London

The capital of the United Kingdom is a thriving multicultural metropolis. The City is only about a square mile in size, and is home to London's biggest skyscrapers and financial district. The contrast between the spectacular historic sights and the lively cultural scene makes a visit to London an interesting and exciting adventure. Wander through St. James Park, visit Westminster Abbey, explore the streets of Shoreditch, and take a ride up the River Thames. London's incredible shopping, endless sights, friendly locals, and vibrant nightlife offer something for every kind of traveler.

Language:
As you would probably expect, the vast majority of Londoners speak English as a first language — even if it doesn’t always sound like it — and if you stick to the mother tongue, you will be understood pretty much everywhere you venture. However, as a long-established multicultural capital, London also boasts an extraordinary range of other world languages spoken within its borders — more than 300 in fact.

Currency:

The British Pound, which is usually exchanged at around 1.65 US Dollars per pound.

Currency exchange in London: There are numerous bureaux de change in London – often located inside banks, travel agents or Post Offices, as well as at London's airports and major train stations. It's worth shopping around to get the best deal – compare the exchange rates on offer and don't forget to ask about commission. A good tip is to ask how many pounds you will receive in total after all charges have been deducted.

Credit cards and contactless payments: Credit and debit (bank) cards – especially Visa and Mastercard – are widely accepted in London's restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. American Express and Diners Club cards are becoming more commonly accepted, although it is still advised to carry an alternative payment method with you. Contactless cards are widely used in the UK and many businesses accept them as payment, up to a limit of £45 per transaction. Travelers can use a contactless card instead of an Oyster card when using public transport in London.

ATMs: There are plenty of cash machines (also known as cashpoints or ATMs) dotted around London. Most accept international cards with the Visa, Plus, Mastercard, Cirrus or Maestro symbols. Some other systems are also recognized, but it's a good idea to check with your bank or card company before you travel. You might see cash machines in some corner shops and small supermarkets. Check before using them as they are likely to charge a fee for every transaction. Many cash machines also provide the facility to top up your mobile phone credit. ATMs are commonplace in almost every shopping street, with several bureau de change around the city center, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa.

Note:All contactless American Express cards, from any country, can be used for travel within London, however some non-UK Visa and Mastercard’s are not accepted, so you may need to check with your card issuer. Google Pay and Apple Pay on phones are also accepted. Contactless payments may still incur an overseas transaction fee and these vary by card and by bank, so it is a good idea to check with your card issuer before tapping your contactless card.

Top places to visit:
Big Ben and the House of Parliament

  • Big Ben: Big Ben is the nickname of the striking clock at the north end side of the Westminster Palace in London and is sometimes extended to confer with both the clock and the tower. The official name of the tower within which clock is found was originally the Clock Tower; it was renamed a the Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark the jubilee of Queen of England. The tower was designed by Gaius Octavianus Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin in a very neo-Gothic vogue. Once completed in 1859, its clock was the biggest and most correct four-faced placing and chiming record the globe. The tower stands 315 feet (96 m) tall, and also the climb from ground level to the belfry is 334 steps. Its base is measured at thirty-nine feet (12 m) on all of its sides.

  • House of Parliament: The Houses of Parliament are only a short walk down Whitehall from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. The building is stunning from Parliament Square, but it's worth taking a walk over Westminster Bridge and getting the view from the South Bank. The UK Parliament is one of the oldest representative assemblies in the world. The site of the Houses of Parliament is the Palace of Westminster, a royal palace and former residence of kings.The site of the Houses of Parliament is the Palace of Westminster, a royal palace and former residence of kings. Edward the Confessor had the original palace built in the eleventh century. The layout of the Palace is intricate, with its existing buildings containing nearly 1200 rooms, 100 staircases, and well over 3 kilometers (2 miles) of passages. Among the original historic buildings is Westminster Hall, used nowadays for major public ceremonial events.

  • Tower of London: Built in 1070 by William the Conqueror, the tower was expanded many times over the years. Weapons and armor were made here and all coins were made here until 1810. Now, it houses the famous crown jewels. The Tower of London is where the Crown Jewels are housed, and they're quite spectacular. It's also where you can stand on the execution site of three English queens! The Tower of London was home to the kings and queens of England for many years. (Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of Britain's sovereign since 1837.) The Tower of London was a prison and many famous prisoners were held there, including Sir Walter Ralegh: he was held in the Bloody Tower for 13 years, but made use of his time by writing "The History of the World" (published in 1614) and growing tobacco on Tower Green. The Tower of London held prisoners from the middle and upper classes, so there are no dungeons. Public executions were held on Tower Green, including two of Henry VIII's wives: Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.

  • Buckingham Palace: Buckingham Palace is Queen Elizabeth II's official residence and has been the official London residence of Britain's sovereign since 1837. It was once a townhouse owned by the Dukes of Buckingham back in the eighteenth century. George III bought Buckingham House in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte to use as a family home near to St James's Palace, where many court functions were held. The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace have been opened to the public for the Annual Summer opening, in August and September, since 1993, after the fire at Windsor Castle in November 1992. Initially, the Summer Opening was considered a way to pay for the damage at Windsor Castle, but it became so popular that The Queen has continued to allow visitors every summer. The Queen is not at Buckingham Palace when it is open to the public — she goes to one of her country residences. Buckingham Palace is only open to the public during the summer, but you can join the crowds and watch the changing of the Guard at 11:30am from May until the end of July.

  • Westminster Abbey
  • Westminster Abbey: Westminster Abbey is one of the most famous religious buildings in the world, and it has served an important role in British political, social and cultural affairs for more than 1,000 years. In spite of its name, the facility is no longer an abbey, and while it still hosts important religious activities, it no longer houses monks or nuns. Westminster Abbey has been the site of royal coronations since 1066, and has been a working facility for religious services since the 10th century.In 1040, King Edward I, who later became known as St. Edward the Confessor, built his royal palace on a nearby tract of land. A religious monarch, Edward I decided to endow and expand the monastery. He commissioned the construction of a large, Romanesque-style stone church in honor of St. Peter the Apostle. Twenty-five years later, in December, 1065, the new church was completed, although Edward I was too ill to attend the dedication ceremony and died a few days later. The new church, St. Peter’s Cathedral, became known as the “West-minster” to distinguish it from St. Paul’s Cathedral, another notable London church that was called the “East-minster.”You can see the tombs of 17 monarchs dating back to Henry III here. Other famous people buried here include Charles Darwin, Sir Issac Newton, Aphra Behn, and Charles Dickens.

  • Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in London. It is Britain's national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group (together with Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool, Tate St Ives and Tate Online). It is based in the former Bankside Power Station, in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. As with the UK's other national galleries and museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space, while tickets must be purchased for the major temporary exhibitions. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world.

  • Trafalgar Square: How could you miss one of the capital's most iconic areas? Come and marvel at Nelson's Column and the four huge lion statues. Feeding the pigeons is now discouraged (due to the spread of diseases), so please don't bring them any treats. On the north side of Trafalgar Square, you can visit the National Gallery and just around the corner on St. Martin's Lane is the National Portrait Gallery. Both have free permanent displays and regular special exhibitions. Trafalgar Square was designed by John Nash in the 1820s and constructed in the 1830s. It is both a tourist attraction and the main focus for political demonstrations. Look out for the George Washington Statue and the World's Smallest Police Box, as well as the London Nose. Within walking distance of Trafalgar Square, you can easily go shopping in Covent Garden, have a meal in Chinatown, walk down Whitehall to Parliament Square and see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, or walk down the Mall to Buckingham Palace.

  • Hyde Park
  • The O2 Arena is a multi-purpose indoor arena in the centre of The O2 entertainment complex on the Greenwich Peninsula in southeast London. It opened in its present form in 2007. It has the second-highest seating capacity of any indoor venue in the United Kingdom, behind the Manchester Arena, and in 2008 was the world's busiest music arena.[1]The arena was built under the former Millennium Dome, a large dome-shaped building built to house an exhibition celebrating the turn of the third millennium; as the structure still stands over the arena, The Dome remains a name in common usage for the venue.

  • Hyde Park is a Grade I-listed major park in Central London. It is the largest of four Royal Parks that form a chain from the entrance of Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, via Hyde Park Corner and Green Park past the main entrance to Buckingham Palace. The park is divided by the Serpentine and the Long Water lakes. The park was established by Henry VIII in 1536 when he took the land from Westminster Abbey and used it as a hunting ground. It opened to the public in 1637 and quickly became popular, particularly for May Day parades. Major improvements occurred in the early 18th century under the direction of Queen Caroline.



Other Things to See and Do in London

    Borough Market
  • Grab some food in Borough Market: With more food stalls than you can imagine, Borough Market has something for every eater. It is home to some of the best British and international produce and dishes. Come here hungry and leave satisfied. Already ate? Nibble the free samples being given out at most stalls. Open for lunch Mondays and Tuesdays, all day Wednesday-Saturdays and closed on Sundays. The crowds are terrible on Saturdays, but if that’s the only day you can fit it in, I’d go anyway!

  • Go museum-hopping: London has more museums than you could see in one visit, and many of them are free. From the Tate to the City Museum to the National Gallery to the Historical Museum, you'll be able to spend days here without spending a penny! At the Natural History Museum, you'll find over 80 million items, including specimens collected by Charles Darwin. It also has a great collection of fossils, making it a fun and educational stop if you're traveling with kids. The Victoria and Albert Museum (named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert) is another favorite of mine. It’s home to over 2,000 works of art covering over 3,000 years of human history.

  • Visit the London Dungeon: The London Dungeon calls itself “the world’s most chillingly famous horror attraction.” It covers 2,000 years of London’s gruesome history and is a morbid but interesting museum to see about England’s past. Although you’ll learn about popular torture methods in Old England, to be honest, this place has turned into more of an “amusement park” type attraction. But if you like things like escape rooms and scary boat rides, you’ll enjoy it.

  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • See St. Paul’s Cathedral: St. Paul’s is a striking cathedral with a world-famous Dome. Inside you’ll find glittering mosaics and elaborate stone carvings. You can also climb to the Whispering Gallery or higher still to the Stone Gallery or Golden Gallery for panoramic views over surrounding London.

  • Go to Shakespeare’s Globe: An integral part of England’s history, the Globe Theatre is a must-see for lovers of Shakespeare. The performances here are considered to be a near-perfect replica of Elizabethan staging practices. You can even sit in front where the groundlings did, for shouting and heckling! The theater is open-roofed, so bundle up in the winter.

Things to do are: Exploring the Camden Market, See the Royal Observatory, walk around the Strand, Drink beer at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, See the Churchill War Rooms, take a Jack the Ripper tour Explore Covent Garden, Stroll along Brick Lane, Ride the London Eye.

Food:

As the UK’s capital and one of the world’s most popular tourist locations, London acts as a representative of everything British to a wide array of visitors from around the world. What many visitors don’t realize, however, is the extent of the city’s ethnic diversity. London gastronomy is teeming with a smorgasbord of different cultural influences and tastes that offer locals and visitors a fantastic culinary experience. The city has a rich history when it comes to food, and many eateries reflect this in their representation of the nation’s favorite cuisines and tastes. If you want a genuine British dining experience, expect vibrancy and variety, both of which can be found in abundance in London’s dining scene.


    Fish & Chips
  • Fish & Chips: For any international visitor, fish & chips is a must-try. It has been a British favorite for well over 150 years and remains one of the most British dishes on any restaurant menu. The originator of the dish is contested – some credit a northern England native named John Lees, while others credit Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant living in East London. Nevertheless, the dish has become a popular takeaway meal across the country and, much like the Full English, is beloved in all corners of British society.

  • Pies: Despite not originating in Britain, there’s absolutely no doubt that the meat pie has come to be heavily associated with the British Isles. The proliferation of pies was actually born out of a problem – storage issues. With boat crews needing to be sustained during trips, but not being able to accommodate livestock, pies were created as an economical (and delicious) way to store and preserve meat.

  • Sunday Roast: Another tradition of the British Isles, the Sunday roast is an incredibly filling dish that – as the name suggests – is almost always consumed on Sundays. While many variations exist, the standard components include roast meat, stuffing, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings (a savory, batter-based pastry), roast vegetables and gravy.

  • Roast Duck: While roast duck might typically be associated with Chinese cuisine, it is enjoyed around the world every day with Britons enjoying their roast duck just as much as the next country. Done in a number of different ways, Brits consider roast duck a treat for special occasions, and if you’re visiting London, that more than meets the criteria for a special occasion!

  • Vegan Cake: We’ve focused on a lot of meaty dishes, but it’s time to give the vegan and vegetarian travelers some recommendations. London is a great place to be vegan with animal rights group PETA even dubbing London the “most vegetarian-friendly city in the world”. Demand in the UK capital has seen a number of specialty vegan shops and restaurants appear in recent years. Within this boom there has been much demand for sweet vegan treats – and many businesses have been keen to oblige.

  • Chicken Tikka Masala: Considered a national dish, this gloriously delicious Indian curry is wildly popular across the entire UK. While many stories surround its origin – it’s thought to have been invented somewhere in Britain (possibly Glasgow in Scotland), or in Punjab (Northern India and Eastern Pakistan) – Britain has a long relationship with the Punjab area and the dish can be celebrated as a creation that likely came into fruition because of that relationship. In London, you can’t go wrong with sampling chicken tikka masala.

  • Afternoon Tea: If you’re coming to Britain for the first time, there are definitely a few traditions to partake in – one of which is afternoon tea. Tea has been enjoyed around the world for thousands of years, but ‘afternoon tea’ became a phenomenon during the mid-1800s thanks to the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna. She would leave a long stretch of time between lunch and dinner – with the gap being filled with tea, a sandwich and some cake.

  • Gin & Tonic
  • Gin & Tonic: Britons love a good drink – and one of the country’s most loved beverages is gin & tonic. Gin was feverishly imported from Holland by many in the upper classes during the 18th century, while tonic water was a key part of British colonialism in the 19th century, most notably as it helped Britons deal with tropical climates during their travels.

  • Craft Beer: London has a long history in the act and art of brewing – becoming the undisputed British capital of breweries during the 18th century. Despite being prolific throughout the 20th century, London’s brewing industry had collapsed by the 21st century – with there being only 14 breweries in the city by 2010. However, the craft beer movement has rejuvenated London as a brewery hub and it’s now thought that there are 80 breweries across the city today.

Transportation:
London is a big city and with all big cities comes it's traffic, so getting between neighborhoods can take a bit of time. London has excellent public transportation, and getting a travel pass is cheaper than buying single tickets all the time. A one-way fare on the tube will cost you so much, but getting a Visitor Oyster Card will reduce tariffs per ride. No matter how many trips you take per day, your Oyster Card will cap at £7. This is applicable across all public transit, including buses and trams.


  • Master the night bus – In London, the tube closes around 12:30 am. To avoid taking expensive taxis, make sure you get a map of the night bus routes so you can get back to your hotel/hostel on the cheap. These buses go all over the city and into the suburbs. You can also use your Oyster card on these buses. Buses are always the cheapest public transportation option!

  • The tram system in London works the same way as the bus system.

  • Bicycle: London’s public bike-sharing program is Santander Cycles, and you can find docking stations all over the city. You can rent a bike from as little as £2. Keep in mind, however, that London isn’t the bike-friendliest city in the world!

  • Taxis: London's "black cabs" are all over and run off a meter, but tend to be the most expensive form of transportation. Most accept credit cards! Taxis are everywhere and cost about £6 per one mile, but the price decreases the further you go. For example, a six-mile journey will cost you around £24 but more during peak hours). You can also use an app such as “my taxi” to order your ride.

  • The Tube: The best way to get around London is the Underground, or "the Tube." You can even take the Tube from Heathrow Airport (LHR) into the city center, which I would recommend. It is easy to navigate and you can get to all the sights you'll want to see. Be sure to buy an Oyster card that you can reload and use on both the Tube and city buses.

  • Helpful Tip: The Tube is great but sometimes the Tube map is deceptive and stations are a lot closer together than they look. There's a handy map with walking distances between stations that will help you decide whether it's worth the wait for the train or quicker to walk.
Note: Get the London Pass: If you get the London Pass, you can enjoy access to 80+ London attractions like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. This pass makes for good savings, and you’re planning on doing a ton of sightseeing!

London Is separated into many different boroughs and neighborhoods; each offering a unique flavor of the city! The most popular areas worth visiting are:


  • Covent Garden: Covent Garden is one of the most popular areas of the city with some of the best theaters. Neal Street is a shoe lover’s paradise with a series of shops catering to every sole.

  • SoHo: A vibrant and exciting part of the city that is home to an amazing range of pubs, jazz and blues bars, and the heart of London's gay scene. This is where many of the fashion-forward residents of the city come to party.

  • Kensington + Chelsea: This borough is home to some of London’s most posh shops and luxurious residents. It’s also home to Notting Hill which has become an up-and-coming, trendy neighborhood.

  • Camden: Famous for being the alternative center of London where hippies and punks tread the streets together. It is home to a lively mix of music venues, markets, eateries, tattoo parlors, and boutiques.

  • Westminster: The tourist center of London, sights include the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey. Visitors can see the British Government in action by visiting the Strangers' Gallery at the House of Commons.

  • Shoreditch: Known as the creative hub of London’s trendy East End. Come here for great food, nightlife, street art, and vintage shopping.

When to Go to London
London doesn’t get too cold, but it’s notoriously foggy and rainy. Summer is peak tourism season, and temperatures are the warmest during this time – but rarely ever above 86°F (30°C). London is bursting at the seams during this time, but the city offers a great, lively atmosphere. People make the most of the warm weather, and there are constantly tons of events and festivals happening everywhere.

Spring (late March to June) and autumn (September to November) are also fantastic times to visit, as temperatures are mild, and it’s drier than other times throughout the year. Winter lasts from December to February, and tourism crowds will thin out dramatically during this time. Temperatures rarely dip below 41°F (5°C), and prices are slightly lower as well.

London Public Holidays:
Christmas and Easter are very important holidays in London. The city also celebrates additional bank holidays in May and August during Summer. Interestingly the Queen’s birthday is not a public holiday in London.
# Public Holiday Date
1 New Year's Day 1st January
2 Good Friday (the date changes from year to year)
3 Easter Monday (the date changes from year to year)
4 Early May Bank Holiday First Monday in May
5 Spring Bank Holiday Last Monday in May
6 Summer Bank Holiday Last Monday in August
7 Christmas Day 25th December
8 Boxing Day (St. Stephen’s Day) 26th December