Things You Need to Know Before Your London Tour
By Jonathan Haeber
Perhaps more than even Italy, Paris, and Barcelona, London is at a crossroads of many architectural styles. Unlike these cities, London has very few buildings that pre-date 1666, when the city experienced a great fire that ravaged much of its architectural heritage.
Still, the city rose from the Elizabethan age as a cosmopolitan and bustling center of commerce -- today, it ranks third as a financial center -- making its buildings and institutions international in influence.
While touring London you'll want to look at London's most famous architecture, visit London's most photographed sites (including the London Eye and the Tower Bridge), and take in some London Theater. In addition to these things, there are a few activities you can't miss. We've listed them below.
Take a London Walk
In order to tailor your trip to your own interests, London Walks has a variety of options available to travelers. Take a stroll with Donald Rumbelow, the international authority on Jack the Ripper as he describes the macabre details of London's most notorious criminal. Or, if you prefer a more upbeat walk with the kids in London, you could opt for the 'Harry Potter Walk.'
The City's Best Parks
London's world renowned parks include something for everyone - including gun salutes, the iconic 'changing of the guard,' and the trooping of the color ritual. The city government has an excellent comprehensive guide to all of the parks in London. Be sure to take a look at the event section, linked below, to see what's happening in the parks during your visit.
The royal sites are a must-see in London. Home to a millennia-old monarchy, England's best historic royal sites include Buckingham Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, and the Banqueting House. The London Pass website has a "must see" list of royal attractions and other historic buildings. Visit:
England's Best Eats
The Time Out Guide to London offers up a detailed list of London's best restaurants for kids. These establishments have a separate "children's menu," but you won't find chicken nuggets or mac and cheese like you would with most restaurants that cater to children. The Franco-inspired food at Roussillon offers seven courses that include Jerusalem artichoke soup, truffle ravioli, warm camomile tea, and smoked eel -- all for £15 a child, and on the first and third Wednesday lunches, kids eat free! Find the entire list at:
London Night Activities
On your trip, you probably want to stay away from the hotel as much as possible. Daytime is a given, but night shouldn't be overlooked. The consensus among travelers is that London's Tower Bridge is best seen at night, as well as the Eye of London (also known as the "Millenium Wheel"), a gigantic, 450-foot-tall observation ferris wheel that operates between Westminster and the Hungerford Bridges. To get an overview of the best London night sites, check out the "handy fog-resistant laminated map" put out by Groovy Maps, which includes things to see and do, dining, theater, and cultural events.
Day Trips from London
Outside of the capitol, there are plenty of incredible sites within a day's (or even a few hour's) journey from London by train or lorry. The listing below contains eight low-cost trips out of London, with tips on the cheapest ways to get there and sites to see on your day trip.
Getting Around London: The Underground
The London Underground is the world's oldest underground system, and a sight to see in its own right (not to mention the fact that it'll get you around on your London vacation). With over 275 station and 253 miles of line, it's easy to get lost. The London Transport Authority, has provided convenient maps, schedules, and line status, all through their website at: