In search of Victorian London
Over 100 years have passed, but the influence of the glorious Victorian era is still clear to see on the streets of London. It was during this time that some of the capital’s most magnificent architectural works were produced, including Buckingham Palace, where tourists can witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony, the imposing Westminster Abbey, the site of many royal coronations and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, and the nearby Palace of Westminster, the home of the UK Parliament. Big Ben and Tower Bridge are also must-sees.
London and its museums
With over 100 museums, many of which are free, the city offers tourists the chance to see anything from ancient history to modern art. Don’t miss the British Museum, which – having opened its doors in 1753 – explores the story of humanity through a truly vast collection of artefacts and works of art. Also well worth a visit is the Saatchi Gallery, which displays the incredible collection of one of the leading contemporary art collectors.
The National Gallery is another great place to visit: one of the largest museums in the world, it contains art masterpieces dating from the 1200s to the 1900s. Meanwhile, the popular Tate Modern gives visitors the chance to admire the work of the great masters from the 1900s to the present day (think Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Pollock, Rothko and Warhol).
The more nostalgic among you will want to take a trip to the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum to get up close and personal with over 300 wax sculptures depicting notable figures past and present (Freddie Mercury, Winston Churchill, The Beatles, William Shakespeare, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein and many more besides).
Shopping in London
London is considered one of the greatest shopping cities of them all. Take your pick from the sprawling Harrods and Liberty London, some of the city’s most iconic shopping spots, the idyllic and vibrant Notting Hill and its famous Portobello Market or Camden Town, one of the coolest parts of the city on account of its 1980s punk vibes (it was here that Vivienne Westwood’s fashion career was born) and boutique stores.
One thing that has to be on your list when you visit London is a walk through one of the city’s many parks. Regent’s Park is home to London Zoo and the spectacular Queen Mary’s Gardens, while Richmond Park is actually a 955-hectare nature reserve populated by roaming deer. Last but not least, Hyde Park – the green heart of the city – is a wonderful place to relax, do something active (running, canoeing, tennis, football, horse riding and so on) or attend one of the many events held there every year.
For lovers of witches and wizards
The world of Harry Potter is now one of London’s most popular attractions. Fans of the boy wizard – with or without their children in tow – can choose from one of the huge number of tours organised to discover some of the locations that pop up in the much-loved saga (such as King’s Cross, St Pancras, Leadenhall Market, London Zoo and Piccadilly Circus). Alternatively, you can opt for a day behind the scenes at Warner Bros Studios, where a guided tour will teach you all about the sets, costumes, animations, special effects and materials used in the films.
To enter Great Britain, citizens of EU member states, Norward, Lichtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and the British Overseas Territories do not need to apply for a visa. An identity card valid for border crossing or a passport is all you’ll need. Citizens of another ten countries don’t need a visa for visits of less than six months: USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Before you leave, it’s best to check that your identification document isn’t damaged. Even minimal damage could lead to delays and even result in you being turned back at the border.
We also advise that anybody in possession of an identity card renewed with an extension stamp checks that the UK recognises its validity before travelling. Children under the age of 15 must carry their own individual document (identity card or passport). For more information, please head to the British Government’s website: www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa
Winters are damp but not too cold, with temperatures rarely dipping below 6°C, while summers are moderate, making London one of the most popular destinations in the UK. That said, the weather in London is particularly instable, and it’s not uncommon for there to be rainy days in the middle of summer. The best time to visit the British capital is between mid-May and the end of September.
During the summer season, while you’re not relaxing in the city’s parks, make sure you visit some of the rooms inside Buckingham Palace (August – September), watch a tennis match at Wimbledon or go to Trooping the Colour, an event organised to mark the Queen’s birthday in June. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, join the throngs at the Notting Hill Carnival (August), one of the largest festivals in Europe, attracting two million visitors every year. London takes on a magical feel during the winter months. We recommend heading to the London Eye on New Year’s Eve to watch the stunning fireworks display, with more fireworks to be admired on 5 November – Bonfire Night. For lovers of shopping, the best month is January, during which Londoners and tourists alike make the most of the sales to get their hands on a bargain on two. And in February, don’t miss the Chinese New Year celebrations in – you guessed it – Chinatown.
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A cosmopolitan, dynamic city, London has a lot to offer all year round. From the distinctive Camden Town to the futuristic buildings of the City, the placid elegance of South Kensington and the buzzing nightlife of the West End and Soho, London is one place you’ll never get bored. And it’s not difficult to get from one area to another, whether you prefer a stroll along the banks of the Thames or a ride on one of the iconic double-decker buses. Monuments, art galleries, museums, clubs, splendid green parks and every kind of event imaginable make the British capital one of the most popular tourist destinations in the entire world.