London will always hold a special place in my heart. A city I once called home is a city I now miss. I envy every single one of its 15.3 million visitors that come through the city on a yearly basis.
London tells the tales of many cultures. It’s a place where the rich and the poor, the royals and the commoners have found a way to coexist together in seemingly civil fashion. Its neighbourhoods are a diverse vibrant multicultural mishmash, whose 300 odd languages reverberate through every aspect of London’s culture.
There are numerous reasons to visit London, be it for its historical significance, its famous sights, its amazing food, drink and entertainment options, or its hidden treasures that lie beyond the major sights and tourist attractions.
Everyone should visit London at least once in their lives, if for no other reason than to check out all 50 Reasons that Make London the Worlds Greatest City.
Top Things to Do in London
Start with the musts: Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, galleries, museums, etc, because no matter how much you hate being labeled a “tourist”, you can’t come to London and skip the big stuff.
Check out these Top 10 London Attractions, as determined by the folks from the London Tourism Board. Trust them, they know their stuff.
But the real fun actually starts once you go beyond the tourist hot spots.
First, there are markets, lots of fantastic markets: food markets, fashion markets, flower markets, and farmers markets. Time Out London has a whole section on their website dedicated to the best markets in London. VisitLondon.com has their own list of Top 12 London Markets, that includes my all times favourites the Borough Market, Brick Lane Market, the Camden Market, and Old Spitalfields Market.
If excessive shopping and crowds make you feel claustrophobic, then you might prefer to spend time in these 10 Best London Parks and Gardens instead. Here you can relax, unwind with a book in hand, and take in the beautiful surroundings in an otherwise crowded city of London.
Culture vultures will love London’s selection of world-class museums and art galleries. And the best part about visiting this list of Top 10 Museums in London, compiled by Timeout Magazine, is that entry to most of them is free of charge.
When dusk falls over London, the city opens its doors to entertainment seekers from all over the world. Bars, clubs, concerts, theatre, and other activities keep the city alive until wee hours in the morning.
Clubs like Electric Brixton, Fabric, and Ministry of Sound are known as some of the best in London, often playing host to world-renowned DJs and performers. Some clubs in the city are so famous that they are limited to VIP guests with platinum credit cards only, while others try their hardest to stay under the radar. Want a taste of London’s best late night secrets? Then this list of 14 Excellent Speakeasies in London might be of interest.
Those looking for a classy establishment should check out these Top 10 Classic Cocktail Bars in London, while visitors hoping to party without breaking the bank can pay a visit to these cheap and cheerful London’s Best Cheap Bars.
Where to Stay in London
Accommodation in London can quickly burn through your holiday budget, so picking a good affordable place to stay in London is essential. There is no shortage of hotels in the city, all spread out across London’s many neighbourhoods.
West End and Bloomsbury always top the list of recommended areas for travelers who are looking to be based in close proximity to attractions and entertainment options. Kings Cross, Euston and especially Camden are more popular with backpackers hoping to discover the alternative side of London. Eastern suburbs are becoming ever so popular with the trendy crowd, while those in Southwest London, like Kensington, and Mayfair are often considered great areas for first-time visitors looking for a mix of royal life, shopping, and green spaces.
Frommer’s has a great guide on neighbourhoods in London that gives readers a great overview of the pros and cons of each area.
Travelers on the budget will want to read up on these 7 Best Budget Accommodation Options in London or this Globe and Mail’s list of London’s Accommodation Options that Won’t Break the Bank.
Where to Eat in London
London’s food scene is so vast that pinpointing the best places to eat in the city is a incredibly difficult. There are tons of good restaurants in every neighbourhood, spanning from expensive Michelin star establishments to cheap hole-in-the-wall eateries that you would never discover without a help of a local.
Timeout has compiled an enormous list of 100 Best Restaurants in London, segmenting them by cuisine, by location, and price. The Telegraph narrowed it down to a list of top 10. And BuzzFeed focused specifically on the budget travelers offering them a list of 21 Of The Most Delicious Cheap Eats In London.
In general, if you don’t want to plan your visit to London around breakfast, lunch and dinner, don’t fret about it too much. A simple search for best restaurants in the area on Tripadvisor and UrbanSpoon will reveal dozens of options worthy of your appetite.
How Much Time Do You Need in London
I lived in London for almost a year and I still feel like I barely even scraped the surface of London’s best attractions and experiences.
Some will say that it is possible to see London in just 3 days. Don’t believe them. Maybe that’s because I don’t consider riding a hop-on-hop-off bus as “seeing London”, or maybe it’s just because I know how much you are going to miss and how exhausted you will be if you try to cram your visit into just 3 days. But here is a sample 3-day Suggested London Itinerary from Viator, a 4-day Itinerary, and a 5-day option.
My advice is, plan to spend at least a week in the city, giving yourself enough time to see the major attractions, get lost in the random streets and alleys, shop during less busy times in the week and experience London’s nightlife and entertainment over the weekend. If you want to check out any nearby towns, like Bath, Stonehenge, or Brighton, plan to add a few more days to your itinerary.
And remember that the longer you stay in London, the more you’ll discover and the more you’ll feel like you missed out on. Don’t get down on yourself, there should always be a part of you that wants to go back!
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Have you ever visited London? What tips would you give to first-time visitors heading there for their next trip?
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