There’s no doubt about it — London is one of the greatest cities in the world. It’s big. It’s bustling. It’s loaded with history. It’s a cultural powerhouse. It’s truly cosmopolitan. It’ll put a dent in your budget. It’s one of those places that you’ll never have enough time to properly explore (but don’t let that stop you).
Planning a trip to London can easily get overwhelming so that’s why I teamed up with some locals to create The Savvy Backpacker’s London travel guide — we’ll cover the best things to do in London, where to eat, what to see, how to save money, and plenty of other London travel tips.
Estimated Daily Travel Costs for London
London is expensive.
Even on a backpacker’s budget, you should plan on spending £50-£90 ($65-$115)/day.
Budget-conscious travelers can still easily spend £80-£150 ($110-$200)/day in London — largely thanks to the high accommodation prices.
You can check out our London City Price Guide for a more in-depth cost breakdown but we recommend over-budgeting to be safe.
London Accommodation Prices
Here is a quick look at average accommodation prices in London.
- Hostel: €30-€55/night
- Budget Hotel: €80-€115/night
- Mid-Level Hotel: €140-€180/night
- Rental Apartment: €190-€280/night
London Food Prices
Here are some sample London food prices pulled directly from popular, well-rated London cafes and restaurants.
- Full English breakfast from Breakfast Club: £10-£12
- Cappuccino from Kaffeine: £3.10
- A standard cup of coffee: £2.50
- A pint of beer: £4.50-£6.50
- A glass of wine: £5.50-£7
- Mixed drink and cocktails: £8-£14+
How Long To Visit London: 4+ Days
London is a large city with plenty of things to do and see. We recommend spending at least four full days — you can easily spend a week or more and still feel like you’ve just scratched the surface.
When To Visit London
One of the great things about London is that the weather rarely gets too hot or too cold — although London does have a reputation of having frequent drizzles.
- Summer In London
- The mild summers and long days make visiting London the summer comfortable. It’s also the busiest time for travel so expect large crowds and high prices.
- Spring and Fall in London
- My favorite time to visit London is late April through early June and Septemeber through October. The weather is still very nice but the crowds are more manageable.
- Winter in London
- London’s winters can be a bit damp and dreary but it’s very manageable with the correct clothing. If nothing else, it gives you an excuse to spend the day in a classic English pub.
London: The Good And The Bad
Here’s a quick rundown on what you’ll love about London and a few things that aren’t so great about visiting.
- Free Museums: London has notoriously expensive attractions but all the national museums are free.
- Public Transportation: London’s subway system is truly excellent and it’s arguably the best in the world — it’s not cheap though.
- Truly International: London is right up there with NYC as being truly international. Many visitors are surprised that London doesn’t live up to the British stereotypes — in fact, 1/3 of the population comes from another country. Because of this, you can find authentic food from every corner of the world
- Food & Drink: London actually has a great food scene — from cheap to high-end. And, of course, there is the iconic pub culture that you shouldn’t miss.
- Connections to Europe: London has excellent connections to the rest of Europe. Because of this, you can find affordable flights to just about everywhere.
- No Language Barrier: Assuming you can understand the accents, you don’t need to worry about not speaking the language. This is why London is an excellent place to start your big European adventure since it helps make the transition much smoother.
- A Living City: Some of Europe’s most popular destinations feel like 90% of their economy relies on tourism but London is a living city where real people live and work. I think this adds to the excitement and authenticity when you visit.
- Expensive: There is no getting around that London is one of the most expensive cities in the world — notably the accommodation, transportation, and food. Consider picking up the London Pass if you want to see a lot (read my London Pass Review to learn more).
- Odd Weather & Rain: London’s weather is generally mild but there are many cloudy and rainy days so plan for that.
- Not On The Euro and The Exchange Rate: The UK doesn’t use the Euro so if you’re also visiting the rest of Europe you’ll have to deal with multiple currencies. Additionally, the exchange rate has been unfavorable for years so that makes things even more expensive
London’s Highlights: The Best Of London
Short on time? Here are a few of London’s can’t miss attractions.
Note: This is just the tip of the iceberg of what to do in London — we’ll cover these attractions and many more later in this article so keep reading!
- The Tower of London: This site has functioned as a royal palace, a fortress, a prison, place of execution, a mint, an arsenal, a menagerie, and the home of the Queen’s Crown Jewels. Make sure to go when the Yeomen give their tours.
- Tate Modern: Located in a former power plant, the Tate Modern is one of the largest and best museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. It features art from 1900 to the present day — including Warhol, Dali, Picasso, Lichtenstein, and more.
- Westminster Abbey: Gothic abbey church was finished in 1066 and is the place for royal coronations and burials.
- St. Paul Cathedral: Built in 1673, St. Paul’s is the main cathedral of the Anglican Church and if offers great views of London from the top of its dome.
- Visit A Few Pubs: London is famous for its pubs and a few of them even date back to the 1600-1700s.
- National Gallery: Marvel at one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world featuring more than 2,000 pieces dating from the mid-13th century to 1900.
- British Museum: Opened in 1759, the British Museum is dedicated to two million years of human history, art, and culture — including Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone. This is the most visited attraction in England.
- Imperial War Museum: A museum of war and conflict from WWI to the present day. The ground floor has tanks, trucks, planes, guns, and a range of other military equipment to explore. There are also exhibits on the Holocaust, spies, and more.
- Houses of Parliament & Big Ben: The Houses of Parliament is not only the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but it’s also more notably where you’ll see London’s most famous landmark — Big Ben and the Clock Tower.
- Victoria and Albert Museum: The world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design — featuring ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewelry, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, and more from all across the globe.
- International Cuisine: London is a truly international city so you can find food from just about anywhere.
- London Street Art: Head over to East London for some of the best street art in the world.
- Hyde Park: London has many excellent parks but Hyde Park shouldn’t be missed.
- Camden Town and Camden Market: Head to northern London to check out Camden and it’s popular Camden Market — which has 1000 shops and stalls selling fashion, music, art, and food.
The Best Museums & Art Galleries in London
London has way too museums to list here so that’s why I’ve narrowed it down to only the best.
Tate Modern Art Museum
The Tate Modern is one of the top international and modern contemporary art museums in the world. It is housed inside the former all-brick Bankside Power Station and it offers cavernous space inside which hosts a revolving series of large-scale exhibits.
The Tate Modern has more than 50,000 pieces in its collection (they rotate pieces often) and they always have a temporary exhibition (which costs extra).
The Tate Modern also offers excellent city views from its viewing platform.
Opened in 1759, the British Museum is dedicated to two million years of human history, art, and culture — including Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone. Its collection contains over eight million works so it’s easily one of the largest collections in existence. It’s also the most-visited attraction in London (and Europe for that matter).
Naturally, like all museums this large, you might want to pick a few sections that interest you instead of trying to see everything. The museum also offers multiple free daily tours that focus on individual sections and last around 30 minutes.
Marvel at one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world featuring more than 2,000 pieces dating from the mid-13th century to 1900 — with the main focus on the evolution of European painting. The National Gallery includes many masterpieces from Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Botticelli, and more.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
This museum has an enormous collection of exhibits spanning multiple fields — from giant dinosaurs to tiny insects. Its main attraction is the giant whale skeleton and its dinosaur gallery. It’s a favorite for parents with children as well as school groups but it’s still fun for adults.
VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM
The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design — featuring ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewelry, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, and more from all across the globe.
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM
The Imperial War Museum covers war and conflict from WWI to the present day — with an emphasis on WWII. The ground floor has tanks, trucks, planes, guns, and a range of other military equipment to explore.
There are also exhibits on the Holocaust, spies, and more.
The Saatchi Gallery is the private collection of businessman Charles Saatchi who founded the largest advertising agency in the 1980s. He opened his gallery in 1985 to show his extensive collection of contemporary art in 1985 and it’s grown to be one of the largest private collections in the world.
The collection features both up-and-coming and established contemporary artist so there is always something interesting/cutting-edge/bizarre to check out.
CHURCHILL WAR ROOMS
Tour the underground headquarters where Churchill ran British operations and lived during WWII. The museum is split up into two main parts — Churchill’s life and the war room that covers his wartime efforts.
London Street Art
London is also full of excellent street art if you’re looking to escape the museums. While you can find street examples scattered throughout the city, there are a few places that are famous for it.
Here are two good websites that will help guide you to the best spots:
Other London Museums
As I mentioned earlier, London is loaded with museums so I wanted to list a few more fairly popular options that might appeal to you.
London Transport Museum: Learn about the history of London’s public transportation. This is a fun and interactive museum with old buses, subway trains, and other contraptions you can climb aboard. It’s great for children but adults will also enjoy it.
- Tickets are £18.50. Visit Website
Shakespeare’s Globe: Check out this reconstruction of the Globe Theatre to get an idea of what it was like to experience one of Shakespeare’s plays. They give frequent guided tours of the theatre. They also put on Shakespeare performances if you really want to experience a play like it was intended — you can even get cheap grounding tickets in the pit (but you might get rained on). Then again, the seats at the Globe are just wood benches so they’re not much better.
- Guided tour tickets are £17.00 and cheap standing tickets to plays start around £5. Visit Website
Photographers’ Gallery: This is the first public gallery in the UK dedicated solely to photography. They put on a series of different exhibitions from international and British photographers.
- Tickets are £5 but it’s free after 5 pm (it closes at 6 pm) if you want to pop in. Visit Website
Tate Britain: The Tate Britain features British artworks spanning from 1500 to the present day. They offer free tours about every hour. Be sure to check out Late at Tate Britain on the first Friday of every month — featuring half-price admission to exhibitions, live music, and performance art.
- Admission is free except for special exibits. Visit Website
The Wallace Collection: Established in 1897 from the private collection Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800–1870), this museum features the largest collection of French 18th-century decorative arts in the world (outside of the Louvre) as well as decorative arts from the 15th to the 19th centuries (French 18th-century paintings, furniture, arms and armor, porcelain and Old Master paintings). It’s housed in lavish 16th- and 17th-century townhouse.
- Admission is free. Visit Webstie
National Portrait Gallery: If you’re into portraits of the UK’s most important people throughout history, then you’ll love this place. NOTE: It’s scheduled to be closed for renovation until spring 2023. Visit Website
London’s Best Attractions and Sights
There is more to London than museums — it’s also filled with churches, historic buildings, amazing architecture, and more. Below are a few of the best sights.
TOWER OF LONDON
Founded by William the Conqueror in 1066, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has functioned as a royal palace and fortress, a prison and place of execution, a mint, an arsenal, a menagerie, and the home of the Queen’s Crown Jewels. World-class tours are given by the famous Beefeaters (retired sergeant majors from the British Army).
This Gothic abbey church was finished in 1066 and is the place for royal weddings and burials.
- It’s free to attend services but £18.00-£20 to take a tour (check their website for availability).
- Visit Website
- See On Google Maps
ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
Built in 1673, St. Paul’s is the main cathedral of the Anglican Church, and it’s sure to leave you breathless. You can also climb to the top of its dome — which may also leave you breathless.
- Free to attend services
- £18.00 for a regular visit (includes entry to the cathedral floor, crypt and the three galleries in the dome)
- Visit Website
- See on Google Maps
HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT & BIG BEN
The Houses of Parliament is not only the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, it’s more notably where you’ll see London’s most famous landmark — Big Ben and the Clock Tower. You can take a tour of the building but enjoying the building’s architecture is the main draw.
- Admission: £20.50 for a self-guided audio tour and £25 for a guided tour (there is a slight discount if purchased online)
- Visit Website
- See on Google Maps
A huge Ferris wheel that offers amazing views of the full London skyline. Yes, it’s touristy and fairly expensive but the views of the city are excellent.
The Thames River & Bridges
London is built up along the Thames River, and many of its most iconic buildings are located along the river, so you’ll undoubtedly come across it as you explore the city.
The most iconic bridge is Tower Bridge (above) but Westminster Bridge (in front of Big Ben and the houses of Parliament) and Millennium Bridge (connecting St. Pauls and the Tate Modern) are two other popular attractions as well.
Buckingham Palace, aka where the Queen lives, is a popular attraction for visitors — especially for the changing of the guard daily at 10.45 am. The palace is closed to the public except July to October (when the Queen is away in her summer home).
Note: The changing of the guard is the most popular target for pickpockets.
London’s Best Parks & Gardens
London has plenty of green space so you’re never very far from a park or a garden. Here are a few of the best parks in the city.
Covering over 350 acres, Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in greater London and it is the largest park in central London. It has plenty of walking/bike trails, a nice late for swimming/boating, and tons of green lawn for a picnic — you can even rent lawn chairs for about £2. It’s also famous for its Speakers’ Corner.
Kensington Gardens was once the private gardens of Kensington Palace but now it’s open to the public. It’s always full of people enjoying its green space and its large pond has lots of benches to sit on. Kensington Gardens is essentially connected to Hyde Park so it’s easy to explore both locations at the same time.
Regent’s Park has the largest grass area for sports in Central London and offers a wide variety of activities, an Open Air Theatre, and Queen Mary’s Rose Garden. It’s also home to Regents Park Zoo, Regent’s University & The London Mosque.
To the north of the Regent’s Park you’ll find Primrose Hill — which offers nice city views.
Hampstead Heath is a large, 790 acres park to the north of London that’s one of the highest parts of the city so it’s a great place for city views (at Parliament Hill Viewpoint).
Unlike most parks in London, Hampstead Heath is more wild and unmanicured. There are plenty of walking paths, green lawns, and ponds for swimming. You might even seem some deer wandering around.
St. James’s Park
This relatively small 57-acre park in central London is located between Buckingham Palace and the House of Parliament so you’ll probably come across it as you explore these two must-visit sights. It’s a very beautiful park with a great pond, plenty of shady trees, and ample paths to stroll.
This large 183 acres park was once a royal hunting ground and now offers up excellent views of the city. It’s also home to the Royal Observatory, Maritime Museum, Meridian Line, large lawns, and flower gardens.
Holland Park is another nice park in central London but it’s most known for its Koto Japanese Gardens.
Shopping and Food Markets
Markets are always a great place to find fun souvenirs and street food. I’ve listed some of the best that you might want to check out.
Camden Market and Camden Town
One of the most popular places to check out in London is Camden Town and its Camden Market — which has nearly 1000 shops and stalls selling clothing, music, art, and food. The Camden neighborhood is famous for its counter-culture vibe, shopping, and music scene.
Borough Market is a wholesale and retail market hall in Southwark, London, England. It is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, with a market on the site dating back to at least the 12th century. You can find plenty of fresh produce and baked goodies. There are also a number of food stalls selling prepared food.
Covent Garden Market
Covent Garden Market was once a large fruit and vegetable market that was converted to stalls and shops selling antiques (on Mondays) and the rest of the week the vendors sell home-made and artisan things. There are also high-end shopping.
Old Spitalfields Market
Old Spitalfields Market is a nice covered market that has up to 110 stalls selling mostly clothing, jewelry, books, prints, artisan crafts, food stalls, and food trucks.
If you’re visiting Greenwich then you might want to hit up this longtime, indoor market that has up over 100 stalls selling handmade crafts, antiques, art, clothing & other fun things — plus there are plenty of food vendors selling prepared food and coffee.
London’s Best Cultural Experiences
London is one of the world’s most dynamic cities and its’ overflowing with exciting local and international cultures. In this section, I’ll cover a handful of experiences that will help you dive a little deeper into this vibrant city.
I’m always a fan of walking tours — it’s the best way to give context to the city you’re exploring. Luckily, London has a ton of walking tours that cover just about every topic. Many of the free tours are good but the paid tours tend to be better and/or more specialized to specific topics.
Free Walking Tours
Free walking tours are usually given by students or young people. The guides work on tips and the tours tend to be “general” in the subject matter.
Paid Walking Tour Companies
Most paid tours are guided by a professional guide with accreditations and specialized knowledge. Many paid tours tend to cover more focused subject matter but there are still plenty of “general” tours that cover a bit of everything.
- London Walks: One of the oldest walking tours companies in the world and the guides are great.
- Context Tours: High-end private tour with Ph.D. and MA-level guides. Subjects are usually specialized
- Guide London: These tours are lead by Blue Badge Tourist Guides — a group of professional guides that have gone through an intensive 2-year training program.
- Alternative London Tours: These tours focus on non-traditional tours that focus on things like street art, pubs, and other off-the-beaten-path parts of the city.
Pubs and Pints
Exploring London’s pub culture should make it on your “must-do” list — in fact, London has a few pubs that date back to the 1500s so think of it as a history lesson. These old pubs are also a great place to try a traditional cask beer (also known as real ale).
Here’s a list of some of the best old London pubs:
- The Black Friar (1875)
- Cittie of Yorke (1920 but the buildings on the site have been pubs since 1430)
- The Cross Keys (1840s — highly recommended)
- The French House (1891)
- The George (1600s)
- The Grapes (1583)
- The Grenadier (1818 — highly recommended)
- Hoop & Grapes (One of the few timber buildings to escape the Great Fire of London in 1666)
- Lamb & Flag (1620s and favorite of Charles Dickens — highly recommended)
- The Mayflower (1600s — highly recommended)
- The Nag’s Head (1800s)
- The Old Bell (1600s)
- The Prospect of Whitby (1520s)
- The Seven Stars (1602)
- The Spaniards Inn (1500s)
- The Tipperary (1667)
- The Viaduct (1865)
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (1667 but a pub has been there since 1538 — highly recommended)
- Ye Olde Mitre (1546 — highly recommended)
On the other end of the spectrum, London is leading the way in the UK’s craft beer scene so it’s a great place to try some new brews. South East London district of Bermondsey, known as Beer Mile, is famous for its concentration of craft breweries — the most popular breweries are EeBria, Hiver, Partizan, Fourpure, and Southwark Brewing Company
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Yes, these open-top bus tours are super touristy but they’re an excellent way to see a large amount of London in a short amount of time. They always help me orientate myself so I can get a better sense of the city and its layout.
London’s West End Theatre District
London’s West End Theatre District is the equivalent to NYC’s Broadway. You can catch multiple musicals and other performances here.
Other Fun London Attractions
Here are a few other fun things you might want to check out when visiting London.
Platform 9 ¾
Fans of Harry Potter should pop into Kings Cross Station to visit Platform 9 ¾.
The Magnificent Seven Cemeteries
London is home to seven beautiful and prestigious Victorian-era cemeteries (known as The Magnificent Seven) that are open to the public. The most famous is Highgate Cemetery (£4 – See on Google Maps) but Abney Park and Tower Hamlets are both free.
Walk Along Regent’s Canal
Regents’ Canal is an 8.6-mile canal that runs east to west through northern London (from Little Venice and ends in Docklands). As you walk the canal you’ll come across boats and cafes and cafes on boats and plenty of people enjoying the (hopefully) nice weather.
Telling people to visit Piccadilly Circus is like telling people to visit Times Square in New York City — the both have a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.m Five Guys, and TGI Fridays restaurant so that tells you something. But hey, might as well stop by if you’re in the neighborhood.
Best City Views
I love a good city view (who doesn’t?) and there are plenty of spots in London that offer up excellent urban vistas — both paid and free. Below are a few local favorites.
Just north of Regent’s Park, you’ll find Primrose Hill. Make the climb to the top to be rewarded with panoramic views over Regent’s Park and the city. Walk up Regent’s Park Road on your way there and stop by one of the delis for a picnic lunch.
One of the most popular ways to view London is via the London Eye. The ride takes 30 minutes so you have a good amount of time to enjoy the view. It’s suggested to book in advance so you don’t have to wait in line. Tickets cost £37 (booked early) to £40 (purchased at the ticket window).
The Shard Observation Decks and Its Bars/Restaurants
Constructed in 2012, The Shard is one of the newest skyscrapers that towers over London. It has observation decks on floors 68, 69, and 72 that offer breathtaking views of the city. Tickets start around £35.
The Shard also has bars and restaurants with great views. The drinks are expensive but you’re paying for the view. For example, a drink at the 32nd floor Oblix Bar is a lot cheaper than the £35 you’ll spend on an observation deck ticket.
Located in the “walkie talkie” skyscraper, the Sky Garden is the highest public garden in London and it offers 360-degree views of the city’s skyline. It’s free to visit and you can have dinner and drinks there as well.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Built in 1673, St. Paul’s is the main cathedral of the Anglican Church, and it’s sure to leave you breathless. You can also climb to the top of its dome — which may also leave you breathless.
- £18.00 for a regular visit (includes entry to the cathedral floor, crypt and the three galleries in the dome)
- Visit Website
- See on Google Maps
Bar at Madison
Speaking of St. Paul’s, the Bar at Madison offers great views of the cathedral along with great cocktails and tapas. Unlike some of the bars located high up in the clouds, Bar at Madison is 6 floors up so you feel a little more connected to the city.
The Terrace at Alexandra Palace
For a drink with panoramic views of London that won’t cost a fortune, head to The Terrace at Alexandra Palace — the largest beer gardens in London. They also have street food vendors if you want something to eat.
Note: It’s a bit outside the city but it is connected by the Tube.
Frank’s Cafe at Bold Tendencies
For a more down-to-earth experience, check out Frank’s Cafe. This non-profit, arty joint is open during the summer for drinks, simple food, and live music.
Duck and Waffle & SushiSamba
Vertigo42 Champagne Bar
Here’s another high-priced bar with high-altitude views of London. They only serve champagne and cocktail (as well as a few bar snacks) and reservations are required.
London’s Best Hostels
London has more than 100 hostels — which makes it one of the best hostel cities in the world. Visit Hostelworld to see them all.
Well-rated hostels generally cost between £25-£50/night for the cheapest bed option but you might be able to find a few that are around £20/night. Ultra-budget travelers can find something closer to £15 but don’t expect much quality. Prices do tend to be a bit more expensive on Friday and Saturday night for the weekend travel crowd.
Here are a few of the best hostel options:
- Wombats City Hostel London
- Astor Hyde Park
- Astor Queensway
- Barmy Badger Backpackers
- MEININGER London Hyde Park
Want to learn more? Read our guide to the Best Hostels in London.
What & Where To Eat In London
England may not have the same culinary reputation as its European neighbors but London’s food scene is actually very solid. In addition to many tasty British staple dishes, London is home to people from just about every culture on the planet so its international food scene is extremely diverse.
Note: This list is comprised completely of recommendations from local Londoners. I also found an excellent post on the London Subreddit titled: What is your ethnic/cultural background and what’s a restaurant that you feel represents it well? and that has a ton of great options as well.
Note #2: London has plenty of high-end restaurants but I tried to mainly focus on affordable options.
Fish and Chips
You can’t visit London without having fish & chips and luckily there are a ton of excellent places to get some. That said, there are a lot of bad/mediocre places so stick the local favorites.
Poppie’s Fish And Chips: Poppie’s is one of London’s most famous and popular chippy joints so you can’t really go wrong here. See Locations on Google Maps
Rock and Sole Plaice: One of the oldest fish and chip spots in London. Another local favorite. See On Google Maps
The Laughing Halibut: Old-school joint that’s always busy and popular with both locals and tourists. Prices are very reasonable for the super central area. See Location on Google
Fishers: Opened since 1982, this bustling and award-winning shop serves up some of the best traditional fish and chips in London. Dine-in or takeaway. See On Google Maps
Fishcotheque: Tucked under a bridge, this traditional hole-in-the-wall has generous portions for a reasonable price. They’re a local favorite so it can get busy during lunch and dinner. See On Google Maps
Golden Union Fish Bar: Another super popular right in the middle of London. Expect to wait in line for about 20-30 minutes during the busy time but it’s worth the wait. See on Google Maps
Gigs Fish & Chips: Opened in 1958, Gigs obviously knows what they’re doing if they’ve survived this long in a city that seems to have a chippy everywhere you look. See on Google Maps
The Golden Hind Restaurant Marylebone: This no-frills mainstay is another popular fish & chips restaurant with large portions. See on Google Maps
The Mayfair Chippy: Excellent fish and chips in a bit more of an upscale location. Centrally located. See on Google Maps
Full English Breakfast
Another must-eat meal in London is the full English breakfast — which is traditionally a plate full of bacon, sausages, eggs, black pudding, baked beans, tomatoes and mushrooms, toast. It’s served with coffee or tea.
You can get a proper English fry up anywhere from a cheap, working-class “greasy spoons” to high-end restaurants. Below are a few favorites:
Regency Cafe: Cheap, no-frills, delicious, and always busy (get there early to avoid a long wait). Around since 1946. This is the real deal experience. See on Google Maps
E Pellicci: A cool art-deco workers’ cafe that’s been serving up English breakfasts to hungry folks since 1900. See on Google Maps
Cafe 338: Another local favorite with big portions at an affordable price. See On Google Maps
Terry’s Cafe: Old-school, family-run cafe. Quality food for a good price. Local favorite since 1982. See on Google Maps
Hawksmoor Guildhall: This much-loved steakhouse serves up one of the best English Breakfasts in the city. It’s a bit more expensive but worth the money for a lovely food coma. See on Google Maps
Roast at Borough Market: Modern and upscale take on British classics. See on Google Maps
The Wolseley: A fancy place to get a high-end English Breakfast. See on Google Maps
Another classic meal to try in London is the super delicious Sunday Roast — which is typically roasted meat, roast potatoes, or mashed potatoes, and accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, gravy, and mint sauce. It’s typically served on Sunday.
Afgian, you you find a Sunday Roast any many restaurants but here are a few local favoites:
The Pig and Butcher: The place to go for a Sunday Roast. Cool rustic vibe and excellent food. Great beer selection as well. You might want to book early as tables fill up quickly since it’s so loved. See on Google Maps
Hawksmoor Guildhall: This much-loved steakhouse also serves up one of the best Sunday Roasts in the city. It’s more expensive than your standard greasy spoon but worth the money. See on Google Maps
The Spaniards Inn: This 16th-century inn and pub is worth visiting for the atmosphere alone — luckily their Sunday Roast is also excellent. It’s a bit of a journey from the center of London but it’s worth the trip. See on Google Maps
Cat and Mutton: Established in 1729, this old pub (now more of a casual gastropub) serves up a very solid Sunday Roast. Fun, local atmosphere. See On Google Maps
The Ship Tavern: A 16th-century pub with a traditional real-ale bar and plenty of traditional British dishes in their upstairs dining room. See on Google Maps
Traditional British Cuisine
Rules: This place isn’t cheap but it’s one of the best places to get great traditional British cuisine and its grand atmosphere makes it worth the money. Additionally, Rules has been around since 1798 — making them the oldest restaurant in London. They have all the classics dishes you can imagine and a solid cocktail bar upstairs. See on Google Maps
St John Bread and Wine: This clean and bright no-frills spot serves up high-quality British dishes at reasonable prices. The menu is always changing but they always have a good selection of wine and cheese. See On Google Maps
Harwood Arms: This is the only Michelin star pub in London. Obviously not cheap but the quality is excellent. See on Google Maps
Duck and Waffle: A 24/7 British restaurant that’s located on the 40th floor of a modern building in London. The food is solid and so is the view. Not cheap but it’s a cool experience. See on Google Maps
London is arguably the best place in the world to get Indian food outside India. But there is more to Indian food than curry and chicken tikka masala. Each region of Indian has its own style of cuisine and you can find a restaurant in London that specializes in every region. Furthermore, London’s Indian restaurants range from cheap takeaway to Michelin star winners so there is something for everyone.
London does have a lot of mediocre Indian joints so stick with our local-approved list.
Dishoom: Expect long lines and excellent Bombay-style comfort food at this popular restaurant. The prices are fair, the atmosphere is buzzing, and the quality of food and drinks is excellent. Many people say this is their favorite Indian restaurant in London. See on Google Maps
Tayyabs: Opened in 1972, this no-frills Punjabi restaurant is famous for their spicy dishes. It’s a popular spot so expect a wait. See on Google Maps
Hoppers: A popular spot for family-style Sri Lankan authentic cuisine. They’re also known for their cocktail menu. See on Google Maps
Kricket SOHO: This lovely and hip Mumbai-style joint serves up modern tapas-style dishes and excellent cocktails. The staff is friendly and the prices are reasonable. See on Google Maps
Raavis: A favorite for Pakistani-style Punjabi food. No-frills but very authentic. See on Google Maps
Veeraswamy: This high-end Indian restaurant is the London’s oldest Indian restaurant and (opened in 1926) and a MICHELIN Star winner. Everything is great here and many people list it as their favorite Indian restaurant in the city but expect to pay a premium. See on Google Maps
More High-End Indian Restaurants: Most Savvy Backpacker readers aren’t going to expensive restaurants but I wanted to list a few options just in case y’all wanted to splash out a bit.
You can never have enough pizza and London has a good amount of places serving up authentic Italian style pizza.
ICCO: Solid Italian-style pizza for a great value. See on Google Maps
Pizza Pilgrims: Another great option for excellent pizza at a great price. See on Google Maps
Franco Manca: Franco Manca has 50 locations in Italy and the UK and they serve up great sourdough Neapolitan pizza for a good price. See Locations on Google Maps
Pizza Union: Great authentic thin and crispy pizzas. See on Google Maps
LARDO: Hip and chic pizzeria with great pizza and other Italian dishes. See on Google Maps
Pizza East: Another lovely authentic wood-fired pizza joint that’s affordable for the area. See Locations on Google Maps
Sometimes you just want a solid burger and London has you covered there. Here are a few local favorites — from fast-food to gourmet.
MEATliquor: This American diner-style joint is famous for its Dead Hippie burger. See on Google Maps
Bleeker: Much-praised small chain with great burgers. Local favorite. See on Google Maps
Patty and Bun: No-frills chain serving great burgers. See On Google Maps
Honest Burgers: Popular burger chain with multiple locations. See Locations on Google Maps
Burgers and Beyond: Cool burger joint with interesting burgers and beer. See on Google Maps
Tommi’s Burger Joint: Icelandic burger joint. See on Google Maps
Hachè Burgers: Gourmet burgers made with 100% Scottish beef. See Locations on Google Maps
Hawksmoor: High-end steakhouse that also make excellent burgers. See on Google Maps
Other Random Local Favorite Restaurants
As mentioned earlier, London is home to a diverse culinary scene so in this section you’ll find a wide range of local favorites.
Flat Iron: Trendy and budget-friendly steak restaurant with great food. See on Google Maps
Chicken Cottage: No-frills counter-service fried chicken fast-food chain. Good after a few pints. See on Google Maps
Smokestak: BBQ in London. See on Google Maps
Jin Kichi: A tiny Japanese restaurant in Hampstead with a family feel and great sushi, grilled skewers, and cocktails. See on Google Maps
Bone Daddies: Excellent ramen. See on Google Maps
Kanada-Ya: Casual joint with great ramen. See on Google Maps
The Palomar: Cuisine from modern-day Jerusalem influenced by the cultures of Southern Spain, North Africa & the Levant. See on Google Maps
Barrafina: Popular Spanish tapas restaurant. See on Google Maps
Barbary: High-quality Berber-style/North African cuisine. See on Google Maps
Smoking Goat: A hip place serving the kind of food you’d find in Bangkok’s late-night canteens. See on Google Maps
Som Saa: Chic restaurant serving Thai cuisine & intriguing drinks. See on Google Maps
Kiln: A very popular and award-winning joint with Thai-inspired dishes. Reasonably affordable. Expect a crowd. See on Google Maps
Le Bab: A more upscale modern kebab restaurant. See on Google Maps
Chilangos: Very solid burritos for London. See on Google Maps
Gold Mine: No frills Chinese restaurant famous for their roast duck. See on Google Maps
Four Seasons Chinese: Another Chinese restaurant that’s known for roast duck. See on Google Maps
London’s Public Transportation
London has excellent public transportation. The Tube is clean and goes just about everywhere, and the bus system is also great (it lets you see the city as you travel so that’s an added bonus).
Buy an Oyster Card (a £5 reloadable travel card, available at any Tube station, and at many convenience stores). The card will pay for itself quickly because it brings the price of a ride from almost £5 (when purchasing a single ticket) to £2.30. The Oyster card can also be used on the bus.
London also has a city bike program (Santander Cycles) that lets you rent bikes for free for rides under 30 minutes and £2 if you want to rent them for a 24-hour period. There are automated stations all over the city, so it’s easy to find a bike.
London’s Best Day Trips
London has so much going for it that you might not find yourself wanting to leave but it does have a number of day trip options if you’re wanting a change of scenery.
Famous for its 2000-year-old Roman-built baths, natural hot springs, and a beautiful gothic abbey, Bath is one of England’s most beautiful cities. There are plenty of nice cafes, pubs, and you can visit one of the many spas/baths. The city even has free walking tours.
Positioned 47 miles south of London, the seaside resort town of Brighton is commonly called “London-by-the-sea” thanks to all its London day-trippers. It’s a nice place to have a restful beachy and chow down on some excellent fish-n-chips (we recommend Little Jack Fullers).
Cambridge is a small, beautiful university town that’s 55 miles north of London. In addition to its world-famous university that dates back to the 12th century but it’s also the home to the highest concentration of preserved historic buildings in England.
The city of Oxford is centered around the prestigious Oxford University. Established in the 12 century, Oxford University is comprised of 38 colleges and their medieval architecture led poet Matthew Arnold to nickname Oxford as the “City of Dreaming Spires.” The city has a friendly and youthful atmosphere and a lovely pedestrianized city center.
Stonehenge is one of those attractions that everyone knows about but it’s sometimes a letdown for people who make the journey to see it. Nevertheless, it’s a very popular London day trip (don’t forget to book your Stonehenge entry tickets early as they do sell-out). If you’re only in London for a short amount of time I recommend choosing another day trip (or tacking Stonehenge onto a trip to Salisbury or another nearby town).
Getting to Stonehenge is a little more difficult since it’s out in the countryside. The train ride from London to Salisbury takes an hour and a half and then you take a bus (£15) from Salisbury to Stonehenge. The easiest way to take a day trip from London to Stonehenge is via a bus tour from London. Book your train tickets early via Omio or Trainline to get the cheapest price.
Check out ye ol’ home of Billy Shakespeare in the charming little town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Fans of Shapespwhere will enjoy the Stratford but this lovely medieval market town it still makes for a peaceful way to spend a day for any visitor. That said, I wouldn’t put it at the top of my list of places to visit — especially since it’s not a super quick train ride to get there.
More London Travel Resources
London is one of those cities that offers something for everyone, so do yourself a favor by doing a bit of research before you go — a bit of planning will pay off. Below are a few solid budget-minded guidebooks and websites you may want to check out.
- Rick Steves — London (guidebook)
- Lonely Planet — London (guidebook)
- Rough Guide To London (guidebook)
- Spotted By Locals: London (website and app)
- TimeOut London (website)
- Thrillist: London (website)
No Funny Business
The Savvy Backpacker is reader-supported. That means when you buy product/services through links on the site, I may earn an affiliate commission — it doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps support the site.
Thanks For Reading! — James