Cruise from London – the essential guide

Every Londoner has their favorite corner, and we can help you discover the best spots before you start your cruise vacation.

Find our suggested London walking itineraries below – and welcome to a wonderful and fascinating world city.

Besides enjoying London itself, you can also take the opportunity to explore further afield.

The Roman town of Bath, The Cotswolds, Oxford, Cambridge, Warner Bros Studios for The Making of Harry Potter, Leeds Castle, and Windsor Castle are the most popular day trips and tours booked by cruise guests like you, all within easy reach of London.

And if you are flying into London to transfer to a cruise from Southampton, spend a few days in the capital before heading to the south coast.

London – a city like no other

From the tree-lined canals of Little Venice in Camden to Sky Garden at Fenchurch Street to Neals Yard in Covent Garden. From palaces and royal parks to music and museums – London is like making your way through an epic saga.

Your most challenging job will be deciding which parts of the city you want to see in the time you have before you begin your cruise.

Perhaps you want to experience popular tourist spots, or if you are a returning visitor, discover new gems far from the beaten track.

Stay a few nights before you start your cruise

Here are the hotels we recommend for cruise guests visiting London. Pick the one that suits you best, sign up for the free loyalty programs, and collect free perks when booking or checking in.

  • Crowne Plaza, Kensington
  • Crowne Plaza St James, Westminster
  • Amba Hotel Grosvenor, Victoria
  • Park Plaza, Victoria
  • Millennium Hotel London, Knightsbridge
  • Grand Plaza Serviced Apartments, Bayswater
  • Best Western Mornington, Bayswater
  • Holiday Inn London, Regent’s Park
  • The Strand Palace, West End
  • The Savoy, West End
  • Novotel London, Greenwich
Find out why we like to book hotels with our travel partner booking.com and how you can search and book hotels and apartments in London for the best deal.

How to get around London like a pro

London Underground – The Tube

If you are pushed for time and have a long list of landmarks to visit, don’t be afraid to use London’s underground rail network.

While walking is the ultimate way to see the city, the underground – known as The Tube – is fast and easy to use.

If you are staying for a week or so and plan to use the underground to get around, purchase a Visitor Oyster Card at the information desk at any station. Better still, you can do it online before you leave home.

For shorter visits, it is more convenient to use your credit card in the terminal at the start and end of each journey. Be sure to swipe the same card in and out so you are only charged for that particular trip.

You can pick up an underground map at any station to help you navigate from A to B. Alternatively, you can download the TfL Go app and use the live maps to find and plan the best route.

London’s famous red buses

The same payment method for London buses with an Oyster or your credit card is used. Swipe at the start and end of your journey.

Traveling by bus also gives you a tour of the city. However, the notorious London traffic can mean delays, and routes are not always easy to figure out. The TfL app can help you.

Plan as much as possible before you get to London for your pre-cruise adventure. Use our information and tips below to decide what and where you want to visit and in the most logical order. Then, allow extra time for exploring without a schedule.

4 great ways to see the best of London before boarding your cruise ship

Our walking itineraries for London are divided into four areas with tips on what to visit and where to eat along the way.

Day 1: Museum visits, a stroll in Kensington, and the charming streets of Chelsea

Did you know that most museums in London have no entrance fee? If you love history and science, do not miss The Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. They are all located on the same block off Cromwell Road in South Kensington.

It is a 15-minute walk from here to the luxurious Harrods department store in Knightsbridge. You’ll want to wander the food hall before leaving, even if it’s busy.

Follow Sloane Street and into Sloane Square. While walking, look out for the blue plaques on the wall outside of houses and discover earlier famous residents such as Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, and Oscar Wilde. Turn onto fashionable King’s Road for the ultimate shopping experience.

If you want to stay in this area, choose the Millennium Hotel London Knightsbridge, with its friendly staff and excellent rooms.

Hyde Park stomping ground for the Royals (and the rest of us)

If an afternoon of retail therapy on Kings Road isn’t appealing, walk from Knightsbridge toward Hyde Park instead. Head to the Albert Memorial, about a 20-minute walk.

On the other side of Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park is Kensington Gardens. Here, right opposite the Albert Memorial, is the famous Royal Albert Hall, one of Britain’s most iconic buildings.

If you can, time your visit with a concert and get tickets for a night, you will never forget. If you are visiting in the summer, try to get access to The Proms. That will undoubtedly be one to tick off your bucket list.

Walking from the Albert Memorial, you reach Kensington Palace. Childhood home to Queen Victoria and previous home to Diana, Princess of Wales, the Palace is still home to other Royals, and part of it is open to visitors. But if you want a glimpse of the British Crown Jewels, you’ll have to head to William the Conqueror’s Tower of London, and that’s for another day.

After visiting Kensington Palace, walk to Kensington High Street for shopping and a bite to eat. By now, you have made a complete loop in this area.

An excellent hotel in this area is the Crowne Plaza Kensington on Cromwell Road, which is within walking distance of the museums.

Day 2: Victoria, Buckingham Palace, Westminster & Trafalgar Square

If you are flying into Gatwick Airport, book pre-cruise nights at a hotel in Victoria. The Gatwick Express train takes you to Victoria Station in just 30 minutes. Buy a ticket online before you leave home to avoid queuing for a ticket at the airport.

We love the Amba Hotel Grosvenor in Victoria. It’s an impressive Victorian hotel offering an excellent breakfast. Best of all, an entrance inside Victoria Train Station goes directly into the hotel lobby.

Amba Hotel Grosvenor is just a 5-minute walk to Buckingham Palace. Park Plaza Victoria is also a good option.

Victoria is also convenient to stay in if you visit one of the British gardens shows before you begin your cruise vacation, such as the Chelsea Flower Show. The buses to the show stop right outside the hotel entrance.

Iconic Buckingham Palace

Try and visit Buckingham Palace on a Saturday. If you are outside at 11 a.m., you will most likely see The Changing of the Guard, a glorious horseback parade lasting about 45 minutes.

A little tip as you head towards Buckingham Palace from Victoria. Along Buckingham Palace Road, walk on the left side of the road. This way, you won’t miss the small door in the wall that leads to the tiny Royal Mews gift shop. It’s perfect for Royal memorabilia and quirky gifts to take back home.

Historic Churchill, historic pubs

Continue down Birdcage Walk from Buckingham Palace and through St James’ Park towards Westminster. For history lovers, visit Churchill’s Cabinet War Rooms as you exit St. James’ Park, but buy a ticket online to avoid a long wait.

If you are hungry, drop in at The Red Lion. This cozy pub is just a short walk from the War Rooms, straight up the stone steps between the King Charles’ Street buildings. You’ll see the pub straight in front of you across the road.

Continue walking towards Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Big Ben, and the Palace of Westminster. Book a guided tour of Westminster Abbey, home to every Royal coronation in British history. You’ll only do it once, but it’s worth it.

A walk from Westminster up Whitehall, past the Prime Minister’s home on Downing Street and the Cenotaph, will bring you to Trafalgar Square.

Alternatively, if you want to hop over Westminster (sometimes it’s impossible to fit every historic site into a visit), walk down the Mall instead of through St. James’ Park from Buckingham Palace. That’s the most direct route to Trafalgar Square. You see a glimpse of Horse Guards Parade before passing through Admiralty Arch.

While at Trafalgar Square, visit The National Gallery if you appreciate good art. That’s the spectacular white-columned building in front of you. The entrance is free; you can spend as little or as much time as you like there.

British bespoke and tradition in Mayfair

From Trafalgar Square, finish your day with the 20-minute walk into Mayfair. London’s classy, upscale area is an architect’s dream of Georgian townhouses.

The Burlington Arcade and Bond Street are good places to window shop. The Burlington, often overlooked by visitors, is a beautiful, traditional arcade with bespoke shops. A tour guide is on hand if you want the history behind this posh quarter. Be prepared for high prices if you stay for the evening and dine in Mayfair.

Finish off the day by heading towards Green Park and walking back through the park via Buckingham Palace to Victoria. Or, to avoid this long walk, head to the nearest underground station, Green Park, or Hyde Park Corner. 

Day 3: Oxford Street, Soho, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, The Embankment & The West End

These areas are my London “hub,” I never feel complete after being in the city if I don’t spend at least a few hours here. And if this is the only area of London you have time to visit, then you will have experienced a great deal of London life.

Start at Marble Arch and tackle Oxford Street first. If you love the series Mr. Selfridge, make the iconic department store Selfridges your first stop, just a 10-minute walk from Marble Arch.

Marble Arch, situated at the corner of Hyde Park, is within walking distance of Paddington and Bayswater. In these locations, you will find better-priced hotels while still being central. If you are a family, I recommend staying at Grand Plaza Serviced Apartments, where you get spacious rooms and a kitchen. Otherwise, the rooms at Best Western Mornington are cozy, and breakfast is excellent.

Another good option is the Holiday Inn London Regent’s Park. It is a short underground journey from Paddington Station and a 7-minute walk to Oxford Street. From here you can also walk 20 minutes to The British Museum. Entrance to this museum is also free; if you love archeology, don’t miss this one.

Staying in Paddington or nearby Bayswater works well if you fly into London Heathrow, as the direct train, Heathrow Express, takes you from the airport to Paddington Station in about 20 minutes. Buy your Heathrow Express train ticket before you leave home.

A clash of color on Carnaby Street 

From Selfridges head, east on Oxford Street, shopping is laid out in front of you with all your high street favorites. When you reach Oxford Circus, swing right onto wonderful Regent Street. Famous for its architecture and curved buildings, Regent Street is London at its best in the sunshine.

Once on Regent Street, you are right by Carnaby Street in Soho for antiques and quirky shops reminiscent of the swinging 60s. Perfect for evening drinks and dinner, Soho makes a great evening out. Try to get a table at the tapas bar Barrafina, but be prepared to wait.

Regent Street takes you straight into Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. If Soho is packed out, you’ll find dozens of small restaurants in Chinatown, wedged between Piccadilly and Leicester Square.

If you are planning a West End show and are looking for a last-minute deal, then the main ticket office is in Leicester Square. But if you want to see popular shows such as Hamilton, Wicked, or Book of Mormons, I recommend getting tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

Being flexible and opting for an afternoon show instead will save you money. And don’t forget to check out which theater – not all are in the West End! Wicked, for example, has a long ongoing run at the Apollo Victoria Theater close to Victoria Station.

Covent Garden and that flower market

Covent Garden is not to be missed. It is full of street performers, beautiful shops, indoor and outdoor markets, restaurants, and music. It is also home to London’s Royal Opera House.

For a quick bite, there is The White Lion, a small pub just a short walk from the underground station where they serve good, well-priced food. If The White Lion is busy, try The Nags Head opposite for excellent light lunches. Get a table upstairs for a window view over Covent Garden.

A short walk from the center of Covent Garden is Neal's Yard. Head towards the Seven Dials district to find this tucked away collection of shops and cafes. It's easy to miss, but well worth the effort for a unique small-village feeling you will find nowhere else in London.

If you want to stay close to Covent Garden and the West End theaters before your cruise from London, choose The Strand Palace Hotel. It’s a little worn, but the service is friendly, and the rooms are reasonably priced.

For a grander hotel, choose The Savoy, opposite The Strand Palace. In this location, it’s easy to explore Somerset House. An easily overlooked venue to the London visitor, Somerset House is a cultural center and one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture I have ever seen. And it has one of the most beautiful courtyards in Europe.

Day 4: The City of London, Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Millenium Bridge & The South Bank

If you take the underground from your hotel and hop off at The Monument, you will be in the city’s heart. The Monument commemorates the Great Fire of London of 1666. You can climb the stone steps (for a fee) to the top for a great view of this area known simply as The City.

A Bird’s Eye View from Sky Garden 

I prefer pre-booking tickets for Sky Garden on Fenchurch Street for the best view over London. Walking distance from The Monument, entrance is free, but you must pre-book tickets and show up on time. Look up, and you’ll recognize the building from its shape, nicknamed The Walkie-Talkie.

At the top of Sky Garden, you have a magnificent view of 30 St Mary Axe – affectionately known as The Gherkin – The Shard, the Tower of London, and as far as the eye can see.

It’s an unbeatable view that is entirely free of charge. Plus, the indoor garden has an excellent cafe for snacks and coffee.

From Sky Garden, head over to the Tower of London. It’s hard not to be impressed with this colossal landmark built by William the Conqueror on the banks of the Thames. Meet the Yeoman Warders, hear the stories from the Yeoman tours (included in the price of your admission ticket), and shop for gifts. You can even pay a little extra to see Britain’s Crown Jewels.

Are you hungry yet? Just across the street is St. Katharine Docks, with excellent eateries like The Dickens Inn pub.

It’s a half-hour walk back to St Paul’s Cathedral, the site of the wedding of Diana, Princess of Wales, to Prince Charles in 1981. Christopher Wren designed this architectural gem over 300 years ago. And somehow, it survived devastation during The Blitz of WWII.

You can enter the cathedral free of charge if you attend a service. Otherwise, you pay a relatively high entrance fee, so allow time to explore the cathedral to ensure you get your money’s worth, including climbing the stone steps high up to the galleries. Book online to save money. Family discounts are available, too.

South Bank for culture, historic pubs, and the best food market 

South Bank has a story all its own.

It’s a tale of transformation from over-crowded industrial warehouses into a lively area of arts and culture – a blend of old and new, with an earthy feel of unassuming real life.

Walk across the London Millennium Footbridge from St. Paul’s towards the Shakespeare Theater, The Globe. The black and white half-timbered circular building is hard to miss. If you visit in the summer (especially if you are a Shakespeare fan), try getting tickets to see a play.

This is the ideal place to start a leisurely afternoon walk along the South Bank. If you have time, enjoy the wonderful ambiance of The Anchor Bankside pub, a five-minute walk from The Globe.

Head on eastwards towards The Shard. You’ll be walking the eastern loop of the Jubilee Walkway. Make time for Borough Market, the most desirable food market in London.

Then, turn around and head west towards the London Eye. Europe’s tallest observation wheel is known as the Millennium Wheel. Take your time, and stop at Gabriel’s Wharf, a great place for unique shopping and a popular spot for lunch outdoors.

London suburbs and where the locals go

Do you need a more small-town vibe before you start your cruise from London? It’s worth visiting Little Venice, Camden Town, Notting Hill, and Greenwich Park. These lively areas are packed with locals, and on a sunny day, you’ll discover London at its best.

Little Venice

Little Venice is an often overlooked area with colorful canal boats along Regents Canal. When exploring here, it’s hard to believe you are in the middle of London. Little Venice is signposted from Paddington.

Leave the station and use the exit marked Grand Union Canal. You’ll walk along a green corridor called The Paddington Arm, a pedestrian street towards Little Venice. Just follow the signs. Little Venice is at the intersection of the Grand Union Canal with Regent’s Canal.

Help local businesses by stopping for a bite to eat at one of the floating cafes or restaurants. Welcome to a fantastic spot that visitors rarely find!

Camden Town

Camden Town is famous for its market, a bustling area best visited on Saturday or Sunday morning. On a side note, it is best to avoid being there in the evenings.

Notting Hill

Notting Hill is laid-back and bohemian. Shop on Portobello Road and allow for at least a few hours. You’ll find everything from funky shopping, restaurants, antiques, theaters, and street entertainment.

There is also the Blue Door, made famous by the movie, and even the bookshop, which is popular with visitors. But above all is the market, best visited on Saturday. And if you are lucky enough to be here in August, you may even catch the famed Notting Hill carnival.

Greenwich

Greenwich is famous for being the center of world time (think GMT = Greenwich Mean Time). Visit The Royal Observatory, the world’s Prime Meridian, in the middle of beautiful Greenwich Park. It’s about a 15-minute walk from Greenwich tube station and within easy walking distance of Greenwich Pier if your cruise from London starts here. You can book a Royal Observatory Greenwich Entrance Ticket before you leave home. Alternatively, choose a Royal Museums Greenwich Day Pass, which includes entrance into the Observatory and the fantastic Cutty Sark.

There is plenty of student life around as Greenwich University is nearby, meaning there are many places to eat. Greenwich Market is a fun place to grab a bite and buy collectibles.

Visit Cutty Sark, the 150-year-old Scottish clipper ship moored at Greenwich, and the 500-year-old Royal Naval College. You can reach Greenwich Park by riverboat from central London, and either your Oyster card or credit card works to pay for your fare. Hop on at the Tower of London.

Choose a sunny day to visit, and you will get some great photos of the central London skyline from here. If your cruise departs from Greenwich Pier and you want to stay in the area, the 4-star Novotel London Greenwich Hotel is a good option.

Afternoon Tea, anyone?

It feels wrong to go without mentioning Afternoon Tea. So many visitors want to experience this British custom before leaving London. So here are six favorite places to enjoy this – each one tried and tested. But check out the relevant websites for prices and bookings before you decide. Either way, it’ll be magnificent. Just don’t show up in jeans!

  • The Park Room, Marriott Grosvenor House, Mayfair
  • The Palm Court, The Ritz, Mayfair
  • The Foyer & Reading Room, Claridges, Mayfair
  • The Promenade, The Dorchester, Mayfair
  • The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason, St. James
  • Kensington Palace Gardens Royal High Tea (bookable in advance with our travel partner Viator, with an optional VIP tour of the palace grounds).

And there are many others to choose from at various prices. But these are simply the best and will deliver the Afternoon Tea experience you seek.

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.

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