Changing the Guard or Guard Mounting involves an exchange of guard duties at Buckingham Palace. Watch the ceremony as each set of guards dressed in traditional red tunics and bearskin hats takes over from their brothers-in-arms. You can also see the process at Horse Guards Arch on Horse Guards Parade.
The world's greatest flower show takes place in West London over a four-day period in May. Each year is different from the last but the vibrant small gardens and horticultural displays bring a splash of colour and scent to London's events calendar. Booking in advance in advisable.
To celebrate The Queen’s official birthday in June each year, the tradition of Trooping the Colour takes place on Horse Guards Parade and The Mall near Buckingham Palace. The ceremony of military pomp and pageantry includes a flypast by the Royal Air Force and a procession lead by Her Majesty.
In September, London’s Totally Thames Festival celebrates the city’s famous river over 30 days, spreading 42 miles, and more than 100 separate arts and cultural events. In 2014 the festival was filled with walks, tours, tall ship regattas, theatre, cinema, and many other exciting ways to enjoy London, all taking place on or next to the River Thames.
One of the biggest and finest museums in the world, the British Museum is home to some of the most treasured historical artefacts in existence. The extensive exhibition include the Rosetta Stone, Assyrian treasures, the Egyptian mummies and the museum's spectacular, light-filled Great Court. A new restaurant has recently been opened in the Great Court; an ideal spot for afternoon tea under the magnificent roof. There are also free tours and guides to take advantage of at the museum.
With more than 300 wax figures, the Marvel Super Heroes 4D movie experience and Spirit of London Taxi Ride, there's plenty to entertain at Madame Tussauds London. The uncannily lifelike wax figures of famous (and infamous) individuals from throughout history are, of course, the highlight, with everyone from Johnny Depp and One Direction to The Queen and Muhammad Ali making an appearance.
The Tower of London is one of the most famous fortified buildings in the world. It's also a mysterious place full of dark secrets, strange stories and historic relics. Here you can admire the priceless Crown Jewels, explore the Medieval Palace, visit the infamous Bloody Tower, and go on a tour with a Yeoman Warder to learn about the many executions that took place here.
Spread over 350 acres, Hyde Park is a green haven in the centre of London. The park is home to 4,000 trees, a large lake, a meadow and ornamental flower gardens, not to mention a bustling programme of activities and events including horse riding, skating, cycling, swimming and boating. Highlights to look out for include the Serpentine Bridge, Joy of Life fountain, Achilles statue, Diana Memorial Fountain and Speaker's Corner.
The Natural History Museum houses hundreds of amazing exhibits from the natural world in one of London's most beautiful landmark buildings. Highlights include the popular Dinosaurs gallery, the model blue whale, the Cocoon specimen centre and special events and debates in the Darwin Centre’s high-tech Attenborough Studio, including a chance to meet the scientists.
The 17th century St Paul's Cathedral on Ludgate Hill in the City of London is one of the city's most iconic buildings. It was designed by the illustrious Sir Christopher Wren and it was the highest building in London until as late as 1962. Use the touch-screen multimedia guides, or take a guided tour, to learn about the famous interior or, if you're feeling fit, climb up to the Whispering Gallery (to try out the acoustics) and on towards the golden Gallery at the top of the dome where you'll be rewarded with amazing views across London. You can also descend into the crypt where you'll find memorials of heroes such as Admiral Lord Nelson.
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is a reconstruction of the original open-air theatre on the banks of the river Thames, where the playwright, William Shakespeare, first staged many of his famous plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Midsummer Night’s Dream. Located just a few hundred yards from its original site, today's Globe Theatre stages classic and modern interpretations of Shakespeare's work as well as brand-new plays. And at just £5 for a standing ticket, you can't lose! The exhibition has audio guides available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. There are expert guided tours as well every 30 minutes.
Located next to the London Eye along the South Bank, the SEA LIFE London Aquarium has one of Europe’s largest collections of global marine life covering more than 500 species, 14 themed areas and two million litres of water. The exhibition includes favourites such as seahorses, octopus, zebra sharks and clown fish. It's also an interactive experience so you can feed the stingrays, see the sharks' feeding time, watch diving displays and go 'under the sea' in the glass tunnel walkway.
Set in 150 acres of parkland, the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort is situated just outside London. It is home to more than 55 rides, shows, attractions and workshops, all geared towards children up to 12 years of age. This theme park is a great place for a family day trip, but for fun seekers who wish to try everything the park has to offer over several days, you can stay at the Resort Hotel and enjoy its themed rooms. Inside the park you can get on board a Lego submarine, see London's iconic landscape in miniature form, test your skills at The Driving School, and get soaking wet on the water rides, to name just a few.
Hampton Court Palace was King Henry VIII's favourite royal residence, and is full of thrilling stories and beautiful sights. Inside you can explore the Medieval Great Hall where William Shakespeare’s company once performed, as well the huge Tudor kitchens and the Haunted Gallery. The palace has much to see outdoors as well with a puzzling maze, beautiful gardens and large park to enjoy. Other highlights include daily costumed tours and talks, as well as the annual Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
The National Portrait Gallery in Central London holds more than 195,000 portraits of famous men and women who have shaped British history from the 16th Century to the present day. Sitters include kings, queens, film stars, politicians, musicians and many more, painted by acclaimed artists such as Holbein, David Hockney, Cecil Beaton and Lucian Freud. The gallery's rolling calendar of exhibitions is worth investigating as well, particularly the annual BP Portrait Awards.
Step into the magical world of Harry Potter and visit the film sets where the series was shot on Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter. On the tour you can nosy around Dumbledore's office, enter the Great Hall, walk down Diagon Alley, see how the technical whizzes made Harry Potter fly, and watch special effect animatronics come to life. A must for fans of the world's favourite boy wizard.
Discover the story of the world's greatest city at The Museum of London. The tale begins during prehistoric London, detailing the influence of the Romans and Saxons on the city, and on towards Medieval London. Along the way you will encounter civil wars, deathly plague and rampant fires. Journey through the Galleries of Modern London, along Victorian streets, and on towards the lavish Lord Mayor's Coach display.
The 105-acre WWT London Wetland Centre is a wildlife reserve on the outskirts of Central London. Here you will find plenty of rare birds, beautiful lakes, tranquil gardens and calming meadows to walk amongst and admire, as well as other natural attractions worth spotting such as a family of otters. You can also take a free, expert-guided tour, chill out at the Water's Edge Café, and watch the kids run free in the indoor and outdoor adventure areas.
221b Baker Street is the official home of the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who lived here from 1881 to 1904, according to the books written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The museum features Holmes' detailed study, life-size waxworks representing scenes from Holmes and Watson's adventures, and a souvenir shop.
See London from a different angle by taking a cruise along the famous River Thames. City Cruises offer frequent sightseeing trips between Westminster, Waterloo (next to the London Eye), Tower and Greenwich piers. Options include tea-time cruises, evening cruises, a jazz cruise and The London Showboat, a dinner/cabaret/dance cruise.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington has a breathtaking collection of design and art, ranging from Islamic art, to fine European jewellery, to famous watercolours by artists such as John Constable, and iconic fashion creations by Vivienne Westwood. Explore the permanent collection or visit one of the museum's world-class, and always popular, temporary exhibitions. Look out for the quirky Friday Lates events that happen on the last Friday of every month.
London's history is filled with gruesome tales and scary characters. The new London Dungeon attraction on the south bank of the Thames retells some of those bloody stories. Using live costume, 360° sets and a multitude of special effects, The London Dungeon takes you through 1000 years of London's gory past in 90 terror-filled minutes. Look out for Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd along the way, as well as two underground thrill-seeking rides. This is not an attraction for those of a nervous disposition.
Housed in a vast former power station, Tate Modern is Britain's leading gallery of contemporary and modern art. As well as its eagerly anticipated showcase exhibitions, there's a fantastic permanent collection to explore, which features artists as diverse as Matisse, Picasso, Rothko, Pollock, Warhol and Bourgeois.
During the summer months, Buckingham Palace - the official residence of The Queen - opens the doors of its elegant State Rooms to the public. As well as providing an ornate backdrop for many official royal engagements, the rooms contain some of the finest treasures from the Royal Collection - including paintings, sculptures and fine French furniture.
Take a tour of the Houses of Parliament and experience 1,000 years of history at Westminster. After a welcome in medieval Westminster Hall, visitors follow in the footsteps of the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament through the State Apartments, can marvel at the Victorian splendour in the Lords Chamber and see the famous green benches in the Commons Chamber. Choose between an audio and a guided tour, both available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Mandarin.
A staggering 135 metres in height, The London Eye gives you a superb view over the capital's most famous attractions - and far beyond. A 'flight' in one of the observational wheel's glass capsules lasts 30 minutes and each year the London Eye receives more visitors than the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza. Once you have ride this 360-degree tour, you will understand why it is so popular.
Rainforest Cafe brings the sights and sounds of the jungle to London's famous Piccadilly Circus, with elephants, gorillas, jaguars, crocodiles, butterflies, tropical fish tanks, an indoor waterfall and roaring thunderstorm sounds. Feeding time is a fun, family-friendly affair, with steaks, burgers, pasta and salads on the menu.
Dine in true British style with a beautiful raised view across the River Thames. This restaurant, bar and brasserie is a great place for a romantic meal, especially when combined with a casual stroll along the South Bank before and after your meal. Book ahead to make sure you get an alfresco table on the outdoor terrace and enjoy the scene with St Paul's Cathedral in the background. You can also expect to enjoy live jazz in the brasserie.
Colourfully decorated with Indian folk art and collages of firecracker labels, the Bayswater branch of Masala Zone is as warm and welcoming as the other restaurants in this growing chain. The menu takes inspiration from Indian street food and home-cooked dishes, with Indian grills and regional curries as well as tapas-style Thali platters.
Colourful and welcoming, Mestizo Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar serves quality, traditional Mexican cuisine. Downstairs from the relaxing restaurant you'll also find a stylish tequila bar serving cocktails, tequila and 'antojitos' (Mexican tapas).
Inamo is a pioneering Oriental fusion restaurant and bar where the control of the dining experience is placed firmly in your own hands, thanks to an interactive ordering system. Instead of reading a long list of dish names, you simply pick your favourite from an illustrated food and drinks menu projected onto your table surface. The pan-Asian menu includes influences from Japan, China, Thailand, Korea and beyond.
Housed in a former car showroom on Piccadilly, The Wolseley is an elegant café-restaurant inspired by the grand European style of years gone by. The food follows the same classic European thread, with favourite dishes including veal Holstein and chicken soup with dumplings. Pop in for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner... any meal you fancy.
If the name alone doesn’t sell it, the three Michelin stars that Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was honoured with should. Located in affluent Chelsea, the restaurant serves up modern French food in an elegant, intimate atmosphere - under the masterly gaze of head chef Clare Smyth.
Rustic yet elegant modern British food is the focus at Jamie Oliver's East London restaurant Fifteen. Under the helm of Jon Rotheram, the restaurant uses top British meat and fish (butchered and prepared on site every day) and fresh ingredients to create delicious dishes such as grilled plaice, Jerusalem artichoke & brown shrimp; Lindisfarne oysters, sweet & sour apple vinaigrette; and Chocolate & malt mousse.
Heston Blumenthal's Knightsbridge restaurant Dinner is known for its inventive menu of historically inspired British dishes. Choose from dishes such as Earl Grey Tea cured Salmon (c.1730), Spiced Pigeon (c.1780) and Tipsy Cake (c.1810) - or let the chef do the choosing by going for the Set Lunch Menu or splashing out on a seat at the Chef's Table, which directly faces the restaurant's custom-built show kitchen.
The glitzy Piccadilly branch of Argentinian restaurant Gaucho is spread over four floors. Alongside the main restaurant is the Cavas De Gaucho wine boutique, a ground-floor wine bar and a supper lounge on the top floor. Steaks, of course, are high on the menu - but there are many other dishes to try too, from Ecuadorian ceviche to Scamorza and potato ravioli.
Sketch is an eccentric, original and elegant venue off Regent Street founded by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restaurateur Mazouz. The unique space comprises five dining areas: The Parlour patisserie and restaurant, The Glade bar, The Gallery brasserie, the two Michelin-starred Lecture Room & Library dining room and The East Bar.
Sarastro is renowned for its flamboyant interior - part stage set, part old curiosity shop. Taking a nod from the nearby West End theatres, the dining room features opera boxes, luxuriant velvet tablecloths and cosy booths. The menu is Mediterranean and live shows regularly take place, with live opera on Sundays and Mondays, swing and Motown on Thursdays and Latin rhythms on Fridays.
Tucked away between Leicester Square and Covent Garden, J Sheekey has been in business since the 1890s and is the place to go for sustainably sourced fish, oysters and shellfish. From Sheekey's Fish Pie to potted shrimps (plus vegetarian and meat options), there's plenty of selection for everyone.
Michelin-starred restaurant Locanda Locatelli serves top-quality, traditional Italian food created with panache by head chef Giorgio Locatelli. Stand-out dishes at the Central London eaterie (according to the Michelin guide) include scallops, celeriac purée and saffron vinaigrette; and wild sea bass baked in salt and herb crust, escarole, sultanas and pine kernels.
Since it opened on Valentine's Day 1968, Mr Chow has become a London institution. The menu is authentic Beijing cuisine, featuring original recipes such as Green Prawns, Chicken Satay and Mr Chow Noodles. The interior is worth a visit too, with its smoked mirrors, walnut furniture and elegant ambience, and every night a chef comes out to perform original hand-pulled Beijing-style noodle making.
The Duke of Cambridge is the first and only British pub to be certified as organic by the Soil Association. The menu at the Islington gastropub unsurprisingly features an excellent range of delicious organic food and drinks, and changes daily according to what seasonal food is available.
Afternoon tea at The Ritz is a London institution. In fact, so popular is it that you have to book at least four weeks in advance. There are an incredible five afternoon tea sittings every day to keep up with demand, which all take place in the beautiful Palm Court. Once comfortably settled, you can tuck into one of the four afternoon tea options available, choose from 17 different types of loose-leaf tea and listen to the pianist or harpist softly playing.
In 2012, Fortnum & Mason's newly renamed Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon was officially opened by the Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge. Today, afternoon tea or high tea in the Tea Salon is a suitably regal affair, with a selection of cakes and pastries from the Coronation Cake Carriage, salmon blinis, and tea and cake pairing menus.
Afternoon tea at Brown's Hotel is served in the cosy, timeless surroundings of the English Tea Room, complete with wood panelling, fireplaces and original art. To the sound of music from the Baby Grand Piano, you can tuck into a selection of sweet and savoury snacks - plus tea from Brown's unique Prestige Seasonal Tea Library - and have your plate replenished at no additional charge.
Gentlemen, have your jackets ready, because afternoon tea at Hotel Café Royal requires you to be dressed appropriately, and for good reason. During the week, tea is taken in the excellent Ten Room restaurant, whereas weekend bookings are served in the glamorous Oscar Wilde Lounge, so called because the man himself was a regular patron. There is nothing standard about this experience; even the ingredients will offer many delightful surprises.
Take time out from visiting the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace close by. The bright lounge area provides a suitable setting for a quintessentially decadent British afternoon tea, and a live harpist soothes even the most weary of minds. Drink the same bubbles as the Queen by ordering the popular free-flowing champagne afternoon tea, which uses the same supplier as Her Majesty.
Afternoon tea is served five times a day at The Dorchester in the timeless Promenade and elegant Spatisserie. Choose from Vintage Afternoon Tea on The Balcony, The Dorchester Afternoon Tea, Champagne Afternoon Tea or the bite-size Spatisserie Afternoon Tea. Special seasonal teas are also available at different times of the year.
Take a river boat cruise along the Thames and enjoy a traditional afternoon tea of fresh sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, cakes and unlimited tea. Enjoy a window view of sites such as the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, Tate Modern, Tower Bridge and the London Eye. A recorded commentary plays throughout the journey to provide historical information that will enrich your experience.
Any fan of music will want to book afternoon tea at the Royal Albert Hall. This iconic London venue has set the scene for countless memorable live music concerts, include the annual BBC Proms. Afternoon tea is taken in the Verdi restaurant, from Wednesday to Sunday. Twinings tea is served alongside sweet treats and finger sandwiches and there's the option to upgrade with a glass of Moët & Chandon champagne.
Planning to visit Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens? Exploring the canals around Little Venice and Paddington? Take some time out in your exiting day for afternoon tea at the luxurious Royal Park Hotel. Indulge your taste buds with fresh raisin scones with Devonshire clotted cream, lemon posset, carrot cake, Victoria sponge and specialty loose leaf tea.
Indulge your royal fantasies with an afternoon tea at The Goring, which is situated just metres from Buckingham Palace. This hotel has been perfecting the art of afternoon tea for more than a century and it is no wonder that it currently holds the title of The British Tea Guild Council’s Top London Afternoon Tea Award. The five-star experience includes the option to take tea on The Terrace overlooking The Goring Gardens.
Converted from an old bus station in the 90s, the Ministry of Sound is a legend on London's club scene - and an international brand too. Located close to Elephant & Castle, south of Waterloo, the club boasts five rooms, four bars, a VIP lounge, a courtyard area and what's said to be the world’s best sound system.
Known for its real ales, traditional pub grub and beautiful Victorian décor, The Argyll Arms is a slice of old London in the bustling shopping district of Oxford Street. Completed in 1742, the Grade II listed pub is named after the second Duke of Argyll and there is a rumour that a secret tunnel once connected the pub to the duke's mansion.
Carved out of crystal-clear ice from the Torne River in Sweden and maintained at a constant minus-five degrees year-round, Icebar London is literally the coolest bar in town. Everything in the bar is made from ice, including the walls, tables, chairs and even the glasses that the cocktails are served in. And every autumn the bar is re-sculptured into a new, themed design.
Thought to be London’s oldest wine bar (it was established in 1890), Gordon's is a wonderfully atmospheric venue that feels like something from another era. Lit by candlelight, this cellar-bar serves a wide range of wines, sherries and ports from the barrel, and hearty meals. Always busy, you're advised to arrive around 4pm if you want to bag a table.
Ideally located in the heart of Piccadilly, the Piccadilly Institute has something for everyone, with six different themed rooms incorporating all sorts of weird and wonderful designs. Happy hour is 5-9pm every night, with everything from 80s classic to R&B on the decks.
Just like Leicester Square, where it is located, the five-floor Hippodrome Casino is glitzy, vibrant and full of distractions. As well as the gaming areas there are live shows, six bars, a restaurant, two lounges and an outdoor smoking and cigar bar. The heart of it all is the Heliot bar on the first floor balcony, serving new twists on classic cocktails from the Hippodrome's glittering past.
The Altas Pub is a warm and relaxing venue, where you'll find stylish wood panelling, fresh flowers and a brick fireplace. It also has a fine selection of wines and ales, a menu full of delicious and diverse dishes, and is the location of The London Wine Academy’s popular wine workshops.
Opened in 1863, The Prince Alfred has retained much of its period features, including the original Victorian snugs - each with its own door onto the street and separated from each other by a wooden partition with a small access door. The PA as it is known locally also serves food in the adjoining Formosa Dining room and is located close to the picturesque waterside of Little Venice.
Oxford Street is the ultimate London shopping destination, packed with high-street fashion, international brands, technology, homewear and much, much more. No wonder its streets are always full of bag-laden shoppers! Favourite destinations include a huge branch of Topshop, plus iconic department stores such as Selfridges, John Lewis, House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer.
Selfridges' flagship London store is one of the world's finest department stores, with six floors of fabulous fashion, pop-up concessions, electrical gadgets, stylish homeware and tasty food. But it's far more than just a shopping destination, it's a social hub - with events, bars, restaurants, cafes, art exhibitions and the odd rooftop party.
Harvey Nichols, or Harvey Nicks as it's known locally, is a favourite among London’s fashionistas. Its' flagship Knightsbridge store opened in the 1880s and today boasts a massive eight floors of fashion, beauty and lifestyle collections. The fifth floor is given over to the stylish Fifth Floor Restaurant, Café and Bar - plus a food market and wine shop.
Instantly recognisable by its iconic mock-Tudor frontage, Liberty is a lavish design emporium located just off Regent Street. It first opened its doors in 1875, and was later crowned by Oscar Wilde “the chosen resort of the artistic shopper.” Today it's best known for its top-quality fashion, jewellery, beauty, furniture, toys, oriental rugs and much more.
As well as its street entertainment, Covent Garden is famous for its covered markets: Apple Market, Jubilee Market and East Colonnade Market, which sell everything from British arts and crafts to jewellery and antiques. The area has many permanent stores too, from the ever-popular Disney Store to travel book shop Stanfords. Close by are two other unique London shopping destinations: Neal Street and Covent Garden's 'village' Seven Dials, a collection of streets packed with fashion boutiques, vintage shops, jewellers and furniture design stores.
Knightsbridge and the surrounding areas of Chelsea and South Kensington are known for their high-end fashion and prestigious brands. On Sloane Street, you'll find Prada, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Dolce et Gabbana, Fendi and many more top labels. The road intersects to the north with Brompton Road, home to the likes of Harrods and Harvey Nichols, and to the south with King's Road, where punk and other counterculture movements flourished in the 1960s. Today it's where you'll find Vivienne Westwood's London shop and department store Peter Jones.
Famous around the world, Harrods is a gold-and-green beacon on London's shopping scene. Inside the stunning store you'll find everything from homewares and kitchen essentials to books and beauty products. But most people make a beeline for the Harrods-branded gifts, fashion aisles and food hall, an ornate treasure trove of foodie delicacies and sweet treats.
Mayfair street Savile Row has been synonymous with traditional bespoke tailoring since 1803 and remains a key player on the London fashion scene thanks to cutting-edge designers such as Richard James and Ozwald Boateng. For shirts, ties, hats and other accessories, head for nearby Jermyn Street.
Packed with unique arts and crafts, Greenwich Market is the place to go for one-off, unique gifts and souvenirs - be it handmade jewellery, natural beauty products, children's toys or antiques (every day has a different specialism). There are also permanent shops selling art, clothing and accessories - plus a good range of food stalls serving up delicious cuisine from around the world.
Mayfair is home to some of the world's most prestigious brands and luxury hotels, and is London's most exclusive shopping destination. Along Mount Street you'll find many luxury fashion and beauty brands, art and antiques dealers and top restaurants. Other Mayfair retail residents include Marc Jacobs, Christian Louboutin, Jenny Packham, Balenciaga, Purdey and William & Son.
Westfield London is a super-sized shopping and leisure destination in West London's Shepherd's Bush. Inside this stunningly designed mall you'll find more than 265 luxury and high-street shops, from Debehams to Dior (located inside luxury brand area The Village). There are also plenty of restaurants and bars to refuel at along the Southern Terrace, plus a 14-screen cinema, gym, spa, library and a packed programme of special events in the central Atrium.
The sister mall to the pioneering Westfield London, Westfield Stratford City has revitalised East London with its great brands, top restaurants and entertainment venues. As well as 250 shops and 70 dining spots, there's a cinema, All Star Lanes bowling experience and 65,000ft casino. While you're there, look out for great views over the stunning Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park nearby.
Located next to the picturesque canal, Camden Lock Market is a must if you're into quirky, alternative and unique gifts, fashion and crafts. Comprising a mix of shops and stalls, the buzzing market has been attracting crowds of visitors since 1972. While you're in the area, make sure you visit the nearby Stables Market and Camden Market (formerly Buck Street Market).
Citizens of the European Union member-states, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland, and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) only require a valid passport to enter the UK. Residents of a further 10 countries do not require entry visas for stays under 6 months: the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Nationals of some further countries do not require a visa, but need to hold an entry certificate. Use the UK Government website to check for specific requirements: www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa.
London is graced by a mild climate and, as such, can be visited at any time of the year. However, a few things need to be considered first. Most of the royal palaces and residences, like the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, only open to the public during the summer months, and so do many of the city's most important festivals, like the British Summer Time Music Festival. Late June to mid July is also the period when you can find the best sales in town. Spring is also a good season for a visit, since the weather is generally good and it's easier and cheaper to find accommodation (high season in London means a lot of tourists). If you don't mind the miserable weather, low season (January and February) can be a good option too, with less tourists and lower prices.
London Heathrow Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, with five terminals. There are various ways to travel from Heathrow Airport to your destination. Hotel Hoppa and Hotel By Bus are shared ride services, transporting travellers to (and from) local and Central London hotels by coach. The quickest journey is by train on the Heathrow ExpressB, which runs every 15 minutes (from approximately 5am to 11.45pm) and gets you into Central London in 15 minutes for £20. You can also travel into Central London via Heathrow Connect (£9.50), the Piccadilly line on London Underground, a coach to Victoria Coach Station (£6), bus (£1.40 Oyster/£2.40 cash) or taxi (£50 to £80 in a metred black cab).
London Gatwick Airport is the second largest airport in the UK (Heathrow Airport is the largest), with two terminals: North and South. The fastest route from the airport into Central London is via the Gatwick Express, with trains departing every 15 minutes. The non-stop journey to Victoria Station takes 30 minutes and costs £19.90. Alternative travel options include going by First Capital Connect train to London Bridge, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, Farringdon or St Pancras International (£10 to St Pancras); Southern train services (£19.90 to Victoria Station), coach (£8), easyBus (£2 – online price) or taxi.
London Stansted Airport is the third busiest airport in the UK, and where many low-cost airlines serving Europe and the Mediterranean operate from. On the Stansted Express you can reach Liverpool Street station in 47 minutes. Trains run every 15 minutes and the journey costs £23.40. You can also travel between Stansted Airport and Central London by coach with easyBus (£2 – online price), National Express (from £5) or Terravision (from £6). Alternatively book a minicab with 24x7 Stansted – note: black cabs do no operate from Stansted (though you can take one to the airport).
London Luton Airport is located just 56km north-west of Central London, and is a popular base for low-cost airlines. A regular shuttle bus transports passengers from the airport to the nearest station, Luton Airport Parkway, which takes about 10 minutes. From the station you can catch an East Midlands Trains or First Capital Connect service to Central London in between 21 and 25 minutes (£13.50). Other options include the easyBusB express bus service (from £2 – online price), the Green Line 757 coach service to Victoria Coach Station (£17) and Terravision coaches to Victoria Coach Station (£15), each service stopping at different destinations en route. A metred taxi ride to or from Central London costs around £80.
London City Airport is a single runway airport located 9.5km east of Central London, and serving mainly short-haul and business flights. The airport is on the Docklands Light Railway, which connects to London's Tube network at Canning Town, Stratford and Bank and uses the same price structure. Buses serve the airport too, with the numbers 473 and 474 providing a connection to other East London destinations. You can also pick up a taxi from the cab rank outside the airport.
London's bus network stretches right across the capital, and provides a frequent and accessible service. If you're using an Oyster card, a single trip costs £1.40 – you simply 'tap in' when you get on the bus – and there is a daily cap of £4.40 if you're using only bus and tram services. A single bus fare is £2.40 if you're paying with cash. Seven-day, one-month and annual bus passes are also available. To navigate your way around the network, pick up a Central London Bus Guide from travel information centres at larger Tube stations or use Transport for London's online Journey Planner. A reduced service of night buses operates throughout the night, with most routes passing through Trafalgar Square. All children under 16 travel for free (with a photo card, though 5-15 year olds need to show a proof-of-age photo card. Freedom Passes allow disabled and older passengers to travel for free.
There are 12 Underground or 'Tube' lines serving Greater London, which connect at various points to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and local rail network. The Tube usually operates from 5am to midnight from Monday to Saturday, with a reduced service on Sunday. Plan your route by picking up a free Tube map from any Underground station, or using Transport for London's online Journey Planner. Fares vary depending on which of London's six travel 'zones' you travel through, though they are considerably cheaper with an Oyster card than buying paper tickets. Various concessions are available for children, students, the elderly and disabled travellers.
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) serves East London and connects with the Tube network at Bank, Tower Gateway (Tower Hill), Shadwell, Stratford, Bow, Heron Quays, Canning Town and Canary Wharf. It also connects to the Emirates Air Line cable car at Royal Victoria. Fares are the same as on the Tube, and the DLR runs from 5.30am to 12.30am Monday to Saturday and from 7am to 11.30pm on Sunday. Fares are the same as those on the Tube, and Oyster and Travelcard holders can use the DLR.
Travel from A to B with ease along the Thames on board a river bus. There are six different routes, which slight at destinations along the riverbank – between Putney and Woolwich Arsenal. Popular services include Thames Clippers route between Hilton London Docklands Riverside and Canary Wharf, the Tate to Tate boat between Tate Britain and Tate Modern, and the journey between London Eye and historic Greenwich. Buy your ticket before boarding or on board (depending on the service) – discounts are available with Travelcards and Oyster cards.
As well as the Underground, London has its own local train network, which connects to the Tube at many points. The main train operators serving London are Silverlink, First Capital Connect, SouthEastern Railway, Southern Railway, London Overground and Greater Anglia, with these local lines in turn linking to the national rail network and the Eurostar. You can use your Oyster card on all suburban trains stopping in Zones 1-9 – except Heathrow Express and a few other select services. Several different railcards are available too, providing discounted fares to their holders.
London's tram network, Tramlink, was introduced in 2000 and runs in selected parts of South London – between Wimbledon, Croydon, Beckenham and New Addington. Trams run about every seven minutes to New Addington and every 10 minutes to Wimbledon, Elmers End and Beckenham Junction during the day from Monday to Saturday. Fares work the same as on buses, with a flat-rate cost of £1.40 with an Oyster card and £2.40 when paying by cash. Travelcards are also valid on trams, and bus passes include use of the tram network. Travelling via Tramlink is free for London students aged 16-17, under 16s and older and disabled residents carrying a relevant photo card.
Hop on a "Boris bike" and zip around London using the city's public bike-sharing scheme. Named after London's Mayor Boris Johnson, the popular blue bikes can be found in more than 550 bike docking stations across London – so you're never far away from one. After you've paid your registration fee (from £2), you can hire a bike for a day, week or even a year. The bikes are free to use for the first 30 minutes, with prices increasing according to how long you use the bike for then afterwards. When you've finished your journey, simply return the bike to your nearest docking station – you can find out where that is using the Barclays Bikes app.
Cross the Thames in style on board the Emirates Air Line, London's cable car connecting Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. As well as taking you across the river in less than 10 minutes, it provides an amazing bird's eye view over London and the Thames. The fare is £3.20 using Oyster pay-as-you-go, or you can buy a return journey (known as a '360° tour') for £6.40 from the terminals at either end of the line. Multi-journey boarding passes (£10 for 10 single trips) and private cabin packages are also available.
Riding in one of London's iconic black cabs is a must – and makes for a very comfortable and spacious ride. Hail a cab in the street or pick one up at a taxi rank. Your journey is calculated using a meter, with a minimum charge of £2.40. London also has many private hire vehicles and minicabs – these are unmetered so check the fare when booking. To find a local, reputable firm download Transport for London's free CabWise app or check the Hailo app to find a nearby black cab.
Postage stamps are available across London from post offices, newsagents and supermarkets. To post a package or souvenirs, drop into any post-office – you can find your nearest branch on the Post Office website. Post offices are generally open Monday-Friday from 9.00am to 5.30pm and Saturday from 9.00am to 12.30pm.
When you need to buy medication over the counter or collect a prescription, simply head to one of London's many pharmacies. As well as private chemists, pharmacy services can be found at certain branches of Boots and Superdrug as well as some larger supermarkets. Boots London Piccadilly Circus:
The international dialling code for the UK is +44 or 0044, which replaces the first 'zero' of the phone number. So, for example, to call the number 020 7946 0000 from abroad you would dial +44 20 7946 0000. The area codes for London are (020) 7, (020) 8 and (020) 3. If you're dialling a London number from another fixed phone line within Greater London you don't need to dial the '020' before the number, just the rest of the number starting with 7, 8 or 3.
Electrical appliances are connected to the UK mains supply using a three-pin plug, which slots into a wall socket. This socket can be turned on and off, unlike in many other countries. The average voltage of a UK power socket is 230v or slightly higher, so check the voltage of your device before plugging it in. Voltage adaptors and convertors are available from London airports and high-street electrical chains such as Argos or Curry's. Power sockets are available at many coffee shops with WiFi and on some overland trains. Need to charge your mobile? Download the 'find-a-chargebox' iPhone app to find your nearest ChargeBox.