London

Destination Location

London
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Overview

You've probably seen England's capital in the movies and read about it in novels — London's streets, buildings and parks make an easy choice for a scenic narrative (or WestJet vacation). With a history as rich as its fiction, few cities are as storied as London.

From Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare to Alfred Hitchcock and J.K. Rowling, London has inspired creative minds through the years and often serves as the setting for their work. London's historic neighbourhoods have resulted from continuous occupation for (at least) two millennia, making it a versatile location for period pieces. The city's original British character has been influenced and added to by the steady flow of visitors from history including Romans, Angles, Saxons and Normans, to name a few.

The narrative between London and its people has been enriched as years have gone by, with exploration, conflict and cultural development giving the city a collection of commemorative sites. Whether navigating through the tangled tracks of the Underground, strolling side-by-side the River Thames, testing guards' abilities to keep straight faces at Buckingham Palace or coming face-to-face with an actor at The Globe, London showcases the lengths it has gone through to maintain a backdrop that withstands the test of time.

However colourful London's past may be, its future is even brighter. A modern allure blankets London's interior, awaiting the next monument that will draw in both locals and tourists alike. Amongst these wonders is the London Eye, peeking both day and night over the city's skyline. In the Eye all the contemporary charm of London can be experienced — look up towards the Shard, the tallest building in the European Union; or down onto Harrods, where it's a breeze to match your style with the individuality of the city itself.

As visitors wander London's nooks and crannies, the capital's living, breathing culture reveals itself to be as intriguing as the protagonist of any great novel. Between catching whispers of one of 300 in-city languages, getting lost in the British Museum (one of the city's 170 museums and home to the Rosetta Stone), Instagramming models running to shows during London Fashion Week or being one of thousands to see Coldplay perform at the O2, London's personality keeps visitors turning its pages for more and proves why it is the most-visited city in the world.

The preludes and aftermaths to great adventures consist of moments of contentment. Such instants are abundant in London, despite its blockbuster-level hype. Stopping to smell the roses can be easier than expected here, whether drifting through The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk, sharing your mind at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park or simply visiting a friend over a spot of tea. Yet, no matter which side-stories are stumbled upon, the thrill of London's key plotlines are never too far out of reach. Plot out your own epic London story with a little help from WestJet.

Destination basics

Need a conversation starter? When in London, you can always rely on the weather for that. Never the same from start to finish, days spent in London can be filled with heat, rain and wind. That being said, the warmest months lie between June and September, with average temperatures ranging between 15 and 18 degrees C. The coolest periods range between December to March, with 5 to 7 degrees C as the average. Rain is possible, sunburns are possible. Be prepared for it all when visiting England's capital.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for London

Londoners are spoiled with many choices when it comes to dining out. The cuisine of almost any country in the world can be sampled in the capital. Options include Korean, Burmese, Argentine, Vegan, Malaysian, Mauritian, Modern British and Hungarian — all in all, an epicurean feast! Food is a popular hedonistic pleasure, with restaurants emerging as trendy hang-outs, chefs becoming TV stars and cooking books turning into hot bestsellers. Naturally every area and every other road in London has a place to eat, but certain areas stand out among the rest.

Camden
This perennially popular neighborhood teems with great mid-range venues like Cottons — a favorite for Caribbean cuisine. The famous Jazz Café brings some great blues and an eclectic selection of music to the area.

Chelsea & Fulham
This area has a first-rate selection of restaurants catering to the area's wealthy clientele — but the variety is just as vast as it is in the rest of the city. Join locals for authentic Italian at Chelsea stalwart La Famiglia. For some brilliant Modern British head to Bibendum and Bluebird. For the gastro-pub experience, join the Chelsea crowd at The Admiral Codrington and sample great, updated British grub like salmon fishcakes and warm liver salad.

Covent Garden
Here the simple mixes with the traditional, the substantial with the stylish. Traditional English fare is the order of the day at Rules; it always offers a refined and restrained dining experience. Another appealing venue is The Ivy, in the heart of Theaterland, where you can do plenty of celebrity watching. Charlotte Street, up the road in Fitzrovia, is also packed with superb restaurants, perfect for business and romance.

Islington
Upper Street is swarming with restaurants, bars and cafés; Modern British cuisine is very well represented. You can also find a range of other cuisines, from tasty Turkish at Pasha to spicy Indian at Masala Zone.

Kensington & Knightsbridge
Kensington Place is a good spot for lunch. Try Clarkes for a contemporary and elegant experience. San Lorenzo on Beauchamp Place was Princess Diana's favorite spot for Italian and continues to attract many food connoisseurs.

Marylebone
Some great eateries, including the elegant Orrery (another Conran venture). In St. Christopher's Place, a charming courtyard off Oxford Street, you'll find cafes, Italian trattorias and juice bars.

Mayfair & West End
In Mayfair, enjoy the Michelin-starred modern French cuisine of The Square, probably one of London's finest restaurants. Check out Indian favorites including the pricey Veeraswarmy and Chor Bizarre. If you seek relaxation, visit Momo, where you can sit cross-legged and enjoy succulent dishes from the Middle East.

Notting Hill
Home to hip restaurants of all kinds. There is a vast selection of Italian places, like the snug and friendly Osteria Basilico. Tom's delicatessen is popular for weekend brunches, but be prepared for long lines. For something more exotic, try some Caribbean food, abundant at Carnival time at street stalls.

Primrose Hill
One of London's best-kept secrets. The hugely popular Greek restaurant Lemonia is perfect for families while Odette's suits intimate, romantic dinners and enjoyment of fine wines. Manna is a great vegetarian restaurant, and Sesame, the whole-food store, has a great café on Regent's Park Road.

Soho & Chinatown
One of London's top nightlife areas, there is an incredible concentration of bars, restaurants and cafés here. From Bar Italia and the trendy vegetarian eatery Mildred's to the very exclusive Lindsay House, you can find practically anything in just a few busy blocks.

South Bank
Oxo Tower has the hype to match the buzz and a formidable view. Its West London counterpart, Thai Square Putney is an architectural delight offering both great views of the Thames and knock-out food to go with them. Terence Conran's Blue Print Café leaves a fine impression with views of Tower Bridge.

The City of London
There is a super vegetarian lunch venue in the crypt of St. Mary-le-Bow called The Place Below. Other options in the area include Futures restaurant, The Eagle gastro-pub if you want a drink. Stylish and formal restaurants like the trendy Smith's, are abundant.

Hotels are also a good bet for eating out, since they have a pleasant touch of luxury, tip-top service and tables that are often available at the last minute. Afternoon teas are an English tradition that cannot be missed — scones, clotted cream and leaf tea in silver teapots. The Dorchester and Brown's are among the great hotels serving tea from 3p.

You can even find good food at Internet cafés that mushroom all over the capital. Many public houses, besides pumping real ale, are being transformed into gastro-pubs. With such fabulous choice, standards are very high. London is truly terrific on a global scale.

The various and diverse "villages" of London reflect the full spectrum of the city's residents. From exclusive, elite establishments to downright dingy dives, tourist-drenched terrain to homegrown habitations, there's something for every visitor. As Dr. Johnson said back in the 18th Century, "If you're tired of London, you're tired of life."

Battersea & Clapham
Home to hoards of trendy young things, this is the place to go for fun and funky bars and restaurants outside of central London.

Bayswater & Paddington
Famous for its train station and the Peruvian bear named after it (the marmalade sandwich-munching Paddington Bear), this area is a good bet for affordable accommodation that's close to the tranquility of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Bloomsbury, Euston & Fitzrovia
Bloomsbury is London's literary capital and a walking tour is the best way to discover the haunts of the city's verbose geniuses. A visit to the area is not complete without a wander through the hallowed halls of London's biggest tourist lure – the British Museum.

Brixton
Reggae beats and spicy treats prevail in London's largest Afro-Caribbean community. Once a shabby, no-go area, it is now frequented by all kinds of people, including trendy, affluent types who hang out in the myriad of cool bars and happening clubs. The wonderful cultural diversity is visible in the bustling, popular market.

Camden
Crowded streets spill over with shoppers and people-watchers who flock from far and wide to relax, rather than haggle, at the Camden Market. However, good restaurants like Gilgamesh, clubs like Monto Water Rats and a top comedy venue make Camden much more than a great grocery shopping stop.

Chelsea & Fulham
Darling! Chic boutiques, expensive restaurants, snooty aristocrats and models in slick sports cars haunt Brompton Cross, King's Road and Kensington High Street. The Earl's Court Exhibition Centre is always a hub of activity, and it's always a pleasure to cruise across the delightful Albert Bridge at night when it's all lit up.

The City of London & Square Mile
England's coffers are in the Square Mile; one of the few places where the streets might as well be paved with gold. Modern structures like the Lloyd's Building outnumber the more ancient edifices like the Bank of England and the Old Bailey. The City embraces the sacred in St. Paul's Cathedral and the everyday in Spitalfields Market and Leadenhall Market. Blackfriars Bridge was the site of the infamous 1982 murder of the Italian banker Roberto Calvi.

Clerkenwell & Shoreditch
This trendy area is flush with hip, sofa-laden hangouts, swanky restaurants and sleek galleries. Most of the action revolves around Hoxton Square, but East London is always booming due to its proximity to the city. Once favored only by struggling artists on the cutting edge, it's now a new media mecca with artists and savvy tech upstarts providing a vibrant mix.

Covent Garden & Holborn
There's been a clamp down on street performers, but the open-air party atmosphere still pervades in Covent Garden Piazza. The 18th-century former fruit and vegetable market has evolved gracefully and now houses fashion boutiques and other expensive stores. Stroll down Long Acre, Floral Street and the cobbled Neal Street or visit the Royal Opera House.

Docklands & Wapping
Heavily bombed during World War II, this area has become the incarnation of 1980s prosperity. Canary Wharf Tower dominates the skyline and the Canary Wharf area is one of the capital's greatest economic powerhouses. The Tower of London was a 16th-century prison where some of Henry VIII's unlucky wives were beheaded. No longer so unfriendly, visitors are able to view the fabulous Crown Jewels on the premises. Aftewards, stroll outside and take in the stunning Tower Bridge.

Ealing
This is home to a beautiful active Benedictine Abbey, a large Polish community and the famous Ealing Studios where films like Shaun of the Dead and Doctor Who have been produced. Check out Charlotte's Place for a down-home atmosphere and a well-cooked meal.

Greenwich
Otherwise known as zero degrees longitude, Greenwich is the home of the term, "Greenwich Mean Time." Take a boat trip down the Thames for a romantic day out or visit the National Maritime Museum, the imposing Royal Naval College, Cutty Sark, and the Thames Barrier Park.

Hammersmith, Shepherds Bush & Chiswick
Hammersmith and "Da Bush," as the area is sometimes more affectionately known, is a great place to come for a meal or night out away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. A popular place for theater, you can choose from the cozy Lyric Hammersmith, the high quality London Apollo or the fringe-style Bush Theatre.

Hampstead
This neighborhood is a leafy suburbia with a charming village ambiance. Steeped in literary history, the homes of poets, playwrights and actors (past and present) are marked by endless blue plaques. An afternoon in Kenwood House or strolling on Hampstead Heath will keep you worlds away from the noise and bustle of London.

Hoxton & Shoreditch
This area is considered the base of London's hippie scene for the artistic and those interested in media. East London has seen a significant boom thanks to its proximity to the city. Specialty bars and pubs dominate this district.

Islington
Tony Blair's home ground and a yuppie playground, Upper Street is one long stretch of restaurants and bars. Seek out antiques in Camden Passage or stroll along Regent's Canal and find out what makes this corner of North London so spectacular.

Knightsbridge & Belgravia
The two reasons to shop in this area have to be Piccadilly Circus and Harrods. Down the road is the stunning Baroque Brompton Oratory, and be sure not to miss Kensington Church Street or Sloane Street.

Leicester Square & Piccadilly
Full of tourist frenzy, the Leicester Square is home to several bright multiplexes that are no strangers to star-studded film premieres. There is a plethora of bars, pubs and clubs that keep the punters happy. Stroll down Piccadilly and pop into Fortnum & Mason, take tea at the Palm Court in the Ritz, or shop along the sartorially elegant Jermyn and Regent Streets.

Maida Vale & St John's Wood
An intriguing juxtaposition of massive houses and council estates gives this area a diverse ethnic and economic feel. It's worth a visit if you'd like to see the canals and cafés of Little Venice. The venerable cricketing institute, Lord's Cricket Ground, also calls this district home.

Marylebone & Regent's Park
Harley Street is renowned worldwide for its medical consultants and cosmetic surgeons. A stone's throw from Baker Street is Madame Tussaud's and Regent's Park. Wigmore Street hosts virtuosos at the legendary Wigmore Hall while the private Wallace Art Collection is housed in Manchester Square. Elegant Marylebone High Street has tasty gastronomic venues and high fashion boutiques. The beautiful interior of St James's Church, around the corner in Spanish Place, was restored thanks to John Paul Getty III.

Mayfair
This district is full of refined hotels where affluent foreigners stay. The impressive 18th-century edifices of Mayfair are inhabited by people of fabulous wealth. First-class shopping can be found along Bond Street and you can pick up a gem or two at Sotheby's.

Notting Hill & Ladbroke Grove
This supremely hip district offers designer boutiques, retro shops, heavenly delicatessens, and the antique stalls of Portobello Road Market. The world famous Notting Hill Carnival at the end of August brings a Caribbean flavor to the streets, with hip-swaying dance troupes and general revelry. Fantastic café life, decadent bars, and superb restaurants satisfy food-lovers. The gospel choir at Kensington Temple is well-known for its soulful, arm-waving harmonies.

Putney
This district consists of riverside pubs, rowing clubs, and wealthy stockbrokers. Nearby Barnes is a similarly bucolic, quiet and upscale residential neighborhood.

Richmond
Richmond Park is one of Europe's largest parks. The 17th-century Ham House, Kew Gardens' botanic splendor and Palladian Marble Hill House are all excellent reasons to venture beyond the center of town. A boat from the pier to Hampton Court Palace makes for a fun day trip.

Soho & West End
This area is a vibrant combination of trendy and tacky. It leads a promiscuous triple life: a red light district, gay and lesbian nightlife hot-spot and a respectable drinking and dining area. Chinatown is vibrant and the area also offers a host of other cuisines: British, vegetarian, French and Thai. Many Londoners congregate here for Chinese New Year Celebrations, a very colorful, fun-filled spectacle.

Southwark, Lambeth & Waterloo
In this district, visitors can watch Shakespearean actors pace the boards at the marvelous Globe Theatre. The Tate Modern Gallery further boosts the South Bank's shining cultural program. Foodies may wish to enter Butler's Wharf - a gastronomic temple. Don't miss the London Eye (also known as the Millennium Wheel) near Westminster Bridge. The gigantic Ferris wheel offers unrivaled views of London.

Westminster & St James's
The British Empire was ruled from Whitehall, but now it only serves the United Kingdom. Not surprisingly, civil servants and politicians abound in the vicinity. Big Ben reliably strikes out the hour, loud enough to wake the old kings and queens from their tombs in Westminster Abbey. Visitors should definitely check out the A.W. Pugin-designed Houses of Parliament situated along the beautifully illuminated river, and take a stroll in St. James's Park and Green Park.

Wimbledon
There's more to the Village than the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, although it does tend to dominate the summer months. There's a huge Common where you can ride horses or spot Wombles. You can also visit the Georgian Cannizaro House and the Wimbledon Windmill. This is where Baden-Powell invented scouting and Thomas Hughes wrote Tom Brown's Schooldays.

Soho is always buzzing with crowds who pack themselves into the many pubs, cafes, bars and restaurants. It's also home to London's lively gay scene.

Islington is vibrant and hip, with a café/bar scene that leads to a lot of people watching. Here you'll find Sadler's Wells (for contemporary dance, ballet and opera), the Almeida Theatre and an excellent antique market called Camden Passage.

Camden is a friendly community, with a large, thriving base that supports artistic endeavors. There are loads of live music venues here, including the Jazz Café. There's also a massive, trendy market on weekends, and the Jongleurs Camden Lock comedy club.

Art
The art scene is alive and kicking in London with the injection of a new British vitality spearheaded by Damien Hirst. The proliferation of hip, trendy, and increasingly famous young British artists merely adds to the wealth of the more traditional art that London has to offer. The National Gallery and the Tate Britain are mainstays. The Courtauld Institute of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Barbican Centre and Hayward Gallery are lesser known but just as good. For a modern challenge, check out the ICA Bar And Cafe Gallery and of course, the Bankside behemoth that is the Tate Modern.

Cinema
Most of the city's mainstream cinematic venues are centered in Leicester Square. A cheap option is the Prince Charles cinema. For a real 'Art-House' experience, try the Gate Cinema, the ICA Bar And Cafe, or the BFI Southbank. There are also frequent film festivals like the popular Latin American Film Festival. The BFI London IMAX at Waterloo offers a state-of-the-art screen featuring IMAX films — a real viewing experience.

Comedy
If you're looking for a laugh, you can't beat what London has to offer. The most famous club is the The Comedy Store, but the branches of Jongleurs Camden Lock and the Comedy Cafe are also worth checking out.

Dance
Performances tend to center on Sadler's Wells theater, where contemporary dance, ballet and opera can all be found. The Royal Festival Hall and The Barbican Centre also house excellent productions, and the ICA is a Mecca for experimental dance.

Museums
If you want to check out some art, not to worry-museums here are abundant and of excellent quality. The Science Museum, the Natural History Museum and the V&A South Kensington are all located in South Kensington. The Imperial War Museum is also worth a look — it isn't just for tank-spotters. Naturally, there is an absolute myriad of smaller, often fascinating museums throughout London: Pollock's Toy Museum & Toy Shop, the Design Museum and the Horniman Museum and Gardens are just a few examples.

Classical
Classical music has three main homes in London: the Barbican Centre, the South Bank Centre and the Royal Albert Hall. The London Symphony Orchestra is resident at the Barbican and the Philharmonia is based at the Royal Festival Hall, which is part of the South Bank Center. The Royal Albert Hall plays host annually to the BBC Proms — a fabulous summer-long festival of classical music.

Rock/Pop/Jazz
This sort of music is everywhere in London. Camden is always bubbling with indie vibes. The Brixton Academy is an excellent place to see bands on the verge of stadium-sized fame, and Borderline is good for bands on the verge of Brixton Academy-sized fame. For jazz, you can't beat the legendary Ronnie Scott's.

Nightclubs
These places come in as many flavors, shapes, sizes and styles as there are people to fill them. The better-known clubs tend to be around the Leicester Square/Charing Cross Road area. Another club worth seeking out is Ministry of Sound.

Opera
Resonates from two sources — the English National Opera and the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Theater
Theater in London can be separated into three parts. One section encompasses the sophisticated end of the theater spectrum — plenty of Shakespeare and complex modern plays. There are three repertory companies based in their own theaters: the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and Shakespeare's Globe.

Then there are the "West End" shows (this refers to big productions, not to their location). Many of the West End shows can be found on or around Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road. There are many big production musicals and plays that make for a great evening out.

The rest are generally known as Off West End. One of the best exponents of this sector is the Almeida where film stars Ralph Fiennes and Nicole Kidman have trod the boards. The Lyric Theatre and the Young Vic also regularly host high quality productions.

London features a number of tour companies and discount booking businesses. Theatre Breaks offers discounted rates to some of the most popular attractions and events.

London

Region: London

Country: United Kingdom

London By The Numbers
Population: 8,673,713 (city); 13,879,757 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 35 meters / 115 feet
Annual Rainfall: 601 millimeters / 23.7 inches
Average January Temperature: 5°C / 41°F
Average July Temperature: 19°C / 66°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 240 volts AC, 50Hz; square three-pin plugs are standard

Time Zone: GMT

Country Dialing Code: +44

Area Code: 020

Did You Know?
The Great London Fire of 1666 started in a bakery on Pudding Lane. Rumor has it, that the owner, Thomas Farynor, oversaw some blaze in the oven.

“The Tube”, London's subway system, is the world's oldest, and also one of the largest. In addition, it is also one of the most unreliable means of transport. Frequently, Londoners are faced with closed lines due to construction work.

Orientation
London is located in the east of England, sitting on the Thames River. It is about 83 kilometers (51 niles) southeast of Oxford and about 163 kilometers (101 inches) southeast of Birmingham.

It was those trusty Italian conquerors, the Romans, who established Londinium in 43 CE. They built a wall around their settlement and a bridge over the river Thames to set the city up as an important trade center. However, the locals were not happy about it. Boudicca (or Boadicea), the tribal queen of the Iceni Celts and a fearsome chariot-driver, struck a blow for the Britons in 60 CE, burning much of the city to the ground. The Romans were undeterred and stayed around for another 350 years. By the end of the 1st Century CE, London was the capital of Roman Britain.

The Romans' departure was not good news for London: the city was deserted, sacked, burned (again), occupied, captured, and generally slapped around by the Scandinavian Vikings and the Germanic Saxons for the next 550 years. The first incarnation of St. Paul's Cathedral was built in the 7th Century. Two centuries after the Saxon King Alfred the Great occupied London, the Normans arrived. It was 1066 and William the Conqueror was in charge. He decided London was the most impressive city of his newly acquired kingdom, stayed, and was the first English king crowned at Westminster Abbey. He also began to build the White Tower — the first part of what is now the Tower of London.

The Middle Ages saw London grow, despite fires sweeping through the city and a massive bout of Black Death in 1348, which wiped out nearly half of the city's 60,000 inhabitants.

The Tudors took over in 1485, and the infamous Henry VIII became a major player in the radical transformation of the country. He wanted a son, which meant divorcing his then spouse and getting a younger wife, which the Pope would not allow. So, he had his chancellor Thomas More establish the Church of England and thereby outlawing Catholicism. This meant that all the land previously owned by the Church was now his. He set about carving it up and giving large chunks to his friends (and more importantly to his potential enemies). Convent Garden became Covent Garden, and the land previously owned by Westminster Abbey, covering much of what is now the West End, was released for private development. In short, a new London was born.

The Globe Theatre was built in 1598, entertaining bawdy crowds with the classic plays penned by Shakespeare. Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. Around this time, there were approximately 220,000 people in London and the population was continuing to expand rapidly.

The Great Plague in 1665 and the Fire of London in 1666 wiped out much of the population along with most of medieval and Tudor London, but it meant that there was an opportunity to start anew architecturally. Christopher Wren took full advantage of this — designing and building 51 London churches, including the rest of St Paul's Cathedral.

The City's population expansion continued to snowball to 750,000 people by 1720 and the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century saw it explode to 2.5 million. The author Charles Dickens depicts the London of this time as a grimy, smoggy, poor and crime-ridden city.

During World War II much of London was destroyed due to the Blitzkrieg. Rebuilding began in 1945 and one result of this was the South Bank Centre. It was designed as a centerpiece for the arts, and its functional rather than beautiful buildings draw crowds from all over.

Meanwhile, back in the "Swinging Sixties" London gained a reputation for being at fashion's forefront. It was an era epitomized by Twiggy, the very first supermodel, and Carnaby Street, with its Mary Quant Colour Shop and Quadrophenia vibe. London is now recognized as one of the top international centers for fashion; it has also become world-renowned for its cutting-edge art.

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