Meet Winter London

My first date with London took place in February, the coldest and most hellish month in the UK. Still, it is hard not to fall in love with this city, no matter how chilly and gloomy it is. In fact, some people may like winter, gothic-looking London even more. This capital is the center of the world for me, there are so many places to see and things to do; London is overwhelming, and a week there might be not enough to see all the sights you would like to. At least for me, it was not enough.

As I mentioned, I have been to London in winter only. There is no doubt it would be more enjoyable to visit this breathtaking city in a warmer time of the year. Still, I found some pros in my winter stay. First of all, it is not as crowded as in summer (and by crowded in London city center I mean that you would feel like a sardine in the can), and you actually can walk the Themes banks without elbowing people around. You should dress very warm, though; do not believe the weather forecast and make sure you take a hat, scarf, and a flask of scotch with you. It will be much colder than you expect because of the high humidity. As for umbrella, you may leave it at home or in your hotel room when you go out - it drizzles sometimes, but the real rain does not happen too often. Plus, your flask of scotch may help you not to pay attention to the drizzle.

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Secondly, the winter weather does add some gothic charm and decadent atmosphere to the city. You can imagine the way it looked at the times of Jack the Ripper or picture Lord Byron walking down the streets or having a glass of wine in one of the old pubs.

Food and The Pub Crawl

As for pubs, to me, it is the absolute must to do the pub crawl in London. The pub crawl is a national game of Londoners, where you walk from pub to pub, and the next pub should always be the very first one in your sight. Prices gonna bite you hard, so if you like to drink a lot, you should be prepared. Drinks will cost you 6-25 pounds, depending on the place and the drink. The best of London pubs price/quality wise was the Samuel Smiths (it is a chain of bars also known in the States): drinks were twice cheaper over there. If you are the devoted one, you can download an app called Drinki on your phone and walk from bar to bar asking for a free drink of the day. I have been to some amazing historical pubs. Plus, London actually has a historical pub tour if you do not feel like looking for them on your own. There is something for everyone in this beautiful city, but it is definitely not a budget travel destination.

The national museums of London are free, but trust me, it is not gonna save your pockets. The famous Cathedrals are not free of charge, as well as famous sights. As for meals in the pubs and cafes, I had very good and very bad ones. If you do not have much money and do not wanna risk an upset stomach - find a popular chain of pubs or cafes; food should be decent there. I loved the food in some pubs of non-touristic Chelsea, but again, it was not cheap.

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In almost every pub you will find the famous Chicken curry and Shepherd's pie. Surprisingly, fish&chips are not as popular in the capital as in the smaller English towns; and the quality of even the most iconic English dishes can be pretty poor if you are not lucky. Bottom line, if you want to have a decent meal, go to a proper looking place and avoid tacky looking pubs or cafes.

Getting started with London

The diversity of places will surprise you. You should definitely spend a couple of evenings at the famous Piccadilly Circus, the center of London's nightlife. There you will find whatever you fancy: bars, pubs, theaters, shows, night clubs; the Chinatown is also there. If you use the underground, you can either go to the Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square station - they are pretty close from each other.

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What is actually good about London is the underground; it is pretty easy to see all the sights using the tube (if your line is working, of course). London Underground is the oldest subway in the world, and issues with it do happen often. If you are interested in attending the Sherlock and Madame Tussauds museums, you will actually see the oldest Tube Station in the world - the Baker Street Station.

The Tower and its ravens

If you visit London in winter, you most probably will spend a lot of time indoors, and London has much to offer if you decide to do so. You should not avoid the outdoors, though. I was actually happy to visit the Tower of London in winter, it did look sullen and added the realistic sinister entourage to the experience. You will enjoy watching the ravens of Tower, too. They all have names and different personalities. If you are lucky, a Beefeater may tell you some funny stories about some of them. Today, there are seven ravens at the Tower (the traditional six plus one spare). All of the Beefeaters at the Tower have an excellent, edgy sense of humor, as most of the military guys would have. At present, there are 37 Yeomen Warders ( Beefeaters) at the Tower of London. To become one of them is not easy at all. A candidate is to have at least 22 years of service in the Armed Forces. Besides, all Yeomen Warders must have been awarded the ‘Long Service and Good Conduct’ medal while they have served in the armed forces.

Museums

Museums of London are impressive as well - there is so much to see, no matter if you are interested in war, art, or history.

If you plan to visit the British Museum, you might need to spend 2-3 days in there just to see all the expositions. I, personally, spent more than one hour there just to take a quick look at the very famous Egyptian exhibition (the Mummy of Katebet and Rosetta Stone). I find these two would be probably the most important objects to see, even though there is plenty of other exciting things to explore.

The British Museum building is remarkable on its own, it is very classic looking on the outside with a modern main hall on the inside. Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington is very impressive as well. It is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, but it may be a little boring if you do not have a guide with you.

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Other Landmarks

As for bus hop-on-hop-off city-tours - you may like it and you may not. I bought a ticket for one and hardly used it at all. It should be good for summer time if you sit on the upper deck, but for winter it's way too cold; plus, you may end up waiting 20-30 minutes for it at the stop. Not cool.

If you have the time, you may also visit Canary Wharf, the London business center area; they have a couple of amazing bars at the Crossrail Roof Garden over there. Also, Harrow in London suburbs is worth seeing. In Harrow, you will find the Lord Byron's grave and the poshest English schools where Harry Potter movies were filmed.

Still, the energy and the people is what attracts me most about London. The place is fast, and the people are generally trusting and friendly. I noticed a lot of single women walking alone at night. Normally, you would not see that in other cities. English people are well known for their sense of humor - one would have to with the weather they endure. Regardless of the weather, London is a must-see place you will never forget. No matter if you come in winter or in summer.


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