To say London will be crowded this year is an understatement -- the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics on 27 July coincides with the end of the school term and the start of one of the busiest holiday periods of the British summer.
A total of 29.4 million overseas
arrivals are expected to visit the UK in 2012, according to research firm Euromonitor.
That is only a 4% increase over last year, but throw in all the local tourists
and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June and you could have the perfect storm.
Predictions by Olympics organisers show
that on the peak day, 3 August, which is the first day of track
and field and many other big events, there will be an extra three million journeys
taken on public transport, this is on top of the 12 million trips made during an average
Unlike Her Majesty, navigating your
way through the capital city does not come with a motorcade to scatter the masses,
or a quiet palatial pad in central London. But is possible to avoid the
maddening mobs, inflated hotel prices and still enjoy the festivities.
On two wheels
If you want to avoid meat-packing
yourself into the summer-sweaty London Underground, hop on a Boris Bike, named after
the capital's cycling mayor, Boris Johnson. The mayor’s current Barclays Cycle hire
scheme is being extended east to Stratford, the site of the Olympics. Anyone with a
credit card can now rent one of 6,000 bicycles from the 400 docking stations. It
is best to follow a Greenway -- quiet
routes through Royal Parks and back streets or meandering along tree-lined canal
paths. Eight greenways, like spokes in a wheel, will also feed into the Olympic
There are miles of wide,
uninterrupted, traffic-free walking and cycling paths in London (with maps available online), many
of which are being spruced up and connected for the summer. Cycle hire points even
exist at Lord's Cricket Ground, which hosts the archery, and Horse Guards
Parade, the home to the beach volleyball.
Take a cycle or a walk down the Thames Path, a hassle
free highway that takes you from the hustle and bustle of the West End out to desolate
wharves and wildlife havens, finishing at Greenwich, home to one of the Olympic sites.
On two legs
London is the quintessential walking city. There
are many options for you to get around, with the sound of ducks and wind
whistling through the plane trees.
All routes are impressively mapped out by Walk London, from the 78-mile Capital Ring to the 37-mile Jubilee Greenway, a new walk marking the
Queen’s celebrations. Who said the Olympics had to be about busy buses,
tumultuous Tubes and hordes in the hotel lobby?
Summer will be the season to travel
peacefully by water, as long as you are not on the Thames on 3 June when a
1,000 boat flotilla celebrates the Queen’s Jubilee. Frequent river boats make
the journey from the centre to East End venues in less than 40 minutes. On
board you get the best London views, no traffic and a reasonable price. Ticket-holding Olympic spectators get
When it comes to bedding down after a day of crowd avoidance, there are
many quiet neighbourhoods in London that, by the time the
torch is lit, will have new properties on the scene. One of the trendiest
chains in the US, Thompson Hotels
has just dusted down the beds at the Belgraves off
Sloane Square, while the Waldorf
Astoria opened just last year on the edge of the 200 acre Syon
House Estate opposite Kew Gardens – nice and leafy. Marylebone, away from the
hordes will also see Firmdale launch Dorset
Square in the spring.
There is also a legion of British
homeowners in the tranquil suburbs ready to rent out their spare bedrooms and
homes during the celebrations. Websites such as Crashpadder, Airbnb and Viveunique are offering short
term lets during the Games.
you can look after a quiet Georgian property in a pretty London neighbourhood,
or a 150-year-old apartment close to Windsor Castle. A house swap is also an
option, with companies like Homelink.
The Camping and Caravanning Club
even has four event campsites for the summer. The one in the leafy Lee Valley
is within a 10-minute walk of the Olympics and is believed to be the closest
camping spot to the main venue. Campingninja.com is teaming up
with sports grounds across London to offer cheap pitches for campers. The money
raised will be ploughed right back into local sports clubs.
Campinmygarden.com has gone
one step further, touting private, tucked away, lawn space as micro-campsites.
If you hire from Wicked Campervans in north
London you get a bed and wheels thrown in, happily avoiding the crowds by parking
in the burbs.
Accommodation on house boats along
London’s 100-mile waterway network have all but dried up due to high demand,
although you can take the canal boat service during the Games along the River
Lee Navigation, a unique wildlife corridor, close to the Olympic Park.