General Information: London, as most people know, is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. It’s a cosmopolitan city, expensive (not as much as they say, but still yes) and giant. It has about 12 million inhabitants with the surroundings. It’s a city where you can find everything and it’s truly fascinating. I didn’t expect it to be this way and I didn’t have so many expectations, because I had an already created image of a distant, cold and gray London and, nevertheless, again the travels overthrew my prejudices. It’s the best thing about travel.
In this article I am going to list which are more or less the places that one “has to see” if you travel for the first time there. If that doesn’t interest you, well then read my previous article, where I talk about the most alternative things that not everyone sees and that seemed to me the most beautiful of all.
Tourist attractions :
1)Buckingham Palace: It’s a mandatory stop for all tourists. Can you imagine going to London and not going to see the royal palace? I don’t know what exactly, but there is something about the British royal family that makes it attractive to the whole world. Even if you don’t want to know anything about the celebrities, you surely know the latest gossip about them, cause everybody does. Anyway, there are a lot of people in front of the palace waiting to see the queen or another member of the royal family. Of course everyone is waiting in vain. The few who pay (it’s expensive) to enter the palace don’t see them either, because you can enter just during summer (July, August) but it’s nice to be there in front, to see a bit of those funny guards with the giant hats and then to walk a bit in the huge park next door.
2)Trafalgar Square: located in the heart of the city, and in addition to a possible meeting point, it’s there to commemorate the victory of the British army in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 against the empire of Napoleon. It’s a very nice square that, illuminated, is spectacular at night. It’s always full of people and street artists, which improves the atmosphere.
3)Hyde park: one of the most famous parks not only in London but also in the whole world. It’s really huge and very calm and you can even see small animals like squirrels walking around. I just had the privilege of seeing one up close, it was beautiful. Another curiosity of the park is Speakers corner, a place where everyone can stop and talk for a while about what they think is appropriate to express and share with whoever wants to listen. For a few minutes, each citizen can feel like an important speaker, exercising democracy to its fullest. I think it’s a very good idea.
4)Oxford Street: Probably one of the busiest streets in central London, with many galleries and shops (upscale and normal like Primark), perfect if you want to feel London’s hectic but friendly vibe. No one is going to push you, but you will feel that they are in a hurry, if they touch you they will apologize and follow their accelerated pace.
5)Big Ben, Tower bridge, London eye and the British Parliament: one of the images that is always seen among the first when London is mentioned in any news, report and video. All four things together. We could say that they are one of the symbols of the city, internationally, if not so much nationally, that if someone from another country sees that image, London immediately comes to mind.
Churches and temples: I recommend seeing them from the outside at least because given their great cultural and historical importance it is nice to see them inside, but it is expensive, so I preferred to stay outside this time. They are all located in the city center, making it easy to go see. The most famous are Westminster Abbey, the place of coronation for kings and site of weddings for members of the royal family; Then there is St. Paul’s Cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the funeral venue for iconic political figures such as Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill. Anyway, there are several really beautiful religious temples and it is worth going to see them.
6) go to museums: The vast majority of museums in London offer free admission, which is great because it is an additional reason to go to school. I went to the Natural history museum, which I loved, and to the British museum, which is nice, but I was a little angry to see in the hallway next to the main entrance to the stolen moai from Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in Chile.
I say stolen because the British version and the official excuse for not returning the moai where it belongs is that in Chile it is not possible to keep it well. The Chilean government recently sent a delegation to ask the moai back and ensure that he would have the perfect conditions in his homeland. But of course the English said no, they will not return the moai where it belongs. In my opinion, it doesn’t make sense. But, well, there are a lot of museums in the city and you can’t go wrong with that, choose the ones you want, there is something for everyone.
other typical things to do: get on one of those hop on hop off red buses, because all tourists do it even if it’s much easier to go by subway, take a photo next to where it says “subway” because why not, go to see Downing street where the office of the prime minister of Great Britain is located, take a photo next to or even better inside the red telephone booth, both legendary as unnecessary today, eat fish and chips … more or less there are all the cliches of a trip to London.
Where to eat?
I suggest the Weatherspoon pub chain – it’s cheap for London – the atmosphere is of a real pub and most of the people inside are British, so we were almost the only tourists there. In each neighborhood there is at least one with a different name, but the closest one for us was the Willow pub next to the Victoria train station, because our accommodation was in that area, very good in eating options. There are plenty of restaurants with food as diverse as good, as well as many cafes and bakeries. There is something for everyone, since in many places there are happy hours, with lower prices than normal …
How to get to London?
That clearly always depends on where you live. Coming from Brussels I had many options and I chose my preferred way of transport, the train. The Eurostar company is fast, efficient, comfortable, but expensive. I still preferred that. It’s only a couple of hours from Gare du Midi and you’re already at St. Pancras station. There is also the option of the plane, which from Brussels doesn’t make sense, because they are expensive and slow (you have to pass the control at the airport, get out of there, take a train or a bus …) and the bus, cheap, but very slow for customs – a direct consequence of Brexit.
But, regardless of the country or city you come from, London is a city very well connected to the rest of the world and there are always direct flights from everywhere to London airports, even from the most distant countries. In addition to being one of the financial headquarters worldwide, it’s one of the most visited tourist spots, and therefore it’s very well connected.