- WHERE TO STAY
- PUBLIC TRANSPORT
- CRUISE PORTS
The City of London as defined by the old city walls sits on the north side of the River Thames to the east of the area where most visitors go.
The heart of the City of London is now and always has been the commercial heart of London. The riverfront between the Tower of London and Blackfriars used to be the port of London.
This has long vanished but the dense network of alleys and lanes behind the shore still remains, including the infamous Pudding Lane, starting place of the Fire of London.
Although the City of London is very interesting there is no denying that much of London the visitor wants to see is the other side of central London, certainly in the evening for theatre and nightlife.
For most, the London Underground is the way into and out of the City of London. This means going west either along the north bank of the River Thames all the way to Westminster on the Central and District lines or the Central line running a little north of this route.
If you are a night owl, there are many night buses that connect the area directly to the rest of central London when the Underground is closed.
A very popular option for visitors to get orientated with London is to use the hop on, hop off tour buses. There are two major operators, the Original London Tour and the Big Bus. Both, of course, visit the Tower of London, with other stops for the London Dungeon by London Bridge, the Monument and St Paul's Cathedral.
One other delightful alternative is to use the river transport. There are two piers either side of Tower Bridge with various schedules available for both routes down the river. On some services, you can even use your Oyster Card or get a discount with a Travelcard. Most popular for visitors are probably City Cruises (pictured) who have the contract for both of London's major hop on, hop off sightseeing buses that include a free river cruise.
The most popular route is Tower Pier to the London Eye or Big Ben opposite, a beautiful river journey of about 40 minutes. In the opposite direction, City Cruises are one of several riverboats going to Greenwich, famous for the meridian line.
The central commercial area around Bank is quite atmospheric with much fine architecture and olde worlde pubs and half-forgotten churches. During the week this area is throbbing with activity, but at weekends it's like a ghost town with many shops closed. There is little accommodation in this area of the City of London.
As one of the main financial districts in the world, there is an awful lot of affluent people working in the area and nearly all the businesses are geared up to extracting their cash rather than from the tourists. It's a historic area with narrow alleys and lanes to explore and some of the most atmospheric pubs in London, well worth a visit to savour. It is completely different to what you will find further west in London where there are more visitors.
The Bank of England has a free museum that is worth visiting if you are at all interested in money.
The Museum of London, north of St Paul's Cathedral at Barbican, is recommended (free admission), as it tells the story of London right from the paleolithic era, through Roman, medieval and all the way to the present day.
Ancient Roman tombstones and a cache of coins are on display, there's lots on the Great Fire as well as Oliver Cromwell's death mask.
On the south side of the river, there is a great riverside walk, atmospheric streets and a great choice of restaurants, as well as a couple of shopping centres housed in restored, characterful buildings.
The Tower of London is also a popular starting place for the Jack the Ripper walking tours, that explore the scenes of the murders in the east of this district around Aldgate.
The main area of interest to the visitor is around the Tower of London. There are several large 4-star hotels in the area and a few budget chains.
This area and the area on the opposite side of the river has been developed in the last couple of decades from an area of old dock warehouses to become one of the nicest areas of London for visitors to relax.
The business area or the square mile as it is called is the oldest part of London and is well worth exploring. The main gateway to the area is Liverpool Street Station with commuter services to the north and east of London. London Bridge, Cannon Street and Waterloo stations provide the same function for those living south of the river.
For the visitor the most fertile area to explore is around the Bank area, the bank being the Bank of England. We have a self-guided short walk that although not long crams a lot into a short distance. By following the section between the Tower of London to St Paul's Cathedral you will experience much of the best the area has to offer.
The walk contains main attractions plus a lot of hidden gems as well. Part of the delight of the City of London is exploring your own hidden gem, as there are so many of them. Walking is by far the best way of getting to know the district.
Most of the hotels in the area and the only real area where the tourist industry impacts your experience is around the Tower of London.
At the weekends, room rates crash as the financiers retreat to the country. You can at this time get the best of both worlds, a very nice hotel at a competitive price with lots to see and do all around.
There are good Underground links to the rest of London and using some form of river transport from one of the piers should be experienced at least once to give a different perspective of the city.
In the evening, Jack the Ripper walking tours are popular, as is Brick Lane and the area around Spitalfields and Leadenhall Market, now atmospheric venues for restaurants and bars.
On the opposite side of the river is Butler's Wharf of a similar ilk and you can walk along the River Thames South Bank as far as you want - the London Eye and Big Ben are less than an hour away. You won't manage it in anywhere near that time though as there is so much to see and experience on the way.