So you want to come to London to visit? Great! Seriously, no sarcasm intended. London is a great city and a great place to work and live. But when visiting London, especially during times when special events are taking place (ahem: London 2012 Olympics) – there are a few pointers to keep in mind. I’ve lived here for 5 short years now, and still considering myself a tourist, here are some points i’ve put together for the discerning tourist or visitor.
Probably the golden rule: Don’t act like a tourist. You will be targeted quickly by people you would rather not be bothered by.
1. Google Maps will become your best friend in London. Use it 🙂
2. You can walk to pretty much most places in Zone 1 if the destination is a few stops away. Don’t waste your money going one, two, three, four stops etc… you’ll also see much more if you walk.
3. When walking around – keep to the left. If you’re on an escalator and you’re just standing… stand to the right. Trust me. Just do it.
4. Central London is well sign-posted. Keep an eye out for them, especially if you’re already following signs to somewhere. On the tube, all attractions are indicated too.
5. No-one likes a slow walker. Seriously.
6. From 5-7pm on a weekday, it becomes rush hour. People coming from work become soulless, cold, horrible machines. Try not to get in their way. They’re easily irritated.
7. The price of alcohol in bars / pubs / clubs are more expensive in London. Get over it.
8. Re: Point 7 – do your best to refrain from buying drinks in bars in tourist traps (Oxford Street, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden etc). There are of course exceptions to this rule, like Wetherspoon pubs and Yates bar (there’s one right in Leicester Square if you get desperate. I’ve admittedly had a few drunken nights in there. There’s also a pole.).
9. The bus will take you long distances for £1.35 – if you’re feeling confident, have a go at taking a bus. It’s funny. Really.
10. London is the most surveillanced city in the world. There are undercover police everywhere, and you will get captured on CCTV thousands of times every day. Don’t do anything obviously stupid!
11. Very important to consider… London is horrendously liberal. Within hours of being in the city… you’ll probably see some weird stuff. Or some odd madness. Or some crazy thing. The most important thing to remember is that no-one cares – and you shouldn’t either … but in a nice way! Just smile to yourself on the inside. You can take the piss later 🙂
12. Stop, look and listen. Be careful crossing the road. I know this is what they told you in primary school… but in London, cars won’t stop for you. Neither will cyclists (you’ll be shocked at the amount of cyclists in London).
So here’s a selection of attractions ‘n’ shit i’ve put together that I think you may like. I don’t know if you will – but have a quick look here anyway.
London Eye: ~ £20
Closest station: Waterloo
It’s pretty cool. I’ve been on it three times, but you only need to go on it once. Go at night, or the late evening when the city starts to light up. Actually just go at night. Late evening at the earliest. See the city at it’s most energetic – it’s a beautiful sight.
London Aquarium: ~ £22.80
Closest station: Waterloo
If you like fish – this is the place for you. If you don’t like fish, there are some pretty fish too that are nice to look at, at least. And some sharks. And piranhas. And stingrays. And a robotic fish.
Häagen-Dazs Restaurant: ~ £7+
Closest station: Leicester Square
Do you like iced cream? Ha! Of course you do, I don’t even know why I’m asking the question. This is your iced cream dream house. This place, my sweet-toothed visitor, has a whole menu – yeah, you read correctly… a whole menu… full of cold, frozen cream awaiting you. This place has everything you could ever ask for – standard scoops, to towering hot and cold iced cream and chocolate brownie combinations, to fondue platters to share, to your own custom made creations. To top this off, all of this is Häagen-Dazs iced cream, if that wasn’t enough already.
Tate Modern: £Free (paid special attractions)
Closest station: Waterloo
One bad-ass art gallery if you’re into… y’know, art. And it’s free! Be sure to check out the website to check what’s new and happening, as it’s always changing.
Ice Bar: £14 on the door / £12.50 adv.
Closest station: Piccadilly Circus / Oxford Street
This bar experience is completely made of ice. EVERYTHING is made of ice. 40 minutes only because you’ll freeze. Cool coat and gloves to wear whilst you are there, and a free drink i believe. Tourists love this place – but I’d just prefer a pint in a bar. Be sure to book online to avoid disappointment.
Fabric Nightclub: £18 entry
Closest station: Farringdon
Superclub. Sophisticated music, very little commercial shite. Three rooms, all connected via a series of tunnels. Consistently hosting world-class DJs and producers. Not cheap, like every other nightclub in London – but here you certainly get more bang for your pound coin. Check out what’s on here.
The Comedy Store: ~ £10-£22.50 (depending on time and night, book in adv.)
Closest station: Piccadilly Circus
Proper good laugh (obviously). Various acts over a few hours. Only made funnier with a bar and kitchen, so you can drink to your hearts content (they serve pitchers of beer) and have dinner too. The night starts sober, but as it progresses – everyone (you, the audience) just gets more and more drunk. Things get funnier. A night out in itself. Be sure to book online here to avoid disappointment, and to see who is on.
There’s ALOT more. TONS more. A lot of FREE stuff aswell. Too much to write here.
SERIOUS NOTE: You can buy tickets that get you into many places for around £45 or something, like London Dungeon, The Eye, Aquarium and Madame Tussauds. A lot cheaper than buying separate tickets. Look here.
So next up I’ve got a few places I’d like to recommend to you…
A fine blended mixture of tourist traps, highstreet shops, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, about 71,683,481 Starbucks, a similar amount of Pret a Manger’s and much more. It’s the heart of London and it’s cool as fuck. It has skyscrapers, beautiful bank-sides, amazing history and architecture. The world comes to visit this place, rain or shine, all year round. I’ve lived here for 5 years and I know i’ve only ever scratched the surface. Go and explore it! It’s crazy, fun and fascinating.
Spiritual home of the hippies. This place seems normal at first – but trust me, you don’t have to go far before it starts to “change”. Horrific amount of bars, markets, crazy-ass shops and tattoo parlours. It’s just different, unique… and great. I love this place. The markets here are most certainly worth a visit. Prepare to see some unexpected things.Oh, Camden also has a canal complete with a real functioning lock. Yes! Stick around long enough and you’ll see a canal boat pass through being cheered on by tipsy people outside Lloyds Bar (The Ice Wharf).
I always describe this place as “a little bit of wales in Central London”. That’s because it is. This protected area is the perfect place to go to escape the concrete jungle for an afternoon or evening. Get a bus from Camden Town to Hampstead Heath (around 15 mins, you can also get London Overground trains there), hop off and buy yourselves a few bottles of wine and some snacks – and head up to The Heath for a drunken hot afternoon or evening of serene beauty and amazing views of London. Also worth a mention is the Garden Gate pub in Hampstead Heath itself – a lovely little place with a lovely massive beer garden serving food and drink until late. One of my favourite “get me the fuck out of the city” spots – and makes me feel human again.
You heard of the “hipster”? It all started here… and it’s still here, stronger than ever. Shoreditch, Old Street, Liverpool Street, Brick Lane… explore these areas to see some crazy fashion sense and people who think they’re cool. Plenty of boutiques, fine eateries, coffee shops, markets, bars and pubs.
This is South London. A very, very different place to North London. The people are different, the accents are different. I’ve taken a whiz one night down Electric Avenue. Home to lots of bars and history… and Jamaicans. You’ll certainly see some weird stuff here. You’ll smell some weird stuff too. This place is also slowly being claimed by the hipsters… come at your own risk – but a great adventure in itself.
It’s the North London of South London. Lots of bars, pubs, and one massive mediocre nightclub called Infernos. Many “norms” and young families here. It’s been my “going out” place for a while now – although there are lots of other places to go too.
Home of the Olympics 2012. Also home of Europe’s biggest shopping centre, Westfield. Yeah, baby. Shops and restaurants galore. Shopping here is your wallets dream. Worth a visit if you want to pick up some… shoes or something. Or whatever you buy in shops. There’s certainly something for everyone here.
Picturesque, beautiful, and most importantly… the home of Time itself. GMT, y’know? GREENWICH Mean Time? This place it well kept because of its importance. Also home to Greenwich Observatory on top of a phat hill (the best view of London), the Cutty Sark ship and the not-very-liked Greenwich University. Because they love themselves.
So that’s it kids. I’m honestly, only scratching the surface here with what I’ve written. I could go on and on forever about where to go and/or what to do – but the best thing for you, my lovely visitor, to do? Go and explore London. Go – now! Do it now! There’s something for everyone, from all walks of life. Above all – have fun, use common sense, Google Maps and stay safe!
Kieran Goodary is our tech man and is the reason things have been changing so fast round here. London based, he knows what the fuck he is talking about..