London is the largest city in Europe and that’s why it is so interesting. I went there with a class of youths all around 20 years and all interested in Civil Engineering, seeing London and partying of course. To begin, we had a terrible hotel where the ceilings weren't solid and hot water was hard to find so it isn't a photo worth to post here. However, typically, the reviews tells me that we were not the only school there. Never minding the hotel it self, its location was perfect. The hotel was close to Paddington station, a perfect start of the day.
The special thing about this story is that I have not just had a 'normal' London tour, but a teacher of South Bank University took us to some places where a normal tourist will never come.
Three days sightseeing in London - Day 1
Paddington Station consists of 3 parts. Part 1 is the train station of the First Great Western and the Heathrow Connect. Part 2 is the Underground station of the Bakerloo line. And part 3 is the Underground from the Circle and the Hammersmith & City lines who comes here above ground in a new and fascinating hall. But when you take the rear exit and leave the station, you will walk suddenly against water. This water was the beginning (but also end) of something historic.
When you walk to the right, cross the bridge and walk next to the water you will get to a small dock. Over this dock in the Paddington basin has been built a bridge. But does this bridge has a function? No, because it is not far to walk around. However, this bridge is particularly special since it can roll itself in, the Rolling Bridge. An architect wanted to try it out and it worked, but they never have built it to a wholesale bridge. It is up every Friday at noon (12pm) opened by a member of the Merchant Square Estates.
When you walk back along the canal you will get to Little Venice. This is a triangular pond down the channel. Why it is called Little Venice? The boats that are moored here are small and all painted in style. Along with the houses that stand around it is a pretty cool hidden place.
The plan was to take a walk along this the channel. This path is free to the open along almost all the waters, excluding some houses. It has been used by the boats in history as a tow path. This does entail some difficulties. There are some sections where the canal passes under the ground but please note, the tunnels always go straight. One is very long and you have to walk through a piece of typical English neighbourhood. If you keep following the canal you will pass under a rail bridge from Marlybone, walk along Regent’s Park and London Zoo. This makes part of The Grand Union Canal in England. Its main line starts in London and ends in Birmingham, stretching for 220 km (137 miles) with 166 locks. But this part is called the Regent’s canal and is a siding named the Paddington Arm.
After a long walk you arrive at Camden Lock, one of the many locks in the canal. This walk is about 4,5 km/2,7 mi.
Camden Town is perhaps worth it. There's a small market and there are many shops with souvenirs, etc. But watch out, this area is known for its pickpockets.
You can walk this path further towards St. Pancras but we decided to take the Underground.
The Underground Station Camden Town is the Northern Line but beware, here cross the East and the West line. This was so immediately my first time in the Underground. We went this 'giant end' with the Northern Line East and drove to Kings Cross, 3 stops. I can recommend walking further the canal but when you are tired why not taking the Underground...
St. Pancras / King’s Cross.
These two stations are perhaps the two most important stations of London. To begin with St. Pancras, which is not very difficult, the Eurostar terminates here. The station is the terminus for East Midlands Trains services from London to Leicester, Nottingham, Sheffield and for Eurostar high-speed trains to Paris and Brussels. Thameslink trains on the cross-London Thameslink route call at platforms beneath the main station, south to Gatwick Airport, Brighton and north to Bedford. At last there are High-speed services to Kent, run by the Southeastern (With some impressive Javelin trains (blue)). St Pancras is often named the "cathedral of the railways", and includes two of the most celebrated structures built in Britain. The train shed, completed in 1868, was the largest single-span structure built up to that time. In order to accommodate 300 meter+ Eurostar trains, and to provide capacity for the existing trains to the Midlands, the train shed was extended a considerable distance northwards by a new flat-roofed shed. The front of the station was designed as a hotel and is still in use as hotel and apartments.
Across the road is King’s Cross station located. King's Cross station is the southern terminus of the East Coast Main Line, one of Britain's major railway backbones providing high speed inter-city trains towards Yorkshire, the North East and northern and eastern Scotland. King's Cross is also a terminus for Great Northern which provides commuter services to North London and fast regional services to Peterborough and Cambridge. The two stations are operationally completely separate, but as they are adjacent, they are regarded as a single complex for interchange purposes. They share King's Cross/St. Pancras tube station on the London Underground network, where six Underground lines meet. Taken together, the two main-line stations and the associated Underground station form one of Britain's biggest transport hubs.
Last year King’s Cross has been upgraded with a new department hall. It is enormous and looks great.
A number of famous trains have been associated with King's Cross, such as the Flying Scotsman and the A4 Pacific steam locomotives. The most famous of these was Mallard, which still holds the world speed record for steam locomotives (1938).
At last, King's Cross features in the Harry Potter books, as the starting point of the Hogwarts Express. The train uses a secret platform 9¾ accessed through the brick wall barrier between platforms 9 and 10. Only problem given is that platforms 9 and 10 are in a separate hall from the station, and they are separated by two non-platform tracks.
Getting around midday we took the Underground to North Greenwich. Here's the O2 located. The O2 is an arena but the structure is immense. Inside you find some shops and restaurants for a good value. The O2 of London is the busiest arena of the world.
From here we took the Emirates Air Ways. From Greenwich to the Royal Docks. I've to say it was not impressive. Maybe because I’m used to ride cable cars but manly the cable car goes over some industries. The sights are cool, yes they are. But mainly, going over some industry, the cable car isn't on the right place. It cost you about 4,5 pound to get over.
As you get off the Air Ways there's another nearby station of the DLR: Royal Victoria DLR station. The DLR (Docklands Light Railway) is an fully automated light metro system that has been built towards the east from Tower Gateway and Bank in the City of London. It began operational on August from 1987 but many stages and extensions have been added. The personal can overtake the train doors in peak hours, but they drive manly fully automated. You can get a seat on the front row of the train since there shouldn't be a driver! But you can understand that this is the most wanted place to sit. We took the DLR via Canary Wharf to Island Gardens. Here you find one of the entrances of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel is one of the oldest tunnels under the Thames. It replaced an expensive and unreliable ferry service for workers working in the docks. It has been opened in 1902 and each entrance is built as a glass dome. Inside you find a spiral stair around the lift. On the south end of the tunnel you’ll find the Cutty Sark, a British clipper which was one of the last in the period of sailing around 1870 before the coming of steam ships. Greenwich has 2 stations, one of the national rail and this one named Cutty Sark, the same as the ship. From here we took the DLR back to Canary Wharf and Tower Gateway.
DLR Station Tower Gateway, and Underground station Tower Hill (Circle, District) are the nearest to one of London most seen objects: Tower Bridge. Not going to tell that much about this since many of you know enough about it. You can walk over it on a glass floor looking down for a price of 9 pound, which is for me bit high as I have to say..
Walking along the Thames to the Underground station of Monument we went off to Nothing Hill Gate.
In the hotel we found a London Map “London for less” which gives a 20% discount on 120 attractions and restaurants up to 6 people! Make sure you have one! This is worth your money!
At Nothing Hill Gate we found one of the many Pizza Express Italian restaurants. We found this restaurant perfect so we ate 2 times here. Make sure you use the 20% discount from the London Map on the total bill (food and drinks!). We ate here with 5 other friends and had a bill of about 80 pound (13 pound per person including pizza and drinks).
Tips for restaurants: in GB they are required to serve normal water for free! So watch out, this Pizza restaurant gave me mineral water for about 2 pound.. An other tip to safe some more money, on the other side of this restaurant there's a Mc Donald’s. Get your icecream/dessert here. London is crowded with McDonald's and Burger Kings.
Late in the evening here’s ending day 1 in London. With this route to follow you have seen a huge part of London. So I’m sure in 2 days you can have seen London most popular places.
Day 2 is starting early in the morning. We get a Bakerloo line service from Paddington changing at Baker Street to the Jubilee line get, again, off at North Greenwich (the O2 arena). This time we went on a walk along the Thames Path. The Thames Path, which logical leads all the way from the begin to the end of the Thames. In London at both sides of the Thames you will find a path. So we started walking from North Greenwich to the east. On the way there are a lot of industries which sounds rare around London but fits in a huge contrast. After about half an hour you will get to the Thames Barrier.
The Thames Barrier is one of the major projects defending London against high tide. You probably shouldn't see, but in the center of London there are definitely tides from the North Sea. So when there is a storm coming over the North Sea, all the water will be pushed up the Thames and since the river is so small in London it can float the city. Therefore they build this flood barrier.
We as a group of students have for the study purposes access to the barrier. Normally the barrier is NOT open to the public! It is highly secured.
I can tell a lot about it since we had a tour over the plant, but I can assure you that it is top save for London! It has for every function 3 safety options and backup plans. It is INSANE how safe it is designed! Thinking about 3 electric cables coming directly from the power plants nearby, but, if they all fail to deliver energy, there’s a (dirty) diesel generator standby. Each barrier has 4 pistons to get it set in place (normally just 1 is needed) and 5 electrical engines (for that 1 piston used). There are many more, but it is immense!
From the barrier we walked our way to the nearest bus stop and took a double decker to the National Maritime Museum stop Greenwich. In this area there are a lot of small bars. We had an lunch here in a small Inn.
I think that everyone reading this knows Greenwich. Not the town, but maybe the abbreviation GMT says something to you. GMT (Greenwich Main Time) is the standard of time. Another noteworthy point is the Prime Meridian that runs through here. 0 Degrees has been set directly through the building. All of those things are based at the Greenwich Royal Observatory. It had a major role in history of astronomy and navigation. Sadly I have to correct myself. The more modern (GPS) prime meridian is located about 100 meters east on the grass and isn't marked. I had never known this as I just read that by doing some research. So, You pay about 10 pound to get in to the museum and have to stand on the metal plate what represents the meridian which is not officially! But if you did not know this, it would be fine to see it.
Tip! If you want to take a picture of yourself on the meridian there is one for free, but behind a free-to-open gate. On the square is the clock and the standard lengths displayed. Some meters to the right is a fence and behind it you find a line with the great view of London!
Last but not least we went to Piccadilly Circus, THE place to be when you like a party and the nightlife. Here are all the clubs and bars. We have had some beer and took the last underground train back to the hotel. Make sure you take this last service otherwise you need to take a cab! Most underground metro’s don’t run between 1 and 4 AM. But in September 2015 some services will be riding the clock around! The Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly and Victorian Lines will run 24 hours! Check for more information this map or TFL.
The last day we made up our own route through London. We began with taking the underground towards Knightsbridge (Piccadilly). When you take the correct exit, you are straight in front of Harrods. Some say this is one of the places to have visited, and since we had a group with some girls, we had to get here… Harrods is a typical department store. It sells the most expensive stuff you will see. It is worth it to give a walk around, but please watch out with your bags, big bags are not allowed since you can hit items by turning around! One of the most striking is that it is just build out of, yes, ‘departments’. Personally I had never seen this design.
Going on we took the Underground 3 stops towards Green Park and went into the park for a break. Have a little break in one of the busiest cities as London is recommended. Walking on you get to Buckingham Palace. Not to be missed. It is huge and as a tourist you need to get here around. Little note: When the flag hangs, the queen is inside working and living. Another heads up is about the fences. If you look closely, around the palace you will find a ring of fences. For example when you through the Green Park towards the palace there’s one. The meaning of this is that this area was marked as a wealthy area (thinking about all the ministries and the palace) . The poor did not have entrance to this area. When you walk towards Charing Cross over The Mall (Ceremonial route) you will find at the end the Admiralty Arch (later built). With this gate it makes the fence around completed.
Walking towards Charing Cross this Underground station itself is worth it. Around here you find the Nelson’s Column, Charles I Statue, King George IV, Majorn General Sir Henry Havelock, General Sir Charles James Napier and The National Gallery (Entry is free of charge!). Concluding, a lot of statues. It is called the Trafalgar Square where it seems to be busy every day.
Walking towards the train station of Charing Cross (Underground Embankment) you can cross the Thames with the on each side placed Golden Jubilee Bridges. When taking the south bridge you find a small park with located the London Eye. Everyone knows it, it’s Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel and therefore it gives you the highest public viewing point of London. One rotation of about 30 minute cost you 21,50 pound on the Day. Is it worth it? 30 euro for a 30 minute experience is a bit on the high side, but your probably once in London, so I say it is worth it. It offers you the best view of London.
Walking further south you find the Westminster Bridge and on the other side of the Thames, the most famous part of London, Big Ben. Before I tell you things you already know, you may not know that ‘Big Ben’ is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock in the tower that officially known as the Elizabeth Tower. You have to see it since this is the basic's of your visit to London. The whole Palace of Westminster makes your picture complete.
So, after making some pictures of Big Ben we went back towards our Pizza Express restaurant to get another tasty pizza and that was as well the last one in London. To conclude: I personally had a wonderful stay in London!
If you are about to buy tickets for the Underground in London, please have a look at the Tube map. All of the above mentioned locations are in zone 1-2-3. All touristic locations are in the zones 1-2. Prices are as following:
- 1 Day anytime, Zones 1-4, £12.70
- 1 Day anytime, Zones 1-6 (Heathrow), £18.10
- 1 Day off Peak (after 9.30 on weekdays), Zones 1-6, £12.70
- 7 Day anytime, Zones 1-2 £34.10, Zones 1-3 £40, Zones 1-4 £49
Visitor Oyster Card, £5 for the card, and approximately £6.40 - £9.20 per day. The Visitor Oyster Card is a contactless smartcard that carries credit which you can use to pay for journeys on all public transport on the Transport for London network. It is valid in all travel zones and automatically calculates the cheapest total fare for all the journeys you make in a single day.
Peak times are Monday to Friday, 6.30am - 9.30am and 4pm - 7pm. All other times are off-peak.
Please visit TFL's Visitors page.
Last but not least... Please take a bus trip around London. There are more than enough sightseeing tours available. We have been travelling endlessly by tube (Which is really fun as I can say), but you do not see any of the surroundings. We popped out of the ground on our destination to see it and get back underground again. I really missed a lot of the surroundings!
Updated: April 2018