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What you need to know about London
London is one of the world’s most visited cities – a vibrant, buzzing capital packed with history, art and leafy parks and gardens, as well as a cultural diversity and international flavour that is unique to this big city on a small island.
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London’s crackling energy and boundless creativity gets under your skin, from the magnificent museums and cultural landmarks, to the eclectic markets and ancient pubs on every corner.
From the West End to the South Bank, to the lively East End and the peaceful parks and historic palaces, you’ll be captivated by London at every turn.
The city may be steeped in British tradition, but it’s also the most international city in the world, with 300 languages and cultures creating the sights and sounds of this extraordinary metropolis. What could possibly be more wonderful?
Food and drink
There was a time when nobody had anything good to say about British cuisine, but those days are long past, and London is now renowned as one of the world’s best cities for dining and drinking.
The city has its fair share of Michelin-starred eateries, celebrity chefs and fancy bars and restaurants, but the true joy of London dining is in the round-the-world tour of global foods and modern British cuisine, from the curry houses of Brick Lane to the indie cafes and gastropubs of Chiswick, Stoke Newington, Clapham and Highbury.
The best advice for visitors is to stay away from the overpriced tourist traps of the West End; instead head to the restaurants, pubs and bars of the London villages in Zone 2 or 3, and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with locals enjoying top quality fresh produce, washed down with great wines, beers and cocktails.
You could spend days doing nothing but shopping in London, whether it’s browsing the hallowed halls of Harrods, or rummaging in the famous weekend markets on Portobello Road, Camden or Brick Lane.
The West End is where most shoppers begin their retail therapy, in the flagship outlets and department stores of Oxford Street, the designer stores of Bond Street, the bookshops of Charing Cross Road, or the cool stores and boutiques of Covent Garden.
A little further afield, Shoreditch and Spitalfields have plenty of unique fashion outlets, with markets all over the city selling antiques, fine good, furniture and fashion. Don’t miss Borough Market for fantastic organic foods!
London is one of the biggest financial centres in the world, and the most important location in Europe for international finance. The iconic landscape of Canary Wharf is home to the headquarters of HSBC, Citigroup, Credit Suisse and KPMG, along with over 500 global banks based here and in the City.
Over half of the top 100 listed companies in the UK are based in London, and 75% of the biggest global companies have offices in the city.
The historic delights of Central London are best explored on foot, but it’s a big city so you’ll need some comfortable shoes! If you need to travel further afield, the London Underground (known as The Tube), light railway and overground train network is good value, particularly if you get a pre-paid Oyster card that can be used on the city’s famous red buses too.
The river is a great way to travel - the Thames Clipper or a water taxi will whisk you to your destination in no time, taking in London’s iconic bridges along the way. London’s famous black cabs are everywhere, and cycling is increasingly popular, but there are limited cycle paths in the city so much of your riding will be done on very busy roads – definitely for experienced cyclists only.
Things to watch out for
Like the rest of the UK, London cars drive on the left and use the GP£ rather than the Euro, so if London is a stop on your European tour you’ll need to get some British pounds. Always take a black cab or pre-booked taxi home after a night out, and avoid the touts outside bars and clubs offering a ride home in unlicensed vehicles.
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