London is the capital of England and it is considered one of the most important tourism destinations in Europe. Now that I have been in London for four years exploring all aspects of the city, I feel like a Londoner. I am glad that I got to know this interesting and vibrant city. It's a city with a lot to offer and I have to agree with Samuel Johnson's famous saying: "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life."
Visiting London is a goal for so many travellers, but it can be slightly overwhelming. When I came to London as a tourist I was very overwhelmed and I was so confused on what to do and what to see. Living here has shown me a whole different side to the city that I want to share with you in this post just to give back and share the love I have for this multi layered city.
Most tourists go to well-known places such as Big Ben, The Queen's Palace and London Eye. There is nothing wrong with that. They are iconic sights of the city. This post however is going to be about more than the usual. It is going to be about what the places I enjoy and actually go to a few times a year. I am sure every Londoner sees London differently and this is just my take. There are many other websites that will tell you about other points of interest and I would advice you to look at everything and see what is best for you in terms of location and interest. Happy Planning!
Content of this post:
- Travel time + best times to visit London
- The weather of the trip + the best weather to visit London
- Booking a flight + Best airlines to London
- Places of interest and activities in London
- London neighbourhoods and choosing a hotel in London
- Muslims in London
- Halal Food in London
- Other cities to visit and combine with your London trip
Travel time + best times to visit London
There are several things to consider when planning a trip to London, such as the time of year and the season, as well as British holidays. One of my favourite times is winter especially during the Christmas period. It is one of the most crowded times, but the city is full of life and activities that are only happening during that time of year like the Christmas lights, Christmas markets and ice skating. This period is from 20 November to 24 December. On December 25th most things will be closed. December 26th, known as Boxing Day, is a day of shopping and discounts. Some sales are good but all shops are very crowded, so it's not always worth it.
Another time I enjoy is the summer time, where the days are long and the sunset is between 9 and 10 pm. There are many summer activities that only happen in the summer period like outdoor cinemas, roof top restaurants and so on
Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons, especially between September and November, where the colours of the trees change and the gardens are coloured in wonderful autumn shades.
The weather of the trip + the best weather to visit London
The weather in London and the UK as a whole is very unpredictable. The day may start with a warm sun and end with cold wind and heavy rain. When I leave my flat, I take my umbrella with me whatever the season is. I wear my leather shoes for three seasons so that my feet would not get wet when it randomly rain. Some days I take my sunglasses too. Usually the summer is rainy and the rain ranges from light to heavy. Winter is relatively less rainy, but it gets much colder. The best seasons to visit London weather wise are Summer and Autumn, but whatever season you choose, be aware that it might rain. In addition, London gets very warm in the summer at times and it could reach to 30 degrees without air conditioning in most places.
Booking a flight + Best airlines to London
London is one of the most famous cities and most airlines stop here. London has four well-known airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, London City and Stansted. The last two airports do not go directly to the Middle East. There are fast trains connected to the airports to make the trip faster to central London. A good price if you are coming from the Middle East is 350 GBP and a decent one from North Africa is 150-250GB unless you are coming from Morocco, where RyanAir goes and that will give you a ticket for 20-60GB. If you are coming from Canada or the US, there are budget airlines like wow air that would cost you $400, so there are so many choices depending on your location in the world (Read: How to find cheap flights on Skyscanner?)
Places of interest and activities in London
One of the things to consider in London is the route of your daily program/schedule. London is a big city and some places are about an hour or an hour and a half away from each other. For example, my house is located a full hour from the famous Harrods shop, so I recommend buying a transport card, Oyster. There are offers for a weekly or monthly options that you could buy on your oyster or you can just pay as you go with your credit card if you have the contactless function. Many touristy spots are located in zone 1, but if you want to find places further you should buy Zone 1 to Zone 2 or 3. To check the route or to plan your day make sure to check: Google Maps and TFL: Transports For London.
When planning your day or itinerary for the day, I would recommend staying in one side of London instead of going in all directions and everywhere. For example, when you visit East London, spend the day exploring the whole area instead of going to North London for a meal because your time may be wasted on the tube.
The most crowded times are from 8 am to 10 am and from 4:30 pm to 7 pm, especially in public transport. During these times it is very difficult to find a place to stand.
I am sure that you know the very famous places and you will find information about them in most of the site this post is about the places I personally love and enjoy
Museums and art galleries in London
Victoria and Albert Museum Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the most famous museums, but some people still skip it! The museum is very large and in the same area there is the Natural History Museum and other art spaces. My favourite places in this museum are the Abdullatif Jameel Islamic Art Gallery and the Tea Room, which was renovated a few years ago. Admission is free but temporary exhibitions have special tickets and usually last/change every few months.
Saatchi Gallery is in the same area is the V&A. It is a large exhibition spaces. Sometimes they host free exhibitions, but temporary exhibitions require a tickets. Check their website before I head there.
Although the Queen's Gallery is located in the Queen's Palace (Buckingham Palace),it is not that known to people. I went to visit an exhibition about the Queen's jewellery and books and enjoyed it. Exhibitions change every few months. The exhibition is small in size, so it wouldn't take longer than an hour to see.
The Design Museum is a three-story museum located in West London and has everything to do with design. The building is also beautiful and you can spend two hours there. Two floors of the museum are free but there is a floor for temporary shows. The free section is great and just outside the museum is Holland Park. You can see all the details in the video below.
Leighton House Museum
This museum was the home of the artist Leighton. During his life life time, Leighton was very intrigued by Islamic art, so he has a lovely room known as the Arab hall. It is designed in the old Arabic style and contains pieces of art and ceramics decorated with calligraphy. The museum is small and an hour is enough to see it. The admission fee is Eight pounds. The museum holds monthly events at night, where jazz is played, dates can be found here.
Rich Mix Gallery
The Rich Mix Gallery is located in East London and has many art shows and activities. Many of them on Islamic art or other art from the Middle East and North Africa. I like their fun programs, which are sometimes comedies, plays and music.
William Morris Gallery
The artist William Morris is one of the oldest British artists who has left a big mark on British art in the UK and the world. Morris was not only an artist and a craftsman, he was one of the founders of the arts and crafts social and artistic movement. He was a social speaker, who respected the rights of artists and traditional art in particular. This museum is in a location far from the centre of London but worth a visit. You can spend two hours there reading information and enjoying detailed illustrations and textiles.
Graffiti and Street Art in London
The Graffiti scene in London is great and I think my favourite areas are the ones with rich colours and art. If you are interested to find some cool street art. I have four areas for you:
Waterloo Station - Leake Street - Graffiti Tunnel
Painting/writing there is legal as well if you want to leave your mark. Though, it's very changeable.
From the overground station you can walk around and see the cool art everywhere. It's such a shame that the area is turning to office blocks and getting gentrified, so catch it before it's gone.
Old Street and Brick Lane Graffiti
This particular area receives a lot of interest and there are regular street art tours that happen from Old Street Station . You can also just walk around if you want to do it on your own. I have noticed a lot near the Old Street station, Shoreditch High Street overground station, Brick lane market area and the Hoxton area. Just wander around and enjoy some art.
Camden also has a good amount of Street art though I am not a local to that area. I found two art Camden tours that you might like: Discover Camden with a Local Host and Camden Art Crawl Small Group Tour.
Theaters and performances
London is famous for its theatres and year-round performances. Some shows are only seasonal and come during the Christmas period and some performances last several years. Going to the theatre is very enjoyable and I usually reserve it for special occasions. The tickets are expensive at times, so plan in advance. You can buy them from the theatre site directly or from Amazon tickets, Last Minute or Love Theatre.
During the past couple years I was able to go to some musical performances on occasions and this is a list of the shows that I went to and loved.
Aladdin the musical
Aladdin is the same Disney cartoon. It was one of the best shows I've ever seen. The costumes and set designs were fantastic. My inner child couldn't stop dancing! The set was very impressive. It was very stylish and luxurious. Genie was very funny too.
The Lion King Musical
The Lion King is also a play based on the story of the famous Disney's cartoon, but the execution of it was very impressive. The way the animals were depicted with wooden figures and sculptures were very creative. The dances were beautiful too. This play is also suitable for children because Simba and Lana were represented by two children.
The Phantom of the Opera Musical
The Phantom of the Opera musical was beautiful and imaginative. It is also based on the film with the same title. The way they acted and sung was very moving.
An American in Paris
An American in Paris play is a nice mix of singing and dancing. The vibe is old fashioned. The main dance is Ballet. The story is a traditional love story but I loved watching it all unfold on stage. It is a nice one to go to with the girls.
The rest of the plays
There are lots of theatrical performances and you can read about them before going and booking online.
Note: Photography and recording is prohibited during theatre performances, so don't be that person they flash!
London has distinct open markets in every area of the city. Here is a list of the ones I regularly visit.
Borough Market is located in central London just outside of London Bridge station. It is distinguished by the multi-food shops there that have a lot of various international foods and products. If you want to explore it fully you can check out this Made in London Tour: Borough Market to St Pauls Cathedral .
Old Spitalfields Market
Old Spitafield Market has restaurants and food carts as well as a little market with a selection of clothing and accessories stalls. It is a good-sized market close to the centre of London and Liverpool Street Station.
If you decide to visit this market, I recommend that you go to Greenwich University, Greenwich Park and walk near the river there. You can go all out and try a Greenwich Highlights Half Day Tour . It's really easy to do it on your own with the help of Google maps though! On Sundays, they have the vintage/antique market. (Video about Greenwich below!)
Camden Market is a little strange and very crowded with things that are different from the rest of London. There you can see a huge dragon and a shoe above the shops. There are two markets there the Stables and Camden Lock. You can start from the station and walk around to the markets. There is so much food there too! You can try the Discover Camden with a Local Host as well . (Video about Camden below!)
Parks and Gardens
The best seasons to visit parks and gardens are summer and spring. The fall is also good to visit to see the different colours in the park but the weather starts getting colder. The winter is very cold to enjoy the parks. I enjoy visiting a few parks such as the Greenwich Park in South London, Victoria Park in East London, Holland Park near the Design Museum and the Regent's Park, where the big Regent's Mosque is located. There are so many parks in London and each offers something new. Check the map and see what's close to you and go for a walk.
London neighbourhoods and choosing a hotel in London
To choose a good hotel you should look at the map and see the places you would like to visit just to get an understanding of how much you will travel. London is very big and has so many choices. My main way of searching is to go to the map on websites like booking or Airbnb. One of the most important things is to find a hotel near the station. Search in Google Maps from the place you want to stay in to the attraction to really get an idea of how far you will be travelling. I have a few suggestions for you below and all are based on the stations around them. I haven't stayed in them, but from my search for other family members and friends who visit, I think they will be good options.
Baker Street Station
You can also try finding other hotels by looking at more options on booking
Muslims in London
London is a very diverse city and you will find many people from all religions and backgrounds. I am very thankful that I did not face any harassment about my headscarf (Read: Travel Blogger in a Headscarf Q&A). London is a safe place to wear a headscarf and I pray that it remains an accepting and loving city because diversity is truly beautiful. You should take the usual precautions, such as not going too late at night (Read: How to stay safe when travelling). By the way, there are many mosques in London, but for a specific list please check the directory.
Halal Food in London
Halal meat is widely available in London and in all types of restaurants such as Indian, Asian, Arabic, etc. Even big chains would at least have halal chicken on offer. There are two halal food sites that I use frequently for the latest food recommendations in the city halal girl about town and Halal Gems. They both have a map, photos and reviews of all kinds of Halal restaurants and many of them are very tasty. I wrote about my favourite restaurants that I always go to as well; My Ultimate Favourite Food Guide for London (Including Halal).
Other cities to visit and combine with your London trip
London is a full on city and can keep you busy for weeks. There are also a lot of country walks from London that I really enjoy going onto. You can see my country walk outings on the Youtube playlist below:
If you want to go to other cities to explore the UK further, I recommend visiting the two university cities: Cambridge and Oxford. They are both near by and can be seen in a day or a weekend. The are is also Bath, a city full of architecture, but you have to pay to enter its museums. You can pair it with Stonehenge or Bristol. There are day-trip options such as Stonehenge, Windsor, and Bath: Day Trip from London or Stonehenge, Bath & West Country: Day Trip from London . I would advice to stay over night in Bath though because half a day there is not enough.
There is also the oceanfront city of Brighton. I haven't been yet, but once I do I will share a full video. I am waiting for the weather to be good first. There lots of tour there as well like the Brighton: Lanes & Backstreets Small Group Tour with a Local .
The second main city in England is Manchester, which is two hours from London by the express train. I lived there for three years and I would recommend it for a weekend. It might be fun to walk around with a local, Welcome to Manchester: Private Tour .
I really hope that you enjoyed this detailed London post. I can't wait for you to come to London and experience all the things that it has to offer.
You might enjoy these London posts too:
- How to find cool events and things to do in London
- London After Midnight
- Nine Things to do this Summer in London (Ideas for Summer activities in London)
- Things to do in London in Autumn and Winter (Christmas in London)
Over to you: What else would you like to see in London?
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