Guide to London
London’s history has always been a fascinating one. From exploring famous landmarks (no need for introduction), to the hidden gems, places to eat and sleep, London has it all. Every time visitors come to London they always say there’s always something new to explore. Find out below.
LONDON TRAVEL GUIDE
Maybe I’ve said it a thousand times on this website. One way to describe London is its richness in culture and tourism. There are so many things to do and so little time. You’d think just because it’s an island, you’d cover every nooks and cranny that London has to offer. Nope. Just as you think you covered the best parts of London, on your last day, you wished you could have had more time in a particular area. Everywhere you turn, there’s always something quirky, unique, and different. That’s why I’m quite lucky to be living here and you could be lucky too if you plan ahead and read this post.
This post doesn’t just cover facts and figures of London, it also covers what people don’t tell you about London. Have you ever thought of visiting a place and when you get there, it’s not what you thought it was? Well, this guide will tell you that.
Click on the photos below to find out more on the subject.
How much does an average trip to London cost?
The cost of an average trip to London can vary depending on various factors such as the duration of stay, accommodation choices, dining preferences, activities planned, and personal spending habits. However, I can provide you with a general idea of the expenses involved.
Accommodation: The cost of accommodation in London can range significantly based on the type and location of the lodging. On average, a hotel room in a decent location can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 per night, although luxury or budget options are available.
Transportation: London has an extensive public transportation system, including the famous Underground (Tube), buses, and trains. The cost of transportation will depend on factors like the duration of stay and the frequency of travel. A daily travel card for unlimited travel within specific zones can cost around $12-$18.
Food: The cost of dining in London can vary greatly depending on the type of establishment. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant may cost around $15-$25 per person, while a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant can range from $30 to $60 per person. Of course, there are options for higher-end dining as well.
Attractions: London offers a wide range of attractions, many of which have entrance fees. Popular attractions like the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and museums often have admission fees ranging from $10 to $30 per person. However, there are also plenty of free attractions and parks to explore.
Miscellaneous: Additional expenses to consider include shopping, souvenirs, entertainment, and any specific activities or tours you wish to partake in. The amount spent on these will vary depending on personal preferences.
Considering these factors, a rough estimate for an average trip to London, including accommodation, transportation, meals, and some attractions, would be around $150 to $300 per day per person. However, it’s important to note that this is a general estimate, and costs can vary significantly based on individual choices and preferences.
Things to know before you go
How to navigate around London: The Perfect Local’s Guide to London
How could a small island like the UK manage to colonize numerous countries worldwide and establish English as an international language? This London guide goes beyond facts and figures, providing insider tips and shedding light on the realities of visiting London from a local’s perspective. Have you ever experienced the disappointment of arriving at a destination only to find it differs greatly from your expectations? Well, this post is precisely what you need.
It’s possible I’ve expressed this sentiment countless times before. One of the ways to portray London is through its abundance of culture and tourism. The city offers a myriad of activities and attractions, making it a challenge to explore everything within the limited time available. Despite being an island, don’t be deceived into thinking you can uncover every nook and cranny London has to offer. No, just when you believe you’ve discovered the finest aspects of the city, on your final day, you’ll find yourself yearning for more time in a specific area. Everywhere you turn, there’s always something quirky, unique, and different to encounter. That’s why I consider myself fortunate to reside here, and you too could experience this stroke of luck if you plan meticulously and peruse this post.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
So, you think you know London? It’s often said that London is a cosmopolitan city bursting with countless activities and sights, but time always seems to be in short supply. Before you finalize your hotel reservation with a view of the River Thames, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the practical aspects of visiting our city. What if an emergency arises? Are you aware of the various contact numbers to call? Do you understand the distinction between dialing 999 and 111? Is it convenient to utilize buses, the underground (Tube), trains, or is walking a preferable option?
Londoners are enthusiastic walkers. It’s common to see everyone strolling from point A to point B, and if not, they rely on the efficient Tube or bus network. When it comes to getting around Central London, they tend to avoid the black taxis lingering on street corners. Are you comfortable with exploring the city on foot? Once you’ve settled into your hotel, what are your plans? Are you interested in discovering areas that cater to children aged 5 and under? Or perhaps you’re looking for attractions that appeal to teenagers? Keep in mind that most attractions typically require one to three hours for a visit, such as the Tower of London Wardour Tour. It’s important to acknowledge that it’s impossible to experience everything in a single day. Now, let’s consider the Southbank area. With over 10 attractions, each demanding an hour of your time, you would need to allocate at least two days to cover them all.
When considering the safest areas to stay in London, it is advisable to employ your common sense. Many neighborhoods that were previously associated with high crime rates now primarily suffer from poverty, disorderliness, and untidiness rather than posing significant danger. For more detailed information, I recommend reading the “5 Safety Tips in London” guide, which provides valuable insights.Paying in shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs and public transport
As it is widely known, London has departed from the EU, which means that certain practices may differ from other European countries. Our currency is Pound Sterling, so it is advisable to explore currency exchange deals before making any transactions.
London’s technological advancements surpass those of its European counterparts. In 2020, we introduced the convenience of paying with our phones through the Google Pay App. Additionally, we have contactless cards that eliminate the need for signatures or chip and pin entry—simply tap the card on the payment system.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, select larger pubs and restaurants have implemented table payment and ordering systems, reducing the waiting time for waiters’ attention. However, it’s important to note that not all establishments offer this service, as it is still relatively new. Please bear in mind that pubs and restaurants can be busy, unless you opt for local British cafes located outside of Central London, where residents reside. It’s worth mentioning that these local cafes may not yet provide the pay and order at the table service.
When it comes to utilizing public transport, cash transactions are no longer accepted by bus drivers, and purchasing tickets on the buses has become increasingly rare, particularly among locals. Instead, it is highly recommended to top up your Oyster Card or utilize contactless payment methods. You can conveniently top up your Oyster Card at local newsagents (corner shops) displaying the Oyster Card sticker on their windows, or at the station, ensuring a seamless travel experience.
If you run into any problems, visit any phone shops, they’ll be more than happy to assist you.
When considering the safest areas to stay in London, it is advisable to employ your common sense. Many neighbourhoods that were previously associated with high crime rates now primarily suffer from poverty, disorderliness, and untidiness rather than posing significant danger. For more detailed information, I recommend reading the 5 Safety Tips in London” guide, which provides valuable insights.
Children are welcome in many pubs. Check what time they’re able to stay and which pubs allow children under 18 years. Always bring ID with you if you’re young and want to buy alcohol. In the UK, we have a challenge 25, if you look between the ages of 18 – 25, then, they’re going to ask for ID. Most places are extremely strict here.
GUIDE TO LONDON: ESSENTIAL BRITISH ETTIQUETTES
Locals will appreciate you more when you speak English because if you want to blend in with us, you must try and learn a few etiquettes. Even when you say, “thank you” and “please” will go a long way.
When asking for directions, always start with a question. “Which direction is it to the nearest bus stop, please? Thank you!!!
Always ask with a question “Can I have a pint of beer, please? Thank you!!!”
We usually say “sorry?” when we didn’t hear a word the other person is saying. We’re apologising because we didn’t hear what that person said.
We have a very polite culture here, and everyone is nice and will help you when you need help…especially when it comes to directions.
You don’t have to try and sound British, just be yourself, but keywords are “Please” and “Thank You”.
Try to speak to the locals in English.
Handshakes are common among those who just met, but don’t shake hands to waiters, passers-by, or transport for London staff. It will look awkward.
Between close friends and family, we usually hug them when we greet them.
Always stand on the right on the escalators and walk on the left. We tend to get annoyed when people don’t follow rules here.
Lunch is between 12 pm – 3 pm. Dinner is between 6pm – 8pm. A lot of people drink wine and beer after dinner, and can drink throughout the weekends.
North London comprises the boroughs of Barnet, Haringey, and Enfield. As you explore this area, you’ll frequently hear the sounds of trains, buses, and vehicles honking, while Asian and Afro-Caribbean shopkeepers sell their diverse range of goods, including food, drinks, fish, and vegetables. The atmosphere reflects the bustling urban and multicultural life that defines London. North London also serves as a convenient starting point for day trips to the picturesque English countryside, particularly in Hertfordshire, located north of Barnet. Charming places like Colney Heath, Preston, Braughing, and Cottered showcase the beauty of this region.
If you choose to stay in the southern part of Barnet or the southwest of Haringey, you can easily kick-start your day by exploring vibrant areas such as Kensington & Chelsea, Camden, or Westminster.
While it may not be among the top ten tourist attractions, Haringey offers a plethora of activities for all ages. The serene Bruce Castle Museum offers a refreshing change from the bustling London museums. It houses a collection of oil, watercolour, and acrylic paintings depicting North London during the 18th to 19th centuries, along with London screen archives and much more. Apart from the museum, you can also visit Alexandra Palace and Park, which boasts 186 acres of greenery, a deer enclosure, and a magnificent view of London.
Here are a few other noteworthy places to explore:
Tottenham Green Market: Immerse yourself in an authentic British food market, featuring homemade bread, cheese, cakes, and a glimpse into the lives of locals. Experience the vibrant crowd and the buzz of British life here. A detailed review of this market will be coming soon!
Park Road Lido and Hampstead Heath: Enjoy outdoor swimming during the summer at Park Road Lido in Crouch End, or take a refreshing dip in the public lake located in the upscale area of Hampstead Heath, where you can also encounter wildlife.
British Pubs: Indulge in traditional British cuisine, such as fish and chips and traditional pies, at The King’s Head and Beavertown Brewery.
Hampstead Heath offers a tranquil rural retreat within the bustling city. It’s an ideal location to escape the busyness of Central London.
Throughout the year, Alexandra Park and Alexandra Palace showcase their natural beauty. While people may not sit on the grass during winter as they do in summer, the park remains popular for jogging and dog walking. The park also hosts numerous events, and from its highest point, you can enjoy a splendid view of industrial London. For a sneak peek of what Alexandra Park and Palace have to offer, visit their website, where you’ll find an accurate depiction of the park’s charm and grandeur.
Just like North London, the eastern part of London is known for its multiculturalism, and the sounds of trains, buses, and cars are a common backdrop. While some have labeled East London as poor, grubby, and impoverished, it offers convenient access to fantastic attractions within the city. The area is also witnessing the emergence of trendy bars and restaurants that cater to the young and fashionable crowd. If you choose to stay in Newham and Waltham Forest, you’ll be well-positioned to start your day exploring Tower Hamlets, City & Hackney, and even venture further into residential areas like Redbridge, Barking, Dagenham, and Havering.
For those interested in visiting Essex, East London serves as a convenient starting point, with commuting options available through Havering or Dagenham. I’ll provide more information on Essex once COVID restrictions have been lifted. Essex has always been a popular choice for those seeking a rural lifestyle while maintaining easy access to Central London, with towns like Clacton-on-Sea, Southend-on-Sea, Epping, and Chelmsford offering delightful experiences.
In addition to its proximity to Central London, the Borough of Newham boasts several attractions and offers easy access to City Airport via the DLR. You can take a ride on the cable car that passes above an outdoor swimming pool or dare to slide down the ArcelorMittal Orbit, a 114.5-meter spiral slide, reaching the ground in just 40 seconds (if you’re feeling brave!). From the top of the slide, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of London, including iconic landmarks such as The Shard, The Gherkin, The Olympic Park, and more. This attraction makes for a fun-filled day out, especially for families with kids.
While the slide is indeed impressive, in my opinion, the cost of £10 for adults and £5 for children for a 40-second experience and a view of London may seem quite expensive. If you prefer to get more value for your money, it might be worth considering other options such as visiting the Shard or the Sky Garden.
Newham is home to numerous local parks, but I recommend visiting these parks either on the day before your departure or after you’ve checked into your hotel, allowing you to take a leisurely stroll and unwind after an eventful day exploring Central London or after a long plane journey.
Here are a few parks worth checking out:
- West Ham Park: Enjoy a visit to this lovely park, offering a tranquil escape from the urban bustle.
- Newham City Farm: A delightful destination for children, this free farm provides an opportunity to interact with farm animals.
- Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park: Situated near the ArcelorMittal Orbit and London Stadium, which hosted the 2012 Olympics, this park offers guided tours of the stadium for those interested in the Olympic legacy. While these parks may not be the primary attractions, they can be enjoyable secondary options if you have some spare time.
- God’s Own Junk Yard
God’s Own Junk Yard, located in Walthamstow, East London, is truly a hidden gem that showcases a captivating neon art gallery. While its location may not be considered the best in London, it’s easy to overlook this remarkable place if you’re not specifically looking for it. However, it’s well worth the visit! Inside, you’ll discover an array of dazzling neon creations, including a vibrant, multi-colored neon arrow adorned with bulbs along its edges. In the center of the arrow, you’ll find the word “Laughter” illuminated in bright neon. And why not marvel at the British Union Jack flag, brightly lit with radiant red and blue neon lights? Picture a brilliant neon Santa Claus positioned next to his sleigh, sporting his iconic red and white costume. These are just a few examples of the imaginative pieces you’ll encounter.
The creative mastermind behind God’s Own Junk Yard, Chris Bracey, has collaborated with notable establishments such as Vivienne Westwood’s store, David La Chapelle, and Selfridges, where he has installed captivating neon lights. With countless other fascinating designs to choose from, the gallery offers a unique opportunity to experience the vibrant world of neon art.
If you happen to own a retail fashion store, a bar, or a nightclub, it’s worth inquiring about the possibility of incorporating these mesmerizing neon lights into your establishment. Imagine the ambiance of a neon-lit bar, surrounded by a kaleidoscope of vivid, multi-colored lights. While you explore the gallery, take some time to relax and indulge in cakes and coffees, allowing yourself to fully immerse in the enchanting atmosphere. A visit to God’s Own Junk Yard is an experience that deserves at least an hour of your time.
Compared to North and East London, South London is more peaceful. It’s also easily accessible to Central London. There aren’t many tourists in South London, although there are many secondary attractions you can visit. Here are some areas that are worth reading.
Croydon has great transportation links to Central London, you can find many accommodations and places to get your essentials like supermarkets, restaurants, and bars, as well as the Box Park, a food and beverage outlet holding many live events such as the World Cup and Rugby, situated near the train station. Croydon is a great spot for tourists who don’t want to stay in Central London, although you’ll be spending more money on transport when you top up your Oyster Card. Croydon is conveniently located because you can get to London Bridge and Gatwick in less than half an hour. The downside is that there are no tube lines that go to Croydon and not many attractions worth the visit since its location is mainly for business people to commute in and out of Central London.
Greenwich, located in London, is a fantastic destination that offers a multitude of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages. With excellent transportation links, including the Docklands Light Railway, Thames Clippers, and various bus routes, reaching Greenwich is a breeze. Accommodations in the area range from charming bed and breakfasts to stylish hotels, catering to every budget and preference. One of the highlights of Greenwich is its stunning view of Canary Wharf, a vibrant business district across the River Thames. Visitors can enjoy the picturesque riverside setting while exploring the numerous free attractions available. Greenwich Market is a bustling hub of arts, crafts, and food stalls, offering a delightful shopping experience. The Maritime Museum provides a fascinating insight into British naval history, and The Queen’s House showcases impressive art collections. For those seeking outdoor adventures, Greenwich Park offers breathtaking views, beautiful gardens, and a serene atmosphere. The best part is that all these attractions are free, making it an ideal day out with the kids. However, if you’re willing to splurge a little, the Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory are paid attractions that are definitely worth a visit. Click for my guest post for Food Wine Sunshine on Things to do in Greenwich.
Richmond Upon Thames
Richmond upon Thames is a picturesque and historic borough located on the outskirts of London. Known for its idyllic setting along the banks and River Thames, this charming area offers a delightful blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and vibrant community life. With its lush green spaces, such as Richmond Park, one of 8 royal parks of London, and Kew Gardens, Richmond upon Thames is a haven for nature enthusiasts and outdoor lovers. The borough is also home to a rich tapestry of historical landmarks, including the magnificent Hampton Court Palace and the grandiose Richmond Palace, which provide a glimpse into the regal past of the area. In addition to its natural and historical treasures, Richmond upon Thames boasts a thriving arts and cultural scene, with numerous theatres, galleries, and music venues that showcase a diverse range of performances and exhibitions. With its riverside promenades, charming town centre, and a plethora of shops, restaurants, and cafes, Richmond upon Thames exudes a warm and inviting atmosphere, making it a beloved area for both locals and visitors alike.
West London is like the North and East London. You can feel the multicultural vibe to the area. With South Eastern and Oriental Asian shops, restaurants and the Indian and Pakistani community, West London is also conveniently located near Central London. The community in West London comes together culturally and people will treat you like equals. One minute you’ll be in the richest area of West London, and the next minute, you’ll be in the grubbiest part.
Posh, pretentious, and clean are what describes some of the areas in West London. Places like Chiswick and Acton will have a quiet urban British atmosphere, and some areas of West London have become trendy with upcoming bars, restaurants, and pubs in every corner. Like Croydon, Ealing is a great location to buy your essentials if you stay near Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre and it’s also accessible to Heathrow Airport, alongside Hounslow. Although Hounslow can be a little grubby, it’s one of the areas you’ll see when you step out of Heathrow Airport.
Check out Gunnersbury Park between Ealing and Hounslow and PM Gallery and House, a contemporary art gallery like Tate Modern. Gunnersbury Park has less visitors compared to Tate Modern, but if you want to get away from the big top 5 museums like the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, then Gunnersbury Park is the one to visit. You’ll also learn about Sir John Soane, the architect who bought and designed the PM Gallery in the 19th Century. Once COVID restrictions has been lifted, I’ll post a review of this gallery.
Other attractions include London Transport Museum Depot for transportation lovers, Walpole Park for day outs with the kids, and The Rose and Crown pub and The Duke of Kent for traditional fish and chips.
London on a budget
London is one of the most expensive cities in Europe and there’s so many things to see and do with so little time. However, if it is possible to visit London on a budget. there are so many free attractions that worth the visit, including the hidden gems, a guest post I did for Eternal Arrival, the West End walk has all the top 10 free attractions worth visit, the top 8 free museums, the 8 Royal parks of London, several British markets selling vintage, retro and food and drinks. Aside from going on the London Eye, Sea Life, London Dungeon and Shrek Adventures, which you have to pay, there are many free things you can do in the Southbank, click for more infomration on things to do in the Southbank, Sky Garden, and the view of The Shard.
There are also many places where you can eat and where to stay on a budget. If you want to save on public transport, check out the TfL website for many ways you can save money according to your budget. The London Pass also gives you many benefits with the Oyster Card.
If you plan and know how to save without spending a lot, your trip could be worthwhile. Click each attraction, where to eat and how to use public transport to find out more. If you can’t click on some of the attractions, that means I haven’t had a chance to review it because of COVID. Be patient!!!
Restaurants, bars, and pubs
Coppa Club Tower Bridge
Coppa Club Tower Bridge Restaurant, located next to the iconic Tower of London, offers a unique and picturesque dining experience in their famous igloos. These igloos provide the perfect setting for an Instagram-worthy photo, creating a cozy and enchanting atmosphere while enjoying delicious food. Situated by the River Thames, the restaurant boasts stunning views that overlook the water, including the majestic Tower Bridge. Visitors to Coppa Club can easily access nearby accommodations, ensuring a convenient stay in the area. The restaurant is well-connected in terms of transport links, with Tower Hill tube station in close proximity, providing easy access to the Central line. From here, one can embark on a leisurely stroll along the Thames towards the South Bank, where iconic landmarks such as the London Eye, Big Ben, the London Dungeon, Sea Life, and Westminster Abbey await. Although the walk may take around an hour, the breathtaking views along the way make it a truly memorable journey.
Vapiano’s Italian Restaurant is a bustling and popular establishment, often filled with eager diners, resulting in a potential wait time of up to 10 minutes. Upon arrival, the restaurant is divided into different sections, each dedicated to various Italian dishes such as pasta or pizza. Armed with a tray and cutlery, you join the line, where up to ten chefs skillfully prepare meals behind sizzling hot frying pans, infusing the air with enticing aromas of garlic, herbs, and spices. The lively ambiance is accompanied by the chatter of patrons conversing and the unmistakable sounds of the pans sizzling away. While the restaurant’s space can be somewhat cramped, the true highlight lies in the delectable dishes offered. If you’re fortunate, you can head to the first floor for a quieter dining experience. Generally, the upstairs area tends to be partially occupied while the downstairs area is usually packed with customers.
The menus at Vapiano’s encompass a wide array of culinary delights. Begin your meal with enticing options like antipasti and tomato soup featuring Italian hard cheese, croutons, and fresh strawberries. Pasta enthusiasts will rejoice in the selection, ranging from campanelle and traditional spaghetti to fusilli, linguine, penne, tagliatelle, and even alternatives like brown spelt spaghetti, spelt fusilli, and zoodles. A highly recommended choice is the Salmone, which tantalizes the taste buds with succulent fillet salmon, enhanced by white wine, creme, creme fraiche, cherry tomatoes, and rocket salad.
Furthermore, Vapiano’s offers an enticing assortment of pizzas, refreshing insalata options, flavorful risottos, and delectable dolci (desserts). To complement your meal, the bar provides an extensive selection of hot and cold beverages, including both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options. Throughout your dining experience, the dedicated team ensures a top-notch service that truly exemplifies a five-star standard.
The Moon and Stars Gastro Pub
The Moon & Stars Pub, located in Leicester Square, is a popular and vibrant destination for locals and visitors alike. With its prime location in the heart of London’s bustling theatre district, finding a table can sometimes be a challenge due to its popularity. However, the bustling atmosphere and lively crowd add to the pub’s charm. It’s the perfect spot to grab a pint of your favorite beer or indulge in a classic British dish like fish and chips before catching a show on nearby Shaftesbury Avenue. The pub’s proximity to the theaters makes it an ideal meeting point for pre-theater drinks and meals. The Moon & Stars Pub offers a quintessential London pub experience, combining traditional ambiance with the excitement of the surrounding entertainment scene.
Basil and Grape in Croydon Surrey
Basil and Grape Croydon is a delightful Italian restaurant that promises a culinary experience to remember. Located in Croydon, London, this eatery offers a warm and inviting atmosphere, making it a popular choice among locals and visitors alike. As you step inside, you’ll be greeted by a cozy ambiance and friendly staff who are passionate about Italian cuisine. The menu at Basil and Grape Croydon features a delectable selection of traditional Italian dishes, prepared with the finest ingredients and authentic recipes. From mouthwatering pasta dishes and wood-fired pizzas to savory seafood and indulgent desserts, there is something to please every palate. The restaurant’s commitment to quality is evident in every bite, ensuring a memorable dining experience. Whether you’re seeking a romantic dinner for two or a gathering with friends and family, Basil and Grape Croydon offers a welcoming environment that is perfect for any occasion. With its delectable cuisine and charming ambiance, this Italian restaurant is a true gem in Croydon’s culinary scene.
Christmas in London
Christmas in London is a magical and enchanting time of the year. The city transforms into a winter wonderland with sparkling lights, festive decorations, and joyful atmosphere, and you’ll surely have a festive and colourful West End Walk. The famous shopping destinations like Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Covent Garden showcase stunning displays, enticing shoppers with their holiday charm. Ice-skating rinks pop up across the city, including the iconic rink at Somerset House and the enchanting Natural History Museum ice rink. Winter markets, such as the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, offer a delightful mix of food stalls, amusement rides, and festive entertainment. The city’s iconic landmarks, such as the towering Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square and the dazzling lights adorning the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, create a breathtaking backdrop. The traditional Christmas markets in Southbank and Greenwich provide a unique shopping experience with an array of crafts, gifts, and delectable treats. Cultural venues, such as the Royal Albert Hall and West End theatres, host special festive performances, including ballets, carol concerts, and Christmas-themed shows. The city’s diverse culinary scene ensures that visitors can indulge in traditional Christmas meals or explore international flavors. From the iconic department store windows to the joyful carol singers, Christmas in London is a magical experience that fills the city with warmth, joy, and holiday spirit.
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