London Holidays Travel Guide


Do you know what’s interesting about holidays in London?

 

Everything seems to conspire to make you stay there forever -or just start planning your second visit before the first one is over. Why? Because London has a unique flair. Is it the glorious Buckingham Palace? The London Eye? Big Ben? Or the streets bustling with a multicultural mix of people? Who knows.

 

What we do know is that to make your holidays to London unforgettable, you need to know the basics. How to get there, where to stay, what to do, and many more. To discover them all, keep reading!

 

Explore more: London things to do | London best hotels

Continue reading the full guide after watching this short video about the 5 things you should know before visiting London

About London


One of the most visited cities in the world, London is the ultimate multinational mix of people, cultures, and art. From contemporary art galleries and a booming culinary scene to gothic abbeys and a world-wide famous royal family, this bustling city has something for everyone!

 

Keep reading to find out everything about the vibrant city of London and how to make the most out of your trip there!

London Thames

 

Why is London famous?

The over 1,000 years of London’s history have left a wide variety of landmarks behind them. Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, the London Eye, Big Ben, and Tower Bridge are just some of them! Stunning monuments are not the only reason why London is famous, though. Another major reason why London is so popular is its iconic royalty. Queen Elizabeth is nothing less than a national symbol for Londoners, as she represents their long history and tradition!

 

Where is London located?

London, the capital of the United Kingdom, is located in the southeast part of Great Britain and covers an acreage of 1,579 square kilometers.

 

What is the best time to visit London?

London is well-known for its gloomy and rainy weather, which is common in fall and winter. So, the best seasons to visit are spring and summer, when the weather is milder and sunnier, although still unpredictable.

 

Weather in London

  • Autumn (September to November)

    Highest: 68.2 F/ 20.1 C Lowest: 40.1 F/ 4.5 C

  • Winter (December to February)

    Highest: 47.5 F/ 8.6 C Lowest: 35.2 F/ 1.8 C

  • Spring (March to May)

    Highest: 63.9 F/ 17.7 C Lowest: 38.1 F/ 3.4 C

  • Summer (June to August)

    Highest: 74.5 F/ 23.6 C Lowest: 53.2 F/ 11.8 C

 

What are the most popular events in London

New Year's Day Parade, London Boat Show
The Franchise Show
Ideal Home Show, Head of the River Race
London Marathon, The Boat Race on the River Thames, London Book Fair
Chelsea Flower Show
Trooping the Colour (celebration of the birthday of the British Sovereign), Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, City of London Festival, Carnival de Cuba, Pride London, Motorexpo, World Naked Bike Ride, London Festival of Architecture
Hampton Court Flower Show
The Proms, Carnaval Del Pueblo, Notting Hill Carnival
London Open, House London Freewheel
London Film Festival
Lord Mayor's Show, Million Mask March

 

Did you know that?

In London, you’ll find more than 170 museums, including the British Museum, the Science Museum, and the Design Museum. Museum hounds, get excited!

 

What are the best things to do in London?

  1. Travel back in time at the Westminster Abbey

    The Westminster Abbey is a must-visit in London. Looking like it has popped out of a Jane Austen novel, this Gothic abbey has a long and glorious history, as it has hosted several important events, like royal weddings and crownings. In the wider area of Westminster, you’ll also find Parliament Square, the Houses of Parliament, as well as the famous Big Ben.

  2. Set off on an adventure to Hogwarts from Platform 9 ¾

    If you are a Harry Potter fan, this shouldn’t be missing from your list. This magical platform doesn’t only exist in the books and the movies, but also in real life, in King’s Cross railway station. Visit it and pose wearing your favorite house colors and holding the half-disappeared luggage trolley!

  3. Pay a visit to the royals at Buckingham Palace

    How about a dose of royal flair? Buckingham Palace may be the residence of the royal family, but some parts of it are open to the public in August and September. Some of the 19 in total opulent rooms you can visit are the State Dining Room, the Throne Room, and the Ballroom. Outside the palace, you can also watch the famous changing of the Guard!

  4. Enjoy the views from the London eye

    There’s no denying it: the London eye is one of the most breathtaking landmarks in London! This enormous ferris wheel -the biggest in Europe- comprises 32 space pods, both private and shared with other tourists. The journey with the wheel lasts for 30 minutes, during which you’ll get to enjoy all-encompassing views of the city and its most popular attractions and buildings.

Related: London things to do: Best Museums, Attractions, Parks, Activities, Trips [in 2021]

 

What are the shopping hours in London

Most shops in London are open from 9.30-18.00 from Monday to Saturday. However, some shops stay open until 20.00. Some shops are also open on Sundays, from 12.00-18.00.

 

Key facts about London

  • Population

    9,304,000 (2020)

  • Currecy

    Pound sterling

  • Language

    English

  • Average Temperatures

    Warmest Months: July (23.6°C/ 74.5°F)
    Coldest Month: January (1.8°C/ 35.2°F)

  • Tipping

    A regular tip when eating out in London is 10 to 15% of the bill. Some restaurants though add a service charge (12.5%) to the bill.

  • Loved by

    Art lovers, fashionistas, and business travelers

The history of London

London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. The city was originally established in 43 AD by the Romans, whose domination lasted until the 5th century AD. In the 5th century AD began the Anglo-Saxon era for London with the Middle Saxons. Later, in the 7th century, the area was incorporated into the East Saxons kingdom. After attacks by the Vikings and the Danish, London started creating its government and eventually became the biggest city in the world and the capital of England in the 19th century.

 

How can you get to London

The main ways to get to London are by air, by train, or by car. Generally, if you’re traveling to London from a non-European country, the best way to get there is by air. If you’re traveling to London from a European country, you can also opt for the train.

 

Getting to London by air

The easiest and fastest way to get to London is by air. London has 5 airports in total, but the most popular ones are Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted. London airports are well-connected to most capitals in the world via many daily flights. The biggest airport in London is Heathrow Airport (LHR), which welcomes millions of passengers every day!

 

There are several direct and indirect flights to London from most countries. More specifically, there are direct flights to London from many US cities, like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. There are also direct flights from Canada to London and from Europe to London. However, there are usually no direct flights from Australia to London.

 

Several low-fare air companies serve direct flights to London. Some of them are Norwegian and Condor (from the US), Air Canada Rouge and Air Transat (from Canada), and Ryanair, Flybe, and EasyJet (from Europe).

 

Tip: If you’re planning on traveling to London from Europe, we recommend opting for a low-cost air company. They offer air tickets to London for as little as 50 euros!

 

How to get to the airports

You can easily get to London airports from the town using the airport transfer service. This means that a driver will pick you up upon your arrival. It might be quite pricey, but it’s the most convenient way to get to your hotel. Otherwise, you can opt for the train (Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect from Heathrow airport / Gatwick Express, Southern Railway, and First Capital Connect from Gatwick airport / Stansted Express from the Stansted airport), London Underground, or a coach bus. Coach buses are a popular way to get to London from Gatwick, Stansted, and Luton airports.

 

Getting to London by train

Getting to London by train is a great option if you’re traveling across Europe. There are trains to London from several European capitals, like Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, and Berlin. London is especially well-connected to Paris and Brussels by the Eurostar high-speed railway. If you want to get to London by train from another English city, the British Rail Network is your best bet.

 

Getting to London by car

The United Kingdom has a very good road network, so it’s easy to get to London from Europe by car. This is an excellent option if you’re planning to go on a road trip to Europe. Plus, there’s no better way to marvel at the beautiful English countryside on the way to your destination!

Tip: Keep in mind that in England they drive on the left-hand side, so it might be difficult to get used to it if you drive on the right-hand side!

 

Where to stay in London

The best areas to stay in London for first-time visitors

The best areas to stay in London if you’re visiting for the first time are Covent Garden and Holborn. The first offers a convenient central location close to London city center and the main points of interest. What’s more, it is well-connected to other parts of London through public transportation. The latter is the best place to stay if you want an authentic urban experience on your first visit to London. Holborn is centrally located close to many restaurants, shops, as well as stunning buildings (perfect for aspiring Instagrammers and photographers).

Some of the best hotels in Covent Garden are: Covent Garden Hotel, Firmdale Hotels, Z Hotel Trafalgar, Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street Hotel, St Martins Lane, and The Resident Covent Garden

Some of the best hotels near Holborn are: The Savoy, Rosewood London, The Hoxton, Holborn, Hazlitt’s, and Kimpton – Fitzroy London

 

The best area to stay in London for couples

Notting Hill is one of the most romantic areas to stay in London for obvious reasons (see the super-romantic Notting Hill movie). This place is also an absolute paradise for photoshoots, as the streets are lined with photogenic pastel houses that will make a perfect background for your photos! Notting Hill has an overall retro vibe, with cute restaurants and old-school cafes all over the place.
Tip: Make sure that you visit the infamous Portobello Road Market!

Some of the best hotels in Notting Hill are: The Laslett, The Portobello Hotel, Vincent House London Residence, Blue Bells Hotel, and Dawson Place, Juliette’s Bed and Breakfast

 

 

The best area to stay in London for nightlife

If you want to enjoy the local nightlife, the bustling Soho is hands down the best area to stay in London! This hip neighborhood is packed with sophisticated bars, pubs, clubs, and restaurants for every taste. Soho isn’t lively only during the night, though. You can indulge in shopping, eating food from all over the world, and strolling around the colorful streets all day long!

Some of the best hotels in Soho are: The Resident Soho, Mimi’s Hotel Soho, The Piccadilly London West End, Ham Yard Hotel, and The Soho Hotel

 

The best area to stay in London for families

The best area to stay in London for families is South Kensington. This part of the city is quiet, full of museums, and attractions. It also offers plenty of kid-friendly activities and a cozy atmosphere -especially at Christmas! When in South Kensington, don’t miss the Exhibition Road, the Natural History Museum (a total must for families), and the Science Museum.

Some of the best hotels in South Kensington are: The Ampersand Hotel, Number Sixteen, Knightsbridge Hotel, Milestone Hotel Kensington, and Holiday Inn London Kensington High St.

 

Related: London best hotels and places to stay

 

How to get around London


You can easily get around London using the public means of transportation: the London Underground (or the Tube), the London Overground, the bus, and the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). Driving around London isn’t a good idea, especially for tourists, as the traffic is really bad.

London bus

 

Getting around London by the London Underground

London Underground -the oldest subway system in the world- is the most popular way to get around London. The “Tube”, as it is also known, comprises 270 stations, 11 lines, and 6 zones, connecting downtown London with London suburbs. A single metro ticket costs £2.90 (or £2.40 with an Oyster card) for zones 1-2 (central London).

 

Oyster Card

If you want to save money on your public transportations, the best option is to purchase a Visitor Oyster Card, which you can use in all public means of transportation. You preload your card with money and you pay as you move around via the public means of transportation, without having to purchase single tickets for every journey. This way, you save both money and time. A Visitors Oyster card costs £5 and is preloaded with the amount of money you want from £10 to £50, depending on how many days you’re planning to spend in London.

 

Getting around London by the Overground

London Overground is similar to the Underground, with the only difference that the first moves on the ground. The Overground is also newer, as it has been operating since 2007. Although at many points the Underground goes above ground, the Overground network is not a part of the Underground.

London Overground connects mainly areas outside of central London, including 23 municipalities of London. It comprises 6 routes (Highbury and Islington to West Croydon/Clapham Junction/Crystal Palace, Richmond/Clapham Junction to Stratford, Gospel Oak to Barking, Watford Junction to Euston, Liverpool Street to Enfield Town, Cheshunt and Chingford, and Romford to Upminster).

 

Getting around London by bus

What can we say about London buses? They are some of London’s trademarks! But, the iconic double-decker buses are also an efficient public means of transportation. Although the bus is not the fastest way to get around London, it arguably is the best way to see the city. The London bus network covers a very big area of London, getting you everywhere around the city, even after midnight, as some buses operate around the clock.

 

Tip: To find out when the next bus is arriving, you can visit tfl.gov.uk/modes/buses/live-bus-arrivals or send a text message to 87287 (+44 7797 800 287 for overseas mobile networks) with your bus stop code, and they’ll send you all the bus arrival information you need.

 

Getting around London by DLR (Docklands Light Railway)

Operating since the 80s, the DLR is another train network in London that connects the areas east and west of central London. So, it is a good option for those who want to explore a little further from the city center. An interesting fact about DLR is that it is automated, meaning it moves without a driver! DLR is connected with the Bank, Canary Wharf, and Tower Hill tube stations and can also get you to the London City Airport as well as to Greenwich.

 

How much will you spend in London per day?

London is not a particularly cheap city, but with smart budget planning, you can spend your holidays without spending a fortune! Plan to spend around £150 ($193) per person per day for accommodation, public transportation, and meals. More specifically, a double room in a hotel in London will cost about £180 ($231) per night, meals will cost about £30 ($39), and tickets for public means of transportation will cost about £20 ($26) per day (for a couple).

 

What are the must-try foods in London?

  • Fish and chips

    This is the most British food to try in London! Originating from the 1800s and originally served in a newspaper, this delicious dish has become synonymous with English takeaway food. You’ll find several versions of this yummy British dish everywhere in London. However, this traditional specialty typically consists of deep-fried cod, pollack, plaice, or haddock with a side of fries, mashed potatoes, or mushy peas.

  • Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding

    As its name indicates, this is a traditional Sunday meal for the British. This dish consists of roasted meat (beef, pork, turkey, lamb, or chicken), roast or mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, and Yorkshire pudding. This scrumptious dish used to be the main Sunday meal for the British and would be served at noon until 5 pm. Today, you can have this traditional delicacy at several pubs all around the city.

  • Full English breakfast

    Well, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is worth a try! Full English breakfast (or “Full English) is one of the most iconic local dishes. This hearty dish consists of fried eggs, bacon, tomatoes, sausages (“bangers”), toast, and baked beans. Except for the original English version, you can also find an Irish version (with soda bread and pork sausage), a Scottish version (with tattie scones and haggis), as well as a vegetarian version (with avocado and grilled halloumi). Options are endless!

  • Afternoon tea

    Afternoon tea has been a British tradition since the 1700s. It is a combination of tea and light snacks, typically served between lunch and dinner. Although there are many variations, the original Afternoon English tea consists of finger sandwiches, pastries, biscuits, cakes, cream and jam scones, and -of course- freshly made tea. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in an elegant Afternoon tea during your stay in London!

    Tip: Don’t confuse afternoon tea with “high tea”, which is an early meat-based dinner.

Health care & Safety

Health Care in London

If you are a European citizen traveling to London, you are eligible to free healthcare as long as you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you. If you are a non-European citizen, you’ll have to pay for non-emergency medical services. However, some countries, like Australia, have an agreement with England that offers free healthcare to citizens of these countries.

Tip: Make sure that your insurance covers unexpected injury or illness, sports/activities, accidental death, terrorism, trip interruption, lost checked luggage, travel delay, and travel assistance services.

Safety in London

London is generally a safe place to visit, but you still have to use common sense and take your precautions. Of course, there are some parts of the city you should avoid at night and you should be aware of the pickpockets in crowded places and the public means of transportation.

Useful Information

If you’re traveling to London from Europe, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and planning to stay for up to 6 months, you don’t need a visa, but a valid passport or an official ID (for European citizens). Citizens of China, Jamaica, India, Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burma (Myanmar), Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Congo Dem. Republic, N. Cypris, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Malawi, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, and Zimbabwe need a visa to visit London.
Emergency Number: 999 Police Non-Emergency Number: 101 London Buses: 0343 222 1234 London Underground: 0343 222 1234 Medical Helpline: 111

 

What clothes to pack for your trip to London?

 

Packing for winter in London

Winters in London are pretty cold and snowy, so layering is the key! Make sure that you pack several warm layers, like a heavy coat, a scarf, knitted sweaters and cardigans, isothermic garments, warm boots, and woolen socks.

 

Packing for spring in London

Spring weather in London is milder than winter weather, but it is still chilly and rather unpredictable. You need to be prepared for every possible weather condition. Some key items you need to pack are a lightweight jacket, some sweaters, some pairs of jeans, a pair of comfortable sneakers, a raincoat, and an umbrella.

 

Packing for summer in London

Summer weather in London isn’t always warm, so you need to cover all bases when it comes to packing. Make sure you pack a raincoat, comfortable sandals, cotton t-shirts, blouses, a sweater, a pair of jeans, a pair of linen pants, and a pair of sneakers.

 

Packing for fall in London

Fall in London is mostly rainy and humid, so you need to pack with that in mind. Pack rain boots, a raincoat, a warm jacket, an umbrella, a cardigan, a pair of comfortable sneakers, and some pair of jeans.

 

The best gifts for your loved ones from London

  • A pillbox from the Buckingham Palace shops

  • An umbrella from the James Smith & Sons

  • Harry Potter merch

  • A tote bag from Harrods

  • Beatles souvenirs

  • An English tea collection

  • A Paddington teddy bear

  • An English biscuits collection

 

Conclusion


What are your favourite things to do in London?

Tell us in the comments! And if you liked this article, feel free to share it on Social Media!

 

Other Travel Guides you may be interested in: Amsterdam holidays travel guide | Paris holidays travel guide | Rome holidays travel guide | Milan holidays travel guide | Venice holidays travel guide | Naples holidays travel guide | Florence holidays travel guide | Tokyo holidays travel guide

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