“You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
– Samuel Johnson –
PRINT & GO
Before your departure, do not forget to check/bring with you:
– Boarding Pass and Hotel Reservation
– London city map (more detailed maps can be found in any hotel reception and airports/train stations)
– London tube map (you can find the pocket version in every underground station)
AT THE AIRPORT
As biggest city in Europe and one of the main connections in the world, London has several airports, located in different areas but all with excellent connections to the city centre (it is strongly recommended to use the public transportation instead of cabs; the traffic might be very high and the price of a taxi to the city might get very expensive):
– London Heathrow: this is the main international airport and – together with Frankfurt Airport – the biggest one in Europe. From there, you can reach the city center by train (Heathrow Express, a train running every 15 minutes all day that takes you to Paddington in 15mins, the ticket costs around 18GBP) or by metro (via the Piccadilly line, the journey takes less than 1h and metros leave every 10mins, the ticket costs around 5GBP)
– London Gatwick: this is another main airport of London, not very far from the city. You can reach London’s main train stations (Victoria, St Pancras) via several trains running every 15 minutes and taking between 15mins and 45mins (depending on the destination) or several buses running every 15mins and taking more than 1hr
– London Luton: together with Stansted airport, Luton became very popular in the last years for its low cost flights. From this airport, you can reach the city by train (from Luton Airport Parkway – 10mins bus from the arrivals – you can take one of the several trains per hour to St Pancras, the journey takes around 30mins) or by bus (there are several companies – EasyJet, GreenLine,..- operating several times per hour between the airport and main central London points, the journey takes around 1h30mins and the price changes according to the company)
– London Stansted: taking a low-cost flight, you will probably get to this big and modern airport. From there, you can reach the city center by train (Stansted Express running every 15mins to Liverpool Street in 45mins) or by bus (there are several companies operating all day long and several times per hour between the airport and the main points in central London, the schedule and the fares vary according to the company)
Besides the air way, London is very well connected to several cities in Europe (Paris, Brussels, Lille) via the Eurostar train. In less than 2h you will arrive directly in St Pancras station.
3 DAYS IN LONDON
London is a spectacular city, plenty of life and things to see. A weekend over there is simply unforgettable if planned in the correct way. Indeed, although its magnificent aspects, London has also some problems linked to the fact that it’s one of the biggest cities in the world: long distances, overcrowd, queues, and expensive life. Without counting the Northern European bad weather, which sometimes doesn’t help so much! In order to reduce these inconveniences and enjoy the great side of this amazing city, you need to plan the trip in advance and plan your time according to the location and interests. My suggestion would be to have different thematic, one per day: one day dedicated to sightseeing, one day dedicated to arts and culture, and one day dedicated to leisure. For every destination, I will also mention the nearest tube station, since you will need to use the public transportation system most of the times.
DAY 1: VISIT LONDON – SIGHTSEEING
The first day in London will be dedicated to the visit of the main city attractions. This will require an early wake up and very comfortable shoes, since you will have a long walk to do. So set your alarm clock in a decent hour, have a proper English breakfast – that will give you the energy for the entire day – and start your visit to London.
- The visit to London can start with the symbol of the city: the Big Ben and the House of Parliament. This fantastic building, listed in UNESCO world heritage, is where the Parliament meet and hosts some of the nation’s greatest works of arts and architectural designs from the Victorian period up to the present day. Its structure is dominated by the Elizabeth Tower, best known as the Big Ben. The name Ben refers to the huge 13 tons bell inside this clock tower. Visits in the Parliament are possible on Saturdays throughout the year and everyday in summertime. From this building you can also admire a wonderful view of the river Thames.
Metro: Westminster (District Line – Green)
- On the other bank of the river Thames, you can admire and experience the London Eye, a 135m fantastic Ferris wheel (the biggest one in Europe and the 3rd one in the world, just after the Star of Nanchang and the Singapore Flyer). An entrance ticket of 19GBP will give you the opportunity to admire a wonderful view of the city.
- Opposite the House of Parliament is Westminster Abbey, a fascinating Gothic-style church where the main events of the Royal family (coronation, wedding, burial) take place. A visit to this abbey is a must for your tour in London.
Metro: Westminster (District Line – Green)
- From Parliament Square, take Whitehall Parliament Street: after a while, on your left, you will see a big gate with a lot of security guards and people outside. Nothing to worry about, you have just arrived at the intersection with Downing Street, where the residence of the British Prime Minister is.
- Leave Downing Street on your back left and keep on walking till you will arrive in Trafalgar Square. This is one of the biggest and most popular squares in London, where demonstrations and other sorts of gatherings take place (e.g. New Years Eve celebrations). The name comes from the battle of Trafalgar in 1805, where Admiral Horatio Nelson won over Napoleon’s army. The big column in the middle is indeed dedicated to him and guarded by four huge lions. The square is also decorated by a big fountain and some contemporary artworks. Around the square you can find many important buildings, such as the National Gallery and some embassies.
Metro: Charing Cross (Bakerloo Line – Brown)
- From Trafalgar Square, take the street on your left and cross the Admiralty Arch: follow the big road in front of you (The Mall) and, after a pleasant walk, you will arrive in Buckingham Palace. This is the official London residence and principal workplace of the British Monarch. In summertime, with 18GBP ticket entrance, you will be able to admire some of the historical and luxurious rooms of this magnificent palace. Something not to miss as well is the Guard Changing, when the Old Guard forms up on the north side of the enclosure on Horse Guards Parade and the New Guard on the south side. This usually takes place every 2 days from 11:15 to 12:00, so plan your visit accordingly.
Metro: Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line – Blue) or St James’ Park (Circle Line- Yellow)
- After having attended the Guard Changing, take the way back to Trafalgar Square. This time, you can pass through St James’ Park, a very nice park located along The Mall and where, while walking along a nice lake, you can admire trees, flowers and several species of animals such as ducks, swans and squirrels.
- Once arrived in Trafalgar Square, take Charing Cross road (the street just on the right behind the National Gallery) and then any small street on your left, in less than 5 minutes you will arrive in Leicester Square. This is a very nice square with a green space in the middle (used for several purposes, according to the period of the year) and with cinemas, theaters and bars all around (this place hosts the Odeon cinema, where most of the Premieres of movies take place). If you stick to the plan, you should be there at around 13:00, so best timing and place to have lunch! Stop in one of the several cafés, restaurants or fast foods around Leicester Square and grab something to eat to take some energy for the rest of the day!
Metro: Leicester Square (Piccadilly Line – Blue)
- Just behind Leicester Square is Piccadilly Circus, one of the main sights of London. This place is formed by the junction of Regent Street with many important shopping streets. The Circus is close to major shopping and entertainment areas in the West End. Its status as a major traffic intersection has made Piccadilly Circus a busy meeting place and a tourist attraction at day and night. The Circus is particularly known for its video display and neon signs mounted on the corner building on the northern side. This is one of the best places for the nightlife, since it is surrounded by theaters, restaurants, bars and night clubs.
Metro: Piccadilly (Piccadilly Line – blue)
- On the northern side of Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, you will find yourself in Chinatown, a set of streets full of Asian shops and restaurants, and then Soho, the entertainment area full of bars, restaurants, theaters. This entire area is absolutely fantastic for your nightlife, an experience that you cannot miss if you are in London.
- After a nice walk in the streets of Soho, go back to Leicester Square and from there take Long Acre, a long street plenty of stores, and you will arrive in Covent Garden. This area is formed by a main central building (the piazza) hosting a very nice market with craft stalls, boutiques and restaurants. In its cafes you can enjoy street entertainers and fun events everyday. During Christmas time, this is one of the best decorated places in the city.
Metro: Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line – blue)
The sightseeing of the city can end at this moment. You will probably be exhausted after this long walk, but you need to be in perfect shape for the nightlife. As mentioned previously, nightlife in London is amazing: this is definitely a city that never sleeps and its streets in the night get crowded with a lot of people having fun in several clubs and bars that the city offers. Most of the night places in London close at 2:30, and even if the tube doesn’t work anymore at that time, you can still use the night buses that run very regularly and take you everywhere in the city (please note: London doesn’t have any taxi station, so if you need a cab you better book it in advance! ).
DAY 2: VISIT LONDON (ARTS AND CULTURE)
After a first busy day in London, you can take the other days more easily and do something enjoyable and relaxing. The second day can be dedicated to the arts and culture: London indeed hosts several interest museums that you definitely cannot miss. You probably need more days to see them all, but I will give you just some suggestions:
- National Gallery. This great museum is located in the city centre (in Trafalgar Square) and hosts several masterpieces from the 13th to the 20th century. You can indeed admire there works from Turner, Constable, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Manet, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and many other artists. The museum is open every day till 18:00 (on Fridays till 21:00) and, like all the national museums in Great Britain, the entrance is free (except for temporary exhibitions).
Metro: Charing Cross (Bakerloo Line – Brown)
- British Museum. I don’t know if it’s the case to call it “British”, since there is almost nothing British inside this museum, but all masterpieces that the British Empire stole during years of wars, colonisation and conquests. This important museum in fact hosts one of the best collections related to the ancient times, more exactly artworks that dates back to Egypt, Middle-East, Rome and Greece. The British Museum is open every day and the admission is free (except for the temporary exhibitions).
Metro: Tottenham Court Road (Central line – red)
- Tate Modern. If you love contemporary art, this is the place to be. This museum hosts a permanent collection and several temporary exhibitions of art works from 1900 to nowadays. You can find there many amazing artists, such as Dali, Warhol, or Morandi. It is opened every day (except for Monday) and the entrance is free. Once you are there, you can also take the advantage to visit two of the main places of interest in the city: the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
Metro: London Bridge (Northern Line – black)
- Natural History Museum. This wonderful building, located in Kensington, is home to life and earth science specimens within five main collections: Botany, Entomology, Mineralogy, Palaeontology and Zoology. The museum includes also many specimen collected by Cook and Darwin. Its hall is fantastic, with relevant dinosaurs skeletons. The museum is open every day and the admission is free.
Metro: South Kensigston (Piccadilly Line – blue)
DAY 3: VISIT LONDON – LEISURE
Your last day in London can be dedicated to some pleasant activities, according to your preference. Here are some nice ideas!
- Shopping. If you love shopping, you need to experience the shopping in London. This city is home to many worldwide known designers and the fashion and style you can find over there is unique. London is full of interesting shops, but probably the most popular areas are: Oxford Street (a big street located near Piccadilly Circus, with hundreds of stores) and Knightsbridge (a very fancy street, located in Kensington, where you can find regular shops and high fashion stores, among them the very famous Harrods).
- Notting Hill. If you want to escape from the traffic, the noise and the big buildings of the city, you can find your piece of heaven in Notting Hill. This is a wonderful area, with small streets, vintage stores, nice bars and restaurants. Have a walk there and enjoy the simplicity and romanticism of this place!
- Musicals. London is known for many things, but one of the most important is surely its culture of musicals. Wherever you go in the city, you can find musical halls everywhere, and these amazing shows have been running for years. The selection is really huge, but you absolutely cannot miss this experience! Click here for additional information on the musicals that are running in London.
I hope this post will help you to enjoy this amazing city. London is simply unique, vibrant, full of interesting places to visit and pleasant activities to do. And eventually I would like to give you a nice present, a small part taken from my favorite TV serie that always gives me the right energy before going to London 🙂 :