YEAR OF TRAVEL: 2012
HOW WE GOT THERE: Plane
Check out the view of the city if you land by day, and especially by night. On a recent flight the plane circled greater London three times, giving fantastic night views of the Olympic Village, London Eye and Wembley Stadium.
Heathrow to London Paddington is 15 minutes on the Heathrow Express train. The Connect service is cheaper and takes around 30 minutes. The tube takes an hour on the Piccadilly line to central London.
Stansted to London Liverpool St. takes about 45 minutes by train. Gatwick to London Victoria takes 30 minutes.
CITY BRIEFING: London has something for everyone: Food, art, history, sports, music or theater. The city is vast, but the city’s two centers (the West End and the Square Mile) are both walkable once you’re there, especially in Spring or Summer. Plan your days around the tube map. Try to stay in Zone 1 and Zone 2 for convenience in the city center.
London has some of the world’s best museums and art galleries – and many are free. Head for the National Gallery or the Tate Modern to start for art works by the likes of Titian, Vermeer, or Rembrandt, or the room full of giant Rothko paintings. For more off-the-beaten-track choices try the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton, east London, for an interesting look at interiors, or the Design Museum in Shad Thames.
London food has improved beyond measure in recent years. For decent food at less than sky-high prices, look for a gastropub like The Eagle or The Anchor & Hope (addresses and phone numbers below). If you’re splashing out, get reservations at The Ivy or The Ledbury.
For music, check TimeOut London for what’s on from the Brixton Academy to the Albert Hall. There are sometimes ticket deals and offers, both for music and theater.
If you want a break from the crowds, try the parks – Hyde Park, Regent’s Park or St. James’s Park. It’s well worth it if the city is getting too much for you.
In restaurants a 12.5% service charge is often added, if not, tip this amount. Extra is discretionary.
For taxis, 10%-12.5% according to service. Credit card use incurs a 10% fee.
OTHER SORTS OF TIPS:
– Walk round the center of the city. Many of the central tube stops are within walking distance of each other.
– Take the number 8 or 38 bus for a double-decker tour through central London.
– Take a black cab for short distances, but not to the airport.
– Get the BBC’s hour-by-hour weather forecast app.
– Go to the free museums.
– AVOID: Rush hour on the tube, rush hour in a car. Piccadilly Circus. Hot dogs from street vendors.
– Bloomsbury, for the university buildings, British Museum and mini-market and Renoir cinema in the Brunswick center.
– Square Mile and Liverpool Street for a taste of finance, the Bank of England, Royal Exchange as well as Spitalfields Market.
– Kingsland Road, north of Hoxton, for Vietnamese food.
– London Bridge, for Borough Market.
– Stratford, Olympic Village post-Olympics.
– Knightsbridge, to see how the 1% live.
– Soho, for nightlife, gay scene.
High-End – Mandarin Oriental, The Landmark, Shangri-La at the Shard (just opening).
Mid-Range – The Zetter, The Kensington Hotel
Luxury budget – The Hoxton
Try AirBnB.com for an alternative hotels on longer stays
– LAB Bar, Soho – Amazing bartenders
– Jaguar Shoes, Shoreditch – Hipster hangout
– The Eagle, Clerkenwell – The original gastropub (159 Farringdon Rd, +44 20 7837 1353)
– Anchor & Hope, South Bank – The other original gastropub (36 Waterloo Rd, +44 20 7928 9898)
– Tayyab’s, Whitechapel – Punjabi food hot off the grill
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. Some of the world’s best art.
Tate Modern, near St. Paul’s . Some of the world’s best modern art.
British Museum, Bloomsbury. Love the atrium. World antiquities.
London Eye, South Bank. Time your visit to minimize waiting in line.
Tower Bridge + Tower of London, Tower Hill. The crown jewels. And Beefeaters.
St. Paul’s Cathedral + Millennium Bridge, St. Paul’s. Religious architectural splendor by Sir Christopher Wren. You have to pay, unless you want to pray.
Houses of Parliament + Westminster Abbey, Westminster. The seat of British government
Geffrye Museum. Beautiful rooms, beautifully laid out.
Design Museum. Unlock your inner sense of style.
Other Entries In Our “Stopover” Series:
Feature Photo: QQ7/Shutterstock.com
Underground Photo Patrik Mezirka / Shutterstock.com
London Bridge Photo: S. Borisov/Shutterstock.com
Bus Photo: QQ7/Shutterstock.com
Art: Simon Grieg/Shutterstock.com