Top 10 tips for your first trip to London

Planning your first trip to London can be a daunting prospect. With so many things to see and do, it is sometimes difficult to know where to start, especially if you are only in town for a few days. They say that when you are tired of London, you are tired of life. Well let me tell you, if you wander aimlessly around the streets of London without any prior planning or research, you will be tired – very tired indeed. Our top 10 tips should help you make the most out of your trip.

1. The Gore

If you are an affable hedonist looking for a quirky British style hotel that offers privacy, romance, character and a little bit of rock ‘n roll, look no further than The Gore. In a fabulous location next to Kensington Gardens it’s the perfect place to stay if you are heading to the Royal Albert Hall. The fifty unique rooms, furnished with handpicked period pieces, are both luxurious and enchanting.

The Gore

2. ME London

This shiny new luxurious 5 star hotel occupying a fantastic location right on The Strand, has been exquisitely designed by world famous architects Foster and Partners. Only minutes away from Covent Garden, this glamorous and cosmopolitan hotel is perfectly placed for theatre trips, luxury retail opportunities and fine dining. Mind you, with STK London serving superb steaks on the ground floor, and the Radio Rooftop Bar offering deliciously different cocktails and incredible views of the London skyline on the 10th floor, leaving the hotel isn’t entirely necessary.

3. A West End show

If you only have time to take in one show, make sure it’s Billy Elliot. It’s hard to imagine how the story of a young boy’s struggle to make his dream come true, set in a Northern mining town, against the backdrop of a miner’s strike can be so inspirational, but it never fails to captivate audiences from all over the world. Billy Elliot really is the ultimate feel good musical.

4. Afternoon tea

Taking afternoon tea is as quintessentially English as talking about the weather and mowing the lawn. It’s not something that one would want to do every day (way too many carbs!), but as a special treat every once in a while, it’s hard to beat. There are of course numerous hotels and restaurants serving afternoon tea in London, but if you like the best, you may as well head straight to The Goring Hotel in Belgravia. With its exquisite décor, elegant surroundings, superb champagne, delicious tea and delicate treats, afternoon tea at The Goring is as close to perfection as you are ever likely to find.

Afternoon tea at The Goring

5. Harrods

A visit to the world’s most famous department store is a must. Harrods is a shopping experience like no other. Don’t think for one minute that you can simply pop in for a quick look – you are quite likely to spend an entire day in here, once you have been seduced by the sumptuous surroundings and spectacular staff. To avoid disorientation, it’s best to start at the top and work your way down. Highlights include; the Egyptian Escalator, the Dodi and Diana Memorials, the world’s most expensive bottle of perfume by Clive Christian, the Food Hall and the Laduree.

Harrods

6. Royal Academy of Arts

The RA exists quite simply to promote art and artists – a mission it pursues through exhibitions, education and debate. It’s worth visiting the RA just to enjoy the splendour of its surroundings in Burlington House on Piccadilly. A visit to the RA offers a unique cultural and visual experience, as well as providing a haven of peace and tranquillity in world away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

7. The Delaunay

Located on the corner of Drury Lane and The Aldwych, The Delaunay is an all-day café restaurant inspired by the grand cafes of Europe. Its elegant, spacious surroundings bring instant joy to each and every diner. The service is impeccable – the kind where you have no idea what the waiter’s name is, nor do you have any recollection of what he looks like, but you know that as soon as you require anything, it will appear as if by magic. Oh, and the food is faultless.

8. Buckingham Palace

Everybody is intrigued to know where the Queen lives and a trip to Buckingham Palace will not disappoint. Be sure to see The Changing of the Guard, which is quite simply the process of a new guard exchanging duty with the old guard, but a thrilling spectacle nonetheless.

9. St. Paul’s Cathedral

This magnificent Baroque style cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren is one of the most famous landmarks of the London skyline. A symbol of hope, resilience and strength, St. Paul’s Cathedral is a fascinating place to visit. Don’t miss the breathtakingly beautiful views from the Golden Gallery.

St. Paul's Cathedral

10. Natural History Museum

Famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons, the Natural History Museum is home to 70 million specimens. If you visit the museum between 23rd May and 7th September 2014, you will be able to see a perfectly preserved woolly mammoth that died 42,000 years ago. The baby mammoth named Lyuba, meaning love in Russian, was so well preserved that there were traces of her mother’s milk in her stomach. Full of fascinating facts, the Natural History Museum is the perfect place for a family outing.

Ceri Tinley is the Co-Founder and MD of Consensio Holidays.

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Comments (10)

  1. esme says:

    Tips for your second trip to London:

    • Walk London’s South Bank (see it first from atop the London Eye)
    • See St. Bartholomew the Great church, the oldest in London
    • Visit the quirky Sir John Soane Museum (candlelight tour available the first Tuesday of every month)
    • Try the bizarre Hunterian Museum (weird stuff in jars)
    • Walk the scenic Highgate Cemetery, visit Karl Marx’s grave
    • See how the other half lives on Bond Street
    • Shop Harrod’s food hall (check-out the cars behind the store)
    • Eat at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (or don’t…)
    • Walk through the Royal Courts of Justice (especially if architecture is your thing)

  2. Laurie Jo Miller Farr says:

    On your umpteenth trip to London, or if you live there, you’ll know that:

    ***Sterling is nearly 15% higher than this time last year!

    1) The Gore was trendy in the mid-90’s.
    2) Billy Eliiot is not playing at a West End theatre, but at the Victoria Theatre. And that the half-price ticket stand at Leicester Square is where you ought to go first.
    3) The RA is one of the few top museums that charges admission, so why not recommend the National Gallery, British Museum, V&A and others that do not.
    4) Skip Harrods. Go to Selfridge’s instead.
    5) Afternoon tea with champagne at the Goring Hotel costs £52.50 per person, excluding service. Your readers might want to know that is nearly $200 at today’s exchange rate.
    And so on…

  3. Paul Johnson says:

    Woah, Laurie… you sound rather fed up!

    To take two of the points you make (the ones stated as fact, rather than opinion)…

    Billy Elliot is playing at the Victoria *Palace* Theatre. Although away from the West End, this is still considered to be a West End theatre. To quote Wikipedia “West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of ‘Theatreland’ in and near the West End of London.”

    On Wikipedia’s own page for the theatre in question, it reads “Victoria Palace Theatre is a West End theatre in Victoria Street, in the City of Westminster, opposite Victoria Station.”

    £52.50 equates to $88.70 USD at currently exchange rates, but perhaps you stated $200 as the cost for two, with a tip. In any event, it perhaps just needs clarifying as people could be misled by your comment to believe that £52.50 equates to $200.

  4. Anna says:

    Everyone will always have a ‘better’ idea of what to do in London. And in terms of the post (which the following comment rectified): FYI, London does consist of more than just the West. It’s like going to New York and thinking there’s only Times Square. And if a tourist is actually considering staying at the aforementioned hotel, I don’t think the price of ‘Tea’ will be much of a preoccupation. This is a ‘luxury’ travel blog after all, whatever that means. Regardless, a nice roundup! *thumbs up*

  5. Sarah Blinco says:

    Loving the passion here; London is a place where there’s something different and awesome to discover every day. If you’re after a nice rooftop bar experience though, Sushi Samba near Liverpool Street is lovely. Also, the bar/restaurant at Tate Modern is beautiful for a drink with a view. Both are free to enter, which leaves money for a glass of bubbles :-)

  6. T. S says:

    My advice about going to London is to NOT go to London. The creativity seems to have vanished and it’s a small fortune for an unsatisfying experience. Almost every show is either based on a movie from the 80’s or 90’s or is a revival. Food is better, but not decent, even if paying top dollar. We got completely ripped off at Duck and Waffle.

    London has traded creative for trendy in an effort to extract your tourist dollars with a smirk. It’s boring, insincere, and there’s not much new happening.

  7. Sophie says:

    A very luxurious way to do London. I love Esme’s suggestion of visiting South Bank, there’s always something happening. And for food, sometimes you can’t beat a trip to Borough Market or Brick Lane Market, the food is just sublime. As for entertainment, Les Mis is the next show on my list and although it’s very popular, Madam Tussaurds, on Baker Street, is a very fun way to spend an afternoon, (you can even see a statue of Sherlock Holmes). A trip on a water taxi from Greenwich to Waterloo is fun and affordable way to see the city from the Thames.

  8. Sfseltzer says:

    My suggestion…first and foremost jump on a double decker red bus and take the city tour of it is your first time. THEN decide what u want to see more of. London never ceases to delight no matter how many times u go there.

  9. Debra Hammmond says:

    It lovely read something that offers such love and passion in Top 10 tips for your first trip to London, but tips for every visit
    Thank you as normally everything is so negative we need more positive comments

  10. Jann Flatinger says:

    Like NYC, you do not need to spend a fortune to entertain yourself. If you have the $, then do it but otherwise you can have a fabulous time without spending loads of dough. We always use the double decker tour buses too to get oriented to any new city. Pubs are great for lunches. Kensington Palace offers tours. Fortnum & Mason is lovely. Check out the Old Globe Theater; Tower of London; Queen’s walking bridge, Thames River, London Eye, Parliament, etc. We arrive in May and I can’t wait.

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