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Capital Q&A: what to know ahead of a trip to London

So, you’re thinking of visiting London? Well, if so, you’d be making a great choice for a short-break destination away from home or even overseas. Stuffed full of world-class attractions, venues, landmarks, parks, retail options, restaurants and night-life opportunities, the UK capital really does boast an eclectic embarrassment of riches. But what should you know before coming here…?

When should you visit?

London’s one of the world’s greatest, most visited and most extraordinary cities – in which case, do you think there’s a best time of year to visit the place? Of course, there’s not! Every time of year is best; truth be told. The place blooms into colour and throngs with millions of visitors in the warm spring and summer months when’s there’s so many outdoor events to choose between, but come the autumn the colours of the multitude of trees are beautiful and varied (and the tourist appeal barely lets up) and in winter you have the run-up to Christmas when the city becomes illuminated with glistening lights and the stores pull in the punters seeking present bargains.

What should you pack?

To be fair, whatever the time of year, the art of packing clobber for a trip to the UK capital doesn’t vary a great deal. That’s because, although the particular season you’re looking to come here will somewhat define the types and style of clothes you pack, whatever the season you’ll want to pack items that you can layer up together as outfits; the temperature and weather is properly variable all year round, so you’ll want to be able to put on and remove outer garments accordingly. One crucial thing you can’t forget, though, is an umbrella – yes, it can rain rather a lot in Blighty!

What big events and festivals can you attend?

Being the major ‘world city’ it is, London’s calendar year is stuffed full of events and festivals that occur on an annual basis. We’re talking the likes of New Year fireworks, the Magical Lantern Festival for the Chinese New Year, the Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows, the FA Cup Final (football) and Wimbledon Championships (tennis), the classical music Proms festival, the many outdoor summer music festivals, the brilliantly bustling and colourful Notting Hill Carnival, the Lord Mayor’s Show and the Remembrance Day events (which coincides with the nationwide Poppy Appeal). And none of that’s to mention the events and attractions themed around general festivals and times of the year, like Valentine’s Day, Eid, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night (lots of firework displays), Hanukkah and, as mentioned above, Christmas.

What are the major attractions?

Don’t doubt it; London’s over-spilling with an enormously diverse range of things to see and do throughout; truly, there’s something to appeal to each and every visitor. And yet, there’s a good reason why travellers from overseas are year-on-year attracted most of all to the heavy-hitter attractions located in Central London (and, frankly, every one of them is very quick and easy to get to should you choose to stay at one of the cheap hotels near Victoria Station) and that’s because they’re unrivalled venues for all the family.

Indeed, a good number of them are global landmarks – Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye – while others are among the greatest art galleries and museums on the planet – the British Museum, the National Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and the National Portrait Gallery. And that’s to say nothing of the terrific and hugely popular attractions that lie just a short way outside Central London – historic Greenwich, Kew Gardens, Hampton Court Palace, Richmond Palace, the O2 entertainment venue and many sporting stadia, including ‘the home of football’, Wembley, of course.

london garden

What about the parks?

A lesser known fact is that London’s one of the greenest cities on Earth – yes, while being one of the very busiest (no mean feat that!). Wherever you are in the capital you’re likely to be only a few steps away from a park, public garden or patch of green space that’s open to all and sundry for a few moments of calm and serenity. There are also a huge number of trees lining streets throughout the metropolis, which at least go some way to providing healthy air and definitely colour and natural beauty for the populace.

The latter, however, is beyond question provided by the city’s major parks and green spaces – Greenwich Park and Richmond Park (in Greater London), Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill (North London), Clapham Common and Wimbledon Common (South London) and, in Central London, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, St. James’s Park and Regent’s Park (and all these Central London ‘Royal Parks’ are highly accessible if you’re staying at one of the hotels near Victoria London).

Where’s best to view the skyline?

Well, you’ll find that the elevated green spaces of both the aforementioned Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill and Greenwich Park are ideal spots to take in and savour the world-famous London panorama, as are the likes of the London Eye attraction, the top floor of the Shard (‘The View from the Shard’) and the Sky Garden (20 Fenchurch Street/ the ‘walkie-talkie building), the high walkways of Tower Bridge (accessible via its fascinating tour) and Waterloo Bridge (looking both east and west).

best photo location

And the best photo locations?

Finally, as you might expect, London’s hardly short on places here and there that make for simply supreme photo (and selfie) opportunities. All the aforementioned spots for skyline views are good examples, of course, but so too are many of the landmarks (Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, for instance) and there are less obvious examples – the hipster haven that’s Shoreditch (brimming with great graffiti), Little Venice (an idyllic canal retreat), Mayfair and Chelsea (full of exquisitely elegant Georgian townhouses) and Soho and Camden (vibrant and colourful districts that revel in their own distinctive sub-cultures, attractions and night-life venues).


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