Exploring London: Something for Everyone
January 1, 1970
by Doreen Poh
London, the capital city of the UK, is a huge bustling city with plenty of things to explore, and something to cater to everyone’s interests. I hope that this article, based on my own experiences, will act as a guide for you to have the perfect holiday, no matter who you and your travel buddies, if any, are.
Flights to London
Flying from Singapore, an aviation hub, I have been spoilt for choice in terms of airline and flight choices, and have flown on Singapore Airlines, British Airways, and Etihad Airways to London. Singapore Airlines was the best in terms of comfort, food, and entertainment, but it was also the most expensive. British Airways was the least costly but also had food that I particularly disagreed with, and didn’t have much variety in terms of entertainment. Etihad Airways fell in between in all categories. It should be rather easy to find an airline and flight that caters to your needs, regardless of where you are flying off from.
Accommodation and Recommended Areas to Stay In
As London is a tourist hub, there is a variety of accommodation to choose from. No matter the type of accommodation you choose to get, location is the most important. I recommend that you best stay in Paddington, Bayswater, Hammersmith, Kensington, South Kensington and Earl’s Court as these areas are safe, reasonably priced, and allow for easy access to most attractions in London.
Traveling Within London
The three major forms of transportation in London are the Underground Tube, TFL buses, and taxis. I tend to stick to tube and bus, as taxis are mighty expensive. London is divided into six zones, and fares are higher when you travel between zones. Between taking the tube or the bus, I prefer taking the bus as generally, buses are cheaper than taking the tube, and there is also the perk of being able to look out onto the streets.
There are also additional transport options going to and from the airports. You can use a private shuttle to get to any of the airports. Heathrow Airport, being a major international airport, is serviced by the London Underground Tube, as well as a special train service known as Heathrow Express, which is faster and slightly costlier than the tube. You can use National Express buses to get to the other airports.
Variety of Cuisines Available
Since London is a melting pot of diverse cultures, there is a wide variety of food available in London, from signature British fish and chips to fast food to Indian, Japanese, Chinese and other cuisines. Fish and chips are definitely a must when visiting the UK, and the best fish and chips are to be found in pubs, with the exception of Micky’s a fish and chip shop in Paddington, which can be found off Praed street near Paddington Station. I visit this place every time I am in London. Other food recommendations are Dozo, a Japanese restaurant in Kensington, and Gold Mine, a Chinese restaurant in Bayswater. At Gold Mine, be sure to try the roast duck. The staff there claim that theirs is the best in the world, and it may just be the best in the world. It is tasty, juicy and hits all the right spots, and definitely makes for a memorable gastronomic experience.
Offerings for Sports Fans
Okay… I admit that when I say sports, I really mean football (or soccer). England is home to the most lucrative football league in the world, and London is home to quite a few clubs in the English top flight. They include Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham. These clubs have stadium tours, where you can go and see what happens behind the scenes. If you are lucky, you may also be able to watch a match, but be prepared for disappointment as tickets are quickly snapped up as soon as they are available. You can also visit Wembley Stadium (pictured), home to the English national team.
Rugby also plays an important role in British culture, and you can visit the world-famous rugby grounds in Twickenham Stadium in Richmond. You can go there by bus or National Rail trains. The Wimbledon tennis tournament also calls London home.
Theatre in The West End
London is famously home to West End, which houses some of the best theatre productions in the world. Some very well known productions include Les Miserables, the Phantom of the Opera and Lion King, complete with great acting and impeccable vocals. I personally would recommend these in addition to Mousetrap, a play written by mystery writer Agatha Christie, and The Book of Mormon, a musical comedy. While Mousetrap is a gripping thriller and mystery which will blow your mind with its ending, the latter will let you have a good laugh and have its catchy, funny, beautiful songs stuck in your head for the next week.
A word of warning when it comes to buying theatre tickets: do not trust booths selling “discounted theatre tickets” other than the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. However, as there will only be limited discounted tickets for a limited number of productions, you can go straight to the theatre hosting the production to buy the tickets at the price they are worth.
The main shopping areas in London are Regents Street, Oxford Street, Bond Street and High Street Kensington, and not to mention the department stores Harrods (pictured) and Harvey Nichols. Fortnum and Mason is also a great place to get tea and various kinds of cookies or biscuits. If you are shopping on a smaller budget, you can get quirky handcrafted items from Covent Garden Market and Portobello Road Market. The best time to shop, especially at London’s main shopping areas, is the next few days after Chrismas, as that is the period for boxing day sales which are characterised by significant discounts.
London has a really rich history which you can explore in a number of ways. If you are the museum type, London has a lot of museums where you can learn not only about British history but about other cultures and histories as well. These include the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Imperial War Museum. Other more adventurous ways to explore London’s rich history include the London Bridge Experience and London Tombs, which is an interesting and interactive attraction coupling the history of the London Bridge, and zombies. I enjoyed the thrilling experience very much. There are also Jack the Ripper tours that take place at night. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a little way off, where you can learn about theatre in the renaissance era and maybe even watch plays written in the Renaissance.
Parks and Green Spaces
There are many green spaces in London for you to enjoy, including Hyde Park (pictured), Green Park and Kensington Gardens. Hyde Park is probably the most well-known, and it is also the biggest. It gives beautiful views of the surrounding city, and is also very scenic in and of itself, with the Serpentine winding through the park. During the Christmas period, Hyde Park is home to Winter Wonderland, a Christmas theme park complete with roller coasters, fair games, mince pies and mulled wine. Of the other parks, Kensington Gardens houses the beautiful Italian Water Gardens and is also connected to Kensington Palace.
For All the Royal Family Fans Out There
The British Monarchy is one of the all-time favorite tourist attractions in London. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (pictured) is a must-see for any fan of the Monarchy. It takes place on alternate days at 11 am. You can also tour the state rooms of the Buckingham and Kensington Palaces.
Other Tips and Fun Facts
For the best street performances, head over to Trafalgar Square or Leicester Square, especially in the evenings. If you enjoy night lights like I do, the best places are Picadilly Circus (pictured), Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square and Oxford Circus.
I hope this has been useful, and have an amazing trip!