London City Guide – London Travel Tips

London is the capital of UK and the most visited city in this country. Tips and tricks for a city break you might need to know if you travel on budget

Why Go To London

London is considered one of the capitals of fashion in the world, but if you are here you can skip all fashion stuff and expensive experience like shopping.

It’s full of history, art, churches and, of course, food. If you don’t have a plan London could be a huge hole in your budget if you are impulsive and not careful.

London Weather

We recommend April or May, the weather is just perfect, not to hot and not to cold. Temperatures vary from 2- 7°C(35-45°F) in January to 20-30°C(69-87°F) in July.

Rainfall does not vary that much thought the year with an average of 6 rainy days per month.

London Local Transport

With a vast network of subway, buses and tram lines there is no place hard to reach. Ticket prices are 1.5€ valid for 90 minutes after stamping for a single journey.

One Day Ticket is 4.5€ and Two Day Ticket costs 8.25€ but you can also use RicaricaMi a rechargeable card that you can buy from almost any store at 2.5€ first time including one single ticket.

If you plan to go outside the city, we recommend using FlixBus

Language

Main language spoken is Italian, and around 30 percent of the people do speak English, mostly in tourist areas.

Electric

Type L (three-prong plug), Type F (two-prong plug) and Type C (Europlug two-wire plug) we suggest having a travel adapter, if you are not from Europe.

Currency

Main currency is Pound (£) with ATM’s available almost every street corner. Cash is preferred and tipping is customary with 10-15% off the bill.

Must Try Food

London is well know for a lot of Michelin-stared restaurants, most British food is Fish & Chips and a mushy peas.

Let’s not forget about the English Breakfast, that ussualy is made out of eggs, toast and sausage with a sweet tea.

But as a must try on top of the list must be Laverbread minced with seaweed, Cullen skink and Steak with kidney pie, but let’s not forget about desert which we recommend to try Black pudding made from onions, pork fat, blood and oatmeal.

More tips can be found at the end of the article.

Must Try Drinks

While in London you must try the English Tea usually served in afternoon at any restaurants or you can find it under the name of English Breakfast.

Other British beverages include Ginger Beer, Cider(alcoholic fruit juice), Pimms (alcoholic punch made with fruits) and Dandelion(roots of dandelions and burdock leaves) 

But you should try the non-alcoholic drinks such as Blood Orange Punch, Smoothies and Lassi

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How to get there

From Europe is pretty easy to fly here. Plenty of low-cost airlines have flights here, so if you catch a promotion, a discount, just take it! A plane ticket with carry-on baggage could be really cheap, like 10 euro.

So, in our opinion it’s perfect for a city break here, perfect escape. You don’t need to carry too many things, just enjoy your time here. If you want to check the best fly tickets you can trust kiwi.com. Kiwi can help to find also best fly on your way home.

If you have more time to spend you can also take an international bus like Flixbus. Prices are pretty good and you don’t have limits on your baggage.

Of course, take more time to get here but is perfect if you want to visit different cities around like Venice, Rome, Florence and so on. You can also use ride-share apps like BlaBlaCar for a cheaper ride.

You can spend good time in cars with locals and they can suggest you different places to visit which could be more useful then guides.

Where to stay

London has multiple options of finding a cheap or expensive place to stay. As I said, could be expensive but you can fit also on a budget.

If you don’t have worry about your budget can book plenty of hotels rooms and pensions where you like on www.booking.com or www.agoda.com.

It’s a huge city and must consider how much you will to walk, how close to the city center it is your place. If you like to hang out with a local you can book a room on www.airbnb.com and you can find a good price for your accommodation.

Also if you can stay with them for free using Couchsurfing app. You can use it also only if you want to meet with them.

Booking.com

Getting around from airports

Around London are six airports: City Airport, Heathrow, Luton, Stanstead, Gatwick and Southend, while only three of them you will probably arrive at so we will focus on them.

As soon as you arrive we suggest you buy yourself an Oyster as soon as you arrive at any of the airports, it will make your travel much cheaper and faster. They cost £5.00 + £5.00 minimum and you get a credit of £5.00, and when you return the card you will received the initial £5.00 back.

From Heathrow

Is about 20 miles (32km) west of central London, with a few options which you can take to get into the city:

  1. Rail – this would be the fastest option with only 25 minutes of travel time and a price of £10.00, it runs every day from 6:00 to 23:30.
  2. London Underground – With a travel time of about 50 minutes with a price tag of £6.00 or £4-£5.00 with Oyster card runs everyday from 5:00 to 23:30 and 24 h from Friday to Saturday.
  3. Heathrow Express – with a journey time of 15-20 minutes but with a high price tag of £25.00 or return £37.00 it might not be worth it if you are on a budget, they also run everyday from 5:00 to 23:50.
  4. Coach  – With a travel time of about 40 – 60 minutes but with a small price of only £6.00 it will be the best option for you on budget, they run from 4:30 to 10:30.

From Gatwick

Gatwick is 30 miles (48km) to the south of central London, with a few options to get into the city:

  1. Gatwick Express – takes about 30 minutes and with a price of £20.00 might be a good option but there is no service between 00:30 and 03:30 from London and between 01:35 and 04:35 from Gatwick
  2. Thameslink – With a travel time of about 40 minutes and a price of  £14 (peak) or £8 (off-peak) it runs from 6:00 to 1:20.
  3. Coach  – With a travel time of about 70 – 90 minutes but with a small price of only £5.00 it will be the best option for you on budget, they run from 4:30 to 10:30.

From Stansted

Stansted Airport is located 35 miles (56km) to the north east of central London, with a few options to get into the city:

  1. Stansted Express – Journey time is 45 minutes and price of £17.00 or £29.00 return it runs from 6:00 to 23:30.
  2. Coach – with a journey time between 30-60 minutes for only £5.00 and it runs 24 h/day it’s the best option.

Must see

Now we are getting to our top. Like all in Europe, you must be prepared for the long line of waiting on major places to visit. My advice is to book your ticket online or from the previous day to avoid the queue at ticketing.
In other words, let’s start!

1. Big Ben

Actually Big Ben it’s not the real name of this iconic clock tower, the actual name is Queen Elizabeth II Tower, but why is it called Big Ben, well nobody knows for sure but most likely it’s because of a reference to Benjamin Hall.

It was built in 1859, when The Palace of Westminster was destroyed by fire and it was decided that a new building should be constructed for the House of Parliament and it should include a tower and a clock.

Unfortunately starting from 2017 until 2021 renovation started and the tower will mostly be hidden under scaffolding, but as work progresses it will be uncovered bit by bit.

If you would like to visit the inside tower and you are not an UK resident, you have no chance there is no exception to this law, but if you are from UK, you must be at least 11 and wear sensible footwear, but also be able to walk the 334 stairs up to the top.

Duomo di Milano

2. Palace of Westminster

The royal palace was built in 11th century as a primary residence for the King of England, until a fire destroyed the complex in 1834 but it was completely rebuilt afterwards in a Victorian Gothic style designed by Sir Charles Barry and A.W. Pugin.

If you would like to visit the palace, you can do it by taking one of the guided your that include the Westminster Hall, the Royal Gallery and all major areas of the Palace.

Unfortunately there is no other way to visit it without a guided tour, the palace opens at 9:15 and closes at 14:30, so make sure you either pre-book your ticket online or be there as early as you can to be in one of the guided tours.

The tours are opened for everyone for a price of £25 for adults and £11 for children under 15 years old, the tour runs for about 1 hour and half but you can also opt for an afternoon tea on the riverside terrace.

If you UK resident you can request your MP for a free guided tour, but since there is such a high demand for them there is a wait time of about 6 months. 

Palace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster

3. The London Eye

The Eye is one of the most visited attraction in London, built in 1998 it’s the highest Ferris wheel in Europe standing tall at 135 m, making it the perfect place to take breath-taking panoramic pictures of the city.

We recommend going during evening when the best view of the city it’s more spectacular and weirdly less crowded, the wheel takes about 30 minutes to rotate.

London Eye is opened every day from 10:00 to 20:30 with a price from £27 for adults and £22 for children, or if you want to skip the line and buy fast track tickets, prices start from £37 for adults and £32 for children.

The London Eye

4. Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace was built in 1703 and became royal residence when King George III purchased it in 1761 but in the year 1836 became the official London residence of UK’s sovereigns and today is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch.

With 775 rooms, of which   19 State rooms, 52 Royal bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms it’s a massive estate 108 m long and 120 deep.

If you would like to visit you can only do it in the summer from 21 July until 30 September when you can tour the 19 State rooms, decorated with treasures from Royal Collections, Rembrandt other paintings.

The opening hours are from 09:30-19:30 from 21 July to 31 August and in September from 09:30-18:30 also admissions end 2 hours before closing.

You can go directly and take a your for yourself for £11/Adults and £5.50/Children but you can also take a guided tour for £24/Adults and £13.50/Children or a Family Ticket for a price of £61.50

Outside of the summer opening, you can still see the iconic exterior of the palace and watch the famous Changing the Guard.

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace

5. Tower of London

 

The Tower used be known as a place of torture, but also an armoury and a fortress, built in 1078 first known as the White Tower, destroyed and rebuilt in 1208.

This is where nowadays the priceless Crown Jewels are held with a lot of other history artifacts, swords, armors, legends and a lot of bloody tales from the long history.

The tower is opened from 09:00-18:00 Tuesday – Saturday and 10:00-18:00 Sunday – Monday with a ticket price of £20 for Adults and £13 for Child.

Tower of London

6. Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge was built in 1894, it’s 244 m long and 65 m height, it’s crossed by over 40.000 people every day. There is no price to enter also you can cross it just by walking and visiting the inside museums.

Inside you can discover behind the scene of the bridge like machinery rooms and hydraulic systems that raises the bridge for river traffic.

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

7. Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey has been the site of royal coronations since 1066, and has been a working facility for religious services since the 10th century.

In 2011 was the venue for the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, it’s also the main place for coronation of kings, queens, soldiers and others also hosting over 450 tombs and monuments

If you would like to visit you can do it for free if you have a London Pass or you can pay £22.00 for adults and £9.00 for children, but visiting times are a bit strange so here we go :
Monday-Friday: 9.30am-3.30pm
Wednesday Lates: 4.30pm-6.00pm
Saturday: 9.00am-3.00pm (May to August)
Saturday: 9.00am-1.00pm (September to April)
Sunday: Open for services

 

Westminster Abbey

London’s Chinatown

Quite literally a Chinatown within London, most of the shops or the people you will meet here is Chinese (or at least has Chinese origins, the so-called “second generation”), the place is filled with cheap small shops and restaurants.

To reach the Chinatown just set your google map to Gerrard Street, or you can take the metro to either Piccadilly Station or Leicester Square Station

The whole road is covered with a lot of green spots and is very pretty to see while strolling, if we want to talk about the food we found here the closest Chinese experience.

Rice with pork
chinese buns
noodles with pork

Outside of city

St Albans is located in the north of London, about 40 km drive or you can take the train from St Pancras, 20 minutes, from £12 return.

It’s a very popular tourist attraction with many cultural and artistic treasures, Roman remains and the beautiful medieval architecture

Hever Castle 40 minutes away by train via Southern train from London Bridge for a £20 return price ticket, you can have a picnic on the castle grounds or near the Hever Lake.

Leeds Castle it’s a bit further, about 1h  by Southeastern train from Victoria, from £21 return, you can visit the maze museum  but the castle grounds are so beautyful it’s worth comming.

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