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Ooaj Travel Guide, tourism, hotel reservation, residence, plane, cheap pension for you holidays in london

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This article concerns London, capital of England and the UK. Several places exist by the same name, including London (Ontario) in Canada and East London in South Africa
Tower Bridge at dusk. Bridging the River Thames near the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is one of the icons of the central London landscape.Tower Bridge at dusk. Bridging the River Thames near the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is one of the icons of the central London landscape.
Tower Bridge at dusk. Bridging the River Thames near the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is one of the icons of the central London landscape.

London is the capital city of both the United Kingdom and of England, and the largest European city. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of 8 million people, although the figure of over 14 million for the city's metropolitan area more accurately reflects London's size and importance. London is historically one of the great "world cities" and remains a global capital of politics, culture, fashion and finance.

The name "London" originally referred only to the once-walled "Square Mile" of the original Roman (and later medieval) city. "London", however, has taken on a much larger meaning, to include all of the vast central part of the modern metropolis, "London" having absorbed numerous surrounding towns and villages over the centuries. Reflecting the massive size of the metropolis, therefore, the term "Greater London" embraces central London together with all the outlying suburbs that lie in one continuous urban sprawl within the lower Thames valley. Though densely populated by New World standards, London retains large swathes of green parkland and open space, even within the city centre.

The Tower, by .The Tower, by .
The Tower, by Felix Gottwald.
Program cover, London Olympic Games 1908Program cover, London Olympic Games 1908
Program cover, London Olympic Games 1908

The International Olympic Committee has decided that London will serve as the host city for the Games of the XXX Olympiad, the Summer Olympic Games of 2012 1 ( This will be the third time that London has been an Olympic City, having hosted the games previously in 1908 and 1948.

london Travel Guide :



Greater London consists of 32 local boroughs that - together with the relatively new London mayorality - form the basis for London's local government. The names of several boroughs - such as 'Westminster' or 'Islington' - are well-known and self-explanatory, others less so, such as 'Hackney' or 'Tower Hamlets'. A traveller's London, however, is best defined by districts that do not always correspond with the borough boundaries, but rather with functional and cultural districts of varying types and sizes:

"London regions">London regions




Settlement has existed on the site of London since well before Roman times, with evidence of Bronze Age and Celtic peoples. The Roman city of Londinium however, established just after the Roman conquest of Britannia in 43 CE, formed the basis for the modern city (some isolated Roman period remains are still to be seen within the city). After a short-lived decline that followed the end of Roman rule in 410 CE, London experienced a gradual revival under the Anglo-Saxons and also the Vikings, emerging as a great medieval trading city and eventually replacing Winchester as the English royal capital. This paramount status for London was confirmed by the Norman, William the Conqueror, who built the Tower of London after the Conquest in 1066 and was crowned King of England in nearby Westminster.

London went from strength to strength and, with the rise of England to first European, then global prominence, the city became a great centre of government, industry and culture. London's long association with the theatre, for example, can be traced back to the English Renaissance (witness the Rose Theatre ( and Shakespeare's Globe ( and great playwrights, like Shakespeare, who made London their home.

With the rise of Britain to supreme maritime power in the 18th and 19th centuries, the possessor of the largest global empire, London became an imperial capital, drawing people and influences from around the world to become - for one long period - the largest city in the world. Despite the inevitable decline of the Empire, and considerable suffering during the Second World War (when London was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe in "the Blitz"), the city remains a top-ranked world city, a global centre of finance, learning and culture.

The Museum of London (, located near the Barbican to the north of the City of London, makes an ideal destination (free admission!) for the traveller who wants to understand the history and ongoing legacy of this great city.

London is easily the largest city in the country, eight times larger than England's 'second' city, Birmingham, and dominates the economic, political and social life of the United Kingdom (much to the annoyance of people in "the provinces" - i.e. everywhere except London). The city is full of excellent bars, theatres, museums, art galleries, and parks. It is also the most culturally and ethnically diverse part of the country, and for a visitor, a nice side-effect of this is the wide range of cuisines available. Samuel Johnson said "When one is tired of London, one is tired of life." Whether you are interested in ancient history or modern art (, opera ( or underground raves (, London has it all.

England's royal families have, over the centuries, added much to the London scene for today's traveller: the Tower of London (, Buckingham Palace (, Kensington Palace, the Albert Memorial, the Royal Albert Hall, and Westminster Abbey ( spring immediately to mind.

London possesses one of the best collections of museums and galleries anywhere in the world. World cultures throughout history are well represented, for example, at the British Museum (



Londoners are a mixed bunch. On average, they are fairly private and quiet, even surly, but with no malice and a wicked sense of humour. Trying to get onto a packed bus will often involve quite a bit of cursing and pushing. Londoners don't take themselves or other people very seriously, as witnessed in the sport of "Blaine-baiting" which emerged briefly during the magician David Blaine's self-imposed incarceration at Tower Bridge during 2003.


Get in


By plane

London (all airports code: LON) is served by a total of six airports - getting to and from the airports is made relatively easy by the large number of public transport links that have been put in place over recent years. If transiting through London, be sure to check the arrival and departure airports carefully as the transfer may be quite time-consuming.

  • London Heathrow 2 ( (LHR) London and Europe's largest airport and the world's busiest airport in terms of international passenger movement, with services from most available major airports world-wide. Flights landing in Heathrow often are delayed by up to 30 min as a simple result of air traffic congestion. As a result of Heathrow's size and overcrowding, disembarking the plane can also take considerably longer than at London's other airports. There is a bus service to nearby hotels at £3 for a single trip - this however can be cheaper than a taxi. To get to the centre of London, the following mass-transit options are listed (in rough order of increasing price), followed by two alternatives:
    • Piccadilly Line 3 ( - an underground rail line from the airport to stations throughout central London. The journey takes around 50 minutes. £3.60 (single); Travelcards are valid. This option is much cheaper than the Heathrow Express, and can be faster if your destination is in the suburbs west of London; use the Journey Planner to pick the best route.
      • NB: The Piccadilly Line Heathrow Terminal 4 station is closed until September 2006. If you're wishing to travel to/from Terminal 4 by tube you will need to use a replacement bus service which will take much longer than normal. Check out TfL Planned Works ( for further information. This does not affect journeys to/from Terminals 1, 2 and 3.
    • Heathrow Express 4 ( - a high-speed rail link between the airport and London Paddington Station. The service runs every 15 minutes and takes 15 minutes from terminals 1,2,3 or 23 minutes from terminal 4. £13 (single); £25 (return); Travelcards (see below) not valid.
    • By taxi, the journey from the airport to central London will take approximately one hour. £46.00-£50.00 (not great value; you may save time and money by taking the Heathrow Express to Paddington followed by a taxi to your destination)
    • By Mini Cab, journey times as for road / taxi travel, however prices are generally cheaper than the black cabs. The Mini Cab service is a licensed taxi service scheme and cars must be booked in advance.
    • By road, the airport is some 17 miles (27 km) west of central London - a large part of the journey can be made by means of the M4 motorway which can, however, be quite congested at peak periods
    • By coach - National Express runs a regular service to Victoria Bus Station (next to the railway station) for £15 return - journeys take about 40 mins to an hour
    • By the Night bus Route N9. One of the few options if you need to get in or out of there in the wee hours. Takes about an hour to Aldwych, and only runs every half hour from about midnight to 5am (when the tube and other connections have stopped). Standard bus fare applies (about £1).
  • London Gatwick 5 ( (LGW) is London's second airport, also serving a large spectrum of places world-wide. To get downtown, the following options exist:
    • Gatwick Express 6 ( - a high-speed rail link between the airport and London Victoria Station. The service runs every 15 minutes and takes 30-35 minutes. Express class £12 (single); £23.50 (return); First Class (includes priority security procedures) £19 single, £38 return. Some other options (including Day Return and Carnet) available. Travelcards not valid. Railcards valid.
    • Regular National Rail 7 ( trains from the Airport rail station to London Victoria, London Bridge, King's Cross and various other stations in central London. To Victoria these run about every 15 minutes and take 35-40 minutes. £8 (single to Victoria), so slightly slower and slightly cheaper than the Gatwick Express; Travelcards not valid.
    • National Express 8 ( bus services run from the airport to Victoria Coach Station. £6 (single); advance ticketing required; Travelcards not valid.
    • By car, the airport is some 29 miles (47 km) south of central London.
  • London Stansted 9 ( (STN) is currently London's third airport, the base for a large number of budget carriers and flights within Europe and a few inter-continental flights. To get downtown, the following options exist:
    • Stansted Express 10 ( - a non-stop rail link between the airport and London Liverpool Street Station. The service runs every 15-30 minutes and takes 45 minutes. £14 (single); £24 (return); Travelcards not valid.
    • Terravision 11 ( - this express bus service runs from the airport to Strathford and Victoria Coach terminal. The service runs hourly and takes 75 minutes. £7 (single); ?8 to Victoria; Travelcards not valid.
    • National Express Bus 12 ( - coaches depart at least every half hours. £10 (single); £15 (return).
  • London Luton 13 ( (LTN) has traditionally been a holiday charter airport, but is now also served by some budget scheduled carriers. To get downtown, the following options exist:
    • By National Rail 14 ( This airport does not have a dedicated rail link, but the there is a free shuttle bus from the airport to Luton Airport Parkway Station every few minutes and taking five minutes. From there, trains run four or more times an hour to London St Pancras and London King's Cross Thameslink stations taking around 30 minutes. £11 (single); Travelcards not valid.
    • By Green Line 15 ( bus 757 from Luton Airport to London Green Line Coach Station. Buses run every 20 minutes and take 90 minutes. Travelcards not valid.
    • By National Express 16 ( coaches. Coaches run from outside the airport at various times throughout the day and night into Golders Green, Marble Arch and Victoria Coach Station. Prices vary depending on the service. It is often worth booking in advance via the National Express website as promotional fares can be as little as £1.
    • By car, the airport is some 35 miles (60 km) north of central London.
    • You can take EasyBus vans. If you book in advance, it will be cheaper (£1 booked via internet vs £6 at the bus). They do not go to the city centre, but to the Northern Line.
  • London City Airport 17 ( (LCY) is a commuter airport close to the city's financial district, and specialising in short-haul business flights to other major European cities. To get downtown, the following options exist:
    • By the London City Airport Shuttle bus service to London Liverpool Street Station. This runs every 10-15 minutes and takes 25 minutes. £6 (single); Travelcards not valid.
    • By taxi, the journey will take about half an hour. £20.00-£35.00.
    • By car, the airport is 6 miles east of central London.
    • From 2005 onwards, by the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) extension which will connect the airport to the London underground.
  • London Southend Airport 18 ( (SEN) is currently undergoing redevelopment and is set to become London's sixth international airport once the new rail link is completed. At present it serves destinations in the British isles only.
  • Southampton Airport 19 ( (SOU) is not officially a London airport, though accessible enough to conveniently serve the capital, especially South West London. A couple of budget carriers serving an increasing number of European destinations are based here.
    • Direct trains connect Southampton airport to London Waterloo station every 30 minutes. Journey time 1h10min, cost £30-35 return.
  • Birmingham International Airport 20 ( (BHX) is another non-London airport worth considering as a less congested and hectic alternative to Heathrow, being just over an hour away from London. As a major airport serving the UK's second largest city, there is a good choice of long distance and European destinations.
    • Direct trains connect Birmingham International to London Euston and Watford every 30 minutes. Journey time 1h15min. Cost £35-100 return.

By train

London is served by one international rail link, currently operating out of Waterloo International. High-speed trains travel through the Channel Tunnel from Paris (2h40m) and Brussels (2h15m) and are operated by Eurostar 21 ( Book well in advance to secure the best ticket deals. For onward travel Waterloo International is part of the Waterloo station complex (see below) and well served by tube lines, buses and taxis.

London is also well served by trains to and from other parts of the UK. There are no fewer than 12 main line terminal stations, forming a ring around Central London and each serving various parts of the country. Apart from Fenchurch Street (nearest Tube Tower Gateway), all are served by their own stations on the tube network, and most (but not all) can be reached by the Circle Line -- which may be the easiest, if not fastest, way to transfer between stations by Tube. All are served by buses and taxis.

For a detailed profile of each station, visit the Network Rail Stations website ( and select the appropriate station from the list at left.

In clockwise order the mainline (National Rail) train stations are:

  • London Paddington, serving the area to the west of London including Reading, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, Exeter and Plymouth. Paddington is also the downtown terminus of the Heathrow Airport Express service (see above) and also serves commuters from Ealing Broadway, Acton Main Line, Slough, Maidenhead and points west.
  • London Marylebone, serving an area to the north-west of London including Wembley Stadium, Harrow-on-the-Hill. It follows the Metropolitan Line from Harrow to Amersham and some services extend as far as Birmingham. It can often be cheaper (but slower) to take a Chiltern Railways ( train from London Marylebone to Birmingham instead of Virgin Trains ( from London Euston.
  • London Euston, serving central and north-west England and western Scotland, including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Carlisle, Chester and Glasgow, and rail and ferry services to/from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from HolyheadHolyhead. Euston is also the London stop for the sleeper train to Scotland.
  • London St Pancras, serving the East Midlands, including Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield. Eurostar trains will be moving here from Waterloo, possibly some time in 2007.
  • London King's Cross, serving north-eastern England and eastern Scotland, Doncaster, Leeds, Hull, York, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Regional services including Cambridge, StevenageStevenage, Hitchin and Peterborough also operate from King's Cross. Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter ( books is marked with a special sign -- although Platform 9 itself is actually in the fairly unpleasant metallic extension used by Cambridge trains.
  • London Liverpool Street, serving East Anglia, including Ipswich and Norwich. Liverpool is also the downtown terminus of the Stansted Airport Express service (see above).
  • London Fenchurch Street, serving largely commuter towns on the north side of the Thames estuary, including Southend.
  • London Bridge, London Cannon Street and London Charing Cross, all serving the area south and south east of London, including Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings, Dover and RamsgateRamsgate. Famously known as the "Pit of Despair" by London commuters.
  • London Waterloo, serving the area south-west of London, including Portsmouth, Winchester, Southampton, Bournemouth, Weymouth, Salisbury and Exeter. South-west London is also most quickly reached from Waterloo, although some areas like Richmond and WimbledonWimbledon are also served by the western reaches of the District Line.
  • London Victoria, serving the area south and south-east of London, including Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings, Dover and RamsgateRamsgate, and serves some of south London's commuter belt. Victoria is also the downtown terminus of the Gatwick Airport Express service (see above).

There is also one cross-London rail service called Thameslink, from Bedford to Brighton and calling in central London at London King's Cross and London Blackfriars. It notably connects Gatwick and Luton airports with each other and Central London. Thameslink may be renamed to First Capital Connect in the near future.

Train times (to and from any location) can be found on the National Rail Planner 22 ( or by calling 08457 48 49 50 (local call charges apply) from anywhere in the UK.

The last train sometimes doesn't come because of changes to the schedule, variations in the weather, or for some other reason.

Many parts of London itself are best accessible by train (sometimes called National Rail or Overground trains to distinguish from the Tube) -- some solely so. South-east London in particular is served principally by trains from London Bridge, Victoria, Charing Cross and Cannon Street stations.

Travellers should note that London's bizarre lack of integration of National Rail train services with Transport for London means that pre-pay Oyster cards are not (NOT!) valid on the overground. Zoned Travelcards, Oyster or otherwise, are valid, but it is not possible, for example, to use pre-pay to extend a Zone 1 Travelcard to a Zone 5 station. It's incredibly complicated, and Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has been lobbying for years to get it sorted out. Ask at any National Rail station for more details.


By bus

Most international and domestic long distance bus services (UK English:coach services) arrive at and depart from a complex of coach stations off Buckingham Palace road close to London Victoria rail station. All services operated by National Express or Eurolines (see below) serve Victoria Coach Station, which actually has separate arrival and departure buildings. Services by other operators may use this station, or the Green Line Coach Station across Buckingham Palace Road. The following are amongst the main coach operators:

  • National Express 23 ( is by far the largest domestic coach operator and operates services to / from London from throughout England, Wales and Scotland. Advance ticketing is usually required and recommended practice in any case
  • Eurolines 24 ( is an associate company of National Express, and runs coach services to / from London with various cities in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and continental Europe. Advance ticketing is required.
  • MegaBus 25 ( operates budget coach services to London (Green Line Coach Station) to/from several major regional cities. Tickets must be booked online and fares are demand responsive but can be very cheap (£1.50 if you book far enough in advance).

Get around

London has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite Londoners' constant, and often justified, grumbling about it breaking down on a regular basis, public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere in London for visitors and residents alike. Indeed, more than a third of London households do not feel the need to own a car. Transport for London (TfL) 26 ( is the body responsible for London's transport network, predominantly made up of the Underground, buses, rail and trams.

You can use Transport for London's useful Journeyplanner 27 ( to help you plan your journeys around London on public transport. They also offer a free travel information line: tel +44 (0)20 7222 1234 for suggestions on getting from A to B, and for up to the minute information on how services are running.


By foot

For travelling shorter distances in London there is no better way. Walking forces you to slow down and look around, and in a city like London there's always something interesting to look at if you take the time. Walking can also be the quickest way to get somewhere: check your map, central London is surprisingly compact.


By Tube / Underground

The London Underground 28 ( - also known popularly as "The Tube" - has trains that criss-cross London in the largest underground rail network anywhere in the world (it was also the first, starting in the 1860s). This mode of transport is usually the fastest way to get from one part of London to the another, the only problem being the relative expense (go for a Travelcard, if you can), and the fact that it can get quite crowded during "rush hours" (7.30am-9.30am and 4.30pm-7pm). Take a bottle of water with you on warm days. Trains run from around 5.30am to about 1am at night. Tube maps are freely available from any station, most tourist offices and are prominently displayed throughout stations.

The Tube is made up of twelve lines, each bearing a traditional name and a standard colour on the Tube Map 29 ( To plan your trip on The Tube, work out first which station is closest to your starting point and which closest to your destination. Use the Tube Map to determine which line(s) you will take. You are able to change freely between lines at interchange stations (providing you stay within the zones shown on your ticket, or via any reasonable route for single-destination tickets). Since the Tube Map is well designed it is very easy to work out how to get between any two stations, and since each station is clearly signed and announced it is easy to work out when to get off your train. The Tube is therefore an easy method of transport even for new visitors to London. Visitors should be aware, however, that the Tube map is actually a diagram and not a scaled map, making it misleading for determining the relative distance between stations as it makes central stations appear further apart and somewhat out of place.

  • Underground Map modified with walklines 30 (

During the day the time between trains on any given line is usually between 2 and 5 minutes, meaning you seldom have to wait long for a train.

The Tube system is divided up into several Zones in concentric circles from Zone 1 (central London) all the way out to Zone 6 (outer suburbs). Fares for using The Tube depend on which zone you start in and how many zones you need to cross. (NB: Most of the main tourist destinations are within zones 1 and 2). Fares vary from £2 for an adult single trip within Zone 1 (including as many interchanges as you want), or £1.10 for an adult single trip within any other zone, to £3.80 for an adult single trip between Zone 1 and Zone 6. Travelcards offer much better value if you will be making several journeys - an off-peak Day Travelcard for Zones 1-2 is available after 9.30am each day, for example, at £4.70. Detailed fare information is available at any Tube station or from the TfL website 31 (

If you buy a weekly ticket, you do not have to wait until after 9.30am and the average price per day will be even cheaper. Photocards (with a passport-sized photograph) are needed for monthly, season and yearly tickets only. Almost all the stations have photo machines and the card itself is free.


By bus

London's iconic red buses are recognised the world over, and are a major part of London life. Over 5 million bus trips are made each weekday; with over 700 different bus routes you are never far from a bus in London.

Buses are generally quicker than taking the Tube for short trips (less than a couple of stops on the Tube), and out of central London you're likely to be closer to a bus stop than a tube station. The difficulty with buses over the tube is knowing when to get off; while tube stations are clearly marked it is sometimes more difficult to work out where to get off a bus. Your best bet is to ask fellow passengers and/or to trace your route on a map. Bus drivers are sometimes helpful and sometimes not, but they're usually too busy to be able to tell you when you've reached your destination.

Bus routes are identified by numbers and sometimes letters, for example the 73 runs between Seven Sisters and Victoria. Buses display their route number in large digits at the front, side, and rear of the bus. Each bus stop has a sign listing the routes that will stop there. Standard bus services run from around 6am in the morning to 12.30am at night. Around midnight the bus network changes to the Night Bus network. Bus routes, numbers and timetable all change with most of the buses radiating out from around the Trafalgar Square area to most outlying parts of Greater London. Night buses are identified by an 'N' at the start of the route number, for example the N73 runs between Walthamstow Central and Victoria. The night bus service is a reliable and often interesting way to get home at night.

Bus journeys are cheaper than taking the Tube, at £1.20 per trip (children under 14 free without identification, under 16s free on production of a Child Oyster card). However, unlike The Tube single tickets do not allow you to transfer to different buses. Consider purchasing a Travelcard (adult, one day, £3.00) or an Oystercard if you will be making several trips a day, or a Bus Saver booklet of six tickets for £6.00 (£1.00 each), available at rail stations, tube stations and news agents. Fares are the same for night buses as for regular services.

A one day bus pass can be purchased from local rail and tube stations, and also selected newsagents for the bargain price of £3.00 (children travel free), allowing unlimited bus journeys for an entire day (and night - up till 4.30am the next day on the night bus network) across the whole of Greater London. Travelcards and Oystercards also work on bus services.

A recent innovation in central London buses means that you must buy your ticket in advance before travelling. If the route sign at your bus stop has a yellow background instead of white, which will be the case for most of zone 1, you must purchase your ticket before you board. This means you must either have a Travelcard, a Bus Pass, a Bus Saver ticket, a Pre-Pay Oystercard, or have bought single ticket from a machine at the bus stop. Note that these machines don't provide change (all the more reason to use one of the other options).

The 29 bus is most popular bus (day or night) in London.
During the Friday/Saturday late nights between Central London & Wood Green, the N29 runs every 6 mins.
The N25 holds the title of 'Longest bus route in London'.
It goes a whopping 20 miles from Oxford Circus to Harold Hill... Fascinating(!)


Docklands Light Rail (DLR) is a dedicated light rail network operating in east London, connecting with the Underground network at Bank and Tower Gateway. Apart from the trains looking slightly different and running slightly less frequently than the Tube, visitors may as well treat the two systems as the same. The DLR uses the same system of Zones as the Tube, and travelcards are valid on DLR services. As the trains often operate without a driver, it can be quite exciting - especially for children - to sit in front and look at through the window, whilst feeling as though one is driving the train one's self.


Travelcard (Oystercard)

A Travelcard is an all-in-one ticket that allows you travel on the Underground (the Tube), buses, DLR, trams and rail services within set zones. Many travellers, for example, would choose to buy a one day Travelcard that allows unlimited travel throughout zones 1-4 (all of central London, plus many outer suburbs like Richmond, Greenwich and Wimbledon) for £5.20 (January 2005). Other period travelcards such as three-day, weekly, monthly and yearly are also available.

In addition to standard cardboard tickets, tickets may also be purchased in the form of an Oystercard. This is a cr-card sized smartcard that stores your ticket information instead of the cardboard ticket. Rather than inserting a ticket at the gates you simply pass your Oystercard near the yellow readers, meaning you don't need to remove your card from your wallet or bag. You can purchase a weekly, monthly, or annual ticket on an Oystercard. You can also purchase a Pre-Pay Oystercard, which stores a monetary value on the card. Swiping your Oystercard for journeys around London will automatically deduct the appropriate value from your card. This provides a level of convenience over buying ticket individually, and also gives you a discount on each fare. From Feb 2005 the amount deducted from your Pre-Pay Oystercard is capped at the cost of the appropriate day travelcard. This means you don't need to decide at the start of the day whether to get a travelcard or just purchase single rides - using Pre-Pay Oystercard will ensure you are charged the minimum fare. Note that Pre-Pay Oystercards cannot be used on many National Rail services; for these you'll need to purchase a cardboard ticket or a travelcard. Detailed fare information is available at any tube station or from the TfL website.


By cycle

Due to the expense of other forms of transport and the compactness of central London, cycling is a tempting option. Many improvements have been made for cyclists in the city over the last few years, even if they remain no more than gestures in most places. Noticeably, there are many new signposted cycle routes and some new cycle lanes, not to mention more cyclists since the July 2005 public transport attacks. Excellent free cycle maps detailing these routes can be obtained from your local tube stations, bike shop, or ordered online ( However, London remains a relatively hostile environment for cyclists, generally speaking. A skeletal cycle lane network does not exist. The safest option is to stick to minor residential roads where traffic can be surprisingly calm outside rush hours.

The towpaths along the Grand Union and Regent's Canals in North London are the closest thing to a truly traffic-free cycle path in the Capital. In summer they are crowded with pedestrians and not suitable for cycling, but in winter or late in the evening they offer a very fast and safe way to travel from east to west in North London. The Grand Union canal connects Paddington to Camden and the Regent's Canal connects Camden to Islington, Mile End and Limehouse in East London. It takes about 30-40 min to cycle from Paddington station to Islington along the towpaths.

Cyclists cannot ride on the footpath and must observe road rules at all times. Helmets are optional - but well-advised - througout the UK. Non-folding bikes can only be taken on limited sections of The Tube network, mostly only on the above-ground sections outside peak hours. Most rail operators allow bicycles outside peak hours also. The London Cycle Campaign 32 ( is an advocacy group for London cyclists and organises regular group rides and events. Critical Mass London 33 ( meets for regular rides through central london at 6pm on the last Friday of each month. Rides start from the southern end of Waterloo Bridge.


By taxi

London has two types of taxis: the famous black cabs, and so-called mini-cabs. Black cabs are the only ones licensed to 'tout for business' (ie pick people up off the street), while minicabs are more accurately described as 'private hire vehicles' and need to be pre-booked.

The famous black cabs of London (not always black in these days of heavy advertising!) can be hailed from the curb or found at one of the many designated taxi ranks. Their yellow 'TAXI' light will be on if they are available. Black cabs charge by distance and by the minute, are non-smoking, and have a minimum charge of £2. They are certainly not a cheap transport option, but are an essential experience for any visitor to London. Drivers must take an extensive exam in London's streets to be licensed for a black cab, meaning they can supposedly navigate you to almost any London street without reference to a map. It is possible to book black cabs by phone, for a fee, but if you are in central London it will usually be quicker to hail one from the street.

A new convenient taxi-based service is Zingo 34 ( - call 08700 700 700 and you will be connected direct with the driver of the nearest available black cab anywhere in London to arrange pickup. Normal meter fares apply + £2 booking fee.

Minicabs are licenced hire vehicles that you need to book by phone or at a minicab office. They generally charge a fixed fare for a journey, best agreed before you get in the car. Minicabs are usually cheaper than black cabs, although this is not necessarily the case for short journeys.

Note that some areas in London are poorly serviced by black cabs, particularly late at night. This has led to a large number of illegal 'mini-cabs' operating - just oppotunistic people, with a car, looking to make some fast money. These illegal drivers are unlicensed and sadly they are often unsafe: a number of women are assaulted every week by illegal minicab operators. It is generally best to avoid "mini-cabs" touting for business off the street and either take a black cab, book a licensed mini-cab by telephone, or take a night bus.

Tipping is not mandatory in either taxis or minicabs, despite some drivers' expectations..... Use your discretion - the fares are usually high enough....


By road

Driving in Central London is a slow, frustrating and unnessisary activity. Londoners who drive will normally take public transport in the center, follow their example.

Car drivers should be aware that driving into Central London on weekdays during daylight hours incurs a hefty charge, with very few exemptions (note that rental cars also attract the charge). Cameras and mobile units record and identify the number plates and registration details of all vehicles entering the charging zone with high accuracy.

The Central London Congestion Charge 35 ( attracts a fee of £8 Mo-Fr 7am-6.30pm (excluding public holidays) if paid the same day before 10pm (after 10pm until midnight, a surcharge of £2 is added to encourage early payment, totalling £10). Failure to pay the charge by 12 midnight the same day (take note!) incurs a hefty automatic fine of £80 (reduced to £40 if paid within 2 weeks). Numerous payment options exist: by phone, by voucher and online. Check the website for details.

Despite the Congestion Charge, London - like most major cities - continues to experience traffic snarls. These, of course, are worse weekdays at peak commuting hours, i.e. between 7.30 am - 9 am and 4 pm - 7 pm. At these times public transport (and especially the Tube) usually offers the best alternative for speed and reduced hassle. Parking during weekdays and Saturdays can also mean considerable expense in parking fees - fees and restrictions are ignored at your extreme financial peril - issuing fines, clamping and towing vehicles (without warning!) has become a veritable new industry for borough councils staffed by armies of traffic wardens. Find and read the parking restrictions carefully! A good tip is, that outside advertised restriction hours, parking on a single yellow line is permissable... Parking on a red line or a double yellow line is never permissable and heavily enforced...



London boasts a vast number of attractions for the traveller. Following is a selection of some of the most popular and noteworthy (the rest to be found in the various district pages - get exploring!):

Through to the campaign Everyones London you will get great discounts (up to 50%) on many attractions, if you can present a valid travel ticket. These include the London Eye, the Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, special exhibitions in museums, various restaurants and shows like Saturday Night Fever. To check out how much you get where, visit the Transport of London website here (



The Tower, by .The Tower, by .
The Tower, by Felix Gottwald.
Buckingham Palace, by .Buckingham Palace, by .
Buckingham Palace, by Felix Gottwald.
  • the London Eye 36 ( - a giant wheel on the South Bank of the river Thames with magnificent views 37 (
  • the Tower of London 38 ( - London's original royal fortress by the Thames, over 900 years old, containing the Crown Jewels, guarded by Beefeaters, and a World Heritage site
  • St Paul's Cathedral 39 ( - Sir Christopher Wren's great accomplishment, built after the 1666 Great Fire of London - the great dome still seated in majesty over the City
  • Shakespeare's Globe Theatre 40 ( - a fantastic modern reconstruction of the Tudor period Globe Theatre, scene of some fine Shakespearian moments
  • Tower Bridge 41 ( - the magnificent 19th century bridge, decorated with high towers and featuring a drawbridge. The up-and-coming area of Bankside sits to its west, and the regenerated Butler's Wharf area of shops, reasonably priced riverside restaurants and the London Design Museum lie to its east.
  • Westminster Abbey 42 ( and the Palace of Westminster43 ( (including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament) - seat of the British parliament and World Heritage site. Note that the Abbey itself charges tourists for entry -- but not worshippers. Attend a church service for free and enjoy some of the finest choral music in London from the choir. Evensong (see Abbey website) at 4 or 5 pm, depending on time of year, is an especially good bet
  • Buckingham Palace 44 ( - the official London residence of the Queen, one of several royal palaces in London. Open for tours during the summer months only.
  • Somerset House 45 ( - this magnificent 18th century building off the Strand, recently restored to the public, houses the collections of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Gilbert Collection and Hermitage Rooms. You'll also find shops, cafés, a restaurant and the spectacular Fountain Court, scene of public ice-skating in the winter.
  • Trafalgar Square - home of Nelson's Column and the lions, and once a safe haven for London's pigeons. It recently attracted controversy over the 'Fourth plinth', previously empty, being temporarily home to a Marc Quin sculpture, 'Alison Lapper Pregnant'. Overlooked by the National Gallery, it's the nearest London has to a 'centre', and has recently been pedestrianised. Previously, traffic used to circle the entire fountain and statuary area.
  • Leicester Square - Possibly one of the busiest areas in London. It houses the largest cinemas (frequently hosting star-studded premieres), as well as cafes and restaurants. Due to the huge influx of tourists, everything from cinema tickets to bottles of water are very expensive.
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Maritime Greenwich 46 ( - home of Greenwich Mean Time, the Cutty Sark 47 ( and the Royal Observatory 48 ( - World Heritage site
  • Royal Albert Hall 49 ( - landmark location of many world-renowned concerts (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin), still plays host to top shelf entertainment. In summer, the BBC Proms ( are a somewhat eccentric series of concerts, and first-come first-served standing tickets can be had for £4 (2005 price). Turn up early (i.e., before noon) if you hope to get in standing for any Prom of particular note.
  • Portobello Road 50 ( - claimed to be the world's largest antiques market. For antiques, souvenirs and other knick-knacks or simply a walk through time. Camden Market is often claimed to be the new Portobello Road.

Museums and Galleries

  • the British Museum 51 ( - one of the world's great museums, founded in 1753 - a vast repository of the world's cultures
  • the National Gallery 52 ( - and the National Portrait Gallery 53 ( just around the corner
  • the Museum of London 54 ( - a great place to visit to understand the history and development of the city
  • the Tate Galleries 55 ( - Tate Britain 56 ( and Tate Modern 57 ( - showcases of some of the best of British and Modern Art respectively
  • the Victoria and Albert Museum 58 (
  • the Natural History Museum 59 (
  • the Science Museum 60 (
  • the Sir John Soane's Museum 61 (
  • the Saatchi Gallery 62 (
  • the National Maritime Museum and Royal Observatory Greenwich 63 (
  • the The Wallace Collection 64 ( - home to Old Master Paintings, Furniture, Porcelain, Arms and Armour and other Fine Art.

Parks and Gardens

The 'green lungs' of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city. Some of the best-known and most-popular are:

  • Hyde Park 65 ( - the West End's back garden, Hyde Park is the largest central London park at 140 ha (350 acres) in size. Noted for the large number of recreatonal possibilities, for the Serpentine (the central large lake) and collection of public sculpture
  • Kensington Gardens 66 ( - blends into Hyde Park at its western end, features Kensington Palace and the Albert Memorial, 111 ha (275 acres) in size
  • Green Park 67 ( - 16 ha in size
  • St James' Park 68 (
  • Regents Park and the London Zoo(ological Gardens) 69 (
  • Kew Gardens 70 ( - the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in south-west London are one of London's most popular attractions, easily accessed by public transport
  • Richmond Park
  • Brockwell Park 71 ( Running from Brixton to Herne Hill, this houses the famous Brockwell Lido.

Most of the larger parks have their origins in royal estates and hunting grounds and are still owned by the Crown, despite their public access. These royal parks have their own Police Service, known as the Royal Parks Constabulary.



If you're feeling really touristy visit Madame Tussaud's. Here you can see (and take photos of yourself with) a lot of very realistic waxfigures of celebrities, criminals, politicians and more. There is also the creepy chamber of horrors, although if that appeals you may prefer The London Dungeon (



  • Open top bus tours offer a good, albeit somewhat expensive, introduction to the sights of London. Two principal operators tend to dominate the market for this kind of tour: (The Original Tour ( and The Big Bus Company ( Both provide hop-on/hop-off services where you can get off at any attraction and catch the next bus; both provide live commentaries in English and recorded commentaries in other languages (not necessarily on the same buses). Bus tours run every day except Dec 25 8.30am-6pm (earlier in winter). £16-£17 (adults); £8-£9 (children); online booking discounts may be available.
  • Better than a bus tour -- use your feet. All the main sights you'll want to see can be reached in a long day of walking (12 hours or so). Get a good guidebook (Rough Guide, Lonely Planet...), sketch a map to stick in your pocket, have an early breakfast and be on your way. Magnificent on a sunny day, and even if the weatehr is awful, you're still in LONDON.
  • London Eye 72 (, A big ferris wheel.
London EyeLondon Eye
London Eye
  • If you don't feel like splashing out on one of the commercial bus tours, you can make your own bus tour by buying a Travelcard (see 'Get Around' section) and spending some time riding around London on the top deck of standard London Buses. Of course you don't get the open air or the commentary, but the views are very similar. You will likely get lost but that is half the fun; if it worries you go for the commercial tour. Every day except Dec 25/26. £4.30 (offpeak adult); £5.30 (peak adult); £2.60 (children); peak means before 9.30am.
  • Go on a London Walking Tour ( - easily the best way to get to grips with different parts of the city. Walks are inexpensive (£5 full) for 2-3 hours of guided walks on a variety of themes: sights, history, ghost walks, etc.
  • Take part in one of the free organised Street Skates ( (Wednesday/Friday/Sunday). Experienced marshals stop traffic while you roll along past the sights and sounds of london.
  • Visit one or more of the great Royal Parks (, London's "green lungs" - in the centre, Hyde Park (the largest) and Kensington Gardens, Green Park, St James Park, Regents Park; further afield, Richmond Park, Bushy Park, Greenwich Park and Brompton Cemetery.
  • Explore many of London's most interesting buildings during the London Open House Weekend ( normally held in Autumn (2004: Sep 18-19). During this weekend several hundred buildings which are not normally open to the public are opened up. See website for details of buildings opening in any given year.
  • If you are in the mood for a view of London by sea, take advantage of the London Ducktours. This is an exciting way of touring London, with a twist! Your tour 'bus' is actually a D-Day landing water/land vehicle that has been comfortably refurbished complete with a friendly and informative tour guide. Tours start at the London Eye and go into Central London touring Picadilly Circus, Big Ben and many others, eventually driving right into the Thames River for a boat tour. Although expensive, the 1 hour tour is well worth the money and should be booked in advance to avoid disappointment, contact +44 (0)20 7928 3132 or visit 73 (


  • London Theatre - go see a musical, play or comedy in London's Theatreland. The weekly Time Out magazine has listings for most plays, concerts, etc. London Theatre has a large variety of shows from fringe to Broadway-like musicals and productions. The West End district is where you'll find the last type, with famous imported Broadway shows and some very good local productions. You can find discounted tickets to these shows at the Half Price Ticket Booth (aka: TKTS) in the area, where reduced tickets are sold on a free seats basis. If you prefer to buy your tickets in advance you can still find discounts at sites like


London has a number of outdoor ice rinks that open in the winter months. Considered by some to be somewhat overpriced and overcrowded, they nonetheless have multiplied in recent years, easing congestion and increasing competition. Most charge from £10-12 (adults) for an hour on the ice, including skate hire.

  • Somerset House 74 (, Strand, Tube: Temple, Charing Cross, Holborn, Covent Garden, Waterloo and Blackfriars - set in the courtyard of Somerset House, this has become a Londoner's favourite, although how it will compete with the newcomers remains to be seen. It's preferable to visit at night, when the Christmas tree is lit up. From 24 November 2005 - 29 January 2006.
  • Kew Gardens 75 (, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Tube: Kew Gardens - a relative newcomer to the scene, this draws in skaters despite the distance from central London. The ice rink is situated in front of the Temperate House (the large greenhouse containing the exotic plants), a combined entry ticket is available, allowing you to wander round the fascinating gardens as well. 26 November 2005 - 15 January 2006.
  • Natural History Museum 76 (, Cromwell Road - this museum has decided to join in the rinks this year, and looks to be an interesting venue for a festive skate. If you've visited the museum before, you will appreciate the beautiful building that the museum occupies. There is also a Christmas fair (which is free), selling various gift ideas. From 16 November 2005 ? 22 January 2006. Nearest tube: High Street Kensington (Circle, District and Piccadilly Lines).
  • Tower of London 77 ( - another debut this year, set in the tourist-hotspot of the famous Tower. The ice rink itself will be hosted in the dry moat beneath the North wall of the Tower of London. From 19th November 2005 for 7 weeks. Nearest tube: Tower Hill (Circle and District Lines)

Sporting Events

  • the world-famous Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships 78 ( - part of the Grand Slam world tennis fixtures - are held each year in late June-early July in Wimbledon in South West London and attract all the top-seeded players for a fortnight of competition.


One of the world's great metropolises, anything and everything you could possibly want to buy is probably available in London, if you know where to look, and if you can afford it (London is not particularly noted for bargain shopping, owing to high prices and high exchange rates - though it can be done with some determination!)

The famous Harrods, by .The famous Harrods, by .
The famous Harrods, by Felix Gottwald.

Central London, and especially the West End, has a number of world-famous shopping areas and streets:

  • Oxford Street: see all UK high street retailers in one go - including Selfridges 79 ( and other department stores
  • Bond Street and its neighbours: considered to be UK's fashion heaven
  • Soho - for alternative music, clothes, pornography, sex toys, and gay merchandise
  • Covent Garden - quaint outlets and relatively expensive designer retail
  • Knightsbridge: including Harrods 80 ( the slightly more expensive retailer, and Harvey Nicks 81 (
  • Chelsea - the King's Road is noted for fashion, homewares and kids
  • Regent Street: between Oxford and Piccadilly Circuses - includes such gems as Hamleys 82 (, considered to be London's flagship toy store, on seven levels, and the London Apple Store
  • Tottenham Court Road: specialising in interior decorations and electronics
  • Charing Cross Road - for book stores, new, specialised and antiquarian
  • Camden Town - alternative clothing and retail, popular with teenagers and young adults
  • Markets - London has plenty, whether you're looking for bric-a-brac, clothes or fresh food, try Portobello, Brick Lane, Greenwich, Borough and Brixton for starters.

Central London shops are usually open late at least one night a week, until 7-8pm. West End shops (Oxford Street to Covent Garden) stay open until late on Thursdays, while Wednesday evening is late opening for Chelsea and Knightsbridge.



It is a huge task for a visitor to find the 'right place' to eat in London - with the 'right atmosphere', at the 'right price' - largely because, as in any big city, there are literally thousands of venues from which to choose.

London is the only second to Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world to eat. But this survey hides the fact that there are plenty of good value, even cheap places to eat - you just have to know where to look.

Of course, many travellers (especially those on a budget!) prefer to help themselves: picnicing and / or buying food for preparation in your room is a great way to enjoy good food at the lowest price possible.



Following is a (very!) rough guide to what you might get, should you fancy eating out:

  • £5 ("a fiver") - a couple of sandwiches and a soft drink, or some fish and chips (takeaway only), or a fast food 'meal'
  • £10 - ("a tenner") - plenty of Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese restaurants will give you a meal and bottle of beer for this much.
  • £20 - a lot more choice: you can have a good meal, half a bottle of wine and change for the bus home. There are plenty of modest restaurants that cater for this bracket.
  • £40 - you are generally paying for nicer interior, or a better view. But if you are trying to impress a special someone it'll be worth it.
  • £50 +: with more money to spend you can pick some of London's finer restaurants. It may be a famous chef (like Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver) or simply a place that prides itself on using the finest ingredients. There is no maximum limit on what you can spend, as some restaurants seem intent on pushing this higher and higher....

Prices inevitably become inflated at venues closest to major tourist attractions - beware the so-called "tourist traps". Notorious areas for inflated menu prices trading on travellers' gullibility and lack of knowledge are the streets around the British Museum and the Palace of Westminster. Real Londoners wouldn't dream of eating here - you shouldn't either!

London has probably the highest number of fast food outlets in Europe and you can hardly miss them when in London, whether central or suburbs. Sandwich shops are London's most popular places to buy lunch and you have the choice between ready made sandwiches or you go to one the nice shops where they prepare a very nice sandwich on the spot with the ingredients you choose. Some Italian sandwich shops have a very good reputation and you can identify them easily by looking at the long queues at lunchtime.



London has a restaurant to suit any taste, it's just a matter of finding it. Start off with a printed guide (spend some time in a bookshops and have a free browse for some ideas, particularly the Time Out books such as the 'Eating & Drinking Guide' and 'Cheap Eats in London' as they generally very reliable). If you are looking for particular nationalities these tend to be clustered in certain areas: Brick Lane is famously known for curries, but for a better quality meal (and cheaper) Tooting has a far better reputation. There's Chinatown (Soho) for Chinese, Kingsland Road (Shorch) for good cheap Vietnamese, Brixton for African/Caribbean and Edgeware Road (Marylebone) for Middle Eastern cuisine. Other nationalities are equally represented, but are randomly dotted all over London. The Toptable ( website offers 2-for-1 deals and percentage discounts for some of London's hottest and most interesting restaurants.



London has plenty of vegetarian-only restaurants, and a quick search in Google will produce plenty of ideas, so you never have to see a piece of cooked meat all week. If you are dining with carnivorous friends, then most restaurants will cater for vegetarians, and will have at least a couple of dishes on the menu. Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants are generally more fruitful, as they have plenty of traditional dishes that only use vegetables.



Due to the mix of cultures and religions, many London restaurants cater well for religious dietary requirements. The most common signs are for Halal meat, from burger joints to nice restaurants. There are also plenty of Kosher restaurants in London, including a Chinese Kosher restaurant (Kaifeng 83 (


Specialty shops

London caters for most global tastes by hosting at least one - and sometimes - many food stores that specialise in one or more cuisines. Numerous examples exist, for example, of food stores dedicated to Chinese, Japanese, Italian and African foods.



London is home to a great many pubs, bars and nightclubs. You are reminded that London is an expensive place and that your drink is likely to cost you more than its equivalent elsewhere in the U.K. Expect to pay £3 for a pint in an 'average' pub. 'Classier' bars and pubs can be much more expensive. However, many local pubs, chains like Wetherspoons, and student-oriented venues are more reasonable. The drinking age is 18.



London has hundreds of options for accommodations-- from 4 star hotels, through apartments, to historic B&Bs and hostel beds. You can end up paying anything from £20-200 per person, per night, with most hotels anywhere near the centre charging £50 per person and up. Expect smaller than average rooms, especially at the lower end of the price range. Your budget will have a lot to do with what part of London you will want to stay in. With the excellent Tube available, where you stay won't limit what you see, but be sure to check where the closest tube station is to your hotel. Staying further out will be cheaper, but when travelling in allow 1-2 mins per tube stop (near the centre), around 2-3 mins per stop (further out), and 5 mins per line change. This can easily total up to a 1 hour journey if there is a walk at each end. The extra cost of more zones on a travel card is probably not significant compared to hotel savings further out.

Some nice, convenient areas to stay in London include:

  • Bloomsbury -- relatively quiet area with a wide range of accommodations. Many budget options are located on Argyle St. Note that it can get a little seedy towards and beyond King's Cross station. Cartwright Gardens features a dozen small B&Bs in historic homes.
  • Kensington -- The Earl's Court area of Kensington has many budget and modest accommodations, and some good restaurants as well.
  • Westminster

In an emergency, should you get stranded in London without anywhere to stay, call the Shelter 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 4444 (Shelter is a UK national charity that provides advice on housing and homelessness).

London luxury lodging options include:


Stay safe

Like many big cities, London has a variety of social problems, especially begging, drug abuse, theft (especially mobile phones), etc. London, however, manages to make do with a police force that doesn't need to carry guns (yet!), and is generally a safe place for the tourist to visit and walk around. In an emergency, telephone "999" (or "112"). Don't take illegal minicabs (see 'Getting Around' for details).

Although the July 7th bombings happened, don't think this is a place where terrorism happens everyday. The security is tight and police are now constantly guarding the tube stations.


Get out

  • Brighton is a nearby beach resort, sometimes known as "London-by-Sea". £13 (adult off-peak day return by rail).
  • Hampton Court Palace ( is an historic Royal Palace located on the outskirts of London
  • Winchester is former capital of England and an attractive cathedral city with lots to see. The train journey (from London Waterloo) gives good views of the southern English countryside and takes about one hour. £20 (adult off-peak day return by rail).
  • Windsor is a nearby Thames-side town with a magnificent castle and royal residence. £7 (adult off-peak day return by rail).
  • the University cities of Oxford and Cambridge make for ideal days out of London
  • Canterbury is the site of the foremost cathedral in England, constructed from the 12th to the 15th century. Entry to the cathedral costs £4, and it's certainly worth doing a guided tour for an additional £3. The famous white cliffs of Dover are only 15 miles further east, easily accessible by train.
  • Uxbridge(city)Uxbridge is more or less the heart of London and is an ideal place for all visitors. Conveniently at the end of the Picadilly and Metropolitan Tube lines, the lovely canals and longboats make this beautiful "Venice of England" a memorable and, indeed, formidable trip.

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