Rick Steves is a real person who has actually traveled around Europe for 120 days every year, for over 20 years, to write his travel guides. That is incredible and I guess it explains why his books are so well-informed.
The first thing I do when I get hold of a new London travel guide is to try and find a mistake. I searched. And I searched. And I searched. I have never had to look so long to find something I could comment on that needed updating - and even then I knew these things had only just changed in the last month so there was nothing they could have done to avoid them. But what they have done is to keep an online update page which is well-maintained. (I know this as one of the researchers contacted me once to check some facts.)
Rick Steves offers facts with an opinion which I do feel helps you make decisions on what to do or see. His advice can be quite candid, as well as humorous, and I liked the informal and accessible descriptions. Describing number 10 Downing Street, where the Prime Minister lives, as "fairly impressive digs" did make me smile as did calling pickpockets "fast-fingered riffraff".
In the Introduction he covers lots of useful subjects, including the five components that make up your trip costs (airfare, surface transportation, accommodation, sightseeing & entertainment, shopping & miscellany), an 'Essential Packing Checklist', and how to be a "temporary local". It's good to remind us that things are different in London, such as no "bottomless cups of coffee". And I like the idea of English history condensed into "Four Millenia in Four Pages".
The hand-drawn maps keep everything simple and are easy to follow. They reminded me of something a good friend might scribble for you on the back of an envelope. (Bear in mind though, it does mean the color is restricted to the few street maps at the start of the book.)
About half of the book consists of detailed walking tours of London sights; either walks in areas with interesting landmarks or inside of major museums and attractions. Initially I wasn't sure of the benefit of tours within museums but I've tried a few now and reckon they'll save you from 'museum overload' when you feel overwhelmed and don't really see anything.
Don't expect to find lots of hotel recommendations, or restaurants or nightlife as they are not here. That probably makes sense as most of us book our accommodation online before traveling and restaurants change so quickly it would mean out-of-date information halfway through the year. What you will find are great tips and well organized walks for the budget-minded, time-conscious visitor to London.
DK Eyewitness guides are more colorful and visual but this has more information and opinions. I really like the Rick Steves' London travel guide and would be happy to recommend it.
Free downloadable audio tours coming soon (in 2010).