City travel guide: Looking around in London

London would be one of the cities short-listed for the title of ‘world capital’: diverse, exciting and cutting-edge, while also being old-fashioned and traditional. This guide to London will give an idea of what to put on your travel list if you are planning a city break in London.

London is a sprawling metropolis known for swallowing newcomers and making (some of) them hate it. Be ready to look past the dirt and the (apparently) dodgy underground system, though, and there is a wealth of amazing things to see and do in London.  

Top five things to do in London

The British Museum

Home to all the amazing stuff that the British managed to accrue during their globe-ruling days, the museum houses one of the greatest collections of Egyptian exhibits and the marble friezes from the Parthenon in Greece. See also the key to understanding hieroglyphs: The Rosetta Stone.
Catch a club

The city is known for and proud of its club scene. It can cater to any taste, from indie to drum n’ bass, with plenty to choose from. There are some legendary clubs that you should try to visit, but get into the smaller, grungier ones tucked away under a railway arch and see what London is really all about. Ask some people who look like they are into what you’re into for advice. Londoners are actually a lot friendlier than their reputation would have you believe.
There is a wealth of amazing things to see and do in LondonTower of London

It’s one of the best days out in London. Be shown round the thousand-year-old fort by a Beefeater and learn about the long, rich and sometimes perverse history of the British Monarchy. See the Crown Jewels and the carvings left on cell walls by imprisoned members of the Royal Family.

Explore Victoria and surrounding areas

The area immediately surrounding Buckingham Palace has many of the tourist sites you may want to visit. Located within a mile or so are: Trafalgar Square, National Portrait Gallery, Covent Garden and more. Lunch in St James’ Park makes a nice break in the middle of the day. If you are on a budget trip, take your own; eateries, like everything else in London, are expensive.

Tate Modern

The huge turbine hall is used for installation art, and depending on what is there, it can really take your breath away. After entering that massive space the galleries may feel cramped but there is much to be seen. Even if you are not an art lover there will be things in the Tate to interest you.

Where to stay in London

Everywhere in London is expensive, and to keep the cost down you would do well to stay out of the very centre when looking for accommodation. Try Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith to the west, only 15 minutes to the city centre on the tube. If you need or want to stay right in town, then the Victoria area is your best bet: it’s bang in the middle of where you want to be with excellent transport links. Everywhere in central London is loud, so it’s impossible to tell you of somewhere quiet to stay, except outside of it.

Where to eat and drink in London

Food of all types is available all over London. Try Brick Lane in the East End for flavours of the Indian sub-continent. Borough Market by London Bridge sells meats, cheeses and the best fruit and veg. The ‘alternative’ crowd can be found supping their Coronas in Brick Lane, Old Street or Notting Hill, and for a more mainstream night you should head to the Leicester Square area.

How to get around London

One word for you: Travelcard. If you’re only in town for a few days, buy a one-day Travelcard. If it’s more than a week, try getting a pass for the time you’re here. You will mainly use them on the roundly slagged-off but extremely helpful Tube, or underground system. They also cover you on trains and buses, operating on a zone system. Water boats operate on the Thames and though not covered by the Travelcard are worth a look on a sunny day.

The best time to visit London

Summer, just make sure it’s summer. Winter is miserable and summer sometimes isn’t much better. The city comes alive during the summer with Notting Hill Carnival in August and an endless array of gigs and events – some are even free. It’s impossible to list what goes on in a city like London as there are no real major events – or rather there is an endless stream of major events. As Samuel Pepys, the famous London Diarist said: "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." Whatever you want to see, London will, at some point in the summer, be able to offer it.

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