The Beginner's Guide to London

Everything you need to know for your first time in London, England

The most iconic site in London!

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Visiting London

London is a pretty big city. No. London is a HUGE city! And it can be completely overwhelming to plan your first (and let’s be real, probably only) visit to the city.

I’ve put together a guide that answers all the questions that I had planning my own trip to London for the first time.

I spent 5 days in (and around) London in May 2022, which is only enough time to just start getting the hang of this London thing. Luckily, my big sis spent several months in London in college, so I’ve enlisted her help with this guide.

I will also include links to my personal picks of articles by other travel bloggers that will help you plan your trip.

This guide has everything you need to know for your first time in London!

London at a Glance

Don’t be overwhelmed by London! (Doors of St. Paul’s Cathedral)

Different Neighborhoods of London

London has 48 different neighborhoods. 48!

Every part of London has its own feel. It’s not all 19th century government buildings.

There’s the City of London, which is where London actually began way back in the day, and the part today that looks most like what I would expect a city to look like. There’s Westminster, where Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and other famous structures reside. There’s Soho, where you can hit up a show or spend a night on the town. And there’s Nottinghill. Which we all know about because of the movie.

To really get a feel of London, you will have to venture out of the center of the city. But don’t feel bad if you don’t get to all 48 neighborhoods on your first visit (or ever, for that matter!).

Here is a guide to the London neighborhoods, and what you might find in each area.

What is the weather like in London?

The weather in London is pretty much how you imagine it: cloudy.

It’s actually relatively mild. Never too hot or too cold. The sun does come out occasionally, but for the most part, it’s just cloudy.

When is the best time of year to visit London?

Any time is good to visit London.

There are so many indoor activities to do that it doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy or cold or raining. There is just so much to see that you will not be bored in any weather.

Plus, as I said, the weather is relatively mild, so any time of year is a good time of year. But do try to avoid the summer months (June-August), as they will be the busiest (and London gets busy!).

I think the absolute best time to be in London is September. The weather is close to its best, and the summer crowds have thinned out.

Festivals in London

November 5th is Guy Fawkes Day in England, and it’s a pretty big deal. If you’re here on the fifth of November, you can see the fireworks display, but be aware, the tube is going to be very crowded!

Visit at Christmas time to see magical light displays and Christmas markets! Hyde Park hosts Winter Wonderland from mid November through New Year’s (remember, they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in England, so it’s totally acceptable to start Christmas celebrating early!).

Or visit Trafalgar Square for caroling and to see the annual Christmas tree that’s been donated by Norway every year since 1947, in appreciation of Britain’s aid during WWII.

Guy Fawkes Fireworks.

Winter Wonderland display in Hyde Park.

How to Get to London

What airport do I fly into for London?

London has several airports (did I mention it was huge?). We will just stick with the easiest and most common one. You will fly into London Heathrow Airport.

Can you see the London skyline from the plane?

Yes, you can see the London skyline from the plane as you fly into Heathrow Airport. The only problem is, London is super cloudy, so you might not be able to get a good view if the weather is bad.

How to get to London from the airport?

The Tube/Underground:

The best way to get to London from the airport is to take the tube.

If you are flying into Heathrow Airport, just follow the signs for transportation into London, which will bring you to the airport tube (AKA underground) station.

The best way to travel on the tube is to have an Oyster card. You can order a visitor’s Oyster card ahead of time, or you can get a regular Oyster card at the station when you arrive in London. You can also pay with your credit card in the same way you would an Oyster card.

The journey takes about an hour to the city center.

The Heathrow Express:

If you don’t want to miss any time in London, you can take the Heathrow Express directly into London Paddington Station, in the city center. It’s a lot more expensive than the tube, but it only takes 15 minutes.

  • If you book your ticket 90 days in advance you can save a significant amount of money (however, these advance tickets are non-refundable).

Look for the Transport for London symbol (circle with the line through the middle) to indicate the London Underground.

Where to Stay in London

How to choose a hotel in London:

Choosing a hotel in London is potentially the most challenging part of the trip! There are so many different neighborhoods with their own vibes, so many places you want to be close to, so many different options to choose from!

For me, the most important thing is to find something close to a major transit station. Just take a peek at London in Google maps and zoom in on any underground station to see lots of nearby hotels. You can choose how far from the station you want to stay and look in that area.

Here are some of the major stations:

  • Victoria (we stayed near here)

  • Paddington (direct from Heathrow Express)

  • Marylebone

  • King’s Cross

Or look for any central London stop on the Piccadilly Line. This is the line that runs from Heathrow Airport, so you will not have to transfer with your luggage.

Map of London Underground stations.

Where to Stay in London:

Cherry Court Hotel

We stayed at the Cherry Court Hotel. It was very close to London Victoria Station, and very affordable! It was also very small. The smallest room and bathroom I have ever seen! But since we were just there for sleeping, that wasn’t a problem.

Doubletree by Hilton

The Doubletree by Hilton is a lot more expensive than the Cherry Court Hotel, but it is beautiful, and it is right across the street from Victoria Station, so you really can’t beat it for location.

Premier Inn/Hub by Premier Inn

Premier Inn is a reliable hotel chain in the UK. You will see them all over the country, as they are the largest chain in the UK.

We stayed at a Hub by Premier Inn in Edinburgh, and it was really nice for a reasonable price.

Other Options

This article lists out the best hotels in London in every neighborhood, with options for budget through luxury.

How to get to your hotel in London:

I was really anxious about walking through the city with my luggage. I’m just used to living in a small town and driving everywhere.

We walked through a lot of cities with our luggage in the UK, and we never felt weird about it. But I do always like to stay as close to the train station as possible.

Our hotel was a 5 min. walk from Victoria Station. We took the Piccadilly underground line from Heathrow Airport.

If your stop is not on the Piccadilly Line, you will have to transfer to another line somewhere along the way. We transferred to the District Line at Hammersmith, which took us to Victoria Station.

From there we just pulled our luggage out onto the street and walked 5 min. to our hotel.

How to Get Around London

King’s Cross Station, London

The best way to get around London is to use the London Underground and to walk.

I wrote a whole article about London transportation in and around the city and using the London Underground, Overground, Oyster cards and National Rail services.

The public transportation within the city is run by Transport for London. You will see their symbol (the circle with the line through the middle) on all of the transportation that they run. Anything with the TFL symbol on it means you can use your Oyster card to pay for transportation.

The Transport for London symbol.

Where to get the Best Views of London

The London Skyline:

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s is an iconic part of London’s skyline, and a popular place for a view of the city. You get access to the viewing galleries with a tour of the cathedral.

There are two balconies where you can get views over the city. The catch is, you have to climb to them. There are no elevators in St. Paul’s. The stairs are steep and spiral, but there are a few hidden benches along the way where you can rest.

I only made it to the first viewing spot (the Stone Gallery), but my sister (in peak college fitness!) went all the way to the top.

View from the Stone Gallery

View from the Golden Gallery

The London Eye

Another spot to get a good city view is the London Eye (that famous Ferris wheel). It’s a fun way to see the city (and not climb 500+ steps!). It is expensive for a Ferris wheel ride though. The views are similar to the ones from St. Paul’s.

The Shard

Some of the best views in London come from the top of The Shard. You can ride an elevator (lift) to the top instead of climbing stairs upon stairs, and you can see all of the important things to see in London, since the building you’re in really isn’t that important (as in, it isn’t hundreds of years old).

Check out the 360 viewing gallery or get a meal in one of the restaurants.

The Sky Garden

Similar to the views you will find at The Shard, the London Sky Garden is free to enter! It might be possible to get a walk-in ticket, but it is highly encouraged to book your spot ahead of time. Tickets are available 3 weeks in advance.

Big Ben & the Houses of Parliament:

The best view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament is across the river.

Take the tube to Westminster Station, exit toward Big Ben, and then follow the crowds across Westminster Bride.

There is a walkway that runs along the Thames on this side of the river. Just head down the stairs to the right and take in the view.

There is a National Covid Memorial Wall right there, in front of St. Thomas Hospital. Find the spot here on Google maps.

What to Eat in London

There are so many places to eat in London that I’m not (for the most part) going to send you to any particular restaurant.

What I am going to do is to send you to a particular food all first timers in London should try. Some you’ve probably heard of (fish & chips… obviously), and some you may not have.

If there is a particular neighborhood that’s good to visit for food, I will also list that here.

  • Side note: whipped cream in the UK is not tasty! They do not add any sugar to it, so I actually would have preferred my drinks without any whipped cream!

Fish & Chips

It may be cliche, but… how do you visit London and not get fish and chips (Actually I visited London and didn’t get fish and chips… because I really don’t care for fish. I did try them in Scotland though. Jason, on the other hand, had fish and chips for almost every meal!)?

While you can find fish & chips on just about any menu, locals suggest visiting a “chippy,” that is, a shop dedicated to selling just fish and chips. That’s where you’ll find the best fish and chips!

Classic English Breakfast

My husband Jason really wanted to try a full English breakfast when we were in London (he probably should have told his over-planning wife that before day 2 in the city). We weren’t able to get one in London, but he did get it in Edinburgh.

A full English breakfast (also called a fry up) consists of: bacon (what the English call bacon, more like ham), sausage, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, baked beans, mushrooms black pudding and toast. And sometimes “bubble and squeak,” whatever that is!

Regency Cafe or any Wetherspoon Pub are good places to get a full English breakfast in London.

Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea in London… need I say more?

The thing about afternoon tea is, it’s expensive! I finally found one I thought would be affordable, only to realize that that was the price per person. So we were each expected to eat an entire tray of cakes, scones and sandwiches ourselves!

We did our afternoon tea in place of lunch, so you don’t have to do it at “tea time.”

There are so many different places to go for afternoon tea. You can do a traditional afternoon tea, a themed afternoon tea, or take an afternoon tea bus tour of London.

  • Also, if you think the foods on my tea tray look weird… they do. You can read the story about my afternoon tea disaster here.

The Ploughman’s Lunch

Another classic English meal, the ploughman’s lunch consists of bread, cheese and pickled onions, usually accompanied by ham, butter, chutney, fruit and salad.

Our friends in England made this meal for us as a quintessential English dish to try. I liked it so much, I ordered it again in York.

It’s basically just a traditional, cheap meal. Nothing fancy or exciting, but put it all together and it’s so good!

Sausage Rolls

We had to get a Greggs sausage roll because Jason is a nerd and watched a video of Tom Holland (who plays the most recent Spiderman) raving over Greggs sausage rolls. He actually picked the sausage roll over a Krispy Kreme donut, no less (this is crazy, because I’m obsessed with donuts)!

We did eat a lot of sausage rolls in the UK (I mean, you can’t go wrong with hot, fatty meat rolled in a buttery pastry), but I did think Greggs was the winner (although my opinion might have been influenced!).

Savory Meat Pie

In addition to sausage rolls, there’s basically any kind of meat pie you can imagine. Sausage pie, steak and ale pie, Cornish pasties, fish pie, the list goes on.

Jason got sick of all the heavy pies, but I personally am in love with (almost) anything wrapped in pie crust.

Borough Market

We didn’t actually get around to the Borough Market on our first trip to London (did I mention it’s huge?!), but I’ve read this is the place to go for food.

The market is a huge collection of food stalls selling freshly prepared artisan foods. Read about some of the best things to eat at the Borough Market.

International Cuisine

Because London is such a huge metropolis, you can get almost any food imaginable here. And it will taste good!

So if you have a hankering for Indian food, Thai, Mexican, Italian or just a good English pub, it’s all here.

My sister highly suggests getting yourself some Indian cuisine. Indian restaurants are typically very good in London because during the British Raj, the British gained an appreciation for Indian food and brought Indian cooks back to England, and Indian cuisine became popular in England.

Victorian Raspberry Sponge Cake

The particular cake I had was at an English country pub in a small town in Nottinghamshire. However, if you find something under this name on a menu in London, get it!

It was a moist sponge cake with raspberry filling drenched in hot custard sauce. Oh my goodness, it might be the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten!

I hope the cake you end up with is half as good as the one I had, because that alone would be worth it.

Things to Do in London

Where to even start?

Because there is an infinite number of things to do for your first time in London, I am going to break this section into even more sections:

And let’s not even get started on where to go shopping…!

You won’t be able to do everything London has to offer in one visit, but hopefully you can pick and choose to put together an itinerary of things you most want to do!

But to actually get started, let’s just walk around the city for a bit:

Walking Tours of London

A good place to start in London is with a walking tour. These can be cheap or even free. You can learn the history of London, or take a themed walking tour, like a Doctor Who or a Sherlock Holmes tour of London.

Walk Around the Parks

Kensington Gardens

If you’re not looking for anything specific to do, there are a lot of great places in London to just walk around, hang out, and experience the city.

St. James’s Park

St. James’s Park is one of my sister’s favorite spots in all of London. Here’s what she has to say about it:

St. James’s Park is a picturesque park with a lake, paved walking paths throughout, and wildlife including pelicans and tame squirrels (some people feed the squirrels, and one ran across my shoulders once while I was sitting on a bench!). It is adjacent to Buckingham Palace.

To get to there, take the tube to St. James’s Park station and walk north for about a block.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is the largest and most famous park in London. So many famous sites are here, including Kensington Gardens and the Peter Pan statue, and Kensington Palace where Princess Diana lived.

To get to the Peter Pan statue, take the tube to Lancaster Gate Station, and walk into the Italian Gardens across the street. Keep walking along the path until you get to the Peter Pan statue. Further along the path is the Princess Diana memorial.

Then take your time to explore the rest of the huge park!

Walk along the river

Bubbles along the Thames River walk in London, England.

Another great place to just hang out (and find lots of things to do) is the walkway along the Thames River (pronounced “Temz”).

You will pass book sellers, street performers, food trucks, museums, tourist attractions, and all the iconic London landmarks.

Historical Things to Do in London

Tower of London

Tower of London is a quintessential London experience. It’s also one of the most expensive London experiences. If you want to see the crown jewels, this is the place to go.

I did not do it on our visit to London, so I will have my sister tell you about it:

I was really excited about going here, but ended up disappointed. It’s very much a museum, which is not my favorite thing. There are several sections to the museum, including the crown jewels, instruments of torture, the ravens (“guardians of the tower”), and Yeoman Warder tour (history of the Tower and its prisoners). All of these things are included in the price of admission. We also had the opportunity to watch a sword-wielding demonstration and try it out ourselves.

Westminster Abbey

One of my biggest regrets of our trip is not going inside Westminster Abbey. I honestly didn’t know (or care) much about it before we got there, but seeing it from the outside was one of the most awe-inspiring moments of the trip for me.

Here’s what my sister has to say about it:

You have to pay to get into Westminster Abbey; however, you get in for free to attend evensong. I did both a paid entry visit and attended a service. You do get to see a little of the abbey at the service, but you’re ushered in and out, so you don’t get to explore around the abbey if you attend evensong.

As an English major, I enjoyed visiting Westminster because of the numerous literary figures entombed there (Poets’ Corner has over 100 writers’ tombs); however, there are numerous famous people buried there aside from authors. Many scientists, including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking, as well as 30 kings and queens in the royal tombs.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

We did visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, but I honestly wasn’t that impressed. You get a headset so you can wander through at your own pace, and learn about every different section of the cathedral, as much or as little as you want.

It certainly is ornate inside, but that’s not really my style. The place I was most excited about visiting was the Whispering Gallery, where you can stand on one end of the gallery and whisper something for someone on the other end to hear! Unfortunately, it was closed when we visited.

You also have to climb a lot of spiraling stairs to get to each of the three galleries (Whispering, Stone & Golden—mentioned above).

My sister, however, really enjoyed St. Paul’s, especially the Whispering Gallery (and despite her fear of heights).

Trafalgar Square

I feel like almost every section starts off with me saying we didn’t do this… (this is why I enlisted the help of someone who lived in London for three months!).

I honestly didn’t even know what Trafalgar Square was, so let me fill you in: It’s basically a “town square” in front of the National Gallery with fountains and monuments, originally designed to commemorate the British victory in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Now that you know what it is, here’s what my sister has to say about it:

A neat little stop with fountains and statues, and occasionally public events taking place. There is a nice view of Big Ben from the square. It is right in front of the National Gallery if you have interest in art (or need to use the restroom!).

At Christmas time, the big Christmas tree donated by Norway is placed in Trafalgar Square with Christmas caroling events often scheduled. Get off at Charing Cross station and you can’t miss it! It’s also right at the foot of the mall, so you could walk from there to St. James’s Park and to Buckingham Palace.

Museums in London

We didn’t visit any museums on our trip to London… There’s just so much to see!

Personally, I think the British Museum sounds the best, so if I ever go back to London, this will be one of my stops.

Once again, I defer to my expert sister to give her take on the museums.

British Museum

The British Museum is huge; it’s too large to see in just one visit.

There are many interesting exhibits, even for someone who is not a museum aficionado (like us…). Some exhibits include: Easter Island head, Rosetta Stone, hieroglyphs, and Parthenon sculptures.

The Museum of London

The Museum of London houses a history of London and is worth seeing if you have a lot of time in London or are interested in the history of the city, or the history of the Roman occupation of England. There is also a piece of a wall built by the Romans outside the museum (the London Wall).

National Gallery

The National Gallery has paintings from many famous artists, such as Monet, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, da Vinci, and many, many more.

Tate Britain/Tate Modern

Both the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern have a lot to offer art lovers (bonus, you can walk across the pedestrian Millenium Bridge to get to the Tate Modern!).

The Science Museum

The Science Museum is very interactive and an enjoyable experience for all ages, even people who don’t typically enjoy museums.

The British Library

The British Library has a few very interesting exhibits that make it worth a visit if you have a lot of time in London, such as the Magna Carta, Jane Austen’s writing desk and notebooks, and handwritten lyrics by the Beatles.

Cultural Things to Do in London

Changing of the Guard

A lot of people want to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace when they are in London. Unless this is a must-see for you, it is probably worth skipping.

Here is my sister’s take on it:

A bunch of people wait outside Buckingham Palace for this event. It’s not my “cup of tea,” so I wouldn’t spend my time waiting for it; however, I happened to be at St. James’s Park just before this event took place one day, so I caught it as I walked by as I was leaving.

If interested in seeing this take place, I would suggest adding it on to an outing like a park so you don’t specifically wait around for this event, especially if short on time in London. You’ll be able to see fine from whatever vantage point you are able to get at the last minute (can’t speak for the tourist season during the summer months though).

Starts at Buckingham Palace at 11 a.m. (daily in June and July, rest of the year is M, W, F, Sun). About 45 minutes long.

See a Play at Shakespeare’s Globe

You can see a rendition of one of Shakespeare’s plays at the Globe Theatre in London, a recreation of the original theater where his shows were performed. You can get a nice seat, or, for a real experience, get a standing room only seat for only £5!

You can also catch performers outside of the Globe for free as you walk along the Thames, which is what we did.

My sister saw a show in the theater, so here is what she has to say:

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a play here; it was a neat experience to watch Shakespeare performed in a replica of the Globe Theater, but the actors also made the play come alive so even if you typically don’t understand Shakespeare, you would be able to “get” the play and enjoy it. A fun experience enriched by the atmosphere.

See a West End Show

This. This is my number one recommendation of things to do in London!

You can get some pretty cheap seats to a West End show in London by either booking a seat with a restricted view, or getting last minute tickets at the TKTS booth in Leicester (pronounced Lester) Square (you can also order from their website, but visiting the booth is so much fun).

We saw Les Mis, and even with the super restricted view it was absolutely amazing!

  • If you need help deciding what show to see, this article lists out the 17 Best West End shows to see, as well as plot summaries of each and helpful tips for visiting.

Visit a Bookstore

I always seek out bookstores wherever I go. Bringing home a used book is one of the best souvenirs!

London has SO. MANY. bookstores. Here are some locations to seek out:

There was a huge selection of used books for sale along the riverwalk on the Thames. Charing Cross is a famous street for bookstores. Cecil Court is a secret road that people claim looks like Diagon Alley (fair notice, everything here is pretty antique and expensive). My personal favorite is an old boat turned bookstore, Word on the Water, located near King’s Cross Station.

Shop at Harrod’s

Oh, Harrod’s. The world famous department store.

In all honestly, it’s just a big, expensive department store. But it is an experience (especially with the demise of so many brick and mortar department stores). Try to visit at Christmastime for all of the Christmas themed displays!

Abbey Road

I didn’t recreate the photo (you know which one I mean) at Abbey Road, but I did recreate it via Photoshop and our company’s parking lot for a scavenger hunt.

Here’s what my sister says:

The location for the iconic photo from the Abbey Road album is at a zebra crossing, which means cars have to stop for pedestrians in the road. Bring five people along for a photo shoot; four people to stand in the crossing (don’t forget to have the third person barefoot!) and one person to take the photo. Cars are used to stopping for tourists taking this photo, as it is a popular photo op.

FYI, you are not allowed to go into the recording studio building, even if the door is open! They will politely ask you to leave (I wonder if she is writing this from experience…?).

My sister’s “real” version of the iconic Abbey Road photo.

Our Photoshopped version of Abbey Road (beards included)!

Harry Potter Things to Do in London

There are so many Harry Potter themed things to do and filming locations to visit!

Here are just a few that I know of, but check out this article of ALL the Harry Potter things to do in London.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

Just outside of the city, the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour is the place to start for all Potterheads. This is actually the studios where they filmed Harry Potter!

Get your fill of Butterbeer, take magical photos of yourself, and buy ALL the Harry Potter souvenirs.

Platform 9 3/4

Not actually between platforms 9 & 10, Platform 9 3/4 is in the main lobby of King’s Cross Station, and always has a line. It’s just a photo op stop, and then a gift shop, if for some reason you are not going to the studios (otherwise do your shopping there!).

Millenium Bridge

This pedestrian bridge in front of the Tate Modern was “destroyed” by the Death Eaters in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (but don’t worry, it’s still there!).

Harry Potter Afternoon Tea

The Harry Potter afternoon tea at the studio tour takes place under the enchanted ceiling.

There are a lot of Harry Potter themed things to do all around the UK! We did a Harry Potter escape room in Edinburgh! You might also find some wizard themed escape rooms in London.

Harry Potter (or “wizard”) afternoon teas are big in London. Here are a few you can choose from:

The Best Day Trips from London

London’s got connections.

That comes from being a big city (which is a bit of an understatement when it comes to London) I guess.

Because of that, London is a fabulous place to base yourself for day trips around the area (and boy are there some fabulous day trips around the area!).

There are plenty of trains connecting London to a number of other worthy destinations, all around or under 2 hrs. from the main city center. You can book train tickets online ahead of time with Trainline.

You could also book a tour to any of these places, if you don’t want to deal with figuring out the transportation.

Here are a few of the best ones, in order of their closeness to London:


Full of fancy buildings, Harry Potter connections, Lord of the Rings connections, Chronicles of Narnia connections, Alice in Wonderland connections, and MORE… Oxford is an easy and extremely popular day trip from London.

Fair warning—your feet will get sore after walking all day on those cobblestone streets (Oxford also holds the record for the most steps I’ve ever walked in a day)!


Those steamy Roman baths, beautiful abbey, charming Christmas markets, world famous “Bath buns.” The city of Bath has so much to offer, and is another easy and one of the most popular day trips from London.

Bath also has many literary and movie connections. It has served as filming locations for many period pieces, such as The Duchess and Bridgerton. It was also the home (and inspiration) of Jane Austen for several years.

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds are the cozy little villages that you see on Instagram (or on a wall calendar—if you’re not the Instagram type).

They are best visited by car, but you can book a tour (usually coupled with nearby Oxford) from London. The larger villages are fairly easy to get to (though less cutesy). We stopped at Moreton-in-Marsh to visit a pub frequented by Tolkien during our day trip to Oxford (did I mention I walked the most steps ever that day?).

  • Side note: Bampton was the Cotswold Village used as the village in Downton Abbey!


This beautiful town is home to the famous (and stunning) Gloucester Cathedral. It’s even more enticing because it was used as a Harry Potter filming location (and one of the prettiest ones, I think)!


This is another site that my sister got to see during her time in London, so here’s what she has to say about the white cliffs of Dover:

You can walk right along the cliffs in Dover. It’s an enjoyable walk through the countryside on a nice day. My friend and her parents enjoyed Dover Castle (both the museum and the food), but I didn’t go. We just walked around Dover and along the cliffs and had a lovely time.

There is also a Visitor Centre, and several nice cafes where you can get something to eat. We took a bus early in the morning and took a bus back in the late afternoon and enjoyed just spending the day seeing the sights without paying to go to anything.

Warwick Castle

I don’t know how I discovered Warwick Castle (pronounced War-ick), other than just perhaps Googling castles in England… But it’s definitely one of the better ones to visit.

It is touristy, but I don’t think it’s over touristy. The castle is operated by Merlin Entertainment, who have done a really good job making it a fun day out learning history and experiencing castle life.

You can even stay in the castle if you want!

Be sure to watch the episode on Warwick Castle on the Netflix series: Secrets of Great British Castles!

Highclere Castle

You may have seen Highclere Castle before and don’t even know it! That’s because it’s the filming location of Downton Abbey!

When my mom’s friends from England asked what I liked so they could pick out a wedding present, she told them Downton Abbey (because it’s British…). So they raided the gift shop at Highclere Castle and bought me a Highclere Castle apron, Highclere Castle coasters, and literally every Downton Abbey themed thing in the gift shop (sorry Jason…)!

The best way to get to Highclere Castle is by tour, because it is not close to any train station. You can get a tour from London that will also include the village of Bampton!


Stonehenge is another one of those famous, iconic sights that everyone wants to see on their first trip to England. It’s generally viewed as somewhere that’s overrated, and I would suggest skipping it if you don’t have a lot of time. My brother-in-law visited when he studied abroad in London, and he was not impressed (he’s also not a fan of Hallmark movies, so I’m not sure how much I trust his opinion…).

But it is a cool and mysterious site, so if you think you want to see it, go for it! You can book a tour from London, or you can take a train to Salisbury, and then get a bus from there to Stonehenge.

What to Read & Watch

There are absolutely so many books to read and movies to watch that will get you excited about coming to London!

I have a whole list of what to read and watch before coming to the UK.

Be sure to add your picks in the comments below!

City of London, viewed from St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Further Reading:

This article about 18 Travel Mistakes to Avoid in London is both hilarious and informative!

Any more questions?

Planning your first trip to London can be daunting. Please don’t hesitate to email me any other questions or clarifications you may have regarding your trip to England.

Any tips, advice or your own experiences in London you want to share? Feel free to add them to the comments below!

Planning a trip?

Save one of these pins for later: