Category Archives: Travel Information

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Everyone assumes that a trip to the Big Smoke will always be expensive – after all, England’s capital city is known to be one of the priciest in the world. However, as with all travel destinations, it’s more than possible to discover a low cost London that exists alongside the swanky and overpriced version! The trick lies in being organised, clever and being prepared to be flexible. With a few tricks up your sleeve, you’ll find you can enjoy a superb visit for a fraction of the price.

Here, we share some of our favourite tips gleaned from years of living, working and welcoming visitors to the Capital and our King’s Cross b&b.

1. Be flexible

One of the most important things to get right when visiting London on a budget is to get accommodation sorted without paying a premium. Firstly, be flexible. Where possible, don’t book breaks during peak price periods such as school holidays, Christmas, or major events such as the London Marathon. Demand at these times rockets and prices do the same.

If you can, including ‘shoulder’ days such as Sundays or Mondays in your booking. These automatically attract a lower price as they tend to be less popular with both business and leisure weekender customers. Sundays especially tend to attract the cheapest rates, and you’ll find that hotels tend to offer discounts if you book a slightly longer stay which incorporates a Sunday and / or a Monday.

2. Book direct

Here at our King’s Cross b&b we always save our best offers for guests who book direct, and we’re not alone either. When you’ve got a shortlist of hotels, check out each individual website and look for their offers section. You’ll often find that the direct route pays off, with the provider keen to offer deals that keep you away from online travel agents. This is because sites such as charge the accommodation a commission fee – and they are more inclined to pass that saving onto the customer and gain some loyalty.

If you can’t see any great offers, be brave and call up the hotel reservations team to ask if they will strike a deal with you for booking directly. You’ll be amazed at how often the direct approach works, especially if the hotel needs to book up final rooms at short notice.

Also, sign up to newsletters for deals and promotions. The California has its own newsletter, which includes flash sales and first dibs on our latest offers (plus a competition or two), so it’s well worth staying in the loop.

Read more: Book direct and save 15%

Book direct and save 15% at The California King's Cross b&b

3. Book far in advance

Generally speaking, it also pays to book far in advance and you’ll find cheap rates for rooms booked up to a year away, as competition – away from key dates of course – will be minimal. However, avoid booking beyond a year in advance, or you may accidentally pay premium prices because the hotel hasn’t yet adjusted its rates.

Read more: Everything you need to know before you stay at The California London

4. Or super last minute

Alternatively, be brave and book extremely late – if you can cope with the uncertainty of course! Specialist sites, such as HotelTonight, are used by hotels with space to fill at short notice, and there are some great prices on offer. Bear in mind that The California uses this website, so you might just pick up an even more cracking deal than usual!

Read more: The California offers

5. Stay with a neighbour

In terms of locations, look for central London to avoid having to travel too far; you’ll save money on the room by staying out of Zone 1, but will spend it on cabs and public transport.

Whilst you’ll be hard pressed to ever find a budget price in central locations such as Soho, Westminster or Covent Garden, each area has a district nearby which is almost as good but costs way less than its popular neighbour. For example, our King’s Cross locale hasn’t traditionally been a tourist area, but is within easy walking distance of Bloomsbury, Holborn and Covent Garden. This means you’re still able to scoop up a bargain, but aren’t too far away from all the action!

Another good option is choosing a hotel located just south of the river, which has traditionally been less desirable for tourists. However a short walk over the bridge and you land straight into Soho or Westminster, depending on the bridge. Areas such as Lambeth and Waterloo are great options, and you’ll also be super close to Southbank and the Tate Modern during your stay.

A handy tip to bear in mind is to look at central hotels located in business areas at weekends. Those around Canary Wharf, King’s Cross and the ExCel Centre tend to be cheaper at weekends because business people aren’t in town.

Read more: King’s Cross maps

6. Get on your bike

The Tube can rack up cost wise – and don’t even think of getting taxis! Happily, the London Underground now charges the cheapest price for your day journey automatically if you use a contactless debit or credit card; you don’t need an Oyster card if you are simply visiting for the weekend. But there are far less expensive ways to access cheap London! Don a pair of great trainers and walk as much as possible, or get a Boris bike (perhaps we should be calling them Sadiq bikes now?).

You’ll get to see everything, explore at leisure, and save a small fortune. Plus, many of the attractions such as the main shopping areas, entertainment spaces and museum quarter are in a small geographical space, so you can easily get around on foot. The bikes cost a mere £2 for 24 hours and are free if you hire them for less than 30 minutes, so these are great for zipping around on short journeys.

Read more: The best London cycle routes from King’s Cross


7. Take a DIY bus tour

Another crafty tip is to forget expensive London Bus tours and take the 24, 11 or no.9 bus past the city’s main attractions for the cheapie price of a single fare! Finally, if you must take a cab, try Uber instead of hailing a black cab; you can even sign-up with a discount code to get around £15 free on your first fare. The app tells you estimates for each journey so there’s no guesswork either.

Read more: Everything you need to know about buses from King’s Cross

8. Find a freebie

There are many inexpensive things to do in London. Many of the permanent collections at big museums and galleries are free or work on a donation basis. Head to Bloomsbury for the free British Museum; to Trafalgar Square for the National Portrait Gallery; and up to Knightsbridge for the Science Museum, the V&A and Natural History Museum.

There are plenty of others too and lots of information available. Look out for free permanent collections and check out other interesting destinations such as the British Library. For performances in the West End, look out for short notice cancellation re-sales for an absolute bargain – Timeout  has plenty of useful information and listings.

Read more: The best galleries near King’s Cross

9. Grab some park life

Don’t forget to visit the free – and exceptional – parks, such as Hyde Park, St James’s and Regents Park – all very close to the California. A particularly ‘wow’ park experience is a visit to the Sky Garden, located 155 metres up in one of the City’s skyscrapers, which is free but needs booking in advance. Finally, the big London markets are a great choice for cheap and amazing street food and local produce; Covent Garden, Camden, Columbia Road (the Sunday Flower market has to be experienced), or head to St Martin’s in the Fields for classical music renditions for free!

And if you need any further inspiration for how to experience London on a budget, check out the rest of our King’s Cross blog pages.

Read more: How to get from King’s Cross to Hyde Park and our favourite green spaces

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Camden has been the focal point for all things ‘alternative’ for more than half a century, and it’s still ploughing the same furrow now, albeit with an updated spin. Nowadays the vintage clothing stalls in the area’s famous markets include examples of clothing worn by the punks and New Romantics who swarmed here back in the Eighties, when the location first became cool.

The fashions may have changed but the vibe is still pretty much the same. A centre for music and alternative nightlife, Camden is packed with quirky shops set alongside cafés, bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

And even more appealing, it’s super close to get to from our King’s Cross b&b

The California: Camden – things to do King's Cross to Camden things to do Map

Travelling from King’s Cross to Camden

It really couldn’t get much easier to get from us at The California here in King’s Cross to Camden Town, since the two areas are so close. But there are still quite a few different ways of getting there.

The Lazy Way

Head underground at King’s Cross and look out for the Northern Line. Step aboard one of the trains heading north but don’t make yourself too comfortable because you need to get off at the second stop. And don’t panic if the train is departing just as you arrive, as there’ll be another one along in just five minutes.

Prefer to stay above ground? Simply make your way to the bus stops outside King’s Cross Station and look out for the number 214, which also runs every five minutes, although the journey takes a little longer at around 12 minutes, depending on traffic of course.

Bus or train, the price of the journey is £2. Buses won’t accept cash fares, so purchase a ticket before you travel. Most visitors find it useful to buy one of the saver ticket options which can be ordered in advance – check out the details on the Transport for London website.

Read more: Everything you need to know about buses from King’s Cross

The even lazier way

Hail a cab and you can relax and stretch your legs out for the 12-minute ride. It’ll set you back around £9 but you can really connect with the city, particularly if you happen to get a chatty cab driver!

Book direct and save 15% at The California King's Cross b&b

The active way

Depending on the route you choose, and on the speed that you walk, it takes around 15 – 20 minutes to get from the heart of King’s Cross to the heart of Camden Town. Sacrifice speed for scenery and the journey will take longer but will allow you to see another side of this multi-faceted city.

Head north to Granary Square, the regenerated area famous for its street food, café culture and interactive fountains. Head for the canal and then turn left to follow its route all the way to Camden Lock. You’ll find hidden corners of green parks – and even a wildlife reserve – as you pass by, and you can experience a little of the magic of Regents Canal for yourself.

Read more: The best London cycle routes from King’s Cross

Things to do in Camden

Camden Lock is an iconic feature which is well worth a visit. Once a bustling centre for trade, the whole area is still steeped in commerce but these days it’s mostly in the form of markets which are dotted throughout this little part of London.

Some of the markets, such as Inverness Street and Camden Lock Village, are open every day, whilst others such as Camden Stables and the Electric Ballroom Fashion Market, trade only at the weekend. For the most part though, Camden Town is open for business seven days a week, so you’ll always find something to pique your interest. Set aside plenty of time for browsing through the market stalls as it’s astonishing how much there is to see – and buy, of course!

Read more: The best London markets near King’s Cross

The California guide to shopping in London

Luckily with so many great places to eat in the neighbourhood there’s no fear that you’ll shop till you actually drop. Take the weight off your feet at one of the bijou cafes, or eat on the hoof thanks to the many street food traders who gravitate towards the markets.

With its musical roots going back to the 1970s when it first started attracting alternative bands and musicians, Camden has a reputation for being a top destination for a great night out in London. Well-known and even infamous nightspots include DingwallsThe Roundhouse and Koko, where Madonna and Kylie have played small and intimate gigs in recent years.

Arty types have always tended to gravitate to the area. Dudley Moore, Nick Mason from Pink Floyd and the late Amy Winehouse all chose to make their homes here, and fans of Amy still visit The Hawley Arms pub where she wasn’t averse to stepping behind the counter and pulling pints for customers.


When all the hustle and bustle simply gets too much and you need to kick back and relax, then head for one of the many beautiful green spaces nearby. Just a short walk along the canal will soon bring you to another, more peaceful, world altogether, where you can stop and catch your breath.

Regent’s Park and ZSL London Zoo are just a couple of minutes’ walk away, or you could wander up Primrose Hill and admire the views of the cityscape spread out before you. If even these oases of calm sound too hectic then the residents of Highgate Cemetery certainly won’t be making any noise, and this is a truly beautiful – admittedly Gothic – and peaceful way to while away a few hours. Well we did say this was an ‘alternative’ area!

Read more: The California live music guide

How to get from King’s Cross to Hyde Park and our favourite green spaces

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London is generally a very safe city to visit, but, as when spending time in any large city, it pays to be sensible and to take precautions. It is a great city to visit as a family and offers a huge variety of attractions for children and adults alike that are all within easy striking distance of our King’s Cross hotel.

Although most visitors to the city enjoy their trip without incident, you can minimise the risk of encountering trouble by planning ahead, keeping your wits about you and sticking to the following London safety tips. If you’re not sure how to explore the city with children in tow; you’re a solo female traveller; or you’re asking yourself do you need travel insurance for your trip, read on.

Travel safety by public transport

London’s public transport system is generally efficient and safe, and offers a great way of getting around the city to the various sights and different districts. To ensure that you get to your destination as smoothly as possible, always plan your route before you set off and familiarise yourself with any changes you need to make.

The Transport for London website is a mine of information for those unfamiliar with the city and will enable you to plan your journey meticulously. Travel safety in London is mainly about knowing where you’re going, not getting lost and sticking to your planned route – and not falling asleep on the last train back to us in King’s Cross!

We’ve also compiled a bunch of handy travel articles to help you navigate your way around the capital during your stay in King’s Cross, including:

London Underground: King’s Cross St. Pancras station and beyond!

8 step guide to mastering London buses from King’s Cross

Staying safe at night

Although most of the attractions and areas popular with tourists are busy, well-lit and safe, even after dark, take precautions as you would in any unfamiliar city. Try to avoid walking around on your own at night, and stick to well-lit, busy roads as much as possible. Don’t be tempted to take short cuts using routes you’re not familiar with, such as down back streets, however tempting it may seem.

Avoiding pickpockets

Like all parts of the world, pickpockets can be a problem in crowded areas. Places such as Camden Market, Leicester Square and Oxford Street get extremely busy at weekends, so ensure that all your valuables are securely packed away somewhere safe. This not only reduces the risk of you dropping anything, but also means that opportunistic thieves won’t be able to get their hand on your cash or expensive electronics.


Keeping your belongings safe

Reputable London hotels are generally very secure and safe, but thefts from rooms can of course occur, as with anywhere. All of our rooms at Hotel Megaro are equipped with in-room safes, so use this to store your passport and valuables to minimise your risk.

You might be asking yourself ‘do I need travel insurance?’, especially if you’re only visiting from another part of the UK. As with any form of travel, it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance. Not only will this protect you in the event of theft, loss or damage to your belongings, but it might also offer you compensation if you experience travel delays or cancellations.

Travelling as a solo female

As previously mentioned, London is generally safe and most visitors won’t experience any problems. While there aren’t specific parts of London solo female travellers should avoid altogether, stick to the main tourist destinations if you’re not familiar with the city.

The areas around some of the city’s major stations can be quite seedy after dark, and although you’re unlikely to experience any trouble, you might attract unwanted attention. Much of London has been somewhat gentrified in recent years, and areas such as Soho or certain parts of the East End of London are now far more tourist-friendly and generally safe for solo travellers.

Choosing the right hotel is also important. Hotel Megaro is a recommended hotel on Maiden Voyage a leading women’s travel network which provides valuable information for female business travellers staying in hotels across the world.


Cab safety

London has thousands of taxis and minicabs and. although they’re expensive, they can be convenient for some trips, especially if you’re out late at night. If you decide to travel by taxi, make sure that you only ever travel by a licensed taxi (black cab, or Hackney cab) or by licensed minicab.

The driver’s licensing information should be clearly displayed in the vehicle. Bear in mind that only black cabs are allowed to pick fares up straight off the street, so if a minicab offers you a lift, always refuse. If you need to contact a minicab, do so by phone and arrange for one to pick you up. Just let our reception team know when and where you would like to travel and we’ll be happy to arrange one for you.

Hiring a bike

There are many providers in London who will hire you a bike by the day or for a portion of your stay. It’s also possible to hire bikes for children, so this can be a great way to explore the city as a family. If you’re visiting from overseas, you should acquaint yourself with the rules of the road, and avoid any very busy areas if you’re not experienced at cycling in major cities.

To find out more about hiring Santander Cycles (the citywide cycle scheme with docking stations all over London), head to our guide to the best London cycle routes from King’s Cross

Driving a rental car in London

Driving in central London is not for the faint hearted and if you’re from overseas, it’s a good idea to take some time to familiarise yourself with both your rental car and British roads before tackling the busiest parts of the city.

Most cars will be manual (stick shift), so if you’re not used to driving one of these, be sure to specifically request an automatic car when making your booking. There are helpful online tutorials and videos you can study before you drive in the UK and these can help you to drive safely for the duration of your trip.

For advice and route planning for travel by car during your stay in our King’s Cross hotel, head to the Travel Information section of our King’s Cross Blog.

Staying safe in different areas

If you’re sticking to the popular tourist destinations, you shouldn’t experience any problems, but again, do practice normal precautions with regards to keeping cash and valuables safely out of sight and reach in busy areas. Some parts of central London used to have reputations for being unsafe for visitors after dark. The large-scale gentrification of many areas in recent years, however, means there really aren’t any no-go areas in the city and there are hotels full of tourists and business travellers all over London.

As with any large city, plan your route and stick to well-lit roads after dark and you should always feel safe. If you’re going to an area you’re not familiar with, a combination of online research and speaking to our team here at Megaro should put your mind at rest and help you to feel confident about your excursion. We’ve also compiled a range of customised maps covering a selection of popular London areas, which you can browse in the King’s Cross Maps and area guides section of our blog.

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The Euros 2016 will be a key highlight for all sports lovers this summer, and – hosted just over the Channel – there will be plenty of opportunity for English fans to travel via London to see the matches live.

The easiest way for fans to get over to see the games is to travel via the Eurostar from King’s Cross. The service ensures great onward connections to many of the football stadia locations.

It’s incredibly easy to get to the Eurostar King’s Cross terminal itself, typically by walking from your accommodation here at The California in just a few short minutes. The King’s Cross terminal also links directly with many UK rail routes and is extremely well served by taxis, buses, bikes and more.

The event
The Euros will be taking place this summer from 10th June to 10th July. Get all of the details at the dedicated UEFA website.

Will England expect to do well this year in the 2016 Euros? That’s up for depate. But let’s focus on the group matches confirmed so far – which are Marseille, Lille, Saint-Etienne and Lens, and there is of course the possibility of there being further matches in Paris if things go well. Meanwhile, all eyes are on predictions for who will make it into the squad. Get the latest predictions via the Bookies website, or better yet host your own sweepstake!

And finally, if you are still setting your hopes on getting tickets for any of the games, keep your eye on the UEFA games website and keep your fingers crossed!

Read more: Everything you need to know about St. Pancras International and travelling via the Eurostar

Staying over in London
Because the Eurostar is so conveniently located in King’s Cross, there is some fantastic accommodation nearby – including us at The California of course! Book quickly as we expect demand to be high – but if you are out of luck at The California, there is also our sister accommodation, Hotel Megaro, close by, and plenty of other quality hotels in the vicinity.

The California will be showing matches in our lounge and bar which is open 24 hours a day (where you can take advantage of your free drink if you’ve booked direct), and other Eurostar hotels are likely to be showing the matches as the atmosphere reaches full fever! Local venues that we know are planning to show the games include The Camino, The Fellow and the Euston Flyer.

Additionally, at The California we have large TVs in all of our rooms, so you can also relax and watch the match with room service and a comfortable bed! Our super reasonable prices will ensure that you keep your spending money as intact as possible for the event itself, and you can find out more on our Roomspages.

Read more: How to get from King’s Cross to St. Pancras

Getting to the stadia from the Eurostar
From London you can travel to Lens in 2 hours 30 mins, to the Stade de Bollaert-Deleis. Travel via the Eurostar to Lille and then take one of the 28 daily connecting trains for a journey that takes just over half an hour.

Travel from London to Lyon in just under 5 hours – 4 hrs and 41 minutes to be precise, to visit the newly built Stade de Lyon, which is home to the Olympique Lyonnais. This stadium will also be the site of six competition games, including a semi-final. The journey from the station is around 3 miles and you can travel directly by tram.

Get to Saint-Denis in just over two hours, to visit France’s national stadium in the Saint-Denis commune. It will be home to the final, and is just a ten minute Metro transfer from the Gare du Nord Eurostar terminal.

Lille is the quickest journey of all at just 90 minutes from London, and then a 3 mile bus or taxi transfer to the Stade Pierre Mauroy which has a 50,000 spectator capacity.

Prices are likely to increase as the games draw closer and seats will be booked up fast – so make your reservations and find out more via the Eurostar website.

Remember to arrive well in advance of the matches to ensure that you can travel easily and get to your seating. Do organise your hotels beforehand via a reputable booking site, or tourist information. You can visit via the Eurostar website to find accommodation at the French cities you’ll be visiting.


Staying over in France
The hotels in the hosting cities are already booking up very fast and prices are high for the football dates, as is to be expected. For example, in Lens, the Novotel Lens Noyelles has excellent reviews but will set you back around £340 for 1 night. Travelling a little further out for a Eurostar hotel, the Le Domaine des Cigognes will need a taxi transfer, but will cost around £130 a night – with a few rooms available.

In Marseille, there are some larger hotels, and a room for two sharing in the New Hotel Marseille will cost around £140. Look for hotels with lovely views around the old port, which is a superb tourist attraction in its own right. Prices are good here and there is still availability.

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You’ve read and re-read the books, you’ve watched the movies, now it’s time to visit some of the most iconic settings brought to life by J K Rowling’s magical pen.

Harry Potter fans both young, old (and in-between!) will be delighted by the variety of Potteresque offerings in London, and when you stay with us at The California, you’ll find that you are ideally located to explore them (particularly if you’ve already had your letter delivered by owl inviting you to study at Hogwarts…)

Let’s shed some light upon the best places for muggles to discover Harry Potter in London. Lumos!

Harry potter guided walking tours

You can choose to take a guided walking tour of the close to King’s Cross Harry Potter hotspots (Muggle ToursBrit Movie Tours and several other operators run good ones) or go it alone, taking your time and wending your way from one location to the next, stopping off for a refreshing butter bear and some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Jelly Beans (or your choice of more mundane, but ultimately more palatable muggle refreshments) as you go.

Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station

All Potter aficionados know that the Hogwarts’s Express leaves from Platform 9¾. Follow signs to Platforms 9, 10 and 11 and you will come across a trolley belonging to an erstwhile Hogwarts’ student disappearing into the wall. It’s a perfect photo opportunity, but you will have to queue for the pleasure. In return though you will get an eager Hogwarts Express assistant on hand to throw a Gryffindor scarf round your neck and take a few snaps.

Once you’ve uploaded your pics to Facebook or Instagram, you’ll be ready to hit the adjoining Ollivander-esque shop to get fitted for your new wand. Or you could just buy a mug or a hoodie. Muggle.

Spot a flying car at St Pancras International Station

St Pancras International station is located right next to King’s Cross, and its huge and imposing façade was used for exterior shots of the somewhat less photogenic King’s Cross.

It is, famously, the location from which Harry and Ron take to the sky’s in the Weasley’s enchanted Ford Anglia in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Magic!

Read more: How to get from King’s Cross to St. Pancras

Chat up a few snakes at London Zoo

A key moment in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the moment that Harry unwittingly speaks Parseltongue for the very first time. The reptile house at London Zoo, the setting for this epic event, is stuffed full of weird and wonderful species, and you’ll find a Harry Potter plaque commemorating this auspicious event there too.

Warning: Don’t try and chat to any of the snakes. They may take offence.

Read more: Our top 10 London attractions near King’s Cross

Visit the Leaky Couldron on Charing Cross Road

Charing Cross Road is home to the building that acted as the Leaky Cauldron, pub and conduit between non-wizard London and magical Diagon Alley, shopping paradise for witches and wizards alike.

This is an intriguing and very historic area of London, packed with antiquarian and second hand bookshops. The surrounding book shops even have a magical atmosphere all of their own and if you look closely enough, you may notice some suspiciously magical-looking members of staff….

Read more: King’s Cross to Covent Garden: things to do and how to travel


Check out Diagon Alley at Leadenhall and Borough Markets

Two separate, equally charming London locations were used to represent the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron. A number of the Diagon Alley scenes were filmed in London’s iconic Leadenhall Market, one of the oldest and most characterful in the city.

To see the this version of the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, walk round to Bull’s Head Passage and look for the Opticians that is located there. The other is in Borough Market, another London landmark that is well worth a visit and is a great place to grab a very fresh, very eclectic (non-magical) bite to eat.

Read more: The best London markets near King’s Cross

Attempt to break into Gringotts at Australia House

The one and only bank catering to witches and wizards, Gringotts Wizarding Bank keeps its client’s valuables safe with a variety of spells and charms. Interior scenes that featured in several of the adaptations were filmed at in the majestic marble interior at Australia House on the Strand.

Perhaps the most memorable of these is the scene where Harry, Hermione and Ron come to the bank to find the horcrux in the vault belonging to the witch (and evil personified) Bella Lestrange, escaping on a dragon once they have done so. As you do.

Be summoned to the Ministry of Magic at Great Scotland Yard

The very epicentre of magical law, the Ministry of Magic is accessed through a classic red telephone box on the junction of these two streets in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Sadly the phone box was just a prop, but this austere part of London does still seem a very apt setting for the tense scenes where Harry is up on charges of practising magic in front of a muggle in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.


Ride the Knight Bus along London Bridge

The Millennium Bridge is dramatically destroyed by the Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In a rather more cheerful scene, the Knight Bus just about squeezes through two of London’s iconic double decker buses on Lambeth Bridge in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The full Harry Potter Experience

If you (or your kids!) are a committed Potter fans, you may decide to take the studio tour at the famed Warner Bros studio. Located only a short distance outside London, you will be bedazzled by the amazing array of sets, props, special effects and costumes that really bring the stories to life, in the most creative way.

Take the train from Euston Station (you can find directions from King’s Cross in our travel guide to traveling via Euston) to Watford Junction and simply hop on the studio’s shuttle bus. Ascendio!

Photo credit: David Iliff,  License:  CC-BY-SA 3.0