Ultimate Travel Guide to London

Ultimate Travel Guide to London

Your ultimate travel guide to London with recommendations for what to see, eat, and do in the British capital. 

London is a bustling metropolis where historic sights stand shoulder-to-shoulder with soaring modern buildings. Whether you’re into history, culture, food, shopping, or nightlife, there’s something for everyone. It’s no surprise London is the third-most visited city in the world! 

You can explore the wonders of the Natural History Museum, eat your way through the mouthwatering stalls of Borough Market, and soak in the views from the United Kingdom’s tallest building.

There’s no shortage of things to do and eat, so without further ado, here is my ultimate London travel guide with all the tips and recommendations you need for an unforgettable trip! 

Looking for more travel inspo? Check out my guides to other amazing destinations!

PLANNING & LOGISTICS


BEST TIME TO VISIT

SPRING (March-May): Mild weather and blooming gardens make spring an ideal time to visit London. If you visit late April-early May, you may even catch wisteria hysteria, as the blaze of purple blooms takes over the city and your Instagram feed. The wisteria only lasts a few weeks and exact bloom dates vary by year, so make sure you monitor the weather closely if you want to experience their beauty in person! 

SUMMER (June-August): If you want London at its warmest and sunniest, summer is for you. From festivals to rooftop bars, there’s no shortage of things to do, and everyone seems to be in a better mood thanks to the weather. But be warned: this is also high season and the season of heat waves and humidity, so brace yourself for the crowds and stock up on sunscreen. 

FALL (September-November): Shoulder season sees smaller crowds, but the weather is even more variable than usual so bring an umbrella and lots of layers! 

WINTER (December-February): Low season. Winter is cold and damp, but on the bright side, prices are cheaper and you’ll have to contend with less tourists. You may also get lucky with the weather – I visited in mid-late January and lucked out with sunny weather six out of the seven days I was there. This is not the norm so I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s not unheard of!  

ENTRY & EXIT

US citizens do not require a visa to enter the UK for stays less than six months. Your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay and must be valid for at least six months after your departure date for onward travel to many other countries.

If you are not a US citizen, you can check whether you need a visa (as well as receive other useful entry information) on the UK visa and immigration website.

AIRPORT ARRIVAL

London has six – yes, SIX – airports that service the city. Heathrow is the busiest, but there is a chance you’ll arrive in one of the lesser-known airports (double-check your flight before you book)! 

Below is a breakdown of the different airports and how to get into London from each. For more information on the public transport options mentioned below (such as the Underground and DLR), please visit the Transportation section of this travel guide.

HEATHROW

London’s main airport that services almost every major airline.

Getting to central London:

  • HEATHROW EXPRESS: The quickest option. There are non-stop trains to Paddington station in London every 15 minutes, and journey time is also approximately 15 minutes (give or take a few minutes depending on the terminal).
  • LONDON UNDERGROUND: The cheapest option. Take the Piccadilly Line from any of the terminals into London. Journey time is 50-60 minutes.
  • TFL RAIL: runs every 30 minutes and it will take you to local stations in West and Central London. Journey time is 30 minutes from terminals 2 and 3.
  • NATIONAL EXPRESS COACH: Runs throughout the day. Tickets start at £10. Journey time is 40-80 minutes.
  • FELTHAM RAIL: Take the 285 bus from Heathrow to the Feltham rail station, where you can then take a train to London Waterloo. Total journey time is one hour and 40 minutes.
  • TAXI: A taxi from Heathrow to central London typically costs £45–£70. Journey time is approximately one hour. 

GATWICK

The second-busiest airport in the UK. This is the one I arrived in when I flew Norwegian from New York to London.

Getting to central London:

  • GATWICK EXPRESS: non-stop service to Victoria station every 15 minutes. Journey time is 30 minutes.
  • SOUTHERN TRAIN: operates four times an hour to Victoria station via East Croydon and Clapham Junction. Journey time is 35 minutes.
  • THAMESLINK & GREAT NORTHERN: Runs four times an hour to London Bridge, London Blackfriars, Farringdon and St Pancras International stations. Journey time is 30-45 minutes. I took the Thameslink into central London and found it very easy to use, but note that if you arrive late at night (I arrived around 11pm) the trains stop servicing several stations like London Bridge. If that affects you, check with the ticket attendant on best alternative routes.
  • NATIONAL EXPRESS COACH: runs once an hour to Victoria station. Journey time is 1.5 to 2 hours.
  • EASYBUS: Runs 1) a low-cost airport transfer service to London, with prices starting at £2, and 2) a direct service to west London via Earls Court/West Brompton, with a journey time of one hour. It operates from the North Terminal, bus stops 10 and 11.
  • TAXI: Journey time is approximately one hour. The average price is £60.

STANSTED

Mainly services budget airlines. 

Getting to central London:

  • BUS/COACH: The bus/coach station is just a 2-minute walk from the airport terminal, and services are offered by National Express Coach, Airport Bus Express, and First Essex. For more information on routes and tickets, check out the Stansted Airport website. 
  • STANSTED EXPRESS: Quickest way to get to London. Trains run every 15 minutes. Journey time to London’s Liverpool Street is just under 50 minutes.
  • TAXI: Black cabs don’t operate at Stansted; 24×7 Stansted is the official London Stansted Airport taxi hire service. Average cost to central London is £99, but there’s an extra charge for evening and weekend journeys. Make sure to ask how much it will cost beforehand! 

LUTON

A base for budget airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair. 

Getting to central London:

  • TRAIN TO SOUTH LONDON: Take a 10-minute shuttle transfer to the train station, where trains run every 20 minutes at peak times. 
  • OTHER TRAINS: Take a 10-minute shuttle transfer to the train station. Direct trains run every 10 minutes to Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St Pancras International. Average journey time is 40 minutes.

LONDON CITY

Located closest to the city center, but it is very small and has only one runway. The only non-European destination it currently services is New York City.

Getting to central London:

  • TUBE/DLR: The airport has its own stop on the Docklands Light Railway which will take you to Tube interchange stations such as Canning Town, Stratford and Bank.
  • BUS: The 473 (Stratford, Silvertown, North Woolwich, and Prince Regent DLR Station) and 474 (Canning Town, North Woolwich and East Beckton via Silvertown) local buses service City Airport. Oyster and Travelcards are accepted.

SOUTHEND

Located in Essex, 36 miles from the city center. 

Getting to central London:

  • TRAIN: Trains run to London Liverpool Station (via Stratford) daily from 4:05am to 11:05pm. They run every 10 minutes during peak time and every 20 minutes off-peak. Journey time is less than an hour.
  • TAXI: Andrews Taxis is the airport’s official taxi service. There’s a dedicated digital booking kiosk in the taxi waiting shelter directly in front of the terminal building. No need to book in advance. There’s also a late-night shared taxi service to Liverpool street from £27.50 per person (minimum four people). If there are fewer than four people, the price is £110 divided by the number of passengers.

TRANSPORTATION

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

London has an excellent public transportation system. It encompasses everything from the tube (metro/subway) and buses to trams and riverboats and is one of the largest urban transport networks in the world. There’s no need for you to take a cab unless you really want to! In fact, it’s often faster, and cheaper, to use public transport in the city.

To see all of your transport options, download the Citymapper app, which also tells you how much each journey option will cost (take that, Google Maps).

London’s transport network includes the:

  • UNDERGROUND (aka the tube): Odds are, this is your most efficient option for getting around London. The tube gives me major metro envy (looking at you, NYC subway – get your sh** together). Station entrances are clearly marked with the red, white, and blue Underground logo. The tube operates in fare zones 1-6 – the more zones you cross, the pricier the journey. You can pay for the tube using an *Oyster card or contactless payment such as Apple Pay. I used Apple Pay the entire time I was there and it was super easy. Simply tap and go! (See below for more information on paying for the tube). 
  • BUS: You can get basically anywhere in London via bus, although you will have to contend with traffic. Flat fare is £1.50 for a single journey for Oyster users. There’s also a “hopper fare” for Oyster and contactless where every bus journey you take within the first hour of tapping in is included in the £1.50 fare. No need to tap out since the fee is fixed!
  • DOCKLANDS LIGHT RAILWAY (DLR): a fully automated rail system that services the docklands area of London. Unlike the Underground, it doesn’t have drivers.
  • TRAM: The London Tramlink runs in parts of south London between Wimbledon, Croydon, Beckenham and New Addington. It’s a small network with only four lines, and like the bus it’s a fixed fee per journey. 
  • RIVERBOAT: Operated by Thames Clipper. It’s more expensive than the tube or bus, but it’s also more scenic and less busy than the land-based modes of transport. You can pay by contactless or Oyster. You can also buy tickets online or in-person at the pier. 

All tube entrances are clearly marked with the distinctive Underground logo (pictured here). Photo credit: @instatours.london

*If you’re planning to use the Underground a lot, it may be more cost-efficient to get a Visitor Oyster card, which can be used on most public transport services in London, including the tube, bus, tram, and rail. You can even order a card ahead of time and have it delivered before you leave for your trip!

A Visitor Oyster card costs £5 (plus shipping) and is pre-loaded with pay as you go credit for you to spend on transport. You can choose how much credit you want to pre-load: £10, £15, £20, £25, £30, £35, £40 or £50. For more information, check out the Transport for London website.

Make sure to tap in and out when you enter and exit the tube so you’re charged the correct fare. If you don’t tap out, you will be charged the maximum fare.

TAXIS

London’s black cabs are iconic, but they are the most expensive mode of transportation. Nevertheless, if you’re hauling a lot of luggage or don’t mind paying more for the convenience, they are the best option. Fares must be paid by cash, credit, or contactless.

RIDESHARES

Uber lost its license to operate in London in November 2019. It has since been replaced by its Indian rival Ola. I’ve never used Ola so I can’t speak to its service or quality, but if you’re hesitant it’s easy to catch an official black cab instead.

BICYCLES

Good for short journeys when you don’t feel like walking or taking the tube. London’s cycle hire scheme is called Santander Cycles, which has 750 docking stations around the city. Pick up a bike from one of the stations, cycle, then drop it off at another docking station. 

You pay a £2 access fee that’ll give you, well, access to the cycles for 24 hours. You then pay for the bike rental according to how long you keep it for. The first 30 minutes are free; after that, you’ll be charged £2 for every 30 minutes.

Santander has a free app that locates nearby docking stations and shows you how full they are.

CURRENCY & MONEY

Local currency is the British pound sterling (£). The exchange rate is approximately $1 USD for every £0.78. For the most recent exchange rate, check XE online or download its companion app.

Credit cards and contactless payments like Apple Pay are widely accepted in London. If you use a credit card, don’t be surprised if they ask to see your card signature so they can match it to your receipt signature! While American merchants could care less, UK shop owners are far more strict about this. 

London is an increasingly cashless society but I would keep some cash on you just in case (especially if you’re planning to visit the markets). ATMs are widely available. 

CELL PHONE & INTERNET

CELL PHONE

To avoid exorbitant roaming charges, consider buying a preloaded SIM card when you arrive. The major service providers in the UK are O2, EE, Vodafone, and Three. 

I used EE (which has the best network) when I was there and I recommend it for most travelers. Three has the least coverage. O2 and Vodafone are in the middle. 

I bought my SIM card right after I landed at the airport. They’re available via vending machines, kiosks, and retailers such as WH Smith, depending on your arrival airport. I chose to buy mine at Gatwick’s WH Smith, where the salesperson installed and activated the SIM in minutes. There is an activation fee, but I arrived late at night and it was worth it for the convenience. You can also choose to activate the SIM yourself.

Don’t want to buy a SIM card at the airport? No worries! They’re readily available throughout the city at network providers’ stores (Vodafone, O2, etc) or at supermarkets such as Tesco.

INTERNET

Wifi is easily accessible in London. It’s available in most hotels, cafes and public spaces such as airports and tube stations. Visit the Transport for London website for instructions on how to connect in tube stations.

There are thousands of Wifi hotspots throughout the city. Free networks include O2 Wifi (you have to download the app but it doesn’t require a username or password) and the Cloud, which does require a username and password. 

Note: Public Wifi isn’t fast Wifi, but it’s Wifi.

HEALTH & SAFETY

You don’t need special vaccinations to enter the UK.

Food safety standards are high and the tap water is safe to drink.

Public restrooms are readily available. If you’re trying to find one, ask for the “toilets” and not “restrooms,” which is not a term understood by many British. I asked a security guard for the restroom once and received a baffled stare – they thought I was asking for a hotel room! 

The City of London website has more information on the different types of public toilets offered by the city. You can also access toilets at public museums and galleries and stores such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Marks & Spencer. If you can’t find free toilets, duck into a cafe or pub and buy a drink or snack for access. 

Although there have been several highly publicized news accounts of terrorism and stabbings in the capital, London is a very safe city overall. I traveled there solo for a week and never felt uncomfortable, even when walking alone at night.

If you stick to central London (there are some dangerous neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city), keep an eye out for pickpockets, and exercise the same precautions you’d use for any big city, you should be fine.

CULTURE & ETIQUETTE


DRESS CODE

You can wear what you want in London. Unless it’s a very special occasion, Londoners are pretty casual and jeans are common attire.

I do recommend wearing layers as London’s weather is so unpredictable.  

FOOD

London has plenty of amazing restaurants, but British food itself doesn’t have the best reputation.  

Nevertheless, if you’re craving traditional British cuisine, here are the food items to try:

  • Bangers and mash: Sausages and mashed potato, usually served with peas and gravy.
  • Black pudding: Don’t be fooled by the name – it’s not a traditional pudding. It’s actually sausage made with a blend of pork blood, pork fat, and oatmeal. 
  • Bread and butter pudding: Bread pudding made by layering slices of stale buttered bread, raisins, and egg custard mix.
  • Fish and chips: Fried battered fish served with fries (known as chips in Britain).
  • Full English breakfast: Bacon, eggs, and sausage. It also usually comes with sides such as toast, marmalade, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, and tea or coffee.
  • Haggis: Actually a Scottish speciality, haggis consists of minced sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs with suet, oatmeal, onion, and seasoning. 
  • Scones: Perhaps the most familiar item to international visitors, scones are baked goods, slightly sweetened, and often served with tea. I am obsessed with scones!
  • Scotch egg: Soft or hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat.
  • Shepherd’s pie/cottage pie: Meat pies. They’re pretty similar, but shepherd’s pie is made with lamb while cottage pie is made with beef.
  • Spotted dick: Besides a name that brings out the thirteen-year-old in all of us, spotted dick features a pudding made with suet, flour, and dried fruit. Often served with custard.
  • Steak and kidney pie: Pie filled with beef, kidney, fried onions, and gravy. 
  • Tea: Yes, this warrants a mention, because Brits really love tea. Earl Grey is a British classic.
  • Toad in the hole: Sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter, often served with gravy and vegetables.
  • Yorkshire pudding: Also not a traditional pudding. It’s a batter dish made with eggs, flour, and milk or water. Often eaten with gravy.

TIPPING

A service charge is usually included in restaurant bills. If not, a 10%-15% tip is standard. 

No need to tip at the bar but if there’s table service, £1 per round of drinks is fine. 

For taxis, Londoners typically round up to the nearest pound.

LANGUAGE

English is the official language. However, there are some differences between American English and British English! Below are a few common British words and their American equivalent:

  • Biscuit = cookie (not the KFC-type biscuit)
  • Bollocks = nonsense 
  • Chips = French fries
  • Chuffed = pleased
  • Crisps = potato chips
  • Fit = attractive, hot
  • Fortnight = two weeks
  • Knackered = tired
  • Lift = elevator 
  • Loo = toilet
  • Peckish = hungry
  • Pissed = drunk (not angry) 
  • Rubbish = trash
  • Trainers = sneakers 

WHERE TO STAY


LUXURY

CLARIDGE’S: Claridge’s is a legendary Mayfair hotel that’s played host to royalty, celebrities, and billionaires alike. It’s not trendy, but if you’re looking for traditional, timeless elegance, this is the place. 

COURTHOUSE HOTEL SHOREDITCH: A luxury hotel located in the hip, quirky neighborhood of Shoreditch. It’s housed in a Baroque building that served as a magistrates’ court and police station up until 1996. 

Rooms come with complimentary breakfast at the hotel’s gorgeous Judge & Jury restaurant, which I couldn’t stop gawking at when I stayed here. I visited in January so sadly the rooftop bar was closed, but if you’re here during the summer definitely check it out.

Note: Don’t confuse it with the Courthouse Hotel in Marlborough! 

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary stay at the Courthouse in exchange for social coverage. However, all opinions are my own.

The beautiful Judge & Jury restaurant at the Courthouse Shoreditch. Arrived early enough to get it all to myself!

MODERATE

ARTIST RESIDENCE: A 10-room boutique hotel located between Chelsea, Tate Britain, and Westminster. It’s chock full of art and quirky furnishings – ideal for those who like lodgings with a little creative flair.

HILTON LONDON TOWER BRIDGE: For pure convenience, Hilton Tower Bridge is your best bet. As its name suggests, it’s only a few minutes’ walk to London’s iconic Tower Bridge. It’s also a stone’s throw away from London Bridge station, a transport hub that services the London Underground and National Rail.

BUDGET

GENERATOR: A quirky design hostel in central London with both dorms and private rooms. It hosts regular events such as karaoke nights, but its biggest selling point is its location: the hostel is within walking distance to the British Museum, Piccadilly Circus, and other top London attractions.

QBIC HOTEL: Modern, minimalist, and eco-friendly, Qbic features cube-like rooms (hence its name) and extremely comfortable beds. Great for those who are interested in green accommodations.

WHERE TO EAT


BARRAFINA

A legendary Spanish tapas bar in Soho. It’s long been one of London’s most popular restaurants, which means it’s always crowded, but it’s a must-visit if you’re in the city. Make sure to order the croquetas! 

Soho is the original location, but there’s also a Barrafina in Covent Garden and King’s Cross.

BOROUGH MARKET

Recommended by multiple people before I left for London. Sadly I couldn’t fit it into my schedule when I was there, but it is supposed to be amazing and the best market in the city!

Borough Market is a food market with more than 100 stalls selling gourmet food, including all sorts of meats, bread, cheese, and patisseries, to name just a few. I’m getting hungry just writing about it…

Some stalls and restaurants that were recommended to me:

  • BAO: Taiwanese bun shop
  • EL PASTOR: Mexican taqueria with amazing tacos
  • HAWKSMOOR BOROUGH: delicious steaks
  • KAPPACASEIN: famous for its toasted cheese sandwiches
  • PADELLA: excellent pasta, notorious for its long line (so get there early)!
  • WRIGHT BROTHERS: their speciality is their oysters 

Hours:

  • Monday-Tuesday: 10am-5pm. Note these are limited produce market days, which means not all stalls and shops are open.
  • Wednesday-Thursday: 10am-5pm
  • Friday: 10am-6pm
  • Saturday: 8am-5pm
  • Sunday: closed

DISHOOM

If you’re craving Indian, try Dishoom, whose homestyle cooking and retro vibes have made it a hit on London’s food scene. The wait is long and they don’t accept reservations for groups smaller than six after 5:45pm, so get there early. Once you’re in, indulge in goodies like okra fries, lamb chops, and gunpowder potatoes.

The original branch is located in Covent Garden, but there are also outposts in Shoreditch, King’s Cross, Carnaby, and Kensington. 

FOUR SEASONS RESTAURANT

A no-frills Cantonese restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. It’s famous for its roast duck, which I ordered along with roast BBQ pork over rice. Chinese barbeque is my favorite traditional comfort meal which means I’ve had a lot of roast duck and pork in my life. 

My verdict: the barbeque here is amazing! The meat is juicy and actually meat, instead of a heap of bones covered by a thin layer of meat that they then charge you a ton of money for. Definitely give it a try if you’re in the area.

Note: There’s also a Four Seasons restaurant in Queensway and Wardour Street, but the one I went to is on Gerrard Street in Chinatown. 

Roast duck over rice at Four Seasons. Yummm.

HUTONG AT THE SHARD

Located in the Shard – the tallest building in the UK – Hutong is the perfect spot for a special night out. Whether it’s a birthday, date night, or treat-yo’self-because-you-deserve-it night, you’ll be awed by the unbelievable views of London laid out at your feet.

The food was great and came in generous portions, which is refreshing for such an upscale venue because usually, the more expensive the restaurant, the less food you get. However, there was so much food we had to box some of it up. We did, however, make room for the excellent mango pudding dessert.

Tip: Ask for a table by the window and save room for dessert!

Dinner at Hutong. Look. At. That. View.

MR. MA’S AFTERNOON TEA AT THE ACADEMY HOTEL

A delightful hidden gem tucked into the corner of the Academy Hotel in London’s West End. The tea room is beautiful and peaceful, the staff is sweet, and the tea is great. I highly recommend trying the Mr. Ma’s Special Blend tea – it’s refreshing, balanced, and not too strong. There’s also an outdoor courtyard that I didn’t get a chance to take advantage of because I went during winter, but it looks amazing for summer.

Beautiful afternoon tea spread at Mr. Ma’s includes macarons, assorted tea sandwiches, clotted cream, and egg tarts

MILK TRAIN

From the decor to the desserts themselves, everything at Milk Train is Instagrammable. 

Clean, bright aesthetic? Check. 

Neon signage? Check. 

Photogenic concoctions such as its famous candy floss ice cream cone? Check! 

This is the ideal spot if you’re looking to indulge your sweet tooth and Instagram followers at the same time.

NANDO’S

Ah, Nando’s. If it’s good enough for Chrissy Teigen, it’s good enough for me. This South African restaurant chain serving up Portuguese food such as its famous peri-peri style chicken is wildly popular in the UK, and for good reason. Affordable prices + delish food = winning combination. There are branches all over London, but if you want to locate one ahead of time you can use their online store finder.

PEGGY PORSCHEN

One of the most Instagrammed places in London. Usually, Instagram-famous dessert places don’t actually serve good food, but the cake here is fantastic. I HIGHLY recommend their lemon, raspberry, and rose layer cake, which was a Great Taste Award Winner in 2019. Their Romantic Rose (strawberry and champagne) cupcake is also good.

I like that their cakes aren’t too sweet and don’t leave a cloying taste in my mouth, especially if you pair them with tea.

Note: The space is small, so if you want to sit down and eat you have to wait in line outside until a staff member waves you in. There are also tables outside that would be nice during summer.

Note: There’s a Peggy Porschen in both Chelsea and Belgravia. Belgravia is the famous one and the one I visited.

Peggy Porschen’s adorable exterior

WHAT TO SEE & DO


MUSEUMS

I’ll be honest – I’m not a huge museum person. But London has some of the best museums in the world and you’d be remiss not to visit at least one of them during your stay. Here are a few of the city’s top museums:

BRITISH MUSEUM

The world’s oldest national public museum, filled with global artifacts discovered by British explorers. It contains over 8 million objects and you can spend weeks exploring its halls, but if you’re limited on time, check out the highlights below.

Don’t miss:

  • The Rosetta Stone. The original Rosetta Stone, not the language-learning software.
  • Colossal granite head of Amenhotep III
  • Sutton Hoo Ship Burial Helmet, the most famous object from the Sutton Hoo burial ship. 
  • Easter Island statue 
  • The Elgin Marbles. A series of friezes and sculptures that were originally part of the Parthenon in Athens.

HOURS:

  • Saturday-Thursday: 10am-5:30pm 
  • Friday: 10am-8:30pm

ENTRANCE FEE: Free 

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

The Natural History Museum is home to 80 million natural specimens. From animatronic dinosaurs to glow-in-the-dark crystals, it has it all, but it’s best-known for its dinosaur skeletons and breathtaking architecture.

Don’t miss:

  • The dinosaur skeletons, such as part of the first T. Rex skeleton ever discovered and a triceratops skull
  • Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species,” in which he describes his theory of evolution by natural selection. It’s arguably the most important work in the history of biology.
  • Guy the Gorilla taxidermy specimen 

HOURS: 10am-5:50pm (last entry 5:30pm)

ENTRANCE FEE: Free

TATE MODERN

One of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world, it boasts 5.5 million annual visitors and recently overtook the British Museum as the most-visited attraction in London.

Don’t miss:

  • Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Diptych, made of two canvasses on which Warhol silk-screened Marilyn Monroe’s photograph fifty times.
  • Monet’s “Water Lilies,” a beloved work of Impressionism.
  • Pablo Picasso’s “Nude Woman with Necklace.” One of Picasso’s most famous works.

HOURS:

  • Sunday-Thursday: 10am-6pm
  • Friday-Saturday: 10am-10pm

ENTRANCE FEE: Free

VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM

Billed as the “the world’s leading museum of art and design,” Victoria & Albert — also known as V&A — houses an impressive collection of decorative arts that encompasses ceramics, art, furniture, sculptures, and jewelry, to name to just a few categories.

Don’t miss: 

  • Tipu’s Tiger, a semi-automaton of a tiger mauling a European soldier. It is arguably the most famous object housed in the museum. 
  • Vivienne Westwood fashion collection
  • Chihuly glass sculpture hanging from the entrance hall ceiling 

HOURS:

  • Saturday-Thursday: 10am-5:45pm
  • Friday: 10am-10pm

ENTRANCE FEE: Free, but special exhibitions may require a ticket

SHOPPING

CAMDEN MARKET

Despite its name, Camden Market is actually a collection of multiple outdoor markets spread throughout the neighborhood of Camden. It opens daily at 10 a.m. and has stalls selling everything from clothing to food to furniture and home decor. You can easily spend a whole day getting lost here, but be warned: it gets very crowded on the weekends, so I would visit during the week if possible. 

HOURS: 10am-”late” every day. Unclear what “late” means.

COVENT GARDEN

A popular shopping and entertainment complex with tons of designer stores, markets, restaurants, and bars. Great place to walk around and soak up the lively vibes!

HOURS: Shops are usually open Monday-Saturday 10am-8pm and Sunday 11am-6pm.

Scenes from Covent Garden

FORTNUM & MASON

As a tea lover, Fortnum & Mason is my idea of heaven. Six glorious floors of beautifully packaged gifts, treats, hampers, and tea. Green tea, chai tea, black tea, white tea, sparkling tea…please excuse me while I swoon.

HOURS:

  • Monday-Wednesday: 10am-8pm
  • Thursday-Saturday: 10am-9pm
  • Sunday: 11:30am-6pm (11:30am-noon browsing only)

Tea heaven at Fortnum & Mason!

HARRODS

London’s most iconic department store, Harrods sells everything from designer fashion to gourmet food. It’s window shopping heaven. And of course, don’t forget to visit its famous food halls! Whether you’re craving meat, bread, chocolate, oysters or dim sum, you’ll find it at Harrods.

HOURS:

  • Monday-Saturday: 10am-9pm
  • Sunday: 11:30am-6pm (11:30am-noon browsing only)

OXFORD STREET

Europe’s busiest shopping street. I actually avoided Oxford Street for the most part because I wasn’t feeling the crowds, but it’s worth visiting if you don’t mind all the people! There are approximately 300 stores covering every brand you can think of, so you can shop til you drop!

PETERSHAM NURSERIES SHOP AT COVENT GARDEN

An incredible shop brimming with indoor plants and eclectic, unique furniture, gifts, and home goods. I wanted to buy everything and could’ve spent an entire afternoon browsing the store.

HOURS:

  • Monday-Saturday: 10:30am-6:30pm
  • Sunday: 12pm-6pm

Honestly obsessed with everything in Petersham Nurseries. Can I move in here?

PORTOBELLO ROAD MARKET

The world’s largest antique market, with more than 1,000 dealers, pubs, and restaurants. You can spend an entire day here drooling over the vintage clothes, jewelry, books, home goods, and assorted trinkets.

Kate Moss is a fan. Need I say more?

HOURS:

  • Monday-Wednesday: 9am-6pm
  • Thursday: 9am-1pm
  • Friday (antique stalls): 9am-7pm
  • Saturday (main day): 9am-7pm
  • Sunday: closed

Note: shops (not stalls) and cafes are open daily

SIGHTSEEING

*not including Big Ben since it’s under renovation until 2021.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE

Buckingham needs no introduction. It’s one of the world’s few remaining working royal palaces and is open to visitors July-October every year. You can explore the 19 grand State Rooms and stroll through the garden. Two highlights to look out for: the incredible Grand Staircase and Throne Room.

P.S. Say hi to the Queen for me! 

P.P.S. Personally I think the changing of the guard is overrated.

HOURS (FOR 2020):

  • July 25-August 31: 9:30am-7:30pm (last admission 5:15pm)
  • September 1-October 4: 9:30am-6:30pm (last admission 4:15pm)

Visit the Royal Collection Trust website for the most up-to-date information.

ENTRANCE FEE:

State rooms:

  • Adult: £26.50
  • Students: £24
  • Seniors (60+): £24
  • Under 17/disabled: £14.50
  • Under 5: Free
  • Family (2 adults + 2 under 17s): £67.50

Royal Day Out: (includes admission to State Rooms, Royal Mews, and The Queen’s Gallery)

  • Adult: £49
  • Students: £42
  • Seniors (60+): £44.50
  • Under 17/disabled: £26.50
  • Under 5: Free
  • Family (2 adults + 2 under 17s): £124.50

HYDE PARK

The largest of the four Royal Parks in central London. It offers an endless array of activities throughout the year, including guided horse rides along Rotten Row, row boating on Serpentine Lake (March-October), and listening to orators discuss issues of the day in Speakers’ Corner.

Fun fact: Past orators at Speakers’ Corner include Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, and George Orwell.

HOURS: 5am-midnight year-round

ENTRANCE FEE: Free

LONDON EYE

An indispensable part of the London skyline. I didn’t get a chance to ride in the Eye itself because I visited in January (it generally closes for annual maintenance for most of the month). Other than the maintenance period and Christmas, the Eye is open daily. Hours vary depending on the time of year, but it’s typically open at 10am and closes between 6pm-8:30pm. 

I recommend booking your tickets in advance on the London Eye website. It’s a popular attraction, especially during the summer, holidays, and weekends.

Even if you don’t ride the London Eye itself (I’ve heard from several people it’s overrated), you can admire the structure from various viewpoints in the city, such as Victoria Embankment and the Westminster Bridge.

View of the London Eye from the Victoria Embankment. Photo credit: @instatours.london

HOURS: Vary depending on the time of year. The Eye usually opens at 10am and closes 6pm-8:30pm, but check the official London Eye website for more information on your anticipated visit date. 

ENTRANCE FEE:

  • STANDARD TICKET: Online from £27
  • FAMILY STANDARD TICKET: Online from £26
  • STUDENT TICKET: Online from £16
  • FAST TRACK TICKET: Online from £37
  • FLEXI FAST TRACK TICKET: Online from £44

Visit the website for more information on ticket types and options.

SKY GARDEN

One of my favorite spots in London! The Sky Garden is a stunning observation deck and the city’s highest public garden. It has amazing views of the city and the space itself is brimming with greenery, ultra-high ceilings, and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. It’s basically my aesthetic dream come true.

If you’re feeling thirsty/hungry, there are two bars and a fine dining restaurant.

Bonus: admission to the Sky Garden is free! You simply have to reserve a time slot online beforehand as there is a limited number of tickets available every day. I would reserve these tickets a few weeks in advance, especially if you plan to visit on a weekend.

There are limited walk-in slots available Monday-Friday but these are at the discretion of the staff and the capacity of the Garden, so if you want to be 100% safe book the tickets online.

I recommend visiting during the week if possible for smaller crowds and more time slot options. I booked my ticket a few days ahead of time for a Monday and there was still a good number of time slots left.

Note: The tickets are for one hour, but no one checks once you’re inside so you can stay as long as you want!

City views from Sky Garden

HOURS:

  • Monday-Friday: 10am-6pm
  • Saturday-Sunday: 11am-9pm

*Restaurant and bar hours may be different

ENTRANCE FEE: Free 

ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL

A breathtaking cathedral that’s stood for more than three centuries. Marvel at the architecture and climb up to the Golden Gallery at the very top for incredible views of London. 

Fun fact: the cathedral’s dome miraculously survived Germany’s Luftwaffe bombs during World War II and became a symbol of Britain’s resilience and spirit.

HOURS: Monday-Saturday, 8:30am-4:30pm. Access to the Dome Galleries opens at 9:30am. 

On Sundays, the cathedral is open for worship only.

ENTRANCE FEE:

  • Adults (18+): £20 onsite, £17 if you buy online before 8:30am of the day you wish to visit
  • Students (with student ID) and seniors (60+): £17.50 onsite, £15 online
  • Children (ages 6-17): £8.50 onsite, £7.20 online
  • Family Ticket (2 Adults + 2 or 3 Children): £48.50 onsite, £41.20 online
  • Family Ticket (1 Adult + 2 or 3 Children): £34 onsite, £29 online

TOWER BRIDGE

London’s most iconic bridge. Tower Bridge is not the same as the London Bridge, and it’s much prettier than London Bridge, in my opinion.

It’ll take you only a couple of minutes to walk the length of the bridge, but if you’re not too scared of heights, I recommend checking out the upper walkways for some amazing views. There’s also a glass walkway on the upper level where you can look down and see the boats and cars passing by underneath!  

HOURS: The pedestrian walkway is open 24 hours. If you want to go inside the bridge, the hours are 9:30am-5pm daily.

ENTRANCE FEE:

  • ADULT: £9.80
  • CHILD (ages 5-15): £4.20
  • DISABLED/SENIOR (60+)/STUDENT: £6.80

For the full list of ticket prices, visit the Tower Bridge website.

Tower Bridge at sunrise. What a beauty.

WESTMINSTER ABBEY

A World Heritage Site and the church where William and Kate tied the knot. It’s also a coronation church and an Early English Gothic architectural masterpiece. It’s a popular stop on the tourist path, so arrive early to beat the crowds! 

If you have limited time to explore, the abbey’s highlights include: the Coronation Chair (in the nave), Poets’ Corner (in the south transept), Chapter House (in the east cloister), and Grave of the Unknown Warrior (in the nave).

Note: photography and filming are not permitted anywhere in the abbey.

HOURS:

  • Monday-Friday: 9:30am-3:30pm
  • Wednesday Lates: 4:30pm-6pm
  • Saturday (May-Aug): 9am-3pm
  • Saturday (Sept-April): 9am-1pm

Sundays are not open to visitors, but you can attend a service. Service times are listed on the Westminster Abbey website

ENTRANCE FEE:

  • ADULT: £21 online, £23 onsite 
  • SENIORS (60+)/STUDENTS: £18 online, £20 onsite
  • CHILD (6-16): £9 online, £10 onsite
  • CHILD (under 5): free

TRAVEL TIPS & THINGS TO KNOW


  • London does have good food! It’s an international city and offers a range of cuisines, from Indian to Italian to seafood. Branch out from classic pub fare like fish and chips and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many great restaurants there are.
  • Walk or take public transport as much as you can. There’s really no reason to take a cab, except for maybe when you first arrive and are weighed down with heavy luggage. 
  • Uber is NOT available in London. It lost its license to operate in the city in 2019.
  • London is huge. I highly recommend visiting one neighborhood at a time. You’ll lose a lot of time traveling if you keep going back and forth between neighborhoods!
  • Escalator etiquette: stand on the right, walk up/down on the left.
  • Check your restaurant bill to see if gratuity is already included so you don’t tip twice (unless you want to)! 
  • Do not cut the line (or the queue, as it’s called in London). Londoners love queuing and do not take kindly to cutting.
  • Pack layers and an umbrella/raincoat. The weather is variable and the skies can open up at any minute.
  • They drive on the left, which is opposite most countries in the world. To be safe, check both ways before crossing the street.

 

This wraps up my ultimate London travel guide! It’s one of the most detailed guides I’ve written yet, and I hope you found it helpful.

Cheers!

Until next time,

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4 Comments

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