I want to share some impressions about my trip to London, UK. It was only a short 2-day trip but I was able to see the most of the touristic-spots you have to see. (I guess). I was flying on budget airline “easyJet” where the flight was way cheaper than on any other airline and surprisingly the only direct flight available for this date. London is a great city with a flair that doesn’t get close to any other city. It is just amazing to be there. I was reminded of my old English classes in school. There you always get taught the British stuff. And I also kinda like the British English dialect. But let’s get started…
Everything starts with planning. You probably will fly into London. If possible try to avoid Heathrow Airport, this is the busiest airport in the United Kingdom. Try to get in through Gatwick airport, the smaller airlines and budget airlines fly there. Once inside the terminal building, you have to proceed to immigration. If you are a holder of an e-passport, you probably have a shorter line to get through immigration. It is more or less full-automated security checkpoint. If not don’t worry. Immigration officers are very fast here and it doesn’t take nearly as long as in the United States.
Once through immigration grab your bags and the best way to get to the city is by train. I recommend the regular “Southern” train. It cost you less than the Gatwick Express and the time difference is only a couple of minutes and not worth to buy a big expensive train ticket. At the ticket counter make sure you also add the “tube” to your ticket, so you can ride the day all subways in London. The “Southern” train will end in Victoria Station. With your ticket, you are also eligible to ride the buses in London as well.
Important: If you buy the tube day ticket you can ride the buses but it doesn’t work the opposite way.
If you wanna change your money to British Pound, there is an ATM across of McDonald’s where they don’t charge you any transaction fees. I can’t think of the name but it is labeled and says there are no fees for cash withdrawal. At least it worked for me. That helps you on saving money even on the money exchange. If you go to an exchange counter you have to pay massive fees here. My next stop after Victoria Station was my hotel, to get rid of my luggage. To book cheap hotels, you can use the regular sources like hotels.com and so on.
Important Tipp: Once you arrive on Victoria Station or in your Hotel look for flyers. You get discounted tickets for tours and admission to museums and attractions.
If you own a smartphone and you wanna avoid high roaming charges, try to use Tripadvisor City Guide London. It has an offline map and all the important spots in there.
Victoria Station is a probably one of the best spots to start your city exploration. From here you can take the tube, that’s hob British people call their subway system, the bus or walk. Westminster Cathedral is within walking distance just walk up NE on Victoria St and you will see it on the right-hand side. It is allowed to take pictures in there, but with no flash.
Right across of the Westminster Cathedral is a bus stop. Take the bus line 24 which will take you right to the “Houses of Parliament” and “Big Ben” also make sure that you go and check out Westminster Abbey, It is right next to Houses of Parliament. Walk over the bridge, to get more stunning views of Big Ben and London and on the other Side, you can find the Eye Of London. It is a giant wheel with closed gondolas. Up on top, you will have a stunning view all over London and you can take some great pictures. They even have some consoles in the gondola, where you can see a description of all the landmarks. You can get 50% off if you a Merlin pass holder, like from Germany or England. The cashier told me, normally I have to book in advanced over my country’s Merlin Hotline. Some of the cashiers don’t know the German Merlin pass, so just play dumb, you didn’t know and your friend just got the discount too, and you even talked to the German Hotline and they told you to just go there and show your pass to the cashier.
If you want you can go back, where the bus dropped you off and take bus 88 to get to Piccadilly Circus. Here you can go shopping, see the big screens on the fronts of the houses. There are also many good restaurants around here. If you are in the mood for steak, you have to try the STEAK & Co. Steak House.If you order a steak, make sure you order it medium or rare, because the steak is served on a hot stone, where you can cook it how you want it. The meat there is delicious and unbelievably tasty. You have to try it. Even the salads and fries are perfect. This was the best steak I had in a very long time.
Here a couple other places you should check out.
Tower Bridge, Tower of London and The Circle
Just take the tube and exit “Tower Hill” now everything is within walking distance. Enjoy the beautiful Tower of London and the Tower Bridge. Make sure you take a stroll across the bridge. You might even wanna check out the Bridge Museum. It is located upstairs in one of the Towers.
On the other side, take the stairs down to the waterfront, where you have a remarkable view of the Tower of London and the city buildings. If you like architecture you should check out “The Circle”. You can find this building near the corner of Queen Elisabeth Street and Curlew Street.
Buckingham Palace Buckingham Palace Gardens & St. Jame’s Park
These places are within walking distance of Victoria Station, just head up north along Buckingham Palace Road. The guard change ceremony takes place every second day and you really should check it out. Unless there is heavy rain, they will always perform this ceremony.
But there are way more places to visit and some very good and interesting museums. But it really depends on you what you like. If you have some money left and you don ‘t mind driving. Pick up a rental car and drive to Stonehenge. It is approx a 1,5-hour drive from Gatwick Airport to Stonehenge and rental cars are pretty ok price wise. It is really fun and interesting to drive on the “wrong” side of the street. Since London has left side traffic, you have to focus on driving the first couple minutes until you get used to it. But the problem already starts, right after you exit the airport. There is a roundabout and you have to enter it to the left not to the right, as most of the people are used to. The next weird thing is, they have stop lights inside the roundabout. It is really confusing if it’s your first time driving here. Most of the time you can see the signs for the speed limits but it is in built-up areas 30 mph, on Single Carriageways 60 mph and on Dual Carriageways and Motorways 70 mph for regular cars. But my tip for everybody is: Flow with the traffic.
- Transport for London: Tube and Bus maps, info, prices
- Stonehenge: Official Homepage
- Gatwick Airport: Travel Information of Gatwick Airport
- Tower Bridge: Museum and Information
- Tower of London: Official Homepage
- Buckingham Palace: Official Homepage of the British monarchy