British Isles

Past and Present

Custom Search

First Time In London? Follow These Tips To Get To Grips With The Big City

When people visit London for the first time, they often come with a whole host of common preconceptions. From bad weather, terrible food to an abundance of history, these clichés are very unrepresentative of the overall experience.

London is not only dripping with multiculturalism, but it is defined by it. There are people who live here from over 270 countries and speaking more than 300 different languages. In this capital city, you can enjoy a bowl of Ethiopian stew, have a Spanish salsa lesson, look at artefacts from Ancient Egypt and listen to a Bavarian oompah band all in 24 hours. But, London still has its own uniqueness and the main attractions are worth visiting, no matter if you're on your first visit or your 100th.

Getting To London

The majority of international visitors get here through one of the three major airports in the Capital. Don't be fooled though - even though they have a 'London' prefix, they are, in fact, miles away from one another. Stansted is around 40 miles away from the centre, with Heathrow being the closest at 20 miles away and Gatwick sitting in the middle at 28 miles away.

Fortunately, London has one of the best transport networks in Europe and getting to and from the airports isn't difficult. If you live in the UK and want to travel to London, there are regular train services which run all over the UK, from Edinburgh right down into Cornwall.

Exploring The Neighbourhoods and Sights

London is often described as being a collection of different villages than a single piece. Whilst a few of London's neighbourhoods are almost village-like in their appearance, such as Richmond and Notting Hill, it is true that different areas have their own atmosphere. This can be useful when it comes to segmenting your sightseeing plans.

Three of the main connected neighbourhoods, the City, the West End and the South Bank, sit either side of the River Thames and are often the main focus when it comes to sightseeing. If it is your first time, then yes, you absolutely must visit these places, but there are many other areas which are all worth exploring.

Food and Drink

It's almost impossible to imagine a type of food which isn't available in the city of London. There is almost an A-Z of cuisines to be explored across the capital. You will find the highest concentration, and the busiest, of restaurants in the West End with offerings ranging from a cheap Chinese in Soho to amazing gastronomic wonders in Mayfair. South Bank has a lot of reliable chain restaurants, but there are also some great pubs where the food is taken just as seriously as the drink. For light bites, sandwich shops and noodle bars fill in the small gaps.

If you want to try some of the national cuisines, then there are two dishes which first-time visitors should absolutely try: curry and fish and chips. If you can, you should also try another British classic - the roast dinner, which is made up of roast meat, potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and gravy.

Getting Around

There are many different ways of travelling around London. Walking is perhaps the best way to take in all of the city's history, but London is a big place and it can often feel like you have been walking for miles. A trip on the underground, better known as the tube, is a must for first-time visitors, but it also cuts down on travel times and can get you from A to B a lot quicker than walking or the bus, if you avoid rush-hour that is!

If you want to experience something a little different during your trip, then be sure to take a ride on one of the water taxis or get on a river cruise to quickly travel up and down the river. The popular Emirates Air Line is a cable car which travels across the Thames and gives you a truly unique viewing of the city.

When visiting London, it is best to book in advance wherever you can. With over 19 million annual visitors, the big attractions and best hotels can often get booked up. If there is somewhere particular where you want to dine, then reserve a table - every night is a Saturday night in London! With the looming Brexit decision, if you are travelling from another country then it is best if you have everything up to date, travel-wise. Ensure you have the right visa if needed and make sure that you have a few months left on your passport expiry. Immigration solicitors and your national embassy will be able to help you if you run into any trouble during your stay.



Copyright © 2009-2019 Alan Price and IslandGuide.co.uk contributors. All rights reserved. Island Guide makes minimal use of cookies, including some placed to facilitate features such as Google Search. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to the use of cookies. Learn more here