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Welcome to London


Whether you arrive in London via the underground or inside one of the city's ubiquitous black taxicabs, you will immediately be greeted by a deep sense of history and met with the unique vibrancy of this incredible destination.

In its dark and troubled past, the city of London has survived Roman occupancy, sackings from the Celts, Romans, Vikings and Saxons, a Norman invasion, two great fires, the bubonic plague, Nazi bombings, the Spice Girls and Damien Hirst.

But the London of today promises something for everyone. The London Eye lifts visitors high above the river into vistas that stretch tight across the fading skies. Further down on the South Bank, the Tate Modern contains one of the world's most incredible collections of Modern Art, while the city's 30,000 stores and boutiques will exhaust even the most avid shopper, and its 6,000 restaurants are only too eager to demonstrate why Britons revere their chefs as celebrities.

For those interested in exploring the country's heritage, the Tower of London is an excellent starting point. First constructed in the 11th century, the Tower has been rebuilt several times as later monarchs have left their mark. Still one of London's biggest attractions, and a great celebration of pomp that is free to all visitors is the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, which happens daily.

As the great dome of St Paul's reflects the colours of the setting sun, London comes alive with an unrivalled nightlife. For those up for something more thrilling than dinner and the theatre, London has a vast number of bars and nightclubs catering to all tastes.

Information & Facts


The climate of London is temperate, with modest daily high temperatures during summer (apart from the odd heat wave) and winter lows that seldom fall below freezing. Rainfall is fairly regular, but most often in the form of drizzle, occurring throughout the year. Snow occurs sometimes in winter but rarely settles more than a few millimetres deep.

Eating Out

A melting pot of cultures, eating out in London is an international affair. Renowned for its curries, there are hundreds of Indian restaurants to choose from, from upmarket Mayfair to the trendy Brick Lane. Head to Chinatown in Soho for Chinese, or Brixton for African or Caribbean.

A city synonymous with celebrity big name chefs like Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, visitors to the city can also sample some of the country's finest cuisine, but at a price. For a special gourmet evening out head to Mayfair, Covent Garden, Soho or Chelsea, but expect to pay. For the ultimate English experience, traditional fish and chips are the order of the day. Get it wrapped up for take away and head to the nearest park for a greasy snack. If the weather is doing its usual thing then head to a cosy gastropub instead and sample some heart-warming English fare like the world-famous fish and chips.

Eating out in London is expensive but a lunchtime sandwich and soft drink shouldn't cost more than £5 and an evening meal at a standard restaurant, excluding drinks, can be had for £10.

For a comprehensive list of London restaurants check out

Getting Around

London's legendary Tube network remains the quickest and easiest way to get around the city, though it is best avoided during rush hour. The famous red buses are a more pleasant, if slower, way to get around. One-, three-, and seven-day Travelcards are good options for tourists; they can be used on buses and the underground and can be bought at any newsagent. Oyster cards, a reusable, discounted, pay-as-you-go option, are now available to overseas visitors, but they must be purchased beforehand online or from overseas travel agents. The ubiquitous black cabs are excellent but very expensive; minicabs are cheaper but must be ordered in advance. Illegal minicabs tout for business around London's theatres and nightspots; they are often the only option late at night but should not be taken by single women or those who don't know the way home. London's main attractions are fairly close to one another; many are situated along the River Thames, and if the weather is nice, walking or taking a riverboat are good options. Driving is not a good option in central London, as parking is difficult to find and very expensive, and those who park illegally are faced with steep fines at best. A 'congestion charge' is also payable by those driving into central London from Monday to Friday between 7am and 6.30pm. However, driving is the only option for those wanting to explore the countryside. Car rental companies require the driver to be over 25, have a full driving license, and hold a credit card. For more information, visit

Kids Attractions

London is a great city to explore with children. On a clear day, take the kids for a ride on one of the hop-on hop-off topless buses; the constantly changing scenery is exciting and it'll save a lot of energy trying to walk the streets with small children in tow. The bus tickets also allow a Thames River boat ride past such sights as Westminster, Big Ben, the London Eye and Tower Bridge. Kids will be delighted at the amount there is to spot along the way. While obvious holiday attractions for kids in London include the London Eye, Big Ben and the delightfully tacky and gruesome London Dungeon, there are also an assortment of parks, museums and shows to keep children happy. Whether children are interested in nature and science or arts and crafts, London is a child's paradise. Madame Tussaud's is fun and children will love discovering the famous wax sculptures. Don't miss taking the kids to the world-renowned Hamley's Toy Shop for a shopping experience to remember. London may be synonymous with cold, rainy weather but is still a year-round holiday destination. It is at its best during spring (April to June), when the days are warm, and the flowers are blooming.

English is the official language, though visitors will be astonished by the variety of regional accents.

The currency is the pound (GBP), which is divided into 100 pence. ATMs are available in all towns and Visa, MasterCard and American Express are widely accepted; visitors with other cards should check with their credit card companies in advance. Foreign currency can be exchanged at bureaux de change and large hotels, however better exchange rates are likely to be found at banks. Travellers cheques are accepted in all areas frequented by tourists; they are best taken in Pounds Sterling to avoid additional charges.


The nightlife in London is second to none with something for everyone and for just about every kind of occasion, from the pulsating dance floors of some of the world's most famous clubs to the more chilled out and intimate music lounges and bars.

Hardcore party animals wanting to strut their stuff will love the clubbing scene, complete with well known local and international DJs, while the countless bars and cosy independent theatres featuring local and international live music acts that will blow your mind. Live music in London is the best in the world, and on any given night there will be an international or local band playing in more than one of the venues around this pulsating metropolis.

The West End in particular is home to many bars, clubs and restaurants, and Soho is one of the trendiest and coolest places to drink. This is also where most of London's gay bars and clubs can be found. The perpetually cool Notting Hill and Portobello Road areas still draw large crowds and local areas, such as Camden and Angel up north and Clapham and Brixton down south, boast some fantastic pubs and bars, all with their own unique flavour.

Those in the mood for a quiet drink and some conversation should head down to one of the many tradition English pubs scattered around this cosmopolitan city, where they can enjoy some of the finest ales, stouts, ciders, and malt whiskies in the world. Although, many of London's bars these days have clubs and dance floors inside them, transforming them into miniature nightclubs and ushering in a new era of the phrase 'heading down to the pub'.

The West End is also known as 'Theatreland' and those in the mood for a Broadway-style theatre shows should head down to the Lyceum Theatre or the Queen's Theatre to catch a show or musical. And while you're in the area, culture lovers can enjoy an evening at Covent Garden watching the Royal Opera or the Royal Ballet, while lovers of classical music can head to the Albert Hall.

There is also plenty of fringe theatre outside of the West End with young professionals and amateurs performing anything from classic plays to cabaret. Common fringe venues include fully kitted cosy theatres to cramped rooms above some of the city's local pubs. Other non-commercial theatres include the world-renowned National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Globe Theatre and the Old Vic.


London is not just a European shopping destination, but a global one. The city has fantastic fashion stores, with famous brands lurking around every corner. Visit the renowned Oxford and Regent streets for big brands like Gap, Zara, Topshop, H&M and United Colours of Benetton. Don't be put off by their loud exteriors; some shops are actually quite affordable. For music lovers head to Virgin or HMV where you might even spot a famous musician as publicity performances are often held at these stores.

Renowned for its markets, Camden in North London has become one of the fourth most visited sights in London. A haven for punks, Goths and other alternative sub cultures the myriad of stalls and shops sell outrageous retro outfits, colourful accessories and modern party outfits that really have to be seen to be believed.

For an enjoyable weekend outing, Portobello Market is a gem (look out for the Farmers Market in the vicinity). Made famous by the romantic Hollywood film Notting Hill, there are many attractive coffee shops, independent retailers and cheap stalls selling clothing, jewellery and music to explore.

If you are a foodie then head to the Borough Market adjacent to London Bridge. Dedicated to gastronomy, visitors can sample homemade pâté, buy fresh cherries, olive oil, sweet cakes and the likes. General groceries can be bought at one of the major English supermarket chains such as Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Sainsbury's.


With iconic attractions such as the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Tower Bridge, visitors to this eclectic city will be kept busy with the multitude of sights to explore. Visit the stoic lions on Trafalgar Square, be bowled over by the grand interior of St Paul's Cathedral, or take a stroll through St James Park and watch the famous changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and you still haven't scratched the surface of London's attractions.

Venturing more into the heart of the West End, follow the crowds to the bright montage of lights and billboards at Piccadilly Circus and from there take in Chinatown, Soho and Covent Garden. For those with an appreciation for history and the natural world, the superb British Museum and Natural History Museum in South Kensington are a must on any London vacation. The south bank of the Thames draws visitors with the London Eye, the London Aquarium and the über-cool Tate Modern.

An easy and pleasurable way to see the major sights is on one of the London's red buses or, weather permitting, on foot. Many visitors use the underground to travel the short distances from sight to sight, missing the opportunity to gain a better picture of this vibrant city. A boat tour down the river Thames is also a great way to view some major sights and to learn more about the central role this river has played in London life, or just relax while you ponder what next to see and do in London.

Local time in the United Kingdom is GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

The Beatles' 1969 album Abbey Road was recorded at this unassuming studio in St John's Wood, London. While many other famous bands, including Pink Floyd, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2, Kate Bush, Radiohead, Oasis and Sting, all recorded tracks there, it is Beatles fans who make the pilgrimage to take their pictures walking across the famous zebra crossing on Abbey Road. The studio building is a Grade II listed building, and is not open to the public.

Kids love nothing more than a bit of ice-skating and the Alexandra Palace Ice Rink is just the place to do that while on holiday in London. Children will love the rink here and public skating sessions, figure skating classes and ice hockey training are available.

Originally built for Edward the Confessor more than 1,000 years ago, the Houses of Parliament, or Palace of Westminster, remained the principal residence of Britain's monarchs for the next 400 years. Thereafter it became the administrative centre of the country. In 1834 the great fire burnt everything except Westminster Hall, and the present Gothic building was completed in the 1840s. It is perhaps most famous for the clock tower, commonly called Big Ben. Located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, the gigantic clocktower known as 'Big Ben' has many distinctions; including largest four-faced clock, and third-largest freestanding clock in the world. Built in 1859, each minute hand is 14 feet (4.3m) long and the largest bell inside weighs more than 13 tons. Although Parliament is closed to visitors during session, it is still a popular attraction to tourists for its exterior architecture. While Big Ben itself is not open to overseas visitors, however UK residents may arrange tours with their Member of Parliament. Be warned though, that there are 334 stairs and no lift!

With more than 6,000 historical objects from all around the globe, the British Museum houses one of the world's greatest collections of antiquities, including the Parthenon Frieze or Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone and the Roman Portland Vase dating from the 1st century AD. In 2000 the great court was reopened with an incredible glass roof covering two acres, and stairwells leading down to the Reading Room, which has been completely restored.

No visit to London would be complete without experiencing the pomp and ceremony of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, but now visitors can actually get a peek inside during the annual summer opening of the State Rooms, and see some of the Queen's private art collection at the newly opened Queen's Gallery. Originally the town house of the Dukes of Buckingham, Buckingham Palace has served as the official London home of Britain's monarchs since 1837. Look to see whether the Royal Standard (not the Union Flag) is flying, which indicates that the Queen is in residence.

Camden Market is one of the most exciting shopping experiences London has to offer. Even if you're just browsing, the market is definitely worth a visit with its huge variety of food, antiques, bric-a-brac and clothing stalls, bars, nightspots and crowds of people ranging from the beautiful to the bizarre. Although the punk scene in London has gone underground, it still seems to flourish here, and you're sure to bump into some interesting characters.

The historical cathedral city of Canterbury, with its narrow streets and walkways, is best explored on foot. It is the home of Christianity in England, and has been the ultimate destination for pilgrimages in England for centuries, as described in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. The famous Canterbury Cathedral is one of the most impressive and evocative in England, it was here of course that Thomas à Becket was martyred in 1170. Visitors can explore the ruins of the original abbey of St Augustine, who brought Christianity to England more than 1,400 years ago, or visit the Canterbury Tales Pageant and meet some of Chaucer's famous characters. For an insight into the cities of medieval England climb the original West Gate Tower, which is still intact, and provides breathtaking views across the city.

Located in south-west London, Chessington World of Adventures is a theme park and zoo catering to children of all ages. Featuring four roller coasters and two water slides, this theme park is best visited during the summer months. The zoo however is open all year round.

There are a number of city farms that offer the perfect day out for children in London, giving them the opportunity to learn about nature in a fun environment. Deen City Farm offers pony rides, scavenger hunts and supervised water-fights for kids to enjoy, as well as a café and farm shop for parents.

This is the home of the Greenwich Meridian, which splits the globe into East and West and is responsible for setting the world clock on zero degrees latitude. Greenwich has a host of attractions including Greenwich Market with its variety of arts, crafts, food and bric-a-brac, Sir Christopher Wren's Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum. Greenwich Park is beautifully landscaped and is ideal for a picnic lunch. The famous tea-clipper, the Cutty Sark, was damaged by a fire in May 2007 and has been closed to the public.

Children will love coming to this world-renowned toy store in the heart of London on famous Regent Street. Hamleys is one of the world's largest toy stores, with 6 floors of magical, cutting edge toys and games, drawing over 5-million visitors each year. Children will be delighted discovering all that this magical store has to offer.

Situated on the banks of the Thames, 14 miles (23km) southwest of London, Hampton Court is perhaps the most spectacular royal palace in England and makes a great day-trip from London. The palace was built by Cardinal Wolsey in the early 1500s, it later became King Henry VIII's principal residence and remained the centre of royal and political life in England until 1737 where many important events took place. Visitors can see King Henry VIII's Great Hall; King William III's State Apartments, designed by Wren and completed in 1700; and the unmissable Tudor Kitchens, which remain largely unchanged since the 16th century and are no doubt used to cater for raucous banquets. The palace is probably most famous for its grounds and the famous maze, which has entertained children since it was planted in 1705.

Harrod's, which proprietor Mohamed Al Fayed calls his 'Palace in Knightsbridge', promises one of the most extravagant and luxurious shopping experiences in the world. With 22 restaurants, and a wide range of departments and services across its seven floors, it is easy to see why this is the shopping choice of London's social elite. With its prominent position on Brompton Road, Harrod's is hard to miss, especially at night, when the entire façade is illuminated with a grand total of 11,500 light bulbs.

Set atop a lake in a picturesque valley in Kent near the town of Maidstone, with imposing battlements and a 500-hectare Tudor garden, Leeds Castle has been described as 'the most beautiful castle in all the world'. Once a residence of British Queens and a playground for King Henry VIII, it has been open to the public for 25 years, revealing the majesty of a bygone age. With so much to explore, Leeds Castle requires a full day for visitors to tour the castle, get lost in the maze and picnic in the gardens or dine in one of the restaurants and tea rooms.

Children can be taken to view all the major sightseeing attractions in London on a big, red double-decker bus. Depending on the route selected, kids can marvel at such impressive structures as Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, to mention just a few! Some operators even offer special kids' commentary and play packages. So sit back, relax and enjoy the ride...

Take a trip through London's dark and gruesome history, meet Jack the Ripper and see what became of his victims, or see the chaos and destruction caused by the great fire of London. The London Dungeon brings history's most notorious killers and evildoers back to life in an experience definitely not for the faint-hearted. Beware: some of the exhibitions have a nasty way of coming alive and jumping out at the unsuspecting visitor.

At 443ft (135m) tall, and weighing more than 250 double-decker buses, the London Eye is the most spectacular new addition to London's skyline. With incredible views of most of London's major attractions, and an opportunity to put the city's geography into perspective, it is a must see for all visitors. Originally conceived by architects David Marks and Julia Barfield as an entry for a millennium landmark competition, the project took six years and the expertise of hundreds of people from five European countries to turn it into a reality.

London has a number of beautiful parks and gardens where children can play outdoors while their parents relax. A picnic lunch and a blanket can make this a very enjoyable day out. Richmond, St James' and Green Park are home to lots of squirrels, and kids may even spot a deer or two. Crystal Palace Park's huge dinosaur sculptures never fail to impress, and the Peter Pan statue at Kensington Gardens is another favourite.

Perfect for inquisitive children, the Science Museum will captivate, educate and thrill kdis of all ages. Featuring dozens of state-of-the-art exhibits, the Science Museum also features a 3D IMAX Theatre.

Boasting a plethora of exciting, cute and fuzzy animals and over 750 species, the London Zoo is a must for all children and animal lovers. Kids will love the brand new Animal Adventure where they can climb, touch, tunnel and splash their way through the zoo discovering al the animals along the way.

Madame Tussauds is the most famous wax museum gallery in the world, with more than 400 life-sized models of stars, famous politicians, royals and sportsmen, as well as the most infamous criminals the world has known. Inside the Museum the 'Spirit of London' ride will take you through the city's history, introducing you to those figures that have shaped the London of today, while The Chamber of Horrors challenges visitors to enter and be terrified. Also at the site is Tussaud's Auditorium, one of the biggest in the world, ready to amaze visitors with its views of the universe.

There are ample child-friendly museums in London, featuring children's activities, educational facilities and fun displays. The Natural History Museum and the Science Museum have dinosaur bones, an earthquake simulator and a Moon landing module to entertain kids, the Victoria & Albert Museum offers 'Free Art Fun' activities and themed backpacks, while the Museum of Childhood has great toys and games to play with.

The National Gallery has an imposing and regal façade stretching across the northern side of Trafalgar Square, and houses over 2,000 paintings from every major European school of painting from the 13th to the 19th century. It was opened in 1938 at its present location, which was chosen for its situation between London's wealthier West End and poorer East End, as a 'gallery for all'.

One of London's best known, but most overrated sights, Picadilly Circus is at the junction of Picadilly, Regent Street and Shaftesbury Avenue and is surrounded by neon advertising and fast-food restaurants. However with its Tube station, Picadilly Circus is a good starting point for shopping in the West End, being near to Jermyn Street, Saville Row and Bond Street. London's Theatreland is centred on Shaftsbury Avenue and Soho and China Town are also within easy walking distance.

Situated on the bank of the Thames, just 656ft (200m) from the site of Shakespeare's original Globe theatre, this fantastic recreation will transport visitors back to the time of the very first productions of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night. The reconstruction took a total of 10 years to complete; at a cost of over £40 million and now houses a professional theatre company responsible for regular productions of Shakespeare's famous plays. Adjacent to the theatre is the Globe Exhibition, presenting graphic information about the reconstruction of the theatre and bringing to the fore the life and works of Shakespeare with interactive displays and live demonstrations. Visits to the exhibition include a tour of the theatre.

Located right in the middle of London, Hyde Park is a huge patch of green and blue tranquillity in a busy city. Covering 350 acres, it features restaurants, fountains, monuments and flower gardens, and offers a range of activities including ice skating, swimming, boating, tennis, cycling and horse riding. There are also playgrounds for children and spaces for team sports. One of Hyde Park's most famous attractions is Speaker's Corner, when people of all opinions come to share them freely. While Speaker's Corner attracts its share of crackpots, there are usually lively debates, and famous personalities like Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and George Orwell were participants in their day.

The great dome of St Paul's Cathedral has been a distinctive landmark on the London skyline for centuries. Built in 1673 by Sir Christopher Wren, after the previous St Paul's was burnt to the ground during the Great Fire of London, it is the greatest of several cathedrals dedicated to St Paul that have occupied the site for more than 1,400 years. The crypt at St Paul's is one of the largest in Europe, and it houses more than 200 tombs, including those of Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Wren himself. The Cathedral has hosted many significant ceremonies in London's history, including the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill, the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and most recently the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

Housed in the former Bankside Power Station, which has been transformed by Swiss Architects Herzog & de Meuron into a spectacular new modern building, the Tate Modern is Britain's new National Museum of Modern Art. It showcases an exhaustive collection featuring works from 1900 to the present day, including works by Dalí, Picasso, Matisse, Rothko and Warhol, as well as exhibitions by contemporary artists. There is also an exceptional roof café, which affords spectacular views over London, and an impressive gift shop.

The twin spires of the iconic drawbridge stand 213 feet (65m) above the Thames River, and form one of the most popular attractions in London. Often mistakenly referred to as the London Bridge (which is a bit further upstream), the Tower Bridge functions as both a roadway and tourist attraction, and provides a magnificent view of London from the upper walkway. Inside is the Tower Bridge Exhibition, which showcases the Victorian engine that powers the drawbridge, and the history of the bridge, which goes back to 1886.

The Tower of London is perhaps as famous for its traditions as its imposing structure, located on the Thames River. It is guarded by a special band of Yeoman Warders, known as Beefeaters, and dotted with several large, black birds - the ravens. Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, a great tragedy will befall England, and to this day the birds are protected by royal decree. The Tower's history dates back to the 11th century, and each new monarch has played a role in its growth and development. It also houses Britain's famous crown jewels, a spectacular display of some of the world's finest gems and workmanship. The Tower is next to Tower Bridge, another famous London landmark.

Originally known as the Museum of Manufacture, the Victoria and Albert Museum (or V&A Museum, as it is popularly known) in London is a veritable treasure trove of artefacts from cultures around the world. Devoted to art and design, it houses more than 27,000 works including paintings, photographs, sculpture, textiles, furniture, metalwork, ceramics and fashion going back 3,000 years. The V&A Museum hosts regular family activities and workshops, and has a sculptured garden within.

There are a plenty of child-friendly musicals and shows playing on London's West End for families with kids to attend. Some West End favourites include The Lion King, Aladdinand Potted Pirates, best enjoyed with tons of ice-cream, fizzy drinks and popcorn!

This church in the heart of the city is one of London's top attractions, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rivals Notre Dame for the most famous church in the world. Westminster Abbey draws millions of tourists each year in addition to the locals who worship there each week. The abbey is the site of royal coronations and weddings (including Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton in April 2011). Visitors can marvel at the Gothic architecture, enormous stained-glass windows and paintings that go back 1,000 years, and tours are available in several languages.

In June and July, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is filled to capacity, with thousands of tennis fans eager to see the greatest players in the world at the Wimbledon Championships. The rest of the year, the venue houses the Wimbledon Law Tennis Museum, the largest tennis museum in the world. It houses exhibits and memorabilia going back to the Victorian era, and visitors can take guided tours of the grounds in eight different languages. Parts of the tour are even conducted by John McEnroe's Ghost, an audio-visual projection. There is a cafe and gift shop selling official Wimbledon merchandise.

The charming town of Windsor sits on the River Thames, 20 miles (32km) west of London, and is dominated by the magnificent Windsor Castle, the world's largest and oldest occupied castle. The castle was built by William the Conqueror almost a thousand years ago and has been lived in by English monarchs ever since; although Buckingham Palace is the Queen's best known residence, Windsor is her favourite and is where the Royal Family spend their weekends. Highlights in the castle include the wonderful State Apartments; and the Waterloo Chamber, built to commemorate the British victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. St George's Chapel is one of the finest examples of Perpendicular Gothic architecture in the world and contains the tombs of numerous English sovereigns including King Henry VIII, Jane Seymour, Charles I and King George V. Many of the castle's rooms contain priceless works of art, including works by Rubens, Holbein, Van Dyke, Rembrandt and Lawrence, as well as fine tapestries and porcelain, sculpture and armour. The 500-acre (200 ha.) Home Park, sits at the back of the castle and includes the site of Frogmore, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were laid to rest. Beyond is the vast expanse of Windsor Great Park, a popular place for walkers. Over the river from Windsor is Eton College, the world famous school founded by Henry VI in 1440, and today you can still see students walking around in their tails.

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