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Jetting off to London for a vacay or business trip? If it’s your first time, prepare to have your mind blown. If it’s not, you find something new – and feel more and more at home – every time. The capital of England (and the whole UK) is more than a melting pot – it’s a bubbling, alchemical cauldron of historical, cultural, and political ingredients that blends together in a magical mix that’s much more than the sum of its parts.
If pomp and splendor get you going, you’ll be thrilled to visit iconic tourist sites like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben but booking a ride on the London Eye provides a bird’s eye view (and comfy seat) as you rotate around a massive Ferris wheel taking in sublime cityscape views. Then perhaps you want to shop ‘til you drop on Oxford Street and Carnaby Street before taking the Tube (subway) to some of London’s most interesting boroughs. Colorful Camden Town is famous for craft beer, chic cafes and lovely waterside bars at Regent’s Canal and Brixton is full of African and Caribbean flavors and music. Meanwhile, Peckham has risen from its unglamorous 80s reputation to resurrect itself as a creative hub, with lots of gorgeous galleries and rooftop bars.
There’s good news for motorists in the UK capital too – although London is located in the southeast, as you might expect, it’s well-connected by road to the rest of England and beyond. Rent a car in London and the remainder of Great Britain is your oyster – book ahead right here at Enjoy Travel for dollar-saving deals.
Guide to London
Those clever Romans founded London in 43AD and ruled the roost for a long time – up until the 5th Century AD as it happens. Known back then as Londinium (catchy, right?), its population swelled to 50,000 as its coffers increased thanks to it becoming a powerful port town. The Normans followed in the 11th century, by the time Henry VIII was in charge, this population had doubled, and by the 17th century, it stood at 100,000. Further mass expansion was spurred by the Industrial Revolution and much of the architecture and infrastructure of the city we see today was established in the Victorian era. Some areas of the capital were heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe during WWII, but London rose from the flames in the postwar era to become the global financial and multicultural center it is today – more of which next.
As you’ve probably picked up, London doesn’t have a uniform, monolithic culture. Its varied, colorful and threaded through with influences from every corner of the globe. Couple of conventions you might not be aware of are standing to the right hand side on an escalator so that pedestrians in more of a hurry can pass by and queuing for things like tickets in an orderly manner. These are hardly cultural highlights though, right? Don’t worry, mind-blowing things to see and do here include visiting the Natural History Museum and National Gallery, coming face to fin with sharks at SEA LIFE London, snapping selfies with Royals, music superstars and movie legends at Madame Tussauds waxwork museum, and immersing yourself in the full Harry Potter studio experience at the Warner Bros studio.
Off the beaten track
When you’re tired of tourist honeytraps, you’ll be glad there are lots of alternative things to keep you occupied in London. For starters, Trinity Buoy Wharf is always worth a visit. This cool arts hub has highlights like burgers and shakes at Fat Boy’s Diner and there’s an interesting arty attraction called ‘Longplayer’ which is a piece of music in a lighthouse which is being played perpetually for 1000 years. Guess we’ll never know how they handle that difficult second album, right? And if you’re a movie fan, you should definitely treat yourself to an old-school night out at the retro Castle Cinema above the Spar supermarket on Chatsworth Road. This bijou independent establishment has recently been restored to its pre-WWI glory and features plush, generously proportioned armchairs, ornate décor and lots of current and classic flicks.
Things To Do in London
You want to make the most of your visit to London. So, have we missed any sizzling tourist hotspots so far? With a city like this, there’s always more to see. How about taking in the lofty views from The Shard – the skyscraping 310m stiletto with a 360-degree vista on floors 69-72. You can also take a guided tour across the roof of the O2 arena – another attraction where having a head for heights is a prerequisite! History fans will also enjoy the ornate and deeply impressive Westminster Abbey – a Gothic masterpiece which has hosted many royal coronations and is the final resting place for celebrities like Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin.
If you’re into sports, what is there in London to float your boat? Some pretty cool stuff as it happens. If you like soccer (they call it ‘football’ here), then you can take stadium tours (or see matches) at Wembley (the national stadium), the Emirates Stadium (home to Arsenal FC), and Tottenham Hotspurs’ new White Hart Lane stadium is also impressive. If you prefer tennis, you’ll know that Wimbledon is the global capital of the grass court game – book your tickets early if you want to see any of the later rounds of the tournament.
Want to let it all hang loose in the evening? London’s nightlife is nothing if not eclectic. You can catch musical theatre and drama at the Prince of Wales, Duchess, and Apollo theatres, cabaret and burlesque at London Cabaret Club, Café de Paris, Soho Theatre, and Royal Vauxhall Tavern. If you like snazzy cocktails, Lyaness (yup – spelled like that), The American Bar and The Connaught Bar are brilliant. Furthermore, Draughts bar in Hackney has beer, snacks and board games like Monopoly and Cluedo, while Canary Wharf’s The Breakfast Club contains a secret ancient bar called Doctor Kluger’s Olde Town Tavern. Knock three times and whisper that we sent you – shh!
Eating Out in London
Great British bar food (known here as ‘pub grub’) comprises everything from a traditional Sunday roast (a tender meat like roast beef or chicken with potatoes, vegetable, and Yorkshire puddings), to steak pie and chips and an English spin on a classic beefburger with all the trimmings. Top picks for this type of fare include The Princess of Shoreditch, The Cadogan Arms in Chelsea, The French House in Soho, and The Camberwell Arms.
How about some piping hot international fusion food, tasty veggie options, fresh sushi or even delicious raw local ingredients for your own dishes? If you’re licking your lips, there’s plenty to satisfy you in London’s street food scene. Venues worth visiting include Borough Market at London Bridge, Eataly in Broadgate, Pop Brixton, Camden Market and The Kitchen at Old Spitalfields Market.
Does fancy pants fine dining really get your tummy rumbling? London has plenty of menus to please. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay’s Chelsea establishment has three Michelin stars – if you’re lucky you might even see (or hear) the shouty superstar chef passing through. Le Gavroche in Mayfair is just as swanky as it sounds, and where better to put on the Ritz than The Ritz Restaurant? MARCUS at The Berkeley is another Michelin-starred restaurant with dishes combining British and French flavors and The Five Fields in Chelsea has elegant décor and farm-fresh seasonal food.
Transport in London
One thing’s for sure – you won’t run out of airports in London. There’s Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), London Stanstead (STN), London City (LCY), London Luton (LTN) and a whole host of smaller and private airports. You can easily book car rental for pickup at any of the major London airports right here at Enjoy Travel.
London has one of the world’s biggest public transport systems. It runs rather well and comprises a network of trains, subways, and buses. Grab an Oyster card online and from places across London, top it up with cash and use it on every form of public transport.
Always drive on the left in London. Plan your route in advance and please be aware that you’ll have to pay the congestion charge for driving in certain areas and the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge if your car doesn’t meet emission standards (in the same zone). Renting a car in London really comes into its own when you drive out of the city to the surrounding Home Counties areas – there’s so much to see and do there too!
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