For those who are hitting the streets of London for the first time, the city seems like a never-ending maze of activities, sights and places to eat and experience. Even if you have perfected the art of making to-do lists and itineraries to make sure that your trip turns out as perfectly as you have imagined, there are some things that you must adhere to in order to give your vacation that extra edge. We list a couple of travel tips to make sure that you get around London in the right way and get the ‘feel’ of it in the amount of time you have got:
Focus on the Open Spaces
While London boasts of many major concrete attractions that are bound to take your breath away, this city is also one where you will find more open spaces and greenery than you can in any other place major cosmopolitan one.
Thankfully, most of the city’s open spaces are located in its heart, while many are away even though they make the trip all the way there worth it. Hampstead Heath, for one, is a large slice of countryside in a hilly part of the city with some stunning views, with a tube that leads to Hampstead. Next is Regent’s Park, a large formal park in the Victorian tradition near to Baker Street, with an excellent open-air theatre. In Central London are Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, a huge open spaces right in the centre of the West End. Wimbledon Common is a wild open countryside perfect for cycling, next to a picture perfect “village”. Even the myriad tree-lined squares of Bloomsbury and Finsbury provide for a delicate view. Not only are these excellent ways to wind down, but they also include activities such as cycling, horse riding, swimming and children’s playground, among other things. Some give space to concerts and gigs, while some have traditional English ceremony performances at key time of the year.
Walk instead of Driving
Time and again it has been said and reiterated that walking is the best way for one to explore the roots of any city. The hidden mysteries and delights that you unravel on the streets can beat any mode of transportation. Even though London is one of the most extensive, most frequent urban rail systems in the world and there is no other faster way, even by using the Tube too much you can miss a lot. One of the best things about London is the different flavour of the neighbourhoods and how quickly you can move between areas of very different types – the City and Spitalfields, for example; or Bloomsbury, Mayfair, and Soho. There are a lot of major attractions you can easily walk between and it will open your eyes. Do not be tempted to get off at Covent Garden station to visit Covent Garden! Nearly all the stations within two stops from it are only a ten minute walk away.
Know the History to Understand the City
Many drop in to the city and focus too much on the novelty of major attractions, without knowing what each of them mean to London. London is, and always has been, a trading city and an agglomeration of nationalities and people from all walks of life, and this is what has made it what it is. If you read up on the history of the neighbourhoods and the people who built them, you will understand why some of the districts are what they are.
Do not Rush Your Way Into London
While it appears to be important to see all the major landmarks in as much time possible, you actually end up missing the ultimate essence and experience of the place. Rather than rushing from Harrod’s to Big Ben to Buckingham Palace to the London Eye, trying to fit every tourist sight into your stay, why don’t you take the time to enjoy London’s neighbourhoods? London is a mish-mash of all things. Any attempt to find the “real” London is probably a vain effort, especially in a short trip. Wandering about the mews or gardens will give you enough time and energy to just watch and absorb. The key is to enjoy yourself and try not to stress yourself on doing everything. Once you are not too tied down to the clichéd travelling, you will find that just beyond the usual fare is a completely different London, with its mews in Kensington and Knightsbridge, or the rabbit warren of lanes in Soho, away from Regent and Oxford Streets; the winding medieval lanes of the old City, or Westminster’s quiet backstreets away from Victoria Street and Whitehall.
Buy an Oyster Card
Commuting in London can get heavy on your pocket and so unless you are going to make one single journey on public transport in London, one should really be looking to either purchase an Oyster or Travelcard, and avoid paying for single tickets. Not only is this the perfect way to get the cheapest available fare for the time of day and your route, but you will also save time by avoiding the massive queues at ticket offices. In addition, these cards work on the tube, buses, suburban trains, Docklands Light Railway (DLR), and so on. Once you’ve bought one and loaded it (cash or credit card), there is no time limit on your Oyster credit and it is easy to top up at any station (cash or credit card). Pay-as-you-go Oyster is ideal for visitors; Travel card is best for residents.