Newest Review: ... into someone. I loved the whole atmosphere in London. I found it to be very magical and I loved how full of charm the city was. I would ... more
The Mother of all City Guides....
London in General
Member Name: kenigma
London in General
Date: 08/03/01, updated on 08/03/01 (100 review reads)
Advantages: You name it
Disadvantages: Rather big
It only just occured to me that I should write an opinion on London after all, I know London pretty well after living here for 15 years of my life. So here I am, faced with rather a daunting task of telling you all the stuff to do in London.
As a Londoner myself, please bear in mind that I'm used to everything here, so I may take things for granted that you might not.
Anyway, enough with the small talk...
Ok, first things first. If you're visitng London, you'll need to find accomodation. Staying in London is NOT cheap. Even the hostels are expensive as far as others go.
Slumming it: Grab a hostel - the info on these is readily available by calling up one of the hostelling groups. There are several around the Victoria Station area which are reasonably priced and the situation is ideal for getting around London.
The Budget traveller: Grab a bed and breakfast. You can find some reasonably priced (£27-45) B&Bs around London. There are a wealth of them around the Euston/Kings Cross area, and you're likely to find a lot more in the outskirts of London too. The outside of zone 1 and in zone 2 has loads of places to stay - just remember to get one near a tube station so you'll be able to go places.
The "I've got money to burn" traveller: Get a hotel. No need for me to go into them really, there's lots around and you just need to pick the one that's most suitable for you.
The London Underground is the most well known train system in the world, with everyone knowing the phrase "Mind the Gap".
Its cult following abroad is not parallelled in London itself. Londoners hate the underground. It's delayed, it's dirty, it's a rip off. Ask any person who lives in London about it and you're likely to be met with a stream of expletives about it. The fact is, it's still the best way to get around London as there is no r
eal alternative to it.
If you're here for a week, then it's a wise move to invest in a weekly travelcard as otherwise you'll be shelling out a lot more for daily ones.
Also, make sure you've picked up a tube map or you're likely to get horribly lost.
Unless you're very sure of your tube-navigation skills, don't hop on a train unless you're sure it's going the right way. Even I, having lived here for 16 years sometimes get on the wrong train when I just hop on.
Buses - buses are a good way to see London, as they get you where you're going and you're not in a tunnel. They're now at the flat rate of 50p if you're travelling only in outer London, or £1 if you're travelling through Central London. The Night Buses are a great way of getting back home after a long night out at a club or something. They run all night, and serve a good variety of routes.
Taxis - Black cabs are expensive, but generally reliable. Minicabs are cheaper, but there have been several reported cases of rogue minicab drivers robbing people etc.
Driving - one thing that's not compatible is London and driving. Unless you know your way, you are going to be stuck in traffic and get very frustrated. When you do finally get there, you'll be hard-pressed to find a parking space. London has been taken over by residents parking and extortionate parking meters. There is a nazi-esque regime of traffic wardens who are run by private companies and seem to run off commissions.
Things to do:
All the sights - I won't go on in depth about what there is to see, because most people come to London with a fairly good idea of what it is they want to see. There are the obvious sights such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, London Dungeon, Hamleys, Fortnum and Masons etc etc.
Among the sights that you might not normally think of
going to are the following:
Go to some of the inns of court - these are where the barristers have their chambers. There is some great architecture and beautiful gardens to be seen here, and tourists rarely know about it.
Take a walk down the Canal from Camden Town along the towpath, it's great on a sunny day and you'll meet lots of friendly Londoners out for their walk.
Pick a sunny day and try and get last-minute tickets for the London Eye (that's the big ferris-wheel thing). You get a great view over London and it's only then that you appreciate exactly how big it is.
Go take a walk around the back streets of Soho - there are some very nice cafes and some great independent record stores.
Gigs - London is a great city for seeing live bands in. It has a wealth of new, unsigned talent, and attracts all the big names because it has so many large venues. For realy popular groups, check out the Wembley Arena, London Arena in the Docklands, Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, etc etc. For smaller, more intimate venues, whilst still being big enough to get tickets, try the Shepherds Bush Empire, the Astoria, the Underworld, the Hammersmith Apollo etc. If you want to see a band no-one's ever heard of before that might just be the next big thing, go to Camden and take a look around some of the venues like the Dublin Castle, the Barfly, or the Water Rats in Kings Cross.
There are lots of ticket agencies that can get you tickets to almost any gig at a price, and lots of more reputable companies which will sell you them at normal prices.
Nightclubs - London has a lot of clubs. It is the home to the Ministry of Sound, Home, Bagleys and many more famous clubs. Any night of the week you'll be able to find a club with music to suit your tastes, be it cheesy 80's, northern soul, psychadelic pop, hardcore, drum'n'bass, garage or even jazz. Leicester Square is a good starting point as there are two
cheap and cheerful clubs just there. The Hippodrome and Equinox are surefire student clubs. They're not the best, but they'll do for a good night out with friends. Just next door to Equinox is the infinitely more upmarket Home club - part of the worldwide phenomena. There are lots of bars and pubs in that area where you can have a pre-clubbing drink.
Theatre - London has a theatrical presence rivalled only by that of Broadway in New York. The main theatre district is in Soho, with a lot along the Strand too. London draws the best plays and the best actors. Nicole Kidman recently finished doing a season, Jerry Hall, even Macauly Culkin is in a play at the moment.
Opera - The Royal Covent Garden Opera House. Recently renovated, it makes for a good night out at the opera at a reasonable price. Within walking distance of numerous restaurants you can enjoy a pre or post-theatre meal or simply a drink or two.
Things to watch out for:
Pickpockets - never had it happen to me, but they have a way of telling if you're from out of town and preying on you.
Muggers - Not likely to be a problem unless you go to the rougher areas like Brixton or Notting Hill etc. As long as you look confident it's not usually a problem.
Minicab drivers - see above.
Traffic - lots of it! Remember your Green Cross Code kiddies.
Staying out late - remember that a night-bus or a taxi are the only ways of getting back after about 1 am. That or walking.
OK...now my arms are aching from the typing.
Hope it's been useful,