A cosmopolitan city, London is an epicenter of global finance and politics where cultures intertwine, neighborhoods hold secrets whispered through time, and famous events like London Fashion Week take place on an annual basis. The metropolitan area draws millions of visitors each year to attractions such as the Houses of Parliament, which features the 16-story clock tower Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace. Set on the banks of the River Thames, London offers a fantastic mix of history, food, shopping and museums. The pageantry of the Changing of the Guard and Trooping the Colour create spectacles adored by all, while modern marvels include one of the world's biggest observation wheels.
Exhibits at institutions such as the Royal Museum, the National Gallery, and the Imperial War Museum provide insightful perspectives of the country. From the First World War Galleries to the history of “Jack the Ripper”, and artworks dating back to medieval times, enjoy a window on the past by visiting any of these attractions.
City buildings that have stood for hundreds of years include Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the Royal Albert Hall where you can catch a concert in the evenings. The Tower of London is guarded by the legendary Beefeaters, while inside the diamond-studded Crown Jewels glitter for guests throughout the day.
Stroll along historic footpaths in colorful Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, or enjoy a spectacular bird's-eye view of the city from atop the London Eye.
London' districts are attractions in their own right, and if you take a trip through the East End you will discover the setting for numerous films and television shows. View the ancient street layout and medieval churches in The City, the earliest Roman settlement, or visit Greenwich, home of the Prime Meridian. The Leicester Square neighborhood houses famous Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, and city tours are a great way to scale the geography of sprawling London.
Power shoppers will discover the haute couture boutiques and trendy designer stores of Knightsbridge, Bond Street and Covent Garden, as well as Oxford and Regent Streets. In addition to high-end clothes, you can also find vintage apparel in quirky local establishments.
Once known for its ubiquitous fish and chips, bangers and mash, and even eels, London has since emerged as a center of gastronomic delights. This melting pot of cultures creates a restaurant scene that thrives on fusion and international cuisine. Foodies can enjoy high tea and Anglo-Indian dishes like chicken tikka masala, Turkish kebabs and Mexican-style burritos.
When the sun sets after a day of sightseeing, guests can visit local pubs and live music venues featuring internationally-acclaimed DJs and bands. Tracing its origins to Shakespeare, London's West End Theatre district presents musicals and plays starring famous actors from screen and stage. You can also enjoy performances in the Opera House, where the Royal Symphony, Opera and Ballet companies are showcased.
This English capital hosts a series of yearly celebrations that include Wimbledon and other major sporting events, the Notting Hill Carnival, the Lord Mayor's Show and the Totally Thames Festival.
Spring is one of the best times to visit London. In addition to mild temperatures, the city's parks and gardens begin to bloom. Humidity levels tend to be higher in the summer months, but those looking to sample strawberries and cream, or Pimm’s at the tennis should book a stay in late June or early July.
Travel and hotels are more likely to be reasonably priced and readily available in the fall and winter months—although visitors should be aware that London is popular for Christmas gift shopping in December.
From Bayswater and Paddington to Knightsbridge, the West End and Camden, the neighborhood where you choose to vacation in London will depend very much upon what you want to do on your trip. Historic hotels like Flemings Mayfair—the second oldest in the capital—have a Georgian flair that harks back to the days when carriages rolled through the streets while contemporary accommodations include the K West and the Apex. Prices range quite dramatically, so it's best to search around online before you go.
Visitors can reach London through one of six airports, including Gatwick (LGW), Heathrow (LHR) and Stansted (STN). Traveling between these aviation gateways and London's major attractions is easy due to the city's comprehensive public transportation network. Options include the iconic red double-decker buses, Docklands Light Railway and the Underground, as well as Thames River commuter boats and pleasure cruises. Consider using an Oyster Card, a contactless smartcard, instead of individual paper tickets, to save time and money. Another option for traveling within the English city is taking one of London's world-famous black cabs.