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Watching Londoners go to work

I'm interested in watching Londoners go to work in the morning. I know that will have to get up early and travel from my flat in Earl's Court to some locale like the City. i'd like to get some specific locations that offer a good vantage point. I don't want to take photographs; I just want to watch and absorb the atmosphere.

Posted by
194 posts

Really, just go into any tube station in the morning, especially to the platforms and watch. Earlier in the week I stayed near St Paul's Cathedral, and the Blackfriers station was always busy.

But if you do go to a tube station don't get in the way of those heading to work as you may get maimed.

Posted by
1017 posts

Just walk by any tube station in Central London during rush hour. I wouldn't actually go into the station itself unless you want to be pushed aside or stepped on. London commuters are very focused on getting to work.

You could also sit near Westminster Bridge and watch the traffic.

Posted by
3319 posts

Ditto. Get on the tube between 7 and 9:30am. You’ll see thousands of people going to work. You could hang out in the financial district along Fleet Street, or maybe by the Bank of England. Then again, any of the markets (such as Burough), Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Bond Street, Piccadilly Circus, or any of a thousand other places.

Posted by
5704 posts

Yep get out and about early. Make it an adventure.

1.) Take the District Line tube from Earls Court to Westminster then a Jubilee Line Train to Canary Wharf. This is at least a half hour ride.

2.) or Earls Court to Holborn via Piccadilly line then
Central line to Liverpool Street. Walk to the Gherkin
( 30 St Mary Axe)

Posted by
629 posts

One of the classic views of Londoners going to work, is the morning rush across London Bridge.

Posted by
62 posts

I sat near the SOUTH KENSINGTON tube station (the Piccadilly Line). There are some outdoor cafes/ coffee bars there and you will see people milling about and going to work. When you are finished people-watching, it is just a short walk to the VICTORIA & ALBERT Museum.

Posted by
26094 posts

if you are looking for the old stereotype of men in 3 piece suits walking across Tower/Westminster/London Bridge(s) wearing a Bowler, carrying a rolled-up umbrella, or the new stereotype of a one piece (trousers) suit and red braces - you won't see either. Certainly not the first and highly unlikely the second.

You can see people going to work from your flat in Earls Court - just look out the window.

If you decide to go into the City expect the tube train to be crowded at the morning peak.

You can also go to any mainline train station, Victoria closest to you... and see everybody streaming through the station and to the Tube or buses.

Posted by
4895 posts

Unless you want to watch secretaries turning up in leggings and casual tops, you would need to be wherever you choose before 7.30/8am, as most City and Canary Wharf types would be at their desks by then. There is no "atmosphere", just lots of people pushing their way on and off tubes crammed like sardines and blocking the entrances to tube stations when they get a signal on their mobile phones and they try to catch up on what they have missed for the few minutes they have been underground.

Any central London station will suffice, particularly the mainline rail stations and places such as Bank or Oxford Circus (where you could also experience rush hour at say 5.30pm).

Posted by
1240 posts

Say all you want about London commuters, but on two separate days we were traveling on the tube with luggage and both times very kind London commuters, who were so "hurried" stopped and helped my wife with her carry-on suitcase up/down a long flight of tube station stairs. They definitely belong in the nicest group of people we have "met" in our travels.

Posted by
2920 posts

Our son’s favorite memory of watching commuters walking to work was very early one morning sitting on a bench in Green Park. The men in suits came briskly walking down the diagonal paths, swinging their arms and briefcases. He was 13 at the time on his first visit to London ((1990) and thought he’d just stepped into the Ministry of Silly Walks.

Posted by
576 posts

You could stand outside Westminster Abbey and see my daughter going to work in the big Government office next door. Civil servants tend to start work later, so some time after 9 would be OK.

Posted by
2991 posts

I'm not sure what atmosphere you're hoping to absorb, or how you think the Londoners are any different than commuters in any other huge city. I had an unintentional front seat on one visit. We were staying at the hotel that is located over Charing Cross station (DH was there on business). One morning I waited just outside while waiting for a couple of friends to join me for a girls day out, and had plenty of opportunity to watch the masses of commuters hurrying off to work. Aside from noting a lot of furled umbrellas (rain was forecast that day), and that wearing black appeared to be de rigeur, they didn't seem any different than their Manhattan or Toronto counterparts.

Posted by
1804 posts

I once was walking past the courts and had some barrister in his wig ask to borrow my cigarette lighter, so if you wanted to see something different I guess hang around there. And I guess you could stalk the cab drivers by hanging outside one of their shelters when they stop to eat or get a cup of tea.

But to me, I can't think of anything less appealing than watching other people going off to work when I'm trying to forget about work by taking a vacation. It's the equivalent of watching paint dry - what's to look at? If I wanted to see someone carrying a briefcase staring intently at their iPhone and making a pit stop to get a chai latte at 7:00AM I can stand directly in front of my apartment tomorrow morning.

Posted by
3319 posts

I don't know where saveenergy5 is from but I have to say, as someone from the public transportation wasteland that is Los Angeles, I have to agree that watching the morning commute in London is spellbinding! There is nothing like pressing yourself up against the wall of a tube station and watching the silent masses swiftly stream by, standing like soldiers to the right on the escalators or rushing up them on the left as if they are all perpetually late, and cramming themselves into the carriages all reading their papers and watching their phones intently so no one has a chance of making eye contact with anyone else. It's pretty great!
I personally would start in Victoria Station to see the commuters coming in from out of the city by train. Then hop into the tube and head towards Westminster on either the Circle or Victoria line. Hit it between 7 - 9 AM and you'll get the full experience!

Posted by
2991 posts

While I'm not sure I would characterize the experience as spellbinding, for someone who has little experience of mass public transit in North America it might be interesting. Anita's descriptions are not inaccurate.

Posted by
3470 posts

Why?

I don't get the desire to watch people getting on or off public transit. I was the worker doing the on/off routine for most of my life. All I cared about was hoping there would be space on the bus/train I needed to be on.

Would rather be sitting in a pub and not thinking about the crowded transit.

Posted by
6758 posts

There IS public transport in Los Angeles despite the stereotypes. Calling it a "wasteland" doesn't capture impressive gains that have been made in recent years starting from a very low baseline, especially with the light rail system extensions. It's not comparable to the density of London or NYC or Chicago (since residences and employment centers are very dispersed and there are multiple cores and activity centers spread throughout), but it's hardly a wasteland. There are real public transit wastelands in the US, but LA is not one of them. There is hope. But changes in behavior that diverge from the default car culture will take time. I've lived in LA for over 20 years and have seen it change very much for the better, with many more choices to get around in several areas than a car.
https://www.metro.net/riding/maps/
https://la.curbed.com/2017/8/4/16098474/olympics-transit-future-subway-rail
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/07/business/in-a-car-obsessed-city-learning-to-love-mass-transit.html

Posted by
888 posts

I stayed near Victoria station and two days went out for early sight seeing, so got to experience Londoners going to work first hand while crammed into crowded tube cars with them. It was not an experience I hope to have again, but it was interesting! It made me very glad I don’t have to be a part of something like that every day on my commute to work.

Posted by
16869 posts

People-watching is an acknowledged visitor pastime, preferably with a coffee and croissant in hand. We might just as well watch folks going to work as families playing in a park or couples strolling on London's South Bank, etc. Be open to enjoy what you find versus what you expected.

Posted by
1804 posts

Well, since you put it that way... I guess someone who lives in an area with virtually no public transit might somehow find watching a mass of people squeeze themselves on and off the Tube or a bus to be riveting. However, I still dispute commuters in London are that fascinating. Now Amsterdam...that's an entirely different story when you can see a woman who can pull this off (in high heels) - serious props to her: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLRrA-rKY-Q

Posted by
3319 posts

Ha! I'm loving this discussion! Having lived in the Los Angeles metro area for many years I would say that yes, it really is a wasteland for the most part. There are 6-7 very narrow corridors of public transportation that do offer decent options. The only beach cities that are connected in any way are Long Beach and Santa Monica. If you are in the central core of Los Angeles it is actually easy to get around with the DASH bus and the few metro lines that go to and from the city center. All the rest of us that live in the vast sprawl of the city and county have few options other than having a car.
We had a home exchange with a family from Paris this summer. They had a rental car for the first week they were here and then decided to return it and use public transport for the remaining two weeks...we tried to talk them out of it but they were convinced it would be fine. After about 2 days they rented another car when it took them 2 1/2 hours and three bus transfers to get to downtown Los Angeles. Many of our home exchange partners come here with the same intention but it never lasts long.
THIS is why we just love watching things like a commute in a city that provides its citizens with a way to get just about anywhere.

Posted by
3560 posts

I'm loving this discussion, too.

When I was in London a little over 2 years ago, I stayed a week at the Citadines on High Holburn. My studio apartment looked out over the street. I shopped at the little grocery store I could see from my window. Buses stopped there. From the pattern of activity, it seemed like many of the people on the street were local residents or worked in the area, although I could be wrong about that.

I can understand how it may seem odd to some people, but seeing that activity pattern over several days is like watching a living, breathing organism to me.

There was a tube stop a couple blocks away. I didn't get the full impact of people rushing to work because the only time I used the tube was for my Sunday trip to the airport. I used the buses and my feet to get everywhere. I wasn't in any hurry. The buses definitely were often crowded with all kinds of people.

Since I live where the closest bus stop and grocery store are a 30+ minute drive away, I thoroughly enjoy being in a place where I can see people going about their daily lives from my window a few floors up. Yeah, I could be one of those old ladies who do that.

Posted by
3175 posts

I wonder how many tourists watch us commute to work on the E train? Rather, I wonder if there are those who actually WANT to watch New Yorkers commute? Is it a fascination with public transport?

Posted by
5370 posts

Myself, rather than the commute in, I did rather enjoy the bustle of the pubs in central London after work. The chatter, debates, the young professionals blowing off steam, even a few opportunities to engage in a conversation or two (what do you do?, How did your day go?, I'm in town on business myself, etc.) It can get a bit crowded and unpleasant, especially on a nice day, but if you get a moderate crowd, I have had some very interesting times.