Great news: you’re going to London! Not so great news… you’re not planning on being here in London for long, are you?
First Tip: Extend your visit for as long as you can.
This iconic city, the one that I get to call home, is and has everything one could possibly wish for in a city. And that’s not me being biased.
London boasts everything from stunning parks, legendary landmarks, an electric club scene, endless restaurants, skyline views, quirky bars, pop ups and the latest crazes of workout classes to hippie neighbourhoods, iconic film sets and everything in between.
Admittedly there are a few things we need to work on here in London. One being the sweaty, crazy, over packed tubes at rush hour and, yes, a little extra sunshine wouldn’t go a miss either.
Considering your time in London is limited, I assume you won’t want to be spending much time admiring the four walls around your chosen place of rest. Particularly not when you have the likes of Big Ben and Hyde Park on your door step.
And with that in mind…
I would personally say ‘go cheap’ to save the sky high costs you can easily inflict upon yourself in London. After all, if you have any sense, you’ll only be resting your head there, so there’s no point paying out all that money when your going to be out and about.
Staying central in London is obviously ideal for reduced journey times (so do it if you have unlimited budget), but it will be expensive and you can expect to be paying £150-290 for a nice hotel room.
There are obviously ways to do it cheaper than this…
London gets a lot of stick for its transport, and rightly so at times.
But at the end of the day, it is a heavily populated city and chaos is caused mainly as these people commute to and from their jobs. Roads will block up, tubes will pack up and trains will fill up… ALL pretty much to maximum capacity.
Compared to other cities globally, transport in London doesn’t come cheap either.
But it is what it is, and it shouldn’t put you off coming at all. You just have to be smart about it and work out the loopholes. I’ve got you.
To increase your chances of receiving a smile from someone, to reduce delays and to not get stuck in an underground sauna…
AVOID travelling in London betweem 7.30am-9.30am and 5-7pm. Rush hour is not pleasant for anyone!
This iconic infrastructure runs underground all over London from 6am – 12pm and the Victoria, Central, Piccadilly, Jubilee and Northern lines run 24 hours on Fridays and Saturday.
When using the underground you should definitely buy an oyster card from any ticket desk for £5 for reduced fares. You can hand the card back at the end of your trip and get it refunded at any help desk or some machines. You can also use your contactless card the same way as an Oyster Card.
If you’d prefer not to have an Oyster card, you can get a day travel card, but these waste paper and work out more expensive!
Black Cabs are so iconic and despite the high prices compared to Uber, buses and tubes, it’s a unique and iconic London experience and one you should do at least once for the thrill of it. You’ll see them all over London, so simply flag one down and hop on in!
The revolution that has taken over the world and one that means we can now get around at a very affordable price. There are on going debates about the safety of Uber, due to the low training and entry barriers compared to the Black Cabbies but, fortunately, I’ve only had positive experiences. Download the Uber app onto your phone and enjoy cheap, instant, cardless transport!
Starting as low as £2, download the app (or use a contactless card at the cycle docking station machine), and cycle round this beautiful city! With docking stations everywhere, it’s a great way to do short journeys.
A lot of the time it is quicker and more pleasant to walk around the city (Check CityMapper for your best route option). Taxi drivers and cyclists are ruthless, though, so watch out for them + be careful crossing the roads.
I personally LOVE buses. In comparison to the underground I just love the fact you can actually see the city as you travel around it. You can often get to more specific destinations with buses that tubes can’t. You can also use your Oyster card or contactless card on the bus!
If you’re travelling on the outskirts of London there are trains that can often take you quicker or further than the tube. You can also take the train out of London to major airports, e.g. Trains from Victoria will take you to Gatwick in 30 minutes.
Note: You can use your Oyster card on the overground within the city zones, but not further out to the airports.
With the congestion charges, traffic and chaos that come with this big city, I don’t recommend driving around London. But, if for any reason you drive to Central London, you can download ‘JustPark’ for cheap parking options. Park up and then walk or use transport.
And the big question…
If it’s your first time then I would allocate one day to do the touristy stuff and get those long sought after iconic snaps. I would then choose another couple of areas to uncover for day two.
Here are some options…
Do my favourite walk – ‘The walk you should not miss when you come to London’. Check out the post for full route details here.
On this walk you will witness a massive handful of the major landmarks, see them up close and personal, and cross off a fair few of your bucket list London photos.
This walk can take anything from 2 – 5 hours depending how fast you walk and whether you stop for food, drinks and wanderings along the way.
If you get up early and finish the route by early afternoon, consider the following additions:
As previously mentioned, you cannot possibly cover London in a year, let alone the two days you have. For your second day, choose a neighbourhood (or two) to explore. My favourites include…
This hippie, artsy, alternative corner of London (despite its growing affluence) remains one of the coolest, grittiest and genuine neighbourhoods in London. This is where I’ll head for a gorgeous market stroll, brunch location or cocktail evening. Liverpool Street and Brick Lane are within easy access for two additional flip side experiences.
My Shoreditch bucket list for you:
The land of free living. Or the closest you’ll get to such in London. Residents and visitors both express themselves through every artistic way possible, be it through food, clothing, piercings, tattoos, street art, busking, clothing stalls or photography. I love it. Every time I go to Camden I encounter randomness, friendly souls and interesting sights, amongst some of the best food, drink and music in the city.
My Camden bucket list for you:
Check out my complete guide to Camden here.
Notting Hill is more than just the location for the 1999 classes staring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. Its streets are lined with dreamy, wish-list townhouses, gorgeous boutique shops, cocktail bars and brunch spots. Notting Hill is also home to the biggest street festival in Europe and hosts one of the most popular markets in London which blows up on Fridays and Saturdays.
My Notting Hill bucket list for you:
If the sun’s out, this is the place to be! Lounge by the lake and take down a picnic and a few drinks to share with your friends.
The food centre of London and home to many of the West End theatres, this neighbourhood covering one square mile is easily explored en foot. You have an abundance of shopsand nightlife to hand, with the popular likes of Bond Street, China Town, Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden within walking distance.
My Soho bucket list for you: