After driving over 700 miles through the Alps the previous ten days, I was ready to return the rental car and rely on walking and public transportation. In Switzerland, we made the drive to Zurich from Lucerne to catch a flight to one of my favorite cities, London.
Instead of flying into the massive Heathrow Airport, we chose to fly into the tiny London City Airport. It’s located right on the Thames, east of Canary Wharf. Unfortunately this airport only offers flights to a handful of European cities. But unlike Heathrow, clearing customs and getting to public transportation is a breeze. I purchased enough fare to use the Underground to get me around for a few days. After dropping bags off at the hotel I wasted no time getting out to wander.
London is a very bustling city, especially during the weekdays when workers commute from the suburbs into the central business district. On top of that, the hoards of tourists can also be somewhat daunting. And for this reason, I find the best time to walk around a big city is at sunrise, well before the commuters hit and the tourists emerge. It’s amazing how much a city transforms when you and a few others seem to be the only ones occupying it.
Along The Thames
I love strolling along the Embankment of the Thames to see the great views of the skyline and landmarks. I find myself purposely crossing the bridges that cross the river several times as I walked between Westminster and Tower Bridge. Waterloo bridge is located at a bend in the river and the views here are probably best.
But for a birds-eye view of the city, you’ll want to consider the London Eye. While it’s an expensive tourist trap and not something I would typically recommend to someone who really wanted an authentic London experience, it’s worth doing once.
One of my favorite buildings in London is St. Paul’s cathedral. While a church has existed here since the 7th century, the present day church was built after the Great London Fire in 1666. St. Paul’s has been standing prominently in the London skyline since then despite being damaged during the Blitz of World War II. At 365 feet tall, the church is one of the tallest dome buildings in the world and was the tallest building in the city until the 1960’s.
Buildings & Architecture
If you are a history lover like me, London is about as good as it gets. London is full of beautiful buildings and architecture. There’s almost too many to see all of them but, there’s no shortage of historical structures to see. From the old roman-built walls built in the 2nd century to White Tower built by William the Conqueror after assuming the Crown in the 11th century, the city itself is a Museum.
But stepping inside one of the city’s more traditional museums is enlightening and eye pleasing. I love the exhibits at the large museums in London, the buildings themselves are also a work of art. The interiors of some of these buildings are in many cases just as or more impressive than the outside.
While the Eyeand Big Ben receive a lot of attention, I would urge you to seek the off-beaten path. Strolling around the slightly less touristy areas to the north like SoHo, Notting Hill, etc. really show you what London is about. The neighborhoods of London are well defined and have their own unique characteristics and offerings. There is no shortage of dining options in the city. And honestly, Indian food is really what you should be looking for as it beats traditional British cuisine hands down.
London is quite accustomed to foreigners and the city itself is a melting pot of cultures. It’s pretty easy to blend in if you know how to get around. And speaking of getting around, London has an efficient subway system called the Underground. It will get you to just about anywhere in the city. The city is also well known for their red double-decker buses which are also not a bad way to see the city let alone get around with. You can use credit cards almost everywhere here and there really wasn’t much need for cash.
Wrapping It Up
This wasn’t my first visit to London and definitely won’t be my last. Although its expensive, it’s a fairly convenient city to get to and get around. It’s a city which is continuously changing and growing. It is interesting to watch the city hold on to its history while incorporating modern additions. My hope however is that the city will keep its charm and not change too much.
It’s been fun to share my experience traveling through parts of Europe. I’ve also been busy taking lots of photos this summer a little closer to home in Utah. I’m looking forward to sharing those pictures here soon! Stay tuned…