When to fly
Most visitors take flights to London between June and September. Christmas and Easter are other peak times. School holidays - half-term weeks in October, February and May - are very busy. Families flock to the museums and attractions.
Shoulder season is from April to May (excluding Easter) and early September to October. September/October is a great time of year to pick up cheap flights to London and it can be the best time to visit: fewer crowds, cheaper hotel rooms, and better light for photography and bringing out the scenery.
As London is a four-season destination there's not much of an off-season. The weeks following Christmas and New Year until Easter are fairly quiet.
The modern city with a traditional soul, London is one of the most fascinating - and best-value - destinations. As with the other top-ranking European cities, there is a heady mix of old and new. The ancient Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and other royal residences stand beside modern edifices such as City Hall, the Gherkin and Shard London Bridge. Add in the capital's parks and masterpiece-stuffed museums and galleries (most of which are free to visit) and it's little wonder why millions of travellers book flights to London each year.
There's never a bad time to visit London. The world city has plenty going on year-round: sporting events such as the Premier League Football games, rugby and Wimbledon to name a few, festivals (like the Notting Hill Festival each August), concerts, conventions and expos.
And if you want to see a bit more of that part of the world while you're there, its joined up, world-class infrastructure means it's easy to take buses, trains and planes and go exploring the rest of the country.
July and August are usually the warmest months, however, the British summer has a reputation for being a washout. January is the coolest month with temperatures in the low single digits. Spring and autumn can be very pleasant, as the temperatures are usually higher than the rest of the UK. The rain is heaviest during November when the city averages 6cm (2.5 inches).Getting from the Airport to the CityThere are several airports serving London and plenty of places to fly into, but most visitors will arrive at one of these three:Heathrow Airport (LHR) Heathrow Airport is located some 15 miles west of London in Hounslow You can reach downtown by the underground (tube), which takes just over an hour, or by the designated Heathrow Express trains (15 mins). There are hotel shuttles which run from the airport to some London hotels. There are also taxis and coach services.Gatwick Airport (LGW) Gatwick is only a 30-minute train ride to the centre of London. From Gatwick, the fastest way to get to London is by the Gatwick Express trains. There are also bus services from Gatwick to Victoria Coach Station. Taxis are available, but you should negotiate a fare with the driver before you enter the cab.Stansted Airport (STN)Stansted is the hub for low-cost airlines located some 30 miles northeast of London. It is a 45-minute train ride to London on the Stansted Express. There are also shuttle buses, which are much cheaper but take around two hours connecting Stansted to the city. Taxis are available, but be aware that they will be very expensive.
Getting around London
There are tons of options, the best being the Tube. London’s underground system is the fastest and easiest way to get around. Avoid rush hour though unless you like the sardine-in-a-can crush.
London’s iconic double-decker red buses are slower, but they can be found everywhere and won’t be as crowded. Look into getting an Oyster card or Travelcard for travelling on London’s public transport – it will save you money. You can find them at tube stops or newsagents.
Black cabs are everywhere and very comfortable, but can be quite expensive. Minicabs are a cheaper taxi option, but you have to order them ahead of time. Watch out for illegal minicabs that trawl the theatres and nightspots..
London is a big city, but many of the tourist attractions are within walking distance or along the River Thames. Take advantage of a sunny day by walking or taking a riverboat.
Driving is not recommended, as parking is near impossible to find and a Congestion Charge will cost you extra when driving into the city’s centre Monday to Friday between 7am and 6pm. Rent a car only if you’d like to head out into the country. You will need to be over 25 and have a licence and a credit card. For more information visit www.tfl.gov.uk.
London insider information
- Major museums and art galleries are free to visit. These include the world-renowned British Museum, Natural History and Science Museums, Victoria and Albert Museum, Imperial War Museum and National Maritime Museum. There are also smaller, quirkier museums such as The Geffrye Museum, restored 18th-century almshouses with a number of period rooms from 1600 to the present day.
- The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is when the new guard exchanges duty with the old guard. It's a fantastic sight. The schedule is on the official British Monarchy website (www.royal.gov.uk).
- Hoxton is one of the coolest places in London. It was once the centre of the rag trade. Now, its large factory spaces have been transformed in to uber-cool galleries and artists' studios.
- The best place to get a curry is Brick Lane in East London. Jellied eels are not as popular as they once were but if you'd like to try them, the best place, bar none, is M Manze Pie and Eel Shop, the oldest pie-and-mash shop in London.
- The London Eye, situated on the South Bank of the Thames, offers great views of London. Another vantage point is the gallery of the Monument to the Great Fire of London in the City of London. It was built between 1671 and 1677; its 311 steps leading to an observation deck beneath the shining gold "flame".