Central London, like any other city centre in the world, is the place where the hive of activities and sights are concentrated. There is no official definition for the Central London boundary. Colloquially, Londoners refer Central London as the Zone 1 of the city's public transportation fare zoning system. Zone 1 covers the City of London; part of the boroughs of Camden, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets; and the City of Westminster.
The only borough with a city status within Greater London is the City of Westminster, a couple of miles upstream adjecent to the west of the City of London. This is the seat of government, and its protestant cathedral is the church of St Peter's, otherwise known as Westminster Abbey.
Sights and Activities
Many London attractions which charge admission fee offer discounts for online ticket purchases. Check out the respective websites for the latest deals and promotions.
City of London
- The Tower of London was once a fortress, a royal palace and also a prison (for high status and royal prisoners, such as future Queen Elizabeth I). This fortress built in 1078 by William the Conqueror is now home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom since 1303. This monument is just a stone's throw away from the Tower Bridge on the north bank of the River Thames.
- St Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of London. Located on Ludgate Hill in the City of London, this present building is generally reckoned to be the fifth St Paul's Cathedral of London.
Inns of Court
The Inns of Court is located between the cities of London and Westminster. The four Inns of Court are the colleges of England's barristers, or specialist trial lawyers. Their open areas and gardens are open to the public and can offer welcome respite from the crowds. Middle Temple and Inner Temple are located to the south of Fleet Street; Lincoln's Inn is between Fleet Street and Holborn; and Gray's Inn is to the north of High Holborn.
City of Westminster
Museums and Galleries
- The National Gallery houses over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century. The collection, which also includes paintings of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh, belongs to the British public. Entry to the main collection is free. There are charges for special exhibitions throughout the year. The nearest tube station is Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern lines) and Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly lines).
- National Portrait Gallery is a collection of portraits of historically important and famous British people. Entry to the main collection is free. There are charges for special exhibitions throughout the year. It is located in the building adjoining the National Gallery. The nearest tube stations are Charing Cross (Bakerloo and Northern lines) and Leicester Square (Northern and Piccadilly lines).
- Tate Britain has a fine collection of British work from medieval times to the present day, particularly notable for its Turner collection. The nearest tube station is Pimlico (Victoria line).
- Madame Tussauds has a collection of waxwork models of famous people in this museum set up by an émigrée from the French Revolution, Marie Tussaud. Be prepared to queue. The Baker Street tube station (Bakerloo, Circle, District and Jubilee lines) is just a stone's throw away.
Parks and Gardens
- Hyde Park provides a big breath of fresh air bang in the middle of London, with boating ponds and flower gardens. It covers an area of 142 hectares (350 acres). The Diana Memorial Fountain is located in the south-west corner of the park.
- Kensington Gardens is often assumed to be part of Hyde Park because both are next to each other with no obvious separation except the Serpentine lake. Covering an area of 111 hectares (275 acres), it is home to the Kensington Palace, peaceful Italian Gardens, the Albert Memorial, Peter Pan statue and the Serpentine Gallery.
- The Green Park is a 19-hectare (47 acres) park next to the Buckingham Palace. Compared to its neighbour St James's Park, it is more peaceful, with mature trees and grassland.
- St James's Park is a well-kept small park with a lake harbouring ducks, geese and pelicans, and views onto Buckingham Palace.
- The Regent's Park covers an area of 166 hectares (410 acres) north of Central London. It includes stunning rose gardens with more than 30,000 roses of several hundred varieties.
- ZSL London Zoo, opened in 1828, is the oldest scientific zoo in the world. It is a world class zoo situated within The Regent's Park. Tickets are priced from £12 for children and up to £17 for full price adults. The nearest tube station is Camden Town (Northern line).
Royal Palaces and Residencies
- Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837. The State Rooms, the Royal Mews and The Queen's Gallery are open to public visits. The nearest tube stations are Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly and Victoria lines), Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly line), St James's Park (Circle and District lines) and Victoria (Circle, District and Victoria lines).
- Changing the Guard, also known as Guard Mounting, is the ceremony of hand-over of guards in the forecourt of the Buckingham Palace, usually consists of Foot Guards in their full-dress uniform of red tunics and bearskins. Guard Mounting takes place at 11.30am. It is held daily from May to July, and on alternate dates throughout the rest of the year. Check the schedules and be there at least half an hour early to get a good viewing spot. Expect huge crowds.
Queens Birthday - Guards
© All Rights Reserved adamandmeg
- Palace of Westminster, its official name, is better known as the Houses of Parliament. It is an iconic landmark that represents not just London where it is located, but the entire United Kingdom as well. Until 1512, the site was a royal residence, but a fire forced Henry VIII to move out. However, the site remained a Royal Palace; therefore, its official title is the Palace of Westminster. Almost all of it now is newer than it looks: most of it burned down in 1834 and was rebuilt in neo-Gothic style. Today, it is where the two Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom – the House of Lords and the House of Commons – meet. It is also home of the highest court of the country. The Westminster tube station is just across the street from the Houses of Parliament.
- Big Ben is the nickname of the bell housed within the 96-metre-tall Clock Tower. Big Ben's official name is the Great Bell. Tour to the Clock Tower is open to UK residents only and must be arranged through the local MP.
- Westminster Hall is the only major part of the ancient Palace of Westminster which survives in its original form. It survived the 1834 fire which destroyed the rest of the Houses of Parliament.
- Westminster Abbey is one of the most important buildings in Britain. Founded by St Edward the Confessor and consecrated in 1065, it was not completed until about 1500. But architecturally it is a Norman cathedral. Monarchs are crowned here, and plenty are buried here. The Henry VII chapel, in an apse, is particularly fine.
- Piccadilly Circus is a famous circular open space at a street junction in London's West End is in a central location close to major shopping and entertainment areas. Many famous movies have been shot in this popular meeting point. The Piccadilly Circus tube station (Bakerloo and Piccadilly lines) is located right underneath and also one of the busiest in London.
- British Museum is one of the world's great museums. Much content is loot from years of colonialism. It has especially notable Assyrian, Celtic, Egyptian, Greek and Roman collections, and it also houses the Elgin Marbles from the Acropolis of Athens. Its Great Court is of architectural interest in its own right. Leave plenty of time to take it all in. Karl Marx wrote "Das Kapital" in the Reading Room. Admission is free. There are charges for special exhibitions throughout the year. The nearest tube stations are Tottenham Court Road and Holborn.
- Sir John Soane's Museum - This is the house of Sir John Soane (1753-1837), and architect and eclectic collector. Admission is free. The nearest tube station is Holborn (Central and Piccadilly lines).
- The Geffrye Museum is situated in a row of ex alms houses, showcases the lives of Londoners from 1600 to the present day.
Kensington and Chelsea
- Natural History Museum includes some of the finest collections of animals, stuffed and skeletal, past and present, in the world - including some spectacular dinosaur skeletons.
- Science Museum has a collection of over 300,000 items, including the famous Stephenson's Rocket, Puffing Billy (the oldest surviving steam locomotive) and the first jet engine.
- Victoria & Albert Museum is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design.
- Holland Park
- Brompton Cemetery
- Tate Modern has the largest collection of Modern Art in Europe, spectacularly located in the old Bankside power station. Admission is free for most galleries. There are charges for special exhibitions throughout the year.
- The Clink Prison Museum is a museum dedicated to The Clink, a notorious medieval prison from 1151 until it was burned down during the Gordon Riots of 1780.
- Tower Bridge is the most iconic bridge of London and is often mistakenly referred to by many as the London Bridge, which is located 800 metres away upstream the River Thames.
- HMS Belfast, a Royal Navy vessel from the Second World War, is a museum ship permanently anchored in the Pool of London, between London Bridge and Tower Bridge. The nearest tube station is London Bridge (Jubilee and Northern lines).
- The London Dungeon is a recreation of various gory and macabre historical events about various tortures from the Medieval Age.
- London Eye - Nothing ocular about, it is a large and beautiful Big Wheel, located on the south bank of the river virtually opposite Westminster. Book in advance.
- London Aquarium, located in the County Hall building next to the London Eye, houses more than 300 species of fish from 14 different zones across the world.
Events and Festivals
Notting Hill Carnival
© All Rights Reserved StephenJen
- Notting Hill Carnival happens every August Bank Holiday in London and comprises a Kids Day, an Adults Day and a spectacular parade to rival Rio. There are plenty of stalls, selling foods from all over the world, but primarily remaining true to its Caribbean roots. There are live bands and DJs in the many sound systems set up in surrounding streets so you can continue to party long after the midday parade.
- City of London Festival occurs each year in June-July and has done so since its inception in 1962. It offers a wide range of activities at indoor and outdoor venues across the square mile, all kinds of music, literature, visual arts exhibitions, guided architecture walks and much, much more. Many free events can be found on the program, so it needn't break the bank!
- The Mayor's Thames Festival is happening on 13-14 September in 2008 and promises to be the most spectacular yet - since its inauguration in 1997 which kicked off with an amazing high-wire walk across the Thames. The festival main spots are between Westminster Bridge and the amazing Tower Bridge and comprises street performers, markets, activities and eateries. The final day of the festival culminates in a night parade where thousands enjoy the parade of lanterns, performers and spectacular floats and a massive fireworks display.
Internet cafés can be found in many cities and towns. All UK public libraries provide access, often branded as "People's Network", usually at no or little charge, though there is usually a time limit. Some hotels/hostels also offer internet access, including wifi, but most times at a cost. Using the internet on your personal phone can become expensive very quickly, with carriers charging 100's of times the local rate for data. To avoid these expensive roaming charges, you can hunt for wifi at a local cafe or hotel, or rent a mobile hotspot via several providers including DATAPiXY, and XCOM Global.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to the United Kingdom is: 44. To make an international call from the United Kingdom, the code is: 00
In case of emergency, call 999 or 112 from any phone. Such calls are free and will be answered by an emergency services operator who will ask you for your location, and the service(s) you need (police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue). You can call this number from any mobile telephone as well, even if you do not have roaming.
Although the number is declining, you can still find payphones in many public areas, especially stations, airports etc. You can usually pay with cash and sometimes by creditcard or, for international calls, special phonecards are still available.
Mobile phones are heavily used. The main networks are T-Mobile, Vodafone, Orange and O2. 3G data services are available, usually priced per megabyte and coverage is usually very good in the UK, however it may lack in rural areas. Roaming on your personal phone plan can be expensive. To manage costs, consider purchasing a local UK SIM card for your phone. Several companies offer local SIM cards including Telestial, and CellularAbroad.
The Royal Mail provides postal services in the United Kingdom. The Royal Mail's store fronts are called Post Office and offer services ranging from sending letters and packages to foreign currency exchange. Use the branch locator to find the nearest Post Office branch. There will be at least one post office in any town/city and there are quite often post offices in larger villages. It's common for a post office to be incorporated into a grocery store, where there will be a small counter located at the back of the store for dealing with post related matters. All post offices are marked with signs that say 'post office' in red lettering. Post boxes can be found at any post office and standalone large red post boxes on the streets or red boxes in the sides of public buildings.
For sending packages overseas, it might be a good idea to check prices and services with international companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.