When to visit
A vibrant city like London is best visited during spring and summer season, especially if its your first time. If you catch a clear sky and no signs of a downpour, count it to be your best day in London, weather-wise. Tip the scales towards spring if you have the liberty to do so, since lower temperatures mean lesser crowds and lower cost of accommodation.
What to expect
The first thing you’ll notice is, like any big cosmopolitan city, London has a multicultural scene and a diverse crowd. Having all major facilities in place like a great public transportation system, ATM machines of major banks and limitless cuisine options, the city is extremely well-equipped to handle the millions of tourists visiting the city year-round.
Iconic landmarks, red telephone booths, the Red Bus, high-fashion brands, a sea of humans at peak hours, a whole lot of tour guides, each leading a group of tourists to the next attraction on their list, are some of the things you can expect to see. You’ll get to experience the era of café culture.
You may stop to admire a lot of beautiful old churches and cathedrals that dot the entire city. Be prepared to whip out your camera and capture those incredible pieces of art for your memories.
How to get around
Best part about London is its public transportation and how cheap it is to get around!
If you don’t really care for a chauffeur-driven black London taxi, hit the “Tube”. I never had to wait for more than 5 minutes at any tube station, thats how efficient it is. Sometimes the stations are closer than they seem in the map, so walking to the point instead of taking a tube might actually save time. Google Maps to the rescue!
I would recommend buying an Oyster Card that suits your length of stay in London and use it to board any means of public transit London has to offer (except taxis). Thats the first thing I did after landing in London to get from LHR airport to my accommodation. Bonus for those traveling by bus is the upper deck which is like a sightseeing tour in itself. Download the Tube map app.
Where to stay
For first-time budget travelers, who have no clue which London area is good to stay or closer to major tourist attractions, I’d say pick an Airbnb that is around Victoria or Pimlico station. I stayed here. Getting around becomes much easier when you stay near a tube station. If you don’t mind hopping from one Bnb to another then you should consider dividing the duration of your stay in 2 different BnBs to make the most of your time.
Hostel lovers and budget backpackers have vast options to choose from. Check out these sites : HostelWorld , Hostels.com .
London is a treat for luxury travelers who prefer fancy hotels and all the pampering they can get. Splurge on an extravagant staycation at Shangri-La at The Shard or Sofitel London St James. To crank the luxury scale up a notch, try The Dorchester
Top 5 touristy things to do in London
You could buy a London City Pass if you intend to have a fixed itinerary. For every attraction that needs a ticket, it can be purchased in advance.
Ride the London Eye
Catch one of the best views of the entire city and river Thames from inside of a giant capsule of this iconic ferris wheel. The view at sunset was breathtaking with the water glistening and the buildings reflecting the golden hour. Buy the tickets online to avoid long lines.
Check out Westminster Abbey
This magnificent church is hard to miss due to its monumental gothic structure and the fact that it has hosted the coronation ceremonies of all of Britain’s royals. Take a walk around and if you’re lucky you’ll see Big Ben free from all the ugly scaffolding. Entrance fee applicable.
Walk on the Tower Bridge
My personal favorite, the Tower Bridge, often mistaken by tourists as London Bridge, is the one place I visited twice during my stay in London. Not just the bridge but also the neighbourhood is fascinating to explore. Its absolutely free unless you go on the towers!
Explore Notting Hill and Portobello Road
A walk around this neighborhood is an absolute must on my list. I plan on doing it on every future visit to London. Every street contrasts the previous one you left. Get ready to be surprised by brightly coloured buildings, posh white houses, antique stores housing eccentric artifacts, popular food joints and street performers. Free, free and free but super fun!
Tickle your palette at Borough Market
From local favorites to international delicacies, find it all here! I may be biased about farmer’s markets but they truly are of great interest to me. What the locals produce, eat and create is, for me, a big part of experiencing a new city. Another free activity to do!