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BlogDestinationsDreaming of solo travel in London? Here’s your guide to the best of the British capital

Dreaming of solo travel in London? Here’s your guide to the best of the British capital

Aug 01, 2023 by Jamie Gallerani

We could write forever, and we still wouldn’t be able to list all the amazing things to experience as a solo traveler in London. This sprawling city offers up amazement no matter where you go, and it’s one of the best places for a solo adventure—no matter what you like to seek out when you travel. Read on to find out why solo travel to London is always a good idea, and check out some of our staffers and travelers’s favorite things to do in London on a solo trip.

Here’s why you’ll love traveling to London solo on a guided tour

  • It’s a relatively short trip across the pond. A direct flight from the East Coast to London takes less than seven hours, which makes traveling to London solo a cinch. While it’ll take longer if you fly from other regions of the U.S. or Canada (or if you stop for a layover), popping over to London is less time-intensive than flying to other dreamy spots around the globe.
  • There’s less of a language barrier. There are surely some key differences between the Queen’s English and American English—for example, you’ll take a lift instead of an elevator, look for the loo instead of the restroom, and throw something in a bin instead of a trash can. But, if English is your first language, you’ll be able to easily communicate on a solo trip to London.
  • The city’s public transportation is top-notch. You can take a ride in an iconic black cab, use the tram, hop aboard a double-decker bus, or ride a Thames Clippers riverboat. However, we think the best way to travel solo in London is by taking the Tube. That’s the nickname for the London Underground, a rapid transit network that can efficiently take you to every corner of the city during your free time. Want to give it a whirl on a solo trip to London? Keep your credit card handy while exploring the city. “You can tap your credit card when entering and exiting the Tube and it’ll charge your card directly,” said staffer Emily. “Just remember you have to tap in and out of the Tube, since rides are charged by how far you travel, as opposed to being a set rate.” Check out more of our London travel tips in our London Travel Guide
  • The locals are known to be reserved and polite. In fact, it’s the English way to have exceedingly good manners, which means you can feel confident asking a question and getting a friendly response.
  • London is a multicultural, cosmopolitan, has-it-all city. People from every corner of the globe call London home, and you can follow your interests (and find a bit of everything) while embracing solo travel in London. Dig into the international food scene, cross your fingers to cross paths with the royal family, see art that will knock your socks off—whatever you’re looking for, it’s here.
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If you’re a solo traveler who likes royal history…

Explore the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich

“Visiting this museum is an amazing way to dig into royal history when traveling to London,” said staffer Ricky. “The Greenwich area is heavily influenced by the presence of the old British Royal Navy. The museum is heaven for history nerds like me. It has so many artifacts and information about the Royal Navy from centuries ago up to World War II.”

Stroll through the Queen’s House

Hoping to spend more free time in the Greenwich area of London, soaking in all the royal maritime history? Visiting this site is one of the top things to do in London while traveling solo. “The Queen’s House used to be a royal residence in the 17th century,” said staffer Ricky. “One can also find many interesting royal artifacts here. It’s opposite the National Maritime Museum, and entry to both places is free of charge.”

Catch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

This military tradition dates back to the 17th century, and has become an iconic ceremony that draws millions of spectators every year. It marks the moment when new soldiers arrive to relieve the Foot Guards protecting the palace, and watching the free spectacle is one of the best things to do in London as a solo traveler.

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If you’re craving a taste of the food scene…

Bite into the world at Borough Market

Wondering what to do in London as a solo traveler who enjoys food and drink? Start here. This iconic culinary hub earns a top spot in our essential guide to the best food in London, and one of our solo travel tips for London is to find out why. Borough Market may be in central London, but it offers up cuisine from every corner of the globe. Seek out Middle Eastern mezze, Spanish tapas, Indian street food, Japanese bento boxes, Italian cured meats, traditional British cheeses, Persian stews—should we go on?

Get your Indian food fix on Brick Lane in the East End

The London food scene is a mouthwatering, multicultural gem, and Indian food deserves its own place in the spotlight. In fact, London is home to many people of Indian origin, and is known as one of the best places in the world to taste authentic Indian cuisine (outside of India, of course). The East End in particular is known for what are popularly referred to as “curry houses,” which serve up far more than exceptional curry dishes. Think: tandoori chicken, lamb tikka, vegetable biryani, masala dosa, and more. “Sheba, Cinnamon Kitchen, and Muhib are some of the best Indian restaurants in this area,” said staffer Fabrizio.

Dine on contemporary British eats at Berner’s Tavern

You’ll want a reservation for this glittering eatery, where Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton leads the charge. “Berner’s Tavern is a fancy and unbelievably good restaurant,” said staffer Thea. “It’s got these beautiful, round chandeliers, and the walls are covered in portraits. The décor really makes you feel like you’re in an opera house or castle. The ceilings have beautiful carvings. It’s just gorgeous inside. The food is expensive but worth it, and the cocktails are delicious.”

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If sipping high tea is one of your London solo travel dreams…

Step into the Victorian Age at Kensington Palace’s Orangery

This elegant, light-filled spot was built in 1761 to protect the royal citrus trees from London’s winters—and it’s as lovely as it sounds. If you ask us, sitting down here for a scone and a cuppa is one of the more brilliant ways to pass the time in the British capital while visiting London alone.

Taste clotted cream that’s the stuff of dreams at Claridge’s

“Nothing compares to Claridge’s,” said staffer Thea while sharing her solo travel tips for London. “Every time I’m in London, I go. You choose your tea, wine, and food from their comprehensive menus and can sit as long as you want, getting refills until you tell them you’re done. Their clotted cream is the stuff of dreams and their service is unparalleled. Plus, last time I was there I saw Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin!”

Have something sweet at the Ham Yard Hotel in Soho

If you’re looking for a cool downtown vibe and a spot of tea served in Wedgwood china, this hotel is the perfect place. It’s near bustling Piccadilly Circus, but you’ll feel like you’re a world apart as you relax in a glass-ceilinged orangery, a milky cuppa of Earl Grey in one hand, a salted caramel tea cake in the other. “I loved high tea at the new Ham Yard Hotel,” said staffer Sherri. “It was so elegant and reasonably priced compared to many other spots. The service and ambiance were amazing!”

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If you want to drink a pint in a historic pub…

Visit the Lamb & Flag in Covent Garden

Any place that was good enough for author Charles Dickens is good enough for us. This cozy spot dates back to the 17th century, and offers up an authentic atmosphere and classic pub goodies. There are wooden beams, crackling fireplaces, pies and roasts, fish and chips, and pints galore—and you can enjoy it all while tucked away on a side street away from the business of Covent Garden.

Ask about spooky stories at the Spaniards Inn

If you’re looking for things to do in London alone and enjoy a hair-raising tale from time to time, head to this inn in Hampstead Heath. Some say they’ve seen the ghosts of a woman in white, a notorious highwayman, and a Spanish man named Juan Perero who lost a duel against his brother in the 16th century. Let your imagination run wild as you sip a pint in front of a roaring fireplace surrounded by wood-paneled walls—and if you need some fresh air after all the talk of the paranormal, step into the outdoor garden.

Sip a brew at the Cittie of Yorke

Visiting this 600-year-old pub is a must for the experience alone—the prices may give you pause, but the Tudor-style décor, dark paneling, and Victorian-style cubicles are as unique as they come. “This is an authentic pub in Holborn with a wood-paneled interior, real ales, and a microbrewery,” said traveler David.

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If speakeasies are more your scene…

Sip craft cocktails at Happiness Forgets in Hoxton Square

“It’s a really cool basement speakeasy in a neighborhood that was once famous for being the home of the Kray twins, who ran a crime ring in the ’50s and ”60s,” said staffer Thea. If that doesn’t sound like an interesting place to have a bevvy on a solo trip to London, we don’t know what does.

Listen to tunes with a ’40s spin at Cahoots

“They do live music on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights,” said staffer Chelsea, who said she always recommends this spot when sharing London travel tips. “On Sundays, Miss Alice Keys performs live music in the Underground. You submit songs to her and she puts a ’40s spin on them—along with some hilarious, witty banter.”

Meet expert mixologists at Bar Américain in Soho

Sitting pretty near Piccadilly Circus is this hidden gem, where you’ll find some of the best craft cocktails in the city. “This bar is located downstairs next to Brasserie Zedel and is a fan favorite for me,” said staffer Chelsea. “They serve amazing cocktails in an Art Deco setting—you kind of feel like you’re part of an English version of Mad Men, meeting for drinks after work. The paprika popcorn is also so tasty.”

Sit down for tipsy tea at Mr. Fogg’s

Mr Fogg’s plays host to a collection of nine bars throughout London, and each is inspired by the Victorian Era. Enjoy creative cocktails and even afternoon tea as you go from a tavern, to a gin parlour, to a house of botanicals. “This is the place to take afternoon tea in a truly special setting,” said traveler David. “I’ve been many times. It’s also a great place for cocktails in the evening.”

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If you love all things art and museums…

Check out the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum

There are many free museums to visit in London, and spending a free day admiring all their treasures is one of the best things to do in London as a solo traveler. Is laying your eyes on centuries of history and culture up your alley? The British Museum will deliver in a big way, where everything from the Rosetta Stone to mummies to Roman relics and more are waiting to wow you.

See Mick Jagger’s catsuit at the Victoria & Albert Museum

That’s right—it’s the catsuit Jagger wore for his 1972 tour with the Rolling Stones. And you can see it here, along with over 2 million culturally important objects (you know, like Queen Victoria’s jewel-laden coronet and Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks). This museum is one of the world’s best for art and design, and the fashion, ceramics, and artifacts are quite a sight.

Marvel at contemporary art at the Tate Modern

“The Tate is an amazing museum sitting right on the bank of the Thames,” said staffer Emily. “I highly recommend it to any art lover looking to learn more about contemporary art dating as far back as 1900. Entrance to the museum itself is free, but any special exhibits require tickets. The museum has around eight levels, and the very top level has a bar and restaurant with amazing views overlooking London and St. Paul’s Cathedral. I personally recommend visiting the Media Networks exhibit, as Tate artists have created art in response to the impact of mass media.”

See the UK’s own “Sistine Chapel” at the University of Greenwich

“I’ve lived in London for nearly a decade and one of my favorite areas is Greenwich,” said staffer Ricky. “The University of Greenwich is, in my opinion, one of the prettiest campuses in the UK and inside of it, we have the Painted Hall—the UK’s own ‘Sistine Chapel’! It was painted in the 18th century by Sir James Thornhill; covers 40,000 square feet; and includes 200 paintings of kings, queens, and mythological creatures.”

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If you’re a nature enthusiast looking for greenery…

Don your walking shoes for an afternoon at Kew Gardens

“Around an hour or so by tube from the city center sits the Royal Botanical Gardens, also called the Kew Gardens,” said staffer Emily. “Spanning over 500 acres of gardens and woodlands, it holds some of the most important botanical collections in the world. These gardens are considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and have been around for over 250 years. I recommend spending time strolling through the Princess of Wales Conservatory, opened by Princess Diana in 1987, and taking in all of the flowers and plants that are thriving in this beautiful greenhouse. I would also recommend visiting the Palm House, a greenhouse showcasing palm trees from all over their native countries! You can spend an entire day here and still not see everything there is to see, so I recommend travelers come prepared with walking shoes and at least 3–4 hours in their day to roam around the gardens.”

Enjoy the English summer in Greenwich Park

“The beautiful Greenwich Park is a great spot to relax and hopefully enjoy the English summer,” said staffer Ricky, who said visiting Greenwich is one of his top London travel tips. “Once you reach the top of the park, you’ll be mesmerized by the views! You can pretty much see all of London from the top, and it would be perfect to see it during those beautiful pink sunsets that London has. It’s definitely worth it.”

Take in the scenery and greenery in the Sky Garden

This free indoor bar and garden offers 360-degree views, and one of Staffer Rina’s tips for traveling to London is to save time for a visit. It sits atop the “Walkie-Talkie” building, and is dotted with plants that make sipping a Pimm’s Cup and admiring commanding views of the city even more magical. It’s just one more place to take staffer Vanessa’s advice on a solo trip: “Visit all of the gardens: royal gardens, botanical gardens, public ones, private ones,” she said. “Going solo means you can stop and stare at beautiful flowers for as long as you like without being rushed off to the next activity.”

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If the London theater scene calls to you…

Watch a live show in the West End, London’s theater district

It’s one of the top things to experience at night in London. “When I was traveling to London as a solo traveler, I had a free night and spontaneously decided to see a West End show by myself,” said staffer Nicole. “I was able to purchase a ticket in the Tottenham Court Road Tube station, and got a great deal for a second-row ticket to Guys & Dolls just before showtime! There’s also a TKTS ticket booth for last-minute deals in Leicester Square (similar to the one in Times Square in NYC). Seeing a show is such a fun way to spend a night out in London.”

Go to a midnight matinee at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

“This is one of the oldest theaters in London, and seeing a show here is an experience not to miss,” said staffer Emily. “We watched the actors perform The Tempest and while the play was fantastic, the theater itself was incredible! We sat in a round indoor theater and the stage was raised exactly to audience level so the actors could walk into the crowd if they chose to do so. The entire theater was lit by candlelight and we got to learn a little bit about the play, as well as the actors, before the show started. For anyone looking for an educational experience during their London tour, this is the place to go.”

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If you love antiquing, thrift shopping, or market-hopping…

Shop for vintage goodies at Brick Lane Market

There are so many can’t-miss markets in London for street food, antiques, and more, and this is one of the best for thrift shopping. Brick Lane is known as London’s biggest vintage clothing market, and has vendors galore. Everything old is new again, as they say, and finding a vintage gem at this market is one of the best things to do in London as a solo traveler.

Eye the antiques at Portobello Road Market

The best tips for traveling to London make it easier for you to get to know the local scene, and no solo guide of the city is complete without a mention of Portobello Road. It’s situated in the famed Notting Hill neighborhood and is the best place to find antique treasures on a free Saturday in London. If all that antique hunting makes you hungry, rest assured that Portobello Road has seriously good eats in spades, too. “I love this market,” said staffer Thea. “When I’m in London, I go, grab food for later, grab trinkets, and have lunch. Looking at all the different shops and booths is such a fun experience.”

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If you’re drawn to pop culture…

Follow the Beatles’ footsteps across Abbey Road

Have you ever seen the famous photo of the Beatles strolling across a crosswalk? The snap of the Fab Four was taken outside the Abbey Road recording studio in 1969, and today, Beatles fans queue up at the zebra crossing to recreate the famous photo. If you’re into British music icons and are wondering what to do in London as a solo traveler, snapping your own photo here makes for a nice memento.

Crack a case at the Sherlock Holmes Museum

“I was really into the BBC’s Sherlock, so going to the actual 221B Baker Street and seeing the iconic front door was very exciting for me,” said staffer Meaghan. “The museum is set up like Sherlock’s house and it has references to his famous cases. I got to pose in front of the fireplace like I was Sherlock. There was also a cute gift shop next to it where I got some fun merch to commemorate the occasion.”

“Meet” your favorite celebs at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum

We’ll admit that a wax museum doesn’t seem as connected to London’s culture as icons like, say, Big Ben—especially since you can visit Madame Tussaud’s locations around the globe. But this one’s the original that was founded in 1835, and staffer Meaghan loved visiting on her trip to London. “The wax figures are insanely realistic and I felt like I was really standing next to them,” she said. “It was a great photo op. I took so many pictures next to my favorite celebs. It’s a whole experience, and is a little wacky, but this is a great place to nerd out if you’re really into pop culture.”

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If you want a bird’s-eye view of the city…

Hop aboard the London Eye

“The best vantage point of the city and Big Ben is from the top of the London Eye, the giant Ferris wheel across the River Thames,” said staffer Amanda. “I actually suggest going twice—once in the daytime and once at night—because each view is different and great in its own way. London is a big, fast town, and riding the London Eye gives you a half hour to just rest and take in the whole city.”

Take in sunset views from Primrose Hill

This spot offers a look out over London, and even getting there during free time is fun. “You can walk through Regent’s Park to get there, stop at London Zoo, and have a snack at Primrose Hill Bakery,” said staffer Fabrizio.

Have at bite in Oxo Tower on the South Bank

“There’s an elegant restaurant on the top floor of the tower, and it overlooks the Thames, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the city,” said staffer Fabrizio.

Excited to travel solo in London? Check out our new London, Paris & Rome for Solo Travelers tour

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About the author | Jamie Gallerani
It was Jamie’s homestay in Germany that made her fall in love with travel (and her studies in Florence that really sealed the deal). When she’s not writing and sharing the magic of seeing the world with others, she’s usually on the lookout for her new favorite memoir, testing out recipes at home, or visiting her family on Cape Cod.

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