Make the most out of your London trip with some helpful hits. Photo / Unsplash
When visiting a city as iconic as London, planning an itinerary can feel a little overwhelming.
From world-class theatre shows to clubs in SOHO, famous restaurants and eclectic markets – the cobblestone streets are packed with enough activities to fill months, let alone days, if you wish.
Here are some tips and tricks to make the most of your time.
1. Know the neighbourhoods
Research what each neighbourhood is like before booking accommodation. Photo / Unsplash
Regardless of what city you visit, the location of your accommodation is key for a successful trip. Like New York, London neighbourhoods each have a distinctive style, which is worth considering alongside their proximity of what you’d like to see. Soho may be super central but if you’re looking for peace and quiet, you’re better off staying in Mayfair or Pimlico.
2. Be street smart
London may be a generally safe city, but any popular travel destination inevitably has a higher risk of tourist traps. The best advice is to stay aware of your surroundings, keep your belongings secure and close at all times, especially on public transport and be wary of fake tourist surveys or unofficial charges.
3. Plan ahead and save
Use an Oyster card or Travelcard to safe on fares. Photo / Unsplash
Fast and reliable, the Tube is a much-envied form of transport amongst Kiwi visitors. However, costs can quickly add up if you don’t do your homework. Purchase an Oyster Card (kind of like an Auckland HOP card), which charge pay-as-you-go fares with a fare cap, or a Travelcard, which grants unlimited trips for a set period of time. Contactless credit cards can also be used but they often incur additional fees.
4. Catch the ‘unofficial’ Hop-On Hop-Off bus
On the surface, the concept seems perfect; hop on a tour bus and allow it to take you everywhere worth visiting in the city. However, according to locals, London transport’s ‘unofficial tour bus’ whisks you past many of the same sights, for far less money and at your own pace. We’re talking about the Number 11 public bus route. Driving between Fulham and Liverpool Street, the bus passes Chelsea, Westminster Abbey and The Houses of Parliament as well as Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, The Strand, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Bank of England.
5. Embrace your inner flâneur
London is a city built for walking, so explore it on foot as well as bus and tube. Photo / Unsplash
Like any city, things can get busy around commuter hours. Luckily, London is a beautiful city to walk through and despite the UK’s reputation for bad weather, London doesn’t get more rain than cities like Sydney, Miami or Mexico City.
Grab a comfortable pair of sneakers, a rain jacket and explore on foot, either by wandering aimlessly through the parks, streets and shops or taking a walking tour.
6. Pay money to save time
Waiting around in queues can take up precious time, especially if your visit is a short one. Many popular attractions like Westminster Abbey or the London Eye may have unending lines of visitors but they also have fast-track tickets that let you walk right in.
7. Find local fare
New Zealand may have a lot of British influence but it’s unlikely you will have come across spotted dick, jellied eels or toad in the hole in Aotearoa.
If trying these traditional dishes in pubs like The Blackfriar, or The Coal Hole don’t appeal, you can still enjoy an equally traditional Sunday roast. Tuck into a delicious rump with Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy at Hawksmoor Spitalfields, or try the succulent slow-roasted roast at Blacklock Soho.
Or, for something more elegant but equally as British, indulge in afternoon tea at The Drawing Room in Brown’s Hotel or Dalloway Terrace in Bloomsbury.
8. Venture out of the city
Try to visit other cities, like Bath, during your trip. Photo / Unsplash
London’s inner-city has enough to keep any traveller busy for months but there is more to England than the Square Mile. As Samuel Johnson said: “when one is tired of London…” Brighton is only sixty minutes away by rail. Set aside a day to hop on a train and visit regions like Bath, Oxford or Windsor where you can see a whole new side of Britain’s history and culture.
9. Don’t just visit the big-ticket museums
There’s a reason thousands of people visit The British Museum, the National Gallery or the Tate Modern; they’re some of the best in the world. However, after seeing the famous galleries and museums, it’s worth checking out the lesser-known alternatives.
Step onto the famous tennis court at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum or play postman for a day at The Postal Museum. History buffs will love the Royal Air Force Museum and Imperial War Museum while creative types shouldn’t miss the free entry to The Wallace Collection.
10. Hunt out local shopping spots
Venture further than Oxford Street, to neighbourhoods like Shoreditch, for trendy boutiques. Photo / Unsplash
Oxford Street may be branded as the place to shop in London, but aside from the odd store, the crowded area is mainly home to brands we have here in New Zealand.
So, follow the locals and have fun hunting out the indie shopping scene in Shoreditch’s Brick Lane Vintage Market or Coal Drop Yards near Regent’s Canal.