London, the great and bustling metropolis of the United Kingdom, is a city of wondrous diversity, where the grandeur of historical landmarks such as the Tower Bridge and the London Eye blends harmoniously with the vivacity of its thriving food scene and world-renowned museums. It is a city that holds a magnetic pull, beckoning explorers from all corners of the globe. But for those embarking on their first journey to this enigmatic city, planning the perfect itinerary can be a daunting task.
Fear not, dear reader, for in this article; we present to you 25 ridiculously useful tips, expertly crafted to assist you in your travels to London. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, these tips will guide you through the labyrinthine city streets, unveiling the hidden gems and ensuring that your journey to London is an unforgettable adventure. So sit back, relax, and let us embark on this grand voyage together.
Why Travel to London?
London, the enchanting city that has been captivating travelers for centuries, is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. This city is a melting pot of culture, art, history, and fashion, and it offers a wealth of experiences that are sure to leave a lasting impression. From the stunning architecture of Buckingham Palace to the vibrant street art of Shoreditch, from the serene green spaces of Hyde Park to the bustling energy of Covent Garden, London offers a wealth of diverse experiences that cater to every taste and preference.
Furthermore, London is a hub of world-class museums and art galleries, including the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern, which house some of the most significant and breathtaking collections in the world. The city is also renowned for its thriving food scene, which features everything from traditional pub fare to Michelin-starred restaurants, and is a hub for shopping, with its high streets, boutique shops, and luxury department stores.
In short, London is a city that offers a truly unique and diverse travel experience. It is a place where the past and the present collide, where tradition and innovation coexist, and where every corner offers a new adventure waiting to be discovered. So, whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, a foodie, or a fashion enthusiast, London is the perfect destination to indulge your passions and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Best Tips For Traveling To London
1. Pack for the Unpredictable Weather
When traveling to London, one of the most important things to keep in mind is the unpredictable weather. London is notorious for its weather, which can change from sunny to rainy in a matter of minutes. Therefore, when packing for your trip to London, it’s essential to pack clothing that can be layered, as well as items that can keep you dry in case of rain.
Make sure to pack a light jacket or a cardigan, as well as a raincoat or an umbrella. These items will come in handy when the weather changes unexpectedly, as they will help you stay dry and warm. It’s also a good idea to bring comfortable and waterproof shoes, as there will likely be a lot of walking involved during your trip, and you don’t want to be caught with wet feet.
2. Get your London Pass
London can be an expensive city for tourists due to the high costs of accommodation and admission fees for popular attractions. However, by using The London Pass, visitors can save money while still experiencing many of the city’s iconic landmarks.
Despite the pass being somewhat expensive, with prices ranging from £75 for adults and £55 for children for a one-day pass and options for two, three, six, and ten-day passes, it can be a worthwhile investment if you plan to visit multiple attractions within a limited timeframe.
3. Get an Oyster Card
London boasts a comprehensive transportation system that comes at a cost. However, there’s an easy way to reduce travel expenses while getting around the city, and that is by using an Oyster Card. To use the card, simply load it with credit, and you can travel around the city for a fraction of the cost compared to paper tickets.
What’s even better is that Oyster Cards are subject to a daily cap, which varies depending on the number of London Travel Zones you’ve passed through and whether you’re traveling during off-peak hours. Once you reach the cap, any additional travel for the rest of the day is free. Additionally, there’s a weekly cap for those staying in London for a more extended period.
To obtain an Oyster Card, you can either purchase a Visitor Oyster Card and have it delivered to your home or buy a regular Oyster Card from select Tube, London Overground, Transport for London Rail, and National Rail stations. You’ll need to pay a £5 deposit and add credit for your journeys. The deposit is refundable when you return the card.
4. Bring Some Comfortable Walking Shoes
Despite the abundance of public transportation options in London, it is important to note that the city is highly conducive to walking. Although Central London may appear confusing on a map, it is not as vast as it seems.
Therefore, it is highly recommended that you explore the city on foot. This is not only an excellent way to traverse different parts of London, but it is also the most effective means of experiencing the city’s charm, including its hidden corners, peculiar structures, and rich historical significance that make it an outstanding world capital.
5. Eat at a Street Food Market or Two
You may have heard people mock London’s food scene in the past. Someone might have even told you straight to your face that the food in London was terrible and it was the biggest disappointment of their visit to the city. Even though it happened 15 years ago, you may still feel bitter about it.
However, as it turns out, the joke is on those individuals because they could not make the same claim today. London is now full of great spots for you to feast and indulge, including some stellar street food markets. You can start by visiting Maltby Street Market and Flat Iron Square and then choose your favorites to add to your itinerary.
6. Spend Some Time Getting Off the Beaten Track
On a short itinerary, there are numerous significant London landmarks to visit, and you can understand why many visitors prioritize them during their trip. Who wouldn’t want to see The Houses of Parliament with Big Ben in the background or witness the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace in all its grandeur when they come to London?
Also, have you ever heard of the British Film Institute Southbank’s Mediatheque, where you can cozy up and go through the archives in your own private booth for free?
The bottom line is that there are numerous peculiar and wonderful things to do in London, and it would be a mistake not to give one or two of them a try.
7. Download These Handy Apps Before You Go
To make your trip to London more convenient, you can transform your phone into a personal travel guide by downloading a few helpful apps.
- Firstly, the London Pass App can function as a digital guide to the sights covered by the London Pass. It also enables you to purchase and store your pass on the app instead of buying a physical version.
- Next, the Google Maps App is a reliable tool to use even in the most hopeless and lost moments. You can also download the map of London offline, allowing you to use it without data.
- Citymapper is an indispensable app that can inform you of the fastest route between two destinations using London’s complex public transport system. It provides different options, such as bus-only and rail-only.
- Finally, the Tube Map App provides an overview of the Tube map, allowing you to view it at a glance without having to crane your neck around the crowds at stations.
8. Stay as Centrally as You Can Afford
This tip for your London trip elicits differing opinions. Some people advise staying further out and taking advantage of London’s extensive public transport system.
On the other hand, we strongly believe that you should stay as central as your budget permits. It’s one of the London travel tips that we always emphasize. When you’re trying to explore as much of London as possible, you want somewhere well-connected, preferably within walking distance to many of the attractions and not difficult to access if you stay out late.
We recommend staying in the West End, Shoreditch, or The South Bank. To help you decide on the best neighborhood to stay in, you can check out my comprehensive guide on Where to Stay in London.
9. Take a Free Walking Tour (or do a Self-Guided Tour)
You can make the most of your time in London by taking advantage of the pay-what-you-want walking tours, which provide a glimpse of the city’s rich and fascinating history. Although the tours technically don’t require payment, it’s considerate to offer the guide a token of appreciation for their hard work and dedication.
10. Visit as Many Museums as Possible
While there are certainly imperfections in London, the city’s museum offerings are truly remarkable. With options ranging from world-renowned institutions like The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Natural History Museum in Kensington, and The Tate Modern on South Bank to lesser-known gems like The Petrie Museum, London boasts an abundance of fascinating museums to discover. The icing on the cake is that a significant number of them don’t charge admission fees, making them even more accessible and appealing.
11. Spend Some Time in a Ye Olde Pub
Pubs are the perfect venues to socialize and unwind with friends after a long day at work or to indulge in a fantastic Sunday lunch (which you must try at least once). While London has an abundance of pubs, the most exceptional ones are those steeped in history and integrated into the city’s social scene for centuries. Begin with The Seven Stars and Ye Olde Mitre, and then consult my guide to London’s oldest pubs for additional suggestions.
12. Take a Day Trip Out of London
Although some individuals treat London’s boundaries as if they’re under electronic surveillance, never venturing beyond the city limits except under duress, We strongly advise against adopting this mindset (unless you truly lack the time for a day trip). The United Kingdom boasts numerous exciting destinations that are easily reachable on a day trip from the capital.
Oxford, with its iconic spires and historic university, Brighton with its trendy atmosphere and pebbled beach, Windsor with its magnificent castle, Canterbury… the options are plentiful, making it well worth your while to explore beyond London’s confines.
13. Stand on the Right
You’ve probably noticed that when riding the escalator in the tube station, everyone stands on the right-hand side. This isn’t a coincidence; it’s actually the established protocol. By following suit and remaining stationary on the right, you allow those in a rush (which is pretty much everyone in London) to zoom past you on the left and go about their important, busy lives. It’s just one of those things that you come to expect in the city.
14. Be Mindful of Other People
Londoners can sometimes be unfairly labeled as unfriendly. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’re lost or in need of assistance, I’m confident that 99% of locals would drop everything to lend a hand, going to great lengths to extricate you from any difficulties, all the while engaging in the slightly awkward but good-natured banter we’ve honed over centuries.
However, it’s worth noting that certain behaviors can cause irritation among Londoners. These include standing on the left side of the tube, coming to an abrupt halt without warning to snap a picture, and placing your suitcase on a train seat, thereby preventing a paying passenger from sitting during a lengthy journey.
15. Hire a Bike and Explore the City on Two Wheels
Hiring a bike and exploring the city on two wheels is a great way to see London from a new perspective. With a variety of bike-sharing schemes available, it’s easy to rent a bike and set out on an adventure. The Santander Cycle system, which is managed by Transport for London, has docking stations throughout the city, making it easy to pick up and drop off bikes as needed.
Cycling also offers a chance to explore areas that may be less accessible by other means of transportation, such as hidden alleyways, scenic parks, and historic neighborhoods. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a first-timer, there are plenty of routes to suit all levels of experience. So why not rent a bike and discover the city on two wheels?
16. Book your hotel in Advance
If you’re planning a trip to London, it’s a good idea to book your hotel in advance. London is a bustling city with a high demand for accommodation, so leaving your hotel booking to the last minute can leave you with limited options and higher prices. By booking your hotel ahead of time, you can secure the best deals and ensure that you have a place to stay that meets your needs and budget.
Plus, with so many areas and neighborhoods to choose from, it’s worth taking the time to research and find the best location for your trip, whether it’s near the city’s major attractions or in a quieter part of town. So, plan ahead and book your hotel early to guarantee a stress-free and enjoyable stay in London.
17. Book your theatre tickets in Advance
If you’re planning to catch a show in London’s West End, it’s a good idea to book your theatre tickets in advance. London’s theatre scene is one of the best in the world, and it attracts visitors from all over the globe. As a result, popular shows can sell out quickly, especially during peak tourist seasons. By booking your tickets ahead of time, you can secure your seats and avoid disappointment.
There are several ways to book theatre tickets, including online, over the phone, or in person at the box office. You can also use discount websites to find deals on tickets for popular shows. So, if you want to enjoy a night of world-class theatre in London, plan ahead and book your tickets in advance.
18. Keep some Local Currency in Cash
The currency used in London is pounds, and it’s recommended to carry some cash for smaller purchases or tipping. While most places in London accept credit cards, this may not be the case in some of England’s smaller medieval towns, where some businesses only accept cash payments. If you do use a credit card, make sure to pay in pounds to save money on currency conversion fees. Opting for the local currency allows your bank to handle the transaction instead of the retailer. This useful tip can help you avoid unnecessary charges and save money during your visit to London.
19. Try a traditional afternoon tea
London is renowned for its traditional afternoon tea, which offers a delightful combination of sweet and savoury treats accompanied by a pot of freshly brewed tea. Whether you are a local or a tourist, indulging in this quintessentially British experience is a must. From luxurious five-star hotels to quaint little tea rooms, there is no shortage of places to enjoy afternoon tea in London.
20. Try fish and chips from a Local Chip Shop
If you’re visiting London, trying fish and chips from a local chip shop is a quintessential British experience that you don’t want to miss. While this classic dish can be found in many fast-food chains and restaurants, the taste and quality of fish and chips from a local chip shop are unmatched.
These small, independent businesses pride themselves on serving fresh, locally sourced fish, hand-cut chips, and homemade batter. Many chip shops also offer unique twists on the classic dish, such as adding vinegar or curry sauce to the chips, so be sure to try a variety of options.
21. Take a boat tour of Thames River
Another must-do activity while in London is taking a boat tour on the Thames River, and what better way to explore the city’s iconic landmarks than from the water? Thomas River offers a range of boat tours that cater to all interests, from sightseeing tours to dinner cruises. You’ll have the opportunity to glide past some of the city’s most famous sights, such as the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Houses of Parliament, all while taking in breathtaking views of the city’s skyline.
A boat tour on the Thames River is also a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a peaceful moment on the water. With knowledgeable guides and comfortable facilities, a Thomas River boat tour is an unforgettable experience that allows you to appreciate the beauty and history of London from a different perspective.
22. Explore the food scene in Borough Market
For foodies, Borough Market is a must-visit destination when in London. This historic market, located in the heart of the city, is renowned for its incredible variety of fresh produce, artisanal food and drink, and global street food. With over 100 stalls, you can explore an extensive range of culinary delights, from fresh seafood and meats to handcrafted cheeses, bread, pastries, and chocolates. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or ingredients for a gourmet meal, there’s something for every taste and budget at Borough Market.
23. Visit the Sky Garden for a stunning view of London
If you’re looking for a breathtaking view of London’s skyline, a visit to the Sky Garden is a must-do experience. Located in the heart of the city, this public garden offers a panoramic view of London’s iconic landmarks, including the Tower Bridge, the Shard, and the London Eye. The garden’s floor-to-ceiling windows provide an unobstructed view of the city, making it an ideal spot for taking photos and enjoying the sunset.
24. Take a day trip to Windsor Castle
If you’re looking for a day trip from London, a visit to Windsor Castle is a fantastic option. This historic castle, located just a short train ride from the city, is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world and has been home to British monarchs for over 900 years. The castle’s beautiful architecture, stunning grounds, and rich history make it a fascinating destination to explore. During your visit, you can take a tour of the State Apartments, which are filled with impressive artwork, antique furniture, and intricate decor.
25. Visit the Tower of London for history buffs
For history buffs, a visit to the Tower of London is an absolute must when in London. This iconic fortress, located on the banks of the River Thames, has served many purposes over the centuries, including as a royal palace, a prison, and a treasury. It’s also home to the Crown Jewels, one of the most impressive collections of diamonds, emeralds, and rubies in the world. During your visit, you can take a guided tour of the castle’s towers, dungeons, and ramparts and learn about the castle’s rich history, including the stories of the infamous prisoners held within its walls.
You can also see the site where Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, was executed and visit the chapel where she and other prisoners are said to haunt. With its stunning architecture, royal heritage, and fascinating exhibits, the Tower of London is an unforgettable destination that offers a glimpse into the city’s rich past. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply looking for an enriching and engaging experience, a visit to the Tower of London is an experience that you won’t want to miss.
Traveling to London can be an exciting and memorable experience. With so much to see and do, it can also be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors. However, by following the 25 ridiculously useful tips outlined in this article, travelers can make the most of their time in London and have a stress-free trip.
From packing the right clothes and essentials to navigating the city’s transportation system and avoiding tourist traps, these tips can help travelers save money, time, and energy while experiencing all that London has to offer. By keeping an open mind and embracing the city’s unique culture and history, travelers can truly make their trip to London a trip of a lifetime.