Ahhh, London! One of Europe’s grandest cities rich with astonishing history, architecture, and things to do. For those visiting this wonderous place for the first time, it can be overwhelming to navigate from the airport to central London.
Figuring out the public transportation system and the most phenomenal sights to see can be a mind numbing process.
If you have your flight booked to London for your first visit, read below for tips and suggestions to make your first day in the city an unforgettable one.
From the Airport
You have several airports to choose from when flying into London. Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, and London City all serve this massive city. For the sake of this post, we are going to use Gatwick and the insider tips of navigating the airport to central London.
Gatwick Airport is nearly 30 miles from central London but there is direct transport available. The Gatwick Express is the quickest and most convenient way to reach London.
If you plan on sightseeing in London for a while, do NOT take the Gatwick Express.
Instead, go to the main ticket counter upon leaving your terminal and purchase an Oyster Card. This is your gateway to traveling on the Underground for the duration of your stay in London. You will have to pay a 5 pound fee to acquire the card but you will have 30 pounds on it to travel around Greater London.
By taking National Rail off-peak, you can reach the Victoria Station on the Underground for half the cost compared to Gatwick Express. You still have over 20 pounds to spare on your Oyster Card to explore London.
If you search hard enough, you may be able to find cheaper Gatwick Express fares online booking in advance. However, purchasing your Oyster Card at the airport will come in handy once your reach London Victoria.
You could spend months, if not years, exploring every stretch of London. Let’s start with some of the top gems you should see to start your trip.
Buckingham Palace – The residence of The Royal Family, this remarkable building is the centerpiece of the British Monarchy. The aura of watching the guards patrol the entrance and the stunning fountains beyond the gate is a breathtaking scene. If you time your visit right, you will catch the Changing of the Guard.
The Palace of Westminster – The most recognizable image of London, this spectacular piece of gothic architecture is a beautiful symbol of British history. It is the meeting place of the United Kingdom Parliament and where the glorious Big Ben overlooks The River Thames.
Westminster Abbey – Adjacent to the epicenter of UK politics, Westminster Abbey has been one of the most visually stunning churches in the world for centuries. It has been the location of countless coronations, weddings, and other important events for the British Monarchy.
St. James’s Park – A peaceful escape from city life within Westminster, this is one of the premier spots for nature enthusiasts to unwind during a sunny afternoon. The Mall runs adjacent to the park and is the sight for many spectacular parades in London.
Camden Market – For an adventurous expedition outside of Westminster, head to Camden Town for retail and street food galore. This bustling area is perfect for snagging all your London souvenirs, CDs, clothing, and snacking on delicious street food from regions around the world.