A Beginners Travel Guide To London

London, the capital of Great Britain. This phrase (and city) were probably on everyone’s mind during their early lessons of England in school. Growing up, many of us live with a dream to visit this royal city and see it with our own eyes. The Houses of Parliament! Big Ben! The list goes on! But are Big Ben and the rest of Britain’s buildings really the only reasons to visit London? Let’s find out!

Housing, transportation and food.

If you decide to visit London, there’s a high chance you’ll end up loving it. Now, depending on how long you stay there, it’s important to make a schedule. My advice is to stay in London for at least for one week; there is so much to see and do, that you’ll commit a “crime” if you don’t fully explore this city! It’s a city of 8 million, after all.

First things first, make sure you find a good place to stay. If you don’t have someone to help you with a temporary home, don’t worry! Airbnb will always help you. You can find a nice room within the zone 1-3 with around £200 a week. Transportation is vital for a traveler in London and the best way to get around London is the metro, called the Underground or ‘Tube,’ but also London’s iconic, big red buses, too. You can buy a weekly unlimited metro & bus ticket good to use in zones 1-3 for £38, which is a pretty good deal. All the information you need about transportation can be found on the official website here.

If you’re a budget traveler, however, you’ll notice that everything in London is more expensive, and food is no exception. The best solution I can offer is to buy groceries from markets and make food at your accommodation for yourself. You can go to Tesco, Iceland Foods, Sainsbury’s; even some farmer markets if you have some around where you are and you can buy fresh groceries and produce at good prices.

Now, here is our little short travel guide to London to get you through the first few days!

Day 1.

Now that you are all set with the basics upon arrival, it’s time to see what London has to offer!

Start your day with one of the most known square – Trafalgar Square. The Charing Cross tube station is located right at its entrance. Once you get there, you will see a wonderful street intersection, with two gorgeous fountains with huge sculptures around and buildings  built in a beautiful architectural style.

From there, you’ll have a clear straight view to the Big Ben (great photo opportunity!) and you’ll be able to see and visit the National Gallery, too! The gallery is free (as are most museums in London) and the portraits inside will leave you speechless! You can also take pictures inside!

After Trafalgar Square, it’s time to head to Piccadilly Circus! It’s considered London’s “Time Square.” You can take a bus or use the Tube, but I recommend walking through the streets of London to feel the real charm of the city!

You can also see the Admiralty Arch, which is close to the Trafalgar Square. Then, go straight to St James’s Park, admire the lake and see the wild geese and swans. St James’s Park is also a nice place to have lunch in the middle of your busy first day. There are lots of options in that area, especially in Covent Garden, which is a little walk away from Big Ben.

After lunch, walk to the other end of the park and you will see her Majesty’s place – The Buckingham Palace! There, you will probably spend a lot of time looking around and taking pictures, perhaps even see the Changing of the Guard. If you get tired of too many people, though, Green Park is just next to the Palace, so don’t hesitate to spend some time there relaxing.

Day 2.

If you are in London, you must visit at least a couple of museums, seeing as they are free! I recommend you start with The Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and finally, the Science Museum. They are all free to visit and are located within 2-minutes walking distance of each other.

The Natural History Museum is one of the most famous museums of England. It’s architecture is amazing and there are a lot of different exhibitions that will blow your mind!

The Victoria & Albert Museum is a unique place. Here you can find a large variety of beautiful sculptures and all kinds of large galleries. After you’ve explored the museum, you can take a break and see a real paradise – John Madejski’s Garden (Museum’s Garden). It’s hard to imagine, but surrounded outside these museum’s walls there is a truly gorgeous garden! You’re guaranteed to fall in love with it!

The Science Museum is one of those places where you can see almost everything about modern science and how it works! They even have 3D printers and all kind of intelligent machines inside. And this is only a small part of how much the museum has to offer.

After hours in museums, I bet you want to relax and have some fresh air, don’t you? This is great, because just up street from the museums is Hyde Park! There you can truly relax and admire the wonderful royal gardens and green scenery. Inside, there is the Albert Memorial, Kensington Palace and Princess Diana’s Fountain. All these wonderful things are just a wander around Hyde Park.

Day 3.

There cannot be any excuse not to visit Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and London Bridge if you’re in London. As these are the most visited places in the city, it will be better to see them on weekdays, instead of weekends.

To get to Big Ben, you should take the Tube and get off at the Westminster station, and it should be right in front of you! Once you are there, have a walk around the Westminster Abbey and The Palace of Westminster which is the Parliament and the actual Big Ben itself!

From there, you can have a nice walk on the bridge that goes directly over to the London Eye, and on the way there you can take some really nice pictures with Big Ben/London Eye in the  background! If you want to have get into the London Eye, think ahead about the tickets! The line usually is long and, depending on London weather, not always worth the wait

Once you’ve had enough of The London Eye, cross the street and the absolutely wonderful Whitehall Gardens with a great looking castle are waiting for you! This is also a really nice place to have lunch.

Finally, head on over to the next destination – the London (Tower) Bridge! Take the Tube and stop at the Tower Hill station. The walk from the Tube station to the bridge is pretty short; The Tower of London will be right in front of you at this point. Use this opportunity to take some great pictures, then you can just walk around and see the famous London Bridge among other bridges connecting the River Thames.

More things to do in London.

Not even two weeks are enough to see all the cool places in London, but if you have feel that you should see more of London, here are other things you should see:

  • Madame Tussad’s Wax museum – One of those places where you just say “WOW!” It has lots of real life-looking wax sculptures of famous personalities, and the similarities are just amazing. Definitely worth visiting if you’re into sculptures and celebrities. The tickets are around £40 to £50.
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral – A huge catholic cathedral in the middle of London. It’s beauty and size are indescribable! Tickets are around £15, but you can get in for free on Sundays during the worship ceremony.
  • Shri Swaminarayan Mandir – The biggest Hindu Temple outside of India is located in London! It sounds pretty impressing, huh? The experience you’ll get while being there will amaze you. The entry is free, but there is quite a few expositions for which you need to pay a couple pounds to get in. Plus, you cannot take any pictures inside the temple.
  • British Museum – A neat museum which will introduce you to the early history of London and humanity, until the present day. The exhibitions are interesting and the building itself is gorgeous. Prices for tickets vary  at around £15 per person, but for students, entrance is free.

London has a special charm to it and if you go there for long enough, you’ll gradually fall in love with it. Explore, wander, get lost, take pictures and enjoy your eventful trip to this awesome, historicity!

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Edy from Moldova is currently finishing up his year-long exchange at North Carolina as a FLEX Program exchange student. Follow his adventures on Instagram at @edwardxd!

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