The capital of the United Kingdom is a thriving multicultural metropolis. The contrast between the spectacular historic sights and the lively cultural scene makes a visit to London an interesting and exciting adventure. Wander through St. James park, visit Westminster Abbey, explore the streets of Shoreditch, and take a ride up the River Thames. London's incredible shopping, endless sights, friendly locals, and vibrant nightlife offer something for every kind of traveler. Here's my ultimate London travel guide with all my tips for planning your trip to England!
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.
Warm season: Between June and August, the summer temperatures are still comfortable with highs rarely going above 25 degrees Celsius.
Getting Around in London
London is separated into many different boroughs and neighborhoods; each offering a unique flavor of the city! The most popular areas 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.
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.
Kensington + Chelsea: This borough is home to some of London’s most posh shops and luxurious residents. It’s also home to Notting Hill which has become an up-and-coming, trendy neighborhood.
Camden: Famous for being the alternative center of London where hippies and punks tread the streets together. It is home to a lively mix of music venues, markets, eateries, tattoo parlors and boutiques.
The City of London: The City is actually only about a square mile in size, and is home to London’s biggest skyscrapers and financial district.
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.
Shoreditch: Known as the creative hub of London’s trendy East End. Come here for great food, nightlife, street art, and vintage shopping.
Helpful Tip: 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 stations that will help you decide whether it’s worth the wait for the train or quicker to walk.
London is a big city and with all big cities has traffic, so getting between neighborhoods can take a bit of time.
The Tube: The best way to get around London is the Underground, or "the Tube." You can even take the Tube from Heathrow Airport (LHR) into the city center, which I would recommend. It is easy to navigate and you can get to all the sights you'll want to see. Be sure to buy an Oyster card that you can reload and use on both the Tube and city buses.
Bus: The city bus is a great way to see the sights while going from one place to another. Grab an Oyster card instead of worrying about exact change for the bus fare.
Taxis: London's "black cabs" are all over and run off a meter, but tend to be the most expensive form of transportation. Most accept credit cards!
Kennington B & B
This B&B is just a 2-minute walk from the Kennington tube station, and surrounded by great pubs and restaurants. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and offers a great breakfast to start your day!
Location: Kennington (across the Thames)
Price Range: $$
Claridge’s has welcomed celebrities and royals alike since opening its doors in 1856. With stunning decor and a Michelin-starred restaurant on the property, this hotel screams opulence. If you’re going to splurge, this is the place.
Price Range: $$$
Wombat’s City Hostel London
Only minutes away from the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the City Hall, the hostel is an easy walk from the buzzing nightlife of Shoreditch. Formerly a seaman’s hostel, the building features a huge bar, courtyard, common hangout area, and tons of amenities.
Price Range: $
Just a block and a half from the Kensington tube station, this luxury bed & breakfast is a comfortable, quiet and beautiful accommodation option. If you’re looking for top-notch service, this is your place.
Accommodation: Luxury B&B
Price Range: $$$
Astor Hyde Park Hostel
This hostel is central to many sights and in the upscale neighborhood of South Kensington, located next to Hyde Park. With a mix of dorm rooms and private ensuite rooms, there’s an option for every budget traveler.
Location: Hyde Park
Price Range: $
Just walking in the door you feel the sophistication of this property. Situated just four blocks from Buckingham Palace, it is known for the personalized details and over-the-top service. Not only does Hotel 41 offer 24-hour room service, it also provides personal butlers. It doesn’t get more luxurious than this!
Price Range: $$$
Corinthia Hotel London
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.
Price Range: $$$$
This London gastropub has five beautifully designed bedrooms situated above their kitchen and lively pub on the ground floor. Clean, comfortable, and amazing aesthetics!
Price Range: $-$$
My favorite markets are definitely the Borough Market (Southwark / Every Day but Sundays) which is the oldest and most renowned food market in Britain, and Brockley Market (Saint John’s / Saturdays / Cash Only). Shoreditch’s Boxpark is definitely worth a visit. Other great options are the Camden, Portobello and Maltby Markets.
Pizza Union Spitalfields (Cheap Eats)
London is a melting pot of cuisines from all over the world, and who doesn’t love pizza? This Italian pizza bar serves thin crust, fire-baked pizzas all day. Eat in or grab some slices for take away!
Duck & Waffle (Fine Dining)
With amazing views over the city (from the 40th floor) and a lovely setting, the upmarket take on this English fry-up is well worth a try. They serve a very British menu all day long! They also just opened a new store in Piccadilly’s St James’ Market, Duck & Waffle Local (walk ins only), it is a more accessible and cheaper version of the original!
When to Go: Their brunch line up is amazing! Be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
Beigel Bake (Cheap Eats)
Dubbed the Best Bagels in London, this Shoreditch gem is a must-go while in London. The bakery is opens 24 hours every day to serve its freshly-baked and filled bagels to everyone.
Mother Mash (Casual Dining)
This SoHo café takes a contemporary spin on the traditional pie and mash with freshly-made potatoes and choices of organic sausages, gourmet pies and tasty gravies!
London Shell Co (Fine Dining)
Come here if you want fabulous seafood and wine pairings all night long. The restaurant is actually a canal boat with 8 tables in Regent’s Canal, so expect great service and scenery during your meal.
Humble Grape (Casual Dining)
This place is known for delicious food and a fun approach to wine. The wine bar is located in the City of London and known for outstanding service.
What to Order: Be sure to check out their Bottomless Prosecco Dinner!
The Tourist Sights
The classic must see sights while in London are Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower Bridge!
Pints at a Pub
While pub food might not be your thing, you can’t leave London without visiting one of the historic pubs for a pint or two. Ye Old Cheshire Cheese (Smithfield) is one of the most iconic pubs, and worth a visit. You’ll probably recognize the The Churchill Arms (in Notting Hill / Kensington) for it’s flowered exterior (plus, it serves awesome Thai food). You can find more old-school and unpretentious pub experiences at The King’s Arm (be sure it’s the one in Bethnal Green), Mr. Fogg’s Tavern (in Covent Garden), Coach & Horses (in SoHo), and the Culpeper gastropub.
Afternoon High Tea
High tea is a must while visiting London. Check out the most luxurious hotels in the city for the best spreads—my top choices are The Ritz London, Corinthia Hotel, The Dorchester or The Royal Horseguards Hotel.
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.
Visit Museums + The British Library
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. The British Library offers huge collections of books in a series of reading rooms. My favorite? The Natural History Museum! With a regularly changing series of exhibitions, there is always something interesting to be discovered. Bonus: For those traveling on a budget, most of London’s museums are free!
Free Walking Tours
There are tons of free guided tours that offer a colorful look at London’s most famous landmarks. Check out Strawberry Tours for an informative and relaxed way to see many of the city’s sites for free!
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.
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. Oxford Street, on the other hand, attracts most tourists looking for souvenirs! Harrod’s is a world-class shopping scene and a must when you’re in London.
Take a Thames Clipper Along the River
The Thames is an integral part of the city’s identity and these Clipper boats take visitors past the Tower Bridge, 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 Harry Potter franchise, from Dumbledore’s office to the shops of Diagon Alley. Read More: Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London
Drinks at Shangri-La
Instead of spending an arm and leg to ride the London Eye, head to the bar at the Shangri-La Hotel At The Shard London for a more epic aerial view, all while sipping on some wine.
London’s food markets are amazing. The most well-known market is the Borough Market, which has been in London for over 400 years and has tons of great foodie options. Other great markets are the Portobello Market (Notting Hill) and Old Spitalfields Market (East London), where you’ll find everything from food, to antiques, to clothing. Plus, they are great for souvenirs!
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