I don’t think anyone can truly ever know everything about London.
But having lived here for quite some time now, I have learnt quite a lot.
Including some crucial tips and tricks that can help make a visit to London that much more enjoyable.
From finding free things to do, to saving money, to avoiding common tourist mistakes.
Below is a rundown of my absolute best London travel tips for those visiting this great city for the first time.
Let’s get straight into it …
London is a HUGE city, one you will struggle to see a large portion of in one trip. However, it is inevitable that you will need to take a lot of public transport to get around London.
That being said, a lot of it is very walkable!
The whole of Zone 1 is really best explored on foot, especially if you are not short on time. A lot of London’s main landmarks like the London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, are all a short walk away from each other.
Not only does walking save you transport costs, but it also allows you to see some of London’s best-hidden gems that are often missed if you are spending all your time underground on the tube.
If you want to enjoy walking around the attractions but want to avoid trying to navigate the city for yourself, here are some walking tours that I think include the best stops!
This private walking tour guide will meet you at your hotel and take you around all the most iconic sites in central including the Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and St James’s Park.
To see some of the lesser visited sites and some real hidden gems, this secret walking tour takes you off the common walking tour trails led by a local guide. Wander down small alleys in Covent Garden, through the theatre district and learn some forgotten history of the UK’s capital.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, this walking tour will be ideal for you! The tour takes you around all the iconic spots in London which were featured or inspired by the Harry Potter books and movies. This tour has tons on its itinerary including Southwark Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, the world's smallest police station and Diagon Alley.
London is not a city where you want to be lugging around multiple large suitcases, especially full of things that you won't need.
Check out my London packing guide for a full breakdown of everything you need and don't need but a few things to take note of are...
England doesn’t have the best reputation for its weather so be prepared for rain. Even if you’re not visiting London in Winter, it’s still a good idea. The city only gets an average 200 dry days in the year. Unless you are visiting in the peak of summer, a good raincoat is always something worth bringing!
London does get warm in the summer and we don't have a lot of air conditioning, especially on transport, so light layers you can easily take off are always best.
As I mentioned previously, walking is something you will be doing a lot of on your trip to London so make sure you have a good pair of shoes that you can walk around the city in.
Unless you are heading to other areas in the UK, leave your walking boots and hiking gear at home. We have beautiful parks in London but all are well-paved and are not on the same scale as parks you might find in other parts of the world! Simple trainers will do just fine.
Thanks to technology, getting around London has never been easier!
I sometimes see tourists criticising London for having some unfriendly locals when asking for help with directions; the truth is London is very fast paced and people are very busy.
You might find some helpful people but likely, they will tell you to download some kind of map app to help you get around, as that is what locals do too!
Google Maps is my personal favourite app for getting around London. It allows you to download certain areas so you can actually use the map offline which comes in handy with the lack of service underground!
Citymapper is another app I use often to find my way around London. It shows you all routes to get to your destination in live times with filters for the different types of transport.
Not as good for providing directions but TFL has live train times as well as bus timetables which can be really helpful for getting around London. If you create an account and link your bank account, it also can show your journeys and payments, so you can keep track of your travel expenses during your visit.
Although the public transport in London is very good, you might want to opt to get a taxi back to your accommodation after a long day of exploring. The Uber app is well used in London and will help your driver find your exact location to pick you up and you can see the journey price before you book. The classic black cabs in London can be quite expensive and Uber is a great alternative to them.
London has some great restaurants but eating out for every meal can get tiring and expensive. Deliveroo has tons of the city's restaurants available for take-out and can be delivered directly to your accommodation.
Renting a car in London is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a tourist in London!
You honestly just do not need one! The public transport system is incredible and there are so many ways of getting around London, with driving being the worst method.
The traffic in London is notoriously awful and by driving around the city you will likely find yourself spending the majority of your time stuck in queues and trying to find overpriced parking.
Another factor to consider is the congestion charges which cover most of central London. During charge times, you will need to register and pay £15 a day to drive in these zones or face a pretty hefty fine.
If you are planning on staying a few days in London before exploring some more of the UK by car, I would recommend renting a car as you leave London or in your next location.
Of course, if you are visiting for the first time or only in London for a weekend, you are going to want to see all of its famous attractions but if you have the time, I strongly recommend getting out of the city centre!
London is huge and every area has a different vibe, personality and things to see so I would really recommend trying to venture out into some of the areas beyond Zone 1, if you have the chance. Here are some places I highly recommend:
Richmond is at the end of the District Line, meaning it's very accessible from central London! Home to the largest royal park, Richmond Park, beautiful riverside walks and the amazing Kew Botanical Gardens, Richmond is well worth a day trip.
Located in South London, Brixton is on the Victoria Line so you reach there from Victoria Station in under 30 minutes. Brixton is known for its art, incredible cheap eats and nightlife scene.
Hackney is a vibrant area in the east of London which is easily reached by the London Overground. Home to London’s oldest park, Victoria Park, the awesome Museum of Curiosities, Hackney City Farm and tons of quirky bars, cafes and breweries.
My most important travel tip for tourists visiting London is to always stand on the right when on escalators.
It is every local’s bugbear when visitors don't respect the classic tube station etiquette of walking on the left and standing on the right.
This just allows people in a rush to walk straight down the escalator and everyone else to ride down on the correct side. Don't worry, there are signs everywhere to remind you but if you are standing in a pair or a group blocking the walkway you might be met with some disgruntled Londoners!
However, there isn’t really any rhyme or reason to which side you should be on when walking down the street, but I recommend that you move to the side of the pavement if you stop to check directions or snap a quick photo.
London is just a crazy busy and fast paced city so you are bound to get in a few people's ways, so don't stress too much.
The official peak times are Monday to Friday 6:30 to 9:30 and 16:00 until 19:00 and these are the common times that people commute to and from work and transport is at its busiest.
Not only is it more expensive to travel at these times, but it is also near impossible unless you are used to doing it every day.
I will admit it can be quite amusing watching people run and cram into an already full train carriage when the next one is only two minutes away, but it can get overwhelming quite quickly!
I would recommend that wherever possible, you avoid taking public transport and even taxis during these hours. It is best to nip in somewhere, grab a pint or a coffee and wait for the hustle and bustle to blow over before continuing your journey if you can.
Different areas in London have different personalities and things to do so it is best to do some research into which area you would like to stay in before visiting. I have a whole guide on the best areas in London to stay in, but here are a few that I recommend:
If you are a first-timer in London, Westminster is going to be an ideal spot for you! While it is more of a pricey option, it's within walking distance to tons of major London landmarks and has enough attractions to keep everyone busy, it is especially ideal if you are visiting with kids!
Home to the famous Camden market, Camden is an ideal spot to stay in. Located in Zone 2 it has excellent transport links to the centre while still being more affordable than other options. You can find a range of accommodation options here from backpacker hostels to luxury hotels.
If you are looking for a fun-filled stay and enjoy the nightlife, Shoreditch would be a good pick! It has an assortment of themed bars to keep you occupied in the evenings and heaps of food markets and vintage shops to walk around during the day.
London is a crazy busy city all year around, it is home to nearly nine million residents and is a popular tourist destination for visitors from all over the world.
Being the capital city, many people from the rest of the UK will also visit the city for day trips, holidays and long weekends over bank holidays.
During half-term and other school holidays, you will find a lot of the museums and attractions will be increasingly busy than at other times of the year.
You will also find that during these periods, hotels will be really busy and often hike up their prices so I would try and avoid these as much as possible.
We have a lot of bank holidays scattered around the year and the school holidays usually change year on year but you can find the full list of bank holidays here.
London is a notoriously expensive city, and while I recommend doing a lot of the popular paid activities, there are heaps of free things to do in London!
Most of the museums in London are completely free to enter, even the world-famous ones like The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum and The British Museum. In high season you might need to book your ticket online to ensure you can get in, but they are all free to enter as well as many others around the city.
London is home to some incredible markets, especially food markets! Even the largest markets like Borough Market and Camden Market are free to enter and walk around. If you are visiting on a Sunday I would highly recommend checking out Columbia Road Flower Market too.
London is on a mission to make art as accessible as possible, meaning that a lot of the galleries and exhibitions are completely free to enter! Some galleries I recommend checking out are The Tate Modern and Tea Gallery on Carnaby Street.
If you are coming from overseas and staying in London for more than a couple of days, I would really recommend taking a day trip to some other areas in the UK.
We have an amazing public transport system in the UK and you can reach every city in the UK from London via rail or bus. You could easily base yourself in London and take a couple of day trips to some of the other places in the country.
Stonehenge is one of the most well-known ancient wonders of the world. The stone circle dates back to prehistoric times yet its origins are still unknown but visiting and learning the theories is one of the most popular things to do when visiting the UK.
You can book this day tour from London which includes Stonehenge, Windsor and a beautiful walking tour around Oxford.
The city of Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its Roman Baths and located just a few hours west of London. This beautiful city is unlike any other that you will find in England with its distinctive architectural style. You can get there pretty easily by train but if you want to combine a visit to the city of Bath with a trip to Stonehenge, you can book this day tour from London.
If you are visiting in Summer, getting out of London and heading to the seaside city of Brighton cannot be beaten. Swim in the sea, relax on the beach with some fish and chips and wander around the maze of a city centre. You won't need to book a tour for this one, Brighton is only an hour's train ride away from London Bridge station.
If you are wanting to visit a lot of attractions, the costs can really add up if you are purchasing all of your tickets individually. With the London Pass, you can choose how many days you would like to have it for, and in that time you can visit as many of the 90+ attractions on their list as you like.
The London Pass saves digitally on your phone and you can use their handy guide to help you plan your itinerary. With your pass, you can also use the “Hop on Hop off” bus tour for one day and the Thames River boat, which will help you get around all your attractions.
There are endless activities and tours included with the pass, but here are some that I think are the highlights.
England isn't necessarily world-renowned for its cuisine but there are a few dishes that I really recommend that you try while visiting London!
We take a full English breakfast very seriously in the UK and while the rising trend of brunches and avocado on toast has made the traditional breakfast take a backseat, you will still find a classic full English on nearly every breakfast menu.
It mainly consists of bacon, sausage, fried eggs, mushroom, beans and toast but you will find a few different versions around the City.
If you want to experience an English breakfast cooked the proper way and that won't cost you an arm and a leg, I recommend Regency Cafe in Westminster, E Pellicci in Bethnal Green, and Belushis which you can find scattered around the city.
The Sunday Roast is a British staple in many households and there are endless pubs and restaurants in London that serve it. If you walk around London on a Sunday the streets actually smell amazing!
They traditionally consist of a roasted meat or nut roast, roasted potatoes, vegetables, gravy and a Yorkshire pudding but many places will add their own signature twist or offering.
I am on a mission to find the best Sunday roast in London so I will make a full post soon but here are some that are very highly rated in the city centre, The Laundry in Brixton, Roast in London Bridge and The Gun in Shoreditch.
I wouldn't usually recommend trying fish and chips away from the seaside as that's where it is usually best, but in recent years, London has really stepped up its chippy game!
Poppies is probably London’s most popular fish and chips chain and I was worried it might be an overrated tourist trap before I visited, but honestly, it's amazing, and they have a few locations scattered around the city.
Central London is a safe area for tourists to visit, but like any large city, petty theft, pickpocketing and scams are not uncommon.
A common one that seems to be prevalent at the moment are people stealing phones, so if you are taking a photo of something, make sure you either have a firm grip on your phone or even better, some kind of wrist strap.
There's a lot of street entertainment scattered around the city which can be fun to watch but be especially aware of your valuables if you do stop for a while as be extra careful. If you are distracted by a show, this is the perfect time for someone to pick your pockets or handbag.
I would recommend putting locks on your rucksack and having a shoulder bag rather than a handbag as they are slightly more secure.
Another common scam which you will find all over Europe is people offering flowers or bracelets etc. None of these items will be free and they can get quite aggressive if you take one and don't pay.
This doesn't apply to big company promotions, it is not uncommon for companies like Red Bull and Coca Cola to give out free cans around the city.
As I mentioned previously, London gets a hell of a lot of rainfall and you don't want to be stuck in one of the downpours without a brolly!
You can buy really small fold-out umbrellas nowadays and I would recommend packing sure you have one of these on you at all times.
Obviously, if you do get caught in the rain, you will be able to buy an umbrella pretty easily but they do hike up the prices in the touristy areas as soon as the grey clouds start to appear.
Oyster Cards are cards that can be purchased from train stations that you can preload with money to use on all forms of public transport in London including the buses, tubes, trains and the river bus.
Oyster Cards were once the best method for paying for public transport, but in recent years they really aren't that necessary. You can now use the same scanners that you would have used to touch in with your oyster card, to touch on with your regular bank card or phone using Google or Apple pay.
You will need to double-check before you try to use it that your bank card allows for contactless payments as I know it's not as common outside of Europe! If you are worried about transaction fees for using your card contactless multiple times a day, it is worth noting that you will only get charged once for your whole travel within 24 hours, despite how many journeys you take in that time period.
I personally use Monzo and Revolut for both when I travel and for day to day life as they have contactless payment and the best exchange rates.
If you aren't able to use your bank card or your phone to pay for transport, it is best to get an oyster card rather than paying for individual tickets as it does ultimately work out a lot cheaper.
Thanks to the pandemic, London is now pretty much a cashless city. In fact, you will struggle to find somewhere that will actually take cash!
Public transport is completely cashless which means you will need either a ticket, a contactless credit or debit card, or an Oyster Card to get around the city.
Even smaller shops and markets only really take cards now, even buskers have card machines!
The only occasions you might need some cash are for tipping and the occasional public restroom trip.
If you want to see a lot of London, I would recommend planning your trip carefully so you can use your time wisely and see as much as possible.
If you see the city neighbourhood by neighbourhood you will have a lot more time to take in your surroundings rather than spending a lot of your time going backwards and forwards on public transport.
It will depend on how long you have to spend in London but for instance, I would spend one day exploring Westminster, seeing the royal palaces, the beautiful parks as well as the Houses of Parliament and the other activities in the area.
I would spend another day exploring the Southbank, starting at Waterloo, seeing the London Eye and wandering down the south side of the river taking in the sights along the way. This includes Shakespeare's Globe, The Tate Modern, Borough Market, London Bridge and finishing at Tower Bridge.
You could spend a whole day in the east of the city, there are tons of fun things to do in Shoreditch and the surrounding areas, like Spitalfields Market and Brick Lane.
London is one of the best places in the world to see street art. Both artists and visitors come from all over to witness its beauty and more and more pieces seem to appear every day!
You can book this street art workshop which includes a tour of some of the city’s best street art spots and then try your hand yourself back at their studio.
You will see street art all around the city, but here are some places I recommend.
Waterloo is home to the infamous Graffiti Tunnel, also known as Leake Street Arches, which is London’s longest legal graffiti wall. Thanks to Banksy, this tunnel is famous for its incredible street art! Since it is a legal place for street art, you can often see street artists at work when walking through the tunnel.
One of my favourite areas in London, Brixton is known for its vibrancy, culture and incredible street art. Be sure to check out the memorial to David Bowie and other art pieces nearby.
Croydon is never at the top of the list for tourists to visit in London, but if you are a fan of street art, it really should be. Everything from murals to sculptures to spray paintings, the area is full of it.
Brick Lane is the epicentre for street art in London! The areas and pieces change often so it's impossible to suggest specific pieces to see. I would recommend wandering around Brick Lane and Shoreditch in general, you will come across tonnes!
I know it can be tempting when you visit a new place to try out all of their chains that you might have heard about online, but I do recommend trying to support local and smaller businesses as much as possible!
This isn't me saying that you shouldn't try out a Wetherspoons at least once while you are in London at all, but you will find a lot better quality food if you stay away from the larger chains and opt for an independent or London-based business.
The River Thames runs right through London, with a lot of the city’s main attractions lining the banks on either side.
One of the best ways to see the city, especially lit up at night, is to get out onto the water on a boat. If you want to go fancy, you can book this dinner cruise along The Thames, which makes an amazing date night in London if you are looking to celebrate a special occasion.
The more affordable option would be to take a ride on one of the many water taxis run by Uber. These water taxis run along the river and can actually help you get around the city pretty quickly. While not the fastest or most convenient method of getting around London, it is by far the prettiest!
The London Underground is by far one of the best ways to get around the city! It is pretty easy to navigate once you get the hang of it and can get you from A to B very quickly.
When looking at booking your accommodation, I would recommend trying to stay as near to a tube stop as possible. That way you will find it easy to get to and from your accommodation, even at night.
A few of the underground lines in London run late into the night and while London’s night buses are useful, they are very slow and the tubes are much more efficient.
You can also get into the city from all the airports surrounding London via train so when arriving in and departing London, you will appreciate not having to walk far with your luggage.
One of my favourite things about living in London is that there are always new things to see and new things going on!
Every day there are new pop-up events, exhibitions and art installations to visit, a lot of which are only there for a short amount of time so you should leap at the chance if you can.
A big one currently is the Van Gogh Immersive exhibit, an immersive show bringing Van Gogh's art pieces to life. It's been around since July but no one is sure just how long it will be sticking around, so do get tickets if you get the chance.
It's impossible to say what could be on when you visit so I would recommend checking websites like Time Out, Visit London and Design my Night as they always have regular updates on the new events and pop-ups.
Us Londoners love queuing but do hate wasting time so if you see a lot of locals queuing outside an event, bar, shop or even a bagel shop, it's probably worth it!
My advice would be if you ever see a large queue, join it! Admittedly some places rise to fame through Tiktok or Instagram and are actually not worth the hype, but more often than not, if something is popular, it's for good reason!
A lot of my favourite street food vendors and markets I never would have found if I hadn't once joined a long queue just to be nosey.
My friends and I recently joined a long queue quite randomly and it turned out it was for a new bar opening and once we got in, they had free food and drinks for two hours!
If you are a tourist visiting London, I strongly recommend you always ‘wait for the green man’ at crossings. You will likely see every Londoner walking straight across the road and in front of traffic completely willy-nilly, but if you aren't used to the direction of traffic, it can be tricky!
In the UK we drive on the left-hand side and if you aren't used to that, you likely aren't used to looking the correct way when crossing the roads. Also, cyclists (and buses) literally come out of nowhere and I've seen some nasty collisions with cyclists and pedestrians a lot of times in central London.
There are safe crossings all around the city as well as under paths going underneath the main roads and roundabouts so you are unlikely to need to cross the roads without one.
Hopefully, my top London travel tips will help you plan your perfect trip to this wonderful city!
And ensure you don't make some of the classic tourist mistakes in London that are so easy to make.
Now over to you …
Are there any top travel tips you think I missed?
Or have anything to add to the above?
Drop me a comment below and let me know, I would love to hear your thoughts!
If you are planning a trip to London soon, check out some of my other London guides: