London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom, and is one of the few cities that could truly be called one of the capitals of the world. When you walk around the streets you notice people of all races and nationalities, you hear over 300 languages, and the combinations of traditions and freedoms makes London possibly the world's most cosmopolitan city. This misty, rainy city never ceases to be dynamic, with a population of over 8 million made up of people from all over the world.
It's about 25km from Heathrow Airport to the city center. Taxis cost something in the neighborhood of £50-60.The fastest way to get into the city is the Heathrow Express, which gets you into Paddington Station in 15 minutes (£20 one-way, £34 roundtrip). The Heathrow Connect goes by the same route but makes a few more stops and takes 25 minutes ( £9.10 one way ,roundtrip £17.80). The cheapest option is the metro (London Underground-Piccadilly Line) and you can get downtown in an hour. From midnight to 5am the N9 night buses are in service. Another important airport in London is Gatwick, which is 48km outside of the city. To get into the city you can take the Gatwick Express (£18.90 one-way, roundtrip £33.20), Southern Railway (one-way £13.50), First Capital Connect (Around £10), or buses like easyBus or National Express. Buses are cheaper but depending on which company you choose it can take between 60-110 minutes. London features one of the world's most extensive public transportation systems. The Light Rail system (Docklands Light Railway) only operates in East London, for example to go to Greenwich you might use the DLR. If you're going to stay more than a few days it's worth it to pick up an Oyster Card to reduce your transportation costs.
London is one of the most popular destinations in the world and as a result the hotels near the city center tend to be relatively expensive. These are some of the city's award-winning, fashionable hotels: The Milestone Hotel, Hotel 41, Egerton House Hotel, 51 Buckingham Gate-Taj Suites and Residences, Corinthia Hotel London, The Soho Hotel, and Claridge’s. These are the best hotels one notch below those: Apex Temple Court Hotel, The Ampersand Hotel, The Goring, Travelodge London Hounslow Hotel and The Aber Hotel. For those on a really tight budget, things like the Hoxton Hotel and Premier Inn London Hanger Lane are fine. Also remember that there hostels or bed-and-breakfasts to choose from.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Thames River, Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Covent Gardens, Camden Town markets, the Royal Garden in Hyde Park, St. James's Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent's Park, Green Park. A little more outside of the city is the Royal Greenwich Observatory which forms the prime meridian. London is a city full of culture and the arts. Some of London's and the world's most famous museums include: The British Museum, The Natural History Museum, Science Museum, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and Tate Britain.
Expensive designs and famous brands can be found in Knightsbridge, Bond Street and Sloane Street's fashionable shops. For custom-made clothes, Savile Row and St. James's are worth checking out. The latest fashion in clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs can be found at Covent Garden. On Oxford Street there are big shopping centers, music stores and reasonably priced shops. For second hand shops, go to Portobello and Camden Town. Piccadilly is one of the older places for shopping in London with traditional British retailers. Also the markets of Petticoat Lane and Spitalfields are worth a look. Some of the more well-known shopping centers of London include Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Liberty, Fortnum and Mason, Selfridges, and Burlington Arcade. Hamleys toy shop is the best toy shop in the city. Virgin and HMV are large music stores. If you want to head out of the city, Brent Cross, Lakeside Shopping Center or Bluewater are all great to visit.
Even though the city is relatively crowded, it remains clean, highly organized, and full of greenery, which also makes it a lovely city to walk through. The Thames road, Regent's Canal, Hampstead Heath Park, Knightsbridge, Chelsea, Sloane Street, King's Road, Notting Hill, Soho, or Camden Town are all places with lots to do. To see London from up high, you can take a ride on the Ferris wheel called the London Eye. Or take a boat tour along the Thames, or relax in one of the city's many parks, or speak up at Hyde Park's Speaker's Corner, throw down a brew in one of the city's pubs, take a photo with a wax statue at Madame Tussauds, or learn about the solar system at the Planetarium or catch a musical around Chinatown. Or head out to the theater or catch a flick! If you come at the right time you can catch a city festival or other annual event (Towards the end of August is the 3 day Notting Hill Carnival, in the middle of November is Lord Mayor's Show, in March is the annual rowing race, and in June is the Trooping the Colour in honor of the Queen's birthday. And so on). There's always something to do in London. Leicester Square, Piccadilly, and Covent Gardens are the places to go for those in search of night life.