A Solo Traveller’s Guide to London

Emily Gibson

Whether you’re just dipping a toe in the world of solo travel or a seasoned pro, our guide to visiting London alone is a great place to start your next adventure.

Whether you’re just dipping a toe in the world of solo travel or a seasoned pro, our guide to hitting London alone is a great place to start your next adventure.

Bring comfy shoes and be prepared to do plenty of walking; with nobody to hold you back you’re going to cover a lot of ground!


Get Lost in a Museum
Many of London’s museums are housed in buildings almost as incredible as their contents, and you can easily spend the best part of a day exploring them. The best-known are the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the V&A, the Science Museum, and the Imperial War Museum, which are all free to visit but don’t neglect the smaller, quirkier museums either.

  • Wellcome Collection: Seasonal exhibitions inspired by all things weird and wonderful. FREE.
  • Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy: Natural history museum containing over 67,000 zoological specimens, including dodo bones and one of the world’s seven remaining quagga skeletons. FREE.
  • British Library: The world’s largest library and home to over 150 million books, plus seasonal exhibitions on everything from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Harry Potter.
  • The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret: Morbidly fascinating surgical museum and the original site of one of the oldest remaining operating theatres.
  • Churchill War Rooms: A subterranean museum dedicated to Winston Churchill in the original WWII war rooms.

 


Eat the West End
Although historically British cuisine does not have the best reputation—jellied eel, anyone?—London’s vibrant food scene has spawned a vast cornucopia of world-class restaurants. It’s common now for many of these to operate no-reservations policies, which means wait times for the most popular can reach three hours…or more. But getting seated can be much easier when you’re eating alone, especially if you choose somewhere with counter-style seating.

dining alone in london

Soho and the West End, in particular, are goldmines of gastronomy and offer everything from street food to Michelin star dining. The sheer number of options can be overwhelming, but these kitchen-side restaurants are a good place to start.

  • Kiln: Casual Thai dining with counter views of wood-burning ovens. Price range: £££
  • Koya Bar: Authentic Japanese noodle bar with fast, friendly service. Price range: £
  • Barrafina: Modern Spanish tapas with a Michelin star and kitchen-side seating. Don’t miss the stuffed courgette flowers. Price range: ££££
  • Bao: Dine and dash restaurant famous for its steamed bao buns and Taiwanese small plates. Price range: £
  • Hoppers: Sri Lankan street food best known for its ‘dosa’ pancakes and string hoppers. Price range: ££
  • The Palomar: Modern Middle-Eastern dishes in sumptuous surroundings. Price range: £££
  • Kricket: Anglo-Indian fusion small plates and a creative cocktail menu. Price range: ££

See more of our favorite places to dine alone in LondonA FOODIE’S GUIDE TO DINING SOLO IN LONDON.

 

Dine at a Supper Club

Grub Club London Supper Club
Supper clubs are a growing trend in London, with sites like Grub Club listing hundreds of events every month. With communal seating and food served family-style, they’re a great opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life. Rosie Llewellyn of best-selling supper club A Little Lusciousness says that anywhere between 10% and 30% of her attendees come by themselves, so you’re sure to be in good company.

 

Go to the Movies
You don’t need someone else to see a movie, so a trip to the cinema is a great chill-out activity whether it’s your first solo trip or your thirtieth. Avoid the soulless multiplexes and visit one of London’s proud old movie theatres, such as the Barbican, which screens indie and arthouse movies as well as the latest blockbusters, or one of the luxurious Electric Cinemas, which feature in-auditorium bars. If you’re on a budget, tickets at the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel start from just £8.50.

 

Go on a Tour
With such a rich and vibrant history, it stands to reason that London is positively crawling with walking tours covering everything from Jack the Ripper to local street art. Prices vary; many are free, with tips accepted at the end, but some, like the Eating London food tours and the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Watford, can be more expensive.

London Harry Potter Studio Tour

The easiest and cheapest tours of all are the self-guided ones. Do your research in advance with sites like Walk London, or if you plan to have mobile internet access during your trip try the TrailTale or English Heritage Blue Plaques apps.

 

See London via your (rented) Bike
London is a vast city, and although it’s great to explore on foot, you’ll cover much more ground on two wheels. The Santander bike-share scheme allows you to hire a bike from as little as £2 – all you need is your bank card. If you plan to cycle a lot, consider downloading the dedicated app, which is the fastest way to find and hire your next bicycle.
See London on a Rented Bike
If you’re new to city cycling, first find your bike legs at one of the Royal Parks. Be careful not to deviate from the designated cycling lanes, as park wardens can and will hand out hefty fines to cyclists in pedestrianised areas. If you feel confident enough to take to the roads, try to avoid rush hour (7-9 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. on weekdays), familiarise yourself with British hand signals and be sure to dismount if you need to use the pavement. CityMapper is a great tool for planning routes, on and off your bike. Helmets are not legally required on pushbikes in the UK, but if you plan to do a lot of cycling you may want to bring one from home.

 

Get Out of Town
For many visitors, the UK’s relatively compact size means no trip to London is complete without a few excursions. Traveling by yourself means you can go at your own pace and pack in as many or as few day trips as you fancy.

For sunnier skies, head to Brighton, only an hour away from London Bridge, Victoria, King’s Cross St Pancras and Blackfriars stations. Famous for its pebble beaches, old-fashioned seaside pier and the winding passageways and quirky independent shops of The Lanes, it’s a great place to catch a breath of fresh sea air (and sample some traditional fish and chips!)

Brighton UK

Other popular destinations easily reachable by rail include World Heritage spa city Bath; WWII Codebreaker HQ Bletchley Park; and cosmopolitan Bristol, the home of street artist Banksy and the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Train tickets are usually cheaper in advance, so get organised and book your tickets beforehand on National Rail or The Train Line. Alternatively, check out National Express and Megabus for even cheaper journeys by coach.

 

London has so much to see and do that flying solo is a popular choice for long-haul travellers, day-trippers and locals alike.

 

 

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and foodie on an ongoing quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London through her site Curious London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling, and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards, and wine served in tumblers. Follow her on Twitter: @CuriouslyEmily