London, England

London. Wow- where to begin?? London is LEGENDARY- the city drips with history, tradition, and lore, while simultaneously sprinting forward to stay on the cutting edge of modernity. Long recognized as one of the world’s most iconic and multi-cultural cities, London literally has something for everyone. World-class museums, a top-notch arts scene, more shopping than your budget can handle, one of the best dining scenes in all of Europe, raucous nightlife- London has it all.

    Welcome to London!

  • Walk along Southbank- This part of town lies along the south bank of the River Thames- go figure. There are loads of cafes and restaurants, Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, several museums, and great views of the city’s famous landmarks. The best stretch is between London Bridge and Westminster Bridge.

St. Paul's Cathedral from the South Bank of the Thames

  • Go up in the London Eye- This MASSIVE Ferris wheel sits along Southbank, and is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. On a clear day, the view from the top is incredible.
  • Tour Parliament and sit in on a session- The Parliament building is perhaps London’s most-recognizable landmark. Located on the north bank of the Thames at the end of the Westminster Bridge, it is easily identified by the large clock tower that houses the infamous Big Ben. There are several different tours you can take to get a look inside, and can even sit in on a session in the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

The iconic Parliament Building

  • Explore Westminster Abbey- Perhaps London’s most famous religious building, Westminster Abbey is another one of London’s top tourist sites. The coronations of kings, the funerals of legends, and the final resting place of  some of the world’s most famous personalities, a walk around Westminster Abbey is a history lesson in itself.
  • Climb the dome of St. Paul’s- St. Paul’s is another famous religious building in London, easily identified by its MASSIVE dome that dominates the surrounding skyline. A visit to St. Paul’s includes the opportunity to scale the dome, all the way up to the Golden Gallery- 85 meters (and 528 steps) above the cathedral floor. It is well worth the effort, as the views from the top of the dome are incredible.

View of the Thames from the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral

  • Hang out in Shoreditch- Shoreditch is an up-an-coming section of the city on the east end of town. Loads of cafes and bars mix with trendy shops and boutiques, along with varied types of ethnic restaurants. It’s a great place to wander through the local markets during the day, and follow that up with an impromptu pub crawl at night.

Street art in the Shoreditch area

  • Get some culture- Museums, museums, museums- there seems to be one on EVERY corner in London. The Churchill War Rooms, the London Dungeon, the National Maritime Museum, the National Art Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of London, the Museum of London-Docklands, the British Museum, the Museum of Natural History, Tate Modern, the Imperial War Museum- something for every interest and curiosity. An added bonus- many of these museums are FREE.

The National Maritime Museum in Greenwich Village is a must-see...

  • Hang out in Trafalgar Square- Trafalgar Square is considered by many to be the heart of London. Its most notable feature is Nelson’s Column- a tall column capped with a statue of Lord Horatio Nelson (one of England’s most famous naval heroes)- and the four massive lions that guard the statue. It is also bordered by the impressive National Art Gallery- a collection of over 2,300 paintings. On a warm afternoon, Trafalgar Square is a great spot to just sit in the sun and watch the world go by.
  • Experience London’s ‘Pub Culture’- London has a unique scene centered around its traditional pubs. Most get hopping in the early evening hours, as London’s workforce pours out of their offices and into the local watering holes. Ales, stouts, lagers, ciders- whatever your flavor, you’re sure to find a pint of it in one of London’s legendary pubs.
  • Visit the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels- the Tower of London is a massive castle complex located on the north side of the Thames at the end of the Tower Bridge. Dating all the way back to 1066, this site has played an important role in the history of England. Battles, sieges, coronations, executions- the Tower of London has seen it all. Today, it is a ‘living museum’ of sorts, and is also home to the impressive collection of the royal Crown Jewels.

The legendary Tower of London

  • River cruise on the Thames- The River Thames has always been the lifeblood of London, and there’s no better way to see the iconic sights of the city than from the sundeck of a cruising riverboat. There are countless types of cruises to embark on- lunch or dinner cruises, cocktail cruises, high tea cruises, guided sight-seeing cruises, simple transportation cruises- pick one that suits your fancy, and set sail on the the Thames.
  • Witness the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace- One of the most ‘touristy’ things to do while visiting London, the Changing of the Guard is worth braving the crowds- at least once. The Royal Guard marches in in all its pomp and circumstance, putting on a parade in front of Buckingham Palace. Get there early, as crowds are HUGE year-round. The best place to stand is on the platform of the fountain in the middle of the plaza- you’ll have great views, and will be up above most of the crowd.

The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

  • Go to a football match- If you’re a sports nut, there’s nothing better than taking in a football (soccer) match while in London. The Premier League is the top tier in English football, and London is home to several teams in the top flight. If you know some locals, ask around about getting tickets, as they can be difficult to come by for visitors. Even if you can’t come up with a ticket, watching a match in a team’s local pub is always a lively experience.

Supporters getting into the match...

  • Shop along Oxford St.- Oxford Street is one of the world’s iconic shopping streets, with more places and ways to spend your money than one can possibly imagine (or afford). Generic souvenir shops mix with malls, boutiques, cafes, and designer storefronts, while throngs of people navigate the sidewalks. It is quite a scene, even in a December downpour...
  • Go to a play in the West End- London is world-famous for its theater scene, and if you’re keen on catching a show, the West End is the place to be. Take a walk around Leicester Square and through Covent Garden to get a good feel for what the West End is all about.
  • Eat lunch at the Borough Markets- Located just off the south end of the London Bridge, the Borough Markets are one of the oldest and most-frequented markets in the city. Open Wed-Sat, the Borough Markets are famous for their fresh produce, the variety of prepared foods on offer, and the ability one has to walk through the market and fill up on countless free samples. The food is DELICIOUS, and just walking through the market is a great way to spend an hour or two along Southbank.

Leisurely lunch at the Borough Markets...

  • Go clubbing- London is legendary for its nightlife, and rightfully so. As one of the social and cultural centers of the world, the nightlife lives up to its billing, and has something for every appetite. Clubs and discos, bars and pubs, coffee houses and live music cafes- the nightlife in London is second to none.
  • Free walking tours- As with most major cities these days, there are several ‘free’ walking tours that you can take that will give you some added insight into the city and its history. Most of these operate on a ‘tips’ system, where the guide will lead you on the tour, and then collect any voluntary tips at the end as ‘payment’. Often, the guides are local students trying to make a few extra pounds, and they’re full of insight as far as what’s going on in the city, where to go, what to do, etc.

The London Eye

  • Eat a curry on Brick Lane- Brick Lane is located in East London, just east of the Shoreditch-High Street Overground station, and is famous for its countless curry houses. Brick Lane has long a popular destination for people looking for a good, cheap meal.
  • Hang out in Chinatown- Near Leicester Square in the Soho part of town, London’s Chinatown is a bustling center of activity. It is PACKED with restaurants, cafes, bakeries, souvenir shops, and all other sorts of traditional stores. It is a great place to find a good, cheap meal, as well as some quality souvenirs at good prices.
  • Visit Windsor Castle- If you want a nice day trip out of the city, a visit to the town of Windsor is an easy 20-mile train ride away. The town itself is quiet and quaint, but the main attraction is the spectacular Windsor Castle- a massive structure dating to the 11th Century that is still used as a residence of the Royal Family today. There are various tours available, and an afternoon spent wandering the grounds of Windsor Castle is like stepping into a time warp.

Sunset over the Thames