If you’re planning your first visit to London, you must be so excited whilst also feeling overwhelmed with all the choices before you! This metropolis is enormous and absolutely filled to the brim with interesting places to see and things to do. You certainly cannot do it all in a single trip, but there are plenty of iconic sights and activities in London that a first timer can’t miss. As Blue Badge tour guides with Let Me Show You London walking tours, we’d love to share our insider knowledge with you to offer tips for planning your first trip to London. You can take a look at our tours of London for inspiration and feel free to contact us if you have questions about our offers.
Tips for First Timers Flying to London
For first-time visitors to London, just sorting through all the airfare and travel options can be a challenge. There are six international airports in and around the greater London area, so it’s important to double-check your flight details before planning your airport transfers.
Most transatlantic flights will arrive into Heathrow Airport, which is connected to central London via the Tube or the Heathrow Express.
Gatwick and Stansted are two popular alternatives. Gatwick is a hub for easyJet, while Stansted is a hub for discount airline RyanAir, so lots of flights from Europe land at these two. Both are connected to central London via train or shuttle. Luton receives fewer international flights, while City Airport, which is the closest to central London receives limited international flights due to its smaller size.
Whichever airport you land at, you’ll likely take a train or the Tube into the city centre. Heathrow Express trains come into London Paddington Station, from which you can take the Tube to your accommodation location. The main train station hubs in London are Paddington, King’s Cross/Euston, and Victoria Stations.
Do try to stay in the central part of the city so you can maximise your time without having to travel too far too often!
Tips for Traveling Around London
Once your flight arrives, you’ll want to get into the city centre. It’s a good idea to purchase a Visitor Oyster Card before you travel. You can use it on a variety of public transportation in and around London, including the famous red double-decker buses and the London Tube (also called the underground). Alternatively, you can use contactless options (debit or credit card, or mobile phone) to pay for public transport on buses or the Tube.
Advice for first-time US visitors to London: Activate Apple Pay or Google Pay on your phone before you travel. Most US visitors don’t have contactless debit or credit cards yet, but this payment method is used nearly everywhere in London, so you’ll want to be able to complete financial transactions more easily. And make sure you also tell your bank or credit card company where you will be travelling!
Avoid taking the Tube during rush hour and be sure to stand on the right of the escalator so regular patrons can quickly rush by on the left. The Tube is a vast network, but don’t be intimidated! If you’d prefer, you could take the buses and sit up on the top deck to get better views as you travel round the city. Just know that buses can, of course, get caught in plenty of traffic.
That’s why our favourite way to get around London is on foot! Which brings us to our next tip for first timers in London…
When Visiting London, Plan to Walk…a Lot!
Once you’re in London, get ready to walk quite a bit! This city is massive and it is best seen on foot. Of course, there are buses, the Tube, and black cabs aplenty. But you’ll surely be on your feet much of the day. Be sure you have comfortable shoes and then get out there to see the sights!
Taking a walking tour of London is the perfect way to dive deeper into history, culture, and all the stories and people that make London so fascinating. You can walk around on your own until your feet ache, but you’ll miss out on so many interesting details and local insights. Join us at Let Me Show You London so we can share all the great tales, triumphs, and tragedies this city has seen over the years. Take a look at our walking tours of London to learn more!
Must-See Attractions for First-Time Visitors to London
London boasts an incredible number of famous landmarks and locations. You cannot possibly see and do everything on your first trip here. Even people who live here for years still have more to tick off their London bucket list! So, knowing that you won’t be able to do it all, you’ll want to prioritise and choose what interests you most.
Here are our top recommendations for first timers in London:
- Buckingham Palace
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
- The London Eye
- The Shard
- Trafalgar Square
- Churchill War Rooms
- The Tower of London (read our Tower of London guide)
- Tower Bridge (not to be confused with London Bridge)
- Shakespeare’s Globe
- Westminster Abbey (read our Westminster Abbey guide)
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- The National Gallery
- The British Museum (read our British Museum Highlights guide)
- Hampton Court Palace
- Covent Garden
- Camden Market
- Portobello Market
- St James’s Park
- Hyde Park
- Brick Lane
- Borough Market
Pre-book attraction tickets before your visit to London
Pre-booking your tickets will not only save you time it can frequently save you money too!
Many London attractions get very busy, but you can guarantee your entry by pre-booking your tickets. This will let you pick a time and date that fits with your travel plans and stops you from missing out on the chance to see the most popular places.
We know everyone loves a bargain, by pre-booking tickets online you’ll frequently pay less than simply turning up and paying on the day too.
Even the sites which don’t require entrance tickets may need you to choose a timeslot in advance of your visit. For example, most London museums now require you to book an entry slot so they can control visitor numbers.
A little time spent booking your tickets before you arrive means you can make the most of your trip and hopefully save some money too.
You can learn more about the must-see attractions in London and definitely take a look at our London City Tour for a fantastic overview of this exceptional city. Ready to join us for a walking tour of London to learn so much more about everything you’re seeing and experiencing? We’d love to welcome you on your first visit to London…or any visit thereafter! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about our tours.