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lrk's avatar

What should I know about visiting London, and what should I do there?

Asked by lrk (757points) July 17th, 2008

I’m going to be in London for four months on a study abroad program (from the USA). What should I know about the city, and what should I make sure I do while I’m there?

Your answer might be “get a discount rail pass; you will save lots of money travelling to certain destinations,” or “take a walk in Regent’s Park on Sunday night; the atmosphere is beautiful.”

Your answers should not be limited to things about London: convince me to visit Wales, or something!

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26 Answers

PupnTaco's avatar

I did that program in Cambridge when I was in college. Pick up the Rick Steves England guidebook.

London musts:
British Museum
National Library
A show in the West End
Pubs – find a local that suits you and get to know the regulars
Get an Oyster card
Look left when crossing
Pick up a packet of wine gums
Try to find some scrumpy
Walk-bus-tube all over town

Get out of town:

Farther afield:
The Lake District

PupnTaco's avatar


wildflower's avatar

Learn the map of the Tube.
Catch a west end show
Follow the pigeons…(to Trafalgar Square)
Go shopping at Camden Markets
Visit the Tower of London!

Enjoy many many many excellent kebabs after pub closing while wandering aimlessly around Picadilly sort of area :)

Lightlyseared's avatar

bring lots of money. It has got very expensive.

Be aware that the crime rate and in particular murder rate in the under 25’s is high.

Okay got that out of the way…

Visit Camden Market on a Saturday or Sunday (see pattern recognition by William Gibson for a discription).

Visit the tate modern on the southbank then walk along to the globe theatre and
see a play 1595 style.

Go to Harrods (but see point 1)

Hang around picadilly circus and Leicester square in the evening and soak up the atmosphere (but see point 2).

Skyrail's avatar

Visit Wales you say? Come visit me :D to be honest I’ve only ever visited London twice, once I was in a conference most of the day and the other time I went with school. It’s a busy place but interesting :) if you do get chance do come out of the city however and do visit some of the places PnT suggested as they are really beautiful areas :)

joeysefika's avatar

madam tousauds wax musuem is another must see. If you have time go to Nottingham to visit sherewood forest, nottingham castle and the oldest pub in England (over 1000 years old!!!)

flameboi's avatar

London Musts
Saatchi Gallery
Tate Museum
Dover Steet Market :)
A walk in Oxford Street, there is a huge virgin megastore there, go in and buy the cd’s of Everything but the girl, morcheeba, massive attack, oasis, the stereophonics and blur, portishead you’ll be impressed :) You can’t come back without some of the records by the finest British artists of the 90’s
Hyde Park
Notting Hill (close to Hyde Park) in August, the Notting Hill Carnival is a must! And of course Portobello road Market
Fish and chips
Take a train to Manchester and go to a Football match, Machester United Vs. anyone, you will see the finest football ever, and don’t forget to buy the red jersey.

sdeutsch's avatar

Take a weekend trip to Edinburgh – it’s one of my favorite places in the whole world!

If you’re going to be there in late summer, I’d definitely recommend going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and seeing as many shows as you can in one weekend – but if not, it’s just a beautiful city to hang out in for a few days (or months!) I’d go see the castle, and sample some of the pubs, and hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat… There’s so many good things to do, but since this question was really about London, I won’t take up too much space here. If you do end up going to Edinburgh, let me know and I can give you a long list! ;)

Zaku's avatar

Lots of great suggestions above. I’ll make a point of seconding Edinburgh, the British Museum, the Tate Gallery, seeing some plays in London and/or Stratford-upon-Avon, getting out to some small town(s), Cambridge and/or Oxford, and fish & chips.

I’d add the Victoria & Albert Museum, doing lots and lots of walking around in comfortable shoes, old book shops, and making friends.

Indy318's avatar

I’ve heard that the food isn’t so great, so i’d watch what I eat.

PupnTaco's avatar

The food can be great – there’s fantastic pub food, Indian curries, and chippies at the budget end and world-class restaurantsat the expensive end.

pathfinder's avatar

If you want a cheap place where to stay over the night,here is it.Take a subway and get out on station call towergate and that go acros the tower bridge in that area are cheap hostels and hotels-premier and some more.

marinelife's avatar

I was going to say make sure and have some Indian food and also experience tea British style.

I totally agree on the British Museum, storehouse to some of the best shameless looting of centuries.

No one has yet mentioned Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

PnT mentioned the Library. You can see incredible illuminated manuscripts there and the Magna Carta among other things. A must-see if you love books.

PupnTaco's avatar

And original handwritten Beatles lyrics, Lewis Carroll, and more!

Hobbes's avatar

I wholeheartedly second sdeutsch about the Fringe Festival. I volunteered there once and it was one of the best experiences of my life. The city gets transformed, with hundreds of little makeshift theatres popping up everywhere to show usually very good, sometimes terrible, always interesting performances.

Also, don’t look like a tourist if you can help it.

sdeutsch's avatar

Hobbes is right – the locals in Edinburgh (as in most tourist spots) are much friendlier if you seem like you know your way around and aren’t just invading their city for a short time. I was there for three weeks before the Fringe started, and I had an even better time during the Fringe because I wasn’t treated as a “dumb tourist”. Just make the extra effort to do a little research and figure things out for yourself (like how the money works), and you’ll find lots of friendly folks there!

(I imagine this is probably true in London too – I know it is in San Francisco…) ;)

rowenaz's avatar

Eat some CRUNCHY Bars and get addicted – them honeywhatsems are GOOD….

I loved a day lolling in Kew Gardens.

The Museum of London was a gem – but because of refurbishment, parts are closed.

The Tower of London, of Course – and the British Library.

*****Take a jaunt to Devonshire SW of London to the moors DARTMOOR to be exact. Eat some scones w/jam and clotted cream.

Seesul's avatar

I also recommend Edinburgh, a great city. Try to get up into the Scottish Highlands as well. Wales really is beautiful and worth the trip. The Snowdonia Region is absolutely amazing. Fairly close to there, you can also tour an old slate mine that it is still in use today.

Seesul's avatar

@Indy: I don’t hear my food, I eat it, and some of the best food that I’ve had was in Great Britain. The two worst meals that I’ve had while traveling were in France, but I don’t condemn French food, I just take it as bad luck.

A good one we found in London was Pret A Manger. (locations). Their “website is”:
As you can see from the map, they are all over London.

They are a good place to stop to pick up something on the way for a day around town.
Don’t worry about food there, it’s very international and you will have the choice of what you like and then some. Best way is to just ask. You’ll make friends that will show you the ropes and will know how to keep within your budget. Have a great time, just ask the locals what they like and you’ll do fine.

Lightlyseared's avatar

if you need a map to find a Pret in London your in trouble as they are everywhere (but they do good sandwiches)

Also try Wagamama’s for Japanese style noodles

Oh and all MacDonalds have free wi-fi

qashqai's avatar

Did anyone already mentioned greenwich?

From the park above the hill (where you actually cross the Greenwich Meridian) you can see a great view of London, it’s definitely my favourite city corner. And be sure to spend time on saturday morning at the market, and the maritime museum, and the naval academy.

You should also visit Windsor, beautiful city and castle just 15 minutes west, and the white cliffs of Dover.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I was in Greenwich at the weekend and the view from the park is spectacular. You can also look at what’s left of the Cutty Sark after some b***** set it on fire.

qashqai's avatar

Loved the Cutty Sark.
@ Lightly: have you ever walked through the the tunnel under the thames river?

Lightlyseared's avatar

Yes many times, mainly before the DLR made it to Greenwich. There’s actually two, one at Greenwich and one at Woolwich

TheOnlyException's avatar

Oh I love answering questions like these being a Londoner who has a true appreciation for the city she lives in :)

Well of course you should get a travel card, I think Transport For London sell ones that last that long? While you are here you will find this site extremely useful
Use the journey planner, it will get you from A to B to Z and back to A again without fail. (and you can look up travel card details)

You should definitely see a play or three in the West End, absolutely wonderful.
You yourself mentioned Regent’s Park, I strongly recommend this! It is situated in the North Of London in St. John’s Wood which is a very high profile area with many celebrities residing there. Also home to Abbey Road Studios, where I think the Beatles/Paul McCartney recorded their songs.
In Regent’s park from May there is an open air theatre, you should look up the times/showings for productions there, I saw a production of Peter Pan it was truly wonderful.

You should visit places like the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill and of course the Tate, Tate modern in central London near the Millennium Bridge (which itself is quite a sight).

If you want to get away from the city centre more, more suburban areas that are good to go are places like East Dulwich, where there is Lordship lane, it is full of boutiques and shops you can go and visit, a very peaceful safe environment, as well as lots of greenery and parks. It is just really homely and full of interesting architecture, not to mention Dulwich Park. (I should know, I live there!)

Also you should visit Crystal Palace Park, home to the Crystal Palace Tower, it is simply beautiful. Look it up there are loads of things to do within the park.

Obviously you should see a concert or something at the 02 Arena, things like that will soon become obvious.
Portobello Market, Covent Garden, Camden and Borough Market are a must.

Depending on where in particular you are staying you will find your own little places you’ll like to visit. :) Have fun!

Also across the road from Dulwich Park is the Dulwich Picture Gallery which you might prefer as it is far less touristy and more intimate place to visit. I am not sure about prices.
Also there is a place called Belair Park where ‘Carter’s Steam Fair’ visits around the time you will be here, I love going to it when it comes around!
You could also visit Brockwell Lido if the weather is good.

dfkldj sorry you got me going now!
hope i helped :)

fluffy09's avatar

Go shopping .

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