London feels like the biggest city in the world. It’s not like Manhattan with an iconic skyline, or somewhere like Paris with most things in a definite center of the city. Sure, Parliament and the London Eye are near each other, but London expands way beyond city center. In fact, you could take the subway or train a couple hours in either direction and still be within city limits.
When you’re looking at a metropolis that is this sprawling, how do travelers know the best way to explore London? Should they spend the whole holiday budget on taxis, or try to get some exercise by walking? How about cycling options? What works best?
Walking in London
I’ve never walked so much in my life until I moved to a large city. I now consider it my favorite way of getting around. It’s free, fresh air (kind of) and on your own time. I don’t miss a thing by walking, unlike when I take the underground ‘tube’ subway and zoom past all the good stuff.
Walking has encouraged me to explore other cities by foot as well – once your used to the distance it doesn’t seem so bad. Weather in London doesn’t stop me either, as a brisk walk can often be quicker than public transport. This is especially true in colder weather, as everyone fights for the bus. Just walk and get there in the same amount of time!
When I have friends and family visiting London, I make sure we spend most of the time walking. It’s the best way to sightsee in my opinion. After we hit all the hotspots, it’s fun to use the Explore Your City tool to find new things to experience. It’s great to pinpoint your hotel or Airbnb to find what’s walkable nearby.
Biking in London
If you’re extending your stay in London or seeing other parts of the UK, it can be worth investing in a bicycle. It’s the gear of choice for commuters and go-getters in the city. Laws protect cyclists on the streets and there are many bike-only paths to take throughout London.
Someone even made a subway-like map for those visiting London who prefer to explore on two wheels. The city has Boris bikes for rent, but if you are semi-nomadic or staying a bit longer, buying a bike can be wonderful. Decathlon has tons of bike options and storefronts throughout the city. You can have a tune-up at the store too. They also have gear like helmets, bike locks, tarps and tire pumps if you just need accessories for your rental.
A bit of both in London
Locals like me know that you need to utilize every mode of transport to get from point A to point B. There is a very good chance you will be walking somewhere, taking a bus, then the tube (underground), maybe an overground train and even renting/buying a bicycle to save some time. No matter what, allot a good chunk of time for your journey to get anywhere and don’t stress when variables happen. It’s all part of the adventure.
My favorite tools for navigating London are below!
Fitbit Alta: Just for fun, it helps track steps and distance, as well as if you have rigorous activity during your day. I like to try to stay on routine a little while travelling too, and this FitBit will track your sleeping and eating habits. Avoid the sniffles and stay healthy to use your trip time to the best of your ability. Mine from John Lewis has been on my wrist for the past two months and is a game changer.
City Mapper: One of my favorite apps for traveling though London. Google Maps is good too, but City Mapper was made for those who don’t have a clue – like me. Pre-load your home-base and search your next location. Then, they tell you exactly which buses to take (with real-time updates), which is the best tube car to get into, which exit to leave the station and more. It also let you know how far a bike or walk would be and how many calories you’d burn. It’s everything.
Explore The City: Download on your phone or even carry around a paper copy. These neighborhoods and location/centric guides show things off the beaten path in London’s best boroughs. It tell you how many steps each attraction is to walk to, the cost and other essential details for a great day out in London.
An Umbrella: For serious. Yes I know it’s sunny when you leave for the morning but that means nothing, Bring an umbrella everywhere, or something with a hood, trust me.
When you travel to a big city, how do you get around? Did you think London was overwhelming? Or did you love it?