Things to See & Do in London
The Britain Visitor Centre is located near Piccadilly Circus at 1 Regent Street. A large tourist office can also be found in Victoria Station, which offers help with accommodation bookings. Smaller branches are located at Paddington and Waterloo stations and at Gatwick and Heathrow airports.
Visitor Discount Cards & Passes
Pay one price and get free admission/travel card for transport to over 60 attractions, museums, tours, etc. Passes are available for 1 (£39), 2 (£52), 3 (£63) and 6 (£86) days. www.londonpass.com
English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass
Get unlimited free entry to over 120 of England’s finest castles, abbeys, Roman remains and prehistoric monuments including the awe-inspiring Stonehenge, Dover Castle and the Secret Wartime Tunnels. Costs only £19 for a 7-day pass, £23 for 2 weeks. www.english-heritage.org.uk (under Properties).
London’s East End is one of the most enjoyable, interesting, and affordable neighborhoods to explore. Once infamous as Jack the Ripper’s haunt, this historic conglomerate of formerly immigrant neighborhoods is now a lively, ethnically mixed, and young section of the city. It is here that many students and artists come to London and attempt to set up shop. Brick Lane is an excellent East End street to explore. At the southernmost part of Brick Lane near the Aldgate East tube stop and Whitechapel High Street, is a long string of Bangladeshi restaurants and shops. Even the street signs in this area are in Bengali. As you proceed north, exploring off-beat furniture and Bangladeshi outposts, you will find several of the most charming and down-to-earth coffee shops in London. Also check out the one of the best flower markets in London. On Sunday morning, Columbia Road erupts into a fantastic array of beautiful colors. Just don’t show up any other time, as this otherwise quaint and attractive street may be completely dead.
In recent years Islington has become increasingly popular and youthful. Lining Upper Street between the Angel tube stop and the Highbury and Islington tube stations are some of the most affordable, yet most delicious restaurants in London. You will also find many fantastic, low-key bars in this exciting, authentic London neighborhood. Islington is a great place to spend a night out and get away from the swarms of tourists in SoHo.
If you are into antiques, knick-knacks, second hand clothing and the like, head to this market on Saturdays. Located off Kensington Park Road in Notting Hill. Take the tube to Notting Hill Gate.
London’s punk (and tourist scene) at its best! Camden Town Market is the center of this constantly bustling area. Here, not only will you find nose piercings, Mohawks, and some of the most outrageous clubbing clothes anywhere in the world, but strange items you never thought existed. Keep in mind, though, this especially trendy, touristy and commercial area can get very crowded. Before leaving, be sure to check out one of London’s most beautiful streets - the area on Regent’s Park Road between King Henry’s Road and Primrose Hill Road, near the Chalk Farm tube station. Here you can enjoy a quick meal or cup of tea at one of the many charming and moderately priced restaurants and coffee shops. Although the punks of Camden Town are long gone, the area has yet to feel too ritzy and posh.
Brixton, a unique and interesting neighborhood across the Thames in South London, is worth visiting. With a distinctly Caribbean flavor due to the huge numbers of immigrants, Reggae music is always in the air as well as a more laid back, Caribbean attitude and energy. Most of the life is squeezed into the triangle between Atlantic Road, Coldharbour Lane, and Brixton Road. Along these streets, you will find the area’s pulsating market and many great pubs, cafés, and restaurants. Along Coldharbour Lane, in particular, there are various interesting and distinctive shops. Also take the time to walk further south along Brixton Hill Road and Atlantic Road, as well as along Brighton Terrace.
Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus & Soho
Take the tube to Covent Garden or Charing Cross to experience these delightfully bustling neighborhoods featuring shops, bars, restaurants, bright lights and lively entertainment.
Spread over several hundred acres of sprawling green grass and lakes, Hyde Park is an enormous and beautiful park where one can go row boating, swimming (summer only) and heckle speakers at the Speakers’ Corner (Sundays only).
If you want to see many of London’s historical structures, start at the Tower of London near the Tower Bridge and Great Tower Street (Tower Bridge tube station) and walk along the Thames River. Along the way, you will pass St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, the Horse Guards, 10 Downing Street (of James Bond fame), Westminster Abbey, the Cabinet War Rooms, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben to name a few. When you get to the Cabinet War Rooms, you can take a detour down Birdcage Walk to Buckingham Palace.
Tate Gallery of Modern Art
This converted old power plant is now one of the most impressive art museums in the world. The work housed here is a stunning compilation of modern works. As impressive as the art is the fantastic writing that accompanies the various exhibits. It’s open from 10am to 6pm (10pm on Fridays and Saturdays) and best of all for the budget traveler, it is free. Take the tube to Blackfriars station.
Harboring one of Europe’s greatest collections of paintings by masters such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh, this gallery is a classic staple. Open Thursday-Tuesday, 10am to 6pm, and Wednesday, 10am to 9pm. Free admission. Take the tube to Charing Cross.
Discounted, same-day performance theatre tickets are available at the Half-Price Ticket Booth. Located in the clocktower building in Leicester Square. Open 10am-7pm, M-S and 12 noon-3:30 Sun. T: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus.