Once you get to know the city, London is actually fairly compact. Like in Paris, a lot of tourists make the mistake of taking the underground from one landmark to another instead of walking, but if you spend time “over ground”, you will get a fuller picture of the city—and you will realize that walking from point A to point B isn’t difficult… if the weather cooperates, of course.
We spent quite a lot of time in a few tourist spots, including Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Victoria Embankment and Piccadilly Circus, all within walking distance from each other.
Piccadilly Circus is a road junction that connects Regent Street with the major shopping street of Piccadilly. The busy meeting place looks like a small Times Square, with neon signs, billboards, theatres, tourist traps and lots of American-style franchised restaurants and flagship stores. The memorial fountain with The Angel of Christian Charity is invariable crowded, and there are often buskers around to entertain tourists.
Piccadilly isn’t my favourite place: there isn’t much to see and I’m not a huge fan of most of the flagship stores around. We often ended up there because of the small Chinatown nearby, a great place to grab a cheap bite.
I first discovered Trafalgar Square on Canada Day, the last time we were in London—it was quite a surprise to see Canada celebrated in the heart of London! Like Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square is a large public space and main tourist attraction, often used for community gatherings. At its centre is Nelson’s Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of embassies and diplomatic missions around, including the big Canada House (hence the Canada Day celebrations being held there, I guess!).
Covent Garden is another popular shopping and tourist site. In the central square is a former vegetable market, now housing small cafés and eateries—Covent Garden Market. It is surrounded by elegant buildings, theatres and entertainment facilities, and a bunch of somewhat classy “French” restaurants. Covent Garden is a good place to grab a bite in a traditional pub… just avoid eating in the Market building where food is expensive and space at a premium.
Finally, Victoria Embankment is a nice river-walk along the north bank of the River Thames, running from the Palace of Westminster to Blackfriars Bridge. It’s a great viewpoint for many major landmarks, including the famous London Eye on the other side of the river.
You can see all the pictures taken in London on Flickr.