Having grown up in the UK I often forget how exciting it must be to visit London as a tourist for the first time. There is so much history, and there are so many sights and landmarks to see.
These days when I visit London it is usually just for conferences, business meetings, or to visit friends. But what if I were from another country and I had never been to London before?
Here I’ve put together a list of tips and things to do on your first time in London.
The best way to get around London is by public transport. Riding the London Underground is an experience in itself, so get yourself an Oyster Card as soon as you arrive to save money on tube fares.
Things to See & Do
You can’t really visit London and not at least gaze through the gates to the Queen’s home- Buckingham Palace. You can take a tour of the State Rooms which are used by The Queen and members of the Royal Family to receive and entertain guests on State, ceremonial and official occasions. You can also witness the Changing of the Guard, which takes place daily at 11:30 from May until the end of July and on alternate days for the rest of the year.
Trafalgar Square & National Gallery
Make a stop at Trafalgar Square to have your photo taken with the Lion Statues then asend the steps of the National Gallery for a view of the square from the top. Entrance to the gallery is free although it’s suggested you make a donation. Inside you can see works from famous artists such as Da Vinci, Van Gough and Renoir.
Big Ben & Westminster
Take a picture of Big Ben- London’s giant clock tower then visit the Houses of Parliament to see the the Commons and Lords Chambers, the Queen’s Robing Room, the Royal Gallery and Westminster Hall. You can buy tickets for a tour of Parliament on most Saturdays throughout the year and Tuesday to Saturday during the Summer Opening period. If you wish to sit in on a session in Parliament you need to reserve ahead.
Tower of London
See the Crown Jewels and learn about the Tower of London’s use as a prison and place of execution. It’s a fantastic place to learn about Britain’s history and sometimes gruesome past.
The London Eye
The London Eye is an enormous ferris wheel that offers fantastic aerial views over London. From your capsule you can see the Thames, Big Ben and many more famous London sights.
Oxford Street & Piccadilly Circus
Oxford Street isn’t a ‘sight’ as such but it is London’s biggest shopping street. If you need to buy some clothes then there a number of high-street stores here such as Topshop, Zara, H&M, Pull and Bear and Mango. Knock yourself out! Walk or take the tube to Piccadilly Circus, which is full of billboards and lights like a teeny tiny Times Square. The Eros statue in the centre is a popular meeting point for Londoners and a great spot for some people watching. Nearby is one of my fave sushi places in London- The Japan Centre.
Ye Old Cheshire Cheese
Your first time trip to London isn’t complete without a visit to an old London pub. Located on Fleet Street, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese was rebuilt back in 1667 and its historic atmosphere is largely responsible for its appeal. Once frequented by Charles Dickens himself, this famous London pub features a warren of narrow corridors and staircases leading to dark rooms with lots of character and old world charm.
In Britain we love a good cup of tea, so join in the tradition and get dressed in your best for afternoon tea. Some of the best afternoon teas in London can be found at Claridge’s, The Ritz, The Dorchester and The Goring. But currently the best afternoon tea in London has been named as the Athenaeum Hotel, which won the “Top London Afternoon Tea 2012″.
If you fall in love with London and want to stay a while, you can find jobs teaching in the UK and discover more of the fantastic landmarks, pubs, theatres and activities that the capital has to offer.