Throughout history there have been many things said about London. Often these quotes are positive such as that said by novelist and historian Walter Besant in 1901: ‘I’ve been walking about London for the last thirty years, and I find something fresh in it every day’ but sometimes they are less than complimentary such as when Lord Balfour of Burleigh commented in 1944: ‘London is a splendid place to live in for those who can get out of it.’
What is it about the capital city that causes such a divide in people? Ask any native Londoner and they would probably be able to list a good number of pros and cons. Naturally, any large city is bound to have positives and negatives and if you are considering a break to the capital then it is worth knowing what to expect when you arrive.
‘Nothing is certain in London but expense’ – William Shenston, 1743
It is true that the cost of spending time in London is probably greater than elsewhere, particularly if you want to eat out at top restaurants every night. If you know where to look however there are plenty of good value options, often away from the more popular tourist areas. If you can take a bit of time to explore the city, you might discover somewhere fairly cost-effective to eat.
Alongside this, a lot of the best tourist attractions in the city are free such as the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and most of the art galleries not to mention the various Royal Parks and open spaces which cost nothing to experience.
Accommodation wise, it really depends on what type of hotel you want to stay in; there is something to cater for every budget and in most areas as well. For example, if you want to stay in one of the hotels near Queensway station you will find basic hotels nestled alongside 4 and 5 star establishments.
‘London is a roost for every bird’ – Benjamin Disraeli, Lothair 1870
London is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and it is perhaps because of this that it is a great place to head if you want to experience a taste of the international. From the cuisine to the music, there is evidence of how different nationalities have shaped and changed the city in almost every area. Whilst people may find the sheer number of people in the city overwhelming, it is actually what makes the city so great, and provides such a fantastic atmosphere and is definitely something which should be embraced.
‘A person who is tired of London is not necessarily tired of life; it might be that he just can’t find a parking place’ – Paul Theroux, Sunrise with Seamonsters 1985
Admittedly, driving in London is not the easiest way to get around and finding a parking space is sometimes like hunting for gold dust. However, one redeeming feature of the capital city is its comprehensive public transport system. From the sheer choice (tube, bus, bike, DLR etc) to the ease with which you can switch between the different transportation thanks to the use of the Oyster card, it really is very simple to navigate your way around the city with ease.
No matter where you decide to stay you will find it very simple to move across the city to see the attractions you wish to. So if you were to book one of the hotels near Queensway station but wanted to visit an attraction on the other side of London such as the Tower of London, it would be a mere 30 minute tube ride.
The other misconception about the capital city is that it is a sprawling mass. Whilst it’s true that the city is big, the main hub of tourist attractions tend to be in the same area which means it is entirely possible to traverse the capital on foot. Not only will this allow you to fully appreciate the architecture but you might discover more about London than you otherwise would have.
‘The truth is, that in London it is always a sickly season. Nobody is healthy in London, nobody can be’ – Jane Austen, Emma 1816
Perhaps Jane Austen commented on it always being sickly season because of how easy it is to catch a cold when the weather is wet. Which it is, often in London. Unfortunately, like the rest of the UK London is not exempt from the amount of rainfall the country receives and it therefore does have its fair share of grey and miserable days. That said, you are unlikely to suffer from overheating whilst exploring the city and as long as you dress accordingly there really isn’t anything to stop you from enjoying your time.
As we said, there are pros and cons to visiting every large city and really it comes down to whether you think a break in London will suit your expectations and requirements. There are many independent review sites online which will allow you to research London in more detail and determine whether you think that a break in London is the right type of trip for you.
Of course, remember that sometimes it is worth throwing caution to the wind, you might be surprised at what you discover!