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Big city showdown: London or Rome?

by Rajul on April 19, 2010

Rome's Trevi fountain is one of the city's highlights and a tourist magnet, but does it help trump the many attractions of London?

London versus Rome is a very close call indeed.

They are after all both bustling, cosmopolitan European capitals with plenty on offer for tourists and locals alike.  So how do you choose between them?

Let’s focus on the factors that we all care about on a break: eating, nightlife, shopping, culture and weather.

Eating

Home to people from all over the world, London is an exciting – if often expensive – place to eat.

Name an international cuisine and you’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to track it down in London – Indian, Thai, French, Mexican, Greek, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean, Lebanese, British gastro pubs… it has it all!

Rome is also a lovely place to eat.  It may not have the variety on offer in London, but eating out is a big deal to the locals and they demand high-quality, fresh, authentic dishes.

Although it is largely focused on Italian food, Rome does have restaurants dedicated to the country’s many regional cuisines, plus some of the best pizzerias and gelato joints around.

Don’t forget to try the distinctive Rome pizzas which are famous for having the thinnest crusts in Italy!  Result: London 1, Rome 0 (London pips Rome to the post only because of its range).

Great historic pubs like the Jerusalem Tavern help give London a slight edge over Rome's "vinerie"

Nightlife

Whether you fancy a traditional pub, a glossy bar, a salsa club or the theatre (to name only a few options) you’ll be well catered for in London.  The city can easily provide a different place to go to or a different activity for every night of the year, so you’re certain never to get bored.

Although there are things to do in all of Rome’s neighbourhoods, evening entertainment in the city is – unlike in London – focused on a few areas – Campo de’ Fiori, Trastevere and Testaccio.

Rome has a wide range of pubs – especially if you’re into the Irish variety, oddly – and wine bars (or “vinerie”) have soared in popularity recently.

If you want to go clubbing, you’ll need to dress to impress and have a sizeable budget, though there are smaller places where this isn’t the case.

Result: London 2, Rome 0 (again, Rome just can’t match London’s diversity).

Weather

London’s annual average temperature is 11°C, whilst Rome’s is 16°C.

Result: London 2, Rome 1 (Rome is a clear winner, unless you’re keen on drizzle and scarves!).

Rome has the unique colloseum - and better weather than London to go with it!

Shopping

London is a shopper’s paradise with plenty of places to splash the cash.

The British high street is famous for making designer-inspired clothes accessible to all.  This is nowhere more evident than Oxford Street, where you’ll find every chain and department store you could ever imagine.

That said, you’ll also find vintage, specialist, boutique and independent shops in most areas of London e.g. head to Carnaby Street, King’s Road or Covent Garden.  And anyone looking for designer clobber can go to Bond Street, where the sky (or your bank balance) is the limit!

London also has some outstanding food markets.

You’ll find diverse shopping in Rome too, from markets and high-street stores to designer movers and shakers.  Piazza di Spagna is one of Italy’s richest areas and ideal for designers like Armani, Prada and Versace.

Meanwhile the Via del Corso – a bustling pedestrianised street – is a popular shopping spot for tourists and locals with more modest budgets.

You can also indulge in retail therapy in Trastevere for bohemian, market-style shopping; Porta Portese for its Sunday flea market; Piazza Vittorio for its mouth-watering food market; and Piazza Navona for art galleries and antique shops.  Result: London 2, Rome 2 (a close call, but for me Rome’s overall “stylishness” just wins the day!)

The National Gallery is one of several London museums with world-class collections - and free entry

Culture

This is another close call.  Where London has the culturally-thriving South Bank and a wealth of unique museums like the British Museum and National Gallery, Rome possesses historic delights like the Colloseum and access to “living history” across its many beautiful piazzas.

The choice here depends on whether you prefer breadth (London provides unbeatable access to “world culture” through its numerous international festivals and collections) or depth (Rome’s cultural attractions are focused on its own rich history, in a justifiably insular manner!).

Although I personally love treading the piazzas of Rome, I feel that London again offers a bit more choice and variety.  A controversial call, I know!

Result: London 3, Rome 2

The final result

London just pips Rome to the post thanks to the capital’s all-encompassing range of things to see, do, eat and buy.  But then at London Hotels Insight we are definitely biased!

If we’ve persuaded you to check out what London has to offer, we can also help you find the best deal on hundreds of hotels in the city.

And if you seek a London stay with a dash of Italian flair, you may want to consider the Baglioni Hotel in Kensington.

Book direct with Baglioni Hotel London at the best guaranteed rate

The Baglioni is a swanky - though not cheap - London hotel which markets itself on the basis of its Italian flair

The luxury hotel is within the top 100 London hotels on TripAdvisor, it reputedly offers a remarkable spa, and excellent service from well-trained staff.

And if you enjoyed reading this “big city showdown”, do catch the other recent head-to-heads in this series in which we pitted London against Paris and Barcelona respectively.

Get the best-value London hotel deal from 30+ booking sites in 1 click

Photo credits: Baglioni Hotel, Vic Lic’s photostream.

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