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London travel guide, tours & things to do

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. Julietta Henderson checks in from fabulous London...

Wrapping visitors in an intoxicating embrace of culture, cuisine, history and art, London has never diminished in its capacity as one of the most iconic ‘rite of passage’ destinations for young travellers.

Many arrive for a few weeks’ holiday, only to be deliciously sucked into the city’s slipstream for years. Seductive, exciting, and always surprising — resistance is useless at any age.

Enjoy this London travel guide.

London travel guide
London travel guide

Five London tours we love

London Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

Enjoy 360-degree views of London’s top sights and listen to captivating commentary as you circle the city on an open-top double decker bus. Purchase a one, two or three-day ticket and use it across three different routes (one with an onboard guide and the others with recorded audio narration). Hop on or off at any of more than 40 stops around town.

Historical Pub Walking Tour of London

Discover some of the UK capital’s oldest public houses on this afternoon pub tour in the City of London. You’ll visit ale houses frequented by the likes of legendary British novelist Charles Dickens.

Historical Westminster Walking Tour (including the Churchill War Rooms)

London’s political precinct of Westminster has many secrets to share. Join a knowledgeable guide on a visit to the fascinating Churchill War Rooms — an underground network of bunkers that served as the government wartime offices in the Second World War. The tour also takes in top sights such as Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.

London travel guide
Visit the Churchill War Rooms on a guided walking tour of Westminster.

London Thames River Dinner Cruise

Enjoy a night of dining, sightseeing and live entertainment as you cruise the River Thames through central London. Order from a seasonal menu of dishes prepared on-board and see some of the city’s most historic sites — including the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge Tour from London

Thousands of years of British history are waiting to be discovered on this full day tour from London to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and the city of Bath. Lunch is included the cost of the tour.

Top cultural experiences in London

As one of the most culturally rich cities in the world, there’s no end to London’s artistic diversity.

Visit the mainstays of the British art world — the National Gallery, Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, Tate Britain, and the Victoria & Albert (all of which are free of charge for the permanent collections). You should also explore contemporary spaces like White Cube.

How to do London on a budget

London travel guide
London travel guide: The National Gallery. Image: Bigstock

There’s also an exciting ‘underground’ arts scene, with an eclectic array of permanent and pop-up performance and art venues in off-the-beaten-track places like hip and happening Hackney and Bermondsey.

If you are planning to check out lots of London attractions during your stay, it’s well worth investing in a London Pass. Enjoy discounted entry and skip-the-line access to a host of attractions (around eighty in total), with flexible 1 to 6-day passes.

Watch our video guide to five amazing things to do in London:

Five amazing things to do in London — The Big Bus tour and travel guide

Welcome to The Big Bus tour and travel guide. If you’re travelling to London and only have limited time to get to know the city, then this Big Five City Guide can help. Here we give you a key culture, history, food, shopping and relaxation highlight that you shouldn’t miss during your visit.

London for history lovers

From the Stone Age to the Romans, Normans and Anglo-Saxons, London has been part of the bedrock of world history.

Take a stroll back in time at the British Museum, which holds such priceless treasures as the Rosetta Stone. Painting an even bigger picture, the Natural History Museum hosts a mind-boggling collection spanning 4.5 billion years.

Must-see historic neighbourhoods in London

London travel guide
London travel guide: See the vast collection of historical artefacts held by the British Museum.

Covent Garden can reveal much about London’s storied past (keep an eye out for the blue plaques that denote buildings of historical importance). Then head for the Tower of London — one of the city’s highest profile landmarks. Aside from ogling the crown jewels and making friends with the ravens (or not), you’ll get the chance to meet everyone’s favourite prison guards — the Beefeaters. Pre-purchase a skip-the-line ticket.

Great places to eat in London

If you had a year to eat your way around the city, you might get a decent overview of the culinary kaleidoscope that is 21st century London.

For delicious and inexpensive places to eat, the aromatic curry houses of Brick Lane and the global melee of Borough Market are a good place to start. The city is also home to nearly 4,000 pubs — most of which serve up cost-effective traditional British fare. Not all of them are great; look for the ones hosting plenty of local workers at lunchtime and you’ll know you’re onto a good thing!

Great places to eat in London

London travel guide
London travel guide: Borough Market. Image: Bigstock

There’s certainly no shortage of opportunities in London to indulge in some posh nosh. Celebrity star power draws diners to the perennial Ivy and the establishments of Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Jamie Oliver. For cocktails, dreams and jaw dropping views, frock up and head to the OXO Tower Bar and Brasserie — but be warned: you’ll pay for the privilege.

For a slightly more affordable taste of the high life, pick up some supplies at the amazing Harrods Food Hall.

Where to shop in London

From budget boho to classic couture, London is the style capital of the world.

If you have a passion for offbeat fashion, you’ll love the Camden Markets or Carnaby Street. For high street shopping heaven, head straight to Oxford and Regent Streets.

Harrods heads the list for top end retail therapy, but spread the love (and the cash) to other places like Harvey Nichols or the luxury-lined Bond Street. And don’t worry, window shoppers are welcome, so go for the experience — even if you have to leave empty-handed!

For antiques, jewellery and knick-knacks, the jumble of stalls at Portobello Road Markets in Notting Hill more than live up to their reputation.

London shopping guide

London travel guide
London travel guide: Portobello Road Markets

Ways to relax in London

Despite the hustle and bustle, there are plenty of relaxing things to do in the UK capital.

Walking is where it’s at in this city, and you’ll see so much on a slow stroll along the Embankment. Stop for a whirl in the 135-metre high London Eye and enjoy fabulous bird’s-eye views over Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament before you visit them in person.

London travel guide
London travel guide: Fly high on the London Eye. Image: Bigstock

You absolutely cannot visit London without experiencing a West End show. With plenty of half price tickets available, you don’t have to break the bank to see shows like the Lion King, Stomp, Mamma Mia, Matilda, Wicked and Les Mis.

London also has a surprising number of green spaces. Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath are probably the most famous, but you should also visit beautiful Richmond Park (home to wild red deer) and Kew Gardens. Both are extraordinary havens of nature, and are located within easy reach of the city.

London travel guide
London travel guide: Enjoy the city’s green spaces, including St James Park.

If you have the energy and want to explore a little further, book a half day tour with a company such as the Merry Peddler and cycle around places like Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace or Royal Deer Park.

For more information, please visit www.visitlondon.com.

Do you have any tips to add to our London travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.

Additional images: Bigstock

About the writer

Julietta Henderson is a Melbourne-based travel and feature writer. Originally planning to visit London for six months, she ended up staying for ten years and now divides her time between her home in Australia and several months of the year in the UK, Italy and France. Julietta has travelled extensively through Europe, North America, Indonesia, New Zealand, Australia and Russia, and believes the keys to a great travel experience are an open heart, an open mind and an open-ended ticket.

 

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