If you’re ready to embark on a journey to one of the most iconic cities in the world, then London is the destination you’ve been looking for!
I mean it! I didn’t think much of London before my first trip. Just from the sound of it, London seemed like another boring big city, just like any old metropolis around the world. But oh boy was I completely wrong.
I was completely blown away by all the fun I had during my first trip — and I was traveling alone too!
With its rich culture, vibrant nightlife, and centuries of history, London has something to keep every type of traveler entertained. Truly!
And with so much to do and see, for a first-timer, it can be intimidating to navigate such a large city. Luckily, this article will provide valuable tips to ensure that your trip to London is seamless and enjoyable.
Are you ready to make your trip THAT much better? Then you need to read these useful travel tips before your next visit to London.
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40 Essential London Travel Tips For First-Timers
1. London’s currency is the pound sterling (£). 100 pence = £1.
It’ll be useful to know how much a “pence” is. You may come across it throughout your visit to London.
Funny story: I really needed to use the restroom (or “loo” as the Brits say), and I found a public toilet that charged money to enter — pence to be exact.
I didn’t know how much this was, so I went in blindly and wished for the best when I used my credit card to enter a public bathroom in one of the royal parks. Luckily, it wasn’t too expensive.
2. There are five airports nearby, so make sure you’re booking your flights to and from the correct one.
The airports are Heathrow Airport, Gatwick Airport, Stansted Airport, Luton Airport, London City Airport.
Most international flights go in and out of Heathrow (LHR), while domestic flights or flights within the EU can go in and out of a few other ones.
3. The London Heathrow Airport is not actually in London.
Heathrow Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world and is often considered to be London’s main airport. However, many people are surprised to learn that Heathrow is actually located outside of London, in the neighboring county of Middlesex.
Heathrow Airport is situated about 14 miles (23 kilometers) west of central London and is easily accessible by public transport, including the London Underground, buses, and trains.
For travelers arriving at Heathrow, it’s important to plan their onward journey carefully to avoid any confusion or delays. There are many transport options available, but some may be more convenient or cost-effective than others depending on your destination and budget.
Depending on the method you choose, getting to/from the airport will take you anywhere from 20 minutes to 1-ish hour.
4. Transportation to and from the airport is a bit more expensive than in other countries.
Expect to spend about $7 to $90 USD, depending on which mode of transportation you choose.
Even if you choose public transportation, not all public transportation options are equally as cheap. For example, the Heathrow Express (the fastest way to get from LHR to Central London) will set you back a hefty amount of money.
The Heathrow Express is a non-stop train service that takes you from Heathrow Airport to Paddington Station in Central London. It runs every 15 minutes and takes just 15 minutes to get to Paddington. However, it can be quite expensive, with a one-way ticket costing around £25 ($34) and a return ticket costing around £37 ($51).
Shocking, right? Read the next few tips to get around this crazy cost.
5. Book your Heathrow Express tickets in advance to save a good chunk of change.
By booking your Heathrow Express journey in advance, you could get a one-way ticket from just £5.50.
If you’re reading this post early in your trip planning, I recommend you buy your train tickets in advance online to take advantage of substantial discounts compared to buying them on the day of travel. Pricing differs depending on whether you’re 14, 30, or 90 days out from your travel date.
The greatest discount of up to 75% of the walk-up price (the one that’s advertised as £5.50 for a one-way saver ticket) must be booked at least 90 days in advance through the mobile app.
During my latest solo trip to London, I hadn’t started planning my itinerary until a few weeks in advance. By that point, it was far too late to save substantially on Heathrow Express tickets. The cheapest price I could get for Heathrow Express at the time of booking was £20.
Not the best pricing, but it also wasn’t the day-of cost of £25 either!
6. If you missed your chance to snag cheap Heathrow Express tickets, take the London Underground instead.
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, the London Underground or the Elizabeth Line are great options.
The Elizabeth Line, also known as Crossrail, is a new line that connects Heathrow Airport with several locations in Central London. It’s a fast and efficient service that runs every 10 minutes and takes around 30 minutes to get to Central London.
The cost of a one-way ticket on the Elizabeth Line is £12.80 ($15 USD) at all times of the day, for a journey from Heathrow airport to Zone 1 (Central London) and vice versa.
If you’re looking for an even cheaper option, you can take the Piccadilly Line on the London Underground. The Piccadilly Line is a slower service than the Heathrow Express or Elizabeth Line, but it’s much cheaper. A one-way ticket on the Piccadilly Line costs around £3 ($4), and a return ticket costs around £6 ($8).
However, keep in mind the journey time can take up to an hour to reach Central London, so if you’re not in a rush, this can be a really budget-friendly option for you.
7. A lot of things in London are painfully expensive. Especially accommodations!
You’ll almost always need to book your room well in advance. If you’re on a budget, hostels are easy to find and offer decently priced double rooms. Simple bed and breakfasts are also a more inexpensive option than typical chain hotels.
During my last solo trip to London, I stumbled across a wonderful little accommodation option called Vincent House. While the rooms were on the simpler side, the fact that there was free breakfast (as well as a dinner/half board option) made my stay so worth the money!
Who wouldn’t want to wake up to a proper English breakfast each and every morning?
They have single rooms too, which means solo travelers don’t need to pay a double-occupancy premium for traveling alone while still getting some much-needed privacy.
Pro Tip: For the best deals on accommodation, try avoiding the summer season as well as the Christmas/New Year holidays.
WHERE TO STAY IN LONDON: CENTRAL LONDON (ZONE 1)
If you are planning a trip to London, one of the most important decisions you will make is where to stay. While there are plenty of great neighborhoods to choose from, staying in a central location in London is a surefire way to have an unforgettable experience.
One major advantage of staying in central London is the proximity to all the world-renowned landmarks. With iconic sites like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and The Tower Bridge just minutes away from your hotel or Airbnb, you’ll be able to maximize your time exploring without wasting hours each day commuting on trains and buses.
Staying in a central location also allows for more spontaneity during your trip. With everything within easy reach, you can easily pop back to your hotel or apartment if you need a break or want to drop off some new purchases before heading out again.
A hotel anywhere in Zone 1 is best. More specifically, Zone 1 covers the West End, the Holborn district, Kensington, Paddington, the City of London, Borough, London Bridge, Earl’s Court, Marylebone, Edgware Road, Lambeth North, Waterloo, and more.
Recommended Hotels In Chelsea/Kensington: Egerton House ($$$) or Milestone Hotel Kensington ($$$)
Recommended Hotels In Notting Hill: The Portobello Hotel ($$) or Vincent House ($-$$)
Recommended Hotels In Victoria: The Windermere Hotel, London ($$)
Recommended Hotels In Shoreditch: One Hundred Shoreditch ($$)
Recommended Hostels that are centrally located: Hostel One Notting Hill, Urbany Hostel London, Lee Abbey London
8. Food is expensive too. But there are ways to get around the price.
During lunchtime on weekdays, a lot of restaurants feature a lunch special where you can get a decent amount of food on a lunch menu for a special price.
And unless you decide to eat falafel wraps, kebabs, and grab-and-go food (Pret a Manger, Leon, pizza, etc.), you can expect to spend £15-20 for lunch and slightly more for dinner.
If you’re interested in fine dining, consider making lunch reservations over dinner reservations as lunch meals are typically cheaper.
9. Expect to spend a bit more on shopping than you would in the EU.
If shopping is on your mind, be prepared to pay a few bucks more than you would outside of the UK.
While shopping around many of London’s bustling shopping districts, I found that for international brands like Zara, & other stories, etc.– when you compare the price in pounds vs euros, you’ll actually get a better deal paying the price in euros.
I’d say if you’re traveling to the EU either before or after your trip to London, save your shopping for then.
Now obviously if you’re looking to pick up British snacks and souvenirs only sold in England, you’ll have to shell out money here and pay that premium.
10. The London Pass can save you a ton of money if you’re looking to see a lot in a short amount of time.
This super-popular sightseeing card is jam-packed with tourist goodness and provides free entry to over 80 top attractions in London!
The pass can be purchased for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 10 consecutive days, with prices varying depending on the duration of the pass. With the pass, you can skip the ticket lines at many of the included attractions, saving you time and allowing you to fit more into your day.
Some of the top attractions included in the London Pass are the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Churchill War Rooms, the London Zoo, and the London Eye.
The pass also includes a hop-on, hop-off bus tour that takes you to many of the city’s top sights while also doubling as free transportation for the day!
In addition to free entry to the included attractions, the London Pass also offers other perks, such as discounts on dining, shopping, and theater tickets. It also includes a guidebook with maps and information on all the included attractions.
11. If you’re looking for a good deal on accommodation in Notting Hill, go with Vincent House.
I’ll say it again, Vincent House is a great value. I stayed here during my last solo trip to London and would stay here again in a heartbeat. And before your mind goes to “oh this must be a hostel”, let me tell you that it was not!
I had my own room and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg (unlike many other hotels in the Notting Hill area).
Rooms are simple, but how much time are you going to be spending in your room anyway? The complimentary breakfast buffet is amazing for what you’re paying–it was definitely the highlight of every morning in London.
Best of all, the hotel is located just a block away from Portobello Road, super close to Portobello Road Market and all the colorful little houses that made Notting Hill famous. Highly recommend this little residence!
12. London is huge. Explore by neighborhood to avoid wasting time and money on transportation.
London is one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world, covering an area of over 600 square miles. With so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming for visitors to know where to start. One of the best ways to explore London efficiently and economically is to focus on exploring each neighborhood in turn, rather than trying to visit all the city’s attractions in one go.
Public transportation in London can be expensive, particularly if you are using it multiple times a day. By exploring one neighborhood at a time, you can often walk or cycle between different attractions, saving money on transportation costs.
By focusing on one neighborhood at a time, you can take the time to explore its streets, parks, museums, and local shops, getting a deeper understanding of what makes each area special!
13. While an Oyster Card is a cheap and convenient way to pay for public transportation, using contactless paying by credit card or debit card also works.
For those of you who don’t know if your cards have contactless payment, take a look at your cards! This function is indicated by a symbol of four wavy lines.
In fact, during my last 5-day trip to London, I skipped buying the Oyster Card and instead stuck with contactless payments with my credit card. It was simple and convenient and I never ran into any trouble with the entry gates not opening.
By skipping the Oyster Card option, I was able to save the £7 it costs for the Oyster card itself. The fee is non-refundable too. I’d say if you’re planning on going back to London time and time again, it may be worth it for the Oyster card, but if you’re just visiting once every few years, skip it and use contactless payment.
14. Exploring London on foot is the best way to discover Central London.
There’s so much to see at every turn. Walk in one direction and you’ll find yourself in a neighborhood filled with pubs, restaurants, and boutique shopping. Walk a few hundred yards in another direction and you’ll find yourself surrounded by palaces, statues, museums, and churches.
Plus, it’s cheaper than taking public transportation!
15. Traveling during rush hour can be uncomfortably crowded.
Rush hour is defined as the time from 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM and 4 PM to 7 PM. You can expect a ton of people standing face to face (or face to armpit) packed into the subway cars.
Tube fares are also more expensive during this time so be aware if you’re trying to travel on a budget!
If you do, you have to travel during rush hour, remember to take your backpack off and have your belongings glued in front of you so that you are able to see everything that’s happening in and around your bags. You wouldn’t want anything to get swiped out of your bag!
While London is a generally safe city, pickpocketing does occur and you wouldn’t want to be a victim of that now, would you?
16. London is open for business every day of the year, except on Christmas Day.
What this means is that you can plan your trip without needing to account for Sunday/Monday closures as you would in some other destinations like France and Portugal.
Most shops in central London are open seven days a week, though they can only trade for six hours, (usually noon to 6 PM) on Sundays.
17. Make reservations and book tickets to popular day trips, restaurants, performances, tours, or festivals in advance.
In a city with this many people, it makes sense to book your tickets for anything, and everything that you can think of in advance. This will help you avoid any potential disappointment when you find that the restaurant that you’ve been wanting to go to for months is fully booked for a few weeks out.
Many of London’s popular attractions, such as the London Eye and Tower of London, can have long queues, especially during peak tourist season. To avoid waiting in line at iconic London landmarks, consider booking tickets in advance.
Tiqets is a great site for booking skip-the-line entry tickets to popular attractions, while Viator is my go-to for day trip excursions and tours from London.
The only thing where I wouldn’t necessarily recommend advance-purchase tickets is if you’re trying to catch a musical or show in West End for discounted prices. In this case, you can opt for standby tickets or last-minute ticket booths.
Standby tickets can be purchased on the day of the show at the venue. Alternatively, you can head to any last-minute ticket booth on Leicester Square. I recommend TKTS for all last-minute ticket needs!
For an idea of what popular shows are available, check out the current show offerings on Viator.
18. Don’t plan to do too much on your first day here, especially if you’re traveling internationally.
You will likely be jetlagged, so do account for that when planning out your itinerary. Don’t schedule day trips or full-day tours/excursions on your first few days so you can catch up on sleep and adjust to the time shift.
Here are some quick jetlag tips for traveling eastward:
- Adjust your sleep schedule: Start adjusting your sleep schedule a few days before your trip by going to bed and waking up earlier, in line with the destination time zone. This will help your body adjust more quickly to the new time zone.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your flight can help prevent dehydration, which can make jetlag symptoms worse.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Alcohol and caffeine can disrupt your sleep patterns and dehydrate you, making jetlag worse. Try to avoid or limit your intake of these substances before and during your flight.
- Get some sunlight: Exposure to natural light can help regulate your body’s internal clock, making it easier to adjust to the new time zone. Try to spend some time outside during daylight hours when you arrive at your destination.
19. Tipping is a thing here, though it’s not as crazy as it is in the USA.
Here’s a little tipping guide, depending on the situation you’re in:
- At hotels: you can pay a porter £1 per bag. Gratuity for room staff is at your discretion.
- At pubs: not expected, unless table service is provided. If so, pay £1 per round of drinks.
- At restaurants: you can expect a service charge to be included in the bill. If there is no service charge, you can put down 10% for decent service and up to 15% for exceptional service.
- For taxis: you can round the fare up to the nearest pound.
20. Want to experience the dark side of London’s history? The London Dungeon is a whole lot of fun.
Take a water ride through the “rat-infested” streets of London, experience how the Great Fire of London took place, get a haircut and a shave by Sweeney Todd, learn about Jack The Ripper’s gruesome actions, live your way through the plague in the 1600s, and more in this incredibly fun experience that is The London Dungeon!
I had tickets for this experience during my last trip to London, and I already want to go back so badly–and bring along everyone I know who likes dark history! Sure it’s touristy (it’s located right next to the London Eye) but it’s SO much fun and worth every penny.
Seriously, take my money, London Dungeon!!
21. The museums and iconic landmarks are worth visiting, but do make time to simply stroll through the eclectic neighborhoods and markets too.
I’m talking about areas like Greenwich, Marylebone, Seven Dials, Borough Market, Bermondsey Street, and Spitalfields. Not only will you get to ogle at all the colors of the neighborhoods and get in some really good people-watching, but it’s also completely free!
Not sure how to prioritize them all? I’d recommend you get the London Pass for your first few days so you can see all the major landmarks at a steeply discounted price (compared to buying admission tickets for all the attractions separately).
Once you’ve got all the heavy hitters out of the way, it’s time to hit the neighborhoods so you can experience real London! In addition to the list above, other cool areas to add to your list include Shoreditch, Notting Hill, Barnaby, Soho, Chinatown, Brixton, and Hackney Wick.
22. Bathrooms are few and far between in London, so plan your liquid intake wisely!
One of the challenges that many visitors to London encounter is finding public restrooms, especially in busy areas like the city center or popular tourist spots. While there are some public toilets available, they can be difficult to locate, and many require payment to use.
To avoid any discomfort or inconvenience, it’s a good idea to plan your liquid intake carefully when exploring the city. Try to use restrooms whenever you have the opportunity, such as in cafes, restaurants, or shops that allow customers to use their facilities.
Another option is to take advantage of facilities offered by some of London’s major attractions. For example, many museums and galleries have restrooms available for visitors, even if you’re not there to see the exhibits.
If you’re traveling with children, it’s especially important to plan ahead and make sure you know where public restrooms are located. Many parks and playgrounds have restrooms available (some do charge an entree fee of 25-50 pence though), and some shopping centers and department stores have family-friendly facilities that can be used by visitors.
23. On Sundays, do not miss your chance to enjoy Sunday Roast.
Sunday Roast is a traditional meal that is typically served on Sundays in London and throughout the UK. It typically consists of roasted meat (such as beef, chicken, pork, or lamb) served with roasted potatoes, vegetables, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy.
The meal is often enjoyed with family and friends, and is a popular choice for lunch or dinner on Sundays. It is considered a classic British dish, and many pubs and restaurants in London offer Sunday Roast as a menu item. Kids are welcome at these pubs too!
Sunday Roast is like Thanksgiving every Sunday, so don’t miss it!
Pro Tip: If you’re not sure where to head for pubs, I’d recommend Notting Hill. A lot of these pubs are family-friendly too, especially on weekends.
24. Visit a pie shop while you’re in town.
A pie shop wasn’t featured in Sweeney Todd for nothing! London is filled with great pie shops serving everything from savory to sweet pies. We’re all familiar with what sweet pies are, but some of the most popular savory pie flavors include:
- Steak and ale: a classic pie made with chunks of tender beef and ale gravy
- Chicken and mushroom: a creamy pie filled with chicken, mushrooms, and a rich sauce
- Pork pie: a small, individual pie filled with seasoned pork and jelly
- Shepherd’s pie: a pie made with ground lamb or beef, vegetables, and topped with mashed potatoes
- Fish pie: a creamy pie made with a variety of fish and topped with mashed potatoes
For some of the best pies in London, head to M. Manze, MotherMash, or Cockney’s Pie & Mash Shop.
25. Don’t just eat British food during your trip, Indian cuisine is amazing in London.
While British food certainly has its charms, there are plenty of other delicious options to try in London as well. One cuisine that is particularly well-represented in the city is Indian food, thanks in part to the large Indian and South Asian population.
If you didn’t already know, London has really good Indian food. Whether you’re in the mood for spicy curries, crispy pakoras, flavorful biriyanis, or fluffy garlic naan, there is sure to be an Indian dish that satisfies your cravings.
Some popular Indian restaurants in London include Dishoom (there are lots of locations throughout the city because it’s THAT good), Masala Zone, Tayyabs, and Hoppers. Many of these restaurants also offer vegetarian and vegan options, as well as gluten-free choices.
26. Make some time to check out the free green spaces in London.
London is a bustling metropolis that can sometimes feel overwhelming with its crowds and traffic. However, there are plenty of free green spaces throughout the city that offer a respite from the hustle and bustle.
Here are some of the best parks in London that are worth checking out:
- Hyde Park: one of the city’s largest and most popular parks. It features expansive green spaces, a lake, and several famous landmarks like Speakers’ Corner and the Serpentine Gallery.
- Hampstead Heath: This sprawling park in north London offers plenty of open spaces, woodland, and ponds, as well as a stunning view of the city from Parliament Hill.
- Regent’s Park: Another large park in central London, Regent’s Park is home to the London Zoo, several beautiful gardens, and the famous Open Air Theatre.
- Greenwich Park: Located in southeast London, Greenwich Park offers stunning views of the city skyline, as well as several historical landmarks like the Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum.
- Richmond Park: The largest of London’s Royal Parks, Richmond Park is home to herds of deer, as well as several walking and cycling trails, gardens, and ponds.
Remember, entry to these parks are free, so be sure to make some time to explore these natural spaces during your visit to London–especially during the months when trees are full and flowers are in bloom.
27. For antiques and vintage shopping, head to Portobello Road Market.
You can buy so much along Portobello Road. You can pick up hip and trendy clothing from an indie boutique, hidden treasures from a charity shop, a vintage teacup from an antique shop, and so much more!
Because of how eclectic it is, Portobello Road Market is one of my favorite areas of London, despite it being a touristy place to visit.
Head to House of Retro for super unique styles! This store completely blew me away with its adorable clothing and accessories.
28. Afternoon tea is a fun little tradition in London worth doing at least once.
Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British tradition that has been enjoyed for centuries. It typically involves a mid-afternoon meal of tea, sandwiches, scones, and cakes, and is often seen as a social occasion for friends and family to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. If you’re planning a trip to London, afternoon tea is definitely worth experiencing at least once.
Many hotels, restaurants, and tea rooms offer traditional afternoon tea service, complete with elegant table settings, fine china, and attentive service.
In addition to the finger foods being super cute and delicious, it’s also a great way to take a break from sightseeing or shopping and to unwind for an hour or two.
Some quintessential places to enjoy afternoon tea in London include The Ritz, Claridge’s, Fortnum & Mason, and The Savoy.
Spots like Fortnum & Mason’s got you with its live classical music, while the Shangri-La Hotel’s Sky High Afternoon Tea has got you on the epic views. Having said that, these will cost you a pretty penny!
There are many other options available at different price points, so if this interests you, do put in a little research to find an afternoon tea menu that fits your budget and preferences.
For something super unique (and fun for the kids), check out the Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych!
29. For incredible street art, check out the Shoreditch area in East London.
Shoreditch is an area in East London that has become known as a hub for street art. The streets are lined with colorful murals, graffiti, and other forms of urban art that are constantly changing and evolving.
One of the best things about street art in Shoreditch is that it’s accessible to everyone. You can explore the area on foot and see the art up close, taking in all the intricate details and hidden messages. There are also many street art tours available, led by local artists who can provide insights into the works and the artists who created them.
Some of the most famous street art in Shoreditch includes works by artists like Banksy, ROA, and Invader, but there are also many lesser-known artists who have created stunning pieces that are well worth seeking out.
In addition to street art, Shoreditch is also known for its vibrant nightlife, independent shops, and trendy restaurants and cafes. It’s a great place to spend a day or an evening, soaking up the atmosphere and experiencing the creativity that has made this part of London so famous.
30. Skip Leicester Square — walk one block next to it through Chinatown instead.
Unless you need to go to Leicester Square for something specific (such as the TKTS kiosk for show tickets), I’d recommend you skip it. There’s not really much here other than tacky souvenir stores and touristy restaurants that you can easily find in other ultra-touristy parts of the world.
Instead, take a stroll on the adjacent street, which will take you through the picturesque Chinatown! Be sure to pop into Chinatown Bakery for a light and carby snack, or Four Seasons (known for their Peking duck dishes).
31. Make sure you have an appetite when visiting the Convent Garden area.
When in Covent Garden, don’t miss a stroll through The Yards, Arome Cafe, and Dishoom for a sit-down meal.
Not feeling a sit-down vibe? For something casual yet extremely exciting, head to Seven Dials Market. At the food hall, I recommend Bad Boy Pizza Society, Curry on Naanstop, Pick & Cheese – The Cheese Bar!
32. Make sure that The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is taking place on the day you plan to visit.
I didn’t know this prior to my visit, but The Changing of the Guard doesn’t take place every day when it’s not peak season! Because I did the London In One Day tour on a day when the event wasn’t happening, I did not get to witness the iconic event during my first trip. Better luck next time!
Here are the event days:
- From June – July: takes place daily
- From August – May: takes place Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
33. There are hotspots where you can find all your tacky souvenirs.
You can visit Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden’s Jubilee Hall Market, or stroll from Westminster to The London Eye for tacky and cheap souvenir heaven.
You’ll find an endless amount of affordable keychains, magnets, and other random items depicting the London guards, British flags, telephone booths, and double-decker buses.
34. Some of the best souvenirs are located in museum gift shops.
Did you know that some of the best souvenirs can be found in museum gift shops? That’s right – forget about tacky keychains or fridge magnets from tourist traps, head straight to a museum shop instead.
Museum shops offer a wide variety of unique and interesting gifts that reflect the collections held within their walls. From beautiful prints and posters and replicas of historical artifacts to beautifully designed tea towels and themed holiday ornaments, you can easily find something for everyone on your list.
The British Museum, for example, has an extensive range of Egyptian-inspired items such as jewelry and home decor pieces. The Natural History Museum offers dinosaur-themed toys for children as well as stunning books on wildlife photography.
Other great places to shop for souvenirs? Department stores (Brits sure love their chocolates and candies) like Selfridges, Harrods, Liberty, and of course Fortnum & Mason for all your tea and gourmet epicurean gifts!
35. Bring an umbrella with you, even if rain is not in the forecast.
One of the most common things that people associate with London is its rainy weather. While it’s true that the city can experience frequent rain showers throughout the year, it’s not always predictable.
Having said that, you’ll want to pack an umbrella when you visit London, even if rain is not in the forecast.
Even if the forecast says that it’s going to be sunny, there’s always a chance of rain, especially during the cooler months of the year. Carrying an umbrella with you ensures that you’re prepared for any sudden changes in the weather!
36. Be prepared to come across a lot of free museums.
There are tons of free museums in London, thanks to the UK government’s commitment to promoting access to culture and education for everyone. Most of these museums are supported by public funding and donations, which allows them to offer free admission to all visitors.
Here are a few of the more popular ones to have on your radar (if they interest you):
- The British Museum: This iconic museum houses a vast collection of artefacts and objects from around the world, including ancient Egyptian mummies, Greek sculptures, and Roman artefacts.
- The National Gallery: This world-renowned art museum boasts an impressive collection of over 2,000 paintings from the 13th to 19th centuries, including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh.
- The Natural History Museum: This museum is home to a fascinating collection of specimens from the natural world, including dinosaur skeletons, fossils, and rare animal specimens.
- The Science Museum: This interactive museum is perfect for science enthusiasts, with exhibits and interactive displays that cover everything from space exploration to robotics.
- The Tate Modern: This contemporary art museum is located in a former power station and features works by some of the world’s most renowned modern artists, including Picasso and Warhol.
In addition to these major museums, there are also many smaller and more niche museums in London that offer free admission, such as Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Museum of London, the V&A Museum of Childhood, and the Design Museum.
37. The number of green spaces in London is endless.
Back in the day, British kings loved hunting, so many parts of London were closed off and designated for hunting purposes. Since then, they’ve been converted for recreational use by the public.
If you want to spend a day enjoying as many green spaces in London, here’s a great walking route through the parks: start in Trafalgar Square, cut over to St. James’ Park, then to Green Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and finally make a cut through to Holland Park.
It’ll be a day jam-packed with enough picturesque parks to last a lifetime!
38. Portobello Road Market is an eclectic shopper’s paradise.
Aside from the outdoor vendors along the street, don’t miss the shops along the sidewalks. You’ll find independent boutiques and clothing stores for people of all ages, antique shopping arcades, vintage clothing stores, charity shops, and some really great cafes, dessert shops, and restaurants!
For pointers on funky and interesting shops, stop at House of Retro, Alice’s, Jessie Western, and Kin.
For even more unique vintage/antique/unique treasures shopping markets, head to East London’s Upmarket, Spitalfields Market, and Backyard Market.
39. When out exploring, bring an everyday bag with you that fits a water bottle.
A crossbody or hands-free bag that can fit a water bottle, phone, camera, sunglasses, and your phone charging accessories is a must.
And so is that water bottle! It can be way too easy to forget to drink water while out and about, but the last thing you want to do is get dehydrated midday.
Backpacks usually need to be coat-checked at museums, so you’re better off with an anti-theft crossbody bag. You’ll also want to consider that when you’re taking the tube, it’s safer to have your bag in front of you as opposed to behind you on your back.
And if you’re able to find a bag that folds flat so that you’re able to stow it in your carry-on, even better! I like Baggallini’s Securtex Anti-Theft Free Time Crossbody Bag or Travelon’s Anti-Theft Concealed Carry Hobo Bag.
For the guys (and gals too), crossbody shoulder sling bags work really well for traveling if you don’t have a ton of stuff on you! My boyfriend is absolutely obsessed with his Bellroy Sling Bag.
Worried about pickpocketing? Check out this post: 10 Best Anti-Theft Travel Bags For Your Next Vacation
40. Check out local events during your trip.
London has a vibrant events scene, with plenty of concerts, exhibitions, and festivals taking place throughout the year.
Do a quick Google search or Facebook events search for the dates of your trip to see if there are any local listings for events during your visit.
London Travel Insurance
This is a no-brainer. When traveling internationally, be sure to get yourself some travel insurance.
I’ve heard of too many unfortunate experiences where friends and family have had baggage lost/stolen, hotels canceled, or have had unexpected medical emergencies while traveling where they’ve had to cut their trips short.
True story alert — in 2022, my partner even had his shoulder completely dislocated while surfing in Mexico, resulting in a $950 USD emergency room bill that we had to pay out of pocket for! Not fun and not cheap.
Without travel insurance, you would have to pay out of pocket for these mishaps. This is why I get travel insurance for all my international trips now!
One of the best budget-friendly travel insurances for those traveling outside their home country is SafetyWing.
SafetyWing Insurance provides coverage for unexpected illness or injury, including eligible expenses for hospital, doctor or prescription drugs. This means that if you get ill or injured, they will cover the medical expenses.
In addition, it provides emergency travel-related benefits such as emergency medical evacuation (much needed if you like to go hiking / trekking in the wild), travel delay, and lost checked luggage.
Click here to price out how much travel insurance would be for your trip.
Do you have any tips for first-timers to London? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for more London travel tips? You may also like:
London In One Day Tour: A Jam-Packed Full-Day Adventure Through London