Category Archives: Visit London
Festive family favourite Winter Wonderland returns to London’s Hyde Park with big top shows, the observation wheel and a huge Christmas market.
Winter Wonderland provides fun, laughter and excitement for both adults and children. As well as the stunning ice rink, Winter Wonderland includes gentle rides for younger children.
Children can meet Santa in his grotto every day from 10am to 6pm. Entry is free but the queue will close at 4pm on busy days.
The gates will open to Winter Wonderland on Friday 22nd November at 5pm!
This year promises even more thrills, spectacle and Christmas magic at Hyde Park, where we’ll be open 10am till 10pm every day until 5th January (excluding Christmas Day). As always Winter Wonderland is FREE to enter, so you can wander through the park, soaking up the festive atmosphere and enjoy all the free entertainment on offer.
If you want to go Ice Skating, visit The Magical Ice Kingdom, take a ride in the Giant Observation Wheel or see a show at Zippos Circus you will need to buy tickets. These attractions sell very quickly so advance booking is highly recommended!
At Winter Wonderland there’s something for everyone, whether you want to make your child’s dream come true at Santa Land, brave the exciting thrill rides, or just warm up on a mulled wine and join in the fun in the lively Bavarian Village. Come along early for a browse around the Christmas Markets, take a rest over some festive food and drink at one of the many eateries around the site, and enjoy some of the fantastic free live music.
London Christmas and New Year Tours
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Regular sightseeing flights around London have started for the first time from Battersea Heliport.
The flights last 20 minutes and cost £200. Up to 15 flights could be operated a day.
Neil Constable, from The Globe Theatre, said the sightseeing helicopters can disrupt performances and added that he would like a limit put on the number of helicopters which operate over the Southbank.
Chris Mann, from The London Helicopter, says it will try and avoid performances at the Globe and that it will operate responsibly.
Watch a Film clip: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-22376880
Best Value Sightseeing Tours – www.BestValueTours.co.uk
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In the UK, Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged on many goods and services. Tax Free Shopping allows travellers leaving the European Union (EU) to get a VAT refund on goods they buy here and take home. It cannot be used for services. (including sightseeing tours)
VAT refunds for visitors to the UK
In the United Kingdom, Value Added Tax (VAT) is charged on many goods and services. If you are visiting from another country you may be entitled to a refund of the VAT on goods you buy from shops that offer Tax Free Shopping (also known as the Retail Export Scheme).
Tax Free Shopping allows travellers leaving the European Union (EU) to get a VAT refund on goods they buy here and take home. It cannot be used for services.
This guide explains when you are entitled to a VAT refund and what you have to do to get one. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/sectors/consumers/overseas-visitors.htm
Best Value Tours UK – www.BestValueTours.co.uk
The tree is an annual gift from Norway to London as a mark of thanks for British support during the Second World War.
After it was hand picked by an expert panel and felled from a forest near Oslo two weeks ago, the tree travelled more than 700 miles to light up the West End.
At 21 metres, the Norwegian Spruce – which is estimated to be aged between 115 and 120 years old – is taller than normal and required extra lights to be lit.
Nearby Nelson’s Column stands 52 metres tall.
Up to 1,000 people turned out to see the tree lit by The Governing Mayor of Oslo, Stian Berger Rosland, at a special ceremony last night, which was also attended by The Lord Mayor of Westminster, councillor Angela Harvey.
There were also festive musical performances by Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth, the St-Martin-In-The-Fields church choir and the Regent Hall Band of the Salvation Army.
Children from St Clement Danes primary school also read a specially written poem called Friendship, inspired by the tradition.
Councellor Harvey, who helped to fell the tree in Oslo, said: “For many Londoners, the lighting of the tree at Trafalgar Square heralds the beginning of the festive season, and I am delighted to welcome all of Westminster’s residents and our visitors to share this iconic symbol of Christmas.
“I would like to thank the people of Oslo for this wonderful tree, the gift of which is a tradition that goes back many years, and has come to represent not only the start of Christmas, but also a long-standing friendship between Norway and the United Kingdom.”
Mr Rosland added: “We hope the tree will contribute once again to the festive atmosphere of London. On behalf of the citizens of Oslo I wish you all a joyous Christmas season.”
For the first time Londoners can follow the tree, which will remain lit 24 hours a day until the twelfth night of Christmas on January 6, on Twitter at @trafalgartree.
Follow @bestvaluetours for festive news and Christmas special offers
London Christmas Tours – Click here
Travel Editor – Best Value Tours
As if Winter Wonderland wasn’t already an all-out Christmas spectacular, this year we bring you even more thrills, festivities and sparkling winter magic…
THE MAGICAL ICE KINGDOM
A spectacular ice & snow sculpture experience!
Follow the magical pathways and admire the beauty of the exquisite sculptures and crystal-like characters throughout the themed rooms. Meet the woodland ice creatures as you roam through the stalagmite forest – the ice bears, wolves, stags, owls, foxes and rabbits. Try a seat in the fairy tale unicorn-pulled carriage and take the slide in the magnificent ice castle. Specially created by Winter Wonderland and unique to the UK, this arctic experience will take your breath away!
SANTA’S FACTORY IN SANTA LAND!
Children and adults alike will be enchanted by our unmissable addition to Santa Land this year. Introducing: Santa’s Factory – a fun-house where Santa and his industrious elves are making gifts ready for the big day! Walk through his magical sleigh, meet the elves and pay a visit to Santa’s Lapland grotto.
WINTER WONDERLAND STAR FLYER
If you’re good with heights and want to see Winter Wonderland from above try the fabulous new Star Flyer. For a truly exhilarating experience, soar over 60 metres into the air as it spins 360 degrees and feel the wind through your hair. It’s the closest thing to flying!
This beautiful carousel takes the traditional festive ride to a new level – literally! Featuring two glittering decks of unusual and fantastical animals for you to ride – choose from a sea dragon, eagle, reindeer, sea horse, tiger, elephant and many more!
In addition to the popular Angels Market – over 100 charming wooden chalets selling a wide array of unique and handmade gifts – this year sees the introduction of a second market area. The Yuletide Market gives you an even bigger Christmas shopping experience, including traditional yuletide gifts, jewellery, winter wear, wooden toys and Christmas decorations.
Winter Wonderland is the UK’s biggest Christmas attraction, taking place each Christmas at Hyde Park and becoming one of London’s great festive traditions. The attraction is open from 10:00am to 10:00pm.
Winter Wonderland features numerous seasonal attractions including The Magical Ice Rink, the Giant Observation Wheel, the Room on the Broom stage show, and fantastic circus shows performed inside a heated big top tent.
Entry to Winter Wonderland is free, with charges for some of the attractions. Entrance to see Santa is free.
London Christmas Tours: http://www.bestvaluetours.co.uk/tour-of-england/london-uk-christmas-tours
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Planning your trip to London
There’s one hell of a lot to do in London some basic planning will avoid unnecessary trapsing around on foot or irritating waiting for public transport. It’s best to plan a day out so as to maximise the number of things you can see – and to go for variety. Below are a few mornings, afternoons and whole days out we’ve arranged for visitors – time permitting, we can offer advice by Email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if there’s anything you particularly want to see. Our Walks and itineraries link points of interest – see the separate page.
Weather – likely to make or break your visit. Although there are plenty of things to do in London in the rain, a week of low slate-grey skies and constant rain is not condusive to having a good time. The best season to come weatherwise is Late Summer or Autumn – latterly we’ve been having Indian Summers from mid-September to the end of October with clear blue skies and 20 degree temperatures. Eventually the weather breaks as the storm fronts move in off the Atlantic, then clears up for Christmas. February – April can be dire, and the heights of summer are very unpredictable. Consult the Meterological office here for facts and figures but beware predictions – they are so often wrong.
When it’s raining there are plenty of museums and galleries to visit – and the tube system is generally very good outside of rush hour. What you’ll miss out on is strolling through London and seeing the many unique pleasures by the wayside. Click here to see when to visit London.
Hotel Location Best to be near a tube station, buses can be slow and unreliable, and taxis expensive. The yellow circle line on the tube map marks the division between central and not-so-central London. Outside of that Zone your transport bill will rise – and once you’re in LT zone three, considerably. The best restaurants are in Islington, Soho/Chinatown and the south west of London which is where the life is. The City is a dead zone evenings and weekends. Hotel accommodation click here.
Baker St tube, Madame Tussauds, walk north to Regent’s Park, the Zoo, then up Primrose Hill, Primrose Hill ‘village’ to Chalk Farm (or cut through Primrose gate by the zoo and along the canal towpath to Camden Lock) and Camden Market (weekends only), Camden Town tube, on a weekend. 4-5 hours.
Train Waterloo – St Margarets, walk 10 mins to Marble Hill House, 5 mins to the foot ferry to, Ham House, walk 25 mins along river to Richmond, tube to Kew Gardens,& back to Waterloo – (can be heavy on the admission charges) Afternoon.
Freemason’s Temple on Great Queen Street, 10 mins from the tube, Covent Garden market, Transport Museum in the Piazza, Backstage tour of Theatre Royal Drury Lane at the back of the transport museum, walk 10 mins to the Strand, the Law Courts and the Inns of Court. Three hours. Circuit round Covent Garden tube.
Tottenham Court Road tube, 10 mins walk to the British Museum, 10 mins walk south to Sir John Soane Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Inns of Court – starting at Lincoln’s Inn, walk 10 mins to the strand and the Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House & Galleries, Charing Cross/Strand. (3-4 hours, depending on how long you stay in the British Museum, Inns of court best weekdays)
Charing Cross tube, 5 mins walk to the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, 5 mins walk down Whitehall to Horseguards, 10 Downing St and the Cabinet War rooms. 10 Mins across St James Park to St James’ Palace, Green Park tube. 3-4 hours.
Westminster tube, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey. 10 mins walk along the river to Tate Britain, Pimlico Tube 2 hours
High St Kensington tube, 10 mins walk to Kensington Palace, Kensington Gardens, 15 minute walk to Notting Hill, 10 minute walk to Portobello Road market (Saturday – 3 hours) Notting Hill Gate tube.
Old St or Liverpool St tube, 15 min walk/or by bus to Geffrye Museum 10 minute walk to Colombia Road Flower Market, 10 minute walk to Brick Lane, then to Spitalfields Market, Liverpool St tube (on Sundays, 11:00-1500, including lunch)
South Kensington tube, 5 minute walk down tunnel to Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Victoria And Albert Museum, 10 minute walk to Harrods. Knightsbridge tube (for a rainy day)
Queensway or Bayswater tube, hire Skates on Queensway, skate down to Albert Memorial, and thence to Kensington Palace and back to Queensway, exploring the park. Circuit.
Oxford Circus tube, Oxford Street (west half of), St. Christopher’s Place, Wallace collection, Bond Street, Burlington Arcade, Royal Academy. Green park tube.
Waterloo station/tube, London Eye, River walk, Oxo tower, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, London Bridge station/tube. 3 hours. See also our walks section.
Tower Hill DLR station/Bank tube, Island gardens DLR station, 10 minutes walk under the foot tunnel, Cutty Sark, Greenwich market, Naval Academy, 10 mins walk to the Queen’s House, Royal Observatory, 15 mins back to Greenwich Pier – boat back to Tower Hill – 4 hours.
Monument tube, Monument, 5 mins to Leadenhall Market & Lloyd’s Building, 10 mins walk to Tower of London, St katherine’s dock, Tower Bridge, Shad Thames. Tower Hill tube. (3 -4 hours)
Mansion House tube, Mansion House, 10 mins walk to Guildhall Art gallery, walk round back of Guildhall up the walkways through the Barbican, Museum of London, 10 mins walk to St Paul’s Cathedral, St Paul’s tube. 4 hours.
Leicester Square tube, Leicester Square, Wardour St, walk through Chinatown to Charing Cross Rd, north to Cambridge Circus, along Old Compton St and Brewer Street through Soho, tp Piccadilly Circus, up Regent Street to Liberties, turn right to Carnaby Street, Piccadilly Circus/Oxford Circus tube. (1-2 hours)
London Attractions – click here
Rest of Britain
Virtually everyone flies into London, even if their reason to visit lies elsewhere. Booking a train trip from London to see the rest of the UK is best done AT LEAST TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE – very cheap fares are available, especially on Virgin Trains – as little as £9 return to Chester 2 weeks or more in advance.
Outside of London the major places of interest (apart from those listed on our trips page) would be the Cotswolds (for which you need a car), North Wales: Snowdonia and the Castles (ditto), Oxford, Cambridge, Chester, York and Bath (easily accessible by train), and we’d recommend the North of Norfolk and the Yorkshire Dales (car needed). In Scotland, Edinburgh is the only city attraction – flights are very cheap on Easyjet (much cheaper than rail travel) if you book in advance. For scenery visit the Fort William area, but beware the midges in summer, and the weather in winter. Cornwall and the Devon coast are beautiful, but a long way from anywhere and quite tourist – you can fly there using the cheap internet airlines – cheap if you book enough in advance. No city except London merits more than one day.
So many tourist boards will bombard you with information trying to sell themselves – caveat emptor is the rule. Britain earns millions of pounds from tourists, make sure you get good independent advice on places outside of London before you even think of visiting them . Many tourist boards have been caught lying and taken to court, and one Chief Tourist Officer of a large northern city resigned because he could no longer go on lying – his city really wasn’t worth visiting despite the tourist propaganda his department put out One seaside resort has been prosecuted for doctoring photos and the 2007/8 season ads for Scotland featured snow footage that was decades old and unlikely to match the reality, due to global warming.
We wouldn’t recommend Manchester (except the Lowry), Liverpool (except for the art galleries – see our art page) despite it being city of Culture, Birmingham or anywhere in the Midlands (except for Chatworth House near Chesterfield), The Lake District ( very beautiful but too crowded unless you’re going hill walking which is excellent – if you are stay at the Gilpin Lodge and do some of the set walks, but allow two/three days minimum.), Leeds, Bradford, Hull, Newcastle (unless you like drunkenness) South Wales except the Black country or the Gower Penninsula, Blackpool – or any seaside resort except Brighton, Portsmouth, The Isle of Wight (expensive ferry) Aberdeen, Inverness (the Lochs excepted), Lancaster or Sunderland (except Hadrian’s Wall). Some of these places are grim by any standards.
If you’re a party animal only, then Manchester has a good club scene and Newcastle is good for overindulgence in alcohol and loose women, as well as streetfights – it’s where the Rolling Stones’ ‘Streetfighting Man’ comes from… A male friend was beaten up by some Geordie lasses outside a nightclub, so maybe streetfighting women as well.
The Knowhere site is good for info on smaller tourist locations, but is aimed at skateboarders – its judgement on the overall character of a place is often spot-on – though generally they’re not a very helpful bunch .
Tours of Britain departing from London – Click here
Best Value Tours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk
VisitBritain is seeking to capitalise on the success of London 2012 by launching the next stage of its multi-million pound GREAT inbound tourism campaign.
New research released by the national tourism agency shows that in cities with GREAT activity – launched ahead of the London Olympics – 75% of recent travellers would now consider a holiday in Britain.
The image campaign – which is targeting 14 cities in nine countries including Brazil, the US, Germany, India and Australia – is believed to have reached more than 90 million people so far.
The latest phase includes a seven month run of print advertising in National Geographic, advertorials in Time Out and on Yahoo!.
A new TV advert, ‘Memories are GREAT’, including images from the Olympic opening ceremony, is being positioned on leading consumer websites across the world.
A partnership with British Airways will see £5 million being invested in the US, India, China, Japan and the Middle East, encouraging people to visit the UK for Christmas shopping and the January sales.
VisitBritain is working with STA Travel to promote Britain for music, culture and shopping.
A digital campaign is planned with Expedia in France, Germany and Italy, while a shopping campaign with Virgin Australia is also underway, with a mixture of digital, radio, print and trade advertising.
VisitBritain marketing director Laurence Bresh said: “The main event may be over, but the hard work begins now.
“Britain’s image and reputation around the world is riding high; this next stage of our GREAT campaign aims to convert worldwide interest into increased bookings.
“We’ve captured the world’s imagination on TV screens over the last few weeks, and now is the time to inspire them to come to Britain.”
VisitBritain’s four-year £125 million marketing campaign aims to influence an extra 4.6 million people to choose Britain for their next holiday.
If successful, this would would help inject an additional £2.3 billion to the UK economy by the end of 2015.
Best Value Tours – www.SightseeingTours.co.uk
London is world famous for its ‘West End’ shows, for many people the theatre is the main reason for a visit.
The number of shows in London are many, covering musicals, comedy, plays and classics and are spread across London. The mainstream commercial theatre is centred in the West End around the Covent Garden and Leicester Square area, though top selling shows will also be elsewhere.
The most popular shows are often sold out well in advance, especially at the popular weekend shows.
The top shows, tend to be musicals. The current favourites that everyone wants to see are sold out weeks, sometimes months ahead, especially for popular weekend shows.
Nearly all shows start between 19:30 and 20:00 and a typical show will last between 2 hours 15 minutes and three hours. When you leave the theatre you will typically have an hour before the last Underground train runs. There is also a good night bus network that will get you to all the main hotel districts if you want to eat or drink afterwards or visit a nightclub.
If you get a cab make sure its a proper licensed cab, only London’s famous black cabs are allowed to solicit for business. Purchasing West End Theatre Tickets
When you purchase a theatre ticket, normally the best way to purchase if you can is direct in person from the theatre, for most people this is impractical.
It is not generally possible to purchase tickets direct online from the theatre, there are no e-tickets. Tickets are sold through agents of one kind or another. You can either collect the tickets or have them mailed to you.
When you purchase a theatre ticket you should be made aware of the face value, this is the normal price of the ticket if you bought direct at the theatre. Agents will normally charge you more than the face value, this is their commission and/or mailing fee. If there is an offer you will pay less than the face value of the ticket.
Discount West End Theatre Tickets Around Leicester Square in the heart of the theatre district are a number of kiosks selling ‘last minute’ discounted tickets with unsold seats for that evening.
The official half price discount office should be your first port of call. It is on the south side of Leicester Square itself, (pictured right) and is hard to miss.
There are other kiosks like that pictured below, all around Leicester Square.
Don’t expect to pick up tickets for the popular shows here they are normally sold out well in advance.
Also it may be that only the expensive seats for a show may be made available discounted – there may be cheaper stall seats available from the theatre.
If there is a particular show you want to see then book in advance, don’t gamble on the off chance that you’ll pick up something cheap on the day. As said before the very popular shows are sold out well in advance. If you want to check out the entire entertainment scene in London, covering comedy clubs, film, concerts and ballet as well as mainstream musicals then pick up a copy of Time Out in London. a weekly London entertainment magazine.
A good on-line source of discounted theatre tickets is Lastminute.com, Lastminute.com as well as doing discounted tickets also do deals combining theatre with things like restaurant meals near the theatre.
A great way to both save money and get hold of tickets otherwise not available is to purchase through a consolidator. These agents buy up blocks of seats from the theatres well in advance and bundle them with discounted hotels.
The is a large choice of hotels from the most frugal to 5 star luxury.
Needless to say we have negotiated the best online prices:
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The Italian Job Mini Cooper London Tour.
Avoid the crowds with this truly bespoke and personal sightseeing experience around the most iconic sights in London. You will have the chance to travel in real style, as you hop into the coolest car in town, joined by your local and knowledgeable guide, ready to point out some of the most amazing stories and facts about one of the world’s most amazing cities!
With your private guide, in your exclusive groovy car, you will have the opportunity to tailor your tour to your needs and interest, requesting pick up and drop off location, specific interests, and areas of London that you want to discover. This really is the ultimate in exclusive and personal sightseeing travel!The tour will include all of the most famous sights of London, cruising through the famous areas famous across the world. You will discover Royal Parks and Palaces, the illustrious West end and its many theatres, and the Roman and Medieval London, with tales and stories to bring every part to life. Discover famous film locations, unknown stories, the best restaurants, and all the best shopping and markets.
The Italian Job Tour takes in all of London’s iconic sights: – Royal Palaces, Including Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace – London Royal Parks – Whitehall, the home to many Government buildings and history (think James Bond !) – Big Ben – Houses of Parliament – London Eye – West End London – Famous for shopping, dining and Theatre – Mayfair, Bond Street, Regent Street – for upmarket boutiques and expensive jewellers – Medieval and Roman London – with history dating back to over 2000 years – Bank of England and London’s financial district – Tower Bridge – Tower of London – And so much more
You will even have the choice of blue jumpsuits to really get you in the spirit, and you can discover where the gold bars are hidden! The Tour will last for 1.5 hours, and you have the opportunity to select a pick up and drop off location. The cars can carry up to three passengers each. You will have a knowledgeable and charming local guide ready to answer your every query, to help you get the most out of London long after your tour has finished. Step away from the crowds and experience some of the charm of the coolest cars from the 60’s.
You’ll feel like a true Londoner!
Directions Pick-up point: St James’s Park Tube Station Times
Tours depart at 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, 19:00 and 21:00 daily, subject to availability.
The tour lasts approximately 1 hour.
Dates and Prices – £139.00 is per car for up to three people in a car. So for 2, £46.33 per person or 3, £39.50 per person
Travel Editor – Best Value Tours