The Beginner’s Travel Guide to London

The Beginner’s Travel Guide to London

The capital of England and the United Kingdom, London is one of the world’s most visited cities—a leading tourist destination welcoming over 20 million visitors every year. 

Home of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom—a monarchy who once ruled the vast British Empire—the city has a much-storied past. For maiden travellers to the city, however, London’s labyrinthine streets can be a maze, waiting to be explored.

Most people begin their London journey at the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and St Paul’s Cathedral. But do not let your London experience stop there; once you have had a look around the city, it is time to explore some of London’s hidden nooks and crannies

First time visiting London? No problem, let the friendly team at Pan Pacific London get you acquainted with some of London’s must-see landmarks and experiences.

 

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Preparing for a London Escape

From budgeting to practical tips on how to get around London, here are some points to consider before jetting off on your trip.

 

When to visit London

London has a temperate oceanic climate, with cool winters and mild summers. July to August is when many Europeans go for their summer holidays, hence visitors are advised to avoid this period. 

The best time to visit London is typically from March through to May (Spring) as the weather is mild and the city's parks are in bloom. However, September to October (early Autumn) also present a good travel window.

 

Your London Escape Budget

The first thing to include in your budget is accommodation as it is likely to make up the bulk of your travel expenses. Depending on your requirement, accommodation may range from £200 (USD244) to as much £1,500 (USD1,770) a night or more.

London is a vast city with so much to explore so the other major cost is transportation. One way to save money is to avoid taking taxis and opt for the bus or underground train network whenever you can—any journey on the bus network costs £1.50 (USD1.83) no matter which part of the city you are going. Another benefit is that you will not be charged again if you change buses within an hour.

Another major cost component is food. While London has a thriving street food scene and fast food chains like Pret-a-Manger are largely affordable, who would not want to splurge on a few signature restaurant meals while on holiday? Be prepared to set aside at least £90-100 a day (USD110-122) for meals—more if you wish to dine at Michelin starred outlets like Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, or Le Gavroche.

 

Travelling around London

When in London, do as the locals do and use public transport. One of the most common forms of transport is the ‘Tube’, the underground train network that connects you to destinations in and around London. 

There are various types of ticket options, but the one that most travellers rely on is the Oyster card, which is cheaper than paper tickets. With the Oyster or a contactless credit card, you will pay somewhere between £2.40 and £2.90 (USD2.93 and USD3.54) per ride within Zones 1 and 2 in the city centre where many of London’s landmarks can be found.

For more insider tips on how to get around via the London Tube, click here

A great way to find out the best mode of transport to your destination is to use an app called CityMapper. This app is used by local Londoners and is fairly reliable in recommending the best way to your destination. 

 

Styling for London

Londoners’ dress styles are casual but still presentable, like a fitted blouse and slim pair of jeans and a lightweight coat. As always, be sure to check the weather forecast before you pack. The weather in London may be relatively mild all year round, but rainy days can still be chilly, so be prepared to dress in layers.

Pro-tip: Stick to neutral colours to make it easier to mix and match your items.

 

Currency, Electric Plugs and Drinking Water

 three pin plug in UK  three pin plug in UK

 

London is a very card-friendly place so you do not have to physically carry a huge amount of British pounds with you on your trip. Debit and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere and you can easily withdraw cash from a cash machine. 

UK appliances are fitted with three-pin plugs, and wall power sockets deliver an average voltage of 230v. Thankfully, adapters are widely available from the airport or from high street shops, so if your country uses a lower voltage, you can easily get hold of one.

Is tap water in London safe to drink? The answer is yes! British tap water is actually ranked as one of the cleanest in the world and is subject to stringent testing. 

 

Best Local Experiences in London

From breathtaking cultural experiences to shopping like a local at one of its quaint markets, London has a lot to offer solo travellers, family holiday-makers, or business visitors who have a day or two of free time. Here is a selection of the best London places to add to your list.

 

Go London Museum Hopping

As one of Europe’s oldest cities, London has a wealth of historic and cultural treasures that few other cities can match. The city is probably best known for allowing free entry to its major museums and galleries—many of which are ranked among the top cultural institutions in the world.

Whether you are a history, art, collectible, or architecture buff, there is a museum in London just for that. 

 

V&A Museum in London V&A Museum in London

 

Victoria and Albert Museum

Address: Cromwell Rd, Knightsbridge, London SW7 2RL                                                    
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday, 9:30am to 5:30pm
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7942 2000

 

Start your cultural expedition at the ultra-chic Victoria and Albert Museum, or V&A in short. Home of the world’s greatest collection of decorative arts spanning millennia, the V&A’s collections are sprawled across 150 galleries spanning seven floors. They include furniture, statues, ceramics and glass to textiles, costumes and jewellery.

It is impossible to cover this huge museum in a single visit, so you may need to decide in advance which sections you most want to see. Taking a V&A tour is also highly recommended.

 

Get directions to V&A

 

British Museum

Address: Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG                                                                   
Opening hours: 10:00am to 5:30pm
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7323 8000


Famed for the world famous Rosetta Stone, the controversial Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, the colossal bust of Ramesses II, and various Egyptian mummies, the British Museum displays one of the world's finest collections of antiquities. With a stunning collection spanning the entire globe—from ancient Mesopotamia to the Far East in China and the Pacific islands—the museum’s exhibits range from statues and sarcophagi to silk-screen printings and semi-precious stones. 

 

Get directions to the British Museum

 

Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum London Natural History Museum London

 

The British Natural History Museum is a must-visit for family visitors with young children (or the young-at-heart). Impressively curated with an extensive collection of wildlife specimens hailing from every continent, the Natural History Museum is most famous for its dinosaur fossils and mammalian exhibits. Look out for a life-sized replica of a Blue Whale—the largest animal which ever lived—and be wowed by the accurate reproduction of different animal habitats. 

 

Get directions to the Natural History Museum

 

National Gallery

Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N                                                                                  

 

Do check out the National Gallery, which ranks among the top art museums in the world. Look out for these timeless pieces:

  • Michelangelo’s The Entombment

  • Botticelli’s Venus and Mars

  • Van Gogh’s Sunflowers

  • Monet’s The Water Lily Pond

  • Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin of the Rocks

 

Get directions to National Gallery

 

Bank of England Museum

Address: Bartholomew Ln, London EC2R 8AH                                                                

 

The Bank of England Museum is home to a fascinating collection of around 40,000 artifacts, spanning 1,500 years of history. Housed within the Bank of England itself, you will embark on a journey starting from the foundation of the bank in 1694 to its role today as the nation’s central bank. Perfect for numismatists of every kind.

 

Get directions to Bank of England Museum

 

Go on a London walking tour

lady traveller in front of tower bridge london lady traveller in front of tower bridge london

 

The city of London, it seems, is best savoured on foot. Many of London’s top tourist destinations are easily accessible from train stations around the city, followed by a short walk. 

Another great and affordable sightseeing option in London is to take a free walking tour. There are myriad tour operators throughout the city that offer free walking tours around various neighbourhoods or you can simply refer to this self-guided itinerary. If you do go on a free tour, do remember to tip the guide — typically around £5 (USD6.10) depending on the quality and length of the tour.

There are also paid walking tours available, such as this East End street art tour which is highly rated on Tripadvisor and costs around £20 (USD24.50).  

 

Shop in style at Oxford and Regent Street

Shopping in Oxford Street London Shopping in Oxford Street London

 

Every fashionista shopper worth his or her salt would know Oxford and Regent Street—the emblematic fashion district in London. Here, you can find all the major high-street brands like Gucci, Chanel and Prada, as well as mass fashion outlets like H&M, Uniqlo and Zara.

For men who wish to tailor a well-made suit, you may visit the famed Savile Row, a street in Mayfair where the world’s most expensive tailors churn out custom-made suits for the discerning. 

 

Get directions to Oxford Street

Get directions to Regent Street

 

Shop for gifts at Spitalfields Market

Address: 56 Brushfield St, London E1 6AA             
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 11:00pm, Saturday to Sunday, 9:00am to 11:00pm                                                

 

One of London’s oldest markets, Spitalfields Market is today a seven-days-a-week shopping destination. Bringing together small producers, local creatives, independent retailers as well as well-known brands under one roof, you can expect to score unique fashion and hand-crafted hard-to-find pieces here.

Here is a list of the other London markets you would not want to miss.

 

Get directions to Spitalfields Market

 

Best sightseeing and photo spots in London

What is a London holiday without iconic and instagrammable snaps? Here are a few of the top London photography spots to capture different scenes and angles of the UK capital.

 

See the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

changing of guards at buckingham palace changing of guards at buckingham palace

 

Address: Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA                                                                  
Opening hours: 9:30am to 4:15pm daily

 

Buckingham Palace is the grande dame of Britain’s architectural icons. It is also the place where you can witness the Changing of the Guard—a grand and colourful display of precision marching and music. On the rare occasion, you may even get a chance to spot the Queen as well as members of the British Royal Family!

You should consider signing up for the 4.5-hour Buckingham Palace Tour, which includes the Changing of the Guard Ceremony and afternoon tea. Having a knowledgeable guide to explain the history of the Palace makes the whole experience that much more enriching, particularly if you are a first-time visitor to London.

 

Get directions to Buckingham Palace

 

Enjoy Breath-taking Views at the Iconic Sky Garden

 

Address: 20 Fenchurch Street 1 Sky Garden Walk, London EC3M 8AF
Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10:00am to 6:00pm, Weekends, 11:00am to 9:00pm                        

 

For spectacular 360-degree views of London city, head to the Sky Garden, London’s highest rooftop garden. Located close to Monument Tube Station, the garden is at the top of the ‘Walkie Talkie’—a commercial skyscraper known for its highly distinctive top-heavy form which appears to burst upward and outward. Here, you can enjoy coffee surrounded by lush greenery, take a walk in its exquisitely landscaped gardens, or explore its open-air terrace. 

Access to the Sky Garden is free of charge but visits must be booked in advance. 

 

Get directions to Sky Garden

 

Relive Blockbuster Movie Scenes at Millennium Bridge

 

A steel suspension bridge spanning the River Thames, London’s Millennium Bridge was featured in dozens of movies, such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Guardians of the Galaxy. The iconic St Paul’s Cathedral flanking one end of the bridge makes this a one-of-a-kind instagrammable place in the heart of London. 

After capturing photos to your heart’s delight, you can walk across the pedestrian bridge to explore The Shard, Shakespeare’s Globe, and Borough Market. If time permits, you may also choose to visit Tate Modern—a highly lauded contemporary art museum featuring works from top global names like Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Marcel Duchamp and more.

 

Get directions to Millennium Bridge

 

Capture an Iconic Shot of a Red London Phone Booth

red phone booth with big ben in background red phone booth with big ben in background

 

Remember these red telephone booths? Popular in the past with people needing to make a call from a public phone, these little red boxes are fast disappearing from London’s streets. But if you head to Great George Street in Westminster (just before Big Ben), you will be able to capture a few of these iconic phone booths along the street.  

For more picturesque snaps of London life, bookmark this article.

 

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