1. The Tube
I have lived in London my whole life and I still know people that are confused by the tube. While the map is a maze of colors and routes, the only line that has ever caught me out is the Northern line. This can be hard to navigate because of the way that it splits. If you are a tourist in London you will pretty much rely on the Central Line to take you everywhere you need to go. However, I am a firm believer in walking EVERYWHERE. When you are exploring somewhere new, Google Maps is ideal to help you navigate without getting too lost in your surroundings. If you map your journey before you leave your hotel/hostel, then you can save the route and use the GPRS to get you where you need to. If you are feeling adventurous and energetic, you can always jump on a Shared Bike. Something which I would highly recommend if you are spending you day looking around Buckingham Palace and the Royal Parks. Do remember though, some of the Royal Parks don’t allow bikes along all routes.
2. Getting Lost
No matter where you are, I would always recommend getting lost. It’s the best way to find something new and exciting. Covent Garden is a great place to this, with its millions of backstreets and history, you are bound to find something that your Lonely Planet hasn’t recommended.
TIP » Stop for a pub lunch in Covent Garden if you can. There are lots of places to explore and eat there and the best ones are well hidden. My personal favourite is Porter House, an Irish bar that looks like a ship inside.
3. Asking Questions
Londoners have a bit of a bad rep for being grumpy, however, that’s probably because we are on our way to work rather than on holiday. But if you ask us for directions, we will help you as best we can or direct you to someone else that will probably know.
TIP» If you travel outside of rush hour you will get cheaper fares and have a more comfortable journey (because there will be less people).
Lots of stops on the Tube are really close together, so it is quick to walk. For example: Covent Garden is really close to Holborn, Embankment and Leicester Square (where you are able to see everything from Covent Garden to Trafalgar Square, the South Bank and much, much more).
4. Going into ‘The City’
Going into the city can be intimidating, but it has some of the best buildings and views with the old and new contrasting each other beautifully. It’s a photographers dream in lots of respects. However, it is always very busy. Or is it? If you save your City exploration for the weekend, you will find it is a mere ghost town, with not a suit in sight. Not sure what I mean by City? In London there is a particular area called The Square Mile, also known as The City of London, which is essentially a small area of London which is pretty old and holds a lot of the most interesting buildings in London. It’s really easy to get to via Monument, Bank, Liverpool Street, Fenchurch Street and Tower Hill stations, which are all within walking distance (and I do recommend walking everywhere here). You will also find lots of other famous tourist attractions not far from here too. Those include; Borough Market, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Sky Garden, The Shard and HMS Belfast.
5. Going into buildings
There are lots of magnificent buildings around London and a lot of them can be pretty intimidating. Not that long ago I took my brother to the Shard and he actually said to me “I don’t think we are supposed to be in here…”. But actually you are allowed in lots of these places for free, if you are eating or drinking. You won’t be allowed in them all, but if you do your research, you will find that there is an area of the building that is open to the general public. The Shard is an obvious one, however, if you don’t fancy paying a lot of money to go to the top of the building and look out over London on the Observation deck, you can always pop up to some of the restaurants like Aqua or the Shangri La for a few drinks, afternoon tea or if you’re feeling fancy a three course meal. Plus if you are just popping up there for a quick drink, then you will find it a lot cheaper than paying for the observation deck and a much more relaxing experience.
All in all, London is a much friendlier city than most people realize and when we have the time, we love talking about the town we call home. In fact, once you’ve asked us for some tips, you’ll probably have a job in getting us to stop talking. If you are planning a visit to London soon, don’t forget about the home counties too, which are a short train ride outside of central London and make for lovely relaxing weekends.
*Lauren is one of our guest bloggers and lives in London, UK. You can find her personal stories on her blog Hiking in Heels.