London is a big place. Massive. Nearly 9 million people live there. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse cities with over 300 languages spoken. There are over 7,000 pubs, 16 football stadiums, at least 240 museums, more than 150 theatres, 857 galleries, 383 libraries, 33 Boroughs, 108 cinemas, 294 live music venues, 11,388 comedy performances, seven power stations, 8 royal parks and one Queen.
So how to make the most out of your stay in the city? With so much to do it’s difficult to know where to start.
Well, don’t worry Ideal Rooms has got some useful tips and recommendations of what to see and do.
CUSTOMS AND IMMIGRATION To make sure you have a smooth entry check the customs and immigration website:
Before you leave: Make sure you have the correct documents – a Passport, National Identity Card and, depending where you’re coming from, you may also need a Visa.
Getting from the airport into London: All airports have good links into London. Check your arrival airports’ website for the options and chose the best route for you.
London is a huge place with loads of people commuting to work and travelling around – it can seem a bit daunting but once you get to grips with it you’ll be scooting about all over the place.
For London Travel information: www.tfl.gov.uk
Oyster Card This little travel genie the ‘Oyster Card’ really makes London your Oyster as you touch in and out with this baby. You top it up and then simply touch in and out as you travel. Buy them in ticket booths and machines as well as in many local shops and online. You can use it on buses, tubes, some trains and the Thames Tube.
The Tube: mind the gap
Connecting all of London, the London Underground is the largest subterranean train network in the world – over 150 years old, with 270 stations, a total of 402 km and transporting over 4 million people a day! Amazing.
Avoid rush hour, in the summer it gets steamy down there and expect delays – it’s a British thing, we’re used to it. Most works and planned closures happen at the weekend, check www.tfl.gov.uk for up to date travel information.
The red double decker bus – famous around the world and iconic to the city. Taking a bus around London can be your own private sight-seeing tour, especially if you sit on the top deck.
It’s easy to navigate and frequent services make it a good way to travel around above ground. It runs many 24 hour services, handy if you’re out late.
Bikes London has in the past few years become a cycle city. The public bike hire scheme known as Boris Bikes, after the fluffy haired current mayor Boris Johnson, is a great way to get yourself some wheels and explore the city.
London is a busy, the narrow roads are shared by buses, taxis, lorries, cyclists and pedestrians so be careful!
DLR (District Light Railway) and London Overground (orange line) are other locomotives that connect the city, especially good for areas without the Tube.
Parking can be tricky in London, especially so in the centre. Your City Breaks Home may supply you with a parking permit for outside the property. The London Congestion Charge is a fee for all motorised vehicles travelling in the ‘congestion zone’ between 7am – 6pm Monday to Friday. The fee is payable over the phone or online.
THINGS TO DO IN LONDON
Whether you want to do some sightseeing, immerse yourself in the culture or perhaps do something more alternative and quirky then London can offer it all.
Get a bird’s eye view – The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames which takes people on a 30 minute spin for an incredible view of the city.
Walk the Thames - A great way to see many of London’s iconic buildings in one go.
Map the canal – Either on foot, bike or boat, London has an extensive canal network. Originally used to transport coal and building materials it is now a beautiful way to capture some tranquillity and see London differently plus there’s loads of nice places to wet your whistle or get some food along the way.
Afternoon tea – There’s nothing quite as British as a cup tea. Take your time to refill the pot and munch on some scones and jam.
See the Queen – or at least the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.
Have a Sunday Roast - No UK visit is complete without a Yorkshire pudding (a key component of the traditional Sunday Roast). Most pubs will offer their version with a selection of meats and vegetable and drenched in steaming gravy. Delicious.
Visit the Olympic site - The Olympics site is open, for events and there’s loads of space for cycle rides, waterside picnics and an adventure playground.
Enjoy the many sightseeing tours in London. Take a river cruise tour, a London bus tour, a bike tour or a classic walking tour. There are also alternative tours such as the macabre Jack the Ripper tour, street art tours, food and drink tours, night time tours, sports stadium tours and a whole bunch of others.
Let us know what you’re interested in exploring and we’ll give you our best recommendations.
MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES
London hosts a wealth of fantastic art and fascinating artefacts found in our museums and galleries. There are hundreds to choose from to stimulate your curiosity and inspire your mind.
The British Museum, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the V&A, are famous for ancient and modern displays of art, design, science and nature. For those on a budget, all the national museums and galleries are also FREE! For something more quirky check out the Sherlock Homes Museum, The Old Operating Theatre and the Wellcome Museum.
Tate Modern houses many famous pieces of modern art and installations and the Tate Britain has some more classical works. Other galleries of note are The Hayward, The National Portrait, The Barbican, The National Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, The Saatchi, Whitechapel and The Serpentine Gallery.
If you’ve seen any British movie set in London then you’ll already be familiar with London’s most famous landmarks and buildings. They are everywhere and they’re even more impressive in the… uh brick… There’s Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, The Houses of Parliament, The Royal Albert Hall, Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London, Royal Museums in Greenwich, Monument. Take a tour, a bike or a bus to see as many as you can – all have a fascinating history too, often a bit gory.
There are so many parks to choose from, all offering different views and experiences of the city. Nice spot for a glass of champers, a view of London and the zoo is Primrose Hill, if you’re in the East there’s beautiful Victoria Park, former hunting ground of Henry 8th Greenwich Park. Take a dip in the ponds on Hampstead Heath and in Brockwell Park take a swim in the Lido. Hire a deckchair in Hyde Park and watch the fireworks on 5th November from Parliament Hill.
THINGS TO DO WITH CHILDREN.
London is packed with parks, activities and events for children whatever their age. V&A Museum of Childhood and the Science Museum offer events and hands on experiences. London Transport Museum might sound a bit dry but actually it’s great! The Natural History Museum with impressive skeletons provides hours of entertainment and learning too. For Potter fans there’s the Warner Bros behind the scenes tour, guided tours around London and platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station.
Children’s theatre at the Unicorn and Half Moon Theatre, the Little Angel Puppet Theatre is a beautiful tiny theatre in Islington which presents a selection of stunning and entertaining puppet shows plus there’s the West End venues.
SHOPPING London is a mecca for shopping and fashionistas.
Let us know what type of retail therapy you are after and we can direct you to the best areas and shops.
There are markets across the whole city, specialising in all sorts of edible goodies, antiques and crafty things. Borough Market for delicious speciality foods, Columbia Road Flower Market which, as it says on the tin, sells… uh flowers, Old Spitalfields Market for clothes, food, artwork and antiques, Greenwich Market sells designer items and hand made products, Brick Lane Market has everything from junk to art to food.
The meandering shopper
Convent Garden with its cobbled streets and central market is a great place for a wander. Busy Oxford Street pulses through Central London and to escape the crowds take a detour down any side street, Berwick Street and the famous 1960’s Carnaby Street.
Regent Street has a range of fashion stores including Hamley’s, The Apple Store and Liberty’s. Notting Hill, in West London for small, unique shops selling unusual and vintage clothing, antiques, quirky gifts, books and organic food. Westbourne Grove is also worth a visit for stylish designer shops dotted between a mix of boutiques, cafes and art galleries.
A bit of luxury:
Browse your way through London’s famous department stores, wander down exclusive shopping streets and pop into world famous designer shops.
For refined shopping head into one of London’s famous department stores: Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Dover Street Market and the quintessentially British Liberty.
Have a wander along Bond Street, King’s Street, Mayfair and St James’ and for some bespoke tailoring visit Savile Row and Jermyn Street and get yourself kitted out as a typical British gent.
London is famous for its theatre scene and with so many venues offering a whole range of things there is something for everyone. The National Theatre of course, the international programme at The Barbican, Soho Theatre offers theatre and top-notch comedians, The Royal Court is the hotbed of new writing talent, Donmar Warehouse is smack-bang in the middle of Covent Garden, offering more classical pieces and an almost guaranteed star-spot. For something completely different head to The Yard in Hackney Wick and watch some new experimental creations (delicious beer and pizza next door too at Crate Brewery), not to mention all the smaller venues, Pub Theatres and West End venues.
For Opera you’ve the Royal Opera House and the English National Opera (ENO), if you’re in town for the season then Glyndebourne is in every opera goer’s calendar.
Finding a good restaurant in London is like trying to find hay in a hay stack! Whatever your budget you can eat great quality traditional British and international dishes in some incredible places all over the city.
Tell us what your taste buds are after and we’ll suggest great places to get your mouth watering.
Every neighbourhood will have a dozen or so. Find your local and while away a rainy afternoon, sit in the garden with a pint and packet of crisps or get involved in the local pub quiz.
So many bars in so many places make it difficult to recommend just a few. There are some lovely of Private Members Bars and Clubs scattered around the city, small crumbling wine bars and many stylish modern joints.
Let us know what you’re after and we’ll recommend the best.
Dance until dawn at Fabric, head under the railway arches in Cargo, watch the sun come up at Egg, drum'n'bass, electronica and dance nights at The Electric Ballroom. Heaven is the place for a party. Camden’s multi-layered KOKO boasts a full events calendar of live music and DJ-led club nights, and in trendy Shoreditch you’ve got the cutting edge XOYO.
MORE? There is so much to be explored and discovered in London.
When you have booked your trip, let us know what you want to see and do and we can help you find the best things on during your visit
CITY GUIDESVISITING LONDON