Thursday, January 21, 2016

What to do in London England - A travel guide to the Royal City

At the heart of Europe is the world’s most popular tourist destination – London. It has been tagged as the Royal City because of the opulence of British Monarchy and the ruins of Roman Empire. Other than the tube that excites and entices people from all over the world, many visit the place because of its grandeur, rich history, culture, magnificent art, culinary gems, fashion, architecture, cutting-edge creativity and bustling city life. 

Last November, I got the chance to visit this grand city when I took a short course  on Social Media at The Guardian Media in Kingscross London and when I attended the World Travel Market.  

Growing up, it has always been my dream to experience London, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked out the window of my plane during descent. The enormous city spread out before me in the night with a million glittering lights.

Philippine Airlines has a direct flight from Manila to Heathrow London. They are the only airline that flies non-stop Manila to London 5x weekly. For long flights like this, I only trust Philippines Airlines. I always feel the warmth and comfort when flying with them. Delicious meals and snacks are provided already all through out the 15 hours travel with inflight entertainment so I wasn’t bored and didn’t have to worry about anything.

I was there for almost a month but I still feel it wasn’t enough. There are some historical places that I missed and few more attractions that I didn’t get to visit. 

If you haven’t been to this place yet, this is the right time for you to take that next Philippine Airlines flight  and begin your LONDON ADVENTURE as they have a promotion ongoing. Also getting a UK VISA now is easier. The approval rate is at 97%. 

So, what is there to do in London?

A lot, and just when you think you’ve covered it all, there’s more.

To give you a small sampling of what is available, I’ve put together a short list of a few must-have experiences for food, fun, and sight-seeing. I’ll also provide you a full itinerary for a 2 week vacation in United Kingdom in a separate entry.

1. Visit the Tower of London
Visiting the Tower of London is a must especially for first-timers. This popular tourist spot is actually a castle composed of 22 towers with a colorful history. It not only housed royalties in the past; it also served as an armory, mint and treasury. It is also the place where two kings and three queens met there death and where other royalties were imprisoned. Today, one can easily get lost in its rich architecture, spectacular crown jewels and colorful Yoeman Warders or beefeaters that will tour you around the place.

2. Take the time to check Big Ben
Big Ben is one of the most iconic landmarks in London that is located at the northern part of the Westminster Palace. This 97-meter giant clock has been featured in a lot of movies and TV shows that when people see it, they immediately think of London. This clock tower is the second largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and its chiming bells is known to signal the start of the BBC radio.

3. Ride the London Eye
If you want to have fun in London and have a good view of its skyline at the same time, all you need to do is buy some tickets and ride Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel. Since it’s 394 feet high, it can give you the highest 360 degrees public viewing point of London’s skyline. 

4. Catch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
Your trip to London won’t definitely be complete without witnessing a little bit of display of British pomp and ceremony at Buckingham Palace. You can catch the changing of the guards everyday at 11 am (10 am on Sundays) in their old guard uniforms while symbolically handing over the palace keys to the new guards and performing other military formalities. 

5. Get spooked at the London Bridge
For those who would like to have a little adventure, walking through London Bridge and uncovering its dark secrets is a must. There may be a nursery rhyme entitled “London Bridge is Falling Down” which is often sung by children, but in reality, the bridge has a gruesome and dark history to it. In the medieval times, the London Bridge served as a place where the heads of traitors (which were dipped in tar) were displayed on a spike for all of London to see. Today, it remains as one of the world’s most famous and most haunted bridges. 

6. Relieve your history at the British Museum
Whether you’re a history buff or not, you’ll be awed by the different antique collections housed at the British Museum. With over 13 million ancient artifacts, you can easily get lost in wonder and amazement in this wonderful place. Some of the antique pieces that you should not miss include the statue of the goddess Demeter, the Rosetta Stone, the 14th century hoard of Roman silver known as the Mildenhall Treasure, the Tang horses and camels, Egyptian mummies, the controversial Elgin Marbles of the Parthenon and many more. 

7. Take a tour around St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is the best reflection of London’s Anglican faith as it is the seat of the Bishop of London. Famous for its big dome that dominates the London skyline, it houses Victorian mosaics and art pieces, memorials to national heroes and scientists, select pieces of contemporary art, good acoustics in the Whispering Gallery and wonderful views in the Golden Gallery.  

8. Explore London’s National Gallery
Another thing that London is known for is its love for art. London’s National Gallery prides itself in housing over 2,000 Western European paintings from the middle ages up to the 20th century. There, you can find famous pieces from world acclaimed artists like Leonardo da Vinci’s “Madonna and Child”, Raphael’s “Crucifixion”,  Michaelangelo’s “The Entombment”, Pieter Bruegel’s “The Adoration of the Magi”, Claude Monet’s “The Water Lily Pond”, Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and many other works from famous artists.

9. Experience British tradition at Westminster Abbey
If you want to experience British culture and tradition, don’t forget to visit Westminster Abbey. Originally a Gothic church, Westminster Abbey now has a status of a “Royal Peculiar”, a church that is dedicated to sovereign functions. True to its status, this place is known for being the traditional place of coronation and burial sites of British monarchs. 

10. Visit the Royal Observatory at Greenwich
The Royal Observatory is the home of the world's Prime Meridian or 0º Latitude. One can tour around the Royal Observatory and be amazed with different astronomical and navigational tools. Aside from that, it is also a home of the best scenic spots in the heart of London that is overlooking the river Thames. 

11. Watch a West End Show
 Other than visiting the London’s Shakespeare Globe Theater,  you must also spend time to watch West End Shows and Stage Plays. You can get your tickets at the ticket booth in London Theatreland. In a day, you can watch 2 plays, let say, Miss Saigon at 2pm, Les Miserables at 7pm. Other nice plays that are high recommended are The Lion King, Mamma Mia, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera and Matilda

12. Food Tripping in London

Given the size of London makes it a prime location for a ton of different restaurants. Some of them serve up a fantastic local fare and others provide a truly unique dining experience. It all depends on what you are into and what you want to gain.

Sometimes visiting a new place also means immersing yourself in the experience of traditional local cuisine. You could sample interesting and unfamiliar dishes. Or, perhaps you’d rather try one of the many other dining experienced afforded by London visitors. With a city this large, there is something to please everyone.

Curry and 'Fish & Chips' are favorite local foods of the Brits. A decent meal would cost you less than 20 pounds. 

All that you can do in 7 days. If you have more time, then I suggest you make a side trip for a day to UNESCO World Heritage Sites 1. Bath and 2. Stonehenge (Separate Article). Then take the train for 4 hours from St. Pancras International Station to Scotland and spend 2 nights and 3 days (Separate Article) and then fly to Northern Ireland via EASYJET and spend 2 nights and 3 days too.

With lots of castles to explore, sights to behold, landmarks to remember and history to learn, you’ll never run out of places to check out or activities to try in London. Now to help you plan your trip well, I prepared a more detailed itinerary. Check it here

P.S.  CONVERSE II is the perfect shoes for traveling because it now uses NIKE's Lunarlon foam cushioning and extra arch support, as well as a non-slip tongue and perforated micro-suede liner, which lets the shoe breathe during extended periods of wear.