About History Tours in London in London
Even if you enjoy alternative travel experiences and shudder at the thought of someone calling you a tourist (think over 50s bus tours, tour guides with whistles, and tourist maps the size of a bed sheet) it's hard to walk the streets of London and not come face to face with its most iconic sites.
Sightseeing doesn't just have to be about 100 different viewpoints and photo opportunities of Big Ben (by the way, Big Ben was the name given to the Great Bell inside the tower, not the tower or clock itself). And London is certainly one place that has well and truly reinvented the term, through its constant offering of new and alternative places to explore and things to experience.
Many first-timers to London, or to any city for that matter, might think that ticking off the usual and familiar tourist attractions would be the best way to get to know a city. But often this leads to a case of the "blind leading the blind" and "you don't know what you don't know".
Getting to know a place with the help of a local is by far the best way to find your bearings, understand how the transport system works, get recommendations for local restaurants, and explain differences in language (Americans, Australians and British all speak English, but at times we speak very different languages). Locals are also helpful for your burning questions, such as: "Why aren't there any trash cans at train stations?"
Every local will tell you something different when it comes to their favourite nook of the city. It might be a cosy pub, or the peace and calm of the British Library. It might one of the bridges, such as the Golden Jubilee Footbridges, which offer car-free views up and down the river. Or one of the many parks, or a tiny alleyway that transports you back in time--like St. Michael's Alley in the City of London, which is home to London's first coffeehouse of 1652. And it might be exploring the streets of East London in search of newly painted and erected street art.
One of the top tips from a local to a visitor would be to avoid a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus and do self-guided bus journeys instead. Many visitors are confident in using the tube to get from A to B but the buses seem to be a no-go zone, which is a shame.
The beauty of London buses is that you get to see everything, instead of being underground, they are cheaper than the tube and the tourist buses. There are so many different routes operating 24/7 that even if you do get a bit lost, you will always find another bus close by that goes to where you want to be.
The TfL (Transport for London) website www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/gettingaround/maps/buses/ is a very useful resource where you can view and download bus maps and plan a journey. There are also a number of mobile apps available to help you find bus stops and bus routes near to your GPS location.
One bus route worthy of specific mention is the number 11, which runs from Liverpool Street station to Fulham Broadway. This route goes past some of London's major attractions, including St. Paul's Cathedral, Fleet Street, The Strand, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Victoria Train Station, Sloane Square and the King's Road.
If money is no object, then a view from Western Europe's tallest building, The Shard, is a fine way to see across London and beyond. But for the £25 entry and no guarantee of a cloud-free day, you might be better going for one of these options:
St. Paul's Cathedral gives spectacular 360 degree views of the city, with the added bonus of being one of London's most treasured buildings.
A visit to Duck & Waffle Cafe or Sushi Samba restaurant in the Heron Tower, London's tallest building, might set you back an expensive cocktail or late night snack (the cafe is open 24/7)--but it's still a better value than The Shard.
Monument - a tall structure built as a monument to the Great Fire of 1666, also in the City of London - is one of the cheapest entry fees around. After you've climbed the 311 steps you're not only rewarded with wonderful views, but with a certificate of achievement.
For completely free views of the city, head to Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill, both in North London, and Greenwich Park in South London.
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