by: Jason Young, Anna Zielazny
London is one of the most visited cities in the world. Considering its rich offers, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Its history reaches Roman times, but its culture follows the most modern trends. In this diverse city, everyone can find something for themselves.
This London travel guide is presented by sections, if there’s anything you rather check first use the table of content below.
Things to Do In London
Ready for an amazing adventure in London, where you can admire world-class museums, enjoy great and varied cuisine, immerse in history, take part in the exciting nightlife, and have fun with some shopping? Here is the list of the best things to do in London!
Learn About History and Politics in Westminster
One of the most emblematic buildings of London is the Elizabeth Tower, which houses the world-famous bell, Big Ben. This bell tower is a part of the Houses of Parliament, that look stunning whether admired from the bank of the Thames or from close up.
You can walk around Westminster and enjoy the neogothic architecture and tolls of the famous Big Ben. Head to Parliament Square to see statues of people important to politics.
Be sure to visit breathtaking Westminster Abbey church located nearby. With more than 1000 years of history, the Abbey is an important place for Britons’ identity.
Relax or Get Political in Hyde Park
Hyde Park is not only one of the best parks in London, but it’s also filled with history. Here, many protests and demonstrations took place. In past times, Suffragettes marched through the grass of Hyde Park, changing female history.
You can relax here under one of the trees, or chill by the ponds, where you can go paddle-boating. Listen to the bustle of conversation and the singing of birds. You can also head to Speaker’s Corner if you want to listen to some debates, engage in protests, or see some performance artists.
Feel the Spirit of Community in Camden
This spot is a must-see in London for everyone interested in alternative cultures. Filled with punks, goths, but also tourists and passers-by, Camden is full of energy and cultural life.
You can get a new tattoo or have your body pierced in one of the local spots here. If that’s not your vibe, you should pop up to Camden Market to try some delicious street food and admire unique art and crafts executed by local artists. It’s also a perfect place to browse for some second-hand treasures, starting from books, through souvenirs, to clothes.
Regent’s Canal that passes by is a perfect place for a relaxing stroll that will take you to King’s Cross.
Look at London from the London Eye
London Eye is the most famous Ferris wheel in the world. It was created at the beginning of the millennium to celebrate a new era. You can hop in one of the pods and admire the panoramic view of London.
Share a ride with other visitors or book a private spot for you and your loved one and take a romantic ride. While the views are spectacular during the day, it’s a good idea to see London from above in the late evening when the city is illuminated with light.
Get your fast track ticket to ride London Eye here.
Watch a Movie at the BFI
If you are a film lover, you cannot miss a visit to the British Film Institute. Whether you want to see something new or enjoy a blockbuster, the BFI is the right choice. Have a look in the BFI’s store and browse for books in its library.
After that, you can enjoy a drink or a meal in a riverfront restaurant. The place is situated on the Southbank, so before or after your visit you can have a relaxing stroll by the river and discuss a movie plot with your companion.
Solve a Mystery on Baker Street
There is no street in literature that is more known than Baker Street. Known from the stories of Sherlock Holmes written by Arthur Conan Doyle, it became even more popular after a cinematic adaptation of the book.
After you take a picture in front of 221b, immerse yourself into some secrets in a Sherlock Holmes museum. If you’re a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, consider to join the London Sherlock Holmes 2 Hour Walking Tour.
Meet Someone Famous in Madame Tussauds’
London is a cosmopolitan city. If you are lucky enough, you might pass a famous writer, actor, or politician. You can also see them all in one place.
Madame Tussaud’s collection of wax figures has all you need to take a selfie with a celebrity. They really look real!
Secure your fast track ticket here.
Taste the Greatest Curry in Brick Lane
Brick Lane gained its popularity after the book and film with the same name. This diverse neighbourhood is a great place for all foodies and those who want to immerse themselves in various cultures. As the Bangladeshi community is big here, you can see road signs written in English and Bengali.
You won’t find a better place to taste a perfect curry. After you have your meal, pick from various spots where you can eat great South Asian desserts. Brick Lane is also a wonderful place for art lovers that can see various pieces of street art here and visit Whitechapel Gallery featuring modern and contemporary art.
Get Some Shopping on Electric Avenue
If you visit Electric Avenue today, it’s hard to believe it was the first market street in London with electric light. Here, you can enjoy a great food market, Brixton Market. Get some readymade food or supply yourself with fresh products for the rest of your stay in the city.
Don’t just stop at the market, but explore the rest of the neighbourhood. You can find small businesses here in which you can find handmade items and unique souvenirs. Brixton is a vibrant area, ideal for a slow stroll and some shopping. You can often hear live music presented by street artists here.
Catch a Spotlight at Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus has always been a commercial hub of London. Starting in the 17th century, and continuing till today, it is a fast-changing and vibrant place. Famous for its bright lights and electronic screens, it brings to mind New York’s Times Square and attracts tourists.
In the middle of the circus stands the Statue of Eros. It is a popular meeting spot for locals. From Piccadilly Circus, you can quickly access various nightclubs and some of the most important theatres in the city. Here you can also visit some museums, such as Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum.
Have a Unique Shopping Experience on Oxford Street
Oxford Street is a great place for all shopping lovers. As the busiest shopping street in Europe, it features more than 300 shops. You can find popular chains here, as well as designer stores or department stores.
Even if you are not planning to buy anything, it is worth strolling through Oxford Street to see some of the exquisite window displays, where you can see interactive windows or works made by famous artists.
If you visit London before Christmas, Oxford Street is an ideal spot to experience the true Christmas spirit with all the lights and themed expositions.
Admire Art in Great Museums
While being in London, you can’t miss its art galleries and museums. It might be hard for you to choose because there are many spots worth visiting. The good news is, most of the galleries are free for visitors, so you can enjoy stunning art even if you are budget travelling.
Head to the National Gallery to admire the classic masters, including Turner, Rembrandt, and da Vinci. On the Southbank, you can find the Tate Modern, one of the most significant modern art museums in the world. Klee, Delauney, and Picasso are some of the many great names that you can find there. At the Tate, you can enjoy an exquisite permanent collection, but also do not miss the temporary exhibitions.
Have Some Fun in Soho
Soho is famous for its vibrant nightlife. It is famous for being the centre of the city’s sex industry. While you still can spot some sex shops here and there, now it is mostly a fun centre for locals. It is especially loved by the LGBTQ+ community.
You can grab a drink here, but also visit one of the theatres, listen to jazz in a bar, or cherish food in one of the fashionable restaurants.
If you prefer exploring during the day, Soho is also a great destination. You can grab a coffee in one of the many bakeries or cafes, browse for vinyl in one of the music shops, and enjoy the vibrant vibe of the area.
Catch Your Train to Hogwarts on Platform 9 ¾
While being in London, you should head to King’s Cross station. The spot was opened in 1852, but now it has a modern look. You can find some street art here and there, but the main attraction is Platform 9 ¾.
Known from the Harry Potter stories, the Platform is loved by tourists. You can take a picture with a trolley disappearing into the wall. However, if you are a true wizard, you know the drill. One hop and you can quickly get out of London, but who would like to do that?
Visit Beautiful Places around London in a Day Trip
As England is beautiful in general, interesting places is not limited within the city limit. If you’re willing to spend 5+ hours to check out the surrounding you’ll find some pleasant surprises: Windsor Castle, Oxford city, Stonehenge, South Downs National Park, White Cliffs, the list goes on.
See a list of day trips you can take with reviews from those who took it before here.
How to Get Around in London
There area several ways to get around London, but for speed and coverage Tube takes the crown.
Tube (The London Underground)
London’s metro system – more widely known as the Tube – will be your best friend during your stay at London. It has extensive reach throughout the city, covering total 9 zones, and is available from 5:00 AM until midnight. Some of other benefits are:
- Due to being underground and not affected by traffic, you can expect somewhat precise schedule with waiting time no more than 10 minutes.
- Very easy to reach from anywhere with 270 stations throughout the city, all you need to do is look for a sign of red circle with white underground text in a blue box.
- Part of the Oyster Card system (will be covered below) so no hassle on payment and you can pretty much go everywhere with £7.40 ($9.87) a day.
Try to avoid rush hour in the morning and evening if you can because it will be packed with commuters. Morning rush hour should be between 7:30 AM – 9:00 AM, the evening one between 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM.
Read more info about Tube here.
Overground Rail Options
There are some railway services available above ground but you shouldn’t worry about which is which since the one traveling within the city are all part of the Oyster card system. Just check where you want to go and hop on whatever closest or most convenient. For you information, there are London Overground, TfL Rail, and DLR (Docklands Light Railway).
Bus also has wide coverage and many of the routes run 24 hours a day, which is a plus. But keep in mind that they operate on the regular road so traffic will be a factor in speed and punctuality. Another thing to pay attention is they don’t accept cash payment so make sure you have your card ready. Rate is £1.55 ($2.07) per trip with daily cap of £4.6 ($6.14) if you’re using Oyster Card.
Tram only has 4 lines and it run only in south London. It charges the same rate as bus.
Emirates Air Line Cable Car & River Bus Boat Service
As London has big Thames River in the middle, transport means across this wide body of water are necessary. Aside from the usual bridges, you can utilize Emirates Air Line cable car and River Bus boat service, both can be paid with your Oyster card. On a side note, the air line provide breathtaking view over this beautiful city, you should try it if you can.
The Oyster Card Payment System
The Visitor Oyster Card is a very convenient public transport payment system using pre paid card. This card can’t be bought in London so you have to order and have it delivered to your home country. It can be used on the Tube, London Overground, DLR, TfL Rail, bus, tram, Emirates cable car, and river bus. You can even use it to pay your train trip from Gatwick Airport to central London at £19.80 ($26.42).
The card cost £5 ($6.67) and you have a few selection on how much credit you want to add starting from £10 ($13.34). Download the app so you can track how much credit you have left and see your journey’s history.
Public transport payment system in London uses daily cap, this means once your trip cost hit a certain amount, you won’t be charged anymore for the rest of the day. This is another benefit of Oyster card compared to the regular paper ticket: better rate. For example check the rate for adult here. With Oyster Card (pay as you go) you can go everywhere within zone 1 & 2 (where most the attractions are) for £7.40 ($9.87) per day while if you’re using paper ticket (travel cards) you’ll spend £13.90 ($18.55).
You can add credit to your Oyster card at any Tube, DLR, London Overground, and other train stations. Add over 4,000 local shops in London called Oyster Ticket Stops and you’ll never run out of options when additional credit is needed.
Taxi & Uber
The black taxis of London are easy to spot and seemingly everywhere. Hail the one with roof light sign on. Keep in mind not to take illegal taxi, especially the one that approach you since it could be dangerous.
Your favorite ride hailing app Uber is available in London so use them as you need.
Bicycle rent service is managed by the city, called Santander Cycle. With over 11,000 bikes and 750 docking stations throughout the city, you won’t run out bikes to rent or places to get them. Use their app to rent one for £2 ($2.67), this will give you 30 mins ride within 24 hours period. Check here for more information.
Hop On Hop Off Tour Bus
Hop On Hop Off tour bus route will cover the majority of landmarks and attractions in London such as Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street, and so on. You can hop on and hop off the bus as many times as you want during the duration of 1-3 days, depending on the ticket you bought. Check the details here.
Where to Stay in London
Where you stay depend on your budget and whether you’re going solo or with travel companion/family.
Cheap accommodation to keep your belonging and crash at night, you can get a bed in a dorm for $30 – $50/night or a private room for $80 – $160/night. Many of them are in great locations too so you don’t have to get into a long ride to reach the city’s landmarks and attractions.
Our recommendation to look for the most suitable one would be Hostelworld as they’ve been in the business for years, partnered with many hostels around the world, and host a plethora of user reviews so you can learn from previous guests experiences. Some of the highly recommended:
Rent an Entire Place/Apartment
If you’re traveling with friends/family it can be cheaper to rent an entire place. You can cook when you want and at some places you can also do your laundry so more cost saving there. A place for 2 cost around $90 – $150/night while a place for 4-6 people it will cost around $160 – $240.
Visit AirBnB for list of available places to rent that suit your need. Don’t forget to use the ‘type of place’ filter and pay attention to the reviews.
If a professionally managed accommodation is your cup of tea, then booking a hotel room would be an obvious choice. It would come with houskeeping for cleaning, room services, probably breakfast in the morning and a swimming pool on the side.
A typical good 3 stars hotel bedroom in London will cost you around $200 – $270/night. If you’re into luxurious experience, a 5 stars hotel bedroom will cost around $320 – $600 / night. Find the one suits you by browsing at Booking.com, don’t forget to use their advance filter feature. Be sure to know the best time to book the hotel room to get a good deal, it’s an expensive city after all.
Below are some of the most recommended ones:
Best Restaurants in London
London has no shortages of unique and delicious culinary experience that you can explore. Here are some of the best in the city:
Low Price ($5 – $20)
- The Golden Chippy (Fish and Chips)
- E Pellicci (Italian)
- Cafe Parisienne (European)
Mid Price ($15 – $40)
- Steak & Co.Garrick Street,Covent Garden (steakhouse)
- Alexander The Great Restaurant (Greek)
- Scarlett Green (Antipodean)
- Indian Room (Indian)
Fine Dining ($45 – $200)
- Launceston Place (British)
- Galvin La Chapelle (French/Italian)
- Leicester Square Kitchen (Mexican/Peruvian)
Best Time to Visit London
The best time to visit London in term of convenience and cost would be spring and autumn, both share similar characteristics: good temperature, decent prices, and acceptable crowd size.
Spring: March – May (Best Time)
After getting out of winter, naturally if you go earlier in spring there would be less crowd around. Temperature ranges from 8°C – 17°C (46°F – 62°F) which is acceptable for exploring outside. Prices start to normalize after winter but won’t be as high as prices in summer would. Some events you can expect around these period:
- Easter (April). Easter weekend in London can be many activities: Easter egg hunts at various places, Easter Sunday service at popular churches such as Westminster Abbey or St Paul’s Cathedral, or shop for special Easter chocolates at London’s top chocolate shops.
- St Patrick’s Day Festival (March). Join the crowd in watching parade with tons of food stalls on the side at Trafalgar Square to celebrate the St. Patrick’s Day.
- London Coffee Festival (early April). With over 250 coffee artisan and gourmet food stalls, this is an event you don’t want to miss if you’re a coffee enthusiast. Secure your ticket here.
- RHS Chelsea Flower Show (May). Huge flower and gardening show with unique shops catering to everything from garden seating to jewelry and crafts. Buy your ticket here.
Summer: June – August
As summer coming, temperature will raise and holiday starts everywhere. This will be the busiest period of the year with throng of tourists enter the city and you will see crowd in London’s main attractions. Naturally prices of transport & accommodation will be skyrocketed as well. This also would be the warmest season of the year with temperature ranges around 12°C – 21°C (53°F – 70°F). Some notable events during this period:
- Trooping the Colour (June). The Queen’s Birthday Parade will be held at Horse Guards Parade featuring British well-known guards in their iconic red and black uniform. Read more about this here.
- Kaleidoscope Festival (July). A festival of music, comedy, and theatre held in Alexandra Palace. Check the details and secure your ticket here.
- BST Hyde Park Music Festival (June). Music festival held in Hyde Park featuring London top musicians. Book your ticket here.
- Grace Jones’ Meltdown Music Festival (June). Grace Jones bring forth her hand-picked musicians from around the world, held in Southbank Centre. Read more here.
- Underbelly Festival (July – September). A combination of live entertainment (music, comedy, cabaret, and many more), outdoor bars, and street food and drinks. This big summer festival will be held at Cavendish Square, Oxford District. Find out more here.
- Notting Hill Carnival (August). Caribbean themed carnival held on the streets of Notting Hill, Kensington. Expect huge crowds, flashy costumes, lots of dancing, and tons of street foods. Read more here.
Autumn: September – November (Best Time)
The crowd of summer will start to disperse around 2nd week of September and this will be another best time to visit London. Temperature will drop but still on comfortable level at 8°C – 19°C (46°F – 66°F), prize will start to normalize, and you won’t see too many lines at popular attractions. Some notable events during this period are:
- London Marathon (October). Be a spectator or a participant of the annually held London Marathon, the largest marathon event in the UK. Runner will run on mostly flat route around the River Thames, starting from Blackheath and finishing at The Mall road. Even better, as a participant you will also help to raise fund for various charity organizations. Register yourself or check the details of this event here.
- Thames Festival (September). An event presenting various art, education, and heritage programs, all related to the river Thames. Some past activities: illuminated river boat tour, photography workshop using just your phone, kayaking in Thames with Chelsea Kayak Club, clay workshop from Brentford Community, and many more. Read more about the Thames Festival here.
- Christmas at Kew (mid November – early January). Big Christmas event held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Enjoy the strategically placed light installations at night, visit one (or more) street food stalls for delicious treats, or pose in front of tons of beautiful backdrops tailor made for your Christmas selfies. Book your ticket here.
- Halloween (October). Just like Easter, Halloween celebration can be felt throughout the city as each places will have their unique take on the event. So hit the street and see what you can find!
Winter: December – February (cheapest)
As winter coming, the temperature drops even further to 3°C – 8°C (37°F- 46°F), bringing the visitors number down. This time might not the most comfortable time to walk around exploring the city, but it’s definitely the cheapest time (price might be up a bit around Christmas & New Year holidays). Some of the notable events:
- Christmas and New Year. Just like Easter and Halloween, different venues and business have their own way to celebrate the holidays, from sparkling decorations to fun activities. Check around and see what you can find.
- Boxing Day Sale (December – early January). 26 December is the Boxing Day and it marks the annual Boxing Day sale which will last until early January. Most shopping centers and department stores will participate in the event so if you have any particular item you’ve been wanting to buy, this is the time to find a bargain.
London Trip Cost
The following are cost breakdown for necessities in your trip (accommodation, food, and so on). It will be in USD but remember to have your Pound sterling ready when you leave for London.
- Hostel: a dorm bed will cost you $30 – $50 while a private room will cost $80 – $160.
- Entire apartment/house: a place for 2 will cost you $90 – $150. If you travel in a group, expect to pay $160 – $240 for 4-6 people.
- Hotel: a recommended 3 stars hotel will cost you $200 – $270. If you’re into more luxurious experience, a 5 stars hotel room will cost $320 – $600.
Expect to pay between $5 – $20 per meal if you stick to street food and $15 – $40 if you choose to eat at a decent sit-in restaurant. For more luxurious experience of fine dining, prepare to pay at least $45 and above.
Transportation / Getting Around
Getting an Oyster card before you leave for London would be the best option as it will give you access into the majority of London’s public transport (metro train, bus, cable car, and boat) at low fare. Public transport in London uses daily cap system, so once you hit the cap you stop paying for the rest of your rides within that day.
- Use the tube (metro) and other train services as much as you like within certain zones for daily cap of £7.40 ($9.87)
- Use the bus for daily cap of £4.6 ($6.14)
- Emirates Air Line (cable car across Thames River): £4 ($5.3) per trip
- River Bus (boat): £4.60 – £8.50 ($6 – $11.6) per trip, depend on the zones.
If for whatever reason you failed to secure an Oyster card before you leave, expect to pay normal fare using regular tickets. Find out about public transport fares here.
Another alternative is to use Hop On Hop Off tour bus where you pay a fix fee then are free to hop in and hop off the bus within a certain period of time. Naturally the bus route is designed to pass most of London’s landmarks and attractions.
You don’t need a ticket to many of the landmarks and interesting areas in London. Here are several that do:
- Ride the London Eye (fast track admission): $ 35.81
- Tower of London & Crown Jewels Exhibition (skip the line): $38.33
- Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studio Tour (skip the line): $118
- St Paul’s Chatedral : $22.55
- Madame Tussauds London: $40.46
- Thames Cruise: $17.91
The Covid situation is very fluid and can change at a moment notice. Read here to find out what measures to expect when you travel to England.
How to Stay Safe
London is generally a safe city and it does safer than some other European cities. It is still a major metropolitan with 9 million population though, so it’s wise to use common sense to keep yourself safe.
- If you’re solo traveling, let someone know about your travel plan and schedule beforehand.
- In emergency, dial 112 or 999, these numbers are equivalent to US’ 911. Naturally, they’re toll free.
- Avoid taking unlicensed taxi. If you need to hail a ride, use London black cab or hail an Uber.
- If you have to walk at night (especially alone), keep to well-lit main road. Avoid taking shortcut via alleys and such.
- When you sit in a restaurant or bar (especially the crowded ones), keep your belonging on sight at all time. Avoid hanging your jacket/bag on your seat rest.
- Be aware of your belonging and surrounding when in public place such as the tube, train station, or tourist attractions.
- Be wary of distracting tricks employed by pickpockets. A popular one across European cities is one person talks to you while another snatch something from your blindspot.
- Once you checked in at your hotel, bring only enough cash for the day and leave the rest at your hotel’s safe.
Despite taking precautions, sometimes shit does happen when you travel and it’s beyond your control. When it does, having a good travel insurance will save you from a lot of headache. Our first recommendation in this would be World Nomads. With years of experiences in travel insurance, they can help mitigating disasters in your trip such as lost belonging, losing important documents, needing medical assistance, even Covid related expenses.