London is one of the world’s most popular cities for travellers to visit clocking in around 20 million visitors in 2017. It is an even more attractive destination to visit after the Sterling took a ‘pound’ing making a travellers money go farther than before. Being the megalopolis that London is (which we have visited too many times to count), it is possible to see the city for a few days on a low budget all the way up to any splurge budget one can imagine. We’ll give our reasons to visit the capital along with the public transport logistics wrt the most popular attactions.
Reasons to Visit
A great thing about the UK is that national museums are free & London is home to a number of them. This is especially helpful when you need to take a rain check, literally, when the English weather turns wet. Honestly, the quality of these museums deserve a look in all weather. Here is our list of recommendations
- British Museum (TripAdvisor): Its size is massive and the Egyptian exhibit is quite famous for its mummy & hieroglyphic displays (some 5000+ years old).
- British Library: It’s Treasures Collection will blow your mind. This room contains handwritten notes by Mozart, the Beatles & Da Vinci.
- National Gallery: Another huge museum that’s home to many masterpieces including ones from Da Vinci.
- Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum: Showcases well a lot of Asian countries, their history as the culture.
- Natural History Museum / Museum of Science: Great for kids. We are not very big fans are they do not have very many interactive exhibits.
We spent our formative years reciting English nursery rhymes that invariably had images of London tied to them (London Bridge, Big Ben, etc). The very first thing we did when we came to London the 1st time was to catch a Tube to Westminster in time for Big Ben striking 7 AM. Each gong strike was majestic! As we grew up, London imagery from TV shows (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Danger Mouse) & movies (V for Vendetta) became part of our visual memory. We spent a fair amount of time seeing these landmarks & getting our pictures taken while fanboying/fangirling about our fav shows.
- Big Ben & Parliament @ Westminster (V for Vendetta)
- Westminster Abbey (Next door from Parliament)
- Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, London Eye, Bank (Sherlock TV Title)
- Buckingham Palace
- 221B Baker Street (Sherlock)
- Platform 9-3/4 at Kings Cross Station (Harry Potter, this exists, pic below)
- Tower of London
- Tip: The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace starts at 11 but one needs to be there by 10 to stand somewhere to take pictures from. Also roads are barricaded once it begins so you can only get out after its over.
- Theatre: London’s similarity to New York extends to being a theatre hub. West End is undoubtedly the place to catch a rendition of your favourite musical. There is also a National Theatre at Southbank & the Picadilly Circus to Victoria area has a bunch of famous theatres. We’ve seen Wicked at the Apollo Victoria theatre as it’s one of Yoda’s favourite musicals. Tip: Score some cheaper theater tickets at half price stalls around the city. One of them is at the Picadilly Circus tube station.
- Day Out with the Kids (at heart): London is an extremely family-friendly tourism city. Madame Tussaud, London Zoo & Natural History museum make good days out. Take your kids (or yourself) to the 250 year old Hamley’s toy store on Oxford street. Taking the red double decker buses & the tube also excited a lot of kids from what we could see.
- Go Off-Piste: Do you want to see a Banksy in real life? Go to this map reference to see the Falling Shopper (pictured). There are many graffiti spots around London. There are indoor climbing facilities & even a very large slide that’s about to open soon for offbeat activities in the city. Rummage through books at Southbank or the many London bookstores. Stand in both of earth’s Hemispheres at the same time in Greenwich. We invite locals who read this to tell us their favourite spot in London.
Food & Drink
London offers so much variety of food & drink options that we’ve decided to split it out as a separate post: London Food & Drink.
Our top tip for lunch in Central London is either Leicester Square Chinatown for Dimsum or Borough Food Market near the London Bridge station.
Getting In & Around
- Follow our UK Transportation Guide to see how to get into London from one of it’s airports. Trains take you straight to Zone 1 which is nice.
- The easiest way to see all the sights is via the Underground. Below is a handy table that groups attractions (mentioned above) by Underground line + Station Name. To keep things simple, you can see that the 2 branches of the Northern Line cover most of the things to see.
Underground Line Attraction (Station Name) Northern Line British Museum, Montague on the Gardens, Kanada-Ya, Ippudo (Tottenham Court Road – Charing Cross Branch) Chinatown (Leicester Square – Charing Cross Branch) British Library (Euston – Both Branches / Kings Cross – Bank Branch) The National Gallery & Trafalgar Square (Charing Cross – Charing Cross Branch) Borough Food Market, The Shard (London Bridge – Bank Branch) Nightjar (Old Street – Bank Branch) Platform 9-3/4 (Kings Cross Station – Bank Branch) District / Circle Line Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey (Westminster) Buckingham Palace (Victoria) V&A Museum, Natural History Museum & Museum of Science (South Kensington Station) Tower Hill (Tower Hill) Bakerloo Line Picadilly Circus, Fortnum & Mason (Picadilly Circus) 221B Baker Street, Madame Tussaud (Baker Street)
- Public transport in London is expensive. Expect atleast a 6 GBP bill for traveling around every day. If you are coming from outside of UK, get an Oyster card made & topped up with 30 GBP at either London Euston / Victoria / Liverpool stations.
- If you have a UK Debit / Credit contactless card, use that to tap in & out of the Tube stations. Daily / weekly capping works just fine 🙂