There are some aspects of life in London which are widely acknowledged and known about, and other things that aren’t such common knowledge. For example, while the traditions of London are accepted as part and parcel of its appeal for tourists from around the world, little updates and cultural fusions such as the existence of Indian afternoon tea in London make for some interesting experiences – and prove that the city of London really is one of the most diverse places in the world.
In this article, we’re sharing 9 things that you need to know about before you visit London – ranging from things to plan in advance, to always carrying the right tools for a successful day out.
1. There is no real “peak season”
First and foremost, one of the most important things you need to know about London is that it is always busy. Of course, this fact brings with it a series of pros and cons – for example, while the year-round demand for London hotel deals with breakfast included means you will always find a good deal, it also means that queues for top attractions remain long throughout the year, and that the best restaurants always have waitlists.
We recommend planning your itinerary in advance and purchasing tickets or a London Pass prior to your visit, to maximise your opportunity to enjoy as much of the city as possible during your stay.
2. Thursday is the biggest night out of the week
When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. When work finishes on a Friday, the only thing that most workers want to do is get home to their families and start the weekend – meaning that after work drinks simply stand in the way of the start of the weekend.
Going out on a Thursday celebrates the end of the week drawing closer, with many of the pubs and bars around central London packed out from 5pm onwards.
3. Be wary of tipping on top of service charge
Tipping means different things to different people from different countries. In the UK, many of the central London and Lancaster Gate restaurants will add a service charge to your bill automatically after a meal, meaning that the tip you’re keen to leave is already covered in your main bill.
Look out for that 12.5% surcharge – and note that if you weren’t happy with the service or with your experience, you are well within your rights to ask for it to be removed.
4. … but understand that this service charge does go directly to the team
For the most part, and across almost all reputable restaurants and eateries, all service charges and tips go directly to the team on duty at the ed of the day or night – meaning that you can rest assured that anything you leave will go to the person who you meant it for.
5. There are shopping areas for sunny and rainy days
When thinking about shopping in London, it’s easy to head straight to Oxford Street. However, this is not the only place in London where you can pick up gifts, souvenirs, and some designer deals – with Regent’s Street, Bond Street, Covent Garden, the two Westfield Centres, and The Kings Road all offering enjoyable shopping experiences with far smaller crowds.
The two Westfield shopping centres, one in West London and one over in Stratford, are especially good options on rainy days – containing all the popular stores under one roof.
6. … and there are plenty of rainy days!
If there’s one thing that everybody visiting London needs to keep on them, it’s an umbrella. You never know when the next British downpour is going to happen, so being prepared for the weather is key.
And while we’re on accessories and personal items, make sure that you have good footwear on you that you can walk comfortably in. Even booking a central hotel like the Park Grand Lancaster Gate will leave you with miles’ worth of walking once you start bulking out your itinerary with viewpoints and attractions – and you will certainly get your daily step count goal in during your stay.
7. Skip the tube!
Not only does the tube and London underground network get super busy during rush hour, but it also takes you down beneath the city – removing the chance to see more of London during your travels through and across the city. Instead of heading straight for the tube, consider alternative modes of transport, such as the bus, Boris bikes, or even walking.
If you do decide to hire bikes or walk from attraction to attraction, we recommend sticking as close to the river Thames as possible. Along here, it is always easy to orient yourself based on the surrounding buildings, and you will always be able to enjoy interesting and exciting views over the river. Plus, you can always hop on the Uber boat if you fancy a sit down!
8. Know that the variety in prices across London can be huge!
Drink and food prices in London vary immensely depending on the exact location of the bar or restaurant, its brand name, and its status in London. Seriously, bars just 100m apart could fluctuate in the price of a pint by multiple pounds – which is why researching and avoiding tourist trips is an important part of any London plan.
9. Plan your day in advance
London is not a huge city, but it makes a huge difference if you can create an itinerary and a plan for your trip, which groups local and nearby attractions together as part of a single morning or full day plan.
For example, rather than deciding to do Shoreditch and Kensington in one day, and then head to Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace another day, spend one day in central London enjoying the royal parks and the palaces, and then head to Shoreditch and east London the next day.
The concierge in your chosen hotel will be only too happy to help you plan your day and create an itinerary – simply ask for their advice and help on arrival!