TVClaw’s Top Tips For Visitors To London During the Olympics

Some rather random and scattered musings for now, and surely not an exhaustive list by any means, but here are some bits of info that might be useful if you’re heading into Central London today or later in the week.

Non-Sportie Things To Do

Hatwalk is now over sadly, but Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square is still sporting a rather fetching Union Jack tricorn. Check out the sour-faced George IV’s blingtastic Brighton Pavilion-inspired baubles!Image

The National Gallery: my favourite art gallery bar none, home to many of the best and most famous paintings in the world. During the Olympics there is a bag search policy on the door, so unless you get there at opening time, you should allow 30 to 40 minutes to get in. But, it’s really worth the wait, especially as the galleries were almost empty when we got there.

I was told that reservations at the National Dining Rooms will be honoured for late-comers.

The National Portrait Gallery is currently staging three fabulous exhibitions: The Queen, Art and Image, Road to 2012: Aiming High and BP Portrait Award 2012. The NPG is also operating a bag search policy during the Games, but we didn’t have to queue to get in yesterday and again, the galleries were fairly empty.

The Cafe in the Crypt at St Martin-in-the-Fields across the road from the NPG does a lovely cup of tea. It’s a great place to go if you’re feeling hot and bothered and just need to sit somewhere cool and quiet for a few minutes.

Plus, St Martin’s is still offering its usual series of lunchtime and evening concerts during the Games.

Go shopping/eating. Where is everybody?  Black cabbies have been bemoaning the dearth of passengers and Covent Garden restaurateurs have claimed the Olympics have destroyed their summer business.

Yet this could be a boon for those who long to shop or nab a restaurant reservation without having to struggle past hordes of people. I was on an almost empty number 23 bus from Trafalgar Square to Paddington yesterday (Saturday) afternoon and Claire Perry, for example, says she’s never seen Oxford Street/Tottenham Court Road so quiet.

Visiting The Olympic Park In Stratford

I haven’t been yet, so these excellent tips come courtesy of Liz Pilgrim (@babyeboutique).

Bring a brollie or pack a mac. Liz says there’s absolutely no place to shelter from the rain.

The vast (4,000+ square metres) London 2012 Megastore is expensive, and bafflingly lacking in mirrors. So, if you’re planning to buy clothing, bring a frank friend with you.

Getting Around London During The Games

It hasn’t so far proved as hellish as lots of us were expecting. Huzzah! However, some lines do seem to be much busier and/or more trouble-prone than others.

The TFL and Get Ahead of the Games websites are must-reads before setting out for live travel updates and service changes. On the move, check out their twitter feeds: @TfLofficial and @GAOTG.

BBC London Transport and Environment Correspondent Tom Edwards also tweets regular updates: @BBCTomEdwards.

Heading to the ExCel last week I found the District Line to be working better than normal, and it wasn’t too crowded apart from the section between Victoria and Embankment. It’s a good alternative to taking the Central or Jubilee Lines.

The DLR has a major change to its route catering for people going to the ExCel, which I didn’t know about until I got to Tower Gateway (thanks, journey planner).

During the Olympics the DLR goes straight from Tower Gateway to Custom House, so you don’t need to change at Canning Town.

Friends have said that the Overground is a fab way of getting to the Olympic Park. (Caveat: I haven’t tried it yet.)

Those with long memories will remember the old Overground as a squalid and unreliable service, which often didn’t feel safe to travel alone on after dark.

However, in preparation for London 2012 the service has been overhauled, with new spacious, air-conditioned trains. I’ve heard really good reviews of it, so it’s worth a try if you don’t fancy taking the tube. 

Overground trains currently runs every 15 minutes from Richmond/Clapham Junction, and every 10 minutes between Willesden Junction and Gospel Oak.

Follow me on Twitter: @TVClaw


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