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Destination Spotlight: London Travel Guide
Issue #8-23 features a Destination Spotlight travel guide on London including highlights of the city, as well as a look at the best places to stay, where to eat and the top things to do and see
Destination Spotlight travel guides from The Family Travel Guy are delivered to your inbox on the last Friday of the month highlighting a new location each time that we have visited, as I previewed at the beginning of the year: Here's what you can expect in 2023 from The Family Travel Bulletin
Destination Spotlight on London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom
London is a vibrant cosmopolitan city known for its rich history, diverse culture, iconic landmarks, museums and more. Located in the southeast of England, it is the capital city and one of the most visited cities in the world.
This destination spotlight travel guide for London includes planning tips, highlights of the city, things you need to know, as well as a look at the best places to stay, where to eat and the top things to do and see.
With a population of over 8.9 million people, London is a diverse and multicultural city that's home to people from all over the world. Its rich history can be seen in its many iconic landmarks, such as the Tower of London, St Pauls Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, and the Houses of Parliament, which are in stark contrast to newer modern buildings that are a global hub for business, finance, and technology.
The city is divided into several distinct neighborhoods, each with its own character and attractions. From the more touristy areas of London around Westminster and South Bank to trendy Shoreditch to posh Mayfair, each neighborhood offers a unique experience and a taste of London's diverse culture and history.
Know Before You Go
Here are a few things to know before you go to London:
The currency used in London, as well as in the rest of the United Kingdom, is the British pound sterling (GBP). The pound is divided into 100 pence, and banknotes come in denominations of £5, £10, £20, and £50, while coins come in denominations of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, and £2.
Current exchange rate for $1 USD is 0.80 GBP, as of February 2023
I always like to have some cash on hand and always exchange money at a Bank ATM with my debit card that reimburses any transaction fees.
In the United Kingdom the associated plug type is G, which is a plug with three rectangular pins in a triangular pattern. The United Kingdom operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz, so you’ll need an appropriate travel adapter/converter.
Some hotels offer a variety of wall plugs for the UK, USA and Europe, as shown below.
Climate During the Year
London has a temperate maritime climate, with mild temperatures and rainfall spread throughout the year. Depending on when you plan on visiting, I would always pack along a rain jacket and small umbrella, unless you’re planning on being in London during peak Summer, as it’s the driest season.
London’s Transportation System
London has an extensive public transportation system that includes buses, trains, underground (also known as the tube), and taxis.
Tube: The London Underground (also known as the tube) is the city's subway system. It's fast and efficient, with 11 lines that serve 270 stations across the city.
Buses: London's bus network is extensive, with over 700 different routes. It's a great way to see the city, and you can pay with an Oyster card or contactless payment card. Buses run 24 hours a day, and some routes are served by double-decker buses.
Trains: There are several train stations in London that serve different parts of the country. Some of the major stations include Paddington, King's Cross, and Victoria. You can purchase tickets at the station or online.
Taxis: London's black cabs are iconic and are all over the city, so it is easy to always hail a taxi. Uber also operates in London, but hailing a taxi is easy and more reliable based on our experience.
Uber Boat: Uber Boat by Thames Clippers stops at 24 piers along the Thames between Barking Riverside Pier in the East and Putney Pier in the West. Services run from early in the morning until late at night 7 days a week.
Overall, London's public transportation system is easy to use and efficient. You can save money by purchasing an Oyster card or using a contactless payment card, and there are plenty of options to get around the city.
When to Visit
The best time to visit London depends on your preferences and what you want to do while you're there.
Here's a breakdown of what to expect during each season:
Spring (March to May): Springtime in London is beautiful, with mild temperatures and blooming flowers in the parks. However, it can be quite rainy, so be sure to pack an umbrella.
Summer (June to August): London is very busy during the summer, as it's peak tourist season, so expect long lines and crowds at popular attractions.
Autumn (September to November): Autumn is a great time to visit London, with cooler temperatures and beautiful fall foliage. It's also less crowded than the summer, and you can find likely better deals on accommodations.
Winter (December to February): London can be chilly and damp during the winter, but it's also a magical time to visit. The city is decked out in holiday lights and decorations, and there are plenty of seasonal activities and events.
In general, the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn offer the best balance of mild weather, lower crowds, and better deals on accommodations. However, if you're looking for a particular event or activity, such as the Wimbledon tennis tournament or attending a Premier League Soccer game, you'll want to plan your trip accordingly.
How to Get There
London is a major transportation hub and there are several options for getting there via airplane or rail service, like the Eurostar, when traveling from abroad.
Flying: London has six major airports, so you have several options for flying in, with the most popular airports being London Heathrow (LHR) and London Gatwick (LGW).
You can fly to London from most major cities around the world non-stop and there are plenty of airlines to choose from.
Train Service: Eurostar is a high-speed train service that connects London to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. If you're traveling from Paris or Brussels, the journey to London takes around 2 hours. From Amsterdam, the journey takes around 4 hours. The Eurostar arrives at St. Pancras International station in central London, so it's a convenient option to get into London.
Where to Stay
There are many great options to consider staying at when visiting London that depend on your particular preferences (travel style, hotel location, etc) and budget.
One of the things to consider when traveling to London (and Europe in general) with kids is being able to find hotels that accommodate up to 4 people in one room or suite. Most hotels have a maximum occupancy set at 2 or 3 people per room, even for larger suites sometimes, so it can become very challenging to find a hotel and room category that will work for you and not break the bank at the same time. If if you can't find a room for at least 4 people, then you may end up having to book two rooms (and not break the travel budget) and hope the hotel offers connecting rooms.
For our most recent trip to London, we stayed at the Marriott London County Hall, which boasts a prime location on the River Thames, overlooking the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye. The convenient location on the South Bank at the Westminster Bridge is perfect for exploring the sights of London.
We last stayed here for five nights in a Family Room that offered two double beds for a family of four and featured views of Big Ben and River Thames. We selected this hotel since we have hotel status (Marriott Bonvoy Titanium) that unlocks extra benefits/amenities like free breakfast (saved us ~$100+ a day) and since we had lots of Marriott Bonvoy points that could help cover the cost of our entire stay.
Other great hotel options I would recommend include:
Virtuoso Travel Hotels in London (55 hotels where you can get extra value and benefits/amenities)
A few Marriott STARS & Marriott Luminous Hotels I would recommend include: Bankside Hotel, Autograph Collection, Bulgari Hotel London, JW Marriott Grosvenor House London, London Marriott Hotel County Hall, London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, London Marriott Hotel Park Lane, St. Ermin's Hotel, Autograph Collection, The London EDITION, The Westin London City, W London
Things To Do
There is no shortage of things to do and see while visiting London, as the city is full of iconic landmarks, world-class museums, and a vibrant cultural scene with a rich history.
Here are some of the top attractions and activities to consider during your visit to London:
The British Museum: This world-famous museum houses a vast collection of artifacts from around the world
The Tower of London: This historic fortress on the banks of the River Thames has served as a royal palace, a prison, and a place of execution. Today, it's home to the Crown Jewels and a museum of royal armor.
Buckingham Palace & Hyde Park: The official residence of the British monarch, Buckingham Palace is an iconic London landmark.
The London Eye is one of the most popular attractions in London, which is a giant ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames and offers stunning views of the city.
The West End: London's West End is home to some of the world's most famous theaters, including the Lyceum Theatre, where you can see The Lion King and Cambridge theater, where you can see Matilda.
The Tate Modern: This modern art museum is housed in a former coal power station and features art from some of the world's most famous contemporary artists, including Picasso, Warhol, and Rothko.
The National Gallery: This art museum in Trafalgar Square houses a vast collection of paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries, including works by Van Gogh, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Other places to consider visiting include the Natural History Museum, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, Covent Garden, Borough Market, Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross Station and The Harry Potter Shop, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Shopping on Regent Street at Oxford Circus, The Shard, and Sky Garden.
Where to Eat
London is very walkable and no matter where you are in the city, it seems like there is a restaurant, pub or cafe on every corner to suit any type of preference.
On our last trip to London, the places we ate at largely depended on which part of London we were in around lunch or dinner time. Our location in the city mainly dictated the available restaurant options for us.
Restaurants we enjoyed on our most recent trip while exploring London and we would recommend include:
Dishoom (popular and trendy Indian Restaurant featuring amazing food)
Oblix (at the Shard featuring great views of London)
Gillray's Steakhouse & Bar
Pizza Express in South Bank
Borough Market (so many small restaurants and stalls)
Sticks 'N' Sushi at Covent Garden (lots of restaurants here)
Tower Bridge Cafe (just outside the Tower of London)
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych
Since we had a hearty breakfast most mornings, we ended up having lunch and dinner at odd times throughout the day after visiting an attraction so didn't experience long waits for meals. We did see some very long lines for popular restaurants, but when traveling with kids, we never wanted to wait very long to be seated so didn't really research much into the best places to eat. It was more about convenience for us and depended on where we currently were in London.
If you're considering a trip here, I hope some of the information here can help you plan out your next trip to London.
There is so much to see and do, so be sure to plan ahead and add some of the city's top attractions to your itinerary. Or better yet, consider a private or semi-private guided tour so you don’t miss out on anything and learn all about history along the way. I highly recommend Context Travel for this (as well as Meet the Locals for Families)
No matter what you are interested in, London has something to offer for everyone, as there is so much to do and explore throughout the city that you'll leave wanting to come back soon and experience it again.
I hope this destination spotlight guide helps you plan out your next trip to London and gives you a glimpse into highlights of the city, as well as a look the best places to stay and things to do and see in London.
The Family Travel Guy
I hope this email helped spark some travel inspiration!
Learn More Here: About Me | The Family Travel Guy
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