London’s stories are told through its accumulation of architectural excellence, rich history, heritage, and flourishing food, music, and art scenes. Whether you’re planning a one-day stopover or a week-long stay, here’s everything you need to know before you see, taste, and explore all that London has to offer.
- Founded: 50 A.D.
- Area: 607 mi² (1572 km²)
- Population: 8.8 million
- Language: British English
- Currency: Pound sterling (£/GBP)
- Time Zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
- Major Airports: London City, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, and London Stansted
- Drive on the: Left
Since London is known for its gloomy weather, the city becomes most crowded during the summer months. Its tourist season tends to die down around the second week of September, just as autumn starts to set in. Although the weather is mild during this time of year (52-59°F/11-15°C,), it’s always best to be prepared for a little rain.
If you decide to go during other times of the year, you can expect average temperatures to be 36-50°F (2-10°C) in the winter, 45-59°F (7-15°C) in the spring, and 55-72°F (13-22°C) in the summer.
As far as public transportation is concerned, the city has the Underground (“Tube”), Overground, National rail, buses, Boris Bike, and Thames Clipper, though you can always opt to take a taxi. That said, the city is pretty well-connected, so if you’re headed to an area that’s not walkable, public transit should be an easy fix. If you need help navigating your route, Citymapper, Busmapper, and Tube Map are all helpful apps. Note that all forms of public transit in London require an Oyster card and are contact-less (meaning they do not accept cash). You can purchase a refillable Oyster card at any rail station or at most local shops.
Though London is known for its ever-changing skyline, it’s not completely concrete jungle. Take advantage of the pristine, well-kept parks around the city — go for a walk, get some fresh air, have a picnic, take a nap, or just sit and enjoy the sunshine (if the clouds permit). Some of London’s most famous parks include Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and Regent’s Park.
The city’s cultural scene thrives as home to some of the world’s best museums, art galleries, and creative projects. Home to the Tate Modern, British Museum, National Gallery, Royal Academy of the Arts, Serpentine Galleries, and Somerset House, there’s plenty of inspiration lurking around every corner.
Explore the city’s amazing market scene on days when you’re up for shopping or people-watching appeals most. Especially known for Camden Lock, Portobello Road, and Brick Lane, London is filled with markets and shops that are stocked with vintage treasures, fresh produce, cheap eats, and locally crafted goods.
Speaking of food, London is famous for its international offerings, including curries, sushi, and Lebanese dishes. Aside from borrowed cuisine, the city also boasts fresh catches from the sea, local produce, classic roast dinners, and delicious cakes and pastries. If you’re not sure where to eat, just ask a local! Note that although tipping is not required at restaurants, it’s nice to leave a one to two pound tip — but some places add 12.5 percent surcharges for groups, so make sure to check your bill first!
With all of that said, the main thing to remember when visiting London is to take your time and explore. Know which neighborhoods you’d like to see ahead of time — that way you’ll save money on public transportation, make the most of your time, and save your legs from falling off.
Header image by Shadzii