Divided by the River Thames, London, England, is a mix of the cutting-edge alternative, vibrant diversity and quintessential English tradition. Grand displays of British architecture mingle with towering glass skyscrapers to give the city a regal, yet modern appeal. Landmark staples like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace are visited just as much as they are photographed.
Greater London is separated into 32 distinct boroughs which make up some of the most visited areas of the city. Central London is home to a large variety of bars, pubs and clubs, as well as the majority of the city’s main tourist attractions. With no clear boundaries, the West End has the greatest concentration of restaurants, hotels and theaters, as well as the neon intoxication of Piccadilly Circus. Also within the Central region are the Mayfair and South Bank sections. Mayfair is London’s premier address, with swanky, high-end residences and hotels, as well as Hyde Park. The South Bank is regarded mainly for the vibrant arts scene that is laced throughout its streets and is home to galleries, exhibitions and film and music festivals.
Westminster is home to the United Kingdom’s parliament as well as the Royal Family. An enormous tourist attraction, the Palace of Westminster is home to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, which can be visited by the public when it’s in session from late September to mid-July. Also in this borough is the famed Royal British residence, Buckingham Palace. Tours of this historic 775-room estate are only available in summer months, but visitors are welcome to snap photos of the building and Her Majesty’s royal guard year-round. When the queen is in residence, there are four stone-faced sentries posted out front, and two when she is away.
As one of the most internationally diverse and cosmopolitan destinations in the world, it’s with good reason that London entertains over 27 million visitors a year. Browse through Camden Market with a giant pack of fellow tourists and pick up a pair of Doc Martens from the original shop. See a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and be taken all the way back to the Elizabethan era. Spend a Sunday blending in with the locals at a corner pub with a thick newspaper, dark pint and hot plate of bangers and mash.
Because London is such an ethnically diverse city, the dining options are limitless. For traditional British cuisine like fish and chips, The Golden Hind, located in the Marylebone section of town, is a casual BYOB spot that has been open since 1914. Afternoon tea is best served in all its regal English glory at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair (be sure to dress the part). Featuring homemade Yorkshire pudding and cask ales, Priory Arms is a favorite pub among locals and draws large crowds for Sunday’s trivia night. An abundance of Indian restaurants have been peppering the city since the 1920s, starting with Veeraswamy. From Greek and Turkish, to Italian and Chinese, there are a plethora of authentic international restaurants and fast-food chains within this buzzing metropolis.
Due to the city’s immense size and global status, London has six airports, making it the most served destination in the world. Heathrow is Europe’s largest airport and the world’s busiest when it comes to international flights. The city’s second-largest airport, Gatwick, also serves a wide spectrum of travelers making their way to or from London. There are numerous transportation options to get from the airport into the center of the city which range in price and efficiency. Travelers can choose from express rails, buses, taxis and shuttles. The cheapest mode of transportation throughout the city is the London Underground. Also called The Tube by locals, it is the city’s largest subway system with 11 color-coded lines that run every day from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Visitors who plan to use the Underground as their main mode of transportation are recommended to buy a rechargeable Oyster Card for a $5 deposit.
Though fairly unpredictable, the weather in London never reaches any extremes with its temperate marine climate. Any month of the year can be considered part of the rainy season, but August and November are hit the hardest. Summertime brings about the highest volume of visitors, with temperatures ranging from a comfortable 18°C (64°F) to around 30°C (86°F). The winter months are often overlooked, but the holiday season in London is not to be missed. Spring and autumn are good times to visit the city, as they have similar weather and several events and festivals scheduled.