London is perhaps the trendiest metropolis in the world, holding its doors open to a melting pot of people, cultures and experiences. But despite the vast influences from around the world, it stands bold and proud in its authentic prominence. A long lineage of royalty, churches old as time, and a culture embedded in pubs and museums is a short list of traits that make up this timeless character.
The City of London is jam packed with life, which is impressive considering it’s only a single square mile in size. Size clearly does not matter because London’s offerings exceed any expectations by visitors looking to fill their agenda.
London eye is a Ferris wheel that features views across the metropolis, that is if you catch the ride with clear skies. Big Ben will keep you punctually intrigued as you gaze up at the oversized clock in wonderment. Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral are churches that shouldn’t be overlooked. The astonishing architecture and spiritual outreach are impossible to go unnoticed. Pubs and football games are loyal fellows, coming together to create a beloved English pastime. Perhaps after you’re a bit buzzed, or maybe because you are a bit buzzed, Harry Potter Tours are a popular way to nerd-out.
Taking in the exceptionality of Buckingham Palace, the actual residence of the Queen, is a memorable experience, especially if you can see the changing of the guard’s ceremony. While you’re castle cruising, don’t skip Windsor Castle. As the oldest and largest occupied castle on Earth, Windsor Castle has withstood 39 monarchs.
The city life can be overwhelming and when you’re ready to slow down, your options for day trips are lengthy and exciting depending on your cravings. Stonehenge, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and a vineyard-lined Kent are great reasons to escape the crowds and enjoy the English countryside and small-town feels.
London gives so much to visitors but at a steep price- it’s not the most affordable destination but it can be if you are mindful of your expenses. During my time in London, I was able to endlessly sightsee for free by taking in the architectural gems sprinkled around town and the serenely gorgeous Hyde Park.
THE BEST HOTELS AND GUESTHOUSES IN LONDON
The Lilac Door ($146 a night): The Lilac Door is an adorable family run bed and breakfast full of charm and warmth. Clean, comfy and simply decorated rooms provide guests with a welcoming vibe. And that welcoming air is carried throughout the establishment with attentive and kind hosts and a stellar breakfast with options of gluten-free, vegetarian or an English plate. In fact, they take the “breakfast” part of bed and breakfast quite seriously with a multi-tiered spread of croissants, yogurts and omelets. Use the energy from the breakfast fuel to walk to attractions such as Dulwich Picture Gallery and Crystal Palace Park.
Blackbird ($207 a night): Taking in all the elegance at this hotel, it might be surprising to learn this is a pub first and an accommodation second. Fuller’s Pub in Earl’s Court is a classic ‘pub with rooms’ and serves a high-end gastronomic menu. The brew is known best for their cask conditioned ale, but the impressive drink options carry over into wine and spirits. The best part? After you’ve had a few, you don’t have to stumble far to find peaceful sleep. This is a classy all-in-one kind of establishment. In fact, there is a wistful darkness to Blackbird. The dramatic touches of décor bring on the romance while the crisp cleanliness allows comfort to be on the forefront.
Milestone Hotel Kensington ($428 a night): This is Cinderella’s escape. Glamour and British tradition mingle endlessly in this residence. The rooms and suites boast dramatic colored headboards, floor-stroking curtains and stylish chandeliers. Set aside some “me time” to reset and sweat at the 5-star Wellness Spa which offers a variety of rejuvenated treatments, a sauna, yoga and Pilates classes and a resistance plunge pool. The hotel is a haven for dining and drinking options with a list of bars and restaurants on the property and happenings such as teatime and a picnic in the park. When it’s time to leave the premises (and it might never be), the staff is flawless in accommodating their guests.
THE AVERAGE COST OF ACCOMODATION IS $264 PER DAY
Being one of the most visited places on earth, you will find travel to and from simple and cheap.
- Round trip from Rome- $41
- Round trip from Paris- $77
- Round trip from NYC- $591
- Round trip from Amsterdam- $75
- Round trip from Hong Kong- $563
After you’ve arrived, moving between attractions is a breeze albeit robust in options. Buses, double decker buses and trams are all frequent and notable ways to travel in London. Prices vary per trip from $2 to $6 but you will need a prepaid Visitor Oyster Card or Oyster Card to get on and off each mode. It’s important to note, you can hop on and off as much as you’d like within one hour of your journey’s first touch in and you will never pay more than $6.43 each day no matter how many touches you make. If you opt for the 7-day pass you’ll pay $26.
The underground railroad, better known as the Tube, is a busy network that covers 9 zones. It’s a common and inexpensive way to get around, as long as you purchase the correct card rather than buying a single ticket pass during your journey. A single ticket costs $6.50, that’s more than double what you’d pay on an Oyster Card at $2.85. In fact, if you plan on using public transportation for more than one trip during your stay it’s best to get the Oyster Card.
The overground railway is another option, although not as commonly used as it’s underground counterpart. Stops are less frequent, but the view is better. Connected to the railway system, Docklands Light Railway, or DLR is an innovative driverless option linking Emirates Air Line cable car and London City Airport. Oyster Card applies.
When you tire of the railway and bus system, hop on a boat instead. The Uber Boat by Thames Clippers is a unique way to skip the (oftentimes) chaotic London transportation scene and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding Thames River. Oyster Cards are accepted and kids under five ride free, while an adult single fare starts at $5.50 and an unlimited River Roamer ticket goes for $21.
And sometimes you just want to oversee your own pace throughout a city. In that case, pedaling through London will do the trick. There are many dockless bike share systems with companies such as Santander, Jump and Mobike. But if you’re looking for both quality and a measly price tag, Mobike is your pick. They offer some of the cheapest rides starting at $1 per 20 minutes but if you’re in town for a while, the best choice is the 30-day rental for only $14.
THE AVERAGE COST OF TRANSPORTATION IS $8 PER DAY
With names like jellied eels and toad in the hole, it’s no wonder the English food scene gets a rep for being quirky- and a bit deceitful I might add! Spoiler alert: there aren’t any toads in the dish. But there usually is a lot of delicious carbs and hearty cooking.
The full English breakfast is stacked with a smorgasbord of goodies: eggs, potatoes, sausage, kidney beans, toast and tomatoes. Shepherd’s pie is a national indulgence, but it is not exactly a pie, more like a casserole of meat and gravy. The beloved pie and mash is set up with two flaky pastries sandwiching meat stacked next to mashed potatoes and smothered in gravy. It’s a tasty way to feast.
Teatime is a national activity and scheduled snack and gab time. Tea with milk and sugar and crumpets and biscuits (cookies) are served to the delight of the English every day. Black tea is typically $4 and the accompanied biscuits or crumpets are an additional $3 but many hotels provide complimentary teatime treats.
When it comes to eating out, you will find breakfast to be a bit cheaper than lunch and dinner even when you go for the full traditional English breakfast for $9. If you’re not a big breakfast person, go for a croissant and a cappuccino and dish out $7 for the whole shebang.
Lunchtime is a casual happening and might consist of a sandwich for $8 (they are known to use butter instead of mayo), a traditional English pie with various meats for $11, a sausage, mash and gravy plate for $11 or a plate of chips (also known as French fries) for $4. If you want a lunchtime beer at a restaurant you can save a few bucks as they run for $5 in casual cafes versus the pricier option of $7 in a pub. 8 14 28
Dinner is the most expensive spurge but it’s usually worth it. Fish and chips run for $21 but if you do it right, you’ll want to buy two! Fish and chips were my go-to during my time in London but not all dishes are created equal. Some are cheaper ($10) during the lunchtime hour but be mindful of the difference in price and tastiness. Grilled cod, flounder or salmon starts at $15 while a good steak will go for $20. A glass of wine starts at $8 and cocktails start at $10. Keep in mind, if you eat in a gastro pub, you’re more likely to see meal prices drop to about half of those in a proper restaurant but the quality is still high enough to do the trick!
After you’ve eaten your way through the city it’s ok to step outside the traditional English cuisine to taste the many flavors from all over the world. With an abundance of individuals from different cultures and backgrounds residing in London it’s sensible that their country’s cuisine has also set up shop. There is an overload of outside influence across the city. If you are craving any type of food derived from any culture, chances are there is a restaurant serving it.
AVERAGE COST OF EATING OUT IS $57 PER DAY
London has culture and history running through its veins. Churches and museums grace nearly every corner, enlightening history fanatics of the centuries old religious presence and modern art spirit that lives there. Most of the to-dos are best seen by simply walking through them. Big Ben, Tower of London and Tower Bridge are all a sight to be seen and an opportunity to capture that ‘London pic’. The National Museum is a free museum open to the public perched above the bustling Trafalgar Square. The London Eye is an experience for those craving a 360-degree view of the city. The windowed pods adjacent to Thames River carry you up and around for views you can only see on the Eye. Prices start at $28.
Piccadilly Circus is London’s version of Time’s Square. It’s busy, brightly lit and full of people. But most importantly, it’s free. Yes, people watching at the circus is totally free of charge and totally worth it. For all you night owls, take notes. Soho, Brixton and the Theater District are dazzling in revelers. Pubs, Broadway productions, restaurants and clubs will keep you happily vibing until the wee hours of the morning if you so choose.
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens is a beautiful way to see a different side of London. Picnics, bike paths, swans, blooming gardens and a memorial walk pathed with history are all features of this must-do. There are no costs associated with this venture but there are vendors scattered around eager to serve you a coffee or lunch to accompany you on your stroll.
After you’ve wandered every museum, toured every church and sat in every pub, it’s time to explore the outskirts. Oxford and Cambridge offer a portal back in time with winding cobble stoned roads, thousand-year-old churches and universities that hold both clout and tradition. Stonehenge is a mystery worth digging into during your time here. Just short of a three-hour drive from London, you will find a pile of rocks strategically placed. By whom? No one knows. Day trip tours start at $80.
The possibilities in London often seem endless but the list below is a great place to start.
- Harry Potter Tour of Warner Brothers Studio– $125
- Stonehenge, Windsor Castel and Bath Tour– $111
- High-Speed Thames River RIB Cruise in London– $63
- Roman Ruins to Blitz Bombings: A Walking Tour of London’s Fiery History– $29
- Self-Guided Electric Bike Tour to vineyards and castles in Kent- $54
- Westminster Walking Tour– $75
THE AVERAGE COST OF ACTIVITIES IS $38 PER DAY
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO TRAVEL IN LONDON?
Accommodation: $264 per day
Transportation: $8 per day
Food: $57 per day
Activities: $38 per day
Total amount spent per day: $367