Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, London is the largest city in Western Europe. It is an incredibly vibrant and multicultural city. Walking down the streets you’ll hear people speaking foreign languages and smell foods from around the world, yet it still retains a definite sense of Britishness in a way that is difficult to describe until you experience it for yourself.
The city has a very rich history, which is evident in the architecture - some buildings and streets date back to the 17th century - and are now mixed in with more contemporary structures that tower above the rest. Life is pretty fast-paced in London, the people always seem to be in a hurry to get somewhere, and for exactly that reason it’s a great place to sip on a coffee and people-watch from the comfort of a cosy cafe (of which there are plenty!)
One of the best things about London is that, no matter how many times you’ve been, there is always something new to see or do; from festivals and fairs, to pop-up shops and bars, to exhibitions and shows - there really is something for everyone!
London has four main airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. Heathrow has great links into London via tube, train, bus and taxi (click here for approximate travel times) and if you arrive into Gatwick you can reach the centre of London easily by train, bus and taxi (click here to plan your journey). Stansted and Luton are a little further outside of London, but still reachable by train from the North London stations. Skyscanner is a great website to use for searching flight deals. Remember if you are booking flights, book through our partners over at Hotels that Help, where a percentage of your money goes towards helping homelessness in the UK - at no extra cost to you.
If you are travelling to London by land, it’s best to use the national trains or long-distance buses. National Rail Enquiries is a good website for planning journeys by train, checking prices and buying tickets online; as is the Trainline. The major train stations for national trains in London are Euston, King’s Cross St Pancras, Liverpool Street, Marylebone, Paddington, Victoria and Waterloo. If you are going to be using alot of trains, it may be an idea to register for a railcard first. You can do this via the Railcard website, and the 26-30 railcard is now digital only, meaning it is downloaded straight to your phone, giving you 1/3 off all rail fares!
Travelling by bus around the U.K. is cheaper than the train, it just takes longer! National Express and Go Euro (now called Omio) are reliable companies and you can also use Check My Bus to compare fares across different bus companies. The major bus terminals in London for national travel are Victoria Coach Station and Liverpool Street Coach Station. You can also take long-distance buses across to the continent. If you are travelling between London and Manchester, as well as other major cities in the north, check out Mega Bus, where you can pick up a bus ticket for as little as £1!
The Eurostar is a high speed railway with excellent links to cities in Europe such as Paris and Brussels, via the Channel Tunnel. Trains arrive and depart from London St Pancreas at all times of the day and night. Ticket prices vary but if you book in advance, you can pick up some real bargains!
If you look at a transport map of London you’ll notice that it’s divided into nine zones; 1 being most central and 9 the furthest out. Most of the things that you’ll want to see and do in London will likely be within zones 1-2, though there may be some attractions that are further out of the centre (e.g. Harry Potter Studios in Watford, zone 9). Below is all the transport information you need to move around London from zone 1-9.
If you’re visiting London for a few days and have enough time to explore the city centre leisurely (zones 1-2), it’s totally possible to get around by walking - don’t be fooled by the complicated map of the underground! Allow yourself to get lost in the maze of streets and discover pretty passages and mews (alleyways between buildings that historically were used for stables and carriages by more wealthy households), independent shops, cafes and generally less-touristy areas! Install apps like MapsMe or Google Maps so you can download offline maps of the city to help you navigate, or join a free walking tour if you prefer to have a guide!
You can also cycle around London, but there aren’t designated cycle lanes everywhere so be careful as it’s a busy city! Santander Cycles (formerly known as Boris Bikes) have docking stations all over the city and you can use a bank card from as little as £2 to hire one - simply rent one where you like and return it to any other docking station!
London’s hop-on-hop-off bus tours are another great way to get around the city and they’ll take you to all the major tourist attractions. There are several companies to choose from, such as The Original London Sightseeing Tour, Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tours and Big Bus London and they offer a variety of ticket options such as 1, 2, or 3 day tickets, night tours and river cruises! Average ticket prices start at around £30.
London is famous for its underground rail network, aka the tube. The tube is a quick and easy way to travel around - but for that reason it can also be very busy! If you don’t like crowds, avoid using the tube at peak times (weekdays 07:30-09:30 and 16:30-19:00), particularly the Northern (black) and Central (red) lines if you can! Oyster cards are contactless smartcards and are the cheapest way to travel on the tube (and are valid for journey to and from Heathrow and Gatwick airport, on the red London buses, overground rail lines and the DLR). Oyster cards are topped up with credit (using your bank card or cash) and then credit is deducted each time you make a journey; it automatically calculates the cheapest total fare for all the journeys you make in a single day. Journey prices vary depending on the zones you travel in, but as an example the daily cap for journeys within zones 1-2 is £7. You can buy an Oyster Visitor Card online before you visit London or in any large train/tube station from a ticket office for a minimum of £15. If you don’t use all the credit on them you can get a refund up to £10. Here you can find all the information and FAQs about Oyster Visitor Cards. It is possible to use some international bank cards when travelling on the tube by tapping it on the readers, but transaction fees may apply.
If you’re staying a bit longer have more time to make sense of the local bus maps, then the red London buses are also a great way to get around. Not only can you get a nice view from the top deck, but they’ll also help you get your bearings and understand the layout of the city better! You can use your Oyster Card on the red buses and single journeys cost £1.50 with a daily cap of £4.50. Please bear in mind, the buses in London no longer accept cash. You will need to use an Oyster Card or your bank card - both of which you tap on the reader when you get on the bus.
Transport for London’s journey planner is a great tool for finding the best route from one destination to another. It’s also a great place to check if there are any delays or closures on the lines (which can often be the case at weekends). Offline maps via Google Maps or Mapsme will also help you determine the best route through the city.
Finally, taxis are also an option for travelling around London, but probably the most expensive. UBER is a convenient way to track the location of the taxi and it you use UBER Pool it will reduce the cost of the fare. However, we think it’s nice to take a traditional black London cab (also known as the Hackney carriage). Hail a black cab by waving it down by the side of the road - the ones with the orange “taxi” light on are available! London Hackney carriage drivers have to take a knowledge test to demonstrate that they have intimate knowledge of London’s geography, so it’s pretty impressive to think that these guys don’t need a GPS to get you from A to B as efficiently as possible! London taxis always run on a meter so make sure that’s on when you start and prices are higher at night.
London is FULL of things to see and do! A great website for looking up whether there are any events taking place when you’re visiting is Time Out London and they also have exclusive offers and discounts for some activities - definitely worth a look! Almost every place and attraction has a website and the option to buy tickets online, or you can buy tickets/pay entrance fees on arrival - though sometimes buying tickets online in advance can be cheaper. There are also plenty of free things to see and do in London, so below is a list of our favourite places separated into free and paid activities.
Visit the second biggest Conservatory in London and explore their tropical oasis hidden in the heart of the city. Here, you can explore pretty tropical plants whilst being surrounded by birdsong. It is completely free to enter and wonder around at your own pace. Don’t miss the fishes and tortoises! If you fancy making a day of it, take afternoon tea with unlimited prosecco right in the middle of it all.
Opening Times: Sunday Only.12-5pm
Nearest Tube: Barbican (Circle Line, Yellow) or St Pauls (Central Line, Red)
The Sky Garden is a fantastic place to get above the buildings and experience beautiful panoramic views of London! Tickets are free and must be booked online in advance here. There are bars and restaurants at the top and the website shows the times for sunrise and sunset in case you want to visit at a specific time of day!
Opening Times: Monday - Friday 10-6pm and Saturday-Sunday 11-9pm
Nearest Tube: Monument (Circle and District lines, Yellow and Green)
The Natural History Museum (NHM)
The Natural History Museum is a gorgeous piece of architecture and is famous for its huge collection of specimens of the natural world. It’s also home to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition (charges an entrance fee, approx £15).
The V&A art museum and the Science Museum
The V&A is the worlds leading museum of art and design and The Science Museum is home to award winning exhibitions. Both are great fun for kids and adults and right next to the NHM on Exhibition Road.
Opening Times: 10 - 6pm (last entry 5.30pm)
Nearest Tube: South Kensington (Piccadilly line)
The British Museum
The British Museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture. Some exhibitions charge an entrance fee but the main museum is free to enter; the glass roof of the inner Great Court is definitely worth seeing.
Opening Times: 10-5pm
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road (Central and Northern lines); Holborn (Central and Piccadilly lines); Russell Square (Piccadilly line); Goodge Street (Northern line)
Housed in a former power station, the Tate Modern is difficult to miss when crossing the Millennium Bridge from St Paul’s Cathedral. Its art exhibitions sometimes start before you even reach the entrance and inside they change fairly frequently, so it’s unlikely you’ll see the same thing twice if you’ve visited before. The gift shops are worth popping into as well!
Opening Times: Sunday-Thursday 10-6pm; Friday-Saturday 10-10pm
Nearest Tube: London Bridge (Northern and Jubilee lines); Southwark (Jubilee line)
The Wellcome Collection
The Wellcome Collection describes itself as a museum and library for the “incurably curious” and has a fascinating permanent exhibition, Medicine Man, where you can learn how people have viewed the basics of life over centuries. The museum also hosts various temporary exhibitions about health, as well as a great cafe and bookshop.
Opening Times: Galleries Tuesday-Sunday 10-6pm (10pm Thursdays); Library Monday-Friday 10-6pm (8pm Thursdays), Saturday 10-4pm
Nearest Tube: Euston (Northern line)
Primrose Hill is a lovely spot to see a panorama of the city skyline from a more local point of view! Just north of Regent’s Park cross the road and walk up to the highest point on Primrose Hill at sunrise or sunset to enjoy an interrupted view of the city. Separated by Prince Albert Road is Regent’s park and the ZSL London Zoo.
Nearest Tube: Regents Park (Bakerloo Line, Brown)
A guide to London wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Hyde Park! Of course it’s beautiful all year round but summer is really the best time to enjoy all it has to offer, from riding bikes and horses, to swimming or rowing in the Serpentine River and simply enjoying a picnic among the rose gardens - there is definitely something for everyone! If you’re visiting near Christmas time then part of the park is transformed into Winter Wonderland - a giant Bavarian inspired fair with craft stands, bars and restaurants, ice rinks and plenty rides for people of all ages to enjoy! Entry into Winter Wonderland is free but individual attractions charge a fee.
Nearest Tube: Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line, Blue), Marbel Arch (Central Line, Red)
Fancy a swim outdoors? Hampstead Heath in north London is also a nice spot for a stroll and one of the most popular open spaces in London. There is a zoo, athletics track, education centre, a Lido and three swimming ponds. If the weather is good, you can swim in the Swimming Ponds for just £2! Head to the Spainards Inn pub, one of the oldest pubs in London with a great atmosphere.
Nearest Tube: Hampstead, Kentish Town, Golders Green, Highgate (Northern Line, Black)
Nearest Rail: Hampstead Heath Overground, Gospel Oak
Other Parks Worth Checking Out:
- St James Park: Central London park with views over Buckingham Palace
- Richmond Park: Great for Deer spotting and vast open green spaces
- Battersea Park: Bordered by the river with stunning Buddhist Pagodas. Cafe and Zoo on site.
- Clapham Common: Very popular during the summer. Skate park, cafe, fountains and basketball courts.
- Tooting Bec Common: Home to Tooting Bec Lido, an outdoor swimming pool. Great in the summer!
- Greenwich Park: World Heritage Site and one of the royal parks of London.
- Regents Park: Beautifully tended gardens, sports pitches and cafes on site.
Portobello Road Market:
There are plenty of markets dotted around the city. One of our favourites is the Portobello Road market in Notting Hill, a big market with a huge variety of stalls including antiques, second hand goods, fashion and food. It’s open everyday except Sundays, though Saturday is the main day and on Fridays there is a special antique market.
Opening Times: 9am-6pm (closes at 1pm on Thursdays)
Nearest Tube: We like to start from Ladbroke Grove station (Circle and Hammersmith & City lines) and walk through the market down towards Notting Hill (Central line) where you’ll also find some pretty pastel terraced houses (and maybe a famous front door from a certain well-known rom-com!)
Camden Market has over 1,000 stalls to discover! By day the market is a fantastic place to shop for vintage fashion pieces, handmade accessories, music, books, homeware and much more! Explore the huge variety of food on offer too, which seems to cater for almost every dietary requirement out there. By night there are many bars and restaurants in the market and the surrounding area, as well as events and live music throughout the year.
Opening Times: Daily 10am - late
Nearest Tube: Camden Town (Northern line)
Columbia Road Flower Market:
Columbia Road Flower Market is one of London’s most visually appealing markets, with an abundance of colourful flowers and plants, it is not to be missed. Market traders line the narrow streets selling all kinds of flowers, plants, herbs and shrubs. Don’t be afraid to barter, it is all part of the experience! Once you have bought your blooms, head to a nearby cafe or stroll around the small galleries, vintage stalls and quirky antique shops.
Opening Times: Every Sunday, 8am-3pm
Nearest Rail: Shoreditch High Street Overground
The English are famous for their four o’clock tea, so why not treat yourself to a beautiful tower of finger sandwiches, cakes and scones, and petit four alongside your choice of tea (or even a glass of bubbly if you’re feeling fancy!). Prices vary depending on where you go; for a delicious budget afternoon tea try The Wallace Restaurant at £18.50 for the full experience or just £6.50 for cream tea (i.e. scones with cream and jam alongside tea). Beas of Bloomsbury also offers a classic afternoon tea for £30, with the option to add a cheeky glass of prosecco for £37. You can also find some quirky afternoon tea experiences, such as a Tispy Tea at Mr Fogg’s, a bus tour afternoon tea or even a plant-based one at Farmacy!
Whether you prefer musicals, plays or artistic performances, going to see a live performance at the theatre is a great experience in London. Many of the shows are in theatres in and around Leicester Square, so it’s typical to have a quick (and pretty cheap!) dinner in Chinatown beforehand.
Prices vary for each show, though if you want to try your luck at grabbing a bargain, head to TKTS in Leicester Square where you can get last-minute tickets for shows that same day at special reduced prices!
Nearest Tube for Leicester Square shows: Leicester Square & Covent Garden
The Top Secret Comedy Club is renowned for putting on vibrant and fun shows and rated as the best comedy club in the country on Google Reviews and Tripadvisor. Located in a basement room underground, they offer a platform for London’s new and upcoming comedians as well as a space for the best stand up comedians to pop in and try out new stuff and routines.
Opening Times: Main shows are on Sunday-Thursday, starting at 8pm and finishing around 10.30pm. They are open every day and each show has two intervals, with a nice break inbetween to head to the bar!
Nearest Tubes: Covent Garden, Holborn, Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road.
--> If you’re travelling with friends you’re probably looking for some cool bars, right? Why not head to one of these crazy golf bars, or maybe Sink (Shoreditch) where you can play beer pong (and even prosecco pong) in teams. At Flight Club in Shoreditch you can challenge your friends to a game of darts over a pint.
--> Drink, Shop & Do is a great tearoom/bar in Kings Cross where they host daily activities from Lego building and mug painting, to pumpkin carving and ukulele playing!
--> Dinerama in Shoreditch is an experience in itself. Set in a form truck deport, Dinerama is a food and drink market, open from 5pm-1am Thursday to Saturday. With a split level capacity of over 1,000 and in house Djs, expect a party atmosphere and Londoners doing what they do best, party! Entrance is free before 7pm, £3 after that.
--> If you are looking for somewhere a little tamer, head to Gordon’s Wine Bar close to Embankment and Charing Cross. As London’s oldest wine bar, it has a great ambiance to it and offers delicious tapas of course, wine!
--> But if you want a completely unique experience, check out The Mayor of Scardey Cat Town. As one of London’s hidden speakeasy bars, you will need a password to get in - luckily Go Travel and Talk have got you covered. Head to The Breakfast Club on Artillery Lane (nearest tube Liverpool Street) and inform the member of staff that ‘you are here to see the Mayor’. You will then be taken to a normal-seeming Smeg fridge, which you will have to walk through to enter the candelit speakeasy. Pretty cool huh? The bar is filled to the brim with vintage furniture, crazy wall art and a cocktail menu that is almost overwhelming. Opening Times: Monday to Thursday 5pm-12pm, Fridays 3pm-12am, Saturdays 12pm-2am and Sundays 12pm-10.30pm.
Discover another world at Kew Gardens. A stunning UNESCO World Heritage site in West London. Their botanical collections include over 50,000 living plants across a number of beautiful observatories and outside parks. Kew gardens is also home to the largest Victorian glasshouse (Temperate house), where you can explore some of the rarest plants on the planet. Great day out with the family and friends or as a date spot!
Opening Times: 10am-7pm, Monday-Sunday
Cost: £16.50 for adult ticket.
Nearest train stations: There are four gates into the park which can be access by a number of stations: Richmond station, Kew Bridge Station and Kew Gardens Station.
There are plenty of budget accommodation options available in London from hostels and guesthouses, to couchsurfing and Airbnb.
Aside from couchsurfing, hostels are probably the cheapest accommodation option in London and by far the most social if you’re a solo traveller! We tend to use apps like HostelWorld and HostelBookers to search for the best hostel deals for the time that we want to visit any city, including London. Prices start at around £15-20 per night.
Airbnb is a good alternative to hostels if you prefer a little more luxury without spending a fortune! Taking a private room means you might have the opportunity to socialise with your host and learn about some hidden gems, otherwise entire apartments can really give you that “home away from home” feeling. Some Airbnb places may be more secure than hostels if they are inside gated properties. Use this code to get 25% off your stay!!
Whilst not the best option for a solo travellers in terms of socialising, another great and FREE accommodation option is Housesitting. Sign up to Trusted Housesitters using this link and save money on the annual fee! Or use this discount code: RAF187018. Once you have signed up, you can apply to house / pet sit for home owners in London when they go away on holiday. This is a great option if you are looking to save money on accommodation. But if you are pet sitting, you must uphold your responsibilities, like walking and caring for the dog.
Whilst you’ll find accommodation in all parts of the city, here are a few of our favourite areas to stay:
- Based in South London, this area is very popular with the younger crowd and young families. With lots of shops, bars, restaurants, cafes and a vast open green common, Clapham is a great area to base yourself. It is on the Northern line with great links to the city (20 minutes). It can get busy at the weekends, but it still has a village vibe to it.
- Quaint historic district known for being the location of the British Museum, the University of London and many historic homes, parks, and buildings.
- An eclectic and diverse part of inner north London, home of Camden Market and canals. Artsy and bohemian with cute cafes and traditional English pubs. However, it can be VERY touristy in parts, especially close to the markets.
Paddington / Maida Vale:
- This district in northwest central London is mostly residential with lots of mid-range accommodation. Great spot for being close to all the museums.
A very wealthy inner west London district with world-famous department stores, Hyde Park and lots of museums. Not to mention cute cafes and nice access to the river Thames.
Local & Street Food:
- There are some great markets in London serving up fabulous street food! Camden Market has a ton of food stalls with cuisines from all over the world, and if you have an special dietary requirements it’s likely you’ll find something suitable here! Borough Market (near London Bridge) is a wonderful food market with both local produce and street food stalls. We especially love Gourmet Goat who serve unique Eastern Mediterranean-influenced dishes made with kid goat meat!
- For a typical British Indian curry there’s no better place than Brick Lane - a hub for London’s Bangladeshi community. You’ll find more than great food here too as it also a vibrant market, boutique and vintage clothing shops as well as many trendy bars and clubs.
- Or why not tone it down a little and head to Maggie Jones in Kensington. This cute, quirky and intimate restaurant offers a British farmhouse-style menu with incredible reviews. *Great date place!
- You can also go into any of the hundreds of pubs all across London to try some traditional British dishes such as bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes), battered fish and chips, meat pies and Sunday roasts. Check out the Churchill Arms in West London, known for its floral exterior and great beer.
- If you are looking for a riverside pub with an incredibly atmosphere, look no further than The Ship in Wandsworth. During the day, the vibe is fairly chilled with beautiful views across the river Thames, but as the evening draws in expect live music, dancing and a slightly louder vibe!
Vegetarian | Vegan Food:
Vegetarian and vegan food has exploded in London over the past couple of years, so you won’t be struggling to find something to eat! Almost all restaurants have at least one vegetarian option available and many now also have vegan options.
- A few of our favourite exclusively vegan restaurants in London are Wulf & Lamb at Sloane Square (we recommend you try the Wulf Pie) and Mildred’s which has branches in Soho, Camden, Kings Cross and Dalston (their mock chicken is incredible).
- Dishoom also offers a full vegan menu alongside its regular menu if you fancy trying Indian vegan fare (branches in Kensington, Shoreditch, Kings Cross, Covent Garden and Carnaby).
- If you are up for heading south, check out Bonnington Cafe in Vaxhaull, a quirky green-living, eco-minded community cafe and vegetarian spot, run entirely by volunteers. As a former squatting house, the Bonnington Cafe depends completely upon a rolling roster of community members and chefs from all around the world, who take turns to prepare and serve globally minded vegan and vegetarian food at super CHEAP prices. Cash only here and BYOB (Bring your own booze!)
- Head to Timeout for a list of the top vegan restaurants in London!
Something a little Different:
- If you fancy venturing out of the centre of London, head to Tooting Broadway Market (northern Line). This market is home to a collection of market traders, restaurants, cafes and bars. There is so much variety on offer at Tooting Market, from Pizzas to delicious vegan delights. Stay for the evening and the atmosphere completely changes - expect music, dancing and an great mix of people. Open 8am - 10.30pm (9am - 10.30pm on Sundays).
- Another cool food market to check out is the Mercato Metropolitano in Elephant and Castle (Northern Line). Here you will find a vibrant space where everyone shares a passion for good food and good company. Mercato Metropolitano revolves around individuals, small scale farmers, local producers and members of the local community. Everything they do raises awareness about sustainability, environmental, economic and social aspects of the community. This includes, learning how food is grown, learning about the producers through events and live demonstrations, films, talks on wellbeing, getting involved in the local community and so much more, including a secret cinema! Open 11am-11pm (closes 10pm on Sundays).
Redemption Roasters are coffee shops with a difference - their baristas are young offenders who are being reintegrated back into society by being trained in professional roasting and barista skills.
From the roastery inside HM Prison Aylesbury, to the Coffee Training Centre in north-east London, to the cafes in central London, each cup of coffee is crafted by a young offender on a journey to a better life.
Cafe locations: Bloomsbury, Farringdon-Barbican, Kings Cross
Imad's Syrian Kitchen is part of the Help Refugees charity and Choose Love campaign. The Help Refugees charity are pioneering a new movement in the charity world, providing emergency aid and long term solutions where they are needed most. They make sure that 89% of all donations goes straight to the front line. So far they have managed to support almost 1 million people across 80 different projects in 12 countries.
They are always in need of skilled volunteers at Imad's Syrian Kitchen as well as at the refugee camps in Greece and Northern France. Whether you can give 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months, they need your help! Over the next few months, the money raised through Imad's kitchen will go towards buying food packs to be distributed by the Molham Volunteers, helping people in Syria, Jorden and Lebanon.
You can apply via their website here, or if you would like to volunteer abroad at one of the refugee camps and not sure where to start, we suggest going through our partners over at Indigo Volunteers who will help you every step of the way.