• Meghan Bartok

7 reasons London makes a great first international travel destination

Updated: May 27

(This article was first published on 5/16/2016, and was last updated on 5/27/2021)


Let me just start off by saying that London is my favorite city in the world, so maybe I’m a little biased. That bias aside, there are plenty of reasons that London is a great destination for someone new to international travel. The largest city in the United Kingdom always has something new to offer, and whether you’re here for two days, two weeks, or two months, you definitely won’t be bored. London provides just the right amount of ‘culture shock’ for a new international traveler. Here are seven reasons why I think everyone should visit London.


1. We share a common language

Let’s start with the obvious – the UK shares a common language with tourists from the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Many people feel nervous about international travel because they are afraid they won’t be able to communicate while abroad. This makes London, and the rest of the UK, a great option if you only speak English. Other than some slight differences in words (which you'll pick up on quite quickly), you won’t have to worry about a lack of foreign language skills! London is a great stepping stone to get used to European travel without the potential stress of a language barrier.


St Paul's Cathedral

2. Rich History

London is brimming with history around every corner. As an American, it is always crazy to me when I visit places that are older than my country, London has plenty of those! If you're interested in the history of London, your first stop should be the City of London Museum, where you can learn about the development of London from Roman times. This free museum is great for adults and children alike.


One of the most well-known places in London, visiting the Tower of London can easily take a whole day and is an activity all ages will enjoy. Make sure you don't miss out on seeing the crown jewels!

A great way to learn about the history of London is by taking a free walking tour. Whether it's a classic Highlights of London tour or a spooky Jack the Ripper tour, a guided tour is a great activity for your first trip to London.


3. Free museums

Lobby of the Natural History Museum

London has over 170 museums, so you'll definitely find one that fits your interests. The best part is that most of the big, main museums are free. I love free museums because I can take as much or as little time as I'd like without feeling like I need to get my money's worth.


London's museums cater to all ages. The Imperial War Museum has a great exhibit on WWI with interesting information for the adults and lots of hands-on activities for kids. The Science Museum, Natural History Museum, and City of London Museum Docklands all have great exhibits that both children and adults will learn something from. Check out this post for more information on my personal favorite museums in London!

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Classic Pub Meal – Sausages, Mash, and Peas

4. It's different without being TOO different

I know that the fear of the unknown can make traveling scary for some people. Luckily, London has just the right amount of ‘culture shock, especially for a first-time traveler. The shared language is enough to put you at ease so you can enjoy the rest of London’s differences.


You can find all of the food that you're used to from home, although I would encourage you to try something different. You can find some amazing authentic international cuisines in London. For the quintessential English experience, make sure to visit a pub for a pint and a classic English dish.


If you're wanting to hit the main shopping streets Regent and Oxford, you'll find most of your favorite stores from home along with some cool new (to Americans) brands. New Look and Next are great for affordable yet trendy pieces.



5. Great public transport system

I’ve used a lot of public transportation systems throughout my travels, and London’s continues to be my favorite. The tube is very clean and the tube map is easy to read – one of the best I’ve encountered. Its only downfall is that tickets are a bit on the pricey side. One ride in Zone 1 is £2.40, and a day travelcard is £13.90. However, children 10 and under travel free on all tubes and buses in London.


If you want to see the sights while you’re traveling, just hop on one of the iconic red double-decker buses. These have the benefit of being slightly cheaper than the tube, and you get great views are you are getting from point A to point B. Like the tube, the system is very easy to understand. Bus No 15 is a great cheap sightseeing tour, taking you from Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, past St. Pauls Cathedral, and through Trafalgar Square for only £1.50.


If you want to learn more about public transport in London, check out the London Transport Museum! This is a great museum that chronicles the evolution of the public transport system in London. Adult tickets are £18.50, but under 18s visit for free.


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Sunset in Hyde Park

6. Plenty of public parks

If you’re not a huge fan of cities, you will enjoy London’s many public parks. These are great places for escaping the rush of city life for an afternoon or a day. One of the nicest things about London is that you're never far from a park. Some of my favorite London parks are Hyde Park, which has a large reservoir with paddle boats you can rent during warmer days, and an amazing Christmas carnival in the wintertime; Greenwich Park, which has great views of London to the north; and Hampstead Heath, which is a massive park with views of London to the south. Additionally, Hampstead and Greenwich are very charming neighborhoods worth visiting!


7. A huge variety of options for day trips

In the very rare case that you run out of things to do in London, never fear! The UK has an extensive rail network, and London’s central location means that there are many great destinations within an hour or two of the city. You can spend a day at the beach in Brighton, visit the famed Stonehenge, or explore the home of the Beatles in Liverpool, and still be back in London for an evening show. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, Paris is only two and a half hours from London via the Eurostar, making a longer day trip possible. For more day trip ideas, check out this post!

 

These are my top seven reasons why you should put London at the top of your travel to-do list. There are so many other reasons why I love London though! It was the first international city I visited, and I've gone back multiple times. Every time there is something new and exciting to see. I truly could never get tired of London!


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