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The United Kingdom is approximately size of the State of Louisiana.  


Pomp and pageantry is alive and well in Great Britain-practiced with precision, the envy of imitator wannabee nations. 


England provides an air of comfort for unadventurous American tourists—a friendly familiarity and an opportunity to travel abroad across the pound without communication concerns; well some, as the Brits speak English and we Americans a version thereof:  “American English.” 





Royal Guards in red cloaks.  

Guard Troop riding away from the changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace.



For more information, including special deals and offers, please visit 

Great Britain is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST).

To make a telephone call, be sure to dial the International access code: 011, the Country code: 44, and the City code: 207, unless otherwise noted.

United States citizens need a valid Passport to enter the United Kingdom.  Stays of less than six months do not require a visa.

The official language of Great Britain is English.

The British Pound is Great Britain’s currency.  The Britain monetary system follows the decimal system: A British pound equals 100 pence (e).  Coins include 1 pence, 2 pence, 5 pence, 10 pence, 20 pence, and 50 pence and notes valued at 5, 10, 20, or 50 pounds.  

Band of Grenadier Guards 3

Band of Grenadier Guards during the changing of the Guard ceremony 

at Buckingham Palace




Britain is on British Standard Time (BST) from March 29th to October 25 - five hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) in the United States, six hours ahead of Central Daylight Time (CDT) and seven hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).


In the fall, the United Kingdom reverts back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the United States re-adjusts to Standard Time.  GMT is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time (EST) in the United States.





Yes, don’t risk frustration.  You will need an adapter, as Great Britain voltage is 240 volts AC at 50HZ, while United States appliances voltage is 120 volts at 60HZ.  British power sockets are designed for standard three-pin square plugs.  Be sure to purchase and bring adapter plugs for your electrical appliances like electric shaver and electric hair-dryer.



Pubs/Bars:  Do not tip cash.  Offer to buy barkeep a drink; if he prefers cash, then tip him. 


Restaurants:  Service fee is added to total bill.  It is customary to tip an additional based on quality of service and luxuriousness of establishment. 


Taxis:  10%, more if luggage involved. 


BEST TIME TO VACATION IN THE UNITED KINGDOM: The best time to vacation in the United Kingdom is during late April, May, September, and October.

Prime Season is during late May, June, July, August, and December.

Shoulder Season is during April, early May, September, and January.

Low Season is during October, November, February, and March.  During Low Season, there are fewer tourists and theater is at its peak.  The days are cold and short.  


British Army Cavalry at Buckingham Palace

Cavalry soldiers of the British Army on horseback outside Buckingham Palace.

Copyright Sharrocks



January 1: New Years Day
January 2: Extra New Years Bank Day: (Bank Holiday observed only in Scotland)

March 17: St. Patrick’s Day: (Bank Holiday observed only in Ireland)

April 14, 2017, March 30th, 2018, April 19th, 2019: Good Friday Bank Holiday 
April 17, 2017, April 2, 2018, April 22, 2019: Easter Monday Bank Holiday  
 First Monday in May: Early May Bank Holiday: 
May 1, 2017, May 7, 2018, May 6, 2019.  


  Last Monday in May: Spring Break Holiday: May 29th, 2017, May 28th, 2018, May 27,2019.

August 7, 2017 – Summer Bank Holiday. 

August 28, 2017, August 27, 2018, August 26, 2019 – Summer Bank Holiday.

October 29, 2017, Daylight Savings Time Ends 
December 25 annually: Christmas Bank Holiday 

December 26, 2017, December 26, 2018, December 26, 2019 - Boxing Day Bank Holiday.   


January 1: New Years Day - Bank Holiday 

May 1: May Day - Bank Holiday 
November 5: Bonf
ire Night - also known as Gunpowder Day and Guy Fawkes Day - marked by fireworks and bonfires throughout Great Britain

 November: Royal Auto Club Rally 
December 25: Christmas - Bank Holiday  



Buckingham Palace Guard, London, UK

Marching the Queen's Guards during traditional changing of the Guards 

ceremony at Buckingham Palace.








Mid-June: The Royal Meeting of Ascot Racecourse





Mid-November: Bath Mozart Festival 




Birmingham is an industrial city, located one 1-3/4 hour away, by train, from London. 

December - first week annually: The National Christmas Lacemaker’s Fair 



Second week in March: Crufts - one of the world’s most prestigious dog shows 




September: British Championship Race





Bristol has a heavy concentration of academic science research and is home to Berkeley Castle. 






Mid - late October: The Canterbury Festival - a multi-arts event




The best time to visit Canterbury is during April through October, when the gardens are in full bloom. 





First two weeks in October: The Cheltenham Literature Festival


Cornwall is blessed by having over 300 miles of coast and picturesque small seaside

villages.  Many affluent Londoners maintain a second home here. 



Most visitors motor from London rather than take the train to Truro, or fly from London Gatwick to Newquay, and then rent an auto for a 40 minute, 50 mile drive to Truro. 


Using Cornwell as a base locale, serious hikers can experience a 30 mile rugged and highly scenic seaside trek between Portloe and Fowley. Allow three days to complete the walk. 



The scarcity of lodging has dogged the area for decades, save an isolated B&B here and there. 

Two of the better lodgings are:

The 19 room Idle Rocks (A Relais & Chateaux property-always an encouraging sign of superior accommodations).  Amenities include an upscale pre-fixed /ala carte restaurant.

The seven room St. Mawes Hotel



The Kings Head in Roseland offers gourmet pub fare.

The Hidden Hut on Truro’s Porthcurnick Beach.  Specializes in steak.  Outdoor picnic-style dining.

Star & Garter in Falmouth.


Driftwood----Michelin Star award.




The Cotswoods is a popular scenic English countryside in west central England.  The Cotswoods denote an area, not a town:  there are actually several small villages that comprise the Cotswoods. 




The quaint Cotswoods represent a slower, laid-back lifestyle, a sharp contrast with hectic London.  People escape London for the Cotswoods to experience storybook, small-town country-style living in its natural beauty, quaint pubs, beautiful gardens public and private, afternoon formal English teas, country resorts and spas, and fine dining in unexpected places. 


The Cotswoods is doable as a 8 - 9 hour daytrip from London, or a 3 - 4 day overnight stay.



Art museum fanciers will not want to miss the Turner Contemporary-one of the country’s largest art museums outside London. 


Dover Castle in 2011 opened the secret wartime tunnels, never before opened to the public.

There are several other castles in the vicinity. 




Tower Bridge 

London was home of the 2012 Olympics.  London’s construction expansion burst at the seams.  The down-at-the-heels working-class, Jack the Ripper East End, once a locale to be avoided at all costs, is experiencing a renaissance with upscale dining, trendy bars and nightlife, AND was the mega center of the Olympics complex!  The nearby Docklands, with its Canary Wharf, continues its several decades of transformation with an infusion of new hotel construction and dining establishments.  Once ignored Spitalfields is now the center of attention. 

Visiting London is an exercise in the observation and practice of civility. Most Brits are both charming and polite. Rather than push and shove, Londoners patiently wait in line-or as they say, to queue in line.

As aforementioned, English is spoken, not the American version thereof. Yes, their accent is distinctive and addictive, which one cannot say of New Yorkers accents.

Yes, they drive on the left side of the road, but who is to say that right is preferable or correct?

In England, a job is a profession, and is performed accordingly with dignity and pride.



Globe Theater 


For more information on London theater, please visit:;;

BEST TIME TO VACATION IN LONDON: The best time to visit London is during spring through fall to experience the best weather.  Travel to London during mid-March, April and May, September and October to avoid maximum crowds and partake of lowered airline and lodging rates.  Winter months can be cold and dreary (February is bitterly cold, but London’s driest month), but offer a superior theater and concert experience with considerably fewer tourists. 

It’s best to avoid the months of July and August in order to avoid maximum tourists.

For information on visiting London, please view this website:

Late March - first week of April: Lesbian and Gay Film Festival 

First week in April: Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race

Late May: Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show 

Mid-June: Royal Ascot: grand racing event that dates back to 1711


Last two weeks of June - first week in July: WIMBLEDON - tennis greats compete in this prestigious tournament played on grass, the world’s oldest tennis tournament.  The complex includes 20 courts including Centre Court and Court 1.  Matches take place from 12:00 noon until 9:00 p.m.  Please note that the present Court 13 is being reconfigured and will be the new Court 2 for the 2009 matches.  It will seat 4,000.  The other outer courts will be renumbered.

Transportation to Wimbledon: Expect a travel time of 40 minutes from downtown London via The Tube to Smithfields Station.  Shuttle transportation is available from Smithfields Station or take a brisk 15 minute walk to the Wimbledon complex.  For more information, please visit
and/or (for 2017 tickets).  

Wanting tickets?  Reserve as far in advance as possible.  Tickets are often available in conjunction with packages.  Center court and Courts 1 and 2 tickets for the semi and final matches command steep prices.  Most tickets are sold through a mail-order drawing that takes place from August to December.  Apply to All England Lawn Tennis Club, P.O. Box 98, London, SW 19 5AE, United Kingdom prior to August.  Be sure to include a self-addressed envelope plus an International Reply Coupon available at the Post Office.  You cannot specify dates or events.  Should you be so lucky, you’ll get whatever Wimbledon offers you.  Hint: Your odds are far greater than winning Publishers Clearing House, actually about one out of six.  Don’t even think of stuffing the entry box - the authorities figured long ago that multiple entries could become a problem.  But rest assured, they have a process that discourages such attempted shenanigans. 


Like to patiently stand in long lines?  Ju
mp into your private jet, cross the pond over to London, rush out to Wimbledon and slum it with your sleeping bag for the 1,500 daily show-court tickets.  The whole Wimbledon queuing procedure is actually very civilized.  Forget your friends - IF you are successful, it’s a stingy one ticket per person allotment.  The procedure repeats for the first 10 days of the tournament. Strike two?  Lines begin forming daily at 7:30 a.m. during the tournament for 6,000 outer court passes and standing room tickets for Court 2.  Outer court passes are exactly that, “access,” not necessarily a seat assignment to the outer courts or Court 2.  Have fun standing or “roaming” as it will be.


You might try the ticket booth near Aorangi Terrace mid-day, as spectators that depart early, often return their ticket for resale - the proceeds go to charities.  You might at least be able to see a few matches that day. Don’t even contemplate the possibility of scalpers.  Once again, the Wimbledon folks have a unique system that tracks and confiscates illicitly purchased tickets.  Drown your sorrows and visit the on grounds Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum for $17.00 admission. If you struck out, repeat the process the next day, or better yet, rush to the best seat in the house - a television set - also, considerably less expensive. A high-class formal party atmosphere prevails during the tournament.


Last week in August: Notting Hill Carnival – expect huge crowds 

October - first and second weeks: The Chelsea Crafts Fair - Europe’s best for jewelry, ceramics, glass, and furniture

November – third and fourth weeks: The Cecilatide International Festival of Music - world-class performers

2012: July 27 through August 12, 2012: The Summer Olympics 

January 16 - 21, 2008: WWPP and BPPA - Professional Photographers Convention


London has two major airports: Heathrow and Gatwick.


London Heathrow airport is the third busiest airport in the world with 70 million combined international and domestic passengers, the world’s busiest international passenger airport with 65 million international passengers. It is located 15 miles west of central London.


An Express Train from Heathrow to Paddington Station takes 15 minutes. You will need either a taxi or take the Tube (London’s subway) from Paddington Station to your final destination.


Not as convenient, but considerably less expensive, is to take the Tube from Heathrow (The Piccadilly Line), a 45- minute ride. Be forewarned that the Tube station at Heathrow is a long walk from Customs, so if you have more than one piece of luggage, it would be a chore to navigate.


Gatwick is 28 miles south of London. Trains into London’s centrally located Victoria Station depart from the South Terminal. The journey takes approximately a half-hour and departs Gatwick every 15 minutes. Even though the journey is brief, you will find that Club/First class is more comfortable than Standard class. It is, of course, more expensive.


London’s Tube, (never ever refer to it as the subway. In England, a subway is an underground pedestrian tunnel), is one of the most extensive and safest subway systems in the world. If you are budget conscious and wish to minimize transportation costs while navigating London, the Tube is a wise choice.

Many stations have signage or voice recordings: “Mind the Gap.” This is a warning that the impending platform is not level with the train, that a gap may exist between the platform and the train and that you must step up or down to the platform.

Stand to the right on station escalators.

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  Purchase a 7 day London Travel Pass, a bargain compared to having to purchase individual tickets. It offers unlimited travel on all of London’s trains, buses, tubes and trams plus Docklands Light Railway. In addition, it offers discounts on over 75 attractions, theatres and restaurants. Tickets are available in 1,3 or 7 day durations.



London’s fantastic taxis are no longer the bargain of yesterday, but don’t even think or renting an auto-you’ll most assuredly encounter horrific traffic and expensive parking. Careful which taxis you select: stick with the traditional black taxis for reliability and honesty.  London has over 25,000 black taxis! As a point of comparison, New York City has around 13,250 Yellow Taxis.

Several reputable drivers have opted for red and other colors.  You can hail a taxi in the street, but like most cities, it can be an ordeal in inclement weather.  If the yellow sign atop the taxi is on, the taxi is available for hire.  Fares do vary by time of day: the rate increases after 8:00 p.m. and again at 10:00 p.m.  The meter ticks even while the vehicle is stuck in traffic, so you pay based both on distance and time.  You should negotiate a flat rate to and from the airports.  A ten percent tip rounded to the nearest dollar is customary.  Be leary of so called meter less “mini-cabs” that park outside nightspots.  The mini-cabs are generally less expensive than the black taxis.  Always negotiate a fare beforehand.  Do not use unlicensed mini-cabs.-more commonly referred to as “gypsy cabs.”  Many of these curb-side operators operate without insurance, do not meet safety standards, and do not have fare meters.  

Good luck securing a taxi just prior to theater time or when it’s raining!


SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: On a personal note: Please do not be tempted to use UBER. Taxi drivers in London are a time-honored profession. They take great pride in their knowledge and driving skills. Their vehicles are their livelihood and are meticulously maintained. Do not entrust your safety to a part-timer that does not have the thorough- knowledge or experience navigating the city. Also, all Black Taxis are disabled friendly -why try Uber’s “57 varieties whatever arrives is what you get alternative?” Uber is said at last count to have over 50,000 drivers in London! Wonder why there’s traffic congestion?





SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Beginning in the summer of 2014, you will no longer be able to pay cash when riding the buses. All passengers henceforth are required to purchase an Oyster Card which can be purchased in Tube Stations. For a full list, consult:

Oyster Cards can be reloaded with any amount of money at ticket machines or in advance from VisitBritain. Oyster Card holders need only to swipe their card across an electronic reader to board.

As of 2014, unlimited trips on buses for one day is 4.40 pounds, at day pass: 20.20 pounds.



If you wish to maximize your London sightseeing/shopping, and minimize the cost of taxis or alternate transportation to and from, organize your sightseeing days by city regions.

For example: If your interests lie in art, the vicinity of Trafalgar Square is your best bet, as here you will find both  the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.

If royalty and/or politics is your gig, the Whitehall area is the place to gawk. The Houses of Parliament (The House of Commons and the House of Lords) are located here.


Nearby is The Queens Life Guards and the Horse Guards Parade, not to be confused with Buckingham Palace’s Changing of the Guard Parade.

No 10 Downing Street-the official home of the Prime Minister, is opposite the Queens Life Guard. In the neighborhood is The Cabinet War Rooms & Churchill Museum (the WWII underground bunker of Sir Winston Churchill.



The Buckingham Palace region is self-explanatory. Nearby is Westminster Abbey and the Tate Britain (Art works of the British Masters)



London is identified by districts:

The City: is the financial center, The City’s walled historical center

Knightsbridge: shopping and dining center

Mayfair: elegant residential area

Covent Garden: shopping area

Hampstead: shopping district

Kensington: chic residential area

Westminster: is the government center

West End: the shopping and theatrical center

Soho & Chelsea: is the industrial and nightlife center

East End: up and coming area previously down at the heels. Nowadays, you can take escorted walking tours of colorful graffiti, murals, wall paintings in the Old East End along East London Street.

 The East End site of the 2012 Olympics has been transformed into 560 acre Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The park is home to the 375 foot- tall ArcelorMittal Orbit, the U.K.’ tallest sculpture. It was built as a centerpiece for the Olympics. The view from the sculpture’s Upper Deck on a clear day exceeds 20 miles. ArcelorMittal Orbit, a modernistic looping structure was made of re-cycled steel and assembled with 35,000 bolts, together enough to make 265 double-decked buses.

You ascend the sculpture via a lift to the viewing platforms.

The sculpture includes the world’s largest tunnel slide. The slide includes corkscrew curves. Fee of approximately $13.

In addition to the slide, there is an optional freefall abseil (separate fee). Plan on spending over $100 for this exhilarating experience.


Hours: Monday-Friday: 11:00 a.m.-last entry at 4:30 p.m., Saturday & Sunday: 10:00 a.m.-last entry at 5:00 p.m., 0203 198 0407.



While in London, experience the west-end musicals.  Plan ahead and purchase theater tickets before you depart from the United States or end up possibly paying a premium price for decent seating for your desired play or musical.  For more information, please visit


If you seek a bargain, check with the Leicester Square ticket booth for discounted last minute theater tickets.  You may also wish to check out the discount ticketing services of Groundline Ticketing at for sightseeing venues.  Their London Travel Cards are particularly valuable in offering unlimited travel on the Tube, local buses, and discounts on 75 attractions.  The cards are valuable in 1, 3 or 5 day denominations.  The celebrated Old Vic is currently under the artist direction of Actor Kevin Spacey.



New St. Paul's Cathedral 

DON’T MISS the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, where Winston Churchill chomped on his cigars and planned his nation’s survival and ultimate victory with the Allies help over Germany in World War II.  For more information, please visit: 

The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., with last admission at 5:00 p.m., except during December 24, 25, and 26, when the building is closed.  Admission cost is approximately $24.00 per person, seniors are $19.00, and students under age 16 are free.  Admission includes audio available in English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin and Hebrew, for self guided tour.  Guided tours, albeit very expensive at flat $600.00 (1-10 persons plus per person admission charges) are available.  Ouch! 




Another worthwhile outing is to tour Parliament, the House of Lords and The House of Commons.  Free 75 minute tours are available to United Kingdom residents year round.  Full tours are conducted on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon and on Wednesdays at 9:00 a.m. and 9:20 a.m.  House of Lords only tours are offered on Wednesdays from 9:25 a.m. - 12:00 noon.  Tours are not conducted on Thursdays.  Full tours of both Houses are offered on Fridays between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.  Parliament is closed on Christmas, New Years and is not in session on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. - noon during July and August, nor Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 noon during September and October.  Young children are discouraged from touring.  Be prepared for considerable walking.  Toilet access is unavailable on tour, so plan a potty break beforehand.


Unfortunately only United Kingdom citizens can attend Parliament sessions.  Debates and question times (the most popular) require advanced ticketing.  Non-United Kingdom citizens can attend ONLY by standing in queue and being admitted on a non-guaranteed space available basis.  Admission is free. 


IMPORTANT: Other nationals including Americans, are permitted to tour Parliament only during the summer months: 75 minute tours are offered daily except Sundays or Bank Holidays.  Advanced ticket purchase is highly recommended or your alternative is queuing in line the date of tour - a highly civilized, but tedious process, not recommended for the impatient.  A word on security: do not have any of the following on your possession as you enter Parliament or risk arrest and detainment: knives, personal defense sprays such a mace, large luggage or bags, or cameras.  Cell phones must be disengaged. 

Non-United Kingdom citizens should not despair, as they can attend Parliament Committee Meetings that take place Mondays through Thursdays when Parliament is in session.  The Committee Meetings of both the House of Lords and House of Commons, actually, can be quite interesting.  The sessions are similar to United States Congressional committee meeting and hearings, and sometimes heated and lively debate transpires.  Since advanced admission ticketing is not offered, you queue in line and take your chances for the limited space.  Arrive as early as possible at the St. Stephens entrance of the Palace of Westminster and immediately inform a visitor assistant or police officer of your intent to attend a Committee Meeting, whereby you will be directed to the proper queue.  Some committee meetings also take place in Portcullis House, located on Victoria Embankment.

Still another possibility is to attend a Judicial Hearing conducted by the House of Lords who acts as the Supreme Court of Appeal for the United Kingdom (similar to the United States Supreme Court).  Anyone may attend, advanced request for access is not required.  Hearings take place Mondays through Thursdays.  The Law Lords hear about 85 appeals annually.  You’ll be surprised with th
e informality, as the Law Lords wear business suits rather than robes, and sit around a horseshoe-shaped table level with the gallery.  Enter through the St. Stephens entrance where a posting of appeals is displayed.  You will be directed to the proper queue.


 Even if you have sworn never to visit another church on your travels, you would be remiss not to make two exceptions while in London and visit Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Both exude Great Britain’s history. 


Tell someone you either have visited or plan to visit the College of St. Peter at Westminster and it most likely will draw blanked stares---they probably won’t have a clue what you are talking about.  Reference Westminster Abbey, and a few high-school graduates might understand.  Westminster Abbey and Great Britain’s history are inseparable.  Westminster Abbey was built in 1245.  It has served for centuries as the nation’s traditional place of weddings of royalty, coronation of Kings and Queens, and as a burial site of nobility. 

Poet’s Corner is a memorable favorite of most visitors.  It honors England’s writers, playwrights, and poets with memorials and honorary plaques. 

Buried or honored in Westminster Abbey are Great Britain’s  royalty, Geoffrey Chaucer ,Alfred Tennyson, Ben Johnson, Charles Darwin, Dr. Samuel Johnson, John Keats, William Wordsworth, Charles Dickens, Neville Chamberlain, Robert Browning, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Isaac Newton, and endless others.  

Prime Ministers, War heroes, Saints, individuals and countless others are honored throughout Westminster Abbey. 


SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  There is so much to see, so definitely hire a private guide.  Not only will you see and comprehend more than trying to do it on your own, but equally important, it avoids the long lines awaiting entrance.  The audio tapes are a poor man’s alternative, but be forewarned you will probably waste considerable time waiting in lines. 


The (Anglican) St. Paul’s Cathedral (1708), The Mother Church of the Diocese of London, is also worthy of a visit.  Situated on a lofty bluff, St. Paul’s dominated London’s skyline from 1710-1962, and even today remains visible from miles away in several directions.  The original dated back to 604 AD, the 4th reincarnation was destroyed by fire in 1666.  

The Cathedral has been the scene of many a royal wedding (including Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, and funerals of the Duke of Wellington Margaret Thatcher, Horatio Lord Nelson, and Sir Winston Churchill. 

St. Paul’s magnificent dome is one of the worlds tallest.


St Paul’s Cathedral remains a working church with both hourly prayer and daily religious services. 




For centuries London was not known for having a skyline of skyscrapers.  A strict ban on height of construction assured preservation of the city’s low-lying architectural heritage.  Instead, heretofore, a structure’s height was associated with the standard set by tall church steeples and cathedrals.  


It may surprise you to learn that for centuries the White Tower of the Tower of London was, at a meager 91 feet tall, the city’s tallest structure!  The White Tower was later surpassed in height by a succession of churches and cathedrals. 


A combination of factors, including land values, demographics, population growth, migration of the populace, the economy, and efficiencies of new and improved construction techniques, all contributed  towards  a lifting of some restrictions on construction height. 


It was not until the 1960’s that a frenzy of construction commenced the current skyscraper boom.  Over 125 mega-structures of 30 stories and above now exist, with many more approved or being built. 

Most are 50-60 stories and 65-75 stories in height.  As recent as 2012, the Tower 42, (at 42 floors in height), was London’s tallest! 

The Shard (2009-2012) is one of the tallest at 95 floors (only 72 floors are inhabitable).  Besides its distinctive exterior appearance, it houses a rare combination of offices (floors 1-33), a world class hotel - the 200 room Shangri-La Hotel occupying floors 34-52), and apartments/condominiums (floors 53-65).  The structure also houses several restaurants including the Aqua Shard (upscale British cuisine) and Hutong (Chinese).  The restaurants are on the ground and floors 31-33.  The Observation deck is on floors 68-72.  The structure is owned by the State of Quarter.  As skyscrapers rank in size worldwide, the Shard pales in comparison. 

32 London Bridge Street, SE195G.

The observation deck is open from 9:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. Admission tickets are timed, so advanced reservations are advised. SAVVY TRAVEL DECISIONS: Be forewarned that the admission price is exorbitant-figure $1+ per minute. Even if you could afford more, you are ousted after only a half-hour of viewing!  NEXT!!


30 St, Mary Axe: (more commonly referred to as “The Gherkin” (2003), aka The Swiss Re Building, is an equally distinctive, if not a more significant architectural structure with its double skinned environmental exterior insulation.  This is primarily a forty story office structure.  It replaced the Baltic Exchange, a structure extensively damaged by an IRA bomb explosion in 1992.  It has changed ownership three times:  the present owner is a Brazilian corporation. 

If you must, The Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace is hurry up and wait, and then in a second it’s over.  Be sure to check the schedule posted at, as the ceremony does not take place daily.  The Changing of the Guards is so well done – elegant to the end, it’s almost a “must see.”  

 If you must, The Changing of the Queen’s Guards at Buckingham Palace is hurry up and wait, and in a second, it’s over. Be sure to check the schedule posted at, as the ceremony does not take place daily at 11:30 a.m. from April-July. During the months of August-March, the Changing of the Queen’s Guard occurs at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The winter crowds are considerably smaller.

It’s a curious spectacle: a long patient wait to witness and a relatively brief ceremony that you probably won’t see due to the large crowd and a poor vantage point.

If you are patiently standing around the marble monument to the Queen in anticipation of seeing the regimental band and guard procession, you’ll miss the actual changing of the guard in the courtyard behind the black gates. 


SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  The best place from which to watch the Changing of the Guard is either to arrive an hour early and stand by the gates of the Palace, or to stand on the Victoria Memorial just outside the Palace-thus having an elevated but more distant view of the ceremony.

Even better yet, arrive as part of a professional tour group-interesting how they manage to secure prime viewing spots!

You may wish to save time skip waiting at Buckingham Palace for the arrival of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony and instead choose to stand on the side of the Mall that borders St. James Park. Shortly after 10:30 a.m., (typically 10:40 a.m.) the “old Guard’ and the Band Corps will march right past you as they leave the Royal Barracks and St. James Palace en route to Buckingham Palace.

The parades are cancelled in the event of inclement weather.


The ceremony at the guard posts, when all is said and done, isn’t very inspiring. The uniforms  (red tunics and tall black bearskin hats) are undeniably colorful, and yes, the poor guards are motionless and hardly blink an eye. You’ll witness a lot of marching and counting by the guards, but the overall ceremony is short on fanfare. Minus the marching band, the whole affair would be rather boring.


Do it once, but It’s doubtful that you will want to do it a second time on a repeat London visit.  (Was it The Queen who said that ‘no one does pomp and circumstance like the British.  And so it is.) 


While in the neighborhood, a more worthwhile use of your time would be to visit the Queens Gallery at Buckingham Palace.  Overlooked by most tourists, you will glimpse some of the Queen’s valuables.  Other choices are:  the Palace’s Royal Mews or a tour of Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms, which are open to the public in August and September.  Timed admission tickets (fee) (tel: 0-20-7766-7300, credit cards accepted) are required for the 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. open hours.  If the flag, atop the Palace, is flying, the Queen is home. 


Buckingham Palace is now over 300 years old.  


Far more satisfying, particularly to horse enthusiasts, are the Horse Guards at the Whitehall Palace.  The Horse Guard is featured in the annual Trooping the Colour.  The Sovereigns Life Guards - the changing of sentries at Whitehall Palace takes place Monday through Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.  Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.  The ceremony is brief, taking approximately 30 minutes.  (Whitehall Palace:  opposite St. James Park).  

SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  When visiting for the ceremony, be sure to visit the Household Cavalry Museum (1750), which provides a “behind the scenes” look at the ceremonial and operational role of the Household Cavalry Regiment.  The Cavalry has existed since 1661.  Ceremonial uniforms, musical instruments, many 350 years old, are on display.  Horse and rider training is explained in the Museum.  You also can actually visit the Working Stable Block (17th century) where the much pampered horses are housed - you may observe horses being groomed, fed and watered.  Gift shop on premises.  The Household Cavalry Museum is open daily (except April 22

Harrod’s is a must, whether you enjoy shopping or not.  Be sure to check out the one-of-a-kind food court.  Harrod’s has a website, so be sure to visit:

Harrods Department Store at Christmas, Kensington, London Petto







The “Freebee” Art Museums:  Not only does London offer a dazzling array of art museums, but unlike other world class art museums elsewhere, London’s all offer free admission.


Patrons of art should not miss:

·         The National Gallery with its works of the world’s most renowned and recognized masters from the mid -13th century to the 20th century. Uccello, Jack Van Eyck, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, Velazquez, Drouais, Rubens, El Greco, Monet, Rousseau, and many others (over 2,300 paintings). It’s near Trafalgar Square-considered geographically as central London.


·         The National Portrait Gallery is conveniently near the National Gallery. Portraits of recognizable figures: Royals, politicians, scientists, and celebrities such as Shakespeare. Free admission. St. Martins Place.

·         The Victoria and Albert Museum (The V&A), (opened in 1852) is renowned for its extensive galleries of decorative stained glass, paintings, prints. Drawings, textiles, furniture, architecture, statuary, sculpture, and jewelry-the world’s largest decorative art collection (over 22,000 objects, some dating back to the 4th century). Cromwell Rd.

·           The stunning Tate Modern Museum is well worth a visit.  It and the Tate Britain can be accessed via the Tate to Tate riverboat ferries (fee) that operate every 40 minutes between the two galleries.  A bonus are the river views of Ben Ben, the London Eye, and Parliament. Guided tours of the Tate Modern are offered at 11:00 a.m., Noon, 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. daily.


·         The Tate Gallery is a collection of British paintings from the 16th-19th century and the 20th century. Works by Freud, Hepworth, Moore, Emin, and JMW Turner are displayed. Milbank.

While not free admission, the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, is a worthwhile visit for art lovers. On display are major works of Rubens, Cezanne,Gauguin’s: (Nevermore), Degas, Renoir, Manet: (A Bar at the Folies Bergere) ), Van Gogh’s: (Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear) Monet, and Seurat. Closed Mondays. Strand.

·         Sir John Soane’s Museum: The house of Sir John Soane, a smallish museum, is known for its displays of the Hogarth cartoons and paintings. Free admission.

Closed Mondays. 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

·         The Serpentine Galleries, located in Kensington Gardens, enjoys increasing significance as it continually adds to its already impressive display of contemporary art. Free admission. Queens Walk.



·         The British Museum (since 1750) is one of the world’s oldest museum: The immense British Museum is one of the world’s top museums with 94 galleries, including the “borrowed” Rosetta Stone (a black basalt slab from the Nile Delta, that has proven to be the key to Egyptian  hieroglyphics), mummies from Egypt ( children as fascinated with the guide’s description of mummification), the Elgin Marbles from Greece, and all the world’s treasured archaeological treasures that one could grab early on. Also, The Magna Carta and endless other world treasures. The British Museum is London’s most popular tourist attraction.  Hours: Open Monday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Sunday: 2:30-6:00 p.m.    Great Russell Street (Tottenham Court Road). 


·         One might say that the British Museum of Natural History is a little stuffy. Displayed is the stuffed giant panda, Chi Chi,  Iguanodon atherfieldens is, one of the most complete dinosaurs ever discovered in  England, a huge display (90 varieties) of hummingbirds, a 350 million year old fish specie, whale exhibits, and much more.


·         The British Library displays first edition manuscripts of ‘Beowulf,’ Shakespeare’s works and the Magna Carta. Free admission. For a fee guided tours are available. 96 Euston Road, NW7.


The Science Museum and the British Museum are nearby each other. Combine a day of visiting both. The Science Museum, with its interactive exhibits, will fascinate anyone for a few hours.  It traces the development of the world’s technology. There is a huge steam engine display, an Apollo 10 capsule, and  a 1910 Rolls Royce-the world’s oldest, along with displays of other significant  scientific  and medical  achievements.  Exhibition Rd. SW 7





The Tower of London (built in 1078) pops up on most first-time visitors sightseeing itineraries. This grim landmark dates back to the 11th century when it was built by William the Conquerer. It has served as a palace, prison, fortress and treasury. When visiting, don’t lose either your patience or your head. Your only hope to avoid standing in long waiting lines is to be part of an organized tour group or fork over cash and arrange for a private tour guide beforehand, and you’ll walk right past the predictably long lines.

Do you really think that the heavily guarded Royal crown jewels are authentic?

 Legend has it that if the six ravens stationed at the Tower were to ever depart, that not only would the Tower of London crumble, but the monarchy would also fall. Leaving nothing to chance, the authorities routinely clip the ravens tails!



“London Bridge was falling down, falling down---,” but before it could, it was disassembled and shipped to bake in the sun in Lake Havasu, Arizona. The Tower Bridge, on the other-hand, continues to draw hordes of tourists. It’s showtime! To increase visitation, glass floor panels have been installed so you can now look downward to the distant waters below. Yikes!  



Tower of London, Wall of old City in foreground
Long-Time Guard at the Tower 

The Tower of London is officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of Tower of London.  It draws hordes of tourists.  If you are part of an organized professional tour group or with a private guide, your guide will usually be successful in cutting the horrific lines for the Beefeater guided tour of the Tower.  A written request two to three months in advance is required to attend the 700 year old ritual, The Ceremony of the Keys. 
Things move right along once in----to discourage dawdling, you literally travel via a moving sidewalk conveyor belt through the tower.  Next!  


Beasts at the Tower of London

The Tower of London

Tradition and rumor have it that if the ravens leave the Tower, Britain will fall.  Six ravens, therefore, are kept in residence and are encouraged to stay.   


In Medieval times, the Tower was the residence for the Kings.

Henry III and Edward I used the Castle. 

The Tower was originally built by William the Conqueror and was the royal residence.   Both Henry III and Edward expanded the building.    




Alas, the seemingly always reliable Big Ben (1876) suddenly stopped working in 2015, and is badly in need of repair.  Big Ben (13 tons): “The King of all Clocks” celebrated its 150th anniversary ( in 2009. 

The 315 foot tall tower (roughly 16 stories), has long been a symbol of London.  The minute hand heretofore kept meticulous time.  It is wound three times a week.  Residents are accustomed to the chimes ringing out “like clock work” every quarter hour!  During WWII, Big Ben observed a minute of silence every night at 9:00 p.m. 



This imposing famous tower offers a great photo opportunity.  Only residents of the U.K., however, are permitted ( no children under age 11), to ascend the staircase to view the clock’s 5.6 ton mechanism up close.  Even residents must secure tour tickets (free) from their Member of Parliament, typically encountering a minimum three month wait.  



Gather a bucket and spoon and head off for a guided tour tracing the steps of the elusive and infamous Jack the Ripper.  There are several excellent tour guides offering walking tours of Jack’s former playground.  Do your research beforehand, and you’ll enjoy the outing even more.  The best is Ripper expert, Donald Rumbelow who conducts walking tours of Ripperville under the name of LondonWalks.  The same company offers an excellent variety of other unusual London tours that would add immeasurably to your London sightseeing experience, not to mention avoiding queues.  The majority of the walks are two hours in duration.  The walks are slow paced and not grueling, averaging 1-1-1/2 miles in length, and should pose little or no difficulty to the average person. 

Rumbelow’s Jack the Ripper Walk is offered every Sunday night, most Mondays, most Tuesdays, and occasionally on Fridays, always at 7:30 p.m.  Inquire whether Rumbelow will be your guide.  London Walks Telephone :  020 7624 3978 or  020 7794 1764. 

If you haven’t been to London in recent years, you won’t recognize the East End, an area infamous as the stalking ground of Jack the Ripper and frankly, London’s gigantic slum area of the poor and neglected immigrants. The financial district in London City abuts the East End-two areas that heretofore were literally worlds apart, economically. The Summer Olympics of 2012, however, were a game changer as a massive construction boom totally transformed the area. Instead of scrounge, the East End has become funky


Trafalgar Square is a popular pedestrian friendly meeting place, s place to demonstrate (your favorite cause of the moment) or celebrate (New Year’s Eve), and is the site of Nelson’s Column consisting of four bronze lions and fountains. Admiral Nelson stands atop the column.

 Nelson’s Column, a 169 ft.-3 inch

tall granite monument (built 1840-1843), honors the British naval hero who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. If you examine the column closely, you will note that the four lions stationed at the base are not identical.



The London Eye, aka the Coca Cola Eye, or whomever at the moment has the naming rights, curiously seems to be on every tourist’s bucket list. The question is inexplicable---Why?

While London’s was one of the first of the new generation of Ferris wheels, it is by no means unique to London. London’s Eye is 500 feet high and has 32 enclosed, pod-like capsules (capacity of 25 persons each). Hope you are not claustrophobic as you may be packed like sardines.

If a panoramic view of London is important, there are several superior places considerably less expensive that will satisfy your need. Completely avoid if the weather is not crystal clear.


 As a matter of fact, the concept has proliferated everywhere: Singapore, Las Vegas, you name it, each bigger and taller than the last. After rotating in a gigantic glass basket crammed in with others and gawking at the panoramic view, the ride, albeit expensive for a thirty minute, one revolution ride! Yawn!

Kids in tow?  They will enjoy the London Eye (a gigantic Ferris wheel).  The real question is whether your wallet will enjoy the world’s most expensive Ferris ride, a one-time around 25 minute revolution will set you back over $70.00 per person, children and seniors around $50.00. The views from this glorified ferris wheel are spectacular.  If pressed for time and budget, skip. The Millennium Dome in the East End has been renamed the Q2. 



The traditional black taxi and a red double decker in the downtown of London

Copyright Katalin Kondoros




London is more than sightseeing for some visitors. For thrills:

·         You can enjoy a River Thames super jet speedboat ride on the Thames RIB Experience.

·         Up at the O2: Trek across the massive dome of the O2 Arena protected by a safety wire and harness.

·         Jog or Horseback ride through Hyde Park

·         Experience viewing the city from high above the River Thames on the Emirates Airline Cable Car




The pandas at the London Zoo in Regent’s Park are also worthwhile visits. The zoo is considered one of the world’s finest: over 12,000 animals. The animals enjoy rarified air. The official residence of the American Ambassador is directly next door.


 Lloyd’s of London;  Don’t even think of trying to visit and tour unless you’re in the insurance biz or have insurance industry connections.  In most places, ringing a bell is symbolic of celebrating a happy occasion.  Not so here.  Everyone shudders on the floor of Lloyd’s when the big bell is rung-an indication of a ship or freighter sinking somewhere worldwide and insurance payout dollars going down the drain!  The new modernistic and highly controversial building defies the old tradition one would expect. 


Once a year the building is open to the public for London Open House, a city-wide event.  You must reserve:   


Don’t despair, just looking over the Old City of London is fascinating.  

The London Transportation Museum offers a fascinating display of old buses, trains and public transportation. Open daily: 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.


 The newly refurbished St. Pancras station is the London home of the high speed passenger train, Eurostar, with departures for France.  The Eurostar will propel you through the Channel, London to Paris in 2 hours and 15 minutes!  For more information on the Eurostar train, please visit:


St. Pancras International Station

Central London Railway Terminus

Lesser, but worthwhile museums:

The Guildhall:  houses ruins of the Roman Amphitheater.


The Wallace Collection:


The house of Sir John Soane:  known for its displays of the Hogarth cartoons and paintings.



The Royal Artillery Museum.

 If you’re a windbag or tend to have diarara of the mouth, you may wish to trot on over any Sunday to The Speakers Corner in Hyde Park. Would be politicians, anarchists and the like babble endlessly about this or that-often making little or no sense. To assure someone is listening, round up your friends and relatives, or as a last resort, beg your enemies to endure your barbs. Ah, isn’t free speech  great?-If bored, rent a boat and row around the 400 acre park’s Serpentine Lake.


If you are energetic. athletically inclined and are confident that you can outrun any muggers, then sign up for a jogging tour of London, and run, run, run!  offer a choice of itineraries, including one that follows the routing of the River Thames past the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London and East End scenes of Jack the Ripper.  Assuming that you can keep pace, the tours average one hour. T-shirt and bottled water provided in tour cost. The tour is offered four times daily.


Horse riding enthusiasts can do their thing at Hyde Park. Hyde Park Stables provides horses, ponies and riding gear for private or group lessons for all levels of skill. You’ll pass many a major sight while on horseback.


Hate to dampen your enthusiasm or not kindle you fire, but the following are a couple of attractions that The Venom is less than enthused over : The London Dungeon and Madame Tussaud’s.  Both are expensive admissions and better placed in a carnival or Coney Island rather than considered a must when visiting London. This wax museum of phony celebrities and Chamber of Horrors sure would be a mess in the event of a fire).



Try as they might the National Football League has a tough sled ahead of them trying to crack British allegiance to their nation’s version of football. Chelsea Football Club Stadium Tours are every bit as popular as stateside stadium tours. The Chelsea Blue have a fanatical following. The on-site Centenary Museum chronicles the history of the Chelsea Blue Football Club. Fulham rd. SW6


Harry Potter Sites:

Children of all ages enjoy touring scenes from the popular Harry Potter movies. Platform 9 and three Quarters in the movie (in reality, it is located at Kings Cross Platform No. 5) and the entrance into the Leaky Cauldron (filmed at Boroughs Market).The Warner Bros Studios and Harry Potter Tour, housed in a former aircraft factory, is located  just outside London. The aircraft factory’s hangers were used to film the first Harry Potter movie in 2000. You can tour the old sets, including the Great Hall, costumes, and props such as the Knight Bus. You can also examine special effects and the animatronics employed in the movie.


Although new, it’s worth a look-see: The Museum of London Docklands explores the areas surrounding East London. Exhibits on pirates, sailors, slavery and Jack the Ripper, include a life-sized re-creation of less than savory Wapping High Street of the 1880’s-Yikes!



Weather permitting, a boat trip on the River Thames, is a nice experience.  You have severalchoices:  A leisurely scenic ride to Greenwich is customary. While in Greenwich,

check out the Greenwich Union, a charming local pub and the famous restored tea clipper, the Cutty Sark;

or: The Thames Rib Canary Wharf, a-50 minute rocke-m-sock-em  jet inflatable speedboat experience, guaranteed to challenge your anxieties. It departs from the Embankment

 in central London and passes several major  historical sites.

The 75 minute Thames Barrier Experience adds Greenwich.


Hampton Court Palace: This 16th century palace was home to Cardinal Wolsey, King Henry VII, King William III and Queen Mary II. The Palace features extensive gardens and a maze. Tour the staterooms and Tudor kitchen. This was Henry VIII’s favorite royal residence-seems that he kept seven wives here.  Admission fee. Located off A308 Hwy, Surrey (west of London).


The Cotswolds (see separate alphabetical listing)


Bath (see separate alphabetical listing).


Oxford: (see separate alphabetical listing)


Stonehenge: All visitations now begin at the new Visitors Center. Reservations are required and are on a timed entry basis. Very few tickets are available for walk-ups-not recommended-instead, plan in advance. A shuttle will transport you to and from the Visitors Center (approximately one mile) to Stonehenge.



Outside London, in Berkshire, is LEGOLAND Windsor.




If you have been to London a number of times, you have invariably passed by the multi-columned Royal Exchange a number of times.  Now in its third reincarnation of the original (1571) following disastrous fires, it no longer is home to Lloyd’s of London (occupied for over 150 years).  It is presently a luxury shopping center the likes of tenants:  Hermes, Bvigari, George Jensen, Tiffany & Co., Boodles, Paul Young Fine Chocolates, a total of thirty merchants plus several restaurants and bars.  Most merchants close at 6:00 p.m., with restaurants and bars open later.  

The larger stores maintain limited hours on Sundays.

An absolute must is to peruse thro
ugh the world-famous Harrod’s, which offers food courts, 30 restaurants and four and one half acres of merchandise. Visiting the iconic food court on an empty stomach is not recommended. The Food Court, offering everything from soup to nuts, is easily the most visited department at Harrods.  The father of the late Dodi Fayed and late daughter-in-law Princess Diana, owns Harrod’s.  In their honor, he dedicated a memorial that is located at the foot of the Egyptian escalator next to the Harrods Shop. Hours: Monday - Saturday: 10:00 a.m. -8:00 p.m., Sunday:  noon  – 6:00 p.m.  87-135 Brompton Rd., (Knightsbridge)


If you are a Wisconsin cheesehead or simply love cheese, you would enjoy visiting Paxton and Whitfield (in business since 1797), cheese-mongers to the Royal family since 1850. Winston Churchill once remarked; “A gentleman buys his hats at Locks, his shoes at Lobbs, his shirts at Hobby and Hudson, and his cheese at Paxton’s & Whitfield.” Hours: Monday-Saturday: 10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sunday: 11:00 a.m-5:00 p.m. 93 Jermyn Street, SW1Y.



Selfridge’s is a close second-some say it’s the best department store in the world. 

Liberty, a department store, is known for its distinctive fabrics and prints as well as designer fashion and exotic wares.  The store is open Monday - Friday: 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m., closing at 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, Saturday: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., and Sunday: noon - 6:00 p.m.

 Joseph has a number of stores throughout London selling designer brand clothing at substantial discounts.


Both Bond Street and Oxford Street offer good shopping areas.


Any mention of London is incomplete without honoring Hamley’s---the world’s oldest an largest toy store (seven floors of toys). Any self- respecting parent would not think of visiting London and not visiting Hamley’s either to purchase a gift for a child or grandchild or frankly to simply briefly to enjoy a few minutes retreating to one’s old childhood. In recent years, after facing extinction, Hamley’s survived to open several new stores in Great Britain, the Middle East, Africa and  Mexico City.  Hamley’s five-story London flagship dates back to1760. 188-196 Regent Street, +44 371 704 1977.





Spitalfields is an historic market known for its textiles, arts, crafts, clothing, art galleries and dining.  The market is open Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.  For more information, please visit:

Covent Garden  (dates back to the mid 1600’s) is an enclosed arcade of forty some upscale shops. Street entertainers add merriment to the shopping experience. A great choice for lunch.


Borough Market is a bustling outdoor market with both retail and wholesale food merchants: purveyors of produce, meat and seafood located next to London Bridge. Open daily: 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.  Plan on spending 30-60 minutes looking around. Cathedral Street SE1 9A.


Antique Shopping? Bermondsey Market’s open-air stalls are by far the best. SAVVY TRAVEL TIP: Best beat the professional antique dealers and interior decorators at their game: They are always on the lookout for a good buy, so arrive when they do, early on Fridays at 4:00 a.m. Yikes! The market’s stalls are open only from 4:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. Arrive late and the professional vultures have already plucked the place clean of any must have “new but old finds.”


Camden Passage in Islington is an enclave of nice antique stores. Twice a week street merchants and invitees sell their wares: Wednesdays from 7:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. and Saturdays: m10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Search for buys on Victorian jewelry, paintings, old maps, and furniture.


 Don’t waste your time, however, at Camden Markets-Camden Town: (Saturdays and Sundays 9:00 a/m-6:00 p.m.). Low end junk only with an occasional find for the most part.


London tailors (make sure they’re British and not a Hong Kong transplant!) are among the best for custom made clothing.


London has always been known for its Bookstores:

There’s no contest which is the oldest. Hatchard’s has been in business since 1797 at this, the original location. It’s not the biggest nor the fanciest-its old charm, however, is half the lure. Old fashioned elevator at back of store. Hate to mention that it’s now owned by the Waterstone chain. Open daily. 187 Piccadilly, 020 7439 9921.

Hatchard’s comes with a bonus: It’s neighbor is Fortnum and Mason.


Another old-timer is Foyle’s. It’s huge: Four floors (37,000 sq. ft) of new and used books (over 200,000 titles) at this new location-a decided improvement over the old At the original location, Foyle’s book tables always appeared in disarray-adding to the difficulty in finding books. Now, everything is neatly displayed on bookshelves. A remarkable improvement. 107 Charing Cross Rd., Open daily, 44 (0) 20 7437 566.


The real “biggie,” however, is Waterstone’s. Several locations. Its Great Britain’s version of Barnes and Noble. In business since 1853.


The world’s largest travel bookstore is Stanford’s, in business since 1853, since 1901 at this location. Oodles of travel guides and worldwide maps spread over three floors. 12-14 Long Acre, 44 20 7836 1321.


Heywood Hill, is not near as the others as time in business: since 1936. Its book stock , however, is, as Heywood Hill specializes in rare books, 10 Curzon Street (Mayfair), +44 20 7629 0647.


The Docklands: former scruffy warehouse area on the Thames, turned tourist magnet for its dining and shopping.

London tailors (make sure they’re British and not a Hong Kong transplant!) are among the best for custom-made clothing.


The Docklands:  former scruffy warehouse area on the Thames, turned tourist magnet for its dining and shopping.




London has added over 30,000 new  hotel rooms in the past ten years.

Hotel lodging in London runs the gamut from stratospheric pricing for prestigious digs in the Knightsbridge and Mayfair districts to the more affordable, even budget pricing in the more modest and limited service properties in less desirable or more remote areas. The more luxurious a property, you can obviously expect to pay considerably more-make no mistake that you are paying for a fancy lobby, high ratio of hotel staff to guest, extensive public rooms including dining facilities, spa availability, etc. If luxurious accommodations are unimportant, however, and your demands are simple: a clean and safe room, consider rental of an apartment or a small boutique property without restaurant and superfluous facilities that you may or may not consider important.

Choosing the area in which to stay in London is as important as choosing a specific hotel.

If you choose remote locations for you lodging, research the availability of public transportation and weigh the cost of taxis for accessing dining, sightseeing, shopping, and the theatre.



There is certainly grander lodging available in London, but relative few that offer the overall luxury and affordable prices of the classy 50 room/23 suite Beaumont. Opened in 2014 by well-respected restaurateurs Chris Corbin & Jeremy King (they are the former owners of such London culinary landmarks: Le Caprice, The Ivy, and J Sheekey). The owner’s pedigree for high standards and a flair for class is evident throughout the property. The dignified exterior belies the building’s unrecognizable past-a former Avis rent-an-auto garage. Art-deco rooms, large bathrooms, gym, spa, dining room with Americanized menu.

Corbin & King now own such well-respected dining outposts as Wolseley, Delaunay, Brasserie Zedel, Fischer’s, Colony Grill Room, Colbert, and Bellanger-all worthy choices for a memorable meal.

The Beaumont’s convenient Mayfair location is at Brown Hart Gardens. 44 207499 1001.



The aristocratic Goring (opened in 1910) is currently the most coveted luxury digs in town. Such Old- World luxury and ideal Belgravia location, (you are literally adjacent to Buckingham Palace), however, does not come without sticker shock. It is also one of the most expensive. There are only 69 guest rooms and suites. If you demand professional, but unpretentious service, you’ve come to the right place: The Goring has a staff of 170 employees or 2.5 per guest room! Every guest is treated as royalty. The Goring has been owned and managed by the same family for over a century. The hotel enjoys a phenomenal 70% repeat customer base.


The 280 room Royal Horseguards is another old luxury standby. Great location near Buckingham Castle-the exterior looks the part. Everything is grand. If you enjoy a nice leisurely bath, however, you’re plum out of luck-there’s nary a one on the premises-showers only.




The Lanesborough also enjoys a nice pedigree amongst luxury seekers. It was extensively re-done in 2015: New marble floors, hand-painted gilt. Service excels with a butler assigned for every guest room.



Claridge’s  (203 rooms) is the old Mayfair dowager that seems to constantly succeed in re-inventing itself so as to accommodate modern tastes and demands, but also to cling to its rich historical traditions. The service staff isn’t quite as old as the structure-some are close.


The toniest areas of London are Mayfair and Belgravia: there is a choice of several outstanding hotels in either area, none of them are inexpensive.  



The luxurious 300 room Shangri –la Hotel at the Shard, Europe’s tallest hotel, is an excellent, albeit expensive choice if you demand the best and crave modern glass towers. The rooms are good sized, but you pay a huge premium for the views. The hotel occupies floors 34 to 52 of the 72 story skyscraper, until tomorrow, Europe’s tallest.


The Langham dates- back to 1865. It has always commanded considerable respect and is highly coveted by travelers seeking luxurious accommodations. Its Regent Street location is ideal for shopping.


The 65 room Cadogan in Knightsbridge, owned by Belmond, is presently closed for a massive re-do, and is scheduled to re-open in 2018. 75 Sloane Street.


The Venom’s long- time favorite, the stately Berkeley, has sadly gone modern with furnishings, an addition of 50 more rooms, new dining (Gordon Ramsey was given the boot) and public rooms, and a complete new entry façade. About the only thing unchanged are the high nightly prices. Same ownership as Claridge’s, The Connaught, The Savoy and Simpson’s in the Strand (restaurant). Wilton Place. Convenient to Knightsbridge and Harrod’s.


The 150 room, luxurious Dorchester has long commanded respect by learned travelers for constantly re-vitalizing itself and maintaining envious high standards in accommodations, dining and service. Superb Mayfair location: 51 Park Lane.


The Cavendish St. James Hotel offers four- star luxury accommodations at a more affordable price structure than its counterparts. It enjoys a Mayfair location one mile from Piccadilly Circus. Men’s fashion stores line Jermyn Street. 87 Jermyn Street.




You’ve got to be kidding?  It used to be customary, Old Chap, that after a few days dining on British grub including nose- to- tale entrees and mushy peas, you would be begging for a  juicy Yankee burger! “Tasty Dining in London”? Yes, gourmet dining is alive and thriving, thank you, as evidenced by local restaurants successfully garnering over 80 highly coveted Michelin Stars. London has become a magnet for aspiring wantabees as well as celebrity chefs, with a constant proliferation of exciting new restaurants.  Whether your tastes run French, Italian, Indian, or Chinese, you’ll discover outlets equal to any world capital. British cuisine is palatable, so long as you stick with Dover sole and Scottish beef. As for the rest, let’s just say that it must be an acquired taste.

British Food terms :


·         Aubergine: eggplant

·         Bangers and Mash: sausages and mashed potatoes

·         Biscuit: a cookie

·         Black or White? Coffee with or without cream

·         Bubble & Squeak: Boiled vegetables (often cabbage, potatoes, onions, and often leftover meat

·         Courgetti: zucchini

·         Chips: French fries

·         Crisps: potato chips

·         Crumpet: small teacake made of pancake batter

·         Entrée: In England, this refers to an appetizer, not the main meal choice

·         Faggot: a variety of meatball

·         Jam: is really jelly in England

·         Jacket potato: baked potato

·         Jello: if ordering, you’ll get a sweet gelatinous dessert. Jello brand is non-existent in England

·         Joint: a large side of meat. American’s thinking they will be getting drugs are in for a rude awakening!

·         Marrow: is the vegetable squash

·         Hand- picked Dorset crab with mayonnaise

·         Peckish: If one is puckish, he or she is moderately hungry-not famished

·         Plaice: fish of the Flounder family. If you like halibut or sole, you’ll would like plaice.

·         Ploughmans lunch: simple meal of bread and cheese

·         Rocket & Parmesan salad: Rocket is arugula

·         Samphire: is a trendy sea vegetable hand harvested in muddy wet areas only in June and July-it is very salty in taste, but goes when serving fish.

·         Spotted Dick: suet pudding with raisins-often served on special occasions.

·         Soldiers: strips of bread meant for dipping

·         Scotch Egg: a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and coated in breadcrumbs

·         Smarties: a small sugar-coated chocolate candy

·         Squash: cordial, diluted fruit drink

·         Starter: reference on menu to appetizers

·         Sweet: candy or dessert in a restaurant

·         Toad in the Hole: sausages wrapped in Yorkshire pudding batter


·         Treacle: molasses

If you insist on English cuisine, stick to Dover sole, a delicacy revered in fine restaurants worldwide.  Prime rib roasts are another safe bet. Fish and chips can be outstanding or dreadful, greasy, depending on the restaurant.  


If you had time for only one meal while in London, and you just won Publisher’s Clearing

House’s $100,000 a week contest, Wilton’s should easily be your number one choice.  This place is and exudes class-no fish and chips place here!  It epitomizes British tradition (since 1742), décor and first rate seafood cuisine.  Your bill may be indicative that you purchased the fishing boat that hauled in your catch, but oh, what a meal!   The place is not dripping elegance, it’s just refined and dignified stuffy. 

Scott’s is another old-timer, but with considerably less sticker shock than Wilton’s. Nice selection of fresh seafood: Dover sole, halibut, John Dory, salmon, monkfish, crab, lobster 20 Mount Street, Mayfair, 44 20 7495 7309.


If you crave a hunk of cow, mosey over to Roast, (that’s the name), serves some mighty tasty Scottish beef as does the Rib Room of the Jumeirah Carlton Tower.  Don’t be lured by the Simpson’s tourist meal.  The carver at Simpson’s started a tradition long ago of bribery:  tip him and your slice of moo cow is suddenly a more generous cut! Simpson’s is located at 100 Strand WC2, closed Sundays.


Rowley’s Restaurant is proof that you can enjoy a nice hunk of beef and not break the bank. They have expanded their menu since first opening in 1976 when only a steak, unlimited fries, and salad were in the offering. Nowadays, there are a few more choices, but prices remain moderate. A wise choice for a dependable meal at a reasonable cost. 113 Jermyn Street, St. James, SW1, 1+44 (0) 207 930 2707.


Le Relais de Venise, with three London locations, plus outposts in Paris( the origination), New York City and Mexico City, is similar. No menu: a nice salad of mixed greens with mustard vinaigrette topped with walnuts precedes an entrecote (hunk of pre-sliced Scottish steak with delicious wine sauce, and exquisite French fries. No choices here. Your only decision is doneness of the steak. Vegetarians stay home or be content with salad, cheese selection, fries, and dessert. Hours: Lunch: Monday-Friday: Noon-2:30 p.m. and dinner: 6:00-10:00 p.m., Saturday& Sunday: lunch until 3:30 p.m. and dinner until 10:30 p.m., Marylebone location: 120 Marylebone, London WIU 2Qg, +44 (0) 20 7486 0878, (near Oxford Street). Soho at 50 Dean Street, London W1D 58Q, +44 (0) 20 3475 4202; Reservations are not accepted. The concept of offering a high quality meal at a reasonable cost  has worked for over five decades


In addition to Wilton’s, there are several traditional London restaurants that have persevered for many moons. Rules immediately comes to mind. It has been around for over 200 years (since 1798). Compare this to the here today, - gone tomorrow and the trendiness and lack of sustainability of restaurants stateside. Rules features a game centric menu: fowl of all types:  woodchuck, carved grouse, pigeon, rabbit, pheasant, duck, partridge----get the drift?

There’s an Impressive oyster selection to begin.

All is not lost if the game selections scare you off.  Monkfish, Ribs of Beef and Dover sole are alternatives, Large dessert menu.


Rules is a place to wear your fancy duds. The service is exemplary. It all begins with a uniformed doorman greeting you. The place seats 90 diners. The restaurant staff of 90 including 35 chefs and 35 waiters is an incredible ratio of 1 to 1!

The only negative are the water closets that are accessible up a steep flight of stairs-problematic for diners with mobility issues.

Hours: Open daily: Noon-12:00 a.m., 316 Maiden Lane, (Covent Garden), Make reservations far in advance: +44   020 7836   5314.


Fish, a relative newcomer, (since 1999), as it name implies, specializes in fresh seafood. Large ala carte menu featuring oysters, crab, lobster, fish, Dover sole, and a steak and chicken for landlubbers. Fish and chips is available with a choice of several different fish, including halibut, cod and hake. Fish can be prepared simply grilled. Nice modern décor with great views. Open daily for L & D. Cathedral Street, SE1 9A, Borough Market, Reservations online or 020 7407 3803.


PUBS: are social gathering places:

If visiting a pub, you order your drink and food at the bar and a barman or barmaid will deliver it to your table.

Pub hours of operation are typically 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., closing a half-hour earlier on Sundays.


After decades of bar pub food places serving food as an afterthought, several Pubs have begun upping the ante food-wise by hiring accomplished chefs to prepare and serve edible meals. The Enterprise is a case in point. Nice upscale tablecloth décor with a menu offering entrecote and chips and several British comfort food entrees. Knightsbridge location: 130 Lauriston Rd.,  


The pub, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, dates back to1667, and is said to have been frequented by Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Alfred Lord Tennyson and W.B Yeats. Nowadays, it’s a magnet for families when visiting the nearby Tower of London. The menu tries to cover the whole field: breakfast is served all day, sandwiches, burgers, pizza, wings, onion rings, pasta, Italian choices, Mexican cuisine, salads-is this a fast food stand masquerading as a historic pub? It may not be memorable, but at least its relatively family friendly cheap.   145 Fleet Street , London EC4A.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               



Attending a Tea?  There’s a difference between “High Tea” and “Low Tea.” 

Low Tea is in the afternoon at 4:00 p.m.  Finger food is served.  Low Tea has declined in popularity in recent years. 

High Tea is served at around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. 


Protocol is to allow the tea to brew for a few minutes after the water has been poured. 

You should cut a scone in half with a knife, spread jam and clotted cream on it and eat the halves open-faced.  

Popular High Tea venues:

·         The Goring

·         The Ritz   harp or piano music

·         Lanesborough Hotel

·         Claridge’s

·         The Brown Hotel

·         Fortnum & Mason


Michelin one-starred Tamarind is the epitome of fine Indian dining in London. You can expect a classy dining room and impeccable service. The menu is heavy on lamb dishes and seafood. 20 Queen street, Mayfair W1J, 0207-629-3561.



Sale e Pepe is another Italian favorite. It has been around since 1974. It is favored by locals and visitors alike. You’ll encounter a large menu with many antipasti, pasta, veal, seafood choices served in elegant surroundings. Dover sole and veal chop are specialties. Open daily: noon-7 p.m., 9-15 Pavilion Rd, SW1X, 020 7235 0098.


The smallish (seats 30) Al Boccon di’vino: is another great Italian choice. One best be trustworthy here, however, and have a discerning forgiving plate, as there is no menu. The chef determines what you will be consuming: a seemingly endless procession of Italian cuisine: meatballs, prawns, parma and melon, asparagus, chicken, beef, pasta, risotto, suckling pig, dessert. Spot on service.

Reservations are recommended months in advance. 14 Red Lion Street, TW1RW, 0208 940 9060.


Budget Friendly: The Spaghetti House (with ten locations) is proof that you don’t have to mortgage the homestead in order to experience a decent meal in London. It should come as no surprise that pasta is the specialty; the menu, however, runs the Italian gamut with minestrone soup, other pasta choices, pizza, garlic bread, and the like. Don’t come here expecting exotic preparations of a nice veal entrée. Stick to the spaghetti Bolognese (a specialty), and you’ll have a very satisfying meal. A good choice for lunch or either pre- theatre. In business since 1955. The Goodge Street location is the original.


Great Luncheon choices: Lunch is often the main or only meal for Senior citizens and others. It is a well- known fact that luncheon entrees in many upscale restaurants are a relative bargain compared to dinner pricing for identical menu selections.



If you have a craving for a delicious burger: check out Hache Burgers, an upscale burger place (large menu of burgers, fries, onion rings, and salads). Chelsea location: 329-331 Fulham Rd., SW10 9Qreservations accepted online at Open Table. Three other London locations.





WEST END MUSICALS:  On any given night there are dozens of live theater performances from which to choose. There are over 150 theatrical theaters in London. Despite the fact that many play and musical play productions successfully continue to perform for years, you can depend on a scarcity of tickets.  





We cannot over-emphasize the importance of planning ahead and purchase theater tickets before you depart from the U.S. or end up possibly paying a premium price for decent seating for your desired play or musical.  Hotel concierges at top hotels usually can get difficult to obtain blockbuster theatrical hits for guests-at a price. A generous gratuity is in order. 


If you seek a bargain, check with the Leicester Square ticket booth for discounted last minute theater tickets. Tickets are available only on the date of the show-payment in cash is required. Be forewarned that you will doubtful receive prime seats at the last second. All of the good seats were likely already picked over. 

You can also show up at the theatre’s box office prior to show time to inquire of ticket availability. By doing so, you will eliminate the cost of a ticket broker fee, typically 20-25% of the ticket price.


SAVVY TRAVEL TIP:  Always inquire whether discounted theatre tickets have impeded views behind posts. 



Unless you wish to fast and attend a theatrical performance on an empty stomach, your choices when attending an evening performance at the theater are to:

Enjoy a nice leisurely lunch the day that you plan on attending the theatre.

Reserve a Pre-Theatre Dinner Menu at a restaurant reasonably close to the theater that you are attending, or

Reserve at a restaurant for a late dinner following the performance. Consider that dinner in London is typically late, normally 8:00-9:00 p.m. A Pre-Theatre Menu offers limited menu selection and is designed to feed you and get you to the theater in time for the curtain. It may not be indicative of the restaurant’s reputation for a high quality dining experience that you coveted.



New York Theater does not begin to hold a candle to the quantity and quality of London Theater. 

It all began with a fellow named Shakespeare. . . .


There tend to be more successful theatrical productions that come across the pond  to the Big Apple than originate stateside.  

Securing a ticket is equally expensive in both cities, especially for the more popular extended engagements. 


London theatre nomenclature:

Stalls: orchestra section often the best seats

Mezzanine: balcony often the least expensive seats

The Fringe: refers to London’s “Off-Broadway” 

Actually, there are more similarities to the world’s two theatrical titans than differences. Both locales sport older former movie/vaudeville palaces transformed into musical/play venues with moderate, limited seating capacity.  Musicals, due to the expense of production, gravitate to the larger theaters.  Over all, the concept works well, as limited capacity translates to higher ticket pricing - the old saying:  keep them craving for more.  Alas, supply and demand.  


London’s West End, with over forty live theaters is akin to New York’s Broadway.  Other areas of London house additional live theater venues similar to NYC’s Off-Broadway. 

When it comes to old, they don’t get any older than the famous Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (1812 - no relation to suburban Chicago’s same name theater).  A 2013 re-do restored it’s elegance. 


Be forewarned that many of the historic theaters still have their original seating-anticipate a cut-rate airline seat with little leg-room and you won’t be far off in anticipation of an evening of potential agony. 


The Coliseum sports the largest seating capacity in London with 2,358 seats. 


The Ambassador Theatre with only 446 seats is the smallest. 


There’s no contest on which is the longest running play in London.  ‘The Mousetrap’ has performed continuously since 1924. 

It is not at all unusual for London’s plays or musicals to exceed 20-30 years of extended booking performance. 


The Royal Opera House (1858), seating capacity:  2,256, is home to opera and ballet. 


The intermission traditional has long jumped the pond.  Purchase a cocktail or wine as you enter the theater, be given a number, and pick it up and consume it in the lobby come break-time. 

Don’t imbibe too much, however, as many of these older historic theaters have limited, cramped restroom facilities! 



 The Barbican refers to an area adjacent to the original City of London. This impressive modern cultural (theater, music, dance, film) complex is home (1,943 seat capacity) to the London Symphony Orchestra, a tropical conservatory of exotic plants, extensive conference /meeting facilities, and Milton Court, a 608-seat performing arts theater for the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.



There is no shortage of music concert halls in London:

O2 Arena

Wembley Arena

Omeara-a 320 seat live music venue



Ronnie Scott’s is an renowned Soho jazz emporium (since 1959). 47 Frith Street, W1D 4HT



The Blues Kitchen: 111 Camden High street, NW17JN



London Cabaret Club: comedy, music, dance, theatre. Bloomsbury Ballroom, Victoia House, Bloomsbury Square, WC1B 4DA










July 17 - 20, 2008: British Open