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Who doesn't like London? Hardly anyone right? Although the bowler hats have virtually disappeared from the street, London still exudes the traditional British style and respectability. At the same time, the city still lives up to its 'Swinging London' nickname from the 1960s. Add to this the countless attractions, the nearly endless shopping possibilities, the beautiful parks and the extensive gastronomy, and you know that London is a city for everybody. A visit of just a few days does not suffice to discover all of London. Many people therefore visit London on a regular basis, as there is something new to experience every single time.
When visiting the British capital for the first time, London may be somewhat overwhelming. It is therefore a good idea the start off with a city bike tour. That way you will get to know London better and good guides will point out nice spots, restaurants and attractions that are less obvious. There are various companies that offer bike tours.
Following the bike tour, you can take a stroll along the Thames and at the same time visit a large number of the city highlights. Start at the famous Tower Bridge. From the walkways you have fantastic views and you can also visit the steam engines that were used in the past to operate the bascules. The British Crown Jewels are stored in the nearby Tower of London. A bit further down the road you will see a 61-meter-tall column, The Monument, that commemorates the Great Fire of London that burnt down large part of the city in 1666. Further west lies the impressive St. Paul's Cathedral. When you continue walking along the Thames, you will reach the parliament building with the Big Ben. Across the river you will see the London Eye Ferris wheel, which takes you in a closed cabin to an altitude of 135 meters.
The British Museum forms the icing on London's enormous museum cake. Just this one museum is already so large, that it is impossible to see everything in one day. We therefore recommend choosing upfront from the vast collection that includes for example Greek sculptures, Egyptian mummies, Asian art treasures and exhibitions on Great Britain's history.
Some of the other museums in London include for example:
Many cities claim to be a shopping paradise, but London is the true paradise for shopping fanatics. It is no coincidence that Oxford Street, with all its department stores, is Europe's busiest shopping street. You can find major fashion brands in Bond Street, a side street of Oxford Street, and in the Chelsea District, especially in Sloan Street. Designers who hope to make it one day are mainly concentrated in the Brick Lane, Shoreditch and Spitalfields neighborhoods in East London. The Covent Garden District houses many specialty shops as well as a large covered market with handicrafts, jewelry, clothing and antiques. The Portobello Market, near the Notting Hill subway station, is also fun. It is only held on Fridays and Saturdays and here you will mainly find good quality antiques, vintage clothing and alternative fashion. Near the Brixton subway station there is a market where immigrants populate the stalls and where you will therefore find many exotic produce.
After shopping, visiting a museum, or strolling through the streets, it is great to relax in one of the parks. The large Hyde Park borders on Kensington Gardens and together they form the city's green heart. On Sundays, in the northeast corner of Hyde Park, at the Speaker's Corner, you can hear the opinion of the Brits: From politics to soccer, from world peace to London's garbage collection, and everything in between...
London has so much to offer that there is no need to leave the city. However, we do have a few tips for those who would like to look beyond the city after yet another visit to the British capital.
The Kew Gardens are not really located outside the city, but in a western suburb (towards Heathrow Airport). Here they have collected no less than 40,000 plants and flowers from all over the world in gigantic greenhouses as well as outdoors. One of those greenhouses, the Palm House, only contains (large) palm trees.
Are the kids a bit bored after strolling around London? In this case we suggest spending a day in Legoland, near Windsor. It houses scale models of famous buildings from all over Europe, but also life-size animals, made entirely out of Lego blocks. The park is not just about Lego though, as it also contains super slides, rollercoasters and water attractions. The little ones can also pass their 'driver's test'. And while you are in Windsor, you can also pay a visit to the Royal Palace, Windsor Castle.
A bit further out, but certainly doable if you travel by rental car, is Stonehenge. This prehistoric monument is located a bit over 130 kilometers west of London. The monument is surrounded by myths; no one knows for sure what its purpose was.
Outside of London's center a rental car is of great use, but not within the city center. The city council discourages car use by charging a Congestion Charge and steep parking rates. If you want to park your car on the street, make sure to carefully read the stipulations on the signs. As a rule of thumb: If it is not explicitly stated that you can park somewhere, it is probably prohibited! Sometimes you can leave your car at the hotel, but they often charge an extra fee. Make sure to check this when booking your hotel room.
London's main and busiest airport is London Heathrow Airport, 24 kilometer west of the city center. The second airport is London Gatwick Airport. This airport is located 45 kilometers south of the city. London Stansted Airport and London Luton Airport are both located 50 kilometers north of the city and are often used by low-cost airlines. The fifth and smallest airport is located closest to the center: London City Airport near the Docklands in the eastern part of the city.