London is famous as the capital of England and Great Britain, the largest industrial center of the country, the city of fog and double-deckers. It's the place synonymous to the Greenwich meridian, the Queen and magnificent Big Ben. However, all those world-famous sights are not all that make people visit London no matter what time of the year it is. London is in the top-two of most powerful cities in the world, second after New York, leaving every other European capital far behind. It's the headquarters of the world's largest and most influential banks, boasting one of the oldest stock markets, and for a number of years remaining one of the leading cities by the amount of real estate investment.
Historical London is even more stunning. The English reverence to tradition allowed preserving all the architectural styles ever seen in Foggy Albion. The distinct versatility and variety of London views secured the first place in Forbes' "The World's Most Stylish Cities". Seven out of forty most famous museums and plenty of historical sites make it the most popular European city among tourists. Sport plays an important part in the identity of London, home to such famous football clubs as Arsenal and Chelsea. In 2012 London is hosting the Olympic Games already anticipated by millions of international sports fans. Tennis enthusiasts will surely recognize the name 'Wimbledon', the London suburb hosting the oldest tennis tournament in the world.
London's nightlife never pauses, while the variety of nightclubs is bound to satisfy your taste no matter what exactly you are into. Love funk and hip-hop? Then you must absolutely visit 'Plan B'. Enjoy rave and trans? Welcome to 'Bagley’s Studios'. 'Roadhouse' is the most famous rock-n-roll club in the country, while such places as 'The End', 'Roof Gardens', '100 Club' and 'Fabric' are among top ten best clubs in the world and Great Britain. Even in spite of their fame and status, those places are quite affordable and liberal in terms of dress code. True to themselves, the English also preserved the old tradition of elite clubs known for the luxurious atmosphere, expensive wine and exquisite cuisine ('One Alfred Place', 'The Hospital' and 'The Groucho'). It's here where famous politicians and people from show business gather and hang out. One of those clubs even had the honor to welcome Queen Elisabeth II ('Annabel's'). There are however more exotic entertainments in night London. A place with an explicit name "G-A-Y" is popular with people of both traditional and non-traditional sexual orientation. Another club 'Madame Jo Jo's' surrounded by sex-shops is famous for its transvestite shows.
The British capital offers exceptionally exciting experience when it comes to the choice of shopping centers (even in spite of the comparatively high prices). Here you will find about 60% of the best stores in the world. Thanks to the work of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, London is permanently in the top five fashion capitals of the world. Famous auctions Sotheby's, Christie's и Bonhams attract wealthy people from different parts of the world, and London can boast more billionaires than any American megalopolis.
The five London Airports turned the city into a huge crossroads with busy life and springing development. This city's cosmopolitism, tolerance, business like atmosphere during the day, high salaries and insignificant unemployment rate are sure to attract immigrants from all over the world. It's the city of globalization, so ancient and yet so modern, very English and yet international, loyal to tradition and incredibly rebellious. You will be sure to find whatever it is you are looking for, be that a superb rock-band or an Irish pub, fine china or Indian cuisine, an example of modern architecture of most exquisite tea, centuries old artwork or a rare edition of a book.
Sightseeing in London
London's most famous sights can be divided into there main groups – historical, contemporary and those related to shopping. No one has ever managed to be in all of those places within the limited period of their stay, so it's always best to plan the trip ahead and think what it is you really want. If you love tradition, you cannot miss bustling Piccadilly Circus, have to check out Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column, admire St. Paul's cathedral, Westminster Abbey with its Poets' Corner, where Chaucer, Dickens, Kipling and Tennyson are buried. Those coming for the Royal family and other attributes of Great Britain will have to include into their sightseeing plan Buckingham palace and Tower of London, the Parliament, Big Ben and 10 Downing Street. Theatre lovers won't enjoy the trip fully unless they visit Covent Garden, Drury Lane and of course Shakespeare's Globe.
The British Museum, Tate Britain (formerly known as Tate) and the National Gallery will thrill every fan of classic art. However, galleries of contemporary art attract just as many visitors, including because there is no entrance fee in many cases (Tate Modern, Lisson Gallery, White Cube etc). Along with historical buildings, you can admire contemporary architecture, such as 30 St. Mary Axe in City. You will see why it's been dubbed 'the Cucumber Building' and 'the Bullet', climbing it to enjoy the astonishing view of London.
If you decided to do some shopping, get ready to spend at least a few days, because London has a lot to offer. Oxford Street will greet you with two huge stores - Selfridges and Debenhams, followed by boutiques of famous designers. London's famous Bond Street will offer most prestigious clothing brands, while stores near Charing Cross road specialize in club fashion. Savvy travelers prefer shopping at Harrods where you get everything in the same place, from hand-made candy to luxurious clothes. If you like standing out from the crowd, you can always come by Flea Market and Camden Markets, where clothes are quite unique and inexpensive.
When to go?London always has plenty to amaze you no matter the time of the year. However, if you want to walk the most famous places, it's best to choose the period from summer up until the beginning of fall, as it's pretty humid and foggy there the rest of the time. If shopping is your goal, then July and January are traditional months for breathtaking sales.
How to travel around the city?
In London, public transport system is not just the means of getting around, it's also one of the sights, especially the Tube (London underground). The oldest in the world and up until recently the longest one, it's divided into six zones radiating from the center. The fare you will have to pay for getting from point A to point B depends on how many zones you travel through and which ones they are. A fare in Central London is ?3.00 (?1.50 for children) if you pay cash and ?1.50 (?0.70) if you use Oyster cards (you can purchase those over the Internet or right there). You can also use that card to pay in other means of public transportation (bus fare for an adult is ?1.3, children ride for free). London Underground closes at 00:30 but you can always get around by taxi. The famous black cab can be caught right in the street, while the mini cab has to be ordered over the phone. There are also lady cabs, in case you'd prefer a female taxi cab driver.
How to get to the city center from the airport?
Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport are the two largest airports accepting international flights. Heathrow Airport is about 20 miles west of the city's centre, and it's cheaper to get there by underground (a ride to the center will take about 40 minutes and will cost ?4.5). Heathrow Express will cost more - ?17.50, but will take less (15 minutes). A bus ride will cost ?4 and will take one hour, while a taxi cab will take about an hour and cost ?50-6, tips not included. You can get to London from Gatwick by Gatwick Express, taking just half an hour (the fare is ?14.90). The same ride on a bus will take an hour and a half but will cost less - ?7.50. A taxi cab will cost ?70-80, tips not included, taking an hour to get there. Where to eat?The traditional English cuisine is very peculiar, so most tourists visit famous pubs as part of their sight-seeing program. It's much cheaper to have lunch in Chinese restaurants in Soho (sometimes there even will be a discount) or bars near Leicester Square. You can always find fast food chains near underground stations, where a lunch can cost ?8 - ?15. At regular restaurants it will cost more (?30 -?40 depending on your preferences, fish or meat). Don't forget about the afternoon tea served everywhere from large hotels to small cafes. Where to stay?
Luxury hotels like 'The Goring', 'The Lanesborough', 'The Mandarin' are balanced by quite affordable places to stay on Belgrave Road right in the center of the city. Hotels farther away from the center will obviously be cheaper: you can find a double room at ?49, while it will cost from ?75 to ?150 in the center, but very often, the prices are leveled by the cost of the transportation to get from your hotel to the center. The cost of the room will also vary depending on whether there is a separate or shared bathroom, whether you would like to have breakfast included etc. A TV, hairdryer and tea making facilities are usually included into the price, while most hotels offer free Wi-Fi to their guests. You can get a discount when staying over 3 nights.
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