Country: England
Currency: Pound Sterling (GBP)
Peak Season: June-September, December
Shoulder Season: April-May, September-October
Median Temperature: 10.40 C / 50.72 F
Main Languages: English, French, Spanish, German
Primary Modes of Transportation: Metro, bus
Recommended Duration of Stay: 4 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $170.00/day
Tourist Passes: London Pass, London Travel Card
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London’s stellar run as the capital of England greatly personifies how well the British handle their affairs, both locally and diplomatically. Empires, religions, wars, monarchs, strongholds, innovations and perennial megastructures—the city has been through it all in the past two millennia. And, being the biggest city in Europe has given the city the domineering distinctions it wholly deserves: the seat of the British Parliament, the world’s first and largest underground metro system, Europe’s highest population density per square mile, and not to mention the preferred residence of the Royal Family, a key reason why many tourists from across the world come to visit the city, much like how Rome attracts Catholic pilgrims because of the Vatican.

Renaissance, Victorian-era and futurist buildings converge at roughly 600 square miles of city territory, much to the delight of those who prefer an escape from the plastic pretentions many other tourist destinations offer, which London clearly sneers at. For quite some time, London has been the undisputed leader in global city tourism, snagging over 27 million individuals on average annually. The city’s transformation into a cosmopolitan jungle has brought radical transitions in fashion, cuisine, architecture and culture. Yet however divergent Europe has become over the decades, London seems to be getting more beautiful, more advanced, like fine wine over the centuries.

Packing List

  • Credit cards or ATM cards apart from the local currency, as you may never know purchases you’ll be doing; also, have coins ready for “pay toilets,” coin-operated toilets found everywhere
  • A secure backpack filled with only with essential stuff; since a lot of people are staying inside youth hostels and will do a lot of walking, it’s highly advisable to use backpacks instead of trolleys
  • Seasonal clothing, since winters are chilly, while summers can be very hot; bring a t-shirt, sweater, and vest, and just put one on top of the other; an umbrella and jacket for changeable weather
  • A decent camera, zoom lenses and a tripod—there are plenty of camera shops; consider bringing your most important gadgets and accessories, since the UK hardly sells any cheap electronics
  • Essential medication and toiletries, popular consumer items are readily available in many groceries and pharmacies;

Things to Do

  • Staring at Big Ben, the precise clock tower that shaped London’s image to the world; the 96.3-meter Gothic wonder’s interior is publicly inaccessible, but the tower itself makes for a good backdrop
  • Experiencing Tower Bridge on its walkways and inside its engine rooms; this utilitarian landmark operates with complication, despite its otherwise deceivingly flamboyant Gothic style
  • Walking aimlessly around Trafalgar Square, London’s historic public space; Nelson’s Column commemorates the war hero who fought against the invading French army led by Napoleon
  • Recollecting at Westminster Abbey, the exclusive venue of Britain’s royal and high-profile coronations, weddings and memorials; the cathedral also serves as a monarchial burial ground
  • Visiting Buckingham Palace, the current residence of the Royal Family (first resided by Queen Victoria in 1837);

DON'T

  • Splurge on clothes, electronics and other merchandise otherwise available in your country; go for souvenirs and country-specific items instead, as the VAT in London is a striking 20%
  • Get overjoyed and fall for advertised wonders of sightseeing buses—the experience is nauseating, the upper deck is cramped up and stops are not located conveniently near actual attractions
  • Jump the shark on attractions, performances, entertainment venues and restaurants if you don’t know the actual price they charge; “classy” isn’t worth it in the city, even by locals’ standards
  • Keep yourself contained in one part of the city, or you might get robbed of time, interest and money; this is why London guidebooks are bestsellers—to get in on the secret spots
  • Forget that most attractions are free, so if anyone is offering tours (which costs a lot), just deny the offer and experience unhampered frolicking around the countless public museums