When the Romans entered British territory around AD43, their first permanent camp was called Londinium. The camp was just a remote base in the vast Roman Empire, but the fact that large ships could access it easily on the River Thames contributed to its development and prosperity.
Just 18 years after the founding of the city, Queen Boudicca pushed the Celtics to revolt against the Romans. The dead were innumerable, and Londinium was completely destroyed by fire. In the fifth century, the Romans withdrew from the city.
In the early ninth century, after struggles against Vikings and other Nordic invaders, London became the political capital of the country. Throughout the Middle Ages, the town thrived through its commercial port. The population grew, and houses and churches multiplied. But in 1650, a huge fire destroyed two-thirds of city homes—later to be rebuilt with stone and brick instead of wood.
By the early 19th century, London was the economic centre of the world thanks to the power of the British Empire. The Industrial Revolution created many jobs, and London became the noisy and colourful city so beautifully described in the novels of Charles Dickens.
During the 20th century, the two world wars halted the economic development of the city. The German bombing campaign completely destroyed the docks and other important areas, and London was forced to stop its primary business. Yet, in the years since, London has remained one of the most significant financial and cultural capitals of the world.
Spend holidays in London, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Revel in its abundance of museums, historical sites, theatres, and world-class restaurants and shopping.
London’s streets hold everything to be desired: the finest tea, quaint bookshops, markets, antiques, and more. At night, enjoy cuisine from every region of the world, as well as top-notch plays, musicals, concerts, nightclubs - and of course classic English pubs. Book a flight to London and you will not look back.
This spectacular Ferris wheel along the River Thames was added to the cityscape at the start of the 21st century. It stands 135 metres tall, offering a 360-degree view of London and beyond.
From a vantage point within one of its glass pods, you can see the Houses of Parliament, Canary Wharf, Big Ben, and Windsor Castle, among other sights. A ride on The Eye takes around 30 minutes, and, if you want to really savour the moment, can be enjoyed with a glass of champagne.
London is the shopping capital of the world, with many trendy boutiques in Covent Garden. Neal Street, which runs out of the Piazza, is probably the best street in the city for shoe shopping.
There you will also find the capital’s most popular jewellers, such as the prestigious Laura Lee. Covent Garden is also home to a marketplace that combines a food market and food hall.
Soho, known for high fashion, features many sophisticated boutiques in Carnaby Street and Kingly Court.
One of the greatest English traditions is to spend hours in a cosy, local pub watching football or reading the newspapers with a pint. A proper, traditional drinking hole is Ye Olde Mitre Tavern (1 Ely Place), which claims to date back to 1547. On weekdays this atmospheric place is usually heaving with after-office drinkers – a sure sign that the beers meet the high standards demanded by Londoners.
London is home to the world’s most exciting theatre scene, from brilliant productions of Shakespeare’s plays to contemporary dramas and musicals. In famous theatres such as the Victoria Palace Theatre, the Prince of Wales Theatre, and the Aldwych Theatre, you can see the vanguard of the world stage.
You can often buy cut-priced tickets on the day of the showing from numerous stalls on Leicester Square.
The official residence of Queen Elizabeth II is open to the general public every summer. Sumptuously decorated, the rooms include classic paintings by the likes of Rembrandt and Rubens; Sevres porcelain; and a fine collection of antique French and English furniture. Visitors also have access to the 29-acre gardens and annual temporary exhibitions.
This thousand-year-old prison, palace, and execution site has a bloody, tumultuous past. Walk the path that led Queen Anne Boleyn to her tragic beheading at the scaffold on Tower Green. Then marvel at the ‘Crowns and Diamonds’ exhibition in the Martin Tower. When walking the grounds, keep an eye out for the resident ravens - the black birds are said to keep the tower from collapsing.
This museum opened in 1759 and now holds more than seven million objects gathered from the four corners of the globe. One of the most popular exhibits is the Ancient Egypt collection, which includes the Rosetta Stone. The recently renovated and covered great courtyard has become an architectural attraction in itself.
The gallery on Trafalgar Square contains some fine examples of European art spanning almost seven centuries. The entire history of painting – from the Early Renaissance to the Post-Impressionists – is represented, including an array of instantly recognisable masterpieces.
Outside on the square, the statue of Admiral Nelson – famous for leading the British fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar – keeps watch over the city from a vantage point atop a 56 metre column.
This life- and earth-science museum boasts exhibits of dinosaurs, human biology, mammals and ecology, insects, and even a simulated earthquake experience. The annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit is also held here, while children will love the interactive science centre.
The Hyde Park Suites hotel is set in Georgian-style terraced buildings close to the delightful Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. The central location means great public transport links, which make it easy to explore interesting neighbourhoods that are further afield.
The Copthorne Tara hotel is located in a quiet section of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, an area full of chic boutiques and sophisticated restaurants. The hotel’s facilities include two restaurants, a bar, air-conditioned bedrooms, a fitness room, and 24-hour room service.
The hotel Think Apartments Earls Court is a stone’s throw from Notting Hill and the famous Portobello Market. The stylish apartments come with the latest media technology and a modern kitchen.
The Clarendon hotel is an elegant boutique hotel in Bloomsbury. The superb central location makes it easy to visit the British Museum and still have time for a trip to the shops in Covent Garden and Soho.
The stylish Grange Holborn hotel is ideally located for London’s main theatre district. The relaxing spa will make you quickly forget any aches and pains from a long day’s sightseeing.
Stay on the water’s edge in the Tower A Guoman hotel. Positioned perfectly to visit the Tower of London and photograph the iconic Tower Bridge, the hotel is also just a leisurely walk from The City of London.
For more choice, check out our London hotel offers.
Cycling is a fun, green way to explore the city. The London Bicycle Tour Company offers bike hire by the hour, day, and week. It also provides guided tours in several languages. The hourly rate for bike hire is £3.50.
London is served by five major airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and London City Airport.
The high-speed Heathrow Express train costs £16.50 and takes 15 minutes to reach Paddington Station. A slower but cheaper option is the Piccadilly Underground Line, which takes you to the city centre.
Gatwick Airport is about 25 miles from the centre. The Gatwick Express takes you to Victoria Station for £17. For the same price, the Stansted Express takes you to the Liverpool Street station.
London City Airport is located inside the city and is accessible by underground.
Finally, Luton Airport is 30 miles from the centre and is served by various bus companies. The least expensive is Easybus, whose fares start at £2.
The network of public transport in London consists mainly of buses. Take the underground when possible. It is the easiest and fastest way to get around, especially during peak hours. It stops at 12.30a.m. on weekdays and Saturdays, and 11.30p.m. on Sundays.
If you are not rushed, consider seeing the city from the top of a double-decker bus—it is a very pleasant, very “London” experience!
For more freedom within the city, or if you wish to explore the surrounding area, check out our London car hire offers. Be mindful of the congestion charge levied on vehicles that enter the centre of the city.
The Wolseley (160 Piccadilly) is a hugely popular French brasserie that was originally a 1920s car showroom. Built so extravagantly that it bankrupted Wolseley Motors, the Italian-influenced dining room is now graced with fruits de mer, steak frites, lobster bisque—and celebrities.
The historic J Sheekey (28-32 St Martin’s Court) is legendary for its delectable fresh fish and seafood. First opened in 1896 by Josef Sheekey as an oyster bar, it is now known for its Colchester oysters, Cornish cock-crab, salmon, and seabass. At weekends there is a set lunch for a reasonable price.
Hakkasan (8 Hanway Place) boasts the first Michelin star ever awarded to a Chinese restaurant. Needless to say, the food is extraordinary, consisting of Chinese staples with a Western twist. The décor is almost as impressive as the food itself, with slate walls, provocative screens, candles, and blue lighting.
The Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s (53 Brook Street) features mouth-watering creations by London’s triple Michelin-starred celebrity chef. The Art Deco dining room provides an ideal setting to savour the British-themed food and excellent service.
Arbutus (63-64 Frith Street) takes an innovative approach to Mediterranean cuisine. Simple and understated, Anthony Demetre’s cuisine has won several awards, including the coveted Michelin Star. Look for creative starters like the braised pig’s head and the squid and mackerel burger. The prices are fantastically low, considering the quality.
There are no compulsory vaccinations. However, recommended vaccinations include: tetanus, polio, pertussis, and measles. For all travellers aged over 25 who do not have a measles history and are not vaccinated, the risk must be assessed on an individual basis depending on the duration and conditions of travel.
The water is potable, and all bars and eating establishments are required to serve tap water free of charge.
The health infrastructure is excellent. The public hospitals run by the National Health Service (NHS) and the care provided by GPs are free in emergencies. Before leaving home, ask your local Social Security centre for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
In case of emergency, dial 999 or 112 (the European emergency number).
London is generally a safe place, with highly visible police patrols. However, you should not walk alone at night with showy jewellery or carrying a large quantity of cash. Also wary of pickpockets on public transport, especially the London Underground.
Keep copies of your passport and other travel essentials in case the originals are stolen or lost.
Travellers are particularly advised not to carry pocketknives or defensive sprays because if caught, you could be arrested and imprisoned or forced to pay a heavy fine.
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