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A beginners' guide to London

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Which airport transfer should I use?

How do I get to my hotel?

What travel tickets are available?

Where can I go for something to eat?

Where are the best views of London?

Where is a good place to go for a drink?

Where are the best places for shopping in London?

Where are the museums and galleries?

How can I see all the royal attractions?

What day trips from London are available?

Which airport transfer should I use?

 
Train The Heathrow Express reaches central London in just 15 minutes from the airport The Gatwick Express train travels between the airport and central London in just 30 mins The Stansted Express train goes from Stansted to London in 46 minutes Trains from Luton to London depart approximately every 10 mins and take around 30 - 45 mins
Bus A National Express bus from Heathrow to London takes between 40 mins and 2 hrs 35 mins and is cheaper than the train A National Express bus from Gatwick to London departs at least every hour, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and takes around 1 hr 30 mins Available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, a National Express bus from Stansted to London takes around 1 hr 15 mins, with a choice of two central London drop-offs   Not available
Tube Use your Oyster Card or London Travelcard to get on the Tube. Heathrow is connected to the entire transport network via the Piccadilly Line   Not available   Not available   Not available
Private taxi You can book a private London airport taxi transfer which will collect you from any London airport (except London City) and take you to any central London address, in a luxury vehicle, for a fixed price

See our full guide to London airport transfers for more information.

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Once I'm in central London, how do I get to my hotel?

 Tube Bus Taxi

London Underground (Tube)

Bus

Taxi

  • London Underground is commonly known as the Tube, and is London's metro service
  • Oyster Cards and Travelcards can be used on any Tube service (but make sure your Travelcard covers the correct zones)
  • All the airport transfer services terminate at or near to a Tube station
  • Tube stations are densely located all over central London, so if you're staying in the city centre your hotel is likely to be near one
  • Check your hotel booking documents - they may advise you which Tube station is the nearest
  • If you don't know the nearest Tube station to your hotel, find out the hotel's post code and use the Transport for London Journey Planner
  • All the airport transfer services terminate at stations that are served by multiple bus routes
  • Oyster Cards and Travelcards can be used on any bus service (travel zones do not apply to bus services)
  • The bus stops outside the train station will have a destination finder poster with popular areas, roads and districts listed alphabetically, along with the number of the bus to take to get there
  • Check your hotel booking documents as they may recommend a bus route
  • If you don't know which bus route to take, find out the hotel's post code and use the Transport for London Journey Planner
  • You can flag down a London taxi on the street, if its 'Taxi' sign at the front is illuminated.
  • All London taxis have a meter so you can see exactly how much the journey is costing you
  • Tipping is at your discretion
  • Make sure you only used licensed taxis with the correct plates on the back and certificates and identification in the front window - illegal and unlicensed taxis can be dangerous
  • Alternatively, book a private London airport transfer and get taken straight from the airport to your hotel or final destination

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What travel tickets are available for getting around London on the Tube and buses?

 

Visitor Oyster Card

  • A contactless, pay-as-you-go smart card pre-loaded with credit
  • Credit can be used to access any public transport in London
  • You can top up your credit if you run out

London Travelcard

  • A paper ticket for either a day or a whole week
  • Gives unlimited travel on any London public transport
  • Available to cover just Zones 1-2 in central London or Zones 1-6 which covers most of Greater London

 

If you can't decide between an Oyster Card or London Travelcard, our comparison page can help.

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I've checked in to my hotel - where should I go for something to eat?

The London Pass Dining Guide

The London Pass Dining Guide gives you discounts and special offers at 35+ great restaurants around London, and is valid for 7 days. Offers include up to 50% off the food menu, buy one get one free on main courses, a free bottle of wine and free desserts.

Covent Garden, Soho and the West End

Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line)

Leicester Square (Northern or Piccadilly Line)

Located right in the centre of London, the area known as the West End is packed with restaurants catering to every taste. Gerrard Street is the pedestrianised street going right through the centre of London's Chinatown, and is lined with restaurants serving pan-Asian cuisine including plenty of all-you-can-eat buffets. Covent Garden and Soho offer a wider variety of food from around the world, including plenty of Italian, Indian, American, Greek and Japanese offerings. Head to Dean Street for Burger & Lobster, a popular Soho restaurant serving - yes, you guessed it - burgers and lobster. Get exploring and try something new!

Upper Street, Islington

Angel (Northern Line)

Highbury & Islington (Victoria Line)

Running between Angel station on the Northern line and Highbury & Islington on the Victoria line, Upper Street is a lively road lined with a huge number of restaurants. Le Mercury is a great value French restaurant that is very popular with Londoners - so popular that they opened a second premises on the same road! Turkish, Thai and South American restaurants are among the others dotted along Upper Street, as well as some acclaimed fish restaurants.

Camden and Brick Lane

Camden Town (Northern Line)

Aldgate East (District or Hammersmith & City Line)

If it's quick and easy street food you want, head to Camden Town or Brick Lane. Camden Market hosts vendors of Chinese, Mexican and Indian street food, among an eclectic range of stalls selling clothes, vintage goods and souvenirs. For a relaxed sit down meal, try Mango Room opposite the Tube station, a Carribean restaurant with a lunchtime and evening menu. Brick Lane is one of the most vibrant streets in London and, because of the huge number of Indian restaurants, is known as the Curry Capital of the UK! Alongside the curry houses, Brick Lane and its market are home to Chinese, Caribbean, Japanese and Moroccan street food stalls. Enjoy!

The Shard

London Bridge (Northern or Jubilee Line)

The tallest building in the UK is home to three restaurants, for those looking for a meal with a view. Spread over floors 31 - 33 of The Shard, diners with a head for heights can choose between Oblix, a New York-style grill restaurant, the northern Chinese offerings of Hutong and Aqua Shard, a contemporary British restaurant.


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Where are good areas for pubs in London?

Covent Garden

Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line)

Leicester Square (Northern or Piccadilly Line)

As well as a fine selection of restaurants, more than 60 pubs are located in Covent Garden , including some on the central piazza with first floor balconies for drinkers to enjoy aerial views of the street theatre below. Performances include magic, music, stunts, tricks, comedy and, of course, audience participation - a drink at these pubs is sure to be memorable!

Camden and Kentish Town

Camden Town (Northern Line)

Kentish Town (Northern Line)

Interspersed among Camden's quirky shops and markets is a huge choice of pubs and bars - leave the Tube station and head north up Camden High Street for a selection with outdoor seating with views of the canal. Just one Tube stop - or a short walk - north of Camden is Kentish Town, with plenty of popular pubs clustered around the Tube station. For some authentic London lagers and ales, stop by the Camden Town Brewery bar, right next to Kentish Town West station on the Overground.

Putney

Putney Bridge (District Line)

A little further south than the usual tourist hotspots, Putney is home to The Duke's Head pub with fantastic views over the River Thames. Located at the starting point for the annual Oxford versus Cambridge boat race, this grand Victorian pub also serves food and hosts regular events. While you're in south west London, why not head a few more stops down the District line for the Wimbledon Tennis Museum and Tour?

Embankment

Embankment (District, Circle, Northern or Bakerloo Line)

If enjoying a drink by the river doesn't appeal, try going for a drink on the river at one of Embankment's two boat pubs. The Hispaniola and the Tattershall Castle boats are both moored up on the Thames near Embankment station, and give guests great views of the London Eye, Big Ben and the City of London skyscrapers.

Southwark

London Bridge (Northern or Jubilee Line)

In the shadow of The Shard at London Bridge, the medieval George Inn is a fascinating pub that was once favoured by Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. The National Trust-owned property is the only remaining former coaching inn with a gallery looking down onto the courtyard.

Drink London! London Pub Walk

London Bridge (Northern or Jubilee Line)

For a guided tour of London's history, told through the stories of the city's historic pubs, try the Drink London! London Pub Walk. As well as the George Inn at London Bridge, the tour stops at a pub frequented by Dr Samuel Johnson and featured in a Dickens novel, a pub with a spectacular Victorian interior and more. There's plenty of London sightseeing along the route too, and tickets even include a free drink.


View Good areas for pubs in London in a larger map

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Where are the best views in London?

London Eye

Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee, Bakerloo or Waterloo & City Line)

The London Eye is the most popular paid-for attraction in the city, and with good reason! The 30 minute 'flight' in one of the Eye's capsules gives visitors 360° views of the city, stretching up to 40km on a clear day. London Eye tickets even include a pre-flight 4D movie and if you buy online from the VisitBritain Shop you'll save money compared to buying at the attraction.

The Shard

London Bridge (Northern or Jubilee Line)

The viewing platform at the top of the tallest building in western Europe doesn't disappoint - from the interactive telescopes to the views of up to 64km, a visit to The View From The Shard will be an experience to remember. Order from us to get priority entrance and a £5 saving compared to buying on the day.

Up at The O2

North Greenwich (Jubilee Line)

The O2 Arena may be in east London, but climbing to the top of the dome with the Up at The O2 experience still guarantees fabulous views of the whole city. Visitors put on climb suits, boots and harnesses before ascending to the viewing platform to enjoy views of the Olympic Park, Canary Wharf, the Emirates Air Line Thames cable car and the City of London. Read our full review for more information.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's (Central Line)

It's not as tall as the London Eye or The Shard, but views from the top of St. Paul's are among the best in London. Like Up at The O2, this view point is one for energetic visitors as the top of the dome is accessed via a total of 528 stairs! Tickets to St. Paul's Cathedral include access to The Crypt and the Whispering Gallery, and free tours are available if you register on arrival. Holders of the London Pass can visit St. Paul's for free.

Monument

Monument (Central, Northern, Circle, District, DLR or Waterloo & City Line)

Just a short walk from St. Paul's is the Monument to the Great Fire of London, popularly known simply as Monument. Though, at 62m, the Monument is small compared to other viewpoints, its location provides fantastic views of London's financial district, Tower Bridge, the River Thames and Canary Wharf in the distance. London Pass holders can enjoy free entry to the Monument's viewing platform.

Thames Cable Car

North Greenwich (Jubilee Line)

Officially known as the Emirates Air Line, the cable car over the Thames in east London is a transport link that doubles as a unique vantage point to enjoy views of London. Take a one-way journey for less than £4 (or a non-stop return for less than £7) with your Oyster Card and take in great views of the Olympic Park, the O2 Arena and Canary Wharf. Touch down near the O2 Arena and enjoy more aerial views of London with Up at The O2, or head inside for the British Music Experience.

Thames River Cruise

Embankment (Northern, Circle or District Line)

The River Thames offers a great perspective from which to see London's landmarks, and there is an option to suit some very diverse tastes. More relaxed visitors will enjoy a comfortable Thames river cruise, departing from the London Eye, with multilingual commentary. Those looking for some adrenaline (and those prepared to get a little wet!) should opt for the thrilling Ultimate James Bond Experience - a white-knuckle trip from Embankment to either Canary Wharf or the Thames Barrier on board a 245 horsepower RIB! Read our full review for more details.

Primrose Hill

Chalk Farm (Northern Line)

A popular park in north London with markets, cafés and pubs nearby, the top of Primrose Hill is a great - and free - place to enjoy panoramic views looking south over London. Primrose Hill borders Regent's Park, so if you're wondering what the strange looking structure is at the bottom of the hill, it's one of the aviaries at London Zoo!


View Best views in London in a larger map

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Where are the best places for shopping in London?

Westfield Stratford and Westfield London

Shepherd's Bush (Overground or Central Line)

Stratford (Overground, Central, DLR or Jubilee Line)

London's two Westfield shopping centres are among the largest in the whole of Europe, and are a paradise destination for those in search of some retail therapy.

Westfield London boasts four British retail giants as its 'anchor' department stores - Debenhams, Next, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser - with a further 300 retailers and 65 restaurants spread over its five floors. The centre is also home to an area called The Village, with stores from eminent luxury brands from around the world including Burberry, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Versace and more. Westfield Stratford is based next to the London 2012 Olympic Park, and is home to a similar number of stores including John Lewis and Marks and Spencer.

Make any purchase from the VisitBritain Shop and receive a free VIP Pass for either Westfield centre!

The West End

Oxford Circus (Central, Bakerloo or Victoria Line)

Oxford Street is one of the busiest shopping streets in the world, and the epicentre of London shopping. The street runs from Marble Arch in the west to Holborn in the east and features flagship stores of retail giants Selfridges, Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and John Lewis.

The elegant Regent Street intersects with Oxford Street at Oxford Circus, and is famous for its huge number of fashion outlets including Superdry, Hollister, Desigual and All Saints. Regent Street is also the location of Hamleys, the world's biggest toy shop.

Bond Street is a byword for luxury, with high-end British, American, Italian and French designers and jewellers making up the majority of its stores.

Knightsbridge

Knightsbridge (Piccadilly Line)

Head to Knightsbridge to sample the enormous, legendary Harrods department store. Favoured by royalty and high society from around the world, the store's 300+ departments are enough to make a trip to Harrods a full day trip in itself.

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf (DLR or Jubilee Line)

Better known for skyscrapers, banking and high finance, Canary Wharf is also home to a subterranean shopping mall, featuring an eclectic range of High Street shops, luxury retailers and fashion stores. In contrast to the weekend popularity of the Westfields and the West End, Canary Wharf is virtually deserted at the weekends making it an ideal choice for shoppers in search of relative tranquility!

Boxpark

Shoreditch High Street (Overground)

Believed to be the world's first ever pop-up shopping mall, Boxpark in Shoreditch is home to pop-up shops from independent traders and established brands, as well as open air bars and restaurants on the rooftop. For some extra retail time in east London, head to the nearby Spitalfields and Brick Lane markets.

Savile Row

Oxford Circus (Central, Bakerloo or Victoria Line)

Synonymous worldwide with sharp tailoring, Savile Row in the heart of London's upmarket Mayfair district is the only place to shop if you want a bespoke suit. Gieves & Hawkes and Ozwald Boateng are among the internationally renowned tailors with a presence on the street.

Bicester Village

Victoria (Victoria, Circle or District Line)

Though not actually in London, Bicester Village is a fantastic place to enjoy high end, big city shopping but without the high end prices and big city crowds. The stylish designer outlet centre is just 1 hour 30 minutes away from London, and you can get a return journey from Victoria on board the Bicester Village Shopping Express. The Village is a showcase of the crème de la crème of the world of fashion such as American fashion royalty Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren, Italian legends Gucci and Versace, as well as French fashionistas Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. If you love shopping, why not make a day of it?


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Where do I need to go for museums and galleries in London?

Trafalgar Square

Charing Cross (Northern or Bakerloo Line)

As well as being a tourist attraction in its own right, centred around the famous Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square is also where two of the world's most popular art galleries can be found - The National Gallery and The National Portrait Gallery.

Kensington

South Kensington (Circle, District or Piccadilly Line)

This elegant part of south west London is a museum fan's dream destination, as just across the road from the Tube station you'll find a cluster of three of the most respected and visited museums in the world. The Natural History Museum, The Victoria & Albert Museum and the Science Museum are all free to visit (although there may be a charge for special events and exhibitions) and, if you visit in the winter, the Natural History Museum hosts a seasonal outdoor ice rink!

The British Museum

Tottenham Court Road (Northern or Central Line)

The British Museum displays more than 8 million artefacts from around the world, providing visitors with an unrivalled insight into human history and culture. The museum is just a short walk from the busy shops of Oxford Street, and is housed inside a fabulous Greek-style pillared building.

The Wellcome Collection

Euston Square (Metropolitan, Circle or Hammersmith and City Line)

The Wellcome Collection describes itself as a "free destination for the incurably curious" and has plenty of intriguing artefacts and exhibits to entertain and educate its guests. Immediately adjacent to Euston Square Tube station, the collection hosts regular special exhibitions in addition to its permanent collection.


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How can I see all the royal attractions in London?

Three Palace Royal Pass

The Three Palace Royal Pass gives holders free entry to the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, saving around 15% on individual ticket prices. You can reach Kensington Palace and the Tower of London by Tube with your Oyster Card or London Travelcard, but Hampton Court Palace is a little further from the city centre. South West Trains services run from London Waterloo to Hampton Court in around 30 minutes, and you can use your BritRail London Plus Pass.

The London Pass

Perhaps the ultimate ticket for city sightseeing, the London Pass gives you free access to 60+ attractions in London, including a huge variety of buildings, monuments and landmarks with links to the Royal Family. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Windsor Castle, the Tower of London, Kensington Palace, the Royal Mews, the Jewel Tower and Kew Palace at Kew Gardens are all included, so get yourself a pass and get exploring!

Buckingham Palace Tour and Royal London Sightseeing

Victoria (Victoria, Circle or District Line)

This Buckingham Palace tour is exclusively available to summer visitors as the palace is only open for 8 weeks per year, and gives guests a rare and privileged look inside the official London residence of Her Majesty The Queen. Prior to the tour of the palace, the panoramic tour of London onboard a luxury bus takes in famous landmarks including Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral.

MP3 Tour

St James's Park (Circle or District Line)

The London Palace Trail MP3 Walking Tour is a relaxed way to explore royal and historic London at your own pace. Start from Westminster Abbey and work your way towards Buckingham Palace, via the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Downing Street and Horseguards Parade.


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What day trips from London are available?

Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford or Bath, Stonehenge and Salisbury

Stonehenge is one of the most famous monuments in the world and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Britain, welcoming over one million visitors every year. There are plenty of options for visitors to London who want to get out the city for the day and explore other fascinating places in southern England.

Choose between a day trip to Stonehenge alone, a bus trip to Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford, or a tour of Bath, Stonehenge and Salisbury. All tours conveniently depart from Victoria Coach Station in central London, and selected tours can arrange hotel collection.

Leeds Castle, Canterbury, Dover, Greenwich and a Thames River Cruise

This tour includes four of England's most spectacular attractions and towns, and gets you back to central London in style with a boat cruise up the River Thames! The tickets for the Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, Dover and Greenwich Tour include entry to all attractions and travel on board a luxurious air-conditioned bus, so, apart from lunch, there's no extra costs for you and none of the hassle of rail travel or car hire. The tour departs from Victoria in central London, or you may be able to arrange hotel collection with the tour operator.

Oxford, Stratford, Cotswolds and Warwick Castle

Departing from Victoria Coach Station in central London and heading north out of the city, this fantastic tour incorporates the Cotswolds, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the historic and picturesque university city of Oxford, Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon and the magnificent Warwick Castle. Entry to all attractions in included, and the friendly tour guide will help bring to life these amazing English destinations.

BritRail London Plus Pass

If you'd prefer to have the flexibility and freedom to set your own itinerary for a day trip from London, there's no better option than the BritRail London Plus Pass. The pass gives you unlimited travel on any train service in London and the south east of England, so the region is yours to explore. See our Top 10 destinations in southern England for some inspiration!

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