London Overview: Kings, Queens and Romantic Charm
The original City of London was just over one square mile in area and its boundaries have changed little since medieval times. Often referred to as “the City” or the “Square Mile,” the area is now combined with the 32 other boroughs that surround it to create Greater London. The City is the financial core, home of the London Stock Exchange, hundreds of banks and the insurance icon Lloyd’s of London. It is also where people flock to the Tower of London to hear tales of its tumultuous history. Although it is a busy area during the business week, the City is rather quiet after the workforce goes home. This area is a part of Central London, offering countless pubs, clubs and theaters. There are several districts, each with its own flavor. The West End is home to Chinatown, world-class shopping and an enormous number of hotels. Westminster is the location of the Royal Family and Parliament. Marylebone is where Sherlock Holmes solved his cases and where Madame Tussauds entertains with lifelike wax figures. Elegant Mayfair is London’s most upscale area and Holborn is London’s legal heart. Surrounding Central London are four distinct areas. East London is emerging as a tourist hotspot, with an ever-increasing number of galleries, clubs and bars inviting people to visit this working-class section of the city. Site of the 2012 London Olympic Games, the district includes such boroughs as Bethnal Green, Bow, Docklands, Hackney and Mile End. West London is home to Chelsea and Kensington, areas famous for upscale hotels, fashion, grand accommodations and affluent residents. Harrods is one of the most notable stores in the area. North and South London get less of the tourist trade but are a charming combination of villages, small towns and green open spaces. It is possible to fly into six different airports to get to London, but most people arrive at either London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (GTW). Both are important international hubs and service carriers from around the world. They offer excellent transportation choices to get to the city: by rail, bus, shuttle or taxi. Car rentals are available but remember to drive on the left. The Stansted Airport (STN) is popular for the number of budget flights it services. EasyJet and RyanAir are just two of the low-cost airlines that land here. The airport is about an hour’s ride from London and has rail, bus, taxi and shuttle transportation options. Rental cars are available here as well. No matter which airport you arrive at, once you get to London you will find one of the most extensive rail and subways systems at your service.