When people come to England, one of the places that is high on their list is to visit its capital city, London
, as is visiting the sights that they have only even seen on TV such as Buckingham Palace
, Big Ben
, St Paul's Cathedral
, and the London Eye
. However, there is so much more to London than that.
Since the 19th century, the term 'London' has referred to the City of London
(the small, original city) and the neighbouring settlements it absorbed as it grew and developed, which are referred to collectively as Greater London
. So, London is effectively comprised of a number of towns and villages which, in total, has a population of over 8 million.
Five interesting facts
The City of London is a city within London.
There are more than 190 islands in the River Thames from Kent to Oxfordshire.
London has four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church; and the historic settlement of Greenwich.
The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world.
There are more than 300 languages spoken within London's boundaries.
Where to stay
With the City of London and 32 boroughs to choose from, how do you decide where to stay when you come to London? It can be difficult to work out where to stay but just remember that it is relatively easy to navigate and get around London. That means you can stay pretty much anywhere in London and have access to all that this vibrant city has to offer. You could stay in the ancient City of London
; in London's Theatreland
; south of the river in Greenwich
, where you will find the Royal Observatory
, which is the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian of the world and any other sites; or a riverside apartment.
Things to do
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping as there are an abundance of markets such as Borough Market
, retail districts such as Mayfair
, and streets such as Carnaby Street
which tend to have their own specialities whether you are after luxury goods, handmade items, a big shopping centre, vintage clothes.
There are approximately 40 venues in London's Theatreland, the West End but there are many more around London whether you are interested in musicals, plays, or dance. You can see old favourites like Les Miserables or newer ones like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Museums and art galleries
If you're looking museums and art galleries then London is the place with over 240 museums, such as the National History Museum
, and an estimated 1500 well and lesser known art galleries, which include National Portrait Gallery
There are so many things you can do whatever the weather. You could take one of the many themed, walking, cycling, or bus tours around London; enjoy the peace and tranquillity of nature at the London Wetland Centre
, which is 104-acre wildlife park; scale Monument
, which is the tallest freestanding stone column in the world; or stroll along the Thames Path.
Parks and Open Spaces
When you think of London, you probably don't think of parks and open spaces but there are plenty of them. In fact, there are eight Royal parks such as St James's Park
, many garden squares (some of which are open to the public like Tavistock Square
, council-owned parks, for example Victoria Park
, and over 100 other open spaces, one of which is Clapham Common
Restaurants, cafes, pubs, and bars
Whatever your tipple, whether it's having a pint in a pub steeped in history or one that specialises in certain beers; a glass of bubbly at one of the champagne bars; afternoon tea at one of the many hotels and tea rooms across London; or, if coffee is more your 'thing', the increasing number of great coffee shops around the capital.
When it comes to food, there is something for everyone. However, don't forget some of the traditional English dishes such as Fish and Chips
from a 'chippie' (Fish and Chip Shop); relax and enjoy a Sunday Roast
; eat Pie and Mash at M Manze, the oldest pie shop in London; try a rather filling full English breakfast
; or bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potato).
London has a vibrant club scene whether you're looking for a superclub like the Ministry of Sound
or something a little more intimate. If you prefer live music, you will find gigs all around London to satisfy all musical tastes.
If you fancy a laugh, what about a Comedy Club? If you feel like it, you could even go to one that is held on a boat on The Thames!
Getting to and from
You can get to London from national and international destinations in a number of different ways.
There are five airports that are within easy reach of central London, either by train, coach, or minibus. Other than that, there are coach companies that provide access to and from London. The main companies that also have international services are National Express
, which terminate at Victoria. In addition, Eurostar is the train link from mainland Europe to the UK and terminates at St. Pancras International Rail Station
You can get around London in a variety of ways. The Tube
(The London Underground) is London's metro system, which is divided into zones 1-9. It has twelve lines, which includes the DLR (Docklands Light Railway), London's only driverless train. You could catch a London bus, which run services throughout the night. If you happen to be in South London, you could use the tram service.
As an alternative, you could ride on Emirates Air Line across the Thames, which is London's cable car; use a Boris bike as part of the London Cycle Hire Scheme; or cruise down the Thames on a river bus or book yourself onto one of the many river tours.
An Oyster Card
, which is an electronic smartcard ticket, is the cheapest and quickest way to pay for single journeys and you can load bus passes and travelcards onto it. You can buy them in advance of your trip to London or on arrival. The choice is yours!