As I’ve said many times, planning your first trip to London is a lot. Like, a lot – even though it’s an English-speaking country and operates quite similarly to the U.S., it’s definitely different, and there’s so much to see and do that you can easily get overwhelmed putting together a London itinerary.
Luckily, we live in the 21st Century, and we have a really handy solution to many issues in our lives: technology! Specifically, our smartphones, which, I dunno about you, but I am never more than arm’s length away from mine. In any case, there are some incredibly handy London apps that can help you plan your trip or make the most of your time once you arrive.
Many of the apps on this list are classic – not trendy – as in, I used them on my old iPhone 4 a decade ago when I called London home, and they’re still worth installing and using today. So if you’re curious how technology can make your London trip easier, here are the best London apps to add to your device before you depart.
Apps for Getting Around London
London’s public transit system is fantastic and varied. Understanding the Tube routes and finding the nearest bike docking station can be hard for first-timers. Below are the best London apps to help you get around the city like a local.
1. TfL App
The TfL App is the official Transport of London app for travelers who want to get around London using the Tube. It features the iconic Tube map and live bus and train times for every station, plus the quieter times to travel. You can also check walking and cycling routes for all or part of your journey.
It is available for iOS and Android devices to plan your journey around London.
Focusing on sustainability, Citymapper is another popular public transit app to get around London. The app displays the live timing of buses, the Tube, DLR, and Overground. The app tells you where to walk, what Tube station you have to go to, which line to use, the number of stops before getting off, and which direction to exit the Tube.
It also shows private modes of transportation, such as cabs, scooters, cycles, mopeds, and car share. One awesome feature allows you to compare your travel options across all transport modes in real-time.
3. Santander Cycles App
Santander Cycles App is one of the best London apps for travelers who want to explore London by bike. This app speeds up the bike rental process by sending you a bike release code to your phone. Then you head to the nearest docking point and pick it up.
The app also lets you find nearby docking stations with bikes and spaces available, save your favorite docking stations, and plan a journey.
4. Tube Live App
The Tube Live app helps you stay up to date on the Tube. It features an official London Underground map and a section with live arrival and departure information for all tube lines, including DLR and the London Overground. You can also see near Tube exits, find the first and last tube of the day, and know if there is any weekend engineering work. A perk is that the app also includes trains with unusual destinations.
5. Tube Map
With the Tube Map app, you’ll never have to fear not understanding the Tube map again. This award-winning navigation app includes the iconic Harry Beck London Underground map design.
Like other apps, this one shows you arrival and departure times, the cost of different routes, and real-time routing. Plus, you can check delays, closures, and service changes. An unbeatable feature is that the Tube Map works both on and offline.
6. London Bus Live Countdown
Moving on to another London transport mode, London Live Bus Countdown provides users with the latest information about London buses. The app shows all the bus routes, live arrivals, and departures, plus delays or cancellations. It also has a journey planner where you can type where you’re going to and from, and it will tell you the quickest routes – helpful if you don’t know the area. Users can add buses to the “Favorite” section to avoid searching for them each time.
I don’t think I have to introduce you to Uber, one of the most popular apps to get around. Uber provides ride services in London. All you have to do is download the app – if you don’t have it already –complete it with your information, and voila!
With the premium Uber experience, users can reserve a ride up to 30 days in advance, which is useful for when you’re arriving in London.
8. Uber Boat by Thames Clippers
The UberBoat by Thames Clippers is a river bus service on the Thames. It has an app to let you browse the stops (piers), boats, and routes you can take in London. The app also allows users to buy tickets anytime and check live departures from their phones. The UberBoat is a fabulous and less crowded alternative to get around London. Plus, you can enjoy the Thames and see the city differently.
If you’ve decided to drive in London, Virtuo will simplify renting a car a lot simpler. Virtuo is a contactless car rental option, and its app allows users to rent a premium car in London using only their phones.
As the Virtuo app also works as a digital key, all you have to do is choose the car model, add any extras (baby seats, extra mileage, etc.), and pick it up at the nearest car park.
Apps for Enjoying London Attractions
With so many things to do and see, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when visiting London. Luckily, numerous apps are condensing top info about the must-sees in the city. Here are the best apps for London events and attractions.
10. Visit London
Downloading the Visit London app is like having a Londoner guiding your every step in the city. The app features everything you need for a smooth trip. It offers hand-picked lists of the best things to do, great places to eat near your location, and even a feature to create personalized maps and itineraries according to your interests. You can also buy tickets for West End theater shows and big-hitter attractions.
11. London Pass
Whether you purchase the London Pass (which I recommend!) or not, you can still download the London Pass app. The app provides users with a London map and information about the opening times and history of over 80 London attractions. You can also browse their curated itineraries or devise your own to explore the city.
AccessAble is one of the best apps for London traveling for people with physical and mobility impairments. The app gives accurate information if a place is accessible to users. Their staff sends trained surveyors to check out every single site in person. Also, users can see photographs of places to verify and search for a specific town or city.
13. Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum app is a great guide for those looking to visit some of the city’s best museums. The app has two versions, a free and paid version. The free version offers a guide to help you explore the National History Museum with maps of each section of the museum and they offer a few free tours in the Fantastic Beasts category.
Despite its name, the app for the Natural History Museum also contains information about most London landmarks. You’ll find a section about the city’s museums, zoomable street maps, London itineraries, and useful tips for tourists. You can even get local discounts using the app! The only downside is that, to access all these benefits, you need to upgrade to the app’s paid version.
14. Raise Tower Bridge
There’s so much to do in London and so little time! Perhaps you can’t make it to Tower Bridge, but you can see how it feels going up the bridge with the Raise Tower Bridge app.
This app allows you to experience the view from Tower Bridge. You just have to point your phone at the Tower Bridge posters, and a 360-degree video of the bridge appears, showing you how it raises the bascules beneath your feet.
15. London Architecture Guide
London Architecture Guide is going to be your new favorite app. It has every detail of London’s contemporary and historic architecture. You can explore buildings by period, type, and architecture or read essays about the history of London’s architecture. You can even find commentaries by renowned architecture critics. There are also event listings of upcoming talks and walking tours around the city.
16. Secret Stories
That’s the magic of London. You find wonderful things to explore everywhere, and the Secret Stories App helps you discover them. The Secret Stories App offers interactive self-guided walking tours for all ages, from mysterious deaths to scandalous romances. Each route has a strange and quirky story behind it. Users select a tour with a simple map plus audio and pictures to help paint a picture of the story.
Theatergoers, I have the best London app for you: Stagedoor. Stagedoor is a brilliant app condensing London’s theater scene in one place. The app sorts plays according to different criteria, such as reviews, most acclaimed, near you, etc. however, the app’s highlight is that it shows all the plays, not only the big West End shows. Plus, it’s also social. Users can follow other users and critics to know about a production before booking it.
If you love the theater but have to stick to a budget, check out TodayTix to find cheap tickets. Reviews state that the TodayTix is the most convenient to find great seats last minute for big and small shows.
This app gives users exclusive access to Lottery tickets to sold-out shows and specially priced day-of Rush tickets. It also lets users access Presales and 24-hour offers.
19. London’s Best Coffee
Sipping a coffee or tea is the perfect way to take a break from exploring London. While there are countless cafés in London, not all of them are good. London’s Best Coffee app makes sure you find the best coffee shops with its café-finder maps.
Users can also personalize their search with different filters. Moreover, the app also publishes articles, reviews, guides, and videos on the most relevant topics from the leading coffee industry authorities.
While I know the era of apps isn’t what it once was, these London apps are so good they’re worth taking the time to download and use during your London trip. Have any questions about these London apps, or do you know of any I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!