London is one of the world’s great cities, which makes many older travelers nervous about visiting. Is London ‘zoomer friendly’ they ask? Yes, absolutely.
‘Where is a good location for a hotel?’ they wonder. My short answer is ‘anywhere’. No, I’m not being silly or refusing to help. It is simply that the transport system in London is so well integrated and easy to use that it really doesn’t matter what part of the city your hotel is in.
If you stay in Bloomsbury you’re close to the British Museum, which is an easy walk to Covent Gardens, the Inns of Court, and fifteen minutes by bus to Piccadilly. If you chose the Kensington area you are within walking distance of Kensington Park and Palace, the Albert Hall, the Victoria and Albert Museum, etc. and a short bus ride to Piccadilly and Trafalgar Square. Staying on the South Bank, next to Waterloo Station, will place you one block from Westminster Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
Westminster Bridge is also where you can catch one of the many river ferries and voyage down the Thames to Greenwich, Hampton Court or Kew Gardens. On a sunny day you might chose to go down by boat and return on the ‘tube’. On the trip down the river the boat’s unofficial tour guide will provide an entertaining commentary on the sights along the river shore. Coming back to the city, they assume you’ve already had the commentary and you’re left to study your brochures, take photos, or sleep.
Like all European cities, London was designed for pedestrians, so with good walking shoes the city is literally ‘at your feet’. Piccadilly is only one block from Trafalgar Square, which is one long block from Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Buckingham Palace is just a stroll down the Mall or through the park.
If you enjoy walking then this is the city for you. An hour’s walk along the South Bank will take you from Westminster Bridge to St. Paul’s, passing the London Eye, the new Globe, the Tate Modern and dozens of beautiful old pubs and restaurants. There is so much to see that you won’t even notice you’re walking.
If you’re lucky and the tide is out there may be groups of school children exploring the riverbank for fascinating bits of history. Even now the clay pipes of the Victorian dockworkers wash up on the sand and Roman coins still come to light. Buskers will be providing live entertainment and the traffic on the river will be a constantly changing drama of its own. River boats will be carrying people down the Thames to Greenwich, Kew Gardens, and Hampton Court Palace, a cruise ship may be docked below Tower Bridge, while the fast commuter ferries will be rushing business people in and out of the city centre.
You can stroll across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s or continue on to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Whichever way you choose to go, it is a short bus or subway ride back to Trafalgar Square – or, you can choose to walk back along the Victoria Embankment, stopping now and then to enjoy some liquid energy and to rest your feet!
If it is your first visit to London then be sure to take one of the guided bus tours and sit on the open top! These are the perfect way to get a sense of what the city offers and just where your stops of interest are located. They operate as ‘hop on hop off’ so you can jump down to take your photo outside the Palace, then jump back on again 15 minutes later. Once you’ve done the tour, buy yourself an ‘Oyster’ Card and away you go. These travel cards will work on both buses and subway and are ridiculously easy to use. We prefer the buses as you can see the sights as you go through the city, but the subway is faster, great fun, and it checks off a square on your ‘bucket list’.
London is expensive, so be prepared. If you are staying at a B&B then eat the biggest breakfast you can! Don’t be shy! If you are at a hotel with breakfast included then carry off with you an apple, a banana and a muffin – be assertive! They are charging you the earth for bad coffee and cold toast so get your moneys worth! Buy a sandwich and a juice at a grocery store and enjoy a picnic in the park, which is what the locals do. Don’t buy a pub lunch, but save your pennies for dinner. With luck you’ll return home fitter than ever and ten pounds lighter, and will have enjoyed every minute of it!