First-time guide to London

London is a vast, sprawling metropolis and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. For good reason, too.

It’s an intoxicating city, blending the old with the new and everything else in between. But for visitors or newcomers it can be hard to know where to start.

There are museums, shops and different restaurants for every night of the year. Then there are jazz clubs, beautiful public parks, and countless markets. Plus, a wealth of history just waiting to be discovered on almost every street.

To help you on your way, here is a brief guide to some of the highlights of London. Consider it as inspiration to get started. Then head on out into the city for some exploring.

Where to eat and drink

For old-school glamour fused with gourmet-style Bavarian food, try German Gymnasium in Kings Cross.

Sounds like a strange name for a restaurant? There’s actually a good story behind it.

The huge building is historic and was home to England’s first purpose-built gymnasium for the German Gymnastics Society. Hence the name.

Today, the high ceilings and warehouse-size space make the restaurant feel expansive. And the classic Grand Cafe-style decor adds warmth and an air of decadence. All the ingredients for a glamorous setting.

The menu includes Bavarian favourites such as Schnitzel, Weisswurst, and sauerkraut, all served with a modern flair. It also features fine dining classics like oysters and caviar, and the wine list should suit even the most serious oenophile.

The German Gymnasium is not the cheapest restaurant in town, but it’s also not the most expensive. And it’s located right next to Kings Cross Tube Station, which makes it easily accessible.

Other hotspots to check out are:

  • Redemption in Covent Garden for healthy vegan food and alcohol-free drinks
  • Ping Pong in Southbank for a bustling atmosphere and delicious dim sum
  • Gordon’s Wine Bar in Charing Cross for great wine served in overflowing glasses
German Gymnasium in Kings Cross

History and heritage

South East of the River Thames, tucked away in Zone 2, is the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Most of you will have probably heard about Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). And if not, here’s a quick explanation.

GMT is the time that is displayed by the clock at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. It’s a recognised time zone used by the UK (and other countries) when Daylight Savings is not in use. For example, when the sun is at its highest point, it is 12 midday at Greenwich.

The landmark is also the Prime Meridian and marks the starting point of every time zone on the time zone map. So, it’s quite a significant place.

But if that’s not enough to attract your attention, Greenwich is also home to the Queen’s House. This is a gorgeous building that was the home of Queen Elizabeth I and is now a gallery displaying historic pieces of art. To be honest though, even if you’re not a fan of fine art, it’s worth a visit just to get a peek of the architecture.

And lastly, Greenwich has daily artisan and food markets. Plus, great pubs to explore, like the Trafalgar Tavern and the Gipsy Moth.

The Queen’s House in Greenwich

Getting around London

As with many major cities around the world, London’s underground train network (the Tube), is the fastest, and cheapest, way to get around the city.

But there is another form of travel that is often overlooked – the humble boat.

A regular boat service called The Thames Clipper runs along the River Thames and offers a calmer, more scenic option for visitors to the city. The route takes passengers past the famous landmarks of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Globe Theatre, London Eye, and South Bank.

It also passes below London Bridge and Tower Bridge. In a nutshell, cruising along the Thames is a prime photo opportunity. And the Clipper even has a bar onboard to enjoy the sights with a cold beer or a glass of Prosecco.

The only downsides to traveling by boat instead of the Tube, is that it’s more expensive and can take longer (depending on where you’re going). But it’s worth it for an alternative view of London.

The London Eye at South Bank

As promised, this is not an exhaustive guide of where to go and what to do in London. Hopefully though, this first-time guide to London will offer a starting point for anyone planning to visit the city.

What’s your favourite place in London? Feel free to comment below.

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