Welcome to part 2 of the London Travel Guide.
If you’re visiting my site for the first time and this is where you’ve landed, I highly recommend checking out Part 1, but if you’re coming in sequence, welcome back!
I think that this is a fun post, as it’s less logistical and more about making the most of your time in London.
I don’t want to do a long, overdrawn intro so I’m just going to jump right in so you get the info that you came here for!
As a reminder, Part 1 covered:
- Transport to London – finding the cheapest flights + the different airports to fly into (bonus: cheapest months to fly into London)
- How to get into central London – per airport
- Areas to stay in if it’s your first time (or millionth)
- Ways of getting around London and the cost of each
A Local’s Guide to London: Part 2
In this guide, we will cover:
- Things to do while there + recommended time to spend there
- Restaurants to try
- Cafes to stop at
- Best shopping spots
Let’s dive in!
London Travel Guide: Things to do
While I want this to be a very local guide, I also realize that most people want to see the highlights as well. So this will be a nice mix between the two.
Big Ben / Westminster Abbey
What would a London Travel Guide be without Big Ben? In 2017, Big Ben went under construction and is currently under scaffolding. While you can hear the chimes, the clock tower itself isn’t visible. Though, construction should be nearing completion by the end of 2020, so hopefully if you plan to visit London in 2021 (COVID permitting), you’ll be able to see Big Ben back to all of its glory.
Recommended time to spend: 20 minutes (?) If you want to a picnic in one of the surrounding green spaces, you can enjoy great people watching and the view, but it is a fairly crowded area – so do so bearing that in mind.
One of my favorite shots of Big Ben is from under the Westminster Bridge. If you’re coming from visiting the London Eye, cross underneath and when you come out, this will be your view. You can’t beat it! Another is the typical phone booth picture that has Ben in the background. You’ll see there is a variety of phone booths to take photos with on the opposite side of the street – just pick between them!
You’ll know Westminster Abbey as the place of most where most of the Royal Weddings take place. You are able to enter into the chapel, but there is a fee associated (listed below). I never went in, due to it always being jam-packed, but they’ve put social distancing guidelines in place, so when/if you’re able to visit, they have the protocol to keep you safe.
Recommended time: 15 minutes (taking pictures), 1 hour+ (if you go inside)
Cost: £18 for Adults, £7 Children (6-17), £18 (Family 1 Adult, 1 Child)
Buy your tickets here
Trafalgar Square / Buckingham Palace / Kensington Palace
Buckingham Palace is another tourist attraction that I didn’t bother to pay money to go into. I’m sure it’s a really cool experience because you’re able to see the dresses of the people got married, etc. but I just never had the urge to go in while living there. You can also see the changing of the guard at certain times during the day and I was never able to catch them! So just keep watch on the time that they’re supposed to and you might be able to see it.
Recommended time spent: 15 minutes (if taking pictures), 1 hour+ (if going inside)
Cost: £13.00 / It also looks like they’re doing virtual tours, see more on their website.
Really, Trafalgar Square is the best for people watching and it also has great views of Big Ben. Once you’ve made your way to the square, you can then walk down The Mall street which is pedestrian-friendly and leads you straight to Buckingham Palace. It’s beautiful during the spring/summer/autumn when the trees are in bloom.
Kensington Palace is normally home to William & Kate, but is often a tourist hot spot. There is a memorial garden for Princess Diana and you can enter the palace for a fee.
Recommended time: 30 minutes (photos & walking the grounds) 1 hour+ (if going inside)
- Members: Free
- Adult: £17.00
- Child: £8.50
Buy tickets here.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Admittedly, I’ve never been inside St. Paul’s Cathedral, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it. I have only taken pictures around it or from the Millennium Bridge, which starts on in front of Tate Modern.
Recommended time: 20 minutes (photos only) 1 hour+ (if going inside)
Costs: Adult £17.00, Child £7.20. Buy tickets here.
Covent Garden is one of my favorite spots in London and while it might be a little touristy, I can’t recommend it enough. They have food, shops, and more. It’s near the theater district, and is not far from Trafalgar Square. The best time to go, according to me, is Christmas! They go all out for decorations (in London in general) and Covent Garden is no exception. Highly, highly recommend.
Recommended time: 1 hour +
Cost: FREE (unless you shop!)
Tate Modern has free entry which is why it’s always been one of my favorite stops. It’s along the Southbank, across from St. Paul’s Cathedral, and I go here every time I’m in town. It has the coolest art exhibits and used to have a cafe at the top with the view you see in the image below. Now, I think it’s a restaurant, but still, worth it for the shot of Thames + St. Paul’s Cathedral!
Recommended time spent: 1 hour+ (you’re going to want to see all that it has to offer!)
Cost: FREE (Unless you buy something from the store)
This London Travel Guide wouldn’t be complete without Borough Market on the list. Oh, how I love you…It’s one of my all-time favorites. I can’t tell you how many times I visited this market when I lived there and I make it a point to go back every time I visit. If you’re visiting London with friends, family, or a significant other and you can’t come to a consensus on what to eat…Borough Market is the way to go. It offers a variety of vendors and has some of the best food in London.
Recommended time spent: 1 hour+ – trust me, you’ll want to stick around.
Tower Bridge / Tower of London
As you make your way down the Southbank, you’ll finally come to Tower Bridge, which is well worth the wait/walk. It’s beautiful to see the history of it in real life. You can walk across the bridge & you can also go to the top of it and walk on the see through floor. I’ve never done that before, but I’ve had friends who said it was quite cool.
Once you make your way across the bridge, you’ll come to the side of Tower of London, which is another palace that you can pay to enter. I admittedly, again, have never went inside, but I believe it’s where Queen Elizabeth’s jewels are and that’s really cool if you want to see that.
Recommended time spent: 30 minutes (if just walking around/across) 1 hour+ (if going inside Tower of London)
Cost: Adult £27.50, Child £12.50. Buy tickets here.
Camden town is so sick. It’s one of my favorite parts of London just because it’s so weird, eclectic and full of life. It has so many different hidden gems and spots, so I’m going to recommend a few of them to you below.
- Camden Town Market
- Stables Market
- Honest Burgers
- Chin Chin Labs
- The Lock Tavern Camden
Recommended Time Spent: 1 hour+ (walk around & enjoy!)
Hyde Park / St. James’s Park
If you get a pretty day while you’re visiting London, I recommended buying some things for a picnic and heading to a local park! You’ll notice that most of the locals do this as well, since nice weather in London is a rarity, so you’ll fit right in. Pop a blanket down and spend the day soaking up the sun!
Hyde Park is also where Kensington Palace is – so you can make a full day out of it.
St. James Park is next to Buckingham Palace, so you can walk through it to get there as well.
Recommended time spent: As long as you want!
Similar to the above, Primrose Hill is nestled over in Primrose Hill behind Camden Town, and is best spent on a nice clear day. You also have great views of London from the hill, so if you’re in need of some greenery, add this spot to your list!
Recommended time spent: as long as you want!
The British Museum / Victoria & Albert Museum / Natural History Museum
One of the absolute best parts of London is that all of their museums are free of charge. Isn’t that wild? Especially coming from the US, where everything has a fee, it’s nice to spend a day in the museums there and pay nothing (but donations are encouraged!) I’ve been to each of the ones below and it’s difficult to pick a favorite. They each have something special about them, so I highly recommend visiting as many as you can on your trip, you won’t regret it!
British Museum: Free, but donation encouraged
V&A: Free, but donation encouraged
Natural History: Free, but donation encouraged
Recommended time spent: Make it a day! Go to each of them.
**Note: Due to COVID-19, it is mandatory to select a time slot in which you will arrive, for each museum, so that they are better able to keep a handle on the crowds/social distancing. Please visit the websites above to book your timeslot.
I’ve added this one just for fun because it’s one of my favorite things about London. I stumbled upon a few of them one day while meeting a friend for brunch and I was immediately obsessed…I highly recommend just looking on Google Maps for the different mews, because there’s so many, and having a wander around. One of my favorites is Warren Mews, which is where the photos below were taken.
London Travel Guide: Restaurants / Cafes
Best Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch & Afternoon Tea spots in London
The Breakfast Club – ££ – London Bridge
The Wolseley – £££ – St. James
The Table Cafe – ££ – Southwark St.
Little Brother Marcus – ££ – Balham
Granger & Co. – ££ – Pancras Square
Duck & Waffle -£££ – Bishopsgate (Heron Tower)
Lantana Shoreditch – ££ – Oliver’s Yard
Butchies – £ – Shoreditch
Grounded – ££ – Whitechapel Rd.
54 more brunch spots via TimeOut
Borough Market – Price ranges – Southwark St.
Fish in a Tie – £ – Battersea
Bun House – £ – West End
Find more affordable cheap eats here.
The Savoy – ££££ – Strand, London
The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel – £££ – Mayfair
Sketch – The Gallery – ££££ – Mayfair
Cafes / Coffee Shops
Kaffeine – ££ – Titchfield St.
Ozone Coffee Roasters – ££ – Old Street
Shoreditch Grind – ££ – Old Street
Fuckoffee – £ – Bermondsey
Grind & Co. – Shoreditch
See more here.
Dinner & Pubs
Bao – ££ – Soho (Bun with 6 options to choose from)
Artusi – ££ – Bellenden Rd. (Artisian produce – Italian dining experience)
La Bodegra Negra – ££ – Soho (Mexican Food)
Dishoom – ££ – Shoreditch (Indian Food)
Nopi – ££ – Warwick (Israeli/Italian)
Street Food Markets – Borough, Maltby, Broadway, Netil, Dinerama – Prices Range
The Spaniards Inn Pub – £ – Hampstead
Lamb & Flag – £ – Covent Garden
The Mayflower Pub – £ – Rotherhithe – Oldest pub on the Thames
The Harp – £ – Charing Cross
The Carpenters Arms – £ – Cheshire Street
Southampton Arms – £ – Kentish Town
The Scarsdale – £ – Kensington
Cat & Mutton – £ – Hackney
London Travel Guide: Best Shopping Spots
See more here.
I hope that this London Travel guide has been helpful and that you get the most out of your trip to London. This obviously isn’t extensive as it could be, since London has so much to offer, but it will help you get started.
Next up, I’m working on:
- Edinburgh Travel Guide
- Dublin Travel Guide
- Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip Guide
- and more…so stay tuned!