The Essential Guide to London: Best things to Do, Eat and Stay

Westminster Abbey is one of the best things to do in London.

London is always calling. The food, the history, the sights, the coffee! One of the best cities in the world (in my opinion) and a great introduction to international travel. London is filled with fantastic attractions and delicious eats. (Don’t listen to a single person who say English food isn’t good. They don’t know what they are saying.) This essential guide of the very best of London is a perfect starting point to plan a full trip to the city. So keep reading for the essential guide to London with the best places to stay in London, the best places to eat in London and best things to do in London.

At Pragmatic Travelers, my recommendations below are ONLY from my personal experiences. I ate, stayed and visited all of my recommendations below. This page contains affiliate links of products/hotels that I trust. This means I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase/book a hotel through my links, at no cost to you.

Making a full trip to England? Check out our seaside guide to Cornwall and the quant villages guide to Sussex.

Tips and Tricks

Covent Garden is one of the best things to do in London.
  • Learn the Tube. Love the Tube. Easiest way to get around London. Efficient, safe and clean. Just watch out for rush hour in the morning; had many misadventures trying to get on jammed pack cars.
  • London has some of the best food in the world but do your research. Don’t expect every pub to be good. Another misadventure with nachos in a pub…the horror!
  • Leave the city. So many amazing day trips just a train ride away.
  • Summer in London is busy. If you can, travel during the shoulder seasons.
  • Book the big attractions ahead of time or get to them early. Thank me later.

Best Hotels in London

Big Ben is one of the best things to do in London.
  • hub by Premier Inn London Westminster Abbey-Compact rooms, affordable, clean and great location. The rooms were modern and weirdly cozy. I do like that cocoon feeling. Highly recommend.
  • In an Airbnb. Great way to escape the tourist areas and live like a Londoner. I stayed at this Airbnb. Close to the the tube, clean and safe. 
  • London Marriot Hotel Grosvenor Square, London- Beautiful hotel, clean, comfortable, central to everything. Very much enjoyed my stay here. 
  • Use this London Hotel Search to make your travel research just a bit easier. There will be reviews, descriptions and pictures.

Best Things to do in London

  • Wander along South Bank-My absolute favorite thing to do in London. Grab a coffee in the morning and walk up and down the Thames.
  • Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Tower Bridge-I mean these are pretty obvious choices. I don’t think going into detail is needed.
  • London Eye– The London Eye is a beacon on the Thames-just pulling you in. Book your tickets ahead of time (paid experience) will make your life so much easier to not wait in line. Also, riding at night is really something special.
  • The British Museum– Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, Elgin Marbles, Sutton Hoo Ship Burial Helmet, Enlightenment Rooms, an Easter Island Statue and so on. It is free. As always, go early when visiting the British Museum.
  • Imperial War Museum: Churchill War Rooms– Calling my WW2 history buffs! This is your future favorite attraction. JUST WOW. Book tickets in advance. 
  • Westminster Abbey: The Westminster Abbey one of the first places I visited on my first international trip. Holds a special place in my heart. Incredible. You can visit the graves of people like Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Sir Isaac Newton. If you skip this, you are really missing out. 
  • Explore and go shopping at:  
    • Harrods-Beautiful architecture, fun to explore.
    • St. Christopher’s Place-Vibrant selection of big name stores and small boutiques.
    • Regent Street/Oxford Street-Has all the big name stores.
    • St. James-In the thick of all this shopping, it will feel like you took a stepped back in time. 
    • Bond Street-LUXURY.
    • Liberty Department Store-Amazing architecture (“tutor revival”).
    • Covent Garden-Plenty of places to shop and eat at.
  • Tate Modern– A favorite modern art museum right on the Thames. Free as well.
  • Take in a show on the West End– I had a wonderful theater experience seeing Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theater.
  • Enjoy the parks and say hello to the ducks: Wander around Hyde Park and St. James Park. St. James Park has a lovely café to enjoy a coffee.

Best Places to eat in London

Affordable Eats and Pints

  • Mercato Metropolitano- Excellent food court. Amazing selection for both food and drinks. Worth the journey. Close to Borough Market but far enough away from the crowds. Check out the Syrian joint!
  • Borough Market-Wander along the stalls and try ALL OF THE FOOD. It is, definitely, a must eat, see and do place! (Just a heads up that it has gotten a bit touristy so expect crowds.)
  • Wagamama-Yes, I am recommending a chain restaurant but I LOVE their noodles. Yake Udon, always! Tasty, affordable and quick.
  • Busaba, Multiple Locations in London- Excellent Thai food.
  • Chez Nous, Fitzrovia– Nice place to grab a coffee.
  • Caffe Nero-I know, a chain. BUT when you need a fix, you need a fix!
  • Monmouth Coffee-Excellent coffee with a great location near Covent Garden.
  • The Shakespeare Pub, Westminster: Good place for a pint but not so great for food.
  • The Sherlock Holmes Pub, Near Charing Cross: Upstairs has a recreated Sherlock Holmes’s apartment. Kitschy and fun.


  • Belgo, London-Belgian food and beer. Great mussels and fun vibe.
  • Otto’s French Restaurant, London-Charming and cozy. Amazing food. Their beef tartare still appears in my dreams. Expensive.
  • Restaurants at the Shard in the Shangri-La Hotel. Make a reservation. Views are amazing but hard to get a table. Cocktails/food are expensive.
  • L’Escargot, Soho: Fantastic French food and atmosphere. Loved their Soho Bramble and Dark Chocolate Tart. Expensive
  • The Woolpack, near Borough Market: Great place for a pint, pleasing aesthetic and excellent food. Enjoyed their Sunday roasts.
  • Orient London, Chinatown: DIM SUMMMMM! Get in my belly. Could fall under affordable it all depends on how much you eat.

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