London is my favorite city in the world and it's a place that draw me back to it again and again. My first trip to London at the age of 19 was my first solo trip anywhere. I found a homestay program in one of my guidebooks and so I spent my first several days staying on the outskirts of London near Ealing Broadway. Each morning the older lady I was staying with would come into my room and place a cup of tea by my bedside and then wake me up so I could have breakfast and start my day of sight-seeing. It was like having my own British grandmother.
On that first trip to the UK, which was three weeks long, I was supposed to spend a week in London and then the rest of the time in Liverpool with a pen pal of mine. Well, after traveling up to Liverpool and spending two days with him, I determined we really weren't such great friends after all, so I spontaneously decided to take the ferry from Liverpool to Dublin and make my way to County Galway to see some of my family. Partly, I wanted to go to Ireland. And partly, I just wanted to get away from my penpal and couldn't afford a whole week on my own in England, so family to the rescue!
After a great week in Galway with my relatives who lived out in the middle of nowhere I went back to London for a few more days and ended up staying with some relatives there I didn't even know I had.
One of the funny things about that entire trip was that every single day I was in London it rained. The only time it didn't rain was the week I spent in Ireland.
Other trips to London
After the success of my first trip to London,I was back over there again in 1987. This time I went with some friends of mine at college. We were going to the World Science Fiction Convention in Brighton, England, but we scheduled several extra days around it so we flew into Paris, spent a few days there, took the train/ferry to England, spent several nights in Earls Court, London and then went to the convention down at the Brighton coast.
While at the Convention I met my Australian ex-husband-to-be (*g*) and that led to a return to London in 1988, this time for six months. During that trip I was actually living and working in London. I worked for British Gas and my then-boyfriend worked for British Telecom.
After that trip, I moved to Australia and didn't return to London until after returning to the US permanently so it was about six years before I got to see my favorite city again. Since getting back to the US in 1994, I've been back three times, but it's now been about 3 or 4 years. Between airfares and the exchange right I haven't found the right time to go, but I'm always on the look out for deals :)
More about London
- The London Underground
My hub about using the London Transport System -- known as the London Underground or Tube.
- Where to Stay in London
Where you stay in London in large part depends on what you plan on doing in London while you are there. Here's my neighborhood picks!
- London Theatre Tickets
One of the best reasons to visit London is the theatre. I'm obsessed with it, so I've put together a short resource guide.
When it comes to touring London and what sights you should see, I'm the worst possible person to ask. I didn't even get around to visiting the Tower of London until my fifth trip to the UK. I hitchhiked all the way to Stonehenge and then stayed outside the gate because I thought the tickets were too expensive. There are dozens of high profile museums I've never visited. I spend most of my time shopping, eating, visiting and drinking with friends, and going to the theatre.
During the six months that I lived in London, we went to the theatre every weekend and I always cram in at least one or two shows while there. I've seen Derek Jacobi play Richard II and Richard II, Ralph Fiennes in Ivanov, Rowan Atkinson in Chekhov's The Sneeze, and Diana Rigg in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. The list goes on and on. If you want to see amazing actors in great productions, London is the place to do it and tickets are cheaper than Broadway for comparable seats.
On my last trip to London, I actually spent two days holed up with some friends of mine in their apartment drinking vodka and watching episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I'd already seen at home. And my first night of that trip was spent holed up in my hotel room talking to another British friend of mine on the phone all night long. So I tend to treat London more like a place I live than a place to visit as a tourist *g* I go to just be there because when I'm there I feel like I am in the place I was meant to be. It feels like home to me.
That said though, I do have some favorite neighborhoods and areas to just hang out and soak in the atmosphere. Here are some of my favourite places in London.
One of my favorite neighborhoods is Knightsbridge, home of Harrods and Harvey Nicks (Harvey Nichols, to those of you who don't watch Absolutely Fabulous). In my 20s I rarely spent any time in Knightsbridge, much preferring Sloane Square and Kings Road with all it's punk shops and antique stores. But over time my tastes have changed so I tend to visit Knightsbridge at some point. The Food Hall alone at Harrods is worth the trip and I rarely make it beyond the first floor. I also usually go to Harvey Nichols for lunch. They have a great restaurant there and I'll pick up a couple of bottles of wine at Harvey Nichols as well. Across from Harrods is the Burberry store and I always go inside to drool over all their great handbags. I love the Burberry plaid, but I'm way too cheap to ever buy it!
Leicester Square Signpost
Piccadilly Circus and the West End
To my mind, Piccadilly Circus is the absolute heartbeat of London. It is to London what Times Square is to New York City. It is noisy, bold and brash. Huge neon signage crowds up against buildings that are hundreds of years old and all day long and late into the night it is just jammed with humanity. Be sure to go into Virgin Records as well. If you visit Picadilly Circus and don't visit Virgin Records you are a crazy person.
If your intention is just to wander on foot for awhile I think Piccadilly Circus is a great place to start because it is the hub of a spoked wheel that stretches out into Leicester Square, Soho, and Regent Street, and then Oxford Street. Most of the major theatres are an easy walk from here, as are Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross Road, Shaftsbury Ave and Covent Garden. On any visit to London I spend most of my time in this immediate area, and broadly the entire area referred to as London's West End.
I visit Leicester Square to check the half-price tickets board for the theatre or to see a movie (this is where all the big celebrity premieres take place), Soho for shopping and dining, Charing Cross Road for bookstores and theatres, Covent Garden and the surrounding area for more shopping and eating. This is where I'll end up buying touristy knickknacks to take home, and then Regent Street for yet more shopping. Occasionally I will also wander up into Oxford Street, but I tend to spend less time there because the shops on Oxford Street are more or less akin to the shops you'd find in any American mall, i.e. they are chain stores. Also, Oxford Street is usually so crowded that I start to get edgy and annoyed.
Have I mentioned that I love to shop? I don't even really buy that much when I visit London. I jut like to look at everything. I don't cram this all into one day though I do tend to spend a lot of time crossing back and forth across Leicester Square.
SANTHIYA LEE CHEW FONG on May 18, 2019:
it is so interesting to hear..
talfonso from Tampa Bay, FL on March 03, 2017:
It's OK if you seem like a terrible person to be asked about suggested attractions in London, but this Hub is so interesting. The next time you want to visit Stonehenge, there are tours that combine it with some side trips. In October 2015, I did that right after a stop at Windsor Castle, followed by a pub lunch at Lacock, then we stopped at Bath before returning to London. Have you been to St. Paul's Cathedral? The first time I was visiting there, I heard strains of an organist (softly) practicing Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in G Minor, and I was reminding myself several times that the BGM wasn't a CD playing in the background!
Miryana on October 26, 2012:
I have never been to London but despite that, London is the city of my dreams . I have always wanted to visit it and if I had an opportunity to do so, I think I would feel at home.
ivan mike on March 13, 2012:
damn i dont know what to say im from angola but i love london i wish one day go back to see this lovely city miss you london
bibi on September 27, 2011:
london its beautiful city ................................I LOVE IT
leeroper from UK on May 11, 2011:
Check out tfl.gov.uk for great London travel information whether you travel by bus, bike, over ground or underground.
Marwan Asmar from Amman, Jordan on April 25, 2011:
What a place, so big, so awsome, so thrillingly beautiful. I first came to London in 1969, and the relationship with it continued on and off in the 1970s and 1980s, sneaking on odd days to the city, going for weekends. I remember it all, but mostly I remember my aching feet because of the incredible amount of walking I had to do to such awesome places, institutions, parks and off course the Underground. I feel at home in London even if I left it for 50 years.
MellowDayLondon from South Africa on February 07, 2011:
Great Hub. This made me smile just as much as when I read Bill Bryson. Thanks for sharing this with everyone :)
hypnosis4u2 from Massachusetts on January 11, 2011:
I grew up in Stratford-Upon-Avon and then lived in London and then moved to U.S. The theatre was my favorite as well. Few years ago we took my sons to London and went to the Eye and Covent Garden and Tower of London. Basically, did all the stuff we didn't do when we lived there. You gave a non-tourist perspective - great job.
Descartes from grand prairie on December 05, 2010:
I've only been to London twice, but I loved it while I was there and I am always thinking about that next trip. This is a great Hub with lots of useful info.
lazy pixie on November 27, 2010:
I agree London is the best of the best. Simply put we have everything life can throw at us, and we love every minute
Beatriz Maia on November 08, 2010:
Olá (it's hi in portuguese) ! I am a 14 years old girl , and i 've been to London before. It's an astonishing place to visit. It has a great landscape. I was astonished with that ! It is unreal !
I love you , London People
Rose West from Michigan on October 25, 2010:
I can't wait to make it to London someday! What particularly excited me in your hub was the part about the theater. That must have been fabulous!
lex123 on September 16, 2010:
London is an amazing city, and I loved my stay there, and visited several places.
NIJAT/Bannu/Pakistan on July 01, 2010:
London is the city i can ever forget.I had a marvelous experience of living there.The place which fascinated me much is the peacefulness.
Nijat Bannu/Pakistan on July 01, 2010:
London is just amazing!
acossairt21 from Indiana on June 04, 2010:
Great hub! I enjoyed reading about your experiences in London.
Investor Dean on May 24, 2010:
A very nice hub. Lived there for 45 years so know the place inside out. Now in New Zealand and although I love the country... I miss the history of London.
MAMBORD from spain on May 21, 2010:
YES. Emptica. London is a dream become true, is a walk through the park, and a night spent by the river. London is the roof, and a lot of night which join to the days....
Thanks a lot.
DustinsMom from USA on April 30, 2010:
A wonderful hub about London. Stonehenge is on my bucket list. Great photos.
ceholmes from Chicago on April 12, 2010:
I never saw Stonehenge while I was over there. When I go back, it will be a must-see!!
Amez from Houston, Texas on March 24, 2010:
Wow Just an unbelivable Hub, you almost make it come alive and have me looking at my saving account to see just when I might beable to go. I not gone to europe in years, and I've always wanted to visit London. Thank you for sharing your visits in such detail. ED
nettech from London (UK) on March 14, 2010:
Generally London is an absolutely wonderful city, if you're a tourist...lol, architecturally it is fantastic, contraray to one of the posts above. The great thing is that everything is literally on your doorstep, if you want to eat out, shopping, nightlife etc. The only problem are the taxes...lol, however it is certainly one of the most multicultural cities in the world where pretty much everything is available.
londonforkids from London on March 13, 2010:
There's something very special about London: from its history to its energetic (but still a bit reserved) inhabitants, like me! I moved to London years ago and can honestly say that I have yet to break the surface of what it offers.
One of my favourite things to do is to go to the Affordable Art Fair in Battersea. It costs GPB15 per person and the, mostly unknown artists, sell their best pieces for a song when you consider the amount of time and passion they've spend on them!
William K Wallace from London on February 16, 2010:
I think the heady mix of century old buildings along with the modern monsters is what makes this city such an exctiting, vibrant and unqiue city to live in. London is the coolest city on the planet.
Emma (author) from Boston on December 21, 2009:
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think the architectural mess of London is part of what makes it interesting. It helps reveal how much history the city has, like the rings on a tree.
Linnit from London on December 21, 2009:
London is far from beautiful, in my view, but that might be because I live there. It's not a beautiful city. It has lots of other good points but architecturally it is a mess. It simply doesn't compare to Edinburgh.
tonyhubb on October 31, 2009:
London is beautiful!!
Emma (author) from Boston on October 29, 2009:
Scotland is lovely, and so are some of the other parts of Britain. I've been all over. But if you prefer to spend your time in large metropolitan cities, which many people do, then London is it. I don't see what is so puzzling about that.
Jon Green from Frome, Somerset, UK on October 29, 2009:
Hi. I'm always puzzled by people that like London so much - I think it's sometimes because they haven't seen Scotland or Bath and the West country.I have some friends from the USA who really like it here. Yes,Stonehenge is a complete rip-off, but Avebury is free - and stunning for the neolithic experience.
Gigs21888 on October 05, 2009:
I have been to london once before and want to move there. What are some ways maybe, aside from applying for a visa, that I may be able to move there and live?? Anyone?
gwennies pen on August 17, 2009:
Oh, how I wish I could go there...I have always been intrigued with it. Had a good friend from Blackheath, London. Maybe someday I will visit such a great city!
swiftman from At Sea on June 14, 2009:
London is great if you love the fast life. I loved london after living there for 22 years. After that I moved to Spain.
LondonGirl from London on January 24, 2009:
I've lived in London my entire life, and never been to Harrods (-:
RVilleneuve from Michigan on January 21, 2009:
Thanks embitca, my friend is going in April. I will pass this along to her. Nice Hub.
einron from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA on May 23, 2008:
I love London and have lived in London for three years and I lived in Highgate, on the Northern Line of the subway (underground).
Isn't it odd that TravelMonkey mentioned Highgate cemetery as being wonderdul?What a coincidence! Karl Marx, father of Marxist philosophy, Communism was buried in Highgate.
I recollect that Nell Gywn, mistress of Charles II was also buried in Highgate.
Good hub! Will be your fan!
TravelMonkey from United Kingdom on April 24, 2008:
Panic on the streets of London! Yes this city is fabulous - highgate cemery is winderful. Swim in the ponds on a hot summer's day. Magic!