England’s capital city sees the highest footfall of anywhere in the country – and for good reason. The iconic home of the monarchy, a thriving digital hub, world-class shopping, the Houses of Parliament, over 170 museums and nearly 900 art galleries provide countless inspirations for leisure or corporate travel within the UK.
Even modes of transport in London have tourist potential, whether it is the black cab, the red buses or via that masterpiece of design that is the Tube map.
London’s skyline is fast becoming one of the most intriguing in the world now that the Gherkin and the Shard have taken their place alongside Big Ben, the BT Tower, the London Eye and Canary Wharf.
London promises something for everyone. The London Eye lifts visitors high above the Thames while, further downriver, the Tate Modern boasts an incredible collection of Modern Art. There are kooky shops, chic boutiques, markets and fantastic department stores (such as Selfridges and Harrods) to keep the retail fires burning.
For a relaxing trip, you can take a cruise down the Thames and drift past most of the major sights – but the best way to experience London is to do so from pavement level. If it all gets too much, there are plenty of places to refresh yourself, whether in a traditional pub, a swanky cocktail bar or one of London’s many parks. For such a populous city there is a surprising amount of green space. Areas such as Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Richmond Park are perfect for picnics and for escaping the crowds.
For those in search of edutainment, there are interactive exhibits at the National Science Museum and gigantic robotic dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum. The British Museum contains a collection of amazing relics gathered from all over the world and – like many of London’s museums – offers free entry.
London has more reminders of its heritage than other entire countries have managed to retain. The Tower of London, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, Nelson’s Column – the list just goes on.
There’s plenty that is contemporary, too.
The O2 Arena for stadium gigs is just one facet of London’s unrivalled nightlife which stretches from the Ministry of Sound and Fabric nightclubs to West End theatre and operatic productions.
The melting pot of cultures makes it ideal to graze the world’s food from your London dining table. For Indian curries head for trendy Brick Lane; Soho’s Chinatown will satisfy your noodle need, and Brixton will provide Caribbean delights. Celebrity chefs include Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsey, as well as many more Michelin starred stalwarts.
The old and the new combine together in London with its multicultural population to create a unique and irresistible mix.
The climate of London is temperate, offering generally pleasant, if changeable, summer weather and winters that rarely see the mercury fall below freezing.
With so much to see and do both indoors and outside, London is a genuine year-round destination. The average temperature in July, in mid-summer, is 19 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit), while the coldest month of January sees the average fall to 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit).
English is the official language, though visitors will be astonished by the variety of other tongues (over 300) that are fairly widely used amongst London’s communities.
England is part of the United Kingdom, which is in the process of leaving the EU. You need a valid passport to enter the United Kingdom, though EU nationals may – for the time being, at least – gain entry holding only a valid national ID card. You may need a visa to stay in the country for more than six months. You are advised to hold return tickets in order to avoid delays. Please check rules around visa requirements before you travel, as they may change regularly.
Overall, travellers can expect relative safety in London however, the threat of petty street crime demands all the usual precautions.
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