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London featured image
London featured image
London featured image

London

London is at once historic and contemporary. It’s a city with its roots in the Roman Empire and a huge presence on the modern world stage, in every area from theater to finance. Enormous in both size and scope, it is the capital city of both England and the United Kingdom, as well as the largest city in Western Europe, and visitors can find almost anything depending on which road they wander down.

After visiting the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace, take a shopping safari through Harrods and Harvey Nichols, the boutiques of Oxford and Regent Streets, and funky Portobello Road Market. London is, after all, a city of possibilities.

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Local landmarks

London is a city of iconic buildings, statues, bridges, and more. At times it seems as though every street holds a feature recognizable from a postcard. A good place to start is the London Eye – the world’s third largest observation wheel is not just an enjoyable ride, it also provides spectacular views of the city – a good way to understand the true scope of London and how the city is laid out. Other places to get a bird’s-eye view of the city include 30 St Mary Axe, also called the Gherkin for its odd shape, and the Shard, which is the tallest building in the EU and holds a viewing deck on its 72nd floor.

Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square are two must-see and must-photograph spots on any London trip. Trafalgar Square is also home to Nelson’s Column, as well as a number of other sculptures. One of its plinths (called The Fourth Plinth) is currently home to a succession of modern art pieces, perhaps until a statue of the current Queen can be placed there! Speaking of the Queen, her home at Buckingham Palace can be toured only during the summer, but you can have a look at it and watch the Changing of the Guard year-round.

If churches are more your style, London has two of the finest: Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Westminster has played host to at least 16 royal weddings, most recently that of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. There are also hundreds of famous names to be found on graves and memorial slabs throughout the Abbey, including Elizabeth I and T.S. Eliot. St. Paul’s is a more recent building, having been first consecrated in 1708. Be sure to visit the Whispering Gallery, where a whispered sound can travel along the wall to another visitor’s ear.

 

Art and history

London is an ancient city with a rich cultural heritage, so history buffs and art lovers will delight in all the options of historical sites, galleries, and museums in which to while away an afternoon. From the Tower of London (possibly the world’s most haunted building) to Greenwich Palace to the British Museum, marks of the city’s past (and that of England, the British Empire, and the world) are everywhere.

Art fans can rejoice in London – few cities are home to as impressive an array of fine art. The National Gallery houses over 2,300 paintings dating from the 1200s to 1900. The Tate holds British art and international modern art in the Tate Britain and Tate Modern, respectively. And the Victoria & Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. If theater is more your thing, options range from seeing Shakespeare at the reconstructed Globe Theatre to London’s world-famous West End. 

 

Food and drink

English food just might be a lot better than you think. In fact, modern London is home to some of the finest restaurants in the world, led by some top chefs. That’s not to say that a night out has to be expensive, though. Good takeout, especially of the Southeast Asian variety, is easy to find and won’t break the bank. Even fish & chips can be a great meal – as long as you find a “chipper” that caters to locals rather than tourists!

Pub culture is a part of England’s history, so stopping by for a pint is a must-do for many people. Pubs aren’t quite the same as American bars, though – they’re a gathering place rather than a partying place, so there’s no shame in ordering a soda or a coffee. If you do choose to imbibe, keep things simple – no margaritas and daiquiris here! Also, unless you specify otherwise, yes, you will be served a full pint of beer. The English tend to take their drinking seriously.

 

Shopping

London is home to some of the best shopping in the world, no matter what kind of budget you’re on. One of the most famous stops for shoppers is Oxford Street, home to over 300 stores. If money is no object, Savile Row is the place to find traditional custom British tailoring – you’ll never find another suit so perfect. Quirkier finds await you in Notting Hill, where small, unique shops sell everything from rare antiques to organic food. Nearby Portobello Road Market is a mile-long strip of shopping with a little bit of everything. If you don’t object to getting up a little early, Columbia Road is a stunning flower market – the best buys will be there before 8. If you’re looking for a souvenir of your time in London, it’s easy to pick up a “mind the gap” teddy bear or a plastic phone booth – and there’s nothing wrong with that! If you want something less, well, souvenir-y, options abound. A bottle of whisky, Christmas crackers (the kind you pull apart, not the kind you eat), a tin of quintessentially English cookies (called biscuits), or even an English brand of tea are all easy to find and great to bring home to remember your time in this unique and remarkable metropolis.

 

Neighborhoods

London is enormous, and each of its neighborhoods has its own sites and local flair. One of the best ways to get to know the city is to explore these areas. These are just a few of the districts you might want to see more in-depth.

  • City of London
  • Bloomsbury 
  • Covent Garden
  • Soho
  • Mayfair
  • Westminster
  • Chelsea
  • Kensington
  • Notting Hill
  • Marylebone

 

A 'Break' in London

Want to take a quick trip to London? Take a look at Liberty Travel’s EURObreaks – short European getaways tailor-made for you. Best of all, each EURObreak includes a City Insider, an expert who lives in and loves the city you’re exploring. They’ll give you an overview of the city and its history, highlighting what’s trendy, tried and true, or a combination – they’ll even give you a quick lesson in the city’s public transportation! Your City Insider helps ensure that your vacation memories will be unforgettable.

 

London Fast Facts

Approximate flight times

  • NYC/Newark 7 hours
  • Philadelphia 7 hours
  • Boston 6 hours, 30 minutes
  • Miami 8 hours, 30 minutes
  • Los Angeles 10 hours, 30 minutes

Entry/departure requirements

Passport must be valid for the duration of your stay and must have one blank page for a passport stamp.

Climate

Generally cool and damp winters (average temperature of 44°F) and warm (sometimes hot) summers (average high of 75°F).  Not as rainy as you think!

Official language

English

Official currency

Pound