London Hotels , Flights and Travel Packages
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London , is the capital and largest city of both the United Kingdom and of England, it is also the largest city in Western Europe and the European Union. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of nearly 8 million people — although the figure of over 14 million for the city's total metropolitan area more accurately reflects London's size and importance. London is one of the great "world cities," and remains a global capital of culture, fashion, finance, politics and trade. The name London originally referred only to the once-walled "Square Mile" of the original Roman (and later medieval) city (confusingly called the "City of London" or just "The City"). Today, London has taken on a much larger meaning to include all of the vast central parts of the modern metropolis, with the city having absorbed numerous surrounding towns and villages over the centuries, including large portions of the surrounding "home counties", one of which - Middlesex - being completely consumed by the growing metropolis. The term Greater London embraces Central London together with all the outlying suburbs that lie in one continuous urban sprawl within the lower Thames valley. Though densely populated by New World standards, London retains large swathes of green parkland and open space, even within the city centre.
Greater London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London that, together with the office of the Mayor of London, form the basis for London's local government. The Mayor of London is elected by London residents and should not be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London. The names of several boroughs, such as Westminster or Camden, are well-known, others less so, such as Wandsworth or Lewisham. This traveller's guide to London recognises cultural, functional and social districts of varying type and size:
Central London :
Bloomsbury : Vibrant historic district made famous by a group of turn-of-the-century writers and for being the location of the British Museum and numerous historic homes, parks, and buildings. Part of the Borough of Camden.
City of London : The City is the area of London that originally lay within the ancient city walls and is now a major world financial centre.
Covent Garden : One of the main shopping and entertainment districts. Incorporates some of London's theatreland. Part of the City of Westminster and Borough of Camden.
Holborn-Clerkenwell : Buffer zone between London's West End and the City of London financial district, home to the Inns of Court
Leicester Square : West End district comprising Leicester Square, Chinatown, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus and the centre of London's cinema and theatre land
Mayfair-Marylebone : Some extremely well-heeled districts of west central London and most of the city's premier shopping street
Notting Hill-North Kensington :
Lively market, interesting history, the world famous carnival and diverse population
Paddington-Maida Vale : Largely residential district of northwest central London with lots of mid-range accommodation
Soho : Dense concentration of highly fashionable restaurants, cafés, clubs and bars, as well as London's gay village
South Bank : South side of the river Thames with good views of the city, several theatres and the London Eye
South Kensington-Chelsea : An extremely well-heeled inner London district with famous department stores, Hyde Park, many museums and the King's Road
Westminster : A city in its own right, the seat of government and an almost endless list of historical and cultural sights, such as Buckingham Palace, The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.
Camden : a diverse area of inner north London which includes eclectic Camden Town
East End : a traditional working class heartland of inner London to the east of The City and made famous by countless movies and TV shows, home of countless trendy bars, art galleries and parks, especially in the Shoreditch, Hoxton, Old Street area.
Greenwich : on the southern banks of the Thames, home of the Greenwich Meridien and the National Maritime Museum
Hackney : formerly an inner city area with a reputation for high crime rates and little else, Hackney has become fashionable in recent decades and is home to a thriving arts scene as well as many trendy, cafés bars and pubs
Hammersmith and Fulham : Borough in west London with a diverse population and the home of the BBC
Hampstead : Bohemian and literary north London and the wonderful open spaces of Hampstead Heath
Islington : Area to the north of Clerkenwell which has undergone huge gentrification since 1990
Lambeth : a diverse multi-cultural district to the south of the Thames which includes Brixton
Southwark-Lewisham : inner southern districts of London, traditionally residential
Wandsworth : grand Thames-side areas and open green parks in the north and dense housing in south
West : Taking in much of the ancient English county of Middlesex (which many residents still identify with rather than "London", and former parts of Buckinghamshire. Heathrow Airport is located in this part of the city.
North : Largely made up from middle-class commuter suburbs, many of which were formerly part of the counties of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire before being absorbed into Greater London.
East : Mostly originally part of the county of Essex, taking in former industrial areas on the upper Thames Estuary such as Beckton, Dagenham and Barking. To the North East lies the gateway to the affluent Epping Forest area
Richmond-Kew : leafy Thames-side scenery, Hampton Court Palace, the botanical gardens and some major parklands
Wimbledon : the annual tennis championships
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles and only an overview is presented here :
Buckingham Palace - The official London residence of the Queen, also in Westminster. Open for tours during the summer months only, but a must-see sight even if you don't go in.
The London Eye. The world's third largest observation wheel, situated on the South Bank of the Thames with magnificent views over London.
Marble Arch is a white Carrara marble monument designed by John Nash. It is located in the middle of a huge traffic island at one of the busiest intersections in central London where Oxford St meets Park Lane in Mayfair.
Piccadilly Circus is one of the most photographed sights in London. The status of Eros stands proudly in the middle while the north eastern side is dominated by a huge, iconic neon hoarding.
St Paul's Cathedral, also in the City, is Sir Christopher Wren's great accomplishment, built after the 1666 Great Fire of London - the great dome is still seated in majesty over The City. A section of the dome has such good acoustics that it forms a "Whispering Gallery".
Tower Bridge - Is the iconic 19th century bridge located by the Tower of London near the City. It is decorated with high towers and featuring a drawbridge and you can visit the engine rooms and a Tower Bridge exhibition.
The Tower of London - Situated just south east of the City, is London's original royal fortress by the Thames. It is over 900 years old, contains the Crown Jewels, guarded by Beefeaters, and is a World Heritage site. It is also considered by many to be the most haunted building in the world. If you are interested in that sort of thing its definitely somewhere worth visiting. Sometimes there are guided ghost walks of the building.
Trafalgar Square - Home of Nelson's Column and the lions, and once a safe haven for London's pigeons until the recent introduction of hired birds of prey. It recently attracted controversy over the 'Fourth plinth', previously empty, being temporarily home to a Marc Quin sculpture, 'Alison Lapper Pregnant'. Overlooked by the National Gallery, it's the nearest London has to a 'centre', and has recently been pedestrianised.
Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster (including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament) in Westminster. The seat of the United Kingdom parliament and World Heritage site, as well as setting for royal coronations since 1066, most recently that of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The Palace of Westminster is open to the public only for viewing parliamentary debates, tours of the building are available during July-August when Parliament is away on summer recess.
Museums and Galleries :
London hosts an outstanding collection of world-class museums. Even better, it is the only one of the traditional "alpha world cities" (London, Tokyo, New York City and Paris) in which the majority of the museums have no entrance charges, thus allowing visitors to make multiple visits with ease. Although London can be expensive, many of the best museums and galleries are free including:
National Portrait Gallery
Natural History Museum
and most museums in Greenwich. Note that admission to many temporary exhibitions is not free . Aside from these world famous establishments, there is an almost unbelievable number of minor museums in London covering a very diverse range of subjects. The British government lists over 240 genuine museums in the city
Parks : The 'green lungs' of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city including Hyde Park, St James Park and Regent's Park. Most of the larger parks have their origins in royal estates and hunting grounds and are still owned by the Crown, despite their public access.
Hyde Park and adjoining Kensington Gardens make up a huge open space in central London and are very popular for picnics.
Regent's Park is wonderful open park in the northern part of central London.
St James's Park has charming and romantic gardens ideal for picnics and for strolling around. St. James's Park is situated between Buckingham Palace on the west and Horse Guards Parade on the east.
Hampstead Heath is a huge open green space in north central London. Not a tended park a such and is remarkably wild for a metropolitan city location. The views from the Parliament Hill area of the heath south over the city are quite stunning.
Richmond Park also is a huge green space, but has a thriving deer population that is culled in the spring. Excellent place for cycling.
Blue Plaques : English Heritage runs the Blue Plaques programme in London. Blue Plaques celebrate great figures of the past and the buildings that they inhabited. These are among the most familiar features of the capital’s streetscape and adorn the façades of buildings across the city. Since the first plaque was erected in 1867, the number has grown steadily and there are now more than 800. Recipients are as diverse as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sigmund Freud, Charles de Gaulle, Jimi Hendrix and Karl Marx. Look out for these around the city.
London is a huge city, take a walk through London's Royal Parks. A good walk would start at Paddington station, and head through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Green Park (passing Buckingham Palace) and St James Park before crossing Trafalgar Square and the River Thames to the South Bank and Waterloo Station. At a strolling pace this walk would take half a day, with plenty of places to stop, sit, drink, eat en-route.
Live Music London is one of the best cities in the world for concerts, spanning from new musical trends to well known bands. Between huge concert facilities and small pubs, there are hundreds of venues that organise and promote live music every week. Many concerts, especially in smaller or less known places are free, so there is plenty of choice even for tourists on a budget.
Theatre The West End, especially the areas concentrated around Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Shaftesbury Avenue and Haymarket, is one of the world's premier destinations for theatre, including musical theatre. In the centre of Leicester Square there is an official half-price '''TKTS''' booth. The South Bank is another area well-known for serious theatre, and is home to both the National Theatre and the Globe Theatre. London's theatre scene outside of these two main districts is known as "the Fringe". Watch a movie As well as the world-famous blockbuster cinemas in the West End, London has a large number of superb art house cinemas. In the summer months, there are often outdoor screenings at various venues, such as Somerset House and in some of the large parks.
Watch football , Take in a home match of one of the city's 20+ professional football clubs for a true experience of a lifetime as you see the passion of the "World's Game" in its mother country. The biggest EPL clubs in London are Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. A level down finds Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace, Queen's Park Rangers and Millwall. Many of the bigger clubs will require booking in advance, sometimes many months ahead, but smaller clubs allow you to simply turn up on match day and pay at the gate.
Wimbledon , is the oldest tennis tournament in the world and is widely considered the most prestigious. Naturally it is a regular feature on the Tennis calendar. London goes "tennis crazy" for two weeks when the competition commences in late June and early July. Open House London Weekend , Explore many of the city's most interesting buildings during the London Open House Weekend - usually held on the third weekend of September. During this single weekend, several hundred buildings which are not normally open to the public are opened up. See website for details of buildings opening in any given year - some buildings have to be pre-booked in advance - book early for the popular ones.
Natural History Museum Cromwell Road tube: South Kensington http://nhm.ac.uk/ Free One of the first of its kind in the world. The museum houses many permanent and temporary exhibitions covering plants, animals and geology from the worlds natural history. Of interest to most would be the permanent dinosaur exhibition. Although many displays feel dated this is an excellent museum and is always, deservedly, crowded. Winter Skating. London has a number of outdoor ice rinks that open in the winter months. Considered by some to be somewhat overpriced and overcrowded, they nonetheless have multiplied in recent years, easing congestion and increasing competition.
Summer Skating. In summer (and also in winter, for the more dedicated) there is also a thriving roller skating (on inline and traditional "quad" skates) scene in London, catering to many disciplines including street hockey, freestyle slalom, dance, general recreational skating (including three weekly marshalled group street skates) and speed skating. This mostly centres around Hyde Park (on the Serpentine Road) and Kensington Gardens (by the Albert Memorial). See the district articles for Mayfair-Marylebone and South West London.
Shopping. If it's available, it can be bought in London. Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, all in the West End, are some of the most famous shopping destinations in the world, but they are also just the tip of the iceberg, and many London districts and town centres have unique shopping attractions of their own.
London Flights & Airports : London (is served by a total of five airports. Travelling between the city and the airports is made relatively easy by the large number of public transport links that have been put in place over recent years. However, if transiting through London, be sure to check the arrival and departure airports carefully as transfers across the city may be quite time consuming. In addition to London's five official airports (of which only two are located within Greater London), there are a number of other regional UK airports conveniently accessible from London. Since they offer a growing number of budget flights, choosing those airports can be cheaper (or even faster, depending on where in London your destination is).
London Heathrow Airport (LHR) : is London and Europe's largest airport and the world's busiest airport in terms of international passenger movement, with services available from most major airports world-wide.
London Gatwick Airport (LGW) : London's second airport, also serving a large spectrum of places world-wide.
London Stansted (STN) : Getting to Stansted for an early morning flight is fairly straight forward, coaches run through the night, provided by Terravision and National Express from London Victoria and London Liverpool Street.
London Luton (LTN) : Has traditionally been a holiday charter airport, but is now also served by some budget scheduled carriers. As per Stansted, and for the same reasons, many choose to spend the night here before flying, although "First Capital Connect" trains run 24 hours.
London City Airport (LCY) : A commuter airport close to the city's financial district, and specializing in short-haul business flights to other major European cities.
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