London is a fantastic city to visit, and there’s an endless list of places to see. As a popular stop off on the way to a European trip, many visitors coming to London for the first time may only be in the city for a day or two. With this in mind, we’ve put together our top 5 places to squeeze in while you’re here.
The easiest way to travel around the city is via the amazing public transport systems which include the iconic red buses and the London Underground rail system. You can use a contactless card to get around or purchase an Oyster travel card (which you can top up with credit at underground stations and in many local shops) when you first arrive. Card in hand, London is quite literally your oyster, so make the most of your first visit by ticking these spots off the bucket list.
Where to go in London
A first time trip to London isn’t complete without taking in a few of the major tourist sites, so we’ve picked our top two! The British royal family is famous all over the world, and we know they fascinate visitors to the capital city. Head to Buckingham Palace around 11 am to catch the iconic changing of the guard ceremony. It lasts around 45 minutes and can be viewed from the square in front of the palace.
If you fancy a bit more of a snoop inside the Queen’s London abode, and you’re visiting between July and October, then you can visit various parts of the palace accompanied by an audio tour which will explain the history of the building, the artwork housed inside and stories of its former residents. We recommend treating yourselves to a traditional afternoon tea following your visit. To make like royalty be sure to go for an Earl Grey, with a splash of milk and no sugar, just like the Queen!
London’s iconic skyline is a must-see on a trip to the capital. If you don’t have much time in the city, finding a spot to view it from above lets you take in all the sights in one go. Hear Big Ben chime from the sky and get a birds-eye view of the Houses of Parliament, London’s famous bridges, and the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
The London Eye, which opened in 2000 to mark the millennium, is a great way to see the city from a different viewpoint. We highly recommend booking in advance as this is a popular tourist spot.
Feeling extra fancy? You can combine your 45-minute ride with a champagne tasting hosted by a private guide, and if you time it just right, you can even watch the sunset over the city.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a ‘gongoozler’ (that’s watching canal boats float by) and you’re blessed with a sunny afternoon, then Camden Lock is a great place to relax and soak up the London atmosphere. Settle yourself in at a canal-side café for a coffee before getting stuck into the area's vast array of markets, there’s so much on offer you could easily lose yourself for a whole day in amongst the retro clothing, unusual art, and beautiful antique stalls. If you’re feeling hungry, there are numerous street food options available, and with flavours from all over the world on offer, there’s a little bit of something for everyone!
Once you’re all shopped out head back to the water and hop onboard one of the many canal boat tours on offer to drift lazily down the canal and see London’s streets from a unique point of view.
Shoreditch – Box Park
With your shopping spirit ignited, and a craving for something a little off the usual tourist path we can most definitely recommend a visit to Box Park in Shoreditch. This effortlessly cool street food market cum pop up retail mall combines more than 60 carefully chosen fashion, art, food and drink brands and retailers. Built out of shipping containers and right in the heart of trendy Shoreditch, you’ll find it easy to get to and easy to spot when you arrive. Spend some time wandering in and out of the different units to see what’s on offer, and with the designer or maker of the items often also manning the shop, get the chance to speak to them about their craft and know that any money you spend is going directly to the person who made it.
Box Park also hosts a wide variety of events throughout the year, so be sure to look it up before you arrive to see if you can catch one while on your trip. There’s parties, comedy gigs, DJ sets, and workshops on offer.
A traditional London pub
London is teeming with fantastic historic pubs, many of which are squirrelled away down tiny backstreets and full of cute nooks to settle in and get cosy. If you’re visiting over the weekend, then a Sunday roast with a pint of local ale is a must to get the authentic British experience. Make sure it comes with a Yorkshire pudding and lots of gravy, and you will be in for a hearty treat that actually tastes better when it’s raining outside!
We love the Mayflower pub, a traditional London spot located right on the River Thames. It’s had a few names over the years, but the pub has stood on this site since around 1550 so you’ll be right amid a historic London landmark while you enjoy your drinks. Sunshine? Grab a cold one and head to the terrace that overlooks the river. Rain? Get cosy with real ale and as much gravy as you can handle.
You’ll need somewhere to stay after all of that first time adventuring, and ideally, you’ll want it to be central, affordable, and quiet. If you’re dreaming, you might also like it to feel a bit of luxury and have extra unique additions like a swimming pool, onsite restaurant, and Moroccan inspired spa. Well, dreams do come true. Dolphin House serviced apartments, located in Zone 1, are a little slice of peaceful luxury that offers the perfect base while you visit the capital city.