With so many things to do in London, as a first-time visitor, you could feel overwhelmed with where to start.

To make it easy for you to break down, here’s a quick guide to visiting The Old Smoke for the first time. 

London for first timers

The Palaces

Buckingham Palace is Queen Elizabeth II’s most famous residence. While it’s open for visitors during the summer while Her Majesty is away, it’s a sight not to be missed in any season. 

Buckingham palace

London is home to other equally as impressive palaces including Kensington Palace, where you may stumble into its famous residents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton. Located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, first-time visitors to the city are highly recommended to take a scenic walk through the Royal Parks of Green Park, followed Hyde Park to get to Kensington Palace from Buckingham Palace.

Kensington Gardens

Another of the city’s most iconic attractions is also a palace — the Tower of London, where visitors can see the Crown Jewels. Easily accessible from Buckingham Palace, visitors should take the District Line (the Green line) from St James’s Park Station to Tower Hill Station.

Tower of London

The Markets

London is one of the world’s best shopping destinations. While the city overflows with high-end retailers, visiting a London market is recommended!

In the north, there’s Camden Market famous for its alternative clothing stalls while Brixton Market in South London is a food lover’s paradise.

Kerb London

For those looking to spruce up the gram, the impressive flower market on Columbia Road in East London, paired with a trip to Brick Lane located just a stone’s throw away offers ample photo opportunities sprouting on every corner. Market stalls here are filled with trinkets and one-of-a-kind souvenirs, however, it’s the graffiti throughout Brick Lane which is the real draw!

Columbia R Oad flower market

Saving the best for last, arguably the most famous market in all of London can be found westwards on Portobello Road- the street where the riches of ages are stowed. Here, shoppers will be delighted with antiques of all kinds, be they vintage cameras, pocket watches and even preowned Burberry coats. Spend your cash and show off your finds with an obligatory selfie surrounded by the pastel-coloured houses of Notting Hill. If you’re visiting on Sunday, please note that most of the market is usually closed but the Second Hands Goods section can be found at Portobello Green.

Portobello Road Market

The Parks

London instantly evokes the idea of fast-paced city life, but it’s actually home to a number of parks and nature reserves. 

Regents Park dominates the area from Baker Street to Camden and features an open air-theatre as well as London Zoo to keep visitors occupied. 

Regents Park Fountain

Further west, there’s Hyde Park and the adjoining Kensington Gardens, popular for its lido, the aforementioned Royal Palaces, the Serpentine Art Gallery and hidden treasures, such as the talking’ Peter Pan and Queen Victoria statues.

Peter Pan Statue

The Food

London is a metropolis of multiculturalism and nowhere is this more apparent than in the food offering. Feel like trying Korean, Ethiopian or Colombian food for the first time? There’s a whole range of restaurants to choose from!

Of course, visitors can also gorge on British Classics too, and pub grub is never more than one or two streets away in the capital! 

Specific London pubs worth visiting include The Spaniard’s Inn’ in Hampstead, frequented by Charles Dickens, and, ‘ The George Inn’ in Borough, where Shakespeare would drink and also perform his plays. 

Full english

The Museums

What differentiates London from other major capitals is that most of its world-class museums are completely free to enter.

Along Exhibition Road in South Kensington, there’s the Natural History Museum which boasts an expansive collection of dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals the Science Museum, which features a multitude of interactive displays and immersive experiences, and the beautiful V&A.

Natural history museum 2

Short for the Victoria and Albert Museum, it’s dedicated to arts around the world, spanning sculpture-work, textiles, photography, ceramics and paintings. You could easily spend a day in each but those short on time can visit all three in one day. 

V and a museum

The Transport

The 156-year-old underground metro – locally called The Tube’ – is the fastest and most convenient mode of transport, with stops spread across the city stretching as far as Heathrow Airport. 

Tourists can purchase Oyster cards from underground stations, and will be refunded the £5 card purchase fee upon presenting their receipt at the end of their visit, or they can use wireless payment methods through their bank cards or mobile phones.

London Underground

Buses are the second most common way to get around, and the cheapest option. Please note that buses in Central London only accept contactless card payments or Oyster cards. 

London Bus

Now you know the essentials, here’s how to get off the beaten path in London!

Choice Hotels in London