How you feel about London, England, might depend on where you’re from. People who actually live there are split between loving the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s fastest-moving cities, and hating the overcrowding and the overpricing that comes along with it. Once you’ve lived in London for a while and the scenery has lost the spark of the new for you, some of the appeal can wear off unless you have very deep pockets!
For a visitor, though, London is one of the most special places in the world to travel to. Americans, in particular, have a special affinity for London; it’s the capital of the old country, where some of the buildings are older than the entire American nation, and the traditions go back even longer. London and England as a whole are interchangeable in the minds of American tourists, and the city is seen as a microcosm of the country.
One thing that frequently surprises American visitors is the sheer size and scale of the place. The United Kingdom is a small country in terms of land area, and so it’s not uncommon for tourists to expect London to be a scaled-down city, too. The reality is anything but – London is home to nine million people, and that number is growing rapidly. You need a lot of space to accommodate that many people, and so the net result is that London is simply too big for visitors to see the whole city in the space of a single visit.
Most people who go once end up going back again, so don’t worry too much if you don’t fit in everything you want to do on your first attempt. Here are a few things you should prioritize on that first trip – everything else can wait until next time!
Go To A Real London Pub
Pubs are the heart and soul of London’s culture. They’re also the heart and soul of British culture as a whole – they’re where people meet, socialize, and discuss the important issues of the day. It’s not a coincidence that the ‘Down The Pub’ mobile slots game is one of the most popular mobile slots on the country’s gaming websites such as Rose Slots. You’ll even find one of the old slot machines that the current generation of mobile slots are based on in the corners of some of the older, more traditional pubs! Avoid chain pubs and modern bars if you want a taste of traditional London pub culture; try somewhere like the Lamb & Flag On Rose Street Instead
Visit The London Eye
You might not be able to walk down every street in London in the space of a one week visit or a weekend city break, but you can ‘see’ everything London has to offer by taking in the sights from above. The London Eye is an enormous Ferris wheel that moves slowly and offers its customers the chance to experience a bird’s eye view of the world’s most famous capital city, complete with narration pointing out all the sights and sounds. The London Eye is a great photo opportunity both inside and outside the pods, and lets you get a feel of the sheer size and shape of the city. Just make sure you check that the weather is going to stay fine before you head there!
Visit Buckingham Palace
You’re in her city, so it would be rude not to pay a visit to the Queen of England. Her official residence is worth seeing with your own eyes – there aren’t many buildings in the world that look much like Buckingham Palace. When to go depends on what you want to get out of it. If you actually want to go inside and take a look around, you either have to visit between July and October or book a specialist tour when one becomes available. The flipside of going when it’s open for visitors, though, is that the Queen is never in residence when it happens. If you want an outside chance of actually seeing the Queen at home, try any other time of year – although you won’t be allowed past the gates, and she’s not exactly known for waving from the window.
Call In At The Home Of Democracy
Britain has one of the world’s oldest democracies, and they’re still sitting where they’ve been sitting for the last several centuries – the Houses of Parliament. You’ll find the grand old buildings in Westminster, sitting on the bank of the Thames. At the same time as seeing Parliament, you can also grab some photos of Big Ben, the famous clock tower. Prepare to be a little disappointed in that right now, though – it’s being repaired and refurbished, and so it’s likely to stay partially hidden by scaffolding until 2021. If you’re especially curious about British politics, you could even go to the public gallery and watch Parliament in session- although it’s not the most exciting of spectator sports.
Check Out The Tower Of London
The Tower of London has been standing in its current spot for nine hundred years. It has a rich and somewhat bloody history – it’s been used as a royal palace and place of residence, but it’s also been used as a prison and a place of execution. Many a traitor has taken their last breath within the walls of the Tower. Confusingly, the Crown Jewels of the reigning English monarch aren’t kept within Buckingham Palace – they’re in the Tower instead. You’re welcome to come and gaze upon them in awe, but we don’t suggest trying to steal them. You might find yourself locked in the infamous dungeon below the Tower – and precious few people who ever went down there came out alive.
Like we said at the start of the article, these five ideas are really just a visitor’s starter back. There’s so much more to see and do in the city – we haven’t even mentioned Hyde Park, the Tate Modern, the Shard, or London Bridge – so add all four of those attractions for the ‘next time’ list unless you’re in England for an extended stay. London is a vibrant urban metropolis, and it isn’t always to everyone’s liking – but it’s a place that everybody owes themselves at least one visit to.
Image credit: Trip To London via Pajor Pawel/Shutterstock