After three years of lackluster performance, tourism in London, one of the most popular destinations in Europe, has surged back to record levels: it was the third most visited city worldwide in 2023, and Americans seem to be the leading nationality among visitors.
According to data from the Office of National Statistics, they make up the lion's share of arrival numbers in 2023, and their outpouring of love for the British capital has helped it recover from the crisis at a much faster pace than the average European destination.
Now that London's trendier than ever, it's likely they will continue flying across the pond in record numbers throughout 2024, and there are 7 of the main reasons why:
Strong Cultural Ties
America's love for the metropolis on the Thames runs deep, and it may have something to do with their unbreakable historical bond: the New World was, after all, originally settled by the English, and both London and Washington have stood by each other through thick and thin, and multiple wars.
Though it is now a melting pot of cultures, the United States has retained much of its Anglo-Saxon character, with several American families tracing their heritage back to the United Kingdom and feeling a sense of camaraderie towards their British counterparts.
Additionally, there are fewer culture shocks awaiting Americans who travel to London compared to other European nations – they share the same language and deep cultural ties – and the attitude towards U.S. visitors is generally positive.
An International Icon
London is one of the most iconic destinations worldwide, easily recognized for its red telephone boxes, double-decker buses, historical ‘tube', beautiful architecture, thriving underground music scene, and the omnipresent centuries-old establishment that is the monarchy:
The Old World charm and traditionalism make it a bucket list destination for many Americans, especially when the U.S. is such a young nation, and they will simply not get the same overload of culture and History in any Stateside destination.
Some of the top attractions for Americans in the city include Big Ben, the marvelous Victorian-era clock adjacent to the British Parliament that has just been unveiled again following extensive renovation, the medieval Westminster Abbey, the ornately-built Tower Bridge, and Buckingham Palace.
Still on the topic of culture, London is one of a handful of cities in Europe where most of the landmark museums are free to visitors. More specifically, entry fees have been abolished at every National Museum, including all of the following:
The British Museum, where ancient relics from all over the world are exhibited, the Natural History Museum, housing gigantic dinosaur skeletons and specimens collected by Charles Darwin himself, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world's largest collection of decorative arts.
In other European capitals, major institutes are open to the general public only on certain times of the year, which is the case with Paris, or they may not offer free admission at all, like in tourist-packed Rome or Athens, making London the darling of museumgoers.
A Set-Jetting Destination
London is also a set-jetting destination for American travelers, as several of their favorite films and TV shows were shot in loco around the bustling capital, having turned regular metro stations and backstreet bookshops into highly sought-after selfie stops.
Noteworthy examples include the Harry Potter saga and its fictional Platform 9¾, located in King's Cross Station; the Julia Roberts-starred Notting Hill, filmed around the colorful neighborhood of the same name, known for its casual cafes and street markets; the James Bond film series, among others.
London is littered with James Bond-associated locations, from the MI6 Building, the headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service, which appear in classic installments such as GoldenEye and Die Another Day, to the Skyfall-featured National Gallery.
A Foodie Hotspot
British cuisine is not exactly world-renowned for its richness of flavorful spices, and it can draw both fierce defenders and detractors, but if you're not exactly keen on fish and chips and meat and jelly pies yourself, you'll be thrilled to know London is a global food mecca.
Looking for the most succulent dim sum in the capital? Head to Chinatown, a foodie hotspot in the heart of London with a distinct oriental flair. Is Indian your go-to on a Saturday night? Mayfair's immigrant family-owned eateries should definitely be on your radar.
Craving traditional Italian instead? The super trendy Oi Vita, up Newington Road in North London, has some of the best melt-in-your-mouth calzoni we've ever tasted, and if sampling street delicacies is on the list, make it your top priority to hit up hippy, stall-lined Camden Market at sundown.
Great Connectivity With The U.S.
The U.K. is the European country boasting perhaps the best connectivity with the U.S., and with a majority of flights touching down in London, it's hardly a surprise the number of American tourists is at an all-time high currently.
There are at least 152 US-UK flights in operation, equalling nearly 40,000 seats. Overall, London and its four airports account for 93 percent of all U.S.-originated air traffic to the United Kingdom, with London Heathrow concentrating a majority of arrivals.
The fact that London-bound flights are typically more affordable than the average Transatlantic route is another huge boost for tourism, with tickets from New York available for as cheap as $232 one-way on Kayak: at times, it's more affordable to fly to London than to domestic destinations in the States.
London Is Open
Finally, Britain's friendly tourist visa policy makes London a hugely attractive destination for Americans. For starters, they are allowed to access the e-Gate lanes when landing in London Heathrow or other major aviation hubs.
This means U.S. nationals can simply scan their passport and freely walk into the United Kingdom without undergoing further scrutiny or unnecessary bureaucratic steps at the border. Furthermore, they are allowed to stay a continuous 180 days in the U.K. following each new entry.
Other European countries, particularly those in the Schengen Area, have far stricter entry rules, forbidding tourists from staying longer than 90 days out of any 180-day days. In these islands, none of Brussels' complicated rules apply:
As the famous slogan goes, ‘London is open‘ and welcoming visitors with open arms.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.