london park

7 of the Best Self-Guided Walks in London

At first glance, London will always seem like a sprawling metropolis of densely packed boroughs and neighbourhoods, a maze of streets that can be imposing and daunting for visitors to navigate. London though is a city of hidden charms, and within the dense sprawl of the British capital there are a multitude of secret spots waiting to be uncovered by those who are willing to delve into the city to find them.

One of the best ways to uncover London’s secret spots, to find those local hangouts and to begin to unravel the layers of history found in the city, is to go on a self-guided walk.

Of course, London is huge. You can walk anywhere and you are bound to find something unique and something different, but we’ve collected together the best walks through the city to give your visit just a little bit more purpose, and to help you to find those wonderful sights that make London such a fascinating place to visit.

From gentle riverside strolls that will transport you from one iconic bridge to the next, to long walks along the Thames Path that can have you hiking out into the countryside and further afield, here are the seven best self-guided walks in London.

1. London Bridges Walk

With the mighty River Thames forming the heartland of London and the city built on the banks of this wide confluence of water, it’s no wonder the capital’s bridges form an integral part of the skyline. From the distinctive drawn gates of Tower Bridge to the quirky, wavy sight of the Millennium Bridge, there are plenty of engineering feats along the river to be marvelled at, and of course to be walked across.

One of London’s best self-guided walks is the London Bridges Walk, which takes you backwards and forwards across the River Thames as you explore these river-spanning icons.

Enjoy the atmosphere of the riverfront from both sides of the Thames, as you start your walk in Westminster taking in the impressive sight of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, before crossing Westminster Bridge, passing the London Eye, along the river and across Waterloo Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, London Bridge and finally crossing for the last time at Tower Bridge. Here you can round off the day’s walk by exploring the history and tales of the Tower of London.

In all, the route is around seven miles in length. With a few sightseeing stops along the way, the London Bridges Walk will take approximately three hours to complete.

Millennium Bridge
‘Crossing the Thames on the Millenium Bridge_edited-1’ by bvi4092 – https://flic.kr/p/RmUygJ

2. Royal London Walk

The Royal London Walk is a fantastic way to become acquainted with London’s royalty and London’s lovely parks. The walk takes you exclusively through green spaces, away from the busy streets. It runs through St James’s Park and towards Kensington Gardens, allowing you to see the best of London’s parks as well as iconic sights such as Buckingham Palace at the same time.

Depending on how long you spend admiring the gardens and palaces on the way, and of course how leisurely your stroll is, the walk will take a minimum of one hour. Expect to spend much longer though, if you really want to enjoy this self-guided walk, and particularly if you have a penchant for royalty.

Start the walk at St James’s Park Underground Station, and head straight into St James’s Park itself to begin. Take a detour from the gardens and across the Mall to admire St James’s Palace. This is a current Royal Residence so, unfortunately, you can’t see the interior, but you may catch the Changing of the Guard ceremony outside.

Carry on along the Mall, and you will soon arrive at Buckingham Palace. Here you may be lucky enough to see the Changing of the Guard too, especially if you time your walk to arrive at 11 am on a weekday or Saturday, or 10 am on a Sunday. Continue on, with Green Park on your right, cross the road and you will soon be in Hyde Park, where you can be entertained at Speaker’s Corner, walk along the banks of the beautiful Serpentine Lake and get lost in the seemingly endless green space. Cross through Kensington Gardens, and end the walk with a look around Kensington Palace, home to a permanent exhibition on Princess Diana.

Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner
‘Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner’ by Robert Cutts – https://flic.kr/p/a8tJtS

3. London Wall Walk

Anyone looking to delve into the long and ancient history of London need look no further than taking on the London Wall Walk. Despite its current mammoth size, London was originally contained within the relatively small area that’s now known simply as the City of London. The history of this central part of the city extends back thousands of years, and there have been fortifications and castles built to protect it through the centuries.

The Romans heavily fortified London and built up a huge wall to encircle the city, stretching around two miles in length from the current location of St Paul’s Cathedral to Tower Hill. Of course, as the city expanded much of the wall was torn down, lost to other constructions, and some sections that survived for centuries were eventually destroyed by German bombs during World War II.

Some parts of the ancient wall do still remain, however, and if you know where they are then you can trace the outline of the London Wall on a self-guided walk. The route begins by the Tower of London, where you can see the remains of an old gatehouse that was incorporated into the tower. From here, there is a section of Roman Wall remaining close to Tower Hill Station, and from here, you walk northwest towards Aldgate, which was originally the site of one of the many gates in the wall, dating back to long before Roman times.

From Aldgate, the wall continued around London to the west to Bishopsgate, also the site of a gatehouse. Carry on following what was the northern route of the London Wall, and you will arrive at Cripplegate, where you can find extensive remains of the wall still. Close by, at the Museum of London, you can see the large remains of a tower, and some impressive fortifications in the surrounding streets. This is a good point to end – or start – the walk, as in the museum you can learn even more about the city’s long history.

Tower-of-London
‘Tower of London from Thames’ by August – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

4. Hampstead Heath Circular Walk

The Hampstead Heath Circular Walk is one of London’s most loved self-guided walks. It’s an easy four-and-a-half miles long or, with a few additions, a slightly more challenging six-and-a-half miles long. Hampstead is a beautiful open space north of the City of London. It’s one of the largest green areas close to the city and makes for an excellent place to walk, with many lakes, ponds and even London’s highest point, Parliament Hill.

The Hampstead Heath Circular Walk begins conveniently at the Hampstead Underground Station, before entering the public park and taking walkers through its many lovely spots. The trail leads to the top of Parliament Hill, so be prepared for a slight upwards battle before being greeted by expansive views out over London. You can see the City of London’s skyline to the south, including iconic skyscrapers such as the Gherkin.

The walk continues through the park and eventually back to the underground. If you’d like to add in the extra few miles, an extension will take you to Highgate, past St Michael’s Church and into Highgate Cemetery, before returning back to Hampstead Heath and finally back to the Underground Station.

The Hampstead Heath Circular is a spectacular way to experience one of London’s best public parks, to explore the outdoors and to enjoy a spot of nature within the confines of the city.

hampstead heath
‘Hampstead Heath’ by Laura Nolte – https://flic.kr/p/8HkJ4z

5. Jubilee Greenway

At almost 40 miles in length, the Jubilee Greenway is not necessarily a walking route you would want to cover in just one day unless you were feeling particularly energetic. This long trail was inaugurated in 2012, to mark both the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics being held in London. The idea was to link many of the Olympic venues together, alongside parks and waterways to give visitors a fantastic walking trail to undertake when visiting the city.

The route takes walkers from Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park, Victoria Park, through Paddington and to Little Venice, before carrying on around to Greenwich, and as far as the Thames Barrier, then looping back again through Westminster to end at Buckingham Palace.

Of course, you can choose to undertake only certain sections of the whole Jubilee Greenway; one favourite segment is the walk from Little Venice to Camden. This takes you along a spectacular section of London’s canal network, as you walk along Regent’s Canal, past charming waterfront scenes and colourful houses. When you get to Camden after an hour of gentle walking, you can enjoy the atmosphere of one of London’s most famous markets. There are plenty of great places to eat and to drink, to refuel after the journey.

Hyde Park
‘Hyde Park, London, England’ by dconvertini – https://flic.kr/p/hoJAsr

6. Richmond Park

Richmond Park is the largest of London’s royal parks. Found on the outskirts of the city in the borough of Richmond, it’s known for its lovely open space and for the huge herds of deer that call this place home. The park was created by Charles I in the early 17th century, as a place to breed deer for his hunts. Today the wider public has access to the park, and it’s a great place to spend the day walking.

There are a variety of paths and trails that cross through Richmond Park, but one of the most comprehensive and enjoyable takes walkers through just under seven miles of the park. The Tamsin Trail, as the route is known, takes visitors through all the highlights of the park and, depending on your walking pace, will take a few hours to complete. The route runs around the edge of Richmond Park, and walkers can join anywhere that is convenient. The trail follows the charming Beverly Brook along the eastern edge of the park, past Bishop’s Pond to the north and King Henry’s Mound in the west. There are a few hilly areas, but it’s not too strenuous a path.

You can take a short break from walking to explore Pembroke Lodge, which is located on a hill that gives a great panorama over the surrounding area. The lodge is a former mansion which has been the home of many a famous British character, including philosopher Bertrand Russell. There’s even a great little cafe for much-needed refreshment during your walk around Richmond Park.

richmond park deer
‘Deer, Richmond Park, London’ by Claire Herbaux – https://flic.kr/p/zhVjJw

7. Thames Path

The Thames Path is a huge network of footpaths that follow the course of the River Thames from London, and far out into the surrounding counties and countryside. The path is long – 180 miles long – and it takes intrepid hikers all the way from the Thames Barrier in Woolwich, right to the source of the River Thames in Gloucestershire.

The walk takes at least two weeks to complete in its entirety, as it follows the river out of London and through the beautiful countryside, through Oxford and Abingdon, and into the Cotswolds, one of the country’s most picturesque areas. The route is a National Trail, meaning that it’s well marked and as far as long-distance hikes go, fairly easy to walk, with easy rest stops, plenty of accommodation and plenty of pubs along the way.

However, if you don’t have time to spend two weeks exploring the Thames, there are plenty of shorter sections of the route that you can take on in London. The Thames Path meanders its way through many of London’s most iconic locations, and there are easy day walks that incorporate the trail, from the beautiful – and short – section that takes you from Richmond to Hampton Court, or the Greenwich to London Eye section which takes in all of the best highlights in central London that are found alongside the river. If you do want to spend some time exploring the nearby areas, then check out our guide to the 5 best day trips from London.

london thames path

As London specialists, Premium Tours can help you to find the best walks in London along with the most fascinating sights. Have a look at our website to find out more or to book one of our London tours.

 

buckingham palace garden

A Guide to the Main Royal Palaces in and Around London

London is a city awash with royal history, and the British Royal family continually capture the imagination of the world. If you’re looking to delve deeper into the inner workings of this unique historical legacy, then a tour of the royal palaces in and around London is the best place to start.

Of course, there are the city’s most famous royal establishments, from iconic Buckingham Palace to the old walls of the Tower of London. But there are many more palaces in London and in the surrounding area that have long and intriguing associations with the Royal family. From the leafy gardens of Hampton Court Palace to the historic defences of Windsor Castle, there’s a lot waiting to be discovered in London’s many palaces.

To help you decide which ones you should visit, here’s our guide to the main royal palaces in and around London.

Buckingham Palace

No guide to London’s palaces would be complete without Buckingham Palace being placed firmly at the top. This is the palace the entire world associates with the British Royal family, because this is the Queen’s official residence in London. The palace dates its origins back to 1703 when it was built for the Duke of Buckingham, but over the years, it was remodelled, redesigned and extended, and became the primary residence of the Royal family, when in 1837 Queen Victoria moved in.

Buckingham Palace, as well as being the Queen’s household, is where many royal events are held including ceremonies and banquets, while every day, visitors congregate outside the gates to watch the elaborate Changing of the Guard ceremony. The guard is changed 11 am Monday to Saturday, while on Sundays the ceremony takes place at 10 am. Get there early for a good spot.

Although the palace itself is off bounds to visitors for most of the year, every summer the doors are opened to the public for short tours through a selection of the stately rooms, but of course, with limited tours and much interest, these sell out extremely quickly. If you aren’t lucky enough to get inside Buckingham Palace, then the view from the outside is still marvellous, while the setting next to glorious St James’s Park and the walk along the Mall is equally wonderful.

buckingham palace
‘Buckingham Palace’ by Jimmy Harris – https://flic.kr/p/4RVae3

Clarence House

Clarence House is a private royal residence, and today is home to the Prince of Wales, the successor to the throne, and the Duchess of Cornwall. Previously, it was the home of the Queen Mother, and of many other notable royal figures since its construction in 1825. Clarence House is found in Westminster and is, in fact, an extension of St James’s Palace, even sharing the same outside grounds.

Unlike St James’s Palace, however, Clarence House can be visited, if only within a short time window each year. During summer, the doors of the house are opened to the public, usually in August. The short tours take visitors through several of the rooms used by the Royal family and even give them a glimpse of the palace grounds. Spaces are extremely limited, and spots are likely to go extraordinarily quickly once the dates are announced and tickets are put on sale each year, so act fast to be able to enjoy a tour of a usually very private royal residence.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the city’s most recognisable sights, and one of London’s most historic locations. The castle and its extensive grounds, walls and turrets are now all part of an attraction that easily takes an entire day to truly appreciate. The Tower of London was built on the banks of the River Thames by William the Conqueror, during the Norman conquests of 1066. He built it as a way to solidify his rule over London, and over the ensuing years of his reign, he laid the foundations for the White Tower, the most prominent tower to be found today within the fortifications.

The Tower was used as a royal residence by several monarchs through English history. In the brutal medieval era, many dark events occurred with its walls that have given the Tower of London the reputation for blood and torture it has today. It was used as a prison for undesirable nobility and important criminals – including Guy Fawkes – and several infamous figures met their fate here. The Tower of London has served variously as a Royal Mint, a garrison, a zoo and even today, the tower continues to hold the valuable Crown Jewels. Visitors can explore the grounds, the museums, the history and be enthralled by the sight of the distinctive Beefeaters, the lavishly dressed, ceremonial guards of the tower who patrol in their bright uniforms with their tall pikes in hand.

Tower of London
‘Tower of London from Thames’ by August – https://flic.kr/p/mjMHp

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace dates its origins back to the early 17th century when it was constructed by an English nobleman, before passing into the hands of the monarchy in 1689. Since then, it has been used as a residence by many notable members of the Royal family and today, the current Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live in a house within the Kensington Palace grounds.

The main palace can be toured by visitors, who are allowed to walk through the many lavish, stately rooms all through the week. There are many temporary exhibitions held throughout the year at Kensington Palace, usually of course, with a royal theme that delves into the history of prominent members of the family through history. The main, permanent exhibition is dedicated solely to the iconic figure of Princess Diana and, in particular, her fashion sense. The exhibition is open daily and is called ‘Diana: Her Fashion Story’, and through displays of her clothing and dresses, it traces how her style changed from her early years through to her unfortunate death in 1997. It’s an intriguing insight into the life of one of the most well-known figures in recent royal history.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was one of the infamous King Henry VIII’s many royal palaces, and today it’s one of the best preserved that still stands from the Tudor days. Found in the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, a location that was once very much the English countryside but is now surrounded by London’s huge expanse, a visit to Hampton Court Palace makes for an excellent day out.

The palace is no longer a royal residence; the last monarch to live here was King George II in the 18th century. It has a host of different architectural styles, and remnants from the different eras it has seen and the different designs it has undergone along with a wealth of artefacts are on display, from Tudor through to Georgian times. While the rooms and corridors are fantastic to wander around, don’t miss the extensive gardens surrounding the palace. The green, leafy grounds are the site of the famous Hampton Court Maze, which was planted as far back as the 17th century. Many events are held here too, including the Hampton Court Flower Show and spooky ghost tours that allow visitors to delve into the darker history of the palace at night.

Hampton Court Palace
‘Outside Hampton Court Palace’ by Edwin Lee – https://flic.kr/p/oAqyB

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is found on the outskirts of the city itself, in the town of Windsor in the county of Berkshire, but is easily reached from London. The castle is an imposing place to visit, and a place that conjures up images of a medieval era long since past, with its towering walls and impressive turrets. Windsor Castle has long been a royal residence and its origins date back to the early years of the Norman conquests when it was built as a simple wooden fort to defend London. Since then it has of course expanded into the huge structure that can be visited today and is still used by Queen Elizabeth II herself, who enjoys spending long weekends away from the city.

The castle is found on the banks of the River Thames, and there are many separate towers and wings to the layout, making it a huge place to enjoy for the day. Not everywhere can be visited of course, as this is still a palace used by royalty, but tourists can enjoy leisurely strolls through the perfectly pruned grounds, admire many of the delicately designed staterooms and even visit St George’s Chapel, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married.

St James’s Palace

Located in the heart of Westminster, St James’s Palace is one of the lasting constructions of Henry VIII. Built in 1536, it was intended to be a small home, a getaway almost from his larger palaces. Although hardly small, the palace is still somehow hidden away from the streets of bustling Westminster and is still officially the highest-ranking royal residence in the country, despite the fact the Queen lives elsewhere, because this is the official headquarters of the Royal Court.

Consequently, the palace is home to many other members of the Royal family, including the Princess Royal, the Queen’s eldest daughter. Because of its current importance and because so many members of royalty reside here, like Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace is off limits to visitors. The grand Tudor architecture can be seen from outside the gates, however, and is an excellent sight to see. From the gates too, visitors are welcome to observe the traditional Changing of the Guard ceremony. Of course, it’s very similar to the same ceremony that’s held at Buckingham Palace, but at St James’s Palace, it’s a much more intimate affair to observe.

St James's Palace
‘St James’s Palace’ by Paul Robertson – https://flic.kr/p/6nMpiD

Kew Palace

Kew Palace is found within the beautiful grounds of Kew Gardens, to the west of London in Richmond. Although this was once a sprawling royal complex, dating back to the early 17th century, over the centuries its status diminished and today just a fraction of its original buildings have survived. It’s no longer a functioning royal residence, as the last royal to live here was as far back as 1844.

The Dutch House is the main, surviving attraction within the grounds, a grand multi-storied house that has many a royal story to tell. Next to the Dutch House, are the royal kitchens, which have been well looked after, despite the fact that the last time anyone cooked for royalty here was in the 19th century. You can explore the kitchens, as they would have been used over two hundred years ago, a fascinating insight into the daily life of the old royalty who once lived here.

Within the grounds too, can be found Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, a quaint and charming little house that is hidden away in Kew. This little hideaway was meant as a rest stop during long walks in the grounds, and today it can be toured and enjoyed as it would have looked in the late 18th century.

Bushy House

Found in the area of Teddington, around the Richmond area of Greater London, Bushy House is the charming former home of King William IV, who ruled until 1837. The house dates back in some form to the early 17th century when it was built as a house for the chief ranger of Bushy Park – which was a prestigious title to be given – a huge royal park that was formally kept for the sole preserve of the monarchy.

The house was gradually improved and rebuilt over the years and remained the residence of the Bushy Park Ranger. Many royals have held this title though and lived in the house, including the future William IV, who was, in fact, staying here when he received news that his father had died and that he was now the king. After his death, the house changed hands and was even given to exiled French royalty for a time.

Aside from visiting Bushy House, the huge grounds of Bushy Park make for a wonderfully picturesque place to spend the day exploring, with many interesting and historic lodges to visit, as well as the chance to spot deer roaming across the paddocks.

Bushy House
‘Bushy House, Bushy Park’ by Peter C – https://flic.kr/p/7XzRXV

Here at Premium Tours, one of our most popular tours is of the two official residences of the Queen; Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace. If you’re interested in visiting London, do have a look at all of our London tours which can make your visit extra special.

christmas decorations

Things to Do in London in November

For some, the slow march of winter may be too much to handle after the usually short, but inevitably intense English summer. But in London, the gradual onset of colder weather need not deter you from enjoying great days out all through the month, because there are plenty of activities in the city that can help take your mind off the weather or help you to embrace it.

From strolling through the museums and unique attractions that can only be found in London, to experiencing the unique winter-themed events that begin in November on the lead up to Christmas. There’s a lot to do in London, and November can be one of the best times to enjoy a different side of the city.

Experience Fireworks on Bonfire Night

Remember, remember, the 5th of November! The start of the month sees the English tradition of Bonfire Night being played out loudly and brightly across London. In the evenings, parks throughout the city play host to huge fireworks displays to remember the events of the 5th of November, 1605, when the infamous Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the English Parliament and King James I in the gunpowder plot. There are many great events you can attend to watch the fireworks displays, but one of the best is held at Alexandra Palace, where not only can you enjoy fireworks exploding across the night sky, but you can enjoy the funfairs and ice rink too.

fireworks Alexandra palace
‘Alexandra Palace fireworks’ by James Cridland – https://flic.kr/p/5AqJ4F

Watch Christmas Lights Being Switched On

Some people may assume that November is far too early to begin thinking about Christmas, but these days, the build-up to the festive holidays starts far in advance of the 25th December. London starts early, and the city slowly becomes decked out with Christmas lights, displays and pop-up festivals partway through November. Rather than simply enjoying the lights once they have been switched on though, you can actually experience the celebrations that turn them on, as there are countless events across the city that countdown to and switch on the lights that stay brightly lit for weeks to come afterwards. Some of the best can be found on the famous Oxford Street and on Regents Street.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is a glorious place to visit any time of the year, but in November, it can be a particularly mesmerising place. Towards the end of the month, Hyde Park opens up its Winter Wonderland Extravaganza. It’s a festive treat, where not only can you find theme park rides, ice skating rinks and food stalls galore, but where you can enjoy Christmas themed shows, Santa’s Grotto and a cool Ice Bar. Some of the attractions and shows are ticket only and sell out quickly, so plan in advance if you want to experience the best of Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland in November.

hyde park winter wonderland
‘Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park’ by Tianna Spicer – https://flic.kr/p/e8FDJs

Richmond Park

Richmond Park is one of the most beautiful places in London. It is a verdant park of tranquillity in an otherwise urban world, where huge herds of deer can be seen wandering through the fields and through the forest. In November, the park is at its most colourful, as the many trees begin to turn shades of brown and red as autumn sets in. It’s a wonderful time of year to visit Richmond Park, and as long as you wrap up warm to fight the cold weather, you’ll find that it’s a spectacular display of British nature.

Borough Market

Borough Market is one of London’s best markets. It is one of the oldest and most historic marketplaces, traders have set up shop here for hundreds of years and, today, the market is as bustling and busy as it ever has been. Found next to London Bridge close to the banks of the River Thames, this is a great place to enjoy the predominantly food-based shops and stalls. There’s an incredible diversity of culinary treats on sale from across the world, from Indian curries to Southeast Asian-style street food and plenty of cheese and cakes too. For London, the prices are more than reasonable, and the only trouble will be choosing what exactly it is you want to eat here, from all the many choices that are available. In November, the stalls begin to display their festive treats and you can expect to find everything from mince pies to mulled wine.

Borough Market
‘Borough Market’ by Aurelien Guichard – https://flic.kr/p/geGhMU

Leadenhall Market

Found right in the heart of the City of London, Leadenhall Market is another of London’s most historic marketplaces. Dating back to 1321, these days the market is a boutique haven, with shops lining the brightly lit, undercover hallway. Leadenhall is just as famous for the role it played in the Harry Potter movies. This was the setting for Diagon Alley. In November, Leadenhall plays host to one of the best Christmas Lights displays, and midway through the month you can catch the switching on ceremony and admire the extravagantly decorated Christmas tree that will take pride of place here.

Covent Garden Market

Covent Garden is a lovely, charming market hall in central London. A grand, Victorian-era building houses a range of small, independent shops and cosy restaurants and cafes, while street performers and musicians provide plenty of entertainment for visitors. Covent Garden, like many places in London, hosts its own Christmas markets towards the end of November. There are a great many stalls selling Christmas gifts and cooking up festive food, while there’s usually even a pop-up ice rink to skate around.

Covent Garden christmas
‘Covent Garden’ by Aurelien Guichard – https://flic.kr/p/aMmJCc

Leicester Square

Leicester Square, London’s most famous theatre and cinema district, never misses out on the start of the festive fun when it reaches November. The huge, open square becomes home to a multitude of Christmas market stalls, complete with dazzling lights and festive themes. There are grottos, a huge Christmas tree and of course, plenty of warming and delicious food being cooked up in the cold evenings.

Oxford Street

Any time of year, you can guarantee that Oxford Street, one of London’s most iconic shopping areas, will always be busy. Even November is no exception, and you can expect the pavements to bustle with shoppers trying to get in their pre-Christmas bargains in the inevitable autumn sales. And of course, at some point during the month, the Christmas lights will come on, too.

oxford street
‘Oxford Street Lights’ by Paul Robertson – https://flic.kr/p/aYkYHD

Enjoy a Pantomime Production

A pantomime is a very British tradition, where during the Christmas period, theatrical performances are put on to entertain the audience in a festive or fun-filled way. Although historically, pantomimes were held after Christmas for the most part, in London these days, they begin in November. They are family friendly and light-hearted – usually! – with anything from Snow White to Dick Whittington being performed at venues across the city. Make sure to book in advance, as a pantomime production can be a tremendously popular performance to attend.

Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is one of London’s best-known museums, famed for its enormous dinosaur skeletons and a vast array of exhibitions that showcase the natural history of the world. As early as October, and right through to January, people begin to visit the museum not just for the dinosaurs though, but to strap on some skates to hit the ice rink. Every year the Natural History Museum sets up one of the city’s most loved ice rinks, complete with a centrepiece Christmas tree and plenty of festive decorations. And of course, you can still see the dinosaurs inside the actual museum too.

ice skating
‘Natural History Museum Ice Skating Rink’ by Matt Brown – https://flic.kr/p/ZtMa62

The British Museum

The British Museum is one of the world’s most famous museums and, best of all, entrance is always free to the main exhibits. November is as good a time as any to explore the displays here, especially given the chilly weather out on the streets. Escape the cold and stroll around the many floors for a few hours, or better yet, check the events schedule and see what unique exhibitions are being held through the month.

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is the biggest and most diverse botanical garden in the United Kingdom. The enormous, glass pagoda is just one big greenhouse, and it’s full of strange and wonderful plants from across the world. The surrounding, more English style gardens are just as beautiful to wander around too, particularly when the autumn climate begins to turn leaves from green to brown. Kew Gardens also play host to their very own ‘Christmas at Kew’ festival, which begins in mid-November. You can see a spectacular display of lights after darkness falls, with laser beams lighting up the night sky around the gardens.

Christmas Kew
‘Christmas at Kew’ by Jan Kraus – https://flic.kr/p/DnswCB

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, home to Nelson’s Column and built in commemoration of the famous Battle of Trafalgar, is always a busy and lively place to visit when in London. Towards the end of November, the people of Oslo, the capital of Norway, donate a huge Christmas tree to the people of London, and each year since the 1940s it’s been placed in Trafalgar Square. You can see it being readied and set up, with the extravagant light display too, before the big light switching-on ceremony that takes place at the start of December.

Attend the Remembrance Day Parade and Service

Every second Sunday in November, the streets of London make way for the solemn march of the city’s Remembrance Day Parade and Service. The events commemorate November 11th, which is the official Remembrance Day of the United Kingdom, when the guns on the Western Front during World War I fell silent. The streets are always lined with people paying their respects as veterans and others parade past, on their way to a service that is given at the Cenotaph in White Hall, in respect of everyone who has given their lives in conflict. It’s a moving experience to be a part of.

Remembrance Sunday
‘London November 10 2013 028 Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey’ by David Holt – https://flic.kr/p/hr1bNR

Backyard Cinema

The Backyard Cinema in London is one of the most unique and unusual cinema experiences to be found anywhere in the city. The Backyard Cinema literally began in the founder’s back garden, but it became such a successful concept that now it travels around the city, to different pop-up venues, offering themed cinema nights and unusual screenings. In November, it’s a great experience for film lovers, as events begin to take a festive turn, with showings of Christmas movies in Christmas attired locations. It’s incredibly popular, as it really is a step above your average cinema experience, so make sure you book tickets in advance for the few showings that are held each month.

Cosy up in a Warm London Pub 

In summer, the people of London will spend the occasionally hot, summer days and long evenings basking in the warm outside air of a beer garden at the many pubs are found in London. Come November, and the age-old tradition of visiting the pub never stops. With the cold winter evenings moving in though, the people of London simply stay inside, and many of the older, historic pubs have a cosy interior, with the occasional roaring log fire to sit by while you enjoy a warm glass of mulled wine or a mug of hot apple cider to beat the chill. There are many gastropubs to choose from where you’ll find an array of delicious warming food.

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‘Inside The Garden Gate Pub In Hampstead – London.’ by Jim Linwood – https://flic.kr/p/UJGSMZ

The London Jazz Festival

In November, the city hosts the epic sounds of the London Jazz Festival. It lasts for almost two weeks, and across London, different venues will be holding jazz-themed music events and concerts, as part of a citywide festival that has been held continuously since the 1970s. The Jazz Festival sees musicians from across the world descending on the bars and concert halls of London. While there are many great and established stars that come to play, it’s also a great opportunity to see rising talent and learn more about the unique sounds of jazz music.

St Andrews Day in London

St Andrew is the official patron saint of Scotland and St Andrews Day is the official national day of Scotland. But even in London, this Scottish holiday has started to have a big following and plenty of celebrations are held across the city. It falls on the 30th November, and it can be a fantastic way to round out the month in London. Scottish pubs will inevitably put on the best shows, but be prepared for a long night of antics.

To find out more about things to do in London during November or to book one of our popular London tours, contact Premium Tours today.

bread

Here Are the 19 Best Markets in London

If you have time to explore for a few hours after your London tour and want to see something truly unique, why not see what the city has to offer in the way of markets? Some of the oldest markets in London have been established for centuries, and with new offerings popping up frequently, there has never been a better time to indulge in London’s market scene.

Of course, there are lots of places to shop in London, but if you’re interested in bargain-hunting, perusing antiques, or simply doing some serious people-watching, the many markets throughout London have got everything you could possibly need – and more!

Here is our guide to the 19 best markets in London to keep you busy.

1. Old Spitalfields

With its central location tucked between trendy Shoreditch and vibrant Whitechapel, Old Spitalfields Market is a great choice if you want to be impressed. Set in a huge Victorian market hall, it really does have something for everybody. Whether you’re in the mood for luxury designer clothes and one-off pieces, books, homewares, music or food, there is plenty to see and buy.

With a ‘New Weekends’ initiative starting this year, now is a great time to visit Old Spitalfields to show your support to new stalls and up-and-coming brands. The market is open every day, with plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars for a quick bite or lazy lunch. Mark this one in your diary and make a day of it!

‘Spitalfields in London’ by La Citta Vita - https://flic.kr/p/kebvWD
‘Spitalfields in London’ by La Citta Vita – https://flic.kr/p/kebvWD

2. Brick Lane Market

In an area that rose to notoriety due to being the scene of Jack the Ripper’s crimes, Shoreditch’s Brick Lane is vibrant with multicultural life, attracting an artistic and hipster crowd.

Sunday markets galore, Brick Lane is actually home to five different markets, selling everything from secondhand bargain furniture, vintage pieces and artworks, to handmade jewellery, electrical goods and touristy trinkets.

A bonus of the area’s cultural diversity is the food on offer, with many permanent restaurants and cafes in the streets surrounding the markets, as well as pop-up stalls selling unique street food. Whether it’s Pakistani or Bangladeshi curries, or bagels from the famous 24-hour Brick Lane Beigel Bake, there’s plenty to choose from, whenever you decide to visit.

3. Greenwich Market

If you like all things hand-crafted, Greenwich Market in South London is sure to be high on your list of places to visit during your next trip to the capital. The market, London’s only set within a UNESCO World Heritage site, is open 7 days a week, with particular focus on Saturdays with 100 stalls selling the best in arts and crafts. From boutique fashion houses, handmade jewellery and antique trinkets, to artisan candles, original local artworks and unique homewares. With 50 street food vendors to keep you energised throughout your visit, this is sure to be a great day out.

Greenwich market
‘Greenwich Market – Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich – sign’ by Elliott Brown – https://flic.kr/p/dnh7Df

4. Borough Market

A long-time foodie favourite, Borough Market is a close-knit group of restaurateurs, café owners and wholesale food sellers on the South bank of the Thames, near London Bridge in Southwark. It is one of the oldest food markets in London, with historians finding records of markets on the site dating back to the 12th century. With this history comes a great reputation and the crowds to go with it, so expect it to be busy if you’re planning on a bite to eat at a popular time like Friday evening or over the weekend. If you’re looking for farmers’ markets in London, then you’ll love Borough market as it has lots of fresh organic produce.

5. Maltby Street Market

Relatively new to the street food scene having been established in 2010, Maltby Street is one of South East London’s brightest new destinations. Packed into a small laneway, there are food and drink vendors galore, with a particular nod towards upcoming and small-scale producers. Open Saturday and Sundays, a tasty visit is guaranteed!

Maltby street market
‘Maltby Street Market’ by Alexander Baxevanis – https://flic.kr/p/cFxZpd

6. Broadway Market

Since the 1890s there have been records of markets in this area, in the heart of Hackney, East London. Open from 9am to 5pm every Saturday, there is only a brief window to quench your appetite for all things street food, with the most current trends catered for in one of London’s hippest locales. From loaded doughnuts and fruit bowls to burgers and global delicacies and more, there are tasty treats for everyone. Alongside all the food options are stalls selling the most interesting and unique clothing, arts and crafts. You can see their interactive map here. 

7. Camden Market

One of the most famous and legendary of London’s markets is Camden. Technically a sprawl of various different markets, Camden welcomes around 250,000 visitors a week, so expect the hustle and bustle of a thriving destination.

Best known for its punk influence, Camden Market, which incorporates Camden Lock, Buck Street Market, the High Street and Stables Market, is unique and always buzzing. It is the place to go if you have plenty of time to be amazed by the wares on sale. If you’re after some edgy jewellery, band t-shirts, quirky furniture, global trinkets and trawling through stacks of vinyl, this is the place to be. It really is an eye opener with great atmosphere and a multitude of tasty food stalls to boot.

camden market
‘London: Camden Market’ by Jorge Franganillo – https://flic.kr/p/23VYdWy

8. Canopy Market

If you’re looking for a way to combine your loves of food and art, then Canopy Market in Kings Cross is the place for you. A specifically curated range of local, artisan producers cater this weekend market with all the good stuff on offer. Handmade chocolates, cannelloni, charcuterie, local cheese producers and bakers selling a top-notch selection of street food including, we’re told, the best cheese toasties in town.

Alongside the foodie heaven is a rotating selection of local artists and craft producers, selling original artworks, jewellery and fashion. It’s a great way to see the best of London’s local and artisan producers and artists.

9. South Bank Food Market

Known for being a cultural hub, South Bank is also home to a great global foodie treat. On the forecourt behind the Southbank Centre, you will find foods from around the world including Thai, Mexican, Mauritian and Greek, to name a few, as well as amazing baked treats and hot drinks. With its central location, it is a great spot for lunch, with plenty of bench seating around to take in the sights and delicious smells while you eat.

cupcakes south bank market
‘Cupcakes’ by Garry Knight – https://flic.kr/p/9GzHBt

10. Alfie’s Antique Market

If vintage is your style, the largest undercover antiques market in London, Alfie’s, will have you swooning over vintage clothes, homewares, collectables and designer wares from the 1930s and 1940s. Housed in an impressive Art Deco building, this is Marylebone’s biggest and best vintage destination.

11. Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market is probably one of London’s most photographed spots, and it’s easy to see why. Open from 8am on Sundays, this is the place to go to stock up on fresh cut flowers, bedding plants and even mature trees! Perhaps not the easiest buy to take home with you, but an interesting sight nonetheless.

Supported by sixty independent shops lining the road, selling everything from cupcakes and coffee, to high-end artworks, the Columbia Road Flower Market is a one-off.

Columbia Road Flower Market
‘116 365 Columbia road flower market’ by Upupa4me – https://flic.kr/p/ruUp3p

12. Brixton Market

In the pedestrianised centre of Brixton, Brixton Station Road, Electric Avenue and Pope’s Road unite to put on an exciting market experience. The markets are open all week long, with special retro and vintage markets and flea markets making regular weekend appearances.

Market stalls selling a range of wares from handcrafted bags and soaps, to retro bric-a-brac and vintage clothing will keep you busy, whilst street food vendors will keep you fed on Spanish Paella and authentic Ethiopian cuisine, among many, many other choices. Just a minute from Brixton tube station, this is well worth a visit.

13. Camden Passage

Not to be confused with the aforementioned Camden Markets, Camden Passage is an altogether more relaxed affair. Based in Islington, North London, Camden Passage is a narrow, car-free street of contemporary and vintage shops selling a manner of interesting items such as clothing and handbags, antiques, books and furniture, with a relaxed vibe. Market stalls appear on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, which liven up the area selling secondhand furniture, vintage goods and collectables. With cafes and pubs galore, it’s a lovely local spot to enjoy the good weather.

Camden Passage
‘Camden Passage’ by Dun.can – https://flic.kr/p/MQKNpo

14. Netil Market

Located in trendy South Hackney, East London, Netil Market is made up of a small but perfectly formed group of food traders, permanently set up in shipping containers. With great eats from around the world including Caribbean soul food and modern African cuisine, there’s plenty to set your taste buds alight, and if it’s coffee and cake you’re after – you’d be in the right spot too! Saturdays are market days with a range of pop-up stalls selling their homemade wares, and with music and entertainment too it’s a great spot to while away the hours.

15. Leadenhall Market

This place is sure to be a treat for the architectural enthusiasts and Harry Potter fans alike. Set in a stunning Victorian covered precinct, restored in the early 1990s, with market heritage dating back to Roman times, Leadenhall Market is as beautiful as a market setting could be. And for eagle-eyed Potter fans, you’ll even recognise it as where many of the Diagon Alley scenes were filmed for the world-famous wizarding story.

Whatever your reason for visiting, Leadenhall won’t disappoint with a quintessentially British array of high-end fashion boutiques, an award-winning pub and various restaurants and cafes of the highest quality. A truly luxurious market experience.

Leadenhall Market
‘Leadenhall Market’ by Kevin Spi – https://flic.kr/p/gw5Kgp

16. Northcote Road Antiques Market

Based in London’s South West, Battersea’s Northcote Road Antiques Market is a must-see if you want to snap up some classic pieces. With antiques ranging from grandfather clocks and fine china, to retro homewares and vintage jewellery, this place is an Aladdin’s cave of all things from a time gone by. Open seven days a week, it’s a mecca for antiques lovers from across the world.

17. Covent Garden Market

With a grand, historical centrepiece, Covent Garden is a must-see if you like a taste of history. With a slightly European vibe, its open central piazza and pavements lined with cafes are full of places to watch the world go by. If you’re visiting London with children, then the regular street performers and magicians will ensure the whole family is entertained.

Covent Garden Market has become a serious shopping destination with a range of high-end permanent retail outlets, such as Mulberry, calling it home. If you are looking for something unique, you can also find some gems in the stalls, with Mondays being best for antiques, then Tuesday to Sunday offering a wide range of everything from books and homewares, to handmade jewellery and fashion.

Covent Garden
‘Inside Covent Garden market building’ by Charles D P Miller – https://flic.kr/p/nRKpb8

18. Flat Iron Square

A relative newcomer on the market scene formed only in 2016, Flat Iron is an exciting mix of music, food and market stalls based around seven railway arches in Bankside, South London. The mood is relaxed and trendy with ‘The Garden’, an open-air area, home to a stage for regular live music performances and weekend flea markets, where there are sure to be interesting and unique pieces to snap up at bargain prices. With regular events in the schedule, Flat Iron is sure to be a lively choice for your London market visit.

19. Portobello Road Market

Open every day except Sunday, Portobello Road is a London institution in the market world. Known for excellent second-hand furniture and quirky one-offs, Saturday is the best day to visit Portobello Road Market at its fullest. You will find a range of antique stalls, fashion boutiques, second-hand goods and fruit & veg from local suppliers all in one place.

Lined by the multi-coloured facades of the road’s townhouses, it is a photographer’s delight and an entertaining day for all the family with weird and wonderful street performers dotted around too.

Portobello Road
‘Portobello Road’ by Shadowgate – https://flic.kr/p/aMSiGa

With so much to see and do in London, planning your visit can be overwhelming. Contact us to help you make the most out of your next visit to the big city. With a range of London tours to cater for any budget, our expert guides can show you the best our city has to offer and offer guidance to help you discover your perfect London experience.

beers

7 of the Best Pubs in Kings Cross

The Kings Cross neighbourhood in London has undergone big renovations in recent years due to the addition of large companies such as the Guardian, Facebook, and Google. As a major rail hub, Kings Cross station is easy to get to from each corner of London and now offers a wide variety of trendy bars, pint-sized pubs, and top-notch restaurants.

Here are the 7 best places to drink ale in Kings Cross.

1. King Charles I

King Charles I is a traditional single room pub with wood-panelled walls located on a side street off Caledonian Road. Though the pub may look deserted from the street, step inside to discover the very popular little bar that serves a good selection of local ales. The walls are decorated with funky signs, old stuffed animals, and large ornate mirrors, which create a wonderfully unique environment.

2. The Driver

On Cally Road, The Driver gastropub is rumoured to be named after the many cattle drovers who passed by on their way to Smithfield Market. Today, the pub offers plenty of red meat on a large menu that accommodates all five stories of this trendy scene. The first two floors contain a vertical garden – supposedly the first in the UK – while the upper floors offer event rooms topped off with a rooftop terrace.

the_driver_kings_cross_restaurant_pub

3. Parcel Yard

Located in the Kings Cross tube station, Parcel Yard is one of the many decent station pubs to pop up around the city. The pub spans two stories, offers a full menu with delicious food, and boasts lovely views of the bustling station below. Parcel Yard also holds a unique licence – the ability to host wedding ceremonies with up to 80 attendees.

4. The Fellow

After their recent renovation, The Fellow is a well-kept gastropub located on York Way. The space is decorated with a subtle nod to horse racing and contains a heated and covered rooftop terrace, which is the perfect place to cosy up on a cold winter day. The menu offers craft beers from many of London’s breweries, specialty cocktails, and a delectable menu of small plates.

5. The Scottish Stores

The Scottish Stores on Caledonian Road was recently renovated and restored to its original name after a number of years spent as a questionable strip club. Now, the handsome wood-panelled pub has fully hopped onto the craft beer train with ten rotating taps pouring brews from Kent to Iceland! The new space is perfect for train-goers and tourists alike.

The Scottish Stores

6. Queen’s Head

The cosy and quiet Victorian-style Queen’s Head pub on Acton Street is a particularly small space with a well-crafted beer and whisky selection. Though it can be difficult to find a comfortable place to sit, the delicious bite-sized menu and perfectly curated drink menu makes a visit worthwhile.

7. Big Chill House

The Big Chill House on Pentonville Road is one of the largest pubs in the neighbourhood with several floors, private rooms, a basement, and a rooftop terrace. With street food carts on the roof, specialty gin cocktails, craft beers, and a variety of popular DJs, the Big Chill House attracts a big crowd of young adults.

If you are visiting Kings Cross to visit Harry Potter’s famous magic platform, or if you are going on a journey, you should certainly stop off at one of these great pubs.  As local experts, we would love to help you find your new favourite London pub. Contact Premium Tours today to find out more about our London tours centred on great food and even better drinks.

oxford

Which Are the Best Oxford Colleges to Visit?

Oxford University is one of the most prestigious universities in the Western world. This world-renowned school has educated global leaders including Theresa May, Margaret Thatcher, and Bill Clinton; literary geniuses such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, and Vera Brittain; celebrated scientists including Stephen Hawking, Dorothy Hodgkin, and Erwin Schrodinger; and famous actors Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Grant, and Kate Beckinsale.

With such an impressive roster of alumni, it is not surprising that some records show education was taking place at Oxford back in 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world. This unique University contains over 30 individual colleges in place of a central campus location. Each college provides students with a more personal, intimate college experience despite the university’s large size.

If you’re visiting Oxford on a trip throughout the United Kingdom, here are the best five colleges to visit.

1. New College

New College is known for its music and art. The college choir is world-renowned and has even won a couple Grammy awards! In the chapel, there is an impressive collection of famous art including an original El Greco.

Fans of the Harry Potter films will likely recognise a few parts of New College, since it was used as one of the exterior locations in the earlier movies. The gothic architecture at New College helped create the imagined Hogwarts University. You can see more of the filming locations here.

Open: Easter through October – 11 am to 5 pm. October to Easter – 2 pm to 4 pm.

2. Balliol College

Balliol College was founded in 1263, making it one of the oldest colleges at Oxford University. In addition to its old age, Balliol College offers a huge dining room, a stunning chapel, and a beautiful garden. However, the college’s collection tortoise is what really makes it stand out! Each year a student is assigned the role of ‘Comrade Tortoise’ to tend to the college’s shared pet.

Open: Monday through Sunday 10 am to 5 pm, or dusk.

balliol college

3. Exeter College

Exeter College is one of the smaller Oxford Colleges, though it is well worth mentioning for its impressive organ alone. The organ is said to be the best in all of Oxford and is regularly played for Evensong. Plan your visit on Sunday, Tuesday, or Friday at 6 pm to witness the organ’s impressive roar.

Open: Monday through Sunday 2 pm to 5pm.

4. Christ Church College

Christ Church College is by far the most recognisable college at Oxford due to the remarkable number of famous alumni and the wide range of works that Christ Church College architecture has inspired. Walking through Christ Church will elicit familiar feelings to anyone who has seen the Harry Potter movies. The great dining hall not only inspired the dining hall for Hogwarts, but also inspired the dining hall at America’s prestigious Harvard University.

Open: Monday through Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday 2 pm to 5 pm.

Christ-Church-oxford

5. St. John’s College

St. John’s College contains a large open lawn that’s open to the public many afternoons. As the wealthiest college at Oxford, it’s a wonderful place to visit to understand the current happenings throughout the entire University. With their enormous endowment, St. John’s holds many formal dinners, balls, and student festivals throughout the year.

Open: Monday through Sunday 1 pm to 5 pm, or dusk. 

If you are interested in learning more about this scholarly location, you can go on the day trip out of London which covers Warwick Castle, Stratford, Oxford & the Cotswolds. This tour includes a walking tour of Oxford so you will be able to see plenty of the Oxford landmarks, including the Oxford colleges. 

london tube

What Is the Best Tube Station for Buckingham Palace?

Buckingham Palace, the official residence and administrative home of Britain’s Monarchy, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in all of London, and no trip to the capital is complete without paying it a visit. But which tube station is the best when it comes to getting there?

Victoria

For those in a hurry to pay the Queen a visit and watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony starting at 10:45am sharp, the closest tube station is the bustling Victoria Underground Station (serviced by the Circle, District, and Victoria lines). From here it’s a short walk of 5 to 10 minutes, past the Royal Mews, to get to the gates of Buckingham Palace.

St. James’s Park & Westminster

If you’re after a more scenic walk, it’s recommended to get the tube to St James’s Park Station (Circle and District lines) or Westminster Underground Station (Circle, District, and Jubilee line). Walking time ranges from about 10 to 15 minutes from either of these stops, but the bonus is that you’ll get to walk through the leafy St James’s Park, where squirrels clamber up trees and birds mill about on the pretty lake.

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Hyde Park Corner & Green Park

If you’re coming from either North or West London, the Piccadilly Line stops at Hyde Park Corner and Green Park Underground Stations, both a short walk of about 5 to 10 minutes through Green Park.

Other Transport to Buckingham Palace

Being London, there are a myriad of other ways to get to Buckingham Palace. If you’re coming from South London, Kent, Surrey, or Sussex, a train to Victoria Station is hard to beat when it comes to convenience and proximity to the Palace. Victoria is also serviced by the Gatwick Express, so if you’re coming directly from the airport you can easily make Buckingham Palace first on the list of things to see in the city.

If you’re on the red hop-on hop-off bus touring the most famous landmarks of the city, there’s a stop right out the front of Buckingham Palace. Public buses numbers 11, 211, C1 and C10 all stop at Buckingham Palace Road.

Visiting Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is only open to the public between July and October, while the Queen is staying at her summer residence in Balmoral, Scotland. Waiting inside on a tour are 19 grand State Rooms, adorned much like a Royal residence should be, with magnificent works of art and opulent furnishings. If your curiosity is piqued and you fancy learning more about one of London’s most popular attractions, you can read our Ultimate Guide to Buckingham Palace.

changing of the guard

If visiting outside of these months you can still catch a glimpse inside the Palace at the Royal Mews and the Queen’s Gallery. The former is where the Royals keep their cars and carriages, with different ones used for various occasions, such as weddings or transporting a new Ambassador to England to visit the Queen. The latter is a beautifully and expertly curated (expectedly so) selection of some of the finest art in the Western Hemisphere.

Don’t miss the chance to visit two royal residences in one day with Premium Tours’ Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace Tour.

hotel

17 of the Best Family Hotels in London

London is one of the most visited cities in the world, and for good reason. Steeped in history and culture, around every corner there is something waiting to be discovered. The diversity that exists in the city is like nowhere else, making it the most international city in Europe, if not the world. All of this combines to reveal a perfect destination for families looking for an urban adventure. There are penty of activities for kids and adults, as well as things that the entire family will enjoy, but to really make the trip one to remember you need to choose the right hotel.

Here are 17 of the best family hotels in London that will help make your stay in the city that bit more enjoyable.

Luxury Hotels

Browns Hotel, Mayfair

A very luxurious affair, both parents and children will greatly enjoy spending time at the Browns Hotel in Mayfair. Included in the rooms are a lot of kid-friendly items: teddy bears, rubber ducks for bath time, fun cartoon bed sheets, and more. Take a browse through the in-house picture books about an imaginary character that lives in the hotel, Albermarle the monkey. The character is paying homage to author of The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the novel inside the hotel. Under-10s in the restaurants eat for free, and the hotel often puts on seasonal family packages, so keep an eye out.

Browns Hotel Mayfair

Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences, Victoria

This suite-only hotel is an opulent choice for a family holiday, but one that will be remembered for years to come. All the attention is in the detail at this establishment, where they provide kids with crayons and sketchbooks, hot chocolate with marshmallows at bedtime, and even kid-friendly amenities. The full kitchen in the suites also makes it a breeze to prepare food in the room, though the child’s menu in the restaurant is exceptional as well.

The Ritz, St James’s

Perhaps the most luxurious hotel in all of London, the Ritz’s exceptional service extends to every member of the family. The kids will love the free ice-cream, and the parents will love some time to themselves whilst the staff take care of the kids as part of The Kids @ The Ritz program, where they can play video game consoles, board games, rent out DVDs, books, and more.

The Berkeley, Knightsbridge

The big suites at The Berkeley in Knightsbridge provide enough room for all the family and, being a luxury hotel, offer all kinds of amenities for little grown-ups and babies alike. The rooftop pool is a favourite with the entire family, and the concierge is well versed in knowledge pertaining to family activities around the city.

Mid-Range Hotels

Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington

The Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington is a wondrous place to stay with children. Perched right on the edge of Hyde Park, the location couldn’t be better for letting the kids loose across the beautiful and safe space to burn some energy. There’s free breakfast, and the hotel even provides mini scooters for kids to zoom around on in the park. Views out over the park are amazing, and you can also see Kensington Palace from some of the rooms as well.

Ham Yard Hotel, Soho

This hotel in the West End is a colourful hotel whose interior alone could keep kids entertained for days. Luckily, that’s not all the hotel has on offer for children. The standard babysitting services and interconnecting rooms for families are here, as well as snacks and amenities for the little ones. But what makes this place really shine is the bowling alley in the basement – it’ll be hard to get the kids to leave.

Bowling Alley Ham Yard Hotel

The Ampersand Hotel, Kensington

A game room is the star of the show at this hotel, with all kinds of different toys, books, and board games, and even a full-size ping-pong table. The splendidly modern suites are the best option for families, as they come with a foldout couch and a small kitchenette for preparing snacks for the hungry. The location right near the museum mile is stellar as well. The Science Museum and the Natural History Museum are right around the corner, both of which could keep kids entertained for days on end, let alone the parents.

Premier Inn London, Waterloo

The Premier Inn in Waterloo is a good mid-range choice for a hotel near to the main tourist attractions. A 5-minute walk to the London Eye, you’re bound to go up on the famed Ferris wheel at least once during your stay. Family rooms are available, some with splendid views over towards the Big Ben on the other side of the Thames, and breakfast is free for kids under 16.

Park Plaza County Hall, Waterloo

With a winning location right next to the Sea Life Aquarium, London Dungeon, the London Eye and many other popular family sights in London, your days in the city will whisk by and be over before you know it. The hotel makes a wonderful retreat for some downtime as well, with modern facilities and staff that treat the little ones like royalty. There are events for kids held during the week, such as movie night or games night to give parents a breather as well.

Budget Hotels

Comfort Inn, Victoria

This relatively inexpensive hotel is all about location. Exceptionally close to Victoria Station, a bustling transport hub, the entire city is within easy grasp. But short walks away are some of London’s biggest tourist attractions as well, saving you money for transporting the whole family. Buckingham Palace, The Big Ben and Westminster Abbey are all under 20 minutes’ walk from the Inn.

Chessington Safari Hotel, Chessington

This option is great for those who are visiting London to experience the Chessington World of Adventures theme park. While it’s a little bit out of London (about an hour from Victoria Station), this helps to keep the prices down for the rooms that you’ll get to enjoy. Themed rooms make for an exciting adventure before the kids even get into the theme park, and they’ll also get to do that before the gates open to the public.

Giraffe Room

The Nadler, Victoria

Ideal as a budget option for families wishing to stay near to the West End, this comfortable hotel offers compact rooms with enough room for 2 adults and a child, and comes with a small kitchenette where you can knock up a bit of breakfast before heading out for the day. Otherwise, pay a visit to the bakery immediately next door.

Luna and Simone Hotel, Victoria

This hotel focuses solely on providing affordable, family-friendly rooms, and is family run as well. You’ll feel right at home with the staff, as if you’ve been welcomed into their home for the duration of your visit. The location is excellent (minutes away from Buckingham Palace and St James’s Park), and the rooms comfortable.

The Royal London Hotel, Hammersmith

An excellent choice when it comes to value for money, the Royal London Hotel in the charming Hammersmith neighbourhood is very family friendly. The inexpensive rooms, the simple but delicious breakfast, and friendly staff all make this a wonderful place for a family’s urban adventure.

The Best Hotels for Toddlers and Babies

Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments

This 5-star luxury hotel is perfectly located overlooking the leafy and pleasant Green Park, minutes away from Buckingham Palace and a short walk from the main shopping streets on Oxford. But what really makes this hotel stand out is its commitment to making sure the little ones enjoy their stay as much as you do – the kids concierge will even be in contact with you before you arrive to make sure that they have the favourite DVDs and treats ready for your arrival, and will always be on hand to help you plan and execute the perfect kid-friendly itinerary around London. The one-bedroom suites have their own entrances, include bunk beds, and always have cribs readily available.

toddler sleeping

Park Plaza County Hall, Waterloo

The perfect choice of hotel if you’ve got a few toddlers in tow, as children under 12 stay for free, eat breakfast for free, and will even get to enjoy a pizza-making class every Saturday and movie nights throughout the week. The usual board games and toys can be found in the hotel as well.

Beaufort House, Knightsbridge

Travelling with a baby can be stressful at the best of times, which is why a stay at the Beaufort House comes so highly recommended. The staff at this property go the extra mile – the kitchen will be stocked with fresh groceries upon arrival (think milk, juice, jam, bread, fruit), and housekeeping will turn over the rooms daily, which is a rare thing for apartment rentals. The apartments themselves are bright, spacious, and very airy, located in the bustling and luxurious area of Knightsbridge.

General Tips

When to Go

London enjoys quite a mild climate, which means that generally any time of year is ideal for visiting. Spring is a lovely time of year, as the days are getting longer and the temperature usually sits comfortable between 11°-15°C. Summer time is the busiest period, and the main tourist sites are chock full of people, but the bonus is that the weather is usually incredibly pleasant and perfect for enjoying the city’s wide-open parks. Autumn blows in with it generally rainy weather, and the winter time of course means that the entire city is decked out with Christmas lights, brightening the darkening light. Always remember to book well in advance, as family rooms are in high demand.

Things to Do

This expansive and diverse city has activities on offer for kids of all ages, and some of them might even inspire the hidden kids inside the adult as well. The HMS Belfast is one such attraction, the only European cruiser to survive from World War II. Clambering up and down ladders and making your way throughout the ships decks is something the whole family will enjoy.

Another great family outing is to the Warner Brothers Studios in London, home to the sets where the Harry Potter films were shot. Visit the sets of the Great Hall from Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and more. It’s a fun day out for the whole family.

The Natural History Museum has a vast array of exhibitions that could take days to fully explore and appreciate, while the Science Museum never fails to entertain and educate both kids and adults. The British Museum has particularly good audio guides for children as well.

Legoland in Windsor doesn’t really need any introduction, and neither does the London Eye; both are attractions that the whole family will love.

london eye

Getting Around

By far the easiest way to get around London with kids is by taking the tube. Kids under the age of 10 ride for free, so swipe your oyster card and have them follow you in. If kids are between the ages of 10 and 15, you’ll need a special oyster card that can be bought at any of the manned ticket booths.

The beauty of getting an oyster card is that it not only covers the London underground, but also the Overground – buses around the city and river buses as well. The daily cap for getting around on any of these transportation methods in the city with an Oyster Card is £6.50.

Restaurants

Some family-friendly restaurants around the city:

  • All Star Lanes: a bowling alley with easy dining
  • Jamie’s Italian Family Restaurant: delicious and budget-friendly meals that kids love
  • Rain Forest Café
  • Wagamama
  • The Golden Chippy
  • The Crepe Factory

Feeling inspired to take the family on a trip to London? Our team of London experts know all there is to know about the city, so check out our amazing range of London tours, or call our team. For even more ideas of what to do in the city, you can read about our recommended things to do with a toddler here.

croissants

Here’s Where to Go for Breakfast in London Bridge

Early mornings are a great time to tour Tower Bridge to beat the crowds and enjoy the morning sun glistening off the River Thames. After a stroll over the historic bridge, meander to the popular London Bridge neighbourhood, where you’ll find some of the best breakfast spots in all of Central London.

Whether you’re interested in artfully crafted espresso drinks or unusual brunches, this selection of breakfast spots in London Bridge has something for every type of hungry traveller.

coffee cup

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club is just a four-minute walk from the centre of Tower Bridge and has classic retro-décor. The space has a shiny pink ceiling, classic vinyl chairs, and a bar lined with subway tiles for a traditional American-diner feel.

Choose from a wide variety of hearty breakfast options at reasonable prices. From the All-American pancake breakfast to the Mexican-inspired Huevos Rancheros dish, you’ll be spoilt for choice. For a real treat, order the mouth-watering Disco Fries topped with pulled pork, avocado, hollandaise, beer cheese, and eggs. Yum!

They open at 7:30 am on weekdays and 8am on weekends. Arrive early to get a table or take a seat at the central bar.

London Grind

London Grind is located in London Bridge above Borough Market. Although typically a popular London espresso bar, this location offers a full restaurant, which recently expanded to accommodate twice its capacity.

Enjoy riverside views among whitewashed brick walls and white marble counters with wrought iron and gold accents. The atmosphere entices local coffee-lovers and hungry Tower Bridge tourists alike.

London Grind offers impeccably crafted espresso drinks alongside fresh juices and smoothies. For breakfast, order a trendy smashed avocado toast, beetroot smoked salmon, or a healthy raw breakfast salad.

They open at 7am on weekdays, 8am on Saturdays, and 9am on Sundays, and accept walk-ins or reservations for large groups.

breakfast avocado

Oblix at the Shard

If you’re a late riser looking to enjoy a bit of luxury, head up 32 storeys of the Shard to the high-end Oblix restaurant and bar. With breathtaking views over East London and the River Thames, Oblix is nothing if not sophisticated.

Order a multi-course brunch for a top-notch brunch experience, or order from the a la carte menu for a lighter meal. Options include a lobster omelette, breakfast plates complete with caviar, and freshly grilled steak with a side of duck eggs.

Oblix is only open for brunch on the weekends from 12pm to 3pm.

Borough Market

For an atypical breakfast, head over to Borough Market, the oldest food market in London. Wander the narrow aisles and shop from local traders to create your own unique breakfast spread.

Take in the rich colours, smells, and conversation whilst perusing fresh fruits and vegetables, warm breads of every types, and packaged foodstuffs from all over the world. Borough Market is the perfect place to sample an eclectic selection of food.

The market opens at 10am on weekdays and 8am on Saturdays. Unfortunately, the market is closed on Sundays. You can choose whatever takes your fancy then find a quiet spot in the city to sit and enjoy your breakfast.

baked goods

As London experts, our team at Premium Tours know a thing or two about where to find the best breakfasts in the city. You can find the best places for breakfast in East London here. Contact us to find out more about our London tours and discover some more handy London food tips.

burgers

7 of Our Favourite Burger Places in London

Nowadays, food vans, gastropubs, and high-end restaurants all over London are serving their unique take on the classic American dish – burgers! Some are packed full of meats and cheese and smothered in sauce, while others are simple with just a few excellent ingredients.

With so much variety and so many offerings, seeking out the best burgers in London is no easy task. Here are our seven favourite burger spots in London right now.

1. Honest Burger

For the best variety in both flavours and locations, Honest Burger is the spot. Honest Burger started with a single location in Brixton in 2011, but has since grown to 20 locations all over London.

Munch on a traditional burger, a Korean burger, or a vegetarian fritter burger. But don’t forget a side order of rosemary-salted chips to share.

burger & chips

2. Mac & Wild

Mac & Wild is a Scottish steak and burger restaurant with two locations in London. All their meat is sourced directly from the Highlands.

Their most popular burger is the ‘Veni-Moo’, a monstrous burger with beef, venison, candied bacon, cheese, béarnaise, and caramelised onions on a brioche bun.

3. Burger & Beyond

Located in the Camden Lock Market, the Burger & Beyond food van shines amid a plethora of other meat vendors. All the beef comes from the farm they own in Colchester.

Burger & Beyond focuses on a few simple ingredients with fantastic flavour. A local favourite is the Cliff – a chuck and brisket patty aged 90 days with pancetta and tarragon mayonnaise.

burger

4. Burger & Lobster

The name says it all here. Burger & Lobster is an up-scale burger joint with truffles on their list of available toppings.

Their infamous lobster burger is smothered in garlic-butter, though the rest of the menu is simple with only a few different options.

5. Joe Allen Restaurant

Originally from the States, Joe Allen Restaurant came to Covent Garden in 1977 and has been a local favourite for American dishes ever since.

But there’s a twist – there is no burger on the menu. It is a local secret that must be ordered off-menu. It it’s available, this simple burger lets the flavour of the meat shine through with only traditional toppings and no seasonings.

halloumi burger

6. Stokey Bears

If you ask anyone in the Stoke Newington neighbourhood for a burger recommendation, you will end up at Stokey Bears with a crowd that never tires of this cool restaurant.

They are known for their extremely tall, decadent, mouth-watering burgers. The Grizzly Bear, multiple beef patties topped with double oak smoked bacon and smothered in Burger Bear bacon jam, is always a crowd pleaser.

7. Dip & Flip

Originally from South London, this small chain has spread throughout London and gained approval in each neighbourhood.

Upon first impression, the Dip & Flip menu offers straightforward burgers. However, each burger has the option to add a slice of roast beef or lamp atop the beef patty. As the name says, each burger can also be dipped, double dipped, or soaked in gravy.

Our team of London experts can point you to the best burger, breakfast, or beer in London. Contact Premium Tours today for more information on our fantastic London tours.