A former-Londoner’s guide to London

Having opened the floor for suggestions of where to go on my USA road trip later this summer, I thought that perhaps I should return the favour for anyone who might be visiting London or considering doing so.

I lived in London for two years, and grew up close enough to visit on a regular basis.  It’s a fantastic city, one which has a huge amount to offer and can therefore be daunting and perhaps confusing.  In reality, it’s a tourist-friendly place, as long as you know how to make it work for you.  I’m going to focus on the “fun stuff” here, but am happy to offer practical tips at a later date.

Top tips: viewing London from above…

Although compared to other international cities, London is perhaps not all that “tall”, there are ways to get a different perspective on London.

  1. The London Eye – a 30-minute trip above the Thames allows you to see several London landmarks at close range.  You’re just across the river from Parliament Square here, which is home to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.  This is a firm tourist favourite
  2. The Shard – still the new kid on the block and somewhere I haven’t been into.  In my opinion, it’s pricey.  As London’s tallest attraction, there is a certain monopoly and an attitude of “build it and they will come”… The views are surely unparalleled from this height
  3. Up at the O2 – an attraction which is still on my wish list.  Visitors climb over the building which was once referred to as the Government’s Millennium White Elephant.  The experience has been likened to climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge
  4. ME London – one of the city’s newest hotels took shape before my eyes: it was on my daily bus route to work, so I had been intrigued for months!  Birthday drinks in the roof bar were an excellent way to say goodbye to the city I had come to think of as my own, with stunning views from high above the Strand
  5. Arcelor-Mittal Orbit – situated within the Olympic park, the Orbit looks like a helter-skelter, but in fact offers two viewing platforms of the park and the wider London area.  I visited in April 2013 as part of the “Park in Progress” redevelopment of the park post-Games.  The weather was beautiful, the views were great and I wished even harder that I hadn’t lost out in the Olympic ticket lottery
panoramic view from the ArcelorMittal Orbit

panoramic view from the ArcelorMittal Orbit

panoramic evening view from ME London

panoramic evening view from ME London

panoramic night view from ME London

panoramic night view from ME London

Back on the ground, here are some other ideas…

  1. The V&A – my new favourite museum!  I visited for the first time a few months ago and wondered what took me so long.  Prince Albert’s obsession with learning as much as possible from the wider world has produced an excellent legacy
  2. Duck Tours – not only do you get to see London on land and from the river in the same vessel, but you enter and leave the water by the infamous MI6 building which, I think, makes you feel very much like James Bond… if only Aston Martins were available for this!  Great to pair with the Eye, as the starting point for this tour is a minute away on foot
  3. Fortnum and Mason – probably my favourite shop in the world (and I’ve been in many). F&M is the Royal grocery store.  It’s several floors of browsing heaven: the visual merchandising is first class and it’s a very pleasant place to be.  If you’re in London during December, make sure you at least walk past to admire the stunning festive window displays
  4. Horseguards Parade – my London wouldn’t be complete without a couple of horses.  This is a tourist hotspot as the Queen’s horses standing guard are an iconic tradition
  5. The Tower of London – another icon, but in a different part of the city.  The Beefeaters bring the place to life with their tales, and the Crown Jewels really do make this attraction sparkle

I feel like I’ve still barely scratched the surface both with this post and my own experiences of London, and that’s the beauty of this city – it means something different to everyone, and caters to pretty much anyone.  I haven’t mentioned any Royal parks here, and all five places in my second list are in the very heart of London.  This post could have been far longer – perhaps a topic to re-visit later?

Have you been to or lived in London?  What was your favourite thing about it? 

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5 thoughts on “A former-Londoner’s guide to London

    • Thanks, I’m glad you liked it! I was considering doing a more practical guide about transport etc too, if you’d be interested?

  1. Pingback: Admiring “The View” | Kicking On

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