view from the shard

17 Rooftop Bars You Need to Experience in London

London has an unbeatable skyline; there’s little better than winding down at a rooftop bar with a refreshing drink in hand and a beautiful view over the British capital.

Although London may be more well known for its historic pubs than its cocktail bars and the English weather may not always seem to lend itself to outdoor institutions, the city has a growing reputation for its rooftop bars.

Hidden away on the rooftops you can find some of London’s quirkiest eating and drinking establishments. Enjoy a cold beer with a view over St Pauls, head to the terraces of Shoreditch for late night partying, or travel to the top of the Shard for the highest view in London.

There are some great rooftop bars in London. Here are 17 of the best you need to experience, with something for every budget.

Budget Rooftop Bars

London isn’t home to the cheapest of drinks, but there are a few hidden gems in the city where you can enjoy a beverage and a good view without paying a fortune. Don’t expect bargain prices, but here are the best budget options for budget drinkers in London.

  1. Frank’s Cafe

Anyone looking for a budget rooftop bar in London needs look no further than Frank’s Cafe. This is the ultimate in both budget-ness and in terms of rooftop-ness. Located on the rooftop of Bold Tendencies, a bar found in Peckham, it’s a bit out of the way for central Londoners but it’s a great experience.

The drinks are priced low, but that’s because of the location and the fact that this is bare bones and it’s a rustic set up. There are just a few tables – arrive early if you want to secure one in summer – but there’s plenty of floor space. You may find yourself standing or sitting all night long on the concrete rooftop, but that’s all part of the experience at Frank’s Cafe.

  1. Queen of Hoxton

The Queen of Hoxton is an enduring feature of Shoreditch that has pride of place amongst lovers of a great rooftop bar. The bar has heaps of atmosphere, but given its popularity it’s surprisingly cheap with a great range of beers, cocktails and food available.

The Queen of Hoxton hosts regular late-night music sets on the rooftop, drawing in crowds from across London that also spill downstairs into the enclosed areas, particularly in summer. More than this though, the venue hosts outdoor BBQs serving up great grills and they even host the odd cinema night when the London weather decides to agree with the organisers. It’s a popular place, and there is always something new and interesting happening at the Queen of Hoxton.

Alcohol for cocktails

  1. Golden Bee

Also found in Shoreditch, the Golden Bee has great drink deals and weeknight happy hours with some cracking views over the city to go with them. With regular 2-for-1 deals on cocktails and a great selection of drinks, it’s a popular place and you may struggle to find a table on the rooftop, particularly in summer.

The Golden Bee also has fire pits to keep you warm, so heading here in the cold isn’t such a bad idea either. Wrap up in winter with a scorching fire and a warm blanket, or head here on the weekend and dance the night away to stay warm in the chilly evenings.

  1. Alfie’s Rooftop Kitchen

If you are looking for a fantastic rooftop cafe away from the crowds and with great value food, then Alfie’s Rooftop Kitchen is the place to go. Found in Marylebone, the prices are incredible given the location, and you will find that the serene and peaceful outdoor atmosphere is absolutely relaxing, particularly in the sunshine.

Alfie’s Rooftop Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea – it’s definitely café-style, not bar-style here and they close by 6 pm most evenings – and you can enjoy the extensive coffee selection alongside some English classics such as a Full English Breakfast, Steak and Ale Pie or some hearty Jacket Potatoes.

  1. Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales is an energetic, budget venue in Brixton that’s not quite sure if it’s a pub or a club, not that anyone particularly minds. With multiple levels, the Prince of Wales has a great outdoor terrace boasting two tiers alone. It’s here that you can party the night away listening to DJs, with outdoor events on the rooftop that carry on throughout the year, and not just in summer.

Check their events list for the weekly line-up, and you can even enjoy some quirky karaoke nights or regular club nights on the weekends.

  1. Bar Elba

Found in Waterloo – right next to the station, if you are ever after pre or post-train cocktails – Bar Elba is one of London’s classic rooftop establishments. With generous happy hours and excellent offers on throughout the week, this is the perfect budget venue to enjoy a few relaxed drinks with friends, particularly as cocktails can be served by the jug!

True to the laid-back nature of Bar Elba, the food menu isn’t extensive but it will fill you up and not break the bank, as they serve up a small range of perfectly grilled burgers with some ingenious toppings.

Waterloo Bridge

Midrange Rooftop Bars

If you can splash out a bit more to enjoy the rooftops of London, then there’s a lot more choice out there in the capital, and many more options available closer to central London. Here are some excellent midrange choices that won’t break the bank, but that will amaze you with their views.

  1. Radio Rooftop

Radio Rooftop is a firm favourite on the London rooftop bar scene. Given that its location is incredibly central and the venue has excellent views of the Thames, the Shard and much, much more, it’s excellent value.

Enjoy great cocktails and beers in the evenings, or splash out and indulge in some rather more expensive champagne. The extensive food menu has everything from bar snacks to steaks, and it’s a fantastic place to enjoy a relaxed lunch with a brilliant view and comfortable seating.

  1. Aqua Spirit

Aqua Spirit is a classy cocktail bar in the heart of London. Located on Regent Street above Soho, this is the perfect place to unwind in relaxed yet refined surroundings after a hard day of sightseeing.

Cocktails and bar snacks are served all year round, but when the weather is optimal – i.e. summer in London! – the rooftop terrace opens for business. Space can be limited outside, so get here early to secure yourself and your friends a spot above the city. The cocktail menu is limited, but each is individual and carefully crafted to provide a range for all tastes. Besides, when there are fewer items on the menu, you know the bar staff will be experts at making them.

  1. The Aviary

This classy rooftop bar and restaurant is as lofty as its name suggests, but the value is still very much grounded. Found high up above Finsbury Square, the restaurant serves a fine selection of gourmet breakfast, lunch and dinner items in plush surroundings, while much of the meat is expertly grilled over charcoal ovens.

The views are exceptional, but it’s popular, given the price and the superb quality of the food, so it’s best to reserve a table in advance for this option, even during the week.

  1. Madison

With supreme views of St Paul’s Cathedral, Madison could well be the best find in central London that won’t cripple your bank account. The large restaurant has a wonderful menu that includes plenty of sharing options, making this popular for work dos and parties, especially given the well-priced drinks.

Dine inside at the restaurant before heading out onto the outdoor terraces for excellent views out over the city at night, or head straight outside and enjoy a few bar snacks while you indulge in the extensive cocktail menu. On weekends, they open the terrace up to revellers, and you can listen to late night DJs in a cracking setting.

View of St Pauls

  1. Rumpus Room

With unbeatable views of the River Thames, the Rumpus Room is a great place to enjoy some classy cocktails in a distinctively fashionable atmosphere. It’s certainly not cheap here, but it’s not going to wipe out your savings either, and it’s worth it for the excellent cocktails and wine selection on the very extensive drinks menu.

It’s not the highest bar in London, but the river-facing terrace offers the most wide-ranging panorama of St Paul’s Cathedral that you will find anywhere on this side of the river. Turn up for their famed Sky Line Sessions, to enjoy London-themed cocktails at a ridiculous price.

  1. Skylight at Tobacco Dock

Only open in the summer months when the weather is at its best, Skylight is located on top of an old car park in Tobacco Dock. Despite only having been around for a few seasons of sunlight, it’s fast become a favourite fixture during London’s hotter days.

Skylight host many events too throughout the year – you may even find they open an ice skating rink in the winter in the future – while the large open space allows them to put out such delights as lawn games, bowls and croquet for a quintessential English summer.

Luxury Rooftop Bars

Of course, London is a city where it’s possible to spend a fortune if you so desire, and there is certainly a wide range of lavish rooftop bars catering to high-end customers looking to splurge on drinks and food, and enjoy a wonderful view at the same time. Here’s our pick of the top luxury rooftop bars to experience in London.

  1. Jin Bo Law

This unique, Asian-inspired rooftop bar is found at the top of the Dorsett Hotel and offers excellent views out across London, with Tower Bridge and the Gherkin forming an mesmerising part of the skyline. There’s a great selection of Japanese beers and spirits, and some brilliantly mixed cocktails that evoke a sense of the Far East in central London.

Cocktails

  1. Coq d’Argent

The Coq d’Argent provides a wonderful, outdoor, covered terrace that’s open all through the year. Right in the heart of London, the Coq d’Argent has beautifully landscaped gardens sat on the rooftop, with strangely out-of-place lawns that are perfectly cut and shaped. It’s an opulent environment where you can enjoy a great selection of wines and cocktails in unusual surroundings, before dining in the Coq d’Argent restaurant and tasting the fine range of French-inspired cuisine on offer. Alternatively, simply enjoy some bar snacks on the terrace.

  1. Rooftop St James

The Trafalgar St James is a boutique, luxury hotel run by the Hilton brand, and atop the hotel you can find the beautiful confines of the Rooftop St James, an equally luxurious, yet carefully refined cocktail bar and restaurant with exception views over Trafalgar Square.

There are few other offerings that allow you such a wonderful of Nelsons Column below, but on top of this, you can enjoy fine cocktails and even finer dining in a resplendently chic atmosphere.

  1. Angler Terrace

This Michelin-starred restaurant is located at the top of the South Place Hotel, with exquisite views over the city below while you dine on the gourmet delights of this fine establishment. With a handcrafted seafood menu, the Angler Terrace is open all through the year, but in summer, the veranda is opened up to the glorious sunshine of London, so you can enjoy your exquisite seafood creations in the open air.

  1. Aqua Shard

Although it’s not technically on the roof, the Aqua Shard is still higher than most other restaurants and bars in London, because it’s found on the 31st floor of the Shard, the tallest building in the United Kingdom.

Enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner or a wonderful afternoon tea selection at the Aqua Shard, while you gaze out over the incredible skyline of London far below, yet all around you.

view from the shard

As London specialists, our tour leaders at Premium Tours know a thing or two about where to find the best rooftop bars in the city. Check out our great range of London tours while you’re here – you’ll pick up lots of other wonderful London tips along the way…

Kew Gardens

These are the Best Things to See and Do in London in March

Spring has almost arrived when March rolls on through the ever-brightening streets of London. With the bitterly cold weather far behind us, there’s just chilly weather to deal with this month, and you may even be lucky enough to enjoy the city in the year’s first real rays of sunshine.

Head out to London’s great gardens and parks to enjoy the fresh March air and to see the trees and plants slowly blooming into life and colour again. March is a month of important national days and events in London, and you can enjoy the delights of St Patrick’s Day, Beer Week and famous rowing races. Perhaps more importantly though, it’s International Women’s Day and you can find some fascinating exhibitions being held across the city.

It’s a great month to visit the capital. To help you to plan your trip, here are the best things to see and do in London in March.

St David’s Day

The 1st March is St David’s Day, a celebration of the Welsh patron saint and a celebration of Welsh culture and history. While London doesn’t celebrate quite as intensely as Wales itself, the capital has a huge Welsh population and you will find that the city has some excellent events showcasing the Welsh spirit at the start of the month.

Head to Welsh pubs and restaurants to enjoy a good party or to try some of the national dishes such as Welsh rarebit or Welsh cakes amongst much more. Although St David is by no means as popular as the Irish St Patrick whose saint day is celebrated later in March too, it’s still a wonderful opportunity to indulge in all things Welsh and to learn more about their unique culture.

Orchid Festival at Kew Gardens

The Orchid Festival at Kew Gardens runs into the first two weeks of March, so don’t miss out on visiting this acclaimed celebration of botany and orchids. It’s a guaranteed way to brighten up the start of the month, as Kew Gardens becomes home to thousands of orchids in their annual festival that also highlights the biodiversity of Colombia this year.

Alongside colourful orchids, you can find exhibitions about the South American nation and the importance of their vast and intricate tropical ecosystems to the wider world. There’s even a jaguar, although not a real one.

Kew Gardens

London Beer Week

Another fail-proof method of brightening up your March month will be to attend the acclaimed London Beer Week. That’s right, the city puts on a whole week of events devoted to the celebration of beer and ale.

Pubs and bars across the capital will be offering discounted drinks and new brews to the general public, who have yet another excuse to hit the beer – if they ever needed one before, that is.

Pancake Day

Pancake Day is the peculiar British celebration of pancakes. Okay, so it’s not a celebration of pancakes as such, but rather the day when a lot of pancakes are eaten to mark Shrove Tuesday, which falls on the 5th March in 2019. Traditionally, this day was when all the leftovers in a house were put together and eaten, to clear out the cupboards before Lent and the start of fasting in the run up to Easter.

In Britain, pancakes represent this clearing out of fatty goods, and on Pancake Day it’s a national requirement that you indulge in at least a few of these treats. These days, there are plenty of specialist desert restaurants in the capital to find a great pancake, and even a few dedicated restaurants serving pancakes and pancakes alone, with sweet or savoury fillings to try.

Pancake Day

St Patrick’s Day

The celebration of Ireland’s patron saint is perhaps the most well known and energetically celebrated day of the month. This is a celebration of Irish culture and traditions but with the huge Irish diaspora, it’s spread across the world too. London has a huge Irish community and St Patrick’s Day is most certainly a lively affair in the city.

London hosts a parade on 17th March, and you can expect to be part of a sea of green-flag-wavers enjoying the day. This a celebration that carries on long into the night and it’s a chance to stay out late enjoying more than a few pints of Guinness and celebrating all that it means to be Irish – even if you’re not Irish!

International Women’s Day

Another important day in March is International Women’s Day, which is held across the world on the 8th March each year. This is a wonderful chance to promote equality and to celebrate the work and achievement of women in life and the world.

There are some excellent exhibitions and events taking place across the capital, and March is a month that’s dedicated to women in London.

Women of the World Festival

The Women of the World Festival is one of the best events held in London through March that celebrates women. Found in the Southbank Centre on International Women’s Day and the day after, this festival showcases the work of activists fighting for gender equality. There are talks and discussions with important women working against discrimination, and with political leaders who debate the future landscape of gender equality.

The festival aims to inspire the next generation to strive for equality – be you male or female – and it’s a wonderful way to learn more about what you can do to help.

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is another chance to celebrate one of the most important women in most people’s lives: their mother. In 2019, Mother’s Day falls on Sunday 31st March, so you can end the month by treating your mum to a wonderful day out in London.

However you would like to honour or treat her, there are plenty of opportunities in London, from great restaurants and cafes to theatrical performances, visit to parks or museums and much, much more. The opportunities are quite literally endless on Mother’s Day in London.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park can be a fantastic place to visit any time of the year, but call into this vast outdoor space on London’s doorstep in March to experience the famous park as it transitions from winter to spring. It might be a bit chilly still, but you can enjoy the fresh air while walking around the many paths that lead you through this historic royal park.

Stroll through the wide fields on the lookout for the many deer that will begin to emerge into the ever-brightening sunshine after the cold of winter. Watch as the leaves slowly regain their strength and vibrant colour as things warm up, and spring waits to burst forth again.

Richmond Park

Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens, another royal park, is a wonderful place to experience the transition from winter to spring in the heart of the city. The gardens are located very centrally, as they were once the private gardens of the royal family who live at Kensington Palace next to Hyde Park.

Kensington Gardens form a beautiful escape from the crowded streets of the capital. In March, you can enjoy the blooming colour of the plants and flowers as they burst into life throughout the month.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is the old residence of the monarchy, including the infamous Henry VIII. Found in the London suburbs at Richmond-upon-Thames, the palace dates back to the 16th century and was used extensively by royalty through to the Georgian era.

Today, the grand halls and elegant bedrooms are wonderful to explore, and at Hampton Court Palace you can learn much about the opulent lives lived by the royalty in past centuries.

The palace is also home to extensive grounds and, with the warmer air, you can enjoy them in comfort as March progresses. Explore the vast outdoor maze – try not to get lost! – and experience the colourful winter-to-spring transitions of the varied flora found around Hampton Court.

Hampton Court Palace

Bedrooms of London

In stark contrast to the lavishness of the royal family, past and present, and the grandness of the royal palaces are the day-to-day lives of many of London’s poorer families. A new exhibition though is attempting to highlight the poor living conditions of many of these families, particularly the children, and it’s an opportunity to learn more about an often forgotten aspect of life in modern London.

The Bedrooms of London exhibition is found at the Foundling Museum, a museum that focuses on children through British history, and this extraordinary photographic display shows the worst living conditions of children and families across the capital with an intimate look inside different bedrooms. It’s a moving look at the struggles faced by low-income families in a city that on the outset seems to be vastly wealthy.

Chelsea Antiques Fair

A unique event held in Chelsea every March is the Antiques Fair. This traditional fair gives you the opportunity to browse through historic offerings that are for sale, and to learn a little bit about the country’s and the capital’s history through the items and their sellers.

Browse through dusty and historic artefacts, get nostalgic and have a great time at this unusual and often eccentric March event.

Six Nations Rugby Final Games

The Six Nations is Europe’s best rugby tournament, as the national teams of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy compete against each other for the championship every year. It’s an incredibly popular event, and from February through to March when fixtures are held across the continent, you can join Rugby fans pouring into pubs, bars and stadiums to cheer their teams on.

March is when the tournament really picks up, as the last few games are played. Watch the final deciders with the crowds in London cheering on England or their respective national teams, or perhaps if you are lucky you can even find an elusive ticket to a game at Twickenham Stadium.

Head of the River Race

Every March, one of the most iconic rowing races in the country is held in London. The Head of the River Race is a 4-mile long course that takes rowing teams along the wide River Thames from Mortlake to Putney. Over several days, different teams compete in different categories for the prestigious prizes in this professional race.

Alongside the racing, you can find the banks of the river lined with cheering spectators in a lively and loud atmosphere, making this a wonderful sporting event to turn out for. The course is actually the same as the perhaps more famous Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, but the Head of the River is held in the opposite direction and is played out by more rowing teams. This is a timed event and teams leave independently of each other, at different intervals. It’s simple; whoever completes the course fastest is the winner.

River Thames

London Landmarks Half Marathon

This fantastic running event sees racers competing over a half marathon course that winds its way through central London’s most iconic sights and attractions. It’s a wonderfully picturesque running event and helps to highlight the city’s best landmarks to the crowds who turn out to watch the racers and cheer them on, whilst having the chance to explore London.

Of course, the race is open to the public, and it’s a great race to be part of if you can secure a spot in this most popular of events.

Where’s Wally? Fun Run

A much less professional race to be part of, and a race focused more on fun and raising money for charity, is the Where’s Wally? Fun Run. This magnificent running event takes place in March over 5 and 10-kilometre courses, which take runners through Clapham Common. If you’re taking part, dress up as Where’s Wally? If you’re spectating, why not dress up too? Or just watch a mass of Where’s Wally? runners fighting their way around the course in full costume.

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

21 Cultural Things to Do in London

London is one of the world’s most visited cities, and not without reason. This is one of the world’s best tourist destinations, largely because London is absolutely packed with culture. From endless museums and history to the charming quirks of the Royal Family, there are unique sights and even more unique experiences awaiting you in London.

From riding the underground to catching a red, double-decker bus, even simply travelling around London is a wonderful cultural encounter in itself. Throw in some fish and chips, a visit to a charming English pub or even a performance of Shakespeare at the Globe, and you have yourself a day out that can be rivalled by few other cities, anywhere.

Get ready for a fantastic time in the capital, as here are our 21 favourite cultural things to do in London.

Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard

Nothing much else says Britain quite like the Royal Family and in London, Buckingham Palace is the quintessential Royal destination. The residence of the Queen is one of the most iconic sights in the world, a palace that’s instantly recognisable and that millions of visitors flock to every year to see. Buckingham Palace is a building that’s ingrained in the image of London, and it’s a place that can’t be missed when in the city.

Make sure you coincide a trip to Buckingham Palace with the Changing of the Guard Ceremony because this is a unique event that will leave you in awe. Watch as red-coated soldiers in full dress uniform troop along the resplendent avenue outside of the palace to the sound of a marching band. It’s a cultural feast.

changing of the guard

Join a Beefeater Tour of the Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the most historic buildings in the capital, as it dates far back to the Norman conquests of England in the early medieval era. The towering walls and impressive keep have long stood guard over the city, and within the castle the splendidly dressed Beefeaters have long stood guard over the Tower of London.

These halberd wielding Londoners were historically tasked with guarding the Crown Jewels, which are still kept in the Tower of London to this day, but now they have a rather more ceremonial role. They do, in fact, guide tours around the grounds of the tower, a wonderful experience for anyone visiting London.

Watch Shakespeare at the Globe

Who could possibly be more classically English than Shakespeare – other than Queen Elizabeth II herself? In London, you have the opportunity to see Shakespeare’s classic works being performed in a most authentic fashion and setting at the Globe Theatre.

Found in Southwark overlooking the waters of the River Thames, the Globe Theatre as it’s seen today is a detailed reconstruction of the original Elizabethan-era theatre built by Shakespeare’s company. Catch a performance throughout the year and be part of a true cultural experience in London.

Ride a Red Bus

Another cultural experience not to be missed is the simple act of riding a London bus. The distinctive red buses are famous the world over. Throughout the decades, although their designs and engines may have changed and been modernised, the overall look of the bus fleet has stayed true to its original models. To learn more about London at the same time, take a hop on hop off bus tour, or visit the London Transport Museum to see the famous bus through the ages.

Ride the London Underground

Perhaps more iconic – although that’s very much debatable – than the red bus, is the London Underground. The world’s oldest underground rail system may be aged in places, but it’s still classic, and riding the Underground is an experience in itself. Take your picture by the well-known station designs and remember to keep hold of a map for a great London souvenir.

London underground

Visit Abbey Road for Beatles Nostalgia

Britain has produced some of the world’s best music acts, and no one has been more beloved than the Beatles. They took the world by storm in the 1960s, and in 1969 at Abbey Road Studios in London they recorded their No. 1 album of the same name, Abbey Road.

Ever since, Abbey Road, a quiet, unassuming lane in central London, has become a tourist attraction in its own right. The simple zebra crossing, where the band created their equally simple album cover, has become a must-visit photography spot for fans.

Eat and Drink at an English Pub

Whenever you need a break from sightseeing in London, then jump into a charming English pub for some local refreshment. Pubs have been a mainstay of the English economy, culinary scene and local life for centuries, and London has some of the best in the country.

Along any street, you are likely to find a historic establishment when you are in central London. Enjoy the quirky names and the simple, yet hearty English food along with a few pints of the local brew too of course, before heading off to sightsee once again.

Fish and Chips

At the pub or at any of London’s markets, try England’s most famous dish: fish and chips. There are chip shops on most street corners, so don’t fear finding a suitable eatery when you are in London. This iconic dish is just battered fish and well-cooked chips, but the simple recipe is beloved across the nation and a must-try culinary experience when visiting the capital.

fish and chips

Museums, Museums and more Museums

London is a city of museums. The British public have long been keen on preserving both their own culture and history, and the history and culture of other nations, past and present too. London’s best museums are a treat to explore and the vast majority of them are free to the general public, giving you no excuse to not call in for a visit.

There is plenty of choice too, but top of the museum list must be the British Museum. Here you can see ancient artefacts from across the world, including Greek, Roman and Egyptian exhibits from thousands of years ago.

Dinosaur lovers can’t miss the Natural History Museum, while there are plenty of cultural and artistic displays waiting at the renowned V and A Museum. Then you have the Science Museum, the British Transport Museum, the Imperial War Museum – the list goes on and on. There’s almost too much choice in London when it comes to museums.

Watch the Tennis at Wimbledon

Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. Ever since 1877, players have wowed the crowds in the English summer with their racket skills. Generally held in June, this classic sporting event is attended by the best players in the world, and the London crowds love to be a part of the action too.

Enjoy strawberries and cream in the sunshine, watch the games from the stands or if you can’t get hold of one of the elusive tickets, head to the Mound to watch on the big screen with the rest of Wimbledon. It’s atmospheric and it’s wonderful to be a part of.

Run (or watch) the London Marathon

The London Marathon is another of the city’s iconic sporting events that see thousands turn out, rain or shine, to cheer on runners through the streets. The marathon takes competitors through the most recognisable of London’s landmarks, with the finish line being found along the famous Mall, near St James’ Park.

While it’s difficult to secure a spot in the marathon itself, such is the popularity, turn up to show your support and to be part of one of the city’s biggest and best events in the springtime.

Attend a Rugby, Football or Cricket Match

Londoners love their sport and the capital is the best place to catch a game of one of the three most popular sports in the nation, rugby, football or cricket. Most weekends throughout the year you will find a rugby or football match in full swing, while during summer, the quintessentially English sport of cricket becomes the city’s first sporting choice.

Notting Hill Carnival

Since 1966, Notting Hill Carnival has attracted revellers and partygoers from across the world. Held every August Bank Holiday, a whole weekend of festivities, colour and culture is found in Notting Hill. One of the busiest events of the London calendar, this is a must-visit festival, with vibrant parades and musical performances that showcase the best of the city’s multicultural diversity.

Eat and Shop at Camden Market

For a taste of London’s diverse culture any time of the year, then head over to Camden Town to visit the city’s best market. Food lovers will be in heaven, as here you can gorge on different cuisine from around the world, with anything from Thai to Pizza being on offer across the packed market stalls and restaurants that are found in a picturesque setting by the canal.

Camden market

Explore Chinatown

It quickly becomes apparent that London is an incredibly multicultural city to visit. Chinatown in Westminster is a shining example of this and it’s a wonderfully diverse place to explore. Discover the most authentic Asian food in the capital, visit Chinese temples and, if you are here in the Chinese New Year, then this is the only place to be in London.

Dine on English Curry at Brick Lane

Brick Lane is an equally multicultural part of the city and famous for one thing: curry. This is the legendary home of the English curry, a fusion of spices and flavours from the Indian subcontinent that has been refined over time to suit the local tastes of the English population. A favourite local pastime is dining out for a curry, be it the weekend or a weeknight. It’s a cultural thing and something not to be missed when visiting London.

Lavish Shopping in Knightsbridge

For a look at the lavish lifestyles of the London elite, in what can be one of the most expensive cities in the world, then head to Knightsbridge, home to expensive flats and upmarket shopping. Call into Harrods, where you can stroll through opulent departments and sample some fine dining in London’s most exclusive department store.

Catch a West End Show

London’s West End is the city’s premier theatre district, home to great shows and musicals throughout the year. Spend the evening watching a performance of classics or new shows in the West End, after enjoying a meal out in this always-lively London area. Even if you don’t have a ticket booked in advance, then you can simply show up and during the week to get yourself discount tickets to some of the best performances on the night.

A Night at the Proms

For eight weeks in summer, London puts on orchestral performances like no other city in the world. The Proms are held daily at the Royal Albert Hall – London’s best concert hall – and attract listeners from around the world. A night at the Proms is a wonderful musical experience, and towards the end of the run, you may even be lucky enough to secure a ticket for the Last Night at the Proms, the most extravagant of all the performances laid on each season.

Royal Albert Hall

Leicester Square Premiere

Film lovers won’t want to miss the opportunity to catch a premiere at the world-famous Leicester Square. Although not quite as iconic as Hollywood, this is the closest you will get in England, and even just walking through the square will give you the chance to see red carpets rolled out and actors and actresses in their finest.

St George’s Day Parade

On 23rd April every year, the English celebrate their national day. St George is the nation’s patron saint and in London, you can enjoy some fantastic cultural parades, as people dress up in national colours and bring out their patriotism for the day.

As London specialists, the team at Premium Tours knows a thing or two about the fantastic cultural opportunities in the city. Check out our list of London tours while you’re in town!

Gate in China Town

Everything You Need to Know About Chinatown, London

London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting well over 19 million international visitors a year. The city is split into distinctive areas of North, West, South, and East London, as well as commercial and tourist hubs with each offering unique characteristics. Whether you enjoy sightseeing or shopping, there’s always something to see and do.

Tucked right in the heart of London’s West End is Chinatown – a bustling district that offers a glimpse into East Asian culture, with its wide selection of restaurants and shops.

What makes Chinatown unique is that it feels nothing like London. Tourists are instantly transported to a place that is immediately unrecognisable from the surrounding areas. The streets are lined with red paper lanterns and signs with Mandarin writing. Elements of traditional Chinese architecture are also present, including what’s known as a Paifang or a gateway with an elaborate frame.

If you have any future travel plans for London, you’ll definitely want to add this district to your bucket list. Here’s everything you need to know about Chinatown in London.

China Town London

History of Chinatown

Just like the city of London itself, Chinatown (nicknamed ‘The Imperial City’) has a rich history that’s filled with interesting facts.

The original area of Chinatown wasn’t in the West End. It was actually located in Limehouse in the East End. Chinese sailors from the East India Company had settled near the end of the 19th century and had established a community. Around thirty businesses opened in 1914, mostly to supply goods to Chinese sailors. But a decline in shipping along with destruction to the area during the Second World War forced the district to dwindle significantly.

It was during the mid-20th century that the Chinatown we know today started to develop. A handful of Chinese restaurants opened on Gerrard Street in the West End. Other businesses opened up soon after, and over the next few decades the neighbourhood blossomed into a hub for Chinese culture and became what it is today.

Chinatown is now home to over 80 restaurants featuring a range of East Asian cuisine from dim sum to hot pot, as well as cafes and bars. There’s also no shortage of supermarkets filled with authentic ingredients imported directly from Asia and other businesses that offer an array of services.

What initially started as a small community to cater mainly to Chinese sailors is now one of London’s most vibrant destinations and a must see for any traveller.

Getting to Chinatown in London

Chinatown in London is located right in the West End, and is close to popular attractions such as Soho and Leicester Square. Its central location makes it easily accessible by public transport, as there are several Underground stations and numerous bus routes a short walk away.

Here’s how to get to Chinatown:

Address: 55-57 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0BL, United Kingdom.

Tube: Leicester Square is the closest Underground station from Chinatown, as it’s only about a minute walk away. Ride the Tube to the station, and take exit two. Then turn the corner and you’ll be right in the middle of the district. You can also take Tottenham Court and Piccadilly Circus; both are less than half a mile from the main areas.

Train: Charing Cross is the closest train station and is about a 10-minute walk away. Follow the street signs or ask for directions if you get lost.

Bus: There are numerous buses that drop passengers off near Chinatown, including routes 14, 24, 27, 27, 134, 168, and C2. Note that these routes do not travel directly through Chinatown. Be sure to pay attention to where your bus is travelling to or ask the driver which is the closest stop on that route.

Alternatively, taxis are also readily available, but expect to pay a higher fare than public transport. Simply tell the driver you want to visit ‘Chinatown’ and they’ll know exactly where to take you. Chinatown is a relatively small area in the West End. It’s possible to walk down all of its winding streets in only a few hours but you’ll want to allocate at least a half-day trip for a more immersive experience.

Chinese New Year in Chinatown, London

Chinatown is accessible all year round with most restaurants opening at 12pm and closing at midnight. Have a sudden late night craving for dumplings? Some restaurants are even open 24 hours. It’s a good idea to check business hours first, if you have a specific place in mind you want to visit.

One of the best times to visit is during Chinese New Year – a major Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of Chinese New Year, which falls between mid-January to late-February. The actual days the celebration falls on varies each year, as it’s based on the lunar calendar instead of the more widely used Gregorian calendar.

Chinese New Year in 2019 starts on 5th February and will last until 19th February, running for a total of 15 days. The celebration is said to be the biggest outside of Asia, with most of it taking place in Chinatown.

The dragon is seen as an auspicious animal in Chinese culture, which brings good luck and prosperity. Visitors to Chinatown during Chinese New Year can watch dragon dances. Performers in traditional garb hold up a long figure of a dragon with wooden poles and mimic its graceful movements down the streets.

Even the restaurants and cafés partake in the celebrations, as special menu items are offered during this time. There are also plenty of food stalls and stages set up along Charing Cross Road for musical performances and martial art displays.

If you’re visiting London during these dates, then you won’t want to miss this spectacular event.

Chinese New Year lantern

Best Restaurants

No trip to Chinatown is complete without eating at one of its many restaurants. From Cantonese cuisine to Sichuan specialities and dim sum, there is a wide selection of places to try. Here’s an overview of the different cuisine that can be found in Chinatown, and recommended restaurants:

Cantonese

Cantonese cuisine originated from the Guangdong Province in southern China and is one of the eight culinary traditions. Its prominence is largely thanks to emigrants from the Guangdong region who have set up restaurants outside of China including Chinatown in London. Cantonese cuisine is distinguished by its use of ingredients like soy sauce, cornstarch, vinegar, and sesame oil to enhance flavours. Roast meats such as duck and steam buns are also popular dishes.

Be sure to make a visit to these restaurants for Cantonese food:

  • Four Seasons: Four Seasons has a wide selection of Cantonese cuisine, but travellers come here for their world-famous roast duck with its crispy skin and tender flesh. The Financial Times even rated this restaurant as having the best roast duck in the world.
  • Plum Valley: Plum Valley is another popular destination for Cantonese cuisine with its varied menu. The restaurant is located near Piccadilly Circus and offers a more upscale dining experience with its minimalist style.

Dim Sum

Dim sum (translated to ‘touch your heart’) consists of bite-sized dishes such as dumplings, buns, and rolls that are served in steaming hot baskets. Dim sum is prepared in different ways and is best enjoyed with a group of people to share the dishes.

Here are some restaurants that specialise in this cuisine:

  • Dumplings’ Legend: Dumplings’ Legend serves nine varieties of Xiaolongbao (translated to ‘soup dumplings’) in flavoursome broth and fillings from pork to crabmeat and more. If that’s not enough, the restaurant also serves an impressive 47 variations of dim sum dishes.
  • Leong’s Legend: Can’t seem to get enough dim sum? You’re in luck as Leong’s Legend offers all you can eat dim sum for a fairly modest price. Leong’s Legend offers a wide selection of mouth-watering dishes so you won’t go hungry here.

Hot Pot

Hot pot is another Chinese cooking method and is prepared with a simmering pot of soup. Ingredients including meat and vegetables are placed on small plates, and are then cooked in the broth. Just like with dim sum, hot pot is another example of communal dining so it’s best enjoyed with others.

Here are the places worth checking out for hot pot:

  • Shuang Shuang: Shuang Shuang is the first restaurant in London to serve hot pot and is unique from other restaurants in that it features a conveyor belt. Simply pick and choose the ingredients you want to add to your pot, and ignore those you don’t want. Shuang Shuang offers a fun and enjoyable experience.
  • Hot Pot: Looking for something a little different? Hot Pot is actually the name of a Thai restaurant and is well known for its hot pot. Diners can also choose from other dishes including curry, rice noodles, and stir fry. If you enjoy spicy dishes then you’ll definitely want to put this restaurant at the top of your list.

Sichuan

Sichuan cuisine originates from Sichuan Province in China, and features bold and spicy flavours from heavy use of chilli peppers. There are different local variations within Sichuan Province, which include Chongqing, Chengdu, Zigong, and Buddhist vegetarian. Dishes from each region all have distinctive and complex flavours.

Here are some of the best restaurants for Sichuan cuisine:

  • JinLi: Conveniently located on Leicester Street, JinLi serves authentic Sichuan food including its signature grilled fish in chilli oil dish. Griddled dishes from cooked duck tongue to king prawns are other specialities that JinLi offer. And if you love singing, there are authentic KTV karaoke rooms right upstairs available for hire.
  • Baozi Inn: Baozi Inn specialises in spicy street food including skewered meats and vegetables loaded with lots of different spices. You’ll also want to try their signature Sichuan spicy beef noodles, which pack a savoury broth and large cubes of tender beef.

The first few restaurants may have only served Chinese cuisine in the beginning. But other eateries have since opened up that offer other cuisines including Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Malaysian, and even some European dishes. Visit Chinatown on an empty stomach for the chance to sample a variety of cuisines.

Some of the more popular places are busy especially during rush hours so it’s a good idea to make a reservation in advance. That way you won’t have to wait too long to get seated.

Feel like having a drink? There are plenty of cafes and bars around Chinatown that are perfect for any occasion. Candy Cafe offers Asian desserts and bubble tea – a milk tea drink from Taiwan that contains chewy tapioca balls. Or if you prefer having a cocktail, there’s a speakeasy bar hidden behind a door on Gerrard Street called The Experimental Cocktail Club. Other enjoyable bars include the Opium Cocktail and The Light Lounge. Both offer fun atmospheres and a great selection of drinks.

Dim Sum

Accommodation in Chinatown

It’s possible to walk around all of Chinatown in a single afternoon. But if you want to experience all that this charming district has to offer, you’ll need at least a few days. Accommodation is fairly limited in Chinatown but there are plenty of nearby hotels in Leicester Square, Soho, and Covent Garden.

Some of these hotels include:

  • Radisson Blu Edwardian, Hampshire
  • Hotel Cafe Royal London
  • St Martins Lane
  • Premier Inn London Leicester Square
  • The Savoy, A Fairmont Hotel
  • Royal National Hotel
  • The Piccadilly London West End
  • W London Leicester Square

 

These hotels place you within walking distance of Chinatown, including its many restaurants and bustling supermarkets. Chinese New Year is one of the busiest times of the year so if you plan to visit around mid-January to late-February, be sure to book rooms in advance.

Chinatown in London offers a unique look at East Asian culture and is a must-see. Indulge in some of the top rated restaurants in the world or simply walk around through the many delightful shops. There’s plenty to see and do here.

At Premium Tours, we offer a fantastic range of guided London tours that take you through some of the best spots in the city. Contact us today for booking information and our travel experts will be happy to help.

London at night

These Are the Best Things to See and Do in London in January

January can be a cold and dreary affair. The excitement of Christmas has long since passed and the celebrations of New Year’s Eve are over. But in London, despite the grey skies and persistent fog, there’s actually a lot going on to keep your spirits up and to make January an exciting month, rather than a slow month.

If you don’t want to leave the Christmas cheer behind then luckily London clings onto the festive spirit throughout January, with many markets and ice skating rinks still very much in full swing for the first few weeks of the month. The famous January sales will give you endless shopping opportunities across the city, while there are plenty of fantastic exhibitions and shows to experience. Explore the warm interiors of the many museums or palaces and enjoy London at a time of year when most other visitors tend to stay away.

To inspire you to visit the capital at the start of the year, here are the best things to see and do in London in January.

New Year’s Day

Start the New Year in style by witnessing the iconic London New Year’s Day Parade. Held without fail on 1st January each year – no matter how long the city has stayed up for the previous night – this is a colourful and lively experience to get your year off to a great start. With thousands of performers and floats descending onto the streets, it’s a real spectacle not to be missed, and it’s completely free to watch.

Shop at the January Sales

The January sales are, for many, a highlight of the month and London’s many shops go all out to bring in the customers. You can find some incredible bargains along the high streets with many retail outlets offering exceptional deals. Of course, with the cold streets outside not being too inviting, who wouldn’t want to head into the warmth for a little retail therapy? For the true January sales experience, head to Oxford Street, as long as you don’t mind pushing your way through the crowds for the best deals.

Oxford Street

The Last Christmas Markets

Although Christmas has long gone by the time January rolls around, many of London’s Christmas markets don’t seem to ever want to acknowledge that fact, and they stay open for as long as they can, making it a wonderful opportunity to relive that festive spirit. Many of the best, such as Christmas in Leicester Square and Winter Wonderland, stay open until the end of the first week of January and many stay open even longer.

Hogwarts in the Snow

Harry Potter fans can rejoice in the fact that Hogwarts in the Snow also stays open well into the New Year. The popular Warner Brothers Studio keep its Harry Potter world covered in snow, ice and festive decorations right up until the end of January, giving you plenty of time to explore the delights of the wizarding phenomenon in all its glory.

Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard

For many iconic tourist attractions, life in January continues on as it does through the rest of year, with the cold weather and dreary skies being no hindrance to the stoic London spirit. At the world famous Buckingham Palace, you can brave the chilly outside air to experience the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, without fail, every day of the week. Get there early for a good spot, because this is a sight that is always popular, no matter the time of year.

Buckingham Palace

Kensington Palace

Nearby Kensington Palace will also give you a chance to escape the cold, with its warm interiors being a delight to explore during January. You can learn all about the Royals that have called this beautiful palace home over the years, but perhaps more so than this, January is the time to visit because the exceptional Princess Diana Exhibition will only be open until February 2019.

Catch a Pantomime

Pantomimes are a much-loved British institution, providing families with fun and entertainment during the cold months of the year. London’s theatres play host to some of the best pantomime performances in the country, with many stars and celebrities taking to the stage to entertain the crowds in famous productions. Many pantomimes go on well into January.

Enjoy West End Theatre Production

Of course, it’s not just pantomimes being performed at London’s many theatres, as many venues continue to put on dramatic shows of classics, musicals and comedies. For an authentic London theatre performance, head to the West End, but remember to book in advance if there is a particular show you are looking to see.

London Short Film Festival

In January each year, film lovers can enjoy the delights of the London Short Film Festival. This 10-day event sees short films from across the country and internationally being shown in historic and iconic cinemas across London. You can watch some of the best up-and-coming directors and producers showcasing their finest work alongside like-minded film lovers.

Cruise the Thames

Even in cold January, the many boats that ply the Thames never stop operating and you might like to enjoy a cruise along London’s iconic river to see the city in all its glory. Although you might find the fog obscures the view every now and then, in its own way, the Thames and the city in January look remarkably beautiful. Rather than standing out on the open deck though, you might prefer to wrap up warm inside.

A river cruise on the Thames

London International Mime Festival

One of London’s more unusual, but resoundingly popular events, is the London International Mime Festival. Held in January, this festival has been running every year since 1977 and is quite unlike anything else you might attend in the city. In venues across London, incredible mime performances and shows are held throughout the month.

London Art Fair

The London Art Festival returns year after year at the end of January to showcase some of the world’s best and most innovative modern art. This is an exhibition that will leave you enthralled and mesmerised, and not only can you peruse the artwork itself, if you have the cash, you can even buy something.

Winter Lights Festival at Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf’s incredible Winter Lights Festival brightens up the dark January skies like no other event in London. Held in the last two weeks of January, the festival sees huge installations that are more art than simply lights being brought to the docks of Canary Wharf. Modern art mixes with bright illuminations, to create a unique festival that will instantly cure any winter blues that you might be enduring.

The Canary Wharf Ice Rink

As well as the impressive light display put on by Canary Wharf in January, this famous area of London also hosts one of the city’s most popular ice rinks, which is set up amongst the glittering skyscrapers and high rises of this business district. This is one of the longest-running ice rinks of the year, as it begins in November and doesn’t end until February. Strap on your skates and enjoy the pleasure of cruising across the ice at Canary Wharf.

Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum

The iconic Natural History Museum also plays host to one of London’s most popular ice skating rinks during the winter months, and their installations remain very much open during January too. You can skate away in the shadow of one of the city’s most elegant and historic buildings, enjoying a warm cup of hot chocolate, coffee or even mulled wine before seeking the even warmer interiors of the museum itself to experience the many wonderful attractions and exhibits that showcase the diversity of our natural world.

Natural History Museum

National Geographic Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition

Also held in the Natural History Museum is the world-famous National Geographic Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. This temporary exhibition returns each year to display the best work of photographers from across the world, and has been running for well over 50 years now. A panel of expert judges pick the best photographs of the natural world that have been taken over the previous year, and the winners and runners-up from the many different categories are all showcased at the Natural History Museum. While entrance to the permanent museum is free, this exhibition does incur an extra charge, but it’s well worth it to view the most dramatic photographs of the world we live in.

Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition

Photography lovers may also want to enjoy the visual delights of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Exhibition, which is held at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The event actually continues until May, so you have plenty of time to visit, but a visit in January is sure to inspire you for the rest of the year. This is an exceptional exhibition, showcasing the best of the spectacular universe that we are part of.

Getty Images Gallery

If you are looking for even more visual stimuli, then head to the renowned Getty Images Gallery in January too, because this is one of the premier locations to enjoy incredible photography. The galleries are open all through the year, but in January, they showcase the best work of Getty photographers from the previous year in one place, and there are sure to be some exceptional pieces on display from across the world.

Museum of London

The Museum of London is a free museum that tells the always-intriguing history of the City of London. From its humble beginnings to Roman development and through to the turbulent medieval and modern eras, you can discover all that it means to be a Londoner here. You can easily spend hours escaping the cold outside, and in January they usually host some temporary exhibitions showcasing particular details of London’s history, such as the Suffragettes fight to earn the vote for women.

London Adventure Travel Show

If the dreary weather is getting you down, then get inspired for an adventure abroad by visiting London’s excellent Adventure Travel Show. Held in January at Earl’s Court, this event sees speakers, writers, adventurers and photographers from across the world descending on London to give talks and to showcase their latest expeditions to the public. You can even find many tour companies at the show, and you might leave having booked a tour to somewhere more unusual, or perhaps somewhere nice and warm!

London Acappella Festival

Musical lovers will revel in the opportunity to hear some of the best acappella acts from around the world as they descend upon London in January to be part of this unique festival. Held at the end of the month at the Kings Place concert hall, you can enjoy acappella music at its best, from some of the most talented singers and exceptional artists who have made the genre their own.

Enjoy London’s Pubs

When all else fails and you still find yourself with the January blues despite London’s many events, then do as the locals do and seek solace in the warming, homely environments of some of the city’s best pubs. Enjoy some hearty English food, warming roast dinners or stodgy pies alongside a few drinks too of course.

The pub

Burns Night

Held on the 25th January, Burns Night is one of Scotland’s most famous national holidays. While London may seem like a long way south to be celebrating this event, actually, the city hosts some of the best Burns Night festivities outside of Scotland. This is the celebration of the poet Robert Burns and you can expect plenty of whisky, haggis and singing at any Burns Night event. Head to the Scottish pubs for the best atmosphere in the evening and be prepared for a long night of merriment, drinking and eating.

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

London Skyline

These Are the Best Places to Eat in London

London is a culinary heaven with a huge array of restaurants, pubs and cafes serving food from across the world. The city’s large multicultural population ensures that you can find almost any dish from any country somewhere in the city, and you can probably dine out at a different restaurant serving a different speciality every night of the year.

As well as a vast range of culinary styles on offer in London, the capital has a wide range of eateries that cater to different budgets. From simple curry houses and food markets offering quality at affordable prices, to mid-range diners and Michelin-starred restaurants run by celebrity chefs.

To help you decide where to dine on your next visit to the capital, we’ve put together this list of the best places to eat in London, for any budget and any taste.

The Best Budget Places to Eat in London

Although London could never be described as a cheap city to visit, there are still a great number of budget options available that can help you to save those hard-earned pennies while still enjoying a delicious, quality meal when travelling to the capital. There are some great food markets and some quality street food alongside more traditional restaurants that offer excellent value meals.

Brick Lane Curry Houses

If you are looking for a great curry house serving up authentic British-style dishes for a bargain price, then head to Brick Lane. This is one of the fabled locations where the idea of a good curry began to take off in England, and you find some of the cheapest and best restaurants still here today. Brick Lane is quite literally full of curry houses, and you can wander along the street taking in the delicious aromas and checking out the many menus before deciding which one to eat at. You can find a huge array of South Asian food, but of course it’s most notable for serving up classics that the British have made their own, from vindaloos to chicken tikka masala.

Curry

Camden Market

Camden Market is a favourite amongst tourists and locals alike for its lively atmosphere and colourful demeanour. This is an energetic place and you can find hundreds of eateries and market stalls serving up quality food from across the world. As long as you don’t mind some rustic seating and a few crowds, then this is the perfect place for budget eaters. You can find stalls selling a variety of Chinese and Thai food – they even let you try before you buy a whole portion – while other street chefs are cooking up everything from burgers and hot dogs to Caribbean curries and New York-style pizzas. There are even a few bars for refreshment, too.

Flat Iron Square

Flat Iron Square is a street food-inspired eatery that takes inspiration from across the world. Found in Bankside, this is a collection of different vendors, street food stalls and bars that are all under one roof, making it a great place to visit with friends or family who might have different tastes. Order what you fancy and then take it back to the communal seating with a beverage. You can find lots of Asian dishes alongside burgers and other fare, and it’s all at very reasonable prices. Flat Iron Square only opened in 2016, but its unique atmosphere has ensured that already it’s become a hit amongst the locals, so get here early if you want to eat in the evenings when it’s at its busiest.

Borough Markets

Borough Markets have become a fixture on many a visitor’s list when travelling to London. This acclaimed marketplace can trace its history back centuries, but despite its age, it’s become one of London’s most contemporary marketplaces, with a multitude of stalls selling fusion food from across the globe. Of course, you can find some real classics, such as English fish and chips or hearty, meat-filled pies, but you can also find Asian street food, macaroni innovators and much, much more at Borough Market. Everything here is incredibly well priced for London too, with sizeable portions that won’t leave you hungry.

Borough Market

Poppies Fish and Chips

If you are on the hunt for the best fish and chips in London, then one of the prime contenders for the coveted title is Poppies Fish and Chips. This excellent restaurant serves up huge portions of crispy, battered fish alongside chip shop-style chips that will certainly leave you satisfied. Everything is well priced and you can find several outlets across London, including a kiosk for when you need a quick takeaway.

Baozhi Inn

For those looking for a more unusual budget restaurant, then a great choice is Baozhi Inn. This restaurant cooks up delicious food that’s taken straight from the streets of northern China, and although it’s not quite as cheap as eating out in Beijing, compared to other London eateries, Baozhi is a real steal.

The Best Midrange Places to Eat in London

If you’d like to splurge a little but aren’t looking to go full-on gourmet when in London, then there are a great range of eateries across the city offering the perfect menus for those looking to spend somewhere in the middle. From unique restaurants serving enormous pizzas to upscale pubs cooking the perfect Sunday roast, here are our favourite midrange places to eat at in London.

Sunday roast

Kiln

The Kiln is an award-winning restaurant that’s located in the heart of Soho. This Thai establishment is so good in fact, that it was given the title of Best Restaurant at the National Restaurant Awards in 2018. It’s not cheap, but despite its popularity it won’t break the bank either, and you can enjoy their unusual take on Southeast Asian cuisine, as long as you can secure a table. The chefs cook most of their dishes in clay pots – the kiln – giving the food a special taste that’s matched by few other Thai restaurants in the capital.

Marksman

Found in Hackney, the Marksman is a pub that quite simply is a cut above the rest of the competition. Yes, you will pay more for your pub grub and for your beers, but the quality is uncompromising. You can choose from the cheaper bar menu, or take on the full dining experience in the restaurant, where you’ll find classic British dishes with a twist. The pub is also an historic establishment, making this a great place to eat or drink out when in London. Visit on Sundays for their well-regarded roast dinner.

Tandoor Chophouse

The Tandoor Chophouse in central London can claim to be one of the best Indian restaurants in the city, despite being relatively new to the culinary scene. The Tandoor Chophouse focuses on the meaty side of Indian cooking, rather than the curries, although you can still get them here too. This is a restaurant that cooks all its meat in a classic tandoor oven after marinating the cuts for hours in Indian-inspired spices and sauces. It’s a great new take on the Indian dining scene in London, but unlike those curry houses in Brick Lane, a trip to the Tandoor Chophouse will set you back a bit.

Sabor

Located in Mayfair, this is an upscale Spanish restaurant serving up some of the best and most authentic Andalusian tapas in the city. Sabor takes authenticity to the next level, and in true Spanish style, certain tapas items are only available to be ordered and eaten at the bar itself, alongside a great wine pairing, of course. The main restaurant serves up an even larger selection of dishes with regional influences from not just Andalusia, but from Catalonia and the Basque Country, too.

Homeslice

Homeslice specialises in one thing: enormous pizzas. Over the past few years they’ve really taken off and there are now several restaurants located across the city. However, most of the time, you can’t make reservations in advance; you just have to walk in and hope there’s space. The pizzas come in every style imaginable, but the biggest draw is their size, at a whopping 18 inches in diameter. You can buy a whole pizza or just a few slices of each. It won’t cost a fortune but it will cost a bit more than that Pizza Hut takeaway.

Pizza

Burger and Lobster

Burger and Lobster is known for serving just two items: burgers and lobsters. This is minimalism at its best, although you can enjoy your burger with different toppings and your lobster can be cooked in several different ways, with different sauces. Everything is a flat price too, so most people tend to go for the juicy, delicious lobsters over the burgers, but if you are not into seafood, the burgers are still absolutely scrumptious. With soaring popularity, there are now several Burger and Lobster restaurants across the city, but be sure to book in advance.

The Best Upmarket Restaurants to Eat in London

London is also home to hundreds of well-established, iconic and famous upmarket restaurants offering gourmet cuisine to those who want to treat themselves. There are plenty of Michelin-starred dining choices in the capital, while many of the world’s best chefs choose to set up restaurants here. Here are the best upmarket restaurants to eat at in London.

Veeraswamy

Veeraswamy is an historic Indian restaurant to visit because it’s been in continuous operation since 1926. This can claim to be the oldest Indian restaurant in the country, and really, this could be said to be where Britain’s fascination with Indian delicacies and curries really began. With such heritage, it’s not cheap and it’s not easy to simply walk in and find a table, so make sure you book well in advance to avoid disappointment. The restaurant delivers when it comes to taste too, and you can find many great regional specialities from across India being cooked up by the excellent chefs on duty at Veeraswamy.

Marcus

Marcus is one of London’s premium French offerings, and it’s located within the luxury realm of The Berkley Hotel in the centre of affluent Knightsbridge. This is a high-end dining experience run by acclaimed chef Marcus Wareing, who was not humble enough to leave his name out of the title of his restaurant. Marcus serves up elegant tasting menus that fuse French recipes and cooking techniques with English influences and ingredients to create a fusion that was deemed worthy of at least one Michelin star.

Alain at the Dorchester

Alain at the Dorchester is one of London’s most expensive restaurants, but if you can afford the high price then it’s worth the cost to indulge in a sublime tasting menu crafted by Alain Ducasse, a world-renowned chef who claims 19 Michelin stars in his repertoire. Located in the Dorchester Hotel, the restaurant has 3 Michelin stars to its name alone, and it combines French influences with seasonal produce to create a beautiful blend of dishes.

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay

Well-known celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has several well-regarded restaurants under his name, but one of his finest is Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Opened in 1998, this was the chef’s first-ever restaurant. Since its success, he’s gone on to become a household name, but the quality has never changed. The restaurant gets rave reviews from critics and is often said to be one of London’s best restaurants. For that reason alone, make sure you reserve a table well in advance.

Aqua Shard

The Aqua Shard is a fine dining experience like no other in London. This gourmet restaurant is found high up on the 31st floor of the Shard, offering its guests unparalleled views over the London skyline while they enjoy world-class dishes. The tastes on offer are as dizzying as the altitude, and you can find a wide selection of British meals that evoke a sense of London’s culinary journey in this most iconic of buildings. The Aqua Shard serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but many will also visit purely for the afternoon tea and for the panoramic vistas of London.

Afternoon tea at The Shard

As experts on all things London, Premium Tours can help you to find the best places to eat in the capital. While you’re here, check out our exciting range of London tours.

23 Family Attractions in London You Need to Visit

London, the British capital is full of fun family attractions that you really need to visit. From the waxworks of Madame Tussauds to the dizzy heights of the London Eye, there are a lot of great sites to see and attractions to visit. Take the kids to the city’s fun but educational museums, see dinosaur skeletons at the Natural History Museum or explore the dark tales of the Tower of London. Stroll through green parks or spend hours navigating the many packed floors of the giant Hamleys toy shop.

There are a lot of great family attractions waiting for you in the city of London. Here’s our travel guide to the best of them.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is a fantastic place to start any family day out and shouldn’t be missed in any London Sightseeing tours. The iconic palace is a breathtaking site to see, with its extravagant design and opulent grandeur. Children will love the colourful uniforms and giant hats of the red-coated soldiers, while if you time your visit right, you will be able to catch the fun sight of the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Stroll through the green gardens of St James’s Park or carry on to the wide open spaces of nearby Hyde Park.

Buckingham Palace and The Mall

Hamleys

Hamleys is the most famous toy shop in the United Kingdom, and probably the whole world too. This multi-storied shop is devoted entirely to toys, and for kids it’s pretty much heaven. Adults might tire quickly and end up spending far too much money, but for the youngsters, there are hours of fun to be had from just simply wandering around and seeing the incredible range of toys for sale. Any toy you can imagine can be found for sale in Hamleys, and even the parents might be amazed at what’s in store on the shop’s many different levels.

London Eye

The London Eye makes for a fantastic family attraction to visit. This iconic sight is essentially just one giant Ferris Wheel, but a Ferris Wheel that has been constructed on an enormous scale. The viewing pods take visitors high up above the London skyline for amazing views over the entire city. The whole family will enjoy not only the bird’s eye view of London, but the experience as a whole making it one of the top London attractions to visit – assuming no one is scared of heights, that is.

London Eye Pod

Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds is the world-famous waxwork museum that brings your favourite characters from history and the film screen to life. The unbelievably realistic waxwork models are detailed enough to fool almost anyone, and children and adults alike will love seeing famous celebrities in this mock environment. The displays change regularly, to keep the museum up to date with the world’s most famous celebrities and political figures, ensuring you can come back time after time and still be amazed by the realistic waxworks of Madame Tussauds.

Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the city’s most historic sites, and these days it’s also one of London’s most popular tourist attractions. You can spend hours exploring the different towers, keeps and museums, and there is always something to be found here for kids and adults. Enjoy the sight of the unique Beefeaters in their flamboyant uniforms or the glinting views of the Royal Crown Jewels in the museum. Learn about the intriguing history of the Tower of London and all the ghostly tales that go with it. With the Tower of London having its own London Underground stop, it’s a very easy attraction to see and visit.

Thames River Cruise

The Thames is a river that’s inseparable from London, and while visiting the city it’s a wonderful place to explore. While you can stroll along the banks and enjoy the vibrant riverside culture, you might prefer to take the family out on the water for an authentic experience along the Thames. There are many great boat cruises which will take you along the length of the river, showing you all of London’s most famous sights from the unique perspective of the Thames.

Warner Bros Studios

The Warner Bros Studios in London are one of the best places to visit in the city for those who love Harry Potter, which, let’s face it, is the vast majority of both children and adults. You can see the film sets up close and really be immersed in the magical world of witches and wizards. See how they brought to life the book’s best characters and scenes, explore Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest and much, much more at the exciting Warner Bros Studios.

Harry Potter Walking Tour

If you are a real Harry Potter fan and a trip to the Warner Bros Studios isn’t quite enough for you, then take the family on a Harry Potter Walking Tour of London. Many of the film’s best scenes were shot on the streets of London and at iconic locations throughout the city, such as the elegant Leadenhall Market, which stood in for Diagon Alley. You can explore the city and all the famous sights while entertaining the kids with tales of magic and Hogwarts.

Harry Potter Tour Store Front

Shrek’s Adventure

If you want to keep the kids entertained by bringing even more big screen characters to real life, then Shrek’s Adventure is another great experience waiting in London. Here you can meet your favourite characters from Shrek, walk through the animated world as it’s brought to life in the scenery and through 4D shows, and learn more about Shrek and the characters that make it such a popular film.

Go Ape Battersea

For a real adventure, then a great place to spend the day is at Go Ape in Battersea. This is for kids and adults, but the minimum age is 10 years old on the higher course. Younger children can take on the shorter, lower, junior course too. Get the adrenaline pumping as you traverse a high rope course in Battersea Park, with views from the top of the giant adventure playground being well worth the effort to get up. Tackle zip lines, climb ropes and take on the heights for a great family day out in London, that offers something quite different from the usual experiences in the city.

London Dungeon

The London Dungeon is one of the creepiest and perhaps scariest days out you can have with the family in London. But for some strange reason, this gory, gruesome and brutal experience is one of London’s most beloved tourist attractions, and kids always seem to love it. The London Dungeon takes the worst parts of human history, the gore, prisons and all the executions, and somehow manages to turn it all into a light-hearted learning experience that is bizarrely compelling.

London Transport Museum

The London Transport Museum doesn’t exactly have the most captivating and inspiring name, and of course, children might be put off simply by the fact that this is a museum, but actually, this can be one of the most fun days out for families in the city, particularly for the kids. While tracing the history of transport in London, from horse-drawn carriages to modern Cross Rail developments, the museum gives the kids a chance to drive the trains in simulators, to sit in bus driver’s seats and many more exciting activities. This isn’t the only London we’d recommend you go visits as they are full of fantastic activities for the kids and adults alike.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is one of London’s best museums, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Families will love it here, and while the parents are busy learning about Charles Darwin or exploring the many different exhibits from across the world, the kids will love the enormous dinosaur skeletons and the interactive displays they can enjoy across the many floors of the museum.

Natural History Museum Interior

Crystal Palace Park

If the dinosaurs of the Natural History Museum aren’t enough for the kids, then take a trip to Crystal Palace Park for an exciting sight that will keep them entertained and out in the fresh air. It’s a lovely park in itself, but the real attraction here are the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. These strange sculptures date back to 1852 when the Great Exhibition came to London, and ever since they’ve been the centrepiece of the park and an amusing and surreal sight for everyone that visits them.

Science Museum

The Science Museum is a great place to spend the day, and while the kids might not be so amused by displays on microbes or theoretical physics, they will love the interactive exhibitions and the areas aimed at the younger generation. There are plenty of hands-on displays, simulations and even more to keep them entertained for hours at the Science Museum. Found just next to the Natural History Museum, combine this with a trip to see the dinosaurs too.

Museum of Childhood

What better place to visit on a family day out than the Museum of Childhood? Found in Bethnal Green, this museum is run by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and you can rest assured it’s a quality establishment. The museum has great displays of toys through history, and children and adults alike will find it interesting to compare their childhoods to those of past generations.

Hackney City Farm

Also found in the Bethnal Green area, the Hackney City Farm is a wonderful place to see farmyard animals in the city. You can get up close with all the animals, from pigs and horses to rabbits and guinea pigs. On Saturdays, the farm runs more interactive sessions, when you can learn how to care for the animals who live here.

Richmond Park

Richmond Park is a fantastic place to take the family to see wildlife too. The beautiful boundaries of the park enclose huge herds of deer, and while the walking paths, trees and greenery make for a great escape from the city, the kids will love being able to see the deer in an almost natural setting. Enjoy the outdoor air and call in at the charming cafes for a break.

Richmond Park Sunset

London Zoo

The ZSL London Zoo can proudly say that it’s one of the oldest zoos in the world, dating back to 1828. It’s also one of the most popular tourist attractions in London and a great day out for the whole family. There are hundreds of different species of wildlife to be found at London Zoo and thousands of individual animals too. At London Zoo, you can find everything from prides of lions to penguins, and snakes to spiders. Get face to face with some of the world’s most fearsome creatures and learn a little bit more about them at the same time.

Sealife London Aquarium

The Sealife Aquarium is another great London attraction where you can come face to face with nature. The underwater world is a distant place, but here the whole family can see the beauty of the oceans first hand. Experience close encounters with sharks, learn more about underwater ecosystems, and discover how we can help to protect the marine world for future generations.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace was the home of the infamous Henry VIII in the days of the Tudor monarchy. It’s a great day out with the family and a day that will be filled not only with history but with awesome activities for everyone. Explore the palace, the grounds and of course, get lost in the expansive Hampton Court Palace Maze.

Ragged School Museum

The Ragged School Museum makes for one of the more interesting days out in London. Found in Tower Hamlets, the museum transports you back to the Victorian era and gives children the chance to see first hand what it would be like to be a school child during the 19th century. Period dress is very much encouraged.

Legoland Windsor

Legoland is guaranteed to be a hit with the kids. Found in Windsor, it makes for a great day trip from the city and offers fun activities for the adults too, after all, who doesn’t enjoy playing with Lego? There are great rides for all ages and it’s always going to be a fun-filled family day out. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, then this is a fantastic day trip from London that’s guaranteed to get the kids excited.

A great way to see some of these sites is to purchase the London Pass. However, as London experts, we know all the best family attractions in the city – don’t forget we run an exciting range of London tours, and London Bus Tours too.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 beautiful 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 to view the royal collection of art & antiquities, 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, is the birthplace of Queen Victoria 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 Hampton Court Palace 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 you can book online and will help make your visit extra special.

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7 Quiet Places in London to Get Some Peace

London is one of the busiest, most vibrant cities in the world, and life here is never short of excitement. After a fun-filled day exploring, why not recharge your batteries by taking a break from the hustle and bustle? Tucked away in the capital are some wonderfully relaxing, quiet places – here are seven of the best.

1. Kyoto Garden

Surround yourself with the beauty of Kyoto Garden in Holland Park, one of the jewels in stylish Kensington’s crown, and let your worries melt away. There are few more soothing places in London than this gem, which was inspired by Japanese promenade gardens. Stroll past blossom trees and pause by the waterfall to discover true calm.

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2. Museum of Happiness

Filled with floor cushions and lanterns, Camden’s Museum of Happiness is a relaxing space where periods of silence and stillness are encouraged. One of the museum’s key values is mindfulness, which is why it provides mindfulness meditation sessions. In a quiet, calm atmosphere, you’ll learn how to let go of stress and enhance your wellbeing.

3. Barbican Conservatory

Behind the Barbican’s concrete exterior lies an enchanting oasis just waiting to be discovered. The Barbican Conservatory is a tropical glasshouse that gives you the opportunity to find peace where you’d never expect it: in the middle of London’s fast-paced financial district. Experience silence broken only by birdsong and flowing water, and then relax with afternoon tea.

4. Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

Whether you’re most drawn to the awe-inspiring shrines, mesmerising carvings or manicured gardens, you can’t fail to find peace in London’s Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Spirituality and tranquillity are central to this Hindu place of worship, commonly known as Neasden Temple. Meditate under the dome to fully immerse yourself in the calm, soothing atmosphere.

5. Russell Square Gardens

Bloomsbury is as famous for its elegant garden squares as its literary heritage. Some of the green spaces are closed to the public, but Russell Square’s Grade II listed gardens are open to all, and they just so happen to be the biggest and best! The tree-lined pathways give the area its magical mood, with dense foliage acting almost like a soundproof barrier, shielding you from the traffic beyond.

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6. The Victorians Display at the NPG

While some parts of Covent Garden’s National Portrait Gallery are busy, silence and serenity reign in the display devoted to the Victorians. It’s filled with portraits of the people who shaped the UK during one of its most significant historical periods. Why not spend time with the Brontë sisters (their famous triple portrait graces the wall in room 24) and swap the pressures of modern life for peace and quiet?

7. St Paul’s Cathedral

Seated on Ludgate Hill, St Paul’s Cathedral is not only an iconic London landmark but also the perfect place for quiet contemplation. The combination of Sir Christopher Wren’s stunning architecture and magnificent views makes St Paul’s truly breathtaking. A trip there is bound to reawaken your sense of wonder. St Paul’s is a key part of several of our tours, including the bestselling Total London tour. Our guides never tire of seeing the amazement on people’s faces when they enter.

Premium Tours will help you make the most of your time in London, whether that involves finding quiet spots or something completely different. For professional guides and VIP access to top attractions, book one of our fantastic London tours today.