What I liked and didn’t like about Disneyland Paris, including staying on-property. We are a Disney family. We aren’t annual pass holders level, but I would say we are almost there. We go often and...Read more
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Serving as the cultural and political hub of the United Kingdom, England's capital city is massive. London is known as one of the largest cities and urban metropolitan areas in the European Union and is a true global city for its significance in the arts, fashion, education, finance, media and tourism.
This sprawling capital city is made up of a multitude of distinct villages, districts and neighborhoods. Located in the southeastern portion of England, London is centered on the River Thames, which snakes its way through the city with all the main attractions along either side of the river. London actually has two specific city centers, the commercial capital and the government capital. Often called the Square Mile, the original once-walled-in Roman city referred to as The City or City of London is the central point of the city's commercial landscape. London's center of government is located in Westminster with such historic landmarks as Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Greater London encompasses not only Central London, but also the inner and outer boroughs.
Visitors to London will not fall short on options of things to do and places to visit. From family-friendly spots to some of history's most significant locations to museums and theaters, London plays host to a vast array of attractions. Many of its most notable attractions are those of its historic and royal past including the Queen's residence at Buckingham Palace (where you can witness the Changing of the Guard), St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. A great way to see the city from a birds-eye view is by taking a ride on the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the Thames River that rises 434 feet into the air.
Similar to New York City's Times Square, Piccadilly Circus is a bustling city center where multiple roads merge and neon lights and signs shimmer throughout the day and night. Some of the world's best museums are located in London and are must-sees including the National Gallery, Natural History Museum, the British Museum and the Tate Britain. Escape the busy city streets to one of London's many parks which offer a welcome dose of greenery. Nightlife abounds in the city and some of the best bets for entertainment include live theater performances, live music found at both top venues and lively pubs, upscale and ethnic dining options, and many trendy clubs and classic pubs. London is known for so many great things to do and see, making it a great place for any type of traveler.
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Coastal East London, South Africa, 470 mi/760 km south of Johannesburg, was established in 1836 by the British as a military post, which they used as a base during the Xhosa wars.
Today it has the wonderful East London Museum, with excellent anthropological displays, including the only known dodo egg and a stuffed coelacanth (a fish thought to have been extinct for more than 70 million years—until one was netted near East London in 1938).
While in town, also see the Gately House museum. Lovely Victorian buildings in the city center, nice beaches (popular with surfers) and an aquarium round out the city.
If you're visiting London, England, for the first time, you may arrive expecting a European city that overflows with pomp and pageantry. Few visitors to London will fail to be impressed by the grandeur and craftsmanship of such monumental sights as Westminster Abbey or St. Paul's Cathedral, but that's just the historical foundation of today's modern, vibrant city.
Cosmopolitan London has every visitor attraction from Bengali markets to designer boutiques to world-class art exhibitions to hand-written Beatles lyrics at the British Library. London offers the best of British food, fashion and cultural pursuits, but its multicultural population gives it an international flair, as well. London has a lively mix of languages, dress, festivals and bustling street life.
As for sightseeing, visitors to London can admire orchids at Kew Gardens, gaze on the crown jewels at the Tower of London, learn about millennia of history at the British Museum and witness spectacular views of the city from the London Eye Ferris wheel—all in a day. An interest in the arts or royalty may be what draws you to the capital of England, but you don't have to be an avid theatergoer or a history buff to enjoy yourself thoroughly.
Sporting and cultural events take place across the capital, showing off this festive city at its best. London is a place you will want to visit again and again, and each time you visit, the city will have something new to offer.
Sights—Westminster Abbey; St. Paul's Cathedral; the Tower of London and Tower Bridge; Shakespeare's Globe Theatre; the view from the London Eye.
Museums—The Victoria and Albert Museum, especially its British Galleries; works by Turner at the Tate Britain; antiquities at the British Museum; art collected by the first Duke of Wellington at Apsley House; the Tate Modern; Impressionist paintings at the National Gallery and the Fragonards at The Wallace Collection.
Memorable Meals—Eclectic and delicious vegetarian fare at The Gate; pub lunch at the Salisbury in the West End's theater district; afternoon tea at the English Tea Room at Brown's Hotel; dim sum at Hakkasan; fabulous French cuisine amid quirky decor at Les Trois Garcons; all-day dining at The Wolseley; Indian cuisine at Tamarind.
Late Night—Jazz at Ronnie Scott's; dancing at Fabric; a performance in the West End; cabaret and cocktails at Circus.
Walks—Through Hyde Park or St. James' Park; along the Jubilee Walkway from Lambeth Bridge to Tower Bridge; any Original London walking tour; exploring the grounds at Kew Gardens; up Primrose Hill for a panoramic view of London.
Especially for Kids—Simulators at the London Transport Museum; the ZSL London Zoo; the giant, animatronic T. Rex at the Natural History Museum; the Science Museum; Warner Brothers Studios Harry Potter Tour.
London sprawls along both banks of the River Thames. Orientation is by boroughs (Westminster and the City are the central boroughs) or by areas, such as Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden. Locals use postal districts, or "postcodes" (Mayfair, Oxford Street and Park Lane, for instance, are in W1—that is, West 1; Bloomsbury and part of the City are in WC2, or West Central 2; Central Kensington falls within W8; South Kensington and Knightsbridge are in SW7). Postcodes are also becoming the quickest way of finding places, as they can be put into smartphone maps and online journey planners.
Central London can be divided into the West End (theaters, shops, restaurants, entertainment); the City (businesses, law courts, ancient buildings and ultramodern architecture); and Westminster (government offices, famous landmarks such as Big Ben). Across the river is the South Bank, with its arts venues and concert halls. Slightly beyond the reaches of central London, some of the districts that have experienced regeneration include Notting Hill, W11 (on the fringes of the West End); Greenwich, SE10 (south of the river); Hoxton and Shoreditch in N1 and EC2; Eastside, E1 (just north and east of Liverpool Street railway terminus); and the Olympic Park area called Stratford City (with the new postcode E20).
Although there is some evidence of Celtic settlements along the Thames, London's first known permanent settlers were the Romans, who established a stronghold there in AD 43. The city walls (parts of which can be seen today) were built after Londinium was burned to the ground by the Iceni tribe in AD 60. Viking and Saxon invaders were next to put down roots. And it was the Viking warrior Canute who first declared London the capital of England in 1016, a position it has held ever since.
The London we know today began to take shape in the 11th century, when Edward the Confessor commissioned the original building of Westminster Abbey. Shortly after its completion, William the Conqueror launched the Norman invasion in 1066 and seized the English throne. His fortress formed the core of the Tower of London. In the 1300s, bubonic plague, called the "Black Death," wiped out about half the city's inhabitants, reducing its population to around 50,000. Under Tudor rule in the 16th century, however, London tripled in size.
Also during that time, the English church separated from Rome, and religious persecution was rampant. That century also ushered in one of London's greatest artistic periods: The reign of Elizabeth I was the age of Shakespeare and other artists whose work is still admired today. In 1666, the Great Fire destroyed much of inner London (a happier consequence is that it also put an end to the worst plague outbreak, the Great Plague of 1665). The ambitious rebuilding process, spearheaded by architect Christopher Wren, destroyed virtually all that remained of medieval London.
During the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, London continued to grow and prosper under the reign of Queen Victoria. But just as the rich were getting richer, social divisions were becoming wider, with slums dramatically on the increase.
World War II brought devastation to London again—mainly during 57 consecutive days of bombing in 1940 (a period known as the Blitz). After the war, mass immigration from Britain's former colonies signaled the beginning of the multiculturalism seen throughout the city today. The 1960s were modern London's golden age, with much of the world seeking to emulate its swinging rhythm and freewheeling fashions and design. After a subsequent boom-and-bust period, there is now an unmistakable self-confidence in London, which prevails despite the world's current economic woes.
In honor of the millennium, a number of new landmarks were built, including the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian-only route across the Thames, which leads to the Tate Modern art gallery, the huge Ferris wheel known as the London Eye, and the O2 Arena. More construction coincided with the city's hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games. With new hotels, galleries, stadiums and museums, the city is as vibrant as it has ever been.
Contrary to reputation, London's annual rainfall is less than that of New York, Sydney or Tokyo. However, London's problem is not total rainfall but the high number of days on which there is some rainfall.
In 2012, London became the only city to host the modern Olympic Games for the third time. It also staged the summer Olympic Games in 1908 and 1948.
Aldwych Tube Station makes frequent appearances in TV shows such as Sherlock and Mr Selfridge. It also sheltered people from the Blitz during World War II.
There was once a Tube station on the Central line between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn. The station is still there, but trains don't stop. Keep your eyes open and you may glimpse the ghostly platforms.
London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is the site of the largest-ever planting project in the U.K., with more than 4,000 trees, 74,000 dry-land plants, 60,000 bulbs and 350,000 wetlands plants.
Cleopatra's Needle, on the Victoria Embankment near the Golden Jubilee Bridges, is one of a trio of Egyptian obelisks from the Egyptian city of Heliopolis that were made around 1450 BC. The others are in Paris and New York. None of them has any connection with Cleopatra.
The winter of 1683-84 saw one of the most famous of London's "frost fairs." From December to February, the Thames was completely frozen, and the town responded with an ongoing midwinter party in the middle of the river. At one point, a whole ox was roasted on the ice. Virginia Woolf writes about the fairs in her novel Orlando, published in 1928.
The main international cruises dock at the London Cruise Terminal, a small 1930s complex located on the River Thames at Tilbury Docks, 25 mi/40 km downriver from the city center. It provides mooring for all full-size cruise ships. Facilities at the terminal are limited. The immediate surroundings are heavily industrialized with no local attractions, so access is by coach to and from central London (the trip takes about an hour). Independent travelers may make a 1-hour train journey into London from Tilbury Town station, which is reached on a free shuttle bus from the cruise terminal.
Some small luxury ships may moor at Greenwich Ship Tier floating cruise terminal at Greenwich, in east London, while Tower Bridge Upper cruise mooring accommodates still smaller cruise ships in the heart of London beside Tower Bridge. Small ships can also moor at West India Dock, alongside the modern business quarter Canary Wharf, on the eastern edge of the City,
London is mainly a starting point for cruises rather than a port of call. Most cruise passengers visiting London on a shore excursion dock at Dover (78 mi/126 from London) or Southampton (80 mi/129 km).
All cruises docking at London offer tours of the city as a shore excursion, usually including the option to visit pubs or restaurants and take in a popular show at a West End theater.
This region of south-central Ontario, located midway between Toronto and Windsor, took great joy in modeling itself after England: London has its own Thames River, and nearby Stratford, namesake of Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, has its own internationally acclaimed theater festival and its own Avon River.
Originally an agricultural community, several of the attractions in London focus on local history: Fanshawe Pioneer Village is a re-creation of a town from the 1800s that presents crafts demonstrations. Iroquoian life around the year 1000 is the focus of the Ska-Nah-Doht Iroquoian Village.
Eldon House, built in 1834, is the city's oldest building, and you can also visit many fine Victorian residences in town. You'll also find an abundance of outdoor markets and just a few minutes outside the city, you'll see why it's still considered agriculturally based.
Stratford, located 35 mi/55 km northwest of London, is famous for the Stratford Festival, one of the best Shakespearean performance series anywhere. Each season (April-November), several of the bard's works are performed in Stratford's three theaters, and they're supplemented by non-Shakespearean plays that range from Greek tragedies to contemporary dramas. In addition to the performances themselves, you can tour the festival's costume shops and backstage areas, attend discussions with actors in some of the plays, see live concert recitals and listen to readings by famous authors.
While in town, take time to enjoy the tranquil park that stretches alongside the Avon River—picnicking before the show is a Stratford tradition. Stratford boasts a surprising assortment of upscale dining options; many establishments offer a picnic option as well. Take a ride on a double-decker bus or a paddleboat cruise along the Thames. Stratford is also the hometown of singer and teenage heartthrob Justin Bieber.
Londonderry, Northern Ireland, a very old seaport 65 mi/105 km northwest of Belfast, was founded in AD 546, and so it's been visited by many, many people touring Ireland. Now it's called Londonderry by the Protestants and Derry by the Catholics. You can walk around the top of the old city walls, a circuit of about 1 mi/2 km, and visit historic buildings. Another top attraction in the area is the fascinating Giant's Causeway.
The four original gates of medieval Londonderry still stand in welcome, and one of the best ways to see the city is on a guided tour. The Tourist Information Centre at 8 Bishop St. offers an excellent one. Sights include the Gothic St. Columb Cathedral and the Guildhall (beautiful stained-glass windows line the staircase). Behind the Guildhall is the port from which millions of Irish left for North America.
Our favorite attraction is the splendid town walls, which stand 20 ft/6 m high and were never breached, not even during the 105-day Siege of Derry in 1688 (the longest siege in British history). You can walk all the way around the top of the ramparts, and historical panels explain the surrounding buildings and features.
Other draws include the Tower Museum (with artifacts from prehistoric times to the present), traditional music in many of the city's pubs, and quaint houses lining narrow streets such as Albert Row and Nailer Row.
One of Ireland's largest Halloween parties occurs in Londonderry. Many Western Halloween traditions originated in Ireland. Trick-or-treating began there, as did the carving of jack-o'-lanterns. Turnips were used until the Irish began emigrating to the U.S., where pumpkins were more plentiful.
Also check out the Earhart Centre in Ballyarnet Natural Park, 3 mi/5 km north of Londonderry, where Amelia Earhart landed after a 1932 trans-Atlantic flight. And if you've ever been curious about the origins of the tune "Danny Boy," visit the town of Limavady, where Jane Ross annotated the notes of the "Londonderry Air" from an itinerant fiddler, whom local tradition names Blind Jimmy McCurry. The words of "Danny Boy" were later put to this tune by Fred Weatherly, an English lawyer and lyricist.
A short drive away, across the Republic of Ireland's border in County Donegal, is the impressive Grianan of Ailech, an ancient round fort set on a hilltop. http://www.visitderry.com.
New London and adjacent Groton were one city until 1705. They're nearly midway between New York City and Boston, along the Thames River (pronounced as it looks, not like the river in England) and Long Island Sound. Both cities have been known for shipbuilding: The world's first atomic-powered submarine was built in Groton by General Dynamics. You can learn about submarines at the USS Nautilus Memorial (where the first nuclear-powered sub is open for tours) and the adjacent Submarine Force Museum.
While in New London, take time to visit some of the impressive old homes and stroll along the beautiful coastline. Visit the Shaw-Perkins Mansion; the Joshua Hempstead House (1648); the Nathaniel Hempstead House (1759); Monte Cristo Cottage (the home in which playwright Eugene O'Neill spent summers as a child); and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Ocean Beach Park is a major recreation area, good for ocean swimming. The Yale-Harvard Regatta, a classic Ivy League rowing competition, takes place in June in New London.
In Groton, you can visit Fort Griswold State Park, which commemorates the Revolutionary War battle during which Benedict Arnold directed British forces to burn New London and Groton. Also in the park is the Ebenezer Avery House, a restored home from the 1700s. Learn about oceanography and marine biology by taking a cruise on EnviroLab, a working research vessel that lets passengers participate in studies of the sea. Subfest, a family-friendly festival, takes place in July.
Nearby Ledyard is home to Foxwoods, a resort-casino run by the Mashantucket Pequot Indians that is said to be one of the highest-grossing casinos in the world. This upscale resort offers the usual casino attractions (slots, roulette, poker, blackjack and baccarat) as well as shows by such top-name entertainers as Bill Cosby, B. B. King and Tom Jones. The income the tribe has received from the casino has financed the lavish Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. It includes a simulated glacier, a 2-acre/1-hectare indoor re-creation of a Pequot village in the 1500s (complete with the smell of burning wood), film and video programs and a restaurant serving Native American cuisine. Uncasville also has a casino, the Mohegan Sun.
Other possible side trips include Old Lyme and Essex. Old Lyme is a small town west of New London with beautiful beaches and lovely old homes. It has been a favorite summer retreat for artists since the early 1900s, when it was a center of the American impressionism movement. Essex looks the way most people think a quaint New England town should look. It has beautiful colonial homes and two blocks of shops, as well as a first-rate marina and a maritime museum. The Valley Railroad operates a vintage steam train along the scenic route to Deep River Station, and visitors can also take a riverboat cruise. The Ivoryton Playhouse (just east of Essex) stages theatrical performances. New London is 45 mi/75 km southeast of Hartford.
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