What to see in London...


Well-Known Member
So about two months ago I began working for Virgin Atlantic as a PSA in EWR. Did my training up in CCT for two weeks and then found out they were sending me to London for another day of training. It turns out that because of passenger loads, combined with my normal days off, a day trade, and a vacation day, I'll have about a week in the UK. I'll fly into LHR, but then have to take a bus to LGW, where I believe the VAA offices are nearby. So I have a few questions of those living in in the UK or familiar w/ London. After the first 4 days, and my training day has past, this will be on my dime...hotels and everything else. Should I change hotels, somewhere closer to city? What are some places to see? Where are some of the nightly hot spots? Best way to get around would be the daily transit cards? Anyother good things you can suggest would be great.

Whoohoo- trip to London!
OH crap...I just typed a BIG long response to your question and now I just lost it. Oh well. I spent 8 years of my teenage life in London, soI might be able to answer on or 2 of your questions.

Stay near LGW...too expensive in town. One day travelcard will get you anywhere you want to go in central London for the least amount of money. The Gatwick Express train will deposit you conveniently in central London in about 30 mins.

London is an enourmous city and everything is packed in tight.

I used to spend many nights in the Piccadily Circus / Leicester square area, but there are numerous other hotspots too. Pubs, night clubs, theatres, movie theatres (won't be of interest to you since the UK generally gets the movies several weeks after the U.S. and you will either have seen them already or can see them here and for less money) you name it, it's there.

If you're into historical, touristy things then there are PLENTY of sites to see. If you're interested in those kinds of things, let me know and I can go into more detail on that. I've spent many a day showing people around London.

Prepare for things to be expensive, especially in central London. Take British pounds and multiply by 1.5 to get a rough conversion into $$.

Before I lose this again, I'm gonna post it. If you have anymore questions, let me know and I'll try to answer them. If I can think of anything more I'll post it.

I'm a big fan of old churches and cathedrals. St. Catharines is always a good start as well is Westminster Abbey -- and it's very close to parliament, the Thames and not that far from Buckingham Palace.

Strangely, the gate at BP is a lot more ornate than the palace itself.
The most "night lifey" thing we did was see Chicago in Leicester Square so I can't help you much in that department.

The changing of the gaurd isn't very spectacular but it's just one of those famous things you gotta see once.

Eat at pubs - good cheap food. Also look into small local establishments. We found a great chinese place and watched the cook make Hot n' Sour soup from scratch. Cheap and damn good.

I'm big into history so most of my time was spent doing the touristy thing.

St. Paul's Cathedral was my personal favorite from my time in London.

I'm not crazy religious and you don't need to be to appreciate the cathedral. We went there every other night and sat in the back while the choir sang. Really calming and a great place to rest your feet after you've been walking around all day.

The Tower of London/Crown Jewels was sweet. The beefeaters are a hoot if you get a good one.

London Eye was not worth the money IMO.

Cabinet War Rooms were cool.

Westminster Abbey is worth seeing.

If time permits you can do some day trips. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, Dover Castle, Bath... all good. Stratford upon Avon I heard is awesome but we didn't have time.

Some of my favorite time was actually spent outside of London riding a train through the rural areas.

There are tons and tons of museums if that fits your fancy.

This is all just a fraction of things to see and do. Have fun and be safe.
You know, I might have seen St. Pauls as opposed to St. Catharines. I can't remember.

And he's right, I'm not a religious guy but the cathedrals are fantastic -- a nice thick soup of history.
I have spent quite a lot of time in London and know it very well - here is MHO from what other people have said:

I would go into London for a few days - some insider spots for about $100 USD is The Dolphin Square Hotel (that is where I always stay), or The Thistle In Victoria (although their rooms are smaller then the Dolphin square - but right by a big train station, which has an express train to LGW). The hotel VS put you up in is likely to be very close to the airport - which means it is going to be about the same price.

I would try and get out to Oxford for a day - I think the train leaves Picadilly, and that is just a nice English town!!

Leicester square is where I used to go - I think Home is now closed, but I have many found (and faded) memories from Equinox!

The War Rooms are great - it is amazing to think that was the heart of the British War Effort. I enjoyed the London Eye, most of the touristy things in London are quite close and you can see them from the eye. My only concern is with the weather at this time of the year - it might be worth it just to get out of the rain.

I have to agree with Doug - Buckingham Palace does look a bit plain but you have to visit it.

Definately go and see Parliment and Big Ben - St Paul Cathedral (I am not sure where St. Catharines is).

Whoever suggested eating at the pub is right on - good tasy cheap food! You have to have an Indian meal while you are there - the insider spot in London is a place on Horse Ferry Road called Kudan - you have to go down these stairs to get in - but is is the place!!

Tower of London is cool too.
Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm looking at all the links posted and looking at the transit system now. The cabinet rooms are going to be visited, I like that historical stuff. The 'eye' just seems like a ferris wheel, although the web site said it was otherwise, just semantics to me. I'll decide on the 'eye' when I see it.
Iain, I believe that VS puts us up in a Hilton near LGW, so I'm not sure where that is and the best way to the center of town.
So do you folks think it would be better to stay the last few nights in the Hilton where it may be cheaper on the outer town, or change hotels to the center of town once VS stops paying.
I think I'll have to pay the last 2 nights.
I suspect Virgin will put you at the Gatwick Hilton, which is "layover central" for crews flying to Gatwick. (They get a LOT of business from the airlines.) I stayed there when I was a Continental intern in '98. If you talk to the front desk, they will give you Virgin's room rate since you're an employee, even though you'll probably be paying the last few nights yourself. The airline rate is about half what the rack rate is, and is a pretty good deal.

The Gatwick Hilton is connected via an enclosed walkway to the terminal at LGW. Without going outside from the airport or the hotel, you can access the rail station where the "Gatwick Express" train operates between Gatwick and Victoria Station in central London. It is the fastest, easiest, and least expensive way I know of to get in to the city. The Hilton used to offer one free roundtrip on it to their guests ... ask at the front desk if they still do ... if they don't it's still the way to go ... especially with the airline rate the Hilton will be the most affordable way to stay in London, and the train ride isn't bad. Victoria Station puts you within a few blocks of Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. James Park, etc. If you want to go anywhere else in London, you're just a tube ride away.

Enjoy London ... it is a fabulous city and I, for one, can't wait to go back!

The Gatwick and Heathrow Express is very expensive IMHO - something like 9 quid 1 way. The hotels I previously mentioned are the best, most affordable in London. I woudl stay in the center of London that way if you want to go back to your hotel, put on some dry clothes on, warm up, rest a bit, etc - it is in walking distance. Also if you want to stay out late - then for safety and convience you can just hop in a taxi and for a fiver get home.
The Gatwick and Heathrow Express is very expensive IMHO - something like 9 quid 1 way. The hotels I previously mentioned are the best, most affordable in London. I woudl stay in the center of London that way if you want to go back to your hotel, put on some dry clothes on, warm up, rest a bit, etc - it is in walking distance. Also if you want to stay out late - then for safety and convience you can just hop in a taxi and for a fiver get home.

[/ QUOTE ]Make sure to ask about the free ride on the Express through the Hilton. Then it costs you nothing, at least for one round trip.

Ahhh... I'm a Londoner born and bred, well until I left, which wasn't that long ago.

I would advise finding a cheap hotel in Central London. London is a walking city, and you'll benefit from being able to explore and then crash. Not sure what the rates you have at LGW are like, but there are some cheaper places in London, some netsurfing will identify them. Sidestep, Expedia etc...

If you're interested in some of the History, there's a group called London Walks that runs some very interesting tours. The history of London is fascinating. I always said I would only leave when I stopped learning about London. Unfortunately practicalities got in the way of that ideal, but I still enjoy going back to continue the learning.

As for an evening out. Food is generally more expensive than the states. Beer does not have to be, if you find the right pubs, basically those slightly off the beaten path without enormous queues of tourists outside. If you are going to be staying in Central London, drop me a note and let me know where, and I'll give you some pointers on the area, if I know it.

The liveliness of the area around Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus are fun to take in the atmosphere, night life or just an evening stroll, as is the London skyline from any of the bridges (or the London Eye which is well woth the money, day or night!). There is now a riverside walk, which runs mainly along the South Bank, has a number of fantastic pubs along it, quite a few of them with a Shakesperean connection, and a conveniently located pizza restaurant not far west of the South Bank Center with a super view.
If you're going around Christmas, the Regent Street lights are themed along with all the store fronts, which can be a smile for an evening stroll.

As always I'd recommend the Tower of London as on of the best tourist spots. It's been around for a major part of London's history, and a tour around it reflects that.

Alright, I'll stop waffling on now... if you want any more information, feel free to PM me.
I have to admit that altho the lounge/check in area in the thistle victoria looked nice - I didn't like the rooms too much.. i'm used to air conditioning/air (i found the windows difficult to open/keep open) and a nice stiff/large bed and the room seemed a quite a bit smaller - but it was also my 2nd trip overseas, so there's always something new to learn! next time we go - we'll probably stay in more of an americanized hotel... but not everyone is like me - so don't discount it just cuz of my views!

I'd say definately visit St. Paul's Cathedral, the tower of london (you hear tons of horror stories) and take a double decker bus tour (tour guides are pretty darn humorous).. picadilly was the "place to be" at night and is quite crowded on the sidewalks.. and the pub food is the better food since we didn't get a chance to try any indian food that time around.

have fun!!
And don't go to London to eat.

My oh my, now I know why my friend Iain is so thin!
Unless you fancy a Curry....... Man do I love indian food. Go down to Tombridge Wells for the day. It is pretty neat. There is a Weatherspoons pub there that used to be an opera house. I do not recall the name though. London is my favourite city. You have to love a city where a pint of beer is about 3.00 US and you do not tip the barman.......
And don't go to London to eat.

[/ QUOTE ]This is only partially true. London is full of wonderful food ... but none of it is English! All the best restaurants feature the food of other parts of the world.

For those who have been to Europe, you'll appreciate the following message on a T-shirt I bought on my last trip over this past winter:

Heaven is where:
The police are British.
The cooks are French.
The mechanics are German.
The lovers are Italian.
And it's all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is where:
The police are German.
The cooks are British.
The mechanics are French.
The lovers are Swiss.
And it's all organized by the Italians.

Laughed so hard when I saw that shirt that I had to buy it ... people who've been to Europe laugh ... those that haven't need an explanation!!

My oh my, now I know why my friend Iain is so thin!

[/ QUOTE ]


I do not see the problem people have with the British food - maybe I just now where to go!

Kristie - yeah the Thistle is certainly not known for its large spacious rooms - but considering it was built 100s of years ago......

I always stay at the Dolphin Square Hotel - the rooms are much larger, and more modern!