London is a wonderful place to visit but to make the most of your vacation time in the city it pays to prepare, plan and research in advance. There are a number of things to consider: when to visit, where to stay, what to see, what to do and where to eat.
If you’re looking for more detailed suggestions, check out this itinerary for a week-long, first-time visit to London.
Decide What Time of Year to Visit London
London weather can be quite unpredictable.
Londoners are known to regularly carry sunglasses and umbrellas throughout the year. But London weather is never so extreme as to detract from all the great things to do in the city, and the major attractions are not seasonal.
The city sees a large increase in visitors in July and August (the hottest time of the year, usually). The shoulder seasons (outside the main school holidays in spring/fall) can be a great time to visit if you’re looking to avoid the crowds. There are school holidays in February, Easter, August, October and at Christmas.
Learn more about London weather to help you pick a time to visit.
Travel Document Requirements for London
All overseas visitors will need a passport when traveling to London and some visitors will need a visa. US citizens are encouraged to register any overseas travel with the US Department of State.
Arriving in London
You can get to London by air, rail, road, or ferry. Obviously, where you are traveling from and how much time you have will influence your transport options.
Figure Out How to Use Public Transport
London’s public transport is easy and safe to use.
Between the Underground rail system and the bus routes, you can get almost anywhere you want fairly cheaply. Or if you’ve got a little more money, an iconic black taxi (or an Uber) will take you there.
Etiquette in London
Londoners are generally polite and helpful, provided you don’t infringe on their personal space and aren’t loud and obnoxious. Obey the ‘rules of the road’, such as standing on the right on Underground escalators, keeping your iPod volume turned relatively low and using “please” and “thank you” constantly.
Where to Stay in London
If you are only staying in London for a short time (a week or less) it would be best to stay in central London to avoid wasting time traveling. It is remarkably easy to get around London on public transport so don’t worry too much about which area in central London; if you find a hotel you like or can get a great deal, then as long as it’s central you will be fine.
Where to Eat in London
London has an astronomical number of restaurants so you won’t have problems finding something new every day.
I recommend checking the Harden’s website where you can search by cuisine, price, and location. Remember, London has residents from every country in the world so you can try a lot of new taste experiences here.
What to See in London
There are plenty of free things to see and do but if you want to see some of the more expensive attractions you may want to consider a London Pass. It’s a sightseeing card at a fixed rate and covers over 55 attractions.
The London Eye is the world’s tallest observation wheel and you can enjoy some great views across the city.
Or check out some of the city’s royal heritage sights including the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace.