With over 2,000 years of history and a rocking art, dining, theater, fashion and nightlife scene, London, England is one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Dotted with diverse neighborhoods rich in culture, there is much to explore beyond Big Ben. While wandering the city’s ancient winding streets, visitors are lured into impeccably manicured Royal Parks, gilded hotels serving high tea, cutting-edge art galleries and century old pubs. In the thick of preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games, London is gearing up to take the world’s center stage.
London’s diversity offers something for everyone. For the history buff, inspiring landmarks that provide a glimpse into the old world can be found at every turn. Sites not to miss include the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace. For an extra excuse to go, London’s greatest museums are now free. Spend endless hours touring the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Britain and the Museum of London, to name a few.
A mecca for fashion and style, no trip to London is complete without a shopping excursion. Stroll the opulent aisles of the famed Harrods department store, uncover an antique treasure at the Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, or plunk down a month’s rent at a posh designer shop in Knightsbridge.
For a night out on the town, visitors to London have several options. The brightly lit West End theater district offers award-winning plays and long-running musicals. The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden showcases world-renowned ballets and voices. Dance for hours at an edgy club in the East End, or take an evening ride on the London Eye for a panoramic view of the city’s sparkling lights.
A hearty English breakfast is the perfect way to prepare for a long day of sightseeing. In between museum visits and window shopping, be sure grab a pint with some perfectly fried fish and chips. Beyond these quintessential British plates, the city serves a wide variety of global cuisine. London boasts some of the best Indian food outside of India, visit Brick Lane for wall to wall authentic curry houses. Or head to Edgware Road for tasty Lebanese mezzes.
When to Go
As the English aren’t exactly known for their sun-kissed tans, the weather in England can be a tad chilly and wet. However, temperatures rarely drop below 30°F in winter; spring and autumn temperatures hover in the 50’s. The best deals can be found during these months. Summer is high season for England and most of Europe, so airfare and hotel rates double.
How to Get There
Heathrow (LHR) is London’s largest airport and receives the most arrivals from North America. This is the hub of most airlines, including British Airways and major American carriers, and provides easy transportation links to central London. Gatwick (LGW) is the second major airport outside London, but it is much farther from the heart of the city, requiring longer and often more expensive hauls into the city.
London also has several smaller airports that receive flights from other airports within Europe. They include Stansted (STN), London City (LCY), London Luton (LTN), and London Southend (SEN).
If traveling by train from within Europe, speed through the Chunnel aboard the Eurostar from Paris or Brussels.