The Best Tips For A London Getaway

London

London, the capital city of England is the country’s economic, transportation, and cultural hub. In 1800, the population was 1 million. A century later it boosted to 6.5 million. The government has always favoured the development of technology, transportation, and buildings so much that the city has quickly become a modern metropolis. Today, London is one of the most visited cities in the world. The British Museum, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and the Big Ben, are some of the most famous landmarks to visit in London. This blog post will provide you with the best tips for a London getaway.

How to get to London: from London Airports to the City Centre

From Heathrow to London City Centre

Heathrow is the main airport in London and one of the busiest in the world. Despite being a big airport, it is easy to navigate and offers several connections to the town.

  • The Heathrow Express is possibly the quickest way to get into the city centre. This train connects Heathrow with Paddington central London railway terminus and underground station complex. Train stops are located at terminals 2, 3, and 5. There is a free shuttle service from terminal 4 to terminal 5. 
  • Piccadilly Metro Line is also a valid option. As the name suggests, it’s the metro line that connects the airport with the Piccadilly district. Metro stations are located between terminal 2 and terminal 3, and in terminals 4 and 5. The trains run approximately from 5 am to 11.45 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, there is a 24h service excluded from the T4 loop. 
  • London Rail links connect Heathrow to central London every 30 minutes (Paddington) in 32 minutes from terminal 2, and 37 minutes from terminals 4 and 5. You can pay contactless or Oyster.

  • The National Express bus will bring you to the very heart of London’s Victoria district. The traveling time is approximately 45 minutes. Buses run 4 times every hour from 4 am to 10 pm. You can find these buses at Heathrow Central station or bus stops outside terminals 4 and 5. Tickets start from £ 5.

TIP! To get travel discounts you should buy an Oyster Card or Travelcard. You are likely going to get the metro while in London, and with the Oyster card, you can save over 50% per travel. The Oyster card covers London’s public buses, metro, tram, most TFL rail, DLR, and some boat services.

From Gatwick to London City Centre

  • The Gatwick Express runs every 15 minutes and takes around 30 minutes to get to Victoria Station from 5 am to 12,30 am. Other train operators: Southern and Thameslink. The railway station is located at the south terminal, just a short walk from both departures and arrivals. From the north terminal, there is a free shuttle that links to the train station.
  • National Express bus connects Gatwick with Victoria coach station. The service runs 24/7 and buses depart every 30 minutes. You can find the bus stop outside the terminals. Journey time: 65/85 minutes.  Other bus operators: Megabus and Metrobus.

From Stansted to London City Centre

  • Stansted Express is probably the fastest link between the airport and London. Trains depart every 15 minutes and take 45 minutes to get to Liverpool Street. The station is located directly under the airport at no more than 2 minute’s walk from the terminal.
  • Airport Bus Express runs every 30 minutes from 6 am to 2 am. The service offers two different routes: A21 Stansted to Liverpool Street and A20 Stansted to Victoria bus station.
  • National Express bus offers alternative fours different routes: Victoria, Portman Square, Liverpool Street, and Stratford.

From Luton to London City Centre

  • National Express bus serves routes A1 to Victoria and A2 to Paddington. Buses run 4 times every hour. The journey time is approximately 50 minutes.
  • The Green Line serves route 757 to Victoria twice hourly during the daytime. 
  • If you opt for the train, you will need to get the shuttle service from the airport parkway. 

From Southend to London City Centre

  • Bus Jetlink X1 connects the airport with Victoria. The once-daily service will arrive at the airport from London at 4,30 am and depart to London at 23,40 pm.
  • The train is probably the best connection Southend has with the city centre. Trains run regularly and up to six times per hour connecting the airport with Liverpool Street station. A ride from the airport to Liverpool street is 52 minutes. The railway station is minutes away from the terminal building, just follow the covered walkway. Tickets can be purchased at vending machines at arrivals, in front of the Costa coffee shop.

From London City Airport to London City Centre

  • The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) trains travel from the airport to the city centre every 15 minutes and take approximately 22 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the DLR station from ticket desks or vending machines.
QUICK TIP

While public transport in London is very efficient is also quite expensive. Different fares are depending on the days and time of the day. Peak fares are applied on trains and the metro.

Peak fares: Monday to Friday (excluding national holidays) between 6,30 am and 9,30 am and between 4 pm and 7 pm.

Off-Peak fares: at all other times and if you travel from outside and into zone 1 between 4 pm and 7 pm, Monday to Friday.  

If you prefer to book a direct private transfer, click in the link below

London’s Best Neighbourhoods: Where to Stay in London

Navigating London’s vast array of attractions and accommodations can be daunting. The city’s top attractions are scattered across its sprawling landscape, mirroring the dispersion of its finest hotels. This begs the question: where is the best place to stay in London? The answer largely hinges on your interests and budget. Moreover, it’s essential to recognize that London lacks a singular ‘city center,’ with certain neighborhoods being more central, convenient (albeit pricier) than others.

London is divided into six main zones, with zones one and two being the most central. If you are visiting London for the first time, it is recommendable to stay in zone one or zone two.

Here is our selection of London’s best neighbourhoods:

1) Covent Garden

Covent Garden is located centrally with excellent transport connections. You will be within walking distance of numerous attractions such as the London Eye, National Gallery, and Houses of Parliament. There are plenty of craft markets around, as well as boutiques, bars, and restaurants. This area is particularly recommended to those who love shopping and who want to experience real London street life.

Check out the best places to stay in Covent Garden

2) St. James

If you choose to stay in St. James, you will be close to Hyde Park, Green Park, and St. James Park. Perfect for a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Buckingham Palace is also within short walking distance. But that is not all. Within the area, you will also find the National Gallery, home of masterpieces from Van Gogh and Michelangelo. Famous Trafalgar Square and the Piccadilly are also close. St. James is an exclusive neighbourhood and is most recommended for families with kids.

Check out the best places to stay in St. James

3) Westminster

Nestled just south of St. James, Westminster stands as a quintessential central hub in London. Within its bounds lie iconic landmarks such as the Big Ben & Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. James Park, and the Churchill War Rooms. Notably, Westminster enjoys excellent connectivity to airports via Victoria Station, making it an ideal base for a short London getaway. We highly recommend this vibrant area, particularly for young couples seeking to spend a memorable weekend immersed in London’s rich history and charm.

Check out the best places to stay in Westminster 

4) Notting Hill

Notting Hill is one of the most popular and loved neighbourhoods of London. It became famous thanks to the homonymous film in which Hugh Grant works in a book shop. This shop – ‘the travel book shop’ – exists in reality and it can be found here. Notting Hill is very characteristic, featuring colourful houses, traditional shops, and live music bars.

The main attraction around is possibly the Portobello Market, famous for its vintage clothes and antiques. If you are lucky enough to stay here towards the end of August, you will be right in the middle of the Caribbean Carnival. That is the second biggest carnival event in the world after the one in Rio. We would recommend Notting Hill if you want to stay in a quiet and characteristic neighbourhood.

Check out the best places to stay in Notting Hill

5) Paddington

Located just north of Hyde Park, Paddington is a quiet and affordable neighbourhood. It is also well connected to the airports. From Paddington station, trains depart to/ arrive from Heathrow, Luton, and Stansted. You would not have all the major attractions nearby, however, metro stations are available . If you are looking for nightlife this is not a great party area. It is a good compromise if you are on a budget and you want to stay in a quiet area.

Check out the best places to stay in Paddington

6) Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury is a college district, historically famous for art, studies, and medicine. The prices are decent, though you could find some expensive places. It’s home to the University of London, the British Museum, and the British Library. The area is overall good, easily walkable, not far from the city centre. Recommended for families and young couples.

Check out the best places to stay in Bloomsbury

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QUICK TIP

Make sure to book a place that has breakfast included and that has good reviews on Booking.com.

If you still haven’t found your ideal place to stay in London, have a look at the map below. There are countless options to choose from!

Booking.com

TRAVEL ADVICE

If you find yourself with limited time in London or your flight departs in the evening, consider utilizing Radical Storage for bag storage. With multiple locations across the city, Radical Storage offers a convenient solution for storing your luggage. Simply book your storage location for your chosen day and time, then drop off your bags upon arrival.

We’ve found storing our bags with Radical Storage particularly convenient when we’ve had only a day to spend in the city and didn’t need to stay overnight. It’s a hassle-free way to explore London without being weighed down by luggage.

What to Visit in London? A Must Do Guide for First Timers in London

London is a city that caters to every taste, boasting a vibrant nightlife, rich cultural sights, captivating art and history, multicultural cuisine, and endless entertainment options. We adore London precisely because it offers something for everyone, quite literally.

A weekend in London barely scratches the surface of all the city has to offer. Nevertheless, with careful planning, you can still savor a delightful glimpse of its essence. In this section, we’ll highlight the must-see attractions that promise to make your London getaway unforgettable.

1. British Museum

An unmissable highlight of any visit to London is the British Museum. Renowned as one of the world’s greatest, it boasts a staggering collection spanning over two million years of human history, art, and culture. Notably, the British Museum was groundbreaking in its conception: the first of its kind to be national, publicly accessible, and independent of royal or ecclesiastical ownership.

Drawing in over 6 million visitors annually, the museum’s appeal is undeniable. Its vast array of world-famous artifacts includes Egyptian mummies, the Rosetta Stone, and Pantheon sculptures, showcased across nearly 100 galleries. Exploring all its treasures would require approximately 10 days of dedicated viewing!

Moreover, one of the museum’s most enticing features is its accessibility: entry is free of charge. Opening its doors daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm, and extending its hours until 8:30 pm on Fridays, the British Museum invites visitors to delve into the wonders of human history at their leisure.

If you wish, there is the is also the possibility to join a Guided Tour of The British Museum

2. Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace Tickets start at 34 £. There is also the possibility to join a Guided Tour of the Palace. Buckingham Palace is the official residency of the Kingdom’s sovereigns and the palace where numerous official ceremonies take place. The guard mounting ceremony takes place at 10,45 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays (weather permitting). This historic traditional event has become one of the main appointments not to be missed while in London. Don’t forget to go for a walk in St. James Park while you’re there!

best tips london getaway
The guard mounting ceremony

3. Westminster

Westminster is the political hub of London, home of the Houses of Parliament and the world-famous Big Ben. The “Big Ben” is the nickname of the great bell inside the clock tower, the official name is ‘the Elizabeth Tower’. This impressive tower stands more than 96 meters tall, with 399 steps to climb up to the very top. In this area, you will also find Westminster Abbey, the most important church in England. The Abbey has been the setting for coronations of kings and queens as well as being the place of royal functions, such as weddings and funerals. There is also the possibility to join the Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace Combo Tour.

best things to do in london
Westminster Abbey

4. Tower of London

The Tower of London was originally built as a royal palace and defence system. Throughout the years, it served also as a political prison, a place of execution, an arsenal, a royal mint, a menagerie, and a public record office. Over one thousand years of history are collected here. The Tower of London is one of the most well-preserved Medieval buildings in the world. It’s also considered to be a haunted house with several tails behind it.

There are ravens kept in the palace for superstitious reasons. In the past, it was believed that if the ravens leave the house the kingdom will fall. Visitors can discover its long history through its buildings and its collections, including the crown’s jewels – which include 23,500 jewels. You can get here with the metro and stop at Tower Hill. 

5. Hyde Park

Hyde Park is possibly the most famous park in London for its historical significance. It has hosted several demonstrations and protests and it is still today the meeting point for mass demonstrations but also for performance artists. The central lake, commonly known as “The Serpentine” is used for boating in the summer and skating in the winter. Hyde Park was formerly a royal hunting preserve and it opened to the public in the early 17th century.

This historical park is one of the most popular outdoor attractions in London also thanks to its many concerts, festivals, events, and exhibits which are held here throughout the year. Make sure you check Hyde Park’s official website beforehand in case there may be some particular event during your visit to London. The park is open every day from 5 am to 12 am and it is free to enter.

6. Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge and it is one of the most iconic landmarks in London. The bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 to ease road traffic while preserving access to a main stretch of the river Thames. It features two Victorian Gothic towers that are connected with two walkways. You could simply cross it and take some pictures around. However, if you are in for something different, then why not try the Tower Bridge Experience? You will get to explore the engine rooms, experience the walkways made of glass floors, and get some of the most amazing views of the city.

best london attractions

7. Madame Tussauds

Marie Grosholtz, most notably known as Madame Tussaud was a wax sculptor. She was involved in making plaster casts and death masks of beheaded victims of public executions during the French Revolution. When she left France she opened up a business in London showcasing her historical and royal wax statues. She also created a separate room, named “Chamber of Horror” which exhibited her death masks. The museum burnt down during a fire in 1925 and over 300 original waxworks were destroyed. But you can still visit Madame’s Tussaud museum, one of London’s leading attractions. Here you’ll see waxworks of celebrities, world leaders, and historians. The statues are so perfect that they look real!

8. London Eye

At an overall height of 135 meters, London Eye was the world’s tallest wheel from 1999 until 2006. This is another popular tourist attraction of London, centrally located in the heart of the capital, rotating over the River Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. The experience showcases breathtaking 360-degree views of London in about 30 minutes in total. Within each capsule, interactive guides will allow you to explore the city in several different languages. A ride on the London Eye is something not to be missed!

the best tips for a london getway
best things to do in london

Free Things to do in London: All You Need to Know

Here are a selection of free things to do during your London getaway:

1) Museums

What would you like to visit in a city if not museums? Well, London has it for all tastes. Here are the most important ones:

  • British Museum: a good portion of the history of humankind can be found here. Not to be missed.
  • National Gallery: possibly one of the best art galleries in the world. Masterpieces from Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Van Gogh, and many more can be found here.
  • Natural History Museum: discover fascinating exhibits from the natural world, including dinosaurs and blue whale skeletons.
  • Science Museum: enjoy the wonders of science through interactive displays and over 13,000 objects.
  • Victoria and Albert Museum: discover a great collection of art and design objects.
  • Tate Modern: an old power station turned into a modern and contemporary art museum.
  • Museum of London: interactive displays will show you the history of London from prehistoric times until the present.
  • Royal Academy of Arts: here you can find Michelangelo’s paintings, Greek, and Roman statues, and much more.
  • Tate Britain: displays the best British arts from the 1500s onwards.

2) Take a walk in Hyde Park

This is one of London’s largest parks as well as one of the Royal Parks of London. Points of interest include the Serpentine, Lady Diana commemorative memorial, and the Speaker’s Corner. Several free events are also held here throughout the year. It is worth checking these out in advance, as you might be lucky enough to watch a free live concert.

3) Take a free walking tour

We hardly leave a place without having done one of these free tours. Taking a free walking tour of London is a great idea to get around the city for the first time; you can get such insightful information that you probably would have not known otherwise. Tipping at the end of the tour is optional.

4) Relax at St. James Park

Located just in the heart of the city of Westminster, this park is the ideal spot from stretching your legs after exploring the town. At the centre of the park, there is a small island, called Duck Island as it is home to a mix of different avian wildlife such as ducks and pelicans.

5) Visit Covent Garden

A former fruit and vegetable market has become a popular tourist spot in the central building. The district is filled with pubs, cafes, small shops, and a craft market.

6) Walk around Portobello Market

Many marketers gather together in Portobello on different days of the week. Here, as well as several street artists, you’ll find any sorts of markets: fruit and vegetables, antiques, second-hand, vintage clothing, and furniture.

7) Visit Camden Market

With over 1000 stalls offering everything from clothing and art items to delectable food, this market is a treasure trove of diverse offerings. Yet, what truly sets it apart is its lively ambiance: street performers captivate passers-by with their performances, while locals pause to soak in the atmosphere and engage in leisurely chats with fellow visitors.

what to visit in london

8) Join a free concert

St. Martins in the Fields church has been home to historical free lunchtime concerts for over 250 years. Music lovers will surely enjoy their time here. Live concerts are on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays at 1 pm. It deserves also a mention “The Scoop”, a large amphitheater dedicated to living concerts but also theatre, movies, and dance. Events are not always free, so please check out their calendar for events and details.

9) Visit Westminster Abbey

This is a prime example of Gothic architecture and it has been the coronation and final resting church of the British royals for centuries. You could just stroll around and take a few pictures. But you could also attend worship on Sundays and religious holidays to visit its interiors.

10) Piccadilly Circus

This public square is the (very) smallest version of Times Square in NYC. Here you’ll see the display of giant screens with various advertisements and the statue of Eros. Several free walking tours will show you around the area, which also includes some Harry Potter shots locations.

11) Buckingham Palace

This is the official residency of the Kingdom’s sovereigns and the palace where numerous official ceremonies take place. Although the entrance tickets are pricey, you could still admire the palace and assist at the famous changing of the guard from outside. This ceremony takes place at 10,45am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays (weather permitting).

12) Trafalgar Square

It will cost you nothing to just go and have a look and take some photos. Trafalgar Square is a public square named to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar, the famous naval battle won by the British in the Napoleonic Wars.

Now get ready for number 13, the most important one…..

best tips weekend london

13) Walk, walk, walk

If you want to get the best out your London getaway, be prepared to walk a lot. There are several landmarks you can just see from the outside. We recommend that you have already in mind a walking route that you can do. For instance, a good route would be the following:

From Victoria Station, walk to Buckingham Palace. Watch the change of guards, then walk into St. James Park. Exit the park and proceed towards Westminster Abbey. Then, heads toward the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben.

Remember there are also multiple ways to save money during your London getaway. 

London Getaway on a Budget

Planning a London getaway can be quite overwhelming, especially if it is your first time in the city. With some planning ahead, rest assured you will be able to save a bit of money.

So let’s have a look at planning a London getaway on a budget.

1. Stay central

The golden rule for first-time visitors to European cities is to stay central, and for good reason. Staying in the heart of the city allows you to maximize your time and see more attractions with less hassle. Relying on public transport or taxis for every excursion can quickly become costly and inefficient. Ideally, your accommodation should be within walking distance of 3-4 attractions, and if possible, close to a metro station for added convenience.

2. London Pass

The London Pass could be a great way to save time and money. However, it would depend on how many attractions you want to visit each day. If you are planning to visit at least 2-3 attractions per day, this pass could be for you. The London pass will give you free entrance – with skip the queue option – to 80 top attractions such as London Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, just to name a few. It can be a real lifesaver if you have a short time but you want to visit a lot, with its fast track/ skip the queue privileges. Note that there are also other similar passes, such as the Go London Explorer Pass

3. London 2 for 1

The London 2 for 1 is very convenient if you are a couple and travelling to/ from one of the following airports: Gatwick, Luton, Stansted. Are you that lucky one? Well, be advised that, as the name suggests, 2 people pay the price of 1 with this pass.

4. Oyster Card and TravelCard

The Oyster card can be good if you are not staying central and you need to take the metro or the bus regularly. Oyster Cards can be purchased at any metro station. There is a £5 deposit for the card, which will be given back to you if you return the card, along with the remaining credit. You then need to top up the card at ticket machines located in the metro stations.

Alternatively, you could opt for a Travelcard. These cards come in daily, weekly, and monthly options. Travelcards allow you to travel on National Rail, metro, DLR, TfL rail, bus, and London Overground. They can be purchased at train stations, and vouchers will then be valid for the duration of the card. 

5. Use debit /credit cards

The British Pound holds a stronger value compared to the Euro and many other currencies. When withdrawing cash, it’s advisable to take out only a small amount for minor expenses, as cards are widely accepted throughout the UK. However, it’s worth noting that American Express and Diners Club cards are less commonly accepted.

When using your card, you may be prompted to choose between paying in the local currency or your home currency. We recommend selecting the local currency option. This allows your bank, rather than the merchant’s bank, to handle the transaction, potentially saving you on conversion fees.

We chose Revolut as our must-have travel card. Revolut is the most popular online bank and easy to use app. Revolut gives travellers several benefits such as:  

  • Use different currencies simultaneously.
  • Withdraw up 200 € / 200 $ a month from any ATM for free.
  • Free to open account & no maintenance costs.
  • Make international payments at no fees up to 1000 € / 1000 $ a month.
  • Split bills and pay friends with ease.

Setting up a Revolut account is simple and free. If you want to, you can download it through our referral link.

6. Research your restaurant

London is renowned for its high cost of living, particularly when it comes to dining out. To mitigate expenses, consider packing breakfast and opting for restaurant meals at lunch or dinner. Prioritize research to find eateries that suit your preferences and budget.

Local supermarkets offer a wealth of affordable options for assembling your own meals, including ingredients for sandwiches. Additionally, London boasts several renowned food markets such as Borough Market and Harrods food hall, where you can explore diverse culinary delights and enjoy a more budget-friendly dining experience.

7. Visiting everything = Mission Impossible

London’s vast size can be overwhelming, making it impossible to see everything in a single weekend or even a few weeks. While it’s tempting to rush from one attraction to the next, this approach often leads to overspending and missing out on the true essence of the city. Instead, prioritize your must-see attractions and plan accordingly. Then, allow yourself ample time to relax and embrace unexpected experiences along the way.

8. Choose off-peak times

Prices in London, and Europe in general, tend to go down during off-peak times. Check out for flights during shoulder season, and you’ll see the difference right away. Airfares are not the only ones that tend to go down. Restaurants often offer cheaper menus, and stores and shops propose their best deals.

9. Take advantage of vouchers

There are tonnes of vouchers and coupons which are very popular in the UK and which will allow you to save a good bit. Check out 365 Tickets and VoucherBin. 

Time for conclusions…

London is a top destination for getaways. With lots of historical landmarks, tourist attractions, food markets, and green parks, there is plenty to keep you entertained with. In this article, we have given the best tips for a London getaway. We hope you have enjoyed reading the article and we’ll see you soon! 😊

Do you like city breaks? Read our articles on Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, Lisbon, Naples, Paris, Edinburgh, Budapest, Rome and Barcelona !

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