Travel to London
Travel to London – London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, is a 21st-century city with history stretching back to Roman times. At its center stand the imposing Houses of Parliament, the iconic ‘Big Ben’ clock tower and Westminster Abbey, site of British monarch coronations. Across the Thames River, the London Eye observation wheel provides panoramic views of the South Bank cultural complex, and the entire city.
Travel to London – The Neighborhoods of London
Travel to London – The actual City of London is only one square mile in size and comprises the city’s financial district. But the area that has become known as London is massive, measuring at around 610 square miles and comprising 33 boroughs, as well as a number of neighborhoods within those. Despite the city’s tremendous size, London’s main attractions are concentrated in central London or along the River Thames and are accessible by public transportation.
Travel to London – The neighborhoods of London were laid out during a period of wagon and foot traffic, when districts were defined in narrower terms then we define them today; indeed, for centuries people often lived complete lives without seeing the other side of town. Ironically, in our times, the Tube has done much to divide these districts from each other. Visitors are likely to hop a train between them and don’t often realize how remarkably close together they really are.
Travel to London – The Neighborhoods of London – Marylebone & Mayfair
The middle-class hubbub of Oxford Street west of Regent Street divides high-hat Marylebone from its snobbish southern neighbor, Mayfair. Both play host to upscale shopping and several fascinating, if overlooked, museums, but there the similarities end.
World-famous Mayfair, is high end shops and blue blood heritage (the present queen was born at 17 Bruton St. in a building that is no longer there), has a high opinion of itself as a starchy enclave of wealth, much of it from other countries).
Yet Mayfair is the city’s hot spot for cushy hotels.
Marylebone (Mar-le-bun), on the other hand, benefits from convenient Tube and bus connections and lively sidewalks crowded with evening celebrants, particularly around James Street.
Also, thanks to a territorial local authority, its main shopping drag (Marylebone High St.) remains one of the last important streets in London that isn’t a series of chain stores.
Oxford Street is The City’s premier shopping corridor; the western half between Oxford Circus and Marble Arch is the classier end, with marquee department stores such as Selfridges and Marks & Spencer.
The Neighborhoods of London – Soho
Soho has been called the heartbeat of London since it’s filled with so much energy. Soho makes up part of London’s “West End”, which is the city’s entertainment and theatrical hub. There are clubs and bars all over Soho, including many LGBTQ-friendly clubs. Mixed with all the shops and cultures that come together here it really feels unique from the rest of London.
No matter what kind of food you want, you’ll be able to find it. And sometimes the ubiquitous food carts on the street taste better than the high end restaurants you can find elsewhere.
Creative, unique people can be found on its streets at all times of the day. Models, actors, and singers often try to live here because there are many agencies and work opportunities. This adds to the bohemian vibe that seems to attract so many people.
This is really a place for single professionals or couples as it’s not particularly family friendly. Also, parking is really difficult so rely on public transportation.
Travel to London -The Neighborhoods of London – Covent Garden
Located west of the City in the Royal Borough of Westminster, Covent Garden is a part of London’s “Theatre District.” (Note that the term “West End” refers to the genre of Broadway-esque, musical-type theaters in London, as well as the compilation of neighborhoods – Covent Garden, Soho, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus – which house theaters.)
Covent Garden also has an assemblage of lively pubs, restaurants and lots of shops for pre- or post-show amusement.
And for people-watching, Covent Garden’s piazza offers a worthy setting since it crawls with street performers, from magicians to mimes.
The Neighborhoods of London – Fitzrovia
Fitzrovia is a mixed neighborhood of residential sections, commercial areas, medical buildings, art galleries, and schools. The residents are similarly mixed, ranging from ramen noodle eating students to celebrities.
With 8,000 permanent residents and 50,000 people who work within Fitzrovia’s borders, the weekends really seem quiet in comparison to the busy weekdays. Of those permanent residents, about a thousand are students living in dorms and another 1,500 are people 65 years and over. While about half of the population are British, the Asian population is also quite large.
There are quite a few universities-University College London and University of Westminster. There is a large media presence here as well, including a few BBC buildings. All of this ensures the area is one of the most well-served by public transportation.
Fitzrovia has a healthy restaurant and bar scene and new places are always opening up.
The Neighborhoods of London – Kensington & Knightsbridge
Kensington & Knightsbridge are where one expensive neighborhood genuflects to another, and barely anyone you meet was born in England.
South Kensington and Brompton draw the most visitors to their grand museums; and Knightsbridge is where moneyed foreigners spend and show off—London now has the most billionaires in the world, nearly twice as many as New York or Moscow. They can’t legally change most of the facades, so to satisfy their hunger for more space, the big trend among the rich is to burrow downward to build underground rooms—the “pleasure caves” of Kensington.
Privilege has long had an address in Kensington as it houses institutions but is also home to a core of French expats-the cafes catering to them on Bute Street.
Kensington Palace, at the Gardens’ western end, is where Prince William and Kate live when they’re in town.
Kensington & Knightsbridge are best for museums, shopping and ultra-luxe boutiques.
Travel to London – The Neighborhoods of London – Hyde Park
The Hyde Park neighborhood is in London’s northwest corner.
The area was largely rural until it was annexed by the City in 1993 and since then has experienced large residential and commercial development.
Hyde Park is among the best city center parks in the world, all the more inspiring because it creates a virtually unbroken line of green space with Kensington Gardens, Green Park and St James’s Park across the capital.
Located in the middle of town, it’s surrounded by a vibrant collection of areas from plush Kensington on its south-western tip to the end of Oxford Street in the northeastern corner; with many luxury hotels dotted around the perimeter.
Technically two different parks, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens are in practical and historical terms one huge, merging expanse. Almost every kind of outdoor pursuit takes place within its 625 acres all year round. Horse-riding, rollerblading, swimming, boating, tennis, cycling, bowling and putting are just some of the formal activities catered for, while informal games of cricket, football, rugby and rounders regularly sprout up in the ‘Sports Field’ on the south side of the park.
A number of famous London attractions are also housed within this central space. Hyde Park boasts Speaker’s Corner and the Serpentine Lake, Lido and Gallery, while Kensington Palace, the Italian Gardens, Peter Pan statue, Albert Memorial and Diana Memorial Playground characterize Kensington Gardens.
Travel to London – The Neighborhoods of London – The City
The City, as it’s called, is where most of London’s history happened. It’s where Romans cheered gladiators. It’s where London Bridge—at least 12 versions—touched shore. It’s where the Great Fire raged. And, more recently, it’s where the Deutsche Luftwaffe focused many of its nocturnal bombing raids, which is why you’ll find so little evidence of the aforementioned events.
Technically, this is the only part of London that’s London. Other bits, including the West End, are under the jurisdiction of different local governments, such as Westminster or Camden.
Outside of working hours, the main thing you’ll see in The City is your own reflection in the facade of corporate fortresses; west of Liverpool Street station, even most of the pubs close on weekends.
Although it encompasses such priceless relics as the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower Bridge, the Bank of England, and the Monument, many of the area’s remnants are underfoot—the spider web of lanes and streets dates to the Roman period. Buildings have come and gone, but the veins of The City have pumped in-situ for thousands of years.
Best for old streets, the Tower of London, St Paul’s and financial concerns.
The Neighborhoods of London – Hampstead
When Hampstead was affordable, no one wanted to live there. Today, an economic turnaround of the area has made it one of the most sought after neighborhoods for musicians, artists, and creatives. They are even a few low-level television stars living here – Ricky Gervais.
Overall, Hampstead is considered to be a charming neighborhood with narrow roads and picturesque buildings.
Most of the living quarters are quaint apartments or single-family homes with character. The community vibe and modern amenities make this a great neighborhood if you can afford it.
Given the affluent population, many of the businesses here cater to those with money. So you won’t find fast food around here, but the area has lots of organic artisanal food shops. And you won’t find basic clothing shops, but instead there are lots of boutiques with unique pieces (and high prices).
The area is a bit more affordable the closer you get to Hampstead Tube station, so if you are on a bit of a budget (though not much), you might find something there.
The main reason that people want to move to Hampstead is because of Hampstead Heath, known to locals as “The Heath.” This is a 791-acre (320 hectare) park that has some of the oldest, most beautiful trees in the area and quite a few swimming holes. It also offers amazing views from one of London’s highest points, Parliament Hill.
Hampstead is bordered on the north by Golders Green, on the east by Belsize Park, on the south by South Hampstead, and on the west by West Hampstead.
Travel to London – The Neighborhoods of London – Chelsea
Located on the River Thames, the neighborhood of Chelsea is absolutely gorgeous.
It’s got historical buildings throughout and several of its streets are known around the world for their great shopping.
The Albert Bridge has been called one of the most romantic places in the world, offering up a beautiful view of London. And the streets of Chelsea were once walked by the greatest musical artists of all time, including the Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
Chelsea is an affluent area known for the smart boutiques & high-end restaurants lining busy King’s Road.
Shopping is a sport in Chelsea. From huge brands to small, independent stores, you can get just about anything. There are classic clothing boutiques, edgy clothing stores, and everything in between.
There are a few galleries in Chelsea that highlight contemporary artists and events are held throughout the year that bring big names from the art world together.
The National Army Museum traces British army history from the 1600s to the present, while the Saatchi Gallery displays contemporary art in the Duke of York’s headquarters.
The red-coated retired soldiers known as the Chelsea Pensioners run guided tours of their residence, the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
The Neighborhoods of London – Notting Hill
Notting Hill is a vibrant, trendy area, with casual cafes lining bohemian Portobello Road, famed for its busy market selling antiques and vintage fashion.
High-end restaurants and upscale boutiques cluster around Westbourne Grove, while the Electric Cinema welcomes filmgoers with posh armchairs.
Huge crowds celebrate the annual Notting Hill Carnival, whose parades and calypso music reflect the area’s Caribbean roots.
Influenced by Caribbean music and culture, the neighborhood was famous for being an artistic haven for musicians, painters, sculptors, actors, students, and performers of all kinds.
Hotting Hill’s bohemian vibe, bright colors, music venues, iconic cinemas, and treasure trove of boutiques make it one of the most unforgettable locations in the city.
Travel to London – The Neighborhoods of London – Paddington
Sandwiched between two parks, Notting Hill, and the West End, Paddington is a neighborhood filled with picturesque homes, green spaces, cafes, and gardens.
Paddington contains the royals’ favorite hospital – St. Mary’s is where Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince George, and Princess Charlotte were born. And the train station is iconic thanks to the Paddington Bear children’s stories.
There’s a lot of old money in Paddington, with older mansions and homes belonging to the same families for a long time. However, the area along Paddington’s canal has become a more upscale, modern part of town. Residences are futuristic and sleek-looking and attract a lot of younger professionals.
Though overall this is a quiet area, there are things to do here. You’ll find restaurants offering all types of cuisine, art galleries, museums, music venues, and the requisite English pubs.
The Neighborhoods of London – The South Bank
Once-dank railway viaducts are filled with cafes and reasonable restaurants; Western Europe’s tallest skyscraper, The Shard, lords over from above; and the nation’s dramatic showpiece (the National Theatre) anchors them at South Bank.
However, some things have not changed – Borough Market, attracts gourmet foodies from around the world, is the descendant of a market that fed the denizens of that medieval skyscraper over the water, London Bridge.
During the recent rehabilitation of Southwark (Suth-urk) from a crumbling industrial district, its devastated power station became one of the world’s greatest museums (the Tate Modern), a master playwright’s theater was re-created (the Globe), and a sublime riverfront path replaced the coal lightermen’s rotting piers.
Now The South Bank is where London goes to fall in love with The City. It’s a 1-mile riverside stroll between the London Eye and the Tate Modern, and every step is a pleasure.
The South Bank is a dynamic area at the heart of London’s cultural scene. The Southbank Center, National Theatre, and BFI film theatre are all world-class arts venues. The riverside walkway is lined with trees, restaurants and historic pubs, and is the site of frequent fairs and events.
South Bank tucks into the southern side of the Thames, right across from the Westminster Bridge. Here, you’ll find iconic landmarks like Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral and the colossal Ferris wheel that is the London Eye. For more panoramic views, head to the South Bank’s Oxo Tower. Neighboring South Bank to the east is Southwark, home to Shakespeare’s Globe theater and the factory-cum-museum Tate Modern. Foodies should consider a visit to nearby Butler’s Wharf or Borough Market for a British and international fare
The South Bank is best for museums, memorable pubs, strolls, gourmet foods and wines.
The Neighborhoods of London – Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space of London’s West End in the City of Westminster.
It was built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. In this context, a circus, from the Latin word meaning “circle”, is a round open space at a street junction.
The square is famous for its neon signs, different displays and the Eros fountain located in the middle of this road junction, which is now one of the city’s top landmarks.
In the vicinity, there are many places offering discounts and drinks at some of the bars and clubs in Piccadilly Circus.
Travel to London – The Neighborhoods of London – Holburn
Occasionally referred to as ‘Midtown’ by some real estate agents, Holborn is a neighborhood smack in the center of London (hence the attempt to rebrand it).
It’s popular with lawyers and journalists thanks to its location near the Royal Courts of Justice and its history as the one-time home of many newspapers on Fleet Street. The lawyers tend to congregate in one of four Inns of Court; these are legal associations that are part social club, part pub.
Historically, this has been a mostly commercial area, but the arrival of a couple luxury hotels has made this a fashionable place to be. It’s got a great collection of restaurants, cafes, and bars, and the interestingly named Lambs Conduit street is full of quirky boutiques, antique stores, tailors, and bookshops.
The Sir John Soane Museum is the former house and office of the eccentric architect who designed the Bank of England headquarters.
The home of Charles Dickens is located here and has the largest collection of Dickens memorabilia.
Holborn is bordered on the north by Bloomsbury, on the east by Clerkenwell, on the south by the City, and on the west by Covent Garden.
The Neighborhoods of London – Chiswick
Chiswick is a leafy, affluent district with a village feel. Media and creative professionals mingle in indie shops, wine bars, and high-end restaurants along Chiswick High Road.
A footpath runs past the historic pubs and 18th-century homes of Strand-on-the-Green, a picturesque Thameside street. The Roman-style Chiswick House contains Old Master paintings and has vast manicured gardens with picnic and play areas
Chiswick is a riverside village turned desirable suburb, where attractive period properties and generous green space line up alongside a vibrant mix of shops and restaurants to lure residents in for the long term.
The schools and pretty period homes lure families, while young professionals are drawn to the bustling Chiswick High Road and proximity to the Thames. These new residents add even more vibrancy and diversity to what historically was a creative area.
For many years Chiswick was a stronghold of artsy liberals, and several Bedford Park homes were initially built with artists’ studios to cater to this population. Evidence of a progressive attitude is seen in the very structure of these homes – very few properties in this corner have cellars, a relic from the days when liberal leaning residents would choose to house their servants in the attic rather than the basement.
Today residents from all walks of life have formed a strong, peaceful community, interrupted just once a year when Chiswick’s riverside location brings hordes of spectators to its eponymous bridge, which marks the finishing point of the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.
Travel to London – The Neighborhoods of London – Camden
Name a British tune that got under your skin, and chances are it received its first airing in the beer-soaked concert halls of Camden Town. London’s analogue to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District, it was big in the countercultured ’60s and ’70s and is still grotty enough for Amy Winehouse to have expired in.
The area’s shoulder-to-shoulder markets, which hawk touristy hokum, cheap sunglasses and falafel in the former warehouses and stables serving Regent’s Canal, can be pretty awful, and the sort of places where you feel compelled to carry your wallet in your front pocket.
Tourists come more out of duty than for any true mission for commerce and they cram the inadequate Tube stop on weekends.
Chiswick is best for alternative music, massive clothing markets, junk souvenirs and pubs.