LONDON TRAVEL TIPS
Between the recent terrorist attack in London Bridge and the results of the 2019 General Elections, it has been a rough end to the year for many Londoners who mostly voted Labour. To top it all off, the media showed its arse by intentionally misquoting Stormzy and encouraging the racist maggots to come out of the woodwork to attack him for telling the truth #NotRudeHonest. Winter Is Coming (or maybe it's here already... ) but I felt it was important to highlight the great things London still has to offer.
Geographical location: Europe
Currency: Great British Pound (GBP)
5 THINGS TO DO IN LONDON
1. Views - My favourite activity in any city is to go as high as possible to experience some beautiful views. London's skyline has changed quite a bit in the last decade and it has created places from which you can enjoy it.
The View from The Shard: The Shard is the tallest building in the European Union (pre-Brexit) and has restaurants, a hotel and three levels from which you can take in the city's skyline. (Cost: From £27.20)
Sky Garden: Located on the top of 20 Fenchurch Street (commonly known as the Walkie-Talkie building) it provides the best 360º views of the city amidst beautiful plant and with the option of dining or drinking at one of the restaurants and bars located inside. Entry is free before 6pm if booked in advance online. (Cost: Varies after 6pm)
London Eye: An observation wheel with 32 passenger capsules, it slowly rotates to give you a view of London from the South Bank of the River Thames. (Cost: From £27)
2. Museum & Art Galleries - Britain has a rich history of colonisation and theft 🙃, most of which is displayed in the many museums across the country; the most famous are located in London and do not charge entry fees. If art is your thing, then you will be happy to know that London has many galleries from which to enjoy different exhibitions. Like with the museums, many of the galleries provide free entry. (Cost: From free)
3. Westminister - The most globally recognised area of London and home to the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. This is definitely where you want to take your "I was here" picture and is the easiest way to connect to other popular London hotspots like Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street. (Cost: Free)
4. Pub - A staple of British culture, pubs are littered all over the country and are definitely an experience to be had. Whether it's to have a quick drink, experience pub food (which isn't great) or watch sports, a trip to the pub will give you a glimpse into living in England.
5. Buckingham Palace - The London residence of the most famous monarch in the world, Queen Elizabeth. It is a huge tourist attraction that allows you to take private tours through parts of the property during the summer but there's very little chance of catching a glimpse of the queen or Meghan Markle. I suggest finding out the times for the 'Changing of the Guard' which regularly takes place on the forecourt of the palace and lasts 45 minutes, it's a fascinating process. (Cost: From free)
Parks and Gardens: Hyde Park, Kew Gardens, Crossrail Place Roof Garden, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Battersea Park, Winter Wonderland
West End Plays: Showing in 2020 - Disney's The Lion King, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, Wicked, Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera (click here for more)
Bars and Nightclubs: Jazz Cafe, Ministry of Sound, Revolution, Piccadilly Institute, Tiger Tiger. Netil360 and Golden Bee are both rooftop bars so they are best visited in the summer.
Full Day Activities: River Thames Boat Cruise, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland (From mid-November to early January only), London Dungeons, London Zoo, Big Bus London Tour, Madame Tussauds London
Harry Potter Fans (#RavenclawHouse): Harry Potter Tour of Warner Bros. Studio, Walking Tour For Muggles, Platform 9¾ at King's Cross Station
Thrill Seeking: ArcelorMittal Orbit, Up at The O2, Bungee Jump next to the O2
Taking a walk along the Thames is one of my favourite things to do in London regardless of the season (unless it's raining!). Although the river itself is a sight for sore eyes, there is something very beautiful and calming about walking along the riverside in such a bustling city.
Walking through West End at night after the Christmas lights have been put up is a beautiful experience, something about it just warms the heart and puts you in a festive mood. Carnaby Street in particular tends to have the best decor. (Disclaimer: the 2019 lights are boring as hell but they are usually fabulous, I promise!)
Camden Town is a quirky little area of London that I love to explore. Famous for its live music scene and being the home of the late Amy Winehouse, Camden offers everything from eclectic street markets to wacky tattoo parlours.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
London has two main periods in which it is simply beautiful to visit, July/August and December. If like me you are not a fan of cold weather, then the summer months are best as the probability of warm weather, although never guaranteed, is at its peak. You will get to enjoy all the parks and rooftop venues that have now become so popular.
On the other hand, if you are not a fan of warm weather and you want to avoid all the school kids on summer holidays then December is best because, as mentioned above, all the Christmas decorations will be up and West End becomes a magical place that awakens your inner child, it's definitely a must see.
Having said that, those periods are the busiest and most expensive to travel to London so given that the average London day is cloudy and/or wet, you won't notice much difference if you travel at any other time of year.
WHERE TO STAY
London is EXPENSIVE! No matter where you stay, you will be forking out a pretty penny for not so impressive lodging. Once you accept that you can start looking.
If you plan to break the bank (or not! 🤑) then you should stay in West End (Leicester Square, Soho, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Mayfair) as it is arguably the most central area of London and is closest to the most of the attractions mentioned above.
For mid range hotels that are well connected via transport links to both central London and two of London's major airports (Gatwick and Heathrow), Victoria, London Bridge and Kensington are great places to stay. City of London is not as directly connected but it has great transport links, nice views and well priced accommodation.
If you are travelling on a low budget, most areas outside of those mentioned will have comparably low cost accommodation. The most important thing is to ensure that wherever you are staying is located by an underground station so that you can easily commute to and from your lodgings. You should also try to calculate how much the commutes will cost because you might find that the money you save on accommodation will be spent on TfL (Transport for London) and I promise you that the inconvenience may not be worth it. You've been warned!
Whether you chose to utilise the popular red buses or the iconic London Underground, London is famous for its public transport which provides the most efficient way to travel in the highly populated city. Life was made easier when contactless cards were introduced; you can now tap your card (or phone) on the readers at train stations and on buses and be charged the same daily discounts as Londoners with Oyster cards.
Black cabs are another famous form of transport across London. They are currently being heavily overshadowed by Uber but they still make for an iconic London photo.
Pro tip: If you can, avoid travelling between 7-9am or 5-7pm Monday - Friday as those are the times when commuters travel en masse to and from work so public transport can be very hectic. The roads are usually also heavily congested and you may spend an unnecessary amount of time stuck in traffic.
WHAT TO EAT
London is filled with restaurants that offer cuisine from all over the world but there are some staple English dishes that you should try while you're here.
Fish & Chips - You can't come to England and not try what is arguably the country's most famous dish. The fancier you go, the worse it will taste so stick to places that are cheap as chips. Pun intended.
Full English Breakfast - My personal favourite, this hearty breakfast is the best way to start a long day of tourism. The authentic place to get this is a small, local cafe but most hotels offer a bourgeoisie version of it.
Sunday Roast - You never feel more British than when you are enjoying a good old roast dinner. Nothing beats a home cooked roast but a good pub or carvery will do.
Politically, the UK is currently a mess and with Brexit looming ahead I suggest you come and visit before the UK gets their wish granted and are able to "close their borders" 🙃. Another reason to bring forward your trip is that the value of the GBP has fallen which is great news to those of you who come from a country with a weaker currency.
Although I grew up in London, it has changed a lot in recent years and I am still discovering new things about it so if you know of any good places to eat or fun things to do that have not been mentioned in this post, please comment below, I'm always on the look out. The city is filled with things to do so the one thing you won't be is bored.
For more tips on travelling to London, to ask specific questions or provide more suggestions, join the conversation in our Travel Forum. Don't forget to share, like and subscribe! 😉