Historic and contemporary, sophisticated and scruffy—London’s the city that does it all. Its sprawling boroughs reach out from the River Thames to the infamous M25, the circular motorway that divides the city from the suburbs. Whether it’s live theater at Shakespeare’s Globe or DJ sets in the East End, Londoners see themselves as tastemakers to the world, so throw yourself into its cultural life, its bar scene, and its restaurants before you get the last tube home.


Photo by Johan Mouchet/Unsplash


When’s the best time to go to London?

London doesn’t have an off-season, and even when the British weather lets you down you’ll be far too busy to mind the rain. The long summer nights are a particular draw—you can get a lot of sightseeing done when it stays light till 10 p.m.—but there’s something special about the city lights at night during winter, too.

How to get around London

Naturally, London is well served by airports, even if a pricey train ticket is needed to access the city from most of them. If you’re arriving late-night, know that the trains stop running around 11 p.m., so a night at an airport hotel may be more economical than an expensive taxi ride. The Heathrow and Gatwick express trains will get you into the city within 30 minutes, but if you’re looking to save money, and you’ve got the time, take the Piccadilly line from Heathrow or the Southern stopping service from Gatwick. Stansted and Luton airports are located in towns outside the city. London City Airport caters mostly to business and short-destination flights, but it can offer a spectacular low-flying approach over the city.

London’s public transportation may be the number-one topic of grouching for locals, but it’s still one of the best systems in the world. You’ll need an Oyster card, which you can pick up for a small deposit at any Underground station. The tube is good for most journeys, so long as you remember that trains stop running around midnight. Buses are plentiful, but it’s worth spending a quid or two on a London Bus Checker app to help you plan journeys and give you (live) waiting times. London taxis are as good as their reputation, although they can get expensive for long journeys. Mini-cabs should always be prearranged, and there are information lines and apps to help you find local companies—never get into a car with someone soliciting for business on the street. Cycling’s a good clean alternative; plan your route ahead and use the backstreets and bike lanes. Main roads are very busy, and you should be a confident cyclist to attempt them.

Can’t miss things to do in London

Take the Thames Clippers east along the river from Waterloo. It’s the cheapest boat trip in London—you can use your Oyster card—and the journey will take you past the most famous bits of London skyline, including the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and the Tower of London. Plus, once you pass Tower Bridge, the speed limit ends and you start zooming along the water.

Food and drink to try in London

You can get any kind of cuisine you like in London (and probably a few that you don’t). Aside from the fine dining at expensive restaurants and hotels, many communities cook up regional fare. Want Indian? Head to the East End. Turkish? Go to Green Lanes. Italian—well, you can find that everywhere. And you wouldn’t want to leave without visiting Chinatown. If you don’t know what you want, there’s always Soho, a West End area bursting with places to eat and drink, from new openings to ancient establishments.

Culture in London

The West End (for theater) and the South Bank (for theater, music, the Tate Modern, and the British Film Institute) are the two absolute must-visits. The Tate Britain in Pimlico, and the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square, house some of the greatest collections of art in the world; the Barbican is a fantastic arts center for contemporary music, theater, and film. London boasts a burgeoning, year-round fringe, so keep an eye out for the bars, pubs, warehouses, and other unlikely buildings all over the city that offer alternative creative spaces.

London celebrates every kind of music known to man, from the rock-and-roll weekend festival of Lovebox to the classical season of the BBC Proms and the alternative strains of Meltdown festival at the Southbank Center. London Fashion Week, part of the couture world’s “Big Four”, takes place in September, as does Totally Thames festival, an excuse for a giant street party on the banks and bridges of the river. The Lord Mayor’s Show, in November, is a piece of grand pageantry held every year since 1215 with processions and fireworks. But these are just a few highlights—London guarantees some kind of festival every week.

The harrowing experience of Londoners during WWII and the privations that lingered for decades after the war still reverberate, even in the modern day city. A historian-led walking tour that focuses on life during the Blitz—organized by AFAR’s partner Context Travel—will shed some light on a period that shaped the city’s psyche.

Local travel tips for London

- The Victoria is the quickest and most reliable Underground line; the Northern is the worst.
- Leicester Square cinemas are more expensive than the others in town; the ODEON Panton Street just behind the square offers the same film for half the price.
- Oxford Street is oppressively busy and you can get the same brands elsewhere.
- Let passengers off the tube carriage before you attempt to get on.
- Only tourists eat at Angus Steakhouses.

Guide Editor

Read Before You Go
Tracing its roots to a 19th-century duchess, afternoon tea is moving into the present with contemporary remixes while retaining the historic charm that makes it a favorite among visitors.
British luxury hotel group Maybourne has opened the Emory, London’s first all-suite hotel, next to Hyde Park.
Omer Acar, the CEO Raffles and Fairmont, shares his vision behind the recent growth of both luxury hotel brands and talks about what great hospitality truly means. (Spoiler alert: It’s all about people.)
AFAR’s picks for the 31 best new hotels in the world.
These five concierges in Paris, Hong Kong, Cape Town, London, and Marrakech reveal their favorite city itineraries that they usually only share with guests.
The new Raffles London at the OWO already feels like a grande dame.
As the city undergoes a hotel boom in the run-up to the Coronation, we round up the 15 best hotels, classic and contemporary alike.
In honor of the third season of the hit Apple TV+ show—out March 15—Airbnb is launching a very special overnight stay for a few lucky fans.
When London reopens to the world, these new hotels—stylish townhouses, global brands, and a refreshed grande dame—will be waiting.
Put down your pint and head upstairs to find comfortable beds, cool designs, and maybe a cozy fireplace or reading nook. Could pubs with rooms be the perfect alternative to big chain hotels?
From a historic ship-turned-hotel docked in Edinburgh to the first Four Seasons in Greece, these are the 10 best new hotels opening across Europe in the new year.
There are plenty of exciting hotel openings, exhibits, and more to discover in the U.K.’s capital from now until the end of the year.
The Room with a View package offers a daredevil drop from the St. Giles Hotel’s 164-foot-tall central tower.
Relax, reset, and recharge at the following hotels—each is ideal for a (long) weekend escape.
A stay at the iconic St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London is a must for any train buff.
Resources to help plan your trip
Istanbul cracks the top 10, Berlin is on the rise, and this city remains No. 1 in Resonance’s annual best-in-Europe rankings.
AFAR’s own remote workers and digital nomads share their picks for where to plan a remote work trip, both abroad and in the USA.
Resonance’s annual ranking takes into account factors that include a city’s GDP per capita, cultural programming, airport connectivity, even Instagram hashtags.
Pride Month in New York left me feeling jaded. A hop across the pond helped me newly see the value of celebrating LGBTQ community.
London’s dining scene is having a golden moment.
Coronations, Eurovision finals—and that’s just in May.
Ireland isn’t the only place that gets its green on—pack your bags (with leprechaun gear) for these global destinations, too.
A deeply satisfying trip to Brixton and Shoreditch, rich in history, culture, and Afro-Latinx eats.
Between royal celebrations, the return of large-scale events (ahem, Elton John at Hyde Park), and a flock of new hotels and restaurants, now is the time to hop the pond.
JetBlue is also celebrating “Twosday” with fares as low as $349 round-trip to London.
From a twist on the traditional British pub to charitable, eco-friendly hotels and dining in a prison, experience an alternative side of London that also supports its local communities along the way.
Escape the crowds in favor of the British country’s UNESCO sites, diverse landscapes, ruins, and undiscovered cities—and minimize your carbon footprint from the comfort of a train car at the same time.
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.