The UK’s iconic capital city is an intriguing mix of centuries-old and modern, traditional and hipster chic, with independent boutiques and cool cafés alongside big-hitter high-street brands. Whether you’re looking for a shopping break, history lesson, cultural trip, or a mix of all this and more, you’ll find it in London.
There is a wealth of things to see and do here: residents live in the city for years without feeling like they’ve explored its every corner. One thing’s for sure: you’ll want to return to this captivating capital time and time again.
Here’s how we’ve broken it down for you:
WHERE TO STAY:
Budget Hotels (less than $150/night)
Mid-range Hotels ($150-300 night)
Treat Yo’self Hotels ($300-500 night)
WHAT TO DO:
Relax and Indulge
WHERE TO EAT:
Best Eats Under $10
Best Dinner and Brunch Spots
Drinks with the Girls
Where to Stay
Budget Hotels (under $150/night)
ibis Styles Southwark
Ideally located close to the delicious Borough Market, this theatre-inspired hotel is a real showstopper. Rooms match big-hitter musicals: think bowler hat lampshades in the Chicago room and a cute pair of ruby-red slippers in the Wizard of Oz room. It’s a quirky, creative stay at a cheap price.
Garden Court Hotel
A stroll from Hyde Park and close to the lively West End, this hotel is typically British in both atmosphere and style. Opened since 1954 and family-owned, you’ll find the rooms are pretty, simple, and traditionally decorated, reflecting the low price.
Safestay Holland Park
Stylish, comfortable and affordable, Safestay offers an easy place to stay in the heart of the city. With a private garden, lounge spaces, pool room, and roof terrace, there’s plenty of room to recharge after a hard day’s sightseeing.
Mid-range Hotels ($150-300 night)
Artist Residence London
Eccentric, eclectic, and exclusive: this boutique hotel comes with just ten bedrooms, each uniquely finished with an artist’s tasteful touch. Bare-brick walls, four-poster beds, and rainfall showers all add to the luxurious feel here.
Go Native Mayfair
Experience London like a local in your own apartment: Go Native’s Mayfair offerings range from simple one-bedroom stays to penthouses, sleeping four people. Apartments are cozy, clean, and comfortable, and won’t break the break (a surprise for this part of town).
A luxury stay without the added price tag, Number Sixteen is a peaceful, pretty hotel in high-end Kensington. Rooms are colorful and packed with style. Schedule time into your trip plan for afternoon tea and a trip to the on-site spa – both are quite the treat.
The Hospital Club
15 exclusive, boutique rooms, all individually designed and furnished; think rich wood-paneled walls, moody colors, and plush furnishings. Choose from simple sleepers to more luxurious suits. Our favorite feature? A turndown cocktail trolley does the rounds each evening.
Splurge Hotels ($300-500 night)
One of the world’s oldest and most iconic luxury hotels, the Dorchester is ideal if you have plenty of cash to splash. Lavish rooms with plush furnishings will distract you from the city outside, while the hotel’s delectable afternoon tea, indulgent on-site spa, and fine French restaurant could keep you busy for days.
Opposite the Royal Mews and behind Buckingham Palace, you know this place is going to be grand. With a sleek black-and-white theme throughout, rooms are smart but elegant. Make a stop next door at the Leopard Champagne Bar for an indulgent glass or two by the fire.
Gir Lion Lodge
Looking for a wild place to stay? Don’t miss Gir Lion Lodge at ZSL, the city’s world-famous zoo. You’ll be sleeping within roaring distance of Asiatic lions, in one of 9 Indian-style cabins. Take an after-hours tour, experience up-close animal encounters, or simply enjoy breakfast from your lodge’s terrace.
This place blends tradition with modern style seamlessly, creating an exquisite place to stay. Rooms are spacious, light, and elegant, with lush decor and furnishings. Choose from Junior Rooms to Signature Suites; our favorite is the library suite, which is a book-lover’s dream.
Things to Do
Take a trip 155m high for a garden experience unlike any other. The ‘Walkie Talkie’ – a nickname that has stuck due to the building’s design – has a spectacular viewing gallery home to three stories of wild, exotic gardens. Stop by the City Garden Bar for a cool cocktail with a cracking view.
A trip to London wouldn’t be complete without a night spent at this iconic theatre. Producing world-class plays, classic performances, and musicals, there’s something for every taste. Plus, with a bookshop, restaurants, backstage tours, and more, you’ll be kept entertained for days.
If you’re the type of traveler who likes a challenge, the city’s Escape Rooms are for you. Based on the Japanese game ‘Takagism,’ you’ll have one hour to solve hidden puzzles and work your way to freedom. Unless you’re super smart, you’ll need a team of travelers with you.
Take a step back in time for a theatre experience unlike any other. A reincarnation of Shakespearean’s theatre, the Globe sits on the Southbank just yards from the original site. Today, you’ll find classics on show, from the likes of King Lear to Twelfth Night.
Watching a movie for around $6 is practically unheard of in London, so the Peckhamplex is quite a find. Catch the latest blockbusters on the cheap before exploring this vibrant area of south London. In the summer, head to Frank’s for post-picture drinks – the view from this converted car park’s rooftop bar is a big hit.
Experience life like a British royal on a tour of this grand palace. The Queen’s State Apartments are a must-see, originally designed in the 17th century. Make time to explore the Palace Gardens, a pretty escape from the bustling city outside.
Found in an old power station, this art gallery is impressive from the inside out. The building’s vast turbine hall is ideal for housing grand, modern works of art from British and international artists. The gallery’s permanent exhibitions include works from 1900, and features Matisse, Beuys, and more.
Le Caprice was made for relaxed Sunday evenings listening to easy jazz. Join the house trio on piano, sax, and double bass as they play classics from 7pm on. Enjoy over dinner or drinks; the menu features a modern mix of British, American, and European classics.
Relax and Indulge
Take a break in the leafy neighborhood of Primrose Hill at the Cowshed’s latest opening. Splurge on a Moody Massage to recharge or opt for a signature facial for a faster refresh. Either way, you’ll leave feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle London’s lively streets.
Serving sandwiches, scones, and sweet treats for close to 150 years, it’s no surprise Claridge’s is one of London’s most famous places for Afternoon Tea. Sip one of 24 expertly selected teas from around the world while relaxing in 1930s art deco surroundings.
Yoga at The Shard
Get sky high and enjoy stretching in Europe’s highest yoga class. Head to Level 72 of The Shard to pull a downward dog or two. The guided one-hour class will take you through a suitable-for-all sequence with time to take in the impressive panoramic views at the end.
Where else in the world can you track down majestic stags just a short walk from a city center? The largest of London’s parks, Richmond is also one of the most popular. Not that you would know it – it’s easy to escape the cyclists, walkers, and tourists here on the many trails.
It’s official: you’re never too old for a little fun on a helter skelter. Take a ride on the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide, the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Just make sure you appreciate the views from the top first. While you’re there, explore the pretty meadows, wetlands, and waterways of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Visit Greenwich on a sunny day and you’ll be rewarded with cracking views of the financial district and beyond. A former hunting park and one of London’s oldest, Greenwich is a real stunner, and less popular than the aforementioned Richmond.
Rowing on the Serpentine
London is known as one of the greenest capitals in the world, and where better to appreciate this than on the waters of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. Choose from rowing or pedal boats and cruise at your own speed. Just be wary of the fickle British weather.
Tucked away in one of London’s busiest boroughs is Connaught Village: a slice of quaint village life in the heart of the city. Close to Hyde Park and a ten-minute stroll from Oxford Street, the cluster of chic boutiques, pretty cafés, and independent restaurants is a real gem.
For the writers among us: Quill sells all the accessories your desk could desire. Pick up personalized journals, dainty event invites, or stock up on stylish stationary. If you have a little longer, head for one of their Calligraphy classes. Your letter-receivers will thank you forever.
Located in the northeast borough of Islington, Camden Passage is a small, pedestrianized street crammed with quirky, independent shops, market stalls, and restaurants. Bag a bargain from Decadent Vintage (where you’ll find fashion from the 50s-80s) before stopping for a decadent Viennese brunch at Kipferl.
Bookworms behold! This bookstore focuses on selling and reprinting unappreciated (mostly) female writers from the mid-20th century. You’ll find novels, diaries, poetry, short stories, and more stacked on the shelves here. Be warned: you’ll need plenty of time to browse its books properly.
Where to Eat
Best Eats Under $10
For the indecisive amongst us, Shoreditch’s collection of shacks and bars at Dinerama offer a worldwide menu and fruity cocktails to match. Opt for Thai street-food, live-fire Swedish barbecue, meat-free Mexican dishes, or Taiwanese steamed buns. Wash it all down with a fresh watermelon cocktail or a tipple from the Gin Kitchen.
Quite possibly the best place in London for pizza – a bold claim, we know. Baked in wood-burning ovens and using slow-rising sourdough, the pizzas here are thick and slathered in toppings, yet deliciously crisp. With pizzerias scattered throughout London and its suburbs, you’re never too far from a Franco Manca. And with giant pizzas from at little as $6.50, who can resist?
Kim’s Vietnamese Hut
Take-away is often associated with bad food. Not so at Kim’s, close to north London’s famous Camden Market. Serving a variety of fried rice and spring rolls, hungry residents come here in droves for the Pho: spicy, fragrant bowls of soup with thick noodles. Slurp away!
One of the best places to dine on a budget in south London, Brixton Village offers a mish-mash of cultures and cuisines from around the world with over 100 restaurants, cafés, and take-aways based here. Once an old arcade, the village is now home to Caribbean, African, Asian, European cuisines, and more.
Best Dinners and Brunches
Located on Level 40 of Heron Tower, Duck and Waffle offers panoramic views of London any time of day or night (it’s open 24/7). The only problem is choosing whether to gawk at the views or the divine food! Serving an eclectic mix of dishes, the ideal time to visit is for brunch to try the crispy leg confit with fried duck egg, served over fluffy waffles, and drowned in mustard maple syrup. Delicious!
This one’s perfect for the barbecue fiends and meat-lovers amongst us. Working with some of the best farms around Britain, the Smokehouse will bring you a smoky, grilled, meaty feast. Whether you opt for coal-grilled cuts or slow-cooked specialties, you’ll leave belly-full. Vegetarians never fear – meat-free dishes are on offer too, from wild mushroom gnocchi to colorful salads.
As far away from London’s manic streets as you can manage, you’ll find The Summerhouse perched alongside the north’s warrens of pretty canals (in fact, the area is often referred to as Little Venice). In sunny weather, the restaurant’s windows roll up offering idyllic views of the waterway and passers-by. Open all day, visit for brunch, lunch, dinner, or evening cocktails.
Blue Mountain Café
This is one of the best brunches south of the river. Located on a backstreet of East Dulwich, Blue Mountain Café serves up breakfast, fat sandwiches, and creamy cakes. Our favorite? The Caribbean cafe’s vegetarian breakfast with crispy halloumi, spicy beans, and eggs the way you want. (If it’s packed, which it often is, the Duck Egg café across the road makes a delicious alternative.)
Polpo serves simple (but award-winning) Venetian food with fresh flavors alongside young Italian wines. This is the place for a grown-up meal in a sophisticated, relaxed atmosphere. Whether you opt for the chili and crab linguine or vegetable fritto misto, make sure you leave room for the Nutella pizzetta or chocolate salami.
Drinks with the Girls
Sophisticated, relaxed, and uber on-trend, Aqua at The Shard is an ideal location to catch up with friends over cocktails. Located on Level 31 of West Europe’s tallest building, there’s no doubt the views here are set to impress. Be warned, however, drinks are on the pricier side and there’s a smart casual dress code.
Pretty afternoon tea meets punk at this unique cocktail bar close to King’s Cross. Think glitzy skull disco balls and drinking gin from a teacup. The vintage chic interior combined with the classic drinks menu (all available in teapot sizes) make this place one of the coolest places for a cocktail in the capital. Expect vintage surroundings, great music, and wild nights.
From the outside, the Four Thieves looks like your typical Clapham pub. Climb up to the first floor, however, and you’ll discover the huge upstairs space has been converted into a vintage gaming arcade. Opt for a round of crazy golf (luminous volcano included), take a spin on the racing track, and play ping-pong or pinball.
The ideal place to sample the East End’s hipster vibe, the Cocktail Trading Company has a buzzing atmosphere and great prices to match. Opt for one of their unique cocktails or ask for whatever you fancy… The Bee’s Knees gives a sour sting with gin, lemon, and honey.