London is a vast, sprawling metropolis.
Centuries of history are bound deep within its streets and boroughs, sitting side-by-side with modern structures as 21st century city dwellers go about their daily lives.
There are museums, shops, different restaurants for every night of the year, jazz clubs, beautiful public parks, and countless apartment buildings – both old and new.
London is an intoxicating city, drawing people to it from all corners of the world, but for a visitor or newcomer, where do you start?
Here is a brief guide to some of the highlights of London, which is by no means a definitive list of things to do. Consider this as inspiration to get you started, then head on out into the city for some exploring.
Eat and drink
For old-school glamour fused with gourmet-style Bavarian food, try German Gymnasium in Kings Cross.
Set in an historic building, it was formerly England’s first purpose-built gymnasium for the German Gymnastics Society.
The high ceilings and warehouse-size space provide an expansive feel to the building, but the classic Grand Cafe-style decor adds warmth and an air of decadence.
The menu includes German favourites such as Schnitzel, Weisswurst, and sauerkraut, but also features oysters, caviar, and white asparagus (when in season).
The Meister Bar on the first floor offers creative cocktails and the extensive wine list should suit even the most serious oenophiles.
The German Gymnasium is certainly not the cheapest restaurant in town, but it is also not the most expensive, and is certainly worth a visit.
Other hotspots worth mentioning are Redemption in Covent Garden for healthy vegan food and an alcohol-free drinks menu, Ping Pong in Southbank for a bustling atmosphere and delicious dim sum, and Gordon’s Wine Bar to experience wine served in overflowing glasses alongside Dickensian-style decor.
History and heritage
South of the River Thames, tucked away in Zone 2, is Greenwich.
Most of you will have heard about Greenwich Mean Time – the time that is displayed by the clock at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and which is 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. Quite significant.
However, if that’s not enough to attract your attention, Greenwich is also home to the Queen’s House, which was the home of Queen Elizabeth I and is now a beautiful gallery, the Old Royal Naval College, the exquisite Painted Hall (known as the UK’s Sistine Chapel), and the famous Cutty Sark ship.
As with many major cities around the world, London’s underground train network (the Tube), is the fastest, and cheapest, way to navigate the city.
However, there is another form of travel that is often overlooked – the boat.
There is a regular boat service called The Thames Clipper that runs along the River Thames and provides a calmer, more scenic option for visitors to London, or for residents who simply want to slow down the frenetic pace of London life.
It passes below London Bridge and Tower Bridge, and glides by Westminster.
The Thames Clipper even has a bar onboard for those wanting to enjoy the sights with a cold beer or a sparkling glass of prosecco.
The only downside to taking a boat along the Thames, as opposed to travelling by bus or train, is that it is more expensive, but at the same time it is worth it to catch an alternative view of London.
As promised, this is not an exhaustive list of where to go and what to do in London because, frankly, there are so many options, but hopefully this will offer a starting point for anyone searching for travel tips.
Do you have any travel tips for London? Feel free to comment below.