I went to London for the first time when I was 16 and immediately fell in love. From the sense of history that permeates the London streets to the simultaneously modern aura, London is a city where any traveler can be content. And for those intimidated by European travel (whether it be language barriers or any other reason), London is a great city for first-time Europe travelers. Here is a little crash course in navigating your way around the this regal city.
High season in London is June through August. That’s when the weather tends to be at its warmest, but consider a trip during the first three weeks in May (last week is school holidays in the United Kingdom) or in September—the weather is usually just as nice, but you’ll avoid the jostling crowds and have a better pick of lodging and restaurants.
What to Wear
- Bring a waterproof jacket.
- Comfortable shoes, since driving in the capital is a nightmare, I recommend you use public transportation, so you’ll be walking more than normal.
- Even in the summer it can get cool, so bring a light sweater.
- Get a money belt or wear a jacket with an interior pocket. Though London is a relatively safe city, there are opportunistic thieves in the tourist areas.
- When you are there, carry some bottled water. The Brits don’t believe in public drinking fountains.
Getting around London can be a thrill, and the city offers a host of travel options that make navigating among sightseeing stops part of the fun. London is also a very walkable city, but for safety’s sake, always remember to look to the right when you’re crossing the road.
If traveling from Heathrow, the cheapest option is to take the Underground (London’s subway system, also called the “tube”), as the Piccadilly Line will deliver you to Central London in 45 minutes for less than £6 (about $12).
If you have a lot of luggage or small children, instead try National Express, which runs several buses per hour from Heathrow to Victoria Coach Station. The journey takes about an hour, and you can pre-book tickets online.
Once you are free from luggage, the Underground is the way to explore London. It is easy to navigate with a color-coded tube map, and if you buy a reusable Oyster Card, cost effective.
West End and Central London
If you are going for less than a week, focus your time on the West End and Central London. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, the Tower of London, the shops of Covent Garden, the theatre district near Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and the British Museum in Bloomsbury are all within a few tube stops of each other.
Plan your trip to London on TravelMuse.
Post based on “Exploring London” by Anna Marie Roos.