For those relocating, the first aspect of the city that you’ll need to familiarize yourself with straightaway is the public transport. More specifically: The London Underground, or the “Tube,” as we all endearingly like to call it. (I think it is very cute when my Chicago friends visit me here and continue to call it the “L” when it is the opposite of elevated :)) Those of you who have visited already know that the Underground is what folks call their subway system, and make note that the term “subway” here only refers to pedestrian crossings beneath the street level (i.e., foot traffic, not train).
At any rate, you can consult the Transport for London website for a larger, more comprehensive Tube map, which looks like the one above on the left. This is a schematic rendering, not a geographical one, so bear in mind that while the locations of Tube stations indicates their general relation to one another, it is not a measure of precise direction or distance.
In more recent years, depictions of the “real” Tube map (above on the right) have surfaced to provide a better bearing on where you are in the city—it is, you see, a bit difficult to determine by looking out the train windows when you’re, uh…well…underground. Even better, at TubeJP (London Tube Journey Planner), you can see the color-coded Tube lines overlaying a Google map where you can zoom in at street level.
Adding to the Tube’s “real”-ness is the new “live map” tracing the actual movements of the trains—this feature is temporarily unavailable on the site at present, but you can follow this link to see a video of what it normally looks like in motion.
The Underground map has obviously evolved over the course of the last century+, as illustrated in A History of the London Tube Maps, which offers links to great high-resolution images of map archives. Trying to achieve the optimal design for millions of commuters to follow with ease is a tricky feat, and there has been a lot of critique over the map’s aesthetics and readability (if you’re into maps/graphics, perhaps you’ll be interested in the two pence offered here and here in ’07/ ’08). I can recall last year’s big controversy surrounding the River Thames’s removal from the map—in response to public outcry that the river be returned to the official Tube map, it was reinstated. I find that to be very cute as well :).
Lucky for you, we prioritize finding you a flat close to public transportation and will help you get oriented with how to get around in your neighborhood and commute to work/school. Safe journeys to you, dear commuters, and may you always find your way!