London is the cultural, political and economic heart of Britain, famous for world-class museums, galleries, royal palaces, shopping destinations, West End theatre shows and award-winning restaurants. Whether you want to stay in a 5-star luxury hotel and sip Champagne on the London Eye, or find a cheap hostel and stroll in one of London's beautiful Royal Parks, you'll find something to suit your budget and interests.
British pounds, £1 = 100 pence
London Evening Standard
Typical shopping hours are Monday-Saturday 9.00-17.30. Many department stores stay open till 18.00, some till 19.00 or 20.00 on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Larger shops are often open 10.00-18.00 on Sundays.
City Information Centre
St. Paul's Churchyard,
+44 20 7332 1456
London is a world-class city and the heart of British politics, culture and commerce. Its history stretches back thousands of years, and remnants of this fascinating past can still be found across the capital – from the Tower of London, a gruesome site of Medieval torture, to the majestic Buckingham Palace.
A captivating mix of old and new, London is also renowned for its creativity, innovation and originality in art, theatre, music, design and cuisine. It is home to countless art galleries and museums, including the Tate Modern, National Gallery and British Museum, which possesses some of the world's finest treasures. And best of all, entry to most of these museums and galleries is free!
To catch all the 'big-hitters' in one go, you can't beat a walk along the River Thames. Strolling from Tower Bridge to the Houses of Parliament you'll pass the Tower of London, Shakespeare's Globe, Tate Modern, the Southbank Centre, the National Theatre, the London Eye, the SEA LIFE London Aquarium and London Dungeon. In addition to these world famous attractions, there are many more to discover during your stay.
The West End is the place to go to see London's top theatre shows and musicals. Alongside classics including Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera and The Woman in Black, you will find hit contemporary shows, such as Billy Elliot, The Lion King and Thriller – Live. Don't forget to explore the many off-West End venues too, such as the National Theatre, The Old Vic and (during the summer months) Regent's Park Open Air Theatre.
In the West End you will also find some of London's top shopping destinations, from Oxford Street to Seven Dials. Different neighbourhoods are known for other unique opportunities for shopping: Notting Hill is renowned for its antiques and Portobello Market, Greenwich has an excellent arts and crafts markets, while Westfield London City and Westfield Stratford are the city's most famous malls.
If you would rather save money than spend it, the eight Royal Parks are well worth a visit – and a great spot for a picnic. Visit Greenwich Park to drop in on the Royal Observatory, walk through Kensington Gardens to see Kensington Palace, take a paddle on the Hyde Park boating lake, see Buckingham Palace from scenic St James's Park, spot deer at Richmond Park and Bushy Park, and meet the animals at London Zoo, which lies within Regent's Park.
Along the way indulge your taste buds with delicious food at one of London's many restaurants, gastropubs and pop-up eateries. You can eat food prepared by a celebrity chef, discover modern British cuisine, or eat food from anywhere in the world – be it Indian, Chinese, Persian, Greek, Italian or Lebanese. Top off your perfect day with a fancy cocktail, excellent wine or locally brewed beer at a top London pub or bar – and maybe a boogie at one of the capital's buzzing nightspots and clubs.
London has a full calendar of events, covering many different interests. This guide highlights the must-see events that take place in London throughout the year.
Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
British Summer Time Music Festival
RHS Chelsea Flower Show
Trooping the Colour
Notting Hill Carnival
Totally Thames Festival
London is full of things to see and do; from famous attractions such as the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the Tower of London and the Tate Modern; to great shopping opportunities; to wide open urban green spaces and much, much more.
Read on for inspiration and handy tips on the unmissable places to visit while you're in London. Many attractions on this list are free to enter; another great reason to fall in love with London.
The British Museum
The National Gallery
Madame Tussauds London
Tower of London
Natural History Museum
St Paul's Cathedral
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
SEA LIFE London Aquarium
Hampton Court Palace
National Portrait Gallery
Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter
Museum of London
WWT London Wetland Centre
The Sherlock Holmes Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum
The London Dungeon
Houses of Parliament
The London Eye
Thanks to London's rich mix of cultures, the capital's restaurants serve up delicious food from all corners of the globe. Whatever cuisine you fancy, you're sure to find it in London – be it Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Caribbean, Polish, French, Italian, Afghan, Ethiopian, American, Spanish, South African, Persian… the list goes on.
There's also an exciting buzz on the British culinary scene in London, with innovative chefs rethinking traditional British classics and creating new favourites – all with an emphasis on fresh, local produce.
Plus with Michelin-starred restaurants, family-friendly eateries, cosy gastropubs, fast food joints and quirky cafes dotted all over the city, there's something for every budget too.
OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie
Masala Zone - Bayswater
Mestizo Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay
Jamie Oliver's Fifteen
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Gaucho - Piccadilly
Duke of Cambridge
Delicate finger sandwiches, tempting cakes, pots of steaming tea, scones with lashings of jam and cream. With so many delicious ingredients, it's no wonder traditional afternoon tea remains as popular in London as ever. There are many top hotels, restaurants and cafes serving afternoon tea in London today, with many varieties available – from classic afternoon tea to low-calorie alternatives and even gentleman's afternoon teas.
Afternoon tea at The Ritz
Afternoon Tea at Fortnum & Mason
Afternoon tea at Brown's Hotel
Afternoon Tea at Hotel Café Royal
Afternoon Tea at The Emmeline's Lounge
Afternoon tea at The Dorchester
City Cruises Afternoon Tea
Royal Albert Hall Afternoon Tea
Afternoon Tea at Royal Park Hotel
Afternoon Tea at The Goring
London's nightlife is one of the most vibrant and versatile in the world, with everything from mega clubs to live music, trendy bars to traditional pubs.
Central London hotspots like Soho and Leicester Square attract visitors most nights of the week, but if it's cool and trendy you're after try out-of-town neighbourhoods too, like Hoxton and Shoreditch in East London or Brixton and Clapham in South London.
Here's just a taster of what London has to offer for a fantastic night out, including quirky pubs and bars, world-renowned clubs, stunning night-time views and much, much more.
Ministry of Sound
The Argyll Arms
Gordon’s Wine Bar
The Hippodrome Casino
The Atlas Pub
The Prince Alfred
Shopping in London is one of the most popular pastimes for visitors and locals alike. And little wonder given the huge range of shopping destinations across the capital, from high-end luxury boutiques and huge department stores to lively markets and vintage pop-ups.
The key is to find the right shopping area for you, be it the bright lights and big brands of the West End, the quirky crafts and outrageous fashions of Camden or the sharp suits of Savile Row. Here are just a few of London's top shopping destinations well worth a visit...
Covent Garden and Seven Dials
Westfield Stratford City
Camden Lock Market
Passport / Visa
Citizens of the European Union member-states, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland, and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) only require a valid passport to enter the UK. Residents of a further 10 countries do not require entry visas for stays under 6 months: the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Nationals of some further countries do not require a visa, but need to hold an entry certificate. Use the UK Government website to check for specific requirements: www.gov.uk/check-uk-visa.
Best Time to Visit
London is graced by a mild climate and, as such, can be visited at any time of the year. However, a few things need to be considered first. Most of the royal palaces and residences, like the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, only open to the public during the summer months, and so do many of the city's most important festivals, like the British Summer Time Music Festival. Late June to mid July is also the period when you can find the best sales in town.
Spring is also a good season for a visit, since the weather is generally good and it's easier and cheaper to find accommodation (high season in London means a lot of tourists). If you don't mind the miserable weather, low season (January and February) can be a good option too, with less tourists and lower prices.
Airport - London Heathrow
London Heathrow Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world, with five terminals. There are various ways to travel from Heathrow Airport to your destination. Hotel Hoppa and Hotel By Bus are shared ride services, transporting travellers to (and from) local and Central London hotels by coach. The quickest journey is by train on the Heathrow ExpressB, which runs every 15 minutes (from approximately 5am to 11.45pm) and gets you into Central London in 15 minutes for £20. You can also travel into Central London via Heathrow Connect (£9.50), the Piccadilly line on London Underground, a coach to Victoria Coach Station (£6), bus (£1.40 Oyster/£2.40 cash) or taxi (£50 to £80 in a metred black cab).
Address: Heathrow Airport, Hounslow, Middlesex
Phone: +44 844 335 1801
Airport - London Gatwick
London Gatwick Airport is the second largest airport in the UK (Heathrow Airport is the largest), with two terminals: North and South. The fastest route from the airport into Central London is via the Gatwick Express, with trains departing every 15 minutes. The non-stop journey to Victoria Station takes 30 minutes and costs £19.90. Alternative travel options include going by First Capital Connect train to London Bridge, City Thameslink, Blackfriars, Farringdon or St Pancras International (£10 to St Pancras); Southern train services (£19.90 to Victoria Station), coach (£8), easyBus (£2 – online price) or taxi.
Address: Gatwick Airport, West Sussex
Phone: +44 844 892 0322
Airport - London Stansted
London Stansted Airport is the third busiest airport in the UK, and where many low-cost airlines serving Europe and the Mediterranean operate from. On the Stansted Express you can reach Liverpool Street station in 47 minutes. Trains run every 15 minutes and the journey costs £23.40. You can also travel between Stansted Airport and Central London by coach with easyBus (£2 – online price), National Express (from £5) or Terravision (from £6). Alternatively book a minicab with 24x7 Stansted – note: black cabs do no operate from Stansted (though you can take one to the airport).
Address: Stansted Airport, Essex CM24 1RW
Phone: +44 844 335 1803
Airport - London Luton
London Luton Airport is located just 56km north-west of Central London, and is a popular base for low-cost airlines. A regular shuttle bus transports passengers from the airport to the nearest station, Luton Airport Parkway, which takes about 10 minutes. From the station you can catch an East Midlands Trains or First Capital Connect service to Central London in between 21 and 25 minutes (£13.50). Other options include the easyBusB express bus service (from £2 – online price), the Green Line 757 coach service to Victoria Coach Station (£17) and Terravision coaches to Victoria Coach Station (£15), each service stopping at different destinations en route. A metred taxi ride to or from Central London costs around £80.
Address: London Luton Airport, Luton, Bedfordshire
Phone: +44 1582 405100
Airport - London City
London City Airport is a single runway airport located 9.5km east of Central London, and serving mainly short-haul and business flights. The airport is on the Docklands Light Railway, which connects to London's Tube network at Canning Town, Stratford and Bank and uses the same price structure. Buses serve the airport too, with the numbers 473 and 474 providing a connection to other East London destinations. You can also pick up a taxi from the cab rank outside the airport.
Address: London City Airport, Hartmann Road, London
Phone: +44 20 7646 0088
Public Transport - Bus
London's bus network stretches right across the capital, and provides a frequent and accessible service. If you're using an Oyster card, a single trip costs £1.40 – you simply 'tap in' when you get on the bus – and there is a daily cap of £4.40 if you're using only bus and tram services. A single bus fare is £2.40 if you're paying with cash. Seven-day, one-month and annual bus passes are also available. To navigate your way around the network, pick up a Central London Bus Guide from travel information centres at larger Tube stations or use Transport for London's online Journey Planner. A reduced service of night buses operates throughout the night, with most routes passing through Trafalgar Square. All children under 16 travel for free (with a photo card, though 5-15 year olds need to show a proof-of-age photo card. Freedom Passes allow disabled and older passengers to travel for free.
Phone: +44 343 222 1234
Public Transport - Tube
There are 12 Underground or 'Tube' lines serving Greater London, which connect at various points to the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and local rail network. The Tube usually operates from 5am to midnight from Monday to Saturday, with a reduced service on Sunday. Plan your route by picking up a free Tube map from any Underground station, or using Transport for London's online Journey Planner. Fares vary depending on which of London's six travel 'zones' you travel through, though they are considerably cheaper with an Oyster card than buying paper tickets. Various concessions are available for children, students, the elderly and disabled travellers.
Phone: +44 343 222 1234
Public Transport - Docklands Light Railway
The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) serves East London and connects with the Tube network at Bank, Tower Gateway (Tower Hill), Shadwell, Stratford, Bow, Heron Quays, Canning Town and Canary Wharf. It also connects to the Emirates Air Line cable car at Royal Victoria. Fares are the same as on the Tube, and the DLR runs from 5.30am to 12.30am Monday to Saturday and from 7am to 11.30pm on Sunday. Fares are the same as those on the Tube, and Oyster and Travelcard holders can use the DLR.
Phone: +44 343 222 1234
Public Transport - Thames River Bus
Travel from A to B with ease along the Thames on board a river bus. There are six different routes, which slight at destinations along the riverbank – between Putney and Woolwich Arsenal. Popular services include Thames Clippers route between Hilton London Docklands Riverside and Canary Wharf, the Tate to Tate boat between Tate Britain and Tate Modern, and the journey between London Eye and historic Greenwich. Buy your ticket before boarding or on board (depending on the service) – discounts are available with Travelcards and Oyster cards.
Phone: +44 343 222 1234
Public Transport - Local Trains
As well as the Underground, London has its own local train network, which connects to the Tube at many points. The main train operators serving London are Silverlink, First Capital Connect, SouthEastern Railway, Southern Railway, London Overground and Greater Anglia, with these local lines in turn linking to the national rail network and the Eurostar. You can use your Oyster card on all suburban trains stopping in Zones 1-9 – except Heathrow Express and a few other select services. Several different railcards are available too, providing discounted fares to their holders.
Phone: +44 343 222 1234
Public Transport - Trams
London's tram network, Tramlink, was introduced in 2000 and runs in selected parts of South London – between Wimbledon, Croydon, Beckenham and New Addington. Trams run about every seven minutes to New Addington and every 10 minutes to Wimbledon, Elmers End and Beckenham Junction during the day from Monday to Saturday. Fares work the same as on buses, with a flat-rate cost of £1.40 with an Oyster card and £2.40 when paying by cash. Travelcards are also valid on trams, and bus passes include use of the tram network. Travelling via Tramlink is free for London students aged 16-17, under 16s and older and disabled residents carrying a relevant photo card.
Phone: +44 343 222 1234
Public Transport - Cycle Hire Scheme
Hop on a "Boris bike" and zip around London using the city's public bike-sharing scheme. Named after London's Mayor Boris Johnson, the popular blue bikes can be found in more than 550 bike docking stations across London – so you're never far away from one. After you've paid your registration fee (from £2), you can hire a bike for a day, week or even a year. The bikes are free to use for the first 30 minutes, with prices increasing according to how long you use the bike for then afterwards. When you've finished your journey, simply return the bike to your nearest docking station – you can find out where that is using the Barclays Bikes app.
Phone: +44 343 222 6666
Public Transport - Emirates Air Line
Cross the Thames in style on board the Emirates Air Line, London's cable car connecting Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. As well as taking you across the river in less than 10 minutes, it provides an amazing bird's eye view over London and the Thames. The fare is £3.20 using Oyster pay-as-you-go, or you can buy a return journey (known as a '360° tour') for £6.40 from the terminals at either end of the line. Multi-journey boarding passes (£10 for 10 single trips) and private cabin packages are also available.
Address: Emirates Greenwich Peninsula, Greenwich, London
Phone: +44 343 222 1234
Riding in one of London's iconic black cabs is a must – and makes for a very comfortable and spacious ride. Hail a cab in the street or pick one up at a taxi rank. Your journey is calculated using a meter, with a minimum charge of £2.40. London also has many private hire vehicles and minicabs – these are unmetered so check the fare when booking. To find a local, reputable firm download Transport for London's free CabWise app or check the Hailo app to find a nearby black cab.
Phone: +44 343 222 4000
Postage stamps are available across London from post offices, newsagents and supermarkets. To post a package or souvenirs, drop into any post-office – you can find your nearest branch on the Post Office website. Post offices are generally open Monday-Friday from 9.00am to 5.30pm and Saturday from 9.00am to 12.30pm.
When you need to buy medication over the counter or collect a prescription, simply head to one of London's many pharmacies. As well as private chemists, pharmacy services can be found at certain branches of Boots and Superdrug as well as some larger supermarkets.
Boots London Piccadilly Circus:
Address: 44-46 Regent St, London
Phone: +44 207 7346 126
The international dialling code for the UK is +44 or 0044, which replaces the first 'zero' of the phone number. So, for example, to call the number 020 7946 0000 from abroad you would dial +44 20 7946 0000.
The area codes for London are (020) 7, (020) 8 and (020) 3. If you're dialling a London number from another fixed phone line within Greater London you don't need to dial the '020' before the number, just the rest of the number starting with 7, 8 or 3.
Electrical appliances are connected to the UK mains supply using a three-pin plug, which slots into a wall socket. This socket can be turned on and off, unlike in many other countries.
The average voltage of a UK power socket is 230v or slightly higher, so check the voltage of your device before plugging it in. Voltage adaptors and convertors are available from London airports and high-street electrical chains such as Argos or Curry's.
Power sockets are available at many coffee shops with WiFi and on some overland trains. Need to charge your mobile? Download the 'find-a-chargebox' iPhone app to find your nearest ChargeBox.