As one of the greatest influences of modern western civilization, England is a country full of history and culture. On top of this, there are also many attractions scattered throughout England that makes it such a prominent place of travel for many people on vacation. In the heart of it all, is London, a beautiful city with many excursions awaiting.
Whether for the nightlife, the history, food, or sight seeing, London has something for everyone. The transit system is incredibly efficient allowing you to visit a couple museums, stroll through a botanical garden, see a show, check out Big Ben and the London eye, and catch the sun set over London from a roof-top all in one day.
Whatever it is that brings your interest to London, it would be ideal for you to know the basics of traveling to London. To help you along before you go on your trip, here is the ultimate starter guide to traveling London.
Where is London?
For those who do not know, the United Kingdom is made up of 4 different countries, Northern Ireland and the 3 countries that make up Great Britain, and they all sit in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. Great Britain is made up of Scotland, Wales, and England, which is why the Union Jack, the red, white, and blue flag of Great Britain, is a combination of the Scottish, Welsh, and English flag. In 50 AD, the Roman Empire founded the city of London, deriving its name from the word “londonios” meaning “place of the bold one.”
By 407 AD, Saxons pushed out the Roman Empire leaving; however, the Romans held their influence and was the catalyst that converted the Saxons to Christianity. This influence is what built the foundations of the society that brought us the London that we know today. Located at 51.5074° N, 0.1278° W, London, the capital of the United Kingdom, is established near the Southeastern section of England. London sits on the United Kingdom’s second largest river, the River Thames, which funnels out into the the North Sea.
What time is it in London?
Like the rest of the British Isles, London resides in the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) timezone, formerly known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). UTC is the time standard in which the rest of the time zones use to reference their own time. In the United States, there are 6 different time zones. Based on your time zone you can easily figure out the time in London. The American timezones and their relation to UTC are as follows:
- Hawaii Standard Time (HST); UTC -10
- Alaska Standard Time (AKST); UTC -9
- Pacific Standard Time (PST); UTC -8
- Mountain Standard Time (MST); UTC -7
- Central Standard Time (CST); UTC -6
- Eastern Standard Time (EST); UTC -5
If you are trying to figure out the exact time of London right now, just find your timezone on the provided list and find your timezone’s relative time to UTC. For example, if you are in the HST timezone, add 10 hours to your current time. From here you no longer need to constantly look up what time it is in London any given moment. Just look at your own time, and use this trick.
What currency does London use?
The pound sterling is the official currency of the United Kingdom and its currency abbreviation is GBP. This is more commonly referred to as the pound, but sometimes referred to as the sterling. In the United States, we have the dollar, and fractions of the dollar are measured as cents. In the United Kingdom, they have a similar notion of having pounds and fractions of pounds, though their counterpart is known as pence.
Furthermore, in the same way that the United States may refer to the dollar as “bucks” in everyday language, the United Kingdom counterpart is referred to as “quid.” The term quid remains constant regardless of singularity or plurality, so whether you have one quid or five quid, the term is never “quids.” The money is denoted with a symbol £, and the distribution of the bills used are £1, £5, £10, £20, £50, £100; although, the £1 and £100 bills are used a bit more rarely than the others. As of the time this article is being written, the GBP is worth 1.29 USD, and has been historically more valuable per note than the USD.
When traveling to London, make sure you have a conversion rate app downloaded on your smart device because the exchange rate often fluctuates, and it will make it easier for you to calculate and budget how much USD you are spending on your travels.
Where to stay in London?
There are many places to stay in London, but London has a very special option for hosting their visitors; this is the Luxury Hotels. Luxury Hotels are the pinnacle of luxury travel for anyone who is visiting London.
Though the price is a bit higher than what is standard for a hotel, the unique experiences and moments that you will have during your stay will be quite worthwhile. Luxury hotels provide their guest with a grand feeling of importance and comfort, often offering packages that include a butler service during the duration of your stay.
Some of the Luxury hotels may be egregiously overpriced, but there is a set of them that is a bit more affordable. To help you figure out where you are going to stay in London, we have comprised a list of the best luxury hotels available.
What to do in London?
While you are in London, there are several places to see and things to do. There are many places in the area that are famed across the world. Here we have compiled a list of places that most people visit during their stay, and you can use the list to fill up your itinerary or to use as a checklist. These premiere tourist attractions are as follows:
The Stonehenge – As one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, it is no surprise that a visit to the stonehenge is often an item on people’s bucket list. Thought it is not in London, there are many tours that will bring you to the stonehenge from London.
The London Eye – Also known as the Coca-Cola London Eye, this is a massive ferris wheel that resides on the South Bank of the River Thames. From this ferris wheel, you can get yourself a beautiful view of London.
Buckingham Palace – Buckingham Palace is the London residence of the United Kingdom’s monarch, and it acts as a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and mourning.
Big Ben – This iconic clock tower rings on the hour, every hour, giving the London residence an audio cue of the time. The Big Ben is part and parcel of any visit to London.
The Tower of London – Also known as “Her Majesty’s Royal Palace,” this historic castle sits on the north bank of the River Thames in central London.
Westminster Abbey – This is probably the foremost prominent religious building of the United Kingdom, and it stands as the location for coronations and burials of the British Monarch.
Palace of Westminster – Basically, the British equivalent of America’s Capitol Building. This is where the House of Commons and House of Lords meet for parliamentary congregations.
Tower Bridge – Another iconic symbol of London, the Tower Bridge is both a suspension bridge and a bascule, and it stretches over the River Thames.
Trafalgar Square – The public square of London, Trafalgar Square was named after the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory during the Napoleonic Wars.
What to buy in London?
There are a series of unique things that you can buy during your trip to London. At any of the aforementioned locations listed above, there are souvenir shops that are available for all the guests to shop at.
These souvenirs are all special in their own right, but if you want something a bit more special during your stay, here is a list of unique things you can buy in London to make your visit a bit more memorable.
Umbrella; James Smith & Son – This shop has been manufacturing umbrella’s since the 1830s, and they have spent many years perfecting their craft to making top-tier luxury products.
Vinyl; Sister Ray – With England harvesting such a massive array of musical influence, buying a classic vinyl record is a perfect souvenir for fans and music lovers.
Old-fashioned Toys; Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop – If you want to buy a souvenir for the kids, look no further as this is one of the oldest toy shops in London. Benjamin Pollock’s Toyshop sells plenty of old-fashion toys, so you can find yourself a souvenir that can be found nowhere else.
Toys; Hamleys – Another fantastic place for you to find a souvenir for a child. Hamleys is notably more popular and modern than Benjamin Pollock’s, but the toys there are a bit less unique.
Art Supplies; David Penton & Son – For all the artists, this is an art store established in 1841, allowing you to buy a souvenir that is both useful and special.
Antiques; Cecil Court – For the truly unique and special souvenir, look no further than Cecil Court. Here you will find a series of shops that specialize in their sale of antique items. Many of the available items are nearly one-of-a-kind making them a bit more sentimental for gift giving.
What to eat in London?
As with any foreign place that you can travel to, there are many foods that you can try there that are not available elsewhere, and London is no exception.
To make your stay in London more memorable, you can try out some of their cuisine. If you have a checklist of all the foods you want to try, here is a few things you may want to add to the list.
Stinky Cheese; Neal’s Yard Dairy – Working with over 40 different cheesemakers, Neal’s Yard Dairy has perfected their art in cheese making with an array of variety cheeses found nowhere else.
Gin; Jensen’s – If you are a connoisseur of hard drinks, you should try out the London Original, Jensen’s.
Gordon Ramsay’s in Chelsea; 3 Michelin Star Restaurant One of the world’s foremost renowned chefs, Gordon Ramsay has established one of the best restaurants in the world.
Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Hyde Park; 3 Michelin Star Restaurant – This restaurant, though it specializes in French cuisine, is another one of the world’s top restaurants. We would recommend that you try out their tasting menu for £140, or their Black Truffle menu £240.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Knightsbridge; 2 Michelin Star Restaurant – This incredible restaurant is quite the culinary adventure. The foods here are unlike anything you will have ever seen or had.
Transportation from London Airport
Chances are, you will be flying into London, so the first thing you do when you arrive is to figure out how you are going to transport your way from the airport to the place you are staying. There are several ways of going about doing this, so we have compiled the options for you here:
Luxury Chauffeur – If you want a true London experience, we would highly recommend that you try out the use of a luxury chauffeur service. You will be warmly greeted by a well trained driver in a very high-end car. Many of the packages available with the service will also include wi-fi in your vehicle allowing you to get some work done or surf the web if needed.
Taxi Service – Though you will not get the hospitality treatment that you would from a chauffeur, the taxi service will be one of the fastest ways for you to get to your destination.
Shuttle service – This is a bit of a cheaper option; however, this will likely be less comfortable and much slower than the others.
The London Underground – Likely the cheapest option on the list, though you would need to figure out how the London transit system works as you use it. For some this may be very complicated if you have never used it before. This will also be the slowest option on the list, and require a bit of walking.