Welcome to my complete London travel guide.
Let me guess…
You’re either a last minute travel planner visiting London in a couple of days / weeks with nothing planned and now in a desperate search for some inspiration for things to do, where to eat, how to catch a cheap show in the West End etc.
You’re a serial planner looking to book everything under the sun months in advance?
Am I right? I knew it.
Either way, you’re in the right place…
My travel guide to London includes everything from things to do, places to stay, tips, resources and more and should hopefully give you everything that you need to have an incredible time in England’s capital.
Let’s jump into it.
London Travel Guide
Introduction to London
Over 30 million tourists visit London every year and it’s really no surprise…
You could spends weeks photographing London’s architecture, learning something new in London’s many museums or watching world-famous shows in London’s West End and you’d still be left with a sense that you haven’t seen it all.
London is a truly magnificent city with so many things to do.
Before I get into all of that though, let’s cover off some basics first.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most important things you need to know about London ahead of your visit.
Is London Safe?
For the most part London is a safe city to visit and explore.
There are boroughs where you're potentially more at risk (North, South, East and West London have their 'more at risk' places), but if you're staying in Central London and only visiting the major tourist attractions, you can rest easy that the crime rate is low and there's a 99.9% chance you will be absolutely safe.
With that said however, you should still be mindful of:
Petty theft is a common theme across all major European cities, and London is sadly no different.
Make sure you're not a thief's victim by keeping all of your valuables in your front pocket or in a secure bag where needed - especially advisable when riding the tube and in and amongst large crowds.
Another thing to look out for is late night drinkers...
Late night drinkers
If you're from the UK, this will come as no surprise, but Londoners like to drink.
If you're visiting from outside of the UK and haven't visited London or England before, just be mindful that the English like to drink - lots, especially on the weekends!
Most Londoners are kind drinkers, but it only takes one...
If you see anybody that's drunk and acting aggressive, just try and steer clear as much as possible and try not to antagonise!
Staying safe in London
Again for the most part you will be completely safe in London if you have your wits about you in busy places and you stick to the tourist hotspots.
What is the currency in London?
England, London uses the £ Pound (GBP).
The Pound is a currency exclusive to the United Kingdom (and the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands), so if you're visiting from outside of the UK, here's some typical exchange rates:
- Euro to Pound: €1 will typically exchange for £0.85
- US Dollar to Pound: $1 will typically exchange for £0.80
- AU Dollar to Pound: A$1 will typically exchange for £0.50
What timezone is London in?
During peak season (March-October) London, England uses British Summer Time (BST), which is UTC+1.
Here's how far ahead or behind England is in peak season compared to:
- Canberra is 9 hours ahead
- Berlin is 1 hour ahead
- New York is 5 hours behind
- Los Angeles is 8 hours behind
Note: England uses Greenwich Mean Time between October-March, meaning you might gain or lose an hour (or two) on the above times if you visit outside of peak season.
What are the emergency contact numbers in London?
Dialling 999 will put you through to the emergency services in London.
You can also call:
- 101: Non-emergency number for the police
- 111: Non-emergency number for medical experts
What language do they speak in London?
This will come as no surprise, but people in London speak English.
So if you're visiting from another English-speaking country, don't fret - there'll be no needing to pull up Google Translate when you're trying to order food!
London is wonderfully multi-cultural however, so you'll no doubt hear many different languages during your visit.
What electrical plug sockets do they use in London?
England uses one plug type: G
If you haven't already got yourself a travel adapter, it might be worthing grabbing a world wide adapter so you can use it in almost every country you travel to.
Best things to do in London
London has something for everyone – fact:
- Modern & historic architecture
- 175+ Museums
- Theatres & West End shows
- Sports stadiums
- Dozens of parks to wander around
- The Queen (although it’s unlikely you’ll get to see her)
Unfortunately, all of that makes deciding what to do in London extremely tough.
So included in my London travel guide is a pick of the top 10 best things to do in London:
1. Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
You can’t visit London without visiting Buckingham Palace and witnessing the Changing of the Guard.
The Queen’s Guard is replaced by the New Guard (accompanied with lots of marching and lots of music) at 11AM nearly every day during the summer and nearly every other day throughout the year (weather permitting of course).
Make sure to check the Household Division’s schedule beforehand to avoid a wasted journey to Buckingham Palace.
Opening times: 24 hour access
Time allowance: 2 hours
Witty tip: Arrive as early as possible to get the best view – around 9.30AM to be sure.
2. See the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London
The Crown Jewels have been kept at the Tower of London since 1661.
And if you go on a tour, you’ll get to see them (no touching of course) and other parts of the tower like the bloody tower, ravens, imprisonment rooms and more.
- Summer timetable: 1st March – 31st October
- Sun – Mon: 10AM to 5.30PM or Tue – Sat: 9AM to 5.30PM
- Winter timetable: 1st November – 29th February
- Sun – Mon: 10AM to 4.30PM or Tue – Sat: 9AM to 4.30PM
Time allowance: 2-3 hours
Witty tip: Buy your ticket online in advance to skip the queues and to save a little bit of money too.
3. Listen to Big Ben chime
On the hour, every hour, Big Ben will chime.
And although you can’t go up to the Bell Tower, you can get a pretty spectacular view of Big Ben on the other side of the embankment by the London Eye.
You can also go into the Palace of Westminster on a guided tour to see where UK lawmakers debate and decide on new UK laws.
Cost: Big Ben is free to see, a guided tour of the Palace of Westminster starts from £25
Opening times: Palace of Westminster opening times vary through the year
Time allowance: 30 minutes for Big Ben, 3 hours for Palace of Westminster tour
Witty tip: If you’re from the UK, you can get in for free if you contact your local MP.
4. Explore & learn something new in London's free museums
Not many first timers to London know this, but the majority of London’s well-known museums are complete free to visit:
- Natural History Museum
- British Museum
- National Gallery
- Royal Academy of Arts
- Science Museum
- Tate Modern
There are far too many to list here, but if you’re into museums and you fancy spending a couple of hours, days (or even weeks) learning about history, science or art, make sure you check out the above museums first and then you can start looking at some of London’s more quirkier museums.
Opening times: Mostly 10AM to 5.30PM for the majority of museums, but it varies
Time allowance: Varies depending on how much time you’d like to spend inside and which museums you’d like to visit
Witty tip: If you’re dead set on a particular museum that you’d like to visit, make sure you go early to avoid the queues.
5. Walk along Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is without doubt one of the UK’s most iconic bridges, not least because it’s a bascule bridge, meaning it can raise up and down to allow the passage of boats on the river.
Walk across and around to get a spectacular shot of the bridge!
Opening times: 24 hour access
Time allowance: 45 minutes – 1 hour
Witty tip: You can plan to see the Tower Bridge when it rises and get an awesome photo from the embankment.
6. Ride the London Eye
Built to celebrate the new millennia in 2000, the London Eye was only ever meant to be a temporary fixture. But it’s now enjoyed by millions of people visiting London every year and offers an extraordinary view of the city’s skyline.
Opening times: Typically opens at 10AM and closes at 6PM to 8.30PM
Time allowance: 30 minutes
Witty tip: Purchase a skip-the-line ticket online to save hours of queuing and a little bit of money (purchasing on the door is more expensive).
7. Visit Westminster Abbey
Visit Westminster Abbey and see the resting place of 30 former Kings and Queens, dating back to Edward 1st who died in 1066. You’ll also see other famous people buried like Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
Opening times: Mon – Fri: 9.30AM to 3.30PM or Sat: 9AM to 1PM (Sunday closed)
Time allowance: 2 hours
Witty tip: Download the free Westminster Abbey audio tour on your phone ahead of your visit.
8. See St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral has existed for over 1400 years and has been rebuilt several times, including after the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Visit the cathedral and you’ll be able to see historic relics and mosaics from hundreds of years ago.
Opening times: Mon – Sat: 8:30AM to 4:30PM (Sunday closed)
Time allowance: 2 hours
Witty tip: You can enter the Cathedral free of charge on Sunday’s, but only to worship and not to explore!
9. Grab a bite to eat at Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a great place to chill, eat and people watch. Whilst you’re there you can also check out Nelson’s column and the surrounding drinking fountains whilst you kick back and relax.
Opening times: 24 hour access
Time allowance: 1 hour
Witty tip: Head to Trafalgar Square in the afternoon as this usually offers up the most relaxed atmosphere.
10. Take a stroll up to Primrose Hill
Take a break from city life and walk up Primrose Hill and capture one of the best views of London.
Opening times: 24 hour access
Time allowance: 2 hours
Witty tip: London zoo is close by if you like looking at animals!
How to get around London
With it being the UK’s largest and most populous city, getting around London can be done with relative ease.
Lots of the major tourist attractions like Westminster Bridge, Big Ben, London Eye, Buckingham Palace etc. are within walking distance of each other and most, if not all, are a short walk from Underground stations and bus stops.
With that said, here’s some advice for getting around London:
Getting around London on foot
Walking the streets of London is obviously the cheapest and in my opinion the best way of getting around.
Central London is completely safe to walk around and as mentioned above, lots of the major tourist sites are all relatively close to one another.
It’s only in instances where you’re travelling from one side of central London to the other (Big Ben to the Tower of London for example) where you might want to consider public transport, but even then it’s a 40 minute walk along the River Thames.
If you like walking and you’ve got a comfy pair of walking shoes (and the weather allows), then definitely walk London.
If you prefer to go direct from one attraction to the next and/or you’re not much of a walker, the London Underground is a great substitute.
You can cover miles within a couple of minutes at a fairly respectable price.
The pricing table below shows single ticket prices for zone 1 and 2 (it’s unlikely you’ll need to venture out of these if you’re only planning on seeing the major tourist sites), along with daily capping rates.
London introduced daily caps to stop you spending £100’s on the Underground.
Once you have hit the cap, i.e. purchased enough single tickets to reach the cap, travel on the underground for the rest of the day will remain free (unless you go into zones outside of the ones listed below where the cap will increase).
|Single Ticket Peak*
|Single Ticket Off-Peak
|Zone 1 to Zone 1
|Zone 1 to Zone 2
|Zone 2 to Zone 2
*Peak is all travel Monday-Friday before 9.30AM.
Travel on the Underground itself might seem confusing at first. If you’re struggling to work it out, my advice is to pull up Google Maps on your phone, search for where you’d like to go and Google will show you which Underground station you need to use and get off at.
See my London travel tips below for guidance on purchasing tickets for the Underground and all of London’s public transport systems.
Getting around London on a bus or tram
You can use the bus to get to pretty much anywhere in London and just like the Underground, it too is a fairly respectable price.
A single ticket costs £1.50 and you can use unlimited buses and/or trams free of charge within the first hour of tapping on. The daily cap is £4.50, so you’ll never be charged for a fourth journey (no zonal rules apply on buses).
London’s tram system is a little more restricted and is mostly used in South London, but it does use the same tickets and pricing as London’s buses; useful if your accommodation is in the South.
London’s river boat
You might not know this, but London has a big ol’ river running through the centre of it.
So why not use it as a means of transport too?
You can jump on one of London’s river boats and go from one side of Central London to the other.
Cycling on London’s Santander bikes
If you like to cycle, London’s Santander Cycles scheme is perfectly setup for your visit.
You can access a Santander bike for as little as £2 for 24 hours (this doesn’t cover ride time; just access to the bike). The first half hour ride time is completely free, but you pay an extra £2 for every additional 30 minutes.
If your journey is over 30 minutes, I’d recommend just using the Underground instead to save money and the sweat!
Using taxis in London
Taxis are fairly expensive in central London.
For every 1 mile that you do, you can expect to pay between £6-9 (depending on the time and day of course).
Due to the cost, I’d only recommend using taxis when you really need to or if you prefer to not use public transport.
Where to stay in London
London is one of the largest cities in Europe, which makes choosing where to stay incredibly tough.
Some of the things you might want to consider are:
- Your budget
- Which tourist attractions you want to stay nearest to
- Access to London’s public transport system
With that in mind, included in my London travel guide is my pick of the best three places to stay for three different types of travellers:
Best hostel in London
Located right in the heart of Westminster, SoHostel is central to almost every tourist attraction in London. They have mixed dorms, female only dorms and twin dorms for people looking for a more private trip to London.
SoHostel also offers free walking tours, karaoke nights on Friday's, pool tables and much more that'll allow you to chill out on the evenings and have fun.
Cost: Click here for availability and rates.
Distance: 25 minute walk away from Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, London Eye and 5 minutes away from the nearest Underground station.
Best hotel for the average tourist
If you're looking for nice accommodation in a fairly central location at a respectable price, then consider Radisson Blu Edwardian...
Radisson Blu Edwardian
Radisson Blu Edwardian is a 4* hotel based in Covent Garden. It's very central to most tourist attractions in London and has its own gym and fitness centre, massage parlour and free wifi for Internet-concerned travellers!
Location: Covent Garden
Distance: 25 minute walk away from Big Ben and the London Eye, 30 minute walk away from Buckingham Palace, 5 minute walk away from London's famous Oxford shopping street and a 5 minute walk away from the nearest Underground station.
Best luxury hotel in London
If you're a traveller looking to stay in London in complete luxury, then you're going to be spoilt for choice.
However, there are few hotels more luxurious than the famous Ritz hotel...
The Ritz London
The Ritz London hotel is known worldwide for its glitz n glamour. Its rooms have high ceilings, fireplaces, chandeliers and fine art; the hotel has its own casino, Michelin Star restaurant and world-famous afternoon tea and needless to say it has free wifi too!
Cost: Click here for availability and rates.
Location: Westminster Borough
Distance: 10 minute walk away from Buckingham Palace, 20 minute walk away from Big Ben and the London Eye and a 1 minute walk away from the nearest Underground station.
Where to eat in London
London is well-known for its restaurants of varying cuisines.
You can eat anything from typical British pub grub to Indian, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, African and more or less any other cuisine you can think of.
With that said, here’s my pick of the best 5 places to eat during your visit to London:
1. 14 Hills
14 Hills sits on the 14th floor of the famous Walkie Talkie building near the Tower of London.
The forest-themed restaurant offers some of the best food in town and because it sits on the 14th floor, it offers diners one of the best views in town too.
Its food is freshly cooked, delicious and isn’t too expensive considering its location and views.
If you can only visit one restaurant in London, make sure it’s 14 hills. They also serve some incredible cocktails if they’re your thing too? Just be careful on the way back down from the 14th floor…
2. Bombay Bustle
If you like Indian food or you’re looking to try it for the first time, make sure you visit Bombay Bustle.
Located just a short walk from Buckingham Palace, Bombay Bustle is easily one of the best Indian restaurants in Central London. The restaurant offers a huge range of Indian foods from the typical Korma to spicier foods for the spice lovers amongst us.
Considering it’s based in Mayfair, it’s fairly cheap too.
3. The Wolseley
You can’t visit London without having an English Breakfast.
And there are few places that do an English Breakfast better than The Wolseley, based in Mayfair. If you don’t fancy an English Breakfast you can also grab yourself some pancakes, granola, yoghurt, fishcakes and a huge range of other delicious breakfasts!
Make sure you reserve a seat online however because it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a seat for a while if you just rock up at the door.
4. Paternoster Chop House
If you’re from the UK and you’re familiar with the TV show First Dates, you’ll likely recognise Paternoster Chop House.
The Paternoster Chop House is located right next to St Paul’s Cathedral and specialises in meats and seafood, but it can be a little bit pricey (mostly due to its fame from the tv show), so if you’re on a budget it might be best to steer clear.
5. Just about any British pub
This technically isn’t a particular restaurant, but if you’re visiting the UK or London for the first time, you really can’t go wrong with classic English pub grub.
If you see a pub called:
- The Red Lion
- The Swan
- The Rose & Crown
- The Kings Arms
Chances are it’ll serve pub grub and if it looks nice from the outside, just go in and order.
It’s usually fairly cheap and you can get a feel for how the brits like to dine (that is of course if you’re not already from the UK 🙃)!
London travel tips
To help you prepare for your visit to London, here’s my top ten travel tips including how to save money on transport, food and how to get drunk, fast…
You can save a small fortune on London Underground ticket fares by using your contactless card (not recommended for non-UK tourists) on public transport or by purchasing a visitor Oyster card (recommended for non-UK tourists).
Both contactless and Oyster cards are capped at a maximum daily rate (£6.80 if you stay in Central London – zones 1+2) and they’re much, much cheaper than purchasing one-off single travel tickets.
Just make sure that you tap your card in and out of the stations at the yellow barriers to make sure you’re not charged the maximum cap amount.
Take one trip in a London black cab and you’ll understand what we mean when we say to only use them when you absolutely need to.
London black cabs are expensive. Very expensive.
You’re better off using the London Underground or Uber if you’re looking for direct travel.
London is a very busy city with all kinds of people going about their business – some in a rush, some not so much.
If you’re standing on an escalator or walking up stairs and you’re not in a rush, make sure you stick to the right so that the people that are in a rush can jump past you without awkwardly having to ask.
If you’re planning on doing lots of sightseeing, and let’s face it you probably are, I’d recommend purchasing your attraction tickets well in advance.
It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting London during the week or during a supposedly less busy weekend, there will always be crowds.
Book in advance and save the huge queues.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re traveling to London in January or June, there’s a good chance the typical English weather will change in an instant and leave you soaked.
Pack for all kinds of weather; sun, rain, sleet, snow, more rain – just pack for it all and save the disappointment or the need to purchase a raincoat because you didn’t bring one.
Did I mention it rains a lot and out of the blue? Pack smart ahead of your visit.
Whilst it isn’t customary to tip in London, it is common for restaurant owners to add a service charge onto the bill.
So bare that in mind before you go and order your £100 steak!
If you’re unhappy with the service you received, you can ask for it to be removed of course.
If you’re travelling to London on a budget and/or you prefer to eat lunch on a bench whilst people watching (who doesn’t?), you can grab yourself a very respectable £3 meal deal at most supermarkets like Tesco, Boots & Sainsburys.
The meal deal includes a sandwich, snack and something to drink; perfect for most people!
If you’re staying in London for more than 3 days, it’s definitely worth considering the London Pass.
You’ll get access to over 80 London attractions including Tower of London, football stadiums, gardens, palaces, river tours and much more.
The prices for an Adult London Pass are as follows:
- 1 day pass: £79
- 2 day pass: £100
- 3 day pass: £127
- 6 day pass: £171
- 10 day pass: £201
If you’re visiting London for less than 3 days, it might be a little expensive for what you’ll be able to get out of it, but that really depends on how much you plan to do and how fast you want to work through the attractions.
If you’re a fan of the theatre and you’re dying to see a show in the famous West End, have peace of mind that it needn’t be expensive.
You can purchase cheap theatre tickets on the day of the show at the ticket booth outside of the theatre or online.
Or you can visit the official TKTS booth in Leicester Square and see what last minute deals there are.
If you’re travelling to London for a big night out, make sure you take advantage of happy hour in the local pubs and clubs.
You can usually grab drinks for 2 for 1 or half-price; perfect if you’re planning on forgetting the night!
When to visit London
Peak season in London is between June and September.
Whilst queues are typically longer and accommodation is slightly more expensive, it’s during these summer months that the UK weather is at its warmest (averaging around the 23°C/73°F mark), the chance of rainfall is at its lowest and the streets of London are bustling with street performers, festivals, shows and much more, making it the perfect time to visit London!
If you’d prefer to avoid the queues and/or you’re travelling on a budget and don’t mind risking the rain, definitely consider travelling to London in mid-April to early June or late September to early November.
You might get lucky with the rain and the temperature usually sits around the 16°C/61°F mark, which is a comfortable temperature if you’re planning on walking lots!