Welcome to London. Welcome to a city of eccentricity, lauded throughout world history and throbbing with the iconic and the alternative. Black taxis, red buses, famous clocks, flashing skyscrapers, wine bars tucked down labyrinthine alleys...and that's all within an hour of landing in this chaotic capital. London is mad. From the throngs that gather on tiny Trafalgar Square to the disused toilet cubicles turned into coffee joints, there's something peculiar and bizarre at every turn. Even the breakfasts don't look real; is it really possible to start your day with six different fried foods? Mugs of tea with milk, pints of “real ale,” opulent shopping experiences, grubby atmospheric basements, glorious architectural relics, or graffiti ridden streets...welcome to London and welcome to an incomparable travel experience.
But which side of London are you going to see? Perhaps the funky neighborhoods of the East, bursting with vibrant color and pop-up markets. Maybe the elegant townhouses of the West, standing proud in all their Victorian splendor. Of course, few want to miss out on the bright and famous; Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street theater, Westminster flickering over the River Thames... London's greatest appeal is its diversity. In the space of just two Underground stops you will travel to another borough, a disparate entity in the overarching sphere that calls itself London. Most Londoners never even venture into the center, stoically sticking to the sights of their own local borough. Likewise, most tourists never venture out of Underground Zone 1, missing out on the rich tapestry of culture and experiences that await in the outlying boroughs.
It would take a few generations to understand London and everything it has to offer. Even the most longstanding of “cockney” locals wouldn't claim to know it all. London for tourists has two distinct sides. Initially, there's the essential and the iconic, all the famous sights and experiences that grace television screens around the world. It's hard to visit London and miss these global travel icons. But London is undeniably bigger than this. There's a very local side, discovered all over the city and delivering thick doses of originality and charm. For tourists, this is the alternative side, the patchwork of idiosyncrasies that make London such an unforgettable experience. This guidebook celebrates both, ensuring you don't miss out on the iconicity, but you also soak up the authentic and intimate side to this buzzing metropolis. Of course, the guide is written by a Londoner; who else would be qualified for such a job? But it's also filled with insider tips from locals living in different boroughs.
So jump into London as we explain it all, from where to sleep to where to grab a 3am snack, how to use the public transport to how to spend less and experience more. This guidebook isn't thick on history or background information. So there isn't four pages on the detailed history of Westminster; that can all be discovered when you visit the ancient parliament. Instead, this guidebook is rich in practical information and ideas that enable you to craft an individualized London experience. Think of it as the friendly local in your pocket, offering directions, suggestions, and essential knowledge. It won't tell you what to do. But it will ensure you have all the information to create your own perfect London vacation.