The Best Time to Visit London

Updated: May 7, 2017

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What’s the best time to visit London?

  • Best Time to See the Royal Sites: Summer is your best bet for a chance to see all things royal in London, as many residences only open to the public while the occupants are away on holiday. The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are available to tour in late July through September, Kew Palace is closed during the winter months, and Clarence House (home to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall) only opens to the public in August — the sole month of the year in which all sites are tourable. Buckingham Palace’s Changing of the Guard happens daily from April through July, and on alternate days for the remainder of the year, if weather allows. June brings the pomp and pageantry of Trooping the Colour – the Queen’s birthday parade and annual regimentary review – as well as the chance to hobnob with the aristocratic crowd at Royal Ascot.
  • Best Time for Shopping: All the best sales in London, including Harrods’s ultra-popular summer sale, happen in late June and early July. Shops are busiest and generate most of their revenue during December – expect much in the way of festive atmosphere during this month, but not many bargains. The post-Christmas January sales combined with that month’s lull in tourism can generate savings across the board in shopping, airfare, and hotel rates. Those looking for great deals year-round can head just north of London to Bicester Village, the luxury outlet center where Kate Middleton has been rumored to shop.
  • Best Time for Shows & Theatre: Tickets to West End shows are easiest to come by during the January/February tourism lull, and many can be found at deep discount during this time through the annual GILT (Get Into London Theatre) promotion. August is a bit of a mixed bag: theatre-going families can score free children’s tickets during London Theatre’s Kids Week, but many smaller shows and comedy acts have packed up and headed north this month for Edinburgh’s annual Fringe Festival. These shows will be back, along with new acts straight from The Fringe, to usher in the new theatre season in September.
  • Best Time for Kids and Families: London is a great city to visit with kids, and it can be surprisingly affordable given that there are loads of free museums and galleries and getting around is easy and inexpensive – kids under 11 travel free on buses and the Tube. Every August, London Theatre’s Kids Week offers one free child’s ticket for every adult ticket purchased for many of the West End’s top shows – along with backstage tours, workshops, and actor Q&A’s to amuse and enlighten budding thespians. (Kids Week tickets go on sale in June, and the popular shows sell out quickly, so plan in advance.) Summer’s warm weather is perfect for burning off excess energy in London’s parks and playgrounds, but expect family-friendly attractions to be busiest when school’s out – not only during summer, but around Christmas and Easter as well, and at the half-term breaks that happen in February, May, and October. If your family can travel in the spring or the fall, you’ll hit the sweet spot where the weather is pleasant and prices aren’t sky-high. The charm of Christmas in London can be magical for a child, but the seasonal crowds can be tough to manage with small ones and strollers.
  • Best Time for Museums and Galleries: London’s museums and galleries are quietest during the January and February dip in tourism – they won’t be empty, but you’re likely to avoid lines and large crowds. The week between Christmas and New Years can be surprisingly sleepy as well. Expect family friendly attractions (Natural History Museum, Science Museum, London Transport Museum, etc.) to be at their busiest when kids are out of school for summer, around major holidays, and during February, May, and October’s half-term breaks. It’s worth noting that many museums and galleries offer later visiting hours at least once a week, giving night owls a chance for a (relatively) quiet visit once the daytime crowds have gone.
  • Best Time for Christmas Activities: Christmas comes early to London, providing ample opportunity to enjoy the seasonal festivities. Most store displays, holiday markets, and skating rinks are up and open for business by mid-November. The grand tree in Trafalgar Square is lit during the first week of December, and Christmas plays and pantomimes are performed throughout that month into early January. Many museums and attractions are closed from 24-26 December (and everything, including public transportation, shuts down on Christmas Day), so sightseers would do best to plan trips before or after this time. Boxing Day sales bring massive crowds out to the shops during the week between Christmas and New Years, but museums and galleries remain relatively quiet. Expect lights, displays, and markets to stay up through early January.
  • High Season (May to Mid-September, December): London is most heavily touristed in the late spring and summer months, when the weather is warm and kids are off school, and during the December rush of shopping and seasonal activities. Expect long lines, booked hotels, and peak airline prices during these times. Book flights, show tickets, and hotel and dinner reservations well in advance.
  • Shoulder Season (Mid-September through November, March through April): London’s mild spring and fall weather brings plenty of tourists, though the city tends not to be as overrun as it is in the summer. It’s easier to get hotel and theatre reservations, and airfares fall into the reasonable range. Weather can be extremely variable around these times, so layering clothing and an umbrella are a good idea.
  • Low Season (January and February): Expect cool temperatures and heavy rains during these months, along with a substantial decrease in tourism. Those who don’t mind the damp and chill can find great deals on airfare and hotel rates in the off season months, and will be rewarded with smaller crowds and queues. Pack warm clothes and an umbrella.

London Weather by Month

London Temperature by Month (high in celsius)
Best time to visit London for the warmest temp and sunny weather.

London Rain by Month (mm)
Best time to visit London for the least amount of rain.

  • London Weather in January: January is London’s coldest month, with an average daily high of 9°C. It’s rarely cold enough for snow, though if a cold snap is going to happen, this’ll be the month for it. Generally expect consistent rain and damp, cold winds. One would do well to plan for warm clothes, waterproof boots, and inside activities. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 52mm.)
  • London Weather in February: Temperatures remain cold throughout this month, though the rain eases into showers and there’s good possibility for a sunny day here and there. By the end of this month, the earliest spring flowers will be up and beginning to bloom. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 39mm.)
  • London Weather in March: London’s March weather is notoriously difficult to predict. Depending on the year, mid-March in London could be 18°C and sunny, or just above freezing with snow showers. The daily average high creeps up throughout the month, however, along with springtime flowers and the possibility of seeing the sun. (Average Max Temperature: 12°C. Average Precipitation: 35mm.)
  • London Weather in April: Like March, April in London is a mixed bag of chilly weather and warm, spring-like days. You’ll want to pack light layers and a good coat to be prepared for any possibility. Generally, temperatures hover in the teens Celsius, spring is in full bloom, and the warming trend continues. (Average Max Temperature: 15°C. Average Precipitation: 43mm.)
  • London Weather in May: May can be a glorious month to visit London. Temps average in the high teens, parks are green and blooming, and late sunsets stretch daylight hours until about 9pm. As in any London month, however, cloudy days can be damp and chilly, and it’s best to be prepared for the possibility of rain. (Average Max Temperature: 18°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
  • London Weather in June: London’s long June days average eight hours of sunlight, and temperatures increase while cloud cover decreases throughout the month. Rain showers are possible, though June is one of the city’s driest months. (Average Max Temperature: 21°C. Average Precipitation: 43mm.)
  • London Weather in July: July is London’s warmest and driest month, seeing 7-10 wet days and temps averaging in the low 20s Celsius. Humidity ranges from 46-85%, and nights can be cool. The un-air-conditioned Underground can be particularly sticky around this time – it’s a good idea to dress in light layers and carry a bottle of water. (Average Max Temperature: 23°C. Average Precipitation: 41mm.)
  • London Weather in August: Summer’s warm weather continues through August, with temperatures beginning to fall slightly toward the end of the month. Expect high temps in the low 20s, and lows in the mid-teens, but be prepared (as always in London) for the possibility of rain. (Average Max Temperature: 23°C. Average Precipitation: 48mm.)
  • London Weather in September: September sees a bit of cooling as London heads toward autumn. The daily high temperature averages around 20°C, and days are shortening – sunset will be around 7:30pm. The possibility of rain still looms, but it’ll likely fall in showers, not downpours. (Average Max Temperature: 20°C. Average Precipitation: 49mm.)
  • London Weather in October: Heavy rains and mist return to London in October, the wettest month of the city’s year. With an average of only 15 rainy days, however, you’re as likely to see sun as get drenched. Trees are changing colors and dropping their leaves, and days that aren’t wet and windy can be delightful for walking around, with high temps in the upper teens. (Average Max Temperature: 16°C. Average Precipitation: 71mm.)
  • London Weather in November: London temperatures continue to drop throughout November, with highs averaging in the low teens, and rain becoming steadier. Expect and plan for cold, wet, and windy, though you may be surprised by a day or two of pleasant sunshine. (Average Max Temperature: 12°C. Average Rainfall: 63mm.)
  • London Weather in December: Cold, wet, and dark. Temperatures generally stay below 10°C, and most days are rainy, though snow is uncommon. Days average one hour of sunlight, with the sun setting by 4pm – all the better to enjoy the festive seasonal lights and displays. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 53mm.)

London Events and Festivals by Month

London Events in January

London Events in February

  • Chinese New Year Celebration – The largest outside of Asia, with lion dances, a parade through the West End, and cultural entertainment in Trafalgar Square, Chinatown, and Shaftesbury Avenue.
  • London Fashion Week – The fashion industry converges on Somerset House in central London, where the best designers in the world show off their fall collections in a week of invitation-only exhibitions and parties.

London Events in March

  • BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival – The British Film Institute’s celebration of queer cinema, showcasing over 50 critically acclaimed international films at BFI Southbank.
  • The University Boat Race – 250,000 spectators line the banks of the Thames from Putney to the Chiswick Bridge to view the annual boat race between Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

London Events in April

  • London Marathon – Traffic snarls and onlookers cheer as 36,000 runners make the trek along the Thames from Blackheath/Greenwich to the Mall in St. James Park.

London Events in May

  • Museums at Night – Twice yearly weekend of after-hours admission to museums across the UK, showcasing limited-run nighttime exhibitions and cultural events.
  • Chelsea Flower Show – The horticultural equivalent of London Fashion Week. Display gardens, botanical exhibits, and 157,000 visitors on the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.

London Events in June

  • Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – Artwork from honored and emerging artists alike is showcased at Burlington House in Piccadilly during the world’s largest open submission art exhibition. (June – August)
  • Trooping the Colour – It’s pageantry galore as the Queen inspects her troops and leads them down The Mall from Horse Guard’s Parade to Buckingham Palace in her annual birthday march.
  • Royal Ascot – Royals and riffraff alike dress up, drink champagne, and play the ponies at this crème de la crème of British horseracing events.
  • City of London Festival – Cultural arts festival featuring music, comedy, dance, film, talks, and tours. Held over three weeks at various venues across the city.
  • Taste of London – Sample the wares from some of London’s best restaurants and watch cooking demonstrations at this popular food and wine festival in Regents Park.
  • Open Garden Squares Weekend – Over 300 of London’s most secret and spectacular gardens open to the public for one weekend only.
  • The Wimbledon Championships – Two week long international grand slam tennis tournament in late June and early July. Takes place at the All England Club in Wimbledon (40 minutes by train from central London).

London Events in July

  • Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – See June.
  • The Wimbledon Championships – See June.
  • Hampton Court Palace Flower Show – Display gardens and horticultural workshops abound at the world’s largest annual flower show in southwest London.
  • BBC Proms – Classical music fans pack Royal Albert Hall during this eight week festival of orchestral music, featuring daily concerts and £5 tickets for those “prommers” who are willing to forgo a seat. (July — September)
  • Pride in London – Weeklong celebration of all things GLBT, culminating in a massive parade through central London, from Baker Street to Trafalgar Square. Party in the square, and after-party in Soho.

London Events in August

  • Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – See June.
  • BBC Proms – See July.
  • Notting Hill Carnival – Europe’s biggest street festival is a two-day Caribbean party with live music, food, spectacular floats and costumes, and more than a million revelers. Taking place over August Bank Holiday weekend in W10, west London.

London Events in September

  • BBC Proms – See July.
  • Totally Thames (The Mayor’s Thames Festival) – A month-long arts and cultural celebration of, on, and around the River Thames, with colorful regattas, river-races, and community events.
  • Open House London – An architecture and design event weekend, in which hundreds of usually off-limit historic buildings and architecturally important sites are opened to the public for touring. Free and taking place across London, with some sites requiring advanced registration.
  • London Fashion Week — The fashion industry converges on Somerset House in central London, where the best designers in the world show off their spring collections in a week of invitation-only exhibitions and parties.

London Events in October

  • Frieze Fair – Browse or buy works by renowned and emerging artists at two massive art fairs taking place in Regents Park: find contemporary pieces at Frieze London, and ancient through mid-century works at Frieze Masters.
  • BFI London Film Festival – The British Film Institute’s annual fall celebration of cinema, showing hundreds of critically acclaimed international works and Hollywood premiers at BFI Southbank and IMAX theatres.
  • Dance Umbrella – International two week-long dance festival, celebrating 21st century choreography from across the world at various London venues.
  • Diwali on the Square – Thousands pack Trafalgar square to celebrate the festival of lights with live music and dance, food and market stalls, and family-friendly activities.
  • Museums at Night – Twice yearly weekend of after-hours admission to museums across the UK, showcasing limited-run nighttime exhibitions and cultural events.

London Events in November

  • Guy Fawkes Night/Bonfire Night – Annual remembrance of the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605, with bonfires and fireworks across London. Alexandra Palace and Battersea Park have the grandest displays. Celebrated on and around 5 November, with the largest events occurring over the nearest weekend.
  • The Lord Mayor’s Show – A flotilla down the Thames and a fireworks display over it bookend this grand street parade and carnival in honor of the year’s newly elected Lord Mayor of London. Takes place the 2nd Saturday in November.
  • Remembrance Sunday – The heroes and victims of war are honored on the 2nd Sunday in November with a parade, memorial concerts, and a royal ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.
  • EFG London Jazz Festival – Ten day celebration of vocal and instrumental jazz music, featuring hundreds of British and international acts at venues across London. Some events are free, and many are family-friendly.
  • Taste of London Winter – Sample the wares from some of London’s best restaurants and watch cooking demonstrations at this popular food and wine festival at Tobacco Dock in Regents Park.
  • Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park – Get into the Christmas spirit with festive food, drink, circus shows, ice skating, fairground rides, and of course, Santa Claus. Mid November through New Years.

London Events in December

  • Christmas Markets – Peruse foodie gifts and hand-crafted items at the seasonal markets that set up all around London from late November through the New Year, the most popular being at Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and near the London Eye in South Bank.
  • Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree – A massive 20 meter Norway spruce is an iconic backdrop for a month of caroling and Christmas festivities. The tree lighting ceremony is held on the first Thursday in November, and the tree remains up through 6 January.
  • Ice Skating Rinks – Celebrate the season on skates! Rinks at the Natural History Museum and Hyde Park are the largest. Those at Somerset House, the Tower of London, Hampton Court, and Kew Gardens are your best bets for a seasonal skate in an iconic setting.
  • New Year’s Eve Fireworks – Tens of thousands of spectators gather on the banks of the Thames to watch this spectacular display near the London Eye. Buy tickets in advance to secure a spot with the best views of this popular year end celebration.

See Also:

32 questions and comments

  1. London and Scotland – How Long and What To Do

    Hi, I am going to London in this 22 December. We (couple) will be staying about 11 days in England. Thinking of Scotland as well. Any suggestions where to visit in England except Scotland and London? How many days is enough to visits in London? Thanks
    Nic

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      You can see a lot in 11 days. I suggest allowing four days in Scotland, basing your self in Edinburgh, the beautiful capital, and maybe spending two days there and two days exploring outside the capital.

      That leaves you with a week for London and around. There is a lot to see in London, and you can fill an entire week with seeing the museums, art galleries and other sights, but it’s also possible to see London’s highlights in around four days, then perhaps spend a day visiting Oxford – both university towns have gorgeous, centuries-old architecture and wandering the streets there is a real pleasure. You can also hire a car and drive to the Cotswolds for a quintessential old England experience – these are some of the UK’s most picturesque little villages, with thatched-roofed cottages, tea rooms and beautiful and undemanding walks in the countryside around them. Since you’ll be in the UK over Christmas, bear in mind that you need to book accommodation as far in advance as possible, as it’s a really popular time to visit. Also, all attractions are closed on Christmas Day; some are closed on Boxing Day (December 26th) as well. But at the same time, London in particular is really festive, with several Christmas markets and other events.

      Here’s just a rough possible itinerary for your 11 days:

      Day 1. Base yourself somewhere central, such as Covent Garden/Leicester Square/Soho area, as it’s as central as it gets, really walkable and with really good transport connections to other parts of the city. Spend the day walking around, checking out the 19th century covered market, the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square and other nearby attractions.

      Day 2. Many of London’s big attractions – the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Tate Modern – are all found along the River Thames. You have two options: cross the pedestrian bridge from Embankment to South Bank, and spend the day wandering the pedestrian walkway along the Thames, with numerous restaurants and attractions along the way, or get a day pass for one of the boat tours that depart from Westminster pier and hop off when you reach an attraction that interests you. Taking a boat tour as far east as Greenwich is a fun thing to do, as it takes you through London’s changing landscapes – from the high-rises of the City, past the 19th century warehouses dating back to London’s age as Britain’s most important port, past the gleaming new skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, London’s other business district, and up to tranquil Greenwich, where you find one of London’s largest parks, the Royal Observatory and Britain’s last tea clipper, the Cutty Sark, a boat turned into a quirky museum. Boats are enclosed and run year-round, so boat tours at this time of year are fine as long as you wrap up warm. It’s well worth having a look at the Christmas Market at Tate Modern, London Bridge Christmas Market, and there are usually all sorts of festive things happening at the Southbank Centre, at the end of the pedestrian bridge.

      Day 3. Hire a car and drive out to Oxford. It’s one of England’s two grand university towns; many famous writers went to university here and the main attractions here are the beautiful, centuries-old colleges. Spend the day walking around and checking out Christ Church College, some of the other colleges, the Bodleian Library, and the Radcliffe Camera, climb up the tower of St Mary’s Church for the views, and maybe have a drink at the Eagle and Child, the old pub where Tolkien, CS Lewis and other famous literary figures used to drink.

      Day 4. On Christmas Day, there is very little traffic and a pleasure to drive. Head out to the Cotswolds, the countryside filled with picturesque villages. Some of the prettiest include Bourton-on-the-Water, Chipping Norton, Stow-on-the-Wold, and Chipping Campden – all narrow lanes, pretty, traditional houses, tearooms and pubs serving traditional British food, and a tranquil atmosphere. There are plenty of places to stay in the villages, from intimate B&Bs to centuries-old coaching inns. Spending Christmas in a luxury hotel such as Dormy House, Cowley Manor, or the Foxhill Manor is pretty special.

      Day 5. Drive back to London. Visit one or two attractions along the Thames (check websites to see which ones are open), or try to get a bargain at Selfridge’s, one of London’s most famous department stores. On Boxing Day, most restaurants are open and you could also catch a show or a musical at one of West End’s many theatres; check to see what’s playing.

      Day 6. Walk to Buckingham Palace – the Queen’s London home – to have a look at it from the outside. Check the website to see if the Changing of the Guard is happening that day; it doesn’t take place every day, but when it does, it happens at 11am and is a fun spectacle with music and marching. Go and visit the British Museum with its priceless treasures, or possibly the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington, before having a look at Harrods, London’s flagship department store, or perhaps the independent designer shops along Carnaby Street in Soho.

      Day 7. Fly to Edinburgh. Stay somewhere nice and central, such as off the Royal Mile – the street connecting Edinburgh Castle with the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Spend the day exploring Edinburgh. The central part of the city is very walkable, so you can have a look at the historic landmarks along the Royal Mile, visit Edinburgh Castle and Palace of Holyroodhouse, check out the excellent National Museum of Scotland and go shopping along Prince’s Street.

      Day 8. Hire a car and drive west to Stirling. Scotland is famous for its castles and Stirling Castle is one of the biggest, most beautiful and most historically important. Spend the night in Stirling; there are several good, centrally located hotels and the historic heart of the town is very compact.

      Day 9. Drive west to Loch Lomond, one of Scotland’s largest lakes and part of the Trossachs National Park. The surrounding countryside and oak woodlands are beautiful and there are some good walking trails, including the Luss Heritage Trail that passes through the ancient village of Luss. There are numerous atmospheric hotels around the lake, including former coaching inns and country manors, or else you can return to Edinburgh and continue your exploration of Scotland’ capital.

      Day 10. In Edinburgh, Wisit Leith, a quirky seaside neighbourhood and go aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, formerly used by Her Majesty the Queen. If you like your whiskies, there are several whisky-tasting places in Edinburgh, such as the Scotch Whisky Experience where you can try some of Scotland’s best tipples. Fly back to London because the fireworks display on New Year’s Eve is fantastic and well worth seeing in person.

      Day 11. On January 1, very few attractions are open; it’s a good time to relax after the New Year’s festivities.

  2. Chandrika

    Super informative site. Thank you.

    Hoping to visit London in September, 2017 with my daughter.

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      Great. Thanks so much.

  3. 10 Days in London / April or October

    Hi we are looking at heading over to London April 11-22 then taking the train to Paris till the 26. We have three kids 10, 7, 5. Or do you think October 24-November 8 would be a better time to visit? Also is 10 days too much time in London?
    Angela

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      April and October/November can be equally good times to visit because British weather is unpredictable. It’s possible that we’ll have some warm and sunny days in April, and it’s also possible that we’ll have some unseasonably warm days in late October. It’s equally possible that it’ll rain either in April or October; the advantage of a spring visit is that you’ll have a lot more daylight, which is handy for sightseeing, especially if you’re going to be outdoors.

      There is plenty to do in London, particularly with children, and there’s certainly enough to keep you occupied for 10 days. Below I’m just going to give you a brief outline of what you can do for 10 days:

      Day 1: A good way to get a feel for London is to take a boat tour, and that’s something you can do regardless of the weather. City Cruises depart from the Westminster pier in central London, and on the way you get to see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Tate Modern, the Shard and other attractions. Some of the boats go all the way east to Greenwich, and you can get off and visit different attractions along the way. For one day, I recommend going on the London Eye – you get a great view of London from above, even if it’s cloudy (book online for cheaper prices). Next to the London Eye is the London Dungeon, which is a fun, actor-led introduction to London’s gruesome history with special effects, creepy sets, and a ride at the end. There isn’t an age restriction as such, so it depends on whether your kids are easily spooked. Nearby is the Sea Life Aquarium which is good for rainy days; it’s well-designed, with fish and sea creatures from many different habitats. Again, there are places to eat nearby.

      Day 2: You can take the boat again, and get off at the Tate Modern if you’re into art: it’s the UK’s biggest contemporary art museum. There are also hands-on games for kids and they get a chance to create their own artistic masterpieces. You can then take the boat one more stop to the Tower of London (www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london) – a royal fortress that’s the home of Crown Jewels. It’s really well-geared towards family exploration: there’s the Time Explorer app for kids that you can download, there are guides for kids and plenty of hidden nooks to explore. Right next door is Tower Bridge, with its twin towers and a glass-bottomed walkway high above river. Across the bridge is the H.M.S. Belfast, a former Royal Navy boat that you can explore. From Tower Bridge, it’s a 10-minute walk to London Bridge, where you can go up the Shard, London’s tallest skyscraper. It helps if the weather is nice, since you get amazing views of London from the viewing platform (book online for discounts). There is some excellent street food at Borough Market nearby.

      Day 3: Spend a day around the Covent Garden/Leicester Square area. There is usually some street theatre happening around the covered market area in Covent Garden proper, and there’s the excellent London Transport Museum nearby: it’s great for kids, with vintage buses to explore and plenty of hands-on stuff. If you want to take it easy, there are several cinemas as Leicester Square, and if you’re interested in art, the excellent National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery are both nearby. The National Gallery has occasional events for kids, and the I’ve taken friends’ kids to the National Portrait Gallery and they’re really enjoyed looking at the portraits of British famous people. There are plenty of places to eat in the neighbourhood and if you’re into musicals, you can catch a show at one of the many theatres in the area; check what’s on; there are matinee shows, which is handy for families with younger kids.

      Day 4: Head over to Buckingham Palace in the morning; every other day there’s the Changing of the Guard (check online which day it’ll be) at 11.30am. There’s marching and music and it’s a fun spectacle, so get there at least half an hour before to get a good viewing spot. Buckingham Palace is a short walk from Hyde Park, London’s biggest green space. You could also catch the tube to Russell Square and visit the British Museum with its incredible collection of treasures from around the world.

      Day 5: If it’s a rainy day, or if your kids are Harry Potter fans, you can take them to the Warner Brothers Studios in Leaveseden to see the Harry Potter movie sets and props. It’s around 20 miles north of London, so you need to take a train from London Euston to Watford Junction, and take a shuttle to the studios from there. A visit will take up a good part of your day.

      Day 6: Visit the excellent Natural History Museum and the Science Museum. They are next door to each other in South Kensington (near the tube station). The Natural History Museum has an excellent dinosaur room and lots of things to explore, and the Science Museum has lots of interactive displays for kids and adults alike; you can easily spend the whole day visiting the two. Try to go on a weekday to avoid crowds. There are restaurants nearby.

      Day 7: Take the kids to Madame Tussaud’s and your pictures taken with the Royal Family, movie stars, famous musicians and other wax figures. There’s a fun ride at the end, too. From there, you can walk up through Regent’s Park to London Zoo, with its numerous exotic animals.

      Day 8: Do a day trip to Windsor Castle, the Queen’s official home. You can combine that with a visit to Legoland Windsor. It’s a short train ride from London Paddington to Windsor Central Station.

      Day 9: Particularly if the weather is good, you can do a day trip to Kew Gardens (www.kew.org), London’s biggest botanical gardens. It’s a really tranquil space with lots of trails and a canopy walk that’s fun for kids. You’ll need to take a train from London Waterloo to Kew. You can combine that with a visit to Hampton Court Palace (www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace), the palace of Henry VIII – there are lots of rooms to explore, plus a garden maze and more. It’s possible to take a bus between Kew and Hampton Court.

      Day 10: Take the boat from Westminster pier all the way to Greenwich and visit the Cutty Sark (www.rmg.co.uk/cutty-sark), Britain’s last surviving tea clipper. You can climb on board and there are some hands-on exhibits for kids. It’s a nice part of London to walk around; you can walk up to the Royal Observatory (www.rmg.co.uk/royal-observatory) to have a look at the telescopes and to stand with your feet in two different hemispheres – on either side of the Greenwich Meridian Line! The Royal Naval College by the river is a good place to wander around, too.

      So those are just some ideas about what you can do in London in 10 days.

  4. What To See and Do – Birthday Week in London

    Hi!
    My husband and I are taking a trip May 10-21, 2017 to London and we were wondering what we needed to see and do so we don’t feel like we’re leaving without getting our money’s worth. I know the really touristy things that are available, but we will spend most of our money on alcohol/food, and maybe a little shopping. It will also be both of our birthdays during that time (May 12 and 19), so I was wondering what places we should DEFINITELY go for our birthdays. I read somewhere though that in England, if you announce it’s your birthday expecting a free drink or dessert, it’s customary to buy everyone a round of drinks. Any truth to that? Lol. Thanks for your wonderful posts on this blog!
    Isabelle

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      Since you’ll have 11 days in London, that gives you plenty of time to see the must-see sights and if eating out and bar-hopping is your thing, you’ve come to the right place!

      I suggest basing yourselves in the West End (Covent Garden/Soho/Leicester Square area), as that’s super-central and has the biggest concentration of restaurants and bars in London.

      Here are just some ideas of what you can do day by day:

      Day 1: Have a wander around Covent Garden and visit the National Gallery if you’re into art. Food-wise, in the Covent Garden/Soho area you’re spoiled for choice. Some of my favourite places to eat and drink include Bocca di Lupo – excellent Italian; Barrafina – busy Spanish tapas bar, great wine, Balls & Company – the most incredible meatballs and a great cocktail bar downstairs, 68 & Boston – really classy wine bar with a late-night cocktail bar upstairs serving classic cocktails, Flesh & Buns – industrial-chic basement restaurant with Taiwanese and Japanese food and great drinks, Shotgun (shotgunbbq.com) – New Orleans style cocktail bar with some really great, wood-smoked meaty dishes, especially the brisket, Palomar – amazing Middle Eastern food (but small portions, so it can really add up), and St James’ Tavern – classic English pub. If you want an over-the-top experience, check out Rules – traditional British food in London’s oldest restaurant; you have to dress up and the food is rather overpriced, but it’s all very nicely done. The Radio Rooftop Bar at the ME by Melia hotel is great – you can see some of London’s top landmarks from there, and their cocktails are very good.

      If you want to do a bit of shopping, there are some quirky stores along Carnaby Street selling clothes by independent designers and gifts, while Liberty is a classy, high-end department store that’s fun to browse. Oxford Street runs along the north edge of Soho, and you’ll find high street fashions there.

      Day 2: Walk along the Thames to the Houses of Parliament, and visit Westminster Abbey – England’s most impressive church where most of our kings and queens are buried and where Prince William and Kate Middleton got married. Cross Westminster Bridge and walk along the embankment to the London Eye. It’s touristy, but you do get amazing views of London from there, and if you book ahead on the website, you can have one of the capsules all to yourself and champagne to boot. If it’s a nice day and you feel like walking, you can carry on along the embankment promenade – it’s really good for people-watching. Or you can catch a boat east along the river from the pier next to the London Eye, hop off at Bankside pier for the Tate Modern – the best contemporary art gallery in the UK. You can grab lunch at the Sea Containers Restaurant at Mondrian Hotel nearby – they do really nice farm-to-table food; and the Dandelyan bar at the hotel does possibly the most interesting cocktails in London. If you carry on walking east along the embankment you’ll reach London Bridge; nearby is Borough Market – one of London’s best food markets. It’s where chefs come to shop for fresh produce and also where they have at least a dozen different food stalls (from Middle Eastern and Greek to Caribbean to cakes), so it’s another place for lunch (most stalls are open until 5pm or so). Wheatsheaf is a nice pub nearby, serving market food and real ales, while Brindisa is a quality Spanish tapas bar.

      You’ve asked what you should do for your birthday. Well, if you like good food, good cocktails and great views, you should eat at one of the excellent restaurants at The Shard skyscraper. Yes, you can pay to go up to the viewing platform on the 72nd floor for London’s highest views, but you can also just have a meal either at Aqua Shard (contemporary British), Hutong (northern Chinese), Ting (Modern European) and cocktails at Gong on the 52nd floor. You can also catch a show or a musical back at the West End.

      Day 3: If you’re into tacky fun, you can visit Madame Tussaud’s and have your pics taken with various movie stars and the British royal family. Then have a walk through Regent’s Park and along Regent’s Canal into Camden. Camden Market is actually several different markets, selling everything from vintage clothes to alternative gifts. But it’s also really worth going to for the awesome gourmet street food at KERB, which ranges from Vietnamese to vegan tacos to rotis to pit-cooked meats. The Hawley Arms and the Elephant’s Head are both good pubs nearby.

      Day 4: Head for South Kensington and visit the Victoria & Albert Museum to check out the treasures from around the world, fashions through the ages, etc. Nearby there’s Harrods – London’s most famous department store with luxury goods, fashion and the best food hall in the city. Up the street is Harvey Nichols – more designer gear, excellent food and wine. And if you want to eat out somewhere really special (again, a birthday idea) go to Dinner by Heston – London’s top restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park – contemporary British cuisine by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal; book well in advance.

      Day 5: Visit Buckingham Palace and see the Changing of the Guard at 11.30am (get there early to find a good place to watch the parade). Not far is Thomas Cubitt a gastropub serving excellent fish and chips. You can also cut across Green Park to The Ritz for classic British afternoon tea – finger sandwiches, cakes, tea and even champagne in fancy surroundings.

      Day 6: Visit the British Museum – Britain’s best museum with treasures from around the world. Three blocks away is Charlotte Street, a real food street, where you can get anything from Mexican street food at Wahaca and gourmet burgers and craft beers at Draft House Charlotte to ROKA Charlotte St – contemporary Japanese and Salt Yard – Spanish-Italian tapas.

      Those are just a few ideas. Oh, and my personal experience of birthdays in England is that if you announce it’s your birthday, it’s the other people who buy you a drink (unless you’re hosting a party for your friends, in which case you’re expected to pay for drinks).

  5. London on a Budget – Things To Do

    Hello,

    This is the first time that me and my daughter have traveled internationally together. I was thinking of a trip in April (9th through the 15th) during her spring break, on a budget. What suggestions do you have as to what to do on a budget for 5 days to get the most bang for the buck?

    Bridget

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      There is quite a lot you can do in London on a budget. For starters, all the major museums and art galleries in London are free (the only thing you pay for are the special exhibitions).

      Here are a few suggestions on how to plan your five days.

      Day 1: Take a boat from Westminster pier to Greenwich. It’s cheap and a great way to see London’s iconic buildings – the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, Tate Modern, Tower Bridge, the Shard. The boats dock at all the major attractions, so you can hop on and off as you choose. Book your tickets for the Tower of London and the London Eye online beforehand to save money. Tate Modern (contemporary art gallery) is free. It’s cheap to go up Tower Bridge. It’s not super-cheap to go up to the viewing platform of the Shard skyscraper, but you could treat your daughter to weekend brunch of weekday lunch at Aqua restaurant inside the Shard – you won’t be quite as a high, but you’ll get a terrific view and a good meal at the same time.

      Day 2: You won’t have time in one day to see all the attractions along the Thames, so I suggest taking the boat again from Westminster pier to Greenwich, stopping at more sights, and having a walk around Greenwich – there are some gorgeous old buildings along the waterfront that are part of the Royal Naval College, plus you can walk through the park up to the Royal Observatory and have a look at the Meridian Line – you can stand with your feet in two different hemispheres. Before you get on the boat at Westminster, I suggest visiting Westminster Abbey – London’s grandest church where most of England’s kings and queens are buried, and where Prince William married Kate Middleton; if you get there for the 9am opening time, you beat the crowds.

      Day 3: Have a walk around the Covent Garden/Leicester Square/Soho areas. Everything is close together and easily walkable, and there are plenty of inexpensive restaurants serving any kind of food you can think of. You can visit the National Gallery (London’s top art gallery), have a look around Trafalgar Square. If your daughter is into shopping, there are some quirky stores along Carnaby Street in Soho, and high street fashions along Oxford Street and Regent Street. In the evening, if you guys are into theatre or musicals, you can go to a show at one of West End’s many theatres (check what’s on and you can book cut-price tickets online).

      Day 4: Visit Buckingham Palace – the Queen’s London home. In April, the Changing of the Guard ceremony in front of the palace happens every other day at 11.30am, so check online to see if it’s on. The ceremony – music and marching – takes around 45 minutes and is free; get there early to find yourself a good spot. You can also visit the palace itself, with a number of state rooms open to the public. In the afternoon you can visit the British Museum, which is the UK’s best – it’s an incredible collection of treasures from around the world.

      Day 5: You can spend the day in South Kensington. Again, if you’re into shopping, it’s well worth checking out Harrods – London’s most famous department store, with an excellent food hall. A ten-minute walk from there is the Victoria & Albert Museum, which is free and home to a huge selection of applied arts – from fashions through the ages to Asian ceramics.

      Those are just some suggestions. Since you’ll be using public transport, a good way to save money is to either get Oyster cards for yourself and your daughter (that you can load with credit at any London tube station) or else use a touch credit card to tap in and out of the London tube.

  6. London in June for Family of 5

    Hi,
    We are a family of five (kids, ages 6, 8, 10 at the time of travel) are planning to take a vacation to London in June 2017. Is this a good time to travel there in terms of the crowd? If the timing is not so great, we also have the end of September as an option. We are thinking of maybe about 10 days in London unless we run out of things to do, and perhaps a couple of days in Cambridge to visit family. How long does it take to get from London to Cambridge? What is the easiest transportation to get there?
    Considering the ages of our kids, what are your recommendations on must do or see while we are there? It’s probably easier for us to stay central to avoid too much walking with the kids. Do you have any recommendations on hotels that would accommdate our family and perhaps close to kids friendly restaurants? If there is a kitchen and laundry would be ideal.
    Should we consider visiting nearby cities or countries, or taking any tours? My oldest daughter is reading Harry Potter and would like to visit the site. How do we go about planning that?
    Can you give me a suggested itinerary for our visit?

    Thank you so much in advance and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Laura Chan

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      June is a good time to visit London, in terms of weather, and also because it’s before the British school holidays, so you’ll avoid the worst of the crowds. End of September is also a good time, because the weather is still likely to be warm, and London is not quite as crowded as in the summer.

      You can easily spend 10 days in London without running out of things to do, and I highly recommend a visit to Cambridge, as it’s a beautiful town with centuries-old historic buildings (plus I’m sure you’ll enjoy visiting family). It takes less than an hour to get from London to Cambridge by train from London Kings Cross station; trains are very frequent. There are also frequent trains from London Liverpool Street station, but they take longer.

      It largely depends what your kids are into, but most kids enjoy the Natural History Museum (www.nhm.ac.uk) and Science Museum (www.sciencemuseum.org.uk) – there’s a lot of hands-on, cool stuff there. The British Museum is an amazing place with treasures from around the world. London Zoo is another favourite, as is the London Sea Life Aquarium. You can visit Buckingham Palace, Her Majesty’s London home, to see the Changing of the Guard which takes place at 11.30am every other morning. A good way of getting seeing London’s major landmarks is by taking a boat tour with City Cruises or Thames River Services – that way you get to see the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral and other London icons as you glide along. For a bit more excitement, you can consider a speedboat trip up the Thames with Thames Rockets.

      As for the main London attractions, it’s well worth going on the London Eye observation wheel for the views, or else going up to the observation platform on the 72nd floor of the Shard skyscraper for even higher views of the city. The Tower of London (more of a fortress, really), home to British kings and queens for over 700 years, is well worth a visit – you can walk the castle walls, see the priceless Royal Jewels, suits of armour and more. There are just some suggestions.

      Fans of the Harry Potter movies can visit Platform 93\4 at London Kings Cross station. Parts of the movies were shot on location around the city (Leadenhall Market = Diagon Alley, Tower Bridge, etc), and you can do a walking tour of most of the locations with Muggle Tours. You can also visit the movie studios in Leavesden, 20 miles north of London, where most of the movies were shot. there you can check out the sets from the movies, as well as thousands of props, and your kids can ride broomsticks through green screen technology, learn about wand-making and more. Leavesden is a day trip, really; you take a train from London Euston to Watford Junction and a shuttle bus from there.

      Another good day trip out of London is to Windsor, where you can visit Windsor Castle – the Queen’s official home, and also visit Legoland Windsor on the same day. Take the train from London Paddington Windsor & Eton Riverside.

      As for where to stay, I suggest the Covent Garden/Leicester Square area because it’s super-central, good public transport connections, and within easy walking distance to a number of attractions. Check Booking.com which has hotels available in the area. Specify your requirements (ie a family room, or your budget, etc). The Soho Hotel is family-friendly and fun. Kid-friendly restaurants in the neighbourhood include Homeslice and Rainforest Cafe; most restaurants are happy to accommodate families.

  7. London with Teenagers in December / January

    Hi, I’m visiting London from December 26-Jan 3, with my 12 and 17-year old boys. I’m wondering where we should stay and what we should do, as well as whether any day trips into the country would be good?

    Steve

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      There’s plenty to do with teenagers in London, depending on your (and their) interests. Have a look through my guide to Best Things to Do in London for descriptions of top attractions.

      Since you’re coming to London quite soon and also during one of the busiest times of the year, I suggest going on Booking.com as soon as possible to book your accommodation. I find it useful, since you can see which hotels/serviced apartments are available in the part of London you want to stay in, pick your price range and see the ratings left by other customers who stayed there.

      Since you’re in London over Christmas and New Year, it’s worth bearing in mind that some attractions/museums will be closed on December 26 (some museums also on the 27th; check the individual websites), as well as on January 1. Public transport will be running at normal every day except New Year’s Day, when you’ll have to get around on foot or by taxi.

      For easy access to many main attractions, I’d suggest staying in the Covent Garden/Soho area. It’s a compact, central, pedestrian-friendly part of London, with numerous hotels, restaurants and bars.

      Since you have a week, you may consider a couple of day trips. If you want to see quaint English villages with thatched cottages, walk around narrow lanes and have tea in a traditional teahouse, you could do a day trip to the Cotswolds by bus tour with Premium Tours, which takes in picturesque villages such as Burford, Bibury, Stow-on-the-Wold and Bourton-on-the-Water. You could also go to Windsor (Windsor & Eton Riverside station, 30min from London Paddington) to visit Her Majesty’s home, Windsor Castle. If you’re interested in history, you could do a day trip to the university town of Cambridge (an hour by train from Kings Cross station), where you can wander around the beautiful historic centre lined with centuries-old colleges. Oxford is another good alternative (just over an hour by train from London Paddington), with a walkable city centre and gorgeous historic college buildings. Christ Church college in Oxford was used as part of the Hogwarts set in the Harry Potter movies (in case your boys are fans).

  8. Family of 5 in London in March

    We are considering a trip in mid-late March with our three kids (10-14). We are thinking of staying in an apartment for a week in London, with possible day trips. What area of town would you recommend? I’ve read your recommendations for must-sees (thank you, so helpful!). Is there anything notable about this time of year we should consider?

    Sarah

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      Mid-late March is a good time to visit. If you’re coming next year, you’ll avoid the crowds brought by Easter holidays, since Easter’s not till mid-April; if you were coming around Easter time, I’d advise booking well ahead, but you should be fine.

      As for where to stay, I’d recommend staying either in the Covent Garden/Soho area, since it’s very central, within walking distance of numerous attractions, has great transport connections and plenty of dining options. Another alternative is the South Kensington/Knightsbridge area, since you’d then be close to two excellent museums – Natural History and Science, both of which are hugely popular with families and might interest your kids. Rather than suggest specific apartments, I recommend the following websites which list holiday apartments for parts of London, and you can pick something that suits you best: Owners Direct, Home Away, London Serviced Apartments, and City Base Apartments – and of course, the big websites like Airbnb and VRBO. In general hotels are best for stays under a week, apartment and flat rentals better for stays of more than a week.

      Easy day trips out of London include Windsor (Windsor & Eton Riverside station, 30min from London Paddington) where you can visit the Queen’s home, Windsor Castle, as well as Legoland Windsor theme park. It’s easy to do a day trip to Cambridge (an hour by train from Kings Cross station), where you can see the colleges – beautiful historic buildings – and go punting on the River Cam if the weather is nice (a little like the gondolas in Venice). Oxford is another good day trip (just over an hour by train from London Paddington) – it’s bigger than Cambridge, but has a compact city center, also with gorgeous historic college buildings. If your kids are Harry Potter fans, then they might wish to visit Christ Church college, which was used as part of the Hogwarts set.

  9. Winter Weekend in London

    My partner and I will be in London for a weekend in January 2017. We’ve already booked our hotel in the Soho area, so I’m wondering what are must see/do things in such a short time? This is also the first time either of us have been to London, so any suggestions are very much appreciated!

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      It depends what you’re into, but you can certainly squeeze a lot into a couple of days if you put your mind to it. Soho’s a good place to stay, as it’s very central and it’s easy to get to most attractions from there.

      I just going to outline a provisional itinerary of how you can plan your two days.

      Day 1: start by visiting Westminster Abbey – it’s London’s most famous church (take the underground to Westminster tube or walk). Prince William and Kate Middleton got married there, and it’s where many of England’s kings and queens are buried. Gorgeous interior. Get there before the 9am opening time to beat the crowds. If WWII history is your bag, then just a couple of blocks away are the Churchill War Rooms – the underground bunker where Winston Churchill and the wartime cabinet was based during the war. It’s a really good museum with interactive elements that bring across the tense atmosphere during wartime.

      From here it’s a couple of blocks to Westminster pier, where you can take a boat along the Thames. It’s a great way to see London’s iconic buildings, many of which are along the river, such as the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Shard and more. Plus the RB1 commuter boat that runs from Westminster pier to Greenwich stops at various attractions along the way. If it’s a nice day, you might want to stop at the London Eye – Europe’s biggest observation wheel (to avoid the worst of the queues, book tickets online in advance and try to avoid the 11am-3pm peaktime on weekends when it attracts the biggest crowds). If you’re into modern art, stop at the Bankside pier to visit Tate Modern – Britain’s biggest and best contemporary art gallery. Entry is free, with the exception of special exhibitions. A good alternative to the London Eye for best views of London is the Shard (get off at London Bridge). You can either go up to the observation platform on the 72nd floor (again, it’s cheaper if you book tickets online), or else opt for lunch at Aqua Shard or Oblix, or a drink at the Gong bar – you won’t be quite as high up, but the views will still be excellent.

      From here, take the boat further east to Tower, where you’ll find Tower Bridge – London’s most striking bridge. You can go up the towers to the exhibition in between the two. If you don’t get vertigo, you can walk on the glass panels 42m above the river! Nearby is the Tower of London – one of the city’s biggest attractions. It’s a castle rather than a tower and it’s been a home to royalty for hundreds of years. You can see the priceless Crown Jewels there, check out the place where two of Henry VIII’s wives were executed and have a wander along the castle walls.

      That’s probably quite enough for one day. Back in Soho, you’re spoiled for choice as far as dinner goes. Some of my favourite restaurants include Palomar – great, creative Middle Eastern food, small portions though. Burger & Lobster is a good place for surf & turf, Bo Drake is a great East Asian BBQ restaurant, Rules is London’s oldest restaurant with grand decor and solid British food (there’s a dress code)… Drinks-wise, you can just wander around Soho and see what takes your fancy. I like Cahoots (underground bar with great cocktails and a WWII/Blitz theme), French House Soho (a wine bar with a long history) and Bar Termini – great little place, really good cocktails.

      Day 2: You can take it easy and check out the attractions near Soho – have a walk around Covent Garden with its covered market, visit the National Gallery – London’s best classic art gallery, and/or check out the National Portrait Gallery next door (portraits of British famous people through the ages). You can take the tube up to Russell Square to visit the British Museum – Britain’s best – with priceless treasures from around the world. If you’re fans of the Royal Family, you can take the tube to Green Park or St James’ Park and walk to Buckingham Palace – the Queen’s London home. Every other day at 11.30am there’s the Changing of the Guard – with a marching band and lots of pomp. Get there early to secure a good spot. If you want to treat yourself to proper afternoon tea, you can combine a visit to Buckingham Palace with a visit to The Ritz. It’s a really refined, quintessential British experience, with 5 sittings daily from 11.30am (book well in advance).

      You can also take the tube to South Kensington and check out the Victoria & Albert Museum. It’s a wonderful place – with everything from fashion through the ages to fine porcelain from China and Korea, contemporary glasswork, etc. And the cafe is a work of art in itself.

      Finally, another quintessential London thing to do is catching a show or a musical in the West End (Soho’s part of the West End). You can check what’s on during the weekend that you’re in London, and book tickets online.

  10. Shopping in London in December/January

    Hello,
    I am planning to visit London during last week of December and first week of January (2 weeks). Is the Christmas/New Years period a good time to visit London from a shopping point of view?
    Thanks
    Vineet

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      Before Christmas Day shopping can be challenging and I wouldn’t recommend it because of the crowds rushing to buy last-minute presents. However, many high street stores and department stores slash prices on clothes, electronics, and all sorts of other goods as early as Boxing Day (December 26th), or on December 27th, while the January sales continue until mid-January or so.

      It’s worth bearing in mind that public transport is limited on December 26th and January 1 (but running as normal the rest of the time), so if you’re looking to go shopping on those two days, it’s worth sticking to one neighbourhood and take a taxi (or Uber if you have the app) there and back if you’re not based centrally. However, if you stay in the West End/Covent Garden area, you’re right in the middle of London’d most extensive shopping area and can get to most places on foot, including Oxford St, Regent St, Bond St, Soho, and Carnaby St.

      For high street fashion bargains, head for Oxford Street. Bargains on designer gear can be had along Regent Street, Bond Street, and Carnaby Street. If you’re after cheap electronics, there are several stores along Tottenham Court Rd selling cut-price gadgets after Christmas.

      Big-name department stores having post-Christmas sales include Fortnum & Mason on Bond St (designer fashion, accessories, homeware), Harrods in Knightsbridge (big sale in their luxurious food emporium), Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge (luxury goods), Liberty on Carnaby St, Soho (fashion, luxury goods), John Lewis (anything from electronics and fashion to kitchenware) on Bond Street and elsewhere, Selfridges (fashion, homeware, accessories and more) on Oxford Street, and Peter Jones (60 stores selling shoes, perfume, famous fashion brands, electronics and more).

  11. London with a Teenage Daughter (18 Years Old)

    My daughter is graduating high school in June of 2017 – she asked her dad and I to take her to see London as a graduation present. We plan to take her in mid April of 2017 – she will be just shy of 18 years old then. Can you give me some advice on where to stay – many hotels seem to have rooms with only one bed and we need two double or queen size beds. Can you tell me what attractions are a must see? She is a Harry Potter fan, loves to shop, wants to experience high tea and see all the best sights in London when it is not too hot there to do plenty of walking. We love good food and would even consider a day trip to Scotland if at all possible. We plan to stay max of 4 or 5 nights. Do you know about which airline would be best to travel on to London from New York? Thanks for your insight

    Caren

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      If you’re coming to London for 4-5 nights, it makes sense to stay in the Covent Garden/Piccadilly/Leicester Square area, as it’s very central and close to many main attractions. It’s what’s known as ‘Theatreland’ in London, as that’s where most of London’s theatres are, as well as plenty of restaurants, pubs and shopping streets. There’s more than enough to keep you busy in London for 4-5 days, and Scotland’s not really doable as a day trip, so I’d suggest just making the most of your time in London.

      It’s very rare for British hotels to have two double or queen-sized beds in one room; family rooms tend to have a double/queen and a single or else a sofa bed. Another option are serviced apartments, which are more likely to have two separate double/queen-sized beds. Out of hotels in that neighbourhood, I’d suggest Le Meridien Picadilly – their family rooms have two large double beds; 5-star The Savoy large double and two single beds; the less expensive but still lovely Waldorf Hilton – there you can book a double room with two double beds; the Sofitel London St James – their deluxe king rooms come with a large double and a sofa bed. If you and your daughter don’t mind sharing the same room, it can be even less expensive to book two separate doubles or a double and a single at the Strand Palace Hotel. As for serviced apartments in the neighbourhood, Valet Apartments Covent Garden are super-central and come with two double beds, while Apple Apartments The Strand also come with two double beds, as well as 24-hour room service courtesy of the ME by Melia hotel next door.

      Since your daughter is a Harry Potter fan, there are a number of sights in London that appeared in the Harry Potter movies that you can visit as part of a walking tour (Leadenhall Market = Diagon Alley, Tower Bridge, etc) with Tour For Muggles. There’s also Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross train station that you can visit on your own, since it’s not included in the walking tour, as well as St Pancras train station, which is next door to Kings Cross. A new play called “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” has recently opened at the Palace Theatre and it will still be running when you guys come to London in April 2017. It’s really popular but you can book tickets online in advance. (By the way, if you want to see a different theatre show or musical, check out londontheatre.co.uk to see what’s on and to book tickets). Finally, there are the Warner Bros Studios where large chunks of the Harry Potter movies were shot and where you can check out studio sets and thousands of props from the movies. The studios are 20 miles out of London, though – you have to take a train from London Euston to Watford Junction, from where a shuttle bus takes you directly to the studios (you have to book studio tickets in advance online first). If you do go out to the studios, it takes up at least half a day.

      As for must-see sights in London, a boat tour along the River Thames is a great way to get your bearings and see most of London’s iconic buildings at the same time – Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the Shard, the London Eye, Tower Bridge… Boat tours depart from Westminster pier, near Westminster tube station; several companies run boat tours, including City Cruises. For great views of London, it’s well worth going on the London Eye – book online for cheaper rates – or else go up the Shard skyscraper (London Bridge tube station) to the observation platform on the 72nd floor. You can go for a drink or a meal at the Aqua Shard (contemporary British), Oblix (urban international) or Hutong (northern Chinese) inside the Shard – you won’t be quite as high, but you’ll still get some pretty special views.

      If you’re into history, it’s well worth visiting the Tower of London, where English kings and queens have lived for over 700 years and where you can see a priceless collection of Crown Jewels. If you want to see Her Majesty the Queen’s London home, head for Buckingham Palace. Every other day at 11.30am they have the Changing of the Guard – a spectacle full of pomp and ceremony; check the website closer to your arrival date to see on which days it’s happening. If you only visit one church in the UK, make it Westminster Abbey, where Prince William and Kate Middleton got married in 2012; it’s absolutely beautiful inside and that’s where most of England’s royalty is buried. Get here just before opening time in the morning to beat the crowds. And just around the corner are the Churchill War Rooms – the bunker where Winston Churchill had his headquarters during WWII, along with the secret phoneline directly to President Roosevelt.

      Less historical but fun and popular with visitors is the London Dungeon, near the London Eye, where costumed actors take you through the more gruesome bits of London’s 1000-year history – lots of audience participation! Then there’s Madame Tussaud’s near Baker St tube – the famous wax museum where you can get your pictures taken with the Royal family, movie stars, famous musicians and more. Again, get there early to avoid the crowds.

      For shopping, there are two main areas in London. One is the Oxford St/Regent St/Soho, right near Covent Garden. Oxford St and Regent St are more for high street fashions, but if your daughter wants to check out some quirky independent stores, there are some along Carnaby St in Soho. There you’ll also find Liberty, one of London’s most famous department stores, selling unique gifts, jewelry, clothes and more. The Knightsbridge/Brompton neighbourhood is where visitors shop for haute couture, but even if you’re not into that, it’s fun to browse the Harrods department store – they have an amazing food hall, as well as gifts, perfume, clothing and more. And from Harrods it’s a short walk down Brompton Rd to the Victoria & Albert Museum, with its incredible collection of priceless treasures from around the world, fashions through the ages…

      If you’re into art, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery are two great choices and both in the Leicester Square area. Across the river is the Tate Modern – one of the top contemporary art galleries in the world. Near Russell Square tube is the British Museum – if you only visit one museum in London, that’s the best one, with priceless treasures from around the world. All state-owned museums and galleries in London are free, by the way, with the exception of special exhibitions.

      Places to eat…In London there’s something for everyone – any type of food you can think of. Some of my favourite places to eat in the Covent Garden/Soho area include Union Jacks – proper British pub grub; Canteen – really good British food; Homeslice – imaginative pizzas; STK – excellent steakhouse at the ME by Melia hotel; Flesh and Buns – funky cellar restaurant serving Japanese and Taiwanese food and The Palomar – terrific, creative Middle Eastern food (small portions, though). The hotel you staying in should be able to make dining recommendations depending on what kind of cuisine you’re after.

      Many top-end hotels, as well as numerous tea rooms serve high tea. It’s hard to beat high tea at The Ritz, but it’s hugely popular, so make reservations weeks in advance. Fortnum & Mason at 181 Picadilly is another wonderful place for high tea.

      For flights from NYC to London, I definitely recommend getting something direct. Even if you can find something cheaper saving the pain of switching planes gets your trip off on a good foot (and gets you to London decently rested). British Airways, American, Delta, United, and Virgin Atlantic all have direct flights so search Kayak.com for the route that suits your times and preferred airport.

  12. London Weather in December and January

    Hi. My friend and I plan to visit London in late December – mid January. Since January is the coldest month of the year with heavy rain and cold weather, will many stalls in all the markets such as Borough Market, Greenwich Market, Portobello Market, Bricklane Market, Streetfeast and Camden Town be closed ? Thank you! 🙂

    Chan Li Yu

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      Weather in the UK is unpredictable, and while yes, generally January can be cold and rainy, that’s not always the case, and it rarely rains for very long. Borough Market is a covered market and Greenwich market is partially enclosed, but Greenwich Market, Portobello Market, Brick Lane Market, and Camden Market still go ahead, whether it’s raining or not. The only one that’ll be closed is Street Feast at Dalston Yard – that one generally only takes place over summer weekends, but if you’re looking for good street food, Borough Market has an excellent selection of food stalls throughout the week (except Sunday) – anything from cakes to Greek, Indian, fresh oysters, and gourmet burgers.

  13. London with 9 Year Old

    Hello
    We are thinking of visitng the Uk with our 9 year old son end December to early January. He is especially interested in Harry Potter and I understand that there is also a Roald Dahl museum and cafe. Obviously we would like to visit Windsor Castle, Tower of London etc. The 3 of us love live theatre. We also thought it would be fun to stay in a castle somewhere for a night. Are you able to suggest places to visit?
    Where would you suggest that we stay in London. Does any accomodation have kitchen and laundry facilities? Do you think 10 days would be long enough?
    From the UK we will spend about 2 nights in Paris then fly to Singapore for a week on our way home. I would be very interested to hear of your suggestions for activities and acoomodation as well.
    With thanks
    Michele

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      End of December/early January is a really good time to visit London, and you can certainly pack a lot of sightseeing into 10 days. The city is festively lit up with Christmas lights, and there are a lot of seasonal events around Christmas, such as the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com), with a big Christmas market, rides, ice skating rink, etc (very popular with families and kids!). There are other Christmas markets and fairs, Oxford Street (shopping) being made pedestrian-only at certain times, Christmas carol services and other music at St Paul’s Cathedral, etc.

      Most big name attractions are open for most of the Christmas season, with the exception of two or three days. Most attractions close on Christmas Day; some (including museums) are closed on December 24th, December 26th and January 1 as well, so it’s worth checking individual websites if you have your heart set on a particular attraction. If you have a week in London over the Christmas holidays, you can work around this; the London Eye, for example, is only closed on Christmas Day, the Shard viewing platform is open even on Christmas Day, and you can visit places such as the Tower of London, British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, the London Dungeon and Windsor Castle before December 24th or after the 26th.

      As for Harry Potter attractions, there’s Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross train station, where your son can have his picture taken with a luggage trolley that’s half-disappeared in the wall. You can spend a day at the Warner Bros Studio Tour London (www.wbstudiotour.co.uk), where you can go behind the scenes of the Harry Potter films and check out the sets and props. If you visit London Zoo, Harry spoke Parseltongue to the python at the Reptile House there. In “Order of the Phoenix”, Harry flew over Tower Bridge on his broomstick (and Tower Bridge is well worth visiting anyway, as it’s the most impressive bridge over the Thames). Leadenhall Market (near Bank tube) was used as Diagon Alley in several Harry Potter films. Finally, London Walks (www.walks.com), Discover Walks (www.discoverwalks.com) and Brit Movie Tours (www.britmovietours.com) all offer themed Harry Potter walks.

      The Roald Dahl Museum (www.roalddahlmuseum.org) is not in London proper; it’s in the village of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire; trains run directly to the heart of the village from London Marylebone train station (45 minutes), so you can do a half-day trip if your son is a big Roald Dahl fan. Your son might also be interested in the Natural History and the Science museums in Kensington, London; both are interactive and hands-on, and really popular.

      Since you’d be in London for just 10 days or so and you love theatre, the Covent Garden/West End area is a good place to base yourselves. It’s right near many theatres, it’s within easy walking distance of some attractions (National Gallery, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, the River Thames – handy for boat tours withwww.citycruises.com), and there’s a huge number of dining options right on your doorstep – both in Covent Garden and in neighbouring Soho/Chinatown areas. If you want to search for specific theatre shows and musicals for end of December, it’s worth checking out http://www.london-theatreland.co.uk and http://www.londontheatre.co.uk to see what’s on and to book discounted tickets online in advance.

      Some good accommodation options in West End include Premier Inn Leicester Square (www.premierinn.co.uk), the boutique Dean Street Townhouse (www.deanstreettownhouse.com) in Soho, Seven Dials Hotel (www.sevendialshotellondon.com), plus the more upmarket options such as the colourful boutique Soho Hotel and Ham Yard Hotel (both by http://www.firmdalehotels.com). All of the above options welcome families. If you prefer to stay in an apartment instead, http://www.aparthotels-london.co.uk offer serviced apartments (with kitchen and laundry service) near Tower Bridge – this is a little east of the centre, by the river. Also good for sightseeing boat tours and a 15min ride on the Underground to the very centre of London.

  14. London in December with Kids

    Is December a great time to visit London with a 8 year old and an infant 8 months old?

    Shakeela Agard

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      It depends when in December you’re thinking of visiting. The weather in December is likely to be cold and grey, but you can still visit the outdoor attractions if you wrap up warmly and luckily there are plenty of things to do indoors, too. London Zoo might be something your 8 year old would like, and half of that is indoors – the tropical animal section, the aquarium, reptile house…Then there are the Natural History and Science Museums – both great for kids, plus the British Museum. All of these offer baby-changing facilities. Then there are two terrific toy shops – Hamleys on Regent St (the world’s oldest) in central London and Harrods Toy Kingdom on Brompton Rd in South Kensington. As for outdoor attractions, you can visit the London Eye (www.londoneye.com), the Tower of London (www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london), or head up to the viewing platform on the 72nd floor of the Shard skyscraper (www.theviewfromtheshard.com) for an amazing view of London. These are just a few suggestions.

      The best time to visit London in December is during the two weeks approaching Christmas. The city is festively lit up with Christmas lights, and there are a lot of seasonal events around Christmas, such as the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park (www.hydeparkwinterwonderland.com), with a big Christmas market, rides, ice skating rink, etc (very popular with families and kids!). There are other Christmas markets and fairs, Oxford Street (shopping) being made pedestrian-only at certain times, Christmas carol services and other music at St Paul’s Cathedral, etc.

      The only thing is that prices for accommodation and flights during the Christmas season tend to shoot up and accommodation fills up in advance, so it’s best to make plans as early as possible. Since it’s the school holidays, museums and other attractions tend to be fairly busy during those times, so it’s worth booking individual attraction tickets online to save money and skip the queues.

      Most big name attractions are open for most of the Christmas season, with the exception of two or three days. Most attractions close on Christmas Day; some (including museums) are closed on December 24th, December 26th and January 1 as well, so it’s worth checking individual websites if you have your heart set on a particular attraction. If you have a week in London over the Christmas holidays, you can work around this; the London Eye, for example, is only closed on Christmas Day, the Shard viewing platform is open even on Christmas Day, and you can visit places such as the Tower of London, British Museum and Natural History Museum before December 24th or after the 26th.

      Christmas is a very popular time for visiting London, so it’s a good idea to book accommodation well in advance and since it’s the school holidays, museums and other attractions tend to be fairly busy during those times, so it’s worth booking individual attraction tickets online to save money and skip the queues.

      Public transport runs every day but Christmas Day, and taxis are likely to be more expensive on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 26th), but if you’re staying in central London (Covent Garden/Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus area, for example) the lack of public transport for one day is not a huge problem, since central London is very walkable. Many restaurants are closed on Christmas Day, but many hotels offer Christmas dining, so you can definitely find somewhere to eat.

      The Covent Garden/West End area is a good place to base yourselves, since it’s within easy walking distance of some attractions (National Gallery, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, the River Thames – handy for boat tours withwww.citycruises.com) and with a huge number of dining options right on your doorstep – both in Covent Garden and in neighbouring Soho/Chinatown areas. It’s any cuisine you can think of – Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Thai, traditional British…

      Some good accommodation options in West End include Premier Inn Leicester Square (www.premierinn.co.uk), the boutique Dean Street Townhouse (www.deanstreettownhouse.com) in Soho, Seven Dials Hotel (www.sevendialshotellondon.com), plus the more upmarket options such as the colourful boutique Soho Hotel and Ham Yard Hotel (both by http://www.firmdalehotels.com). All of the above options welcome families and can accommodate babies.

      London has many family-friendly restaurants. These include branches of Giraffe and Carluccios (kids’ menus, activity kits, puzzles, crayons), Tibits in Picadilly (near Hamleys Toy Shop) with a specially designed kids’ area, Fire and Stone in Covent Garden with special pizzas for kids…You can even treat yourself to a meal at the Savoy Grill; it’s one of London’s top restaurants, but they also have a kids’ menu. Or you can go for proper British afternoon tea at the Lancaster Hotel, where they have a lounge and finger food for kids.

  15. Best Month to Visit London, England

    My husband and I are planning a delayed honeymoon to London and England. We plan to spend a week in London and about 10 days outside the city in England. What would you consider the best time to visit both? Are London and the countryside generally good at the same time of year or are they a little different? If you were planning a visit what month would you consider the best?

    Thank you,
    Loli

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      May, June and September are generally the most pleasant months to visit, weather-wise. The weather’s been fairly unpredictable the last few years, but if there’s a heatwave in England, it’s likely to be in July or August, and being in London during a heatwave is not the nicest. May, June and September are generally warm and relatively dry, but without the crowds that come in the peak months of July and August, since those coincide with the school holidays. London can be visited at any time of year, since there are cultural events going on year-round and since many of its attractions are indoors. December is a fun time to be in London, since there are Christmas markets and other holiday events and the city is lit up beautifully with Christmas lights, but if you’re looking to get out into the country, the weather is likely to be cold.

      A week is a good amount of time to spend in London – it gives you plenty of time to see the capital’s major attractions at a leisurely pace: Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Tower of London, British Museum and others. You can fit in Hop On Hop Off guided bus tours and boat tours of the River Thames to all manner of themed walking tours, plus go shopping along Oxford Street and Regent Street, plenty of eating out – in London you can find any cuisine you can think of, nights out at the theatre…you name it!

      As for 10 days outside the capital, it really depends on what you’re into. There are some easy day trips you can do by train from London: Windsor, where you can visit Windsor Castle, one of the Royal Family’s residences, as well as do tours of Eton, the most famous school in England; the university town of Cambridge, with its beautiful centuries-old colleges and Oxford, its rival, with the equally beautiful colleges; Canterbury with its stunning cathedral; the vibrant seaside town of Brighton on the south coast of England. None of the above train journeys are longer than an hour and a half.

      If you want to experience the quintessential British countryside, it’s well worth renting a car and spending two or three days in the Cotswolds, to the west of Oxford, where there are some wonderful countryside walks to be done between small villages with their tea shops and stone cottages with thatched roofs. Stow-on-the-Wold and Painswick are two particularly nice places in the Cotswolds. Or you can drive a bit further afield to Salisbury, with another gorgeous cathedral; it’s near Stonehenge, England’s most famous prehistoric site with the mystic circle of standing stones. Then there’s the historical town of Bath, with its wealth of Roman ruins and its spas.

      There are some beautiful places and attractions in the southwest of England, in Cornwall – picturesque seaside towns such as St Ives, fantastic cliffside walks and pretty white sand coves around the Land’s End area – mainland UK’s southernmost point, some of England’s best seafood… You can get a train from London to Penzance (5 1/2 hours) and rent a car in Penzance to explore the narrow winding roads and villages. Then there’s Devon, the “English Riviera”, which is a bit closer to London but on the way to Cornwall, with nice seaside towns such as Torquay and some great walking in the nearby Dartmoor National Park; you can get a train as far as Exeter (2 1/2 hours from London) and rent a car there.

      With all of the above places it’s worth bearing in mind that May, June, and September are popular months to visit (May has two Bank Holidays – one at the beginning of the month and one at the end, when a lot of Brits go for weekends away in the countryside), so accommodation has to be booked in advance (particularly somewhere like the Cotswolds, where it’s fairly limited). The same goes for train travel, since it can be quite expensive and advance purchase tickets are the most economical way to go; the National Rail website lets you book tickets online. It’s not essential to book tickets to Windsor way in advance, but if you’re looking to go as far as Exeter or Penzance, advance bookings can save you quite a lot of money.

  16. London at Christmas with Kids

    Is Christmas a good time to visit London? We’ll have 2 kids (ages 12 and 14) and would like to visit some of the big name attractions. Do museums tend to be busy or quiet over the winter holidays? Do some attractions close?

    1. hotelsdave Expert Hotel Reviews

      Christmas can be a great time to visit London! The city is festively lit up with Christmas lights, and there are a lot of seasonal events around Christmas, such as the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, with a big Christmas market, rides, ice skating rink, etc (very popular with families and teenagers!). There are other Christmas markets and fairs, Oxford Street (shopping) being made pedestrian-only at certain times, Christmas carol services and other music at St Paul’s Cathedral, etc.

      Most big name attractions are open for most of the Christmas season, with the exception of two or three days. Most attractions close on Christmas Day; some (including museums) are closed on December 24th, December 26th and January 1 as well, so it’s worth checking individual websites if you have your heart set on a particular attraction. If you have a week in London over the Christmas holidays, you can work around this; the London Eye, for example, is only closed on Christmas Day, the Shard viewing platform is open even on Christmas Day, and you can visit places such as the Tower of London, British Museum, Natural History Museum, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, the London Dungeon before December 24th or after the 26th.

      Christmas is a very popular time for visiting London, so it’s a good idea to book accommodation well in advance and since it’s the school holidays, museums and other attractions tend to be fairly busy during those times, so it’s worth booking individual attraction tickets online to save money and skip the queues.

      Public transport runs every day but Christmas Day, and taxis are likely to be more expensive on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (December 26th), but if you’re staying in central London (Covent Garden/Leicester Square/Piccadilly Circus area, for example) the lack of public transport for one day is not a huge problem, since central London is very walkable. Many restaurants are closed on Christmas Day, but many hotels offer Christmas dining, so you can definitely find somewhere to eat.

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