A Comprehensive Guide for Families Travelling to London
London is a unique city that has something to offer to everyone. Home to nearly 9 million people, it prides itself in being one of the most multicultural and diverse places in the world. Despite the pressure of being the main city of Great Britain and one of the globe’s fashion, art and financial capitals, it is incredibly liveable and family-friendly. Spacious leafy green parks in the middle of the city, perfect for picnics and feeding cheeky squirrels; world-class entertainment options for any budget; abundance of free museums and galleries to explore are just a few benefits to mention. There is a reason why Paddington Bear came to London and found home there. London is amazing. Buckle up for a tour of this fascinating city.
10 must-visit places in London
1. Buckingham Palace
A grand royal residence with 775 magnificent rooms, Buckingham Palace is the Queen’s London home, a busy headquarters hosting the world leaders, and an absolute must-see for every visitor of the British capital. Located next to Green Park and St James Park and overlooking the Queen Victoria Memorial, this iconic palace has one of the most famous balconies in the world.
Changing the Guard, a traditional 45-minute long ceremony where The Queen’s Guard hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace to the New Guard, is performed by the active infantry soldiers marching foot to foot, dressed in postcard-looking scarlet coats and bearskin caps, with musical support from a Regimental Band or Corps of Drums and sometimes pipers.
Buckingham Palace is open to the public during the summer months and for a limited number of tours in December, January and Easter. Changing the Guard can be seen daily in June and July, and on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from August till May. The ceremony starts at 11am and is free of charge.
2. The Tower of London
There is no other place in London as soaked in history and as full of fascinating tales of the British royals, love and hate, intrigue and treason, imprisonment and torture, as the Tower of London. A fortress, palace and once a prison, it is also a home to the magnificent Crown Jewels collection, the powerful symbols of the British Monarchy.
It is said that the United Kingdom and the Tower of London will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the Tower of London. There are nine ravens there today. Yeoman Warders, or “Beefeaters”, once the Royal Bodyguards, dressed in splendid dark blue and red uniforms, greet the visitors all year around to share incredible stories not just about the legendary birds, but also the Tower’s famous masters and prisoners from one thousand years of history.
3. The London Eye
The London Eye is Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel and a must-experience for children and adults alike. Located on the South Bank of the River Thames, across the bridge from Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and the world-famous tower clock Big Ben, the London Eye is one of the most iconic attractions in Britain. A 30-minute journey on this whopping 135-metre high wheel offers mind-blowing views of Buckingham Palace, the futuristic skyscrapers of London’s financial district City, the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, historic Tower Bridge and a lot more. The London Eye is incredibly popular amongst tourists any season, and the queues can be overwhelming. It is strongly recommended to purchase tickets online, with the fast-track option being well worth the money.
4. London Transport Museum
London’s means of transport made it to the gift shop postcards and became the symbols of the British world, and there is no better place to explore it than the London Transport Museum. Located in the vibrant West End neighbourhood Covent Garden famous for its indie shops, theatres and street entertainment, this unique museum features over 200 years of transport history. The rich collection ranges from elegant Victorian carriages to the iconic modern-day black cab and a red double-decker bus. It demonstrates how London’s growth, culture and people have been entwined with its transport system over the centuries. Children-friendly and fun for the grownups, this action-packed museum, its lovely shop and its cute upstairs restaurant will win the hearts of the whole family.
Tickets to the London Transport Museum are to be purchased in advance, and the entrance is free for children.
5. Hyde Park
It is impossible to imagine London without Hyde Park, the city’s vital green lung where tourists and residents come to escape the city buzz and enjoy peace and quiet. 350-acres leafy heaven offers as much refuge as it does entertainment for the whole family. Challenge yourself to an open swim in the summer in Serpentine Lido or rent a family pedal boat all year around. Relax in one of the idyllic cafes with excellent ice-cream and picturesque views. Dip your toes in the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. Engage in active family fun in Hyde Park Tennis and Sports Hub. Walking, jogging, cycling and even horse-riding friendly Hyde Park has an intellectual vibe too. Speaker’s Corner, located in the North East corner of the park near the Marble Arch, is the oldest living free speech platform in the world. If you come there at about midday on Sunday, you will be able to witness the debates that often last until long after dark.
6. Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is surrounded by the splendid National Gallery to the north, the elegant Strand to the east, the busy Whitehall to the south and the Admiralty Arch and Mall to the south-west. It also lies a stone’s throw away from Leicester Square, famous for its red-carpet movie premieres, Piccadilly Circus with its popular status to Eros, and tastebuds-tempting Chinatown. Thanks to its unique location, Trafalgar Square seems like the centre of everything in London downtown. Similar to Times Square in New York, this London landmark is a natural meeting place for public gatherings and cultural and religious celebrations. Be it Christmas Carol singing, Chinese New Year, Eid, Diwali or a football championship, the locals know where to go to spread the joy.
Trafalgar Square is named after the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory in the Napoleonic Wars. The centrepiece is a statue of a war hero Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, the 5-metre-tall Nelson’s Column. It is “protected” by four bronze lions beloved by the tourists and the locals. The nearby fountains feature dolphins, mermaids and tritons and look spectacular when illuminated with LED lights at night.
7. Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament
Big Ben is the world’s most photographed clock tower and a must-see landmark for anyone visiting London. Located on the banks of the River Thames in Westminster, it is a part of the northern end of the stunning Gothic-style Houses of Parliament. The origins of the name of this renowned 96-metre-tall clock are unclear. Some say it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who oversaw its installation. Others insist that the heavyweight boxing champion Benjamin Caunt was the inspiration. Even though it was renamed the Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, Big Ben’s memorable name is not going anywhere. The legendary clock has seen six monarchs and 41 prime ministers since its bells first struck and is still counting.
The tower clock is currently closed to the visitors due to the conservation works and is expected to reopen later in 2022. But the Houses of Parliament can be explored with family-friendly tours throughout the year.
8. Hamleys on Regent Street
Hamleys is a dream destination for the whole family. And it is not all about shopping but plenty of history too. The world’s oldest toy store, Hamleys was founded by an Englishman William Hamley back in 1760. Located in High Holborn first, the store moved to the fashion paradise Regent Street in London’s West End in 1881. The multibrand play heaven now occupies a staggering seven floors of toys, games, crafts and activities.
Hamleys is famous for its friendly atmosphere and in-store entertainment. It is not unusual to see the staff dressed as cartoon characters or superheroes, singing and dancing. Live toy and game demonstrations spread a lot of excitement amongst the little ones too. A soft bear-building workshop, selfie-friendly Lego lifesize characters and even an ice-cream kiosk are just a few things that make Hamleys so special.
9. The London Dungeon
The London Dungeon on Thames South Bank is all about London’s dark but incredibly entertaining past full of witch hunts and unsolved mysteries, the plague and bloodthirsty kings, torture and executions. It is a good thing the spookiness is served with a generous amount of humour. Recreating the various events from the last millennium with a mixture of live actors, special effects and rides, the London Dungeon offers a unique, chilling, sensory and memorable experience. It is scary yet funny. You learn and laugh as amusing infamous characters from the “bad old days” such as Jack the Ripper or Henry VIII come to life before you.
The London Dungeon is recommended for families with older children as it gets very dark, smelly, with occasional loud noises inside. Younger children are welcome to join the thrill as long as they are accompanied by the grownups.
10. The Museum of London
Want to know what Roman Londinium is or how the Great Fire of London started? No place tells the story of Britain’s capital and its people as colourfully and eloquently as the Museum of London. Free, spacious, family-friendly, it documents 450,000 years of London’s history, from the prehistoric to modern times. This family-friendly hidden gem is currently the largest urban history collection in the world, with more than six million objects.
The Museum of London is conveniently located a few minutes away from the river bank and St Paul’s Cathedral. The building overlooks the remains of the Roman city wall and the City of London, the oldest part of the capital and now its main financial district.
The museum is free to visit. The tickets have to be pre-booked.
Top 10 places to eat out in London
The Ivy Kensington Brasserie, 96 Kensington High Street, London W8 4SG
Elegant and stylish, The Ivy Kensington Brasserie is a reliable place for sophisticated and relaxed all-day a la carte dining. From modern British classics to Asian-inspired cuisine and fantastic vegan and vegetarian dishes, the Ivy promises that everyone will find something on the menu to love. The Ivy is located in a prominent area of South Kensington, a few steps away from the vast greenery of Kensington Gardens, next to the luxury boutiques of Kensington High Street, and a stone’s throw from The Royal Albert Hall and the Design Museum.
Caldesi in Marylebone, 118 Marylebone Lane, London W1
If you want to taste authentic Italian regional cuisine in London, Caldesi is the place. This family-owned restaurant was founded by Tuscan-born celebrity chef and restaurateur Giancarlo Caldesi. Located in a beautiful neighbourhood just off Oxford Street, this “Little Corner of Italy in Marylebone” knows how to feed a family. The menu includes fresh antipasti, Apulian Burrata, homemade pasta with low-carb options, excellent choice of fish and Giancarlo’s Tiramisu to die for. According to the owner, the restaurant uses only the finest artisan Italian produce and seasonal ingredients to create the true tastes of Italy.
Din Tai Fung, Selfridges, 4th floor, 400 Oxford St, Duke St, London W1A 1AB
This Chinese restaurant with an inspiring story behind is conveniently located inside Selfridges department store on Oxford street. World-famous for its Xiao Long Bao, a steamed soup dumplings, this Asian restaurant is exotic yet feels like home. Din Tai Fung prides itself in exceptional Chinese culinary craftsmanship applied to every dish. Din Tai Fung’s dumplings are hand-made with juicy minced meat, wrapped in a delicate dough skin, pleated, twisted, and then steamed. The menu also includes traditional Shanghainese drunken chicken, mouth-watering steamed buns and noodles and delicious creative desserts where the East meets the West. Every fish is made fresh and is served in minutes.
The Shed, 122 Palace Gardens Terrace, Kensington W8 4RT
The Shed is a great place to experience the finest traditions of modern British cookery. Its sustainable farm-to-fork approach brings a slice of the Sussex countryside to London’s cosmopolitan Notting Hill. The menu champions hyper-seasonal produce and uses wild, foraged, and locally grown ingredients with a zero-waste focus. The sustainable livestock from the Gladwin farm in West Sussex provides fresh produce for the meat dishes.
The restaurant’s eclectic, atmospheric interior is perfect for quick eats over lunch and an exciting dinner with friends and family. The “Local & Wild”creative tasting menu is a six-course culinary journey through the English countryside and coast, and is well worth the money. That journey is better be taken on a covered outdoor terrace where you can experience British summer without dire consequences.
Yalla Yalla, 1 Green’s Ct, Soho, London W1F 0HA
Yalla Yalla is inspired by the Middle Eastern generosity and the hospitality of Arabic homes. This beautifully decorated authentic restaurant brings delicious flavours and wonders of Lebanese cuisine to vibrant and liberal Soho. Yalla Yalla prides itself in only using traditional, time-honoured recipes, passed down through generations and perfected along the way, as well as fresh, locally supplied produce. The restaurant is a natural family choice for big lunches and dinners in downtown London.
The menu includes little plates of tempting mezze, which is a great way to kick off the meal. A generous feast of grilled meat and vegetables, cooked over the coals until tender, continues the mouth-watering journey. Heavenly crisp Lebanese baklava, filled with nuts and dripping in syrup, is a great way to finish the meal.
Maison Francois, 34 Duke Street St James’s, SW1Y 6DF
Maison Francois is a hidden gem in the heart of St James’s, the famous headquarters of the British aristocracy and gentlemen’s clubs. This new family-friendly restaurant brings the best of French dining to London.
Classics such as pâté en croûte maison, entrecôte de boeuf au poivre, moules marinière, poulet rôti, freshly baked bread and airy pastries are made to perfection, transporting guests to the grand brasseries of Paris. The dessert trolley with its delicious macarons, little gateau, créme caramel and other fancies is nothing short of a culinary art collection.
Maison Francois is perfect for a refined lunch or dinner. It is also a good choice for a relaxing breakfast. The chef promises to spoil you rotten with his out-of-this-world buttery croissants. The food is served all day.
Franco Manca Soho, 51 Berwick St, London W1F 8SJ
Doesn’t it smell like pizza? Family-favourite Franco Manca is a casual no-pressure restaurant located in bohemian Soho with its indie boutiques, plenty to explore and raise eyebrows at. Franco Manca is London-famous for its heavenly sourdough pizza, which hungry locals have been eating since 2008. Franco Manca champions slow-rising sourdough guilty pleasure and only favours properly-sourced produce from small suppliers and seasonal ingredients. You get plenty of freedom to build your own pizza, which is always great for the fussy eaters, big or small. The menu also includes excellent vegetarian salads, with unmissable Italian Mozzarella and Burrata. The vegan and gluten-free options are carefully thought through, and the Italian sorbets are simply irresistible.
Gaucho, 25 Swallow Street, London, W1B 4QR
Gaucho occupies a beautiful townhouse just off Regent Street and Picadilly. This luxury and stylish Argentinian restaurant invokes the true spirit of fine South-American dining in London’s West End. The impressive interior, housed over three stories of the former home of the Spanish Ambassador, is inspired by the warm culture of Buenos Aires. The menu features impeccable steaks made of premium Argentinian beef from selected, sustainable farms. The meat connoisseurs might want to take note that Gaucho’s Black-Angus cattle are fed on seventeen different types of grass from the Pampas provinces, with everything they eat being 100% natural. But Gaucho is not all meat, meat, meat! There are plenty of options for vegetarians too, and the children’s menu has plenty of interesting choices.
Poppie’s Fish & Chips Soho, 55-59 Old Compton St, London W1D 6HW
You cannot visit London and not indulge yourself and your loved ones in world-renowned fish & chips. The locals’ favourite, it became a symbol of British culture as much as its afternoon tea. Poppie’s Fish & Chips is a little wonder that seems to have frozen in time. Dining there is an experience with retro vibes and iconic looks from the decades and even the waiters’ uniforms channel a 1950s vibe.
The fish served in Poppie’s is prepared on-site by the restaurant’s own in-house fishmonger and supplied locally. Besides mouth-watering fish & chips, so loved by the children, the menu includes calamari, scampi and shrimps for starters and a wide selection of traditional British sides.
Oblix at the Shard, Level 32, The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY
Did someone say Afternoon Tea? Also referred to as high tea, this old British tradition can hardly go any higher than the 32nd floor of an iconic London skyscraper. The Shard is the tallest building in the United Kingdom and the seventh-tallest building in Europe, well-placed a few steps away from the London Bridge. Skyscraper’s Oblix East serves a three-tier platter of pure heaven with a chance to explore the endless London skyline and a modern twist on traditional English classics. The smoked salmon, cream cheese & rye, free range egg & truffle, Angus beef & horseradish sandwiches on the bottom platter are followed by the freshly baked English scones on the middle platter. The ceremony finishes with the sweet hors d’oeuvres such as raspberry & pistachio financier and coconut & pineapple tart on the top platter.
The afternoon tea in Oblix East is served exclusively between 12pm and 4pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Things to do in London as a family
Enjoy one of the London parks
For being a busy nation’s capital, London does incredibly well on a “green side”. Soft grass, leafy trees and bushes, abundance of flowers and wildlife make London parks perfect for taking a nap, escaping the noise, slowing down and exploring. Have a picnic, admire the symbols of England in The Rose Garden and try to spot a black swan in Hyde Park. Feed the cheeky squirrels, admire the Victorian splendour of the Albert Memorial, and bury your feet in the sand in Diana Memorial playground in Kensington Gardens. Marvel at the regal peacocks, find your inner zen in Kyoto Gardens and eat an ice-cream in Holland Park. The peaceful Green Park across Mayfair, bloomy St.James Park with its pelicans and the views on Buckingham Palace, the elegant Regent’s Park with its lovely Boating lake and pedalo hire are just a few more green heavens to mention. Every London park has something unique to offer to everyone.
Explore London by transport
London’s sightseeing can be overwhelming, especially with children, as there’s so much to see! Jump on one of the iconic red double-decker Hop On Hop Off buses that will take you through the key landmarks of the British capital and enjoy the ride.
Exploring the city by water is an exciting way to see the best of London with a family. Thames River Cruise will transport you from Westminster Pier as far south-east as Greenwich. Sit back, count the iconic bridges, spot the cheeky seagulls and sip on refreshments from the boat’s cafe.
Iconic London Underground, or Tube as locals call it, was featured in James Bond classics Skyfall and Die Another Day for a reason. It is the fastest way to move around the British capital! Seventy of its 272 stations, including its new addition Elizabeth line, are buildings of historical interest. But be smart and avoid the tube during the rush hour.
Postcard-friendly spacious taxis, or simply black cabs are easily available in London downtown. They are a great way to reach your destination. These family-friendly 6-seaters can nowadays be booked for the sightseeing tours too.
Head to London’s West End to to see a show
Home to some 40 theatres in total, London’s West End is unmissable for its neon signs, flashy billboards, long queues and inspired, smartly dressed audience. It offers world-class, critically-acclaimed musicals, comedies and classic plays for the whole family all year around. Sing along to the famous tunes from Mary Poppins, world’s most famous flying nanny, in Prince Edward Theatre. Submerge in the world of wizardry and magic in the most awarded new play in history Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in The Palace Theatre. Treat the whole family with a delightful story by one of the world’s most celebrated children’s authors Roald Dahl Matilda The Musical in Cambridge Theatre. Get transported to the heart of the African Pridelands by the stunning effects, excellent performance and the enchanting Elton John’s music with The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. These are just a few of many wonderful shows to be seen! London West End productions are incredibly popular and it is recommended to book the tickets well in advance.
Shop for London souvenirs, eat and explore in Harrods
Knightsbridge-based Harrods is one of the largest and most famous department stores in the world. Just a few minutes walk from Hyde park, this London landmark housed in a historical building is a must-visit when in London.
Harrods dates back to 1824 when 25-year old Charles Harrod first established his business. The enterprise went through all sorts of ups and downs until eventually becoming an ultimate shopping destination for the British and international elite, from the royal family to celebrities such as Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin, Sigmund Freud and others.
Harrods today is a home to seven floors of luxury and over 5,000 brands. The store also features two memorials dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales.
Despite Harrods’ reputation as a luxury shopping destination, it offers excellent quality goods and excellent souvenirs for any budget. Adorable Guardsmen bears in bear caps and stuffed corgis, British Monarchy souvenir spoons and delicate Victorian era-inspired china teacups with saucers, cute London-themed tote bags and handmade cashmere beanies, teas, biscuits and chocolates in cute tins are just a few little treasures that will help you bring a little piece of London back home.
Indulge in Art in The National Gallery
Britain’s endless source of pride, the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square is home to 2,300 iconic paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. A sizable free to visit space for art with 66 rooms full of history, inspiration and timeless mastery, the National Gallery is a place you cannot miss in London.
The artists whose works are exhibited in the National Gallery are the real A-listers of visual arts. They include Italians Botticelli and Da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rafael, Dutchmen Rembrandt and Van Gogh, French impressionists Monet and Cezanne, and many others.
If you visit with a family, keep in mind that small children can get restless in the rooms like dimly lit Dutch Portraiture. Think gloomy faces staring at you from the paintings and total lack of freedom to run around. Speed up to the rooms 43 and 44, where the impressionism brings in the colour and brightens the mood. Take a tasty break in one of the museum cafes. The curated museum shop is perfect for local and art-themed souvenir shopping. It also sells quality reproductions and excellent children’s books.
Learn How Britain Ruled the Seas in the birthplace of GMT Greenwich
A trip to vibrant Greenwich is a day full of adventures. Maritime Greenwich is a World Heritage Site. It combines human achievements in science, architecture, naval engineering, astronomy, navigation, time-keeping and art to tell us a story of how Britain dominated the seas. Home to the Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), this history-rich maritime hub on the Thames is where the eastern and western hemispheres meet.
Pick one of the family trails from the “Play and Explore” trolley and discover objects, stories and people. Stoke the boiler of a steamship. Buy and sell fish in the marketplace. Tour the Universe at London’s only Planetarium and enjoy many more family-friendly activities in the National Maritime Museum. Or why not climb aboard Cutty Sark? The fastest of its time, this historic sailing ship invites you to look around and meet the cast of its colourful characters. Play interactive games and see how the crew lived and worked at sea. For some extra thrill, you can even climb the rig of Cutty Sark!
General admission to Greenwich Museums is free. Some exhibitions and shows need to be booked separately.
Saturday is the best day
Take a selfie next to Queen Elizabeth II or Lady Gaga in Madame Tussauds museum
Located on Baker street, this wax A-listers-dense museum is a top place for big laughs and selfies to envy. Museum’s impressive collection includes British movie stars like Bondiana-famous Daniel Craig, the one and only Dominic Cumberbatch and Titanic-darling Kate Winslet. You will also find an impressive squad of sports celebrities, the British royalty and some of the best and worst political leaders and historical characters. The wax copies are so good that some say they are better than the originals! Marvel fans will be happy to see many of their favourite superheroes ready for action and lined up for selfies.
Out of ideas for what else to do in London? Dig into the local produce and vintage finds in one of the historical London markets. The Borough Market at the foot of London Bridge, Saturday Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill, and unconventional Camden Market are just a few to list. Count dinosaur bones and get frightened by the life-size moving T-Rex in the Natural History Museum. Or spoil the whole family with a tour to the Warner Bros. Studio London and discover the magic behind “The Making of Harry Potter”. As we say, London has something unique to offer to everyone.
Is London Safe?
London is a big city and is generally a safe place. But as with any megapolis, it is worth taking sensible precautions.
Are there pickpockets in London?
There is petty theft, including pickpockets in London. They often target crowded places like transport hubs and tourist hotspots and are on the lookout for wallets, mobile phones and other smaller objects that can be snatched without you noticing immediately. Do not leave your bags open or place bulging wallets and mobile phones in the back pocket of your trousers. Leave expensive accessories in the hotel while you explore the city. Thieves on motorbikes and daylight mugging are not very common around London landmarks and tourist attractions during daytime but can still happen in areas like Camden town, Brixton, Croydon, etc.
Can I leave my stuff (bags, devices, bicycles, etc.) unattended in London?
Though there are places on the planet where this is a non-issue, London might not be the one. Do not leave our bags unattended in the stations or public transport as they can be stolen or cause security alerts.
Do not leave your charging laptop or a camera unwatched while you go to the bathroom in a cafe or a restaurant. Though most people in London are helpful and polite and will volunteer to watch your stuff for you, there is still a risk something can go missing.
Bicycles get snatched from time to time, and keeping them locked or secured is essential too.
Can I leave my child alone in a hotel room in London?
Most pubs and bars do not allow children during the evening and night hours. Fancy a pint in a pub with the locals or a cocktail in one of London’s posh martini bars? The English law does not specify the age when you can leave a child on their own in your accommodation, but it’s an offence to leave minors alone if it places them at risk. Stairs, open windows, sharp objects, alcohol and illegal substances are considered a risk for children. Use your judgement on how mature your child is before you make a decision. You can also discuss childcare options with your accommodation provider.
Is the traffic dangerous in London?
In the UK, cars drive on the left. The driving culture is good, and you shouldn’t expect to come across aggressive people behind the wheel. Stick to a defensive driving style, be polite and follow all the rules.
Parking is quite daunting and expensive in London, especially near the tourist attractions. Opt for walking or public transport to save time.
Avoid leaving your car with valuables in it parked outside overnight as there is a risk of robbery.
As a pedestrian, use designated crossings, wait for the green man to go, and take note of the signs indicating “look right” or “look left” to spot oncoming traffic. Don’t stand too close to the road and watch out for the double-decker buses, they often drive fast on the narrow downtown roads.
With many newly launched cycling lanes, you also have to be aware of the keen cyclists not always following the rules and moving at high speed. If you plan to cycle yourself or with a family, wear a helmet, and clearly indicate where you’re going. Only use the bicycle lanes or normal road, never the sidewalk, and don’t ignore traffic lights. If it’s red, you have to wait!
Homeless and street beggars in London
People living on the streets and in London are normally harmless, and so are the street beggars outside the supermarkets and transport hubs. They do not possess weapons. It is your choice whether you want to give them money or not. Many Londoners prefer buying them food rather than handing out cash. It is not uncommon to see a homeless person coming up to you casually and asking to buy them a sandwich, a burger or a hot chocolate. Another good way to support the homeless community is to purchase The Big Issue, a weekly current affairs and entertainment magazine sold by homeless or vulnerably housed people. They are usually dressed in logoed bibs and have a badge.
Moving around London at night time
Nighttime London downtown is usually safe, but some things still have to be taken into account. It is better to avoid poorly lit, dodgy-looking streets after dark and opt for a ride home. A cab is your best option as night trains and buses are often either dangerously empty or can be pretty raucous. Characters who enjoyed themselves too much in a pub might be keen to start something nasty.
If you have to walk home, keep your mobile phone and other electronics out of sight in your pocket or bag when not in use. Avoid taking out cash. London has quite a drinking culture, and things outside pubs, bars, and nightclubs, that usually close at 2am – 3am, can get rowdy. If you see something going on, do not try to interfere or reason with aggressive people putting your safety at risk. Call 999 in case of emergency.
Is there a risk of terrorist attacks?
It is not more dangerous to visit London than any other European capital from the risk of terrorism point of view. Despite getting a bit of bad press in recent years, London is very well prepared for any possible threat. The abundance of CCTV cameras, the high presence of police around the popular locations, and the hard work put into public safety by the British secret services make locals feel safe, and life in London – is business as usual.
If you are anxious about the terrorist threat, it is a good idea to avoid political rallies and large ideological gatherings.
London Metropolitan Police put together comprehensive guidelines for people concerned about the threat of terrorism in London. It also contains an easy-to-use online tool for reporting suspicious activity.
What are the top tips to avoid trouble in London?
The British capital is one of the most heavily monitored cities in the world. Though hundreds of thousands of CCTV cameras aim to fight crime, it is still important to stay alert. Better safe than sorry. Here are some tips not mentioned above that will help you and your loved ones stay out of trouble in London.
Don’t lose your children out of sight at any time; tourist attractions are often packed, and the little ones are at risk of getting lost and frightened.
Keep your valuables safe while watching one of London’s many street performances and flash mobs, however fun they are – it’s easy to be caught off guard. Be vigilant around ATMs and keep your pin code safe when you need to withdraw cash; most things can be paid using a bank card. Plan your trips ahead and stay aware of your surroundings. Make sure your mobile phone has enough battery, and grab a charger before you leave. Be your most polite self in London. Don’t cut in the line, say “sorry”, “please” and “thank you”, and dress smart – it will help you blend in and look a lot less like a tourist. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you are in trouble, feel lost or absolutely need to know that this cute statue by the river is: Londoners are proud of their city and will be happy to help. They are also warmer and more welcoming than they are usually painted.
What to do if I became a victim of crime in London?
Getting robbed on a family holiday is a hard pill to swallow. You must deal with the consequences of the disaster as fast and efficiently as possible to not be robbed of quality family time with family too.
If your documents have been stolen, you must report a crime to London Metropolitan Police. Don’t forget to contact your embassy to cancel them and arrange alternative travel options.
Get in touch with your mobile network provider and report a crime if your phone is missing.
If your wallet has been stolen or lost, blocking the bank cards is essential.
In an immediate emergency such as ongoing crime, road accident, etc, contact the police, ambulance, or fire department on 999 or 112. These numbers are free to call. To report non-urgent crime by phone, contact your local police station on 101 from within the UK.
Health. Medical Emergencies. Insurance.
Food and drink safety in London
Water is safe to drink in London. If you don’t want to pay extra for glass and plastic bottles in cafes or restaurants, you can simply ask for “tap water”. Refillable water bottles are a smart eco-friendly choice for the whole family to stay hydrated during your big city adventures.
London is famous for its culinary scene with a wide range of cuisines from all over the world. The food is mostly of good quality, with a focus on organic and locally supplied ingredients. The food hygiene standards are pretty high in London too. It is always safer to plan your meal out in advance and go to places verified by good reviews. Avoid the tourist traps where quantity dominates quality. Watch out for dodgy-looking restaurants in Chinatown and suspiciously looking after-party kebab joints.
The Covid-19 situation in London
After almost two years of various restrictions, and thanks to the successful vaccine rollout, the UK government has removed the remaining domestic restrictions in England. This means that people can fully enjoy everything London has to offer. You are not required to show proof of vaccination before you enter the United Kingdom, but it is still a good idea to get vaccinated before you travel if you haven’t done so.
Other steps you can take to reduce the risk of catching and spreading Covid-19 and to keep your family safe are wearing a face-covering in crowded, enclosed touristic spaces, carrying hand sanitiser with you at any time and making sure that your accommodation is well ventilated, especially during the hot summer months.
Health providers in London
London is famous for its world-class healthcare, both public and private. The National Health Service (NHS) is the main healthcare provider in the UK. NHS treatment is free for UK residents, but the overseas nationals are not eligible for it, except if they need emergency treatment while in the UK. If you’re visiting from Europe, make sure to carry a valid EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) in case you need immediate and necessary medical treatment in an NHS hospital. If you travel from outside of the EU and EEA, you will be charged for treatments with the NHS. It is strongly recommended to take out appropriate travel insurance for the duration of your trip to cover any medical expenses.
As NHS queues and waiting times can be overwhelming, private healthcare is a reasonable alternative if you anyway have to pay the bill. Not only will you be fast-tracked to a private hospital, saving precious family time, but you will also get the best treatment in the world. Options for private healthcare include private GP, general practitioners who can check on your overall wellbeing, refer you to a test or a specialist, write prescriptions etc, private hospitals offering a wider range of services such as complex diagnostics, surgeries, maternity care etc. Some private hospitals in London are The London Clinic on Devonshire Place in the Harley Street area, a globally famous hub for high-quality healthcare, The Princess Grace Hospital in Marylebone, The Cromwell Hospital on Marloes Road in Kensington, and The Portland Hospital, known for its maternity care, and many more.
If you have an underlying health condition and take regular medications, take a necessary supply with you when travelling.
Purchasing over-the-counter medications such as painkillers, cough relief, and antihistamines can be easily done in one of London’s many high street pharmacies Boots, Superdrug, Lloyd’s etc. Stronger medications like antibiotics are only available with a prescription by a qualified health professional. They will require a visit to a GP or another specialist.
Pharmacists in London are helpful, proactive and well-trained to diagnose minor infections or ailments. Certain types of medicine, such as eye drops, emergency contraception, and skin ointments, are available without a prescription but need a pharmacist’s approval.
Medical emergencies in London
In case of a medical emergency, dial 999. The NHS ambulance will collect you and take you to A&E (Accident & Emergency) in the nearest hospital, free of charge, 24 hours a day. If your injury is not life-threatening, make your way to A&E. You can expect a few hours wait before you are attended to. St. Bartholomew’s Hospital near St. Paul’s, Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital near London Bridge, University College Hospital on Warren St near Euston Square, and St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington are just a few examples of the centrally located hospitals with excellent A&E units. Use NHS A&E finder to find the best option.
A private walk-in clinic is available on Harley Street.
In case of an eye injury in London, head straight to Western Eye Hospital near Regent’s Park.
For dental emergencies, call NHS 111. They will be able to assess your case, explain your options and help you locate your nearest dentist.
If you require the medication outside of pharmacies’ regular opening hours, check Boots or Lloyd’s websites for the late-night chemists near you. Paracetamol and other painkillers are often sold in 24h supermarkets and small off-licence shops.
Travel insurance for your holidays in London
Buying travel insurance when heading to London with a family is a safety net that can protect your family from the consequences of any emergency. Trip interruption? An injury? Lost luggage? Knowing that you will not be out of pocket in any circumstances means you can focus on quality time with your loved ones and enjoy all London has to offer.
Some of your current insurance policies at home (home, health, credit card insurance) might include holidays, but the cover is practically never full. It is likely to limit what costs you can recover.
The kind of travel insurance to opt for will depend on your needs. Do you have an underlying health condition and might require healthcare services when on holiday? Do you have an expensive photo and video equipment you cannot afford to lose? Do you plan to engage in extreme sports while exploring the British capital?
The cost of your travel insurance will depend on the size of the family and duration of the trip, as well as your home country’s insurance pricing policy. Contact your travel agency or the airline you will be travelling with to discuss your options. Big names such as Allianz Assistance, Travelex, Axa, Europ Assistance, and World Nomad offer the possibility to purchase reliable and comprehensive cover for families online.
What is the weather like in London?
Despite the myths about the ceaseless rain, the main feature of London weather is unpredictability. You can write a book about it! The locals never know if it will rain or shine and are often armed with both an umbrella and sunglasses. Though the weather in London is generally mild, do not be surprised to experience all four seasons on any given day without warning. The Met Office is where you head for a reliable forecast.
Does it really rain that much in London?
According to the official data, it rains around 156 days a year, or between 11 and 15 days a month in Great Britain. The wettest months are usually October and November, while the driest ones are March and July. Thankfully, not all these precipitations arrive in London, and its fame as the capital of rain and fog is highly exaggerated. There are grey and rainy days, especially in the autumn, but there is plenty of sunshine and in-between days too.
Not all the wet is the same in the nation’s capital. A warm and refreshing June drizzle is something to experience. The rain forecast that may look threatening in the weather app often turns out to be just a few drops of water. It is true that October’s downpour is when you rather stay indoors, but London is perfect for that too.
For a smooth experience in London, do not resist the idea of rain. Embrace it. Dress for it. Water is life. It keeps the multiple parks lush green for you.
Summer in London
Summer in London is a longed-for season that turns on the heat in the capital. The skies are blue. The grass is emerald-green. The trees, some of them hundreds of years old, are covered with leaves and provide solid shade from the merciless sun. All sorts of flowers are in full bloom, scattered around the parks, alleys, river walks and private gardens like colourful confetti.
Summer in the capital starts in June and lasts until mid-September. The weather is usually mild, between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius. In recent years, the heat waves broke records with the temperatures reaching 35 – 37 degrees on some days. It is more of an exception than the norm though.
Your summer suitcase should be filled with t-shirts and shorts, flower-patterned dresses and bathing suits, blazers and hoodies for the chilly evenings and a light raincoat for the wetter days. Don’t forget the picnic blanket, sun hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
Autumn in London
Autumn is a gorgeous time in Britain’s capital. It starts in mid-September and lasts till the end of November or early December. The trees turn red, gold and yellow, inviting you for dreamy walks in the parks where listening to the satisfying crunch of colourful leaves under your feet is a type of meditation.
Autumn brings more rainy days. The skies are often grey. It gets dark earlier, and the temperatures plummet to 5-10 degrees Celsius during the day and 3-4 degrees at night.
Autumn in London is an excellent opportunity to spend memorable family moments taking pictures outdoors, rain or shine. Pumpkin spice drinks and Halloween are other highlights of the season.
Make sure your family stays warm during your holiday. Opt for the rubber boots or wet weather suitable footwear, wind and rainproof jackets, cosy jumpers and trousers.
Winter in London
Winter sees busy Londoners dressed in all shades of black, grey, and brown rush about their business, dreaming of a warm cup of tea, and with a Christmas shopping list in mind. London winter starts in December and lasts until nature is ready to wake up in late February – early March. Winter temperatures drop as low as 0 degrees and occasionally to minus digits. Days are dark and short. Rains are frequent and can sometimes turn into snow. Snowfall is not common but possible, with the last few years giving Londoners a chance to build their own snowmen.
The cold season is marked by indoor cosiness, winter menus in the restaurants, cinnamon-spiced drinks in the coffee shops, and most importantly – Christmas festivities. Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is one to mention. Lasting for 6 weeks from November to January, this incredibly popular family-friendly festival offers a wide variety of Christmas attractions, entertainment, food, drinks, and a lot more.
Your winter wardrobe should include all the same items as the autumn one with one exception: add more layers. The footwear better has some fur or fleece lining. Hats, gloves, scarves, and cosy knits are a must-bring, or you will find yourself purchasing them in London. Don’t forget to pack partywear for Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Spring in London
Spring in London takes you on a journey from the local flora and fauna peacefully awakening from long winter hibernation to nature in full bloom, ready to kick off the glorious summer. Blooming white, baby- and hot pink cherry trees. The carpets of purple and yellow crocuses. Bright red tulips. Tender green leaves, breaking out of sleep. And the cheerful singing of birds. London looks rejuvenated.
The spring in London starts in early March and lasts until late May-early June. Though the weather can still be pretty cold, rainy and windy, the days get longer and brighter. The temperatures rise from 10 – 12 degrees in March to 18-20 degrees in early June, with the nights getting warmer too. The rain is still a frequent visitor, but surprise! Sometimes it is accompanied by the rainbow.
Pack plenty of spring-coloured layers for your family – trousers, jeans, leggings, short- and long-sleeved tops. Rubber boots and waterproof footwear are still a must, as are the raincoats.
How to be prepared for any weather when travelling to London?
It is a good idea to check the long-term weather forecast when planning your trip to London. But keep in mind that it is not always 100% accurate. London is full of surprises!
Bring plenty of layers if you travel in the winter.
Be prepared equally well for the sunshine and the rain during the summer months. You never know, right? Befriend the sunglasses, sun hats, sun protection and light, breathable summer basics to explore London. But don’t forget the umbrella!
When is the best time to visit London?
London is a fantastic destination at any time of the year. Its numerous attractions are designed for both indoor and outdoor fun. The city’s mild climate means there are hardly any weather restrictions for your family holiday.
When is London most crowded?
Summer in London is a popular tourist season, with holidaymakers from all over the world storming the capital. June, July, and August usually see the school break around the globe. Expect London to be crowded with families exploring the museums, queuing outside the landmarks such as London Eye and filling the outdoor verandas for al fresco dining.
December is another busy month due to the Christmas shopping season in London.
Holidays and festivals in London
London is a diverse, multicultural hub with large ethnic communities from every corner of the Earth. Most religious and cultural holidays are celebrated in town.
The year ends and starts with a fabulous New Year’s Eve party on Trafalgar Square on the night from the 31st December to the 1st January. The fireworks light up the sky while people hug, kiss and wish each other a wonderful year.
It is followed by Chinese New Year. Chinatown is decorated with thousands of red lanterns and other festive symbols. The crowds of Londoners head to the district to take pictures and enjoy the wonders of traditional and modern Chinese cuisine.
Easter, usually in April, is a religious holiday and a beautiful tradition that marks the start of the spring after the long winter months. Yellow daffodils, colourful flowery bonnets, Easter egg decoration, hot cross buns and Easter egg hunts are a few things that make this time so special for the families.
Eid celebration gathers together the members of a large London Muslim community. Diwali, the festival of lights, is also celebrated on Trafalgar Square and attracts thousands of local Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. Hanukkah is another beautiful tradition high up on London’s events calendar.
There are multiple smaller religious and cultural celebrations, international exhibitions and themed festivals throughout the year in London. Notting Hill Carnival takes place every August. The Queen’s Birthday is marked in June. The Guy Fawkes night, aka the Bonfire Night, lights up the sky with a myriad of fireworks in November. Mega popular Pride takes place in June or July.
Halloween is a big success amongst Londoners. And this is not only for its pumpkin-spiced lattes and fancy decor. Children and adults alike dress in their scariest outfits, head out to trick-or-treat for candy, and have all sorts of spooky fun.
The year in London is wrapped up by Christmas activities across London. The preparation for the highly anticipated Yuletide starts as soon as the Halloween decorations are off on the first days of November. The Christmas shopping season sees thousands of people heading to Oxford Street and Regent Street with its department stores and designer boutiques, or Covent Garden and Shoreditch for a bit of an indie feel. There are office Christmas parties and family outings all over London too. Christmas is a very special time to experience London!
What is the best season to visit London?
Every season in London brings one or another perk to your holiday. You’re spoilt for choices! Dreamy colourful blooms of the spring, green heaven and busy buzz of summer, magnificent golden autumn, and festive winter cheer in anticipation of Christmas and snow will each make your family holiday unforgettable.
If you don’t mind the crowds of holidaymakers, summer is the safest option to visit London. It is an exciting time for the families as it brings special exhibitions, children-focused workshops, music festivals, outdoor cinemas and other entertainment that doesn’t run during other seasons.
Christmas in December is an equally magical and children-friendly time to visit London. Magnificent Christmas lights are lit, every shop window looks like a work of art, and the shopping is an out-of-this-world experience. It’s worth mentioning mouth-watering traditional British Christmas treats such as roast turkey, Beef Wellington, sweet mince pies, gingerbread, candy canes and festive puddings.
If you’d rather avoid the crowds, a trip during the off-season from January to April and from September to November is a better option. The last week of February, the last week of October and the Easter holidays in April can still be busy though. This is when English children have their time off from school.
When to avoid visiting London?
London on and around the special events such as summits, championships, and international music competitions can be another level of “crowded”. It is challenging and exhausting for a family. Unless you aim to attend the event, check the London calendar in advance to avoid surprises.
What to wear in London?
London is one of the world’s capitals of fashion. Alexander McQueen, Victoria Beckham, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Burberry, and Paul Smith are just a few big names from the long list of talented designers.
Naturally, Londoners have a great sense of style. The way they dress looks effortless, but don’t be fooled. There is always a thought behind it.
How to dress like a Londoner?
Locals prefer casual, comfortable clothes to impractical outfits. They don’t dress to impress. Nothing is flashy without meaning.
The need to layer up is dictated by unpredictable British weather. The principle is: wear a t-shirt underneath and a jumper or a jacket on top. You never know!
More and more women in London prefer flats to high heels unless they head for a night out. Casual or sport-casual footwear is accepted almost everywhere.
A lot of locals carry their belongings in backpacks nowadays. London is a big city, and the commute takes a while. The practical bag is easier on your back and can fit all your devices and chargers, books, training gear and even a homemade lunch.
People in London know how to stay dry and warm during colder months. A classic black or camel trench coat is popular in the spring and autumn. A wind- and waterproof parka or a puffer jacket is a must-have in the winter. Natural fur is worn less and less in the city.
What to wear when it is cold in London?
There is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. These are the words of wisdom from the British people. The late autumn, winter and early spring can be chilly and feel unwelcoming in London. Cosy knits, water- and windproof outerwear and footwear with fleece or fur lining, hats, gloves and scarves are your best friends during colder seasons. And a good old cup of tea for you and hot chocolate with whipped cream for the little ones, of course.
What to wear when it is hot in London?
A heatwave in London can literally melt your brain and is better spent in a shady green heaven of some centrally-located park, on the lush grassy blanket. Opt for light, breathable clothing and avoid dark colours. Befriend the flip-flops, tees and shorts. A sun hat or a parasol is a good idea. A water bottle is compulsory. Protect your skin with sunscreen.
What to wear during the in-between months in London?
The “in-between” spring and autumn weather reigns most of the year in London. It is very unpredictable. Be armed with umbrellas and waterproof outerwear & footwear, long sleeves and comfy trousers, waterproof backpacks and hats. This way, you’ll be prepared for any surprise London weather has in store for you.
What to wear when you go sightseeing?
Exploring London is a demanding activity. Avoid anything that looks like a great idea in the morning but can cause trouble by lunchtime. Your comfiest shoes for a lot of walking. Your favourite jeans to share memories with. Stretchy tops, hoodies, knits and rain gear are all your go-to items. People in London dress in the most practical manner, with flats preferred to heels, black dominating other colours, casual rather than uptight. Don’t overdo it. Londoners are not easy to impress. Join the locals’ fashion style and blend in perfectly.
What to wear when you have dinner out in London?
Eating out? This is when you can make a bit of an effort. When you go out for a nice meal in a non-fast food restaurant, you aren’t expected to wear your sweats and trainers. Though you still can do it if you absolutely want to. Some restaurants have a dress code, strict or not quite. It can be good to check that out beforehand. Jeans are normally accepted everywhere. Combine them with a shirt, a jumper, and a blazer for a smart casual look. A dress or a suit will make you stand out unless you’re eating out in white-collar financial districts like Mayfair or London City during a workday.
What to wear when you go to the opera/theatre/musical?
Though there are no defined rules for what to wear to see a show in the West End, locals prefer to dress up for the occasion. Why not? It is common to see evening dresses, tuxedos and ambitious hair-dos in the theatres. If you crave an upscale occasion style, feel free to look as dressed up as you like.
People and culture in London
London is an incredibly diverse city. Home to nearly 9 million people, it is a melting pot of cultures where all ethnicities, traditions, beliefs, and political views are welcome. Londoners are united not only by the British values but also by distinctive, unparalleled London culture.
Are Londoners friendly?
Londoners are an exceptional tribe. They are friendly and chatty and make every newcomer feel welcome.
Small talk is a thing in the city. It is not unusual for two strangers to say Good Morning and strike up a conversation. Exchanging a few kind words with a barista, a rubbish collector, a postman, or a shopkeeper in the morning is a classic in London. People look up, make eye contact and smile at each other. After a while, you simply get used to it.
Don’t look taken aback when asked where you’re coming from every now and then. Many Londoners come from someplace too. They are a curious tribe!
The locals don’t miss an opportunity to complement one another, especially the women. If someone fancies your shoes, t-shirt, or a bag, they will not keep it to themselves. I love your shoes!, they’ll say in all sincerity.
The locals are hospitable and sympathetic towards strangers. You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable asking for help. If you are lost, need directions or a hand with something, stop someone politely and give them a smile. They’ll do anything for you.
Is London suitable for families?
London is a fantastic destination for children and families of any size. Its transportation system allows moving around stress-free. The outdoor spaces have amazing playgrounds where families can let out the steam. Most museums and galleries have loads of children-centred activities and are free for those under 16s. Multiple cafes and restaurants do their bit too; many have special menus for the little monsters with big appetites.
London is full of references to popular fictional characters. A real delight for the fans! Paddington Bear, Peter Rabbit, Doctor Strange, Harry Potter, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, and Sherlock Holmes are a few well-loved local heroes from the long list.
What about the pets in London?
Thinking of bringing along the pet your family can’t live without? London is a true paradise not only for the Queen’s corgis but all the pets. The standard of care for domestic animals is one of the best on the planet, with pet owners treating them as in-house royals.
Pets are welcome in most public places. There are specialised daycares and an abundance of open spaces to run around and socialise. Many restaurants do not mind if your pet joins you for a meal, as long as they behave themselves, of course.
Pets travel free on public transport but have to stay in a pet carrier or on a leash.
What is London culture?
London values align closely with British values. They consist of mutual respect, tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs, multiculturalism, the rule of law, democracy, individual freedom and equality. You are welcome, wherever you come from, as long as you mean no harm.
London is a very people-focused city, and inclusion is one of the essential features of London culture. Every voice matters. Every person’s needs matter.
London’s diversity is unmatched. Catch a “businessy” vibe in white-collar Mayfair. Get a bohemian feel in Soho. Marvel over graffiti in arty Shoreditch. Dress like a hippy in Camden Town. Taste the best Caribbean street food in Brixton. Find the best shisha place on Edgware Road by Marble Arch. Some areas of London feel uptight conservative; others are rebels with a subculture vibe; many are almost entirely populated by immigrants. However different, every part is integral for keeping the blanket whole. It makes up the city we love.
You can also try to understand London culture by eating your way through it. Energise on the world-famous English Breakfast in the morning. Nibble on Fish & Chips for lunch. Savour traditional Afternoon Tea between 3pm and 5pm. Feel like a local with a delicious and not as spicy London version of Chicken Tikka Masala for dinner. Try to make it all in one day! And if you are in London on Sunday, don’t miss out on the Sunday Roast.
Etiquette in London
Lack of manners might be the worst sin in the eyes of Londoners. Therefore the key thing to remember is to always say Please and Thank You. Have you been served your coffee? Did someone step aside to let you pass? Basic manners are a must, regardless of the ranks, income, beliefs and other differences.
Sorry or My apologies are other words to use frequently. It is not unusual to see a situation where one person accidentally pushes another one, and both say Sorry. Apologising for small things even when it’s not your fault is considered polite.
“Punctuality is the politeness of the kings”. It is true in London. If you made local friends and want to keep them, turn up on time.
Though people in London are friendly, they are not necessarily ready to go personal and answer bold questions. Avoid putting them and yourself in an uncomfortable situation.
If you are invited to a Londoner’s home, there is no specific rule about removing shoes or not. It is entirely up to the host. Always ask.
Skipping the line is extremely rude by London standards of etiquette, and there is a big chance someone will not let the injustice slip.
If you use public transport, let people out before you come in.
While in the restaurant, be polite and gentle to the staff. They work hard to add magic to your culinary experience. Don’t be abusive. Don’t speak too loud. Don’t make more noise than necessary with your cutlery. Make sure your children are entertained and don’t run around or scream.
It’s considered polite to keep your elbows off the table. For extra points, you can lay your knife and fork together at the clock position of 6.30 when you are done with your meal. Keep eye contact with people when you make a toast.
Tipping in London is optional. Different restaurants have different rules, from building the fixed service fee into the bill to giving you the option to add a voluntary amount on top. One thing is sure: no one will run after you if you leave no tip.
Are there any cultural faux pas in London?
English people are tolerant and accepting, as long as you have no evil intentions and remember your manners. Very few things are considered taboo in modern London.
The Royal Family and especially the Queen are well-loved by the Londoners. Questioning the monarchy, making disrespectful comments or joking about royal matters is considered extremely rude, coming from an outsider.
Spitting and littering on the street is another no-no. Most public places and parks have bathrooms, and finding a bin is never a problem in London.
Picking your nose, slurping, and loud chewing won’t go unnoticed when you eat out.
Families have to be aware that shouting at the children will not be regarded well in public. The same goes for smacking, slapping and other bodily punishment. People might simply report you.
One of the worst things you can do is fail to clean your pet’s mess. Not only will you be seen as careless and irresponsible, but you also risk facing a fine on the spot. Always carry litter bags when out with a pet. Londoners take their pets’ business seriously!
They also value their personal space. Don’t come too close while you talk. Don’t ask how much they earn and don’t boast about your wealth either. The latter is seen as foolish and rude. And don’t try to impose your beliefs on them.
Londoners stay away from treating people based on their social status, you should too. Equality is a foundation of the local culture, and you are expected to show an equal amount of respect to a member of the royal family and an employee in a supermarket. This is what the Queen does.
Getting around London
Getting around London is easy. A perfectly walkable city, it has an excellent transportation system that can take you anywhere with comfort. Tour the magnificent city by land, by underground, by water, and even by air. Transport For London, or TfL as the locals know it, is responsible for most transport systems in the city. It is your go-to platform if you need to plan your journey or have questions about the maps, fares, rules and regulations.
Walking in London
The 2000-year-old city was built for walking. Did you know that London has over 40 different kinds of streets? Its leafy groves and cobblestone lanes, its grand arcades and dreamy alleys, its narrow mewses and breezy river banks are better explored by foot.
Walking is the best option when the landmarks you aim to visit are near to one another. It will allow you to spot tiny details that spice up the city: plaques on the houses with the names of their notable residents, architectural delights you have to look twice to see, the hidden gems of cafes tucked away from the crowds while serving the best coffee in town, occasional wonders of flora and fauna and many more.
Bicycling in London
Cycling is a fun, eco-friendly and efficient way to explore the British capital. The recent expansion of the public cycle hire scheme, multiple new bike lanes and safe cycleways made London one of the European capitals of cycling. With the city’s mostly flat landscape, there is no need to worry about your level of fitness. Cycling in London is really for everyone!
The major bike hire operators include Santander with over 12 000 two-wheeled vehicles and around 800 docking stations, Lime and Freebike with their electric bike focus. The hiring process is easy: download the app, find the nearest station and start your sightseeing route filled with iconic London attractions.
Bicycling in London traffic can be a little confusing if you are new to it or are on a family cycling outing. Every park offers bike rentals and cycle roads and is a safer option for the little ones. Wearing a helmet is recommended but is a personal choice.
The bike hire price starts at £2.
E-Scooter hire is definitely a thing in London. A new environmentally-conscious and a little controversial way to get around is currently being tested by the TfL. According to the authorities, while they explore new “green” means of transport to fight London’s world-famous traffic jam, they want to make sure “that any alternatives are safe for both users and non-users alike”. Hence, the strict rules apply. Privately owned e-scooters are not allowed on the road, and this type of vehicle is not welcome in all London boroughs. Renting an e-scooter is the only way to legally ride it on public roads within the city.
E-scooter hire price starts at £1 to unlock the vehicle plus a fee of 14p-20p per minute.
The Tube and London Overground trains
London Underground, or simply Tube, is an efficient way to get around London. Its network has 11 lines and is divided into nine zones that define the fare. Central London is covered by zone 1. The colourful map of the London Underground can often be found in British souvenir shops. It was created in 1933 by Harry Beck and is a 20th-century design classic.
The Fast London Tube is a great way to reach the key landmarks within the city’s downtown. It is also the best option to explore London’s iconic train stations. Paddington station with its cute Paddington Bear bench and a plaque, King’s Cross station with its legendary platform 3/4, historic Waterloo station, elegant Victoria station and others.
Unlike the mostly subterranean Tube, London Overground runs above ground. This suburban rail network is essential for providing easy access to many of London’s outer areas, including Richmond in the west, Camden in the north, Stratford in the east and Croydon in south London. Though the Tube would cover most of your needs, London Overground is still necessary to reach some attractions and landmarks.
Elizabeth Line, a new addition to the colourful Tube map, was opened on the eve of Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee. It connects Heathrow airport and Reading to Shenfield and Abbey Wood via major central London Underground and rail stations, including Paddington, Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf.
Avoid the Tube and London Overground during the rush hour. It does get crowded.
A single train ticket cost £2.50 using a contactless card or £6.30 with the full cash fare.
Though it might not be the fastest way to get around, a picture-perfect red double-decker bus is one of those classics you cannot imagine London without. Climb the top deck any time of the day or night and enjoy fabulous views!
Buses are a family-friendly and cheap way to travel. Regular bus routes do not offer commentary, but you can jump on one of the equally handsome sightseeing buses. Some of them have an open top deck and come with exciting stories about London’s history and architecture.
It is better to avoid travelling by bus during the worst traffic congestion times.
London buses are all cashless and can be paid by tapping a card upon entering. Bus fares start at £1.65.
London taxis and minicabs
London taxis, iconic black cabs, are one of the symbols of British culture. Though they aren’t exclusively black anymore for the advertisement livery, they preserve elegance and class. Comfortable 6-seaters are spacious enough to fit in a baby stroller and are a top choice for families.
Drivers of black cabs, most of them the owners of the vehicles, pass a professional exam known as The Knowledge of London to gain the licence. Naturally, they know the city like the palm of their hand.
Black cabs charge by the metre and are safe to get into at night. There is a minimum fare of £3.80 at all times. A perfect option for downtown London, they can be a little pricey for long-distance trips.
Minicabs are another type of licensed taxi. Unlike the black cabs, they look like private vehicles but carry a distinctive TfL licence disc in the front and rear windscreen. They don’t charge by the metre, offering a fixed price paid in advance. A minicab is a reasonable alternative to a black cab when you plan a long journey.
Minicabs can be booked online, by phone or in an office.
London by water
You cannot get stuck in a traffic jam travelling by boat in London! Opt for this friendly and exciting way to move around, save precious time and enjoy world-class views of historic landmarks.
River Thames water bus is your go-to service. It is frequent and quick. Operated by Uber Boat by Thames Clippers, it has convenient links to key London locations along the river, with routes running from 23 piers between Putney and Woolwich.
The water bus doesn’t offer guided commentary like river tours.
If the river tour or a cruise is what you want, you’re spoilt for choices. Thames Cruises offer day and private hire, disco cruises and other holiday-themed options. Thames Limo is London’s top private luxury charter. City Cruises are known for their afternoon tea experience with a view of the bridges.
Riverboat ticket prices start at £5.20.
London’s only cable car
Emirates Air Line cable car is a unique opportunity to take a flight over London. The breathtaking journey runs across the River Thames between the Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Docks. Cabins arrive every 30 seconds, with the return trip taking 20 minutes during the day and 25 minutes after 7pm, so you can enjoy the night skyline a little longer.
Tickets cost £5 one way and £10 if purchased online and more on the spot.
Celebrating a special occasion and ready to splash on a bit of extravaganza? Rent a limo! From a classy convertible to a beautiful white 10-metre stretch limo, neither is unusual to see on an odd night in London.
How do I buy the tickets?
Paying TfL fares is easy. Anyone with a contactless debit or credit card can use it to pay for travel in London. Simply tap on the way in and out on the Tube, and on the way in on the buses, trams, and riverboats. The trick is that you need one contactless debit or credit card per person. You can’t pay for two or more people with one card.
Another way to pay your fares is Oyster, a reusable electronic card suitable for all types of public transport in London: buses, underground, trams and local trains. The Oyster card costs £5, and you top it up depending on your travel needs. Contactless payment method costs the same as Oyster, with Oyster being a better option for the locals who get around a lot and travel outside the central zones.
Most London transport is cashless. You can still buy tickets using cash on the spot in some stations and terminals, though the cost is always significantly higher.
Luckily for families, children under 11 travel free of charge on the Tube and buses when accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket, contactless and Oyster included. A paying passenger can take up to four children. Those aged 11 to 15 get free or discounted travel with a Young Visitor discount.
You can plan the cost of your journey ahead using TfL’s single fare finder tool.