Cheap Flights To London, United Kingdom
Cheap Flights To London, United Kingdom
When to Go
Where to Stay
Things to Do
Must See Sights
With gorgeous hotels, excellent restaurants, trendsetting shopping, a cutting edge arts scene and some of the best museums anywhere, London is one of the world's most popular destinations. No wonder it was selected to be the host city for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Its familiar sights include Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and the London Eye. London's hectic, joyous mishmash of cultures, cuisines, history and happenings making this city one of the most tourist-friendly in the world.
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When to Go
As with most international destinations, the busiest times in London are the spring and summer months from May-October, as well as the winter holidays and New Year's. August in London can be crowded and with sweltering temperatures, lodging with AC are booked solid.
Springtime is a fantastic time to see the city because its famous green spaces and parks are in bloom, and the weather is generally mild and calm, though possibly rainy. Fall is a bit drier, with a distinct crispness in the air that will get travelers right into the spirit of jolly old England.
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London is such a great international destination from the U.S. because it's less than seven hours from New York, and under eleven hours from the west coast. London is serviced by more than five airports, though you'll likely pass through just one of two unless you're headed on to other destinations.
Distance: 15 miles west of central London
Drive Time: 30-60 minutes
Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, with five major terminals (one is currently under renovation), including the new British Airways behemoth, which houses fantastic stores and restaurants. Just 15 miles west of London, Heathrow is very easily accessible by public transportation. A taxi to or from there can cost up to £60; travel time can run long, depending on London's notoriously bad traffic.
Instead, the Heathrow Express train to Paddington (£16.50 one way, £32 roundtrip), takes just 15 minutes and is the fastest way from the airport to the city. The National Express Coach (bus) transfers to Victoria Station (about £4 each way, about £21.50 door-to-door); keep London traffic in mind for scheduling. The Piccadilly line of London's Underground also runs all the way out to the airport (just under an hour to get from central London to the airport, £4).
London Gatwick (LGW)
Distance: 30 miles south of central London
Drive Time: Over 60 minutes
London's other international gateway from the U.S. that Delta and US Airways travelers may use is Gatwick (LGW). Taxis are always available, though very expensive anwith long travel times to central London. The Gatwick Express train to central Victoria Station (£16.90 one way, £28.70 roundtrip) takes just 30 minutes. Or catch the National Express Coaches.
Three other airports you might use to head to other cities in the U.K. or Europe are:
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The weather in London can be tricky - except you can plan on rain. Pack an umbrella and some waterproof layers like a sturdy raincoat and shoes that can get soaked. Even if the morning is sunny, the afternoon could be rainy, and vice versa; check the forecast and be prepared.
London temps are generally milder than on the European Continent because of its maritime weather. Summer highs can get into the 80s F, and nights cool down to around 60 degrees F. Winter temperatures vary from about mid-40 F days to mid-30 F nights.
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Where to Stay
Combining the best of five-star luxury with the personalized service of a family-owned hotel, the Athenaeum Hotel is a great choice for first-time visitors to London as well as frequent travelers. It's ideally located between bustling Piccadilly and the quieter neighborhoods of Mayfair and Kensington; guests wanting more independence can book one of the property's luxury-serviced apartments with private front doors and access to the Anthenaeum's amenities. These include the Whisky Bar with the largest collection of Scotch whiskies outside of Scotland and a dedicated whisky sommelier; a soon-to-open spa; an afternoon tea service that won the Tea Guild's Top London Afternoon Tea of 2010.
London is full of grand hotels, with some familiar names topping the list for decades and other new properties joining the ranks.
- The May Fair, located in the fashionable heart of London was just refurbished in 2006.
- Claridge's and the Langham both have a touch of pre-War deco sensibility, and a crowd of international jetsetters wandering their halls and chic bars.
- The Berkeley in quieter Knightsbridge has international celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Café.
- Celebrities congregate at The Dorchester on Park Lane.
- Nearby The Ritz offers hushed elegance.
- The Edwardian-glam Savoy on The Strand has just reopened after a stunning $100 million facelift.
Popular Brand Hotels
- Travelers who like to stick to popular brands will enjoy J.W. Marriott's Grosvenor House overlooking Hyde Park. The Grosvenor House is home to the largest swimming pool in London.
- Travelers can find the famous Waldorf Hilton in the West End.
- The celebrity favorite, the Jumeirah Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge.
- The Philippe Starck-designed St. Martins Lane Hotel is in the middle of everything, near Covent Garden, the West End and Trafalgar Square, and has an Asia de Cuba restaurant.
- The Radisson Edwardian Leicester Square is also located right in London's busiest plaza, while the boutique One Aldwych has a fantastic spa, and is a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World.
Budget Boutique Hotels
Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean you haven't got some cool choices as well.
- Sanctum Soho has all the hip factor of its neighborhood, but at a fraction of the price of similar boutique hotels.
- Though Rough Luxe is surrounded by the grit and grunge of King's Cross, it's still a haven of designer derring-do in the heart of London.
- The Hotel Indigo near Paddington that brings all the standard amenities of the Intercontinental Group but the fresh idiosyncrasy of a small boutique hotel.
- Fans of Hyatt stay at their trendy Andaz brand's Liverpool Street location.
- The Hoxton Hotel in Shoreditch is on the east side.
- Nearby, Sir Terence Conran's much hyped Boundary Hotel, houses one of the city's swankest see-and-be-seen breakfast and lunch spots downstairs, Albion.
Things to Do
Bike Tour: A great way to explore London is to take a bike tour! Fat Tire Bike Tours, just outside Hyde Park, has become one of the largest independent bicycle tour companies in Europe with a motto of "see more, less effort, more fun." Energetic, international young guides with a great grasp of each city's history, as well as its contemporary charms lead the tours. The biking is leisurely but active (about seven miles in four hours), including a rest or snack stop (or, if you fancy, a pint at the pub).
Shopping: London is one of the world's shopping meccas, so prepare to return home with some fabulous finds, and a lighter wallet.
Bond Street, offers most well known upscale boutiques and stores and you'll find Selfridges's flagship store on Oxford Street. Harrods, the country's most famous department store, is in Kensington. Complete the department store trifecta with a visit to Harvey Nichols.
Fashionistas stroll the streets of Seven Dials, just adjacent to Covent Garden. There you'll find unique stores like Miller-Harris, a bespoke fragrance shop in an old apothecary shop; home goods designer Orla Kiely; and vintage stores like Mint.
A novel way to shop is with local guide Kevin Carruth and his walking tour company, Urban Gentry. Find the shopping scene of hipsters in the northern London neighborhoods of Camden and Primrose Hill, and in the wonderfully gritty precincts of London's East End, like Hoxton and Shoreditch.
Theatre and Music: London's theatre scene is one of the largest, busiest and most diverse in the world, with shows ranging from Broadway blockbusters to street performance art. Most of the big productions are in the theatres of the West End in Piccadilly, Soho and Covent Garden.
London also has a first-class music scene, and travelers can enjoy world famous orchestras and musicians at the Southbank Centre, and the Royal Albert Hall. Opera and ballet fans should check out the calendar at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.
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London has one of the finest collections of monuments and museums in the world. Most people see Big Ben, the clock that's been keeping time over the city for over 150 years, and the Houses of Parliament, where the United Kingdom's government sits.
Across the street is, Westminster Abbey, with nearly a thousand years of history, including the burial places of many of England's most beloved monarchs, as well as her writers in Poet's Corner.
Cross Westminster Bridge to the London Eye, an enormous 135-meter high Ferris wheel. Take a ride in one of 32 capsules representing each of London's boroughs; if it's a clear day you can see all the way to Windsor Castle.
Buckingham Palace is the Queen's official residence in the city; tour the State Rooms when she's away in summertime.
The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square exhibits some of the most famous painters in history. The British Museum is the repository of a vast collection of art and artifacts from throughout human history, and home to some famous pieces like the Rosetta Stone, the Magna Carta, and the Elgin marbles from Athens' Parthenon. The Victoria and Albert Museum has an unparalleled art collection spanning 3,000 years; best of all, the permanent collection is free to visit!
One of London's hidden gems is the Churchill War Rooms Museum; learn about Winston Churchill and England under his leadership during the darkest days of World War II.
The Tate Museum houses the U.K.'s collection of art dating from 1500-1900; its flashier sibling, the Tate Modern, shows off modern and contemporary art in a former power station on the banks of the Thames.
Nearby is the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, with summer performances and a fascinating exhibit on life and the theatre in days of the Bard of Avon.
Walk across the Thames along London's dramatic pedestrian Millennium Bridge and you'll find St. Paul's Cathedral. Christopher Wren designed the Cathedral in the 17th century and was the tallest building in London until 1962.
The spooky Tower of London is one of the city's oldest sites; it has a sordid past as a fortress and the prison where Mary, Queen of Scots, was incarcerated and beheaded. And don't miss the British Crown Jewels.
London also has lovely parks and green spaces. Hyde Park is the largest of the three in central London. Enjoy Kensington Palace and Gardens, the Albert Memorial, and the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. Green Park, in the southwest corner, is one of London's most enjoyable parks with mature trees and gorgeous flower displays. Southwest of Green Park is Buckingham Palace, which looks out onto St. James's Park, and has some of the best views of London. Head north for uninterrupted panoramas of the entire city at Regent's Park in Primrose Hill.
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Must See Sights
Changing of the Guard: As steady as the hands of Big Ben, catch the highly regimented Changing of the Guard outside the front gate of Buckingham Palace. The Changing of the Guard ceremony and schedule have rich history and significance to the English.
Hampton Court: Take the Underground or a river cruise up to Hampton Court, about 45 minutes outside London. Hampton Court presents Tudor dynasty and some of the palace's more eccentric owners. Visitors will also enjoy its manicured English gardens.
Afternoon Tea: If you're in London, be sure to experience the perfectly genteel English ritual of Afternoon Tea. Many hotels offer tea service, as does Harrods Department Store; try the fabulous tea service at the Langham Hotel's Palm Court, where the tradition of afternoon tea is said to have started nearly 150 years ago. Now Palm Court is beautifully Art Deco with twinkling chandeliers, plush overstuffed sitting areas, and live piano music. Attentive servers help you decipher the long list of teas to accompany freshly made dainty sandwiches, countless cakes, and fanciful desserts.
Where to Eat
Though London is known for tea, travelers can still start the day with coffee at one of its many cozy cafés. The Espresso Room in Bloomsbury, serves rave-winning artisanal coffee. Prufrock Coffee in Shoreditch, Lanka in Primrose Hill, and Kaffeine and Tapped & Packed in Soho are also cafés worth experiencing.
Gastropubs are very popular everywhere and London is no exception. Belgo has been around for years now in Covent Garden; Princess of Shoreditch attracts eastsiders with its beer and ale selection while Orange Public House and Hotel in Pimlico is in an actual former brewery; The Parlour in Canary Wharf serves great food all day long, though the cocktail lounge has a lively after-work crowd.
Bistrot Bruno Loubet at the Zetter Hotel will remind you why you like bistros in the first place. Because of a no-reservation policy, one of the hardest tables to get is Soho's tiny Polpetto for Venetian-Italian fare. Dining at Clos Maggiore near Covent Garden is a culinary experience in a Provençal garden that's been magically transported indoors.
Open for more than a decade, Orrery on Marylebone High Street has an impressively accomplished menu; nearby The Providores & Tapa Room is the place to go for a more casual meet-up, while The Salt Yard on Goodge Street offers a blend of Spanish and Italian small dishes.
If you're on the run, the hearty pasta dishes at Bella Italia in Seven Dials, or some fresh Asian fusion fast food at one of Wagamama's many locations hits the spot.
Be sure to visit Chin Chin Laboratorists in Camden for a dessert of flash-frozen nitro ice cream as well. Explore one of London's many eclectic neighborhoods that offers travelers countless culinary choices.
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- Oyster Card: The Oyster Card is your new best friend - get around London quickly and stay within your budget. A pre-paid electronic smart card ticket that you use traipsing about the city. Simply touch the Oyster Card to readers on the public transport of your choice, and the fare is automatically debited. Use it on all buses, trams, tube, light rail, and even National Rail services. Plus, if you travel a lot in a single day, the Oyster Card caps the day's charges at the equivalent of a 1-Day Travelcard or Day Bus Pass, and debits the lowest fare possible. Buy the Oyster Card online or at Gatwick, Victoria Station, or Eurostar offices.
- London Pass: The London Pass is an all-in-one ticket to 55 London attractions including many listed here and the London Zoo. It also allows you to skip the line at most of them, and comes with a free 120-page guidebook with maps.
- Public Transportation: You can add on a travel option enabling you to use all public buses, the Underground and trams for free as well. The adult day pass starts at £36 (children £24.30) for a single day, and £44 (£26.30 children) for one with a travel pass. Get a two- or three-day pass instead, though, and take your time to see more sights since the more you see, the bigger the discount, especially if you hit one of the restaurants or stores that offer added discounts to cardholders.
- Guides: Although there are many London guidebooks to buy, you can also download Visit London's specialized guides that cover your travel and vacation needs from hotels and restaurants to events and seasonal activities. See LowFares.com's London's Offbeat Neighborhoods too!
- What's On: Keep track of what's going on in London and check the What's On section of Visit London's site to find the best events taking place during your visit.
- Family-Friendly: If you're traveling with the kids, stop for cupcakes at the Primrose Hill Bakery, skateboarding at Bay Sixty6, or horseback riding at the Hyde Park Stables.
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London is one of the world's largest cities, and getting around can feel a bit daunting at times but the city also has an extensive, easy-to-use public transport system that even first-time visitors can master in no time.
The Underground: "The Tube," as it's called, is the cheapest, most convenient way to rocket around the city. Twelve lines service London, and connect to bus stops, the Docklands Light Railway (serving South and East London), and the city's major train stations. All journeys in Zone 1, where visitors will most likely be spending the majority of their time, cost £4. Transport For London has a handy online Journey Planner that will help you sort out the best route, and Visit London's maps will help you navigate easily.
Bus: The bus is a great way to get around, and a lot more scenic than the Tube, but because of the vast tangle of routes, it can get a little confusing for the non-resident traveler. Visit London's helpful bus map shows the major bus routes and the sights they pass.
Bus Tour: If you want to see as many of the sights as possible get a ticket for a hop-on hop-off bus service like The Original London Sightseeing Tour, which ferries guests among the various sights in open-topped buses. Tickets start at £22.50 for adults, and £10 for children, with family discounts available. Tickets include a free Thames cruise, and one of three walking tours.
Taxi: London's iconic oversize black cabs are plentiful, and sometimes the fastest way to get somewhere. Drivers are friendly and honest, often brimming with travel advice. Most accept credit card payments. Just be aware, London taxis do tend to be a bit expensive.
River Cruise: If you want to sightsee along the river, a Thames Clippers cruise is a wonderful way to spend your afternoon stopping at bank side attractions.
Bike: Barclays Cycle Hire is a new public bike sharing programmeant to facilitate short, one-way trips around the city. Sign up to get a "key" at the Barclays site, and then just use it to borrow a bike at any of the stands around town. Rides up to 30 minutes are free, and you can borrow as often as you like. It's the most environmentally-friendly way to get around London; pay one pound each day that you use the bikes, and longer trips start adding up in fees.
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