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If you asked us to choose a Capital of the World, we’d choose London. It’s tough to find a city that offers the same unique combination of history (thousands of years of it), culture, architecture, green spaces, great food, cozy pubs and global significance.
From typical urban attractions like museums, to some of the best food in the world, some great scenic walks and several opportunities for nearby outdoor escapades, there’s something in London, England for everyone.
That’s why the famous British writer Samuel Johnson said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Here’s some tips for planning a trip to London, as well as some of our favorite sites, walks and things to do.
Here we’ll take you through the basic overview of hiking in Yellowstone National Park – including how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, what to see and what to watch out for.
Table of contents
BEST TIME TO VISIT LONDON, ENGLAND
London is great all year-round. Though it’s famous for its gloomy weather, London is surprisingly sunny compared to the rest of England. In winter it can be dark and wet, but from spring through autumn London is very pleasant. June through August are typically very sunny and mildly warm; people spend a lot of time outside to make up for the rest of year.
If you go in December or even early January, you’ll get to see the city all decked out for Christmas; Winter Wonderland is up and running in Hyde Park, and Oxford Street is legit. London is home to festivals all year-round from Halloween to Bonfire Night every November 5th.
HOW TO GET TO LONDON, ENGLAND
This is easy. London is one of the most important cities in the world, and a gateway to the rest of Europe. You can get there by plane from pretty much anywhere.
Flying to London
London is served by 5 major international airports, with flights coming and going from nearly everywhere in the world. Heathrow is the main destination for most major airlines, while Gatwick, Stansted, London City Airport, and Luton are usually used by regional flights and budget airlines. Heathrow has direct rail service to Paddington Station, while Stansted and Gatwick all have direct rail service to the city center.
Trains to London
Trains reach London from all over the UK, both small and major cities. Eurostar can get you there from Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam in a matter of hours.
GETTING AROUND LONDON, ENGLAND
When in London, do as the Londoners do: walk everywhere. Central London is pretty compact and a great walking city; if you stay in one of our favorite hotels, you can get to most of the City’s main sights by foot.
For longer distances, most people take the Tube (Underground) or a bus. Tube tickets can be pricey for a single ride (£4.90 in Zone 1, Zone 2 and Zone 3) but you can buy 1-day and weekly travel cards. These offer big discounts on unlimited rides within your zone, starting at £12.70 a day and £35.10 a week. If you get a reusable Oyster card, unlimited rides are even cheaper – £7 a day.
WHERE TO STAY IN LONDON, ENGLAND
Figuring out where to stay in London can be tough; there are simply tons of great places to stay in this great city. We recommend you stay as close to Central London as possible. It’ll be more expensive, yes, but you’ll be able to get to all the sights, sounds and attractions within minutes. Below we outline some of the regions of London that are popular to stay in.
Favourite Places to stay in London
We love staying in the communities of Marylebone, Mayfair, Fitzrovia, St James and Covent Garden. This is the center of London, and has great food, great pubs, great walking to all attractions and active streets that are active all the time. Obviously, this comes at a cost, and you’ll expect to pay more on average to stay in these areas.
Where to stay in London if Money is no object
The areas of Knightsbridge and Belgravia are distinctly upmarket parts of London. These areas have luxury hotels, and are close to museums like the V&A, Natural History and more. You’re also very close to shopping in Harrods or Harvey Nichols, as well as upscale Sloane Square.
Other good options are to stay in Mayfair or along the Strand, which has some of the best hotels in London.
Great Places to stay in London on a Budget
There are still good places to stay in London if you have a fixed budget. These main areas are traditionally around train stations.
To begin with, many people stay around Paddington Train station. It’s affordable, lots of hotels and the location is fairly central. The downside is that many of the hotels in this part of London are only average. In addition, as a major tourist destination the restaurants and pubs are not as good as other central areas.
The region around Victoria Station is another traditional budget part of London to be based in. The location is great, however the immediate area is very quiet in the evening.
The accommodation options around Kings Cross is also improving, however we’d prefer to stay a bit farther south, near the British Museum.
Other good Locations to stay in London
Kensington is a pretty part of London. There are things to see here, good restaurants and great walks to nearby Holland Park, Notting Hill and Kensington Gardens. You can also walk to major museums like the V&A, Natural History and more. The downside is that it is far away from most other attractions, so you’ll spend a lot of time on the Tube.
The area around Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament is a great location, close to all the major sites. If you’re only in London for a day or two, this is about as central as it gets. The immediate area can be slow in the evening
This up and coming area takes in the South Bank of the Thames, and nearby attractions such as London Eye, Tate Modern and Shakespeare Globe theatre. The downside is that the area is heavily touristed, so not an authentic experience.
Finally there are lots of hotels in the City of London, the traditional financial hub. These business hotels are expensive during the week, but you can find great deals on the weekends. The City is an interesting place to explore, though very quiet on evenings in the weekend.
BEST PLACES TO EAT IN LONDON
England doesn’t exactly have a reputation for cuisine on the same level as Rome or Paris, but that doesn’t mean London doesn’t have some fine world-class restaurants. These days, London is a hotspot for international cuisines and chefs from all over the world, and you’ll have your pick of anything from traditional roast beef or English Breakfast to Indian food or Chinese, both of which are found in abundance throughout the city. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in London, it probably doesn’t exist. From a pie at a pub to Michelin starred food, you can find it in London. Here you will find our top picks of the best places to eat in London.
If you want true fine dining – no matter the price tag – hit up The Ledbury, often considered the finest restaurant in the city. You need a reservation and you may need to book several months in advance, but the experience – from service to cuisine – is like none other. Dinner consists of 4 courses, and there’s also a lunch menu and tasting menu. And trust us, there’s a reason it has 2 Michelin Stars.
If you like seafood, try the Laurent at Royal Café. Located on the bottom floor of the Hotel Café Royale on Regent Street, it’s open all day and offers cocktails and dinner until late at night; all the seafood is excellent, especially the crab rolls.
Want to try some classic Sunday roast? Try the Princess of Shoreditch. This traditional pub and restaurant serves up classic beers and modern takes on old-time British food, such as Sunday roast and Yorkshire pudding. Great place to grab a pint and bite to eat after a day wandering the city.
Pie and Mash? The Windmill, Mayfair is in Mayfair in the West End, and has all the classic British eats you want in a cozy setting and with midrange prices. They’ve also got a great roof terrace for when the weather is nice!
Like Indian food? Dishoom in Covent Garden is ultra-popular, easily some of the best Indian food we’ve ever had – possibly in all of Europe. Amazing food without the upscale prices.
Chinese? A. Wong in Westminster is also quite popular. The Dim Sum is really good and they offer a 10-course Taste of China menu that gives you’re a culinary tour of China’s different regions.
And don’t worry, there are plenty of cheap eats strewn about the city. How about a healthy serving of Fish n’ Chips – that English standby? Rock and Sole Plaice is one of the oldest “chippies” in London, right in the heart of the city. It’s a casual spot with pretty casual food, and you can snag a good meal and sit outside when the weather is nice.
If you want more picks, check out this guide on unique places to eat in London.
WHAT TO DO IN LONDON
When it comes to figuring out what to do in London, it’s easy. Pretty much anything you can imagine. You might want to start just by walking and exploring the city on one of our favorite city walks. There are some great neighborhoods to explore, each with their own unique charm.
Marylebone is one; be sure to take a walk through here and neighboring Mayfair and Belgravia, some of the toniest areas of the city. You’ll see some quintessential London sights, passing plenty of local shops and parks and classic museums, such as the Natural History Museum.
Another great walk is along the Thames; we’ve listed an 8.1-mile walk from Battersea Park to the Tower of London. Along the way, you’ll pass the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and the Tate Modern, and get a chance to walk over both London Bridge and Millennium Bridge.
If you want to feel like you’re out of the city without leaving it, head to Greenwich in southeast London. It’s green – very green – and is home to the Royal Observatory. Here you can even stand on the Prime Meridian (Longitude Zero), where you’ll be in both the Western and Eastern hemispheres at the same time. You’ll also get some of the best views of the City skyline.
If you love history and want to experience something stunning visit Windsor and the beautiful Windsor Castle. This historic town is full of great architecture and plenty of events for everyone. You can find out more at Windsor.gov.uk.
If you’re planning on coming to the city as a couple, check out this article on things to do for couples in London. And if you’re looking for some great tips you can do with your kids in the city, check out this kid-friendly guide to London.
Rent a Bike in London
Cycling is a great way to see the City. London has a public bike-sharing system called Santander Cycles, with over 750 stations throughout the city. And it’s only 2 pounds for 24-hour access to the system. For all-day ride, tackle Westminster Bridge to Box Hill, a 22.5-mile ride that goes through some great greenspace and scenery and ends up at the Surrey Area of Outstanding Beauty. Totally worth it.
The East-West Cycle Superhighway goes from Tower Hill to Lancaster Gate and makes it easy to explore all of London’s best attractions – by bike. Easy riding through the city with great urban scenes and views.
London has some of the most greenspaces and parks in the world, so there’s no shortage of great, easy rides near where you’re staying.
Take the train out of London and go For A (Relaxing) Hike
If you’d like to get out of the city for the day and get some fresh air, head to the Chilterns, a series of scenic hills northwest of the city. With 322 square miles of open space, you can wander and exercise to your heart’s content before heading back into the city for dinner and drinks.
Check Out London’s Numerous Parks
Believe it or not, 40% of London is public green space, with over 3,000 parks covering over 35,000 acres. The largest – 955-hectare Richmond Park – is one of the 8 Royal Parks of London – former royal hunting grounds that are now open to the public. It’s open to cyclists and runners 24 hours a day (except for November and February) and is great escape from the chaos of the city.
Regent’s Park is located in Westminster and Camden, has several walking and cycling routes, fields for playing sports, and is home to Regent’s Park Lake (with boats) and 9 beautiful villas.
Ride The London Eye
You can’t take a trip to London and not ride the London Eye. It’s Europe’s tallest Ferris Wheel, reaching 443 feet tall, and offers some pretty great views. And come on – it looks like a lot of
Float Down Camden Lock
Camden is an electric and lively neighborhood in North London, and its home to Camden Lock, which connects to Regent’s Canal. Here, you can hop on a historic boat operated by the London Waterbus Company, which will take you to London Zoo and Little Venice. Hop off in Camden Lock and explore the many shops and attractions in Camden Town.
See a Show
London is the Theater Capital of the World. Check out some classic Shakespeare at Shakespeare’s Globe, or check out one of the many, many shows on the West End (England’s Broadway) at the Barbican or the Old Vic.
Visit a Museum in London – or Several
Like Museums? You’ve got your pick of some of the best in the world. The Natural History Museum is a popular spot, originally opened in 1881. Art? The Tate Modern is one of the finest collections of contemporary art in the world, while the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square displays works by some of history’s masters – da Vinci, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso and more. And, it’s entirely free.
Anything You Want
If there’s something you’d like to do, you can probably find it in London. The city also serves as a gateway to the rest of the United Kingdom, whether to visit the endless multitude of historic sites or the great outdoor escapes the islands offer. Just remember what Samuel Johnson said.
DANGERS IN LONDON
London is a fairly safe city, but like any other big-city, there are dangers to be aware of.
- Check both ways when crossing the road. Cars drive on the other side, and it can take weeks to get used to checking the other way for traffic.
- Pick-pockets operate extensively in London. Be aware in public spaces of your wallet and valuables.
- While violent crime is rare, there are parts of London that have higher crime rates. In general, after dark try to stick to streets that have lots of people on them.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT LONDON
How old is London? London was settled by Romans in 43 AD, so it’s almost 2000 years old. It was first named Londinium, which means “The Bold One”.
Big Ben is not the tower. A lot of people think that Big Ben is the name of the famous tower near the Palace of Westminster. The tower is actually called the Cook Tower and Big Ben is the name of the bell.
Becoming a Black Cab driver is a great challenge. If someone wants to become a black cab driver, he needs to complete a test called “The Knowledge”. It involves memorising every single street in London. The completion of this challenge usually takes years as it takes an enormous effort to remember every street in one of the biggest cities without using a GPS Navigation.
If you like museums, London is a perfect place for you. London has more than 170 museums and a lot of them are free of charge.
London’s underground is the oldest one in the world. Built in 1863, the first section of London’s underground is the first underground system in the world.