Millenium Bridge London St. Pauls

The Millennium Bridge (a.k.a. the Wobbly Bridge)

Posted by & filed under London.

Millennium bridge LondonKnown colloquially as the “wobbly bridge” the Millennium Bridge began its’ life in 1996 as the winning design of a competition held by Southwark council and the Royal Institute of British Architects. The winners of the competition were Arup, Foster and Partners and Sir Anthony Caro who referred to their design a “blade of light.”

Construction on the bridge began in late 1998 and was completed at a cost of £18.2 Million (£2.2 Million over the intended budget). It was opened to the public on the 10th of June 2000 – which was actually two months later than originally intended. However, upon opening to the public, participants in a charity walk (on behalf of the organisation Save the Children) who were the first to use the new bridge reported a dramatic swaying motion when crossing the bridge. This swaying and wobbling was identified as “unexpected lateral vibration” or “resonant structural response” and gave the bridge the nickname it still holds today: the Wobbly Bridge.

+++Free Tours by Foot’s City of London Tour will walk the Millennium Bridge.+++

To explain the wobble of the bridge in layman’s terms, the vibrations caused by pedestrians crossing the bridge were beginning to make the bridge sway. As the bridge swayed, people who were crossing attempted to balance themselves by altering the way in which they walked. The masses of people attempting to stabilise themselves made the bridge wobble even MORE creating a cyclical process of wobble/corrective walking/wobble. This is not a unique phenomenon, nor is it the only time a bridge in London suffered from such an effect. However, as the bridge was already delayed in opening and over-budget it received much negative attention by the press, and by Londoners themselves who saw it as an aggravating and embarrassing situation, coming shortly after the ‘London Millennium Dome’ debacle – wherein a structure built for the millennium failed to draw positive public attention of recoup the money spent on building it.

Millenium bridge London twilight

Attempts were made to control the movement of the bridge, by limiting the number of people allowed on the bridge at any given time, but eventually it was decided the design of the bridge would need to be seriously amended. The Millennium Bridge was closed just two days after originally being open to the public. The bridge was retrofitted and reopened to the public on the 22nd of February 2002. Although no longer drastically swaying, the bridge is subject to harmonic resonance which means it does vibrate and occasionally move about. Because of this the bridge has maintained its nickname “The Wobbly Bridge” used by Londoners, and others from all over the world.

Today the Millennium Bridge spans the river directly between the Tate Modern Museum and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is the only pedestrian only bridge in use in the City of London and is a popular tourist destination in its own right. The bridge was featured drastically in the sixth Harry Potter film where it was subject to an attack by the Death Eaters, which eventually caused the bridge to collapse.

Millenium bridge London art smallMillenium bridge London artA Top Tip: When crossing the Millennium Bridge – look DOWN. You will find herein some of the smallest and most overlooked street art in all of London. There is an artist who has made it a mission to quickly paint pictures on all the pieces of chewing gum that have been left onto the bridge, and walked on by the public. The tiny pictures run the entire length of the bridge and are overlooked by the hundreds of people that cross the bridge every day. Keep an eye out for bright colours and alien figures. You may also come across the artist himself who lies down on the bridge to paint, then hurriedly leaves before he can be accosted by the police – as what he is doing is legally considered vandalism!

Written by Margaret Stockton

 

Is the London Pass Worth the Cost?

Posted by & filed under London.

Everybody knows that London is one of the most exciting and diverse cities in the world, with enough visitor attractions to keep tourists entertained for weeks. Although we are lucky to have numerous free museums and galleries, some visits find that admission prices for many of London’s biggest attractions are high – and add up quite quickly!


Occasionally as guides we are asked by our visitors about The London Pass. Available for all visitors to purchase, the London Pass is a way to visit numerous London attractions for a one-off fee. So just what is the London Pass and is it worth buying when visiting London? Read on to find out!

What is the London Pass?

The London Pass is a sightseeing pass available for all visitors to London to purchase. It takes the form of a smart card (similar to your Oyster Card) that has a one-off fee loaded onto it in advance, allowing the holder to enter numerous attractions. In addition to this, the London Pass offers a queue jump for many attractions which can literally save hours of standing in line!

Passes can be bought to last for 1, 2, 3 or 6 days depending on the length of one’s visit to London. Passes can be bought up to 12 months in advance and ‘activates’ on the first usage of the card to enter an attraction. Once the card has been used for the pre-determined length, it expires. (It is also worth noting that the pass only grants entry to each attraction once.)

The Pass is valid on over 60 attractions in London! Overall, that could potentially mean a saving of over £500. However, it is unlikely that anybody would make it to all the attractions that accept the Pass so it is best for individual visitors/groups to take a look at the list of accepted locations that they wish to visit whilst in London to decide whether or not the card could save them money.

What is included with the Pass?

Attractions included in the London Pass are numerous. Here we will list a few of the ‘big’ locations, but do take a check the London Pass website to get the comprehensive list.

Use London Pass at:

Also note, that it includes ‘Fast Track Entry’ at some of the busiest tourist locations in London – for some, this is an invaluable addition since it saves so much time.

What attractions are not included with the Pass?

As vast as the list of attractions who accept the Pass, there are some that do not.

Also note that the majority of national Museums and Galleries in London are free regardless.


How much does it cost?

Costs vary depending on the duration of the pass and the age of the holder.

One Day Pass
Child – £33.00
Adult – £49.00

Two Day Pass
Child – £68.00
Adult – £49.00

Three Day Pass
Child – £56.00
Adult – £81.00

Six Day Pass
Child – £76.00
Adult – £108.00


Where can I purchase my Pass?

The London Pass can be purchased in advance from the London Pass website.

The Pass can also be purchased at mainline rail stations in London:
Kings Cross Station
Euston Station
Liverpool Street Station
Paddington Station
Victoria Station

Also at select London Underground Stations:
Victoria Station
Oxford Circus Station
Piccadilly Circus Station
St. James’s Park Station

As well as at Heathrow Airport and Exchange International Bureau de Change Branches.

 

Is the London Pass worth it?

This depends entirely on the user! It is worth tallying up the entry costs of the attractions you wish to visit, and comparing it against the pass. Here as a good example:

Single Day Itinerary:

Tower of London – £22.00
St. Paul’s Cathedral – £16.50
London Bridge Experience – £20.00
Total: £58.50

This means with a One Day pass you would save just under £10 per pass. It’s estimated that visitors need to go to three attractions a day to make a 1 to 2 day pass worth the money. Two attractions for a 3 or 6-day pass.
Who is the Pass good for?

  • Those traveling with children. Skipping the long queues can prove invaluable for those who are visiting with little ones.
  • Those who want to see a lot in a short period of time. If you are traveling on a tight schedule and can make it to see three attractions a day, then the pass should work out to save you money.
  • Those who are not interested in too many museums. For people who are not interested in visiting free museums, but would rather see big attractions, the Pass will be suitable.
  • Those who are visiting London for the first time. If you are in London and looking to hit all the MAJOR traditional sites (Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, etc.) the pass can provide good value.

 

Who should skip the London Pass?

  • Those who are interested in museums and galleries. As most museums and galleries in London are free of charge, those who want to focus their tour around these attractions should not purchase the Pass.
  • Those staying in London for longer than a week. If visitors are in London for longer than a week, there is more time to see big attractions AND free museums and also tour at a more leisurely pace which means the Pass would not save too much money.
  • Those who only want to see a couple of the sites that the Pass takes in. For those who only have one or two ‘big’ spots on their must-see itinerary, the London Pass will not provide much of a discount.

 

Tips for Tourists considering London Pass

  • Consider the time of year.  In summer, London can be extremely busy. And, surprising to some, extremely hot! Many visitors to London between July and September may find that the price of the London Pass alone is worth it to enter the fast track queues which will save users time spent on their feet out in the sun.
  • Think about the shorter tickets
  • If you are prepared to stick to a strict itinerary for one, two or three days and then want to relax for the rest of your visit and keep your days less regimented, look seriously at the shorter Pass options.

Plan, plan…and plan some more!

Check the opening hours and days of the attractions you want to see so that you know you will have enough time to visit them. Consult your map and Underground map to select attractions that are close to one another to save time in traveling.

Bottom Line: Look at the London Pass website and do some maths in advance so you know whether the Pass will be worth it based on your individual itinerary.

 

Airport departures arrivals

How to avoid Jet Lag

Posted by & filed under Berlin, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, London, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC.

What is jet lag?

Many of our tour guests who travel from afar or from overseas have trouble to adjust to the new time difference in their destination city. Here are some tips on how to avoid jet lag. When you travel to another time zone, your internal clock is off – that’s what you call jet lag. Usually getting over jet lag should take 3-4 days depending on how far you have traveled from. Flying eastwards will make it a bit harder to adjust to the new time zone, then when you are flying westwards. That is because our body accepts it better if you are staying up a little later, then having to go to bed much earlier than usual. In addition, if you are used to getting up rather early, flying eastwards is a little bit easier than for people who generally stay up late. And vice versa, if you are a night owl, you will have less trouble adjusting, if you were traveling westwards.

How can I avoid or minimize the jet lag?

  • Start to adjust your internal clock several days before you fly, by staying up later (if traveling westwards) or getting to bed earlier (if travelling eastwards).
  • Once you are in the plane, act like you are in your destination time zone already e.g. change your clock, take a nap, eat moderately or skip a meal and avoid alcohol.
  • Be healthy and well rested. The more you rest before your big travel, the easier it will be to adjust to your new time zone.
  • If you are travelling overseas, on the day of your flight, try to sleep in or sleep as long as you can. This goes for either direction, as you will likely skip a night travelling eastwards, or you will have to stay up much longer when you arrive travelling westwards.
  • Bring a neck pillow and nap on the plane. Even if you don’t fall asleep into a deep slumber, your body will thank you later for each little 20 minute nap you do on the plane.
  • Stay hydrated. It’s best to purchase a bottle of water at the airport (after you are through security), so you don’t have to get the stewardess attention every time.
  • Once you arrive, don’t nap more than 30 minutes or go to bed immediately if it’s not bedtime yet. Stay up till at least 9 pm. This discipline on your first day of arrival, will get you over jetlag much faster.

Other things to consider when travelling to different time zones and jet lag:

When flying westwards, e.g. from Europe to New York, or from Washington DC to San Francisco: Don’t make any late evening plans the first couple of nights.  You might think you are up to it, but your body will tell you otherwise. If you are booking our walking tours, stick to the morning and daytime tours, and avoid the evening tours.

When flying eastwards, e.g. from California to New York, or from Boston to London: Don’t make any morning plans the first couple of days.  Instead plan more things to do in the afternoon and evenings. If you are booking our walking tours, avoid the early 10 am tours, and go for the afternoon or evening tours.

+++We hope you have safe and enjoyable travels without much jet lag and we look forward to having you on our famous pay-what-you-like walking tours soon.+++

Madame Tussauds visit London

Madame Tussauds in London

Posted by & filed under London.

Now in 19 different cities across the globe, Madame Tussauds in London is the original and first, having been founded by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud herself in the 19th century. Today, Madam Tussaud’s is famous throughout the world and is a top destination for many visitors coming to London.

Who Was Madame Tussauds?

Born Anna Maria “Marie” Grosholtz in 1761, Madame Tussaud started her illustrious career by working as a housekeeper for a physician and wax sculptor named Dr. Philippe Curtius. Eventually Curtius began teaching Marie his trade and she showed natural talent and technique.


Her skills were so recognised that she was invited by members of the royal family to portray their likenesses, as well as sculpting some of the most well-known political characters in the 18th century – including Voltaire and Benjamin Franklen. Her career took a dramatic turn during the French Revolution when she was employed to make death masks of guillotine victims such as Robspierre, King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Soon Marie Tussaud could be found digging through sanitaries, collecting the heads of any illustrious corpses she found!

Marie moved to London in 1802 and by 1835 she had established her first permanent wax exhibition in Baker Street. She died in her sleep in 1859 at the age of 88 leaving behind a legacy that has grown internationally and still delights visitors the world over more than 100 years after her death.

The Creative Process

Far from digging around in cemeteries to find famous faces to depict, today Madame Tussaud’s employs an international team of the best wax artists in the world who set to work creating the likenesses of superstars the world over. Their work is painstaking and comprehensive with every wax work made going through an intensive step-by-step process.

1. Sitting - Hundreds upon hundreds of measurements are taken of the chosen subject. From ear lobe width to the bend of an elbow, the subject is measured and documented with hundreds if not thousands of photographs being taken.

2. Sculpting - The person depicted is exactly recreated in clay. This clay figure creates a mould for the wax figure to come. According to Madame Tussaud’s website, over 150kg of clay is used to make this figure!

3. Moulding - Around the surface of the clay, a plaster cast is taken. This cast stays on file so the subject can be recreated at any time in the years to come. Some of the plaster moulds Madame Tussaud’s has in storage are over 200 years old!

4. Pouring - Finally, the wax! Melted wax is coloured with dye before being heated into molten. Then the wax is poured into the plaster mould. The wax is left to cool and solidify into a thickness of 5/8 inches.

5. Removal – Around an hour and a half after being left to harden, the pieces of the mould are pulled away to reveal the wax figure underneath. Wax moulds of the figures eyes and teeth are melted away so acrylic eyes and teeth can be added later.

6. Hair - There’s no cheap wigs to be found at Madame Tussaud’s! Every head of hair is crafted by an expert hairstylist who individually inserts every. Single. Strand! This process can take up to six entire weeks. All the hair used is human and ethically sourced.

7. Colouring - Make up artists step in here to recreate the colouring and features of the model. Up to 20 different colours are used to create a natural looking skin tone and oil paints are layered – sometimes up to 20 times – one on top of the other to create realistic texture. All freckles, wrinkles, moles, etc. are accurately recreated. Teeth and eyes are introduced.

8. Fashion - The model is fully dressed and ready to go on display!

All together it takes months to produce each individual subject and costs around £150,000 per sculpture!

Museum Today

Today the Museum holds dozens upon dozens of the highest quality wax works in the world. The wax figures are divided into different sections. Here is a list of the different areas and an example of famous faces held within:

  • Party - Colin Firth, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet
  • Bollywood - Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan
  • Film - Shrek, Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin
  • Sports - David Beckham, Muhammad Ali, Mo Farah
  • Royals - Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Charles and Camilla
  • Culture - Albert Einstein, Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare
  • Music - Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Elvis, Michael Jackson
  • Scream - The Chamber of Horrors (12 years and up)
  • Spirit of London - A black cab ride through the capitals history
  • Marvel Super Heroes - Wax works and a 4-D film experience 

Visitor information

How to Get There

  • Madame Tussaud’s has been operating in the same neighbourhood for over 100 years – Situated in Marylebone Road next to the junction with by Baker Street.
  • Nearest Underground Station is Baker Street
  • Nearest Rail Station is Marylebone
  • Bus Routes are (numerous!) 13, 18, 27, 30, 74, 82, 113, 139, 189, 295, 274, 453

Tickets - 

£30.00 Adult, £25.00 Child 4-15, FREE Under 4

Top Tip on How To Save Money 

Book online! When booking your tickets in advance online you can save up to 25%! Also you will be put into a different queue when you arrive which can dramatically cut down waiting times.  Click here to book tickets.

Top Tip on Timing -

Madame Tussaud’s is one of the rare London attractions that is better to visit in the afternoon. Queues are largest at the beginning of the day as many coach groups and tourists start their day here before heading into Central London. If you can plan to arrive around 15:00 you’ll find the queues shorter and your ability to get photographs of the wax works without other people in your way significantly better!

London Big Ben

Big Ben

Posted by & filed under London.

Big Ben For millions of visitors the world over, London is represented by a single iconic building: Big Ben. Probably the most recognisable clock in the world, Big Ben has been ticking 16 stories above London since May 1859 and boasts the largest four-faced chiming clock in the entire world! But perhaps it would surprise you to hear that although we all know Big Ben – this massive clock tower is actually officially named something completely different! Read on for some fascinating facts about this most beloved of London’s landmarks.

ETYMOLOGY

Clock Tower - Big Ben is actually not the correct name for the clock tower. The clock tower now is known as the Queen Elizabeth II Tower, and was renamed for our monarch on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. Previously it was simply named ‘The Clock Tower.’

Bell - The largest bell inside the Queen Elizabeth II Tower is colloquially known as Big Ben. Strictly speaking, the name of the bell is The Great Bell, but Big Ben is the name used the world over (even by those of us who know better!).

Why Big Ben? Nobody knows exactly for sure but there are two likely sources: Perhaps it is in reference to Benjamin Hall, an MP who oversaw the installation of the Great Bell and was a rather rotund figure. Or maybe it is named after Benjamin Caunt, an English heavyweight boxing champion who was often known as Big Ben himself. This mystery will most likely never be solved!

CREATION

The Queen Elizabeth II Tower stands in Westminster, connected to the Palace of Westminster – which is more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament. After the old Palace of Westminster was lost in a terrible fire in 1834, a new building was designed to sit in its’ place, and hold the new Houses of Parliament. The clock tower was a notable part of the design of the new Palace as imagined by architect Charles Barry. Barry knew he wanted a clock tower as part of his new Palace, but he did not actually design it himself.

The tower and clock itself was designed by noted architect August Welby Northmore Pugin, who was asked for his assistance by Charles Barry. Therefore it was Pugin himself who actually designed the tower, using his signature gothic revival style. Before he died, Pugin is quoted as saying that his assigning and building of the tower was the “hardest [he'd] ever worked in [his] life.”

London Big Ben BELLS

Although ‘Big Ben’ is the most famous bell in the tower, there are actually 5 bells total inside the belfry. Ben is the largest and four smaller bells ring every 15 minutes. It is said there are words to go along with the quarter-hour chimes, based off of a Bible passage (Psalm 37:23-24) as follows: All through this hour/Lord be my guide/And by Thy power/No foot shall slide.

Big Ben specifically is only rung at the top of every hour. A mechanical process triggered by the clock dials raises a hammer which is then dropped onto Ben to make the chimes. For those wishing to set their clocks, note it is the FIRST chime of Big Ben that marks the exact time.

The Great Bell was cast in April 1858 at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (also responsible for The Liberty Bell in the United States) and weighs in at 13.76 tones. Originally Big Ben was the largest bell in the British Isles until Great Paul – hanging in St. Paul’s Cathedral – was cast in 1881.

FACTS & FIGURES

  • The entire Queen Elizabeth II Tower is 315ft (96m) tall.
  • Each clock face stands exactly 180ft (54.9m) off the ground.
  • Each dial is nearly 23ft (7m) in diameter.
  • Each dial holds over 300 individual pieces of frosted glass.
  • The minute hands are each just over 13ft (4.2m) long.
  • Despite appearing straight, the Tower actually is tilting 9.1in (230mm) to the north-west.
  • Out of 650 MPs, 331 voted to approve the name change of the Clock Tower to the Queen Elizabeth Tower – in reference to the fact that the tower on the other side of Parliament was renamed the Victoria Tower in the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

London Big Ben SILENCE OF THE CHIMES

Although Big Ben has been praised throughout its’ history for accurately keeping time throughout the decades – including during the Blitz in WWII – the chimes have been silenced on occasion, a few examples of which follow:

During WWI the clock was silenced for two years, and the clock dials were darkened, to prevent detection by German zeppelin craft.

On New Year’s Eve 1962 the cold weather actually froze the hands of the clock, causing the pendulum mechanism to fault meaning the New Year was rung in 10 minutes late!

In 1967 the clock experienced its first – and so far only – break down when the air speed regulator broke. Over 9 months the chimes were silenced around 26 days for repairs.

As an mark of respect, the chimes were silenced during the funeral of Winston Churchill. The same protocol was taken during the funeral of Baroness Margaret Thatcher in 2013.

VISITING

Visiting Big Ben is possible, but only if guests fit a strict criteria and have contacted their MP or a member of the House of Lords to request a visit. Tours tend to be sold out for up to 6 months in advance so be prepared to wait a while!

A brief guideline of visitor criteria follows:

  1. All visitors allowed onto Elizabeth Tower/Big Ben tours must be UK residents. There are no exceptions to this.
  2. Visitors must be over 11 years old.
  3. Visitors must be able to climb all 334 steps unaided without assistance.
  4. Visitors with heart-related illness or who are in the later stages of pregnancy will not be allowed.
  5. Visitors must arrive with sensible footwear, or they will be declined their position on the tour.

EXTRA TRIVIA

There is loads more to tell you about Big Ben – but for more facts, anecdotes and little-known trivia, you’ll need to book yourself onto our Westminster (or All-In-One) tour to find out more!

London Skyline with City in the background

10 Things To Do In London for Under £10!

Posted by & filed under London.

London is widely regarded as one of the most expensive cities in the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the city on the cheap! At Free Tours By Foot we believe London should be accessible to anybody on any kind of budget! So to help you out here is our list of 10 things you can do in London for under £10…

1. Watch A Film - Home to the London Classic “Sing Along Sound of Music,” the Prince of Wales Theatre is centrally located in Leicester Square and features classic cinema, art house films, cult classics, relatively new releases or long-forgotten films for an extremely affordable price. Shows run daily and tickets start as low as £4.00. Check out their website for details of upcoming shows.

2. Take In A London Lecture - Gresham College in the centre of London has been putting on public lectures for around 400 years! From topics like history and philosophy to art and modern life, the lectures here are aimed to entertain and educate members of the public. Not only are the lectures here completely free to attend, some of them take place in Barnards Inn Hall, one of the oldest surviving parts of the College that has been in existence since the 16th century. For a list of upcoming topics, check out their website.

3. Take in the Changing of the Guard - It doesn’t get any more ‘London’ than this! A true spectacle performed daily in summer and every other day off-season, the Changing of the Guard is a classic London experience and an absolute most for those who want to experience all the pomp and ceremony surrounding our royal family. It doesn’t cost a thing to view the Change, but it’s important to plan your visit in advance – for tips on that, check out our Blog Post: Guide to Changing of the Guard.

London the Globe Theatre4. See A Play At the Globe - During the summer, the historically accurate Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre puts on daily performances of some of the Bards best-known and occasionally little-known works. Here at the Globe ticket prices are a far cry from the expensive seats up for sale in the West End. Visitors to the Globe actually have the option to enjoy a performance for as little as £5.00! Holders of these cheap tickets are known as ‘groundlings’ because these tickets entitle you to stand on the ground in front of the stage, instead of sitting up in the benches. Although it can be tiring, being a groundling is an experience that would have been familiar to 16th century visitors to the Globe which means in addition to the theatre entertainment, groundlings are also having a truly historical London experience!

London Natural HistoryLondon Victoria and Albert Museum5. Visit A Museum - Visitors from all over the world are impressed by the broad range of free museums that London has to offer. From the standard British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Natural History and Science Museums, to the more London-centric like the Museum of London and the Bank of England Museum, to the downright quirky Hunterian Museum and the Old Operating Theatre, as well as those showcasing art like the National Gallery and the Tate Modern, London hosts a plethora of museums to keep you busy and keep you on budget! Take a peak at some of our recommendations for museums off the beaten track: Blog Post: Museum Sites in the City of London  and Blog Post: Nice and Niche Museums

6. Cruise the Thames - KPMG Thames Clippers offer an affordable and interesting way to see the city. Prices for adults start at just £4.50 (and additional discounts for Oyster or Travelcard holders!) and boats depart every 20 minutes throughout the day. Visitors can travel from pier to pier between Westminster and all the way along the Thames to Greenwich – an excellent way to beat London’s rush hour or traffic gridlock!

7. Be Entertained On the Southbank - A pleasant stroll along the southern bank of the River Thames between the London Eye and the Tate Modern provides beautiful views of the capital, but also plays host to some of the most unique entertainment in town. Come see street artists who play music, perform acrobatic tricks, dance, limbo, or act as human statues…There is always somebody showing off and waiting to grab the attention of the passing public. In addition to this, the walk will take you past the most well-known skate park in London where people of all ages come to practice their skateboarding skills and where graffiti artists are allowed to express their work without repercussions from the law. If you are looking for cheap eats, the Southbank has you covered there too, with multiple stalls and vendors popping up throughout the year to feed the Southbank public.

London Westminster Cathedral8. Visit Westminster Cathedral - If the price to visit Westminster Abbey is a bit out of your price range, Westminster Cathedral offers an affordable and reasonable alternative. Located down the road from the much more well-known Abbey, Westminster Cathedral is the mother church for practicing Catholics in England and Wales. Consecrated in 1910, the Cathedral is free for the pubic to visit and showcases beautiful neo-Byzantine architecture. The burial place of multiple Archbishops of Canterbury, the Cathedral was also featured in the Alfred Hitchcock’s film Foreign Correspondent. For a real treat, visitors can purchase tickets (£5 for adults and £2.50 concessions) to climb the Campanile Bell Tower – 273 feet up, the viewing gallery provides guests with a stunning 360degree views over London and there is even a lift to make the trip up easy! For those who cannot afford a visit to The London Eye or The Shard, or want to avoid the crowds that they attract, a visit to little-known and quiet Westminster Cathedral is your next best bet!

London SpeakersCorner9. Head to Speakers Corner - Springing up alongside the famous gallows that stood at this corner of Hyde Park for centuries lies Speakers Corner, a designated area for people to come and have their voices heard. Political discussion, religious ramblings, nonsense topics and humorous speeches, those who come here to speak come from a wide variety of backgrounds and with countless viewpoints they wish to express. An interesting way to while away the time, Speakers Corner has been a tourist destination for decades and notable speakers here include Karl Marx and George Orwell.

10. Walk on the Wild Side - University College London’s Grant Museums Zoology is not only free to visit, but throughout the year the college stages free film screenings of movies centred around animals. Showing cult classics and quirky movies, the screenings are free for members of the pubic to attend – and they often provide a free glass of wine for visitors to enjoy when the film has finished!

+++ And of course: Take a tour with Free Tours by Foot London. Our tours operate on a pay-what-you-like model, because we believe that everyone, regardless of their budget, should enjoy informative, educational and fun tours of London!+++

London Skyline with City in the background

Free Wi-Fi, internet hotspots, and other ways to stay online in London

Posted by & filed under London.

International travelers who come to London often feel out of touch because their phones either won’t work or they might pay extra fees for calls or internet use. When you are in a foreign city, it is even more important to stay connected, to ease you find your way around or plan your day out. Depending on your mobile plan, we definitely recommend you finding out international Wi-Fi add-on options with your provider before you arrive in London.

Most hotels, B&B’s have Wi-Fi service for their guests, so that’s a good way to charge up on information before you start your day, or when you come back at night. When you are on the road, finding Wi-Fi for your device can be more difficult. So here are some options how to re-connect online. The magic word in London is hotspot.

Sign up to O2 Wi-Fi: This free O2 Wi-Fi internet service can be found at several locations including McDonalds, Debenhams, Costa Coffee, House of Fraser, Café Rouge. You don’t have to be O2 customer, and there is no need for passwords. Download the O2 Wi-Fi App, so you can find your nearest hotspot, even when you are offline.

Sign up to the Cloud: You can find free Cloud Wi-Fi  hotspots at Pizza Express, Caffe Nero, Pret-a-Manger, Wagamama and shopping centres. Create a Cloud account with your username and password before, and login when you are at a hotspot. The Cloud is even easier to use for AT&T customers: all you need to do is download the AT&T WiFi International App.

Find a Starbucks: Get some coffee and use their free internet that connects for 2 hours. After that you can reconnect if needed. Open your brower open your web browser and go to btopenzone and click connect.

Buy a wifi pass with Virgin Media: Virgin Media offers a WifiPass for non-customers for £5/week. Their service works in the London Underground Stations.

Find an internet café: Yes, there are still some internet cafes in London. Here is a map of internet cafes in London.

 

+++Staying online helps you get around easier and makes you get the most out of your trip. You can also easily look up maps or links that we provide so you can easily find your guide on our famous pay-what-you-like walking tours in London.+++

Visiting London’s Best Parks

Visiting London’s Best Parks

Posted by & filed under London.

One of the greenest capitals in the world, London is home to some of the most beautiful parks in the country. Whether you’re looking to wander, settle down for a picnic lunch, or just wanting to feed the birds, take a peek at our list of London’s best parks – all of which are free to enjoy!

london St James parkSt. James’s Park

Named after a leper hospital that stood on the site in the Medieval period and stretching over 23 hectares (53 acres), St. James’s Park is the oldest of all the Royal Parks of London – having been open to the public since 1603. Before it was a public park, St. James’s held the royal aviary where King Charles II kept birds given to him as gifts – such as the pelicans brought here by the Russian ambassador in 1664. London St James parkIn fact, there are still pelicans in the park today that are said to descend from these original birds (some of whom have developed a taste for meat..! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1CTngj8zwE) In the centre of the park is a stretch of water spanned by a bridge that provides stunning views of Buckingham Palace, and that contains Duck Island, home to beautiful and varied waterfowl, and the Tiffany Fountain.

Nearest Underground Stations: St. James’s Park, Charing Cross, Westminster

 

 

Richmond Park

London parks Richmond parkDesignated as a Special Area of Conservation as well as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Richmond Park, located in the Southwest of London and the largest of all London Parks, spans an impressive 955 hectares (2,360 acres). Originally a hunting park for King Charles I in 1625, Richmond Park is still home to an estimated 630 fallow and red deer, and in places it appears more of a wooded forest rather than a park. Designated paths criss-cross the park with lanes designated entirely for cyclists, pedestrians, and horse riders. Park-goers can take afternoon tea or a spot of lunch in a number of Lodges in the park, the most notable of which is Pembroke Lodge.

London parks Richmond ParkMargaret’s Top Tip: Climbing to the top of the hill in the park (King Henry’s Mound) will reward you with a view of over 10 miles that leads all the way to St. Paul’s Cathedral and is so beautiful it has legally been protected by an act of Parliament!

 

Nearest Underground Stations: Richmond

(Trains also depart out of Waterloo and Clapham Junction to Mortlake and Sheen Stations)

 

 

London Regent's ParkThe Regent’s Park

Designed by architect John Nash (also responsible for Regent’s Street) in 1811, The Regent’s Park is 166 hectares (410 acres) and is home to the London Zoo and an open-air theatre,  as well as the largest outdoor sports area in London, holding facilities for cricket, softball, football and rugby. London Regent'sParkPark visitors can also hire row boats and pedal boats to use on the pond. When visiting be sure to check out Queen Mary’s Gardens – created in the 1930’s this beautiful floral garden is the highlight of the park’s agriculture.

Nearest Underground Stations: Regent’s Park, Great Portland Street, Camden Town, St. John’s Wood

 

 

London HydeParkHyde Park

Right in the middle of London lays Hyde Park, a lovely stretch of green spanning 253 hectares (625 acres), boasting cycle, pedestrian and equestrian paths. Originally part of a hunting park created by Henry VIII, the Park was opened to the public in 1637 by King Charles I. Hyde Park boasts numerous sites of interest including Speakers’ Corner, the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial, the Holocaust Memorial, the Serpentine Art Gallery, an animal cemetery, Italian Fountains and a number of statues scattered throughout. London HydeParkHyde Park also plays host to concerts, and has seen performances by Pink Floyd, Queen and the Rolling Stones – just to name a few!

Nearest Underground Stations: Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate

 

 

Battersea Park

London Regent'sParkFounded much more recently than the other parks on the list, Battersea Park was created in 1858. The Park spans 83 hectares (200 acres) and is situated right on the picturesque south bank of the River Thames, just opposite the Chelsea area. Recently refurbished in an £11million project, the park is host to a boating lake, a children’s zoo and a number of outdoor sporting venues. In fact, it was in Battersea Park that the first ever modern association football game was played! Also of note are the Nature Areas, home to over 20 species of butterfly.

Nearest Underground Stations: Clapham Common

(Trains also depart from Victoria Station to Battersea Park Station)

 

Hampstead Heath

London Hampstead HeathLocated along one of the highest points in London (440ft), Hampstead Heath (or just “The Heath” to use a London phrase!) is 320 hectares (790 acres) of parkland in the north of the capital. The Heath consists of rambling woodlands, paths and ponds, a lido and a Georgian villa, as well as providing one of the best views in the capital (again, protected by Parliament!) atop Parliament Hill. The Heath has been on record since 986 (!!) and it has been a public park since the early 19th century. Wildlife abounds as the Heath is a refuge for various types of wildlife including rabbits, bats, snakes, frogs, and fish – just to name a few! When at Hampstead Heath, it is easy to forget that one is still in London.

London_from_Hampstead_HeathInside Info: It is at Hampstead Heath that Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed!

Nearest Underground Station: Hampstead, Highgate, Golders Green

(London Overground Services also run to Hampstead Heath Station)

London walking tours | Free Tours by Foot

Staying Safe in London

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London bus at nightLondon is a very safe city. However, just like any capital, crime does exist and it’s always best to take extra caution and be prepared when you come to town – whether you are a first time visitor, or even a Londoner! What follows is a handy guide filled with tips and tricks to keep you safe as you travel through town. Remember: The vast majority of crime in London is opportunistic so as long as you don’t appear to be a target – you will likely not become one!

Note: In some countries it is common practice for people to carry a knife – but many blades are illegal in London. Check https://www.gov.uk/find-out-if-i-can-buy-or-carry-a-knife before you travel to avoid arrest, imprisonment or fines.

Travel Tips

  • London look rightPlan your journeys ahead of time, if possible. Know where you are going and which stop you will need. (Check www.tfl.gov.uk to plan your trips!)
  • Keep to well-lit main roads when walking at night.
  • Only use registered minicabs or black cabs – never get into an unmarked or unregistered vehicle and never accept a journey from a driver off the street. Only black cabs are allowed to pick up travelers on the street.
  • Do not wear headphones when travelling alone as this will prevent you from being aware of your surroundings.
  • If you are travelling alone on a bus at night – sit downstairs.
  • It seems obvious but take care when crossing the street – we drive on the left here!

 

Keeping Belongings Safe

  • London Mind the GapKeep your wallet close to your body, and valuables on your person when possible.
  • Keep things like money, wallets, phones, etc. out of sight.
  • Never leave your bags unattended anywhere in London – this can lead to security alerts!
  • When carrying your bag, tuck it under your arm, or if you have a longer strap, cross it over your chest and one shoulder.
  • Try not to carry very much cash.
  • Only use cash points/ATMs that are well lit and be aware of people standing behind you.
  • Cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN at a cash point.
  • If a stranger on the street asks you for directions or the time, be extra aware of your belongings while you answer (particularly your phone and wallet).
  • Always keep a separate bit of cash somewhere else on you so, even if you are a victim of crime, you will always have enough money to get back to your home/hotel.
  • Do not tuck your phone into your back pocket!

 

Bars, Pubs & Restaurant Tips

  • Bar and beerKeep your property underneath the table or out of sight.
  • Many locations have bag clips underneath bars/tables. Hang your bags there if you can.
  • Don’t leave your drink unattended and do not accept drinks from strangers.
  • Consider covering your drink when not sipping.
  • When out on the town, keep an eye on your friends and vice versa!
  • Do not accept cigarettes from strangers

 

 

Medical and Emergency Services

  • To reach Emergency Services dial 999 or 112 (only in case of a REAL emergency)
  •  To report non-urgent crime, contact a local police station or dial 101.

London westminster abbey fascade

Visiting Westminster Abbey – and a Top Tip to get you in for FREE!

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London westminster abbey royal wedding

Famous the world over, Westminster Abbey has seen over 16 royal weddings (Wills and Kate, anyone?), is the burial location of 17 monarchs, has held globally watched events (such as the funeral of Lady Diana Spencer), and is also home to the United Kingdom’s Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. One of the jewels in London’s crown, Westminster Abbey is a must-visit for history lovers and those who enjoy a touch of royalty!

 


History – Building

It is said that the site the Abbey sits on now has held a site of worship since at least the 7th century, and evidence positively suggests a house of worship on this site since at least the 900′s, when early Benedictine monks first came to the area. The church standing today was begun in 1235 by King Henry III, who built on top of a previous church, founded by Edward the Confessor. Work on the Abbey was still taking place into the 18th century and some restoration work was carried out after the church suffered damage in the Blitz.

History – Titles and Operations

London Westminster AbbeyBy the 16th century, the Abbey was the second wealthiest Abbey in the country, just after Glastonbury, with an annual income of over £2,400 (£1.2Million today). Because of its’ wealth and age, Henry VIII declared the Abbey a Cathedral, to spare it from the dissolution of the monasteries Henry enacted during his reign. However, by 1550 the Cathedral status the church held was abolished and it has not held the title since.

In the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the Abbey was declared a ‘Royal Peculiar’ meaning that, from then, the church was responsible directly to the Crown, not the diocese order. In accordance with the restructuring of the management of the church, Elizabeth then officially named the Abbey The Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster – a title that it still holds today, although it is still colloquially known as Westminster Abbey.

Coronations and the Royal Connection

Since 1066, Westminster Abbey has been the primary site for coronations of English and British Monarchs. In fact, since the first coronation here in the year 1066, all but two of our monarchs were crowned here. (The two exceptions are King Edward VIII, who abdicated and King Edward V who disappeared under mysterious circumstances from the Tower of a London in the 15th century).

London westminster abbey cornation chairHoused inside the Abbey is King Edwards Chair – the throne on which English and British sovereigns are seated during the coronation ceremony. Used at EVERY coronation since its’ construction in 1308, the chair was originally gilded and painted, but today shows it’s age, and the English oak it is made of. Such a symbol of monarchy and tradition, the chair has been vandalised routinely over the past centuries and was even the target of a bomb attack in 1914 – thought to be the work of Suffragettes.

Visitors should take note of the platform underneath the chair that was specifically designed to hold the Stone of Scone, used in coronations of Scottish monarchs for centuries, and in England since Edward I stole it during a war with Scotland in 1296. After years if controversy, the Stone is now housed in Scotland, on order of Queen Elizabeth II, whose son Andrew escorted the stone back home on St. Andrews Day in 1996. Arrangements have been made for the stone to be returned to the Abbey in preparation for future coronation ceremonies.

Famous Faces

Westminster Abbey holds tombs, graves, monuments, memorials and statues. There is a plethora of things to see inside the Abbey, but to give you an example of the calibre of those who are celebrated therein, here is a (very!!) small list of some of those who are commemorated and those who are buried inside the Abbey.

Memorials:

  • Benjamin Disraeli – Prime Minister
  • Winston Churchill – Prime Minister and war time leader
  • George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) – Author
  • Oscar Wilde – Author
  • William Shakespeare – Author
  • Sir Walter Scott – Author
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt – US President
  • Alexander Pope – Satirist and Poet
  • Martin Luther King Jr. – Civil Rights Leader and Reverend
  • Captain James Cook – Explorer
  • John Keats – Poet

Burials:

  • George Frederic Handel – Composter
  • King Edward III – King
  • King Charles II (no effigy exists but a life size wax statue made after his death is still on display in the Abbey Museum!) – King
  • Lawrence Olivier (the last person to be buried in the Abbey, as of this post) – Actor
  • Charles Dickens – Author
  • Queen Elizabeth I (her original funeral effigy can be found in the Abbey Museum) – Queen
  • Rudyard Kipling – Author
  • Charles Darwin – Scientist
  • Mary, Queen of Scots (Not originally interred here but moved in 1612, by her son King James I) – Queen
  • Isaac Newton – Scientist/Physicist

Visiting the Abbey

As A Tourist 

London westminster abbey fascade frontHours: The Abbey is open for sightseers during the majority of the week. Usually opening times run between 9:30 – 5:00 during weekdays, and 9:30 – 1:30 on Saturdays.

There is no sightseeing allowed on Sundays. (This is subject to change as the Abbey is a working church and monument)

Prices:

  • £18.00 for adults
  • £15.00 for concessions
  • £8.00 for children between 11-18
  • FREE for under 11′s



Admission to Westminster Abbey is included in the London Pass. The London Pass can be purchased in advance from the London Pass website


As A Worshipper

During church services, it is FREE for the public to enter the Abbey for worship. This does not allow visitors access to all the tombs, monuments, or the Abbey Museum, but a seat in the nave gives guests a taste of the majesty and history this church holds.

Hours: During weekdays, there is usually a service around 9am and 5pm.

(This is subject to change, as the Abbey is a working church and monument)

For an up-to-date schedule of service and sightseeing times and dates, please check out: www.westminster-abbey.org

Travel: The nearest station is Westminster Underground Station. Bus routes include the 3, 11, 148.

+++Margaret’s Tip: Queues in the summer months and on weekends can be outrageous at the Abbey so consider getting there as early as possible!+++