Summer is a wonderful time to visit England and large cities like London blossom during summer weather. In this article guest contributor David Wishart shares why Victoria is the best place to call home-away-from-home when exploring the country’s capital.
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life — so said the British sage Samuel Johnson.
To which many a tourist might reply, “that’s all very well but where can I start this journey?”
Fact is London is a huge city and, like New York or Tokyo, a traveler planning a visit needs to know the next step after landing – specifically which part of London to use as a base for the visit.
Recently I was back in Victoria, and found myself thinking that it was a location hard to beat for a first-time visitor. It is central, a transport hub, has a huge variety of hotels, buzzes with nightlife including theaters, and should the Queen be inclined to invite you over for tea, it is just 10 minutes to Buckingham Palace.
But first things first. Victoria is easy to get to from Heathrow Airport on the inexpensive Underground, or Tube as it’s known. Buy an Oyster card (you’ll be glad you did) for repeat journeys and change at Hammersmith station (you just cross the platform) for the District line to Victoria.
Victoria is also the terminus for trains from Gatwick Airport, as well as buses to and from other cities in Europe, and connections to cross-Channel ferries. It is also the starting point for the famous Orient-Express rail service to Paris and Vienna.
Right in the Victoria railway station there is an exit to the Grosvenor Hotel, a newly refurbished, grand building that will satisfy most tastes. It has elegance in abundance, free Wi-Fi and a club lounge offering an oasis for a quiet breakfast.
And just across the road is the Z Hotel, where travelers young at heart can enjoy attractive compact rooms at a very affordable price. Wi-Fi is included, as is breakfast, as well as wine and cheese in the evening.
All London hotels are geared up for travelers; with maps and other information like the times for the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and how to find the Houses of Parliament (also just 10 minutes away).
If the weather is good walk to the palace and stroll around the royal parks, then along the Mall (pronounced like pal) to Trafalgar Square. One stop on the Tube and you are at Green Park on Piccadilly, which has the not to be missed Royal Academy of Arts.
Shoppers can head up New Bond Street to Oxford Street and back down Regent Street, home of Hamleys, the best toy shop in the world. The Soho nightlife area is also close by, as are most of London’s many theaters.
A good day out is to take a riverboat with City Cruises. They depart from Victoria Embankment, Westminster (right by the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey) and go all the way to Greenwich. This is the home of Greenwich Mean Time, the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum and the famous Cutty Sark clipper.
Greenwich has a bustling market and waterfront pubs and restaurants. While there, you can get a view of the city on the Emirates Air Line cable car ride across the river (although you can also get your bearings from up high on the London Eye).
If your Dad wants to keep his feet on the ground he’ll love afternoon tea at the Ritz Hotel, and if he’s in the mood to push the boat out steer him to the Goring (apparently the Duchess of Cambridge’s favorite hotel), which does superb British cuisine, at a price.
To dine well on a budget, and get a taste of France, try Le Relais de Venise in Marylebone, a Paris import taking London by storm. But be warned, you can’t book so you will have to line-up.
Featured Image: Westminster Palace, Big Ben Clock Tower and Victoria Tower (Shutterstock.com)