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- For other places with the same name, see London (disambiguation).
|Host City for|
|London 2012 Olympics|
|The O2 Arena|
Olympics  · London2012 
- London is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Noisy, vibrant and truly multicultural, London is a megalopolis of people, ideas and energy. The capital and largest city of both the United Kingdom and of England, it is also the largest city in Western Europe and the European Union. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of nearly 8 million people — although the figure of over 14 million for the city's total metropolitan area more accurately reflects London's size and importance. London is one of the great "world cities," and remains a global capital of culture, fashion, finance, politics and trade.
London will host the 2012 Summer Olympics.
The name London originally referred only to the once-walled "Square Mile" of the original Roman (and later medieval) city (confusingly called the "City of London" or just "The City"). Today, London has taken on a much larger meaning to include all of the vast central parts of the modern metropolis, with the city having absorbed numerous surrounding towns and villages over the centuries, including large portions of the surrounding "home counties", one of which - Middlesex - being completely consumed by the growing metropolis. 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.
Greater London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London that, together with the office of the Mayor of London, form the basis for London's local government. The Mayor of London is elected by London residents and should not be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London. The names of several boroughs, such as Westminster or Camden, are well-known, others less so, such as Wandsworth or Lewisham. This traveller's guide to London recognises cultural, functional and social districts of varying type and size:
| Bloomsbury |
Vibrant historic district made famous by a group of turn-of-the-century writers and for being the location of the British Museum and numerous historic homes, parks, and buildings. Part of the Borough of Camden.
| City of London |
The City is the area of London that originally lay within the ancient city walls and is now a major world financial centre.
| Covent Garden |
One of the main shopping and entertainment districts. Incorporates some of London's theatreland. Part of the City of Westminster and Borough of Camden.
| Holborn-Clerkenwell |
Buffer zone between London's West End and the City of London financial district, home to the Inns of Court
| Leicester Square |
West End district comprising Leicester Square, Chinatown, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus and the centre of London's cinema and theatre land
| Mayfair-Marylebone |
Some extremely well-heeled districts of west central London and most of the city's premier shopping street
| Notting Hill-North Kensington |
Lively market, interesting history, the world famous carnival and diverse population
| Paddington-Maida Vale |
Largely residential district of northwest central London with lots of mid-range accommodation
| Soho |
Dense concentration of highly fashionable restaurants, cafés, clubs and bars, as well as London's gay village
| South Bank |
South side of the river Thames with good views of the city, several theatres and the London Eye
| South Kensington-Chelsea |
An extremely well-heeled inner London district with famous department stores, Hyde Park, many museums and the King's Road
| Westminster |
A city in its own right, the seat of government and an almost endless list of historical and cultural sights, such as Buckingham Palace, The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.
| Camden |
a diverse area of inner north London which includes eclectic Camden Town
| East End |
a traditional working class heartland of inner London to the east of The City and made famous by countless movies and TV shows, home of countless trendy bars, art galleries and parks, especially in the Shoreditch, Hoxton, Old Street area.
| Greenwich |
on the southern banks of the Thames, home of the Greenwich Meridien and the National Maritime Museum
| Hackney |
formerly an inner city area with a reputation for high crime rates and little else, Hackney has become fashionable in recent decades and is home to a thriving arts scene as well as many trendy, cafés bars and pubs
| Hammersmith and Fulham |
Borough in west London with a diverse population and the home of the BBC
| Hampstead |
Bohemian and literary north London and the wonderful open spaces of Hampstead Heath
| Islington |
Area to the north of Clerkenwell which has undergone huge gentrification since 1990
| Lambeth |
a diverse multi-cultural district to the south of the Thames which includes Brixton
| Southwark-Lewisham |
inner southern districts of London, traditionally residential
| Wandsworth |
grand Thames-side areas and open green parks in the north and dense housing in south
| West |
Taking in much of the ancient English county of Middlesex (which many residents still identify with rather than "London", and former parts of Buckinghamshire. Heathrow Airport is located in this part of the city.
| North |
Largely made up from middle-class commuter suburbs, many of which were formerly part of the counties of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire before being absorbed into Greater London.
| East |
Mostly originally part of the county of Essex, taking in former industrial areas on the upper Thames Estuary such as Beckton, Dagenham and Barking. To the North East lies the gateway to the affluent Epping Forest area
| South |
| Richmond-Kew |
leafy Thames-side scenery, Hampton Court Palace, the botanical gardens and some major parklands
| Wimbledon |
the annual tennis championships
Settlement has existed on the site of London since well before Roman times, with evidence of Bronze Age and Celtic settlement. The Roman city of Londinium, established just after the Roman conquest of Britannia in the year 43, formed the basis for the modern city (some isolated Roman period remains are still to be seen within the City). After the end of Roman rule in 410 and a short-lived decline, London experienced a gradual revival under the Anglo-Saxons, as well as the Norsemen, and emerged as a great medieval trading city, and eventually replaced Winchester as the royal capital of England. This paramount status for London was confirmed when William the Conqueror, a Norman, built the Tower of London after the conquest in 1066 and was crowned King of England in Westminster.
London went from strength to strength and with the rise of England to first European then global prominence and the city became a great centre of culture, government and industry. London's long association with the theatre, for example, can be traced back to the English renaissance (witness the Rose Theatre  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 and the possessor of the largest global empire, London became an imperial capital and drew people and influences from around the world to become, for many years, the largest city in the world.
England's royal family has, over the centuries, added much to the London scene for today's traveller: the Albert Memorial, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Royal Albert Hall, Tower of London, Kew Palace and Westminster Abbey being prominent examples.
Despite the inevitable decline of the British Empire, and considerable suffering during World War II (when London was heavily bombed by the German Luftwaffe in the Blitz), the city is still a top-ranked world city: a global centre of culture, finance, and learning. Today London is easily the largest city in the United Kingdom, eight times larger than the second largest, Birmingham, and ten times larger than the third, Glasgow, and dominates the economic, political and social life of the nation. It is full of excellent bars, galleries, museums, parks and theatres. It is also the most culturally and ethnically diverse part of the country, making it a great multicultural city to visit. Samuel Johnson famously said, "when one is tired of London, one is tired of life." Whether you are interested in ancient history, modern art, opera or underground raves, London has it all.
The City and Westminster
If you ask a Londoner where the centre of London is, you are likely to get a wry smile. This is because historically London was two cities: a commercial city and a separate government capital.
The commercial capital was the City of London. This had a dense population and all the other pre-requisites of a medieval city: walls, a castle (The Tower of London), a cathedral (St Pauls), a semi-independent City government, a port and a bridge across which all trade was routed so Londoners could make money (London Bridge).
About an hour upstream (on foot or by boat) around a bend in the river was the government capital (Westminster). This had a church for crowning the monarch (Westminster Abbey) and palaces. As each palace was replaced by a larger one, the previous one was used for government, first the Palace of Westminster (better known as the Houses of Parliament), then Whitehall, then Buckingham Palace. The two were linked by a road called The "Strand", old English for riverbank.
London grew both west and east. The land to the west of the City (part of the parish of Westminster) was prime farming land (Covent Garden and Soho for example) and made good building land. The land to the east was flat, marshy and cheap, good for cheap housing and industry, and later for docks. Also the wind blows 3 days out of 4 from west to east, and the Thames (into which the sewage went) flows from west to east. So the West End was up-wind and up-market, the East End was where people worked for a living.
Modern-day London in these terms is a two-centre city, with the area in between known confusingly as the West End.
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See the 5 day forecast for London at the Met Office
Despite a perhaps unfair reputation for being unsettled, London enjoys a dry and mild climate on average. Only one in three days on average will bring rain and often only for a short period. In some years such as 2010 there is no rain for several weeks.
Winter in London is mild compared to nearby continental European cities, due to both the presence of the Gulf Stream and urban heat effect. Average daily maximum is 8°C (46°F) in December and January. Snow does occur, usually a few times a years but rarely heavy (a few years being exceptions such as the winters of 2010 and 2009, with temperatures dipping down to sub-zeros regularly). Daylight hours are short with darkness filling up the sky by 4pm in December.
Summer is perhaps the best season for tourists as it has long daylight hours as well as mild temperatures. The average daily high temperatures in July and August are around 24°C (75°F) The highest temperature since 2000 was recorded once in August at 38°C (100°F). This means London can feel hot and humid for several days in the summer months. Also, because of urban heat effect, during night time it could feel muggy.
Regardless of which time of the year, the weather in London could change quickly from sunny to rain and from hot to cold.
London 2012 Olympic Games
The International Olympic Committee decided in 2005 that London will serve as the host city for the Games of the XXX Olympiad , the Summer Olympic Games of 2012. This will make London the first city to hold the Olympic Games three times, having hosted the games previously in 1908 and 1948. The vast majority of events will be held in a regenerated area in East London.
Tourist Information Centres
Details of London's primary Tourist Information Centre are given below. There are other more minor centres and those are listed in the relevant district articles.
- Britain and London Visitor Centre (BLVC), 1 Regent St, SW1Y 4XT (nearest tube station Piccadilly Circus), ☎ +44 8701 566 366, . M 9:30AM-6PM (Oct-Mar), M 9:30AM-6:30PM (Apr-Sep), Tu-F 9AM-6PM (Oct-Mar), Tu-F 9AM-6:30PM (Apr-Sep), Sa 10AM-4PM (Oct-May), Sa 9AM-5PM (Jun-Sep), Su 10AM-4PM, Public holidays: 10AM-4PM. Closed on 25 and 26 Dec and 1 Jan. Visit London is the official visitor organisation for the capital and has a lot of free information for visitors in several different languages. It also acts commercially and can have some astoundingly good last minute deals on accommodation.
Due to London's huge global city status it is the most served destination in the world when it comes to flights.
London (all airports code: LON) is served by a total of five airports. Travelling between the city and the airports is made relatively easy by the large number of public transport links that have been put in place over recent years. However, if transiting through London, be sure to check the arrival and departure airports carefully as transfers across the city may be quite time consuming. In addition to London's five official airports (of which only two are located within Greater London), there are a number of other regional UK airports conveniently accessible from London. Since they offer a growing number of budget flights, choosing those airports can be cheaper (or even faster, depending on where in London your destination is).
For transfers directly between London's airports, the fastest way (short of a taxi) is the direct inter-airport bus service by National Express . Buses between Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton run at least hourly, with Heathrow-Gatwick services taking 65 min (£18) and Heathrow-Stansted services 90 min (£20.50) (note that services between Stansted and Luton run only every two hours). However, it's essential to allow leeway, as London's expressways, especially the orbital M25 and the M1 motorway, are often congested to the point of gridlock. Some buses have toilets on board.
- Main article: Heathrow Airport
Heathrow (IATA: LHR, ICAO: EGLL)  is London and Europe's largest airport and the world's busiest airport in terms of international passenger movement, with services available from most major airports world-wide. Currently, four of the five terminals are operational - T2 is closed until 2014 for redevelopment. Flights landing at Heathrow are often delayed by up to an hour as a simple result of air traffic congestion and waiting for parking slots. To complicate the matter, airlines that fly into Heathrow are currently playing a system-wide game of musical chairs as gate assignments are cycled through the new terminal, making it even more necessary for travelers to check their terminal and gate assignment in advance. Do plan your itinerary to allocate some time needed to get through Heathrow Airport T3, it can be long if you are not holding an UK / EU passport. A quick summary of transport options (also see Heathrow Airport):
- Fastest: by Heathrow Express rail, (Paddington Station - Heathrow 1, 2, 3 & 5), ☎ +44 0845 600 1515, . Every 15 min, journey time 15 min. Travelcard & Oyster card not valid. These train lines terminate at London Paddington which for most people will require a tube, bus, or cab ride to their final destination. Despite the Heathrow Express & Connect's speed, they are often not the fastest way to a final destination in London. One way £16.50, return trip £32 (+ £3 surcharge if bought onboard).
- Second fastest: by Heathrow Connect rail, (Paddington Station - Heathrow 1, 2, 3 & 4), ☎ +44 0845 678 6975, . Travelcard & Oyster card not valid to Heathrow. Does not serve Terminal 5. Follows same route as Heathrow Express but stops at several intermediate stations to London Paddington so journey is 25 minutes and trains less frequent. One way £7.90, round trip £15.80.
- Cheapest: by London Underground (Piccadilly line), ☎ +44 0845 330 9880, . Every few minutes, journey time approximately 1 hour, however this depends on your destination. For the cheapest single fare ask for an Oyster card (£3 refundable deposit). Zone 1-6 Travelcard valid. If using this method to return to Heathrow during the morning/evening peak, leave plenty of time in departing from central London as trains often get rerouted down the Rayners Lane branch or terminate short at Acton Town or Northfields - even if they were originally designated as Heathrow-bound. Be aware that weekend engineering works can result in replacement buses being run in place of the trains - check with the TFL website beforehand. With Oyster one way £2.00-3.50.
- Taxi. A taxi from Heathrow to central London will cost £45-60. You may wish to consider taking a taxi if you have a lot of baggage or small children. Alternatively catch public transport into the city centre and then catch a taxi. There are two types of taxis: Black cabs (these can be hailed on a street or at a taxi rank) and licensed mini cabs (these are typically cheaper - but must be booked in advance over the phone or on the web). There are over 1000 minicab companies in London.
- Dot2Dot Shuttle (Dot2Dot), ☎ +44 (0) 845 368 2 368, . A door 2 door shuttle service, running 24/7. Costs about half of the Taxi, climate controlled with wide leather seats and plenty of room for luggage. It is recommended you pre book to guarantee a seat on the shuttle. One way £20, round trip £38.
- Also: to South London, ☎ +44 0845 748 4950, . Bus 285 (or taxi) to Feltham railway station (20 minutes) then a train to London Waterloo on the South Bank or Clapham Junction in South West London. Furthermore, bus X26 (limited stop) is an express route stopping in three of South London's district centres: Kingston, Sutton and Croydon. Zone 1-6 Travelcard valid on all London buses and trains. £2 single.
- By rail: Gatwick Express, ☎ +44 0845 850 1530, . Every 15 min, journey time 30-35 min. To London Victoria. Travelcard not valid. One way £16.90, round trip £28.80, for the cheapest fare visit their website.
- By rail: Southern Railway, ☎ +44 0845 127 2920, . Every 15 min, journey time 35-40 min. To London Victoria via Clapham Junction. Much cheaper than Gatwick Express - £11.90 (£3.75 if booked in advance).
- By rail: First Capital Connect, ☎ +44 0871 200 2233, . To London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon, St Pancras International, Luton Airport and further north. Much cheaper than Gatwick Express - about £10 (they occasionally have advance tickets priced at half that).
- By bus: Easybus, . Every 15-20 min, journey time 60-90 min. To Fulham Broadway. One way prices start from £2. Book online..
- By bus: National Express, . Every 30 min, journey time 75-110 min. To London Victoria. One way prices start from £7. Book online.
- By car. 47 km (29 mi).
- By cycle, . There is a long-distance cycle path into Central London, but as it involves going through the North Downs and South London and over, it will likely be quite a ride. For adventurous people.
When departing, note that after passing through security you will find no drinking fountains in the South Terminal departure lounge.
Getting to Stansted for an early morning flight is fairly straight forward, coaches run through the night, provided by Terravision  and National Express from London Victoria and London Liverpool Street. Terravision costs £9 one way and run roughly every hour throughout the night, check their site  for up to date timetable information.
Sleeping at Stansted Airport
A large number of budget flights depart from Stansted as early as 6AM (when the lowest fares are available). However, this presents travellers with a problem, as the airport's location is a long way outside London, and transport to the airport is sporadic before 5:30AM. Due to the high price of accommodation in the city and near the airport, and the fact that many budget airlines don't pay for accommodation in the event of cancellation, an increasing number of travellers choose to spend the night in the airport prior to their flight. A crowd of around 100 travellers (up to 400 in summer) camp in the main departure/arrivals hall every night, effectively turning it into a giant dormitory. Tips for sleeping at Stansted Airport:
(ICAO: EGSS, IATA: STN)  Currently London's third airport, the base for a large number of budget carriers (for example EasyJet , RyanAir  and AirAsia ) and flights within Europe and a few inter-continental flights. There are several commercial wi-fi hotspots covering most of the airport, but they charge extortionate rates. A free wi-fi hotspot is in the arrivals gate area, next to the phone booths offering fixed internet. Transport options into central London:
- By rail: Stansted Express to London Liverpool Street, ☎ +44 0845 600 7245, . Every 15 min, journey time 45-60 min. One way £17, round trip £26. Travelcard not valid. Most budget carriers' websites offer reduced price deals for the Stansted Express, allowing you to save a few pounds.
- By rail then London Underground: Stansted Express to Tottenham Hale then London Underground (Victoria line), ☎ +44 0845 600 7245, . Every 15 min. If you are going to South London, the West End or West London then take Stansted Express to Tottenham Hale then the London Underground (Victoria line). At Tottenham Hale ask for an Oyster card
- By coach: National Express, ☎ +44 0870 580 8080, . Every 15-30 min. Journey time to Stratford: 1 hour. To Victoria: 90 min. To Stratford (tube: Stratford) or Victoria (tube: Victoria). Folding bicycles only. To Stratford: £8 one way, £14 round trip. To Victoria: £10, £16. Travelcard not valid.
- By coach: Terravision, ☎ +44 (0)1279 68 0028, . Every 30 min. To Liverpool St Station (tube: Liverpool St) or Victoria (tube: Victoria). To Liverpool St Station: £9 one way, £14 round trip. To Victoria: £9, £14. Travelcard not valid.
- By minibus: EasyBus, . To Baker St (tube: Baker St) and Victoria Coach Station (tube/rail: Victoria). From £2 (advance web purchase) to £8 one way. Travelcard not valid.
- By taxi, . Journey time 90-120 min. The airport is actually quite a long way from London. It's normally a better idea to take a train to London Liverpool St and continue by taxi from there. approx £70.
(ICAO: EGGW, IATA: LTN) Has traditionally been a holiday charter airport, but is now also served by some budget scheduled carriers. As per Stansted, and for the same reasons, many choose to spend the night here before flying, although "First Capital Connect" trains run 24 hours. To get to central London the following options exist:
- By rail, . Journey time: 30-60 min. The rail station is not actually in the airport, but there is a shuttle bus from the airport to Luton Airport Pkwy station which runs every few minutes and takes five minutes. It costs £1 single, or £2 return, if you are buying a rail ticket, Otherwise it costs £1.5 single or £3 return. From there, Thameslink trains run by First Capital Connect run four or more times an hour to London St. Pancras International. £12.5 one way. Travelcard not valid.
- By coach: Green Line number 757, ☎ +44 0844 801 7261, . Every 20 min, journey time 90 min. To Victoria (tube: Victoria) via Brent Cross, Finchley Rd tube station, Baker St, Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner. £14 one way if bought from the driver. Travelcard not valid.
- By coach: National Express, ☎ +44 0870 580 8080, . Every 20 min, journey time 90 min. To Victoria (tube: Victoria) via Golders Green and Marble Arch. From £1 (advance web purchase) one way. Travelcard not valid.
- By minibus: EasyBus number EB2, . To Baker St (tube: Baker St) via Hastingwood Motorway Services and South Woodford. They now run from the city centre (Victoria), but terminate in Baker St on the way back from the airport. From £1 (advance web purchase) to £12 one way.
- By car. 60 km (35 mi).
London City Airport
(ICAO: EGLC, IATA: LCY) A commuter airport close to the city's financial district, and specializing in short-haul business flights to other major European cities. Not as expensive to fly into than it used to be, and you may indeed find that from some origins, this may be your cheapest London airport to fly to, without even considering the cost savings of NOT coming from the distant larger London airports with £10+ transfer costs. Then there is the added bonus is that it is close to central London.
To get to the city centre the following options exist:
- By Docklands Light Railway (DLR). See also: Get around. Travelcard valid.
- By taxi. Journey time approximately 30 min. £20-35.
- By car. 10 km (6 mi).
- By bus, . Take the 474 bus to Canning Town station and then the 115 or N15 into central London. See also: Get around. Travelcard valid.
Other airports near London
- London Southend Airport, ☎ +44 (0) 1702 608100, . (IATA: SEN, ICAO: EGMC) 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, ☎ +44 (0)870 040 0009, . Every 30 min, journey time 1 hour. (IATA: SOU, ICAO: EGHI) 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. £30-35 round trip.
- Birmingham International Airport, ☎ +44 (0)8707 335511, . (IATA: BHX, ICAO: EGBB) 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. From £10 (advance web purchase) one way, £35-100 round trip.
London is the hub of the British rail network - every major city in mainland Britain has a frequent train service to the capital, and most of the smaller, provincial cities and large towns also have a direct rail connection to London of some sort - although the frequency and quality of service can vary considerably from place to place.
London has one international high speed rail route (operated by Eurostar  08705 186 186 ) from Paris (2h 15min) and Brussels (1h 50 min) diving under the sea for 35 km (22 mi) via the Channel Tunnel to come out in England. It terminates at St. Pancras International Station. For domestic train services, there are no fewer than 12 main line National Rail  terminals (although in conversation you may hear the brand National Rail infrequently if ever it differentiates main line and London Underground services; journey planner online or phone 08457 48 49 50). With the exception of Fenchurch St (tube: Tower Hill) these are on the London Underground. Most are on the circle line. Clockwise starting at Paddington, major National Rail stations are:
- London Paddington, serves South West England and Wales including Slough, Maidenhead, Reading, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Taunton, Exeter, Plymouth and Cardiff and Swansea. Also the downtown terminus of the Heathrow Airport Express (see above) and serves some suburban stations such as Acton Main Line and Ealing Broadway.
- London Marylebone, serves some north western suburban stations such as Amersham, Harrow on the Hill and Wembley Stadium. Also serves Aylesbury, High Wycombe, Banbury, Stratford-upon-Avon and the city of Birmingham. It is much cheaper but slightly slower to take a train from Marylebone to Birmingham instead of a train from London Euston. Recently a new service to Shrewsbury, Telford , and Wrexham has been launched by the Wrexham & Shropshire railway company .
- London Euston, serves the Midlands, north-west England and west Scotland: Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Oxenholme Lake District, Carlisle, Glasgow, and Holyhead for connecting ferries to/from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Sleeper trains to Scotland leave from Euston.
- St Pancras International, serves Paris, Brussels, Lille, as well as Luton Airport, several destinations in Kent and the East Midlands: Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield.
- London King's Cross, serves East Anglia, north-east England and east Scotland: Cambridge, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Kingston upon Hull, Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. 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 Moorgate, serves some northern suburbs.
- London Liverpool Street, serves East Anglia: Ipswich and Norwich. Also the downtown terminus of the Stansted Airport Express.
- London Fenchurch Street, serves commuter towns north of the Thames estuary to Southend.
- London Bridge, London Cannon Street, London Waterloo East and London Charing Cross, serve south and south east London and England: Brighton, Dover, Eastbourne, Hastings and Ramsgate.
- London Blackfriars, serves Gatwick Airport and Brighton.
- London Waterloo, serves south west London and England: Portsmouth, Winchester, Southampton, Bournemouth, Weymouth, Salisbury and Exeter.
- London Victoria, serves south east London and England: Brighton, Dover, Eastbourne, Hastings and Ramsgate. Also the downtown terminus of the Gatwick Airport Express.
In South London many areas have only National Rail services (no London Underground services but there are buses). London Bridge, Victoria, Cannon St and Charing Cross serve the South East. London Waterloo serves the South West. First Capital Connect (frequently referred to as Thameslink) is a cross London route between Bedford and Brighton via Luton Airport (Parkway), St. Pancras International, Farringdon, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, London Bridge and Gatwick Airport.
Most international and domestic long distance bus (UK English: coach) services arrive at and depart from a complex of coach stations off Buckingham Palace Road in Westminster 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, ☎ +44 0870 580 8080, . 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, ☎ +44 08705 143219, . 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, ☎ +44 0900 160 0900, . operates budget coach services from/to London (Victoria Coach Station) to/from several major regional cities, it is even possible to get to Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. Fares are demand responsive but can be very cheap (£1.50 if you book far enough in advance).
- Greyhound, ☎ +44 0900 096 0000, . coach services with free wi-fi, newspapers and extra legroom. From/to London (Victoria Coach Station) to/from several cities. Fares can be very cheap.
London is the hub of the UK's road network and is easy to reach by car, even if driving into the centre of the city is definitely not recommended. Greater London is encircled by the M25 orbital motorway, from which nearly all the major trunk routes to Scotland, Wales and the rest of England radiate. The most important are listed below.
- M1: The main route to/from the North, leading from the East Midlands, Yorkshire and terminating at Leeds. Most importantly, Britain's longest motorway - the M6, branches from the M1 at Rugby, leading to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, the Lake District and onwards to the Scottish border, and ultimately Glasgow.
- A1/A1(M) The A1 is the original, historic "Great North Road" between England and Scotland's capital cities and has largely been converted to motorway standard; it runs up the eastern side of Great Britain through Peterborough, York, Newcastle and continues north through Northumberland and the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh.
- M40/A40: Arrives in London from a north westerly direction, linking the city with Oxford and providing an additional link from Birmingham.
- M4: The principal route to/from the West - leading to Bath, Bristol and cities South Wales (Cardiff and Swansea). It is also the main route towards Heathrow Airport.
- M3: The main route to London from the shipping port of Southampton.
- M2/M20: Together, these motorways are the main link to the coastal ferry (and Channel Tunnel) ports of Dover and Folkestone from Continental Europe.
- M11: The M11 connects Stansted Airport and Cambridge to London, and it terminates on the north eastern periphery of the city.
In addition to the M25, here are two inner ring roads in London which skirt the central area:
- A406/A205 North Circular/South Circular The North Circular is a half circle on the North of the Thames, and is mostly a dual carriageway. It has direct connections with the M4, M40, M1 and M11 motorways and can be useful if you want to quickly get around the northern suburbs of the city. The corresponding South Circular is really a local road which is made up of segments of main suburban thoroughfares. The two roads are connected at the east end of the circle in North Woolwich/Woolwich Arsenal by the Woolwich Free Ferry, which runs approx. every 10-15 minutes and is free of charge, although it can only carry a limited amount of vehicles so avoid during busy periods as the queues can be very long! The ferry stops running after 10pm, so it's advisable to travel through the Docklands and use the Blackwall Tunnel instead.
Comparatively few people will actually drive into (or anywhere near) the centre of London. The infamous M25 ring road did not earn its irreverent nicknames "The Road To Hell" and "Britain's biggest car park" for nothing. The road is heavily congested at most times of the day, and is littered with automatically variable speed limits which are enforced with speed cameras. Despite the controversial "congestion charge", driving a car anywhere near the centre of London remains a nightmare with crowded roads, impatient drivers and extortionate parking charges (that's if you can find a space in the first place, that is!). Parking in the City of London is free after 6:30PM M-F, after 1:30PM on Saturday and all day Sunday.
London is the home of the famous tube map, and TfL produce some excellent maps to help you get around:
In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, Transport for London are undertaking a massive redevelopment programme on the 19th- and 20th-Century Tube network. As a result, many Tube lines are closed on most weekends, and some lines close for several weeks at a time. Alternative bus services may be provided, but these can be slowed down by traffic congestion. It is very important to check the TfL website for travel updates, especially at weekends, to avoid disappointment. A number of mobile phone apps are also available to download which show line closures on real-time Tube maps.
The city has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite residents' constant, and sometimes justified, grumbling about unreliability, public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere for visitors and residents alike and is far more reliable than locals would have you believe. Indeed, nearly a third of households do not feel the need to own a car.
In central London use a combination of the transport options listed below - and check your map! In many cases you can easily walk from one place to another or use the busses. Be a Londoner and only use the tube as a way of travelling longer distances - you're here to see London - you can't see it underground!
Transport for London (TfL)  is a government organisation responsible for all public transport. Their website contains maps plus an excellent journey planner . They also offer a 24-hour travel information line, charged at local rate: tel +44-20-72221234 (or text 60835) for suggestions on getting from A to B, and for up to the minute information on how services are running. Fortunately for visitors (and indeed residents) there is a single ticketing system, Oyster, which enables travellers to switch between modes of transport on one ticket.
The main travel options in summary are:
By tube / underground 11 colour-coded lines cover the central area and suburbs mostly north of the River Thames, run by TfL.
By Docklands Light Railway (DLR) Runs only in the east of the city, privately run but part of TfL's network.
By boat Commuter boats and pleasure cruises along the River Thames, privately run but part of TfL's network.
Airport Express Express rail services run to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports (tickets are generally sold at a premium), privately run and not part of the TfL network.
By tram (Tramlink) A tram service that operates only in southern suburbs around Wimbledon and Croydon.
By Overground 3 orange-coloured lines circling the northern suburbs, part of TfL's network. The Underground's East London Line is now closed until 2010 when it will become part of London Overground.
By National Rail A complex network of suburban rail services, mostly running in the southern suburbs, privately run and not part of the TfL network, although many do accept Oyster payments.
Oyster  is a contactless electronic smartcard run by Transport for London. In general, Oyster is the more cost effective option than paper tickets if you plan to be in London for any more than a couple of days, or if you intend to make return visits to the city - the savings quickly recover the inital purchase cost. You can buy an Oyster Card from any Tube station for a deposit of £3. You can also get a Visitor Oyster card  for a deposit of £2, although these cards can be used only to pay as you go and cannot be loaded with 7 Day Travelcards. You can "charge up" an Oyster card with electronic funds. This cash is then deducted according to where you travel. The cost of a single trip using the Oyster card is considerably less than buying a single paper ticket with cash. Prices vary depending on distance travelled, whether by bus or tube, and on the time of day. You can also add various electronic 1 week, 1 month and longer-period tickets onto the card, and the card is simply validated each time you use it. The deposit is fully refundable if you hand it in at the end of the trip. However, there is no expiry date on the Oyster Card or any pay-as-you-go credit on the card. If you have any pay-as-you-go credit left this will also be refunded. You will get refunds in cash only if you paid in cash. Be prepared to give your signature on receipts or even show ID for refunds over a few pounds.
You can charge up your Oyster card with electronic cash at any tube station ticket machine or ticket desk (you can even use a credit card to do this if your credit card has a PIN number) with Oyster pay-as-you-go, also known as PrePay. This money is then deducted from your card each time you get on a service. The fare is calculated based on your start and end points. Pay-as-you-go is much cheaper than paying in cash for each journey. For instance, a cash tube one way in Zone 1 is £4, while with an Oyster Card it costs £1.80. Furthermore, a cash bus fare is £2 while with Oyster it is £1.20.
The amount of PrePay deducted from your Oyster card in one day is capped at the cost of the appropriate paper day ticket (day Travelcard) for the zones you have travelled through. For zone 1-2 (central London including everywhere inside the Circle line and some places outside) this is £5.60 (£7.20 M-F before 9:30AM).
On the tube, be sure to touch in and touch out again at the end of your journey. If you forget to touch your Oyster card at the start and finish you will be charged extra!
Oyster also saves time getting onto buses. If you don't have an Oyster, tickets have to be bought at a machine by the bus stop in the central area, and from the driver outside the zone.
A Travelcard may be loaded onto an Oyster card or may be purchased as a paper ticket.
- Day Travelcard - Zones 1-2 - Anytime: £7.20, Off-Peak £5.60
- 7 Day Travelcard Zones 1-2 - £25.80
- Monthly Travelcard Zones 1-2 - £99.10
- Annual Travelcard Zones 1-2 - £1,032.00
The above prices are Adult prices and only for Zones 1 & 2. For a more comprehensive list of the prices visit the TFL website:
1 Day Travelcards 
7 Day, Monthly & Annual Travelcards 
Travelcard season tickets
Weekly, monthly and longer-period Travelcard season tickets can be purchased at all tube station ticket offices. These can be used on any tube, DLR, bus, London Overground, National Rail or tram service. You have to select a range of zones when you buy it, numbered 1-9. If you happen to travel outside the zone, you can use PrePay (see above) to make up the difference. Note that they can not be used on any Airport Express trains (Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express and Stansted Express). However, a Zone 1-6 Travelcard can be used on the London Underground (Piccadilly line) to/from Heathrow Airport.
- Touch the card against a yellow disc, prominently displayed on the entry and exit gates for the Tube (do not try to insert it into the slot!) and on buses and trams.
- On the Docklands Light Railway, and on the Overground railway stations in the outlying parts of the city there are no entry or exit gates (except at interchanges with the Tube like Bank or Stratford), so you have to be sure to touch your Oyster card on the readers (which are clearly signposted) as you enter and leave. Failure to do this when you begin a journey is regarded as fare dodging (carrying a penalty fare or even a fine if you are caught). Equally, failing to touch out when you leave a station will result in you being overcharged for your journey, as the system will make a default deduction of £4 since it doesn't know which station you left at.
- Theoretically you don't need to remove your Oystercard from your wallet or bag to do touch in/out - the card reader can work through a bag, but in reality you may need to take the card out to get it to work - watch out for this especially if you have another smartcard in your wallet/purse (e.g. an an employers' identity badge or a contactless bank card) as this can confuse the barriers or ticket machines.
- Be careful standing near the readers on some bendy buses, they are often quite sensitive and may read your card from several centimetres away, even if you did not intend this.
- If you keep your Oystercard in your wallet try not to sit on it as sometimes they will crack and stop working.
The following table summarises the validity of the different tickets you can use on Oyster. For most tourists, tubes and buses are the only transport you will use, but be aware that these tickets are not valid on Airport Express trains.
|Bus||London Underground||London Overground||National Rail||DLR||Tram||Airport Express trains|
- Bus (and Tram) Passes are only available for periods of 7 days and longer.
- Travelcards are valid only within the zones you buy.
- Piccadilly line to Heathrow is a London Underground train, so PrePay and Travelcards are valid.
- Airport Express trains are Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Express.
- Travelcards are valid on Thameslink but if you are heading all the way to Luton airport, you will need a ticket between the edge of your travelcard zone and the airport.
London is a surprisingly compact city, making it a walker's delight and often being the quickest method of transport.
Because Britain drives on the left hand side of the road, for most foreign visitors it can be all too easy to forget that traffic will come at you from the opposite direction than you are used to when crossing a street - for this reason remember to look right when you cross the road.
Particularly on Central London's busiest streets, it is easy to spot native Londoners as they are able to weave in and out of the large crowds at fast speed. Refrain from walking slowly in tight spaces to avoid annoying any fast walking people that may be trying to pass.
By tube / underground
The London Underground  - 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, the first section of the Metropolitan Line dates back to 1863). The Tube is an easy method of transport even for new visitors to London.
Tube maps  are freely available from any station, most tourist offices and are prominently displayed throughout stations and in the back of most diaries. The Tube is made up of 11 lines each bearing a traditional name and a standard colour on the Tube map. To plan your trip on The Tube work out first which station is closest to your starting point and which closest to your destination. You are able to change freely between lines at interchange stations (providing you stay within the zones shown on your ticket). Use the Tube Map to determine which line(s) you will take. 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. 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 - the most distant reaches of the Metropolitan Line for example are almost 40 miles from the centre of the city. In central London, taking The Tube for just one stop can be a waste of time; Londoners joke about the tourists who use the Tube to travel between Leicester Square and Covent Garden stations. This is especially true since the walk from a tube station entrance to the platform at some central stations can be extensive. The Tube map also gives no information on London's extensive overground bus network and its orbital rail network.
Trains run from around 5:30AM to about 1AM. 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, and the fact that it can get extremely crowded during rush hours (7:30AM-10:00AM and 4:30PM-7PM). On warm days take a bottle of water with you. Also note that engineering works usually take place during weekends or in the evening. Contact TfL or visit their web site  especially if you plan to travel on a Saturday or a Sunday when entire lines may be shut down.
All lines are identified by their name (e.g. Circle Line, Central Line, Piccadilly Line). Some line names are misnomers that originated from when the Tube was originally operated by multiple private railways e.g. the Northern Line does not serve the most northern parts of the network, although it is one of the main routes serving South London. Also, many lines have multiple branches rather than running point-to-point so it's always advisable to check the train's destination (which will be shown on the front of the train, the platform indicator screens and will be broadcast on the train's PA). Some branch lines (such as the Chesham branch of the Metropolitan Line or the Kensington Olympia branch of the District Line) run as shuttles and require a transfer onto the 'main line'. Note that the Northern Line has two separate routes through the city centre which split at Euston and rejoin at Kennington - one (officially called the Charing Cross Branch but known by locals as the West End branch) runs through the West End serving Leicester Square, Charing Cross and Waterloo, while the other route runs via the City of London (officially called the Bank branch but also referred to as the City branch) with major stops at Kings Cross and Bank. Despite the confusing layout of the line, it's fairly easy to work out which way your train is going - for example a northbound Northern Line train to Edgware along the Charing Cross branch will be displayed on the indicator as 'Edgware via ChX' and the on-board PA will announce 'This train terminates at Edgware via Charing Cross'. Finally, note that direction signs for the platforms indicate the geographical direction of the line, NOT the last stop of the line e.g. 'Central Line Westbound Platform 1, Central Line Eastbound Platform 2'. It's always advisable to carry a pocket Tube map (available for free at most stations) to help you with this.
Almost all stations have automatic ticket barriers. If paying by Oyster Card, just tap your card against the yellow pad to open the barriers (both upon entrance and exit). If you have a paper ticket, insert it face-up into the slot on the front of the machine, and remove it from the top to enter the station. If you have a single-ticket it will be retained at the exit gate. If you have luggage or if your ticket is rejected there is normally a staffed gate as well. Paper tickets can be purchased from vending machines in the station lobby. There are two types of machine - the older machines have buttons for different fare levels and only accept coins, while the new touch-screen machines have instructions in multiple languages, offer a greater choice of ticket and accept bills and credit/debit cards (note that if your card doesn't have an embedded microchip you cannot use these machines - instead you should pay at the ticket counter). Single tickets are charged at a premium (often costing only a little less than a 1-day travelcard) of £4.00 flat fare for journeys within or beyond Zone 1 or £3.00 for journeys outside of Zone 1. Single Oyster fares are charged by the number of zones crossed, starting at £1.60 for 1 zone up to £3.60 for 6 zones. Paper travel cards valid for 1-, 3- or 7 days are also available and can also be used on buses, National Rail trains, the DLR and Croydon Tramlink. They are priced by zones - a 1-day travelcard for Zones 1-2 costs £5.50.
London's iconic red buses are recognized the world over, even if the traditional Routemaster buses, with an open rear platform and on-board conductor to collect fares, have been phased out. These still run on Heritage Route 9 and 15 daily between about 9:30AM and 6:30PM, every 15 minutes. Buses are generally quicker than taking the Tube for short (less than a couple of stops on the Tube) trips, and out of central London you're likely to be closer to a bus stop than a tube station. On some busy routes, extra-long buses known as "bendy buses" are used. Routes served by these buses always carry a yellow route sign as detailed below. Care should be taken as it is possible for those unfamiliar with them to get on then have no way of paying. This could be related to the relative ease of hopping on and off without paying (doors open along the length of the bus and there is no on-board conductor). This is, however, illegal and can be very risky - large teams of inspectors frequently descend on these buses accompanied by police, and it's possible to be arrested and prosecuted. Normally, however, those who get on the bus via the doors in the middle will be asked (or rather yelled) to come to the front and pay.
Over 5 million bus trips are made each weekday; with over 700 different bus routes you are never far from a bus. Each bus stop has a sign listing routes that stop there. Bus routes are identified by numbers and sometimes letters, for example the 73 runs between Victoria and Seven Sisters. Yellow signs indicate you must purchase your ticket before you board. You must either have a Pay-as-you-go Oyster card, travelcard season ticket, bus saver ticket, bus pass, or have bought a one way ticket from a machine at the bus stop. These machines don't provide change (all the more reason to use one of the other options). From age 11 and up you must show an Oyster card on buses, yet journeys are free. Student Oysters (only available to students studying in London) go up to age 18 and journeys are still free, failure to show an Oyster means a £2 fare.
Buses display their route number in large digits at the front, side and rear. All bus stops have their location and the direction of travel on them.
The iBus system has now been rolled out the iBus on every bus and garage in London. This new system provides bus times and destination information on a audio-visual display.
Unlike The Tube one way tickets do not allow you to transfer to different buses.
Standard bus services run from around 6AM-12:30AM. Around half past midnight the network changes to the vast night bus network of well over 100 routes stretching all over the city. There are two types of night buses: 24 hour routes and N-prefixed routes.
24 hour services keep the same number as during the day and will run the exact same route, such as the nr. 88 bus for example. N-prefixed routes are generally very similar to their day-route, but may take a slightly different route or are extended to serve areas that are further out. For example, the 29 bus goes from Trafalgar Square to Wood Green during the day; however, the N29 bus goes from Trafalgar Square to Wood Green and on to Enfield.
Nightbuses run at a 30 minute frequency at minimum, with many routes at much higher frequencies up to every 5 minutes.
Prices stay the same, and daily travelcards are valid until 4 am the day after they were issued, so can be used on night buses. Most bus stops will have night bus maps with all the buses to and from that local area on it, although it is good to check on the TfL website beforehand, which also has all those maps easily available.
Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is a dedicated light rail network operating in East London, connecting with the tube network at Bank, Tower Gateway (close to Tower Hill tube station), Canning Town, Heron Quays (close to Canary Wharf tube station) and Stratford. 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 oneself. The DLR also runs above ground on much of its route, and travels through many picturesque parts of London, including the docklands area where most of London's skyscrapers are located. 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.
Unlike the tube, the DLR uses the honor-system at all stations apart from Bank and Stratford. Tickets are available from the machines at stations (most stations are unstaffed so make sure you are armed with a handful of coins or low-denomination notes) and are distance-based. Travelcards are also accepted, as are Oyster cards, which must be validated when entering the platform, and then validated again when exiting the station.
The DLR can be a little confusing as the routes are not easily distinguished - generally trains run between Bank - Lewisham, Stratford - Lewisham, Bank - Woolwich Arsenal, Stratford - Woolwich Arsenal and Tower Gateway - Beckton. Displays on the platform will tell you the destination and approximate wait for the next 3 trains, and the destination is also displayed on the front and side of the train.
The British railway system is known as National Rail (although some older signs still refer to it as "British Rail"). London's suburban rail services are operated by a large number of independent private companies and mostly run in the south of the city, away from the main tourist sights. Only one line (Thameslink) runs through central London - on a north-south axis between London Bridge or Blackfriars stations, and the underground level of St Pancras main line station. There is no one central station - instead, there are twelve mainline stations dotted around the edge of the central area, and most are connected by the Circle line (except Euston, Fenchurch St and those South of the river like London Waterloo and London Bridge). Most visitors will not need to use National Rail services except for a few specific destinations such as Hampton Court, Kew Gardens (Kew Bridge station), Windsor Castle, Greenwich or the airports, or indeed if they are intending to visit other cities in the UK. Since 2 January 2010, pay-as-you-go Oystercards are accepted on all routes within London travel zones 1-6.
Visitors are well advised to remember that the quickest route between two stations might be a combination of the Tube as well as the National Rail network. (For example: getting to Wimbledon from central London by Tube using the District Line takes significantly longer (around 45 minutes) than taking the National Rail service from Waterloo to Wimbledon (around 15 minutes).)
Airport Express Rail services run to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton airports - tickets are generally sold at a premium and Oystercards not valid.
In common parlance, Londoners may refer to travelling by "overground" (or "overland"), meaning going by National Rail (as opposed to going by Underground). However, only one service is officially called Overground - London Overground is a Transport for London rail service. It is operated and promoted just like the Underground, with the logo like the Tube (except orange) on stations and full acceptance of Oystercards. London Overground appears on the Tube map as an orange line, and services run across North London suburbs from east to west. Overground services can be a useful shortcut for crossing the city, bypassing the centre, for example from Kew Gardens to Camden. London Overground services also connect busy Clapham Junction railway station in the Southwest to West London (Shepherds Bush and Kensington) and Willesden Junction in the Northwest.
By tram (Tramlink)
Tramlink, opened in 2000, is the first modern tram system to operate in London. South London is poorly served by the Tube and lacks east-west National Rail services so the network connects Wimbledon in South West London to Beckenham in South East London and New Addington, a large housing estate in South Croydon. The network is centred on Croydon, where it runs on street-level tracks around the Croydon Loop.
Route 3 (Wimbledon to New Addington - green on the Tramlink map) is the most frequent service, running every 7 1/2 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and every 15 minutes at all other times. Beckenham is served by Routes 1 and 2 (yellow and red on the Tramlink map), which terminate at Elmers End and Beckenham Junction respectively. Both services travel around the Loop via West Croydon and run every 10 minutes Monday to Saturday daytime and every 30 minutes at all other times. Between Arena and Sandilands, these two services serve the same stops.
Cycling in the United Kingdom
The rules for cyclists are available in the British Government publication The Highway Code
Due to the expense of other forms of transport and the compactness of central London, cycling is a tempting option. Excellent free cycle maps  can be obtained from your local tube stations, bike shop, or ordered online.
London now offers a city-wide cycle hire scheme, operated by Transport for London. For an hourly charge, bicycles may be hired from automated hire stations around the city. The bikes, all coloured a distinctive bright blue, can be unlocked and ridden around the city with a credit card, and must be returned to another hire station by locking the bike into the rack. The new system is in trial and is currently only open to pre-registered members from London, but will be available to visitors later in 2010.
Despite recent improvements, London remains a relatively hostile environment for cyclists. London motorists seem reluctant to acknowledge the existence of cyclists, especially at busy junctions. The kind of contiguous cycle lane network found in many other European cities does not exist. The safest option is to stick to minor residential roads where traffic can be surprisingly calm outside rush hours.
Most major roads in London will have a red-route (indicated by red-painted tarmac) which is restricted to buses, taxis and bicycles. There are many bus stops on red routes, which can present a problem cycling around buses.
Cycle-lanes exist in London but they are often sporadic at best - usually a 3-foot wide section of tarmac barely wide enough for one cyclist typically indicated by green-painted tarmac. 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 2005 public transport attacks. A new network of "Cycle super-highways" has recently been launched: these are indicated by bright blue-painted tarmac. Motor vehicles often park on cycle lanes, rendering them unusable.
The towpaths in North London along the Grand Union Canal and Regent's Canal are the closest thing to a truly traffic-free cycle path in the capital. 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 30-40min to cycle from Paddington station to Islington along the towpaths. 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.
Care should be taken as to where you choose to park your bike. Many areas, some surprisingly busy, attract cycle thieves, while chaining a bicycle to a railing which appears to be private property can occasionally lead to said bike being removed.
Taking bikes on trains is very limited in London due to overcrowding. Non-folding bikes can be taken only on limited sections of The Tube network, mostly only on the above-ground sections outside peak hours. For this reason, folding bicycles are becoming increasingly popular. There is a map showing this on the Transport for London website. Most National Rail operators allow bicycles outside peak hours also.
Critical Mass London is a cycling advocacy group which 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.
The London Cycling Campaign  is an advocacy group for London cyclists. With active local groups in most of the city's boroughs, it is recognised by local and regional government as the leading voice for cycling in the capital.
London has two types of taxis: the famous black cab, and so-called minicabs. Black cabs are the only ones licensed to 'ply for hire' (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 cab of London (not always black!) can be hailed from the curb or found at one of the many designated taxi ranks. 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. Their amber TAXI light will be on if they are available. Drivers must take an extensive exam in central 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. They are a cheap transport option if there are five passengers as they do not charge extras, and many view them as an essential experience for any visitor to London. Black cabs charge by distance and by the minute, are non-smoking, and have a minimum charge of £2.20. Tipping is not mandatory in either taxis or minicabs, despite some drivers' expectations..... Use your discretion, if you like the service you may tip otherwise don't. Londoners will often just round up to the nearest pound.
Taxis are required by law to take you wherever you choose (within Greater London) if their TAXI light is on when you hail them. However some, especially older drivers, dislike leaving the centre of town, or going south of the River Thames. A good way to combat being left at the side of the curb is to open the back door, or even get into the cab, before stating your destination.
Minicabs are normal cars which 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. Licensed minicabs display a Transport For London (TFL) License Plate - usually in the front window. One of the features of the license plate is a blue version of the famous London Underground "roundel". A list of licenced minicab operators can be found at TfL Findaride: . 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 minicabs operating - just opportunistic people, with a car, looking to make some fast money. Some of these operators can be fairly aggressive in their attempts to find customers, and it's now barely possible to walk late at night through any part of London with a modicum of nightlife without being approached. You should avoid mini-cabs touting for business off the street and either take a black cab, book a licensed minicab by telephone, or take a night bus. These illegal drivers are unlicensed and sadly they are often unsafe: a number of women are assaulted every week by illegal minicab operators (11 per month).
- Cabwise, Liverpool Station, ☎ 60835, . 1.30. A free service provided by TFL which texts you local licensed minicab numbers. Text CAB to 60835. Costs the price of a text message.
Londoners who drive will normally take public transport in the centre; follow their example. There is no good reason whatsoever to drive a car in central London.
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  M-F 7AM-6PM (excluding public holidays) attracts a fee of £8 if paid the same day, or £10 if paid on the next charging day. Numerous payment options exist: by phone, online, at convenience stores displaying the red 'C' logo in the window and by voucher. Failure to pay the charge by midnight the next charging day (take note!) incurs a hefty automatic fine of £80 (£40 if paid within 2 weeks).
Despite the Congestion Charge, London - like most major cities - continues to experience traffic snarls. These are, of course, worse on weekdays during peak commuting hours, i.e. between 7:30AM-9:30AM and 4PM-7PM At these times public transport (and especially the Tube) usually offers the best alternative for speed and reduced hassle. Driving in Central London is a slow, frustrating, expensive and often unnecessary activity. Traffic is slow and heavy, there are many sorts of automatic enforcement cameras, and it is difficult and expensive to park. A good tip is, that outside advertised restriction hours, parking on a single yellow line is permissible. Parking on a red line or a double yellow line is never permissible and heavily enforced. Find and read the parking restrictions carefully! Parking during weekdays and on Saturday 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.
For the disabled driving can be much more convenient than using public transport. If disabled and a resident of a member state of the EU then two cars can be permanently registered, for free, for the congestion charge.
Motorcycles and scooters are fairly common in London as they can pass stationary cars, can usually be parked for free and are exempt from congestion-charging. Scooters and bikes with automatic transmission are much more preferable - a manually-geared racing bike is completely impractical unless you have excellent clutch-control! Likewise to bicycles, car-drivers have a disregard to anyone on two wheels and larger vehicles have an unwritten priority so take care when crossing junctions. A fully-enclosed crash-helmet is mandatory. Parking for bikes is usually free - there are designated motorcycle-parking areas on some side-streets and some multi-level parking lots will have bike parking on the ground level.
London is now starting to follow the example of cities such as Sydney and Bangkok by promoting a network of river bus and pleasure cruise services along the River Thames. London River Services  (part of Transport for London) manages regular commuter boats and a network of piers all along the river and publishes timetables and river maps similar to the famous tube map. While boat travel may be slower and a little more expensive than tube travel, it offers an extremely pleasant way to cross the city with unrivalled views of the London skyline - Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, etc. Sailing under Tower Bridge is an unforgettable experience.
Boats are operated by private companies and they have a separate ticketing system from the rest of London transport; however if you have a Travelcard you get a 33% discount on most boat tickets. Many boat operators offer their own one-day ticket - ask at the pier kiosks. Generally, tickets from one boat comapny are not valid on other operators' services. Oyster cards can be used as payment for the 'Clipper'-styled commuter services but not for tour boats.
Boats run on the following routes:
- Bankside - Millbank
- Barrier Gardens - Greenwich - St. Katharine's - Westminster
- Blackfriars - Embankment - Cadogan - Chelsea Harbour - Wandsworth (RQ) - Putney
- Canary Wharf - Hilton Docklands
- Canary Wharf - London Bridge City
- Embankment - Blackfriars - Chelsea Harbour - Cadogan
- Embankment - London Eye - Bankside - London Bridge City - Tower - Canary Wharf - Greenland - Masthouse Terrace - Greenwich - QEII for the O2 - Woolwich Arsenal
- Embankment - London Eye - Blackfriars - London Bridge City - Tower - Canary Wharf - Greenland - Masthouse Terrace - Greenwich - QEII for the O2 - Woolwich Arsenal
- Embankment - London Eye - Blackfriars - London Bridge City - Tower - Canary Wharf - Greenwich - QEII for the O2 - Woolwich Arsenal
- Embankment - London Eye - London Bridge City - Tower - Canary Wharf - Greenland - Masthouse Terrace - Greenwich - QEII for the O2 - Woolwich Arsenal
- Greenwich - Tilbury - Gravesend
- Greenwich - Tower - Westminster - London Eye
- Hampton Court - Kingston (Town End Pier) - Kingston (Turk's Pier) - Richmond (St Helena)
- Hampton Court - Richmond - Kew - Westminster
- Hilton Docklands - Canary Wharf
- London Bridge City - Canary Wharf
- Millbank - Bankside
- Putney - Wandsworth (RQ) - Chelsea Harbour - Cadogan - Embankment - Blackfriars
- Richmond (St Helena) - Kingston (Turk's Pier) - Kingston (Town End Pier) - Hampton Court
- Tilbury - Gravesend - Greenwich
- Westminster - Embankment - Festival - Bankside - London Bridge City - St. Katharine's - Westminster
- Westminster - Embankment - St. Katharine's - Westminster
- Westminster - Kew - Richmond - Hampton Court
- Westminster - London Eye - Tower - Greenwich
- Westminster - St. Katharine's - Greenwich - Barrier Gardens
- Woolwich Arsenal - QEII for the O2 - Greenwich - Masthouse Terrace - Greenland - Canary Wharf - Tower - London Bridge City - Bankside - Embankment - London Eye
- Woolwich Arsenal - QEII for the O2 - Greenwich - Masthouse Terrace - Greenland - Canary Wharf - Tower - London Bridge City - Blackfriars - Embankment - London Eye
- Woolwich Arsenal - QEII for the O2 - Greenwich - Masthouse Terrace - Greenland - Canary Wharf - Tower - London Bridge City - Embankment - London Eye
Some key tourist attractions that are easily accessible by boat include:
plus all the central London sights in Westminster and the South Bank
As well as the Thames, consider a trip along an old Victorian canal through the leafy suburbs of North London. The London Waterbus Company runs scheduled services (more in summer, less in winter) from Little Venice to Camden Lock with a stop at the London Zoo (pick up only). The 45-minute trip along Regent's Canal is a delightful way to travel.
Inline skating on roads and sidewalks (pavements) is completely legal, except in the City of London (a district). Roads are not the greatest but easily skatable. In the centre drivers are more used to skaters than in the outskirts.
London with children
London can be stressful with kids - check London with children for slightly less stressful sightseeing
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles and only an overview is presented here.
- Buckingham Palace - The official London residence of the Queen, also in Westminster. Open for tours during the summer months only, but a must-see sight even if you don't go in.
- The London Eye. The world's third largest observation wheel, situated on the South Bank of the Thames with magnificent views over London.
- Marble Arch is a white Carrara marble monument designed by John Nash. It is located in the middle of a huge traffic island at one of the busiest intersections in central London where Oxford St meets Park Lane in Mayfair.
- Piccadilly Circus is one of the most photographed sights in London. The status of Eros stands proudly in the middle while the north eastern side is dominated by a huge, iconic neon hoarding.
- St Paul's Cathedral, also in the City, is Sir Christopher Wren's great accomplishment, built after the 1666 Great Fire of London - the great dome is still seated in majesty over The City. A section of the dome has such good acoustics that it forms a "Whispering Gallery".
- Tower Bridge - Is the iconic 19th century bridge located by the Tower of London near the City. It is decorated with high towers and featuring a drawbridge and you can visit the engine rooms and a Tower Bridge exhibition.
- The Tower of London - Situated just south east of the City, is London's original royal fortress by the Thames. It is over 900 years old, contains the Crown Jewels, guarded by Beefeaters, and is a World Heritage site. It is also considered by many to be the most haunted building in the world. If you are interested in that sort of thing its definitely somewhere worth visiting. Sometimes there are guided ghost walks of the building.
- Trafalgar Square - Home of Nelson's Column and the lions, and once a safe haven for London's pigeons until the recent introduction of hired birds of prey. 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.
- Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament) in Westminster. The seat of the United Kingdom parliament and World Heritage site, as well as setting for royal coronations since 1066, most recently that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The Palace of Westminster is open to the public only for viewing parliamentary debates, tours of the building are available during July-August when Parliament is away on summer recess.
Museums and Galleries
London hosts an outstanding collection of world-class museums. Even better, it is the only one of the traditional "alpha world cities" (London, Tokyo, New York City and Paris) in which the majority of the museums have no entrance charges, thus allowing visitors to make multiple visits with ease. Although London can be expensive, many of the best museums and galleries are free including:
- British Museum
- National Gallery
- National Portrait Gallery
- Natural History Museum
- Tate Modern
- Tate Britain
and most museums in Greenwich. Note that admission to many temporary exhibitions is not free.
Aside from these world famous establishments, there is an almost unbelievable number of minor museums in London covering a very diverse range of subjects. The British government lists over 240 genuine museums in the city.
The 'green lungs' of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city including Hyde Park, St James Park and Regent's Park. 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.
- Hyde Park and adjoining Kensington Gardens make up a huge open space in central London and are very popular for picnics.
- Regent's Park is wonderful open park in the northern part of central London.
- St James's Park has charming and romantic gardens ideal for picnics and for strolling around. St. James's Park is situated between Buckingham Palace on the west and Horse Guards Parade on the east.
- Hampstead Heath is a huge open green space in north central London. Not a tended park a such and is remarkably wild for a metropolitan city location. The views from the Parliament Hill area of the heath south over the city are quite stunning.
- Richmond Park also is a huge green space, but has a thriving deer population that is culled in the spring. Excellent place for cycling.
English Heritage runs the Blue Plaques  programme in London. Blue Plaques celebrate great figures of the past and the buildings that they inhabited. These are among the most familiar features of the capital’s streetscape and adorn the façades of buildings across the city. Since the first plaque was erected in 1867, the number has grown steadily and there are now more than 800. Recipients are as diverse as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sigmund Freud, Charles de Gaulle, Jimi Hendrix and Karl Marx. Look out for these around the city.
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles. To make the most of the city's tremendous cultural offerings (performing arts, museums, exhibitions, clubs, eateries and numerous others), visitors will do well to pick up a copy of a cultural magazine like Time Out London (available at most corner shops and newsagents) which gives detailed information and critiques on what's around town including show times and current attractions. The website (http://www.timeout.com/london/) also has major shows listed and there is also an iPhone/iPod app available though these tend to not be as detailed as the print version.
- Take a walk through London's Royal Parks. A good walk would start at Paddington station, and head through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park (passing Buckingham Palace) and St James Park before crossing Trafalgar Square and the River Thames to the South Bank and Waterloo Station. At a strolling pace this walk would take half a day, with plenty of places to stop, sit, drink, eat en-route. A good pictorial description of this walk can be found online at Trips By Trains Royal Parks Walk .
- Live Music. London is one of the best cities in the world for concerts, spanning from new musical trends to well known bands. Between huge concert facilities and small pubs, there are hundreds of venues that organise and promote live music every week. Many concerts, especially in smaller or less known places are free, so there is plenty of choice even for tourists on a budget. London has long been a launchpad for alternative movements, from the mods of the 60s, punks of the 70s, new romantics of the 80s, the britpop scene of the 90s and in recent years the indie rock movement spearheaded by The Libertines and their ilk. It has one of the world's most lively live music scenes: any band heading a British, European or World tour will play London, not to mention the local talent. London's Music Scene is incredibly diverse, covering all genres of music from electro-jazz to death-metal, and all sizes of bands, from the U2s and Rolling Stones of the world to one man bands who disband after their first gig. This diversity is reflected in prices. As a rough guide: £20+ for 'top 40' bands in arena sized venues, £10+ for established bands in mid sized venues, £6+ for up and coming bands and clubnights in smaller venues, £5- for upstarting bands in bars and pubs. London has hundreds of venues spread out over the city and the best way to know what's going on where is to browse online ticket agencies, music magazine's gig directories  and bands' myspaces. However, there are a few areas which have higher concentrations of pubs and venues than others. Kilburn is situated in North West London. It's long been known as an Irish area, and though their numbers have somewhat declined any visit to a local pub will show their influence remains today. The center point of Kilburn's music scene is The Luminaire. The Luminaire is a fairly new establishment that started as a venue for unsigned bands but now mainly puts on alternative bands on the edge of a big break, or older bands that never hit the mainstream. It has a wonderful energy, a well designed interior and very good DJs. Kilburn's second venue is The Good Ship. Due to its inclusive policies and fair payment system, The Good Ship is a favorite place for young aspiring bands to try to get a foot off the ground. Good for those who would like to see bands "before they were big", who appreciate £5 entrance fees, good beer and friendly staff.
- Theatre. The West End, especially the areas concentrated around Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Haymarket, is one of the world's premier destinations for theatre, including musical theatre. Covent Garden has the only Actor sponsored school in the city called the Actors Centre  which also gave way to the London Acting Network , a London acting community support group. In the centre of Leicester Square there is an official half-price TKTS booth. For up-to-date listings see the weekly magazine Time Out  or check the official London theatreland site . The South Bank is another area well-known for serious theatre, and is home to both the National Theatre and the Globe Theatre. London's theatre scene outside of these two main districts is known as "the Fringe".
- Watch a movie. As well as the world-famous blockbuster cinemas in the West End, London has a large number of superb art house cinemas. In the summer months, there are often outdoor screenings at various venues, such as Somerset House and in some of the large parks.
- Watch football, . Take in a home match of one of the city's 20+ professional football clubs for a true experience of a lifetime as you see the passion of the "World's Game" in its mother country. The biggest EPL clubs in London are Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. A level down finds Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace, Queen's Park Rangers and Millwall. Many of the bigger clubs will require booking in advance, sometimes many months ahead, but smaller clubs allow you to simply turn up on match day and pay at the gate. You will be able to find a ticket to a quality football match on any Saturday during the season.
- Wimbledon, . Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely considered the most prestigious. Naturally it is a regular feature on the Tennis calendar. London goes "tennis crazy" for two weeks when the competition commences in late June and early July.
- Open House London Weekend, . Explore many of the city's most interesting buildings during the London Open House Weekend - usually held on the third weekend of September. During this single 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 - some buildings have to be pre-booked in advance - book early for the popular ones!
- Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road (tube: South Kensington), . One of the first of its kind in the world. The museum houses many permanent and temporary exhibitions covering plants, animals and geology from the worlds natural history. Of interest to most would be the permanent dinosaur exhibition. Although many displays feel dated this is an excellent museum and is always, deservedly, crowded. Free.
- Winter Skating. 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. See the district articles for the City of London, East End and Leicester Square.
- Summer Skating. In summer (and also in winter, for the more dedicated) there is also a thriving roller skating (on inline and traditional "quad" skates) scene in London, catering to many disciplines including street hockey, freestyle slalom, dance, general recreational skating (including three weekly marshalled group street skates) and speed skating. This mostly centres around Hyde Park (on the Serpentine Road) and Kensington Gardens (by the Albert Memorial). See the district articles for Mayfair-Marylebone and South West London.
- Shopping.. If it's available, it can be bought in London. Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, all in the West End, are some of the most famous shopping destinations in the world, but they are also just the tip of the iceberg, and many London districts and town centres have unique shopping attractions of their own.
If you don't feel like splashing out on one of the commercial bus tours, you can make your own bus tour by buying an Oyster card 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 a commercial tour.
- Open top bus tour. Every day. These 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  +44 (0)20 8877 1722 and The Big Bus Company  +44 (0)20 7233 9533). 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).
- London Ducktours, ☎ +44 (0)20 7928 3132, . Daily. If you are in the mood for a view of London by boat. The tour bus is actually a D-Day landing water/land vehicle that has been refurbished complete with tour guide.
- London Film Location Tours, ☎ +44 (0)844 2471 007, . Daily. London is the third busiest filming location in the world and has plenty of famous film locations to visit from movies such as Bridget Jones's Diary, The Da Vinci Code and Sherlock Holmes.
- New London Tours (by foot), ☎ +49 30 510 50030, . Old City of London Tour starts everyday at 10 am by the sundial directly opposite the Tower Gateway exit at Tower Hill Station. Royal London Free tour starts daily at 11AM by Wellington Arch. Use EXIT 2 when leaving Hyde Park Corner station. (Phone number links to Germany.) Free.
- Architectural Tours, ☎ +44 20 3006 7008, . Open House Architecture Tours take place every Saturday morning and offer an opportunity to experience London’s built environment at first hand. The tour guides, all of whom are architects, architectural writers or architectural historians, have an in-depth knowledge of London, enabling them to provide an intelligent but accessible commentary to the tours. Four geographical areas are rotated on a weekly basis: The Square Mile, Edges of the City, Westminster and Docklands. Please note that a coach is used to get you to the key destinations, with some walking in-between.
London attracts more students from overseas than any other city in the world, and is home to a huge variety of academic institutions. Its universities include some of the oldest and most prestigious in the world.
Many of the city's most prestigious colleges fall under the auspices of the University of London  including:
- University College London (UCL), . The first university established in London, offering a wide range of courses. UCL academic research is cited more than any other university in the UK, and its courses are regarded as amongst the best
- London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), . The only college in the UK focused exclusively on social sciences, whose courses are regarded as amongst the very best in the world
- School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), . Offers highly regarded courses in law, languages, social sciences and humanities, with a unique focus on Asia and Africa. Its glittering list of alumni include many foreign leaders.
- London Business School, . Postgraduate business school offering one of the world's leading MBA programmes
- King's College London, . Situated in the heart of London over 3 main campuses. Offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses for a range of subjects at a high academic level.
Other institutions include Imperial College London , the UK's leading university specialising in sciences
London is a natural place to learn and improve spoken and written English. There are a huge range of options, from informal language exchange services to evening classes and formal language schools. There are a number of unaccredited schools charging hefty fees and offering qualifications that are viewed as worthless. If choosing a course from a privately-run school or college, it is important to ensure the institution is accredited by the British Council.
London is one of the world's leading financial centres and so professional services is the main area of employment, although this sector has been hit hard by the global financial crisis. As of Mid 2010, the job market in London has recovered somewhat, it is best to check with recruiters and staffing agencies.
London is hugely popular as a working holiday destination - work in bars and the hospitality industry is relatively easy to find and well paid.
Wages are generally higher in London than the rest of the UK, although the cost of living is higher still.
Though not particularly known for bargain shopping, nearly anything you could possibly want to buy is available in London. In Central London, the main shopping district is the West End (Bond St, Covent Garden, Oxford St and Regent St). On Thursdays many West End stores close later than normal (7PM-8PM).
- Oxford Street. Main shopping street home to flagship branches of all the major British high street retailers in one go including Selfridges , John Lewis  (includes a food hall), Marks & Spencer  and other department stores.
- Regent Street (between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus). Includes such gems as Hamleys, considered to be London's flagship toy store, on seven levels, and the London Apple Store.
- Bond Street. Some of the world's most luxurious designer stores such as Cartier, D&G, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and Versace.
- Tottenham Court Road. Contains some of the world's most luxurious designer interior stores such as Heals, whilst the southern end is famous for its large concentration of hi-fi, computer and electronics stores.
- Covent Garden . Fashionable area home to quaint outlets and relatively expensive designer stores. Around Seven Dials chains include Adidas Originals, All Saints, Carhartt, Fred Perry, G Star Raw and Stussy. For shoes head for Neal St. Also the London Transport Museum whose gift shop has some of the best souvenirs in the city (old maps, vintage Tube posters, etc).
- Charing Cross Road (near Covent Garden). A book lovers haven! New, second-hand, antiquarian and specialist.
- Soho . Offers alternative music and clothes. Now home to Chappell of Bond St's historic music shop.
- Camden Town. Alternative clothing and other alternative shopping, popular with teenagers and young adults. Also nearby Camden Lock market.
- Chelsea. The King's Road is noted for fashion, homeware and kids. On Wednesday many stores close late.
- Knightsbridge. Department stores include the world famous Harrods  (includes a food hall) and Harvey Nichols. On Wednesday many stores close late.
- Beauchamp Place.Shop where royalty and celebrities shop.One of the world's most unique and famous streets. Over the years it has developed its strong reputation as one of London’s most fashionable and distinctive streets, housing some of the best known names in London fashion, interspersed with trendy restaurants, jewellers and speciality shops including the world famous trademark Fortuny.
- Westminster. Some of the world's most famous shirts are made on Jermyn St.
Borough (tube: London Bridge)  is a great (if expensive) food market, offering fruit, veg, cheese, bread, meat, fish, and so on, much of it organic. It's open Th-Sa, and it's best to go in the morning, since it gets unpleasantly crowded by around 11AM.
Tax-free shops in airports are not strong in variety, prices are equal to London, and they close rather early as well. Shop listings at airport web sites can help to plan your tax-free (vs traditional) shopping. In the evening allow extra half an hour as closing hours are not always strictly respected.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
Smoking is banned in all UK pubs and restaurants.
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, ranging from fast food joints, pubs, and mainstream chains all the way up to some of the most exclusive restaurants in the world which attract the kind of clientele that don't need to ask the price. Sorting the good from the bad isn't easy, but London has something to accommodate all budgets and tastes. Following is a rough guide to what you might get, should you fancy eating out:
- £5 - you can get a good English pub or cafeteria breakfast with a rack of bacon, beans in tomato sauce, egg, sausage, orange juice and coffee or tea. Most pubs stop this offer at 11AM.
- £7 - will buy you a couple of sandwiches and a soft drink, some takeaway fish and chips, or a fast food meal. There are also a number of mostly Chinese restaurants which serve an all you can eat buffet for around this price. These are dotted about the West End and it is well worth asking a member of public or a shopkeeper where the nearest one is. These restaurants make much of their revenue on drinks although these are usually still moderately priced. The food whilst not being of the finest standard is usually very tasty and the range of dishes available is excellent. There are literally thousands of so called takeaways in London and a cheap alternative to a restaurant meal. Check with your hotel management if they allow food deliveries before ordering in. Most takeaways will offer some form of seating, but not all do.
- £6-10 - will get you a good pub meal and drink or a good Chinese/Indian/Italian/Thai/Vietnamese buffet. Be aware that many pubs have a buy-one-get-one-free offer, and you can either order two main dishes for yourself or bring a friend.
- £15 - some more expensive French, Mediterranean and international restaurants do cheaper two or three course lunch menus.
- £25 - offers you a lot more choice. You can have a good meal, half a bottle of wine and change for the tube home. There are plenty of modest restaurants that cater for this bracket.
- £50 (to almost any amount!) - with more money to spend you can pick some of the city's finer restaurants. It may be a famous chef (like Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay) or simply a place that prides itself on using the finest ingredients. Worth the splurge to impress a special someone. Note that these establishments often need to be booked well in advance, and most will enforce a dress code of some sort.
Prices inevitably become inflated at venues closest to major tourist attractions - beware the so-called tourist traps. The worst tourist trap food is, in the opinion of many Londoners, is served at the various steak houses (Angus Steak House, Aberdeen Steak House etc - they are all dotted around the West End and near to the main train stations). Londoners wouldn't dream of eating here - you shouldn't either! Notorious areas for inflated menu prices trading on travellers' gullibility and lack of knowledge are the streets around the British Museum, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus. Even the major fast food chains charge a premium in their West End outlets - so watch out.
Pubs within the touristy areas of London are usually a poor choice for food although there are some brilliant 'gastro-pubs' hidden away - use the internet or a good guide (such as Time Out) to find them. In general avoid all pubs that have graphic-designed and printed menus - it's peoples experiences in these kind of places that gives Britain a bad name for food! Look around you - see any locals tucking in? No? - then you shouldn't either. The other rule to follow when avoiding poor food is the same as in any other part of Europe - is the menu available in multiple languages? If yes then start running!!
In the suburbs, the cost of eating out is reduced drastically. Particularly in large ethnic communities, there is a competitive market which stands to benefit the consumer. In East London for example, the vast number of chicken shops means that a deal for 2 pieces of chicken, chips (fries) and a drink shouldn't cost you more than £3, and will satisfy even the largest of appetites. Another good (and cheap) lunch option is a chicken or lamb doner (gyro) at many outlets throughout the city.
Tipping may also be different than what you're used to. All meals include the 17.5% VAT tax and some places include a service fee (10-12%). The general rule is to leave a tip for table service, unless there's already a service charge added or unless the service has been notably poor. The amount tipped is generally in the region of 10%, but if there's a figure between 10 and 15% which would leave the bill at a conveniently round total, many would consider it polite to tip this amount. Tipping for counter service, or any other form of service, is unusual - but some choose to do so if a tips container is provided.
Whilst central London is full of restaurants and cafes it is useful for the visitor to be aware that there are some areas where the majority of diners are Londoners, rather than tourists, and in general you will get a much more pleasant, better value, and less crowded eating experience than you will find in the West End. These places are best visited in the evenings.
Upper Street Head to Highbury & Islington (Victoria line) or Angel (Northern line). Dozens of excellent restaurants, popular with young professionals.
Clapham Junction is not just a train station - but also home to many good restaurants and bars, in particular on Lavender Hill and Battersea Rise
Lordship Lane in the southern suburbs - head to East Dulwich station - a good selection of european restaurants and a few award winning gastropubs
High Street Croydon Croydon is derided by most Londoners as the end of the earth, however this suburban gem of a road has at least 30 decent restaurants, including three Argentinians, a South African curryhouse, a couple of fancy modern European brassieres, and just about every over type of cuisine you can think of. Sadly chain restaurants are moving in (Zizzi's, Pizza Express) but most of the places are still independent. Get a quick train to East Croydon station from Victoria or London Bridge.
As one of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, you can find restaurants serving food cuisine from nearly every country, some of it as good as, if not better than in the countries of origin.
Indian food in London is especially famous and there is hardly a district without at least one notable Indian restaurant.
If you are looking for other particular regional foods these tend to be clustered in certain areas and some examples are:
- Brixton for African/Caribbean.
- Chinatown just off Leicester Square for Chinese.
- Drummond Street (just behind Euston railway station in the London/Camden district) has lots of vegetarian restaurants - mostly Indian.
- Golders Green for Jewish fare.
- Kingsland Road for good cheap Vietnamese.
- Finsbury Park and nearby areas for Greek and Turkish.
- Tooting, East Ham, Wembley and Southall for authentic & cheap Indian eateries including authentic South Indian restaurants serving hot pongal, dosas, idlis and other South Indian "tiffin" items.
Other nationalities are equally represented and randomly dotted all over London. It is usually wisest to eat in restaurants on main thoroughfares rather than on quiet backstreets.
Like other capitals in the world, London has the usual array of fast food outlets. Sandwich shops are the most popular places to buy lunch, and there are a lot of places to choose from including Eat and Pret a Manger. Some Italian-style sandwich shops have a very good reputation and you can identify them easily by looking at the long queues at lunchtime. If all else fails, Central London has lots of mini-supermarkets operated by the big British supermarket chains (e.g. , Sainsbury's, Tesco) where you can pick up a pre-packed sandwich.
Fast food with an Asian flair is easy to find throughout the city, with lots of Busaba Eathai, Wagamama, and Yo! Sushi locations throughout the city. Nando's has spicy peri peri style grilled chicken.
London has plenty of vegetarian-only restaurants many of them championing organic foodstuffs, 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 most restaurants will cater for vegetarians and will have at least a couple of dishes on the menu. Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants are generally fruitful, as they have plenty of traditional dishes (good Indian/Bangladeshi options can be found in East Ham, Tooting Broadway as well as Southall - these also tend to be very cheap eats with authentically prepared dishes with a true local ambience). There are also many vegetarian Thai buffet places where you can eat fake meat in tooth-achingly sweet sauces for under £5. These can be found on Greek and Old Compton Sts in Soho and Islington High Street.
Due to the mix of cultures and religions, many London restaurants cater well for religious dietary requirements. The most common signs are for Halal and Kosher meat, from burger joints to nice restaurants. There are lots of Halal restaurants  and shops all over London including Whitechapel Rd and Brick Lane in the East End, Bayswater, Edgware Rd and Paddington and in many parts of north London. There are plenty of Kosher restaurants in Golders Green, Edgware and Stamford Hill.
Convenience stores and supermarkets
Convenience stores such as Tesco Metro, Sainsbury Central/Local, Budgens, Costcutter, SPAR, Somerfield as well as privately-run 'corner shops' sell pre-made sandwiches, snacks, alcohol, cigarettes, drinks etc. Most are open from 5AM-11PM although some such as Tesco Metro or convenience stores located at petrol stations may open 24 hours although they will stop selling alcohol after 11PM. Be aware that Whistlestop convenience stores (located in or around train stations) are notoriously overpriced and should be avoided. If using a petrol-station convenience store late at night (i.e. after 11PM) the store will be locked and you should order and pay through the external service window.
Full-size superstores such as Tesco, Asda and Morrisons are rare in the city centre and usually require a 15-20 min tube ride to reach them. One of the closest is the ASDA store close to South Quay DLR Station on the Lewisham line - about 15-min ride from Bank Station. There is also a Tesco in the Surrey Quays shopping mall which is next to Canada Water station on the Jubilee line - again about 10-15 minutes from the centre of town. If you plan on buying lots of groceries it's worth the trip as prices are much lower than in any downtown supermarkets.
London is home to a great many pubs, bars and nightclubs. The online city guide View London  and the weekly magazine Time Out  can inform you of what's going in London's night life, as well as with cultural events in general.
Pubs & bars
London is an expensive place and your drink is likely to cost more than its equivalent elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Expect to pay around £3 for a pint of beer in an average pub, but be aware that as with restuarants, pubs close to major tourist attractions cash in on travellers' gullibility so be on your guard for the tourist traps where prices of £3.50-£4 are not unheard of. Despite this however it is still possible to find a sub-£3 pint in central London - it takes some determination - but many local pubs, especially those run by chains like Wetherspoons and Scream tend to be more reasonably priced with good drink promotions on weekday nights and during the day. As with the rest of the UK, chain pubs abound which Londoners tend to avoid like the plague.
In the Bloomsbury area, check out The Court (near the north end of Tottenham Court Road) and The Rocket (Euston Road). Both are fairly cheap to drink at, given that they cater for students of the adjacent University College London. Directly opposite the British Library is The Euston Flyer, popular with locals and commuters alike given its close proximity to St Pancras International railway station.
Classier bars and pubs can be much more expensive. However, the cost of alcohol drops significantly the further away you go from the centre (though be aware that West London tends to be an exception, with prices pretty much the same as the centre).
Two important London breweries are Young's and and Fullers. Young's was founded in Wandsworth in 1831 and nowadays it boasts 123 pubs in central London alone. The Founder's Arms on the South Bank is one of the brewery's most well known establishments. Fullers was founded a bit later in 1845 and the jewel in its crown is probably the Grade I listed Old Bank Of England on Fleet Street, thanks to its breath-taking interiors.
It's hard to say which pub in London is truly the oldest but it's easy to find contenders for the title. Many pubs were destroyed in the Great Fire of London – indeed, Samuel Pepys supposedly watched the disaster from the comfort of the Anchor in Borough. Pubs were rebuilt on sites that claimed to have been working pubs since the 13th century. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street is on the site of an old monastery and its cellar dates back to the 13th century. Those interested in London's historic and literary connections can't miss The Spaniard's Inn in Hampstead. Dick Turpin is said to have been born here; John Keats and Charles Dickens both drank here; it's mentioned in Dickens' The Pickwick Papers and Bram Stoker's Dracula.
For the best view in the city, try pubs on the banks of the Thames. The South Bank has lots of good bars with plenty of iconic bridges and buildings in sight the cocktail bar in the OXO tower is a secret that most tourists walk by everyday. Heading towards Bermondsey, pub crowds become a little less touristy.
If you're after gastropubs, you may like to visit London's first, The Eagle, in Clerkenwell, established in 1991. You can also try Time Out's favourite newcomer, The Princess Victoria on Uxbridge Road, Shepherd's Bush.
Wine buffs can enjoy the famous Davys wine bars that dot the city. The company, established in 1870, import wines and own over thirty bars in the centre. Other big names in wine include the Michelin-starred Cellar Gascon and Vinoteca, both in Smithfield.
Big hotels, such as The Dorchester and The Ritz, and upmarket clubs around Leicester Square and Soho are reliable bets for a date at the bar. The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair-Marylebone boasts its house bar, plus the Time Out favourite, The Coburg. Still in Mayfair, The Polo Bar at The Westbury is very intimate.
You can rely on most up-and-running bars to offer a short cocktail menu and there are also bars that position themselves as cocktail specialists.
Nightlife is an integral part of London life and there are countless nightclubs in and around Central London with music to suit even the most eclectic of tastes. Districts in London tend to specialize to different types of music.
The Farringdon/Hoxton/Shoreditch area has many clubs playing drum and bass, house and trance music and is home to the superclub Fabric (arguably the best nightclub in London). The clubs in this area are often home to the world's top DJ's and attracts a lively, hip and friendly crowd.
The area around Mayfair is home to the more upmarket clubs in London. This area attracts a rather more showy crowd who love to flaunt what they have and is a must go to celebrity spot. Beware that drinks are ridiculously expensive and many clubs operate a guestlist-only policy. Music played here is often of the commercial chart, funky house, hip hop and R&B genre. Notable clubs include China White, Luxx, Maddox, Jalouse, Funky Buddha, Whisky Mist, Mahiki, No 5 Cavendish Square, Embassy, Vendome and Maya.
Nightclubs around the Leicester Square area hold the same music policy, but are rather more accessible, with numerous club promoters scattered around the area on a Friday or Saturday night offering deals on entry. Notable clubs are Cafe De Paris, Number One Leicester Square, Sound, Tiger Tiger, Zoo, Ruby Blue.
The Camden area is home to lots of clubs which play Indie, metal and rock music and notably the Electric Ballroom, the world famous Koko and Underworld.
Gay and lesbian
London has a vibrant gay scene with countless bars, clubs and events in just about every district of the city.
The nucleus of London's gay scene is undoubtedly Old Compton St and the surrounding area in Soho but over the last couple of years Vauxhall has seen a boom in Gay venues. You will find that many areas, particularly in Camden Town and Shoreditch, that straight bars will have a mixed clientele. To find out what is going on during your visit, you can check:
- qmagazine.com  a weekly magazine that comprehensively covers the London gay scene with handy night by night listings available on-line and in print
- Boyz Magazine  which is published fortnightly and is freely available at most London gay venues, and contains listings of everything that is happening in all the major clubs in London and the South East.
Gay Pride  is held every year in June with parade and street parties. The choice of places to go sometimes seem to be unmanageable.
- London Gay and Lesbian Switchboard (LLGS), ☎ +44 20 7837 7324 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . This voluntary service has been operating since 1974 and as well as providing counselling they offer an incredibly thorough information service about Gay events, accommodation and businesses in London.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Mid-range||£70 to £140|
London has hundreds of options for accommodation to suit all budgets from hostels through historic bed and breakfasts (B&Bs), mainstream chain hotels and apartments all the way to some of the most exclusive luxury hotels in the world such as The Savoy, The Ritz and Claridges where a stay in a top suite will cost upwards of £1,000 per night. The average cost of hotel accommodation in London is higher than in any other major British city. Prices invariably become inflated close to major sporting tournaments (such as the London Marathon, Wimbledon or major England football/rugby fixtures), or other important events taking place in the city - so it pays to plan your trip around such occasions or book your accommodation well in advance.
In general, most people tend to stay within "Zone 1" of the underground, however do your research carefully - sometimes being that extra five minutes away from a station can make the difference in cost and quality and local food and drinking options. In any case, you can always catch a bus anyway - by the far the best way to see the city and get about generally.
Your budget will have a lot to do with what part of London you will want to stay in. Tourist-standard prices range from £20-200 per person per night. Expect smaller than average rooms especially at the low end of this range. As a general rule, expect to pay between £75-150 per night for a 2 or 3 star hotel in the central area of the city. Many of the big name chain hotels now offer substantial discounts (with rates often down as low as £30-£50 per room per night) if you book well in advance, but the drawback is that you have to pay the full amount upfront at the time of booking and there are no refunds if you cancel. The heart of the West End is the most expensive place to stay and most hotels are either 4 or 5 star and most will command a hefty price premium.
The City can also be very expensive during the week, as it relies heavily on the business market but prices often drop over the weekend and it can be a good way of getting into a higher standard of accommodation than you could otherwise afford. Bear in mind though that this part of central London becomes a ghost town over the weekend, and you will find that few (if any) bars and restaurants will be open.
A top tip however is to always check the likes of LondonTown.com, Expedia and LateRooms as well as the hotel's own website - since there are often deals to be had which can reduce the costs significantly.
The extra cost of getting around is probably not significant compared to savings made by staying in a hotel further out. With the excellent Tube system where you stay won't limit what you see. Always be sure though to check where the closest tube station is to your hotel. Staying further out will be cheaper but when travelling in allow 1-2 min per tube stop (near the centre), around 2-3 min per stop (further out) and 5-10 min per line change. This can easily total up to a 1 hour journey if there is a walk at each end.
A more imaginative alternative could be to stay in a nearby town with quick and easy train travel to London. For example, lively Brighton (otherwise known as 'London by Sea') is only an hour away, but your budget will go much further and there are excellent accommodation options.
Some of the better value options are to be found in the following central districts:
- Bloomsbury. Relatively quiet district with a wide range of accommodation, and has enjoyed a surge in popularity following Eurostar's move to St Pancras International station. Cartwright Gardens features a dozen small B&Bs in historic houses. Many budget options are located on Argyle Square (just off the Euston Road). Gets a little seedy towards and beyond King's Cross railway station.
- Earl's Court and West Kensington in west central London. Budget and modest accommodation as well as good 4-star hotels. Be careful with the cheapest accommodation in this area though as it will likely be very seedy indeed.
- Paddington and Bayswater in north west central London. Has undergone a lot of change recently largely resulting from the Heathrow Express train coming into Paddington station. Good hotels can be found in the immediate area of the station and in quieter spots a short walk away as well as in the traditional mid-range accommodation area further south in Bayswater.
- Westminster. Lots of small B&Bs around the back of Victoria railway station in the Pimlico area.
A slightly left-field option is to check the Landmark Trust , a building preservation charity who purchase notable old buildings in the UK, renovate and run them as holiday lettings. An interesting approach to saving old buildings for sure.
Not necessarily as unpleasant as you may think, and as long as you don't mind sharing with others, they are the most cost-effective option and also offer breakfast as well as kitchens for self catering. The "official" Youth Hostel Association of England and Wales  (YHA) operates five hostels in Central London. Like everything else, you should book online well in advance - the hostels usually fill up on Friday and Saturday nights about 14 days before. A top tip is don't be put off if there is no availability left online, phone the hostel in question to see if there are still beds available or if there has been a cancellation. Some of the YHA's properties also offer a limited number of private family rooms - expect to pay around £60 per night.
Keep in mind that for foreign visitors, the YHA hostels will require to see a form of ID (a passport or national identity card) and a valid membership card from a local YHI (Youth Hostelling International)-recognised Youth Hostel association. For British visitors, a valid YHA (SYHA for Scotland) membership card is all that's required. For all non-YHI members, the YHA will levy a £3 welcome stamp per day.
There are a number of other, independent hostels throughout the city and these are listed in the relevant district articles.
In the summer season, many of the colleges and universities in Central London open up their student halls of residence as hotels during vacations, at usually much lower rates than proper hotels, but expect very basic facilities (e.g. communal bathrooms, no catering facilities), but you will get the personal privacy that you don't get in hostels for not very much more cost. London University vacation accommodation providers include; UCL Residences LSEVactions and TravelStay.com.
Some apartment-hotels offer good value accommodation for those travelling in a group - often better quality than many hotels but at a cheaper individual rate per person.
Capsule-style crash spaces are just arriving, but currently these are only in central locations.
Short-term apartment or flat rentals are an attractive option for many travelers to London, and there are innumerable agencies offering them, almost all of them nowadays through the internet. A key consideration for renting a short term flat is if you are visiting in a large group or a family. In such cases a short stay in London can be more affordable compared to staying in a hotel. Your best protection is to deal only with London apartment rental agencies which have been recommended by independent sources you feel you can trust, and to deal only with those that accept confirmations via credit card.
London is unfortunately not noted for free public wifi access - although the number of hotspots is continuing to grow. See  for a map containing free wifi locations.
- Online-4-Free.com, . One of the most promising (it seems) for traveller-frequented areas, a service that provides blanket coverage along the banks of the River Thames (and some surrounding streets) from Millbank down to Greenwich Pier, and a small 'cloud' in Holborn - the free service asks only that you view a short advertisement every half hour in order to get 256 kbps (higher rates and ad-free come at a small charge). Free.
- Tate Modern, . Offering for a trial period free wi-fi internet access.
- British Library, . Offers free internet access throughout the library with registration.
Another good place for free wi-fi would be McDonald's, where free 24-hour period wi-fi are offered to customers. Furthermore, Pret-A-Manger franchises offer free internet without a login.
In an emergency, telephone "999" (or "112"). This number connects to Police, Ambulance and Fire/Rescue services. You will be asked which of these three services you require before being connected to the relevant operator.
Like many big cities, London has a variety of social problems, especially begging, drug abuse and theft (mobile phones are a favourite, often snatched by fast-moving cyclists).
London has the oldest police force in the world, The Metropolitan Police Service , and on the whole, London is a safe place to visit and explore. Alongside the regular Police, there are over 4,000 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) that provide a highly visible presence on the streets and are able to deal with low-level crime. Normal precautions for the safe keeping of your personal possessions, as you would in any other city, are suggested.
Crime mapping has been launched in London allowing residents and visitors to see the level of recorded crime for different areas .
If you're planning to go out late at night and are worried about safety, frequent crowded areas such as the West End. There are always plenty of people on the street, even at 4AM. Generally, outside central London, the South, and East suburban areas are considered more dangerous, notably Brixton and Hackney, although some parts of North-West London such as Harlesden and northern Camden are also known trouble spots.
The main problem right throughout London to various degrees is drunken behaviour, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights and after football matches. Loud and rowdy behaviour is to be expected and fights and acts of aggression also occur. If you are harassed, it is best to simply ignore and walk away from those concerned. Trouble spots can be expected around popular drinking locations such as Soho and in various suburban centres.
Every night, Soho presents a particular danger: the "clip joint". The usual targets of these establishments are lone male tourists. Usually, an attractive woman will casually befriend the victim and recommend a local bar or even a club that has a "show". The establishment will be near-desolate, and, even if the victim has only a drink or two, the bill will run to hundreds of pounds. If payment is not immediately provided, the bouncers will lock the "patrons" inside and take it by force or take them to an ATM and stand over them while they extract the cash.
To be safe, if a woman you just met suggests you a place, try to recommend a different bar, and if she insits on hers walk away and do not listen to her suggestions. Sometimes this con trick takes place when someone is lured into a private club with the promise of something perhaps more than a drink (like a 'private show' or sex for a small amount of money). A 'hostess fee' will appear on the bill for several hundred pounds, even though there has been nothing more than polite conversation.
The Metropolitan Police have placed significant resources in combating street level crime. Working in conjunction with borough councils, they have been able to bring the level of theft and pickpocketing in major retail areas in London to a level that is manageable.
Street gang culture is a growing problem in London as with many other cities in England. While most groups of youngsters are not likely to present any danger to tourists, some people feel the need to be slightly more vigilant in certain areas, especially certain outer suburbs.
If anyone offers you a free "stress test", they are likely trying to recruit you into the Church of Scientology. The best option is to walk away, as people are commonly harassed into giving personal details.
London has a large number of con artists around, all trying to convince you to hand over your money one way or another. In a well-known scam, an older gentleman will ask you for directions, convincing you that he thought you were English. This scam has been used for over ten years.
Don't take illegal minicabs (see Get around for details).
Travelling on lower deck of a night bus is generally safer, as there are more passengers around, and you are visible by the bus driver.
If you have been the victim of crime on the railways or the London Underground, you should report the crime as soon as possible to the British Transport Police, who have an office in most major train and tube stations. Elsewhere, you should report your crime as normal to the Metropolitan Police.
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) will provide emergency treatment for anyone in the UK, irrespective of whether they reside in the UK. In a medical emergency, dial 999 or 112. These numbers are free of charge from any telephone. For advice on non-emergency medical problems, you can ring the 24 hour NHS Direct service on 0845 4647.
Emergencies can be dealt with under the NHS system at any hospital with an A & E (Accident & Emergency) department. At A & E departments, be prepared to wait for up to 2-3 hours during busy periods before being given treatment if your medical complaint is not too serious.
Major A & E hospitals in London are:
- Central Middlesex Hospital, Acton Ln, Park Royal, NW10 7NS
- Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham Palace Rd, Hammersmith, W6 8RF
- Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, 369 Fulham Rd, Chelsea, SW10 9TR
- Greenwich District Hospital, Vanbrugh Hill, SE10 9HE
- Guy's Hospital, St. Thomas St, Bankside, SE1 9RT
- Homerton University Hospital, Homerton Row, Homerton, E9 6SR
- King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, SE5 9RS
- Lewisham Hospital, High St, SE13 6LH
- Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton Ln, SW15 5PN
- Royal Free Hospital, 23 East Heath Rd, Hampstead, NW3 1DU
- The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, E1 1BB
- St. Marys NHS Trust, Praed St, Paddington, W2 1NY
- St. Thomas' Hospital, Lambeth Palace Rd, South Bank, SE1 7EH
- University College London Hospitals NHS Trust, 25 Grafton Way, Bloomsbury, WC1E 6DB
- Whittington Hospital, Highgate Hill, Archway, N19 5NF
For advice on minor ailments and non-prescription drugs, consult a high street pharmacist.
London is also home to some of the most renowned (and most expensive) private medical treatment facilities. Most notable of all are probably the host of private consultants and surgeons on Harley St in Marylebone.
Embassies and High Commissions
- Bath. Roman relics, rich in Georgian architecture and makes an easy day trip from Paddington Station.
- Birmingham. Trains can take as little as 85 min from Euston or Marylebone or a coach from Victoria takes 3 hours. Boasts many events, pubs and clubs and shopping opportunities.
- Bournemouth. Large beach resort on the edge of the New Forest, with seven miles of golden sand, a short ride on the train from London Waterloo. Some of the best night life outside of London in the UK.
- Brighton. Fashionable beach town about 90 km (55 mi) south, less than an hour by train from Victoria Station.
- Brussels (Belgium) and Paris (France). Both are easily reached via Eurostar from King's Cross St. Pancras Station.
- Canterbury. Site of the foremost cathedral in England, constructed during the 12th-15th centuries.
- Henley on Thames. About 55 km (35 mi) west of London, a quaint and typical English town, great for walks by the Thames.
- Manchester. If you have time it is worth visiting Britain's other great cities and Manchester has very much to offer. Manchester can be reached in around 2 hours by train and is about 320 km (200 mi) to the north. It is the 2nd most visited city in England (after London).
- Portsmouth. Home of the British Navy and of real interest to nautical enthusiasts.
- Shrewsbury. A very traditional town full of medieval black and white timber-framed buildings along winding, steep, narrow streets set on the River Severn easily reached by using the train from London Marylebone station.
- Stonehenge. Among the most famous landmarks in England. The mysterious stone ring was built thousands of years ago, today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can get there by a guided bus tour or by train (1,5 h) to the nearby city Salisbury, where you also can visit the 13th-century cathedral with the highest spire in the country.
- Winchester. Former capital of England and attractive cathedral city with lots to see, about an hour away by train from Waterloo.
- Windsor. Nearby Thames-side town with magnificent castle and Royal residence.