Whether it’s your first foray or your 500th, a trip to London is always a good idea. It’s as cosmopolitan as New York, as temperate as San Francisco, and as culturally, artistically, and politically self-aware as anyplace on Earth. It’s also incredibly diverse. Over one-third of all Londoners are originally from another country, meaning that nearly 3.5 million people alive today visited from abroad, fell in love with the city’s history, style, cuisine, and futurism, and were so affected that they up and moved. Perhaps you’re next, or perhaps you’ll simply visit 500 times, brought back again and again by the incredible history, art, nightlife, and a love for all those traditions that make London one of the most iconic cities in the world.
Groups, solo travelers, couples, fashion lovers from streetwear fanatics to designer devotees, connoisseurs of great food, families seeking culture and history
London is limitlessly charming, but unfortunately, there also doesn’t seem to be a limit on how high the cost of living can climb here. Meals, accommodations, museums, transportation, and just about everything else are all expensive, and—especially once you factor in the exchange rate—anyone unaccustomed to big-city prices will no doubt find themselves crying, “It costs how much?!” at least a few times. Budget $100-$250 per night for accommodations (hotels and vacation rentals alike), and at least $100 a day for meals, if you plan to eat with abandon.
Travelers in London needn’t fret about safety any more than they would back at home, or in any international city in Europe. Pickpocketing and petty theft do occur, but it’s highly unlikely that you’d fall victim to this type of crime if you maintain an awareness of your location and your belongings when you’re out exploring. And London’s beautiful diversity is an attraction unto itself. There are so many different cultures, races, and types of people here that virtually nobody is singled out. As such, it’s queer-friendly, BIPOC-friendly, female-friendly, and family-friendly.
London has a temperate maritime climate so it rarely gets too hot or too cold. In summer, average highs top out at 72° F (though rare heat waves can push this higher) and in winter, most days are in the high 30s or low 40s. It rarely snows in winter (and it never sticks) though the days can be very damp and chilly.
The most popular time to visit is, of course, the summer months. If you want to avoid some of the crowds and save on flights and accommodations, spring and fall are lovely, as well, with pleasant weather.
Take it to go. Takeaway food is taxed at a lower rate in London versus dining in, so you’ll save by grabbing your food to go and eating in a nearby park.
Hit the market. There are several fantastic markets throughout London where you can grab all sorts of delicious food for far less than you’d pay at a sit-down restaurant.
Get an Oyster card. This card not only allows you to seamlessly ride the tube and busses, your fare will be charged at a lower rate than if you paid cash.
Visit free museums. Museums including the British Museum, the V&A, and the Natural History Museum are all free, and many others have certain days of the month or nights of the week when they offer free or reduced price admission.
Careful not to overthink it: If you try too hard to find the perfect thing to eat in London, you could drive yourself mad. That’s because options abound and might literally be limitless; modern science has been unable to prove anything to the contrary. From proper pub grub to the latest hotspots and, famously, the best Indian food to be had outside of India, you’ll eat like kings (or Queen Elizabeth) on any given day here. The beer, wine, and cocktail scene packs a marvelous punch as well.
A city as big as London has dozens of great areas of town to stay in, so consider this an introduction, not a definitive list. For young travelers and/or groups of friends, areas like Soho, Camden, Brixton, and Kings Crossing are good options for the fact that they’re all hip, energetic, and offer some budget-friendly accommodations to suit smaller budgets. Notting Hill and Kensington are both tonier locales, good for couples, families, and older travelers looking for a bit of calm amid the chaos. Lastly, the award for Best Up-and-Comer goes to Stoke Newington.
Take the tube. The London metro is a great way to get around town; a close runner-up is the bus system, which is less efficient than the tube but is something of a scenic route, comparatively speaking. Then there are the taxis. London’s black cabs are as iconic as New York’s yellows, and each driver is required to pass an extremely difficult geography test on the city before they’re allowed a license. Uber’s always an option, as is a pedestrian jaunt. As for accessibility, almost nowhere rivals London, which is so dedicated to the practice of making the city navigable from a wheelchair that every single black cab is equipped with its own ramp (the same cannot be said for the tube and busses) and the streets, sidewalks, and sights are largely accessible, as well.
There are six international airports serving the London metro area, more than any other metropolitan area.
The Heathrow Express train is the quickest way to get from Heathrow Airport into London. Travel time to Paddington Station is roughly 15 minutes and tickets start at £22. The city’s Tube system also connects Heathrow to London, making the journey to Piccadilly Circus in around 50 minutes for a cost of £6. Coach services run by National Express (tickets start at about £10) and easyBus (tickets start at about £4) take from 45-90 minutes. Fares for London’s famous black taxis start at £49 from Heathrow to central London and the travel time is 30-60 minutes.
The Gatwick Express train connects the airport to central London, running between Gatwick and London’s Victoria Station in about 30 minutes. Tickets are about £20. National Express coaches serve Victoria Coach Station (a roughly 80-minute trip, £6.50 one way), and fares with authorized taxis start at about £60.
London City Airport is connected to London via the Docklands Light Railway, which connects to the London Tube at Canning Town, Stratford, or Bank stations. Travel time varies a great deal depending on your destination, but you can expect at least a 20-40 minute trip into the city center and a cost of £4-8. Taxis make the trip in about 50 minutes and fares start around £55.
London Luton Airport’s shuttle buses make the trip to the Luton Airport Parkway train station in about ten minutes. From there, East Midlands Trains connect with London in just over 20 minutes (about £3) and Thameslink makes the trip in about 40 minutes (about £14). Several coach services connect Luton with the city, including National Express (75 minutes, around £5), easyBus (70 minutes, from £2), and Terravision (from 75 minutes, £11.50). Taxi fares start around £90 and the trip takes about 45 minutes.
The Stansted Express train is the easiest way to get into London. The trip takes between 35-50 minutes, depending on your destination, and tickets start at under £10 if you buy them in advance. National Express coaches connect Stansted with central London in about 50 minutes (tickets start at £10 one way) and easyBus coaches make the trip in about 1 hour 45 minutes (tickets start at £2).
Go 1.5 hours west to Bath, a beloved destination in the dreary months due to its many spas. It’s ideal to visit in autumn, when crisp weather makes the thought of a leisurely stroll to various cafes and shops along the cobblestoned streets that much more enticing.
Take an hour-long train ride south to Brighton, London locals’ preferred choice for an easy beach getaway.
Head 2.5 hours east to Leeds Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover, a classic English landscape of dramatic architecture and gloomy-yet-seductive vistas.
Venture ~1.5 hours eastward to Canterbury, enduringly beautiful despite the mass destruction it endured during WWII. It’s a lovely place to seek out art, culture, and intelligentsia in a more relaxed setting than what you get in London.
Take a 2.5-hour train southwest to see Stonehenge with your own eyes.
Take an hour-long flight west to Dublin to experience Irish hospitality at its finest.
Fly an hour (or take an overnight train) north to Edinburgh, a beautiful, castle-filled city with a signature blend of tradition and modernity.
Pop down to Paris on a 1.25-hour flight (or take the Eurostar train for an even easier trip), but don’t stop there. After you’ve thoroughly fallen in love with the city, head onward to see more of France (including, but not limited to, the French Riviera).
Fly eastward an hour to The Hague, an enviably posh part of the Netherlands, while leaving plenty of time to explore Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and points north like Leeuwarden
London has made countless appearances on the large and small screens. For some of the best shots of the city’s scenery, start with the shows The Crown, Sherlock, or Eastenders, and the movies Sliding Doors, Notting Hill, Paddington, and Love, Actually.
You’ve got even more options when it comes to books, with stories set in London throughout the ages. There’s classics like Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and Atonement by Ian McEwan or more modern masterpieces like Nick Hornby’s About a Boy and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Previous cheap flights we've found to London: