Having the toll of Big Ben in your ears, the smell of Borough Market in your nostrils, and the images in the Tate Modern in your eyes, London is a sensory experience every world traveler must take in. But with so much to choose from, doing it all during one stay is nearly impossible. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, follow this guide to ensure you enjoy the essentials of London.
Act Like a Tourist
London is one of the preeminent tourist destinations in the world and you would be remiss if you didn’t experience one or two of the more popular tourist traps in the city. Take in the famous sights of Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, or Piccadilly Circus. For a truly touristy experience, walk through Leicester Square for bright lights, pretty fountains, and tourist shops. It’s also a great place for entertainment. If your lucky, a film premiere may be happening at one of the many movie theatres in the area. The TKTS booth there is a great spot to pick up cheap theatre tickets, which brings us to . . .
Take in a Show
The West End is the ultimate destination for theatre lovers, dwarfing New York’s Broadway and Toronto’s King Street. The sheer number and diversity of shows is staggering, with comedies, dramas, and musicals just minutes away from each other. For a good laugh, check out The 39 Steps or The Importance of Being Earnest, which are both interesting new takes on their source material. For something more mainstream, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables should fit the bill.
Get a View of the City
London also offers quite a few options for a beautiful skyline shot of the city. If you want a money saving option, choose The Monument to the Great Fire of London. This one is for real adventurers, as you have to climb 311 steps to reach the top. Easier ways to get a great view include The London Eye and The Shard, which both have mechanical means to reach the top. Some of London’s bridges are also great places to get a view of the city. Tower Bridge is a great place to see both the city and the distinctly coloured Thames River.
Immerse Yourself in a Little History
London is a city full of history. It has great museums, like the British Museum and the Museum of London. But if you want to take in history a little more first-hand, then the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey (audio guide voiced by Jeremy Irons!) are great places to visit. For sports fans, the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon is a must. Take the tour for the full experience. For literary lovers, the Charles Dickens Museum or Sherlock Holmes Museum are great. And if Shakespeare is your thing, Shakespeare’s Globe isa faithful recreation of Shakespeare’s own famous theatre. From the seating to the ceiling, the Globe is just like it was in Shakespeare’s day. It also puts on The Bard’s plays daily.
Take the Tube
Taking the London Underground is probably more of a necessity than choice, but if you’re planning to drive, walk, cab or bus around the city, then reconsider. The Tube is more than just a way of getting around; it’s an experience that shows how great a subway system can be. Sure it has its problems, but you can catch a train that services most of the city, sit on the comfy seats and if you’re from Toronto, try not to cry when you think of the TTC.