London, always a top travel destination, is now a top Airbnb destination and has the third most listings of any city worldwide. Many Londoners are seeing the financial benefit of opening their homes to tourists from across the globe. But, why is London so popular? What do we have that’s so special and keeps people coming back? Here I’ll explore some of the top reasons (along with some top tips) why England’s capital is reaping the benefits of a tourism boom.
London is old. Ancient old. Get lost in the winding cobbled streets around Covent Garden and explore the rich architectural heritage of our fair city. From cathedrals to palaces, we have it all. Even our bridges are beautiful. Wander down Pudding Lane and see where the Great Fire broke out, visit Nelson on his column in Trafalgar Square and delve deep into the London Dungeons. There’s a story in every corner, you just have to find it.
We have museums a plenty; walk with dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, be introspective at the Tate Modern and get hands on at the Science Museum. If that’s not your thing, go and see a show. From Les Mis to Wicked we’ve got you covered. Check out the box office in Leicester Square on a weekday and you can usually pick up a random ticket at a cut price – sometimes something you’ve never heard before, sometimes a childhood favourite.
Of course, I can’t mention the theatre without bringing up The Globe, home of the Bard, our William Shakespeare. (Yes, he’s from Stratford but The Globe is in London, so we’re claiming him.) Pay for a cushioned seat like an olden day noble or watch from the pauper’s pit, there is no better way to see Shakespeare.
Pink Floyd, The Clash, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Florence and the Machine, Coldplay, Amy Winehouse, Fleetwood Mac, Mumford & Sons and many more. London is the birthplace of so many great artists – download a playlist of London greats and wander around the city that inspired the songs. If you want get really cliché, push play on “Yellow Submarine” and stride across the famous Abbey Road crossing. Stop to take a picture, but know that you will be in a queue and the taxi drivers may shout at you. While this might not sound so appealing, remember that queueing politely is quintessentially British and you didn’t “do” London right if a taxi driver didn’t shout at you.
No, I’m not talking about Fish and Chips – go to the seaside for that. In London we have a gloriously multicultural society, people come from all over to live here and with them they bring glorious foods. Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, French, Greek, Turkish, South American, Spanish, Hungarian…the list goes on.
A great spot for Japanese food is Flesh and Buns at Covent Garden. Enjoy steamed Japanese buns with delicious sharing side dishes and have a boozy weekend lunch. They’re a little pricier, but we all know that there’s always a budget option – you just have to know where to find it. Check out Icco at Goodge Street; their 13” pizzas are both large and delicious and start off from as little as £4.50. Guilt free indulgence.
Old English pubs. Quaint, full of character, and also full of characters. They are part of our tradition and we encourage you to join us. On weeknights expect to see the streets filled with office workers, spilling out of pub doors with beer and wine in hand. Any given night you can find live music, events and somewhere to dance.
If you love a cocktail, a great place is Reverend JW Simpson (again on Goodge Street, perfect both before or after the aforementioned pizza – trust me). Friendly bar staff will talk you through the drinks they’ve invented and you can enjoy them in a Reverend’s converted house (original peeling wallpaper remains.) Another great place to enjoy a weekend tipple is Gordon’s Wine Bar at Embankment. Our oldest wine bar, est. 1890, set in a vaulted cellar, is the perfect spot to while the night away with a glass (or bottle) of red. In the summer people mill in the garden area by lamplight and in the winter months the cellar is a warm and cozy haven.
I can’t write about London without mentioning Londoners themselves. We’re a different breed, that’s for sure, we have a sort of…“rude” charm about us. When we ask how your day is, we don’t want a real answer. Our supermarket workers won’t smile at you, nor will the commuters at rush hour. But that’s our way of accepting you. Keep calm and carry on, so it goes. We are real people and as a recent campaign that tried to make us converse on the tube discovered, you’ll never change us. But why would you want to? London gave the world Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Emilia Clarke, Adele and David bloody Beckham! (You’re welcome, by the way.)
So, come and see what we’re all about. Share a drink (or two) and don’t just be a tourist, be one of us. I can’t promise you’ll meet your very own Posh or Becks, but hey, I can promise tea with the Queen.*
Written by Natalie Wilson of Pass the Keys UK.
*This article holds no responsibility if the reader is arrested upon trying to enter Buckingham Palace for tea with The Queen. It is not confirmed that Her Majesty holds such meetings with tourists.