Traveling to a new city can be intimidating. There are so many things to see and do, yet you have a limited amount of time to experience everything the city has to offer. When that’s the case, it’s wise to seek knowledge from people who see that city every day. Lifelong residents know the ins and outs of their city, and many are excited to share their local expertise with tourists.
London is a classic example of a city that offers an endless amount of things to soak in. However, these options can overwhelm tourists who don’t know where to start. Even worse, a lack of insight can cause tourists to overpay for their experience, leaving them with a negative view of the United Kingdom’s capital city. To avoid that, here are five do’s and don’ts that every Londoner knows.
1. Do Use St. Pancras International Station As a Hub
After undergoing a massive six-year renovation, St. Pancras reopened as a key rail station in London’s Camden borough in 2007. From here, you can take a high-speed train to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, and many other major European cities. More than 45 million people pass through St. Pancras each year. If you are arriving via train from another country, there is a good chance this is where your London experience will begin.
Even if it’s not, you can take advantage of some convenient features that service tourists at this hub, such as St. Pancras luggage storage. This allows you to store your luggage for the day if you are arriving before you can check in at your hotel. St. Pancras luggage storage also provides a smart place to store souvenirs you buy at one attraction but don’t want to haul around while you visit other sites.
2. Though It’s Cliché, You Must Do London Eye
Yes, every major city in the world seems to have an observation wheel now. That doesn’t mean London Eye isn’t special. Locals know how unique the views are, so you will see many Londoners waiting to ride to the top along with lots of out-of-towners. In fact, almost four million people ride London Eye annually, making it the busiest paid attraction in the United Kingdom.
The observation wheel allows passengers to see nearly every attraction throughout the city, and the clear views from high above the River Thames provide some memorable photos. Even if you’ve been on Ferris wheels in other cities, London Eye will feel like your first time. It’s also a good way to scout out the other places you want to see and plot the rest of your time in London.
3. Do Take Your Time to Connect With the Water
Once you complete London Eye, the surrounding area offers multiple ways to enjoy the water. Directly next to London Eye, Sea Life London Aquarium is home to many different marine species and educational exhibits. If you want to take in a natural setting for water, you can walk along the edge of the River Thames to South Bank. Only a mile away, South Bank has a variety of attractions, including Shakespeare’s Globe. Opened in 1997, this 1,400-person facility recreates Shakespeare’s original theatre, which was demolished in 1644.
4. Don’t Assume Everything Costs Money
Not far from London Eye is the Imperial War Museum. This British National Museum provides a detailed look at conflicts beginning with World War I. Since the museum was founded while World War I was still active, the exhibits contain one-of-a-kind accounts given by people who lived through that era. With six floors and enough information to keep a history buff entertained for hours, you might be surprised to learn that admission is free.
5. Don’t Forget to Find Peace and Quiet During the Day
Two iconic places give locals a site to escape the fast pace of the city. Jubilee Gardens is a public park that was created in 1977 to recognize Silver Jubilee of Elizabeth II. It received substantial investment and redevelopment in 2012 ahead of the Summer Olympics in the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
Another option for some serenity may be St. Paul’s Cathedral. Located on the other side of the River Thames, this famous structure held Charles and Diana’s wedding along with Winston Churchill’s funeral. It remains an active church with daily services, which you can attend for free.
Londoners have a right to be proud of their city. It hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics and commonly welcomed more than 20 million international visitors each year before the pandemic. Although the locals have many other tricks for making the most of your time in London, the five listed above will give you some key guidelines as you plan your trip.