Move over, Big Ben! There’s so much more to see of London than meets the London Eye
For any of you who’ve done the London vacation and hit all the old standbys (Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Primark) then like us you’re probably dying to know what the locals recommend, and how they’d spend their time if they had a few days to take in one of Europe’s most iconic cities. And what can we say, having a team of on-the-ground photographers that double as local guides certainly has its perks! Here is our coveted list of travel tips and sights to check out straight from our London Flytographers, Jackie King and Jimmy Cheng.
Skip That Big Red Bus
“If you are not in a rush, two-day London trip, then you should avoid the popular hop-on-hop-off bus. Instead, take the bus no. 15 from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill. This route still runs by the oldest heritage red double-decker bus (a.k.a the Routemaster). However, there’s a slight change this year in order to preserve these old buses and also to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, so they are only running between March to September, weekends only. But if you are travelling within this time, this is a MUST do and see, and an unforgettable experience to say the least.” —Jimmy Cheng
Get an Oyster Card As Soon As You Leave the Airport or Train Station
“Many places accept contactless credit cards these days, including the underground, restaurants and supermarkets (up to £30 per transaction). So it’s very convenient to just tap and go. However, to save a bit of money (mostly from the exchange rate and service charge from your credit cards or banks), use the Oyster Card instead to travel within London. FYI: The old routemaster bus mentioned above only accepts Oyster Cards and paper tickets, you can’t use your contactless credit cards.” —J.C
Photo: Jimmy in London for Flytographer
Brixton Village is a Hidden Gem
“This higher-end indoor market (located behind the Brixton train station) has an array of awesome individually owned restaurants and vintage shops, and Studio 73 is a cool urban gallery in a Victorian arcade.” —J.K.
Tired of Tourist Traps?
“If you’ve exhausted the London landmarks or this is your second trip to London, head to this lesser known area for some unusual surprises. St. Dunstan in the East, not far from the Tower of London, is a pretty cool church ruin that rarely gets visited. Platform 5 at Baker Street underground station and Hill Garden by Hampstead Heath are all unique and special places.” —J.C.
The Victoria & Albert Museum Cafe
“Head to this spot for amazing tea and CAKE (capitals necessary) in a stunning setting.” —J.K.
Views of West London Mews
“Mews are traditional London terrace houses that are small but full of character, all privately owned and mostly residential. The owners spend a huge amount of effort in keeping them original and you can get a few nice photos there. Owners don’t mind tourists, but just be respectful to residents and don’t make loud noises and keep the area clean and tidy. There are plenty to see, just do a quick Google search.” —J.C.
Late Night at the Museum
“Friday or Saturday Lates at the museums (as they’re called in England) equal less people and more fun. Many have live DJs and cocktails, and at TATE Modern you can get a lot closer to the art than during the day.” —J.K.
A Free View of London from Above
“There are many options to see London from great heights. Shard and the London Eye are two very popular options, but both are ticketed venues. Sky Garden is similar but free. There’s a bar there and you can just get a drink and enjoy the view for as long as you want. But as it’s free and known to locals, it’s always full. Be sure to pre-book your time slot from their website in advance. And I mean, way in advance!!” —J.C
When Ordering Fish and Chips
“Of course you need to try them, but make sure you read the manual or ask the waiter to check if the batter is ‘beer-batter.’ This is the traditional cooking method and the secret of using beer is that the gas in the beer helps puff up the batter during the deep fry to make the batter much crispier.” —J.C.
What Time to Order Fish and Chips
“Try them just after midday so the fish and chips are freshly cooked, or if trying you’re them in the evening, try to leave ordering until at least an hour after the shop opens again, so they are super fresh.” —J.K.
Be On the Lookout for Traditional Dishes
“Traditional English dishes are actually not very common. Bangers and Mash or Sausage and mash, and Boiled Eels are hard to find in London restaurants. But if come across one, try it.” —J.C.
Take a Dip in a Lido
“Any swimming fans? Try the variety of lidos around London—a lido is public outdoor swimming pool—and the Brockwell lido is one of the best!” —J.K.
Go to Greenwich
“Most tourists skip this place as it isn’t too central, but I would highly suggest everyone go. The Old Royal Navy College is nothing but spectacular. It’s used in films like Harry Potter, Avengers and many, many movies. There you will also find Cutty Sark, one of the oldest merchant ships on display. It’s a museum too, so if you like history or are a ship fanatic, this is a must-see. You will also find the only pedestrian underwater crossing along the River Thames next to Cutty Sark! It’s a pretty fun experience. Last, you will find the Royal Observatory up at the top of the hill. There you will see the brass line on the ground. This line marks the GMT time zone (Greenwich Mean Time), so you know where the GMT starts!” —J.C. (And what a great opportunity for a professional photo shoot!)
Kew Royal Botanic Gardens
“It has the biggest glass greenhouse in London and it’s pretty all around it. Worth a look if you like gardens and flowers.” —J.C.
Your Go-To Pub
The Shakespeare Pub along from the Embankment tube is one of Jackie’s favourites! Don’t forget most pubs aren’t on table service. So if you don’t go to the bar, you’ll be waiting indefinitely.—J.K.