As of 2018, London was the second most visited city in the world; a staggering 19.83 million people headed to England’s capital to see the sights and soak up the culture. London is a really tourist-friendly city, with a wealth of information readily available to those who need a bit of extra help getting around.
As well as tips for physically navigating your way around the city, we’ve also put together some tips for generally experiencing London like a local. After all, what could be better than getting a taste of the place from those who love it and know it the most?
- Plan your flight times as best as possible
The affordable 6 AM flights out of London’s smaller airports seem perfect at first. Unfortunately, London’s public transportation doesn’t start running to these airports in time to make these incredibly early flights. Unless you’ve rented a car, the cost of an Uber or taxi all the way to Stanstead or Gatwick will eat up any savings you got by booking an early flight.
Lucky for you, that means you can rest up and enjoy your comfortable bed in one of London’s luxury hotels like the Park Grand London Kensington.
- Get your bearings with the London Underground early on
The main thing that tends to baffle tourists (and even resident Londoners!) is definitely the city’s complex and intricate underground system, known to locals as ‘the tube’.
There are 11 lines in total, all serving different (and overlapping) parts of the city. Make sure you pick up a tube map – available at all major stations – early on and study it! Each coloured line you’ll see represents a different train ‘line’. These lines have official names that can be confusing at first but that are quite crucial in navigating your way through the city using this mode of transport.
The price of travel is also dependent on ‘zones’ you travel through. Most tourist spots can be found in zones one and two, though there are a large number further out, too.
- Explore on foot or try cycling
As well as exploring the tube network, you should also consider making use of the city’s public bicycles, which are available to hire for a small fee – it’s just £2 for 24-hour hire, and free for the first 30 minutes (£2 per half hour afterwards).
And although it is large, London is a surprisingly easy city to get around on foot, as so many of the biggest and most popular attractions are surprisingly near each other.
- Navigate from a solid base
Londoners have more than a handful of different terms for home – after all, it’s extremely important to us.
With that being said, when you’re visiting, you’ll want to make sure you’re staying in a place filled with your necessary home comforts so you can rest easy for a big day of exploring. From east to west, there are great accommodation options (with plenty of hotels near Gloucester Road if you fancy living the western high life) so book early for the best deals.
TIPS FROM THE LOCALS
- Shop ‘til you drop
Shopping in London offers one of the best retail therapy experiences on the planet.
There is a shop or shopping area for everything you can imagine, from high-end luxury to second-hand vintage buys, quirky antiques and one-of-a-kind artefacts. The range of department stores, strips and markets have something for everyone.
No trip to London is complete without a souvenir, and you’re bound to find something unique. After a long day of bagging bargains, why not opt for a lavish Indian Afternoon Tea for a truly unique London eating experience.
- Think outside the box when it comes to visiting the attractions
When visiting some of the capital’s best attractions, you might want to put your ‘local’ head on to have the best experience.
For example, in the queue for Madame Tussauds, you’ll rarely spot a Brit. Instead, they’ll have booked their tickets online, meaning they can waltz straight in, beating the hundreds of people waiting in line. Booking online can save you money as well as time, so always do it where you can.
Likewise, avoid hitting the main attractions at ‘peak’ times where possible (the middle of the day on weekends, and after work on weekdays) to avoid the bigger crowds. Some of the city’s best museums and galleries even offer late night openings, which as well as being a lot quieter, can give you a completely different perspective.
- Embrace the Sunday afternoon ritual
There’s arguably not much that Londoners love more than a traditional Sunday roast dinner after a long week (and especially after a long Saturday night!). From high-end eatery options at the likes of the Park Grand Restaurant to cheap and cheerful pub alternatives, you can’t leave London without experiencing one. Whilst Sunday is the main day for things like shopping and sightseeing, you’ll notice a slight calmness to the air on this relaxing day.
- Make the most of the best free things to do
Another top Londoner tip is to (finally) put your bank card away in this often-expensive city, and instead, take advantage of the many wonderful free things to do. Most of the city’s major art galleries and museums are mostly free to wander round in, as well as the number of pleasant public parks that you can get lost in for hours.
- Watch some true British sport
The Gunners, the Blues, Spurs… London is home to some of the biggest football clubs in the world, and why wouldn’t it be… it was invented here!
While you’re in town, join the local fans on match day at one of London’s football stadiums, or head to a sports bar to enjoy the atmosphere. Or, if football isn’t your thing, keep an eye out for public screenings of Wimbledon – another firm summer sporting favourite with locals.
- And don’t be afraid to take a tour!
Although it might seem like an obvious thing for a tourist to do, taking a locally-run walking, bus or boat tour can be a really great way to learn some interesting city snippets. Better still, it’s not all just major attractions and sights – there are even tours for things like Harry Potter, graffiti and black history, to name a few.
What do you fancy?