Brilliant and bacchanalian London has defined our very notion of a city - Roman walls, medieval bridges, Tudor palaces, Victorian terraces and modernist skyscrapers can all be found within this sprawling labyrinthine city. And for the bucket list traveller, London has more icons than places to put them - Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Soho and Harrods to name a few. Then there are the Michelin star restaurants, pumping nightlife scene, iconic art works, legendary bars, big name concerts and sell out theatre shows. As long as it’s not sunshine you’re after, chances are you will find it after your flight to London.
Flights to London
The weather is changeable with temperature averages that vary throughout the year across the UK. However, generally it’s a cold and damp 3°C in winter (December to February) and a warm 25-30°C (June to August) during summer
End of March to end of October
Samuel Johnson’s famous line that ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life’ is never truer than when you look at a map of Greater London. There are dozens of ways to divide Greater London’s 32 boroughs, but the Greater London Authority sees it as five distinct areas – central, east, west, north and south. You’ll probably find yourself mostly in the central London – often referred to as ‘Zone One’ - the centre of which is considered to be Charing Cross station.
West Central London, taking in the West End, Kensington and Notting Hill and extending south to Chelsea, boasts one of the highest concentrations of wealth in the world. With its Georgian terraces, magnificent museums, fantastic old pubs and breathtakingly expensive property, if you go to one place only in London, chances are it will be West Central London.
Most people start in the West End (generally thought to be the city district west of the City of London but distinct from London’s West) – the narrow cobblestone streets of funky Soho, a Shaftesbury Avenue theatre or the Roman piazza of Covent Garden, now thronged with tourists visiting the Royal Opera, the Apple market and pop-up shops. Thousands of clubs, cosy pubs, trendy cafes and eclectic boutiques line every street, as well as Chinatown for a bite to eat.
In the southwest, you will find plenty of the big draw cards like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Horse Guards, all joined together by sweeping tree lined avenues like The Mall and Birdcage Walk. And to the direct west, prestigious Belgravia, Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Mayfair, and Nothing Hill and Chelsea are located.
Shoppers can tube it straight to Knightsbridge for the big name labels and department stores or to Sloane Square’s Kings Road, snaking its way through wealthy riverside Chelsea in the city’s biggest concentration of luxury boutiques. Admire the fine Georgian townhouses along your way, and even pop into a garden or two (if it’s not private).
South of the river, you’ll find freshly gentrified suburbs like Battersea, Clapham and Wandsworth, suburban refuges for London’s priced out middle class. With parks and London’s quintessential gastropubs on every corner, they’re a great place to go for a Sunday pub lunch or stroll around the park.
Notting Hill was known for its gritty bars, alternative cafes and Jamaican culture long before its charms were amplified on the big screen with Julia Roberts and High Grant, but you’ll still find plenty of fun on its winding streets, especially on weekends when the whole area is taken over by a sprawling street market.
Heading back into the centre you can visit the sweeping Hyde Park (lots of fun on Sunday at Speaker’s Corner), elegant Kensington Palace and distinctly middle-eastern Marble Arch.
Lying to the north of central London, you’ll find countercultural Camden Town, former haunt of Amy Winehouse and epicentre of London underground life. The market at Camden Town is a classic visitor experience – with acres of open-air stalls to browse and great global food along the locks of Regent Canal.
You’ll also find literary Bloomsbury, affluent Marylebone and vibrant Clerkenwell with its historic streetscape and the old Smithfield markets, along with boutique hotels, swanky bars and exclusive restaurants.
They used to say that only those born within the sound of the Bow Church Bells were cockney, but East London now extends way beyond its humble origins as the city’s working class district. Now you’ll find swish contemporary business districts Canary Wharf, Docklands and Whitechapel in the East. It received a new surge of development with the 2012 Olympics and shops, restaurants and bars have followed to this new financial and commercial hub.
The City of London or the ‘Square Mile’ can also be considered in the east of Central and serves as the city’s main financial district. You’ll find plenty of swish bars and expensive restaurants as well as St Paul’s cathedral, the Royal Exchange and the Barbican crammed within the mediaeval walls of this former Roman settlement.
Afterwards, you can visit the nearby Tower of London, or head north to Hoxton Square and Shoreditch, official stomping ground of the East End hipster. Or keep going east along the Thames to get to GMT, the World Heritage site Greenwich, best known as the 0 meridian and a popular Sunday destination.
‘Sarf London’ includes Bankside, Borough, Lambeth, Southwark and multi-cultural Brixton within its diverse boundaries with plenty of big attractions like the Globe Theatre, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, the Tate Modern and Imperial War Museum.
Rapidly gentrifying Brixton is still at the centre of the Caribbean community and is famous for its market and street art. In the southwest, you will find polite London suburbs like Richmond Park, Kew Gardens and Wimbledon – all popular destinations on the weekend.
You’ll tick them off fast in London – British Museum, Natural History Museum, Buckingham Palace, V&A Museum, Madame Tussauds, Hyde Park, Oxford Street, the Tower of London, Big Ben, the Tate, The Eye – but there so much more to be seen. Start with the basics and then add a few more…
Eat and Drink
- Have a traditional English breakfast at the Columbia Road Flower Market
- Buy your bagels at Golders Green
- Down an ale in London’s oldest pub, the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden
- Sample a Brick Lane biryani in East London
- Sample some modern British cuisine at your local Gastropub
- Blag a table at Ivy and try not to ogle the celebrities
- See a tribute act at the Venue in New Cross
- Catch a mega act at Wembley Arena or the Barbican
- Dig the London club vibe at Plan B in Brixton
- See Madame Jojo’s kitsch cabaret show in Soho
- Finish your evening on the sidewalk tables of Bar Italia in Soho
- The incredible (and free) collection of Tate Modern
- The Wildlife garden as part of a visit to the Natural History Museum
- Take a tour of historic Greenwich from Greenwich Gateway
- Deer around your picnic at Richmond Park
- London’s public sculptures like the plinth in Trafalgar Square
- Take your kids on a donkey ride at Greenwich markets
- Walk The City by night for its medieval architecture
- See London from the top of The Shard
- Take a narrow boat cruise from Little Venice to Camden Lock
- Go walking on Hampstead Heath on Sunday
- Shop for your groceries where the Queen shops at Fortnum and Mason
- Pick up some vintage frocks on Camden Passage, Islington
- Consult a stylist at Selfridges or Harrods
- Get suited up on London’s Saville Row
Bestselling tours in London at qantas.com right now…
- London in One Day Sightseeing Tour
- The Original London Sightseeing Tour: Hop-on Hop-off
- London Pass
- Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath Day Trip
- Paris Rail Day Trip from London
- Small Group Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath Day Trip with Pub Lunch from London
- London Eye: Skip the Line Tickets
Book these or any of our huge selection of tours, activities and transfers with Qantas Activities and you'll enjoy a Price Promise and 1 point per AU$1 spent if you are a Qantas Frequent Flyer.
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Located around 22km from the city centre, you can easily connect to Paddington Station in London’s northwest via the Heathrow Airport Express, or to Victoria Station and other major hubs in the city’s south by shuttle bus. There are also shuttle buses direct to Oxford and Cambridge straight from Heathrow. If you don’t want to negotiate public transport after a long flight, our popular London Airport Private Arrival Transfer is the way to go.
Once in the city, there are plenty of options to get around in London – buses, rail, bike and of course, the eponymous Tube, a highly effective underground train network, with three and a half million journeys made on it every day. If you like to do things on your own, simply jump on the Tube (or the Hop-on Hop-off bus) armed with a handy London Pass and let the city take you where it may.
The cheapest and easiest way to get out of London to some of England’s wonderful cities and towns is with your own car hire or via overland train. If you don’t want to negotiate the sprawling circular roads of London, you might find it easier to hop onto one of our great day tours to regions like Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath , Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and Dover or Oxford, Cotswolds, Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick Castle Day Trip from London.
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