The beginner’s guide to London

As London welcomes visitors from all over the world this week, we’ve put together our own guide to the city, with a selection of hints and tips to help you feel like a local…

While you’re here

– Why not take the River Bus from Putney to Blackfriars, then on to Greenwich? It’s a fast and comfortable way to cross the city, with amazing views – and no traffic jams!

– A visit to Shakespeare’s Globe will set you back just £5 for a standing ticket and is well worth it, as long as the sun’s shining… Or you could see a show in the West End – there are discount ticket booths in Leicester Square and Covent Garden where you can buy tickets for the same day.

– Go and take a look at The Shard – the tallest building in Western Europe, which has just opened near London Bridge (be prepared for a sore neck). From next year visitors will be able to travel to the top and take in the amazing views – but in the meantime, here’s a website that lets you see what you’re missing. It really is pretty special.

– If you fancy getting out of the city centre, Richmond Park and Kew Gardens are lovely – although not far from town, you’ll feel like you’re in the countryside. At Richmond, you can even see their famous deer herd.

– London boasts some fantastic free museums; we recommend the Science MuseumNatural History MuseumBritish Museum and the Tate Galleries, but there are plenty of others to choose from.

London bus


Useful tips

– If you’re not going far, don’t take the London Underground (also known as the Tube) – you’ll find it’s much quicker, cheaper and cooler to stay at street level and walk. This is particularly true of stations on or near the Circle Line so don’t get caught out! You can’t go too far without stumbling across a station, and there are maps pretty much everywhere, so it’s quite hard to get lost. But if you are travelling on the Tube, get yourself an Oyster Card, it’s by far the easiest way to pay for your tickets.

– Alternatively, if you want to be able to see where you’re going, but don’t fancy the bus, try hiring a ‘Boris Bike’ (named after Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, in case you were wondering). You can just pay and go, then when you’re finished, return the bike to any of the docking stations located around London – no need to bring it back to where you started.

– Most people don’t really talk in Cockney Rhyming Slang, so if you try addressing someone as your ‘china plate’ you may get some funny looks. But then again, we don’t all talk like The Queen, either. Terribly sorry, old bean.

– To feel like a real Londoner, just roll your eyes and say to random strangers, ‘Well at least the sun’s come out at last.’ You’ll fit right in.

– On a similar note, do remember to come prepared for all weathers – a typical bag should contain sun cream and sunglasses as well as an umbrella and some warm layers of clothing.

– And finally, food – we have some strange names for our dishes, so be prepared. For instance, black pudding is not, in fact, a pudding but a type of sausage (and something of an acquired taste). Eton mess sounds horrible but is actually a very tasty dessert featuring strawberries, meringue and cream. And toad in the hole does not contain any toads. Honest.

River Thames by night


Most importantly, we hope you enjoy your visit! And don’t be afraid to ask the locals for help – we Brits may seem a bit grumpy (especially during rush hour) but underneath we’re really very nice people…

Are you a Londoner with some useful advice? Or maybe you’re visiting and have already discovered a hidden gem? Please share them in the comments!

Liz and the EuroTalk team


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