London is one of the world’s great capitals, a financial, political and cultural powerhouse that would take a lifetime to fully explore.
Iconic sights and world-famous museums are just part of the appeal; London is a city where it’s exciting just to be there, tapping into its restless rhythms and wandering its storied streets.
Arriving at London City Airport
London City Airport is the only airport actually in London, located close to the business district in Canary Wharf and a little over 20 minutes from the heart of the City. Fly here to land in the middle of the action, moments from the capital’s iconic attractions and main business centres.
Getting out of the airport is easy enough. London City Airport has its own station adjoining the terminal. The station is on the DLR, which will bring you direct to Bank in 22 minutes or to Canary Wharf in just 11 minutes via Canning Town with the Jubilee line. From either you can connect onto the rest of the London Underground network, which will take you to all major destinations in the city centre.
You can also hire a car with London City Airport. Other transport options at the airport include buses, trains and taxis, giving visitors multiple options for reaching their destination. Check the travel page for full details
To get a good sense of London’s character in a limited time, head to a high-up vantage point. The view from the top of the Shard, Britain’s tallest building, offers you an unrivalled glimpse at London’s skyline.
It’s equally pleasing, however, to take a long, slow ride on the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames. Bring your camera for panoramic views of the city from your pod.
From up here, you’ll see that you’re near some of London’s most iconic sights. Once you’ve disembarked, choose one of the many sights nearby to explore next. Children will enjoy the London Dungeon and the SEA LIFE London Aquarium, which are located directly next to the Eye.
Cross Westminster Bridge to reach the Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. Stop for snaps of this unmissable clock tower, then decide which direction to go in next. Continue west to reach Buckingham Palace, Wellington Arch and Hyde Park. Alternatively, wander north to reach Trafalgar Square. This famous public plaza is the home of the National Gallery, a terrific art museum that houses work by masters such as Turner and da Vinci.
After taking in your fill of the sights, you’ll be perfectly placed next to the West End. This is an ideal area to visit if your half-day falls near the late afternoon or early evening. Restaurants of every budget and flavour are available here and most offer pre-theatre menus. You’ll want to grab a quick bite before heading out to see a show in one of the many theatres that line the streets.
With a whole weekend to lavish on London, make sure you spend some time in South Kensington, home to a trio of major museums. The Victoria & Albert Museum looks at design throughout the centuries and around the world. Its room of plaster casts is particularly impressive, featuring a full-size reconstruction of Trajan’s Column from Rome.
The Natural History Museum will help visitors of all ages learn about the planet, with displays on volcanoes, oceans, dinosaurs and more. Families will love visiting the Science Museum, which features an interactive space with fun, educational games.
Take a break from museum-hopping in nearby Hyde Park. On your way there, you’ll pass the elegant Royal Albert Hall, one of the most famous venues in the city. Follow the paths in Hyde Park east, towards Buckingham Palace. Stop here for a photo of the iconic building and watch as the famously unsmiling guards change positions. The nearby Victoria neighbourhood is good for shopping, or you can wander down to the Thames to explore the Tate Britain art gallery.
Hop on the Underground, head north and spend your evening in atmospheric Covent Garden, packed with restaurants and independent shops, then get a last-minute ticket for a performance in the Royal Opera House.
Enjoy a more relaxing pace on day two, wandering around the South Bank area of the city. Here you’ll find the bold, brutalist Tate Modern, one of the country’s leading contemporary art galleries. Enjoy the displays here before picking up a quick lunch in the lively and multicultural Borough Market, where the mouth-watering smells of international street food mingle in the air.
Stroll along the waterfront and enjoy the colourful atmosphere. Take a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe, an Elizabethan-style theatre that still puts on traditional performances of the Bard’s plays. Alternatively, visit the archives of the British Film Institute or enjoy a coffee in the artistic ambience of the National Theatre or the Southbank Centre.
Stick around, as all of these venues put on shows, films and concerts when the evening arrives.
No matter how long you have, it would be impossible to see all of London; but take a week and you can see as much of it as possible. Seven days of travelling will allow you to go beyond the attraction-packed city centre to see some of the more intriguing neighbourhoods that are a short tube ride away.
Choose between some of the best museums in the world for a culture-filled day exploring central London. The British Museum offers glimpses into the ancient history of the world. Head to the Transport Museum to see fascinating vehicles from different eras or explore the National Maritime Museum to learn about Britain’s seafaring past.
Take the train out to Watford Junction from Euston station and spend a day at the magical Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, the ultimate Harry Potter film tour. You don’t have to be a fan of the fantastical series to enjoy this family-friendly attraction (obviously it helps though). It’s as much a tribute to the art of filmmaking as it is to the franchise, as it gives you the opportunity to walk around immersive sets and see prosthetics from the films. Head back into the city for the evening and watch a film at the BFI to complete your cinematic day.
Make the most of London’s incredible shopping scene and spend the day roaming over 300 shops on Oxford Street. Visit Mayfair for luxury and Carnaby Street for a charming pedestrianised zone. While you’re wandering around the shops, take time to stop by some famous landmarks, such as Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.
Take a break from the madness of the city by escaping to the greenery of Richmond Park. This vast parkland is the home of hundreds of deer, as well as wide open spaces, thickets and tended gardens at Isabella Plantation. Follow the walking trails around this escape into nature, then take the train back into London for a night at the theatres of the West End.
Browse the markets in trendy historic neighbourhoods to see a less tourist-heavy side of London. The markets in Brick Lane and Camden have buzzing atmospheres, colourful street art, hundreds of shops and a welcoming international crowd. Hang out with the hipster crowd in Dalston or Hackney Wick for a perfectly prepared coffee or a refreshing craft beer.
Take a trip out to the historic town of Windsor for a day spent exploring outside the city limits. Head past Heathrow to reach this charming town, which is dominated by the stunning Windsor Castle, an official royal residence. Legoland offers rides for the kids, plus there’s a race course, boating excursions and tour buses for sightseeing.
Use your last day in London to see some of the city’s incredible art galleries. The National Gallery and the neighbouring National Portrait Gallery feature classics by the masters. You could spend a whole day in these two alone, taking in works by Hogarth, Constable, Turner and more. Tear yourself away, however, to spend some time in the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern before you have to leave this energetic, exhilarating city.