London, the capital of Great Britain is the most popular tourist destination in Europe. Whether you’re visiting the city for the very first time and you need new information, or you have traveled there before, and you want a “refreshment” about where to go and what to do, in this article, you will find all the answers!
We have to mention that London, among others, is an ideal destination for cultural tourism as it has countless museums and galleries. It’s not a chip destination, but it’s a fair way to get closer to European history and culture.
Sights and Walks
In this unique European destination, there is a lot to see to get a fair city feel. As a first tip, I would tell you to take a double-decker red or blue bus on a city tour and pass through all the main attractions. From the bus, you can get on and off as many times as you want during the day and walk to the attractions you will choose, the primary and most interesting of which are: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and the building of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square.
Beyond that, you can visit some of the sights outside and inside (some with a ticket). Please note that you must see St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and London’s Tower (here you will also see some of the royal jewels). If you still want to enjoy London from above, the best options are two: Either you book a ticket to London eye (the giant wheel opposite Parliament), or you book a ticket to get to Shard, the tallest building in town. I would advise you not to leave the ticket reservation for the last minute, but of course, not to go to the place hoping to find it on the spot.
Parks & Gardens
Another thing to do in London, especially if it is not raining, is to walk in one of its dozens of parks. You will enjoy nature; you will walk among trees, you will stare at the ducks and swans in the lakes that some have, while -if you are lucky- you will see small squirrels (which you are not allowed to feed, like the birds). The city’s most popular parks are Hyde Park, Green Park, St James’s Park, and Regent’s Park (along with Primrose Hill). Especially for the latter, let me tell you that inside the park (towards Primrose Hill) is the London Zoo, recommended, especially if you have children.
Finally, I would like to add that there are even Kew Botanic Gardens (requires a ticket). There – in addition to walking in nature and among trees and plants – you will find huge greenhouses with hundreds of rare species of plants and flowers from around the world, while you will be able to take a short walk in the gardens by electric train.
1. Big Ben
2. London Eye – if you want to go up, book your tickets online
3. Buckingham Palace
4. Tower Bridge – the oldest bridge
5. Tower of London
6. St Paul’s – you can climb many stairs to the dome for city views, for free
7. The Shard (Tower) the tallest skyscraper in the city, visit able by ticket
8. City area where all major companies are based
9. The Gherkin Egg-shaped Skyscraper
10. Sky Garden Skyscraper with free entrance for city views. 20 Fenchurch Street with two restaurants and two bars / Europe’s highest public garden
11. Notting Hill area for Instagram photos
12. Hyde Park. This is one of the most beautiful parks I have visited, where you can rent a bike to go for a walk or boating on the lake
13. Knightsbridge area – where are the Harrods and some of the most must-see museums.
-A little further from the center is the British Museum, and you can admire Greek antiquity (rooms with Greek antiquities are at the entrance on the left).
-An unforgettable experience is the unique Madame Tussaud’s museum unique. I recommend the full ticket, and if you can plan the visit, buy a ticket Online.
-Nearby is the museum of Sherlock Holmes.
-In central London, Leicester Square is home to the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery.
-Knightsbridge is a cluster of museums, and Victoria and Albert is my favorite one. In the opposite building, you will find the Museum of Natural History, where you will see dinosaurs, and you will experience the unique experience of a great earthquake. At the Science Museum, you will see the evolution of technology, and you will have interactive applications on the museum premises. These two museums are belonging to the Kensington area.
In the same area, on the outskirts of Holland Park, you can find the Design Museum and the Leighton House Museum.
-Museum of London – where you can find the entire history of the city.
-Don’t miss the Tate British and Tate Modern Galleries. They are in two different areas, and in my opinion, you should visit both. Tate Modern has terrific views of the city and the dome of St. Paul.
Neighborhoods of London
There are some places in London where you have to walk. Please take a closer look at some charming neighborhoods and the air they exude. It would be best if you went to Covent Garden. There you will have the opportunity to wander the small covered market with old items and clothes while you will find street performers to entertain the people. Just beyond Covent Garden, you can walk the narrow streets of Soho, wandering through all kinds of shops and the small Chinatown, where you will find dozens of Asian restaurants and Chinese mini markets with many sophisticated products.
A little further from this area is Notting Hill. A beautiful – and quite full of color – a neighborhood that floods with people.
There you can find, as well, Portobello Road. On this street, there are dozens of small or large second-hand shops and antiques. Besides, every Saturday, street vendors set up stalls to sell antiques, antiques, coins, stamps, and generally anything else you can imagine.
Finally, take a walk in the Little Venice neighborhood near Paddington Station. It is a point where Thames canals are “entangled” with the land resulting in a truly unique result! You can walk to one of the channels and gaze at the boats (some of which serve as small cafes and others as residences). If you want to go or leave the area, you can do it both by traditional means (metro, buses, taxi, uber) and by water bus, which will take you to/from Camden Town & Regents Park (at the zoo garden).
Theater & Music
In the field of theater and music in London, you can find everything for all tastes. Whether you are interested in a concert by a great rock artist, or opera performance or the staging of outstanding theatrical performance, take it for granted that in London you will be able to find something almost every month. To specialize in ticket booking, you can use the site of the agency SeeTickets. You can see availability and book tickets for nearly all the city’s art shows (but also -in general- of the whole country). Especially for the field of musicals, I strongly recommend you to read my relevant article by clicking here. You will be able to see what are the absolute must-see spectacles of the city, as well as some practical tips.
Finally, as for opera and classical music, you will see performances at the following points: Opera at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (one of the most critical opera stages in the world) and at the English National Opera (here all the works are translated into English). Symphony music performances (as well as theatrical performances) at the concert hall of the Barbican Center. Generally, keep in mind that wherever you want to go and whatever show and if you’re going to watch, pre-booking a ticket is one way.
If you nevertheless decide on something completely last minute, keep in mind that at the Royal Opera House, it is an institution that the last 100-150 tickets must be sold on the day of the show at a reasonable first come, first served. They are tickets to the ultimate foyer and with a limited or inadequate view of the stage, but they will give you entrance for the spectacle you want. Something similar happens in many theaters, but it is not their established policy.
Food and Drink
In the food sector, the British capital offers absolutely everything from restaurant chains and fast food to high gastronomy restaurants. Also, keep in mind that you will eat decent food in most (if not all) pubs in the city, along with the beer you like. Some pubs I have singled out in the city are: Swan (Hammersmith), The Blue Anchor (Hammersmith – the oldest in London, since 1722!), The Crabtree (Fulham, by the river with tables outside), The White Lion (Covent Garden). Keep in mind that you can pay by credit card in most pubs (indeed in all of the above), while entry (let alone alcohol consumption) to minors is prohibited.
Beyond that, I suggest you -if you want- try both the Five Guys (for the perfect burger and the best potatoes you’ve ever eaten) and the Burger Lobster (if you wish to neither gourmet nor burger). Both have a network of stores in the city. If you are towards Notting Hill and Portobello Road, a fascinating case is Granger & Co, while if you want to eat delicious meat, I recommend Flat Iron with a small network of seven shops, mainly in the center. In the area of haute cuisine, you can find many suggestions. Whatever you try, keep in mind that you can taste a little of the magic of the restaurant and the chef, choosing the lunch menu that almost everything offers.
This menu includes the first & second course, dessert, coffee, and – several times – half a bottle of wine per person. This menu is served only at noon and is priced significantly lower than the a-la-carte menu served at the same time or night. My all-time favorite restaurant in London is the Bar Boulud in Knightsbridge (in which the lunch menu costs 23 pounds per person with 1st & 2nd course plus dessert, no drinks).
England is also famous for its fish and chips and my favorite restaurant for this food and not only the “Garfunkels Restaurant”, where you will find them in various central points of the city. Also for English Breakfast.
Kingly Court: Carnaby Street arcade with countless restaurants and shopping options.
Finally, something significant that you should know and written in the details of the price lists. In almost all restaurants (not in pubs), the bill is practically mandatory- with a 12.5 tip.
Outdoor Markets – Shopping Centers
- Βοrough Market
- Southbank Centre Market
- Camden Lock Market
- Covent Garden London
- Broadway Market
- Pop Market
Where to do your shopping
– A visit to the Harrods department store and Selfridges is a must experience, and you must live it!
– Hamleys: 7-floors toy store on Regent Street.
– Boxpark – department store in the Croydon area (South London) where all the shops are in containers.
– Hatchards – the oldest bookstore from 1797 at 187 Piccadilly Street
– Lock & Co. Hatters were founded in 1676 by Robert Davis and remain the oldest hat shop in the world.
– Westfield Shopping Center – Europe’s largest department store, covers 43 acres. With effortless access from the two subway stations Shepherd’s Bush and White City.
– Fortnum and Mason. It has the typical picnic baskets.
Christmas Period (Mid-November – Mid-January)
-By bus 23 from Marble Arch, you can see Oxford Street decorated for the Christmas season.
-South Molton Street. Every year this sidewalk is very nicely decorated and is perpendicular to Oxford Street and very close to the subway.
-There is a skating rink in the courtyard of the Natural History Museum, and in the center of the ice rink, there is a tall Christmas tree.
– It has a skating rink at Somerset House.
– In Hyde Park, there is a wonderland where you will find a wheel like the London Eye.
– The Christmas at Kew event on the West Side of the city.
– Almost everything is closed on 24, 25, December 26th, January 1st, and December 25th; transportation does not work. From 23.45 on New Year’s Eve until 4.30, there is free metro transportation.
The accommodation options are endless, and my advice is to have a metro station nearby. I am sure that no one will find it challenging to find the right London accommodation according to their needs.
In which area to stay?
The first time I went to London, I stayed in the Bayswater area. It was ideal for me, as I did not waste time moving to visit all the museums I wanted.
If you have to catch the plane at Heathrow in the morning, I suggest that you stay in an area relatively close to the airport, especially the last night. For example, the Hammersmith area will suit both attractions and Heathrow.
How to move around
You can walk or use the subway, bus, Uber, bicycle, or taxi.
TIP: In the subway, you scan the card to open the bars to enter and exit. Please do not skip it in any case because otherwise, you will pay more. On the bus, you scan the card only when you get in and always use the front entrance. The rear door is for the descent.
To do what you finally choose from the above suggested, you need a lot of money and time waiting in different queues. So I would recommend the London Pass solution, which will help you save both money and time (in lines and waiting). Consider it as a prepaid entrance card for places, museums, the hop on-hop off bus, while the price includes a cruise on the Thames. Available in one, two, three, six, or ten-day versions for both adults and children.
– The National Currency of England is the Pound. If you use a POS Machine or ATM card, choose to be charged in the local currency.
– In London (as in all Great Britain), they drive on the road’s left side.
– The tap water is drinkable
-Tobacco products are costly
– Shops are also open on Sundays, at least most of them.
– With the possible exception of Harrods, you can not pay in euros anywhere
– If you want to avoid the enormous wait – upon your arrival – at the airport check, prefer to travel with a passport and not with an ID.
– Regardless of the season you go to, it is good to always have a small umbrella with you. There is a strong possibility that you will need it
– Calling code: +44 (020)
– Oyster Card: If you stay more than 45 hours, get an Oyster Card, which I consider the best choice to use it as you move around. Before you leave, cancel it and get back the 5 pounds you paid for it. You can get the Oyster Card at any metro station. There is also the Visitor Oyster Card. You can also use the contactless bank card, but if your account is not in pounds, I believe that the best option is the Oyster Card. If you want to use the tickets issued at each station, know that they have a higher charge than the Oyster Card.
– London Travelcard gives the advantage of a 33% discount on riverboats.
– Not all metro lines have the same ticket price. The red line in the metro has the most expensive ticket.
– On the streets of the city, you will often come across a map that indicates where you are
– Keep in mind that museums in England close at 5:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m.
– Most museums have free admission.
It is useful to have pre-decide which exhibits you want to see and in which rooms they are. You will save you time when you are in the museum and money if you’re going to buy the museum guide for a pound, a small amount but consider giving them to all the museums I mentioned above. Besides, England’s museums have a significantly updated website for their exhibits, and you will not have any difficulty finding the important ones for you.
– English Breakfasts are served in restaurants at all hours
– In many pubs, you will find food until a specific time.
-To order in the pubs, you have to go to the bar, make your order, receive it and pay for it or if they tell you that they will bring it to you, you must know the number of the table where you will sit.
– In case you want the internet, you can find it for free at all Starbucks.
– The line buses are double-decker. Use them to tour the city and have a nice view instead of the expensive tourist buses.
– Visit Coppa Club, where you can dine by the River Thames in an igloo, overlooking Tower Bridge. (Approximately 60 Pounds per person) or Heron Tower at 110 Bishopsgate Street, EC2N 4AY, where the Duck & Waffle restaurant is open all days and hours and has a 360 -degree view.
– You can use a credit or debit card instead of having cash pounds almost everywhere.
– For astonishing photos, visit Notting Hill, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea St. Luke’s Mews, W11
– You can have Wi-Fi everywhere with Pocket Mobile.
– The discounts start on December 27th.