England is full of pageantry and tradition, and nowhere else is that on display so vividly than in London. Yet the capital of the United Kingdom is hardly living in the past, continually courting innovation and growth in its art, architecture, restaurants, and hotels. From the burgeoning East End to the well-established City Centre, our London travel guide proves the world-class destination continues to evolve.
How did a 2,000-year-old settlement with such a deeply entrenched history—and such familiar-to-the-point-of-predictable iconography—come to stand at the leading edge of design, fashion, fine art, and pop culture? By embracing international styles and influences (and people) as much as passionately as its own. The city's millennial resurgence resulted from a blend of clear-eyed preservation, savvy reinvention, and bold innovation.
Only here could a brash new landmark like the Shard so swiftly find its place in the old cityscape; only here could a cutting-edge gastro pub (an alien term less than 20 years ago) like The Ledbury so readily slip into local parlance and routine. Each year, millions of tourists visit London to experience its modern-day renaissance, whether taking in the new look of the South Bank or heading out to newly hot neighborhoods, and no matter the time of year, a London trip brings a taste of bustling city life.
England’s temperate climate means rain showers throughout much of the year, although temperatures remain mostly comfortable. Tourist numbers hit a high between April and September, and again around Christmas time, when the nights are long, but holiday decorations provide extra sparkle. Opt for travel dates in the spring and fall for brisk days and nights, plus a little more breathing room.
Best Time To Visit
Spring starts early in the U.K., and it’s optimal in otherwise temperamental weather (still: pack an umbrella). Mild winters and traditional Christmas markets make November and December popular, too.
Choose from the subway (referred to as the tube or underground; a single ride starts at $2.60) to buses, boats, commuter trains and taxis. Transportation is divided into zones; the further the zone is from central London, the more expensive it will be to get there. If you're in the city for a few days, purchase a smart card, and consider a day ($9.90) or week pass ($49.50).
January is the coldest month, with an average low of 45°F (7°C) and July is the hottest month, with an average high of 66 °F (19 °C).
Know Before Visiting
London is expensive and not as much a convenience culture as America (most black cabs do not take cards). Plan ahead to get the best deals, and book restaurants and theater tickets well in advance.