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It does seem somewhat paradoxical that the sales of travel books and guides are in decline despite world travel increasing substantially in the last decade. However, in the last 40 years since Tony and Maureen Wheeler wrote their first Lonely Planet Guide, the travel business has changed beyond all recognition. Part of that change has been technological with information freely available online and having the ability to arrange many of the elements of your trip before you set off. Another important change is the world is far more fast-moving and many written guides cannot keep up with the latest developments. Lonely Planet is not the only travel guide publisher that is moving away from being just a traditional book publisher into a multi-platform brand. Even a Lonely Planet of a decade ago would have been mostly text-based with the odd series of photographs. The latest 2016 edition of Lonely Planet London has a far more snappier style with more photographs and a more colourful format.
The guide is split into four main sections. There is ‘Plan Your Trip, ‘Explore London’, ‘Understand London’ and finally the ‘Survival Guide’.
‘Plan Your Trip’ deals with many of the practicalities of your trip including sections on Getting Around, Need to Know and First Time London. To give the visitor some ideas there are a useful list of things to do in sections which include London’s Top 16, Top Itineraries, With Kids and If You Like. A month by month guide to London main events is also added before a subsection that provides specific advice and suggestions for Museums & Galleries, Eating, Drinking & Nightlife, Entertainment, Shopping, Sports & Activities and Gay and Lesbian.
The comprehensive Plan Your Trip section illustrates one of the best features of Lonely Planet Guide which is to give most of the relevant information that you need without bombarding the reader with too much information. If you are a traveller on a limited stay, there is enough information to get a reasonable snapshot of what is available with some insights into London social and cultural scene.
The next section, ‘Explore London’, divides London into neighbourhoods and gives overall account of each neighbourhoods particular character, places to visit and provides eating and drinking suggestions. The areas are interesting because I suspect if we were looking at a guide even ten years ago it would have included the West End , the City, the South Bank, Kensington & Hyde Park, Notting Hill & West London, Richmond, Kew and Hampton Court and Greenwich , but Clerkenwell, Shoreditch & Spitalfields, East London, Camden & North London sections would have been very short or non-existent., The rise of East London especially based around the 2012 Olympics is one of the major stories of London’s most recent past.
For those who like to learn more about London , ‘Understand London’ offers some insights into present day London, History, Architecture, Literature, Theatre & Dance, Art & Fashion, The Music Scene and Film & Media. This section is important to understand the trends and fashions of a fast-moving modern London which is in the middle of a building boom that is changing the city skyline and attracting investors from all over the world. The huge rise of the population in which a third of Londoners are now born overseas has led to many to argue that London is not just the capital of England but is the capital of Europe.
Finally we have the famous ‘Survival Guides’ section which gives you all that local information you need to make your stay as hassle free as possible.
For all the advantages of getting information online, a decent guidebook is still a great way to find your way around a new city. Lonely Planet London follows the well-known Lonely Planet format with a great selection of maps , photos and nuggets of information. It is a well written , knowledgeable and informative guide-book that follows a long tradition of Lonely Planet guidebooks being written by local writers who want to share their love for their city but have the honesty to mention many of the positives and some of the negative sides of London life.
For more information or to buy a copy of the book, visit the Lonely Planet website here
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