The capital of the United Kingdom is a thriving multicultural metropolis. The contrast between the spectacular historic sights and the busy cultural scene makes a visit to London an interesting and exciting trip. Shopping, night life and great cuisine all find a place in this wonderful destination.
Here is my ultimate London travel guide!
What to Expect in London
- Language: English is by far the most spoken language in the city.
- Currency: The British Pound, which is usually exchanged at around 1.65 US Dollars per pound.
- Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are commonplace in almost every shopping street, with several bureau de change around the city center, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa.
- Climate: The climate is generally mild, with temperatures rarely climbing uncomfortably high or low, although it is worth carrying an umbrella or raincoat throughout the year.
Cold season: From December to February, temperatures are usually a few degrees above freezing.
Hot season: Between June and August, the summer temperatures are still comfortable with highs rarely going above 25 degrees Celsius.
Flying in or out of London through Gatwick airport? Check out my Helpful Tips for Flying in and out of London Gatwick!
Getting Around in London
London is separated into many different districts and neighborhoods; each offering a unique flavor of the city! The most popular communities worth visiting are:
- Covent Garden: Covent Garden is one of the most popular areas of the city with some of the best theaters. Neal Street is a shoe lover’s paradise with a series of shops catering to every sole.
- Leicester Square: The location for many of the main film premieres held in the city, and also home to the Chinatown district, this area is at the heart of the West End and is a perfect place for a night out to see a show.
- Soho: A vibrant and exciting part of the city that is home to an amazing range of pubs, jazz and blues bars and the heart of London’s gay scene. This is where many of the fashion forward residents of the city come to party.
- Camden: Famous for being the alternative center of London where hispters, punks and goths tread the streets together. It is home to a series of markets where almost everything in alternative culture is for sale. It is also has several performing arts venues.
- Westminster: The tourist center of London, sights include the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. Visitors can see the British Government in action by visiting the Strangers’ Gallery at the House of Commons.
“My #1 tip for visiting London is to get above ground. The Tube is great but sometimes the Tube map is deceptive and stations are actually a lot closer together than they look. There’s a handy map with walking distances between Tube stations that will help you decide whether it’s worth the wait for the train or whether it’s quicker to walk.”
– Bethaney of Flashpacker Family
Where to Stay in London
From the swanky hotels in the West End to nice budget accommodation, London can be quite an expensive city in terms of accommodation costs even at the lower end of the market.
Budget-Friendly Accommodation in London
- London Equity Point Hostel: Dorms, Great Transport Links, Free Wi-Fi. Situated in a classic Georgian style building, beds begin from £20 per night with bright communal areas. The Equity Point Hostel has a superb location near Hyde Park and the lovely Notting Hill area of the city.
- YHA hostel: Several Locations, Modern Dorm Rooms, Free Wi-Fi. With beds beginning from £19 per night, the YHA has a great selection of locations around the city and is known as a reliable and safe place to stay.
- Rowan Park Lodge B&B: Double And Treble Rooms, Good Transport Links, Free Breakfast. Beginning at £40 per night, Rowan Park Lodge B&B is within easy reach of transport links to the city center and is located near the attractive green parkland of Mitcham Common.
“The best hostel ever is the London Equity Point Hostel located close to Paddington Station and the Paddington Tube Line. It is clean, includes breakfast, has a place to store your bags and global gossip wi-fi. I’ve tried staying at other hostels in London but they never compared to how great the Equity Point was.”
– Cailin of Travel Yourself
The Best of London Accommodation
- Mandarin Oriental: Located within one of the grandest buildings in Knightsbridge, the stunning Mandarin Oriental offers spectacular luxurious accommodation in an upmarket area with access to a lovely spa and a nice indoor pool.
- Corinthia Hotel: A great base for shopping and the sights of the city, the Corinthia Hotel has great views over the Thames and offers a modern designer’s take on the luxury hotel.
- The Dorchester: Located between Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park, The Dorchester offers amazing luxury in one of the city’s most exclusive locations. Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester has three Michelin Stars and boasts the best contemporary French cuisine.
What to Do in London
From history and culture to modern art and shopping, London has the lot!
- See a show at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: The modern Globe Theatre is a remarkable replica of the original, and is a great place to see Shakespeare performed how it was meant to be performed. Standing tickets are available from just £5.
- Take high tea at the Wallace Collection: The beautiful terrace within this historic museum is the perfect place to take tea after a morning viewing the superb pieces in the Museum.
- Visit Wilton’s Music Hall: A stunning building that is the oldest of its kind in the world, this music hall hosts a wide range of events from classical music and theater to comedy and cabaret, all in an atmosphere that is truly unique.
- Free Museums: The cultural highlights of London are highlighted in many free museums. The British Museum hosts world-famous exhibitions, while the Tate Modern shows the best of British and International Modern Art.
- Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour: This guided tour offers a colorful look at London’s most famous landmarks and is an informative and relaxed way to see many of the city’s sites in one morning or afternoon.
- East London for Street Art: While Banksy may be Britain’s most famous street art export, there are also a series of street art pieces situated in locations around East London, including the distinctive mushroom sculptures of Christiaan Nagel.
- Vintage shopping in Shoreditch: Having developed a reputation as the home of London’s vintage boutiques, Shoreditch is now drawing its fair share of coffee shops and quirky fashion designers to supplement the shopping scene.
- Harrods: Probably one of the most famous department stores in the world, Harrods is known for its fashion and beauty departments, as well as being a preferred supplier for several members of the Royal Family.
- Take a Thames Clipper along the river: The Thames is an integral part of the city’s identity and these covered comfortable boats take visitors past some historic sites and down to the iconic business district at Canary Wharf.
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour London- The Making of Harry Potter : A must for any fan of the film series, this tour takes visitors through some of the most iconic locations seen in the Potter franchise, from Dumbledore’s office to the shops of Diagon Alley.
- The British Library: Located in a spectacular building near the transport hubs of Euston and King’s Cross, this library offers huge collections of books in a series of reading rooms. With a regularly changing series of exhibitions, there is always something interesting to be discovered.
- Visit a Late Victorian House: Visit 18 Stafford Terrace for an insight into a home from the late 19th century.
“As for English things, you must go to high tea at The Wallace Collection. Truly an experience, not just for the great tea, scones, clotted cream, cakes and sandwiches, but because the setting is lovely and you’re surrounded by the art collection owned by the Wallace’s.”
“If you’re a fan of the Tudors TV series, visit the Tudor Room at the National Portrait Gallery in central London and learn what the real royal players looked like. Bonus: Entrance is free, and so is the National Gallery around the corner on Trafalgar Square, where, if you crave more Tudors, you can see the monumental painting, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche.”
– Carol of Wandering Carol
“The best art in London is found not in the Tate or National Gallery but in the streets. East London has some of the worlds best street art from Banksy to 3 storey high pieces.”
– Amar of Gap Year Escape
“For the best shopping (not fancy stores, but the hidden gems and fun stuff) visit Fortnum & Mason for pretty packaged sundries and tea; Liberty of London for iconic prints; London Transport Museum Gift shop for moquette bags and tube related goods; and Queens Gallery for princess inspired finds.”
– Kristin of Souvenir Finder
“One of my favourite things to do and recommend to friends is to take a Thames Clipper along the river from Embankment to Greenwich. London was built around the river, so you get a very different perspective on the city and pass a lot of the major sites, London Eye, St Paul’s, the shard, Tower of London (where you can see Traitor’s gate) and under Tower Bridge for that postcard perfect shot!”
– Casey of G Adventures
Check out my visit to the Harry Potter Studios!
“Few London visitors are aware of 18 Stafford Terrace – a late Victorian townhouse belonging to the Sambourne family which has been preserved to an amazing level of detail. It has a vast collection of antiquities to reflect life in that era and is like stepping back in time. Edward Linley Sambourne (a Punch cartoonist) lived there with his wife, two children and a live-in servant and the house has been conserved by their descendents. Admission is by guided tour only.”
– Paul of A Luxury Travel Blog
For the most interesting and current happenings in London, be sure to visit “I know this great little place in London…” Facebook page. They are constantly posting great little places and events they uncover around the city!
Where to Eat in London
International cuisine and British Favorites are on offer in top restaurants and market stalls.
- Borough, Camden, Portobello, Maltby Markets (Best Street Markets): Much of the best produce grown and made in Britain ends up at these excellent street markets. Stalls have been there for generations and produce classic and inexpensive meals.
- Ye Old Cheshire Cheese (Most Iconic Pub): There has been a pub on this site since the sixteenth centur and the current version has been on the site since the great fire of 1666. Figures such as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle are all said to have been regulars.
- Claridge’s (Best Luxury Dining): Claridge’s served as a prolongation of the guest rooms at Buckingham Palace for over 100 years. Take a master’s cooking class or visit the Claridge’s bar for an incredible selection of vintage champagne.
- The Eagle in Farringdon (Best Gastropub): Known as the first gastropub of London, the menu at The Eagle changes every day and features seasonal ingredients. Favorites such as pan-fried scallops with chorizo and the tomato and bread soup are wonderfully complemented with the excellent range of beers.
- BYOC in Covent Garden (Best BYOB): A quirky cocktail bar where guests bring their own spirits. Book in advance and, for £20 a head, an experienced cocktail waiter will mix up delicious cocktails with your spirits and ingredients from his antique trolley.
- Brick Lane (Best Curry): Curry houses that line both sides of this famous lane in East London stretch on for nearly a mile. Men wait outside each restaurant trying to tempt you in with great deals, but take a walk down the lane first to find the best offerings.
- Duck & Waffle (Best Brunch): With amazing views over the city and a lovely setting, the upmarket take on the English fry-up is well worth a try, while the duck egg en cocotte is a beautiful take on the traditional British breakfast of egg and soldiers.
“Claridge’s Bar is perfectly located for drink before dining in Mayfair or a post-shopping glass of champagne. The beautiful Art-Deco bar has one of the best champagne-selections in London. The clientele is an interesting mixture of locals, shoppers, black-tie dressed men and ladies in beautiful dresses having a drink before an evening in the Claridge’s ballroom with international jetsetters and the odd royalty. Have a stop for a drink at Claridge’s and get a glimpse of the traditional luxurious high life.”
– Malin of Haute Compass
“London is an international city full of a lot of culture, but most people tend to stay within the city limits. An often neglected place by tourists is the area of New Malden, which has a small little Korean town where several restaurants offer authentic Korean food. You can sing the night away with karaoke or buy Korean goods.”
– Chanel of La Viajera Morena
READ NEXT: Tips for Visiting London’s Borough Market