museum and V&A are all in easy reach of each other. From here you can walk up to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, or window-shop at the seriously expensive shops in Knightsbridge. Bloomsbury is London’s academic heart. It’s still home to the University of London, the British Museum and British Library, but was made famous by the Bloomsbury Group of 1930s intellectuals.
WHERE TO EAT IN LONDON
You can find food from almost any part of the world in London – like Bangladeshi in Brick Lane, Middle Eastern in Edgware Road and Caribbean in Brixton. Good-value food chains to look out for include Leon, Busaba (Thai), Tas (Turkish), Pho (Vietnamese) and Wagamama (Japanese). Street food has really taken off in London too, try Portobello Road Market and the Real Food Market on South Bank. My favorite London food market though is Borough Market with over 70 different stalls selling produce from the UK and beyond and lots of tasting samples. While you’re there, don’t miss nearby Neal’s Yard Dairy for amazing cheeses.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS IN LONDON
London has hundreds of festivals and events each year, so you can usually find something going on whenever you visit. For old-school British events, there’s the Trooping of the Colour in June, a huge military parade to celebrate the Queen’s Official Birthday (she gets to have two, her real one is in April) and the Lord Mayor’s Show in November. Other major events include firecrackers and fireworks in Chinatown for Chinese New Year, the Caribbean style Notting Hill Carnival in August, cheering the runners at the London Marathon in April, and getting a glimpse into some of London’s normally inaccessible buildings.
BEST PLACES FOR A NIGHT ON THE TOWN IN LONDON
London’s West End has a huge choice of musicals and plays. For the best tickets either book in advance or try the tickets booth in Leicester Square on the day. For cinema, small independent places like the Screen on the Green in Islington, Curzon Soho and Prince Charles offer a wide variety of independent and foreign language films. For live music, check out Ronnie Scotts in Soho for jazz, the Barbican for classical, the O2 for big names, and the Camden and Dalston areas for up-and-coming bands.
BEST MARKETS & SHOPPING IN LONDON
London has a wide range of markets. Some of my favorites are Borough Market for food and drink, Portobello Road Market for antiques and fashion, Camden Market for vintage and alternative clothes, and the Colombia Road Flower Market. Oxford Street is the city’s most famous shopping street, but it’s mostly full of chain stores and big department stores. For more interesting independent shops check out Carnaby Street, Covent Garden or the King’s Road. Also worth seeing is Harrods, though more for its completely over-the-top décor – especially at Christmas – than for actual shopping.
BEST TIME TO VISIT LONDON
London’s weather is always unpredictable and if it’s bad then there are plenty of things to do inside. In the summer, you can spend time outside in the parks and at outdoor festivals and events. But winter is a great time to visit too, with Christmas markets in Hyde Park and along South Bank, and outdoor ice rinks in the Tower of London and (my favorite for its beautiful setting) Somerset House.