London is a huge city with unlimited things to do and it can be overwhelming to chose and decide what to see and where to go if you have limited time.
That’s where this guide comes handy.
I have been in London several times, for long periods and I love it with a passion although I am not sure what is exactly the reason why, or the reasons.
This time I went with a friend and we decided to live the city as first-timers tourist for 9 days but we agreed in avoiding the most touristic places and search for more hidden treasures of the vibrant cosmopolitan city.
And so we did.
In this post you will find, a detailed 8 days London itinerary, exactly like we did it but also lots of useful and practical information and extra tips on other optional itineraries and tours to do.
When my friend and I started planning we decided to take it easy and don’t be too harsh on ourselves.
And although we wanted to see as much as possible, we tried to find a good balance between exploring and resting, considering that when I say resting, it meant to sit at a cafe’ and work at our gigs, being the two of us freelancers, there’s never a dull moment, meaning never a real vacation. But we love it that way.
If you like to rush around and see as much as you can, this guide will be great too, as I have always had an extra couple of things to do each day in case you have spare time to fill in.
We were lucky to find amazing weather as opposed to what one may think of London sky, gray and cloudy.
In the 10 days, I spent in London I only saw rain once, at the end of the day, and most of the time the sky was blue and the sun shining! But we had our rain poncho with us and that time I was happy to have bought it.
It just gets dark very early, so plan accordingly.
I guess I was lucky, and if you read this post on my 9 days itinerary in London till the end and follow my path, you will be lucky too. 🙂
LONDON ITINERARY PRACTICAL TIPS
Before diving into the day by day itinerary, let me give you some practical tips that you should think of before even packing.
- This itinerary is based on my experience but you can switch days around and add or minus any of the places I mention. I will give you extra tips on things that I wanted to do and places that I wanted to visit and suggestions on where to fit them in.
- Markets are on Saturday and Sundays only, so make sure you plan accordingly
- There are so many interesting museums, we managed to do only a few but I will give you a list of the other interesting one that I would have covered if I had more time
- Always bring a raincoat with you, it can be very useful. You can check my complete packing list for London, as soon as I will publish it. 🙂
- Credit cards are accepted everywhere and actually preferred as we found some restaurants where the payment was even only available by card, NO CASH accepted.
- If you stay for 7 days or more it’s much more convenient to get the 7 days Oyster card.
- Use Google Maps to find directions. It will also give you the bus and tube itinerary options.
- At a crossroads when in doubt remember to look both ways. In the worst-case scenario look down and you’ll be reminded. 🙂
9 DAYS LONDON ITINERARY DAY BY DAY
London Itinerary Day 1 – getting the feel of London
Although I have been in London multiple times in the past, I still wanted to get the feel of the city and regaining that familiar sense that you have when you are in your own place, because that‘s what I feel about London no matter how far away I have been. It will always be one of my multiple home-places in the world.
For a start, we booked a tour with a local guide, actually, a guy from Luxembourg that came to London 16 years ago, fell in love with it and decided to stay.
That turned out to be a smart choice.
We had an appointment in Russell Square at 1.30 and we decided to walk our way up from our lovely home in Kennington. It was quite a walk but we enjoyed it both looking around, eyes wide open, marveling at the city views just like a child in a toy shop.
By the time we reached our appointment we’ve got hungry and we accidentally found a delicious vegan place, Wild Food cafe’ in the colorful Neil’s Yard. Pleasant to the palate and the eyes.
We went through the art deco building around Russel Square, in Bloomfield, where many illustrious names of the English literature lived, including Virginia Woolf, who has changed many residences in the area and talks about her affection for London in her books.
The beauty to have a guide, even better if private, is that it’s nice to walk around a place and actually understand what you are seeing.
I would highly recommend one of Yannick tours, his passion and knowledge of London in such details will delight you all through the few hours you spend with him.
You can find Yannick on his website where you can choose among his tours and make an appointment.
After the tour, we rumbled around the most common places such as Covent Garden and Leicester square. They were fundamental elements of my first visits to London about 20 years ago when I was a teenager and only wanted to hang out in the most crowded and touristy area. I just wanted to go back to that place (physical and mental), and see what it has become, what I felt about it after so many years and the memory that it would have brought to my mind.
Besides, I wanted my friend to see it.
It’s funny how after so many years everything feels still so familiar indeed.
We had dinner in a pub in the same area, a lovely place but the food was not remarkable, that’s why I didn’t take note of the name.
After dinner, we called it a night and headed back to our Airbnb place.
London Itinerary Day 2 – The first of Many Museums – Tate Modern
When we planned our trip together, we brainstormed the many places we wanted to visit and we surprisingly agreed on everything, including putting the museums as our priority. We both love art, I am a newbie and she’s, as a journalist, a professional bookworm who knows everything you can possibly talk about. We were just a perfect match. I would have been a student again with a personal tutor. 🙂
The first museum we would have decided for was the Tate Modern Gallery. I have been there already but I was so thrilled to go back. And Tate Modern it was.
We decided to walk from home towards South Bank because our neighborhood was offering beautiful views of a nice mix of Victorian houses and modern brick buildings.
We then reached the Riverwalk, right before Westminster bridge down to the London Eye and the South bank walk.
South bank is another very pleasant area to hang out among local food stalls and craftworks, all year round. Obviously, during Christmas, it’s an even better atmosphere.
The Tate modern doesn’t need a presentation. The beautiful building, which is a dismissed warehouse, offers a huge array or expositions of modern art, including remarkable pieces from famous artists. As in almost all the museums in London, the permanent exposition is free while the temporary ones have an entrance fee.
You can spend the entire day there, as we did, and have lunch in one of the restaurants and bars. We didn’t find them particularly worthy but hey, you are not there for the food.
You can also take a break from your cultural visit and head out to Southbank and grab a bite in the local food vendors. It smelled delicious. And then you can go back to the museum.
Practical tips: We have arrived quite late in the morning, but if you get there by 10 when it opens, you will manage to cover the entire museum in 3 or 4 hours and then go out to lunch and get to see something else. It really is up to you and the way you want to live your vacation.
You could have definitely walked down to Tower Bridge and visit the museum there in the afternoon if you wish.
I like to take it slow and enjoy a dull moment as well, looking around and taking rests, so we called it a day!
It also depends on how many days you have. If you have a 10 days itinerary, and you rush it you are going to get exhausted before the end.
London Itinerary Day 3- Saturday – Broadway Market and Portobello Road
How to get to Broadway Market
Markets are mainly on weekends so we have planned accordingly.
Remember to do so as well.
And Saturday was just the perfect day to stay outdoor. It was sunny and bright and not so cold. We lingered on our breakfast in our favorite place for longer than usual checking on emails and getting some work done, then we headed to the Broadway market by tube.
The tube stop was at Bethnal green or Cambridge Heath which took us to a cool lively neighborhood with trendy cafes and parks, but the highlight was the canal. In fact from the Docklands through the north area of London, you can take nice walks along the canal admiring the old red brick houses and graffiti arts, besides breathing a sophisticated decadent atmosphere, that seems to be so trendy nowadays.
On a sunny day, it is a perfect place to exercising as well. From Cambridge heath road to Broadway market, it’s a nice 10 minutes walk, well half an hour if you take thousands of pictures like I do.
Broadway market is mainly for the foodist, so I would suggest you should go with an empty stomach because you will find a lot of very appealing delicacies that you will want to taste.
You will also find a couple of old bookshops and fancy vintage and modern clothing stores.
Here we had two options after the Broadway market:
- Keep walking along the canal until Shoreditch park and then head southwards in the artistic neighborhood of Shoreditch to check out the famous graffiti and trendy shops,
- Get back on the tube and go to the Portobello market which happens every day but it’s at its best on Saturday only.
We opted for Portobello market and leave Shoreditch for the following day (see below)
This is less of an off the beaten track, and more of a very touristic place, which became even more popular after Notting hill movie with Hug Grant and Julia Roberts, in fact, you can also go visit the bookstore where it was filmed.
Every time I go to London, I love to hang out there, and I find it always fascinating, despite the crowd. The souvenirs shops get another meaning and the flee market with old useless stuff to browse through would get me there the entire day.
If you manage to see beyond the layers of the tourist place, you will feel a sense of culture and tradition in the seller’s faces, the colorful old shop signs and the iconic bow windows above them.
I especially love the architecture of the neighborhood and the old little shops and cafes, besides many of the stalls that sell very interesting goods.
Arriving from Notting hill tube station you can just follow the crowds and you will get to Portobello Road. We just kept walking all the way up t Golborne Road (to give you a reference). Right there it’s a less known neighborhood with interesting shops and restaurants.
We had a delicious lunch at Bluebelles of Portobello which we highly recommend.
Tired of wandering around we decided to head to Tottenham Court Road and find a cafe where to sit and do some writing while resting our legs.
In the evening around 7, we walked all the way to Leicester Square passing through the lively neighborhood of Soho down to Piccadilly circus to get the feeling of the night vibes but we had dinner in one of the local pub close to our Airbnb, in Kennington Lane, where we had a great vegan burger and enjoying the local Saturday night atmosphere. Living like a local.
London Itineraries Day 4 – Sunday Spitalfield Market and Brick lane market + Spitalfield neighborhood and street art
Sunday as well was all about markets. We hopped on a bus and we arrived to Liverpool station from which we walked our way to Spitalfields market first. It’s an interesting area to walk around among victorian buildings and interesting shops and restaurants. Spitalfields market is on your way to Brick Lane so we stopped there first.
It was probably the market with the most interesting and original arts and crafty goods. If you are planning to buy any trendy and unique piece of clothing, prints or jewelry, this is probably the best place among all the markets that I have seen. You will also find inviting food stalls and natural juices.
We tried some delicious hot apple juice, perfect to warm up our freezing body. The market is roofed in an interesting building, so even on a rainy day you can enjoy it.
At a 5 minutes walking distance you will reach Brick lane Sunday Market. Go there hungry, because it’s a food feast! From the time you enter you smell delicious spicey dishes from international cuisine, also extremely appealing to the eyes. You just want to try everything.
The market continues along the road where outdoor vendors sell goods of all sorts, from house decorative objects to freaky clothes, but most of all it’s the triumph of vintage clothing. If you have a special affection for the vintage clothing and queer goods this is definitely your place. Beware of the horde of people that might discourage you at first, but it’s bearable.
Independent street artists singing their melodies are also part of the Sunday entertainment on Brick Lane.
After our window shopping dose, we headed to the artsy Shoreditch district, precisely on Shoreditch street, and right down to Rivington street to admire the famous graffiti that made Basky the popular controversial artist that he is now. Walking around Curtain road, Hackney and the entire neighborhood you appreciate the hip bars, traditional pubs, co-working spaces and ethnic restaurants of all sorts.
Exhausted from walking around all day we decided to stop by The book club, a popular and laid back artsy bar and restaurant that was serving Sunday brunch at the rhythm of loud music. We had a delicious vegetarian meal and spend the rest of the afternoon there chatting with an old friend from London who joined us for the afternoon.
In the evening we wanted to explore other corners of the city and we headed to Victoria station and from there we walked through Elisabeth St. down to Sloan Square.
The neighborhood feels like one of those places that you only see in movies or in fairytales. Fancy impeccable houses looking brand new. Opulent Christmas decorations and bars that look like jewelry stores; we are indeed entering the Belgrave neighborhood which together with the adjacent Chelsea is the richest area in London.
It was darn cold and after walking along King’s road and appreciating the Christmas light and the shops, we called it a night and hopped on a bus to get home.
London Itinerary – Day 5 Highgate Cemetery tour
I have read about Highgate cemetery in a book and I thought it would have been an interesting stop for an off the beaten track London tour.
And it was indeed.
We got out of the tube in Archway and walk up the hill looking around this lovely quiet neighborhood. I thought I could live there indeed.
It was probably the sunny day but I had such a good feeling about the area, even more, when we arrived up the hill and entered the Waterlow park that led us to our destination.
We walk for another 10 minutes through a carpet of yellow, brownish, greenish leaves, fallen from the trees.
It was one of the leitmotifs of my trip.
They made London particularly appealing.
Although I thought a rainy or foggy day would have been more appropriate for a cemetery visit, I enjoyed the warm sun and the sunbeams suddenly enlightening the old precious marble graves as if pointing us the direction of where to look.
We arrived earlier and had the time to walk around the East side of the cemetery, open to the public. (The cost is 5GPB but it’s free if you have booked a tour)
The west side was only accessible by a guided tour that you can purchase online for 12 GBP. The money is worth it and it helps to maintain the cemetery.
Our guide Peter was an exquisite character, enthusiast and knowledgeable. He literally entertained us with his witty English humor while narrating intriguing stories of some of the people that made history in Great Britain and are now buried in the cemetery. I could have listened to him all day. The tour lasted only 70 minutes instead, enough time to walk around the cemetery west wing and appreciating its history.
We then walked around the East part by ourselves enjoying the quiet atmosphere and a friendly strained cat acting as if it was welcoming us into his home.
When we finished our visit we headed towards Hampstead and skipped Kenwood house (for lack of time) which was nearby in the north part of the park, and we took a bus to Hampstead instead. Following the suggestions we found on a random guide, we stopped at the Royal free hospital (Map) and after a delicious lunch we walked up to the Keats home, which was closed for the day, but it was just nice to see it.
We kept walking along Willow road down to Flash walk, a trendy neighboorhood with cute little artsy shops and cafes, beautiful restored victorian buildings, a pleasure to the eyes. I wished one day to live in one of those beautiful elegant homes.
It was about 4 pm when we finished our rounds in the Hampstead area so we decided to take the tube to Oxford circus and explore another part of the city, the most touristic one, but if you visit London for the first time it’s a must, especially if you love shopping.
If you walk down to Regent Street from Oxford Circus towards Piccadilly circus, beside opulence all around you will notice the remarkable victorian buildings where the Liberty shop is, certainly worth a visit, not only for the iconic fabrics and style but the building itself is an exquisite piece of history and a symbol of the Victorian architecture.
Further down the road, you can take one of the lateral streets that head to the famous Carnaby Street, the symbol of the swinging London in the 70s, the place of freedom and rebellion, creativity and vision, where famous singers and artists of all sorts gather to find inspiration. In the 70s – Carnaby Street was pedestrianized and the iconic ‘Carnaby Street welcomes the World’ sign was installed. In the 80s Carnaby street became the headquarters of fashion Icons like Vivien Westwood and Mary Quaint.
In the 70s it became a pedestrian area. It remains an iconic place in London, with the trendiest shops and extravagant clothing stores, cool restaurants and bars. Even more suggestive during Christmas.
Walking down to Regent Street we cut off towards Buckingham Palace, the royal residence. You just need to go there once in a lifetime. If you are fond of traditions and a follower of the Royal Family you should go there on Sundays to attend the change of the guards. But we decided just to pass by in any day, just to say, I have seen Buckingham Palace.
It was around 6 pm by then and pitch dark, we headed to the theater to check out ticket prices and shows time. We wanted to see The Phantom of the Opera, a classic but didn’t want to spend a fortune.
We have read somewhere that in Leicester square we would find vendors that sell cheap tickets, but we realized it’s the same price as the theatre itself. So we went and check it out and it’s definitely true. So don’t fret to buy your ticket just go to the theater and ask or the cheapest. If they are running discounts, they would tell you.
We ended our day at the Waterstone bookstore in Piccadilly circus, the biggest one with a lovely cafeteria.
After exploring the book store and resisting from buying the entire stock, we sat and enjoyed reading and writing in such a cozy atmosphere while sipping our coffee. Best way to end a very busy day.
London Itinerary – Day 6 – Docklands where past meets future
In the book store of the cemetery, I found a little book called London curiosities by John Wittich who talks about special places in London and their historical details, including the London Docklands.
From when you get off the train in Tower Hill underground station towards the Island of Dogs, including the docklands museum, it’s an itinerary that makes you jump back into the past. Note the Cistercian Abbey, the Abbey of St Mary Graces, founded by Edward III in 1345, it became one of the richest abbeys in England.
Walking towards east, you will find the Dickens inn a pub that was converted from an eighteenth-century warehouse by the great-grandson of Charles Dickens.
If you keep walking left and leave the dock and walk along to St Kathrine’s way, you can continue your way through the river Thames path where you can wander along the riverside.
You can admire on the other side of the river, the Design Museum, which I couldn’t visit this time but it’s on my list for my next London trip.
Besides the Museum building, you will see what appears like warehouses lining right in front of the river.
They have actually been converted into housing, just like those on Butler’s Wharf. It’s an area that has been revamped and now became an interesting district to live in.
The riverside walk leads us to Wapping street and into a neighborhood that is brimming with history and legends, where you feel like you are in one of Dickens’s novels. Or I felt like that. Anyways, that’s subject for another post.
Once we arrived in the heart of Wapping, after enjoying the frantic activity of a squirrel in a quiet leafy park, we hopped on a bus towards the Docklands Museum.
The iconic museum located in a beautiful historical building features an interesting representation of what life was like in the docks, the history of trading in England and the life of workers in the docklands, how it all started and developed through the years.
We didn’t stay long because we had other stops during the day, including the sky garden visit at sunset.
We went for a walk by the dock where modern high-rise buildings contrast the nostalgic redbrick warehouses now turned into restaurants, homes and, sometimes, museums.
It was 2.30 pm we were starving but we decided to get the tube and get close to our next stop, to make sure we got there on time.
And Sky Garden it was.
We didn’t find a fancy place where to eat, this time, but we had a quick sandwich and then we headed to our appointment. Because to visit the Sky Garden, although it’s free, you just need to book online.
I hate cues but after only about 15 minutes we were up in the sky on the 35th floor, right in time for the sunset.
I couldn’t bring my tripod but I managed to fix the camera on the protection bars by the balcony and although it was not the perfect condition I managed to get the shots I was hoping for. London by night, the blue hour after sunset sky. Spectacular.
The Sky Garden in itself is not the fancy place I was expecting. Too many people too much noise. I wouldn’t really stay there for drinks or dine. Maybe during the daytime is different, though, but it was too crowded when I was there and there was nothing enjoyable except for the view.
After our breathtaking sunset view, we headed out.
London itinerary – Day 7 Museums overload part 1
London is not short of museums and they are all free. What a blessing! However, we had to cut our ambitious program short and chose only a few of them.
We left the museum visits for the last few days, not for any particular reason.
It just happened but it turned out to be the best choice. After all the walking we were exhausted and in the Museum we could leave our bags and walk around in tranquillity and without our heavy backpacks, which were safely stored.
The National Gallery
Certainly, a must-see if you love paintings.
The permanent collection of the National Gallery includes must-see masterpieces from Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh, and Raffaello among the other. And here you must forgive my rant, but I have a strong complaint to make.
You are not supposed to translate the name of a person, let alone a famous artist and Raffaello must remain Raffaello because that’s his name, and not Raphael. End of the rant.
Apart from that absurd mistake, the Gallery deserves some attention, if you are into art, but a couple of hours will be enough if you want to make room for another visit during the day.
On the way to our next stop, we run into Cecil Court the famous lane with interesting old book stores which is work a stop and a few pictures. If you are into old original books that’s your place. You can also find old maps, which can make a nice original souvenir from London.
The last stop of the day was the British Museum first. It was meant to be a shortstop but we actually managed to browse through almost all the rooms even though quickly. The building is a masterpiece of architecture in itself. The exhibit is a huge collection of objects of archeology from all over the world organized by country, including the Rosetta Stone, plus temporary exhibitions.
London itinerary – Day 8 Museums overload part 2
Our last day was dedicated to the Museum of Natural History and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
We couldn’t choose a better way to end our London itinerary. We saved the best for the last and we didn’t even know it.
They are both located in the posh and fancy Kensington area, also called the museum district, where you can also find delicious restaurants and fancy clothing stores, including the worldly famous Harrods, just a few blocks away.
Museum of Natural History
It wasn’t even on my list, but I am glad I went. Besides the huge skeleton of a whale hanging from the wall, the Museum of Natural History itself is a spectacular Victorian Building to see if you appreciate fine victorian architecture.
Not to mention the brilliant exhibition of the National Geographic wildlife photography winners. I wouldn’t have missed that for the world.
It was a temporary exhibit and cost 14 GBP, but all worth the money for sure.
Besides that, here you will find interesting displays of precious gemstones and rare minerals, fossils, and dinosaurs, galleries of weird and wonderful water-dwelling species and mammals, plus more than 100 images from artists and scientists on how they view the natural world.
Victoria and Albert Museum
If I had to choose one Museum to become a member that would be it.
In London, the majority of the Museums have a free entrance, but then you will have to pay for some temporary exhibitions. If you are a member those are free and so are some of the workshops, or you would have a good discount.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, offers a huge portfolio of interesting modern art and design workshops and exhibitions for the most sophisticated art lovers.
I am not one, but I enjoyed Mary Quaint’s exposition and the photography and graphic collections among others. Tim Walker’s provocative art was also available to visit with a 15 GPB ticket, which I manage to resist, for lack of time most of all. A combination of modern and vintage, art and design, to exhilarate your creative mind.
End of our London Itinerary
The following day, after enjoying our last breakfast in our favorite place we headed back to Gatwick and caught our flight back to Milan to our not so boring routine. Satisfied, but not quite, of our London Itinerary, we would have happily stayed longer, if it was not for my friend’s beloved cats and my… oh well, I could have stayed, which is the reason why I don’t have nor wants string attached. Miss having furry babies to go back to but still prefer to enjoy my freedom to move around.. at least for now.
I hope this itinerary is useful, but I will also do a shorter one soon if you had less time to spend in London. Bear with me. 🙂 In the meantime, if you have any questions ask away in the comments below or via email.
ARRIVING IN LONDON
There are 3 main airports in London, Gatwick, Heathrow, Stanstead all of them very easily connected with the city. We have arrived at Gatwick and with the Gatwick Express, we reached Victoria Station in 30 minutes. It’s a little expensive (18 GBP) but worth the money.
Here below a quick overview of the three airports:
Heathrow Airport transfers to London
Located at about 14 miles from London city center, Heathrow is the most important and biggest hub in Great Britain and most probably the busiest in Europe. It’s 5 terminals connect England with the most important international hubs including the biggest Italian destination.
No matter which terminal you arrive at, you can get from Heathrow airport to the heart of the city in a blick of an eye, either by the Heathrow Express train that gets to Paddington station in about 20 minutes at a cost of about 22 GBP or by the less expensive underground (tube) (5.80 GBP) on the Piccadilly line which will take about 1 hour. More info here.
FUN FACT: Heathrow Terminal 5 won the Skytrax price as the world best airport terminal in 2014
Gatwick transfers to London
Gatwick is the second most important airport in Great Britain, where the majority of low-cost companies have their hubs.
That’s where we arrived. It’s never been so easy to move around.
From Gatwick to London you have plenty of choices as well.
The Gatwick Express takes you to Victoria Station from where it’s easy to get to wherever you need to go. It’s located at the terminal South and it’s the fastest way to get to London from Gatwick. It’s quite expensive, around 18GBP if you take the express line, the regular line is about 16GBP and it takes a little longer.
Keep in mind that this is the line to Brighton, so make sure you ask which direction the train is going before getting on so that you won’t find yourself to Brighton instead. Not that it’s an unpleasant city. Just saying.
You should check on their site to know more about Gatwick express and purchase your ticket. If you buy it online you usually get a discount.
If you are on a budget you can use the National Express bus whose cost varies depending on the time. You can check out prices and purchase your ticket online here
Stanstead transfers to London
This underestimated airport, is actually one of the busiest in Great Britain and used mainly by low-cost companies.
From Stanstead to London you can either use the Stanstead Express train that will take you to Liverpool Street in 45 minutes for 20 GBP or if you are not in a hurry, the Terravision buses will take you to Victoria Station in 120 minutes for 8 GBP. Not bad!
HOW TO MOVE AROUND LONDON
Moving around London is the easiest thing to do once you learn the basics of how its incredible and efficient system of transport works.
And that’s what I am going to explain in a bit. Follow me here.
All the means of transportations in London become an icon of the city and something that Londoners are mostly proud for, be it the most efficient and fasters TUBE, whose colorful map has become the most popular souvenirs theme, the traditional black cabs, a little expensive but sometimes helpful, and, last but not least, the classical red double-decker busses.
But let’s check them out one by one.
LONDON UNDERGROUND SERVICE ( aka the TUBE)
Did you know that London Tube is the oldest underground transportation system in the world? It has become nowadays the most common means of transportation in London, because it’s fast and takes you almost everywhere in the city.
From early morning to about midnight you can easily and safely move around London by Tube. You just need to know the below information:
The London Tube single ticket is normally £4.90, which is A LOT if you think about that. However, you can use the Oyster Card and this is how you use it.
How to use the Oyster card in London
- You purchase the Oyster card for £ 5 which is refundable at the end of your trip if you like, otherwise, it has no expiring date.
- Then you can decide the use you make, depending on how much you plan to use the local transportations and how many days you are staying.
- To use the Oyster Card, with the pay-as-you-go system, you must top it up with some credit at the self-service machines located in every underground station and every time you enter the Tube and scan the Oyster card to get yourself in, the card will be charged £ 2.40.
- If you stay longer than 4 days up to a week, and you are planning to use TUBE and Busses a lot, you should just buy the weekly Travel Card, which has a weekly rate of 36.10 pounds for zone 1,2, which is basically what you need to move around as a tourist.
- The weekly travel card is what we had and I just loved it just for the fact that we didn’t have to worry if we had enough credit for a trip or to have to top it up all the time.
LONDON BUS TRANSPORTATION SERVICE
To be really honest, if you don’t have to rush from one place to another. I love to get the bus because if you manage to take your eyes off your phone, you will be able to see the city. It’s like a panoramic tour, and you can even decide to hop off and on any time you go.
The bus network is massive and efficient, despite traffic, also because busses have their own lanes.
If a few years ago you could pay as you go to the bus driver or a ticket controller, now you can only pay with your oyster card, which you would top up at the machines found in every underground station. Easy.
At every bus stop, you will see the bus itinerary and a timer that tells you how much you will have to wait.
GETTING AROUND LONDON BY NIGHT
After midnight, if you don’t want to break the bank by using the cabs, the London night buses are available to take you home safe and sound. Because it’s the only available means of transportation they are very much frequented and therefore relatively safe.
They run all night long and you can find them by the N sign in front of the bus number.
GETTING AROUND LONDON BY CAB
For a door to door ride, the classic black cabs offer an impeccable and reliable service and of course super safe. The downside is that they are quite expensive and they get stuck in traffic. But in an emergency, you can always count on them. If you are in a rush, you better use the TUBE, though. I missed an important dinner once when I was in London for business, just because I took the cab. I thought it would have been faster and I was wrong.
GETTING AROUND IN LONDON ON UBER
Uber is a cheaper alternative to Cabs, for a door to door service, especially if you ask for the pool ride.
MOVING AROUND ON THE THAMES RIVER
If there is one thing that I regret is not having taken the chance to navigate the River Thames. In all the times I have been to London I have never thought of it as a possibility. This time we have found out that there is a shuttle service, actually multiple services, that would take you from Greenwich to Westminister, with in between stops. You can go on a ferry ride or on a tour, depending on what kind of experience you want to have.
We had originally planned to go from the Docklands to Greenwich to visit the Royal Observatory, the site of the Greenwich meridian line and explore the so famous London Borough. Then we would have returned back to base by the same ferry all the way up to Westminster. The line I was suggested was Clippers.
Well, once we arrived at the docklands we realized our plan for that day was too ambitious and we didn’t make it.
One good excuse to go back to London next year.
Anyway, if you wish to check out other companies and their tours, here below you can find some.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE FASTEST WAY TO GET WHERE YOU WANT FROM WHERE YOU ARE IN LONDON?
I used google map and loved it, although I admit that sometimes I wasn’t given the best or most efficient options, I still found it useful. You can just select the bus option and the app will give you all the available combinations of means to get where you want, including time.
As I said, take it with a grain of salt and plan ahead. Especially if you need to be at a place at a specific time, give it some margin. It’s a busy city, anything can happen. But here it’s never been more appropriate than here to say…Enjoy the ride!
WHERE TO STAY IN LONDON
This time I didn’t check out hotels as I usually do, because I gave priority to the thousands of places that I really wanted to visit. I can tell you though. We stayed in an apartment that we found on Airbnb and it was perfect for us for the location, very close to tube busses stations between Kennington and Vauxhall. The neighborhood was really cute with lovely restaurants and places to hangout. We even found our favorite breakfast place, Vanilla Black coffee and Books where we went back every morning before hitting the road. It’s nice to find familiar faces who know what you are getting, in a new place. I always tend to do it and that routine is one of the things that makes me feel like home everywhere I go.
We found this great apartment (London size, meaning tiny) where we had two separate rooms and shared the bathroom only between us. It was great to have our own privacy and space. The place was very comfortable and clean in a quiet area and we barely saw the hosts, which were nice and made sure we were comfortable.
If you are new to Airbnb and need to register, you can use my coupon and get a nice first-timer discount. I will get one too 🙂
I also use Booking.com very often to find hotels and B&B. You can check in the box below for some special offers
MAP OF LONDON
In this map I have included all the places I am talking about in the post, but also those where I haven’t been yet but they are worth a visit. Each section and color is related to a different
HOW MUCH DOES AN AVERAGE TRIP TO LONDON COST?
I have never been good at budgeting, but knowing how expensive London can get, my friend and I were very cautious this time, especially what comes to food.
I am a foodie indeed, but I don’t like to spend a lot of money on it. I just don’t think it’s worth it.
So we had a good breakfast which costed an average of 6 GBP and consisted of coffee and a croissant. About 10 when we opted for eggs.
And then a good late lunch or dinner would cost around Less than 20 GBP each but we avoided fancy restaurants, bear in mind
OYSTER CARD 34
ONE MUSICAL 30
WATER/COFFEE/ SNACKS another 100 for the week I would say.
Nice Airbnb Apartment 370GBP/ person/9 nights
HOW MANY DAYS I SHOULD STAY IN LONDON?
To be really honest there is not a perfect number of days to stay in London.
In order to know the city very well, a lifetime is not enough.
The best way to approach the city and plan your holiday is starting from the things that you have heard about London that you really want to visit.
If you are a museum person check out all the museums the city can offer, for example.
If you love to explore local markets, search for them. And then plan accordingly.
Most of the time you will have to also deal with the little time you have.
And so start from there and include in your itinerary the things that you really want to visit and then work your way around those.
If you don’t have specific places or things to do in London to check off your list, the best way to approach the city is for me to go by area so that you can save a lot of time from not having to commute. So each day you explore a specific area.
Like for example. One day you can do Tate Modern, South Bank, London Eye, and Westminster, and maybe you can fit also Buckingham Palace, which are all at a relatively easy walking distance. This is the approach we had most of the time, when possible. And it worked really well for us.
I hope this post will help you plan your own trip.
I will come back with shorter itineraries.
BOOK A TOUR
If you prefer to join an organized tour and you wish to book in advance you can choose among many options. There are in fact many tours that combine different destinations, for half days one full day.
They almost always come with a guide which I find useful when you are visiting a historic place and in general to know about the local culture and society.