- Discover London
Tate Modern | The London Eye | The Tower of London | Tower Bridge | Trafalgar Square | Buckingham Palace | The Houses of Parliament | Westminster Abbey | Churchill War Rooms | Cutty Sark | Parks | On the Streets | London Zoo | Natural History Museum | Madame Tussauds | Museum of London | Sir John Soane's Museum
London is the capital of England and its largest city. Located on the River Thames, London is home to the Royal Family, the West End, Big Ben, the Tate Modern and much more. It is one of the world’s largest financial centres, and has a hugely diverse population. In fact white Britons are the minority in London as of now.
London has managed to retain a large town feel. It is pretty and does not have the massive skyscrapers of most modern large cities. The climate is temperate, winters are cold but not freezing and summers are more warm than hot. It rains quite often.
Entry is free to Britain’s national museum of modern art, except for special exhibitions. Situated in an old power station on the banks of the Thames, the Tate Modern is the most visited modern art Gallery in the World and houses works of modern and contemporary art dating from 1900.
Opening times are Sunday to Thursday 10.00 to 18.00 and Friday to Saturday 10.00 to 22.00.
The world’s highest observation wheel gives breathtaking views of London’s famous landmarks. Prices start at around £20 and go up from there depending on which ticket you buy. You will pay more for fast track tickets or day and night tickets, where you get to go up twice. You are also able to get a guided tour or even book your own capsule. Try to book online as there is a discount. The first rotation begins at 10am and opens as late as 11.30 in the summer, but usually closes around 9.30pm.
The Tower of London is a fortress on the North Bank of the Thames. The famous tower was once a royal palace, and prison as well as an armoury and treasury. It is most famous for being home to the Crown Jewels, which are still regularly used by the Queen.
The Tower Bridge is a drawbridge or Bascule Bridge situated on the Thames near London Tower. The eastern side of the Thames is a busy port so the bridge was designed so that it could be opened for marine traffic. Visit the Tower Bridge exhibition where you get to walk on the high level walkways that have been closed to the public. You can also see the original steam engines that once powered the bridge.
Trafalgar Square is a popular tourist destination in London. Named after the Battle of Trafalgar in the Napoleonic Wars the square is home to the world famous Nelson’s Column. The column is surrounded by four huge lions, which were cast in Bronze melted down from French and Spanish Cannons. To the North of the Square is the National Gallery, a hugely popular art gallery which is free of charge to enter.
Home to Queen Elizebeth II. It opens to the public usually for the first week in July and for August. It has 775 rooms and is in full use to this day as the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. The changing of the guard happens daily at 11.30am inside the gates of Buckingham Palace.
The houses of Parliament are situated in the Palace of Westminster. The two houses of the British Government, the House of Commons and the House of Lords convene here. Check out the view from the South Bank. Big Ben is the name of the Bell in St. Stephen’s Tower or the Clock Tower.
The Abbey is free to enter if you are going to worship but there is an admission fee if you are visiting. Make sure to pop along at 5pm during the week (except Wednesdays) or 3pm at weekend to catch an exhilarating performance by the Abbey Choir.
During the Second World War these basement rooms became the Cabinet War Rooms, from where government ministers, military strategists and the Prime Minister Winston Churchill led the war effort. It was important to Churchill that he and his government remain in central London so as not to let the public think they had been abandoned. There is also a museum dedicated to Churchill here. It is a fascinating look at life during the war. Make sure to watch the video of former workers talking about their time underground.
The Cutty Sark was the fastest ship of her time. She was used to transport tea all over the world. And in later years Cutty Sark was used to transport wool, coal, castor oil and even post. The Cutty Sark is now the only surviving extreme clipper in the world and most of the hull that you can see dates from when it was first built. The fully restored ship is now situated in Greenwich. You can walk under the hull, inside the cargo hold and up on deck, where the captains quarters are situated. The restoration job is very impressive and this museum is definitely worth a look.
For such a thriving metropolis, London has some fantastic parkland. Hyde Park would be one of the most famous. Here you will find the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. There is also water activities, horse riding, tennis and more. St James Park is known for its Pelicans which inhabit the lake. The park is neat to Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square. There are also free concerts on here on summer weekends. Holland Park has Japanese Gardens as well as peacocks.
The street performers at Covent Garden Market are extremely entertaining. You will see some really fun acts here. Or visit a market, Camden Market, Greenwich Market and Portobello Market are the most famous.
London Zoo opened to the public in 1847 and has grown into one of the best zoos in the world. Features and exhibits include England’s biggest penguin pool, the “into Africa” exhibit, “Tiger Territory” and a rainforest. There are plenty of cafes around to grab something to eat and take a break.
The museum boasts a wonderful dinosaur exhibition among many others. Free entry.
Meet the world’s most famous people at this fantastic wax museum.
The Museum is home to 7 million objects, including old English artefacts and treasures from around the world.
All of London’s major museums are free.
This fascinating house has been left untouched since the death of its owner, architect Sir John Soane, 180 years ago. It’s full of his works of art, sculptures and artefacts and is free to enter.
London is well served by airports. London Heathrow (BA) is the world’s busiest international airport. There is also Gatwick airport, south of London, Stanstead, in the north east, and Luton Airport, north of London.
London is well served by airports. London Heathrow is the world’s busiest international airport. Security here is quite robust so give yourself plenty of time to make your flight. There is also Gatwick, situated south of London, Stanstead, north east of London, and Luton Airport, north of London.
Flight times to London
Dublin 1 hour | New York 7 hours | San Diego 11 hours | Hong Kong 12 hours | Sydney 21 hours
Getting from the Airport:
Heathrow is 15 miles from London city centre. There is an express train to and from Paddington station. The Heathrow Express only takes 15 minutes and costs £22 one way. The underground also goes to Heathrow. Take the Piccadilly line (dark blue). At most the fare will cost £6 and will take under an hour. Depending on where you are in London getting to Paddington for the Express can be a hassle so it generally makes more sense to just get the tube.
National Express and Oxford Bus leave from all terminals. Tickets cost around £6.
The Gatwick Express takes 30 minutes and brings you to Victoria Station in central London. Trains leave every 15 minutes and cost around £18. There are also other trains running to London, though they take longer to get into London.
National Express buses run once an hour and take between an hour and a half and two hours to Victoria Station and start from £8.
Stanstead Express trains run every 15 minutes and prices start from £8. The Express stops in Liverpool Street and Tottenham Hale stations in the city centre.
National Express buses run 24 hours a day from Stanstead and prices start from £5.
You simply must get an Oyster card to get around on public transport in London nowadays. You will actually save a lot of money by using these cards as well. You can pick up an Oyster Card at the airport or in train stations. There is an initial charge to buy the card and then you top it up by as much as you want. The card will cost £3 at the airport and £5 at train stations so pick it up when you land. Depending on how often you use it, around £20 should do you for a three day trip to London. Any money left on the card can be refunded at the same machines that top them up. You can also order these online and get them delivered to you before you travel to London. You can now also use contactless credit cards to pay for your journey. It works the same as the oyster (you touch it as you go through turnstile). The same fares apply.
The bus network runs 24 hours a day, and caters for over 6 million passengers weekly. The red Double Decker buses are recognised worldwide. You can pay for paper tickets at stations or use your Oyster card or contactless credit and debit cards.
The tube (the underground) is the oldest and second largest metro system in the world after Shanghai. Over three million journeys are made every day on the underground, servicing all over London. You can use your Oyster Card on the tube. The lines are not named by the final destination as in other cities. Instead they have names such as the Jubilee Line or the Piccadilly line. They are colour coded and quite easy to get used to.
Cabs are expensive but the drivers do know their way around. Not all the black cabs are black anymore. Download the Hailo app and use that to call your cabs. Coming from the airports you are better off hiring a minicab.
Only use taxi or black cabs.
When out don’t accept drinks from strangers.
Although there is a lot of crime in London, most of it occurs in the estates outside the centre. The centre itself is quite safe.
The emergency number is 112 or 999.
NHS treatment is free for UK residents. Take out travel insurance. There are countries that hold a UK healthcare agreement. EU residents need a valid EHIC (European Health Insurance Card)