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As the capital of the United Kingdom, London is a royal destination complete with luxe palaces, lush gardens, and an active infantry of foot guards in full uniform. But it may as well be the capital of the world: more than 300 languages are spoken in this 2,000-year-old metropolis founded by the Romans. The city’s colorful melting pot of international culture is rivaled only by its age-old British traditions and superstitions: keeping a half-dozen ravens at the Tower of London to protect the crown; licensing taxi drivers only after they’ve passed a daunting local geography test known as the Knowledge; and pausing for the requisite cuppa tea every afternoon. Whether you’re in town for the live Shakespearean theater or the lively nightlife, one thing is certain: London rolls out the royal treatment.
The easiest way to get to London is to fly into London Heathrow Airport (LHR). It’s located about 15 miles west of Central London, and depending on where you’re staying, you’d be wise to take the city’s efficient public transportation rail system, the London Underground (aka the Underground, or the Tube). It’s about a 70 minutes from Heathrow to Central London, whereas a taxi or rideshare might take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on traffic. It simply doesn’t make sense to rent a car in London, where taxis and rideshares are abundant and there’s usually a train or Tube station within walking distance to most neighborhoods.
London’s climate is true to the seasons. The spring and fall are pleasantly sunny and cool, with temperatures hovering in the 50 to 60 degree Fahrenheit; summers are warm, peaking in the 80s; and winter weather typically hovers just above freezing. Neither heat waves nor snow storms are common, though they have been known to occasionally make the news. Despite London’s dreary, rainy reputation, it’s actually fairly dry, averaging less than 23 inches annually. Still, locals tend to carry umbrellas during spring, just in case. As for the city’s infamous fog, it was caused by pollution, and has mostly disappeared since the Clean Air Act of the 1950s.
One of the city’s most iconic works of Victorian architecture, Tower Bridge spans the River Thames at the heart of central London. At 800 feet long, it’s easily walkable, connecting pedestrians and cars from the medieval Tower of London to Potters Fields Park, with unmatched views of the city skyline.
Located in West London, facing Kensington Palace, the immaculately maintained 265 acres of Kensington Gardens are open to the public, and feature a half-dozen statues and monuments to royalty and fairytale icons alike. Just across the road is Hyde Park, marked with walking paths, historical monuments, and even a bird refuge.
Unless you have an invitation from the monarch, you can’t go inside Buckingham Palace, but the lavish facade is reason enough to stroll past. Built in 1703 and updated with each reigning monarch, the palace is the official royal residence. Plan ahead to catch the Changing of the Queen’s Guard, a London tourist tradition.