Maybe I'm biased, but I really don't think that you need to do a guided tour in London except if you are on a really tight itinerary. There is lots of tourist information available - sometimes too much, which can be confusing - but once you've got your A-Z (streetfinder) and have got the hang of the public transport system, you'll find it far more rewarding and cost effective to do it yourself. If you doubt that you have the confidence to put together an itinerary, then why not find some itineraries offered by tour operators whose focus appeals to you and then duplicate this yourself at a fraction of the cost?
For those who are not used to planning itineraries for large cities for themselves, I would suggest that the key is to be realistic in what you're trying to see. There is no better way to spoil a trip than to micromanage every last minute and get so obsessed to keeping up with your unrealistic itinerary that you don't have time to enjoy what you are seeing. Much of the attraction of historic cities such as London is to appreciate the sense of place/history/antiquity, and this is something that requires both time and peace of mind.
Unless you're planning to stay in London a month or more, you might as well accept that you won't see it properly in one visit, and anyway, even if you did, by the end of that time, you'd probably have long since got past the point of sensory overload.
Another good tip is to try and aim for diversity in your schedule. Although similar types of attractions tend to be grouped in certain geographical areas (for example, museums in South Kensington, Wren churches in the City, shopping along Oxford Street), after a few hours on a particular theme, you'll be all 'museumed/churched/shopped out' and will need a mental break. A change is as good as a rest, so I would advise you to intersperse museum visits with a stroll in the park, shopping with a theatre performance and so forth.
Just be aware that even Central London is a large and diverse area, so it's best to plan your trip so that you can tackle bite-sized chunks - for example, Kensington one day, Westminster/Whitehall the next. This approach is not only good for your health because you get to exercise - particularly important if you're doing longhaul flights - but also allows to you explore on foot (always the best way to get to know a city).
If you'd like some ideas to kickstart your planning, follow this link to some suggested itineraries that you can mix and match according to your available time, budget and interests.
Who would have thought in far Soviet times that London would be only the tenth European capital that I visited in nine years after I got an opportunity to travel abroad?
If anybody would ask me such a question then I answered that I wanted to see London as the first European capital, Paris – the second one and Berlin – the third one.
I was a fan of England from my childhood and a fan of "Beatles" from my youth. Until 1992 it was almost impossible to think I would ever find myself in London. But my first trip to Europe was in 1995 and I chose Paris instead of London.
In reality I managed to see London only in May of 2004 after visiting Sophia, Warsaw, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Budapest, Rome, Vienna and Brussels.
Unfortunately never since then... Hope come back and have got acquainted closer.
Our third and fourth walks – 5+8 Km=13 km:
Abington Street-Houses of Parlament-Palace of Westminster-Jewel Tower-Westminster Abbey-Parliament Street-Whitehall-Government Offices-Downing Street-Trafalgar Square
Royal Sussex Hotel-Sussex Gardens-Norfolk Crescent-Seymur- Portman – Mayfair-St James Street-St James Palace-Marlborough Road-The Mall-Admiralty Arch-Trafalgar Square - Nelson’s Column- and back home.
In total 37 km on foot.
You can watch my 3 min 48 sec Video London walk part 2 out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
There are lots and lots of movies set in London and England, some of my favorites include
Layer Cake the best Guy Ritchie movies that he didn't make, it stars Daniel Craig as a man trying to get out of the drug business, just one more score....
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels speaking of Guy Ritchie movies...Rock N Rolla was good too
Love Actually a movie set at Christmas time in London with a huge cast and intertwined stories
Shakespeare in Love
Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett
Four Weddings and a Funeral starring Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell
There have been some great BBC miniseries that I've watched recently including
Downton Abbey, currently heading into it's 4th season, Maggie Smith is a delight and the show highlights the servants downstairs equally as much as the family upstairs
Call the Midwife set in the east end of London during the 1950s, the series follows the midwife Jenny Lee as she adapts to the different lifestyle of the people living in poverty
Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch as a 21st century version of Sherlock Holmes
Little Dorrit based on the novel by Charles Dickens
In recent years vivid green parakeets have become increasingly common in parts of London, adding an exotic touch to our birdlife. They belong to the species, rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri), and opinion is divided on how they came to be so settled here, but the most common theory is that they are descended from escaped pets. Other more imaginative ideas include the suggestion that that they were let out into the wild after being used in the filming of "The African Queen" which involved scenes using tropical birds; that they originate from a pair of parakeets that were released as part of Jimi Hendrix's shows; or that they managed to escape from aviary centres during a hurricane which hit the UK in 1987.
Whatever their origin, I have to say that I am among many who love to see them. Their cheerful colour brightens our skies and I never see them fly past without lancing up and smiling – even if their screeching cry is sometimes less welcome! Some commentators though are concerned about the possible impact of this new species on our native birdlife and on agriculture. There is not really enough evidence yet to prove or disprove their concerns, but a ”Project Parakeet” has been established to monitor roosting and sightings.
I could go on for pages and pages about my favorite books set in London and the UK, most of them historical fiction
"Tale of Two Cities"-Charles Dickens-set in London and Paris during the French Revolution, one of my all time favorite books
"Wuthering Heights"-Emily Bronte-another of my all time favorite books and interestingly the only one written by Emily Bronte
Jane Austen-anything and everything!
"Jane Eyre"-Charlotte Bronte
"The Other Boleyn Girl" and "The Queen's Fool"-Phillipa Gregory, historical fiction set during the time of Henry VIII and his children
"Wolf Hall" and "Bringing Up the Bodies" by Hillary Mantel
Favorite thing: This tiny car was introduced to the public quite a few years ago as it was small and could navigate around London economically and find parking spots more easily. The engine is 660 cc's, and recently they have produced an electric version.
We were walking towards Buckingham Palace on a wet day, when we noticed men in Top hats and tails, and Ladies in their finest hurrying past us in the rain. I did notice a lot of Police cars and Policemen, still it didn't click until we were infront of the Palace.
It was the "QUEEN'S GARDEN PARTY"
What a mess! Loads of people rushing out from Buckingham Palace archway, many without Umbrella's, as the day started off sunny and ended wet. I would have loved to watch if it had been fine, but we were in a hurry too!
The Garden Parties take place between 4.00 pm and 6.00 pm, although the Palace gates are open from about 3.00 pm. Of course, YOU HAVE TO BE INVITED!
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by other members of the Royal Family, enter the garden at 4.00 pm, the National Anthem is played, and then the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh mingle with the guests.
At about 6.00 pm, The Queen and other members of the Royal Family leave the garden, when the National Anthem is played to mark the end of the party.
At Buckingham Palace the Yeoman of the Guard, Gentlemen at Arms and Gentlemen Ushers are on duty.
Favorite thing: London is a pretty easy place to plan as far as weather goes- bring an umbrealla and you should be fine! ;) as far as not looking like a tourist.. well just wear what you would normally wear in the city that you are from and you should also fit right in!
Travel is an intensely personal thing, and thankfully there is no 'one size fits all' solution. Each traveller needs to customise their itinerary to suit their available time, budget and personal interests, but starting with a blank sheet of paper can be an intimidating thing - especially for a city as large and complex as London - so here are a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing.
What follows are a few suggestions for diverse attractions in certain areas that could be easily grouped together (if you're a purist, then just bear with some of the geographical liberties I've taken in my titles in order to make these itineraries accessible). This will probably be a 'work in progress', but hopefully it should help to kick start your planning process - just bear in mind that certain areas offer so much that you could easily occupy yourself for more than one day.
KENSINGTON: Natural History Museum (including outdoor ice skating in winter), Science Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall (including a performance), Kensington Gardens (including the Diana Memorial Fountain, Diana Memorial Playground and Peter Pan statue), Kensington Palace
WESTMINSTER: Houses of Parliament, Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, London Eye, London Aquarium, Florence Nightingale Museum, the Cenotaph,boat cruise on the Thames, Millenium Bridge, South Bank complex (including a performance)
VICTORIA (can also be easily combined with Westminster): Buckingham Palace, The Mall, St James' Park, Westminster Cathedral, Victoria theatres (including a show)
LEICESTER SQUARE: Trafalgar Square, National Portrait Gallery, stroll through Soho, Covent Garden, London Transport Museum, catch an iconic Routemaster bus down the Strand, West End theatres (including a performance)
BLOOMSBURY: British Museum, stroll around the various squares in Bloomsbury including Russell Square, British Library, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, St Pancras Station, Kings Cross Station (including Platform 9¾), various bits of London University (University College London, University College Hospital, Birkbeck College, Senate House, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, School of Tropical Medicine)
REGENTS PARK: Regents Park, wander around the Georgian squares, London Zoo, boat trip on the Regents Canal, Little Venice, Camden Lock Market (by boat)
VENTURE NORTH: Highgate Cemetery, Highgate Village, Hampstead Heath (including open air swimming in the Hampstead Ponds), Kenwood House (including an open air concert in summer), Hampstead Village, Lords cricket ground, High Barnet, Hadley Common and Hadley Highstone, Waltham Abbey, Waltham Cross
LOOK EAST: The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St Katherine's Dock, Docklands, Canary Wharf, Greenwich and the Thames Barrier.
GO WEST: Kew Gardens, Richmond, Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common, Windsor
Hopefully this has given you some food for thought, and with a little research, London will be your oyster (even if you opted for the Travelcard)! Happy planning!
Favorite thing: Canary Wharf is located in the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in the Borough of Tower Hamlets in East London. The West India Docks once formed part of the busiest port in the world. after the docks were closed in 1980 the British Government adopted various policies to stimulate the redevelopment of the area, including through the creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1981 and granting the Isle of Dogs Enterprise Zone status in 1982. In 1987 the Canadian company Olympia and York agreed to construct a major office devepment on the Isle of Dogs, with construction commencing in 1988.
It was a surprise. Actually I was surprised that London has surprised me :)
I was surprised that, instead of a big crowded modern city as I have expected, I have found here the crowds moving between centuries of history and architecture with such normal appearances.
The old shaped taxis were shocking me, together with the birds moving free in St. James Park, the modern architecture “acting” behind the neo-classic heavy buildings…
I believed that I shall shout something like “Hei people… open your eyes… we’re in Londonnnn!
Look around for the corsairs descendants and the lavish gifts from the colonies!”
Amazing crowd, Brits and Scots, Polish and Romanians, Indians, Africans, Arabs, Russians and Normans … all together coming and going from/to their small lives in the big capital or around in this small global village.
The games will be held in London, about 133 Nations will be participating, Sportsmen participating cca. 10,500 in 26 sports.
Opening ceremony will be held on 27 July of 2012 in the Olympic Stadium
London will become the first city to officially host the modern Olympic Games three times, having previously done so in 1908 and in 1948.
The Olympics prompted a redevelopment of many of the areas of London in which the games are to be held.
Some of them are the Wembley Stadium, Wembley Arena, Wimbledon All England Club, Lord's Cricket Ground and Portland National Sailing Academy.
I know this sounds trite, but trust me--I spent a full day and a half calling photographers to see if they could take a picture that was the right size for an American passport which I needed when my passport was stolen. This was the only place I could find that would do it, although I'm sure there were other places.
215, Edgeware Road
London, W2 1ES
What did I do wrong? Well I was unshaven and carrying a suspicious package. Also I walked away from the Police. At least that’s what they said. Actually I was carrying my hot noodles from a takeaway and looking for my train platform and a chair to sit and eat my hot noodles.
STOP AND SEARCH is a Police power in the UK short of arrest. It was originally enacted as legislation to fight gun & knife crime. Take the weapons off the streets and less killings. Fair enough. Since 9/11 and the London Tube bombings and the searches have taken on increased importance. Now here is where the Labour government here has messed it up completely and made this a mockery and unproductive waste of valuable Police time in the war on terror.
Thanks to the touchy feely Labour Party, the Police cannot PROFILE! So they have to stop middle class old white guys like me. They used to stop (a lot) of young black men in crime areas. Rather than refine their practices for over zealousness, they have to do so many searches of just about anybody. So old women of all shapes and colours get stopped. They don’t cause crime or terrorism. And since terrorist atrocities committed by young men of middle east/Asian backgrounds, they stop me. An American in America going to the airport on September 11th, 2001. Nice one.
The OTHER stupid bit? Once they start, thanks to Labour, the Police CANNOT stop. They must complete the process!
The senior Policemen of 3 who stopped me heard my accent, saw my noodles and instantly became friendly. Under the old rules, the 3 would have gone to look for young guys with similar backgrounds to the Tube bombers. Nope, paperwork. “Are you known to the Police?” barked the lady officer. “No” I said. “Do you want to be known by the Police?” cracked the senior officer. I liked that guy. Good sense of humour.
By the way I am a “White –Other” at the end of the form. Your safety was compromised while 3 anti-terrorism officers did paperwork on me and my noodles. At least no one of a specific ethnic origin got their feelings hurt.
(By the way I was detained by the Police the week before for taking a photo of the same noodle takeaway place!!!!!)
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