My London travel guide will help you find the best things to eat, see, and do in the city, while ensuring that you know how to travel the city conveniently and safely. Discover Michelin Star restaurants, stunning luxury hotels, fantastic museums, gardens, and architecture, and so much more. If you have any questions, feel free to leave it in the comment section below, and I’ll answer them as soon as possible.
A Brief History of London
From iconic red phone booths to “Big Ben” and Buckingham Palace, London is one of the world’s most iconic cities. London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom, and is the United Kingdom’s largest city. Technically ruled by a monarchy, the British Royal Family, London has long been an important city for trade, scientific development and industrial revolution, politics and diplomacy, and it’s one of the most powerful cities in the world to this day.
Heavily devastated during the fire bombing and multiple attacks during World War II, London has been built and rebuilt over throughout the ages and still stands strong in a world that is moving away from tradition and monarchies and towards democracy, diversity, and a dynamic, shared history of triumphs and tribulations.
When to Visit
London is beautiful all year long, but the city’s gardens, which grace nearly every building in some way, shape, or form are at their peak from May to July. This is also when temperatures are warmest, and the weather is the most pleasant. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, which brings warm air and prevents the city from being as cold as its counterparts on the North American continent, London is generally much more comfortable in the cooler months as well, meaning there’s never a bad time to visit this beautiful urban paradise.
How to Get to London & Getting Around the City
As one of the most frequently visited cities in the world, reaching London is very simple. Fly into either Gatwick or Heathrow airport from any major city in the world, or take a train into London’s King’s Cross station that services much of the United Kingdom. Driving or taking a bus via the “Chunnel” from mainland Europe is also an exciting option that offers travelers a unique and interesting perspective of the United Kingdom, and London.
Once in London, buy an Oyster card from any major rail station or airport kiosk and load this pre-paid travel card up to take the red city buses or underground, commonly called The Tube, practically anywhere you could want to go in the city. During the entire week we traveled around London, we each spent roughly £50 with our Oyster cards, which made traveling so simple and convenient. Simply tap the card at the front of the bus or the gate of underground, continue to your destination, and then tap out at the back of the bus or the subway exit and your card will automatically be debited.
There are kiosks inside any train or underground station that allow you to check the balance of your card or “top up” your card and add more funds to it via credit card or cash. It’s so convenient!
Taxis and ride sharing services are also available in London, but can be costly. Unless you’re familiar with driving on the left side of the road, driving in heavy stop and go traffic, and driving a manual vehicle, I don’t recommend renting a car as it’s nerve wracking even for experienced drivers, very expensive, and parking is hard to come by in the city.
Walking is of course always a great option as well, just much slower if you want to go form one neighborhood to another.
Where to Stay
We loved our stay at the 5-star Kensington Hotel in the fashionable South Kensington neighborhood of London. It was a beautiful place to stay, convenient located near many of the major attractions we wanted to see, but still quiet at night and very relaxed yet elegant. It was just a block away from the South Kensington underground station, which made traversing the city and heading to places like Kew Gardens or The Ivy Chelsea a breeze. Read the full hotel review here.
Other beautiful 5-star hotels like Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard London, Corinthia Hotel London, The Dorchester, Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane, and Rosewood London are gorgeous luxury accommodations fit for any king or queen. In fact, royal families from around the world frequent these six hotels!
What to Do
A person could live in London their entire life and never do everything the city has to offer. In fact, it’s one of the most interesting places in the world, because if you can dream it up, chances are high that you’ll find it in London. Below are some of our favorite things to do in London, in no particular order.
Enjoy afternoon tea in the city at Ting Restaurant at the Shangri-La Hotel, The Ritz Carlton Hotel, or at The Kensington Hotel
Have a pint at a British pub, we recommend Churchill Arms or Zetland Arms pub
Head to the Sky Garden Observation Deck
Ride a Boat down the River Thames
Ride a red double decker bus
Ride the London Eye Ferris wheel
Stroll through Hyde Park, or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy there
Stroll through Kensington Park
Stroll through St. James Park & Gardens
Tour Buckingham Palace in the summer while the queen is away (no photography is allowed inside)
Visit Big Ben (under construction until 2021)
Visit the colorful buildings of Notting Hill
Visit Kew Royal Botanic Garden
Visit Platform 9&3/4 from Harry Potter at King’s Cross Station
Visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum
Walk the Princess Diana Memorial Walk
Walk the Tower Bridge
Watch tennis at Wimbledon
Where to Eat
London is home to 69 Michelin Star restaurants, including famous British chef Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant “Gordon Ramsey” which has held three Michelin Stars, the highest possible ranking, since 2001. In addition to this astonishing amount of Michelin Star restaurants, London is home to a plethora of vegan, gluten free, halal, and exotic eateries with cuisine inspired by the global residents of London, an increasingly international metropolis. Here are some of our favorite places to eat in London.
Chuc’s Café, South Kensington
Casual English food, their breakfast is a great way to start the day, and there are plenty of options for those with special dietary needs.
Daiquise Polish Restaurant, South Kensington
This Polish restaurant was one of our favorite places to eat in all of the United Kingdom. The food here had so much flavor, which was a welcome relief compared to some of the disturbingly bland English food we had at places that were excluded from this list. The mixed salad with fennel & orange, and the potato and onion dumplings were simply delectable, and the atmosphere was surprisingly romantic, making it the perfect spot for an intimate dinner.
Dozo Japanese Restaurant, South Kensington
A beautiful Japanese restaurant, located near the South Kensington Station. Intimate private dining downstairs, with indoor water features, and English takes on Japanese traditional cuisine. The waitstaff here were very kind and happy to practice Japanese with us!
Le Gavrouche, 3 Michelin Stars
This beautiful, French restaurant has an entire tasting menu dedicated to vegetarians, which made it simply irresistible to us. The plating and presentation is brilliant, and the atmosphere is fun and laid back, yet elegantly unassuming.
Ikoyi, St. James Markets, 1 Michelin Star
This beautiful restaurant exists due in part to a number of collaborations between potters, extremely talented chefs, and design experts. If you’re looking to try something completely new in London, head to Ikoyi. We recommend the blind tasting menu, but if you need exceptions made for allergies or dietary restrictions, you’ll need to call ahead as they don’t offer an a la carte menu.
Itadakizen Vegan & Organic Sushi
Europe’s very first organic, vegan Japanese restaurant, Itdakizen was a place my husband surprised me by planning this stop without telling me. I LOVE Japanese food (if you hadn’t noticed by the fact that half of my food recommendations are Japanese restaurants), so believe me when I tell you this place was amazing. I recommend making a reservation, because it’s very small and fills up quickly, but even if you aren’t vegan, this place is absolutely worth a stop!
The Ivy, Chelsea
Situated inside a gorgeous orangery, and boasting a large and inviting garden patio, The Ivy Chelsea is a delightful spot to grab brunch, lunch, or dinner with friends or loved ones. Everything we had was delightful, and there were plenty of options for vegetarians.
The Kew Greenhouse Café, Surrey
This beautiful greenhouse/café is located just outside the Kew Gardens station stop, and is not connected to the gardens, but they served up tasty café style food, and had lots of delightful gluten free options, making it the perfect place to stop on our way back from the gardens.
Kitchen Table, 2 Michelin Stars
Only 20 seats fill this small restaurant, but with such an intimate settings comes the opportunity to learn from the chefs, interacting with them as they prepare multiple courses from a set menu that changes daily. If you’re up for something new and interesting, head here.
Le Pain Quotidien, Chelsea
This brunch spot was a beautiful way to start our day, and despite being called “The Daily Bread”, they had lots of gluten free and light, fruit laden vegan options, which was a delightful and refreshing way to start our day before heading to Kew Gardens.
Located just around the corner from the Tower Bridge, Zen Café is a sweet, and tranquil Japanese style café serving Japanese pastries, teas, and coffees.
Other Cities Near London
Edinburgh is a 4 hour train ride away, making it the perfect weekend destination from London. It is also one of my favorite places I’ve ever been.
Safety in London
We never once felt unsafe in London, although admittedly we did stick primarily to Chelsea and South Kensington after dark, which are notoriously safe. It was eerie how early the streets cleared out. I remember one night we were walking back from Itadakizen near King’s Cross Station heading back towards The Kensington Hotel just after sunset, and for several blocks we didn’t see another single solitary soul. We worried perhaps that others knew something we didn’t, but we didn’t have any troubles whatsoever.
Just like in any large city, when traveling around it’s always best to keep any valuables securely stored in inner pockets, and keep handbags in front of your body in large crowds. Be aware of your surroundings, and use common sense and you shouldn’t have any troubles.
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