Of all the tourist destinations in Europe, London is among the most popular. From Notting Hill to Camden Town by way of Soho, you’ll never be bored in the British capital.
So if you’ve decided that you’re going to go, you need to think about how long for.
How long should you spend on a trip to London? What are the most important things to see if you’re just there for a weekend?
In this article, we’ve got the answers to all this and more. Whether you’re on a cheap getaway or a week-long holiday where no expense will be spared, here’s what you need to know about visiting London.
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When’s the Best Time to Visit London?
If you’re going to London, you’ll probably want to choose the right time of year. London isn’t much fun in bad weather or when it’s full of tourists so you want to carefully choose when you plan to go.
London is a city with an Oceanic climate where it rains regularly. However, that doesn’t mean that London isn’t worth visiting. On the contrary, once you’re there, you’ll realise that there’s plenty to do when it rains.
If you go in summer, you won’t have to worry about it being too hot. Unlike warmer places around the world, the temperatures in London rarely reach unbearable highs.
That said, summer is the time when most of the tourists visit the city. July and September are among the most popular months where you’ll find most of the tourists. This also means that the cost of accommodation and transport is increased, especially if you book last minute.
If you choose to go in autumn, the weather is usually grey and cloudy but a lot of tourists still go during September and October, too.
If you choose to travel in winter, it’ll be cold but not freezing. Rain is far more common than snow in the UK and this is also the time of year where you’ll find the lowest number of tourists. January, February, and March are the quieter months.
Finally, if you go during the spring, the weather will be nicer, even if it will rain from time to time. From May onwards, the tourists start to arrive but in April, for example, you’ll have plenty of time and space to visit Oxford Street or Trafalgar Square.
Generally, the best months to visit London in terms of weather are May, June, July, August, and September, but you'll see more tourists during this time. You need to make a decision between bad weather or other tourists.
Why not plan your holiday to London for the new year and watch fireworks over the Thames?
Going to London for a Few Days
You can easily visit London for a few days or a weekend. Londoners will be just as friendly if you’re staying in their city for a while or not.
Generally, the best way to get into London is by plane. However, there are rail connections from mainland Europe to London via the Channel Tunnel. Rather than worry about how long it takes to get there, you can enjoy the trip in more comfort than you would on a plane.
If you’re travelling for the weekend, you’ll want to make the most of your time in London.
Here’s our advice for a 3-day trip.
- Day 1: Visit the main tourist attractions and monuments such as those in and around Westminster.
- Day 2: Shopping in central London. You can visit Oxford Street, Harrods, Covent Garden, or Camden’s markets.
- Day 3: A tour of the River Thames’s south bank and see the London Eye, the London Dungeon, and a few museums.
With so little time, you’ll want to find accommodation close to the city centre. That said, this will cost a little more but it’ll save you time and money getting into central London.
Spending More Time in London
It’s a good idea to spend a bit longer in London as most would agree that you can’t see it all in 3 days. Spending a week in London is a great way to visit the city without having to rush around and it’ll also give you a chance to enjoy the nightlife.
The first thing you need to think about is booking ahead of time as last-minute bookings in London can cost a fortune. Planning ahead is a way to get the best prices on hotels and transport.
If you’re staying a while, an Airbnb in London will allow you to save money on dining out as you'll often have a kitchen and cater for yourself.
A longer trip to London will allow you to enjoy all of the different areas of London without having to run around like a headless chicken. Each of these areas has its own thing to offer the city and you’ll also have time for a nice walk along the Thames.
With more time on your hands, you can also venture outside of London into the surrounding area.
Why not pay a visit to Stonehenge or the Warner Bros. Studio to see the sets and costumes from the Harry Potter films?
How long you spend in London will depend on your schedule, budget, and what you want out of your trip. A weekend in London is doable but a longer stay is recommended if you have a lot you want to get done.
Choosing the Best Activities for Your Trip
There’s so much to do in London that you’ll feel like you need more than a week. With theatres, monuments, bars, and restaurants, you may struggle to fit it all in.
For the perfect trip, you’ll want to pick activities based on your likes, how long they last, your budget, and where they are in relation to your accommodation. Of all the things you can see and do in London, here are some of the most recommended:
- Westminster Abbey
- Tower Bridge
- Buckingham Palace
- The Tower of London
- Big Ben
- The British Museum
- The Tate Modern
- The Palace of Westminster
- Piccadilly Circus
- Madame Tussauds
- The Natural History Museum
- Portobello Road
- Hyde Park
- The National Gallery
- Saint Paul’s Cathedral
The museums are a good idea as a lot of them are free. The British Museum is among the best in Europe, but with just 3 days, you’ll struggle to see and do everything. A week, on the other hand, will give you enough time to visit everything on this list.
Sometimes you mightn't be able to choose how long you can visit London for. If you can only get a few days off work, for example, you might want to put together an itinerary that includes a city tour on a bus, for example, so you can see all the main sights quickly.
Similarly, these tours may take you past attractions that aren't on your itinerary. If you're staying for a while and haven't really decided which things you want to see, these tours may give you some great ideas. Don't forget that the most popular or famous attractions tend to be busy and you'll want to buy your tickets ahead of time if you can. We don't recommend showing up on the day.
Of course, if you love a good walk and prefer to avoid tours with other tourists, we recommend that you get the appropriate tickets for public transport and plan your own tour. London's public transport can get you anywhere in the city fairly quickly, just remember that the Tube map isn't to scale so stations that look miles away might actually be right next to each other so check first.
For those who can spend hours in a museum, longer trips are recommended. Since you don't need tickets for most of London's museums and galleries, this isn't a question of budget so if you have the time to stay in London for longer and plan on spending several hours in some of the attractions, go for it!
If your budget is going to be a problem, remember that you can find a cheaper hotel away from the city centre. If you're going to be out all day, then do as the Londoners do and head into the city, spend the day visiting the palace, tower, museum, etc., and head back to your hotel on the evening.
Now you should know a bit more about how long you should visit London. To learn more about London, check out our other articles.
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