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Saying that I like London is an euphemism. I love this city! A bit like Paris, everytime you visit London, you discover new things. Moreover London is a cosmopolitan, modern and dynamic city. You’ll find there stores, restaurants, pubs, museums, markets, parks… I love the vibe and the atmosphere there, the London state of mind… You’re planning to spend two days in London? Here’s a London guide!
Description of London
I don’t even remember how many times I’ve been to London. Yeah let’s not forget it’s to get there from Paris, where I live. A bit more than two hours by train and I’m in the heart of the city. So close to Paris and at the same time so different. I don’t even pay attention to the details that shocked me the first times I went to London in 2006.
First off, the British accent which can be disconcerting at first. “They speak with a broom in the ass!” the Americans say sometimes. We don’t always realize it when living in non-English speaking countries, but we’re constantly fed with American TV series and movies, US music, US culture… You get to the UK and you realize the accent is different, the words they use are sometimes different too. Because of this, it may happen that the British don’t understand you straight away.
Wanna have a drink or go clubbing in the evening? Wanna visit London wintertime? Don’t be shocked by what you’re about to see! Yep, even if it’s -10°C/14°F and you’re freezing to death, the girls are wearing mini skirts outside! Talking about going out, don’t think about starting your night out from 11pm or later. In the UK, they start drinking at the pub at 4pm. On weekends, the clubs close around 2 or 3am. Their rhythm is out of sync compared to ours. They start and finish earlier!
Anyway, if you’re going out in the evening, adjust your rhythm to theirs. Oh and be careful when going home! The traffic flow direction is reversed, they’re driving on the left and we often look on the wrong side first when crossing the street. Several cars almost ran over me… Anyway, let’s see what to do in London in two days.
Things to do in London
Buckingham Palace is the emblem of London! It’s the official residence of the royal family since 1837. This is where the Queen of the United Kingdom lives. Unfortunately, we can only visit it summertime, from mid-July to late September, when the queen is on vacation in Scotland.
Fortunately, throughout the year, you can attend the guard mounting. Don’t miss it! It takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 11am. The ceremony attracts thousands of people, get there early to have a nice view of the guards and their red outfits! You can go on a changing of the guard walking tour. Click here for more info. You can also visit the royal mews. Click here for more info.
The free museums
London is not just about pubs, there are also numerous museums to visit. And many of them are free! The British Museum is the most popular. It’s dedicated to human history, art and culture. Their collection of works of art, coming from all over the world, is impressive! The museum opens at 10am, get there early otherwise you’ll wait a long time to get in!
But there are other museums! The National Gallery is an art museum, the Victoria & Albert museum is an applied and decorative arts and design museum, there’s also the Natural History museum and the Tate Britain, a British art museum. There’s also the Tate Modern, a modern art gallery. They’re all free! You can also head to Madame Tussauds. This one is not free but it’s very popular. Click here to buy a skip-the-line ticket.
Big Ben and the Westminster palace
How can you go to London and not see Big Ben, its legendary clock tower? Big Ben was built in 1858 in a Neo-Gothic style. It’s part of the Westminster Palace (also called Houses of Parliament). On each side of the 315 ft. high tower, you’ll see a clock. Each one of them is 7-meters (23 ft.) in diameter.
When visiting London, you have to see Big Ben and the Westminster Palace. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get in. The UK citizens only are allowed to get in Big Ben and visit Westminster Palace. Too bad!
Since you can’t visit Westminster Palace, head to Westminster Abbey which is just a few minutes away. The building is impressive, from the outside as well as from the inside. This is where the important events take place since 1066: coronation of kings and queens, weddings in the royal family, state funerals… This is the sepulcher burial place of many members of the royal family. It’s 22 pounds (24 euros) to get in.
Located just next to the tower of London, it’s the most famous bridge of the city. This bridge was inaugurated in 1894 and crosses the river Thames. You’ll easily recognize the bridge thanks to its two bridge towers built in a Gothic style. You can visit the bridge exhibition, which shows how the hydraulic system to raise the bridge used to work. It’s 9 pounds (10 euros) to see the exhibition.
London Eye, the famous London Ferris wheel! Hop in a capsule and before you know it, you’ll be 135 meters (443 ft.) high). The tour lasts about 30 minutes. For your information, London Eye is the biggest Ferris wheel in Europe. The wait is long to get in. To avoid waiting, click here to buy a skip-the-line ticket.
Take a few minutes to stop at Picadilly Circus. People often compare it to Times Square in New York. Indeed, like Times Square, the place is lively and you’ll find big screens with ads there. Get there daytime but also nighttime.
Wanna go shopping in London? Head to Oxford Street, just a few minutes away by foot from Picadilly Circus! The prices are affordable and you’ll find numerous stores there: Primark, Selfridges, Marks & Spencer, TopShop, River Island, Lush, The Body Shop… In another area (Knightsbridge), don’t miss Harrod’s, an institution in London.
Head to Sky Garden if you have some time. It’s a skyscraper with a restaurant and a café on the last floor. You can get there for free and you don’t even have to drink or eat. Sky Garden offers an unobstructed view of London. Although it’s free to get there, you have to book to get in by clicking here. Indeed, Sky Garden is very popular…
You can also watch London from the heights of the city at The Shard. It’s a glass-clad pyramidal tower that has 87 floors with restaurants, hotels, and an observation deck. The Shard is a bit higher than Sky Garden. Click here to buy your ticket.
There are numerous markets in London. The Camden market is probably the most famous. Located in Camden Town, you’ll find many things there: clothes, souvenirs… But there’s also the Brick Lane market, Old Spitafields market which is a covered market, Portobello Road market and Borough market where you can get delicious food for a cheap price. If you’re a foodie, check these quirky places to eat in London!
There are also numerous green spaces in London. Hyde Park is probably the most famous. It’s also huge! Don’t miss it! There’s also St. James Park next to Buckingham Palace, the Regent’s Park, Greenwich Park…
The London areas
There are many areas to visit in London. Covent Garden is an enjoyable area where you’ll find the former fruit-and-vegetable market, numerous stores, restaurants, street performers, theaters, an opera… A must see! There’s also Camden Town and its quirky market where you’ll find punks and goths, stores selling eccentric clothes and piercing and tattoo parlors.
Have a walk in Notting Hill, a chic area in London popularized by the movie Notting Hill and where you’ll find the Portobello Market. There’s Chelsea, a posh area with luxury stores and fashion designers boutiques.
Kensington is a wealthy area of London where you’ll find museums (like the Natural History museum) and green spaces (Hyde Park among others). You can also go to Soho, a lively area to go party in London. Chinatown is not far.
Other things to do in London
If you stay longer, here’s a 4-day London itinerary. You can go see Trafalgar Square. This is where the famous battle of Trafalgar took place. You can also see a musical theater show in Soho. Download the Todaytix app to check the musicals and plays you can see the same evening at a reduced price! If you want to party, you won’t be disappointed. Go on a pub crawl! Keep in mind the British know how to drink!
If you have some time, you can go see Stonehenge, about two hours away from London. It’s the famous 3000+ years-old ring of standing stones, attraction more than one million people every year. I wrote an article about my day trip to Stonehenge from London. Also, check out this list of the best day trips from London!
Activities in London
Here are a few activity ideas in London:
- Go on a Harry Potter Warner Bros studio tour. Click here for more info.
- Take a cruise on the River Thames. Click here for more info.
- Visit the St. Paul’s cathedral. Click here for more info.
- Explore the Windsor castle. Click here for more info. If you want to find out more about Windsor, check out this post explaining how great a trip to Windsor from London is!
- Explore the legend of Jack the Ripper on a walking tour. Click here for more info.
- Head to Sea Life London aquarium. Click here for more info.
- Admire the wonderful Kew gardens. Click here for more info.
- Climb the roof of the O2 Arena. Click here for more info.
- Finally, go on a Tottenham Hotspur stadium tour. Click here for more info.
The London Pass
If you plan to visit numerous places in London, don’t hesitate and take the London Pass. With this pass, you have access to more than 80 attractions in the city! The Shard, Westmister Abbey, the Tower Bridge exhibition and many entrance fees are included in the pass. Click here to buy it and save money.
How to get to London
If you arrive from Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam or Rotterdam, it’s very easy. You have direct trains (Eurostar) from those cities straight to the city center of London. From these cities, I suggest not going to London by plane. You need to go to the airport, knowing you have to be there two hours before take off. Moreover, once you get to the London airport, you have to get to the city center. It’s a waste of time. If you arrive from elsewhere, then yeah you can get to London by plane. Click here to check the latest flight prices.
How to get around in London
Do not get around by taxi, you’ll break the bank. Avoid renting a car, parking a car is extremely expensive and let’s not forget they drive on the left! It’s easier and more convenient to take the subway (they say underground!), and it’s the cheapest way to get around in London. To take the subway, buy a Oyster card, there are vending machines in every subway station. Top it up with the desired amount and that’s it! A one-way ride is 2.40 pounds (2.50€), but the price goes up if you move away from the center.
You can also test out the famous London red buses! A one-way ride is 1.40 pound (1.50€) with an Oyster card. Download the Citymapper for the bus rides. Tell the app where you are, where you want to go, and it will display the easiest and shortest way to get there!
Where to stay in London
First off, here are the best areas to stay in London. If you’re traveling on a budget, the Publove @ The White Ferry Victoria is a nice hostel and well located. Click here to book your stay. If you want to stay in a mid-range hotel, the Blackbird is comfortable, the rooms are clean and the staff is really nice. Click here to book your stay. If you prefer luxury hotels, the Shangri-La Hotel in the Shard will please you! Click here to book your stay. Otherwise click here to check what are the hotels available in London.
Finally, if you prefer to stay in an apartment, click here to check what are the apartments available on Airbnb.
London living cost
You probably know it, the British don’t use the euro nor the dollar but the pound. For your information, London is an expensive city, the pound being a strong currency. Plan your budget accordingly. You’ll also notice they pay everything by credit card. Often the storekeepers hand their credit card device when you have to pay, and they’re sometimes surprised when you pay by cash!
Best time to visit London
Spring is probably the best period to visit London. The weather starts to be nice, there are not too many tourists yet and consequently, they don’t apply the peak season rates yet. Summer is nice, bearable but everything is more expensive. October and November are also good months to visit London. In winter, it’s really cold there.
London travel tips
- Traveling soon? My travel resources page can help you out! This list of travel accessories can also be useful!
- Don’t travel without a travel insurance! Here’s why get a travel insurance!
- If you arrive from abroad, you’ll need to provide proof of onward ticket at the immigration!
- The outlets are different there! Don’t forget to take a travel plug adapter!
- Want a tailor-made trip to the United Kingdom? Get a free quote here!
- Always use a VPN when traveling. I use ExpressVPN and I love it! Here’s why use a VPN when traveling.