Why You Should Visit London Right Away

Big Ben

I took a trip to London just last month for a whirlwind of a week, hopping Tube trains and checking off museums from my list. I studied art history during my time at UVA (CLAS ’10), so nothing could have been more perfect. Whatever your field of study, you’ll also find that London has something for everyone in its eclectic mix of cuisine, cultures and activities.

I would argue that London is a fantastic place for a vacation now, even before we reach spring and summer. Daytime temperatures hovered in the mid-to-upper forties with alternating bursts of rain and sunshine last month, a trend that is continuing.

Avoid the Crowds

There’s probably nothing more frustrating that having to wait in a long queue when you’ve already crafted together that perfect itinerary. Smaller crowds also afford you with a greater vantage point when you’re taking photos of the must-see tourist attractions such as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. In addition, hotels, flights, and other travel rates are likely to be lower, leaving you with extra money to spend at the theater or for day trips outside the city.

Great Museum Exhibitions

Permanent collections at the National Gallery of Art, British Museum, and the Victoria & Albert are not to be missed. However, there are always temporary exhibitions that run throughout the year. Because photography is often prohibited, going in person is the only way to view these items on display. Currently, the Museum of London is highlighting an excellent exhibit focused on “Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die,” featuring original manuscripts of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and even props from the hit BBC show, “Sherlock.” You can complete the day with a stop at the Sherlock Holmes Museum on 221b Baker Street.

Excellent Day Trips

Try to dedicate a day or two for an excursion outside the city. Nearby cities are roughly a couple of hours away by train and slightly longer by bus (referred to as “coaches” there). The buses are comfortable and some even offer Wi-Fi service. Go for a stroll on the beaches of Brighton, visit university campuses like Oxford or Cambridge, or take a tour of the relatively new National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff.

Thriving Theater and Film Industry

The atmosphere in London’s West End has its own energy and artistry, differing greatly from New York, even if a show is the same in name. Major changes to lines and songs can occur often. Tickets are usually offered at a discounted rate the day of the performance at vendors, particularly by Charing Cross. Be sure to ask a theater attendant how to find the stage door, where you can get a glimpse of the cast or even an autograph.

As for film and television, London’s iconic skyline has appeared in many programs and movies. It’s easy to trek through the city and find these spots. You may even luck out and see some filming going on, for everything from “Sherlock” to “Doctor Who.” Don’t forget the BBC Studio tour, which even puts you in front of the camera.

Tube Train Arriving
Tube Train Arriving

Network and Meet the Locals

With the growth of social networks, opportunities to connect in other countries has never been easier. There are many professional groups that may fit your interests. Contact the coordinator for the group and inquire if you can join one of their public meetings. More often than not, you’ll receive a favorable response and you can get tips from these new acquaintances about places to see before heading home. It’s really quite a valuable experience on both sides, as many Londoners may be intrigued by your stories of Charlottesville and life at and after Mr. Jefferson’s university.

Post by Pat Cuadros (CLAS ’10)

Thoughts on “Why You Should Visit London Right Away

    Reading the article really makes me ant to travel to London. Great job – Pat.


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