The Internet Guide to London


Designed to be printed out and taken with you.

Written by Steven Pemberton and Astrid Kerssens.

One of the top guides to London according to Google.

See also: Amsterdam


London is big. Really big. You may think it's a long way down the road to the supermarket, but that is peanuts compared with London. The good news is that most of the interesting stuff is in a smallish area in the middle, roughly bounded by the Circle Line (more on that later), and that there is more than enough in that area to keep you busy for many happy weeks. London is a typical big city: noisy, lots of traffic, lots of shops, lots of bars, restaurants and entertainment. There are plenty of quiet spots as well, where you can get away from the traffic.

This guide is intended to give you the big picture of London to make it more manageable, and give you the essential information needed to improve your enjoyment while there.


London is of course the definition of GMT. In the summer the local time is one hour ahead of GMT, which means that the sun is at its highest at exactly 1pm. (See the World Clock for times around the world). The sun is up from 8am to 4pm in the dead of Winter, and from 5am to 9pm in the height of Summer.


London has a reputation for being wet and foggy which is rather undeserved. The fogs, or rather smogs, which form the basis of the myth, were indeed terrible, but largely disappeared after the introduction of environmental controls on the emission of smoke in the 1950's. As for rain, as you go westwards in the United Kingdom, it tends to get wetter, but London is in the East and as a consequence is not very wet. Typically 30cm (12 inches) falls a year (half of what falls in New York, for instance).

Average temperatures and rainfall recorded over 20 years
Monthly average temperatures and rainfall recorded over 20 years

There are any number of sites willing to tell you what the weather is going to be in the next few days. Here is just a selection to take your pick from: The Met Office, BBC,, Weather Underground, Yahoo, CNN

Animated Radar: BBC, Meteogroup, Meteox (larger scale).

An excellent satellite map of European conditions (animated version).


Just about everyone speaks English in London, and that's about it; in principle the British learn French at school, but in practice they are lazy about it and nobody takes it seriously. Don't expect to be able to use any language but English.


The British are in general polite and reserved. Part of their definition of politeness is that everyone wait their turn, which they do in polite queues. At bus stops, in shops, where ever you are waiting for something, if there is a queue you should join it; it is considered very impolite not to. The only exception is in the pub, where you don't physically stand in a line; however you still wait your turn.

You will hear a lot of "please" "thank you" "excuse me" and "sorry" as well, which is a good idea to copy, since you will be received more warmly. In general say "please" whenever you ask for something, and "thank you" whenever you receive anything (including your change); although in many languages you say "please" when you give something to someone, in England you say "there you are" or "there you go".


The British currency is the Pound Sterling, expressed as £ or GBP. The pound is subdivided into 100 pence, expressed as P or p. There are coins of 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1, £2.There are notes of £5, £10, £20, £50 (note the pattern 1/2/5). There are also 25p and £5 coins that occasionally get issued, but they rarely appear in your change. Locals refer to the penny as penny (plural pence) or pee and the pound as pound or quid.

British coins and notes (notes are in bold)
1p (bronze) 10p (silver) £1 (gold) £10
2p (bronze) 20p (silver, 5 sided) £2 (silver/gold) £20
5p (silver) 50p (silver, 5 sided) £5 £50

There are many places to change money. Post offices usually give the best rates.

The current exchange rates are online.

Credit cards are widely accepted.

You can use bank cards for getting cash out of cash dispensers and paying in shops; check with your bank before leaving that yours will be accepted.

Tipping and Taxes

In restaurants and taxis it is normal to tip 10% but recently this has unfortunately started to rise to 12½%. Check to see if service is included in the bill before leaving a tip. Purchase tax called VAT (Value Added Tax) of 15% is almost always included in prices displayed. You don't tip in pubs.


Although everyone thinks it is 240 volts, British Electricity is officially the European standard 230 volts, 50 Hz. They have rather unusual, large, three pin plugs. Buy an adaptor at the airport before you leave.

Safety and Health

London is in general a safe city. The only thing you normally have to fear as tourist are bag snatchers and pick-pockets, which is true the world over.

Water is drinkable out of the tap.


Having done a thorough review, we can honestly say that most online London hotel booking sites are dreadful, as if they have never tried to book a hotel in a foreign city themselves. To date our favourite is Bookings, it is fast and unflashy, has some special deals, and a good intereractive map showing the available hotels.

London addresses include a postal code that identifies where in London the address is based on compass directions: central London addresses are in WC and EC (West Central and East Central), and then around the centre are N, E, SE, SW, W, and NW (north, east, etc). The direction is followed by a number, for instance W1: there seems to be no system to how the numbers are assigned, except that the area numbered 1 is always adjacent to the centre.

Bed and Breakfast

There are a lots of bed and breakfast possibilities in Britain. We liked Sawdays as a good listing of interesting B&Bs. See also the Google page for a list of sites offering online booking.

Eating and Drinking

British cuisine has an undeserved bad reputation. The British often eat badly, but their cuisine is excellent. The problem is that you can't walk in to a random restaurant and hope to get a perfect meal, but you have to attain the skill of recognising a good restaurant, or otherwise use recommendations. However, in the last decade British restaurants have improved immeasurably, and the task of finding a good one is getting much easier. Because of the British colonial past, you will find many excellent Indian and Chinese restaurants as well.

Google has a directory of London restaurant sites.

Good value meals are to be had if you eat early (5pm or so) at pre-theatre sittings at restaurants in theatreland.

Coffee and tea

Traditionally the English drink their tea hot, strong, and with milk, and their coffee hot, weak, and with milk. Ask for ‘black tea' or ‘black coffee' if you don't want milk in it. The good news is that the quality of the coffee is steadily improving, and if there is an espresso machine, the coffee will be of good quality. If there isn't, you probably shouldn't bother.

Afternoon tea

The quintessential English experience is to take afternoon tea at an old-fashioned hotel, where you can indulge in scones with jam and clotted cream, and other delights in luxurious settings. It will be a touch on the expensive side, but is worth doing once. You need to be reasonably smartly dressed. Places worth trying (but beware that reservations sometimes have to be made weeks in advance) are: The Ritz, Brown's, Claridge's, The Athenaeum, The Dorchester, The Savoy (closed until Summer 2009); see also this review of afternoon teas.

English Cuisine

If you're looking for the English experience, then typical cuisine includes roast beef and yorkshire pudding, sausage toad in the hole, of course fish and chips (with vinegar), and roast lamb with mint sauce. A tradition is Sunday Lunch, usually consisting of roast meat with potatoes and vegetables, which many restaurants will serve.

For fish and chips, we liked the Rock & Sole Plaice, at 47 Endell Street, Covent Garden.

St. John (26 St John Street, Smithfield, EC1) and St. John Bread and Wine (94 Commercial Street, Spitalfields, E1) are two restaurants that offer unusual, almost mediaeval dishes.

For some lists of English restaurants see English Restaurants and All in London.

Unusual locations

Some interesting locations to eat include:

The Oxo Tower, (tube Blackfriars, Southwark, Waterloo or Embankment) on the South Bank, with a lovely view over the river.

The Founders Arms, a pub also on the South Bank, right by the Tate Modern. It is on the river, with a lot of seating outside, with good unpretentious pub food, so perfect for lunch on a sunny day.

There is a restaurant in the crypt of All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the city of London, right by the Tower of London. The restaurant has changed hands since we were last there, so we can't (yet) vouch for the quality, but the location was fine.


The word 'pub' comes from an Old English word meaning "hardly ever open". British law used to be very restrictive about the hours that pubs could open, which often left the visitor with the feeling that just when they needed a drink the pubs were closed (actually many British had that feeling too), leading to jokes like "Just as I was getting used to the warm beer, the pub closed". Part of the problem is that the bars in the House of Commons, the Lower House of Parliament, are open all hours, so the politicians have less of an incentive to change the law.

The good news is that pub opening hours have been liberalised, so that the tourist can usually find a drink during the day. However, it is still a shock to come out of a London theatre, go to a bar, and hardly have finished your first drink before being thrown out. There is still plenty of room for improvement…

London is a beer-lover's paradise, and the British make many fine beers, and there are few pubs that will let you down. The British do not cool their beer, so that you can taste it better. If you want cold beer, order lager. Beer is served in pints and half pints; a pint is nearly 0.6 of a litre. You order beer by saying which size you want "A pint of Old Scrog and a half of Best Bitter please". Note that the British pint is 25% larger than the American one (20 ounces rather than 16).

In recent years wine lovers have started to receive better treatment, and many pubs have started to offer a reasonable selection. However, be warned: in our experience all pubs will serve reasonable beer, but many still serve disgusting wine. Search out a wine bar if you prefer wine.

Many pubs serve 'pub food' which are basic meals at a reasonable price, and in our experience usually perfectly eatable.

You always get your own drinks in a pub; there is never table service. The pub is the only place where you don't physically queue in a line, but you should still be aware of who was there before you, and wait your turn. You don't tip in pubs.

You must be 18 or over to drink in a pub, unless you are eating in an area set aside for meals, and then you can drink beer and cider if you are 16 or over. Children over 14 can enter a pub, but may not buy or drink alcohol. Some pubs have a 'family area' or a garden outside where younger children are allowed.

Some useful lists of pubs are:, and Google has a list of pubs and clubs guides.


London has good transport facilities, especially thanks to the underground rail system that the natives call "The Tube".

There is a useful overview Map of central London's bus and tube connections to tourist attractions.

There is a journey planner page, where you can enter start, end, and time, and get suggestions for the method of travel.

There is a fun dynamic tube map: you click on a station and the map reformats itself to show travel times from that station.

You can phone (020) 7222 1234 for all transport enquiries, or email

For the full gory details see the Transport for London site.


London is split into concentric zones (see the Tube Maps page for a map showing the zones) starting with zone 1 for the centre. How much you pay for Tube journeys depends on how many zones you need. Our experience is that zones 1&2 are enough for almost all journeys. If you need to make an occasional journey outside the zones you have paid for, you can upgrade for the one journey before you leave. The zones only apply to the Tube, not to buses.

The ticket options are complex and arcane, and frankly there is only one sensible option: buy an Oyster card when you arrive. This is an electronic card that you charge with money, and use whenever you take a tube train or bus, and recharge when it runs out. When you use it, single trips are much cheaper than buying them individually (for instance £1.60 instead of £4 for zone 1 on the Tube, £1 instead of £2 on the bus), and there is a maximum you pay each day, so that if you travel after that, the trips are free.

The maximum you pay is based on which zones you have travelled, and whether you have travelled in the morning peak period. For instance for zones 1-2 the maximum you pay in any 24 hour period is £6.70 if you travelled before 9.30 am and £5.10 otherwise. The 24 hour period is from 4.30 am to 4.30 am the next day.

Children under 11 accompanying an Oyster holder travel free. While there are cheap rates for children from 11-17, you have to order a child's Oyster in advance, and for some reason there is no way to do that from outside the UK. In that case, you can choose either to buy an adult Oyster for them, or a one-day, three-day or seven-day travel card (respectively £3.60, £9.20 and £12.90 for zones 1-2).

It is also possible to preload a 7-day travel card onto an Oyster. This currently costs £25.80 for an adult in zones 1-2 and is valid at peak times too, and so is clearly cheaper than spending the maximum each day. You can also load money into the card to cover trips to other zones.

You can buy Oysters at any Tube station. There is a £3 deposit (refundable at the end of your stay), and then you can put any amount on it up to £90. When the money runs out, you recharge it at any Tube station. When you leave you can get your £3 deposit plus any money still on the card refunded. You can also buy online and have them sent to you before you travel, though it doesn't offer any real advantage.

To use the card, you hold it against a reader as you enter a station, and then again when you leave your destination station; make sure that it has been read (a green light flashes), otherwise there is a penalty charge. On buses you only have to hold it against the reader as you get on. The balance on the card is shown on the screen when the card is read.

The Tube

Tube trains start around 5.30am every day (an hour or so later on Sundays), and finish 11.30pm-1am (a half hour to an hour earlier on Sundays). First and last train times are usually displayed at stations.

There are route maps at the entrance to a station, and on the platforms. The trick is to know which line you want, and which direction you are travelling (north, east, south, or west). Since all signposting is done in terms of these two things (such as "Central Line, Eastbound"), if you know it, you will never have to stop and study the list of stations served by a particular platform.

Although the tube system is huge, you will be spending most of your time in the area bounded by the yellow Circle line.


Travelling on the bus is a fun way to travel around the city, especially at the front on the top deck of double-decker buses, since you see so much, and can get a much better feel for the lay of the land than underground on the Tube.

However it is quite difficult to work out a route because there are so many different buses criss-crossing the city. A number of maps of main bus routes are available, but it remains a difficult job. So-called 'Spider maps' are more understandable maps of the buses that serve a particular area; see the London bus routes page for details.

There are two types of (double-decker) bus: those with an open entrance at the back, where you get on board, sit down and a conductor comes round and collects fares (and checks passes), and those with an entrance with doors at the front, where you pay the driver as you get on.

There are two types of bus stops: compulsory and request. If you are standing at a request stop (look at the top of the bus stop to see if it is one) you have to put your arm out to stop the bus; if you want the bus to stop at a request stop when you are onboard, you ring the bell (once). If you don't know whether the stop is a request one or not, ringing the bell anyway won't hurt.

In large parts of central London, in order to speed the buses up, you have to pay before you board; if you've got a Oyster you're fine, otherwise you have to buy your ticket from a machine at the bus stop, or at a location that sells bus tickets and passes. Check the top of the bus stop for a bright yellow sign saying "buy tickets before boarding".

Night buses are the only form of public transport that runs through the night. They operate from around 11pm to 6am, about once an hour on most routes (more frequently on Fridays and Saturdays). All pass through central London and the majority stop at Trafalgar Square, so head there if you're unsure which bus to get. Night buses have the letter 'N' before their number. The London Night Buses Maps page has overview maps and spider maps available.


You can hail a taxi in the street if the "for hire" sign is on. Fares start at £2.20 for the first 335.8 metres or 72.2 seconds (whichever is reached first) and increase by 20p for each additional 167.9 metres or 36.1 seconds or part thereof until the fare exceeds £13.40. After that it is 20p for each additional 117.7 metres or 25.3 seconds. Amazing, isn't it? Extra charges at night and on holidays. For an idea of how much a taxi ride will cost see the fares overview page. There are no extra charges for luggage or additional passengers. Tips are usually 10-15%.

Car hire

Driving in London is not fun and so we do not recommend hiring a car in or around London. If you still need to you can contact one of the main car hire firms. Google has a list.

You must have at least a one year's driving licence.


Normally you don't take (overground) trains to get around central London, but for longer trips out of town.

There are several main train stations studded around central London that serve different parts of the country. The main ones are: Victoria and Charing Cross going south and east, Waterloo going south and west, Paddington going west, Euston and King's Cross/St Pancras going north, Liverpool Street going north and east. See the National Rail Maps site for details, in particular the schematic map shows very clearly which London terminal is needed for which destination.

You can pay with credit card for trains. Trains are considerably more expensive if you travel in the rush hours. There are cheaper day returns and weekend returns.

If you intend to travel more around the UK by train, then you are probably better off if you order a rail pass before you travel to the UK. These are special deals, but only if you order from outside the UK. There are rail passes that cover different areas: London and South East England, England, Great Britain (England, Wales, Scotland), and Great Britain+Ireland. See the BritRail map (pdf) for details of the areas. You can get passes for 2, 4, 8 15 or 22 consecutive days, or for one month, or a flexible pass for 2, 4, 8, or 15 days over a two-month period. All these come in 1st class, and 2nd class versions, and there are different prices for adults, seniors (60+), youths (16-26) and children (5-15); under 5's travel free. Finally there is a family pass that gives one child free for every adult travelling on the pass, and further children at 50% of the adult price, and a party pass for groups of adults of size 3-9. You can order here, but you have to select your country of origin first; then click on "Travelling in Great Britain" and then on "Train tickets and passes" (both at the top left).

The National Rail site has a page of useful information, a journey planner page, and a live departure boards page that shows live arrival and departure information for any station in the UK.

For National Rail enquiries, including fares, phone +44 (0)8457 48 49 50.

International trains to Europe via the Channel Tunnel leave from St Pancras International. There are direct trains to Brussels (111 minutes) and Paris (135 minutes).


You should avoid the temptation to always use the tube to get around: central London is often quite walkable, and you get a far better impression of the city from above ground than below it, so check where you are going before taking the tube. Once you get away from the traffic, London has many charming, peaceful and historic areas that are really worth walking. Our recommendation is to buy Andrew Duncan's London Walks Map and see whether where you are going is close to any of his recommended walks, and follow his descriptions. Or just do one of his walks, whether you were going there or not.

See also our description of the South Bank Walk below.


London is alas not a very pleasant city to cycle in. Things do seem to be improving, but not to the point where you want to jump on a bike for the pleasure of it. Details of cycle routes and bike hire locations are available from the London Cycling Campaign, and the London Cycle Network.


While you don't normally use the river for short trips, there are several longer trips that are really worth making on the river, for instance to Greenwich (60 mins) to see the Royal Observatory and the views of London from the hill, to Kew (90 mins) to see the Botanical Gardens, and Hampton Court (3½ hours) to see the Royal Palace. You can go down to Westminster Pier (tube Westminster), and buy a ticket there. You get a third off the price if you have a 7 day travelcard, (or an Oyster loaded with a 7 day travelcard).

There is a complete (pdf) guide including an overview map and some lunch and dinner cruises. Transport for London has an overview page.

There is also a pleasant canal boat ride along the Regents Canal from 'Little Venice' near Paddington Station, past Regents Park to Camden Lock, by the market. Boats roughly hourly, and it takes about an hour. It's also very pleasant to walk the canal tow path.


London has 5 airports that call themselves a London Airport: Heathrow, Gatwick, City, Stansted, and Luton. Heathrow is the big one, and intercontinental flights arrive there or at Gatwick. From all airports it takes around 40-60 minutes to reach central London. Our personal favourite is City, since it is small, so that you are quickly in and out, and is closest to the city.

Google has a page about London Airports.

Transport to and from the Airports

Two phrases that the British, like their American cousins, have never been able to combine are "integrated" and "transport system". It took them 60 years after opening Heathrow airport as the country's main airport to have the bright idea of actually opening a railway station there, and even then they didn't integrate it: you have to queue for a ticket there to the next station, and then queue for a ticket at that station to your final destination.

Similarly, even though they built City airport at the same time as the light railway system that runs past it, it apparently didn't actually dawn on anybody to put a station there, so you could wave at the trains as they went past City airport, but you couldn't actually get on them… Luckily they have since realised their mistake, and have now built a station at the airport.

Heathrow airport

When travelling to Heathrow, make sure you know which terminal you need: there are different stops on the Underground and Express trains.

By Tube, the Piccadilly line has trains running every few minutes. It takes about 45 minutes to central London. Don't buy a single ticket into London: it is much better to use an Oyster Card as described above under Transport.

National Express runs a frequent coach service to London Victoria. It costs £4.50 single, and takes about an hour. The night bus N9 runs twice hourly through the night to Trafalar Square, and also takes about an hour: you can use your Oyster, and it will cost £1.

By rail, Heathrow Express runs direct high speed trains between Paddington station and Heathrow. Trains depart every 15 minutes. Journey time is around 15 minutes from Terminals 1, 2 & 3, and 20 minutes from Terminal 4 and 5. Unless you are going to the Paddington district, or want to connect with other West-bound trains, ignore this service: it is expensive (£16.50), and you will have to change onto the Tube anyway. You're better off taking the tube in the first place, even if it is slower.

By taxi it will take 30 minutes to central London; expect to pay £40-70.

Gatwick airport

Rail services run direct between Gatwick and London Victoria Station (journey time 30 to 40 minutes) and between Gatwick and London King's Cross, Farringdon, Blackfriars and London Bridge stations. Note that there are different train companies operating to London: a ticket for the Gatwick Express to Victoria costs about £17 single, and takes about 30 minutes. Southern Rail costs about £11 and takes a little longer.

There are hourly coaches from Gatwick to Victoria Coach Station which take nearly 2 hours and cost £6.60.

Easybus has a bus service from Gatwick to West Central London that takes about 70 minutes. The fare is £7 on the day, though booking online long enough in advance can reduce the price to as low as £2.

A taxi would take over an hour, and cost £80.

London City Airport

There is a tube station at the airport that takes you to Bank on the Central line (about 20 minutes), or Canning Town on the Jubilee line (about 5 minutes) with a connection to central London that takes another 15 minutes. A taxi to central London will cost about £20.

Stansted Airport

Stansted Express rail services run every 15 minutes (30 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays) between Stansted Airport and Liverpool Street and Tottenham Hale stations. Tickets cost £15.50 single, and the journey takes about 45 minutes.

National Express runs coaches to London Victoria, costing around £10 and taking about 100 minutes.

Easybus has a bus service from Stansted to London that takes about 80 minutes. The fare is £9 on the day, though booking online long enough in advance can reduce the price to as low as £2.

A taxi to London will cost about £100.

Luton Airport

A free shuttle bus runs to Luton Airport Parkway station for rail services to London Bridge, Blackfriars, Farringdon and King's Cross (Thameslink). Journey time (including the bus connection) is about 50 minutes and costs around £11.50.

Green Line coaches run from Luton Airport to Victoria (Buckingham Palace Road), Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, George Street and Baker Street. Journey time about 75 minutes, costs about £12.

Easybus has a bus service from Luton to London Baker Street that takes about 90 minutes. The fare is £8 on the day, though booking online long enough in advance can reduce the price to as low as £2.

A taxi will cost around £80.


The main shopping areas are:


London has a large number of markets of different types. Our favourites are Covent Garden, Borough Market, Camden Lock and Greenwich.

Bermondsey Antiques Market, Bermondsey Square, SE1; Friday 5am-12 noon; tube London Bridge

Berwick Street Market, W1; Fruit and Vegetables and other food, Mon-Sat 8-5; tube Piccadilly Circus.

Billingsgate Fish Market, Isle of Dogs, E14; Ancient London fish market moved to modern premises in the 80's, Tues-Sat 5am-8.30am. Sunday 6am-8am; tube Poplar.

Borough Market, Southwark, SE1; Ancient London food market under wrought iron canopy, now specialising in organic and specialised foods. Fridays noon-, Saturdays 9-4p; tube London Bridge.

Brick Lane Market, Shoreditch, E1; Fleamarket, fruit and veg, general merchandise; Sunday 8am-2pm; tube Shoreditch

Brixton Market, Brixton, SW9; multi-ethnic foods and fabrics, general merchandise; Mon-Sat 9am-dark (Weds until 1pm); tube Brixton.

Camden Lock Market, Camden, NW1; Lovely location next to the Grand Union Canal, it is particularly good – and crowded – at weekends, features arts and crafts and handmade specialities. Mon-Fri 10-6, Sat/Sun 9.30-6.30; tube Camden Town. There is also a nice walk along the canal to London Zoo in Regent's Park. Some canal boat tours along the canal as well.

Chapel Market, Islington, N1. Mostly food. Tue-Sun 9-6; tube Angel.

Chelsea Antiques Market, SW3, Mon-Sat 10-6; tube Sloan Square

Columbia Road Flower Market, E2; Sundays 8-2, Tube Shoreditch.

Covent Garden, WC2; Antique market Monday, general market Tues-Fri, Arts and Crafts Sat-Sun. General shops open every day; tube Covent Garden.

Greenwich Market, Antiques, collectables, arts and crafts, particularly busy at the weekend; Thurs/Fri: Antiques & Collectables 7.30-5.30; Thurs-Sun: Arts & Crafts 9.30-5.30; tube Greenwich.

Leadenhall Market, Whittington Avenue, EC3; Originally a meat and fish market, now a general shopping area; Mon-Fri 7-4. tube Bank

Petticoat Lane Market, Middlesex Street, E1; Mostly clothes; Sun 9-2; adjacent Wentworth Street also Mon-Fri 10-2.30; tube Aldgate

Portobello Road, W11; Mostly antiques; Sat 7-5; tube Notting Hill Gate.

Spitalfields Market, Commercial Street, E1; Arts and crafts, also organic foods on Sunday, Mon-Sat 9-6. Sun 11-3; tube Liverpool Street.



There are four national mobile phone networks; you need to have a phone that works on the European wavelengths.

There are three types of public phones: coin only, phone cards, and phone cards and credit cards. You can buy phone cards from post offices or newsstands.

You don't have to dial London's central area code (020) if you are calling from a public phone inside London itself - just the telephone number.

The ringing tone is a double ring followed by a pause of the same length; a repeated single tone is the engaged (busy) tone; a continual tone means the number is unobtainable or that you have dialed the wrong – or no – prefix.


You can get internet access at a number of places, including easyInternetCafe at a half a dozen dozen or so locations.


International newspapers are available everywhere; train stations are a good bet.

Places to See

When we can, we give opening and last admission times; prices given are for adults and children; sometimes there are family reductions; amazingly almost all museums are free. Almost everything is closed over Christmas. Many places give reductions if you book online.

The iconic places of London to visit are:

Art Collections

Major art collections are: Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Royal Academy of Arts, National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery. Most are free to see the permanent exhibitions.

Tate Britain: British Art past and present; open daily 10-5.50; free for permanent collection; tube Pimlico.

Tate Modern: modern art from 1900 to the present in the redeveloped Bankside Power Station on the South Bank; open daily 10-6 (Fri/Sat 10-10), admission free to the permanent collection.

National Gallery: Western European painting from 1250 to 1900; major works by almost all great artists; daily 10-6, Wednesday until 9; admission free for permanent collections; tube Charing Cross.

Royal Academy of Arts: has fine examples of fine arts from the 18th century to the present; open daily 10-6 (10-10 on Fri), tube Piccadilly Circus.

National Portrait Gallery: "established with the criteria that the Gallery was to be about history, not about art, and about the status of the sitter, rather than the quality or character of a particular image considered as a work of art. This criterion is still used by the Gallery today"; daily 10-6 (Thu/Fri 10-9), free, tube Charing Cross


Major museums are: British Museum, Museum of London, Victoria and Albert, Science Museum, Natural History Museum, Imperial War Museum, National Maritime Museum. Most are free admission to the permanent collections.

British Museum: World cultures. Daily 10-5.30, Thu/Fri 10-8.30; admission free for permanent collection; tube Tottenham Court Road.

Museum of London: The history of London. Mon-Sat 10-5.30; Sunday from 12; admission free; tube St. Pauls.

Victoria & Albert Museum: The world's largest museum of applied and decorative arts, with 145 galleries, including sculpture, furniture, fashion and photographs; daily 10-5.45, Fridays 10-10; free; tube South Kensington.

Science Museum: Fun for children too; daily 10-6; free; tube South Kensington.

Natural History Museum: Thousands of specimens including dinosaurs and fascinating creepy-crawlies; daily 10-5.30; free; tube South Kensington.

Imperial War Museum: daily 10-6; free; tube Lambeth North.

Other Interesting Museums

Design Museum: Located on the South Bank by Tower Bridge; daily 10-5.15; £6; tube Tower Hill.

London Transport Museum: Great history of London transport, with old buses and trains; daily 10-5.15, Fridays 11-20.15; £10/free for children; tube Covent Garden

Other Ideas

BBC: Tour the studios. Children must be over 9. To book ring: 0870 603 030, email

For Kids

London Zoo at the north end of Regent's Park, Madame Tussauds Waxworks right by Baker Street tube, The Science Museum, The Museum of London.

South Bank Walk

One of the best things you can do is walk along the South Bank Walkway. This is a path leading along the river Thames from Lambeth bridge, or Westminster Bridge (tube Westminster, which comes out by Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, you cross over the bridge and turn left) and passes many places worth visiting, such as

Trips outside the city


Take the boat from Westminster Pier to Greenwich (60 mins) for the large park with fine views of London from the hill, a visit to the Royal Observatory, the place that defines the origin of the World's timezones, the Maritime Museum, the Cutty Sark, the World's sole surviving tea clipper restored to its Victorian splendour, and the Royal Market (which is best at weekends). Take the Docklands Railway back from Greenwich Station (part of the tube system), and sit at the front of the automatic, driverless trains for great views of London's docklands.


Take the tube to Kew Gardens at the south end of the District line (zone 3) or a boat from Westminster Pier (90 minutes) and enjoy the acres of Royal Botanic Gardens, which is now a World Heritage sites (9.30-dusk but the glasshouses close earlier; £13, children free). Especially worth visiting are the glass houses with palms and temperate plants.

Hampton Court

Take the boat from Westminster Pier (3½ hours), or the train from Waterloo (30 mins) to the Royal Palace, and gardens that include a popular maze. Open daily 10-5. Winter closes at 3.30. £13.30/£6.65.

Further Afield

What's On

If you want to know what's on, do what Londoners do, and buy a copy of the weekly Time Out and pore over the listings.


Google's London Music Page


London is a mecca for theatre-goers, and it is very well worth while going at least once, since the quality is top class. Our experience is that only the most expensive seats are available online. Booking in advance is worth it, but turning up on the day, or even just before a performance, may yield success. A hint: order your interval drinks at the bar before the start of the play: they will be waiting for you ready in the interval, while everyone else is fighting to get to the bar.

Official London Theatre Website

Google's London Theatre Page


There are immense numbers of books on London. has a page of books on London ordered by popularity. Europeans should go to's page of books on London. We like the Time Out Guide to London (Europeans go here). One item that we consider essential for visits to London that carries and doesn't, is Andrew Duncan's London Walks Map.

The map that every Londoner carries is the A-Z of London (Europe) (USA), but there is also a smaller version of only the centre (Europe) (USA).






Other Resources

More on London is available from:

Other useful resources:

© Copyright 2004-9 Steven Pemberton and Astrid Kerssens. All rights reserved.
Last modified: 2009-07-08
Email: contact(at), but please bear in mind we are not a tourist service!
Please don't ask about hotels.

The London Tourist Board has an email address:; may be able to help with other questions.

About this guide

All addresses mentioned are personal choices of the authors. There are no paid entries.

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See also The Internet Guide to Amsterdam.

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