A guide to traveling London during the Olympic Games
A trip to a world class city is an attractive prospect anytime we are traveling, but throw into the mix the appeal of the Olympics, a true international exhibition of human strength and determination and one is all set to have a unique travel experience. Sure, the one downside to all this is that the city will be crowded, even packed and there won’t be the normal flow of traffic that allows one to move from one site to another with ease. Still, London is a fascinating city and if you are coming for the Olympics you will certainly have some world-class entertainment and there will be lots of outside time to explore the ins and outs of this charming and historic city. For the savvy traveler it will be worthwhile to mark out a few days of sightseeing and maybe even a daytrip or two into your Olympian itinerary.
First off it is good to understand that London is Europe’s biggest city. This explains why there are about four major airports, into which one may arrive, the most common being Heathrow. The city is a vibrant collection of historic palaces, informative museums, fanciful eateries, posh hotels, active arts and fashion scenes and distinctive parks and neighborhoods. Luckily in a place so spread out there is a unified transport method in the Oyster card. Once you’ve purchased a card simply fill it with credit and enjoy its universal flexibility on the massive London Underground, the typical red double decker buses, and many regional trains. For lodging options in the city center itself are normally expensive, so they will be even more so in this time. There are many big chain hotels to be found in the city, especially near Hyde Park and the Hilton Tower Bridge is an exceptional piece of luxury right on the Thames. For more affordable options there are many municipalities in the greater London area that are well linked by regional rail and bus lines to the city. Places in the area of Southwark, Wandsworth, Clapham Junction and Wimbledon are beautiful neighborhoods where it may be possible to find a smaller, boutique hotels and even rent a flat.
When touring the city it is best to know what area you are in as often the neighborhoods have defining characteristics. For instance much of the Thames riverfront is where one can explore the post card attractions like The Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey. Once you’ve arrived to the section of the city it is best to head around on foot. Walking is quite flat and distances are manageable. It is worthwhile since many stately buildings composed of various government facilities, palaces and museums are a delight for the eyes. Moving along the riverfront one cannot miss the art museum with the adjoining Trafalgar Square (all public museums are free) just to the right hand side the Church of St. Martin in the Fields is a gem in its interior design and it is famous for its choral talent. From Here one can move to the verdant fields of the St. James Park area making a path towards Buckingham Palace. All these sights are testaments to the great influence and power of the British Empire, which perdures in different ways even till today. This area is only a short jaunt from Victoria station which is a hub for train, bus and tube connections and these sights are surrounded by pubs, gourmet restaurants and even great sandwich and tea shops, (have an exquisite cup at The Goring) so it can easily fill a whole day of your travels.
For another itinerary which will bring you to the heart of the city’s luxury scene head to the Picadilly Circus stop on the Underground. As you surface you will be stunned by the traffic flow, the business and financial happenings and some of the most expensive apartments and hotels in England. An institution of British opulence is the landmark Savoy hotel. It is well worth a visit to see how the enduring traditions of refined living and classy furnishings live and breathe in our own day. The Cathedral of St. Paul is a stunning wonder and just across the river is the famous globe theater where Shakespeare’s famous dramas have been running for centuries.
Head uptown to the British Museum for the most extensive collection of historical and ancient artifacts from around the world. Here one is literally transported through the pages of history as the works of Meads, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and many lost civilizations are wonderfully preserved. Equally fascinating for bibliophiles is the British Library, while functioning as a full fledged Library it also houses the most important works of English and historical literature extant. The National History Museum is a wonder not only in its collections, but also in its stylistic architecture. For an alternative scene of London be sure and check out the bohemian haunts of the East End where music, art and creativity influence everything from food to fashion. This is the general area of the city where the Olympic Complex has been built as well and it will bring a lot of development and activity to the area. The Kensington Gardens area of London is full of lush lawns and manicured gardens and Hyde Park is a labyrinth of forest, lakes, streams and nature, the perfect place to keep up your exercise in the heart of the city.
For those looking for a daytrip, check out the large Victoria Coach Station just a few blocks behind the Victoria train and tube Station. These buses are modern, comfortable and affordable ways to reach destinations like Oxford, Cambridge, Canterbury, Dover, Bath and Stonehenge. The buses generally leave every half hour or hour all day and it is the most affordable and comfortable way to arrive to a pleasant and often laid back town in the English countryside. During the Olympics there will be many attractions in the complex itself that will be worth exploring, so be sure and enjoy these modern marvels and save some time to relish merry old England too in all its pomp and circumstance.