I’ve spent the last 9 years writing about London. From big attractions to secret spots, I’ve endeavored to share as much of the city as possible with you. And because I’ve written over 400 blog posts about London, I thought it would be helpful to put them all in one place. As such, today I bring you A Lady in London’s ultimate London travel guide.
London Travel Guide
This guide covers all aspects of the city, from sightseeing to restaurants, neighborhoods to afternoon teas. It offers advice for what to do, where to stay, and how to make the most of your time in London. It also contains useful tips on the best day trips from London if you’re in the city long enough to want to explore further afield. I hope it helps you plan your trip to London!
When to Visit London
Best Time to Visit London
There’s no right or wrong time to visit London, but there are a few things to consider when choosing your dates. This being Britain, weather and daylight hours are usually the biggest factors. The best time to visit London is generally in the warmer months and over the summer, but Christmas is also a great season for visiting. If you’re only here on a long layover, here’s what to do, and if you’re here on a rainy day, here’s how to spend it.
What to Pack for London
Once you’ve decided when to come, you have to pack for London. Depending on when you visit, that will mean different things. I’ve written packing lists for summer, autumn, winter, and spring that can help you with your seasonal packing, and a general list of things to bring all year.
London Events and Festivals
If you want to plan your trip around a specific event or festival, you have a lot of choices. There are 51 great events to experience in London during the year, and I’ve included some of the highlights below.
The big New Year’s Eve fireworks kick off the calendar, followed by Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year.
In spring there’s the London Coffee Festival, the renowned Chelsea Flower Show, the Chelsea in Bloom floral art festival, and Open Garden Squares weekend, when many of the city’s most secluded gardens open to the public.
The summer season gets underway around this time, with highlights like the Wimbledon Tennis Championships and the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. Then there are the Proms at Royal Albert Hall and the Notting Hill Carnival, which brings us into September.
Autumn sees great events like Open House London, when many of the city’s architectural gems are accessible to the public. Then come Bonfire Night, Poppy Day, the Lord Mayor’s Show, and the Magical Lantern Festival in November, and the annual Christmas lights to round out the year.
If you’re looking for a set sightseeing itinerary for London, I’ve written 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, 4-day, 5-day, 6-day, and 1-week itineraries that can help.
The main attractions in London are well known. Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and the London Eye are iconic landmarks. Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral dominate the city’s historic church scene, and Tower Bridge is the prime feat of Victorian engineering. Tate Modern, the British Museum, and the V&A are some of the most visited museums in London, which is to say nothing of the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery.
Further afield, Hampton Court Palace and The Royal Observatory, Greenwich are worth a visit. And while there’s not a single location for it, no trip to London would be complete without taking in the city’s famous theater scene.
Under-the-Radar London Attractions
If you’ve already walked through Leicester Square and undergone sensory overload in Piccadilly Circus, there are a lot of lesser known places to explore in London. Apsley House and Wellington Arch hide in plain sight on Hyde Park Corner, the Royal Mews is tucked away behind Buckingham Palace, and there are plenty of hidden museums and secret galleries for every niche interest.
Away from the bustle of the city center, Eltham Palace is the prettiest place you’ve never heard of, and Strawberry Hill House is straight out of a fairytale.
But what I like best are the city’s accidental attractions, places that aren’t intended to be destinations in their own right but become so by virtue of their excellence or quirkiness. Like the 9 loos you have to visit, or the mysterious Eel Pie Island.
London Parks and Gardens
In addition to the sights, I’d be remiss if I left the parks and gardens out of my London travel guide. My favorite is the secret Pergola Garden in Hampstead, but there are lots more to discover.
Hyde Park is the obvious place to start, but there are 11 parks in London that are worth a place on any traveler’s bucket list. And that’s to say nothing of the summer gardens and secret gardens dotted throughout the city.
If you bring your walking shoes (and you should), there are a lot of places to explore on foot in London. From the 5 best walks to a leisurely stroll along the Thames, there’s no shortage of ways to see London through its streets.
You can have a perfect Saturday walking around South Kensington and Notting Hill, a perfect Sunday in east London, and a great day off the beaten path in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Or you can stick to the parks and gardens, which contain no shortage of things to enjoy.
If you want self-guided walks, head over to my posts about Notting Hill, Hampstead, Kensington, South Kensington, and literary London.
If you want to get up high, London has a lot of good vista points. The 9 best views of London offer a range of perspectives on the city, and river cruises on the Thames are a great way to see London’s attractions from a different angle.
Best Places to Photograph London
If photography is your thing, London will delight. I should know, and my London travel guide will help you find the places I’ve photographed. You can start with the 9 most Instagrammed places in London, then work your way down to the smaller sights that locals love. These include the beloved mews streets, pretty houses, and abandoned tube stations.
If you want to take the best photos of London, you can also take a look at my 7 photography tips for the city.
Best Places to Eat and Drink in London
Gone are the days of bad British food. Today London is one of the world’s leading culinary centers, with creative new restaurants opening all the time. If you’re looking for a good breakfast, these 7 restaurants are worth a trip. If you’re on the sightseeing trail, there are lots of great places to eat near London’s top attractions, and some lovely museum cafes as well. I’ve reviewed a lot of London restaurants over the years, so you can read about many of the top places in the city in my previous posts. If you’re looking for my favorites, they’re here.
London Afternoon Teas
Afternoon tea in London is a must, and there’s no shortage of places to have it. Sketch tops my list of the best afternoon teas in London, but there are a lot of others worth trying, too. I’ve written about 3 places you must try, as well as lots of reviews of the city’s favorite afternoon teas.
London Coffee Shops and Tearooms
If all you’re after is a quick coffee or tea, my London travel guide still has something for you. There are 16 coffee shops I can’t live without, and I love having a cup of tea at Candella Tea Room on Kensington Church Street. I’ve also written about pretty cafes that will get your inner photographer excited.
Oh, and if you’re not British, you’ll want to brush up on tea etiquette with my quick expat’s guide to British tea culture. You’ll thank me!
No London travel guide would be complete without the mention of pubs. They’re not only part of the fabric of British society, but also great places to cozy up by a fire in the cooler months (and some years they’re all cooler months).
My favorite traditional pub in London is the Holly Bush in Hampstead. It’s everything a pub should be, from the warren of wooden rooms to the warm winter fireplaces. But if it’s an amazing meal I’m after, there’s no better place than the Harwood Arms in Fulham.
When the weather heats up, there are 12 riverside pubs and 8 pubs with beer gardens I enjoy, and when I’m feeling adventurous there are 8 international pubs that allow me to travel the world without leaving the city.
And speaking of watering holes, London’s bar scene is always lively. Given I’m a travel blogger, I love the city’s travel-themed bars. But when I’m in a more local mood, the Connaught Bar in Mayfair is my go-to and I never turn down a trip to the city’s best champagne bars.
Out in east London there are lots of trendy options. I love the rooftop bar at the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch, and the cocktails go down a treat at Happiness Forgets in Hoxton Square.
Best Places to Shop in London
London’s markets are some of the best places to visit in the city, and they come first on the shopping list in my London travel guide. From fresh food to quirky antiques, there’s a market for pretty much every interest here.
My favorite London market is the Columbia Road Flower Market, but there are 14 markets worth visiting in the city, from the iconic Borough Market to the hip Maltby Street Market and Chatsworth Road Market. There are also 7 under-the-radar markets that are fun to discover.
London Shopping Streets
I’m not a big shopper, but when I need something I usually head to one of two places: the King’s Road in Chelsea or Marylebone High Street. Both have a good mix of shops and boutiques, and fewer crowds than Oxford Street and Regent Street. I also like the fun pedestrianized area on Carnaby Street in Soho.
Places for London Souvenirs
When it comes to souvenirs, London has a range of places to browse. General souvenirs can be found on every corner in the city center, but for more unique offerings I always send people to two places: Fortnum & Mason and the Buckingham Palace Shop.
Fortnums’ edible goodies make great (if disappearing) mementos, not to mention perfect gifts for friends and family back home. The Buckingham Palace Shop has a range of royal souvenirs, the best of which are the plush toy versions of the Queen’s corgis (amazing!).
If you’re looking for books (or just love them), London’s bookstores are worth a browse. From the top places for books in London to the 7 specialty bookstores that you should visit, the city’s literary corners are worth exploring. If there’s one place you can’t miss, it’s Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street.
Where to Stay in London
There’s no right or wrong place to stay in London. The city center is huge and the attractions spread out across it. But if you’re looking to match your location to your personality, you can dig a bit deeper to find the perfect neighborhood. Here’s a helpful guide to choosing the best area to stay in London for your style.
Whether you want to stay in upscale South Kensington or literary Bloomsbury, newly revived King’s Cross or popular Earls Court, there’s somewhere for every taste.
To get a better feel for London’s neighborhoods, take a look at my interactive London map.
Once you’ve chosen a location, you’ll have to choose accommodation. London has no shortage of great hotels for every budget, so the hardest part is picking which one is right for you. I’ve written about a lot of London hotels (more about them on the aforementioned map), but my best advice is to book early if you’re coming during the peak summer months.
Trips from London
Day Trips from London
If you’re visiting for more than a few days, you might want to take a day trip from London. There are 15 day trips I highly recommend and 17 more I love, but if I had to choose a few favorites, they would have to be Brighton, Cambridge, and Oxford.
I’ve also written about the best day trips to take in the summer, autumn, winter, and spring if you want seasonal tips.
Weekend Trips from London
If you have even more time, it’s worth getting away for a bit longer or traveling a bit farther. There are 16 weekend trips I adore, but if you can only take one I recommend the Cotswolds or Kent.
So there you have A Lady in London’s ultimate London travel guide. If you want more inspiration, these films will get you excited. Happy travels!
What would you include in a London guide? Any top tips for visitors?