If you’ve decided to “do” London this year be prepared for an adventure like no other. Unlike other cities around the world, London’s layout (especially near the City) is much the same as it was when the Romans were in town.
The cobbled walkways upon which the plague carts clattered are joined to the roads and alleyways along which the biggest names in history walked. Follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, Jack the Ripper, Wolfgang Mozart, Peter Cushing and William Shakespeare to name but a few.
The only problem is: how to get around? London is also a mash-up of the old and the new. Christopher Wren’s churches and Shakespeare’s Globe are now engulfed by high rise office buildings, and the only bits of high ground within a few miles of the City are Greenwich Park and Primrose Hill. Even then, you would be hard-pressed to find a route merely by sight!
Luckily there are a multitude of apps for smartphones that are designed to help the weary (or just plain excited) traveller get from A to B. Whether you are heading for St Paul’s Cathedral or in search of the Mayan wonder that is Terry Farrell’s MI6 headquarters these apps will help you on your way, and may even provide a little bit of extra information en route.
So, without further ado, here are five smartphone apps that we think will help you to easily navigate London (and enable you to find your way back to the Park Grand London Kensington with ease).
If you have a smartphone you will no doubt already have installed Google Maps. The mapping software from the digital giant is an excellent way to navigate while you enjoy your London hotels special offers. But for something more specific to London try “Citymapper”. The joy of Citymapper is that it unravels the mysteries surrounding London’s extensive rail, bus and underground networks.
Simply input a landmark or the address of somewhere you’d like to go and you will be given the best routes to that place. You may choose to walk or to take a Santander bike or catch a bus. No matter which mode of transport you choose Citymapper tells you the time it will take and the distance. Because the app also includes a list of travel delays and bottlenecks you can use it to adjust your route to avoid queues or problem areas.
2. Trainline UK
This is a very popular app in the UK and is used nationwide by passengers who intend to travel by rail. With this app, you can check out the times of upcoming rail journeys and buy tickets. Live data is included to enable a user to identify potential delays along their route. The software includes a ticket comparison site as well, in order that you can travel for the cheapest possible amount.
Use Trainline UK when in London for booking journeys across the city’s rail network and beyond. The app also tells you what sorts of amenities are available on trains. Thus, if you intend to travel from the Park Grand London Kensington to, for instance, Windsor to see Her Majesty then check in with Trainline UK to find the best deals, the times of the trains and discover whether or not there is a loo on board!
3. Santander Cycles (a.k.a. “Boris Bikes”)
Once upon a time the hireable bicycles available to Londoners and visitors were called Boris Bikes after the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Nowadays you will recognise the docking stations by their bright Santander red branding. Download and install Santander Cycles on your smartphone for free if you wish to get around London on two wheels. The app is easy to use with a great user-friendly interface.
You hire bikes in situ by getting an unlock code sent straight to your phone. And by doing so you will be able to skip the inevitable queues at the docking stations and hop straight on a bike. The bikes cost a small fee to hire and your time is limited: when your time is up you will need to return the bike to a docking station.
The app’s traffic updates are also very useful especially if you plan to give London a good going over on your new ride. Bike availability at each docking station dotted around London is another great feature allowing you to pick and choose where you can unlock a bike from and where is best to return it to. You can’t “book” a bike but you are able to pay for one.
Be aware: from the moment you pay, you have 10 minutes to find a docking station and unlock.
4. National Trust
If you fancy discovering some of the hundreds of stately homes dotted in and around London owned by the National Trust then download this app at once. National Trust has developed an excellent and attractive interface for users who wish to indulge in a little bit of culture during their time with a London hotels special offer. Updates on availability, prices of tickets, booking requirements and special events are all listed on this, the only app for the National Trust.
As a bonus app why not try the Natural History Museum app? The museum’s tech-savvy folk have got together to produce an app that lets you navigate the museum with ease. Thousands of exhibits are housed within the walls of the building and an app that tells you where things are and what’s going on is just the thing you need – avoid delays at the door and head straight to where you want to be.
YPlan is a clever app that puts you right on top of London with a birds-eye view of events and occasions within the city. Tell YPlan what you are interested in and let the app reveal to you the cultural and foodie side of London life within a matter of seconds. Filter your searches by the cost of an event or the event type and head straight for the time of your life.