Millions of tourists take cheap flights to London each year. It's a world city, a leading light where new fashion trends emerge, bands try out, and money men in the "City" wheel and deal. It's also where street traders wheel and deal. London is renowned for its markets - from Columbia Road Flower Market to fashionable Portobello, foodie heaven Borough Market to funky Camden and, perhaps most famous of all, Covent Garden.
Its startlingly modern architecture stands beside medieval churches. Broad thoroughfares give way to dark alleys. The Thames sweeps through London, having carried kings and queens and exotic cargo from far-off lands in the past and, today, visitors seeing the sights on tourist boats.
The palaces of London - Buckingham, Kensington, Hampton Court and Kew - all in beautiful parkland settings, stand majestic, a far cry from the tower blocks of trendy Hoxton or reemerging (for the 2012 Olympics) East London.
The museums (mostly all with free admission), galleries stuffed with the best traditional and modern art, world-famous landmarks such as the London Eye, Big Ben and Houses of Parliament, and the vibrant street life all promise an unforgettable vacation.
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While London gets its fair share of grey skies, it rains less in the South East than it does in the rest of Great Britain. Spring weather (March to May) can be unpredictable with sun, rain and cloud. Average temperatures hover between 11 and 15 degrees (51-59 degrees Fahrenheit). Summers (June to August) are warm with average temperatures of about 20 degrees (68F) that can sometimes soar to 37 degrees (98F). Fall (September to November) weather is like spring weather, unpredictable. Winters (December to February) are generally mild if damp. Snow and freezing temperatures are rare in London.
When to fly to London
Summer is the most popular time to visit. The weather is generally good (apart from the odd rain shower) and the parks and gardens are in full bloom. Events, Wimbledon for example, and cultural festivals generally take place during this time too. Spring and fall are also good times to seek cheap flights to London, the days are still long and temperatures mild.
Winter bites in January and February. The weather is grey and cold. Despite this, it can still be a good time to search for London flights. Museums and galleries are less crowded and London can be very atmospheric in wintertime.
Getting around London
Don’t worry about getting around town after your cheap flight to London. There are tons of options, the best being the Tube. London’s underground system is the fastest and easiest way to get around. Like subways in many large cities, the underground is packed during rush hour, so avoid it.
London’s iconic double-decker red buses are slower, but they can be found everywhere and won’t be as crowded. Look into getting an Oyster card or Travelcard for travelling on London’s public transportation systems – it will save you money. You can find them at tube stops or newsagents.
Black cabs are everywhere and very comfortable, but very expensive. Minicabs are a cheaper taxi option, but you have to order them ahead of time. Watch out for illegal minicabs that troll the theatres and nightspots. They might seem like the only late-night option, but single women or those unfamiliar with the area should and find a different way to stay safe.
London is a big city, but many of the tourist attractions are within walking distance or along the river Thames. Take advantage of a sunny day by walking or taking a riverboat. Driving is not recommended, as parking is near impossible to find and a Congestion Charge will cost you extra when driving into the city’s centre Monday to Friday between 7am and 6pm. Rent a car only if you’d like to head out into the country. You will need to be over 25 and have a license and a credit card.
For more information you can visit www.tfl.gov.uk.
London insider information
- London is, at its heart, a patchwork of different villages, each with their own feel. East London's frankly gritty Hackney or Stratford are worlds away from leafy, literary Highgate in North London or gentrified Notting Hill in the West.
- Public transport is expensive. To get around more cheaply invest in an Oyster Card after landing on cheap flights to London. The chargeable card costs £3 (the deposit is refundable) and is the best way of saving money on tube journeys. A single Zone 1 (Central London) journey on the Tube will cost £4, but £1.50 if you buy an Oyster card. Bus journeys cost £2 without an Oyster card, but 90p with a card.
- The best things about London are free. These include the extensive Royal Parks such as Hyde Park, Green Park, Kensington Gardens, The Regent's Park, Richmond and St James's Park.
- Major museums and art galleries are free too. These include the world-renowned British Museum, Natural History and Science Museums, Victoria and Albert Museum, Imperial War Museum and National Maritime Museum. There are also smaller, quirkier museums such as The Geffrye Museum, restored 18th-century almshouses with a number of period rooms from 1600 to the present day.
- You can eat your way around the world in London such is the number and variety of restaurants. For a proper curry head to Brick Lane in East London. For fish and chips, the traditional meal, head to Fryer's Delight in Holborn or Rock And Sole Plaice in Covent Garden.