Gay Guide • LONDON | What to See, Where to Stay, Best Gay Bars and Restaurants | LGBT Guide
Discover this City with our Quick and Practical Guide to Visit the Best Attractions, Savor Typical Dishes and Have Fun in the Best Gay Bars. All this through the Rainbow Eyes of the World Mappers
What to See, Best Places to Sleep, Where to Eat and to Have Fun in LONDON?
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WHAT TO SEE in LONDON?
20 THINGS TO SEE in LONDON
Big Ben & Houses of Parliament
An exceptional example of neo-Gothic architecture, the Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, are a majestic 1200-room building which houses the two chambers of the English Parliament: the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Palace of Parliament is dominated by two towers: the Victoria Tower, located further south and the Clock Tower, the famous clock tower. Perhaps not everyone knows that Big Ben is not the name of the clock, but of the largest bell in the tower which has the task of striking the hours, while the other four smaller ones chime every quarter of an hour. We advise you to admire the facade of the Houses of Parliament even in the evening, when the lights are reflected in the Thames, redrawing its profile. Unfortunately today the Palace of Parliament, including the Clock Tower, is surrounded by scaffolding for renovation and will be until 2021.
Westminster Abbey is certainly another of the best-known places in London. In fact, almost all the coronations and the main ceremonies linked to the royal family of England take place here. Not to be confused with the nearby Catholic Westminster Cathedral. In the splendid Gothic-style interiors there are tombs and funerary monuments of almost all the sovereigns and important figures of British history; Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare or Charles Darwin are just some of them. There is an entrance fee and the ticket price (in our opinion a bit expensive) includes an audio guide.
Trafalgar Square & National Gallery
The square named after the battle of Trafalgar is considered a bit like the center of London: in fact, the three main arteries of the city branch off from here: The Mall, the avenue that leads to Buckingham Palace, the Strand, which leads to the City, and Whitehall, leading to the Houses of Parliament. The National Gallery is located in this square, one of the largest collections of paintings in Europe. Admission is free, which is one more reason not to miss the opportunity to visit it.
On the south bank of the Thames, the London Eye has become one of the city's most popular attractions since its opening in 2000. At 135m tall it is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe and the view over London is breathtaking. The cost of the ticket is a bit high and there are often long waiting lines.
Built in the 19th century, it is the best known bridge in London and certainly one of the most famous bridges in the world. For those wishing to learn more about the history of this engineering work, the two towers host the Tower Bridge Exhibition.
St Paul's Cathedral & Millennium Bridge
The dome of St Paul's Cathedral, one of the tallest in the world, can be seen from many points around the city. Arrived in front of the imposing facade we felt very small. The church, the crypt and the dome can be visited for a fee. Not far from the Cathedral, and perfectly in line with its dome, is the Millennium Bridge, the pedestrian bridge inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth in 2000.
Buckingham Palace & Cambio della Guardia
Another must-see attraction is Buckingham Palace, the residence of the English monarchy. A 775-room palace, with a 20-hectare royal park, which can only be visited in part in the summer, when the royal family moves to their summer residence in Windsor. Don't forget to see the changing of the guard in front of the palace every day at 11:00 (except on rainy days) - check the calendar here. A ritual that has been going on since 1660. If the place is too crowded with tourists and you can't see anything then we suggest you attend the changing of the horse guard, Horse Guard, (always at 11:00) which takes place between St. James Park and Whitehall, always a little less crowded.
Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street & Oxford Circus
One of the symbols of London, Picadilly Circus is the intersection of Regent and Piccadilly streets. Become one of the most famous meeting places in London and known worldwide for its advertising displays on the buildings. Furthermore, in this area, towards Shaftesbury Avenue, many of the most famous theaters in London are concentrated. If you love shopping, don't miss Oxford and Regent Street, the best known and busiest streets. Between one shop window and another, look up to admire the beauty of the buildings that frame them.
Kensington Palace & Gardens
Official residence before Lady Diana and today of Prince William and Duchess Kate, it can be visited and is home to various exhibitions. Kensington Palace Gardens with lake, walking paths and famous Peter Pan statue offer a beautiful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.
One of our favorite neighborhoods in London. In Covent Garden you can find shops, markets, restaurants, pubs and impromptu live entertainment. The central point of this neighborhood is the covered market with lots of unique shops and clubs.
Tower of London
The quintessential historic building in London. Former royal residence, prison, fortress; a monumental complex of towers, buildings and courtyards surrounded by walls with almost a thousand years of history, sadly known for the executions that took place here. Today the fortress houses the Crown Jewels and is "guarded" by the Yeomen Warders or "Beefeaters", the guards in the typical red and black costume.
The faithful reconstruction of the theater where Shakespeare acted together with his theater company. In spring and summer it is possible to attend one of the poet's works.
London's quirkiest and most alternative neighbourhood. The shop fronts have giant shoes, planes and miscellaneous hanging outside, in the famous Camden market you can find just about anything and street food will take you around the world. Over the years, every time we've returned we've seen it become more and more "touristic" and less authentic, but a stroll here is always worth it.
Alternative shops, art galleries and historic pubs that fill up every afternoon make up one of the city's most popular neighbourhoods. Among the areas we love the most are the small neighborhood of Chinatown (Gerrard Street) and the glamorous Carnaby Street.
Notting Hill & Portobello Road
Here is another of our favorite neighborhoods. The colorful houses and the intimate and peaceful atmosphere that reigns here always excite us. Every time we go back, we immediately run to Portobello Road and its market (Saturdays are much bigger) looking for something to take home. We love Alice's little shop (at number 86)... the tea sets you can find here are really fantastic.
Even if you are not shopping lovers, we recommend a visit to one of the most famous department stores in the world, not so much to buy, also because the prices are prohibitive, but to admire the extravagant structure of its seven floors, sometimes a bit kitsch . Don't miss the Food Halls on the ground floor.
London's largest park, divided from Kensington Gardens by The Serpentine lake. In summer it becomes the meeting place for Londoners and tourists looking for a bit of relaxation from the city. Here is also the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, the fountain in memory of Princess Diana. On Sundays, don't miss the bizarre talks of unknown characters at Speaker's Corner, in the north-east part of the park towards Marble Arch.
The splinter-shaped skyscraper designed by Renzo Piano has become a symbol of "modern" London. With its 310 meters it is one of the tallest skyscrapers in Europe and home to the city observatory. In fact, it is possible to go up to the 72nd floor and enjoy a spectacular view. For info on costs and timetables click here.
Museums of London
Most of London's museums can be visited for free, even the best known (this applies to permanent exhibitions while temporary ones are subject to payment).
Here are the top 5 Museums in London and our favourites:
One of the oldest museums in the world. With about eight million historical objects and artifacts, it is impossible to visit it in a single day. Worth a visit if only to see the Great Court, the "covered plaza" at the center of the museum, the Parthenon marbles or the Rosetta Stone.
In the spaces of an old power station, the Tate Modern is one of the most visited modern art galleries in the world. Picasso, Pollock and Warhol are just some of the artists that can be admired. The view from the terrace of the Millennium Bridge and the Dome of Saint Paul is magnificent.
National History Museum
The building that houses this museum is nothing short of impressive. Upon entering you are greeted by the skeleton of a whale of more than twenty-five meters. Our favorite part? Obviously the Dinosaurs Gallery!
Museum of Science
Adjacent to the Natural History Museum, this museum exhibits everything to do with technology, science and medicine; from the discovery of space to the inventions that have changed the history of man and much more.
In Trafalgar Square, it is one of the largest collections of Western European paintings. Some masterpieces by Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and many others are part of the permanent collection.
Visiting this city at its best depends essentially on how long you have to fully enjoy it. Here is a solution based on the number of days available to you:
Day 1 - Classic London (West Tour: Big Ben, Westminster, ...) - Google Maps
Day 2 - Classic London (East Tour: London Bridge, ...) - Google Maps
Day 3 - Alternative London (Camden Town, Notting Hill, ...) - Google Maps
(By opening the Maps with Google, you can easily follow our path)
5 BEST EXCURSIONS from LONDON
We advise you to book the best excursions here: Viator - Musement - Get Your Guide
Stonehenge, Windsor Castle & Bath
Oxford, The Cotswolds, Stratford-upon-Avon & Warwick Castle
Leeds Castle, Cliffs of Dover, Greenwich & Canterbury
Brighton & Brighton Beach
Edinburgh & Edinburgh Castle
Click'n'Go - Click on Hotels, Restaurants, Bars & Clubs
to find them on the Map or visit their Website
WHERE TO SLEEP in LONDON?
10 BEST GAY FRIENDLY HOTELS in LONDON
Choosing an overnight stay in London can be really difficult as the city is huge and made up of more than thirty boroughs, each of which has its own attractions, a different charm and a wide range of accommodation and hotels. So here is a brief help to understand the ideal area to stay:
The best area to stay in London
Ideal for visiting the city
Perfect for sleeping in London if you are looking for nightlife
One of the most central to stay in London
To be central in an elegant area
An excellent alternative to the West End for sleeping in London
A popular neighborhood, quiet and romantic
One of the cheapest options for staying in central London
Ideal to stay in London for those looking for the richest areas
Rich area with a certain bohemian vibe
A good area to stay in London and be close to everything
Great location near London Bridge hub
The cheapest and ideal accommodation if you arrive in London with the Eurostar
St Martin's Lane ***** (area: Covent Garden)
Crown Plaza London – The City **** (area: The City)
Apex City of London Hotel **** (area: The City)
Park Plaza London Riverbank **** (area: South Waterloo)
The Mandeville Hotel **** (area: near Oxford Circus)
My Bloomsbury **** (area: next to British Museum)
The Z Hotel Soho *** (area: Soho)
Brit Hotels London Court *** (area: Kensington)
The Z Hotel Victoria *** (area: Victoria)
Stylish Apartments in Victoria & Westminster (area: Victoria & Westminster) ® Tested by World Mappers
WHERE TO EAT in LONDON?
10 BEST RESTAURANTS in LONDON Quality / Price
€€€ - Parternoster Chophouse (British) (area: St. Paul's)
€€€ - Rules (British) (area: Covent Garden)
€€ - Cinnamon Club (Indian) (area: St. James' Park) ® Tested by World Mappers
€€ - Poppie's Fish & Chips Camden Town (Fish'n'Chips) (area: Camden Town)
€€ - Poppie's Fish & Chips Soho (Fish'n'Chips) (area: Soho) ® Tested by World Mappers
€€ - Tuttons (British) (area: Covent Garden) ® Tested by World Mappers
€€ - The Mayfair Chippy (British) (area: Hyde Park)
€€ - Great British Fish and Chips (Fish'n'Chips) (area: Westminster)
€ - Chez Antoniette (French Crepes) (area: Covent Garden) ® Tested by World Mappers
€ - Costa's Fish Restaurant (Fish'n'Chips) (area: Notting Hill Gate)
GAY NIGHTLIFE in LONDON
10 BEST GAY PLACES, BARS & CLUBS in LONDON
Ku Bar & Club (Gay Bar & Club)
G-A-Y Bar (Gay Bar)
She Soho (Lesbian Bar)
Eagle London (Gay Disco)
Admiral Duncan (Gay Bar)
Bar Soho (Gay Bar) ® Tested by World Mappers
Heaven (Gay Disco) ® Tested by World Mappers
The Duke of Wellington (Gay Bar) ® Tested by World Mappers
The Two Brewers (Drag Show Bar)
Retro Bar (Gay Bar)
TRAVEL TIPS about LONDON by World Mappers
London is served by six airports: Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, London City, Stansted and Southend. Each of these is well connected to the city centre. London City and Heathrow are the two closest. To get to central London from Heathrow airport: the underground (Piccadilly Line), the cheapest solution which takes you directly to the center in about an hour; The Heathrow Express and the Heathrow Connect, the trains that connect the airport with London Paddington station (the first is direct, it costs more but allows you to reach the city center in just 15 minutes). London City Airport, usually less used by tourists, is connected to the city center by the DLR line of the underground. Gatwick, on the other hand, is not served by the underground but you can reach London's Victoria Station thanks to the Gatwick Express in about thirty minutes. London Luton is located more than fifty kilometers from London. The airport is served by buses to Victoria and Paddington stations and by train, although the railway station is approximately ten minutes away by shuttle. From Stansted airport the quickest solution is the Stansted Express which runs every fifteen minutes. Finally, the furthest of the airports, that of Southend, about eighty kilometers from the city, is served only by the direct train to Liverpool Street and Stratford stations. All airports are served by bus connections with longer journey times but at a lower cost than the various trains. The main companies are Terravision, National Express, Green Line Coach and Easybus. We advise against taxis, especially from more distant airports such as Stansted or Southend.
As in most large tourist cities, various City Passes are also available for London which include the major tourist attractions in the (often very high) price. The two main ones are the London Pass and the London Explorer Pass. Our first time in London we tried the former; we wanted to see as much as possible of what the city has to offer, trying to save something on entrance fees, without wasting time standing in long queues and moving around by underground and public transport (in fact, the Oyster Card can also be connected to the London Pass for transport, but we'll talk about that later). Is it worth it or not to buy it? It all depends on the type of visit you want to make. For example, if you only have one day in London or are only interested in the main museums (free) then certainly not, if instead you have more days available, you want to see as much as possible and make the most of public transport (only the London Pass can includes the transport pass) then we advise you to purchase a Pass. The essential difference between the London Pass and the London Explorer Pass is that the latter is more "customizable" based on what you want to see, it costs less but does not include many attractions and it is not possible to associate it with a public transport pass. The London Pass, on the other hand, includes practically everything (including skip-the-line tickets) but at a higher cost.
Often the Oyster Card is mistakenly understood as a season ticket for London's public transport. In reality, the pass is the TravelCard which can be daily (also in paper version) or valid for seven days (to be loaded onto the Oyster Card). Alternatively, the Oyster can be loaded with consumer credit, "pay-as-you-go": based on the area within which you are traveling, an amount is deducted from the credit until you reach the Daily-Cap, i.e. the ceiling of maximum daily expenditure after which travel is free.
Hotel or Apartment? Staying in London can be very expensive and hotels, even three or four star ones, often have small rooms that can be reached by very steep and very narrow stairs and bathrooms comparable in size to those on airplanes. The last few times we have been to this city we have therefore always opted for renting an apartment; A particularly convenient alternative if there are more than two people. Excellent solutions are also found in areas not too far from the centre. In the dedicated section we recommend the apartment where we stayed last time and where we really enjoyed it.
Unusual and Particular Places to See in London
Outside of the classic attractions to visit, there is a "Secret London" that has simply bewitched us. These are some places that in our opinion are worth seeing if you have already seen all the "famous" things the city offers or simply if you want to get away from the typically touristic areas.
Here are the 8 Things and Places to See in Hidden London:
Neal’s Yard - A real explosion of color in a tiny "square" in the Covent Garden district. You will feel like you are in a fairytale village.
St Dunstan in the East - Not far from the Tower of London is a public garden which holds the remains of the church of St Dunstan in the East. Here it seems that time has stopped and tranquility reigns supreme.
House of Minalima - A must-see for Harry Potter fans (like Simone). The shop takes its name from the two designers who created most of the graphic objects seen in the films and here you can see and buy flyers, prints and other things related to the films. Find this shop/museum at 26 Greek Street in Soho.
Daunt Books - A three storey bookshop in pretty Marylebone specializing in travel books.
The Churchill Arms - This Notting Hill pub is sure to turn heads. The facade is completely covered in flowers and summer is an explosion of colours. Flowers will keep you company even inside.
Warren Mews - ot far from Regent's Park is a quaint little lane that looks like it's stuck in the eighteenth century. If you like the genre, you cannot fail to take a day trip in the English countryside towards the Cotswolds for a journey back in time between stone houses, dirt roads and streams. We especially liked Arlington Row in the tiny village of Bibury.
Ebury Street - On this street and the perpendicular Elizabeth Street, the shops are decorated with real works of art of flowers (especially in spring). At the crossroads of the two streets is the legendary Peggy Porschen pastry shop. Impossible not to recognize her characteristic pink color from a distance.
Clifton Nurseries - Drinking tea or coffee in a greenhouse? In London it is possible from Clifton Nurseries, a very nice bar inside a nursery. You can find it in Little Venice at 5A Clifton Villas, a quiet neighborhood where you can relax by cruising the canals all the way to Camden.
The Most BEAUTIFUL STREET ART WORKS in LONDON
Could we not talk about Street Art in London? Obviously not! Masterpieces can be found in this city. As we have seen for New York (read our article), many dedicated tours are also available here for lovers of the genre. Surely the first neighborhood that comes to mind is Camden Town: here the murals are everywhere and many are dedicated to Amy Winehouse. In the streets of Brick Lane these open-air works of art dominate the scene. Some masterpieces by the famous Banksy are also visible in this area as well as in the nearby Shoreditch district. One of our latest discoveries was the Leake Street Tunnel, one of the tunnels of Waterloo station dedicated to writers who want to express their art; passing by here you will always find some young people at work with a mask and spray can.
The BEST SECRET BARS in LONDON
In London there are some of the best Secret Bars in the world, very special indeed: we went looking for two of these. The first, The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town (at 12-16 Artillery Lane). It is a small cocktail bar which is accessed through a refrigerator of a club (The Breakfast Club): when you arrive you say you want to "see the mayor" and that's it. To find the second bar we tried, Cahoots, head to 13 Kingly Street, look for the tube symbol and step inside... you'll be in a retro styled carriage (booking required). Finally, a place that is not really a secret bar but is certainly a bizarre experience worth trying: Alcotraz Shoreditch: Cell Block Two One Two, a cocktail bar that catapults you into the well-known prison, complete with orange overalls (there are two Alcotraz in London, one in Shoreditch and one in Covent Garden: the Alcotraz Covent Garden: Cell Block Six Eight).
The Most BEAUTIFUL MARKETS IN LONDON
Camden Town Markets
Portobello Road Market
In addition to the famous Camden and Portobello Road Markets, London offers a huge variety of other markets, all different and surprising. Among our favorites are:
Brick Lane Sunday Market
This street market in East London is held every Sunday from 10am to 5pm where you can find a myriad of products. If, on the other hand, you are looking for international street food, head to the Spitafield Market for foods from all over the world.
An indoor market not far from the City of London. It is worth seeing if only for the structure of the gallery that covers the various shops. Recently made famous for inspiring the Diagon Alley shopping street in Harry Potter. Open Monday to Friday.
Columbia Road Flower Market
If you are a lover of flowers and plants you cannot miss this Sunday market (from 8:00 to 15:00) in East London.
A gastronomic market where you will be enraptured by the flavors of all of Europe. It is located in the Southwark district, not far from London Bridge, and is held from Thursday to Saturday.