London is so tourist friendly it’s no wonder the city was chosen to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. I like London so much because many of the city’s top museums are free to explore, and this isn’t the case where I come from. I’ve been a history buff for as long as I can remember so I can revel in all the familiar landmarks: Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace.
What is the best place from which to begin a tour of London? First of all, get acquainted with the Tube, or the “subway” as North Americans like to call an underground rail system. Take note, however, that the word “subway” in the UK means pedestrian underpass. All underground lines are color-coded, and the system is divided into six zones. All of the stuff worth seeing in London is concentrated in Zone 1, so getting around won’t be difficult at all. An Oyster card saves money in the long run.
I would say that Trafalgar Square is an excellent place to start a walking tour of central London. This square was named after the naval battle on October 21, 1805 that cost Horatio Nelson his life. Walk north of Trafalgar Square and soak up lots of history at the National Portrait Gallery. To beat the crowds visit early in the morning on any day of the week. The good news is that the gallery is free! That meant I would have more money to shop and eat and in London these activities aren’t exactly cheap.
The Imperial War Museum is off the radar for many visitors, but I consider it to be one of the best in the city. It’s smaller, quieter, and free. This always puts a smile on my face. There are some great exhibits in here, including a sobering reminder of the Nazi persecution of European Jews from 1933 to 1945. It’s not a coincidence that this exhibit is on the museum’s top floor, out of sight of younger children who aren’t quite ready to see the horrors of the past.
Okay, enough about museums. There is so much more to London. Hyde Park is the place for an afternoon stroll. Reflect on everything you’ve seen while having a relaxing lunch at the Serpentine Café.