Filed under London, Travel Tips
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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.

Photo by Flickr user Andrew

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.

Covent Garden, London. Photo by Ripton Scott.

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!

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6 Comments

  1. ian@tom jones tributNo Gravatar
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    As a professional singer who has worked in and around London for about fifteen years, I would suggest that anyone visiting from outside the City by car should add at least an extra hour to their estimated travelling time if they’re going anywhere near the ‘problem areas’ listed above in this great blog. I have made fantastic progress to venues, even on the M25, only to come to a screeching crawl as I drove onto the main roads of the city.
    Still a fantastic place though and worth a well planned visit, following the tips above!

  2. Megan EavesNo Gravatar
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the insights, Ian! I don’t drive here in London so I never think about traffic that way. Great recommendations, although perhaps one better would be to have visitors avoid driving altogether, if possible! Come again. :)

  3. ian@tom jones tributNo Gravatar
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Hi Megan,

    Yes, I would definitely travel by tube etc. but I can’t find a bag that’s big enough to get all my sound and lighting rig in, never mind carry it LOL!

  4. Marcus WilliamsNo Gravatar
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    I agree, walking is one of the best ways to get around especially if the weather is fine, don’t make the mistake that many visitors make and think the map of the tube shows real distances, most places in central London are closer than you think, use a good map.
    Also walk the side streets, it will be quicker and you will stumble upon interesting shops and cafes.
    Don’t go near Oxford Street on a Saturday.

  5. Megan EavesNo Gravatar
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    GREAT suggestions Marcus. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Tiger WillisNo Gravatar
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    As much as I love London, surviving hordes of tourists in that city is really tricky… And with olympics coming, this is going to be even more complicated.

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