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Why Go To London

The English writer Samuel Johnson famously said, "You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." More than two centuries have passed since Johnson's era, but his words still ring true. Life in London is nothing short of invigorating, and travelers find that one visit isn't enough to experience everything this two-millennia-old city has to offer.

Here, the antiquated clasps hands with the contemporary. You'll find the historic Tower of London and the avant-garde Tate Modern both considered must-sees. Shakespeare's sonnets are still being uttered by actors who don modern garb. Londoners most certainly still respect the royals, but they also jam to the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Adele. And while they still praise the power of tea, they now make room for some Starbucks here and there, and pressed juice too. A current leader in everything from politics and banking to fashion and music, London's culture compass is always attuned to what's next.

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Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on analysis of expert and user opinions. Read more about how we rank vacation destinations.

Best of London

London Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit London is March through May when the temperatures are mild and the city's parks are green and blooming. However, late spring – along with summer – is also prime tourist season, and hotel and flight prices reflect the surge. You're more likely to find airfare and accommodation deals in the fall and winter though you'll also encounter chilly temperatures. December in London is also an incredibly popular place to be during the holidays, so expect the streets to be crowded with both English and international tourists. And no matter when you travel, you should pack an umbrella: London is notorious for experiencing misty days and showers year-round. Another thing to keep in mind: it's nearly impossible to escape crowds in London. Along with being one of the biggest cities in Europe, London is one of the most popular destinations to visit in the world, so no matter what time of year you go, you're bound to run into lots of tourists.

Weather in London

Switch to Celsius/MM
Average Temperature (°F)
45
36.3
45.7
36.5
50.5
38.8
55.4
42.1
62.6
47.7
68.5
52.9
72.1
56.7
71.4
56.1
66.4
52.5
59.4
48
50.7
41.2
46.8
38.1
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Average Precipitation (in)
2.09
1.42
1.89
1.85
2.01
1.97
1.89
2.13
2.09
2.24
2.24
2.24
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
See details for When to Visit London

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • Embrace the slang There are a few British phrases and words that can be confusing to first-time American visitors. Study up on the local lingo to prevent being lost in translation. 
  • Embrace the rain A rain jacket, rain boots (or Wellies as they're called in the U.K.), and an umbrella will be very useful accessories for your trip.
  • Embrace the pub scene Pubs are a big part of British culture, so it's not uncommon to see them busy throughout the week. Many have been around for centuries, so stopping in for a pint doubles as a history lesson.
  • Embrace the guidance of a local There are a variety of tours around the city specializing in everything from ghosts to "Harry Potter." There are also a variety of Stonehenge tours, if you're up for a daytrip.

How to Save Money in London

  • Find the free attractions Many of London's top things to do, including the National Gallery, the British Museum and Hyde Park, are absolutely free to enjoy.
  • Get an Oyster Card London's subway, otherwise known as "the Tube" is the easiest way to get around the city, but can add up quickly if you buy tickets daily. Oyster Card fares are not only cheaper, but will make you feel like a local.
  • Dine smart Corridors like Brick Lane offer fantastic ethnic food for bargain prices; fish-and-chip shops are a cheap standby (not to mention a cultural must), and takeaway food costs less than dine-in.
  • Consider a London Pass This pass covers entry to many of the city's top attractions, including Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Churchill War Rooms, for one price.

Culture & Customs

Aside from a few select phrases and words, Americans find the city accessible because of London's official English language. British people are very polite and quite friendly to tourists, so don't be afraid to ask for directions if you're lost. More often than not Londoners are happy to point you in the right direction, or even offer a recommendation about their city. But keep in mind that the British like order. There is no better example than how you are expected to behave on the Tube (London's subway). Make sure to stand to the right when going up or down escalators. 

The other side to the Brits, especially among the young adults, is their penchant for drinking. Unlike coffee shops in the U.S., pubs are the prime watering hole for the Brits. Most pubs serve meals and are open the majority of the day, so don't be alarmed if you see people walking in with young children. Once 5 o'clock rolls around, the hunger for a post-work pick me up is rampant in London, and pubs, as well as bars, tend to fill up throughout the week. Expect to see hordes of people congregating outside pubs in the warmer months and some stumbling out nightly at around 9 p.m. Also, since London is one of the fashion capitals of the world, you'll see locals dressed to the nines throughout the city but especially around Oxford Street, where many fashion houses and publications are located. If you ever wanted to go the extra mile with your style game, London is the place to do it.

London's official currency is the British pound. Since the pound to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates, be sure to check what the current exchange rate is before you go. As for tipping, some restaurants and cafes may add a service charge to the bill, upward of 12 percent. If a service charge is not allotted, it's customary to tip between 10 and 15 percent, especially if you're in a restaurant. If you're drinking at a pub or wine bar, tipping is discretionary. And in a cab, tip the driver to the nearest pound or about 10 percent of the cost. Major credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and shops.

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What to Eat

London used to be highly criticized for its heavy and uninspired menu items. Fish and chips (fried cod and french fries). Bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes). Mince meat pies. You get the picture. Now, London is hailed as one of the world's best foodie cities. And with its melting pot of cultures, it's not difficult to see why. London offers everything from modern British to Malaysian cuisine.

To sample the best of the various cuisines London serves up, you need to know where to go. A food tour can be a great way to get your bearings. For Indian food, visit the curry houses on Brick Lane. If you want an authentic high tea experience, book reservations at The Langham, London, The Lanesborough or at Claridge's – but be sure to dress the part. If you're all about fine dining, check out the Michelin star-heavy Clerkenwell neighborhood. There you'll find St. John, the restaurant that garnered fame