One of my all-time FAVORITE cities in the world.. London stole my heart years and years ago and never gave it back. We visit London at least once a year (typically because Jeff goes for work.. I’m lucky to be able to tag along often) and we love every minute of it. It’s one of the most popular places for Americans to travel to and it isn’t hard to see why.. there are so many fun things to do, the people are friendly, helpful and kind.. and the shopping is top notch. I wanted to write a London Travel Guide because I get so many questions about where to eat, stay and play from all of you whenever I visit.
London Travel Guide
Avoid traveling during European bank holidays or school breaks. Europeans love to travel. It’s very inexpensive and easy for them to travel throughout Europe.. even just for the weekend. By avoiding the peak periods, you’ll find it’s easier to make reservations at some of the best restaurants, get better prices for hotels, and avoid waiting in long queues for tourist attractions.
London is a very popular city to visit.. one of the most popular cities in the world for tourists and business people alike. Always try to pre-plan by doing your research ahead of time. Making reservations for shows, restaurants, tourist attractions and more in advance helps tremendously. Things fill up!
Stay in Central London – If this is your first time to London, try and stay near city center. I’ll go into more detail about this in the ‘where to stay’ section below, but you’ll save precious time and money by staying closer to the action rather than blowing it all on transportation getting to & from the main areas every day.
Take a walking tour – One of the best ways to get to know a city is by taking a walking or food tour. The best part is.. there are many FREE walking tour options. (tip as you see fit) Click here to see some of them.
The Tube is the most cost efficient way to get from Heathrow airport to central London – make sure to buy a visitor Oyster card at the airport or online in advance.
Know Before You Go
- Location: London, the capital of England and the United Kingdom, is a 21st-century city with history stretching back to Roman times. It’s the largest urban area in all of the U.K. and located in the southeast of Great Britain. London covers 610 miles. It’s a port city on the river Thames, which had a major influence on the development of the city.
- Best Time of year to visit: All seasons have it’s perks. Summer is a wonderful time to spend outside and enjoy the parks and festivals. Winter and Christmas is a great time to shop and enjoy the beautiful Christmas markets.
- Language: Everyone speaks English.
- Politics: Politics in the United Kingdom is quite divided at the moment. Of course, there is a monarchy in place – Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state and the head of government is Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Recently, the U.K. left the European Union due to Brexit. Click here to read more on British politics.
- Currency: The U.K. uses the British pound – differing from the majority of countries in Europe who use the Euro. The pound is the oldest currency in continuous use.
- Credit Cards: Almost all credit cards are accepted everywhere – including American Express.
- Weather: London has a temperate oceanic climate, with mild summers and cool winters. It has long periods (even weeks sometimes) of overcast skies and frequent light-mist precipitation, which feeds into it’s stereotype of being a rather bleak city. Always bring a jacket, even if you’re visiting during the summer.
Getting Around London
London is a city that has a great public transportation network! It can get a bit confusing though, due to the sheer number of options – hence my London travel guide below. There are numerous ways to pay for transportation as well.
Important: Cash is the worst way to pay for transportation (unless you’re taking the black cabs).. cash-fares are typically more expensive than any other kind of fare and some modes don’t even accept cash at all. (The bus system!) Get a Visitor Oyster Card or Travel card, which are the best and most inexpensive ways to get around on bus, underground (metro), RailLink, tram, River Bus, DLR, Overground, Emirates Air Line and more. The difference is 5 pounds for one tube ride with cash, and around 2,40 pounds with an oyster card.
BUY ONE BEFORE YOU GET TO LONDON! Either online (they ship it to you before your trip) or you can purchase one at any London airport. You preload cash on the oyster card and you’re set. Click here for more information.
- The London Underground – “The Tube” (the Metro system) is one of the most popular ways to get around the city. It carries 1 billion passengers per year, across 270 stations. There is a tube stop EVERYWHERE in London. You can walk to one within 10 minutes from any given point. The tuber is usually the easiest way to get around. Hours: 5am-midnight. Tip: avoid using the tube during rush hour time periods (before work and after work).
- The Overground – Almost the exact same thing as the tube, though it’s over ground. Very new and built to serve areas that the underground didn’t before. Same pricing as the tube.
- DLR – This is an automated train that can take you from central London to south or east London. Similar fares to the tube and overground.
- Bus – Most popular form of transportation in London (over 2 billion passengers per year). Tons of routes throughout the city and only 1,50 pounds for a single journey (no matter the distance). All you have to do is touch your oyster card to the yellow pad when you board to pay.
- Emirates Air Line – Cable car service that gets you across the River Thames, from Greenwich to the Royal Victoria Dock. It’s very scenic & a great way to see to city. Pay with oyster card.
- River Boat – The Thames runs through London and this river boat is a fun and scenic way to travel through the city. It can get you from one end of London to the other and I recommend that everyone try this as a fun activity! Pay with oyster card.
- Taxis – We take famous black cabs a lot throughout the city. You cannot pay for these with an oyster card. Very historic (dating back to 1662) so everyone should take ride at least one time. The cabbies are super friendly and love to talk. ;) Reliable and safe to use, unlike other cities.
- Uber – Of course you can use Uber in this city and it’s probably more affordable than Taxis. Although, I think other options are usually better.
- Public Bicycle – In 2010, London rolled out public bike options throughout the entire city. It only costs 2 pounds to pay for the start of the service, and then the first 30 minutes are free. After that, each additional 30 minute segment costs 2 pounds. Fun and relatively inexpensive activity.
- Walk – London is a pedestrian friendly city, with many easy and scenic routes to get from point A to B. Jeff and I walk throughout London often and love walking through the parks and more.
London’s Neighborhoods & Areas
There are TONS of neighborhoods in London and it can get a bit confusing for a first time visitor! I’m rounding up some of the most popular and my personal favorites in this London Travel Guide below.
- Westminster – One of the most popular neighborhoods for sight-seeing.. this area is known for politics and tourist hot-spots.
Famous places located here – Westminster Abbey, 10 Downing Street, Big Ben and Winston Churchill Cabinet War Rooms just to name a few.
- The West End – known as “the heart of London” with all the main theatre shows located here, Piccadilly Circus (London’s version of Times Square), Chinatown, and more.
- The City of London – Oldest part of London.
What to see here – Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
- South Bank – Dynamic and cultural area along the Thames River. Take a ride on the London Eye or take a stroll along the riverside walkway, which is dotted with pubs and restaurants.
- Kensington – This is an area to soak up London’s history – many of the city’s museums such as the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and Victoria & Albert Museum are located here. Very close to the famous Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
- Mayfair – One of the wealthiest neighborhoods with 5-star hotels, expensive shops, galleries and more. Quiet at night.
- Soho – Vibrant neighborhood with hundreds of restaurants, pubs, coffee shops and theaters. Artistic and eccentric. Very popular nightlife area.
- Notting Hill – One of my personal favorite areas – famous from the Julia Roberts movie with the same name. Beautiful streets with adorable mom and pop shops, a large market every Saturday, colorful houses, and more. Great shopping here and photo opportunities.
- Dulwich – One of the most picturesque areas of London with a beautiful high street full of cafes, wooden street signs, florals, and more.. fun area to stop and walk around in.
- King’s Cross – Popular with backpackers.. lots of hostels, pubs, and restaurants. Lots of vintage and unique shops. Old warehouses were converted into a urban area.
- Shoreditch – Up & coming neighborhood, mainly hipster in style, with lots of artsy areas, outdoor markets, vintage stores, and restaurants.
and SO MANY MORE neighborhoods that I didn’t get to touch on! Click here for a list of every neighborhood in London.
London Fashion Ideas:
Where To Stay
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite places to stay and some of the most popular hotels in this London Travel Guide.
- The London EDITION (BOUTIQUE) – An extremely popular boutique hotel that is trendy in style and very central. Only a short walk from Oxford shopping street.. this hotel is a sure-bet for a great stay. On the pricier end, roughly around $300 per night. Price: $$$
- The Waldorf Hilton (CLASSIC) – Great home base for anyone visiting London – very central and classy hotel. We love that it’s a short walk to Covent Garden. On the pricier side most of the time, but if you are a Hilton AMEX cardholder, you can get points while staying here & oftentimes get upgraded! Price: $$–$$$
- The Langham (LUXE) – One of the highly rated hotels throughout the city, this historic hotel has delighted guests since the mid-1800s. Timelessly elegant, this hotel pulls out all the stops. Famous afternoon tea at the Palm Court.. perfect hotel for a special occasion. Central London location. Price: $$$$
- Wombats City Hostel London (HOSTEL) – Highly rated and reviewed hostel located near the Tower of London. Great prices (around $30 for a dorm bed) so it’s perfect for the budget traveler. They have a free daily walking tour as well to help you make friends and get acquainted with the area. Price: $
- The Hoxton, Shoreditch (COOL) – Stylish and cool vibes.. this hotel in the trendy neighborhood of Shoreditch is sure to make a lasting impression. Less pricy than the others (around $140 per night), this hotel is lovely in design and it’s highly rated. Price: $$
- AirBNB – London has TONS of AirBNB options: this place looks really nice & decorated cutely. (superhost and it’s the whole apartment). We love using AirBnB when we travel – click here to get $55 off your first stay! Price: $-$$$
- The Lilac Door (B&B) – ADORABLE Bed & Breakfast located in the quaint neighborhood of Dulwich. Perfect reviews and everyone loves the hosts and style of the cute little inn. Really fun way to feel more like a local and support small businesses. Price: $$
Where To Eat
The U.K. has a stereotype for not having the best food.. however, we’ve had some AMAZING meals here and they have so many different types of cuisines, due to the mixed pot of cultures that live here! We’ve rounded up some of the best spots in this London Travel Guide to have breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, and drinks below.
Breakfast, Brunch, Cafes
Kennington Lane Cafe – Definitely a local favorite. Really authentic English breakfast foods. Highly rated with TONS of options – all tourists who are open to trying something a bit different will have fun here.
Drury 188-189 – Delicious coffee, pastries, and breakfast located near in the Covent Garden area near the British museum. Highly rated with an adorable atmosphere. Great service as well.
Raison D’etre – Little French cafe and breakfast spot in South Kensington. Great to get quick bites – brunch is popular here. Large portions with daily specials and fab service.
Peggy’s Porschen Cakes – Really hyped spot on Instagram due to the curb appeal (hot pink paint & florals will do the trick!) but I recently went and loved my time there! The atmosphere is adorable and the staff couldn’t be sweeter. Great fun spot to grab a small cake or baked good & tea. This place could also be in the ‘dessert’ area of this guide as well.
Alexander The Great – Delicious Mediterranean/Greek lunch or dinner spot located in Camden. Really great atmosphere, known for their seafood. Not too pricy either!
Pizza Union King’s Cross – Casual spot to grab good pizza. Inexpensive at only 5 pounds for a pizza. Highly reviewed as well.
The Mayfair Chippy, Fish & Chips – Known for their fish & chips and other traditional British options such as Shepard’s Pie. Great option for dinner as well, located in Mayfair.
German Doner Kebab – Really popular lunch spot known for their full and yummy kebabs. Casual location located just a short walk from the King’s Cross Station.
Harrods Food Hall – AMAZING place with spectacular food. We go often and eat everything from breakfast to dinner here. Always so fun to watch the chef’s cook, eat incredible food or pick up something for your next meal.
Cicchetti London – Really yummy Italian food, hand made pasta and great seafood options. Tapas style restaurant run by Italians.. one of our FAVORITE restaurants. Make reservations in advance.
Brigadiers London – London is known worldwide for incredible Indian food. Brigadiers is one of the most famous of them all, inspired by the army mess bars of India, where the military would go to eat, drink and socialize. Atmosphere is great and the food is amazing of course. Make a reservation ahead of time.
Côte Brasserie – A great restaurant that Jeff & I love to go to. Delicious French cuisine and a cozy ambiance. Make reservations in advance!
Padella – One of the most popular places in London, the pasta is incredible. Expect lines, but it’s delicious and worth it! Affordable as well. Tip: join the virtual queue on Walkin, and then wait in a nearby pub for your turn.
Bao Soho – If you like asian food with a twist, then this is the place for you! Another affordable hotspot, this restaurant has bao buns in all flavors and styles. Affordable as well.
Barrafina – One of the best places in London to get seafood. Get there as early as possible so that you don’t have to wait forever.. It has a great ambiance and it’s constantly on the ‘best restaurants in London’ lists. In Soho as well.
Kitty Fisher’s – Delicious British cuisine with a modern twist. Cozy atmosphere and incredible service, located in Mayfair.
Bubblewrap Waffle – Instagram worthy waffle desserts filled with different delectable treats inside! So cute and yummy. Right by the Chinatown gate.
Cakes & Bubbles – Dessert & champagne restaurant opened by a world renowned pastry chef? Yes please! This place is really only for special occasions because it is PRICY, however it is so adorable and delicious looking that I am probably going straight here the next time I visit. Impressive menu & service, with incredible ratings!
La Gelateria – Known for having the best gelato in London, the pictures make my mouth water! Also located in Soho, this hotspot is adorable and the gelato is not only delicious, but also instagram-worthy.
Afternoon Tea at the Lanesborough Hotel – One of the most famous high-tea options there is, this high-end and elegant experience is a highlight of mine! I had WAY too much fun enjoying my time with friends spent over finger sandwiches and champagne. What a fun experience!
Afternoon Tea at the Connaught – Loved my tea at this beautiful hotel with a dear friend. The ambiance is gorgeous along with the food. So fun!
Drinks, Pubs, & Nightlife
London has a very popular nightlife and pub culture. I’ve linked a few favorites in this London Travel Guide below.
Bloom Kensington – Relaxed place with great music, fresh drinks and more! Turns into a club late at night, but it’s a great little bar to grab a drink at.
The Vault, Soho – Little speakeasy located behind a bookcase. Small but quaint place.
Manetta’s Bar – Small little luxe bar located in Mayfair.. delicious and interesting cocktail menu well known in Agatha Christie novels.
The Star Tavern – An adorable pub with a beautiful outside and a sweet and cozy ambiance inside to match.
The Larrik – A favorite of ours for a yummy meal or a pint. Great local neighborhood feel.
The Grenadier – Historic pub made popular by the officers who guard the Queen.
What To Do in London
London is a city with hundreds of things to do. I’ll do my best to list as many as possible in this London Travel Guide.. There are so many incredible sites, plays, museums to visit. These are our opinions of some of the things we’ve enjoyed.
- Take a walking tour, double-decker bus tour, or food tour in London on your first day – We are HUGE fans of doing this to help get acquainted with the layout of London. The city is very big and full of so many districts.. These tours teach a ton of history as well.
Devour Tours is a popular food tour in Europe, click here to take their London food tour!
Get a London Pass – If you’re a first time tourist and want to spend your days running around and seeing the most popular tourist attractions.. get a London pass for a couple of days. Plan accordingly, but the pass includes almost all of the popular things to do, such as The Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour, River Thames Boat Cruise, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle, London Zoo, Churchill War Rooms (Highly recommended), and hundreds of places!
If you’re going to be in London for 3 days or more – it makes more sense to get the 3-day London pass and spread out seeing all these wonderful sights over multiple days instead of just 1. Usually just 1 tourist attraction alone costs roughly 25-30 pounds, so you end up saving a ton if you end up doing many of these!
Click here to see more about the pass.
- Shop – One of my favorite things to do in London is to shop til I drop! I hit Carnaby Street, Regent Street, Selfridges and Harrods. All of which are amazing spots to people watch, grab a bite to eat and have a spoiling day. I always have a wonderful time doing this with Jeff!
- Taste some food at Borough Market – One of world’s most famous food markets is definitely Borough Market in London! It had it’s 1,000 year old birthday in 2014. Foodie heaven with hundreds of food stalls and drink stalls.
- Browse the British Library – This is the World’s largest library and it’s quite incredible.. thousands of works on display. If you’re a fan of books and reading, this is a must-do.
- Ride the London Eye – Quite touristy, but oh so fun! We always do this when we visit London with Emma – gorgeous bird’s eye view of London from the top.
- Catch a Football game – London is home to many football (soccer in the U.S.) games, and the fans are extremely passionate! Some of the teams include Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and more.
- Take a stroll in Hyde Park – Hyde Park is 1.5 miles long and wide, making it one of the largest parks in London. Very tranquil and beautiful, quite a spot to enjoy the day.
- Take a tour at Warner Bros. Studio – Home to the famous Harry Potter movie sets, this studio is only 20 miles outside of the city. Worth it if anyone you’re with is a big fan of Harry Potter.
- Visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace – One of those ‘check it off the list’ type of activities, it’s quite fun to stand outside of her Royal Majesty’s residence in London. Also, take a look at the London Guards, who have to keep a straight face even though they wear the funny hats.
- Partake in an official High Tea – I always try to take part in afternoon tea while in London. The high tea at any major luxe hotel or shop like Harrods and Fortnum & Mason is always a fabulous experience. Especially for Americans, who rarely take time in their afternoons to drink tea/enjoy the day.. this is a special memory we’ll always take away. If you decide to try one of the more popular high tea options, make a reservation in advance.
Day Trips From London
There are many amazing day trips & tours to take from London! We have done a few of these but need to do more. We love highlighting them in this London Travel Guide.
Visit Brighton – During the summer, head to Brighton – a lovely beach-side city only 1 hour outside of London. Check out the pier, swim in the ocean and shop!
Visit Oxford – See the famous college and spend tons of time in this quaint city shopping and eating. Enjoy the canals! Haven’t done this yety but I plan on going soon.
Visit the Cotswolds – Gorgeous traditional English villages with green rolling hills and adorable cottages. Such a cute area to drive around and spend the day. On my bucket list!
Best Instagram Spots
London is known for their IG photo spots and many cafes, shops, flower shops pubs and more have the best curb appeal inside & outside for this reason! An idea for a fun day would be to hit a few of these spots.
- Mr. Fogg’s Tavern – Always has a really pretty floral display in the front of the bar and tavern.. perfect for IG shots!
- Sketch London – a quirky 18th-century tearoom that renovated their entire restaurant into a pink lovers paradise. So hip and adorable inside.. obsessed with their interiors!
- Aubaine in Selfridges – A gorgeous wisteria covered restaurant on the second floor of Selfridges. Grab lunch or a glass of champagne and enjoy the IG worthiness.
- Peggy Porschen Cakes – Really cute Instagram spot that I wrote a bit about under the ‘Where to Eat’ section. Always adorable and is a perfect spot to stop and take pictures!
- Maddox Gallery – This beautiful art gallery is known for it’s elaborate floral displays. Jeff and I arrived here and had so much fun taking shots of it’s current hot pink look perfect for Valentine’s Day.
- Pastel Homes in Chelsea – Gorgeous block of pastel homes lined up in Chelsea. It’s side streets are bursting with colorful houses, from the pastels on Bywater Street to the rainbow row on Godfrey Street. Perfect spot to stop and take pictures! Click here for a great blog post all about pastel homes in London by ‘I Want You To Know’ blog.
- Umbrella Alley at Camden Market – Exactly how I described it.. just a little alley with hundreds of colorful umbrellas hanging! So fun and a great photo op. Enjoy the Camden Market while there.
photo via Early Hours LTD IG
- Follow Early Hours LTD Instagram Page – Follow these amazing florists to see where they are installing intricate floral sets. That way when you visit you can be up to date on where the hottest photo spots are right now!
This London Travel Guide is one of the most thorough and lengthy of all my travel guides, but I feel like London is worthy of the extra information. I wanted to give you the full gist of what to do, where to eat and stay and I hope this guide helps you when planning your next trip to London.
Let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anything or if you have any other tips or tricks to touring and raveling in London. I love it when all of you add your opinions and thoughts!
If you liked our London Travel Guide, Click here to read more of our travel posts.