London is a genuinely global city, serving as a destination for business and leisure travellers in their millions every year. In fact, during 2016 – the latest year for which figures are available – a record number of overseas visitors chose to come to London, pushing the numbers higher than 19 million for the first time. The diversity and scale of London means that every individual visitor will arrive looking for something different.
The key to getting the most out of any visit, particularly a shorter visit, is to realise that you can’t possibly see and do everything that London has to offer. Even attempting to do so in a city in which it is virtually impossible to turn a corner without chancing upon a world famous tourist attraction will mean you spend most of your time rushing from place to place, rather than savouring the city itself. Like many great cities, London is a collection of different areas, districts and iconic streets, each offering its own distinct appeal. The following is just a brief guide to some of the best parts of London to head for if you’re looking for the finest options in particular fields of interest:
Whether you’re looking for high street names or designer one-offs, and no matter what kind of budget you’re working with, London offers the widest possible range of shopping options. Oxford Street is where you’ll find the flagship stores of some of the world’s leading brands, from the legendary and upmarket offer of Selfridges to the cheap and cheerful bargains at Primark. With more than 300 shops in total, Oxford Street is virtually bound to contain what you’re looking for, and if you want to escape from the inevitable crowds then escape to side streets such as Berwick Street, where you’ll find an interesting selection of independent traders offering quirkier and less mainstream items.
If you want to treat someone to an upmarket gift or simply indulge in a little high end window shopping then head for Bond Street and Mayfair. This is the luxury face of London, where high performance sports cars glide along the roads and designer names such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Tiffany and Co. tempt residents and visitors alike to indulge in some seriously pricey retail therapy. Visitors enjoying a quick break in London, who want to soak up some undeniably British atmosphere, should check out the likes of Carnaby Street and Covent Garden whilst, if your taste leans toward the alternative and exotic, a quick trip to Camden market is recommended.
London contains one of the most famous theatre districts in the world in the shape of the West End. This is the heart of the city’s entertainment and culture offer, and the shows in iconic theatres here range from lavish musicals to cutting edge stand-up comedy and the best new drama. If you’re looking for something more challenging then find out what’s playing at the National Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames, whilst, if you’re in London during the Summer, you can revel in open air productions in venues such as Regents Park and the legendary Globe Theatre.
There are specialist museums in very part of London, offering a fascinating record of topics as diverse as the history of London itself, cinema, magic, advertising and Sherlock Holmes. If you’re working to a timetable, however, then the famed Museum District offers the chance to explore three of the best museums in the world, all within easy walking distance of each other and all offering free entry. The part of London in question is South Kensington, and the museums located here include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Back to Nature
Despite its (well deserved) reputation as a bustling and packed metropolis, London offers a wealth of green spaces in which to escape from the crowds and enjoy some fresh air and tranquillity. Estimates put the amount of green space in London as high as 47%, and this ranges from the untamed 791 acres of Hampstead Heath – complete with natural ‘swimming ponds’ – to Regents Park, which is home to attractions such as London Zoo, tennis courts, places to eat and an Open Air Theatre, and hosts various festivals and events throughout the year. Other famous parks include Hyde Park and Kensington Park, which are right next door to each other, and Richmond Park which, at 2,500 acres, is almost three times the size of New York’s Central Park.