The capital of the United Kingdom is a thriving multicultural metropolis. The contrast between the spectacular historic sights, the grind of a big city, and the lively cultural and foodie scene makes London an interesting and exciting destination. 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 are my ultimate London travel 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.
London is one of the more expensive European capitals, so I’ve outlined some tips for traveling London on a budget!
Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are commonplace in almost every shopping street, with several bureaus 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.
The cold season runs from December to February, with temperatures are usually a few degrees above freezing. Between June and August, temperatures warm up and it’s comfortable outside, rarely going above 25 degrees Celsius (77 F).
Getting Around in London
London is separated into many different boroughs and neighborhoods; each offering a unique flavor of the city! The most popular London neighborhoods 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 an easy and convenient way to get around the city! Depending on the length of your stay, get a Visitor “Oyster” card to pay for your trips on the Tube as you go (and save time and money!).
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!
Where to Stay in London
London is home to many different neighborhoods or “boroughs”, all offering different pros and cons! Deciding what you’re most interested in doing during your stay in London will help pick the best area to stay in. Check out my neighborhood roundup in the “Getting Around” section, and the top hotels in London below!
VRBO has an awesome selection of apartments, flats, and houses for rent throughout London! You’ll find a range of accommodations and in most cases pay less than hotel prices in the city.
This bed & breakfast 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 they offer a great breakfast to start your day!
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.
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.
This London gastropub has five beautifully designed bedrooms situated above their kitchen and lively pub on the ground floor. Clean, comfortable, and amazing aesthetics!
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.
Where to Eat in London
London is truly a melting pot of hundreds of different cultures and cuisines! Of course, you’ll need to try some of the tried and true British food staples (think fish & chips, meat pies, roast, and mash!) during your visit, but expect lots of multicultural cuisine options too—Indian and Middle Eastern being the most popular with locals. Here are the top markets and restaurants in London!
My favorite markets are definitely the Borough Market (Southwark / Every Day but Sundays) which is the oldest and most renowned food market in Britain. Brockley Market (Saint John’s / Saturdays / Cash Only) and Shoreditch’s Boxpark are definitely worth a visit. Other great options are the Camden, Portobello, and Maltby Markets.
The WolseleyModern European
The Wolseley is an art deco, café-restaurant located in iconic Piccadilly, next to the Ritz Hotel. This spot is a sight to be seen, combining their British heritage with European splendor. They serve all day, including breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and weekend brunch!
This cafe-style Japanese noodle bar first opened in Soho in 2010, specializing in freshly-made udon noodles and dashi, as well as small plates served at communal tables.
London is a melting pot of cuisines from all over the world, and who doesn’t love pizza? This Italian pizza bar has six locations throughout London and serves thin crust, fire-baked pizzas all day. Eat-in or grab some slices for takeaway!
Duck & WaffleBritish
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—especially for brunch! They serve a very British menu all day long. They also opened a new location in St. James’ Market, Duck & Waffle Local (walk-ins only), it is a more accessible and cheaper version of the original.
Mother Mash (Casual Dining)British
Taking cues from traditional Victorian London pie & mash shops, Mother Mash is putting their modern spin on British comfort foods! With a location in Carnaby and in Covent Garden, it’s a great local, foodie experience to have during your trip!
Beigel Bake Brick LaneBakery
Dubbed the Best Bagels in London, this Spitalfields 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.
London Shell Co (Fine Dining)Seafood
Come here if you want fabulous seafood and wine pairings all night long. With two restaurants (that are actually floating canals boats!), you can expect a truly unique experience with great service and scenery during your meal!
Located in the trendy Shoreditch neighborhood, and named one of the best restaurants in the world, this is truly a creative, one-of-a-kind food experience! Lyle’s, also a Michelin-Guide Restaurant, serves seasonal British fare as a la carte lunches and set suppers.
Honey & CoMiddle Eastern
A Michelin-Guide Restaurant, Honey & Co is a small, cozy restaurant serving traditional, authentic Middle Eastern food (think lamb, hummus, seafood, tahini, and more!). They recently opened a larger location called Honey & Smoke (pictured below), which focuses on more grill-centered dishes. Either location is a must-try when you’re in London!
Humble GrapeWine Bar
Humble Grape has five wine bar/restaurants around the city! They are known for delicious food, amazing service, and a fun approach to sustainable wine.
What to Do in London
There’s no end of activities to do in London! Hit the museums, historical sites, and art galleries, or eat and drink your way through the many Michelin restaurants—or all of the above! London’s incredible shopping, endless sights, friendly locals, and vibrant nightlife offer something for every kind of traveler. You can find more things to do in London here as well as a guide to visiting London on a budget!
If you have more than a few days in the city, consider a day trip to some of the surrounding English gems! I’ve outlined my favorite day trips from London as well as the top places you should visit in England.
The classic must-see sights while in London are Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Palace of Westminster, and Tower Bridge! For a quick self-guided walking tour, St. James Park, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben are all within walking distance of Buckingham Palace, and the whole area is very tourist-friendly.
When you’re at Big Ben, you’ll see Westminster Abbey right away. One of the greatest churches in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is stunning from the exterior, and I highly recommend going inside for a full tour around the 700-year-old building. It’s still one of my favorite spots in London, and a true pillar of English history.
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.
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. Read more in my guide on Where to Find the Best Afternoon Tea in London!
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!
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.
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.
Having developed a reputation as the home of London’s vintage boutiques, Shoreditch is now drawing its fair share of trendy coffee shops, thrift 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 also a must when you’re in London.
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.
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. Check out my experience Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London!
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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