London. One of the world’s great cities. Massive, heaving, full of life and creativity. The West End, Notting Hill and the Tube. There is virtually nothing that London can’t offer just about any kind of traveller, whether you’re up for the gleaming buzz of the city or just want to chill out with a Pimm’s on the lawn.
The best time of year to visit London is in the autumn, when the weather is most likely to be cool, dry and sunny. London sees plenty of rain during the year, especially during the winter, while summers here can get quite hot, not to mention full of excited tourists. To avoid the crowds and get better rates, choose an off-peak time such as October or April.
Trying to sum up London in a few words is impossible. The city is packed with so many activities and sights you could spend weeks, nay, years here and never see it all! If it’s your first time to London, you’ll want to spend a day taking in the traditional tourist sites, including the Houses of Parliament (where you’ll see the famous Big Ben clock tower) and Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace where the Queen lives, the Tower of London with its often gruesome history, Tower Bridge and historic Hyde Park.
Beyond these, London is really all about the neighbourhoods, which can be explored day-by-day. Notting Hill’s famous street market happens each Saturday, when Portobello Road fills up from end to end with tourists gaping at everything from ancient typewriters to handmade jams.
Camden Town is famous for its nightlife, but during the day, you’ll also find plenty of edgy shopping and great people-watching here, while Brick Lane in Shoreditch has a funky clothing market and is surrounded by the cool cafes and hip galleries in Bethnal Green.
And art and history buffs won’t want to miss London’s amazing array of museums (most of which are free!), including the British Museum for ancient objects like the Rosetta Stone, and the Tate and Tate Modern museums covering almost all of British and European art.
In London, you’re never very far from a great pub, and exploring the city’s historic Victorian pubs is one of the great pleasures of a night out here. The entire districts of Charing Cross and Covent Garden are a nightlife dream, with tons of pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants on each corner.
While you’re in London, you should also take the chance to see a musical in the West End (Europe’s “Broadway”) or a play in one of London’s many theatres. If you come during summer, you can even get tickets for a Shakespeare play in Shakespeare’s Globe, the original theatre to show the Bard’s plays.
London’s transit system, the Tube, is massive and fairly easy to use, but it can also be frustrating. Dozens of lines criss-cross the city, but since it was one of the earliest subway systems in existence, not all of the lines meet up, meaning that it can sometimes be difficult to get from point A to point B, depending on where you’re going. That said, for staying in Central London, the Tube is a handy way to get around - just be sure to check the monitors on the platforms first to see if there are any service disruptions on the lines you’ll be taking. Likewise, investing in an Oyster Card makes travelling on the Tube a lot easier (you can just swipe and go), and 1-day or multi-day travel cards can be purchased at any ticket machine to save you a little money and effort.
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