Whatever your holiday style, or whatever the reason for your visit, London is a city that certainly packs a punch. According to Flight Centre Travel Experts Pete and Zade, it’s a city that has something for everyone – read on for their top tips on doing London.
When is the best time to book flights to London?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions by my friends, clients and anyone I meet… everyone wants to snap up that airfare deal! So it really depends on when you want to travel. Airfares for European summer are released in September’s earlybird season, which is a great time to plan and book as much of your travel as you can. If you are more flexible with your schedule, check out the Flight Centre Travel Expos for great deals.
How to get around London
- From Heathrow Airport take the Heathrow Express, which takes you into Central London in just 15 minutes.
- From Gatwick Airport, the Gatwick Express will get you into town in 30 minutes
- Once you’re in London, the Tube is the local way to get around. You can either buy an Oyster card and recharge as you need, or if you have a contactless card that works internationally, most of these work can be swiped and debited just like an Oyster card.
Where to stay in London
For first timers, King’s Cross, Kensington, Mayfair or The West End are all great locations due to their access to transport, dining, galleries and museums, shopping and other attractions.
If you want to be close to public transport, the Royal Palaces and other top attractions, I love the Milestone Hotel. It’s a boutique hotel in Kensington and one of our absolute favourites. Apart from the unique rooms set across the 19th-century building, the hotel boasts a specialty restaurant, two bars and offers an award-winning afternoon tea in their Park Lounge. If that hasn’t sold you, the service, welcome drinks on arrival and dog-friendly accommodation surely will.
Things to do
- The Original London Sightseeing Bus Tour. There are three routes across the city, all of which will take you past iconic locations and include a free river cruise from Westminster to the Tower of London.
- The London Pass is a great way to budget - it gives you access to over 80 of London’s top attractions and 3 days worth of Oyster card travel.
- The Coca-Cola London Eye is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks and in fact is both the UK’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel and the most popular paid tourist attraction. Located on the South Bank of the River Thames, it gives you an unobstructed bird’s-eye view of the city – plan it for a clear day to make it worth your while!
- The Shard, a 95-storey skyscraper located in Southwark, has a viewing deck called The View, one of our favourite spots in the city. Here visitors can enjoy a glass of bubbles, a meal in the restaurant or simply enjoy a photo op and the incredible view over London.
- Madame Tussauds London is a popular tourist spot and worth stopping in for a selfie with its incredibly lifelike celebrity figures.
- The London Dungeons offers visitors a fun and interactive, and sometimes scary, recount of macabre historical events in a humorous way, featuring actors, rides and some creepy special effects.
- The Warner Bros Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter, is worth a full-day trip, whether you’re a wand-weiding fan or unsure muggle. The set design alone is something you could spend a day admiring. This location offers the world’s only fully guided tour of The Making of Harry Potter. We recommend booking through Evan Evans, which can organise coach transfers from central London.
- The West End is the place to be if you’re into theatre. We recommend chatting to your Flight Centre consultant about booking tickets early to ensure you get the seats and shows you’re after. If you’re there for the experience, head to Leicester Square on the day you want to go and you might be able to get some great deals on last-minute tickets.
- St James’s Park Tube Station is a great one-stop spot and provides easy access to some of London’s biggest landmarks. Once you exit you can easily walk between Westminster Abbey, the Churchill War Rooms, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, which are all within a few blocks of each other.
London’s Best Bars & Restaurants
London has some of the world’s most impressive bars and restaurants, picking a favourite is impossible. There are so many watering holes to choose from, ranging from boutique bars, hidden wine dens, high-end cocktail lounges and, of course, British pubs. Here are our current faves:
- Discount Suit Company, a speakeasy in Spitalfields
- The Sun Tavern, an Irish whiskey bar in East London
- The Vault, a hidden cocktail bar in Soho
- Swifft, a two-storey cocktail bar in Soho
- The Famous Curry Bazaar, a tasty curry house on Brick Lane, East London
- The Cat’s Back, an endearing yet traditional English pub run by a chef in Wandsworth. The pub serves up delicious British classics, boasts a beer garden perfect for summer afternoons and fires up the indoor fireplace in winter...Plus, it’s dog friendly!
Free things to do in London
London has more free things to do than any city I have ever visited, so if you’re travelling on a budget, London is really fun and accessible. If you do your research ahead of time, you will find countless museums, shows and events. Or to score free entry to some year-round attractions, read on for a few of the best.
Free museums & galleries
London has amazing galleries and more than 170 museums, most of which offer free entry either permanently, or on certain times and days of the week. Jump online to check details first, our picks are:
- The Tate Modern
- The Museum of London
- The British Museum
- The National Gallery
- The Natural History Museum
- The National Portrait Gallery
- Victoria & Albert Museum
- Science Museum
- Houses of Parliament
- East London’s quirky street art murals
- The markets! We love Portobello Road, Borough Markets and the Columbia Road Flower Markets
- Kensington Gardens
- Hyde Park
- Greenwich Park
- Changing of the Guards, Buckingham Palace
- Hampstead Heath