London Travel Guide Overview
London, the beautiful and lively capital of the United Kingdom is always bustling with something amazing to see or do for everyone. It’s home to the world’s most beloved royal family, the city that Harry Potter loves, and the birthplace of some of the world’s most iconic people. Leisure and business travelers alike will definitely enjoy what this mega city has to offer. The old yet magnificent structures, castles, world-class museums, the tube, the pubs, and unique things like police boxes and royal guards will make your visit worthwhile. A trip to London however can be pretty pricey compared to most destinations around the world. The hotels, food, etc can really take a hit to your budget so hopefully we can prepare you on how to save a little and get inspiration for your trip with this London Travel Guide
When to Visit London
London is UK’s topmost destination for tourists and the city can be pretty much crowded all year round. The best time to visit the city is during spring when the weather is just average but it’s good enough to tolerate and there will be fewer crowds than in the peak summer season. Bring an umbrella because it’s always raining it seems. Winter season during the months of December to February, can truly be cold and the city is a little bit less crowded. If you’re ok with that kind of weather then, this it is a good time for the city because it will be lit up and sparkling.
Where to Stay in London
Mayfair and Covent Garden – Probably, the best for first timers that are wanting to see all the Westminster area attractions, the Tower of London, etc. These two neighborhoods are centrally located between all of that. The prices here of course can be expensive due to the great location.
St. James’s – Here you will be close to the National Gallery, many excellent parks, and the Queen herself! You’ll basically be neighbors. It is on the pricey end of hotels but you can’t beat the location.
Saint Pancras – This is more of a convenient spot to stay. Especially, if it’s a short trip or you are leaving or coming in by train because both the St. Pancras and Kings Crossing stations are right there. Also, the hotel prices in the area are reasonable. It is a bit far for the main tourist attractions though.
Shoreditch – If you are looking for nightlife and the parties then stay in this area. It’s very hipster and has some great bars and restaurants.
Chelsea – If you are looking for a local vibe this is the spot. You won’t find as many tourist in this area but you will find it to be quite posh and you’ll find a lot of high end boutiques.
How to Reach London
There are six international airports in London. The biggest is Heathrow Airport, also dubbed one of the busiest airports in the world. It is located in the Greater London area and the airport offers buses and trains to central London and to other destinations in the UK. Some of the other airports such as Stansted and Luton offer budget airline carriers.
London is the central hub of the British railway and almost all the trains in the UK stop in the city. If you are coming from a European country, the Euro trail also offers train services from Europe (most notably from Paris) to London. Just a heads up, this requires a reservation.
Traveling by bus, whether you are coming from Europe or from other parts of the UK, is surprisingly easy. Most coach services have stations around Buckingham Palace Road in Westminister. Around the UK, the largest bus network is the National Express. Eurolines also have busses that come to and from London from some European countries.
Getting around London: Transportation Tips
The Underground aka “The Tube”
The easiest and most affordable method. The London underground is great and can get you anywhere in the city quickly. If you are planning on riding it a lot and looking to save money get the Oyster card.
A similar concept as the underground, although a lot newer it is zoned out and operates above ground. It’s another alternative option to the tube when needed.
The bus system in London has massive coverage and can get you a lot closer to where you are going than the tube a lot of times. The Oyster card also works for the buses.
The taxi drivers in London are legendary. They literally have every location and spot memorized. They go through rigorous training to become drivers and the cars are super spacious and fun to ride in. They are a bit expensive but everyone should ride in a London taxi at least once.
If you didn’t know the Thames River runs directly through the middle of the city making it convenient and fun to ride the Thames Clipper which has stops up and down the river.
Top London Travel tips
Do join a free walking tour. You can do your research first on the net on groups that do free walking tours. There are actually a lot in London and joining one, along with other tourists is one of the best free things to do in the city. These tours are very informative and fun.
Do treat yourself to a rewarding afternoon tea. This may sound a little extravagant but it’s a must. The afternoon tea experience is pretty much calming and relaxing. The snacks that go along with it are usually pretty good too! Almost all hotels and cafes in London serve afternoon tea and snacks and even river cruise tours at the Thames. It’s also a good idea to make a reservation when visiting some of the more popular hotels for afternoon tea.
Do try authentic London fish and chips. You can have fish and chips anywhere in the world but in London, it’s a traditional dish, it’s guaranteed to be delicious, and it is served in different variations. You can find it in restaurants, bars, and even in the streets.
Don’t forget to say you’re courtesies. English people, if you would notice, always say “Please”, “Thank You” and even simple everyday greetings like “Good morning”. It’s common and most people would think you are rude if you forget about it.
Get the London Pass – If you are planning on hitting all the main attractions around London this could save you a ton of money. It is valid for entry into 90+ attractions including the Tower of London, A Thames River Cruise, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Buy an Oyster Card. This prepaid transit card saves you around 50% on each ride. If you planning on using the tube as your main means of transportation then buy this card. Also, if you don’t use it you don’t lose it. They will refund unused balances.
Don’t just stop at busy places. London is bustling with people. You can’t just stop on the sidewalk or in a busy underground to check your phone, take pictures, and scan your app for maps. Step aside and make way for the people on the go.
Typical Costs in London
Price Range for Hotels
London is a huge city with multiple areas you can stay in and varying prices. It depends really on the place where you preferred to stay, what kind of experience you want and what your budget is. In popular spots like West End and the City of London, accommodations can be around 200-400 GBP a night. Prices for hostels range from around 25 to 50 GBP near the city center. A budget hotel will run around 80-100 GBP a night but it will be quite basic. Another option is to check AirBnB if you are just needing a room or if you have a group of people it might work out to be cheaper.
Cost of Meal
Luckily, you can budget your meal in London if you need to because the price ranges from cheap to very expensive, depending of course, on your preferred dining option. A budget breakfast or lunch meal is around 6 to 15 GBP while a budget yet satisfying dinner is around 15 to 25 GBP. The famous fish and chips are from 10 to 12 GBP. Fast food meals like in McDonald’s cost about 8-9 GBP. Dinner at a posh restaurant or a Michelin star can start at 100+ GBP easily.
Top Places to Visit in London
Visit the Museums
Visit the Westminster Abbey.
The Westminster Abbey is the most famous church in London and UK as a whole. Most royal coronations and weddings were held here, the most recent being the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. This is also the burial site of some of the royal families. Aside from its historic significance, another notable aspect of the building is its beautiful Gothic-style architecture. A photo beside the place is a must.
Stand on the prime meridian
Grab an epic photo and stand on the historic Prime Meridian of the World at Royal Observatory Greenwich! The National Museum of Maritime is also here and worth a visit.
Have a glimpse of the royal life at Buckingham Palace.
This is where the Queen lives. Explore its 19 staterooms which are open for tour to the public during the months of August and September, when Queen Elizabeth visits Scotland for her royal duty. The interior inside would make you feel like royalty.
Experience the London Eye
Get a good view of the beautiful city while riding the London Eye, the massive high observation wheel that is popular among tourists. This thing never stops and it moves really slowly so it will give you enough time to see the city with ease. The best time to ride is at night when the city is mostly alive and full of lights. It’s best to book in advance to avoid not getting on or long wait times.
The Tower of london and tower bridge
The Tower of London used to be a prisoner since it was built in 1078 and it housed famous English prisoners like King Henry VI. Be sure to not miss the crown jewels, they are an amazing thing to see. The majestic Tower Bridge, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. You can even travel to the towers and walk across high above with a glass bottom floor.
Experience Platform 9 3/4 Quarter.
Ok, kind of silly but for the Harry Potter fanatics, the Platform is located at London’s Kings Cross Station. It’s free to take a photo! The wall is marked “Platform 9 3/4 Quarter” and there are souvenir shops around.
Visit the Churchill War Rooms
If you are a big history buff, especially WWII, the Churchill War Rooms are a must. The museum costs 19 GBP and is open daily from 9:30am – 6pm.