Although I've vacationed in England several times, I've never been to London proper. On each of my trips, I flew into Gatwick airport, avoiding busy Heathrow, picked up a rental car (right-hand drive, manual transmission and motoring on the "wrong" side of the road--what fun!) and immediately set out for the countryside. My destinations included aviation, automobile and military museums, breweries, Stonehenge (of course) and "off the beaten path" attractions throughout southern England and, via the Channel Tunnel on one trip, in northern France. I gave London a wide berth simply because I generally prefer to avoid congested, chaotic, hard-to-get-around-in major cities. However, I realize that, by skirting London, I missed a great deal of what the country has to offer. So the city is on my "must-see" list for my next vacation to England, whenever that might be. In the meantime, I'll travel there from my armchair using Lonely Planet's outstanding "London" city guide.
Some of the recent Lonely Planet guidebooks I've gotten through the Amazon Vine program have been unimpressive, and have even inspired me to offer editorial comments about how good they used to be compared with how they are now. But "London" is an exception. This is a really good guidebook. Although I lack the first-hand experience with the city to say how accurate or comprehensive it is, I can say for sure that it is attractive, colorful, extremely well organized and exceptionally easy to use. It has a lot of features that I really like. For example:
-- All the maps are found together in the last 45 pages--that's in addition to the larger pull-out city map bound inside the back cover.
-- The city's vast area is organized into 10 neighborhoods, each of which gets from 15 to more than 60 color-coded pages of detailed information on attractions, restaurants, lodging, cultural activities, shopping, entertainment, drinking and nightlife, and so on.
-- Many "Top Sights" sidebars are scattered throughout, set off by eye-catching blue headings, in addition to the main text. Each offers a "Practicalities" listing of such things as the page number of the relevant map, website, physical address, admission fee, hours of operation and Tube stop. These are really handy and easy to use.
-- The detailed floor plans of such places as the British Museum, the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Victoria & Albert Museum are pretty cool.
-- The balance between text and photos tilts heavily toward text. This is not a "picture book." The sparse photos in it are relevant to the text but of secondary importance. Stretches of 30 or 40 pages with nary a photo may put off some readers, but I prefer information to pretty pictures.
-- A very nice and highly informative 50-page-plus "Understand London" section covers modern London, its history, architecture, literature, theatre, dance, art, fashion, music and film. This is an excellent capsule summary that puts what you'll see there into the proper historical and cultural perspective.
Lonely Planet's "London" is an outstanding guidebook that will be one of the first things I stick into my backpack the next time I catch an airliner bound for England.