Lonely Planet dishes out some capital punishment to London

By Jack Foley

LONDON may be one of the most popular cities in the world - and one of the trendiest places on the planet - but it has come in for some scathing criticisms in Lonely Planet's latest guide book.

In summary, the travel specialists describe our capital as 'a joyless, decaying place where the locals are more likely to attack you than extend a welcome'.

The guide does recognise London's continuing allure for tourists, and considers it worth visiting, but it is critical of many aspects of life in the city - and raises points which Londoners themselves will no doubt agree with in principle. For instance, Londoners would 'no more speak to a stranger in the street than fly to the moon', it states - a sentiment shared by many people that I know.

Londoners, in their rush to get everywhere fast (including into drunkenness!), are very loathe to break away from their friends and talk to other people. In New York, by comparison, locals always have a story to tell and are willing to listen.

Perhaps more alarming, however, is the warning it gives tourists not to explore the city on foot (advice usually associated with the aforementioned New York a few years back). The guide refers to 'yobbos in cars' who dissolve into the type of 'road rage' that only Londoners know.

And referring to the increasing number of rough-sleepers found on streets throughout the capital, it concludes that they are 'a stain on the rich robes of this, Europe's richest city'.

Last year the Lonely Planet Guide to Britain described London as 'horribly overcrowded' and 'full of lager louts. And the drinking culture is again knocked when it dismisses London as a cool venue because most pubs and many restaurants close 'as the rest of Europe is choosing its first course' - another sentiment sure to be shared with Londoners and one which the government is trying to overturn.

Trafalgar Square's pigeon population are described as 'dirty, flying rats', while visitors to Oxford Street have to 'run the gauntlet of permanent closing down sales'.

Public transport (a common moan of many a commuter) is described as 'exhausting' and a 'debasing grind', while visits to Buckingham Palace are written off as overpriced and disappointing. There are even 'pockets of bigotry' all over the capital, according to the researchers.

Ironically, and in spite of the earlier criticisms of public transport, the guide notes that the Tube continues to be cited by visitors as one of the highlights of a trip here. But on the whole, London is still considered a 'world-class city' - which is perhaps the most important point of all!