The Ultimate First-Timer’s Guide to London
London is a treasure trove of history and royalty. From princely edifices to clandestine spots, the city has a lot to offer. Taking into account the rich history that encircles the city, you simply cannot afford to miss out a nook and cranny of the city. The city with its innumerable museums, parks, theatres and restaurants can be quite a quagmire – much like a complex assignment maker.
Moreover, since Tube (a London quintessential!) is the only inexpensive way to tour around the city, without a proper itinerary you may feel lost and end up wasting a lot of time doing nothing in London. But that isn’t bad too! When in London, choosing a corner chair in a café and reading a book while sipping on some classic English tea can be an enriching experience in itself.
If you love theatres and monuments – then it is better that you take to the streets of London and explore the city’s history. But where should you start from? When you are visiting for the first time, you may feel baffled as to how to cover the best in London.
Here is everything that you need to know about your trip to the energy capital of Europe.
The perfect time to visit London
The biggest problem with any city in Britain is the daylight hours. Although London can be a beautiful city at any point in a year (especially Christmas); I would personally recommend you to visit the city in the summer and autumn months. Depending on the time of your tour, you must pack the trip essentials. Now, the summers in Britain are not really like tropical summers. So, you might want to be on the safe side by carrying a trench coat and a light scarf to fight the breeze. You might want to carry an umbrella and a pair of sunglasses to save yourself from the blinding sunshine.
Since autumn’s come with light rainfall, do not forget to carry a pair of boots and some light sweaters. If you are hell bent on visiting the city when it is decked up for Yuletide, you may have to pack a lot. Smart packing can help you save on extra luggage charges. A wool coat, some lofty knitted sweaters and knee-high boots can help you get through the frosty streets. Also, hat and gloves would help you avert the frostbites.
Now, let us come to the next question – Where to stay?
Places to lodge in
Staying in London can become very expensive if you do not choose the hotel wisely. Now, if you are ready to go generous on the Euros, then you could put up in the posh and luxurious hotel – The Goring. The hotel is ‘almost’ regal because of its stone’s throw distance from the Buckingham Palace. Needless to say, the entire hotel is very Instagram-worthy and dreamy to fetch you followers by thousands. You can also opt for the Grosvenor House Suites in Mayfair overlooking Hyde Park.
If you are not in the mood to spend a fortune on the accommodation, then I would suggest you go the Airbnb way and choose home-stay over an extravagant hotel stay. You can match your location according to your taste and find the perfect neighborhood to spend the week. If you are a bibliophile, then I would suggest the literary Bloomsbury. If you want to have a taste of the crème de la crème, then you could stay in the upscale South Kensington.
Places to visit in London
London is a touristy haven. There are so many museums and halls that you might not be able to cover them all. Start with the ones that define London- the Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and the Big Ben. If you are an early bird, then you could catch the change of guards and the crown jewels in the Tower of London.
If you are interested in the history of London, then set off for Westminster Abbey to visit Churchill’s statue, the Cabinet War Rooms and the St Paul’s Cathedral that dominates the historic church scene of the city. For art and theatre, visit the Tate Modern and the British Museum. However, if you want the real deal, then I would suggest a visit to the Natural History Museum.
Walking across the Queen’s Walk, you will come across the Shakespeare Globe theatre. If you are lucky, you might even catch a staging of your favorite play. To get a bird’s eye view of the city, taking a ride on the London’s Eye, an iconic landmark, is a must! Walking through Leicester Square and reaching Piccadilly Circus, you could take a walk in the Hyde Park or visit the secret galleries for mementos.
There are several theme parks to feed the child in you! If you are a potter-head, then head to the Harry Potter Studio for a tour through the turrets of Hogwarts. Forget being a muggle-born for a day!
London is also about walks amid nature – through lanes with foliage lining the sides. If you are a nature-lover, then make sure you visit the Pergola Garden in Hampstead. Do not miss the chance to have a proper English picnic with wicker-work baskets full of pies, sandwiches and crumpets.
How to get around the city?
The best way to explore the city is on foot. So, be prepared to walk a lot. Chuck your heels and loafers and pack your walking shoes to conquer the miles on foot. The easiest and fastest choice would be to take the Tube. The underground rail can get you in every corner of the city within minutes. The service starts at 5 in the morning and continues well after midnight till 2 a.m.
Above the ground, you have the over-ground rail and the trams to make your way through the city. To access the east and south east of central London, you can take the Docklands Light Railway or what is colloquially known as the DLR in London.
Apart from the rail tracks, you can also opt for the iconic double-decker buses. With a fixed fare of £1.50, the open-air travel is once-in-a-lifetime experience. You could book cabs online from minicabit.com but the taxi fares could be heavy on the pockets. If you are up for it, then you can rent bicycles and cycle around the city. The rates are generally £2 for every 30 minutes.
Where are the best eateries in London?
London is a foodie’s paradise where you can empty off a chunk on your British must-have meals. London fares as a world leader when it comes to cuisine. When in London, make sure you tuck in for a proper English breakfast at places like Regency Café. If you want sumptuous meals, visit the Borough Market and dig in the classic fish and chip. You can visit the quaint museum cafes as well. Try their afternoon teas from the hidden gems in the city. The tea cafes will be great for your Instagram feed.
London has a bustling nightlife with several pubs that offer great beers. Head to a traditional pub like the Holly Bush in Hampstead and enjoy the barmy mug of goodness sitting in wooden booths with a fireplace. The bar scene in London is a boisterous slice of the society where you can enjoy champagne at the bars.
London is more than the din and bustle. If you want to breathe the countryside air, you can even head out of town and take a day trip to spend a quiet weekend in the countryside. Before you head back and bid farewell to London, do satiate the shopaholic in you and visit Oxford Street and Regent Street for some high-end boutiques. For your dear ones back home, you can visit the Buckingham Palace Shop and Fortnum & Mason for cute mementos. You can also grab books from Daunt’s for your bibliophile friends.
Have a memorable trip in London. I am sure London will treat you right. Bon Voyage!