The Best London Tips From Our Readers
I've got a lovely bunch of
Each Monday on Hack Your City, we ask readers for your best tips on a city: driving tips, restaurant recs, things to do, and any other advice for visitors and locals. Then on Thursday, we present the best comments. We're working our way around the U.S. and around the globe.
Places to Go
has several good suggestions, including a church to visit:
I recommend a church service in one of the old churches in London. My personal favorite is Temple Church (unsurprisingly enough at the end of the Strand near Temple tube stop.) It's a 12th-century church built by the Knights Templar in the round style that they were somewhat famous for. The acoustics are amazing and the late morning service usually has an all-male choir that shouldn't be missed.
Kate L suggests some less-obvious museums:
Yes, go to the big beasts like the V&A and the Science Museum, but also go to Dennis Severs house, to learn what London was like back in the day, in a completely original way, go to Sigmund Freud's house, to learn what he was really like and visit the Leighton House Museum to see amazing art and sculpture and the cartoon museum to see childhood favourites and new and interesting satirists.
London looks amazing from above. Do You Like Kipling? knows a good vantage point:
Skip the London Eye and head to the Sky Garden. It's free (you just have to make a reservation). It's the top of an office building with an amazing indoor garden that overlooks all of London. There's a open air terrace and a bar that has the most beautiful cocktails.
Try some of these restaurants, recommended by
. (There's a lot more in their original comment.)
For great Indian food, go to Dishoom, there are a few dotted around. Their breakast naan is an excellent way to start the day. More authentic South Asian food but in grimier surroundings can be found at Tayyabs or Lahore Kebab House, in Whitechapel, just east of the city.
Ranoush Juice (in various locations) does great Lebanese food and shawarma at reasonable prices. Some gastro pubs do good food but they're expensive. For a quick and reasonably healthy lunch, find a branch of Leon.
Reader asulliv12 suggests some historical attractions:
Hidden London tours : Awesome tours of disused tube stations and other cool parts of underground London. Operated by the London Transport Museum, these sell out quickly.
Go swimming, says themegalosaurus :
If it's summer, the must-do best thing in London (I think) is to go swimming in the ponds on Hampstead Heath. There are men's, women's or mixed ponds, it costs a couple of quid and it's a completely unique experience. There are no lockers though so leave your valuables at home.
Here's a clever hack. Get a 2-for-1 deal to some popular tourist attractions, says MrBarraclough :
National Rail gives out a booklet called the Days Out Guide for free at all rail stations, just ask at a ticket counter. In the back are these 2-for-1 admissions coupons good for the places featured in the guide, such as the Tower of London, Kew Gardens, etc. To use one of the coupons, you need to have a ticket from any National Rail affiliated railway dated that same day.
There's no requirement that the ticket actually be used, and any ticket bearing the National Rail logo will do (so the Tube or the DLR don't count). A single one-way, nonrefundable ticket from Waterloo to Richmond, for example, is about £4.80, and it qualifies (actual train ticket, not an Underground fare, mind). Places like the Tower charge upwards of £24, so that £5 ticket to Richmond or wherever just outside the city is well worth it.
The only hassle is that you can't buy qualifying tickets just at any Tube stop, it has to be one of the major ones that also has National Rail services. But chances are, you're going to be passing through one of the major stations like Paddington, Waterloo, London Bridge, King's Cross, etc. anyway.
Reader cesariojpn found a quick guide to getting from the airport into town:
The Tube is the best way to get around the city, unless you're close enough to walk, says
You always choose the Underground! The bus service is excellent, but you'll always be quicker on the Tube, even with changing lines, although don't expect any personal space. The buses are the best way to go if you're heading out towards the suburbs or in the gaps between lines.
However, be aware of the actual distances between Tube stations. When I was working in South Ken, we used to get a laugh at the Americans queuing to get the Tube up to Knightsbridge - the next stop - for Harrods. You spend 5 minutes walking down to the platform, two minutes travelling, another 5 minutes getting back to the surface and end up 5 minutes walk from where you started.
Cabs are handy for the "last mile" of a journey, but the huge number of one-way streets in the center of the city mean the trip can be a lot more "roundabout" than you expect.
Get the international transit app CityMapper, says
Yay for CityMapper! I cannot recommend that app enough for navigating London. While the Tube may be managable for mere human intellect, making effective use of the buses is impossible for a tourist without the help of CityMapper.
And even for those who can navigate the Tube pretty well unaided, the estimated
traveltimes feature is great for figuring out when you need to leave your hotel to get to your destination on time.
CakeBurner has tips for accessible London travel:
Went to London this past summer and learned a lot while I was there. We needed accessible routes, so we had a unique requirement there. The Underground is awesome and the workers EXTREMELY helpful. Not all Underground stations are accessible, but ALL of the buses are.
General rule of thumb we found: Use the Plan a Journey site . It's a life-saver. Also, if the ride on a bus is going to be more than about 25 minutes, take the Underground.
Don't hold up the line, says
It is NOT necessary to wait for the gates to close before holding your Oyster card on the yellow reader until it beeps. Realistically you're only saving seconds on your journey but as a Londoner it becomes quite grating getting held up behind tourists that do the whole waiting game.
Don't get run over, says panthercougar :
Remember to look to your right when crossing a street since traffic travels on the opposite side of the road. I was surprised how hard this was to get used to as a pedestrian when I spent some time in the UK.
"In London, the pedestrian does NOT have the right of way," adds asulliv12 .
We'll leave you with some last quick tips:
- Campus pubs are allowed to sell booze cheaper than the usual legal limit, says There Are Four Lights . But you'll need a student to get you in, says parkylondon .
- "Buy a UK sim card with a data plan and use Google maps," says another_average_joe . "UK cell service is much better and cheaper than US."
If you don't have a chip-and-PIN card yet, get one, says
- "We're not a tipping culture," says JoeMak . An optional 10% service charge is usually added to your bill anyway."
- London's train system is divided into zones. "If you stay at a hotel outside Zone 1 (or even close to outside Zone 1, like Earl's Court), you can save a bunch of money," says pF5a .
- Remember that London is closer to the North Pole than any major U.S. city except Anchorage. CakeBurner visited in the summer: "The sun didn't go down until about 10:30 PM and was back up at 3:30 AM. That definitely took some getting used to."
- "Find the nearest Konditor & Cook shop and order their curly wurly brownie," says LL365 . "And visit The Regency cafe for breakfast near Horseferry Road and pretend you're in a Guy Richie film."
That's it! Read more in the original post , and leave your own tips below.
Come back Tuesday for the next Hack Your City, when we're coming back to America, getting tips for a Midwest city known for going around in circles.