London regularly welcomes over 400,000 American visitors each year, drawn by our history and culture, sporting events, Royal Family, the shared language and the ‘special relationship’ we enjoy with our cousins across the pond. If you are planning a visit to our capital and want a taste of all things British, this is an American’s Guide to London.
As an American in London, you will see as many differences as similarities in our culture, traditions, public holidays, food and conveniences. If you’re a first time visitor, some might even surprise and bamboozle you. So, look no further than the Central London Apartments’ Transatlantic Guide to Visiting London. Armed with our top tips, go forth confidently and experience London like a local. You will be mistaken for a native before you know it.
What to see
There are a million things to do in the city and you will be spoiled for choice of activities, sights and attractions. Choosing which ones to visit to make the most of your trip can be tricky, but here are our favourite activities to experience an authentic slice of our beautiful London.
If you love film
The British film industry is loved the world over and, for a small island, our directors, writers and actors have been behind some of the world’s most critically acclaimed and highly grossing movies. Two of our most famous exports are the Harry Potter and Bridget Jones franchises. If you love film, and want a unique experience of London to boot, why not try…
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Go behind the scenes of the worldwide blockbuster Harry Potter, experience the tour and relive the magic.
And , if you’re on a budget, or looking for a truly authentic Harry Potter London experience, why not try our very own Ultimate Harry Potter Walking Tour and visit some of the most iconic real-life locations from the movies.
If Romcoms are more your thing, you will love this. Stand in front of the famous Notting Hill Blue Door and see locations from classic Brit flicks Siding Doors, Love Actually and all three Bridget Jones films.
If you love history
The Brits have a history that stretches back long before the Pilgrim Fathers climbed aboard the Mayflower. So much to take in, but you could do worse than heading to…
Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London has been a Royal residence, an armoury, a treasury and, perhaps most famously, the scene of some of British History’s most gruesome public trials, imprisonments and executions. Now home to the famous Crown Jewels, it makes for a fascinating insight into our long and, at times bloody, history! And if you fancy an alternative experience, try an atmospheric twilight tour of the Tower, led by your very own Beefeater – not for the faint hearted!
St Pauls Cathedral
Is there a more iconic symbol of our historical London skyline? A tour of the cathedral will give you an insight into the architecture, history and its role in daily worship – it is a fully functioning church!
If you love The Royals
London is, of course, home to our Royal Family and the city has no fewer than four Royal Palaces– five if you count Windsor. If time is tight, then definite ‘must sees’ for American visitors are:
If you are visiting in August or September, the State Rooms of the Palace are open. Otherwise, The Royal Mews and Queen’s Gallery are open all year round. The Changing of the Guard takes place every day at 11am and is also well worth stopping by if you are in the area. Sharpen your elbows or arrive early if you want a prime spot though.
Hampton Court Palace
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Once home to the most famous philandering British monarch: Henry VIII and each of his six wives, Hampton Court makes a fantastic full day out, with loads to see in the Palace and grounds. It is a train or boat ride out to West London; however, if you are on a tight schedule, the boat trip is best avoided as it takes several hours.
If you love shopping
Oxford Street and Regent Street are the main tourist shopping areas and you can visit British retail heroes Selfridges and Liberty while you are there.
But, for a more unique London experience, head to Portobello Road, the world’s largest antiques market, or Camden Lock where you can explore a maze of weird and wonderful stalls and pop-up shops selling literally everything.
Other things to remember
We don’t do window screens
The concepts of door and window screens are lost on Brits. On the few days of the year when it’s warm enough to have windows open, we don’t have the bug/spider/lizard problem that many Americans do!
Light switches and plug sockets (or lack of) in the bathroom
You may call us risk averse, but the Brits’ fear of electrocution has meant British bathrooms very rarely have any plug sockets and very often even the light switch is outside the door. The exception to this is usually a two-pin electric shaver socket which can be used to charge electric razors and toothbrushes.
Keep to the right on escalators.
If you are not in a hurry keep to the right so the people can walk past you on the left. Transgression of this rule will result in almost instant public vilification.
The brits don’t do effusive.
Too much personal information and oversharing goes against our natural reserve. But we are effusive about apologising. We apologise for everything even when it’s the other person’s fault.
We walk or use public transport to get everywhere.
When we do drive, we do it on the left.
We love dogs
They are our furry babies. Treat them like a family relative.
Sarcasm and irony are never far from any British conversation.
But not on the Tube. We try not to talk on the Tube. Other things we avoid while using our Underground include eye contact, eating and touching. Don’t even get us started on PDAs (public displays of affection)! They go so much against our ‘reserved’ setting, we have an acronym not to have to say its name.
The ground floor
You say first floor, we say ground floor. This linguistic distinction has led to many confused Americans wandering the hallways of hotels searching for their room. Other differences which have the potential to cause confusion are:
So there you have it, our American’s Guide to London. Come, taste, experience and enjoy!