We have been to London a number of times so thought it was about time we we did a post covering the city and the basics for anyone’s first trip there.
London is a huge city, it’s so huge that we have both been there 3+ times each and we still have not seen all of the city! We are even returning this year to venture off the beaten track so keep your eyes peeled for that post especially if you have been to London before.
So, it’s your first trip to London and you are only going for a short time, what are you going to do in a city that has a lot to do? We have come up with a suggested list of essential things to see and do on your first trip to this cool city.
Where should you stay?
To be honest the city is that big that no matter where you stay you will have to travel to some of the sights a bit. If you are only going to London to do some shopping then stay near oxford street in an area such as Covent Garden. The last time we went we stayed down by Tower Bridge as we had already stayed in the usual touristy areas. The Hilton London Tower Bridge was a fantastic hotel with great service, beautiful and chic decor and it was very convenient as the tube was right across the road from the hotel making it easy to get around the rest of the city.
The London Eye was right down the road from the hotel and it was a very nice area to walk around in. We would recommend this hotel for anyone staying in London however for your first time you might want to stay more central, it all depends on your preferences. Keep in mind that the more towards oxford street and Covent Garden you go, the more expensive the hotels. There is a travel lodge available in Covent Garden that is very price friendly, clean and has all the necessities so if you are on a budget and just want a place to lay your head while on the centre of everything this could be a great choice.
Oh so many sights: what to see and do
As we mentioned, London has a lot of things to see that are very interesting. On your first trip you definitely will not see everything and you don’t want to rush things either. Below, we have listed a number of sights we deem as a must see on your first visit:
1. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is where the Queen of the United Kingdom mainly resides. The Palace is beautiful and even the area around the palace is nice for a stroll. If you plan a visit here during the summer months you might catch the crossing of the guards which is a great experience and sight to see!
2. Big Ben and Westminster
The architecture in Westminster and where Big Ben is, is absolutely beautiful and well worth a visit.
3. The London Eye
If you are afraid of heights, this may not be for you. The London Eye is a big observation wheel with great views over Westminster and London City. It’s not for the faint hearted though as it’s very high and it never stops moving so you have to jump on and off. We got some lovely photos of the city though in particular Westminster and Big Ben.
4. London Bridge
From the famous rhyme, London Bridge is falling down, a walk across the famous bridge is a must.
5. Trafalgar Square
This is one of my favourite areas in London as it is so lively. Mainly filled with tourists, this Square is full of excellent architecture as it exhibits Nelson’s Column, a number of fountains and many nice restaurants and cafes. The National Gallery also sits in Trafalgar Square which is a must for Art Lovers.
6. Piccadilly Circus
Excellent place for shopping and eating. It is also where the M&M store is!
7. Tower Bridge
Another beautiful bridge to walk across. Gothic architecture is featured on this bridge. You can also walk across the top of this bridge in the Tower Bridge Experience.
8. The Natural History Museum
Based out in Kensington, which is a very pleasant area for a stroll around, this museum is very interesting and has amazing exhibits. We would highly recommend it on your trip to London! It’s one of our favourite things we have done there and it’s free 🙂
9. See a show in the West End
We love a good show in London (more so Nicole). A night at the theatre is something new and different that we think everyone should experience on a trip to London. The west end is famous for its shows around the world and it’s a great night out. The last time we went we saw the Lion King which was amazing. The creativeness of the costumes, the songs, everything was very enjoyable about the show and we would recommend it. Other shows Nicole would recommend are Pricilla: Queen of the Desert, the Phantom of the Opera and Sister Act. Make sure you check the London Theatre Website to see what’s on during your dates. londontheatre.co.uk
10. Oxford Street and Covent Garden
Head to Oxford street for all the high street brands and if you are looking for something more quirky head to Covent Garden.
There are four airports servicing the city of London.
Heathrow is the biggest with most airlines flying in here, the great thing is you can get the tube straight from Heathrow to the centre of the city and it will take approx. 40 minutes.
London City airport is near Canary Wharf, London’s financial district. It’s mostly serviced by City Jet and British Airways from Dublin and takes approx. 50 minutes to get into the city.
Gatwick airport is further out then Heathrow but is still quite handy as you can get a train straight into the city centre from here which will take about 60 minutes.
Stanstead is a good bit outside of the city and is quite a small airport. You can still catch a train into the city however it will take longer and will be more expensive as it is further out, taking over an hour to get into the city.
Depending on where you are going in London depends on which airport is nearest to your destination so make sure you check which airport will suit you better for whatever part of the city you are going to. The above are estimated times into the centre of London.
Your answer to transport while travelling around London is just two tiny little words: The Tube. The Tube is the London Underground system and while this may be quite daunting on your first trip, tube maps are available in major train stations and in most hotels around the city as well as tourist offices. Some of the smaller stations won’t have staff available to help so that is where your pocket size map comes in handy. Most stations will have a giant map in them too but this can gather a lot of crowds so it’s best to have your own.
Taxis are readily available around the city. The famous black cabs are big and comfortable but London traffic can be a nightmare so we prefer the tube.
1. Garfunkles in Trafalgar Square
No trip to London is complete without Garfunkles. There are many nestled across the city but We particularly like the one in Trafalgar Square as it’s a lovely area. They have a range of food on offer and it is always cooked to perfection.
2. The Hard Rock Cafe
You can never go wrong with a Hard Tock Cafe, the food is delicious, there’s an array of choice and the service is excellent. It’s one of our faveourite hotel chains.
3. Jamie’s Italian
Celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver has a number of restaurants around the city with Jamie’s Italian being a more relaxed atmosphere. The food is amazing as we had the pleasure of having breakfast here through our hotel the Hilton London Tower Bridge. We didn’t have dinner but if it’s anything like the breakfast we give it a thumbs up.
There are plenty of restaurants to chose from around the city, the ones above are restaurants that we went to on our last trip.
We hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as we did writing it (which was a lot). London is an amazing city and we are excited to go back this year to bring you more restaurant reviews and cover the city off the beaten track.
Make sure you check out our Instagram @littleworldadventuresblog and do make sure you follow the blog to keep up to date on our adventures!
Nicole and Bryan
*please note that any recommendations are based on our own experiences and all opinions of hotels, restaurants and sights are our own.