London is a city that is a perfect marriage of the past and present. Flying into Heathrow, you really get the sense that this is no ordinary city. The airport is just a maze terminals with people from all over the world coming and going. The city is no different as the diversity of the citizens is easily experienced through the diversity of cuisines. Suffice it to say if you don’t like something, you won’t have to go very far to try something different.
Without going through all the different places to visit, here are some tips that might help you if you’re there.
Getting to the city. Assuming you’re flying into Heathrow (vs. Gatwick for example), you actually have a few options. The easiest would be the Heathrow Express but it’s also the most expensive option. The Heathrow Connect is a regular train that has a few stops but ultimately takes just slightly longer but at half the cost. Either one will take you to Paddington Station from which you’ll be able to utilize the underground fairly easily.
You’ll want to dive right in and learn the underground system. The routes are color coordinated and since it’ll more than likely be your main form of transportation, you’ll want to learn it pretty quickly. My one word of caution is that the underground map doesn’t necessarily follow the location of the station above ground. Basically, you might think the nearest station is a few blocks away when looking at street map when in reality, it could be just across the road.
If you’re going to take the Eurostar to Paris, you’ll be getting on at St. Pancras station (which is the same as King’s Cross). Not sure why they have 2 names but it can be a little confusing your first time there.
When buying a ticket, get the all day pass but AFTER the morning rush. It’ll allow you to get on and off all day but if you buy your ticket after the morning rush, not only is it cheaper, but you won’t be crammed in with everyone going to work. Basically, you’ll probably be run over by everyone if you don’t know exactly where you’re going during rush hour so it’s best to just avoid that time until you’re familiar with your route.
The city is expensive but the most of the tourist sites are free. A lot of what we see as tourists (like the changing of the guard, Big Ben, etc.,) are all free. I thought that was a great equalizer in terms of cost.
If you’re there during any type of sporting event, find a local pub and enjoy…if you have the time, go to the actual event. I was lucky enough to visit during Wimbledon and that was a treat. Going to a local pub when a England is playing soccer is good fun as well.
Well those are some tips to get you started. Don’t try to do everything as you’ll fail miserably. With as many flights in and out of London, you’ll be bound to be back.