Heading to London soon? You’re certainly not alone! In fact, it welcomes a whopping 30 million visitors each year. That’s a LOT of queueing… though we do quite like to do that!
After all, London has pretty much everything you could want from a holiday – amazing sights, tasty local (and international) cuisine, intriguing history and shops galore… and more. Though with all the goings-on, it can get very crowded. If you want to spend your time here actually enjoying yourself rather than battling the hoards of people, you’re in luck, as we’ve put together some top tips for doing just that.
Book a stay at a luxurious, relaxing hotel
First things first, you’ll want to ensure you’ve got a tranquil refuge to begin your adventures from and to escape to after a long day of exploring.
The Montcalm Hotel Barbican is the perfect place for you. Full of character on the outside, with every contemporary comfort on the inside, The Barbican Rooms cleverly blend the solitude and peace of a private apartment with the five-star facilities of the Montcalm at the Brewery just across the street.
Hungry for more? Join us for Barbican afternoon tea, where sweet treats and a few extra surprises are on the menu…
Avoid peak periods where possible
As it’s such a major world city, it’s quite hard to avoid heading to London during peak seasons, as it’s pretty busy all year round. However, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with local Bank Holidays (where streets and sights will be much busier) as well as children’s holiday dates. Our schools tend to close for six weeks during the summer – you’ve been warned!
Another good option is to enjoy the city when it awakens after winter and the crowds are not in place yet – March is a great compromise between the warm weather and the bustling crowds. However, winter is usually the period with the lowest number of visitors, except, of course, for the festive period. So why not join us at the beginning or mid-December for the Christmas lights and markets, or choose a trip in January for shopping sales?
If you do find yourself visiting during our peak season, don’t worry. We’re here to help you relax and ease that tension at our Barbican spa. Enjoy a full body massage and lie back as the day’s stresses disappear.
Keep an eye on the weather
British weather doesn’t quite have the best reputation. And whilst it does indeed tend to be a little unpredictable, we experience less rainfall per year than other major cities such as New York and Paris. Though rain is synonymous for clearing the streets, so if you’re feeling brave, don’t be afraid to go and get wet. You’re likely to avoid massive queues at the top attractions if you go when the weather isn’t so great. Make sure you pack wisely for your trip – include weather-proof shoes and outerwear, and most importantly, a good umbrella, whichever time of year you’re going and you’ll be prepared for anything!
Book online where possible
Without a doubt, the busiest spots in the city will be the main tourist attractions. From Buckingham Palace to Madame Tussauds, the London Eye to The Tate Gallery, our must-sees draw in millions of visitors each year. So a good local tip is to check the website of your desired attraction to determine if they offer ‘fast track’ ticket options when booking ahead online or via phone. If you’d like assistance printing out your ticket, please do ask at our reception, where our friendly team will be happy to help.
Plan your visit to top attractions wisely
If you don’t fancy purchasing your tickets online – consider heading to the attraction either at the opening time or during the evening, when it’s likely to be much less crowded. After around 3 pm, the queues are generally a lot shorter than at midday.
Likewise, heading to a lot of the outdoor sights, such as Big Ben or Tower Bridge, can be really interesting during the evening (and a LOT quieter). There’s something really special about watching the sunset over the Thames, too! Also, another part of London’s essence comes alive when the sun goes down. When most visitors have called it a day, you can still see experience night time in the city. With spooky ghost tours and late-night opportunities to discover wonders at major museums, you lose most of the crowds.
Seek out the secret stuff
As well as the top attractions, or instead of, why not look into local hidden gems, favourited by those who love the city the most – its inhabitants. From underground bars to quirky independent galleries, there are loads of worst-kept-secrets around to discover. Get chatting to the locals to find out more. It’s always a good idea to have a chat with a London taxi driver, as they’re armed with ‘The Knowledge’, so arguably know the city better than anyone. We’ll also be happy to help when it comes to recommending somewhere amazing to try. Ask away!
Wear comfortable shoes
Many of central London’s sights are within a brief walking distance from one another. For example, it can be quicker to arrive on foot to spots such as the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tate Modern from our hotel, than hopping on and off London’s busy Underground system. Likewise, the bus network is great but can get super slow during commuter hours and in the middle of the day on weekends. So pack some comfortable shoes and don’t be afraid to explore the city at your own pace. You could even hire one of our famous Santander street bikes for the day if you fancy zooming around a little quicker. Or, if you’re really short on time, consider hiring a classic black cab that can whisk you around to the sights of your choice.