You need to know how to plan a trip to London, and you need to plan well, because it’s definitely a 21st-century city (even if its history stretches back into the pre-Roman times). This world capital boasts something for everyone — London is replete with historical and cultural treasures that draw people from all walks of life, as well as theater aficionados, foodies and art lovers. So, here’s SELECT’s advice on how to plan a trip to London and really get the most out of it.
When To Visit
Year-round, London’s a great destination. But if you’re looking for blooming gardens and balmier temps, then late spring is the time to settle into the what and how of planning your trip. However, according to US News and World Report, this is also the start of prime tourism travel season and prices will reflect that. Fall and winter offer better deals on airfare and travel, but it’s cooler during these seasons, so pack a sweater and jacket. It’s also worth noting that December is popular among European tourists. No matter when you visit, pack that umbrella in your suitcase, because it rains. Often.
Public transportation is excellent in London so consider your proximity to public transport as you plan. Whether you want to take the Tube (the London Underground), rail or the buses, they’re covered by London Pass or Oyster Travelcard. You can also bike around London, renting public bikes. Taxis are also plentiful. For a great overview, visit the official London travel site here.
Take a Tour
Whether you want a walking tour, a night tour or a Harry Potter studio tour, the options in London are extensive and worthwhile. Visit London recommends that muggles check out the Harry Potter studio tour — which includes transportation to and from the studio. But for more sightseeing at your leisure, get one of those hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus tours (you can choose from several options), including add-ons like St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London and more. If you’re a royals fan, then say no more: Take a tour of Buckingham Palace.
Sights Not to Be Missed
If it’s your first time in London, it’s hard to figure out what to see first. It can be overwhelming as there are so many iconic museums, churches, castles beyond Buckingham Palace (which is amazing in itself, and not just because the Queen lives there), that you will never be at a loss as to what to see next. Westminster Abbey is one of the nation’s most-visited sites, and on Wednesday nights, you can take an after-hours tour and enjoy dinner there. Then there’s the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, er Elizabeth Tower, and the Tower of London, which not only is home to dungeons and ravens, but also the crown jewels. For a great view of the city, check out the London Eye, and if you love theater, shop London’s many theatres for the current run of shows. Get tickets here.
You Can Eat Really Well in London. Really.
Although English cuisine used to be bashed, you can eat amazingly well in London, and there are plenty of world-class restaurants alongside the more traditional fish and chips shops. Conde Nast Traveler recommends more than a dozen great restaurant offerings, including Caravan for brunch, Brawn for charcuterie, and the Barbary, for African coastal cuisine. Cheese lovers need to visit Neil’s Yard Dairy while cocktail connoisseurs must go to The American Bar at the Savoy, as it’s considered the best in the world.And if you’re looking to grab picnic fixings — or just enjoy the spectacle — check out the Food Hall at Harrods.
Jeanette Hurt is the award-winning writer and author of eight culinary and
drink books, including The Cheeses of California: A Culinary Travel Guide, which received the 2010 Mark Twain Award for Best Travel Book, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. She's written for TheKitchn.com, Four Seasons Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Entrepreneur.com, and dozens more publications.