Named one of the most visited cities in the world, London has so much to offer from rich history, iconic landmarks to incredible nightlife. However, London is such a big and developed city which easily drives first time visitors overwhelmed. In this blog, I will share my London Travel Guide and introduce some Best places to visit in London.
1. Everything you need to know about London UK
Before sharing my London travel guide, I will show you some interesting facts about this British capital: Is London “city of fog” or cosmopolitan city”?
1.1. Why London is called the “city of fog”
When I said I traveled to London, my friend or relatives in Vietnam always asked me whether it was foggy in London. Many people believe that it is always foggy in London and the city is also renowned as “city of fog”.
In the 19th and early half of the 20th century, London experienced a rapid increase of pollution which came from coal heating and industrial manufacturing. It was the reason why London was covered by a large amount of “smog”, which is typically referred to as “London fog”.
However, that unwanted nickname was from an earlier era that no longer exists since a number of sustainable and serious actions have been taken by the government. For me, I will not call London “City of fog”, but a “Cosmopolitan city”.
London was used to called “City of fog”
1.2. London is a cosmopolitan city
Home to more than 9 million people, it is estimated that there are around 300 spoken languages and 270 nationalities in London. For this reason, London is such a thriving multicultural metropolis in which peoples from different races, colours, languages, faiths and cultures are important pieces to make up the whole puzzle.
Tell you a little bit about myself. I completed my master degree in Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham. I had a chance to make new friends and learn about new cultures. Nevertheless, I still got overwhelmed when I traveled to London.
|You-may-not-know facts about London:|
2. Best time to travel to London UK
2.1. London climate overview
London experiences temperate oceanic climate with cool winters, warm summers and frequent rainfall all year round.
a. Spring (March – May): Spring welcomes tourists with pleasant weather (temperature ranging from 12 to 18°C) and longer daylight hours. And this is the time when flowers are in full blossom (cherry blossom – late March to mid April, wisteria – May).
b. Summer (June – August): June to August sees more comfortable weather than other periods. And this is the best time for outdoor activities and music festivals.
However, summer in London can be cold for people who come from tropical areas (temperature ranging from 17 to 26°C). Believe me, I never wear a sleeveless shirt or t-shirt during summer.
c. Autumn (Sep – November): Autumn experiences some of the wettest months throughout the year, despite pleasant weather (11° to 15°C).
You can experience autumn color in these months (significant changes appear from the end of October).
d. Winter (December – February): London’s winter is not so cold as temperatures don’t often drop below freezing (average temperature ranging from 5 to 10°C) and snow isn’t common.
The fall color of London
2.2. Best time to travel to London
Packed with rich heritage, rocking nightlife and shop-til-you-drop experience, London experiences big crowds, whether local or overseas tourists, over the course of the year.
Spring would definitely be the best time to travel to London as comfortable weather and less crowded compared to summer. Autumn is a good option for those who wish to admire the beauty of fall colors. However, shorter sunlight hours (sunset at 3:30 pm) will prevent you from exploring the city.
Summer vacation and winter holiday will not be the best time to travel as London will see maximum crowds and limited accommodation availability during these periods.
However, London’s signature festive vibes is something that can’t be missed. From the mid of November to early January, iconic landmarks, streets and stores are beautifully lit up which turn the city into a magical world.
Gorgeous Autumn Color can be found in Notting Hill, London
3. Travel to London
3.1. Travel to London by coach
Coaches are a good option for cheap travel to London from almost anywhere within the UK. I traveled from Nottingham to London for just £1 (excluding tax and service charge). However, this kind of transport is not the most comfortable one.
National Express is the UK’s largest coach operator and offers journeys to destinations all over the country.
3.2. Travel to London by train
Known as the hub of the UK rail network, there are frequent services departing to and from London to every part of the country. Traveling by train is more comfortable and time-saving when compared to that of coaches.
St. Paul Cathedral in London
3.3. Travel to London by air
It will be a good option to travel to London by air if you depart outside the UK. But it may not when you live in the UK, for these reasons:
- Flights are more expensive than train for majority of trip within UK
- Most airports are far from the city center when compared to bus or train stations.
- Such budget airlines as Ryanair, EasyJet, Jet2… have strict rules from check-in to baggage allowance.
4. How to get around London
Home to nearly 9 million people, London has developed one of the largest urban public transport networks in the global scale, with bus, underground and maritime systems spanning 32 boroughs. This network allows locals and visitors to get around the city without private transport.
London tube system will make everyone dizzy
Among all public transports, London’s underground network (aka “tube”) is the most budget friendly and convenient option.
There are 11 lines in total connecting the city centers with suburban areas. This underground network can be complicated for first time visitors. Believe me, I totally got lost during my first time using a tube.
Known as the oldest underground network, London trains or platforms are smaller compared to newly operated systems.
The iconic red double-decker buses are a convenient way to travel around the city which drop you to a variety of sightseeing spots along the way. However, I prefer to travel by tube as bus is not so accessible during rush hour.
If you wish to know more about London hop-on hop-off bus tour, please find this link for details.
Different from the iconic yellow cab of New York or multicolored cabs of Bangkok, London’s cabs labelled themselves with black color. You will see black cabs running on the street and it is easy to hail in anywhere around the city center.
However, it would not be a good option to travel around by taxi if you are on a budget. And also in rush hour. I only take cabs for short-distance and airport pick-up or drop-off journeys.
The signature black cabs of London
5. Best places to stay in London
5.1. Best places to stay in London
London has a total of 33 boroughs (districts) and is divided into ‘zones’ 1-6 (with ‘Zone 1’ being the city centre and ‘Zone 6’ being the outskirts of the city). However, there is no best neighborhood to stay in London as each neighborhood boasts its own charm and characteristics.
Try to book your accommodation within zone 1 for better commute around tourist attractions. However it will be more pricey to book accommodation in zone 1 than the other five.
In my opinion, I would recommend the area near Victoria Station (in the borough of Westminster). Despite not being the most attractive part of the city with bars, pubs or restaurants, this neighborhood is the main transport hub where Victoria Coach Station and Victoria Station (railway and tube) are just a few minutes away.
5.2. Accommodation booking tips in London
– Take full advantage of every discount program as accommodations in London are far more expensive compared to that of other cities in Europe. You can use my referral link to get Є46 off for your first booking on Airbnb.
– Make sure to book your accommodation in advance as budget accommodations are limited and prone to being out of stock, especially on weekends.
I will tell you my story. I traveled to London with my friend, but my friend made our hotel reservation on the wrong date. And the whole trip turned out to be a “nightmare” as we couldn’t find any available options that met our budget. After that, we ended up booking a hotel which tripled our budget.
Big Ben – The most iconic landmark of London
6. Best places to visit in London
6.1 Big Ben – London’s most famous tourist attraction
Big Ben Clock Tower is undeniably the most famous landmark of London, however almost all tourists make a huge mistake about this place. Big Ben is actually the nickname of the Great Bell which is located inside this tower and the official name of the tower in which Big Ben is located is Elizabeth Tower (but I will call it Big Ben instead).
Taking a photo with Big Ben is definitely a must on every tourist itinerary. However, the surrounding area is always crowded and you will be in a competition for “best photos” (just kidding).
* CHIBIKIU’S RECOMMENDATIONS:
6.2. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the residence of the UK’s sovereigns and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. As Buckingham Palace also serves as the venue for many royal events and ceremonies, you may see it on many media.
I thought Buckingham Palace was kind of a huge palace, but it turned out to be wrong. The palace is much smaller than I expected. And there is always a big crowd of tourists gathering in front of the building no matter what events happen.
6.3. Tower Bridge
Among all bridges crossing the River Thames, Tower Bridge is the most special one as it is a combined bascule and suspension bridge. This bridge consists of two bridge towers which are connected by glass walkways. Inside each tower holds a machine that schedules to lift bascules (If you wish to see basules lift, please find this link for schedules).
However, almost all tourists still confuse Tower Bridge and the 0,8km away London Bridge despite the fact that this bridge is the world-renowned symbol of London.
Tower Bridge at night from the Shard Observation Deck
6.4. British Museum
British Museum is one of the most recommended places to visit in London, as the mesum houses a huge collection of archaeology and ethnography objects from all over the world. When I searched places to visit in London via TripAdvisor, this museum came in first position.
However, it left me no more than a dissapointment. I travelled to London to experience London’s vibes, not to “travel around the world”. Moreover, since free admission, this museum is always tourist-filled.
6.5. Tate Modern
The National British Museum of Modern Art (aka Tate Modern), exhibits works of modern and contemporary arts
Located in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark, the building looks too unusual to be a museum since it was once the Bankside Power Station. However, Tate Modern was always crowded with people, especially youngsters. This is a best places to take futuristic or minimalist inspired photos
If you walk across the River Thames, you will always see a pyramidal tower which dominates London’s skyline.
6.6. The Shard
If you walk across the River Thames, you will always see a pyramidal tower which dominates London’s skyline. That building is called The Shard. It is not only the tallest building in London, but also the tallest in the whole of Western Europe.
The 72-storey building is home to offices, restaurants, apartments, Shangrila hotel and an observation deck. And the observation deck located at 68th – 72nd floor is where you can admire the breathtaking view up to 25km (on sunny days) across London.
6.7. Notting Hill
The iconic rom-com starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grants, gave much spotlight to one of London’s neighborhoods – Notting Hill. This area has so much to offer more than just a movie setting including charming pastel houses, thriving markets and magical antique shops.
Notting Hill is my most favorite place to visit in London. However, Portobello road market and Notting Hill Bookshop are not my things, but some “secret gardens”. Actually it is just flowers or plants bursting out in available spaces which turned every house from boring to stunning).
6.8. Best day trips from London
It is no doubt that London has so many tourist attractions and experience waiting to be explored. However, you will not visit London for your trip to the United Kingdom. There are many fancy places which are just hours away from London.
Besides London travel guide, I will recommend some best day trips from London:
a. STONEHENGE – BATH: Stonehenge is the most popular day trip from London that everyone will take. To make the most of your day trip, it is recommended to add Bath on your itinerary. This old Roman city is famous for exquisite Roman and Georgian architecture, incredible hot springs.
b. CAMBRIDGE & OXFORD: Cambridge and Oxford are typical English cities which offer some of the country’s best universities. However, Cambridge and Oxford are more than academic cities as you can find historical landmarks, stunning museums and gorgeous greenery.
So the question is to pick Oxford or Cambridge. It will depend on your preferences. My recommendation will be Cambridge since punting is quite exciting.
c. MAYFIELD LAVENDER FIELD: The calming fragrance and dusky purple hue of lavender is not only available in Provence, but can be found near London also. This 25-acre lavender field is so Instagrammable for a day trip. Nevertheless, this lavender field is not available all year round, but only during July.
Cambridge is definitely the best day trip from London
7. What to eat in London UK
London’s culinary scene houses an eclectic mix of British and international eateries. It is the reason why you can find cuisine from all over the world available in the city’s diverse neighborhood.
However, British food may be a disappointment especially when compared to that of Asian countries, and even European neighbors. The street food is literally boring, all you can find will be pizza, fish & chips and fried potatoes (sorry, deep-fried and greasy food are not my type).
Afternoon tea in one of London’s most Instagrammable cafe: Peggy Porschen
8. London trip itinerary
8.1. London trip itinerary
My recommendation is spending at least 4 days exploring London. Believe me, London is such a big city for a 1 or 2 days trip.
You can see my London trip itinerary below. This itinerary is only for traveling during spring and summer with longer daylight hours (keep in mind that this itinerary is for reference only).
05:20 – 09:29: Bus Nottingham – UK
10:00: Store luggage at hotel
10:30 – 12:30: Buckingham Palace – St. James Park
14:00: Hotel check in
15:30 – 17:00: Afternoon tea at Peggy Porschen
18:30 – 20:30: Sunset at The Shard
09:30 – 11:30: Camden Market
12:30: Big Ben
13:30 – 14:30: Tower Bridge
15:00 – 16:30: Tate Modern
20:00: Sunset at St. Paul Cathedral
After day 2, you can go for a one-day or overnight trip to other cities within the United Kingdom.
09:30 – 11:30: Sky Garden
13:00 – 15:30: Notting Hill
16:00 – 17:30: Trafalgar Square + Admiralty Arch
18:00: Dinner at China Town
19:30 – 21:00: Shopping at Regent + Oxford Street
09:30: Hotel check out + Luggage Storage
10:00 – 11:00: British Museum
11:30 – 12:30: Lunch
14:00 – 17:00: Marble Arch + Shopping Oxford Street
17:00 – 19:45: Dinner + Shopping Covent Garden
20:00: Go back to hotel to take luggage
22:06 – 00:06: Train London – Nottingham
Modern meets tradition in London
8.2. London travel map
You can find my London travel map below. Besides aforementioned best places to visit in London, I also add some of my favorite restaurants on this map.
9. London travel budget
London is one of the more expensive European capitals, so watch your wallet. It takes me for a 5N4D trip to London (even when most of my visited places are free admission).
You can see my London travel budget below (please note that the below table is for reference only):
|1. Bus Nottingham– London||£2,33||* Depend on the journey being made|
|2. Train London– Nottingham||£13||* Depend on the journey being made|
|3. 4-day transport||£26,4||* Includes metro & taxi|
|4. 3-night stay||£80|
|5. The Shard Observation Deck||£15||* Pre-book here|
|6. Sky Garden||£3,5||* Includes drinks|
|7. 4-day eating cost||£129,35|
10. Summary: London travel guide
10.1. London travel tips
– Avoid traveling to London on national holidays or special events.
– There are plenty of free tourist attractions in London namely British Museum, Tate Modern, Kensington Garden… Make sure to take advantage of all free admission places as it will prevent you from running out of budget.
– Get an Oyster Card to better commute around London (you can get one at any tube stations or online via this link)
10.2. Summary: London travel guide
Here is my London travel guide, I hope you will know “how to survive” in one of the biggest cities in the world.
If you need further information about London, please do not hesitate to contact me or follow other posts in London topic:
Keyword: London Travel Guide & Best places to visit