The Millennium Bridge, with St Paul's Cathedral in the background

Caravanning in London
- Crystal Palace

This article was published previously in the Caravan Club Magazine

Caravans and London - hardly a winning combination, most of us might think. Just the idea of travelling through the busy traffic, especially if a stranger to the city, would be enough to send a shiver up and down all but the bravest spine!

Yet visit the Caravan Club site at Crystal Palace and everything changes. Easy access from outside London brings you to an excellent base for a break in and around the London area. Here all the usual comforts of a Club site combine with easy public transport links to the famous sights, to the West End, or whatever else in the capital takes your fancy.

The site lies alongside Crystal Palace Park, where the original Palace was a major tourist attraction of its day until destroyed by fire in 1936. Today the park is a large, open space - ideal for a stroll and with plenty of attractions for all the family including farmyard, boating lake and maze. The famous athletics stadium is a near neighbour.

Getting to Crystal Palace is not as difficult as first it might seem. There are several alternative routes depending upon the direction from which you approach London - all use main routes and so may be busy at times. Once you have arrived, though, you can put your car away and rely on others to get you around; it is easy to reach the centre of London using public transport, almost from the site itself.

The site at Crystal Palace is open all year and advanced booking necessary at all times. Well-established trees divide the site into smaller areas creating an almost rural atmosphere; it is surprisingly quiet, an area of calm amidst the bustle that is London with pitches for 84 caravans and motorhomes (mostly hardstandings) and a separate area for tents. Foreign visitors are often to be found - during one recent 3-month period 22 countries around the world were recorded!

Pleasant though Crystal Palace is the site is more suitable for use as a base than as somewhere to while away the hours alongside your caravan. After an early breakfast it's time to head into town! Catch a bus a couple of hundred yards from the site entrance and ride all the way to Piccadilly or Oxford Circus - Travel Cards (for all-day travel on buses and underground) can be purchased at the site office.

London: there can be few places in the world where so many attractions for all ages can be found so close together. Whatever your interest (and even if you are more at home in the countryside, cities not being your thing!) there will be something that appeals. Established sights such as the Houses of Parliament and St. Paul's Cathedral are well known - but why not try something a little different?

A recent and prominent addition to the skyline is the London Eye, erected to mark the new millennium. A trip takes around 45 minutes, and on a clear day you can look down on the Thames and the surrounding countryside for miles around. Still popular - so expect to queue!

Another way to enjoy the capital from a different perspective is on foot, and there are many walking routes offering superb views. Organised tours are available but if you prefer to go it alone try the South Bank of the Thames from Westminster Bridge, past the Eye and The Festival Hall until you reach the Tate Modern Gallery (perhaps stopping for a meal at Gabriel's Wharf). After an hour or two browsing some of the finest modern art available catch a ride back on one of the waterbuses, or cross the Millennium Bridge (yes, that's the one that made everyone a little seasick when first opened!) to retrace your steps along the opposite bank.

At times during the year London is host to Carnival - the most famous being at Notting Hill which is billed as one of the largest street parties in Europe. Here you can see adults and children alike in some of the most colourful costumes imaginable whilst you try the spicy, exotic food and drink from the many surrounding side-stalls. The number of different ways to enjoy London is almost limitless. The Tower Bridge Experience takes you inside the famous landmark to see how it works, with views along the river from the high-level walkways. Hunt for a bargain at one of the major street markets like Borough Market or Portobello Road by day, then visit a West End show in the evening. Enjoy a little wine tasting at Vinopolis whilst learning about the origins of wine, then tour the nearby jail museum in Clink Street (the original prison here, as you might have guessed, gave birth to the expression).

Crystal Palace is the ideal way to visit London to do something different - go on, give it a try!

© GDS 2003
Back to Caravan Menu
The London Eye, for wonderful views across London
Notting Hill Carnival
Borough Market, in Southwark
Tower Bridge
The Caravan Club site at Crystal Palace is an excellent touring base from which to see the sights of London