Having visited more than 90 cities in different continents, for some reason London just never seemed to be part of our plan. However, when we finally visited it for a 5-day trip, it quickly became one of our favorite cities in the world.
What's not to love about a city that is steeped in so much history and heritage; that permeates all the literature books that we read while growing up; that is a melting-pot of myriad cultures and hence provides some of the best food in the world. To explore the city up close and personal has definitely been a treat.
Getting about London
Despite the extensive transport system, be prepared to walk — A LOT – which is pretty much the best way to explore the city. Buying an Oyster Card is the best option, which can be used on buses and The London Underground. It is cheaper than buying individual tickets and saves time. We preferred using red double-decker buses, which are the quintessential charm of London.
The best way to see London is to divide it into neighborhoods, which saves commute time, rather than going to specific sites. So for example, check out Trafalgar Square and the adjoining areas after visiting the National Gallery.
Sights and Sounds
There is so much to see and do in London. There is a plethora of museums, the best of which are The National Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum. The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, is home to some of the best paintings, including those by Monet and Van Gogh. Victoria and Albert Museum is more suited for fashion enthusiasts, as there are some beautiful jewels and haute couture on display.
Then comes the London Eye, the 360-degree view that it provides is a complete treat for all. It’s best to buy the ticket beforehand to save time.
A walk along the Thames is highly recommended, and if possible, take a boat ride to get a different perspective of the city. Crossing the Millennium Bridge can give a moment of dejavu, as seen in many feature films. Crossing the bridge, St Paul's Cathedral will become visible.
A must do, if you are a theatre buff, is to attend one of the many world renowned shows, ranging from Lion King to The Phantom of the Opera. We decided to watch The Mousetrap, written by Agatha Christie, the longest running theater show. The Who Dunnit play had us engaged till the end and made for a great evening.
A tourist attraction which we found to be overrated was the changing of the guards at the Buckingham Palace. The crowds were huge and one has to arrive at the venue in advance to get a decent place to stand. After the parade comes to an end, head over the St James’ Park, right next to the Palace – a serene place with views of the London Eye and solitary swans completing their rounds in the pond.
Contrary to popular belief, shopping in London can be quite inexpensive, if you are in time for sales or shop at the legendary Primark, where the latest trends are available at a fraction of the price and they are very durable! So stock up for yourself (and kids if you have any), also consider it as a great place to buy presents for loved ones back home. You can also head off to Oxford Street or Regent Street for high street fashion. If you are looking for something offbeat/alternative, then head to Carnaby Street or even Camden, a massive area bursting with boutiques and eateries. Just make sure you come with extra handbags to lug all the shopping.
London is a great example of multiculturalism as the city presents you with cuisines from all around the world. The icing on the cake, due to a significant Muslim population, halal food is easy to find.
Breakfast Club had some fabulous pancakes, while The Ivy near the Tower Bridge had beautiful crumpets and an amazing view of River Thames. To satisfy our dumpling demands, we headed to China Town to the very popular Dumpling’s Legend. How can one leave England without having Fish and Chips? So off we went to Soho, an area that is lined with many top notch eateries, and dined at Golden Union. We found ourselves wandering in Soho once again to have some great Peruvian food at Ceviche.
Food markets are a special attraction for tourists. Borough market is a bustling sprawling area lined with a myriad of stalls with offerings ranging from handmade souvenirs to homemade food. This is a must see, to really absorb the London vibe and its culture, not to forget the delicious grab-and-go street food.
London has a lot to offer in terms of sights, entertainment, architecture, food and scenic beauty, so make sure you plan your favorite activities to fully enjoy your time in this mesmerizing city.HH
The writer is a marketing professional, blogger and a traveller.
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