Saturday, Husby and I decided to spend the afternoon at Tate Britain, one of London‘s most renowned art museums. The museum itself was fine, but we’d forgotten that it is now April and that means tourist season in London. Let’s just say that all the crowds made finding a decent dinner around Victoria very difficult that night.
Now, I don’t begrudge anyone the right to partake in this beautiful city. Everyone should experience London at least once. Still, all those visitors lead to insane crowds of people who have no idea where they are going or, more importantly, how to get there. Restaurants in the wrong areas can be overpriced and get away with serving some pretty dodgy things because the turnover is high.
So, I’ve come up with a few London tourist survival tips to help you make the most of your trip and not get caught in the crowds.
London Tourist Survival Tips
1. Know the ‘problem’ areas. There are a few parts of London that really attract crazy crowds: Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Victoria and Bloomsbury around the British Museum are some of the main ones. I am not saying you have to avoid these places altogether, just be aware that they are hotspots and plan accordingly.
2. Try two streets over. You will be surprised how quickly the tourist rabble dissipates in London. If you walk even remotely away from the main sights, you fill quickly find amazing oases of calm and a refreshing lack of tourist scramble. We’ve found some fantastic pubs and restaurants this way.
3. Walk, don’t Tube. I love London’s subway system, the Tube, but believe me, it’s not the place to go if you’re trying to escape the crowds. What most people don’t realize is that London is remarkably walkable. Lots of places only take 15-20 minutes – a good way to exercise off a few of those ales you had last night.
4. Pick the time of day. Timing is everything in London. For example, never – EVER – get on the Tube at rush hour. You will regret it immediately when your face is squished in to someone’s stinky armpit. Likewise, Covent Garden on a Saturday night? Unless you’re actually going to a West End show…fuhgedaboutit.
and speaking of West End shows…
5. Don’t eat near your show. The restaurants in the West End and near London’s musical theaters are (generally) overpriced and undertasty. Don’t do that to yourself. Instead, choose a restaurant nearer to your hotel or even somewhere halfway between. If you practice rule number 3, this will be a lot easier.
6. Reserve, reserve, reserve. London is a city for reservations. Everyone books a table on a Saturday night because everything fills up. I am serious. If you don’t want to be stuck eating overpriced chain Italian food or the dreaded McD’s on Saturday, pick somewhere the day before and book it. A lot of restaurants do online booking or can be booked through OpenTable.com if you are scared of phoning.
7. Go to the park. Do you know how many green spaces London has? Okay, I don’t actually either. But I know it’s a lot. They are everywhere and open and beautiful and most of them, like say, Kensington Gardens, have old palaces and other historic buildings so you don’t feel like you’re wasting a sightseeing opp.
What are your tips for surviving the tourist mobs? Tell us in the comments below!