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Noisy, vibrant and truly multicultural, London is a megalopolis of people, ideas and energy. The capital and largest city of both the United Kingdom and of England, it is also the largest city in Western Europe and the European Union. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of nearly 8 million people — although the figure of over 14 million for the city's total metropolitan area more accurately reflects London's size and importance. London is one of the great "world cities," and remains a global capital of culture, fashion, finance, politics and trade.
London successfully hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The Tower of London
"When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford" — Samuel Johnson
HistorySettlement has existed on the site of London since well before Roman times, with evidence of Bronze Age and Celtic settlement. The Roman city of Londinium, established just after the Roman conquest of Britannia in the year 43, formed the basis for the modern city (some isolated Roman period remains are still to be seen within the City). After the end of Roman rule in 410 and a short-lived decline, London experienced a gradual revival under the Anglo-Saxons, as well as the Norsemen, and emerged as a great medieval trading city, and eventually replaced Winchester as the royal capital of England. This paramount status for London was confirmed when William the Conqueror, a Norman, built the Tower of London after the conquest in 1066 and was crowned King of England in Westminster.
London went from strength to strength and with the rise of England to first European then global prominence and the city became a great centre of culture, government and industry. London's long association with the theatre, for example, can be traced back to the English renaissance (witness the Rose Theatre [☛] and great playwrights like Shakespeare who made London their home). With the rise of Britain to supreme maritime power in the 18th and 19th centuries and the possessor of the largest global empire, London became an imperial capital and drew people and influences from around the world to become, for many years, the largest city in the world.
England's royal family has, over the centuries, added much to the London scene for today's traveller: the Albert Memorial, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Royal Albert Hall, Tower of London, Kew Palace and Westminster Abbey being prominent examples.
Despite the inevitable decline of the British Empire, and considerable suffering during World War II (when London was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe in the Blitz), the city is still a top-ranked world city: a global centre of culture, finance, and learning. Today London is easily the largest city in the United Kingdom, eight times larger than the second largest, Birmingham, and ten times larger than the third, Glasgow, and dominates the economic, political and social life of the nation. It is full of excellent bars, galleries, museums, parks and theatres. It is also the most culturally and ethnically diverse part of the country, making it a great multicultural city to visit. Samuel Johnson famously said, "when one is tired of London, one is tired of life." Whether you are interested in ancient history, modern art, opera or underground raves, London has it all.
The City and Westminster
The world famous St. Stephen's Tower (the main bell is Big Ben) If you ask a Londoner where the centre of London is, you are likely to get a wry smile. This is because historically London was two cities: a commercial city and a separate government capital.
The commercial capital was the City of London. This had a dense population and all the other pre-requisites of a medieval city: walls, a castle (The Tower of London), a cathedral (St Pauls), a semi-independent City government, a port and a bridge across which all trade was routed so Londoners could make money (London Bridge).
About an hour upstream (on foot or by boat) around a bend in the river was the government capital (Westminster). This had a church for crowning the monarch (Westminster Abbey) and palaces. As each palace was replaced by a larger one, the previous one was used for government, first the Palace of Westminster (better known as the Houses of Parliament), then Whitehall, then Buckingham Palace. The two were linked by a road called The "Strand", old English for riverbank.
London grew both west and east. The land to the west of the City (part of the parish of Westminster) was prime farming land (Covent Garden and Soho for example) and made good building land. The land to the east was flat, marshy and cheap, good for cheap housing and industry, and later for docks. Also the wind blows 3 days out of 4 from west to east, and the Thames (into which the sewage went) flows from west to east. So the West End was up-wind and up-market, the East End was where people worked for a living.
Modern-day London in these terms is a two-centre city, with the area in between known confusingly as the West End.
Despite a perhaps unfair reputation for being unsettled, London enjoys a dry and mild climate on average. Only one in three days on average will bring rain and often only for a short period. In some years such as 2010 there is no rain for several weeks.
Winter in London is mild compared to nearby continental European cities, due to both the presence of the Gulf Stream and urban heat effect. Average daily maximum is 8°C (46°F) in December and January. Snow does occur, usually a few times a year but rarely heavy (a few years being exceptions such as the winters of 2009 and 2010, with temperatures dipping down to sub-zeros regularly). Snow in London can be crippling, as seen at the end of 2010. Just 7 cm (3 in) of snow will cause trains to stop running, airports to see significant delays, and mail service will halt. London is a city which does not cope well with snow; walkways, stairs, and streets will not be cleared by shovels or plows. The streets will be salted/gritted, but will remain slick and snow/slush covered until the sun melts it away. Daylight hours are short with darkness filling up the sky by 4pm in December.
Summer is perhaps the best season for tourists as it has long daylight hours as well as mild temperatures. The average daily high temperatures in July and August are around 24°C (75°F) The highest temperature since 2000 was recorded once in August at 38°C (100°F). This means London can feel hot and humid for several days in the summer months. Also, because of urban heat effect, during night time it could feel muggy.
Regardless of which time of the year, the weather in London could change quickly from sunny to rain and from hot to cold.
London 2012 Olympic GamesThe International Olympic Committee decided in 2005 that London will serve as the host city for the Games of the XXX Olympiad [☛], the Summer Olympic Games of 2012. This will make London the first city to hold the Olympic Games three times, having hosted the games previously in 1908 and 1948. The vast majority of events will be held in a regenerated area in East London.
Tourist Information CentresDetails of London's primary Tourist Information Centre are given below. There are other more minor centres and those are listed in the relevant district articles.
Britain and London Visitor Centre ( BLVC),1 Regent St, SW1Y 4XT ( nearest tube station Piccadilly Circus) ,☎ +44 870 156 6366 [☛] ,M 09:30-18:00 (Oct-Mar), M 09:30-18:30 (Apr-Sep), Tu-F 09:00-18:00 (Oct-Mar), Tu-F 09:00-18:30 (Apr-Sep), Sa 10:00-16:00 (Oct-May), Sa 09:00-17:00 (Jun-Sep), Su 10:00-16:00, Public holidays: 10:00-16:00. Closed 25-26 Dec and 1 Jan.Visit London is the official visitor organisation for the capital and has a lot of free information for visitors in several different languages. It also acts commercially and can have some astoundingly good last minute deals on accommodation.
Summary map of rail connections to London airports
Due to London's huge global city status it is the most served destination in the world when it comes to flights.
London (all airports code: LON) is served by a total of five airports. Travelling between the city and the airports is made relatively easy by the large number of public transport links that have been put in place over recent years. However, if transiting through London, be sure to check the arrival and departure airports carefully as transfers across the city may be quite time consuming. In addition to London's five official airports (of which only two are located within Greater London), there are a number of other regional UK airports conveniently accessible from London. Since they offer a growing number of budget flights, choosing those airports can be cheaper (or even faster, depending on where in London your destination is).
For transfers directly between London's airports, the fastest way (short of a taxi) is the direct inter-airport bus service by National Express [☛]. Buses between Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton run at least hourly, with Heathrow-Gatwick services taking 65 min (£18) and Heathrow-Stansted services 90 min (£20.50) (note that services between Stansted and Luton run only every two hours). However, it's essential to allow leeway, as London's expressways, especially the orbital M25 and the M1 motorway, are often congested to the point of gridlock. Some buses have toilets on board.
Rail and tube lines go to different terminals at Heathrow
: Main article: Heathrow Airport
Heathrow [☛] is London and Europe's largest airport and the world's busiest airport in terms of international passenger movement, with services available from most major airports world-wide. Currently, four of the five terminals are operational - T2 is closed until 2014 for redevelopment. Flights landing at Heathrow are often delayed by up to an hour as a simple result of air traffic congestion and waiting for parking slots. To complicate the matter, airlines that fly into Heathrow are currently playing a system-wide game of musical chairs as gate assignments are cycled through the new terminal, making it even more necessary for travelers to check their terminal and gate assignment in advance. Do plan your itinerary to allocate some time needed to get through Heathrow Airport T3, it can be long if you are not holding an UK / EU passport. A quick summary of transport options (also see Heathrow Airport):
Fastest: by Heathrow Express rail ( Paddington Station - Heathrow 1, 2, 3 & 5) ,☎ +44 845 600 1515 [☛] ,Every 15 min, journey time 15 min, price One way, adult prices: £18 (if purchased online or from ticket machine/office) and £23, when purchased onboard; round trip is £34.Travelcard & Oyster card not valid. These train lines terminate at London Paddington which for most people will require a tube, bus, or cab ride to their final destination. Despite the Heathrow Express & Connect's speed, they are often not the fastest way to a final destination in London. Second fastest: by Heathrow Connect rail ( Paddington Station - Heathrow 1, 2, 3 & 4) ,☎ +44 845 678 6975 [☛] , price One way £9.10, round trip £17.80.Travelcard & Oyster card not valid to Heathrow. Does not serve Terminal 5.
Follows same route as Heathrow Express but stops at several intermediate stations to London Paddington so journey is 25 minutes and trains less frequent. Cheapest: by London Underground (Piccadilly line) ,☎ +44 845 330 9880 [☛] ,Every few minutes, journey time approximately 1 hour, however this depends on your destination, price With Oyster one way £2.90 (off-peak) to £4.80 (peak).For the cheapest single fare ask for an Oyster card (£5 refundable deposit). Zone 1-6 Travelcard valid. The first train leaves at 05:14 and the last train leaves for central London at 23:46 (Monday to Saturday). When travelling from central London to the airport check your destination carefully - some trains don't go to the airport and those that do go have 2 distinct routes. During the day trains are at least every 10 minutes and usually more frequent. Be aware that weekend engineering works can result in replacement buses being run in place of the trains - check with the TFL website beforehand. • Bus N9 [☛] operates service from midnight-05:00 between Heathrow and Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, roughly following the Piccadilly Line into Central London. Buses depart every 20 minutes and take about 1 hour 15 minutes to reach central London.
Taxi .A taxi from Heathrow to central London will cost £45-60. You may wish to consider taking a taxi if you have a lot of baggage or small children. Alternatively catch public transport into the city centre and then catch a taxi. There are two types of taxis: Black cabs (these can be hailed on a street or at a taxi rank) and licensed mini cabs (these are typically cheaper - but must be booked in advance over the phone or on the web). There are over 1000 minicab companies in London. Pre-booked Mini Cab .A pre-booked sedan transfer from Heathrow to central London will cost £35-40. This an excellent and cheaper alternative to a black cab. The big advantage is the fixed fare, regardless of traffic conditions or route. There are dozens of companies serving Heathrow, just google 'heathrow minicab'. Once booked, the driver will be waiting for you with a sign bearing your name in the arrivals area. Tipping when using minicabs is not required, although is certainly welcome. Also: to South London ,☎ +44 845 748 4950 [☛] , price £2 single.Bus 285 (or taxi) to Feltham railway station (20 minutes) then a train to London Waterloo on the South Bank or Clapham Junction in South West London. Furthermore, bus X26 (limited stop) is an express route stopping in three of South London's district centres: Kingston, Sutton and Croydon. Zone 1-6 Travelcard valid on all London buses and trains. • Airport Parking [☛]. Heathrow Terminal 5 Parking.
London Gatwick[☛] London's second airport, also serving a large spectrum of places world-wide. It is the world's busiest single runway airport and is split into a North and South Terminal. To get to the centre of the city, the following options exist:
By rail: Gatwick Express ,☎ +44 845 850 1530 [☛] ,Every 15 min, journey time 30-35 min, price One way £18.90, round trip £33.20, for the cheapest fare visit their website.To London Victoria. Travelcard not valid. By rail: Southern Railway ,☎ +44 845 127 2920 [☛] ,Every 15 min, journey time 35-40 min, price Much cheaper than Gatwick Express - £13.50 (cheaper if booked in advance).To London Victoria via Clapham Junction. By rail: First Capital Connect ,☎ +44 871 200 2233 [☛] , price Much cheaper than Gatwick Express - about £10 (they occasionally have advance tickets priced at half that).To London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St Pancras International, Luton Airport and further north. By bus: easyBus [☛] ,Every 15-20 min, journey time 60-90 min, price One way prices start from £2. Book online..To Earl's Court/West Brompton. By bus: National Express [☛] ,Every 30 min, journey time 75-110 min, price One way prices start from £7. Book online.To London Victoria. By Minicab ,☎ +44(0)7505616915 [☛] ,Journey time 90-120 min, price approx £70. By car .47 km (29 mi). By cycle [☛] .There is a long-distance cycle path into Central London, but as it involves an indirect route, going over the North Downs and through South-East London, it will likely be quite a ride. For adventurous people. When departing, note that after passing through security you will find no drinking fountains in the South Terminal departure lounge.
London StanstedGetting to Stansted for an early morning flight is fairly straight forward, coaches run through the night, provided by Terravision [☛] and National Express from London Victoria and London Liverpool Street. Terravision costs £9 one way and run roughly every hour throughout the night, check their site [☛] for up to date timetable information. Be aware that lines are very common at Stansted, security check can easily take an hour. Also getting to the airport can take longer than the proclaimed 90 minutes, expect more like 120 minutes. Arriving in the airport, queueing for passport control can easily take up to 2 hours for non-eu passport holders, esp for Sunday night arrivals.
[☛] Currently London's third airport, the base for a large number of budget carriers (for example EasyJet [☛], RyanAir [☛], Thomson and Pegasus [☛]) and flights within Europe and a few inter-continental flights. There are several commercial wi-fi hotspots covering most of the airport, but they charge extortionate rates. A free wi-fi hotspot is in the arrivals gate area, next to the phone booths offering fixed internet. Transport options into central London:
By rail: Stansted Express to London Liverpool Street ,☎ +44 845 600 7245 [☛] ,Every 15 min, journey time 45-60 min, price One way £20, round trip £27. Travelcard not valid. Most budget carriers' websites offer reduced price deals for the Stansted Express, allowing you to save a few pounds. By rail then London Underground: Stansted Express to Tottenham Hale then London Underground (Victoria line) ,☎ +44 845 600 7245 [☛] ,Every 15 min.If you are going to South London, the West End or West London then take Stansted Express to Tottenham Hale then the London Underground (Victoria line). At Tottenham Hale ask for an Oyster card By coach: National Express ,☎ +44 870 580 8080 [☛] ,Every 15-30 min. Journey time to Stratford: 1 hour. To Victoria: 90 min, price To Stratford: £8 one way, £14 round trip. To Victoria: £10, £16. Travelcard not valid.To Stratford (tube: Stratford) or Victoria (tube: Victoria). Folding bicycles only. By coach: Terravision ,☎ +44 1279 68 0028 [☛] ,Every 30 min, price To Liverpool St Station: £9 one way, £14 round trip. To Victoria: £9, £14. Travelcard not valid.To Liverpool St Station (tube: Liverpool St) or Victoria (tube: Victoria). By minibus: EasyBus [☛] , price From £2 (advance web purchase) to £8 one way. Travelcard not valid.To Baker St (tube: Baker St) By taxi [☛] ,Journey time 90-120 min, price approx £70.The airport is actually quite a long way from London. It's normally a better idea to take a train to London Liverpool St and continue by taxi from there. By Minicab ,☎ +44(0) 1279 816901 [☛] ,Journey time 90-120 min, price approx £70.Stansted Airport Cars, located just outside of the terminal complex.
London Luton[☛] Is smaller than Stansted, but still a major hub for many Low Cost airlines, and over 10 million passengers fly through the airport each year. It boasts the same facilities of the other major airports and also like Stansted, it is common place for some passengers on early morning flight, to sleepover in the terminal before their flights. The Parkway Airport station, which serves the terminal is about 20 minutes walk back into town, though there is a regular shuttle bus charging £1.50 to take you to the station.
The airport is a major hub for easyJet, Ryanair, Wizzair, Thomson Airways and Monarch Airlines, with other airlines also serving the airport like Aer Arann, FlyBE and El Al, to cities primarily in Scotland, Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin.
By rail [☛] ,Journey time: 20-55 min, price £12.50 one way. Travelcard not valid. The airport has its own railway station "Luton Airport Parkway", and is served by trains 24 hours a day from Central London using "First Capital Connect Trains" and connects with St Pancras International. There are up to 10 trains an hour, depending on the time of day. All trains go to London St Pancras International, but many also continue on to Blackfriars, London Bridge and Elephant & Castle, and Gatwick Airport. The station is nearly 2 km (1 mi) from the terminal building, there is a shuttle bus service running between the terminal and airport every 10 minutes, costing £1 each way.
By coach: Green Line number 757 ,☎ +44 844 801 7261 [☛] ,Every 20 min, journey time 90 min, price Travelcard not valid.To Victoria (tube: Victoria) via Brent Cross, Finchley Rd tube station, Baker St, Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner. £14 one way if bought from the driver, tickets can be purchased in-advance online from £2. Service is run by Greenline and in conjunction with easyBus (but can be used by all travellers regardless of airline you travel with). By coach: National Express ,☎ +44 870 580 8080 [☛] ,Every 20 min, journey time 90 min, price From £1 (advance web purchase) one way. Travelcard not valid.To Victoria (tube: Victoria) via Golders Green and Marble Arch. By car .60 km (34 mi) north of London, just off the M1 motorway which connects London with the Midlands and the North of England. Depending on where you are travelling from in London and time of day, journey times take 45-90 mins. Road users should plan their journey and check traffic conditions, as if an incident occurs on London's busy roads, journey times can dramatically increase.
London City Airport[☛] A commuter airport close to the city's financial district, and specializing in short-haul business flights to other major European cities. Not as expensive to fly into than it used to be, and you may indeed find that from some origins, this may be your cheapest London airport to fly to, without even considering the cost savings of NOT coming from the distant larger London airports with £10+ transfer costs. Then there is the added bonus is that it is close to central London, with a convenient link on the DLR.
To get to the city centre the following options exist:
By Docklands Light Railway (DLR) , price Travelcard valid.See also: Get around. By taxi ,Journey time approximately 30 min, price £20-35. By car . 10 km (6 mi). By bus [☛] , price Travelcard valid.Take the 474 bus to Canning Town station and then the 115 or N15 into central London. See also: Get around.
Other airports near LondonLondon Southend Airport ,☎ +44 1702 608100 [☛] .(IATA: SEN, ICAO: EGMC) Currently undergoing redevelopment. A new railway station opened in 2011, which is adjacent to the new terminal. Airport claims to become London's sixth international airport. At present it serves destinations in the British Isles only, but from April 2012 easyjet will operate a number of European routes. • London Ashford Airport, also known as Lydd Airport has rather seasonal, limited services and is used primarily for businessmen.
Southampton Airport ,☎ +44 870 040 0009 [☛] ,Every 30 min, journey time 1 hour, price £30-35 round trip.(IATA: SOU, ICAO: EGHI) is not officially a London airport, though accessible enough to conveniently serve the capital, especially South West London. A couple of budget carriers serving an increasing number of European destinations are based here. Direct trains connect Southampton airport to London Waterloo station. Bournemouth Airport similarly operates a couple of Ryanair flight amongst others, and is not too far west on the train line from Southampton.
Birmingham International Airport ,☎ +44 870 733 5511 [☛] ,Every 20 min, journey time 72 min with Virgin Trains.(IATA: BHX, ICAO: EGBB) is another non-London airport worth considering as a less congested and hectic alternative to Heathrow, being just over an hour away from London. As a major airport serving the UK's second largest city, there is a good choice of long distance and European destinations. Direct trains connect Birmingham International to London Euston and Watford. • Other small airports, such as Oxford Airport can also be useful. Kent International Airport and Shoreham Airport (near Brighton) are similarly small. Biggin Hill in Bromley borough had a rejected licence bid in 2010 for commercial flights for the Olympics but may recieve one in the near future.
By trainLondon is the hub of the British rail network - every major city in mainland Britain has a frequent train service to the capital, and most of the smaller, provincial cities and large towns also have a direct rail connection to London of some sort - although the frequency and quality of service can vary considerably from place to place.
Rail fares to London vary enormously from very cheap to prohibitively expensive - the golden rules are to book Advance tickets for a particular train time, don't travel into the city on Friday afternoons and Sundays, and avoid buying tickets on the day of travel. There are three basic types of ticket, which are summarised below. Note that much of the advice applies to rail travel in general within the United Kingdom.
• ANYTIME - travel on any train, any operator at any time, returning within one month with few restrictions. Very expensive however - on a long distance journey from Northern England or Scotland for example - an Anytime return ticket to London won't leave you with any change out of £250!
• OFF-PEAK - travel on certain trains within a specific time-frame; again returning within one month. Typically this excludes anything that arrives into London during the morning rush hour (before 10:00 typically), or any train which departs during evening rush hour (16:30-18:30). Weekends generally carry no restrictions on the use of Off-Peak tickets. There are however, a monumentally complex number of exceptions for which Off-Peak tickets are and aren't valid which are barely fathomable to the British, never mind overseas visitors. If you are in any doubt at all about the validity of an Off-Peak ticket, ask a guard at the station or a ticket office BEFORE getting on a train - as on-train conductors can be notoriously unforgiving.
• ADVANCE - travel on a specific day and train time, booked up to 12 weeks in advance either in person at a railway station, over the telephone, or online. Two Advance single tickets for the outward and return legs of the journey are generally cheaper than the Off-Peak return ticket. Better deals can often be had by going directly to the train operator's website. The earlier you book, the more you save - you can get down to as little as £12.00 one-way from Scotland for example, but these tickets are non-refundable, and cannot be used on anything other than the date, train time and operator that is printed on the reservation. Go on any other train and get caught and you will be obliged to pay the Anytime fare for the journey you are making - which as we've said before is hideously expensive!
The local and commuter rail companies within the London and Home Counties area also have a bewildering array of special fares which are all in essence, variations of the Off-Peak ticket and are far too detailed to cover here, go directly to the website of the operator concerned for more information. Note that if you only intend to use trains within the Greater London boundary, then the Oyster Card (explained below) is by far the easiest and cheapest option to use.
Seats can be reserved for free on all long-distance trains to London - the reservation is always issued automatically with an Advance ticket, and with most Off-Peak and Anytime tickets bought online. If, for whatever reason you hold an Anytime or Off-Peak ticket and there is no seat reservation coupon, then it is highly recommended you get one from any railway station ticket office - if you want to avoid camping out in the vestibule for all or part of the journey!! First Class is available on all long distance services to London, the standard of service varies from operator to operator, but in general you get a wider, more comfortable seat, free tea/coffee for the duration of the journey, and some sort of complimentary catering service. If can be great value if you get an Advance first-class fare, but it is extremely expensive otherwise, and to be honest - not really worth it. You can pay a Weekend supplement (generally £15-£20) to sit in the first class section of the train on Saturdays and Sundays, - useful if the service you are on is hideously overcrowded - but you don't get the same catering service as during the week.
If you are the holder of a [☛] pass, things are simpler - but remember you still have to make a seat reservation for the train you intend to travel on - otherwise you run the risk of standing for the journey! If you intend to use the overnight Sleeper trains to London, you will have to pay a berth supplement for every member of your party - provided there is berth availability on the train.
London has one international high speed rail route (operated by Eurostar [☛] 0870 518 6186 ) from Paris (2h 15min) and Brussels (1h 50 min) diving under the sea for 35 km (22 mi) via the Channel Tunnel to come out in England. It terminates at St. Pancras International Station. For domestic train services, there are no fewer than 12 main line National Rail [☛] terminals (although in conversation you may hear the brand National Rail infrequently if ever it differentiates main line and London Underground services; journey planner online or phone 0845 748 49 50). With the exception of Fenchurch St (tube: Tower Hill) these are on the London Underground. Most are on the circle line. Clockwise starting at Paddington, major National Rail stations are:
• London Paddington, serves South West England and Wales including Slough, Maidenhead, Reading, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and Cardiff and Swansea. Also the downtown terminus of the Heathrow Airport Express (see above) and serves some suburban stations such as Acton Main Line and Ealing Broadway.
• London Marylebone, serves some north western suburban stations such as Amersham, Harrow on the Hill and Wembley Stadium. Also serves Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Banbury, Stratford-upon-Avon and the city of Birmingham. It is much cheaper but slightly slower to take a train from Marylebone to Birmingham instead of a train from London Euston. Recently a new service to Shrewsbury , Telford and Wrexham has been launched by the Wrexham & Shropshire railway company [☛].
• London Euston, serves the Midlands, north-west England and west Scotland: Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Oxenholme Lake District, Carlisle, Glasgow, and Holyhead for connecting ferries to/from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Sleeper trains to Scotland leave from Euston.
• St Pancras International, serves Paris, Brussels, Lille, as well as Luton Airport, Catford several destinations in Kent and the East Midlands: Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.
• London King's Cross, serves East Anglia, north-east England and east Scotland: Cambridge, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Kingston upon Hull, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter books is marked with a special sign, although platform 9 itself is actually in the fairly unpleasant metallic extension used by Cambridge trains.
• London Moorgate, serves some northern suburbs.
• London Liverpool Street, serves East Anglia: Ipswich and Norwich. Also the downtown terminus of the Stansted Airport Express.
• London Fenchurch Street, serves commuter towns north of the Thames estuary to Southend.
• London Bridge, London Cannon Street, London Waterloo East and London Charing Cross, serve south and south east London and England: Brighton, Dover, Eastbourne, Hastings and Ramsgate.
• London Blackfriars, serves Gatwick Airport and Brighton.
• London Waterloo, serves south west London and England: Portsmouth, Winchester, Southampton, Bournemouth, Weymouth, Salisbury and Exeter.
• London Victoria, serves south east London and England: Brighton, Dover, Eastbourne, Hastings and Ramsgate. Also the downtown terminus of the Gatwick Airport Express.
In South London many areas have only National Rail services (no London Underground services but there are buses). London Bridge, Victoria, Cannon St and Charing Cross serve the South East. London Waterloo serves the South West. First Capital Connect (frequently referred to as Thameslink) is a cross London route between Bedford and Brighton via Luton Airport (Parkway), St. Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, London Bridge and Gatwick Airport.
By busMost international and domestic long distance bus (UK English: coach) services arrive at and depart from a complex of coach stations off Buckingham Palace Road in Westminster close to London Victoria rail station. All services operated by National Express or Eurolines (see below) serve Victoria Coach Station, which actually has separate arrival and departure buildings. Services by other operators may use this station, or the Green Line Coach Station across Buckingham Palace Road. The following are amongst the main coach operators:
National Express ,☎ +44 870 580 8080 [☛] . is by far the largest domestic coach operator and operates services to / from London from throughout England, Wales and Scotland. Advance ticketing is usually required and recommended practice in any case. Fares are low - especially when booked in advance via the web. A few journeys are fast but most are notably slower than using the train. Eurolines ,☎ +44 870 514 3219 [☛] . is an associate company of National Express, and runs coach services to / from London with various cities in Northern Ireland, the Ireland and continental Europe. Advance ticketing is required. Megabus ,☎ +44 900 160 0900 [☛] . operates budget coach services from/to London (Victoria Coach Station) to/from several major regional cities, it is even possible to get to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Also offers service to continental Europe. Fares are demand responsive but can be very cheap (£1.50 if you book far enough in advance). Greyhound ,☎ +44 900 096 0000 [☛] . coach services with free wi-fi, newspapers and extra legroom. From/to London (Victoria Coach Station) to/from several cities. Fares can be very cheap.
By carLondon is the hub of the UK's road network and is easy to reach by car, even if driving into the centre of the city is definitely not recommended. Greater London is encircled by the M25 orbital motorway, from which nearly all the major trunk routes to Scotland, Wales and the rest of England radiate. The most important are listed below.
• M1: The main route to/from the North, leading from the East Midlands, Yorkshire and terminating at Leeds. Most importantly, Britain's longest motorway - the M6, branches from the M1 at Rugby, leading to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, the Lake District and onwards to the Scottish border, and ultimately Glasgow.
• A1/A1(M) The A1 is the original, historic "Great North Road" between England and Scotland's capital cities and has largely been converted to motorway standard; it runs up the eastern side of Great Britain through Peterborough, York, Newcastle and continues north through Northumberland and the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh.
• M40/A40: Arrives in London from a north westerly direction, linking the city with Oxford and providing an additional link from Birmingham.
• M4: The principal route to/from the West - leading to Bath, Bristol and cities South Wales (Cardiff and Swansea). It is also the main route towards Heathrow Airport.
• M3: The main route to London from the shipping port of Southampton.
• M2/M20: Together, these motorways are the main link to the coastal ferry (and Channel Tunnel) ports of Dover and Folkestone from Continental Europe.
• M11: The M11 connects Stansted Airport and Cambridge to London, and it terminates on the north eastern periphery of the city.
In addition to the M25, here are two inner ring roads in London which skirt the central area:
• A406/A205 North Circular/South Circular The North Circular is a half circle on the North of the Thames, and is mostly a dual carriageway. It has direct connections with the M4, M40, M1 and M11 motorways and can be useful if you want to quickly get around the northern suburbs of the city. The corresponding South Circular is really a local road which is made up of segments of main suburban thoroughfares. The two roads are connected at the east end of the circle in North Woolwich/Woolwich Arsenal by the Woolwich Free Ferry, which runs approx. every 10-15 minutes and is free of charge, although it can only carry a limited amount of vehicles so avoid during busy periods as the queues can be very long! The ferry stops running after 10pm, so it's advisable to travel through the Docklands and use the Blackwall Tunnel instead.
Comparatively few people will actually drive into (or anywhere near) the centre of London. The infamous M25 ring road did not earn its irreverent nicknames "The Road To Hell" and "Britain's biggest car park" for nothing. The road is heavily congested at most times of the day, and is littered with automatically variable speed limits which are enforced with speed cameras. Despite the controversial "congestion charge", driving a car anywhere near the centre of London remains a nightmare with crowded roads, impatient drivers and extortionate parking charges (that's if you can find a space in the first place, that is!). From Monday through Friday, parking in the City of London is free after 18:30; after 13:30 on Saturday and all day Sunday.
There are also a number of Pay as you go car rental companies operating around London including WhizzGo [☛] and Car Clubs [☛]
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles and only an overview is presented here.
Buckingham Palace. • Buckingham Palace - The official London residence of the Queen, also in Westminster. Open for tours during the summer months only, but a must-see sight even if you don't go in.
• The London Eye. The world's third largest observation wheel, situated on the South Bank of the Thames with magnificent views over London.
• Marble Arch is a white Carrara marble monument designed by John Nash. It is located in the middle of a huge traffic island at one of the busiest intersections in central London where Oxford St meets Park Lane in Mayfair.
• Piccadilly Circus is one of the most photographed sights in London. The status of Eros stands proudly in the middle while the north eastern side is dominated by a huge, iconic neon hoarding.
• St Paul's Cathedral, also in the City, is Sir Christopher Wren's great accomplishment, built after the 1666 Great Fire of London - the great dome is still seated in majesty over The City. A section of the dome has such good acoustics that it forms a "Whispering Gallery".
• Tower Bridge - Is the iconic 19th century bridge located by the Tower of London near the City. It is decorated with high towers and featuring a drawbridge and you can visit the engine rooms and a Tower Bridge exhibition.
St Paul's Cathedral • Tower of London - Situated just south east of the City, is London's original royal fortress by the Thames. It is over 900 years old, contains the Crown Jewels, guarded by Beefeaters, and is a World Heritage site. It is also considered by many to be the most haunted building in the world. If you are interested in that sort of thing its definitely somewhere worth visiting. Sometimes there are guided ghost walks of the building.
• Trafalgar Square - Home of Nelson's Column and the lions, and once a safe haven for London's pigeons until the recent introduction of hired birds of prey. It recently attracted controversy over the 'Fourth plinth', previously empty, being temporarily home to a Marc Quin sculpture, 'Alison Lapper Pregnant'. Overlooked by the National Gallery, it's the nearest London has to a 'centre', and has recently been pedestrianised.
• Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament) in Westminster. The seat of the United Kingdom parliament and World Heritage site, as well as setting for royal coronations since 1066, most recently that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The Palace of Westminster is open to the public only for viewing parliamentary debates, tours of the building are available during July-August when Parliament is away on summer recess.
• 30 St Mary Axe or The Gherkin, a peculiarly-shaped 180 m- (590 ft-) building in the City, which provides a 360-degree view of London on the 40th floor.
• The Shard, a futuristic skyscraper due to be topped-out in 2012, that already dominates the London skyline and will become the tallest building in the EU. When finished this multi-use 310 m (1,017 ft) tower will feature a viewing deck on the 72nd floor.
Museums and GalleriesLondon hosts an outstanding collection of world-class museums. Even better, it is the only one of the traditional "alpha world cities" (London, Tokyo, New York City and Paris) in which the majority of the museums have no entrance charges, thus allowing visitors to make multiple visits with ease. Although London can be expensive, many of the best museums and galleries are free including:
•National Portrait Gallery
•Victoria and Albert Museum
•Natural History Museum
and most museums in Greenwich. Note that admission to many temporary exhibitions is not free.
Aside from these world famous establishments, there is an almost unbelievable number of minor museums in London covering a very diverse range of subjects. The British government lists over 240 genuine museums in the city.
St James' Park The 'green lungs' of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city including Hyde Park, St James Park and Regent's Park. Most of the larger parks have their origins in royal estates and hunting grounds and are still owned by the Crown, despite their public access.
• Hyde Park and adjoining Kensington Gardens make up a huge open space in central London and are very popular for picnics.
• Regent's Park is wonderful open park in the northern part of central London.
• St James's Park has charming and romantic gardens ideal for picnics and for strolling around. St. James's Park is situated between Buckingham Palace on the west and Horse Guards Parade on the east.
• Hampstead Heath is a huge open green space in north central London. Not a tended park a such and is remarkably wild for a metropolitan city location. The views from the Parliament Hill area of the heath south over the city are quite stunning.
• Richmond Park also is a huge green space, but has a thriving deer population that is culled in the spring. Excellent place for cycling.
• Bushy Park, near to Hampton Court Palace, is the second-largest park in London. More low-key than its larger cousin, Richmond Park, it too has a large deer population. Bushy Park contains numerous ponds, bridleways, two allotments, and at its northern edge, the National Physical Laboratory.
One of more than 800 Blue Plaques throughout London
Blue PlaquesEnglish Heritage runs the Blue Plaques [☛] programme in London. Blue Plaques celebrate great figures of the past and the buildings that they inhabited. These are among the most familiar features of the capital’s streetscape and adorn the façades of buildings across the city. Since the first plaque was erected in 1867, the number has grown steadily and there are now more than 800. Recipients are as diverse as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sigmund Freud, Charles de Gaulle, Jimi Hendrix and Karl Marx. Look out for these around the city.
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles. To make the most of the city's tremendous cultural offerings (performing arts, museums, exhibitions, clubs, eateries and numerous others), visitors will do well to pick up a copy of a cultural magazine like Time Out London (available at most corner shops and newsagents) which gives detailed information and critiques on what's around town including show times and current attractions. The website [☛] also has major shows listed and there is also an iPhone/iPod app available though these tend to not be as detailed as the print version.
•Take a walk through London's Royal Parks. A good walk would start at Paddington station, and head through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park (passing Buckingham Palace) and St James Park before crossing Trafalgar Square and the River Thames to the South Bank and Waterloo Station. At a strolling pace this walk would take half a day, with plenty of places to stop, sit, drink, eat en-route. A good pictorial description of this walk can be found online at Trips By Trains Royal Parks Walk [☛].
Live Music .London is one of the best cities in the world for concerts, spanning from new musical trends to well known bands. Between huge concert facilities and small pubs, there are hundreds of venues that organise and promote live music every week. Many concerts, especially in smaller or less known places are free, so there is plenty of choice even for tourists on a budget. London has long been a launchpad for alternative movements, from the mods of the 60s, punks of the 70s, new romantics of the 80s, the britpop scene of the 90s and in recent years the indie rock movement spearheaded by The Libertines and their ilk. It has one of the world's most lively live music scenes: any band heading a British, European or World tour will play London, not to mention the local talent. London's Music Scene is incredibly diverse, covering all genres of music from electro-jazz to death-metal, and all sizes of bands, from the U2s and Rolling Stones of the world to one man bands who disband after their first gig. This diversity is reflected in prices. As a rough guide: £20+ for 'top 40' bands in arena sized venues, £10+ for established bands in mid sized venues, £6+ for up and coming bands and clubnights in smaller venues, £5- for upstarting bands in bars and pubs. London has hundreds of venues spread out over the city and the best way to know what's going on where is to browse online ticket agencies[☛], music magazine's gig directories [☛] and bands' myspaces[☛]. However, there are a few areas which have higher concentrations of pubs and venues than others. Kilburn is situated in North West London. It's long been known as an Irish area, and though their numbers have somewhat declined any visit to a local pub will show their influence remains today. Kilburn's important venue is The Good Ship.[☛] Due to its inclusive policies and fair payment system, The Good Ship is a favorite place for young aspiring bands to try to get a foot off the ground. Good for those who would like to see bands "before they were big", who appreciate £5 entrance fees, good beer and friendly staff. Theatre .The West End, especially the areas concentrated around Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Haymarket, is one of the world's premier destinations for theatre, including musical theatre. Covent Garden has the only Actor sponsored school in the city called the Actors Centre [☛] which also gave way to the London Acting Network [☛], a London acting community support group. In the centre of Leicester Square there is an official half-price TKTS booth. For up-to-date listings see the weekly magazine Time Out [☛] or check the official London theatreland site [☛]. The South Bank is another area well-known for world class theatre, and is home to both the National Theatre and the Globe Theatre, the latter of which is London's only thatched building and an atraction in itself. Each Globe performance has over 700 £5 tickets. London's theatre scene outside of these two main districts is known as "the Fringe". Watch a movie .As well as the world-famous blockbuster cinemas in the West End, London has a large number of superb art house cinemas. In the summer months, there are often outdoor screenings at various venues, such as Somerset House and in some of the large parks. Watch football [☛] .Take in a home match of one of the city's 15+ professional football clubs for a true experience of a lifetime as you see the passion of the "World's Game" in its mother country. London will have five clubs in the top Premier League in the upcoming 2011–12 season—Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers (QPR) and Tottenham Hotspur. A level down, in the Football League Championship, finds Crystal Palace, Millwall and West Ham United. Six other clubs are in lower levels of the professional league system—Brentford, Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient in Football League One; and AFC Wimbledon, Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge in Football League Two. Many of the bigger clubs will require booking in advance, sometimes many months ahead, but smaller clubs allow you to simply turn up on match day and pay at the gate. You will be able to find a ticket to a quality football match on any Saturday during the season. Wimbledon [☛] .Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely considered the most prestigious. Naturally it is a regular feature on the Tennis calendar. London goes "tennis crazy" for two weeks when the competition commences in late June and early July. Open House London Weekend [☛] .Explore many of the city's most interesting buildings during the London Open House Weekend - usually held on the third weekend of September. During this single weekend, several hundred buildings which are not normally open to the public are opened up. See website for details of buildings opening in any given year - some buildings have to be pre-booked in advance - book early for the popular ones! • Winter Skating. London has a number of outdoor ice rinks that open in the winter months. Considered by some to be somewhat overpriced and overcrowded, they nonetheless have multiplied in recent years, easing congestion and increasing competition. Most charge from £10-12 (adults) for an hour on the ice, including skate hire. See the district articles for the City of London, East End and Leicester Square.
• Summer Skating. In summer (and also in winter, for the more dedicated) there is also a thriving roller skating (on inline and traditional "quad" skates) scene in London, catering to many disciplines including street hockey, freestyle slalom, dance, general recreational skating (including three weekly marshalled group street skates) and speed skating. This mostly centres around Hyde Park (on the Serpentine Road) and Kensington Gardens (by the Albert Memorial). See the district articles for Mayfair-Marylebone and South West London.
•.If you don't feel like splashing out on one of the commercial bus tours, you can make your own bus tour by buying an Oyster card and spending some time riding around London on the top deck of standard London buses. Of course you don't get the open air or the commentary, but the views are very similar. You will likely get lost but that is half the fun; if it worries you go for a commercial tour. Spitalfields Markets ,65 Brushfield St London E1 6AA ( Straight down Bell Lane past 66-68 and keep walking) .Visit the thriving old Spitalfields markets which were the original London fruit markets. They have a daily market selling amazing vintage odds and ends and new fresh clothes! Visit 66/68 Bell Lane nearby to see a wealthy merchants house, rumor has it John Lennon once played on the roof of this building with Yoko Ono.
Harrods London is also one of the world's most fashion conscious cities, which explains the abundance of clothing shops from the flagship shops of Oxford Street to the tiny boutiques of Brick Lane.
Though not particularly known for bargain shopping, nearly anything you could possibly want to buy is available in London. In Central London, the main shopping district is the West End (Bond St, Covent Garden, Oxford St and Regent St). On Thursdays many West End stores close later than normal (19:00-20:00).
• Oxford Street . Main shopping street home to flagship branches of all the major British high street retailers in one go including Selfridges [☛], John Lewis [☛] (includes a food hall), Marks & Spencer [☛] and other department stores. Really overcrowded and has pretty ordinary shops actually.
• Regent Street (between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus). Includes such gems as Hamleys, considered to be London's flagship toy store, on seven levels, and the London Apple Store.
• Bond Street . Some of the world's most luxurious designer stores such as Cartier, D&G, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and Versace.
• Tottenham Court Road . Contains some of the world's most luxurious designer interior stores such as Heals, whilst the southern end is famous for its large concentration of hi-fi, computer and electronics stores.
• Covent Garden [☛]. Fashionable area home to quaint outlets and relatively expensive designer stores. Around Seven Dials chains include Adidas Originals, All Saints, Carhartt, Fred Perry, G Star Raw and Stussy. For shoes head for Neal St. Also the London Transport Museum whose gift shop has some of the best souvenirs in the city (old maps, vintage Tube posters, etc). But the vendors are now not allowed to sell merchandise with Union Jacks on. Sad.
• Charing Cross Road (near Covent Garden). A book lovers haven! New, second-hand, antiquarian and specialist.
• Soho . Offers alternative music and clothes. Now home to Chappell of Bond St's historic music shop.
• Camden Town . Alternative clothing and other alternative shopping, popular with teenagers and young adults. Also nearby Camden Lock market. Has lots of really cool and affordable stuff but kind of gothish.
• Chelsea . The King's Road is noted for fashion, homeware and kids. On Wednesday many stores close late.
• Knightsbridge . Department stores include the world famous Harrods [☛] (includes a food hall) and Harvey Nichols. On Wednesday many stores close late.
• Beauchamp Place .Shop where royalty and celebrities shop.One of the world's most unique and famous streets. Over the years it has developed its strong reputation as one of London’s most fashionable and distinctive streets, housing some of the best known names in London fashion, interspersed with trendy restaurants, jewellers and speciality shops including the world famous trademark Fortuny [☛], .
• Westminster . Some of the world's most famous shirts are made on Jermyn St. Savile Row is home to some of the world's best men's bespoke tailors including Henry Poole, Gieves & Hawkes, H. Huntsman & Sons, Dege & Skinner and many other.
Westfield: In Shepherd's Bush. Hard to miss. Has designer shops in with the more affordable chain shops. It's the biggest shopping centre in Europe. Has lots of good places to eat. It can get very busy on weekends though. Has it's own train station.
MarketsBorough (tube: London Bridge) [☛] is a great (if expensive) food market, offering fruit, veg, cheese, bread, meat, fish, and so on, much of it organic. Th-Sa (best to go in the morning, since it gets unpleasantly crowded by around 11:00).
Old Spitalfields Market [☛] is an excellent market for clothes from up-and-coming designers, records, housewares, food, and all things trendy, it was once the London fruit markets. Find it at 65 Brushfield St London E1 6AA (Straight down Bell Lane past 66-68 and keep walking). Visit 66/68 Bell Lane nearby to see a wealthy merchants house, rumor has it John Lennon once played on the roof of this building with Yoko Ono. Also checkout Brick Lane, Greenwich and Portobello, [☛].
AirportsTax-free shops in airports are not strong in variety, prices are equal to London, and they close rather early as well. Shop listings at airport web sites can help to plan your tax-free (vs traditional) shopping. In the evening allow extra half an hour as closing hours are not always strictly respected.
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