Don’t Use Covent Garden – This station is too small for the amount of people that use it – so don’t. Use Leicester Square down the street; it’s literally a few hundred feet away. You’re going to walk the same distance anyway.
Forget your Oyster Card? They’re no longer needed; you can tap in and out of the Tube with any Contactless credit card, and you will be charged the same rate you would for an Oyster Card
Get a Tube App – Get the official Tube App – it will help you plan your journey and give you a Tube map to guide you along the network.
There’s WiFi and Cell Service Now – There is WiFi network-wide on the Tube now, and there are now several cell networks also working through the Tubes. Don’t count on it, though.
Stand on the right – Always stand on the right on escalators so people can get by you if they’re in a hurry.
Mind the Gap – Be careful of the gap between the platforms and the actual trains; it’s a trip hazard, and you can get seriously hurt.
Avoid Changing at Bank – You may end up walking through seemingly miles of tunnels; as you connect between lines, they’re farther apart than you think. It might be better to walk on the surface streets!
For Trafalgar Square, use Charing Cross.
To get a great view of the Palace of Westminster, take the Tube to Waterloo and then walk along the Thames path to Westminster Bridge; you can see the whole lovely Palace and Big Ben (bonus book market under Waterloo Bridge along the way).
There is no longer any open ticket office at Tube Stations; you have to use the automated machines (though with contactless – see above – you don’t need to buy a ‘ticket’). There will be staff wandering around to help you if you’re confused.
The Tube is only just starting to operate for 24 hours, and even then, only on select lines and routes. Double-check the opening/closing times for your journey to make sure you’re not caught out without a train. Otherwise, it’s the night bus for you (like in Harry Potter).
Most Tube stations won’t have a bathroom, but the mainline railway stations that the Tube shares will usually have public bathrooms (now most are unpaid).
The entire network is not step-free, so wheelchair access depends on the station and the route. Check the Tube Map, as it will tell you which stations are step-free. The new Elizabeth Line is completely step-free.
The Piccadilly Line is the cheapest way to get from Heathrow to Central London. It’s rather slow, though. However, you can now take the Elizabeth directly from Heathrow to Central London, but it costs exactly double the price. It’s much faster, though!
You cannot take the Tube to Gatwick Airport, but you can take the Gatwick Express (or National Rail, which is usually cheaper).
There are several abandoned Tube stations along the network for various reasons. There are regular tours offered through the London Transport Museum called the Hidden London Tours, which take in these special stations. They are very much worth doing.
Watch out for women wearing the baby on board button; its proper tube Etiquette to give up your seat for them (or the elderly, for that matter).
The open door button is a lie. The doors are going to open automatically. You never need to press it. Though pressing it provides some kind of impatient relief.
The Tube gets very hot in the summer months – for several reasons. While some newer trains and lines may be air-conditioned, most still aren’t, and neither are the stations. It’s going to be hot and sweaty underground. Drink plenty of water and be prepared to get hot.
Weekend trains aren’t nearly as frequent as peak weekday trains, so be prepared to wait for the next train (and the dot matrix display will always tell you when to expect the next train).
Avoid Rush Hours – This is when the Tube is the busiest as people are trying to get to and from work. Avoid the Tube at these times: (7.30 am–9.30 am and 5.00 pm–7.00 pm). Locals will thank you, especially if you have luggage.
Don’t try to bring a bike on the Tube; you’re not allowed on many of the Tube lines. And certainly don’t bring a ‘Boris Bike’ on the Tube either.
Luggage – Try to avoid using the Tube with a ton of luggage, especially at Rush Hour. There’s simply no room on the trains for luggage.
Let people off the train first before trying to get on.
Keep personal belongings close to you and keep credit cards and valuables in a place that is hard for a pickpocket to get to.
And now we know where those new London Aldis are going to be. The two areas listed as ‘high priority’ are Hackney and Kensington.
And Aldi isn’t stopping there. Its longer-term plans include 11 more stores in London, on top of the 13 that it already has in the city. Earlier this month, the budget supermarket opened its 1,000th UK store.
The other areas which are slated to soon be graced by the presence of an Aldi are Chiswick, South Ealing, Notting Hill, Chingford, Barnet, Highbury & Islington, Beckenham, Lewisham, Sidcup, Chessington and Twickenham.
Clearly, the supermarket is doing well. Aldi’s recent jump in popularity could well be down to the cost-of-living crisis, as more and more of us are looking for budget-friendly fixes for our daily spending. It’s thought that Aldi’s share of the market has grown to more than 10 percent, and in 2022 the company achieved record sales of £15.5 million.
For its new stores, the supermarket is on the hunt for buildings which range from 650 to 3,716 square meters, or land between half an acre and three acres.
Communications director for the supermarket, Richard Thornton, said to the Evening Standard: ‘We want to make our great value groceries accessible to all, and to do that we need more stores, particularly in towns and areas that don’t have an Aldi already.’
So, it looks like even if you’re not lucky enough to live round the corner from an Aldi right now, that might not be the case for much longer. Hackney and Kensington residents, you lucky, lucky people!
Like a fair few of you, I’m a bit of a book nerd. And as the luck of my age would have it, I grew up with the Harry Potter book series. I won’t even lie to you: Harry Potter has been a big part of my life. From working five years in a bookstore (again, as luck would have it…I worked there during several Harry Potter book releases) to midnight movie screenings, JK Rowling’s fantasy world is one close to my heart.
As you’re probably aware, JK Rowling set more than a few scenes from the series in London. It’s also distinctly a British book with occasional colloquialisms—things that sometimes went over my head as an American. So from the very beginning, I’ve always associated Harry Potter with London.
And as I would find out on my Harry Potter themed tour with Muggle Tours, much of that association is by design.
I wasn’t originally planning to take a Harry Potter tour in London. In fact I never even knew such a thing existed! But when researching for tours in London, I stumbled on Muggle Tours and then I just knew it was something I’d have to do for myself. At £12 per person, it’s not a bad price for a speciality walking tour.
The tour started near Borough Market, which I’d only recently discovered because it was so near to where I was staying. The beauty of this walking tour is that it covers an assortment of London sightseeing destinations, but through the lens of Harry Potter (both the books and the films).
Wandering through the Southwark Borough of London along the Thames South Bank, our guide Adam pointed out all sorts of sites and attractions. We learned about historic London from typical sightseeing stops near London Bridge and The Clink, as well as more modern-day aspects of typical London life and how it all shows up in the Harry Potter books and films—whether as inspiration for a particular setting or maybe a backdrop in one of the films.
For example, in the Borough Market, our guide pointed out how it was a popular place for cheap eats, but then also pointed out the flower shop Chez Michele. The shopfront was used as a film location for “The Leaky Cauldron” in one of the Harry Potter films. The mix and match between reality and fantasy, of old and new London, was a regular theme of the tour.
While the tour started in Southbank, we eventually made our way to Westminster. And while normally a metro ride in the middle of a walking tour can be disruptive, this one actually made sense. Because one of the tube stations we went through was actually a scene in one of the films. Which brings me to one of the more interesting aspects I learned about Harry Potter in London.
Throughout the tour, our guide explained how the directors and writers were keen to make the films as believable as possible. JK Rowling managed to successfully create an entire world built underneath an already existent reality—and in the films, they were keen to mimic this atmosphere. Sure there are magic and spells in Harry Potter, but there are also traffic jams and tube stations.
For anyone paying attention to the films, the film locations were purposely put in realistic neighborhoods of London—because many were actually real! Southbank, being a bit of a dark and dirty area in its medieval history, was a prime location for some of the darker and dirtier scenes.
In Westminster, the actual UK government offices are in just about every other building, so it’s only natural that JK Rowling’s fictional Ministry of Magic would be located nearby. Naturally, our guide told us, that’s why the film producers used buildings and settings from Westminster in film scenes—because that’s how it would actually be if the world of Harry Potter was actually real!
Overall I found the tour to be interesting and informative—and a good way to explore London for a few hours. Our group was a mix of young adults and families with small children. The guide I had, Adam, was friendly and personable (he’s an actor, so it’s not surprising!) and he went out of his way to make the tour interactive. Asking trivia questions and trying to get the kids talking.
While some of the stops on the tour may have seemed a bit of a stretch with their Harry Potter connections, there was almost always a silver lining—interesting tidbit facts about JK Rowling’s influences or something new to learn about London today. If you’re a Harry Potter geek like myself (did I mention I have a Harry Potter-themed tattoo?), this is a good walking tour to get a sample of London’s most touristic neighborhood (Westminster) and central London’s most scenic neighborhood (Southwark). And all with a healthy dose of talk about wizards, witches and magical spells!
Although theatre is generally pretty good at dystopias, it’s generally not a medium that tends to give good science-fiction.
Which makes the centrepiece of the Lyric Hammersmith’s 2024 season doubly intriguing. Most people will probably know ‘Minority Report’ from the smash 2002 Stephen Spielberg film starring Tom Cruise (pictured). It’s fair to say that the original 1956 novella by sci-fi godfather Philip K Dick – technically called ‘The Minority Report’ – is a bit less flying car chase-y than the movie. But it is, nonetheless, a cracking futuristic conspiracy thriller, set in a world in which crime has been all but eliminated thanks to ‘precogs’, mutants with an ability to see into the future whose reports enable the police to stop crime before they happen. But when John Anderton, the head of the police’s precrime division, finds himself fingered as a future murderer, he goes in the run to find out what the hell is happening.
The adaptation is by the veteran playwright and actor David Haig, with direction from Max Webster – whose presence suggests a fairly spectacular production given he did the honours for the West End’s stunning ‘Life of Pi’.
It’ll tour to the Nottingham Playhouse and Birmingham Rep in February and March before settling in for a longer run at the Lyric Hammersmith from April 19 to May 18. There it’ll form part of an exciting 2023 season that also includes the UK premiere of award-winning Australian pop musical ‘Fangirls’ (Jul 13-Aug 24), a revival of the great African American writer Alice Childress’s civil rights classic ‘Wedding Band’ (May 31-Jun 29), and ‘The Promise’ (Apr 30-May 11), a drama from deaf-led company Deafinitely Theatre about an elderly deaf woman’s experience of dementia and the care system.
When we booked our holiday apartment in London, we found ourselves located pretty much in the centre of London. I was a bit hesitant when initially choosing the place to stay, simply because I know the City of London (that’s the name of the central London neighborhood) is the business centre of the capital city. “Business centre” is the type of neighborhood I usually want to be farthest from, but as it turns out, it’s actually quite a good location to be based in while in London.
Most London hotels are in prettier and far more beautiful neighborhoods of London. But the City of London is home to so many of the main tourist attractions, so it made for a convenient location on a short trip. Thankfully there were plenty of things to do within walking distance, and with the convenience of the London Underground and the bus system, we were near enough to the (surprisingly close) trendy East London neighborhood, as well as the more commercial and touristic areas elsewhere in central London.
If you’re looking for an apartment stay in London during a short city trip, being in the City of London can’t be more convenient.
Our apartment was just steps away from the Monument—a column commemorating the Great Fire of London in 1666. Within walking distance, all of the following things to see were no further than a ten to fifteen minute walk. I’m sure there’s actually more to discover in the neighborhood, but this top ten list of things to do should be enough to keep you covered for most 2 or 3-day trips to the City.
Things To Do and See in (or Near) the City of London
1. St. Paul’s Cathedral
One of London’s most iconic buildings (and trust me—there are many!), St. Paul’s Cathedral is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. The Baroque cathedral dates back centuries and its famous dome provides a dramatic view over London.
Cost to entry isn’t cheap (£18 adults; £16 students) so if you want to splurge and have a particular passion for cathedrals, spend a few hours at St Paul’s. Otherwise, enjoy a picnic lunch in the churchyard gardens and just make sure you snap a pic from the Millennium Bridge.
Perhaps the cheapest view of London from above (if you can handle the 311 steps up) the view from the Monument is one of London’s best. Erected by famous London architect Sir Christopher Wren, it’s the tallest isolated stone column in the world and was built in 1677—just 11 years after the fire destroyed so much of the city. The Monument is located just steps way from where the Great Fire of 1666 is believed to have started—famously caused by a spark in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane.
The claustrophobic climb isn’t for the faint-of-heart. But trust me—when you make it to the top and see the light, it’s a view worth climbing for. Entry to the Monument is affordable (£4.50 adults; £3 students; more information here) and convenient. Just bring your hiking shoes.
London Bridge is probably not what you think it is. When many think of London Bridge, they’re actually picturing Tower Bridge (see below). London Bridge is actually quite boring, but it’s conveniently located and connects the City of London to Southwark on the other side of the Thames River. While the bridge’s architecture and design is nothing to write home about, its’ story is quite funny.
The current location of London Bridge has been home to various bridges over time — many have been destroyed by the ravages of time, fire and war. So, in 1967 when the London Bridge needed repairs, the City of London decided to sell off the bridge before replacing it. As the story goes, an American businessman purchased London Bridge at the time, thinking that it was actually the significantly more iconic London Bridge. London Bridge was shipped overseas and now sits in a small town in Arizona.
On the Southwark side of London Bridge you’ll find several great tourist sites to visit. Borough Market, Southwark Cathedral and the Queens Walk are all places worth seeing.
4. Borough Market
Arguably one of London’s best markets, the Borough Market operates every day but Sundays during lunchtime and is home to some of London’s best street food operators and cheap eats. Students flock here for the good deals (expect to pay £3-£7 for a hearty lunch), and celebrities stop by on occasion. (Jude Law was rumored to have been spotted among the food stalls just a few days before my visit.)
Food stalls at Borough Market range from traditional English foods (meat pies!) to Indian curries, vegan and vegetarian options, greasy burgers and of course fish & chips. There are a few food tours through the market, but you might also consider joining a Harry Potter themed tour with MuggleTours.co.uk which starts here and walks you through notable scenes and spots of inspiration from the books & movies.
This complex structure is everything and nothing at once. The multipurpose Barbican Centre includes the Museum of Londonwhere you can learn more about the first days of this global metropolis—its fires and its plagues. The entire centre stands as a once perfect solution for a real state crisis. The brutalist architecture mixes fluid and solid forms, satisfying both the housing needs of London’s many citizens while providing food for the soul; libraries, workshops, cinemas and more are hidden in the Barbican core.
Some remnants of the ancient London Wall can even be spotted if you know where to look. Get lost in this architectural monster (trust me—it’s easy) and imagine how your life would be if you were one of the residents of this symmetrical nightmare. It’s a love it or hate it relationship. Guess how I feel.
The site of some rather grisly tales from the British monarchy, the Tower of London is also one of the world’s longest running tourist attractions. Throughout it’s thousand-year history, the Tower of London has been used as a royal residence, an armory, a treasury, a zoo and the Royal Mint.
Today if you visit, you can get a glimpse of the Crown Jewels if you’re willing to splurge on a ticket (£25 adults; £19.50 students). Look out for special exhibitions about British Monarchy history.
London’s most iconic bridge (though the newer Millennium Bridge could probably give it a run for its’ money), Tower Bridge is often referred to as London Bridge. The short and stubby bridge connects the Tower of London with the southern side of the Thames, but makes for some great photography.
It’s possible to visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition and get some decent panoramic views of London for under a tenner (£8 adults; £5.65 students; joint tickets available at discount with London Monument). There are so many things to do in London, but if one thing you’re almost certain to do is get a photo of Tower Bridge—try to get one from the popular Queen’s Walk promenade along the southern side of the Thames. And for a truly special London experience, check the Tower Bridge’s official website (below) to find out the bridge lift times.
Probably one of the most important art institutions in our world, the Tate Modern has a well deserved reputation. Surprising you with both its permanent and temporary exhibitions, the major goal when you visit it is to challenge your perceptions of aesthetics and beauty. Is this art? Or not? It doesn’t really matter.
If you get tired and need a rest from the Mondrian’s and Lichtenstein’s, then go to the store and check the products or visit the terrace for a lovely view of the Thames flowing by. As the entrance is free for everyone (the museums work mostly on donations), be generous. Art needs a place to sleep…or maybe to dream. The Tate Modern gallery is open every day, from 10 to 18 o’clock, except Fridays and Saturdays when you can hang around until 22:00.
No matter if you prefer to stand like the people or sit like the nobles did centuries ago, the Globe Theatre will enchant you. The performances are simply superb. How much time do these artists need to learn their lines, to move so soft? Book in advance if you want to be certain you’ll get a place.
On stage, the usual: Laughs, cries, blood, wine and human nature. Actors screaming from above, ships moving at your side, the magic of theatre is everywhere. And if Shakespeare did his part writing these wonderful plays—and here we are ignoring all the debate about his writing—the staff would do its best to protect you from the rain, to have your food and drink ready for the intermission (preorder is amazing) and to welcome you with a smile. Sound good? Well, then be sure to visit in the summer. No winter performances. Tickets are from £5 to £39.
For those into the darker side of history, a visit to London’s Clink Prison Museum is a good place to start. One of England’s oldest prisons, it was the site of countless tortures since it’s operation in the 12th century. The prison was so notorious in its heyday, that it’s now become part of our everyday vernacular to refer to prisons as “the clink.”
Visits to the museum are relatively affordable (£7.50 adults; £5.50 students). Inside you’ll find torture equipment and educational guides about former prisoners and what it was like inside the prison.