Having been to London twice now, this city always manages to captivate me and leave me with nostalgia for the “old days”. In all its fame and glory, London is a city that has managed to maintain its historic charm while keeping up with the modernity of the rest of the world. It will never fail to amaze me how you can be standing in an old castle where Kings and Queens used to live, while looking over the skyline at more modern buildings and skyscrapers.
If you’re new to traveling within Europe, London is truly an excellent city to start in. It’s easy to get around, everyone speaks English, and the city is brimming with things to do. If you’re visiting London, below you’ll find my favorite recommendations for the capital of England.
A Complete Guide to Visiting London
After reading through this post, you’ll notice a free guide to London at the bottom of this post, simply by signing up for my email list! This is a no fuss document, with all of the research I had done before visiting the city.
How to Get to London
You can easily reach London by both train and by air. If you’re traveling from another country in Europe (Netherlands, Belgium, France, etc), your best option is to travel by train to St Pancras International. When searching for train options, I prefer to use Omio.
If you’re flying into London, the two main airports are Heathrow (LHR) and Gatwick (LGW). I prefer to use Skyscanner when searching for flights. If you’re traveling into Heathrow, taking the train into the city is much faster than driving clocking in at around 20 minutes (and an hour to drive). Similarly, if you’re arriving to Gatwick, it’s also faster to take the train into the city which will take about 30 minutes versus the 1 hour 20 minute drive time.
If you want to book a private driver waiting for you upon arrival, you can do that here.
The Best Time to Visit London
I would argue that there are two magical times to visit London. The first would be in the summertime when it’s sunny and warm, and the second would be during Christmas when the city is adorned in Christmas lights and ornaments. However, both of these times are also busy season so prices will be higher and things will be more crowded.
If you’re aim is to avoid the crowds, then traveling in shoulder season – September-October or March-April – is probably your best bet.
Getting Around London
While London is pretty big and spread out, it’s still easy to get around thanks to its underground metro and other forms of public transportation. While you can walk, if you’re going to the other side of town, the quickest and cheapest way would be to take the underground metro.
If you don’t want to take public transportation, you can easily hail a famous black taxi (the drivers must pass several tests about the city in order to drive these cars), or grab an Uber.
Where to Stay in London
There are so many incredible neighborhoods in London and equally as many great places to stay! My favorite neighborhoods include Covent Garden, Soho, and Shoreditch.
During my last visit I stayed at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel, a five-star Hyatt hotel, and was blown away. Full disclosure, this is not something that I could afford on my own, and used my credit card points to book. If you can afford it or have points to spare, I would definitely suggest staying here. (If you’re looking for a credit card to open up to start accumulating points, DM me on Instagram and I’ll share my favorite one!).
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A MORE AFFORDABLE STAY, CHECK OUT THE HOTELS LISTED ON THE MAP BELOW!
The Best Bars & Restaurants in London
While England isn’t well-known for its food, London does boast some of the best international restaurants in the world. Below you’ll find my favorite places in London to eat and drink!
BAO SOHO – Taiwanese
I’m a major fan of bao so when I stumbled upon BAO Soho, I couldn’t help but stop in and try it out. The bao here was absolutely phenomenal, I urge you to give it a try.
BOROUGH MARKET – Outdoor Food Market
The Borough Market is one of my favorite things to do in London. You can walk around with a glass of wine in hand and check out all of the different food stalls (there are 100 choices!). I recommend taking your time and just getting small bites at each stall so that you can try a variety of different foods. Better yet, book a food tour of Borough Market with Devour Tours!
DISHOOM – Indian
Dishoom has been on my restaurant “bucket list” for as long as I can remember; and luckily, it lived up to the hype. There are several Dishoom’s located throughout London and none of them take reservations. While the lines can get long, I would highly recommend waiting it out. The Indian food at Dishoom is well worth the line.
GORDON’S WINE BAR – Wine Bar
Gordon’s claims to be London’s oldest wine bar. Built in 1890 in an underground cave, Gordon’s has all of the feelings what you’d think an old wine bar would be like. Only lit by candlelight, if you’re tall, you can’t even stand up straight once you get inside. It’s truly an experience to drink here – I just wouldn’t recommend it if you’re claustrophobic.
PADELLA – Italian
Padella is a quaint Italian restaurant located near Borough Market. Because of how good it is, you can probably expect a line – but trust me, it’s worth the wait.
PRINCESS LOUISE, THE LAMB AND FLAG, YE OLDE CHESHIRE CHEESE – Pubs
When you visit London, it’s essential that you visit a pub. And there are tons to choose from! My favorite three pubs that I’ve been to in London are Princess Louse, The Lamb and Flag, and Ye Old Cheshire Cheese. They are all quintessential London and each of these are the perfect place to sit down for a drink.
SEVEN DIALS MARKET – Indoor Food Market
If you’re a food market fan (like me), you can’t miss checking out Seven Dials Market. The great thing about this market – aside from the many different food options – is that it’s completely indoors so if there’s bad weather (which can happen often in London), it won’t ruin your experience.
The Best Things to See and Do in London
From grabbing afternoon tea to seeing a broadway show on the West End, there are tons of things to see and do when you travel to London! Below you’ll find my favorite activities in the city.
Having afternoon tea is a quintessential London experience. You can go the traditional route, or a themed route (either way you can’t go wrong) where you can expect to be served tea and small bites. There’s also an option to add on alcohol if you’re wanting more of a boozy tea experience.
I chose to do a themed tea at the Sanderson Hotel – “Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea” – and I really loved the experience.
DAY TRIP TO BATH
Bath is one of my favorite towns in England and it’s only an hour and a half train ride from London, or a 2.5 hour drive. The city is well known for its “healing” thermal baths that the Romans (and others) would travel across the continent for. It’s the perfect day trip if you want to get out of the busy-ness of London and see other aspects of England.
There’s nothing like strolling through Hyde Park on a beautiful London day. Not only are there many walking trails, but you can also rent small boats and get out on the water. I highly suggest coming during the day and bringing lunch with you so that you can sit down and people watch and enjoy the nice weather.
SEE A SHOW IN THE WEST END
The West End of London is famous for its broadway shows! When you visit London, I highly encourage you to see a show. They are always rotating so there’s always something new playing, and there’s such a wide variety of shows to choose from.
When I visited I saw Matilda and absolutely loved it. If you want to buy tickets to a show, you can find tickets and showtimes here.
TOWER OF LONDON
Tower of London is an iconic castle in the heart of London. It’s where many Kings and Queens have lived and where people still reside! I highly recommend a visit to the Tower of London if you’re interested in learning about London’s history and interesting facts about the castle itself. Oh, and it’s also home to the Crown Jewels!
You can purchase tickets here and I would highly recommend doing the free Beefeater tour once you get inside.
If I were to go back and do it again, I would also add in a river cruise and see the changing of the guard, which you get on this tour.
Practical Tips/FYI About Visiting London/England
Below you’ll find practical tips about visiting London and England in general. These are always my “go-to” tips when traveling to a new country, and I figure that everything else can be learned along the way!
- Language: English
- Currency: Pound (£); everywhere I went accepted debit/credit, so you don’t need to get cash out (unless you want to). When paying with a card, always pay in the country’s currency (in this case £), to avoid fees.
- Visa: Americans traveling to England do not need a visa (unless you’re planning to stay for over 6 months)
- When traveling abroad, I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance to cover your trip in case anything were to happen. I use and and recommend SafetyWing.
- You will need a converter in England; I use this one
- In case of emergency, the number for police in England is 999
Visiting London is such a fun experience and a great way to jump start travels throughout Europe. I hope that you found this guide helpful, but if you have any questions, let me know in the comments below!
For a more visual look at London, and more ideas on what to see and do, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel and search “ppinengland” or look for my “England” highlight
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