The Great British Summer has a reputation for being slightly damp so pack a rain jacket if you're taking flights to London during July and August. Summer temperatures can hit 30 degrees and rarely do winter temperatures plummet to zero. London is generally warmer than the rest of the UK and spring and autumn temperatures are pleasant.
When to fly to London
London is busy year round but the high summer season is June-September when Wimbledon takes place and children are on their long, school holidays. Christmas and New Year (the sales are as popular as the celebrations) is another peak time.
April to May (excluding Easter) and early September to October (excluding the school half-term holidays). This is the best time to find cheap flights to London and a great time to visit, with fewer crowds, cheaper accommodation rates and better light bringing out the city's most photogenic side.
January (after the sales have ended) and February are low season months when it's easier to get a good deal on flights and accommodation.
Getting around London
There's only one way to get around London cheaply and that's by buying an Oyster card (available while you're still at home in Australia from tfl.gov.uk). Cash fares on public transport are expensive but with an Oyster card Zone 1 (Central London) fares are £2. Boris Bikes, named in honour of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, are available to visitors (as long as they have a credit card). Docking stations are plentiful across the capital and renting a bike costs £1 for 24 hours.
However, to really get the measure of London, start walking. From Buckingham Palace to Dalston, the Bank of England to Stratford it's the best way to explore the city.
London insider information
- Afternoon tea is a classic British tradition and there's no shortage of places to enjoy a cucumber sandwich and a slice of cake. Some of the most highly rated are: The Langham on Oxford Street, The Goring in Grosvenor Gardens, The Lanesborough in Knightsbridge, The Milestone Hotel in Kensington.
- London is renowned for its High Street fashion. Top Shop at Oxford Circus is a magnet for the fashion conscious, Primark (Oxford Street) for those on a budget and Selfridges for investment dressing. Camden Market might be good for tie-dyed and slogan teeshirts but visit Covent Garden, Neal Street and Seven Dials for a bustling swirl of fashionable shops. Shoreditch and Brick Lane are great for vintage and quirky fashions.
- The markets in London are amazing and hugely popular. Put aside your personal space for a couple of hours. Columbia Road Flower Market in East London is a riot of colour at the weekend. Borough Market in South London is a foodie's delight. It's home to some of the country's best food producers. Brick Lane is great for a rummage through the stalls and a freshly baked bagel (salt beef or smoked salmon and cream cheese) from the Beigel Bakery.
- London is an expensive city it's true, but there are lots of free museums and galleries. The big hitters are the Imperial War Museum, Science Museum, V&A and National Portrait Gallery, but there are plenty of quirky - and free to enter - spaces to explore such as the Geffrye Museum (a series of rooms decorated in period style from 1600 to present - IKEA - day), the Bank of England Museum (not as dry as it sounds), Ragged School Museum (school - Victorian style) and Sir John Soane’s Museum (stuffed with curios).
- When the sun goes down the hottest clubs are under ... railway arches and in car parks. Great Suffolk Street Warehouse near London Bridge attracts the ravers, out-of-towners, Techno and House crowd. Dalston Superstore in E8 brings in the hip and gay crowd. Corsica Studios in the railway arches of Elephant & Castle is a magnet for locals, art students and techno heads.