For ages, London has inspired artists, playwrights, novelists, poets and philosophers. Today, among millennial tourists, it is most famously the city of Sherlock Holmes and the Harry Potter movies. Whether you are a fan of the Royals, curious about the Koh-i-Noor, believe in the magical world of Hogwarts, or revere the Bard’s works, London will welcome you with open arms. Given its ethnic diversity, don’t be surprised if you find people speaking your native tongue round the corner. A lot of history is suffused in the air of this great city, polish your British courtesies and take a walk through the pages.
Airlines like Air India, Jet Airways, and British Airways offer non-stop flights every day from Delhi to London that take just over nine hours. For tourism purpose, you can apply for a Standard Visitor Visa to the UK. It costs £89. The earliest you can apply is three months before your trip dates and you can stay for a maximum of six months in the UK. For details on the visa process and eligibility, see gov.uk/standard-visitor-visa
What to See And Do
Do not miss Buckingham Palace, the home of Queen Elizabeth II. The tour includes access to the 19 State Rooms which display some rare pieces from the Royal collection and are decorated with chandeliers, classic paintings by masters like Rembrandt, and beautiful furniture. Try to catch the change of guards ceremony that starts at 11am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from January to March.
Also visit the Tower of London, aka Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, to get a sneak peek into thousand years of history and some crown jewels including the Koh-i-Noor. Explore Norman architecture and the Royal Armouries Collections in the White Tower, which was built to intimidate Londoners and foreign invaders. (tickets for adults cost £24 online; hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london)
For a taste of what local life looks like, go to Hyde Park, one of the capital's eight Royal Parks. Spread over an area of 350 acres, Hyde Park hosts many famous landmarks like the Serpentine Lake, Speakers' Corner and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Go here to take a relaxed day off and indulge in open-water swimming, boating, horseriding or biking.
Take a walk through Oxford Street for an evening of shopping, all prominent brands included, and end it with some inventive cocktails on a rooftop bar. See oxfordstreet.co.uk to plan your visit.
Harry Potter fans, don't miss the magic at King’s Cross station. Platform 9 3/4 has a store here, where you can shop for some memorabilia or just pose at the all-too-familiar-portal to Hogwarts Express.
Madame Tussauds continues to be a prime attraction for visitors with its wax statues of prominent personalities offering unique selfie opportunities (from £29; madametussauds.com/London). You can also combine this experience with other attractions like the London Eye or Sea Life aquarium on the website.
If you’re a Sherlock Holmes fan, you must visit the famed home of the detective and his accomplice, Dr Watson. Head to 221b, Baker Street, which is a museum (since 1990) set up in an 1815 house. The first-floor study of the house has been maintained as it was in Victorian times. The museum displays exhibits in period rooms, wax figures and memorabilia. (adult ticket £15; sherlock-holmes.co.uk ) Nearby, cricket lovers can visit the Lords Cricket Ground at St John’s Wood, an iconic venue of the gentleman’s game.
If you love your museums and galleries, London has plenty to keep you occupied. Visit the Tate Modern (tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern) for a taste of international modern and contemporary art, the Natural History Museum on Cromwell Road (nhm.ac.uk), and the National Gallery (nationalgallery.org.uk) at Trafalgar Square to witness classic art dating back to the mid-13th century.
While you’re in London, you won’t miss the Tower Bridge and the Big Ben. You could also opt for a hop-on hop-off tour of the city, to visit the attractions on your own terms (bigbustours). Many such tour packages also include discounted entry tickets to attractions.
The iconic London Eye is worth a ride just for the views it provides. The giant Ferris wheel on the south bank of Thames takes you 135 metres above terra firma from where you can look over the river and central London. You can also book special trips like one that allows two visits in a day or one that includes champagne for two, to go with the view.
The 700-year-old Westminster Abbey, west of the Palace of Westminster, is a must-visit for its stunning Gothic architecture. (entry £20; westminster-abbey.org)
Any article on London is incomplete without a Shakespeare mention. Visit The Globe, the present-day working theatre that’s located a few hundred yards from the original site of the 1599 structure. Take tours of the theatre and the Bankside to get a primer on Shakespeare’s working life and the evolution of the area since then (shakespearesglobe.com). Theatre enthusiasts can also visit The St. Martin's Theatre in the West End district that has been playing Agatha Christie's play "The Mousetrap" since 1974.
Day trips can be planned to Oxford, Bath, Stonehenge, Salisbury, or Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-upon-Avon. Take a day out for Greenwich, which gives its name to Greenwich Mean Time. It’s also home to the Royal Observatory Greenwich, now a museum that lets you witness the Prime Meridian Line, UK’s largest refracting telescope, and a 4.5 billion year-old asteroid. Also explore the National Maritime Museum and go to the Greenwich market to collect some antiques or gifts.
What to Eat And Drink
If you’re in London and are already missing Indian food, fear not! Dishoom in Shoreditch promises the traditional charm of the old Irani cafes of Bombay. Voted 'Best Restaurant in the UK' by Yelp users in 2015 & 2016, it promises to take you back to the Bombay of 60s, whilst in London.
The city has had a street food revolution in recent years. London’s most famous gastronomical market destination is Borough Market (Southwark Street, boroughmarket.org.uk), one of the world’s oldest and biggest produce markets, and a pioneer in reinventing London’s food scene. It has around 130 food stalls, restaurants, bars and cafÃ©s.
Broadway Market (Hackney,broadwaymarket.co.uk) is a fashionable Saturday market attracting over 6,000 people a day. The market is mixed, selling arts, craft and clothes, but food predominates. Hot foods straight from simmering saucepans, hot-plates and woks compete for attention with artisan-made breads, cakes, cheeses plus all the fruit and vegetables.
Exmouth Market (Clerkenwell, exmouth-market.com) and Whitecross Street Market (Islington, whitecrossstreet.co.uk) have established reputations for the food-conscious, albeit only at weekday lunchtimes as they are in largely commercial districts.
Where to Stay
For an opulent stay in a heritage Edwardian structure, book your stay in Rosewood London, near Covent Garden (from £510 in August; rosewoodhotels.com/en/london).
For a budget option in a historic neighbourhood, The Arosfa Hotel is a refurbished 200-year old Georgian Town House in the district of Bloomsbury, which has been home to some great writers, scientists and philosophers. The former home of artist Sir John Everett Millais, the hotel is directly opposite the Waterstones Bookshop (formerly Dillons of London) and has many small bookshops nearby (from £98; arosfalondon.com)
If you’re a Potterhead, Georgian House Hotel, close to Victoria station, has two ‘Wizard Chambers’ that have been designed to give guests the feel of spending a night at Hogwarts. Each bedroom has a four-poster ‘Muggle-size’ bed; potion bottles; cauldrons and other Harry Potter-themed items. The stay package includes a ‘Muggle walking tour’ of London that takes guests to places linked to the Harry Potter universe. Guests can also take the Harry Potter studio tour, getting on to the tour bus from Victoria Station to reach the Warner Bros studio in a London suburb (georgianhousehotel.co.uk ).
Want more of London? Check out our Photo Feature on London, Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham.