Sophie Campbell


Visiting London

Before you arrive

Updated January 2018

Order a Visitor Oyster Card from Transport for London (Tfl.) Londoners use these plastic cards on buses, tubes, trains and trams. Visitors pay a £5 activation fee and add money for Pay As You Go fares. The ticket machines now accept contactless payment cards and non-British credit cards.

A single fare with your Oyster costs £2.40 off peak and £1.50 for children aged 11 to 15. Under 11s travel free with an accompanying adult and don’t need a card, but may need ID if they look older than 11.

When you leave, claim back up to £10 in remaining funds via the ticket machines, or for larger amounts of money go to a Visitor Centre (see below.)

You can also swipe in directly on tubes and buses using contactless payment cards or mobile/cell phones with Android Pay or Apple Pay.

All the above can be used on riverboats and local trains, including the Gatwick and Heathrow Express.

If you’re going to be covering a lot of ground in one day, buy a paper Travelcard from a Tfl Visitor Centre – an anytime 24-hour card costs £12.70 adult and £6.30 children 11 to 15.

The London Pass gives entry to 80 London sites, fast track options and a great hop-on hop-off bus tour. It doesn’t include everything – St Paul’s Cathedral, for example – and most national collections are free. There are 1, 2, 3 or 6 day passes, starting from £69 for a one-day adult pass and £49 for a child. Get cards shipped or download to your phone.

Foodies: subscribe to Square Meal and Just Opened London and see reviews on Harden’s Guide and London Eater. Allergies: Nut Mums and Gluten Free Foodies. Vegans/vegetarians: see Vegan London and The Londonist and Time Out, which list vegan, vegetarian and allergy-sympathetic eateries.

Blogs & Print

Time Out London is given away free at Tube stations each week and its website is packed with information on food, culture and entertainment, a great way to start planning.

Also see Visit London, the capital’s official website, and City of London.

Good blogs include The Londonist, Ian Visits, Laura Porter’s About London and Spitalfields Life.

Top Ten Books

The Diary of Samuel Pepys (by Mr Pepys himself, 1666)

Women-loving, music-loving, shorthand-writing Restoration diarist.

A Journal of the Plague Year (by Daniel Defoe, 1722)

Presented as fact, actually fiction, and still a brilliant city portrait.

Vanity Fair (by William Makepeace Thackeray, 1847-8)

Ambitious Becky Sharp elbows her way through Regency London.

Bleak House (by Charles Dickens, 1853)

Fog is the metaphor in this chilling evocation of London and law.

Mrs Dalloway (by Virginia Woolf, 1925)

One day, one woman, one party…the perfect London novel.

Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sun (by Patrick Hamilton, 1935)

All you need to know about damp wool, BO and pre-war heating.

Absolute Beginners (by Colin MacInnes, 1959)

Before Notting Hill was colonised by bankers, it was hot and angry.

Up the Junction (by Nell Dunn, 1963)

Life as a young woman single mum in not-swinging South London.

Hawksmoor (by Peter Ackroyd, 1985)

Fine evocation of 1700s and shorter than his Biography of London.

Downriver (by Iain Sinclair, 1991)

The Bard of Gloom and psychogeographer tackles the Thames.

Top Ten Films


Worth it for the opening aerial shot down the filthy Thames. PS Could that be a serial killer living near ShakeShack in Covent Garden? (Dir: Alfred Hitchcock, 1972)

Les Bicyclettes de Belsize

Sweetly beguiling jaunt through villagey North London with an Engelbert Humperdinck ear worm theme tune. (Dir: Douglas Hickox, 1968)


Ms Redgrave, some mysterious photos, London in full swing. (Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)

The Long Good Friday

The desolate docklands host the best London gangster movie ever. (Dir: John Mackenzie, 1980)

Shaun of the Dead

Zombies invade South London, and nobody really notices… (Dir: Edgar Wright, 2004)

Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr wears the cape, worth it for Tower Bridge alone. (Dir: Guy Ritchie, 2009)

Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince

The Death Eaters prove the Wobbly Bridge does wobble. (Dir: David Yates, 2009)


So what if Shakespeare didn’t write the plays? Check out the Globe. (Dir: Roland Emmerich, 2012)

The King’s Speech

The Queen’s dad battles his stammer in 1930s London. (Dir: Tom Hooper, 2010)

Darkest Hour

Magisterial, mercurial Winston Churchill irritates the hell out of his colleagues in wartime London. The tube scene is just weird. (Dir: Joe Wright, 2017)

Plus a few extras...

An Education: newspaper columnist Lynn Barber’s life story made Carey Mulligan famous. (Dir: Lone Scherfig, 2009)

Derby Day: love and death at the flat race known as ‘the Londoners’ day out’. (Dir: Herbert Wilcox, 1952)

Passport to Pimlico: Never a dull moment as London SW1 declares independence. (Dir: Henry Cornelius, 1949)



Top Ten Songs

A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (Vera Lynn, 1940)

The Forces’ Sweetheart sings about love, birds and the West End.

London Pride (Noel Coward, 1941)

Coward in understandably sentimental form during the Blitz.

Streets of London (Ralph McTell, 1969)

A sad, beautiful little song about London’s dispossessed.

Down in the Tubestation at Midnight (The Jam, 1978)

A real Tube train and great lyrics beat London Calling any day.

Baker Street (Gerry Rafferty, 1978)

Legendary sax riff starts a tale of North London dislocation.

Up the Junction (Squeeze, 1979)

Wistful story of lost love – this time from the bloke’s point of view.

Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant, 1982)

Brilliantly atmospheric track about post-riots Brixton.

Bus Driver’s Prayer (Ian Dury and the Blockheads, 1989)

I defy you not to laugh as you learn the geography of London. (Rude)

Harrow Road (Ska mix) (Big Audio Dynamite, 1995)

Brilliant bouncy track by Mick Jones (ex-Clash) and his 1980s band.

LDN (Lily Allen, 2006)

Allen’s chirpy, girlish voice makes the imagery more shocking. (Rude)

Warwick Avenue (Duffy, 2008)

Oh no, we’ve all been there: being dumped in Maida Vale.


Get in Touch

Contact Sophie using the links below or see her Guild of Registered Tourist Guides or Association of Professional Tourist Guides pages.

Telephone+44 (0)7743 566 323
  • Institute of Tourist Guiding

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