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London, England

London

Great Destination:

5

Value for Money:

2

Total Stars:

7.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

All personality types give London very high ratings

Did You Know…?

  • The Langham, London was the world’s first hotel with elevators when it debuted in 1865.
  • The Tate Modern is housed in the former Bankside Power Station.
  • Big Ben is the name of a bell not the tower it is in.
  • The Thames flows past 3,000 acres of wharves.
  • London’s Underground is the world’s longest subway system at 257 miles.

A great walking city

One of the world’s great cities for hundreds of years, London shows us how to survive invasions, fires, plagues and modern warfare and yet maintain dignity and historical significance.

Today, the invaders are business travelers involved in a wide range of pursuits and tourists with equally varied interests. Vacationers come for the history, architecture, the hip nightlife, theater, pubs, pomp and ceremony, shopping — and the sound of English as spoken by a friendly local.

All personality types are among London’s enthusiastic fans. Travelers most often mention the city’s centuries of tradition and the heritage of its exciting past. The beauty of the city is tied to its architecture and its site on the River Thames. Visitors praise the variety and quality of theatrical performances, and the shopping is superb, from Harrods and Bond Street to the stalls in Portobello Road and Covent Garden.

Royalty is another draw. Tourists gather in large numbers to watch the changing of the guard and to tour the palaces — Buckingham in the city and Hampton Court and Windsor Castle just outside. Most museums are excellent, but the British Museum is outstanding for its size and quality.

More adventurous travelers emphasize the diversity of activities and the energy of the city. When in urban areas, they concentrate on city activities and getting to know people rather than merely seeking active recreation. They call London a “great walking city” with interesting street activity. London also is a convenient base for excursions to the countryside.

Other visitors highlight sightseeing and the shopping. Most North Americans studied English history in school, watched movies or plays about its royals and read the works of English writers. But those at the middle of the personality scale are especially eager to see the places in London they’ve carried for years in their imaginations.

The least venturesome — eager sightseers, too — are comfortable in this city because of the language, the friendliness of the locals and the excellent and easy-to-use public transportation system. There are many good guided tours. Evenings may find these visitors at a fine restaurant (food is good but can be expensive) or at the theater.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Take a walk. Here are some neighborhoods of particular interest for walkers: The City is the financial hub; Soho and Chelsea are comparable to New York’s Greenwich Village; Whitehall contains the prime minister’s residence and other government buildings, and the redeveloped Docklands on the Thames is self-explanatory.
  • Plan a pub crawl; indeed, see how many pubs with names like Slug and Lettuce you can patronize.
  • See London by bicycle.  Or, take to the Thames to get a perspective on London by boat (either hired with crew or self-piloted). Rowing, sailing and canoeing are options.
  • Try on instruments of torture at the Clink Prison Museum. The real Clink Prison gave us the word clink meaning jail.
  • Eat marmite, a dark brown sticky spread made from yeast extract. It is an acquired taste.
  • Take the Blood and Tears Walk or the Ghost and Murder Walk or the Haunted and Sinister Walk. Or pursue Jack the Ripper on foot.  Or spook yourself in other ways, with the Grisly Ghost Tours at Hampton Court or, around Halloween, the Creepy Cruise, which lets you hear the scary stories while afloat, then take a fright-night flight on the London Eye.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Fly in the London Eye for a sky-high view of Britain’s capital.
  • See the Tower of London. This is a fortress on the river with several buildings, the oldest dating to the 12th century. Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded here, as were other well-known personages.  Many historical characters and events are tied to the Tower, and the atmosphere lingers on. See the Crown Jewels displayed here.
  • In Hyde Park, go to Speakers’ Corner where debaters and orators hold forth on any subject, at any time.  Also, eat fish and chips, and ride in one of London’s famous black cabs.
  • Take the train or travel by boat on the Thames to Hampton Court (it’s not that far from the city, Heathrow is farther). Walk through its famous maze. Check for reenactment events on site; Halloween and Christmas-to-New Years are possible time frames.
  • Have a drink at the bar at the Courthouse Hotel Kempinski. The building was a courthouse, and the bar is where the lock-up was. Private tables in the bar are placed inside three former prison cells.
  • At Leicester Square, buy half-price tickets to many of London’s fine theatrical productions. In the season, attend a show at the nearly roofless Globe Theatre.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Attend services at St. Paul’s Cathedral. (That is one way to see the interior without paying a stiff entry fee, but do put something in the collection plate.)
  • Shop at Harrods by all means (and see its food courts), but consider other areas, too: Portobello Road for antiques on Saturdays; Fulham, Chelsea and Notting Hill Gate for moderate pocketbooks; Beauchamp Place and Bond Street for the wealthy. Regent and Oxford streets provide many items that tourists want, too.  And, of course, stop at “Marks and Sparks” (Marks and Spencer) department stores for clothing — and food.
  • The British Museum is king, but include others on your list, too. Try the Victoria and Albert, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery and the Tate Modern.
  • Watch the changing of the guard ceremony in front of Buckingham Palace at 11 a.m.
  • In London, see the Benjamin Franklin house, the home on Craven Street near Charing Cross railway station where Franklin lived for the better part of 16 years before the American Revolution. It is his only surviving residence in the world.
  • Indulge yourself: Take high tea in one of the city’s top hotels.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult London & Partners at www.visitlondon.com