A few weeks back I asked my Twitter followers which city I should do my next city guide on. With an overwhelming majority, they choose London.
I have only been to London once myself, so I have asked one friend to assist me with this travel guide. She has been several times (She has been trying to count how many times, but let’s say 10+) and absolutely loves the city. She has been to all the hot spots and knows some lovely secret spots as well.
So here it is. What you must see, where you must stay and, most importantly, where you must eat and drink on a holiday in London.
London is a vast city and has pretty much endless options of sights to see, attractions to do and restaurants to try. Underneath are just some of the options that you can do when visiting this city. I have tried to shorten the list a bit – so that it just contains the popular sights that you definitely should see if you are visiting London for the first time.
WHAT TO DO
Firstly, if you would like to get a lot of information and see a lot of the sights without paying too much money, then I suggest you take one of the free walking tours. There are several FREE walking tours that will show you the most important sights of the city.
The most well-known – Sandeman’s New London, this tour runs twice a day, at 11 am and 1 pm from Hyde Park Corner. Additionally, you can take the Free Tours By Foot. They offer nine walking tours around London, including a Jack the Ripper tour. (YAAAAS)
IMPORTANT NOTE: All these tours are FREE, but the guides are only able to continue running them by the tips given by participants. So please make sure to tip your guide, so that others can enjoy these tours as well.
Enjoy the best views of London from the world-famous London Eye – From this 135-meter high wheel you can spot some of the city’s most famous landmarks. See if you can spot Big Ben, Tower Bridge and a tea-sipping Queen at Buckingham Palace(oh by golly).
If it’s your first time in London they I advise you go to during the day, because you see everything clearly in daylight. However, London at night is twinkly and lovely.
PRO-TIP: Do not pre-book your tickets for the eye. This because of the weather. If you get a day with dark clouds and rain, you won’t get to see very much and its quite miserable ‘up there’ when it’s cloudy and raining.
Wander along the South Bank – An oldie, but a goodie. The South Bank is home to dozens of amazing street performers, the National Theatre, outdoor food markets, second-hand book stalls and so much more.
Hang out with Big Ben – Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. Elizabeth Tower stands at over 96 meters (105yrds) tall, with 334 steps to climb up to the belfry and 399 steps to the Ayrton Light at the very top of the tower. A very famous and touristy stop but a must-see.
Abbey Road – When in London you kinda have to go to Abbey Road and re-enact the famous Beatles album cover. An amazing chance for a great Instagram picture.
Check out the FREE Museums – Did you know that most of the museums in London are free! There is a huge variety of museums in the city, so why not check out a few? Whilst on a city trip you can brush up on history, science, and much more without spending a dime.
Not all museums are always free. Some have particular dates that you have FREE entree. Stop by the admin office or library and look in Time Out website or magazine for weekly updates of museum admissions.
Some museums who have free entree are:
- V&A (Victoria & Albert Museum) – The world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects.
- British Museum – A public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture – Definite must see! This was my favorite by far
- Museum of London – Discover the history of London at the Museum of London. We tell the story of the world’s greatest city and its people. From prehistoric times to the present day.
- Natural History Museum – A natural history museum that exhibits a vast range of specimens from various segments of natural history.
- National Gallery – The story of European art, masterpiece by masterpiece.
- Science Museum – Interactive and thought-provoking, the Science Museum is a great place to see, touch and experience science first-hand
- Imperial War Museum – Imperial War Museums explores conflict from WW1 to the present day. Visit one of our five sites or explore our archives to discover real stories of modern war.
If you are fascinated by the royal family, and how could you not, just look at Prince George, too cute – Then here are some of the palaces and museums that you should visit.
Visit the Tower of London – One of the city’s most famous landmarks and officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. The historic Tower houses the Crown Jewels, the prison cell of Sir Walter Raleigh, known as the Bloody Tower, and the Chapel of St. John and the Royal Armories – also who wouldn’t want to see where Queen Elizabeth the 1st was held! sigh – how friggin iconic
Stop for a cuppa at Buckingham Palace – Buckingham Palace serves as both the office and London residence of Her Majesty the Queen. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today.
You can take a tour of the palace, where you will see the nineteen magnificent State Rooms, which provide the setting for ceremonial occasions and official entertaining. All rooms are furnished with many of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection. A visit also includes entry to the special exhibition, A Royal Welcome.
Of course, while you are at Buckingham Palace, make sure you watch the changing of the guards. A must-see when in London.
See where the royals live – Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. Prince Harry, Duchess Meghan, Prince William, and Duchess Catherine together with 11 other royals all live in this palace. You can wander the pristine gardens, see some of Dianna’s dresses and some of the rooms in the palace.
TOP CITY VIEWS
When you had enough of the royals then you can go and enjoy the city’s skyline. The cheapest way to get a magnificent view across London’s skyline is from one of the parks around the edge of the city. Some of the best viewpoints are from Primrose Hill, Alexandra Palace and the top of Hampstead Heath in the north and Richmond and Greenwich parks in the south.
If you wish to stay closer to the town center but not want to spend too much money, then you can go to the monument. The entree is £4.50 and offers some cool views. (About $8 AUD)
You can also visit the Sky Garden at the top of 20 Fenchurch Street (aka the Walkie Talkie) for free.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You need to book in advance, so plan this ahead of your trip, otherwise the dates that you are in the city might be booked out already.
You can also go up to the roof terrace on top of the One New Change shopping center which overlooks St Paul’s Cathedral. Not too shabby either.
WHERE TO EAT
After all that wandering in the city it’s time to ”get some grub”.
If you decided to stay in London city center, then you will pay a bit more than when going to the city’s ethnic areas. Think off – Chinatown, Kingsland Road for Vietnamese food and Brick Lane or Southall for Indian food.
Street food has really taken off recently in London as well, with food stalls from around the world at London’s markets. Some amazing markets with delicious food are:
- Borough Market – Open Monday–Saturday and offer fresh produce as well as delicious foods. ( also the home of Bridget Jones – you know, just in case you wondering haha)
- Portobello Road Market – Open Monday–Saturday and is among London’s best food destinations with fresh produce, essential and exotic ingredients, and delicious hot food.
- Real Food Market in Kings Cross (Wednesday–Friday).
Even if you’re not buying, you can usually get tasting samples as you walk around.
Some of the best budget restaurants in London are:
- Mooli’s, Soho
- Yalla Yalla, Soho and Oxford Street
- Gelupo, Soho
- Eat Street, Kings Cross
- MEATliquor, Bond Street
- Clerkenwell & Social, Farringdon
- Mabel’s, Covent Garden
- The Longacre, Leicester Square, and Covent Garden
- Ruby Blue, Leicester Square, Central London and West End
WHERE TO DRINK
A visit to the pub doesn’t need to cost a fortune
A trip to England is not complete without a visit to one of the many pubs. If you don’t want to spend top dollar then you need to leave the tourist zone. A pint of beer will cost between £3 and £3.50 (Between $5 and $7 AUD) at almost every pub in London, except those in the tourist zones, where £4 to £5 is standard. (Between $7 and $9 AUD)
Plenty of pubs offer happy hours so be on the lookout for these. You can also find some hearty food at the local pub at decent prices.
WHERE TO STAY
I can’t remember nor find any information about where I stayed. I do remember that it was a cheap hotel and my friend, and I did not feel safe in that hotel. So, I wouldn’t advise you to stay there anyway.
Looking for a backpacker’s hostel?
Some recommended hostels with decent ratings and an affordable price range are:
- YHA London Earl’s Court Hostel
- Astor Museum Hostel
- Dover Castle Hostel
- Restup London
- The Exmouth Arms
Looking for a hotel or apartment?
Here are some helpful sites:
The 10 best London accommodation of *2018 hotel awards – Tripadvisor
London 2018 – Airbnb
Time Zone: GMT+1
Electricity: In England, the power sockets are of type G. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
Currency: The pound sterling (£).
Tipping: It is customary to leave 10-15% of the bill when eating out. However, restaurants often add on a service charge (usually 12.5%), especially if you’re in a large group, so it’s worth checking your bill if you don’t want to tip twice.
Weather: July is the hottest month in London with an average temperature of 66°F (19°C) and the coldest is January at 41°F (5°C) with the most daily sunshine hours at 7 in June. The wettest month is October with an average of 71mm of rain. Keep an eye on the weather report though, as Mother Nature can be very finicky in London. Even in summer, there is a possibility that you might need a jacket, brolly and your wellies.
ENGLISH SLANG YOU SHOULD KNOW
Of course, English is spoken all throughout London. So for this post, I thought I would change it up and I have found some English slang words that could be helpful during your trip.
- Legless – This is a common term that’s used in pubs – it means you may have had a bit too much to drink!
- Knackered – You’ll probably be quite knackered after your legless night on the town. Meaning you are tired.
- Miffed – Upset
- Plonk – Cheap wine – usually red
- Knees Up – Dance party!
- Gobsmacked – Amazed by something
- Chin Wag – To have a conversation with someone in a social setting
- Dishy – If you hear someone say you’re dishy, it means you’re good looking!
- Collywobbles – An upset stomach
- Lurgy – Feeling sick
- Hard Lines – Slang for bad luck
- Gobby – A term meaning offensive
- Minted – To be very rich
- Porkies – If someone is ‘telling porkies’ it means they’re telling lies
PLANNING TO GO TO EUROPE SOON? THEN CHECK OUT SOME MORE TRAVEL GUIDES HERE:
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Thank you for reading this city guide, It took me forever to compile all this information 🙂
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