London is a great city to visit. I should know, having lived on the outskirts of it for 30 years before I upped sticks and headed north to Manchester, another great British city. London is always a hotspot of tourism, with a long history told through the buildings, a great many attractions, and the good ol’ Royal Family that is more beloved by tourists than the people they rule over.
I’m writing this article prior to the London 2012 Olympics, when tourism is expected to spike massively as people head to the capital of the U.K. to watch this great event. But even after the closing ceremony has ended, and all the athletes have headed back to their respective countries, London has a lot to offer tourists from all four corners of the world.
What follows are 10 essential websites everybody visiting London should check out before heading into the heart of the English capital.
What better place to start than the Official London City Guide. This site has everything you’d expect it to and a little more besides. With feature guides to upcoming events, a list of attractions, competitions, and blog posts. There are also various maps of London, and the opportunity to book stays at hotels or buy tickets for shows.
Lonely Planet is a well-known resource for travelers. London is one of the many destinations it has an extensive guide to on its site. You land on a short introduction to the city, and from there you can learn about the history of London, or find out more about the activities, sights, restaurants, and shopping expeditions available to all visitors.
Rough Guides is another well-known resource for travelers that has London covered in a big way. After reading the introduction you can learn about how best to travel around the capital, which attractions not to miss, and guides to eating, drinking, and going out in the evening. There are also specific pages dedicated to must-see sights such as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.
Time Out is a guide to pretty much everything there is to do for fun in London. This is the website to bookmark in order to keep your finger on the pulse of all things cultural. There are sections dedicated to restaurants and bars, museums and art galleries, music festivals, comedy clubs, and a whole lot more besides. An invaluable search feature lets you find the right event happening on the right day.
London Town is a website curated by a team of experts who really know their stuff. Each one focuses on one aspect of London life, with guides to hotels, attractions, pubs, restaurants, markets, and exhibitions, amongst others. There is also practical information for first-time visitors, and a guide to the different boroughs and postcodes for those planning longer stays.
Londonist is a site that feels very much like a community having a conversation. News stories, blog posts, photo sets, and podcasts sit comfortably together, all delivered with a healthy mix of information and opinion. The ‘London for Free‘ and ‘London on the Cheap‘ pages are must-visits, featuring hundreds of things to do in the English capital either for free or for under £5.
Several of the sites already featured focus on the main attractions most people have already heard of. Hidden London, as its name suggests, veers away from the big venues and instead attempts to inform visitors about the more obscure locales and curiosities that can be found within the bounds of London. This is the website for those seeking to avoid the tourist traps guaranteed to be packed with visitors.
My London Map is a simple-yet-invaluable tool for anyone heading into London. It’s an interactive map of the area, with overlays including streets, hotels, apartments, and theater tickets. There are effective search options and, best of all, an accurate depiction of all the tube lines – it looks very different viewed geographically rather than topologically.
With so much to see and do in London it’s essential to be able to get where you need to go with the minimum of fuss. The integrated public transport system is far from perfect but it works well at all but the peak travel times. The Transport for London website features a journey planner, maps, and service updates for the tube, trains, buses and other modes of travel that act like the arteries of the capital.
Last but not least we have the BBC News London website. This primarily features the latest news from London, with local headlines for each area. There are also short guides to the latest events, travel news, and a weather forecast. Outbound links will take you to sites for neighboring counties that people staying longer may want to venture in to for a day trip.
Visiting a new location, particularly a city as sprawling, populous, and diverse as London, requires you to soak up a lot of information in advance of actually making the trip, in order to get a true feel for the place. The preceding websites should give any budding tourists heading into London everything they need to make the most of their vacation, however long it may last.
Have you visited London as a tourist? If so, which websites did you find particularly useful in helping plan the trip? If you know of one that didn’t make the list then please let us (and the budding tourists who have landed on this page) know in the comments section below.
Image Credit: John Goode
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