Hello my lovely readers, I’m aware that I haven’t posted anything for a few weeks. The reason is that I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff. So I’ve decided to try post at least once a month until I get my blogging mojo back 😉
Today’s topic has been sitting in my drafts for a while. This is a popular topic that many people have written about. I’d like to share my tips and ideas on things to do in London for the first time visitor or budget conscious traveller. Although this is a rather lengthy post, it is filled with lots of information. Besides, the beauty of having a blog is it’s also a point of reference that I can use to refer people to when such questions arise 😉
First time Visitor: Things to do in London
1. Explore London on foot
Personally I think London is best explored on foot. Hop on hop off bus tours are a great relaxing option if you’re short on time and want to see many attractions quickly. I will warn you though, there is a risk of being stuck in traffic when you’re sitting on a bus…
There are many free self guided walking tours that you can follow. These are a couple of sites that you can check out:
- Walk London
- Free Tours By Foot
- Self guided City of London Walks – these walks are great for architecture fans as you’ll discover the City’s most impressive buildings
- City Walks
You could also follow my suggested walking itineraries that I wrote a while ago:
- Day 1 of a 4 day London Itinerary
- Day 2 of a 4 day London Itinerary
- Day 3 of a 4 day London Itinerary
- Day 4 of a 4 day London Itinerary
Google Maps is fantastic for finding your way around the city. Enter the postcode of your starting point or “Current Location” and the postcode of your destination to find the best route. If you don’t have a data plan available to use on your smartphone then you could get a SIM card with data and minutes from the airport or from a cellphone shop such as Carphone Warehouse on any high street.
Before I came to London, my experience of a “flea market” was one best left to my childhood. However, that changed when I learnt of Camden Market. This huge market has over 1000 shops and stalls selling fashion, music, art and food and in my opinion something that interests everyone. You could easily spend a good few hours walking around here. Portobello Market is another market that is apparently the world’s largest antiques market with over 1,000 dealers selling every kind of antique and collectible. If you’re looking for something different to do then visiting a market would be a great way to spend the day.
3. London City Views
Seeing London from a high viewpoint is something I never tire of. Particularly at sunrise, sunset, at night or on a clear day. There are many places you can visit to check out the London sky line. The most obvious tourist attraction being the London Eye. However if you’re looking for cheaper options, I can suggest these places:
- The Sky Garden – you will need to book your free viewing slot in advance to visit the Sky Garden. When the city lights come on, the views are rather entrancing.
- Tate Modern – entrance to the Tate Modern is free and there is a 360 degree viewing level on the 10th floor definitely worth visiting!
- The Monument
- Westminster Cathedral
- Visit one of the bars such as Aqua Shard at The Shard – you could get 2 drinks from the Aqua Shard for the price of 1 ticket entrance(£26) to the Shard Viewing Gallery which in my opinion is better value for money.
- There are also many bars/restaurants with a rooftop that offer great city views such as The Aviary. Search online for more London rooftop bars.
- The Emirates Air Line Cable Car – this is still on my to do list. London’s only cable car provides a unique and alternative experience of the views across East London.
4. Enjoy London’s green spaces
Did you know that London is one of the greenest cities in the world? There are many parks, secret gardens and green spaces around the the city. My personal favourite is Regent’s Park. Pass some time by relaxing in one of the parks or pick up some sandwiches and snacks from a supermarket such as Sainsburys, Tescos or M&S’s deli section for a simple picnic in the park.
5. Experience London for cheaper
Look out for London Groupon deals before you arrive in London. This way you can book the deals to use on your visit and it’s a great way to save some extra cash. You can find many deals on afternoon tea experiences, restaurants, boat cruises and other attractions that may interest you.
6. Theatre shows
If you love going to the theatre, a visit to London seems incomplete to me without seeing one of the many theatre shows. Unfortunately theatre tickets can be quite pricey though. For tips on how to get cheaper theatre tickets, check out this post: Top 13 Tips for Buying Cheaper Theatre Tickets in London
If you buy tickets online and are unsure of the best seats/views, I find Theatre Monkey to be an excellent resource for the seating plans of many theatres. There are also reviews/comments from others that have visited the theatres.
London has many fantastic museums to whet the appetite of culture vultures. I can definitely recommend visiting the Natural History Museum, The Science Museum, The Imperial War Museum. Get there early though before the hoards arrive! Check out this post for more info on free entrance museums in London.
8. Have a Traditional English Experience
Stop in one of the many traditional English pubs around the city for a pint or a drink and if you fancy something to eat, try the fish and chips 😉
Believe it or not but curry has also been adopted as the UK’s national dish. Brick Lane in East London is worth a visit for its great vibe with its many shops, bars and curry restaurants. Check out Tripadvisor for recommendations.
First time Visitor: Tips
- Use contactless on your debit or credit card (be aware that you may have to pay a foreign exchange fee on the debit or credit card) or an Oyster card for travel around London. Check out TFL for more details on travel around London as a visitor.
- Avoid the tube during peak hours (before 9:30am and between 5 and 7pm) if possible. Unless you’d like to experience what it’s like to be in a sardine pack 😉
- Public toilets – If you have a sudden urge for the toilet have a look out for big department stores such as M&S, Debenhams and John Lewis where you can find toilets available. Some coffee shops and McDonalds might also have toilets as well as the tube stations. Click on this link for a tube map displaying all the available toilets. You may need to pay 30p – 50p to use the toilet at a tube station.
- A warm waterproof jacket and pocket umbrella is essential for visiting London in winter.
- If breakfast at your hotel is optional, you could always buy breakfast for cheaper at sandwich coffee chains such as Pret a Manager, Eat, Starbucks, Cafe Nero
- If you’re looking for a cheap lunch places such as Boots, Tescos, M&S, Sainsburys offer meal deals where you can get a drink, snack and a sandwich for about £3.
London is an amazing city filled with so many things to see, do and experience. Hopefully the information in this post has been useful to you and I hope you’ll have a fantastic holiday here in the city I love.
I’d love to hear your comments, questions or feedback below.