London is a world of its own – as well as the gateway to all the sights and experiences of the UK.
The British capital revels in its status as the home of the British establishment and former lynchpin in a global empire. The riches of history are all around you, as evidenced by the Crown Jewels, Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. Check out all these world-famous sights, and then explore some alternatives.
Everyone knows Tower Bridge, but did you know you can now tread a glass-floored walkway between the towers? At 42 metres high, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the road and river traffic passing below.
Do you enjoy art and culture? You’ll want to spend hours in the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square and the Tate down by the river. For an edgier experience, head to Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery which opened in 2015.
Shopping aficionados should check out Spitalfields and the Boxpark pop-up mall in trendy Shoreditch. Get your hands on small and independent brands that may not be on sale in mainstream outlets.
At the end of a long day’s sightseeing, make your reservation at Quaglino’s in Mayfair. It’s been a famous nightspot for generations and underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment a few years back. As well as fine food there’s live music, entertainment and DJ sets starting from 10pm.
Above all, make sure you experience London street life. Stroll the market stalls in Borough Market south of the Thames, tasting delicious bites from artisan producers. Check out galleries showing works by London’s ever-changing community of artists and provocateurs. Soak up the atmosphere of a city that never seems to slow down.
And don’t forget that London is only a tiny corner of the United Kingdom. It’s easy to get away by train to the dreaming spires of Oxford and Cambridge or the impossibly cute villages of the Cotswolds. From the civilised Georgian squares of Edinburgh to the wild beauty of Cornwall, there’s a whole country waiting to be discovered.
Best time to go
A traditional British Christmas is well worth experiencing but for most people the time to visit is summer. May’s weather may be unpredictable but you’ll avoid the crowds that descend on the UK from June through August. Autumn can be a golden time with fewer queues and less pressure on public transport.
How much will it cost
Currency movements have taken some strength out of the pound, making Britain less costly for visitors. A cappuccino will cost between three and four pounds, while two can dine out for about 54 pounds in a mid-range restaurant. That global staple the McDonald's combo will set you back five pounds.
New Zealand has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with the UK, meaning New Zealanders are entitled to some subsidised health services. This covers free treatment as a public in-patient or out-patient in a public hospital. Regardless of this, comprehensive travel insurance cover is a good idea.
New Zealanders can get visa-free entry to the UK for up to six months. There are also a range of Ancestry, Working Holiday, Study and Skilled Worker visas available.