Begin your holiday by soaking up the culture, history, tradition, pomp and ceremony of London — possibly the world’s greatest city — and one that offers a seemingly unending array of attractions for visitors. Many of the city’s top cultural institutions are free of charge — including The National Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Saatchi Gallery and the Serpentine Gallery. The National Portrait Gallery offers one of the most accessible collections for visitors of all ages, with portraits of politicians, actors, sports stars and royalty.
Once you’ve had your fill of the capital, more history beckons as you visit fairy-tale castles, mysterious moors and whimsical villages and towns across England and Wales. Don’t miss the quintessential British seaside city of Brighton, the medieval mayhem of York, the architectural opulence of Oxford or the whimsical birthplace of the bard — Stratford-upon-Avon.
Journey north to Scotland and visit captivating capital Edinburgh and cultural hub Glasgow — or explore the majestic Highlands and the enigmatic Loch Ness. Enjoy a traditional Scotch whisky — and perhaps a serving of haggis!
Across the North Channel in Northern Ireland, Belfast is taking its place as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. Now’s the time to visit — before everyone else catches on!
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United Kingdom travel tips
➲ Only got a limited amount of time to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. Access our city guides here.
➲ Check the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website for travel advisories regarding your chosen destination, and always register your travel plans with Smart Traveller.
➲ Earlybird airfares to London and other European destinations are generally released in Australia around September and October for the following year. The cheapest times to fly are the shoulder seasons — around April/May and October/November. Avoid peak seasons, school holidays and Christmas/New Year if you can.
➲ While London is a year round destination, hotel prices can be significantly higher in summer. The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn can be good times to travel. Hotel prices are lower and the main tourist attractions are less crowded. The tourist-class hotels clustered around Marylebone, Paddington, Kensington and Earls Court are generally fairly small by Australians standards. For additional space, consider apartment-style accommodation where possible or staying outside central London but within easy reach of public transport. There are now a number of websites devoted to short-term lets of private homes, which may be worth considering.
➲ Transport in the United Kingdom is excellent and reasonably affordable. Obtain an Oyster Card on arrival in London to access the Underground as well as buses and the over ground rail network within the capital. There are five airports that service London and while all have good public transport links, Heathrow is the most convenient in terms of access to the centre. Domestic flights within the UK can be very reasonably priced, while intercity rail services are fast and efficient. Self-drive holidays are also a popular way to explore the English countryside, with its myriad of historic small towns and picturesque villages.
➲ When it comes to attractions and sightseeing there are actually many ways to enjoy your visit to London without breaking the bank. Check our guide Ten tips to stretch your Aussie dollar further in London for ideas. For a start, the permanent collections at many of the city’s top museums and galleries are free of charge and the official TKTS booth in Leicester Square offers discounted West End theatre tickets.
➲ London is Europe’s shopping capital and there’s no shortage of opportunities across the city for a spot of retail therapy. Check out our guide to where to shop in London for the best fashion buys.
➲ The standard of cuisine in the United Kingdom has improved dramatically in recent years, and from posh nosh to pub grub there is no end of options to suit every budget. Pub meals are still the tastiest and most affordable option for tourists and you can enjoy all the classics of traditional English fare. However, if you want to push the boat out on a fine dining experience, the sky’s the limit. Indian cuisine is very popular throughout the United Kingdom and a good curry and pint of beer is a popular combination. Pre-made sandwich bars are extraordinarily popular in the United Kingdom and a very affordable lunchtime option.
➲ The United Kingdom is generally a very safe travel destination. As always though, be open to experiences but be aware of your surroundings and personal safety — particularly in crowds, isolated neighbourhoods or on public transport late at night. If something feels wrong it probably is. Trust your intuition!
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