London Travel Guide
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Ah, London - home to world-class restaurants, an unparalleled music scene, and some seriously rich history. Plus, tea. Who could forget the tea? London is a wonderful city to visit, and with England's fantastic public transportation, it's a breeze to get from point A to point B. You could easily spend a week or more exploring all that each London neighborhood has to offer, and still have things left over for your next visit.
With sites and cultural hubs like the National Portrait Gallery, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Kensington Gardens, and all manner of food, drink, shopping, history, and culture, it's no wonder why the 'Big Smoke' is a top travel destination.
Greenwich Mean Time during the winter, British Summer Time during the rest of the year (starting at Daylight Saving Time)
Best Time to Go
England experiences relatively mild and somewhat rainy weather year-round, and when you should go depends on what you'd most like to experience. Spring, summer, and fall allow for taking in the parks and getting the most out of how walkable London is, while winter is beautiful and festive for those looking to get their fill of Christmas markets and traditional cheer.
Things to Know
London is filled with neighborhoods brimming with great things to do and England's exceptional public transportation makes it simple and stress-free to travel between them.
Londoners, and English people in general, have a much different manner of interacting with one another than Americans do - while an American might think nothing of smiling at a stranger they pass on the sidewalk or asking about work in the first few minutes of a conversation, etiquette in London errs on the more private, respectful, and more distant. Don't mistake this for aloofness or consider those you meet unfriendly; it's just a difference in cultural norms. Instead, talk about things like movies, TV shows, books, your travels, and the like, instead of work or family.
A fun, and somewhat reassuring fact: London has much better takeaway sandwiches than the US does. If your day is too packed to have a sit-down lunch, a sandwich from a chain will be legitimately delicious. Most importantly, all British museums are free, meaning anyone can wander to their heart's content no matter their budget.
How to Get Around
Getting around London is unbelievably easy thanks to the well-maintained and extensive Underground (also known as the Tube). The Underground, unlike American transportation systems which often pay per ride or pay per length of trip, are paid in zones. Fare also varies based on time of day and the method you use to pay. It's worth getting an Oyster card - the Underground's MetroCard or SmarTrip Card - to make your life that much simpler.
There are 11 Underground lines servicing all nine zones. Maps of these zones are in every Tube station. Most of the popular sites in London are in Zone 1, which covers central London. The Tube runs daily from 5am to midnight and with reduced hours on Sunday. Some late-night services are available on the weekend, but generally, you'll want to be prepared to take one of the easily-found London taxis or use a rideshare app if you're out and about after midnight.
Address: Strand, London WC2R 0EZ, United Kingdom
Phone:+44 20 7836 4343
The only luxury hotel on the River Thames, The Savoy is a five-star experience known worldwide for its luxurious and beautiful accommodations. As the first hotel built for the purpose of being a luxe hotel in all of London, it has a rich and storied history; seeing its beautiful architecture and dramatic decor is worth doing even if you don't end up staying here.
Address: Carlos Place, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7499 7070
The Connaught has known a few names and owners over the course of its 205-year history, but its main throughline has always been luxury. Chef Hélène Darroze runs a restaurant with the distinction of two Michelin stars, and the bar was awarded Europe's Best in 2019. For a spectacular experience in the heart of London, The Connaught can't be beat.
Address: 27 Poultry, London EC2R 8AJ, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 3828 2000
Once an abandoned bank building, The Ned found new life in 2012 as a five-star luxury hotel. Outfitted in a style reminiscent of the 1920s, and with ten restaurants under its roof, The Ned is an experience unto itself - much less a great retreat from your London adventure. In addition, The Ned features a spa with treatments from massages to vitamin IV drips. Trendier than other 5-star hotels, but certainly with style, The Ned is a great choice for a young couple or friends traveling in style.
Address: 1 Chiltern Street
London W1U 7PA, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7073 7676
Originally a fire station, the Chiltern Firehouse is small and cozy. Each of the 26 rooms feature at least one working fireplace, and range from standard rooms to lofts and suites. The Chiltern Firehouse restaurant is a Michelen-starred eatery with seasonal offerings. A unique and domestic experience, the Chiltern Firehouse truly does feel like a home away from home.
Address: 15 Beeston Place, London SW1W 0JW, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7396 9000
The Goring is a century-old, family-owned luxury hotel with 69 uniquely decorated rooms. Along the same road as Buckingham Palace, The Goring is the last word in having a truly royal stay. The Goring offers an excellent restaurant and bar, and several packages that let you tailor your trip to exactly what makes you happiest.
11 Cadogan Gardens
Address: 11 Cadogan Gardens, London SW3 2RJ, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7730 7000
Built in the late 19th century as four separate townhouses, 11 Cadogan Gardens has a resulting unique and eclectic interior of winding corridors and staircases. Located in upscale Chelsea, the hotel is walking distance from Harrods, the Saatchi Gallery, Hyde Park, and many other can't-miss tourist spots.
Address: 252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN
Phone: +44 20 7781 8888
Near the British Museum and Covent Garden, the Rosewood is a centrally located luxury hotel boasting lush, classic decor. The five-star hotel has carefully renovated its Edwardian architecture, melding the historic and modern seamlessly. Enjoy contemporary afternoon tea modeled after the art of British sculptor, Antony Gormley, in the intimate Mirror Room, then step out into the bustling heart of London. During busy times there is a minimum stay required to book, so be sure to check early and often if you have your heart set on staying at the Rosewood.
Address: 2 Lanesborough Place SW 1, London, SW1X 7TA
Phone: +44 20 7259 5599
Once an elegant country house, The Lanesborough is now a five-star hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant, private spa and fitness club, cognac lounge, and award-winning afternoon tea service. With elegant and warm decor, The Lanesborough is an iconic and world-class option for travelers looking to stay somewhere in style.
Address: 593 High Road Leytonstone, Leytonstone, London E11 4PA
Phone: +44 020 8281 4801
Singburi is a gem of a Thai restaurant, beloved for its rotating menu of delicious and authentic curries, noodles, and seafood. Try something new here - don't stick to your usual takeout Pad Thai order (as delicious as Pad Thai is). A crispy omelette, like their delectable Kai Jeow (a crispy omelette with oysters), should do the trick.
Address: 34 Drayton Park, Highbury East, London N5 1PB
Phone: +44 020 7700 3700
This beloved, sustainably-focused restaurant focuses on fresh seafood and small plates - and bread. So, so much bread, some of the best you'll ever eat. Stop in for a pastry, a sandwich, enjoy their small plates, or order a loaf of bread ahead of time to set yourself up with delicious breakfast for a week.
Address: 34 Rupert Street, Soho, London W1D 6DN, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 020 7439 8777
The Palomar is walking distance from Trafalgar Square and some of the most enjoyable museum-going in London, so chances are you'll have the opportunity to enjoy their modern-day Jerusalem menu in a beautiful, mosaic-scattered space. Try the octopus glazed with harissa oil, or the Bayt al Maqdis Chicken just for the artichoke crisps.
Address: 51 Lamb's Conduit Street, Holborn, London WC1N 3NB, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7242 8963
A seasonal wine bar with a classic British menu, this flashy restaurant puts the "British food is boring" rumor to rest. There's a wine for every dish, and more - their list is outstanding, and the bold and unique twists on classic British dishes make this a must-taste spot even for folks for which (gasp) wine isn't that exciting.
Address: Tea Building, 56 Shoreditch, High Street, Shoreditch, London E1 6JJ, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 3011 5911
Lunch is a la carte at Lyle's, meaning you have the opportunity to order and share a few dishes between yourself and your friends and get the best of all worlds. The dinner menu is set, offering a prix fixe three-course meal with a few options for your appetizer, entree, and dessert. The space is beautiful and minimalist - a calm, understated place to focus entirely on your incredible food.
Address: 39 Endell Street, West End, London WC2H 9BA, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 3422 0221
A small, sustainable seafood restaurant in Covent Garden, Parsons has an unpretentious, always-fresh menu. Parsons has mastered the art of updating classic British flavors, like smoked eel, for the modern palette. Their fish pie is heavenly, and you'd be remiss not to enjoy a sticky toffee pudding if you've got room for it.
Black Axe Mangal
What this Turkish restaurant lacks in size, it makes up for in personality - up to and including their occult buns (which are hot cross buns, but with pentacles on them). It's loud, but most importantly it's fun: nothing about Black Axe Mangal takes itself too seriously, from the hard rock soundtrack to the delicious food. Edible glitter, tongue-in-cheek dish names, and an excellent beer list all make Black Axe a top spot for a good time.
Address: 40 Doric Way, Somers Town, London NW1 1LH, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7387 2518
Roti King is in a basement - this is just something to know, because otherwise it might be a touch difficult to find. "Hidden gem" isn't a metaphor here: you're going to have some of the best Malaysian food you've had in some time, possibly ever. If you're having trouble finding the entrance, just look for the line; there's almost always at least a short one of people waiting for their chicken murtabak and char kuey teow.
Address: 40 Doric Way, Somers Town, London NW1 1LH, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7420 9324
London restaurant recommendations wouldn't be complete without at least one Indian food recommendation, and to be fair, most places are going to be incredible. Dishoom is something special, though - their airy, Bombay-style decor, beautiful views from the veranda, and house recipes have earned it a dedicated following. As a reminder, chicken tikka masala is sweet in England, so if you want something savory try a new dish - like gunpowder potatoes or the marsala prawns.
Things to Do
Tower of London & Tower Bridge
Address: St Katharine's & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7403 3761
The bridge most associated with London isn't actually the London Bridge, it's Tower Bridge - this is the bridge you almost certainly have in your mind's eye when imagining London. The Tower of London has an infamous reputation, but the history is even more interesting than most know. Tudor buffs will love tracing the steps of Queen Elizabeth I, and there are free tours given throughout the day.
St. Dunstan in the East
Address: St Dunstan's Hill, Billingsgate, London EC3R 5DD, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7374 4127
Built in 1698, St. Dunstan in the East was once a church. It was firebombed during World War II and the ruins were converted to a public park - certainly one of the most unique and beautiful. Though small, stepping into the park feels like stepping into another world. Bring a camera; you won't want to miss snapping shots of the ivy-covered ruins.
Address: Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7747 2885
The National Gallery has one of the most incredible collections in the world, including pieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Cézanne, Monet, Van Gogh, and many, many more. Their 2,300-piece collection is frequently rotated, so be sure to see what sometimes-stored pieces are on display when you go.
St. James' Park
Address: London SW1A 2BJ, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 300 061 2350
Not to be confused with the football (aka soccer) stadium in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, St. James' Park in London is one of its most famous, right alongside Buckingham Palace and perfect for a rest during a busy day of sightseeing. It is known for its waterfowl - ducks, specifically, but also a small flock of pelicans.
Address: Hyde Park has several entrances, convenient to the neighborhoods surrounding it.
Phone: +44 300 061 2000
Hyde Park is a massive 350 acres, nestled smack dab in the middle of London and worth a day's focus all on its own. With events, historical monuments, walking tours, and gardens, it is a truly stunning and fun place to be. It's famous for its Speakers Corner, which has been a stage for free speech and debate since 1872.
Shakespeare's Globe Theater
Address: 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7902 1400
Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the original Elizabethan playhouse for which Shakespeare wrote his plays, and his entire body of work is rotationally performed. The Globe's performances are heavily influenced by what is known historically of the experience of seeing them in Shakespeare's day, for an immersive experience impossible to find elsewhere.
Address: Swain's Ln, Highgate, London N6 6PJ, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 8340 1834
Ghost-chasers and history buffs alike will love to walk around Highgate Cemetery, where 170,000 people are buried. It is a nature reserve as well, and the entire grounds are lush, beautiful, and feel a bit out-of-time. Notable graves to pay your respects at include Douglas Adams, George Eliot, Karl Marx, Leslie Hutchinson, and many more.
Address: Westminster, London SW1A 1AA, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 303 123 7300
In the heart of Westminster, Buckingham Palace is a beautiful and awesome (in the traditional sense of the word) piece of architecture and history. You can, actually, go inside the famed Buckingham Palace - tours of certain rooms in the palace are available.
Address: Riverside Building, County Hall, South Bank, London SE1 7PB, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7967 8021
Also known as the Millennium Wheel, the London Eye is the best view of London - it was literally built to be exactly that, and its construction is known as an observation wheel, not a Ferris wheel. It's a touch expensive, but visited by millions of tourists for a reason: the view from the top is absolutely stunning.
St. Paul's Cathedral
Address: St. Paul's Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7246 8350
One of the most recognizable sites in London, St. Paul's Cathedral dates from 1690 and still has most of its original stained glass. It's known for its extensive and stunning mosaics, soaring Gothic architecture, and large, beautiful Cathedral library.
Address: Westminster, London SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7219 4272
Everyone's must-stop for a classic London insta snap, the iconic clock is nearby to other points of interest and featured in most driving and walking tours. Tours of the tower itself are limited to UK residents.
Address: Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7323 8299
The British Museum differs from the National Gallery in that it is as much an anthropological museum as an art museum. Collections are organized by era and country of origin, and frequent exhibitions are curated around themes, to explore human experiences across ages. Their total collection is estimated to be around 8 million pieces, with many taken out only for specific reasons, so it's worth seeing what special exhibitions are on display.
Address: 20 Deans Yd, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7222 5152
Even people for whom history is not necessarily a thrill, gothic Westminster Abbey is an overwhelming, stunning experience. Every coronation of an English monarch since 1066 has happened here, and the Abbey is the final resting place of Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabeth of York, Geoffrey Chaucer, The Unknown Warrior, and dozens of others. Westminster Abbey also pays homage to great poets, artists, and writers, with a series of beautiful memorials.
Address: 14 James Street, London WC2E 8BU, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7420 5856
Covent Garden is both a neighborhood and a famed market, first established in 1694. The center is the beautiful Piazza, where walking is made easier and more pleasant by the lack of cars. In addition to an array of unique shops, Covent Garden is home to the London Transport Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, and several high-end restaurants.
Address: 8 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TL, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7407 1002
The motto of London markets is: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Borough Market is large and primarily focused on food, and is one of the longest-running in the city. Officially established in the 19th century, there is one area that dates back to at least the 12th - so definitely buy yourself a sandwich and think how pleased your ancestors would be at your bounty.
Address: 107 Charing Cross Road, Soho, London WC2H 0DT, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7437 5660
There are a few equally-convenient locations for famed, enormous bookstore Foyles, but the flagship - and most impressive - store is in Soho, at Charing Cross. Even folks who wouldn't describe themselves as readers travel to visit Foyles for the sheer scale of it, including the gorgeous architecture and the vast collection of books.
Address: Camden Lock Place, London NW1 8AF, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 3763 9900
Camden Market was established in 1791 and has been charming London and travelers ever since. Near enough to Regent's Park and the London Zoo to walk, Camden Market is full of shops, cafes, nightlife, and live music.
Address: From Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch
Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping areas in Europe, greeting about half a million visitors every day across its 300-plus shops. Whatever you're looking for, Oxford Street probably has it. Notable shops include Topshop, Dr. Martens, Flying Tiger, Muji, and Selfridges.
Address: From Piccadilly Circus to Park Crescent
Intersecting with Oxford Street is the equally impressive Regent Street, home to the flagship stores for Burberry, Kate Spade, Tory Burch, and more. Regent Street was built to be London's dedicated shopping street, a place for Londoners to get anything and everything they might need. There might be a few more now, but Regent Street is the original - and some might say the best.
Address: From Beak Street to Great Marlborough Street
The third in the shopping street trifecta is Carnaby Street. A few streets over from Regent Street, Carnaby is much shorter and largely fashion-focused, especially vintage shops specializing in threads from the '60s. Shorter doesn't mean less diverse, though - Carnaby Street is home to over 100 shops, restaurants, and cafes.
Address: Center of St. Giles District
Seven Dials, sometimes considered part of Covent Garden, is truly unique: a circular road junction that has a slower, calmer pace than the rest of London. Seven Dials is named for the seven sundials at its center, and is surrounded by about 90 shops and restaurants.
Neighborhoods to Know
Shoreditch: A trendy neighborhood chock full of vintage shops, cafes, art galleries, and clubs. The neighborhood skews young, and boasts everything from artisan coffee shops and fine dining to chain restaurants. Wander around here for some of the best shopping in London.
Notting Hill: Yes, that Notting Hill. It's as charming as you imagine it to be. Famed for Portobello Road Market and the antiques and vintage stores that line it, Notting Hill is also home to high-end restaurants, the Ladbroke Square Garden, and some of the most charming and beautiful residential streets in London.
Covent Garden: Synonymous with the Covent Garden Market, this much-loved neighborhood is filled with odd little gems like tiny toy stores, bookstores, clothing boutiques, and more - plus an array of restaurants and eateries. Covent Garden is not a mall; it is, truly, a garden, and a lively and beautiful place to sit, have a coffee, and people-watch.
Camden: Also known as Camden Town, though no one really calls it that anymore. Home to Camden Market and the famed venue Electric Ballroom, it abuts The Regent's with easy walking access to the London Zoo and a bit of a longer walk to Queen Mary's Rose Gardens.
Kings Cross: Not only a rail station, but a neighborhood! Historic Kings Cross Station is a big draw, though, with a photo area for Platform 9 ¾ and a Harry Potter gift shop right nearby. Kings Cross was once heavily industrial, but has been made over with gardens and small green sitting areas.
Soho: Lively, theater-dotted Soho in the West End is the place to go for nightlife of all stripes. Take in a show, go dancing, enjoy a late-night movie or dinner, or a few of the above. It's one of the most popular tourist destinations in London, being an easy walk from Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.
The West End: The West End is London's Broadway. But don't be fooled - it's not just international stagings of Broadway shows. The West End is a thriving theater scene with original work going up regularly.
On one hand, the weather in London does not tend to fluctuate between highs and lows, no matter the season. On the other, it rains in London - a lot. About nine to 10 days a month on average. No matter when you go, pack some waterproof layers; odds are you'll be glad you brought them.
Spring: Spring in London, and England as a whole, is beautiful. London is a very green city, and spring brings the parks and gardens to blooming, fragrant life. Early spring can be a little chilly, but it might be worth going then to beat the tourist boom from late spring through summer.
Summer: Summer in England is mild and lovely, and London is no exception. Temperatures rarely climb above 75°F. For this reason, it is by far the most popular season for travel, and hotel and flight prices tend to reflect that - however, it's also inherently a bit more lively, with a lot going on.
Fall: Again, fall is temperate, with a little more rain than summer. If you want to beat the summer rush but still want warmer weather, you might want to wait until fall for your trip.
Winter: Winter can get cold, but not bitterly so; average temperatures rarely fall below 30°F. England is big on Christmas, and holiday markets and cheer abound. If you love the winter holidays, London might be a perfect choice for you - it's hard not to feel festive in the land of A Christmas Carol.
Apps to Download
London Theatre Direct: Showtimes and tickets for London plays and musicals, including last-minute deals and discounts.