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London is an enormous city. It is divided into thirty-two boroughs, although information on this page is divided between districts, inner boroughs and outer boroughs of the city. These district and borough articles contain sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Greater London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London that, together with the office of the Mayor of London, form the basis for London's local government. The Mayor of London is elected by London residents and should not be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London. The names of several boroughs, such as Westminster or Camden, are well-known, others less so, such as Wandsworth or Lewisham. This traveller's guide to London recognises cultural, functional and social districts of varying type and size:
Vibrant historic district made famous by a group of turn-of-the-century writers and for being the location of the British Museum, the University of London and numerous historic homes, parks, and buildings. Part of the Borough of Camden.
City of London
The City is where London originally developed within the Roman city walls and is a city in its own right, separate from the rest of London. One of the most important financial centres in the world with modern skyscrapers standing next to medieval churches on ancient street layouts.
One of the main shopping and entertainment districts. Incorporates some of London's theatreland. Part of the City of Westminster and Borough of Camden.
Buffer zone between London's West End and the City of London financial district, home to the Inns of Court
West End district comprising Leicester Square, Chinatown, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus and the centre of London's cinema and theatre land
Some extremely well-heeled districts of west central London and most of the city's premier shopping street
Notting Hill-North Kensington
Lively market, interesting history, the world famous carnival and diverse population
Largely residential district of northwest central London with lots of mid-range accommodation
Dense concentration of highly fashionable restaurants, cafés, clubs and jazz bars, as well as London's gay village
South side of the river Thames with good views of the city, several theatres and the London Eye
An extremely well-heeled inner London district with famous department stores, Hyde Park, many museums and the King's Road
A city in its own right, the seat of government and an almost endless list of historical and cultural sights, such as Buckingham Palace, The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.
Inner London Areas
a diverse area of inner north London which includes eclectic Camden Town
a traditional working class heartland of inner London to the east of The City made famous by countless movies and TV shows, and home to trendy bars, art galleries and parks, especially in the Shoreditch, Hoxton, Old Street area. Now redeveloped and world famous as the setting for London 2012 Olympic Games.
on the pretty southern banks of the Thames, home of the Greenwich Meridian, Observatory and the National Maritime Museum
Hackney has risen the ranks and become fashionable in recent decades and is home to a thriving arts scene as well as many trendy, cafés bars and pubs.
Hammersmith and Fulham
Borough in west London with a diverse population and the home of the BBC, plus a hotbed for professional football
Bohemian and literary north London and the wonderful open spaces of Hampstead Heath
Area to the north of Clerkenwell which has undergone huge gentrification since 1990
a diverse Caribbean-flavoured district to the south of the Thames which includes the buzzing, bright-lights of Brixton
inner southern districts of London, traditionally residential, with a large melting pot of communities. The area retains some leftfield, quirky attractions. You can just about find a resturant from any ethnic group in the world too.
grand Thames-side areas and open green parks in the north and dense housing in south
The City and Westminster
If you ask a Londoner where the centre of London is, you are likely to get a wry smile. This is because historically London was two cities: a commercial city and a separate government capital.
However, the point from which distances to "London" are measured is in Trafalgar Square, where the original Charing Cross stood.
The commercial capital was the City of London. This had a dense population and all the other pre-requisites of a medieval city: walls, a castle (The Tower of London), a cathedral (Saint Pauls), a semi-independent City government, a port and a bridge across which all trade was routed so Londoners could make money (London Bridge).
Despite varied weather patterns, the city has an unfair reputation for being drizzly, grey and rainy. This is mostly an unfounded belief. In fact, London enjoys a drier climate than the rest of United Kingdom (and a warmer one) due to it having its own urban microclimate. On average, only one in three days will bring rain and usually then only for a short period. In some cases, 2010 being a well-known example, the city can go without rain for several weeks, leading to hosepipe bans across the city.
London's second airport, also serving a large spectrum of places world-wide. It is the world's busiest single runway airport and is split into a North and South Terminal. The two terminals are linked by a free shuttle train. The train station is located in the South Terminal. To get to the centre of the city, there are various rail options and two bus options; please note the wide range of prices.
Stansted (STN) is London's third airport, and is dominated by the two low-cost airlines EasyJet and Ryanair who use the airport as a hub, as well as holiday charter airlines Thomson and Pegasus. Stansted also accommodates a few other scheduled carriers within Europe and a small number of inter-continental flights.
London City Airport
A commuter airport close to the City's financial district, and specialising in short-haul business flights to other major European cities. There are a growing number of routes to holiday destinations including Malaga, Ibiza and Majorca. There is also a business class only flight to New York JFK operated by British Airways.
London is the hub of the British rail network - every major city in mainland Britain has a frequent train service to the capital, and most of the smaller, provincial cities and large towns also have a direct rail connection to London of some sort - although the frequency and quality of service can vary considerably from place to place.
London is the hub of the UK's road network and is easy to reach by car, even if driving into the centre of the city is definitely not recommended. Greater London is encircled by the M25 orbital motorway, from which nearly all the major trunk routes to Scotland, Wales and the rest of England radiate. The most important are listed below.
London has one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Despite residents' constant, and sometimes justified, grumbling about unreliability, public transport is often the best option for getting anywhere for visitors and residents alike.
In central London use a combination of the transport options listed below - and check your map! In many cases you can easily walk from one place to another or use the buses. Don't be a Londoner and only use the tube as a way of travelling longer distances - you're here to see London - you can't see it underground!
By tube / underground 11 colour-coded lines cover the central area and suburbs, run by TfL.
By Docklands Light Railway (DLR) Runs only in the east of the city, providing links with London City Airport, Canary Wharf/Docklands, Stratford (For Westfield Stratford City and the Olympic site) and Greenwich, privately run but part of TfL's network.
By boat Commuter boats and pleasure cruises along the River Thames, privately run but part of TfL's network.
Airport Express Rail services run to Heathrow, Gatwick, Southend, Stansted and Luton airports. The trains to Heathrow are privately operated and require a premium fare. The trains to the other airports are part of the UK rail network, but are beyond the TfL network, so Oyster is not valid.
By tram (Tramlink) A tram service that operates only in southern suburbs around Wimbledon and Croydon.
By Overground Orange-coloured lines circling the northern suburbs; connecting Stratford (For Westfield Stratford City and the Olympic site) with Richmond Upon Thames.
Oyster is a contactless electronic smartcard run by Transport for London. In general, Oyster is the more cost effective option than paper tickets if you plan to be in London for any more than a couple of days, or if you intend to make return visits to the city - the savings quickly recover the initial purchase cost.
London is a surprisingly compact city, making it a walker's delight and walking is often the quickest method of transport.
The city is incredibly well signposted so it is very easy to find your way round by foot.
Because Britain drives on the left hand side of the road, for most foreign visitors it can be all too easy to forget that traffic will come at you from the opposite direction than you are used to when crossing a street - for this reason remember to look right when you cross the road.
Particularly on Central London's busiest streets, it is easy to spot native Londoners as they are able to weave in and out of the large crowds at fast speed. Refrain from walking slowly in tight spaces to avoid annoying any fast walking people that may be trying to pass.
London's iconic red buses are recognized the world over, even if the traditional Routemaster buses, with an open rear platform and on-board conductor to collect fares, have been phased out. These still run on Heritage Route 15 daily between about 09:30 and 18:30, every 15 minutes. Buses are generally quicker than taking the Tube for short trips.
What to see
London is a huge city, so all individual listings are in the appropriate district articles and only an overview is presented here.
The first landmark that any tourist should make a beeline for is any that allows them to get an aerial view of the city. This allows you to familiarize yourself with all of London's landmarks at once, as well as offering stunning views of the capital. This means a visit to either the London Eye, the Shard or the Monument:
The London Eye is the world's largest observation wheel, standing at 135 metres over London's Southbank.
Directly across the river from the cathedral are two London landmarks that offer insight into two very different eras in London's past. Crossing on Millennium Bridge from St Paul's you will see Shakespeare's Globe and the Tate Modern.
Following this river west, you come to perhaps London's most famous landmark -- Big Ben, part of the Palace of Westminster, although the clock tower is technically called the Elizabeth Tower.
Whilst in the Westminster area, Buckingham Palace is a must-see. The official London residence of the Queen, it is open for tours during the summer months only. Even when it is closed to the public, the regular 'changing of the guard' is a big tourist draw, a celebration of British pageantry that dates back to 1660.
Buckingham Palace - The official London residence of the Queen, also in Westminster. Open for tours during the summer months only, but a must-see sight even if you don't go in.
Marble Arch is a white Carrara marble monument designed by John Nash. It is located in the middle of a huge traffic island at one of the busiest intersections in central London where Oxford St meets Park Lane in Mayfair. It used to stand in front of Buckingham Palace, before it was moved to its present location.
Piccadilly Circus is one of the most photographed sights in London. The statue of Eros stands proudly in the middle while the north eastern side is dominated by a huge, iconic neon sign.
St Paul's Cathedral, also in the City, is Sir Christopher Wren's great accomplishment, built after the 1666 Great Fire of London - the great dome is still seated in majesty over The City. A section of the dome has such good acoustics that it forms a "Whispering Gallery".
Tower Bridge - Is the iconic 19th century bridge located by the Tower of London near the City. It is decorated with high towers and features a drawbridge; you can visit the engine rooms and a Tower Bridge exhibition.
Tower of London - Situated just south east of the City, is London's original royal fortress by the Thames. It is over 900 years old, contains the Crown Jewels, guarded by Yeoman of the Guard and is a World Heritage site.
The 'green lungs' of London are the many parks, great and small, scattered throughout the city including Hyde Park, St James Park and Regent's Park. Most of the larger parks have their origins in royal estates and hunting grounds and are still owned by the Crown, despite their public access.
Despite a reputation as 'the Big Smoke', a sprawling urban metropolis of concrete, and London is surprisingly green. In fact, London is 47% green space, spread out amongst some of Europe's most beautiful parks.
Most of the biggest began as royal estates and/or hunting grounds, and are still owned by the Crown. These so-called 'Royal Parks' cover 5,000 acres, and are all free to enter at any time. There are eight Royal Parks, which are:
Hyde Park and adjoining Kensington Gardens make up a huge open space in central London and are very popular for picnics.
Regent's Park is wonderful open park in the northern part of central London.
St James's Park has charming and romantic gardens ideal for picnics and for strolling around. St. James's Park is situated between Buckingham Palace on the west and Horse Guards Parade on the east.