London
London

London

United Kingdom
Historic yet hip as you please, London trades tabloid gossip during intermission at West End theater premieres, works up a fierce appetite for East End curry at Tate Modern art shows, and crooks its pinky over high tea at Claridge's before trying on Central Saint Martins' latest punk-chic for London Fashion Week.
Getting Around London
The best way to get around London is using public transportation and taxis. Poor parking availability and legendary traffic makes driving tricky, and Americans may find it challenging to drive on the opposite side or the car and road. Gatwick Express is the fastest train service from Gatwick to Central London. Trains run daily directly into London Victoria train and tube station starting at 4:35 a.m. and 5:20 a.m., then run every 15 minutes from 5:50 a.m. until 12:35 a.m. with the last trains leaving at 12:50 a.m. and 1:35 a.m. Fares: 1st Class £26 (Single), £50 (Return); Express Class £17.90 (Single), £30.80 (Return). Heathrow Express is the fastest train service from Heathrow to Paddington Station. Trains run from 5 a.m. until midnight from Heathrow. The standard single fare is £20 and standard return costs £34.
Nearby Airports
  • London Heathrow Airport-LHR
  • Gatwick Airport-LGW
Airport Taxis
  • £45-£83-Heathrow to Central London, depending on time, tariff, and traffic
  • £78-£98-Gatwick to Central London, depending on time, tariff, and traffic
Things to Do and See in London
  • London Eye
  • British Museum
  • Big Ben
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Tower of London
  • Tate Modern
  • London Zoo
  • Natural History Museum
  • Tower Bridge
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Hyde Park
  • London Bridge
  • Globe Theatre
  • Trafalgar Square
  • Saatchi Gallery
  • Palace of Westminster
  • St Paul's Cathedral
  • Marylebone
  • Middle Temple
  • Covent Garden
HackneyFitzrovia GreenwichSohoChelseaKensingtonMayfairShoreditchThe CityKings CrossSouth BankCamdenMaryleboneNotthing HillIslingtonBloomsburyWestminsterThe DocklandsClerkenwell
London has never been an English city. It has always been an international city, living off trade and conquest and migrants. London's cosmopolitan nature is obvious in the East End, populated first by French Protestant refugees (Huguenots) around Spitalfields market, then by persecuted European Jews at the turn of the century, and post-WWII, by a Bangladeshi community who worship at the Jamme Masjid mosque. Brick Lane curry houses are a major foodie draw and Brick Lane market offers vintage fashion bargains. Stylists shop for film props at Beyond Retro, and Hackney's Columbia Road flower market is ideal for photo ops amid parrot tulips and tuberose.
Despite 1970s plans to transform it into a pedestrian paradise, Oxford Street remains the busiest street in Britain and a non-stop shopping destination. From Marble Arch to the unloved Centrepoint tower, this one-time Roman road is lined with such retail behemoths as Selfridges, Top Shop and John Lewis. South of Oxford Circus, Regent St. curves around the sleazy alleys of Soho, where the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Sex Pistols recorded a revolution and shopped for mod fashions on Carnaby St. George Orwell and Wyndham Lewis lived just north of Oxford St. in Fitzrovia, currently crammed with trendsetting restaurants and hip hotels.
Greenwich Park is easily the most beautiful park in London, with its ancient Tudor deer park and swooping hills where Olympian riders leapt to glory. Atop a central hill is the Royal Observatory, where Enlightenment scientists mapped the heavens; today you can enjoy a heavenly view of central London. To the north are the National Maritime Museum, the World Heritage Royal Naval College and Inigo Jones' pale Palladian Queen's House. To the east is Vanbrugh Castle, and to the south is the well-preserved 18th century village of Blackheath, where highway robbers were once hanged on a gallows on the picturesque heath.
Despite 1970s plans to transform it into a pedestrian paradise, Oxford St. remains the busiest street in Britain and a non-stop shopping destination. From Marble Arch to the unloved Centrepoint tower, this one-time Roman road is lined with such retail behemoths as Selfridges, Top Shop and John Lewis. South of Oxford Circus, Regent St. curves around the sleazy alleys of Soho, where the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Sex Pistols recorded a revolution and shopped for mod fashions on Carnaby St. George Orwell and Wyndham Lewis lived just north of Oxford St. in Fitzrovia, currently crammed with trendsetting restaurants and hip hotels.
Built on rubble excavated from the Royal Docks, Battersea Park faces the Royal Borough of Chelsea and offers fine urban views from its perimeter pathways. Look across the water east to Chelsea Bridge, and scan westwards down the red-brick Embankment to Chelsea Old Church, where Thomas More prayed. Henry James lived on Cheyne Walk, while Oscar Wilde lived on nearby Tite Street until his 1885 arrest at the Cadogan Hotel for "gross indecency." The area is still home to artists studios, clubs and Heatherleys School of Fine Art. Enjoy Sunday lunch in a local gastropub, and stop and smell the roses at flower-filled Chelsea Physic Gardens.
A short walk down Cromwell Rd. leads to London's splendid Victoria & Albert design museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum. At the top of Exhibition Road, the gold Gothic Revival statue of Prince Albert presides over Kensington Gardens. These wooded wildernesses and glassy ponds merge with Hyde Park to form a majestic green space, providing a suitable location for Kensington Palace. Rent bikes at Speaker's Corner and pedal South Carriage Drive past the Knightsbridge Barracks. In the 1930s, Noel Coward kept parties lively in the white-columned houses of Belgravia, Cadogan Place and Eaton Square, where Russian oligarchs and Arab princes now claim residences.
With its moneyed elegance, it's hard to recall the raffish early days of Mayfair. A century ago, ladies of the night patrolled Shepherd Market and style icon Beau Brummel stalked Bond St. Now Old and New Bond St are lined with global brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany. Browse royally appointed tailors along Savile Row, art galleries along Cork St and boutiques in the 19th-century Royal and Burlington Arcades. On South Molton St, young designers make their names at cutting-edge fashion boutique, Browns. Break for afternoon tea in the Art Deco bar of London's finest 5-star hotel, Claridges. Head north into the village of Marylebone to see the Wallace Collection's rococo paintings by Fragonard and nosh on gourmet provisions among fashionistas.
Clerkenwell, Shoreditch and Hoxton combine loft-living with urban grit, making this area one of the most creative corners of the city. Artists, designers and dot-com entrepreneurs throng start-ups on Old Street and galleries, studios and clubs on Redchurch St., Rivington Place and Hoxton Square. Jay Jopling's White Cube gallery at 48 Hoxton Square pioneered conceptual contemporary art spaces, and Sadler's Wells is London's leading contemporary dance venue. Working-class Exmouth Market keeps the area grounded, with independent shops, tattoo parlors and an authentic pie and mash shop. London's non-conformists are buried in local Bunfill Fields cemetery, including writer and spy Daniel Defoe (1731) and poet William Blake (1827).
The City was once the nucleus of Roman London. The moated Tower of London defines the City's eastern edge, and you can follow the Roman wall 2.8 miles from Tower Hill to the Museum of London at Aldersgate. Alternatively, follow your nose from Monument past Leadenhall Market (where a Roman basilica once stood) to theatrical St. Paul's in redeveloped Paternoster Square, where crowds surge across the Millennium Bridge. The best views of St. Paul's dome are from Smithfields Market: by day a thriving meat market, at night a fashionable drinking and dining destination for Barbican-goers. In the City, the Royal Exchange faces off with the Bank of England, where the museum offers crash courses in finance, history and politics.
While Christopher Wren was building the West End, the Earl of Southampton was laying out London's first square in Bloomsbury. Literary residents moved in after the "godless college" of UCL was opened in 1826, and made Bloomsbury's bohemian reputation. Today students and academics follow well-beaten paths from local bookshops to university buildings, while map-toting tourists meander from upscale B&Bs to the colossal British Museum. Nearby, the seven acres of Coram's Fields commemorate Thomas Coram, the pioneering philanthropist who established the Foundlings Hospital to house London's street urchins. King's Cross has since become an international hub, and the fantastical spires of St. Pancras Renaissance top a five-star Marriott hotel.
Norman Foster's Millennium Bridge changed South Bank, linking its hedonistic pleasures with St. Paul's and the City. In the 12th century the Bishops of Winchester had their palace here at Southwark Cathedral, complete with private prison (the Clink) and outlying properties used as brothels. Since then, the Dickensian wharfs from the Millennium Pier to London Bridge have been bombed-out and re-imagined many times. Modern landmarks include Denys Lasdun's brutalist Southbank Centre and National Theatre, Oxo Tower Brasserie (featuring eighth-floor views over St. Paul's) and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Most famous of all is Herzog and de Meuron's transformation of a post-war power station into the Tate Modern museum. On Friday and Saturday, hop a river taxi at any of the piers and disembark at Bankside to browse Borough Market, London's legendary open-air shopping experience.
John Nash was responsible for the layout of much of Regency London, but his most enduring legacy is Regent's Park. Here Italian gardens unfurl along Euston Road, and newlyweds pose for photographs in Queen Mary's rose garden. London Zoo sits beside the Grand Union Canal, and the zoo's gazelles and tropical birds can sometimes be spotted from tour barges travelling the canal from Little Venice to Camden Market. Summit Primrose Hill for splendid views across London, or hit Camden Lock Market for equal doses of alternative culture and socialite-chic shopping. Stay for the nightlife, including big-name acts at Koko and music, dance and theater at the Roundhouse.
With its moneyed elegance, it's hard to recall the raffish early days of Mayfair. A century ago, ladies of the night patrolled Shepherd Market and style icon Beau Brummel stalked Bond St. Now Old and New Bond St. are lined with global brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany. Browse royally appointed tailors along Savile Row, art galleries along Cork St. and boutiques in the 19th-century Royal and Burlington Arcades. On South Molton St., young designers make their names at cutting-edge fashion boutique, Browns. Break for afternoon tea in the Art Deco bar of London's finest five-star hotel, Claridges. Head north into the village of Marylebone to see the Wallace Collection's rococo paintings by Fragonard and nosh on gourmet provisions among fashionistas.
Notting Hill may be best known abroad for its namesake rom-com, but its true story is even more compelling. Once notorious throughout England for the 1958 race riots described in Colin MacInnes' novel Absolute Beginners, Notting Hill now hosts Europe's largest multi-cultural gathering: the Notting Hill Carnival. Originating from Afro-Caribbean traditions, the annual event is now a proud expression of "Black British" identity. Stretching from Great Western Road through Westbourne Grove to Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill features shops and restaurants representing over 20 nationalities. Some consider Notting Hill the culinary heart of London, especially the half-mile stretch from the stalls of Portobello Market and the gourmet delis along Elgin Crescent. Nearby are the Turkish Baths of Porchester Centre, Middle Eastern cafés along Queensway and the Greek Orthodox cathedral of St. Sophia on Moscow Road. To the south are the stuccoed houses and garden squares of Holland Park, where summer opera plays in the ruins of a Jacobean mansion.
Spreading untidily eastwards from King's Cross station, Islington is a gentrifying mix of Georgian terraces, leafy squares, well-worn markets and purpose-built offices. At its center is Angel tube station, which offers ready access to bars along Upper Street and Camden Passage, a pedestrian strip that transforms into an antiques market by day. Chapel Street is London's oldest market, with a strange combination of stalls hawking organic cheeses, defunct CDs and cheap hair products. George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh lived on Canonbury Square, a former low-rent district now better known as millionaires' row.
While Christopher Wren was building the West End, the Earl of Southampton was laying out London's first square in Bloomsbury. Literary residents moved in after the "godless college" of UCL was opened in 1826, and made Bloomsbury's bohemian reputation. Today students and academics follow well-beaten paths from local bookshops to university buildings, while map-toting tourists meander from upscale B&Bs to the colossal British Museum. Nearby, the seven acres of Coram's Fields commemorate Thomas Coram, the pioneering philanthropist who established the Foundlings Hospital to house London's street urchins. King's Cross has since become an international hub, and the fantastical spires of St. Pancras Renaissance top a five-star Marriott hotel.
Built around Edward the Confessor's glittering abbey, the City of Westminster is home to London's noblest mansions, finest purveyors of food and hospitality, the Royal Academy of Art and the Unesco Heritage-listed Houses of Parliament. The Queen resides here at Buckingham Palace, and her velvet green lawns graciously merge with Green Park and pretty St. James' Park. Back in the area's 18th century heyday, essayist Samuel Johnson and painter William Hogarth frequented the private clubs that cluster around Pall Mall. Today many gentlemen's suppliers, tailors and barbers still operate on Jermyn St.
Nowhere in London has redevelopment been more controversial than the Docklands. The Canary Wharf looks like a mini-Manhattan, and Cesar Pelli's glittering skyscraper here is often denounced as a symbol of Thatcherite greed. The historic glass-fronted warehouses of Wapping and St. Katherine's Dock seem forlorn amid the modern concrete sprawl and noisy highways feeding Rotherhithe Tunnel. But Wapping waterfront still feels like a village, and across the Thames in Rotherhithe, you can toast the Pilgrim Fathers at the ancient Mayflower Inn, where they set sail for the New World. North at Leamouth, the river enters the Lower Lea Valley and snakes around the Olympic Park, home to the 2012 Olympics.
Clerkenwell, Shoreditch and Hoxton combine loft-living with urban grit, making this area one of the most creative corners of the city. Artists, designers and dot-com entrepreneurs throng start-ups on Old St. and galleries, studios and clubs on Redchurch St., Rivington Place and Hoxton Square. Jay Jopling's White Cube gallery at 48 Hoxton Square pioneered conceptual contemporary art spaces, and Sadler's Wells is London's leading contemporary dance venue. Working-class Exmouth Market keeps the area grounded, with independent shops, tattoo parlors and an authentic pie and mash shop. London's non-conformists are buried in local Bunfill Fields cemetery, including writer and spy Daniel Defoe (1731) and poet William Blake (1827).
Quantcast