A tourist's guide to London



So you're here on holiday: Let LondonNet give you a crash course on the inner workings of the city so you can avoid looking like that tourist. We know you're better than that.

Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London. Photo Credit: ionntag. C.C.LicenseTip #1: Be good on the Tube.
It's quite simple, really. Keep those suitcases reined in, rehash last night's romantic endeavors in the privacy of your hotel, and stand on the right of the escalators when you move through a station. And keep an eye on construction projects: That pesky Victoria Line has been causing travel problems all summer.

Tip #2: Embrace traditional foods.
You might want to treat your taste buds to Lancaster hotpot, bangers and mash or…toad-in-the-hole? Welcome to Pub Menu 101. The aforementioned hotpot is a meat and vegetable casserole topped with sliced potatoes, and bangers (however saucily named) are sausages that go with mash(ed potatoes). As for the toad concoction, prepare your taste buds for battered and roasted sausages. If none of that sounds good, head to Brick Lane for a great curry.

Tip #3: Check thy wardrobe.
Is it any coincidence that "Crocs" rhymes with "chicken pox"? Just wondering. Other sartorial sinners include unseemly t-shirts, souvenir hats clearly bought from one of London's larger attractions, and Yeti-sized backpacks with water bottles dangling out the side. Get thee a makeover, child: London is widely regarded as one of the world's best-dressed cities. Pack your daily necessities in a messenger bag or purse, and wait until your arrive home before donning the Big Ben sweatshirt you just had to have.

Tip #4: Understand the rules of navigation.
Those double-decker buses that many London guests find so cute tend to barrel down the left side of the road. Save yourself considerable bodily harm and a possible trip to the nearest hospital by remembering that. Many London roads even have painted-on arrows that indicate which direction to look before walking, and some simplify things one step further with "look left" or "look right" painted in large print.

Tip #5: Don't feed the pigeons.
Seriously. Catering dinner for the "flying rats" is actually illegal in part of the city. Throw bread to the pigeons in Trafalgar Square and you'll face a £50 fine. Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone said in 2003, when the anti-feeding by-law took effect, that pigeon droppings had caused £140,000 in damage to Nelson's Column and the square. As cute as feeding the little guys seemed after you watched Mary Poppins, restrain yourself when they walk by rummaging for something to munch.

Tip #6: Enjoy the Thames with some restraint.
It has a reputation for being, well, a bit dirty. It used to be rife with raw sewage, and in the 1850s, Parliament frequently closed because of its pungent aroma. Then in 1957, scientists declared it biologically dead because it contained too little oxygen to sustain life. But fear not - specialists have worked to rehabilitate the river, and today it's one of the cleanest in the world. Some parts of the Thames are even safe for swimming now. Just beware of the tides, which cause the water level to fluctuate up to eight meters daily. If you'd rather admire the river from a distance, you can find a nice view from the famous London Eye.

Tip #7: Take advantage of London's park life.
Parks are the place to be when warm weather hits the city, and London has a great selection of them. Hyde Park is the preeminent outdoor locale, but also consider visiting St. James' Park, Regent's Park, Green Park or Battersea Park. Outdoor music events are popular in the summer months, and each year crowds of visitors gather for "Proms in the Park" - large concerts with a selection of big name performers.

Tip #8: Become inseparable with your umbrella.
If you're planning to be outside for a long day of sightseeing, the last thing you want to do is trek around the city looking like you shower fully dressed. You'll need some form of protection from London's rainy skies, which (without warning) can spout everything from a light mist to an unrelenting deluge. If you really do shower fully dressed and wish to continue doing so, more power to you.

- Jill Hilbrenner








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