A Mini Guide to London for First Time Visitors

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London: a city where old meets new, where historical architecture is centred amid modern high rises and office blocks, and where tourist attractions are connected by commuter lines, royal parks, and more bars and restaurants than you could ever hope to visit.

Planning a first time trip to London is an experience which often centres around the major city attractions – those which are heralded as the most popular with tourists of all ages, located within close proximity to the top 5 star hotels in London and other facilities that tourists frequent all year round.

In this guide, we’re covering all of those must-see and must-do attractions and activities – alongside a series of tips to help you navigate London like a pro on your very first visit.

The most popular attractions to add to your itinerary

The attractions best suited to your own travel itinerary will depend on your interests, however these are some of the most popular.

British Museum

The first attraction on our list has to be the British museum, which is free to enter, and which combines over 8 million historical artefacts from across Britain’s own history and that from overseas Exotic artefacts and exhibitions make this museum a must-see for visitors from all over the world, with more than a few fake exhibits thrown in for additional interest – including a mermaid and a crystal skull.

West End

You can’t visit London and not catch at least one show or musical on the West End. The West End as an area of London is home to a wide variety of theatres, showcasing the very best of musical and theatrical talent with touring shows and those which have held their own in the West End line up for decades.

Buckingham Palace

The perfect place to snap a selfie, Buckingham Palace is open for tours at set times throughout the year – or you can simply head to the front gates and take in the iconic centre view of the palace.

London Eye

Did you know that the London Eye, originally designed by local architects as part of a millennium competition to design a new attraction for the city’s celebration, was only meant to be a temporary structure? The popularity of the giant wheel was such that, despite its original intention, it was decided that the wheel should remain in place – offering viewing tours every day to thousands of tourists.

Westminster

From Westminster Abbey, famously home to royal ceremonies and celebrations, to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, you can book onto a guided tour of Westminster or simply head there at your own leisure and explore the surroundings. A great opportunity to immerse yourself in London’s political and royal history.

Oxford Street: Selfridge, Harrods, Liberty

Oxford Street marks somewhat of a central meeting point in the city, lying west of The Montcalm at the Brewery London City, and north of the Thames and Soho. Just some of the notable stores worth visiting include Selfridges, Liberty, and nearby Harrods – with plenty of high street and designer names adding to the mile-long shopping street.

Tower of London

An immersive tour and attraction which embodies much of London’s interesting and often gruesome history, the Tower of London is a must-visit for first time tourists in the city. You can even see the Crown Jewels!

Whitehall

This encompasses all of the government buildings and offices, including Downing Street where the prime minister resides – another interesting spot to add to your itinerary and somewhere to snap a selfie.

All you need to know about travel in London

Tube

Transport can feel like one of the most overwhelming things you need to navigate when in London, however there are plenty of options available which connect attractions to hotels, the north of London to the Southbank, and the centre of the city with surrounding airports and major train stations.

The tube is arguably the most convenient, especially once you’ve got to grips with the tube map and the various coloured lines and routes which can take you anywhere in the city.

Bus

Again, the bus is there to facilitate easy travel for tourists and locals alike, operating the same tap in and tap out system as the tube. Just be aware that if you travel by bus, taxi, or your own car, the traffic in London can be exceptionally busy.

Bike or on foot

One of the quickest ways to get around the city, from point A to point B is by bike or on foot. Not only are these methods of transport quicker but they give you an opportunity to see and experience more than you would underground on the tube.

Taxis – black cabs vs. Ubers

What better way to get from your hotel near The Brewery London towards the more central attractions around Westminster, than by taxi. Make sure to book an Uber rather than hail a black cab (unless you want to experience a black cab as part of your adventure), as the Uber journeys are much more cost effective.

Prices and tips for sticking to your budget

Choose the Sky Garden over The Shard

Located over towards east London, a stone’s throw from Chiswell dining rooms and other popular dining hotspots among locals and tourists alike, the Sky Garden offers a free experience which carries you up to the observatory platform with inside and outside viewing spaces (and an onsite bar for those who want to raise a glass with London as their backdrop). This, in comparison with the pricey tour at the top of The Shard, helps to preserve your budget without you missing out on an immersive viewing experience.

Wander the Royal Parks

Last but not least, if you want to save some budget and cut back on your spending in London, one of the best and most enjoyable free activities is a walk around the Royal Parks. From Hyde Park to St James’s Park, Green Park and Regent’s Park (where, if you’re lucky, you might see and hear a few of the ZSL London Zoo residents), London’s green spaces are unrivalled by any in the surrounding counties. Perfect for a morning run or evening stroll.