June 06, 2012 London UK Europe

Visiting London... What not to Miss

Guides from around the world. LONDON City Guide.

London is one of the most famous cosmopoLitan cities in the worLd and this JuLy hosts the oLympic Games. from the Grandest hoteLs to the cooLest bars, don’t miss the essentiaL Guide to the city.

Whenever you meet a frequent trav- eler, one of the most common dis- cussions that come up is centered on which European city is the best. In my experience, the two most- mentioned favorites are usually London or Paris.
 
 
The English traditions differ from the French ones on many levels, especially when it comes to food, hospital-ity and way of living. After re-visiting London again recently, I found my- self falling more and more in love with this city. There is something about the England capital that pulls you in, making you want to come back. Perhaps it’s a definite nostalgia, but it’s a feeling that is ignited each time I arrive at Kings Cross St.Pancras train station on theEurostar from Paris. For me that is the moment I feel the story truly begins.
I grab a taxi and sit comfortably in the back seat, and along
 
 
the drive I start discovering centuries of history built into the city’s environment. But it is the new additions to London’s sky- line that truly impress me these days. You have to see the Swiss Re building in the financial district, known colloquially as “The Gherkin,” to believe it. Searching for a hotel is an interesting task. Whether you’re going for luxury or business, it all depends on the budget and the aim of your visit. You can choose one of the international brands like the Marriott, Best Western, Four Seasons or the Radisson for a quick business stay or shoot for a romantic ho- tel like the Kempinski, The Tower or Halkin. And with London’s expansive selection of hotel get-aways, you might even want to opt for one of the famously designed hotels like the Boundary, Hempel or Sanderson.
 
 
Where London to stay in:
My two choices were the Tower Hotel and the Best Western Premier Shaftesbury Hotel: The Tower Hotel: Located right on the River Thames in the heart of London, the hotel comes with an array of benefits including panoramic views over Tower Bridge, River Thames and St Katharine Docks. Vibrant, contemporary and spacious, the Tower Hotel has a re- laxed atmosphere and welcomes in an abundance of natural daylight. It is located 100 meters away from the Big Bus Com- pany tour, which will help you discover the four corners of the city. I loved their welcoming majordome, who wears a traditional top hat, and knows the small details about the city. He will rec- ommend plenty of interesting restaurants and places to visit.

 
 
The Best Western Shaftesbury : This is a very luxurious hotel in Shatesbury Avenue that is nicely styled and has excellent service. It is situated about 200 meters from Piccadilly Circus, and sits in one of London’s best locations at the heart of the theater district. Nearby, you can find Leicester Square, Oxford Circus, Trafalgar Square and Convent Garden. The street is busy, since the Shaftesbury faces the ever-popular Soho district.
 
 
What to do:
Since we were only there for two days, we had to move fast. The first thing we chose to do was participate in one of the open bus tours to discover the city. You can choose between two companies: the Original Tour and the Big Bus Company. I suggest that you jump on one of the buses and complete a full tour so you can see and learn about many of thehistori- cal monuments and areas. After that, try to re-visit the locations that meant some- thing to you. London is full of sites todis- cover, and has an impressive historical past that deserves a rich exploration. More than 25 different museums, dozens of art exhibitions and galleries, and more than 30 historical places to visit. Among the best are London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. One of the popular attractions is the Lon- don Eye, which took seven years to build. At the very top, 135 meters above ground
level, you get to see a view all around the capital. Up to 40 kilometers away on a clear day.
 
 
Where to eat:
For the cosmopolitan capital that London is, the cuisine possibilities are endless and you can enjoy international cuisines easily like Indian, Chinese, European and Middle Eastern.
 
 
I would recommend tryIng two places:
Roast: Located in Borough Market, Britain’s old- est food market, it’s a place dedicated to British cooking, covering all choices of meat, chicken and seafood prepared organically. The Sunday lunch is superb with all the traditional ‘roasts’ catered for.
About Thyme: I would suggest you try this restaurant in Wilton Road at night, as it is busy with busi-ness clients at noon. They serve top Euro- pean cuisine from onion soup, seafood, sal- ads and roasted meats. Before going to the theatre, pass by and enjoy their reasonable two and three courses set menu.
I also heard some positive comments, for the ones who prefer a Lebanese cuisine: on Comptoir Libanais and Maroush London but didn’t try them as I would rather eat local cuisine in Beirut.
 
 
Shop until you drop:
Want to shop? London is a great city for High Street shopping. Try Oxford Street, Kensington High Street or Sloane Square/King’s Road. Stop at the begin- ning of the road and walk all the way down. If you’re looking for more high-end brands go to Bond Street, or, of course, go to Harrods on Knightsbridge. The place I remember the most is the National Geographic Store on Knights- brige. It was my favorite by a long way and worth a trip to London just on its own.
 
 
After dinner:
A great thing to do after dining out is a visit to the theatre. We went to the the- atre to watch Billy Elliott. Taking pictures inside the old venue is prohibited but I managed to get you some. It is impres- sive; really different from any perfor- mance you can attend anywhere else. Billy Elliott is one of the most celebrated, award-winning musicals on stage today. It has been dazzling London’s West End since 2005 and has gone on to captivate audiences around the world.
 
 
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