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**[[London/St James's|St James's]] - a city in its own right, and home of the British government and royal family
 
**[[London/St James's|St James's]] - a city in its own right, and home of the British government and royal family
  
* [[London/West|West]] - major centers include Chelsea, Kensington, [[London/Paddington|Paddington]], Acton, Chiswick, Ealing, Fulham, Hammersmith, Hayes, Shepherd's Bush and Uxbridge.
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* [[London/West|West]] - major centers include Chelsea, Kensington, [[London/Paddington|Paddington]], Acton, Chiswick, Ealing, Fulham, Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush
  
 
* [[London/North West|North West]] - the upscale areas of Finchley, Hampstead, Hampstead garden suburb, Maida Vale and St John's Wood; but also includes immigrant and working class Kilburn and Wembley.
 
* [[London/North West|North West]] - the upscale areas of Finchley, Hampstead, Hampstead garden suburb, Maida Vale and St John's Wood; but also includes immigrant and working class Kilburn and Wembley.

Revision as of 12:43, 22 March 2008


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For other places with the same name, see London (disambiguation).
London is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.
Tower Bridge at dusk. Bridging the River Thames near the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is one of the icons of the central London landscape (note: this is NOT London Bridge - a common mistake!).

London [1] is the capital and largest city of both the United Kingdom and of England, and the largest city in western Europe. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of roughly 7.5 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 historically one of the great, "world cities," and remains a global capital of culture, fashion, finance, politics and trade.

The Tower.
London Eye

Contents

Districts

The name London originally referred only to the once-walled "Square Mile" of the original Roman (and later medieval) city (now confusingly called the "City of London" or just "The City"). London, however, has taken on a much larger meaning to include all of the vast central part of the modern metropolis, the city having absorbed numerous surrounding towns and villages over the centuries. Reflecting the massive size of the metropolis, therefore, the term Greater London embraces central London together with all the outlying suburbs that lie in one continuous urban sprawl within the lower Thames valley. Though densely populated by New World standards, London retains large swathes of green parkland and open space, even within the city center.

Greater London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London that, together with the relatively new Mayor of London, form the basis for London's local government. The names of several boroughs, such as Westminster or Camden, are well-known and self-explanatory, others less so, such as Hackney or Tower Hamlets. A traveller's London, however, is better defined not by strangely shaped and often fairly arbitrary administrative divisions but rather by recognized cultural, functional and social districts of varying type and size:

London regions
  • West - major centers include Chelsea, Kensington, Paddington, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing, Fulham, Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush
  • North West - the upscale areas of Finchley, Hampstead, Hampstead garden suburb, Maida Vale and St John's Wood; but also includes immigrant and working class Kilburn and Wembley.
  • North - covers Archway, Camden, Crouch End, Islington and Wood Green.
  • East - a mixture of galleries and bustling nightlife, as well as the some of the most deprived areas in the country. Now the focus of redevelopment for the London 2012 Olympic Games. covers Bethnal Green, Bow, Brick Lane, Clerkenwell, Docklands, Hackney, Mile End, Poplar, Shoreditch, Stepney, Stratford, Walthamstow and Whitechapel
  • South West - covers Battersea, Brixton, Clapham, Kingston, Putney, Richmond, Wimbledon, Streatham, Tooting, Twickenham and Wandsworth.
  • South East - covers Greenwich, Bromley, Croydon, Deptford, Dulwich, Lewisham and Penge.

Understand

History

Settlement 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, however, 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 the city became a great center of culture, government and industry. London's long association with the theater, for example, can be traced back to the English renaissance (witness the Rose Theatre [2] 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, 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 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 center of culture, finance, and learning. Today London is easily the largest city in the United Kingdom, eight times larger than the second largest city, Birmingham, and ten times larger than the third, Glasgow, and dominates the economic, political and social life of the nation (much to the annoyance of people in the provinces i.e. everywhere except London). It is full of excellent bars, galleries, museums, parks and theaters. It is also the most culturally and ethnically diverse part of the country, and, for a visitor, a nice side-effect of this is the wide range of cuisines available. 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.

London possesses one of the best collections of museums and galleries anywhere in the world. World cultures throughout history are well represented, for example, at the British Museum. The Museum of London (admission free) makes an ideal destination for the traveller who wants to understand the history and ongoing legacy of this great city.

London 2012 Olympic Games

The International Olympic Committee decided in 2005 that London will serve as the host city for the Games of the XXX Olympiad [3], 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.

Get in

By plane

A summary map of the main airport rail and tube connections into London

London (all airports code: LON) is served by a total of six airports. Traveling 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 six 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 [4]. Buses between Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton run at least hourly, with Heathrow-Gatwick services taking 65min (£18) and Heathrow-Stansted services 90min (£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. Buses have toilets on board.

London Heathrow

Main article: Heathrow Airport

Heathrow (ICAO: EGLL, IATA: LHR) [5] is London and Europe's largest airport and the world's busiest airport in terms of international passenger movement, with services from most available major airports world-wide. There are four terminals, with a fifth opening in March 2008. 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. A quick summary of transport options:

  • Fastest: by Heathrow Express rail, [6]. Every 15 minutes, journey time 15 minutes. To London Paddington. Travelcard not valid. One way £15.50, return trip £29.
  • Cheapest: by London Underground (Piccadilly line). Every few minutes, journey time approximately 1 hour. For the cheapest fare ask for an Oyster card (£3 refundable deposit). Zone 1-6 Travelcard valid. With Oyster one way £3.50-£4.80.
  • Most convenient: Heathrow Express to London Paddington then taxi to your final destination. A taxi from the airport to Central London (£45-60) would take about an hour (depending on traffic).
  • Door to door: National Express Dot2Dot, [7].
  • Also: by Heathrow Connect rail, [8]. Same route as Heathrow Express but stops at intermediate stations to London Paddington so slower. One way £6.90, round trip £12.90.
  • Also: to South London, [9]. 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. Zone 1-6 Travelcard valid.

London Gatwick

(IATA: LGW, ICAO: EGKK) [10] London's second airport, also serving a large spectrum of places world-wide. To get to the center of the city, the following options exist:

  • By rail: Gatwick Express, [11]. Every 15 minutes, journey time 30-35 minutes. To London Victoria. Travelcard not valid. One way £16.90, round trip £28.80, for the cheapest fare visit their website.
  • By rail: Southern Railway, [12]. Every 15 minutes, journey time 35-40 minutes. To London Victoria via Clapham Junction. Cheaper than Gatwick Express.
  • By rail: First Capital Connect, [13]. To London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St Pancras International, Luton Airport and further north. Cheaper than Gatwick Express.
  • By car. 29 miles (47 km).
  • By cycle, [14]. There is a long-distance cycle path into Central London, but as it involves going through the North Downs and South London and over, it will likely be quite a ride. For adventerous people.

London Stansted

Sleeping at Stansted Airport

A large number of budget flights depart from Stansted as early as 6AM (when the lowest fares are available). However, this presents travellers with a problem, as the airport's location is a long way outside London, and transport to the airport does not operate before 5:30AM. Due to the high price of accommodation in the city and near the airport, and the fact that many budget airlines don't pay for accommodation in the event of cancellation, an increasing number of travellers choose to spend the night in the airport prior to their flight. A crowd of around 100 travellers (up to 400 in summer) camp in the main departure/arrivals hall every night, effectively turning it into a giant dormitory. Tips for sleeping at Stansted Airport:

  • Arrive early, preferably around 10PM, and stake your territory immediately. Benches without armrests are in limited supply and fill up quickly.
  • If you arrive later take a floor mat and sleeping bag. Sleeping on the floor is tolerated by the staff, but avoid pitching your bed in front of shops and counters.
  • A sleeping bag is generally recommended as the automatic doors constantly open and close as passengers arrive, and it can get chilly in winter.
  • Safety is not a problem. The airport is miles away from any settlement and security guards overlook the open-plan building 24/7.
  • Ear plugs and eye covers are a must, as the cleaning staff are noisy and shop assistants start arriving at 4AM to open shutters.
  • At least one cafe is open all night, offering snacks and hot drinks.
  • Toilets remain open and are normally in good condition. There are no drinking fountains.


(ICAO: EGSS, IATA: STN)[15] Currently London's third airport, the base for a large number of budget carriers (for example EasyJet [16] and RyanAir [17]) 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 located 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, [18]. Every 15 minutes, journey time 45-60 minutes. One way £15, round trip £24. Travelcard not valid.
  • By rail then London Underground: Stansted Express to Tottenham Hale then London Underground (Victoria line), [19]. Every 15 minutes. 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, [20]. Every 15-30 minutes. Journey time to Stratford: 1 hour. To Victoria: 90 minutes. To Stratford (tube: Stratford) or Victoria (tube: Victoria). Folding bicycles only. To Stratford: £8 one way, £14 round trip. To Victoria: £10, £16. Travelcard not valid.
  • By coach: Terravision, [21]. Hourly, journey time 75 minutes. To Bishopsgate (tube: Liverpool Street) or Victoria (tube: Victoria). To Bishopgate: £6.70 one way, £11.80 round trip. To Victoria: £8, £14. Travelcard not valid.
  • By minibus: EasyBus, [22]. To Baker Street (tube: Baker Street). From £2 (advance web purchase) to £8 one way. Travelcard not valid..
  • By taxi. Journey time 90-120 minutes. Not the most efficient option. The airport is actually quite a long way from London. It's normally a better idea to take a train to London Liverpool Street and continue by taxi from there. approximately £70.

London Luton

(ICAO: EGGW, IATA: LTN)[23] Has traditionally been a holiday charter airport, but is now also served by some budget scheduled carriers. As per Stansted, and for the same reasons, many choose to spend the night here before flying. To get to central London the following options exist:

  • By rail, [24]. Journey time: 30-60 minutes. The rail station is not actually in the airport, but the there is a free shuttle bus from the airport to Luton Airport Parkway station which runs every few minutes and takes five minutes. From there, Thameslink trains run by First Capital Connect run four or more times an hour to London St Pancras International. £11 one way. Travelcard not valid..
  • By coach: Green Line number 757, [25]. Every 20 minutes, journey time 90 minutes.. To Victoria (tube: Victoria) via Brent Cross, Finchley Road tube station, Baker Street, Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner. Travelcard not valid.
  • By coach: National Express, [26]. Every 20 minutes, journey time 90 minutes.. To Victoria (tube: Victoria) via Golders Green and Marble Arch. From £1 (advance web purchase) one way. Travelcard not valid.
  • By minibus: EasyBus number EB2, [27]. To Baker Street (tube: Baker Street) via Hastingwood Motorway Services and South Woodford. They now run from the city center (Victoria), but terminate in Baker St on the way back from the airport. From £1 (advance web purchase) to £8 one way.
  • By car. 35 miles (60 km).

London City Airport

(ICAO: EGLC, IATA: LCY)[28] A commuter airport close to the city's financial district, and specializing in short-haul business flights to other major European cities. To get to the city center the following options exist:

  • By Docklands Light Railway (DLR). See also: Get around. Travelcard valid.
  • By taxi. Journey time approximately 30 minutes. £20-35.
  • By car. 6 miles (10 km).
  • By bus, [29]. Take the 474 bus to Canning Town station and then the 115 or N15 into central London. See also: Get around. Travelcard valid.

Other airports near London

  • London Southend Airport. (IATA: SEN, ICAO: EGMC) Currently undergoing redevelopment and is set to become London's sixth international airport once the new rail link is completed. At present it serves destinations in the British isles only.
  • Southampton Airport, [30]. Every 30 minutes, journey time 1 hour. (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. £30-35 round trip.
  • Birmingham International Airport, [31]. Every 30 minutes, journey time 75 minutes. (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. From £10 (advance web purchase) one way. £35-100 round trip..

By train

London has one international rail route (operated by Eurostar [32]) from Paris (2h15) and Brussels (1h50) diving under the sea for 22 high speed miles (35km) via the Channel Tunnel to come out in England. It terminates at St Pancras International. There are no less than 12 main line National Rail [33] 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 08457 48 49 50). With the exception of Fenchurch Street (nearest 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 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.
  • 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 Blackfriars, serves Luton Airport and Brighton.

In South London many areas only have National Rail services (no London Underground services but there are buses). London Bridge, Victoria, Cannon Street 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 bus

Most 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 St James's 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 [34] 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
  • Eurolines [35] is an associate company of National Express, and runs coach services to / from London with various cities in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and continental Europe. Advance ticketing is required.
  • Megabus [36] 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. Tickets must be booked online and fares are demand responsive but can be very cheap (£1.50 if you book far enough in advance).

By car

There is also the option of a central London Park and Ride site located at Park Lane and Marble Arch, see National Park and Ride Directory

Get around

The city has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite residents constant, and sometimes justified, grumbling about unreliability public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere for visitors and residents alike and is far more reliable than locals would have you believe. Indeed, nearly a third of households do not feel the need to own a car. The city has recently been awarded the city with the best public transport in the world.

Transport for London (TfL) [37] is a government organisation responsible for all public transport. Visit their website. It contains maps plus an excellent journey planner [38]. They also offer a 24-hour travel information line, charged at local rate: tel +44-20-72221234 (or text 60835) for suggestions on getting from A to B, and for up to the minute information on how services are running. Fortunately for visitors (and indeed residents) there is a single ticketing system, Oyster, which enables travellers to switch between modes of transport on one ticket - but even this has a few limitations (see the guide below) and it is not yet universally accepted by many of the private rail operators.

12 colour-coded lines cover the central area and suburbs mostly north of the River Thames, run by TfL

Only runs in the east of the city, privately run but part of TfL's network

A tram service that only operates in southern suburbs around Wimbledon and Croydon.

  • By London Overground

The London Overground is now featured on Tube Maps although runs a lot less frequently than the tube (some branches run just 2 or 3 trains per hour). A suburban rail service that crosses north London and round to Richmond, run by TfL. The East London Line is now closed until 2010 when it will become part of the new London Overground.

  • By National Rail including Airport Express trains

Rail services to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports (tickets are generally sold at a premium) and suburban services that run out of the city from mainline stations like St Pancras International and Paddington (most lines are south of the River Thames and only one (Thameslink) runs through the city centre; operated by numerous private train companies).

Oyster Card

Oyster Card in use

Oyster pay-as-you-go on National Rail

Be careful - while Oyster pay-as-you-go is valid on London Underground, London buses and London Overground, pay-as-you-go is not valid on many National Rail trains - you have to use a Travelcard, buy separate paper tickets. Refer to the Oyster Pay-as-you-go on National Rail map [39] to help you, or ask at the station. Don't get caught out, staff are generally unsympathetic! However, if you are only using the tube, bus and tram, Oyster pay-as-you-go makes a lot of sense.


Oyster [40] is a contact-less electronic smartcard run by Transport for London. You can "charge up" an Oyster card with electronic funds. This cash is then deducted according to where you travel. Touch the card against a yellow disc, prominently displayed on the entry and exit gates for the Tube (do not try to insert it into the slot!) and on buses and trams. Theoretically you don't need to remove it from your wallet or bag to do this, the card reader can work through a bag, but in reality you may need to take the card out to get it to work. Be careful standing near the readers on some bendy buses, they are often quite sensitive and may read your card from several centimetres away, even if you did not intend this. If you keep it in your wallet try not to sit on it as sometimes they will crack and cease to work. You can also add various electronic tickets onto the card, and the card is simply validated each time you use it. You can get an Oyster Card from any Tube station for a deposit of £3. This is fully refundable if you hand it in at the end of the trip. If you have any pay-as-you-go credit left this will also be refunded. However, there is no expiry date on the Oyster Card or any pay-as-you-go credit on the card. Getting a refund for unused credit is, frankly, a hassle.

Which ticket?

Pay-as-you-go (PrePay)

You can charge up your Oyster card with electronic cash at any tube station ticket machine or ticket desk (you can even use a credit card to do this if your credit card has a PIN number) with Oyster pay-as-you-go, also known as PrePay. This money is then deducted from your card each time you get on a service. Pay-as-you-go is much cheaper than paying in cash for each journey. For instance, a cash tube one way in Zone 1 is £4, while with an Oyster Card it costs a mere £1.50. On the tube, be sure to touch in and touch out again at the end of your journey. The fare is calculated based on your start and end points. If you forget to touch your Oyster card at the start and finish you will be charged extra! Furthermore, a cash bus fare is £2 while with Oyster it is £0.90. It also saves time getting onto buses. In the central area, tickets have to be bought at a machine by the bus stop if you don't have an Oyster and outside the zone from the driver.

The amount of PrePay deducted from your Oyster card in one day is capped at the cost of the appropriate paper day ticket (day Travelcard) for the zones you have travelled through, less 50 pence. For zone 1-2 (central London including everywhere inside the Circle line and some places outside) this is £4.80 (£6.30 M-F before 9:30AM).

Travelcard season tickets

Weekly, monthly and longer-period Travelcard season tickets can be purchased at all tube station ticket offices. These can be used on any tube, DLR, bus, London Overground, National Rail or tram service within the zones for which they were purchased. Note that they can not be used on any Airport Express trains (Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express and Stansted Express). A Zone 1-6 Travelcard can be used on the London Underground (Piccadilly line) to/from Heathrow Airport.

Summary

The following table summarises the validity of the different tickets you can use on Oyster. For most tourists, tubes and buses are the only transport you will use, but be aware of the limitations if you travel on National Rail or on Airport Express trains.

Bus London Underground London Overground National Rail DLR Tram Airport Express trains
Pay-as-you-go yes yes yes sometimes yes yes no
Travelcard yes yes yes yes yes yes no
Bus pass yes no no no no yes no
  • Airport Express trains are Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Express, and Thameslink to Luton
  • Piccadilly line to Heathrow is a London Underground train, so PrePay and Travelcards are valid.
  • Travelcards are only valid within the zones you buy.

By foot

For travelling shorter distances in London there is no better way. Walking forces you to slow down and look around, and in a city like London there's always something interesting to look at if you take the time. Walking can also be the quickest way to get somewhere: check your map, central London is surprisingly compact. London walking directions can be planned online with the walkit.com walking route planner [41].

By tube / underground

Tube etiquette

  • Beware of pickpockets.
  • When using the escalators always stand on the right to allow people in a hurry to pass. If you are standing on the left people will occasionally shove you out the way.
  • Whilst waiting on a train to allow for others coming down the escalators behind you move down the platform.
  • If a train is badly overcrowded, to see when the next is due look at the information display. If it's only a couple of minutes you would be as well to wait, it could be less crowded.
  • Allow passengers to get off the train before boarding yourself. While passengers are trying to get off do not stand in front of the doors. Stand either to the right or to the left of the train doors, and allow passengers to disembark before attempting to get on. Adhering to this train equette will make life easier.
  • Have your Oyster card ready for the top of the escalators so not to obstruct barriers.
  • Move clear of the foot of escalators, ticket halls and station entrances.
  • Some platforms in Zone 1 have the words "Mind the Gap" written on the platform edge. When the train stops, the carriage doors will line up with this warning.


The London Underground [42] - also known popularly as The Tube - has trains that criss-cross London in the largest underground rail network anywhere in the world (it was also the first, the first section of the Metropolitan Line dates back to 1863). The Tube is an easy method of transport even for new visitors to London.

Tube maps [43] are freely available from any station, most tourist offices and are prominently displayed throughout stations and, for some obscure reason, in the back of most diaries. The Tube is made up of 12 lines each bearing a traditional name and a standard color on the Tube map. To plan your trip on The Tube work out first which station is closest to your starting point and which closest to your destination. You are able to change freely between lines at interchange stations (providing you stay within the zones shown on your ticket). Use the Tube Map to determine which line(s) you will take. Since the Tube Map is well designed it is very easy to work out how to get between any two stations, and since each station is clearly signed and announced it is easy to work out when to get off your train. Visitors should be aware, however, that the Tube map is actually a diagram and not a scaled map, making it misleading for determining the relative distance between stations as it makes central stations appear further apart and somewhat out of place. The Tube map also gives no information on London's extensive overground bus network and its orbital rail network.

Trains run from around 5:30AM to about 1AM. This mode of transport is usually the fastest way to get from one part of London to the another, the only problem being the relative expense, and the fact that it can get extremely crowded during rush hours (7:30AM-9:30AM and 4:30PM-7PM). On warm days take a bottle of water with you.

An integrated map of London's Tube, Train and Bus Map can be purchased online at mapvendor.com [44] or alternatively you can view the map online [45].

By bus

Red bus in London
Bus stop

London's iconic red buses are recognized the world over, even if the traditional open-platform Routemaster buses have been largely phased out. Old-fashioned Routemaster buses, with an open rear platform and on-board conductor to collect fares, run on Heritage Route 9 and 15 every 15 minutes, daily between about 9:30AM and 6:30PM.

Over 5 million bus trips are made each weekday; with over 700 different bus routes you are never far from a bus in London.

Each bus stop has a sign listing the routes that will stop there. Bus routes are identified by numbers and sometimes letters, for example the 73 runs between Seven Sisters and Victoria. Yellow route signs indicate you must purchase your ticket before you board. This means you must either have a Pay-as-you-go Oyster card, travelcard season ticket, bus saver ticket, bus pass, or have bought a one way ticket from a machine at the bus stop. Note that these machines don't provide change (all the more reason to use one of the other options). Buses display their route number in large digits at the front, side, and rear of the bus.

The difficulty with buses over the tube is knowing when to get off; while tube stations are clearly marked it is sometimes more difficult to work out where to get off a bus. All bus stops have their location and the direction of travel marked on them, although by the time you've seen this it can be too late to get off! Bus drivers are usually too busy to be able to tell you when you've reached your destination. Your best bet is to ask fellow passengers and/or to trace your route on a map [46].

Standard bus services run from around 6am in the morning to 12:30AM. Buses are generally quicker than taking the Tube for short trips (less than a couple of stops on the Tube), and out of central London you're likely to be closer to a bus stop than a tube station. Around midnight the bus network changes to the night bus network. The night bus service is a reliable and often interesting way to get home at night. Night buses are identified by an 'N' at the start of the route number, for example the N73 runs between Walthamstow Central and Victoria. Bus routes, numbers and timetable all change with most of the buses radiating out from around the Trafalgar Square area to most outlying parts of Greater London. Fares are the same for night buses as for regular services.

Children under 14 travels free without identification, under 16 travels free on production of a Child Oyster photocard. However, unlike The Tube single tickets do not allow you to transfer to different buses.

Many of the most popular buses tend to be of the double-length articulated variety, known as bendy buses. Routes served by this type of bus always carry a yellow route sign as detailed above. Care should be taken as it is possible for those unfamiliar with this type of bus to get on board and then have no way of paying. This could be related to the relative ease of hopping on and off these without paying (at stops, doors open along the length of the bus and there is no on-board conductor). This is, however, illegal and can be very risky - large teams of inspectors frequently descend on these buses accompanied by police, and it's entirely possible to be arrested and prosecuted.

By DLR

Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is a dedicated light rail network operating in East London, connecting with the tube network at Bank and Tower Gateway. As the trains often operate without a driver, it can be quite exciting - especially for children - to sit in front and look at through the window, whilst feeling as though one is driving the train oneself. Apart from the trains looking slightly different and running slightly less frequently than the Tube, visitors may as well treat the two systems as the same.

By tram (Croydon Tramlink)

There's an electric tram network running in south London between Wimbledon, Croydon, Elmers End, New Addington and Beckenham.

By cycle

Due to the expense of other forms of transport and the compactness of central London, cycling is a tempting option. Excellent free cycle maps [47] can be obtained from your local tube stations, bike shop, or ordered online.

London motorists seem reluctant to acknowledge the existence of cyclists, especially at busy junctions. The kind of contiguous cycle lane network found in many other European cities does not exist. The safest option is to stick to minor residential roads where traffic can be surprisingly calm outside rush hours. The towpaths in North London along the Grand Union Cannal and Regent's Canal are the closest thing to a truly traffic-free cycle path in the capital. The Grand Union canal connects Paddington to Camden and the Regent's Canal connects Camden to Islington, Mile End and Limehouse in East London. It takes about 30-40min to cycle from Paddington station to Islington along the towpaths. In summer they are crowded with pedestrians and not suitable for cycling, but in winter or late in the evening they offer a very fast and safe way to travel from east to west in North London. Care should be taken as to where you choose to park your bike. Many areas, some surprisingly busy, attract cycle thieves, while chaining a bicycle to a railing which appears to be private property can occasionally lead to said bike being removed. Cycling on the sidewalk (pavement) is illegal.

Non-folding bikes can only be taken on limited sections of The Tube network, mostly only on the above-ground sections outside peak hours. For this reason, folding bicycles are becoming increasingly popular. There is a map showing this on the Transport for London website. Most National Rail operators allow bicycles outside peak hours also.

Critical Mass London [48] meets for regular rides through central London at 6PM on the last Friday of each month. Rides start from the southern end of Waterloo Bridge. The London Cycle Campaign [49] is an advocacy group for London cyclists and organizes regular group rides and events. Many improvements have been made for cyclists in the city over the last few years, even if they remain no more than gestures in most places. Noticeably, there are many new signposted cycle routes and some new cycle lanes, not to mention more cyclists since the 2005 public transport attacks. However, generally speaking, London remains a relatively hostile environment for cyclists.

In the United Kingdom helmets are not compulsory for cyclists, and opinions differ on their value. In London, many cyclists, especially those seen in rush hour, also wear filter masks, but their efficacy is even more argued over.

By taxi

London Cab

London has two types of taxis: the famous black cab, and so-called minicabs. Black cabs are the only ones licensed to 'tout for business' (ie pick people up off the street), while minicabs are more accurately described as 'private hire vehicles' and need to be pre-booked.

The famous black cab of London (not always black in these days of heavy advertising!) can be hailed from the curb or found at one of the many designated taxi ranks. It is possible to book black cabs by phone, for a fee, but if you are in central London it will usually be quicker to hail one from the street. Their yellow TAXI light will be on if they are available. Drivers must take an extensive exam in London's streets to be licensed for a black cab, meaning they can supposedly navigate you to almost any London street without reference to a map. They are a cheap transport option if there are five passengers as they do not charge extras, and many view them as an essential experience for any visitor to London. Black cabs charge by distance and by the minute, are non-smoking, and have a minimum charge of £2.20. Tipping is not mandatory in either taxis or minicabs, despite some drivers' expectations..... Use your discretion , if you like the service you may tip otherwise don't.

Taxis are required by law to take you wherever you choose (within Greater London) if their TAXI light is on when you hail them. However many, especially older drivers, dislike leaving the centre of town, or going south of the River Thames. A good way to combat being left at the side of the curb is to open the back door, or even get into the cab, before stating your destination.

Minicabs are licenced hire vehicles that you need to book by phone or at a minicab office. They generally charge a fixed fare for a journey, best agreed before you get in the car. Minicabs are usually cheaper than black cabs, although this is not necessarily the case for short journeys. Licensed minicabs display a Transport For London (TFL) License Plate - usually in the front window. One of the features of the license plate is a blue version of the famous London Underground "roundel". Note that some areas in London are poorly serviced by black cabs, particularly late at night. This has led to a large number of illegal minicabs operating - just opportunistic people, with a car, looking to make some fast money. Some of these operators can be fairly aggressive in their attempts to find customers, and it's now barely possible to walk late at night through any part of London with a modicum of nightlife without being approached. You should avoid mini-cabs touting for business off the street and either take a black cab, book a licensed minicab by telephone, or take a night bus. These illegal drivers are unlicensed and sadly they are often unsafe: a number of women are assaulted every week by illegal minicab operators.

  • Zingo, 08700 700 700, [50]. You will be connected direct with the driver of the nearest available black cab anywhere in London to arrange pickup. Booking fee £2 + normal fare.

By road

Londoners who drive will normally take public transport in the centre; follow their example. Car drivers should be aware that driving into central London on weekdays during daylight hours incurs a hefty charge, with very few exemptions (note that rental cars also attract the charge). Cameras and mobile units record and identify the number plates and registration details of all vehicles entering the charging zone with high accuracy. The Central London Congestion Charge [51] M-F 7AM-6PM (excluding public holidays) attracts a fee of £8 if paid the same day, or £10 if paid on the next charging day. Numerous payment options exist: by phone, online and by voucher. Failure to pay the charge by midnight the next charging day (take note!) incurs a hefty automatic fine of £80 (£40 if paid within 2 weeks).

Despite the Congestion Charge, London - like most major cities - continues to experience traffic snarls. These are, of course, worse on weekdays during peak commuting hours, i.e. between 7:30AM-9:30AM and 4PM-7PM At these times public transport (and especially the Tube) usually offers the best alternative for speed and reduced hassle. Driving in Central London is a slow, frustrating, expensive and often unnecessary activity. Traffic is slow and heavy, there are many sorts of automatic enforcement cameras, and it is difficult and expensive to park. A good tip is, that outside advertised restriction hours, parking on a single yellow line is permissible. Parking on a red line or a double yellow line is never permissible and heavily enforced. Find and read the parking restrictions carefully! Parking during weekdays and on Saturday can also mean considerable expense in parking fees - fees and restrictions are ignored at your extreme financial peril - issuing fines, clamping and towing vehicles (without warning!) has become a veritable new industry for borough councils staffed by armies of traffic wardens.

For the disabled driving can be much more convenient than using public transport. If disabled and a resident of a member state of the EU then two cars can be permanently registered, for free, for the congestion charge.

Motorbike is arguably the fastest way around London, but also the most dangerous. The congestion zone does not apply, and thus for anyone commuting it's usually the cheapest option (possibly excluding bus rides). Parking for motorbikes and scooters is free at many of the reserved areas.

By boat

A slower, pleasant way to travel through the city; privately owned, but discounts are offered on some lines to Travelcard holders. The London Waterbus Company runs scheduled services (more in summer, less in winter) from Little Venice to Camden Lock with a stop at the London Zoo. The 45 minute trip along Regent's Canal is a delightful way to travel.

By skate

Inline skating on roads and sidewalks (pavements) is completely legal, except in the City of London (a district). Roads are not the greatest but easily skatable. In the center drivers are more used to skaters than in the outskirts.

See

London with children
London can be stressful with kids - check London with children for slightly less stressful sightseeing


London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles.

London hosts an outstanding collection of world-class museums. Even better, it is the only one of the traditional "alpha world cities" (London, 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 Tate Modern, Tate Britain, British Museum, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and most museums in Greenwich. Donations are welcome. Note that admission to many temporary exhibitions is not free. The 'green lungs' of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city including St James Park and Hyde 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.

Buckingham Palace.
St.Paul's Cathedral
  • Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament) in St James's. The seat of the British parliament and World Heritage site, as well as setting for royal coronations since 1066, most recently that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
  • Buckingham Palace [53] - the official London residence of the Queen, one of several royal palaces in London. Open for tours during the summer months only, but a must-see sight even if you don't go in.
  • 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 'center', and has recently been pedestrianized.
  • The London Eye is the world's third largest observation wheel, situated on the South Bank of the Thames with magnificent views over London.
  • 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.
  • The 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, is guarded by Beefeaters, and is a World Heritage site.
  • St Paul's Cathedral, 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."

Do

London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles.

  • Open top bus tour. Every day. These offer a good, albeit somewhat expensive, introduction to the sights of London. Two principal operators tend to dominate the market for this kind of tour: (The Original Tour and The Big Bus Company). Both provide hop-on/hop-off services where you can get off at any attraction and catch the next bus; both provide live commentaries in English and recorded commentaries in other languages (not necessarily on the same buses).
  • London Ducktours, [54]. Every day. If you are in the mood for a view of London by boat. Your tour bus is actually a D-Day landing water/land vehicle that has been refurbished complete with tour guide.
  • Theatre. See a musical, play or comedy in the West End. For Broadway-like musicals the Leicester Square area is highly recommended. In the center of the square there is an official half-price TKTS booth. For listings buy the weekly magazine Time Out [55].
  • Watch football, [56]. Take in a home match of one of the city's 20+ professional football clubs for a true experience of a lifetime as you see the passion of the "World's Game" in its mother country. The biggest clubs clubs include Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers, Fulham, Brentford (West London); Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur (North London); West Ham United, Leyton Orient (East London); Charlton Athletic, Millwall and Crystal Palace (South London).
  • London Open House Weekend, [57]. Explore many of the city's most interesting buildings during the London Open House Weekend every. During this 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 - book early for the popular ones!
  • London Walks, +44 (0)20 7624 3978, [58]. Excellent guided walks on a variety of themes. But buyer beware, there are a lot of impostor walking guides masquerading under the same name—make certain that you are getting the real deal!. 2-3 hours £6.
  • New London Tours (by foot), [59]. Old City of London Free Tour and Royal London Free Tour. Free.

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. Alternatively make sure you are equipped with an integrated map of London buses and tubes [60] so that you can make the most of your Oyster card by getting less unpleasantly lost and more pleasantly lost!

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, Docklands and Trafalgar Square.

  • Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road (tube: South Kensington), [61].

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 centers around Hyde Park (on the Serpentine Road) and Kensington Gardens (by the Albert Memorial). See the district articles for Mayfair and South West London.

Learn

Buy

Harrods

One of the world's great metropolises, anything and everything you could possibly want to buy is available in London, if you know where to look, and if you can afford it (London is not particularly noted for bargain shopping, owing to high prices and high exchange rates - though it can be done with some determination). In Central London, the main shopping district is the West End (Bond Street, Covent Garden, Oxford Street and Regent Street). Visit Fortnum & Mason [62], "the Queen's grocery store." On Thursday many West End stores close late (7PM-8PM).

  • Oxford Street - main shopping street home to flagship branches of all the major British high street retailers in one go including Selfridges [63], John Lewis [64] (includes a food hall), Marks & Spencer [65] and other department stores.
  • 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.
  • Covent Garden [66] - historic market. 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 Street. Also the London Transport Museum whose gift shop has some of the best souvenirs in the city (old maps, vintage Tube posters, etc).
  • Charing Cross Road (near Covent Garden) - books, books and more books! New, second-hand, antiquarian and specialist.
  • Soho - alternative music and clothes.
  • Camden Town in North London - alternative clothing and other alternative shopping, popular with teenagers and young adults. Also Camden Lock market.
  • Chelsea in West London - the King's Road is noted for fashion, homeware and kids. On Wednesday many stores close late.
  • Knightsbridge in West London - department stores include the world famous Harrods [67] (includes a food hall) and Harvey Nichols. On Wednesday many stores close late.

Markets. Borough (tube: London Bridge) [68] is a great (if expensive) food market, offering fruit, veg, cheese, bread, meat, fish, and so on, much of it organic. It's open Th-Sa, and it's best to go in the morning, since it gets unpleasantly crowded by around 11am. Spitalfields [69] is an excellent market for clothes from up-and-coming designers, records, housewares, food, and all things trendy. Also Brick Lane, Greenwich and Portobello.

Airports. Tax-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.

Eat

This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Below £10
Mid-range £10-40
Splurge £40+


Smoking Ban
Remember - smoking is banned in all UK pubs and restaurants.


It is a huge task for a visitor to find the 'right place' to eat in London - with the 'right atmosphere', at the 'right price' - largely because, as in any big city, there are literally thousands of venues from which to choose. Unfortunately, London is one of the world's most expensive cities to eat in. However, there are plenty of good-value, even cheap places to eat - you just have to know where to look. Following is a (very!) rough guide to what you might get, should you fancy eating out:

  • £3 - a good English pub or cafeteria breakfast with a rack of bacon, beans in tomato sauce, egg, sausage, orange juice and coffee or tea. Most pubs stop this offer at 11am.
  • £5 - a couple of sandwiches and a soft drink, some takeaway fish and chips, or a fast food meal. There are also a number of mostly Chinese restaurants which serve an all you can eat buffet for around this price. These are dotted about the West End and it is well worth asking a member of public or a shopkeeper where the nearest one is. These restaurants make much of their revenue on drinks although these are usually still moderately priced. The food whilst not being of the finest standard is usually very tasty and the range of dishes available is excellent.
  • £10 - £6-7: a good pub meal and drink or a good Chinese/Indian/Italian/Thai/Vietnamese buffet. Be aware that many pubs have a buy-one-get-one-free offer, and you can either order two main dishes for yourself or bring a friend. £10: some more expensive French, mediterranean and international restaurants do cheaper two or three course lunch menus.
  • £20 - a lot more choice. You can have a good meal, half a bottle of wine and change for the tube home. There are plenty of modest restaurants that cater for this bracket.
  • £50+ - with more money to spend you can pick some of the city's finer restaurants. It may be a famous chef (like Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay) or simply a place that prides itself on using the finest ingredients. But if you are trying to impress a special someone it'll be worth it. There is no maximum limit on what you can spend as some restaurants seem intent on pushing this higher and higher.

Prices inevitably become inflated at venues closest to major tourist attractions - beware the so-called tourist traps. The worst tourist trap food is, in the opinion of many Londoners, that served at the various steak houses. Real Londoners wouldn't dream of eating here - you shouldn't either! Notorious areas for inflated menu prices trading on travellers' gullibility and lack of knowledge are the streets around the British Museum, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.

In the suburbs, the cost of eating out is reduced drastically. Particularly in large ethnic communities, there is a competitive market which stands to benefit the consumer. In East London for example, the vast number of KFC-style chicken shops means that a deal for 2 pieces of chicken, chips (fries) and a drink shouldn't cost you more than £2, and will satisfy even the largest of appetites. Another good (and cheap) lunch option is a chicken or lamb doner (gyro) at many outlets throughout the city.

Tipping may also be different than what you're used to. All meals include the 17.5% VAT tax and some places include a service fee (10-12%). The general rule is to leave a tip for table service, unless there's already a service charge added or unless the service has been notably poor. The amount tipped is generally in the region of 10%, but if there's a figure between 10 and 15% which would leave the bill at a conveniently round total, many would consider it polite to tip this amount. Tipping for counter service, or any other form of service, is unusual - but some choose to do so if a tips container is provided.

Restaurants

As one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, you can find restaurants serving food cuisine from nearly every country, some of it as good as, if not better than the countries of origin. If you are looking for particular nationalities these tend to be clustered in certain areas: Brick Lane in East London is famous for curries but for better quality Tooting in South West London has a good reputation and is cheaper. Brixton for African/Caribbean, Chinatown in Soho for Chinese, Edgware Road in Marylebone for Middle Eastern and Drummond Street (just behind Euston railway station) for a selection of good value Indian vegetarian. Golders Green for Jewish and Kingsland Road for good cheap Vietnamese. Other nationalities are equally represented, but are randomly dotted all over London. It is usally wisest to eat in restaurants on main thoroughfares, rather than on quiet backstreets.

Chains

Like other capitals in the world, London has the usual array of fast food outlets. Sandwich shops are London's most popular places to buy lunch, and there are a lot of places to choose from. Some Italian sandwich shops have a very good reputation and you can identify them easily by looking at the long queues at lunchtime. If all else fails, Central London has lots of mini-supermarkets operated by the big British supermarket chains (e.g. Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's, Tesco) where you can pick up a pre-packed sandwich.

  • Busaba Eathai. Provides a similar experience and quality of food to Wagamama at several locations around London and focuses on Thai cuisine..
  • Eat. Ready-made sandwiches made with quality ingredients.
  • Pret a Manger. Ready-made sandwiches made with quality ingredients.
  • Wagamama, [70]. M-Sa noon-11PM, Su noon-10PM. Japanese noodle bar; generally good quality freshly cooked food at a reasonable price, in a well-designed canteen style restaurant. Diners are seated on benches opposite each other, so not a good place for an intimate meal. Two dozen restaurants around Central London. Main course £5-8.

Vegetarian

London has plenty of vegetarian-only restaurants, and a quick search in Google will produce plenty of ideas, so you never have to see a piece of cooked meat all week. If you are dining with carnivorous friends, then most restaurants will cater for vegetarians, and will have at least a couple of dishes on the menu. Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants are generally more fruitful, as they have plenty of traditional dishes that only use vegetables. There are also many vegetarian Thai buffet places where you can eat somewhat unconvincing (but tasty) meat substitute grub for £5. These can be found on Greek Street, Old Compton Street and Islington High Street.

  • Food For Thought, Neal Street, Covent Garden. Tasty range of choices for vegetarians and vegans.
  • Red Veg, Dean Street, Soho (opposite Tesco). For those of you looking for veggie fast food, some great stuff.

Religious

Due to the mix of cultures and religions, many London restaurants cater well for religious dietary requirements. The most common signs are for Halal and Kosher meat, from burger joints to nice restaurants. There are plenty of Kosher restaurants in London, mainly in Golders Green and Edgware.

Drink

Young and Beautiful
For more details on London's nightlife with attention on the alternative, try Indie London.


London is home to a great many pubs, bars and nightclubs. The weekly magazine Time Out [71] can inform you of what's going in London's night life, as well as with cultural events in general.

Pubs & bars

London is an expensive place and your drink is likely to cost more than its equivalent elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Expect to pay close on £3 for a pint of beer in an average pub. However many local pubs, especially those run by chains like Wetherspoons and Scream tend to be more reasonably priced, the latter catering for a student audience. In the Bloomsbury area, check out The Court (near the North end of Tottenham Court Road) and The Rocket (Euston Road); both are fairly cheap to drink in, given that they cater for students of the adjacent University College London. Directly opposite the British Library is The Euston Flyer, popular with locals and commuters alike given its close proximity to St Pancras International railway station. Classier bars and pubs can be much more expensive. However, the cost of alcohol drops significantly the further away you go from the centre (though be aware that West London tends to be an exception, with prices pretty much the same as the centre).

  • The Devonshire Arms, (Camden). A little more rock and metal oriented but be prepared to look the part.
  • The Foundry, (off Old Street). Closed M. One of the most interesting pubs in London. It's got a unique atmosphere, and serves excellent organic ales and stouts from Pitfield's, a local brewery. Make sure to go downstairs to the bathrooms, as there is usually an art exhibit in the halls.
  • The Intrepid Fox, (West End). A little more rock and metal oriented but be prepared to look the part.
  • JD Wetherspoon chain. The Knights Templar, Chancery Lane. Cheap-moderate.
  • Light Bar, St Martins Lane, [72]. Expensive.
  • The Midas Touch, Beak Street (tube: Piccadilly Circus). Popular pub with locals and usually has some good happy hour deals. Cheap-Moderate.
  • Sam Smith's. The various pubs are very well priced, central and as traditional as you could want. Chandos, St Martin's Lane; The Cittie of Yorke, Holborn; The Crown, New Oxford Street; Princess Louise, High Holborn; Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street.
  • Sanderson London, [73]. Long Bar and Purple Bar Expensive.

Nightclubs

Nightlife seems to be an integral feature of London life and there are countless nightclubs in and around Central London with music to suit even the most eclectic of tastes. Districts in London tend to specialize to different types of music.

The Farringdon/Hoxton/Shoreditch area mainly consists of clubs playing drum and bass, house and trance music and is home to two superclubs, Fabric (arguably the best nightclub in London) and Turnmills. The clubs in this area are often home to the world's top DJ's and attracts a lively crowd.

The area around the West End (Leicester Square, Mayfair, Piccadilly) is home to the more upmarket and exclusive clubs in London. This area attracts a rather pretentious crowd who love to flaunt what they have and is a must go to celebrity spot. Beware that drinks are ridiculously expensive and many clubs operate a guestlist only policy. Music played here is often of the chart funky house, hip hop and R&B genre. Notable clubs include Cafe De Paris, China White, Funky Buddha, Mahiki, Number One Leicester Square and Paper.

The Camden area in North London is made of clubs which play Indie, metal and rock music. Notable clubs include Electric Ballroom, the world famous Koko, and Underworld.

Gay and lesbian

London has a vibrant gay scene with countless bars, clubs and events. The nucleus of London's gay scene is undoubtedly the western half of Old Compton Street in Soho and the surrounding area, but over the last couple of years Vauxhall has seen a boom. You will probably find that most places, particularly Camden and Shoreditch, straight bars will have a mixed clientele. To find out what is going on during your visit, Boyz Magazine [74] is published fortnightly and is freely available at most London gay venues, and contains listings of everything that is happening in all the major clubs in London and the South East. Gay Pride [75] is held every year in June with parade and street parties. The choice of places to go sometimes seem to be unmanageable.

  • Admiral Duncan, Old Compton Street, Soho. Gay institution.
  • Barcode, Soho. Bar and dance club, opened a second venue in Vauxhall.
  • Candy Bar, Carlisle Street, Soho. Lesbian bar.
  • Central Station, (King's Cross). Bar and fetish club - seedier than most central venues.
  • Comptons, Old Compton Street, Soho. Gay institution.
  • G-A-Y, Old Compton Street, Soho. Dance party, popular with a very young crowd.
  • Ghetto. Different music every night of the week. Cheap.
  • Heaven. The Worlds Most Famous Gay Nightclub - A must visit while in London
  • The Hoist. Men only leather bar.
  • Kudos, (off Trafalgar Square). Bar popular with Asian guys and their admirers.
  • The Royal Vauxhall Tavern. A landmark. Features the Dame Edna Experience on Su.
  • Rupert Street, Soho (corner of Rupert Street and Winnett Street). A great bar, popular with businessmen.

Sleep

London has hundreds of options for accommodation from hostels through historic bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) and apartments to five star hotels. Your budget will have a lot to do with what part of London you will want to stay in. Prices range from £20-200 per person per night. Expect smaller than average rooms especially at the low end of this range. The extra cost of getting around is probably not significant compared to hotel savings further out. With the excellent Tube available where you stay won't limit what you see but be sure to check where the closest tube station is to your hotel. Staying further out will be cheaper but when travelling in allow 1-2min per tube stop (near the center), around 2-3min per stop (further out) and 5min per line change. This can easily total up to a 1 hour journey if there is a walk at each end.

  • Bloomsbury - relatively quiet district with a wide range of accommodation. Cartwright Gardens features a dozen small B&Bs in historic houses. Many budget options are located on Argyle Street. Gets a little seedy towards and beyond King's Cross railway station.
  • Paddington in West central London - has undergone a lot of change recently largely resulting from the Heathrow Express train coming into Paddington station. Good hotels can be found in the immediate area of the station and in quieter spots a short walk away.
  • St James's - lots of small B&Bs around the back of Victoria railway station, in the Pimlico area.

Hostels are not necessarily as unpleasant as you may think, and as long as you don't mind sharing with others, they can be the most cost effective option, and also offer breakfast as well as kitchens for self catering. The Youth Hostel Association of England and Wales [76] (YHA) operates four hostels in Central London. As of 2006, the YHA's prices were £24.80 for Bed and Breakfast per night for Hostelling International members, a £1 supplement per person per night for non-members. Like everything else, you should book online well in advance - the hostels usually fill up on Friday and Saturday nights about 14 days before. A top tip is don't be put off if there are no beds left online, phone the hostel in question to see if there are still beds available or if there has been a cancellation. Some of the YHA's properties also offer a limited number of private family rooms - expect to pay £61 per night.

  • Holland Park, (tube: High Street Kensington). Spectactular location in one of London's most prestigious areas.
  • Oxford Street. Located in the middle of the shopping district.
  • St Pancras International, 79-81 Euston Road (tube: Kings Cross St Pancras), +44 (0)870 7706044 (), [77]. The largest and newest of the four, minutes walk from St Pancras International railway station. Dormitory from £21 including breakfast.
  • St Paul's, 36 Carter Lane (tube: St Paul's), 08707 705764 (), [78]. Small hostel converted from one of the City's oldest buildings. Cheap for Central London accommodation, range of room sizes, basic facilities. Dorm from £18.95 including breakfast. 6 rooms for 2 people and 3 singles..

There are a number of other hostels all through the city.

  • London Backpackers, (tube: Hendon Central), +44 (0)20 82031319 (, fax: +44 (0)20 82039339), [79]. checkin: 1PM; checkout: 10AM. Virtually next to Hendon Central tube station and about 20min from central London. £10.
  • St Christopher's Inns, (tube: London Bridge, Camden, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith, Greenwich), +44 (0)20 86007500 (, fax: +44 (0)20 74037715), [80]. checkin: 2PM; checkout: 11AM. St Christopher's Inns run 7 independent hostels in London Bridge, Camden, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith and Greenwich. £9.50 with very basic breakfast.

In the summer season, many of the colleges and universities in Central London open up their student Halls of Residence as hotels during vacations, at usually much lower rates than proper hotels, but expect very basic facilities and no catering.

  • London School of Economics (during vacations), [81]. Single from £32, twin from £50, triple from £64.
  • University College London (during vacations), Bloomsbury and King's Cross, [82].

Capsule-style crash spaces are just arriving, but currently these are only in central locations (does anyone know of cheaper capsule-style crash space further out).

In an emergency phone Shelter on 0808 800 4444 (8AM-midnight) (Shelter is a British housing and homelessness charity).

Contact

Wi-Fi access

Unlike some other cities, London is unfortunately not noted for free public wifi access - as yet. That said, a number of projects are in place or in development. See [83] for a map containing free wifi locations.

  • Online-4-Free.com, [84]. One of the most promising (it seems) for traveller-frequented areas, a service that provides blanket coverage along the banks of the River Thames (and some surrounding streets) from Millbank down to Greenwich Pier, and a small 'cloud' in Holborn - the free service only asks that you view a short advertisement every half hour in order to get 256 kbps (higher rates and ad-free come at a small charge). Free.
  • Tate Modern, [85]. Offering for a trial period free wi-fi internet access. Free.

Stay safe

Like many big cities, London has a variety of social problems, especially begging, drug abuse, theft (mobile phones are a favourite), etc. London, however, manages to make do with a police force that doesn't need to carry guns, and is generally a safe place for the tourist to visit and walk around. In an emergency, telephone "999" (or "112"). Don't take illegal minicabs (see 'Getting Around' for details). If you're planning to go out late at night and are worried about safety, frequent crowded areas such as the West End. There are always plenty of people on the street, even at 4am. Generally, outside central London, South and East suburban areas are considered more dangerous, notably Brixton and Hackney, although some parts of North-West London such as Harlesden and Northern Camden are also known trouble spots. The main problem which is present right throughout London to various degrees is drunken behaviour, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights and after soccer matches. Loud and rowdy behaviour is to be expected and fights and acts of aggression do occur. If harrassed, it is best to simply ignore and walk away from those concerned. Trouble spots can be expected around popular drinking locations such as Soho and in various suburban centres.

Even busy nighttime Soho presents a particular danger; the "clip joint". The usual targets of these establishments are male tourists. Usually, an attractive woman will casually befriend the victim and recommend a local bar. The establishment will be near-desolate, and even if the victim has only a drink or two, the bill will run to hundreds of pounds. If payment is not immediately provided, the bouncers will lock the "patrons" inside and take it by force. If it appears you are being lured into a "clip joint", the easiest way out is to recommend a different bar to the new "friend" trying to get you into her "favorite local place" - and if she staunchly refuses, be very suspicious.

Use common sense, at night in particular, but be alert at all times: Don't let anyone near your phone, wallet or valuables; don't give change to strangers; avoid unfamiliar areas at night. It's always a good idea to appear confident and take steps not to mark yourself out as a tourist - some unscrupulous locals will equate "tourist" with "mug". Don't carry your wallet in your back pocket - while London's legendary pickpockets may not be as numerous as in days gone by, they are still equally skilled. The Metropolitan Police have placed significant resources in combating street level crime. Working in conjunction with borough councils they have been able to significantly cut and bring the level of theft and pickpocketing in major retail areas in London. Whilst gun crime, by United States standards is extremely low, deaths from gunshot wounds are increasing, however these usually occur within gang disputes particularly in South and East London. Knife crime is however much higher and as such, conflicts should be avoided as tragic deaths caused as a result of seemingly petty incidents do occur from concealed weapons.

Street gang culture is a growing problem in London as with many other cities in England. Distinctive dress codes can be noticed which include excessive amounts of sports and/or hip-hop clothing, loose fitting baseball caps and most notoriously, hooded tops which are usually worn with the hood up all throughout the day and night and during hot and cold weather. If you notice crowds of youths dressed in this distingtive style, avoid eye contact and appear not to have noticed them if possible; eye contact can be percieved by them as intimidation. Be particularly cautious if one or more attempt to speak to you, They may or may not be considering 'jacking' (stealing from) you. Speak calmly and confidently and be alert to their intention. If they ask for you the time, do NOT bring out your mobile phone or display a valuable watch, just say you dont know. If they ask for a cigarette lighter then it is ok to let them use it and they probably will not hassle you, if you are smoking when this happens then it is advisable to do so otherwise they might percieve that you are disrespecting them. If they ask you for a spare cigerette whilst you are smoking, calmly and politely inform them that it was your last one. Do not escalate situations as such individuals are often extremely violent and can suddenly demonstrate extreme aggression and often carry concealed knives and even guns. You are unlikely to encounter such problems within predominantly touristic central London, but various outer suburbs require greater vigilance. Avoid large areas of social housing estates unless you know people there, they can be very dangerous places. London is also home to some notorious organised gangs, but they wont pose any danger unless you are involved in that scene.

Transport is generally safe, although care should be taken on suburban tubes/trains at night; don't fall asleep and take notice of people sitting around you, be cautious if a large group of hooded youths board the bus. Travelling on lower deck of a night bus is generally safer, as there are more passengers around, and you are visible by the bus driver. If you have been the victim of crime on the railways or the London Underground, you should report the crime as soon as possible to the British Transport Police, who have an office in most major train and tube stations. Elsewhere, you should report your crime as normal to the Metropolitan Police. Major train stations, particularly Kings Cross and Waterloo have problems you would normally associate with large stations. Some thieves hang around waiting for the Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted express trains so they can target disorientated tourists.

It can be a good idea to keep your credit card receipts in a safe place rather than throwing them away; and to be generally wary of "skimming" devices that may be attached to ATMs in an attempt to steal card details. Some of these are very sophisticated, so if in any doubt do not use that ATM. Ones inside shops or banks are safer. Be sure, when using ATM that there are no objects in the card slot nor any micro cameras above the keypad. If you suspect an ATM has been tampered with, do not try to remove the skimming device (you may get attacked by the criminals responsible) instead you should inform the bank staff indoors or call the police.

London is a fairly safe city for its size, and most visits should be trouble-free. The police are generally very helpful when problems do occur.

Get out

  • Bath - rich in Georgian architecture and makes an easy day trip
  • Brighton - beach resort sometimes known as "London-on-Sea", about 55 miles away (less than an hour by train from Victoria Station)
  • Canterbury - site of the foremost cathedral in England, constructed during the 12th-15th centuries
  • Oxford and Cambridge - the university cities make for ideal days out of London
  • Portsmouth - home of the British Navy and of real interest to nautical enthusiasts
  • Southend-on-Sea - seaside town in Essex, and a short train ride away from Liverpool Street or Fenchurch Street
  • Winchester - former capital of England and attractive cathedral city with lots to see, about an hour away by train from Waterloo
  • Windsor - nearby Thames-side town with magnificent castle and royal residence








This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!



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