London is one of the most incredible cities in Europe and probably in the world. Known for its diversity of cultures and industrial architecture, London is chosen by many for short vacations.
There are lots of guides to enjoy London, but it’s hard to see all in a few days. So I’ve come with my own guide so you can enjoy the best of London. The best places to go, the best restaurants, the best deals, everything! Enjoy!
How to get there
I’ve posted an article called Happy British New Year where I wrote about all the preparations and first things to do before you go to London. There are cheap flights and low-cost airlines, but there that’s kinda tricky.
If you’re flying on a low-cost airline, you already know that the destination airport it’s not connected to London by underground. Therefore you’ll need to buy a train or bus ticket to get there. If you sum all the travel expenses to go and return to the airport, you might consider the flight to Heathrow. I’ve travelled with TAP Portugal using my Victoria Programme Card with miles that I had and I flew to London on December 27th with my girlfriend with 2 hand luggage (8Kg each) and 1 checked luggage (23Kg) for €300,00. That’s €150,00 each return ticket.
If you’re going to a low-cost airport anyway, download the Trainline App and search for trains available from and to London. Get the tickets earlier and you’ll save some money. Pay attention to Off-Peak prices and fast train. The prices can be quite expensive if you go on-pick hours or if you take the fast train.
You may have your prefered booking site. Mine is Booking.com. I’ve searched for an accommodation that had a great location and was quite cheap for a double room. I’ve found the Abercorn House. It’s 10 min walk from Hammersmith Underground Station. It’s on the same underground line as the Heathrow Airport and has a Bus Station that has buses going to all London. Awesome location!
The place has an incredible staff, and the room was really clean and you get towels in the double room. So you don’t need to pack your own towels. Plus! In the showers, there is a Shampoo dispenser. You don’t need to carry that as well. Also in the room, there is a minibar to keep your food and drinks fresh.
Now, this is where I’ll start to make you save your money!
Don’t use the Underground!
Each journey on Tube costs you £2,40 if you use the Oyster Card. You’ll have to take lifts, escalators, go downstairs, go upstairs, take a tube full, etc..
If you take a Bus, each journey will cost you £1,50 and in one hour you can take another if you need. All the buses in London have 2 levels and on the top, if you get in the front seats, you get the premium view from all the city. Just take your camera and start shooting. Unfortunately each time you need to top-up your card you’ll need to go inside the underground station to use the ticket machine. You won’t be able to buy tickets on the bus. If you don’t have an Oyster Card you can use any Contactless Card from your bank or an App with Contactless payment using NFC. In Portugal, there is MB Way App. But don’t forget the fees that your bank will apply for using your card abroad.
Before you leave London to return to the Airport go to a ticket machine and get the refund of your Oyster Card. You’ll get the money you didn’t spend, plus the £5 you have paid earlier for your Oyster Card.
Open the Google calendar and start planning your days in London. I’ve planned everything in advance. You’ll save a bunch of time and lot of money.
Don’t be afraid to take long walks around the city. It’s easier than it sounds. Plan some stops in between to eat or just rest for an hour. For example, I’ve walked from Hyde Park to Piccadilly and stopped for lunch and then keep walking from there to Big Ben. The city has incredible details that you’ll miss if you’re using the underground or if you’re taking buses. Save your money!
My prefered walking trips are:
Hyde Park – Oxford Circus – Regent Street – Piccadilly Circus (2,2Km – Google Maps)
Trafalgar Square – Strand Street – Fleet Street – St Paul’s Churchyard – Cannon Street – Hanseatic Walk (3,3Km – Google Maps)
Most of the street markets and street events have specific days to happen. Mostly on Saturday. Go to Camden Market and Portobello Road. Those are the top street markets in London. Don’t forget to take the bus instead underground.
Plan your trips on google maps, save them and schedule them on Google calendar and share them with your girlfriend or trip mates.
What to eat
London is known for the expensive restaurants and food. Mostly because of the currency. But there is a way to save most of your money.
Make a good use of your minibar from your room and go to Aldi (cheapest) or Tesco and buy everything you need to make your food to eat while you’re walking around. Get a backpack. You’ll need it!
On every supermarket, you can by a Meal Deal for £3. Including a sandwich, a drink and a snack. Sainsbury has them online.
But let face the truth. You’re saving money for some reason. Spend some of it, eating the amazing Fish & Chips from the Shakespeares’ Head. Go to the Carnaby Street and walk into the first floor. Ask for the £14,99 “OUR ULTIMATE FISH & CHIPS” menu. Enjoy the best fish & chips you’ll ever eat.
Also while in Camden Town or Portobello Market you can have an incredible food experience for only £5 per meal. Just try it! You won’t regret it!
What to buy
Ok. Even on this subject, you can save money. If you want to buy those magnetic souvenirs from London buy them on Camden Town. It’s cheaper than other places. Also in those markets, you can see so many different things that it will be hard to choose.
If you want something fancier, the Harrods can be a solution. I’ve bought 100gr of their Jasmin Blooming Tea for £22.
If you’re looking for high street fashion brands, you have most of them on Oxford Street. But I don’t know why you should spend your money and luggage space on that. If you want something specific like a Dolce & Gabbana or any other expensive piece of fashion, go to TK MAX and get all your big brands with amazing discounts.
If you’re looking for some street art or accessories, check out all the street markets. There are many independent street sellers with amazing items to sell.
Don’t forget to get into Boots. They are a pharmacy turned into a shopping with everything for you.
This is my way to say that you need to enjoy London the most of it. Have fun! Enjoy the pubs, the events, the musicals, the incredible night that ends at 2 am. Enjoy. Feel the energy and multicultural environment.
These were my bits of advice to have a great time in London. Feel free to ask anything in the comments. I’ve lived there before in 2012 so I there is always more to say about this incredible city.