TRAVEL > EUROPE > UNITED KINGDOM > ENGLAND > GREATER LONDON
The metropolis of Greater London, the dynamic capital of the United Kingdom located in England, is divided into 33 municipal boroughs (13 inner and 20 outer boroughs). Each of these smaller districts has distinct characteristics and histories.
13 INNER BOROUGHS:
CITY OF LONDON + CITY OF WESTMINSTER + KENSINGTON AND CHELSEA + HAMMERSMITH AND FULHAM + CAMDEN + ISLINGTON + HACKNEY + TOWER HAMLETS + GREENWICH + LEWISHAM + SOUTHWARK + LAMBETH + WANDSWORTH
Currency: Pound sterling £
When to go: Ideal May or September;
Summer – generally mild, 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
Subway: London Underground, aka “the Tube,” the local under- and over-ground rail system makes the whole city very accessible (more below)
River: River Thames hop-on, hop-off river cruises are a relaxing and scenic way to travel through the center of the city
Boroughs: The City of London is the financial center of the 33 boroughs that make up Greater London; Westminster is the governmental center
The London Underground
In our visit to Northwestern Europe, we utilized the Tube while in London to transport 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 which 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 ensures 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).