Two thousand years ago, the industrious Romans built the original London Bridge, then laid the foundation for a flourishing settlement along the picturesque bank of the River Thames. Their ambitious vision became a vibrant hub for trade and cultural exchange between the island of Britannia and the continent. Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, William the Duke of Normandy reestablished London as the capital city, leaving an indelible mark by erecting the iconic Tower of London.
Over the centuries, this historic bustling port city has flourished. London remained mostly confined to the original square mile marked by the ancient Roman walls until the 19th century when London began to expand far beyond its original boundaries, blossoming into the diverse and vibrant metropolis we know today as Greater London.
The magnificent River Thames gracefully winds its way through the vibrant city, serving as a bustling pathway for water transport. West of The City is home to Parliament and Westminster royalty. The West End, as it’s known for its theater, department stores, museums, and parks. On the south bank of the Thames, Southwark unveils a treasure trove of delights, including the iconic Globe Theater, Borough Market, and the renowned Tate Modern Museum. Ancient blends with the ultramodern City Hall and the towering Shard.
*Note: AMG Inspired is reader-supported. When you click and buy through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Please help support content for this site. Contact AMG Inspired for direct contributions.
The Capital Region of Greater London is surrounded by 84 metropolitan and non-metropolitan administrative counties of England. Greater London radiates outward from the City of London at its core surrounded by 12 inner boroughs and 20 outer boroughs on both banks of the River Thames.
Currency: Pound sterling £
When to go: Ideal May or September;
Summer – generally mild with some rain, can be hot & humid;
Winter – chilly and gray, but also cozy, Christmastime lights
Airport: London Heathrow or Gatwick Airports
Train station: Paddington Station for Heathrow Express (15 minutes to the airport) + St Pancras for high-speed Eurostar—direct routes to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam—with several others throughout the city; all stations are adjacent to the Tube
Transportation: London Underground, aka “the Tube,” the local under- and over-ground rail system makes the whole city very accessible (more below)
Waterway: River Thames hop-on, hop-off river cruises are a relaxing and scenic way to travel through the center of the city
Neighborhoods: The City of London, the original footprint of the ancient Roman walled city of Londinium, is the financial core surrounded by the 32 boroughs of today’s Greater London; one borough, the City of Westminster serves as the governmental center
Boroughs of Greater London
The metropolis of Greater London, the dynamic capital of the United Kingdom located in England, is divided into 32 municipal boroughs (12 inner and 20 outer boroughs) + the City of London, not a London borough, but rather a county and a government district. Each of these smaller districts has distinct characteristics and histories.
City of London + City of Westminster + Kensington and Chelsea + Hammersmith and Fulham + Camden + Islington + Hackney + Tower Hamlets + Greenwich + Lewisham + Southwark + Lambeth + Wandsworth
Trainline is the site and app I use to make train reservations throughout Europe. Rail Europe is also a great source for making necessary train reservations—find more travel information at Northwestern Europe.
- Eurostar — high-speed train connects London from St Pancras Station to Paris in just over 2 hrs, to Brussels in around 3 hrs, and to Amsterdam in about 4 hrs; reservations are required
- National Rail services London’s 10 major stations and offers airport access via express trains
- Heathrow Express links directly between London Heathrow Airport and Paddington Station
- Gatwick Express links directly between London Gatwick Airport and London Victoria Railway Station
- London Paddington connects to Bristol and Cardiff via the Great Western Railway
- London Euston connects to Glasgow and Birmingham via Avanti West Coast and to Manchester via Avanti West Coast or Northern
- London King’s Cross connects to York via Northern, to Newcastle via LNER, and to Edinburgh via on LNER or ScotRail
- London St Pancras International connects to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby, and Sheffield via East Midlands Railway, along with the Eurostar to Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam (above)
- Our Eurail passes covered our train travel between cities and villages within our selected countries on the continent
- The London Overground is a network of trains servicing suburban London that interchanges at many Tube stations
- The London Underground, aka “the Tube,” is the local subway
The London Underground
On our trip to Northwestern Europe, we used the Tube while in London to take us to key points of interest. We planned to walk as much as possible, focusing exploration on the boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, the City of Westminster, and the City of London; we would visit parts of Camden and Islington, as well as the northwestern portion of Southwark (pronounced “suth-ak”) and the western-most portion of Greenwich (pronounced “gren-ich”), along the south bank of the Thames River (pronounced “tems”).
The London Underground, aka. the Tube, is the subway rail system that is very accessible throughout the city. Although we planned to primarily explore Zone 1 and parts of Zone 2, we wanted an unrestricted option. We purchased Oyster cards from a machine (located in any Tube station) for £5 each to be used in all zones, and deduct a fare upon each journey.
Usage fees are determined by the distance traveled—touching the card to the yellow reader at the start- and end-point gates of the journey ensure the correct fare is charged. Since we planned to use the cards for at least 6 days, we loaded each card with £20. For remaining funds no longer needed, “If your remaining credit is £10 or less, you can get a refund for the credit, and any deposit, from a Tube station ticket machine.”
We also asked the attendant (present in each station) to apply the “Young Visitor’s discount” onto the cards of our two teenage boys for 1/2 price fare (which had to be re-applied upon our return to London, since the feature only lasts 2 weeks). There is a maximum daily debit charge of £6.40 for adult cards, £3.20 for young visitors (ages 11-15).