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The 15 Best London Guidebooks for Any Type of Traveler

Imagine arriving in London: you exit the airport, ride the Tube to Central London, and step out into the fresh air and sunlight of the greatest city on earth. Now what? While there is certainly fun in spontaneity and discovering new things without a fixed plan, I personally need a bit more structure when I travel, and almost always have at least some kind of itinerary for my trips – even when visiting London which I’ve both visited many times and lived in. One of the many great resources in putting together your own itinerary are London guidebooks, of which there are many options.

If you’re planning a trip to London, you’ll probably want an itinerary of some sort. I remember planning my first trip to London back in 2011; I had three pages of itinerary notes which I followed religiously each day. As I used guidebooks to plan my London, I always recommend them as a resource for others planning trips too (in addition to my blog, of course!).

London Guidebooks Hero

Below you’ll find a list of 15 guidebooks about London that I think are helpful in planning a London trip. I’ve personally reviewed each one (and many others that didn’t make the list), keeping an eye out for who they might be most helpful for and what their strengths (and occasional weaknesses) are.

As someone who’s contributed to guidebooks in the past, I feel confident in these recommendations as a second step* for your London planning process. Choose any of these guidebooks and – along with my blog – you’ll soon be ready for an incredible, unforgettable trip to London. (*After my blog, duh!!)

Comprehensive London Guidebooks

While I do my best to be as comprehensive as possible here on my blog, the reality is that I can’t (and actually don’t want to) include every single detail about every single thing to do, place to eat, and hotel to stay at in London. If you’re looking for a resource that does include every detail possible, there are some great comprehensive guidebooks about London. Below you’ll find five I recommend.

Lonely Planet London

London Guidebooks - Lonely Planet
  • Most Recent Edition: 12th (2022)
  • Price: ~$22
  • Link: Click here

While almost every section of this list of London guidebooks is in alphabetical order, I decided to kick the whole thing off with my favorite guidebook and the one I most recommend: Lonely Planet London.

Lonely Planet is my favorite guidebook company, in part because I’ve actually written for them on several occasions and have contributed to several books they’ve published. I know a lot about the process by which their guidebooks come into being and feel super confident recommending their guidebooks as a resource as a result. That’s why you’ll also find their London guidebook on my list of essentials to pack for London.

All that to say: if you’re looking to buy your first guidebook for your London trip, Lonely Planet London is my top recommendation. (If you’re looking for alternatives in the “comprehensive” category, I’ve included several other major guidebook publishers below.)

Fodor’s Travel London

London Guidebooks - Fodor's
  • Most Recent Edition: 2020
  • Price: ~$15
  • Link: Click here

If Fodor’s is more your style, their Fodor’s Travel London guidebook is another great option. The latest edition covers all of the essentials – and so much more.

This London guidebook – like all of the comprehensive ones I recommend – has everything you want to know, broken up by neighborhoods, including attraction, restaurant, and accommodation recommendations, plus plenty of logistical details to ensure you feel prepared before you set out to explore London.

Frommer’s EasyGuide to London

London Guidebooks - Frommers
  • Most Recent Edition: 2020
  • Price: ~$16
  • Link: Click here

I’ve been fortunate to meet Pauline Frommer, daughter of Authur Frommer who started Frommer’s back in the 1950s – she even gave me writing advice when I was working on my first guidebook for Lonely Planet!

In any case, having met the daughter of the founder, I know that Frommer’s too puts a great deal of care into their guidebook writing process, and the Frommer’s EasyGuide to London is another great comprehensive resource. My only caveat to recommending this guidebook more highly is that it’s completely in black and white rather than having color photos within the book.

National Geographic London

London Guidebooks - National Geographic
  • Most Recent Edition: 5th (2021)
  • Price: ~$20
  • Link: Click here

Next up, you probably recognize the National Geographic brand, right? They too publish guidebooks, including a comprehensive National Geographic London guidebook every few years.

This book has it all, including tips on visiting top London attractions and plenty of suggestions for off-the-beaten-path experiences too. You’ll also find all the other logistical suggestions you need, including restaurants, accommodations, and tips on getting around the city.

The Rough Guide to London

London Guidebooks - Rouge Guide
  • Most Recent Edition: 2018
  • Price: ~$19
  • Link: Click here

A final alternative choice for comprehensive London Guidebooks, The Rough Guide to London is great for London travelers who are a bit more open to adventure.

Rough Guides generally caters their brand to more adventurous travelers and their guidebook includes all the basics plus equips you for some of those off-beat experiences.

Guidebooks for Travelers who Love Walking

In addition to comprehensive guidebooks for London, there are a number of other guidebooks out there – actually a huge! number. I went through several others and categorized them in a couple of different ways.

First up, I wanted to include a section of guidebooks for those travelers who love to walk when exploring a new city. Each of these London guidebooks is specifically great if that sounds like you!

DK Eyewitness London

London Guidebooks - DK Eyewitness
  • Most Recent Edition: 2021
  • Price: ~$19
  • Link: Click here

First up DK Eyewitness London might look like a more comprehensive London guidebook, but it’s actually perfect for walkers and less comprehensive than previous ones I’ve mentioned. It focuses primarily on Central London and West London with very little about South/East London.

There are beautiful illustrations and walking tours in each section, plus loads of photos and information without being overwhelming. Those walking tour routes will be great for anyone looking for inspiration on how to get around the city on foot and see the sights.

There are also some handy sections to give you an overview of London too, including history of the city, a few different itineraries, and suggestions for different travel styles (royalty, sports fans, on the river, families, etc.).

Moon London Walks

London Guidebooks - Moon London Walks
  • Most Recent Edition: 2019
  • Price: ~$15
  • Link: Click here

Next up, Moon London Walks – as you might guess from the name – is a great resource for foot-based city explorers. Within its pages, you’ll find long walking routes through different parts of London like the City, East End, and Westminster/St. James’s/Mayfair. It’s ideal for folks who normally love hiking or long distances – most of the routes suggested are several miles (walking on concrete so good shoes are a must).

Moon London Walks is great if you want to explore the city on foot; you can add 1-2 of these to your London itinerary and make stops along the way to make each one a full day adventure. It also includes restaurant recommendations along the routes, plus the city’s top 10 restaurants, markets, and nightlife to cover some of the other essentials you need to know while planning your trip.

Rick Steves London

London Guidebooks - Rick Steves
  • Most Recent Edition: 23rd (2021)
  • Price: ~$19
  • Link: Click here

Finally, I recommend checking out Rick Steves London if you’re looking for another alternative London guidebook that’s good for walking to explore the city. Its name also suggests it’s more general, but it’s not: this small, pocket-sized guidebook is great for travel and focused on London’s top sights and experiences.

Within its pages, the content is comprised of seven walking and tour routes: “West End Walk” and “Westminster Walk,” plus Westminster Abbey, National Gallery, British Museum, British Library, and the Tower of London. There are also huge sections on sights, sleeping, and essential practical knowledge.

If you want something even more compact, Rick Steves Pocket London is a good smaller version focused on Central London and with less of a focus on specific routes for exploring.

Specialty Guidebooks about London

As I reviewed London guidebooks, I found a number of other ones I wanted to include but didn’t quite fit into a single category. Instead, I’ve included them below and added a note on who each one is “Best for.” If you don’t feel seen yet by this list, one of these guidebooks about London might ring true.

DK Eyewitness London Like a Local

  • Best for: Those for whom London’s iconic sights hold no appeal
  • Most Recent Edition: 2021
  • Price: ~$15
  • Link: Click here
London Guidebooks - DK Eyewitness

In my years of helping people plan travels to London, I can’t count the number of times people have told me they want to know the local spots. If that’s you too, be sure to check out DK Eyewitness’ London Like a Local guidebook.

This book is written by locals living in London, with additional call-outs from other locals, so you can feel confident that the suggestions are what locals know best and are open to sharing with travelers. It’s organized into different sections of the city, with recommendations for Eat, Drink, Shop, Arts & Culture, Nightlife, and Outdoors in each one.

To be honest, I personally felt this guidebook wasn’t super helpful for planning a trip, but would be great for augmenting an existing London itinerary with some local spots.

Fodor’s 25 Best London

London Guidebooks - Fodors 25 Best
  • Best for: First-time London visitors who don’t want to be overwhelmed
  • Most Recent Edition: 2021
  • Price: ~$11
  • Link: Click here

Next up, I recommend Fodor’s 25 Best London if you love the idea of a comprehensive London guidebook but worry about getting overwhelmed during the planning process. This guidebook includes just 25 essential sights and has short sections on shopping, entertainment, food, accommodation, and other logistical essentials in a “Need to Know” section.

There are also sections on self-guided tours, however, I don’t think they’re quite as helpful as Rick Steves London if this is how you want to explore.

Lonely Planet Make My Day London

London Guidebooks - Make My Day
  • Best for: Creative types up for a few days of adventure
  • Most Recent Edition: 2015
  • Price: ~$12
  • Link: Click here

When I first opened this book, I’ll admit that I was pretty delighted. Lonely Planet’s Make My Day London is a very creative London guidebook. It organizes sights and experiences for morning, afternoon, and night. You can then flip, mix and match to choose a morning, afternoon, and night activity, and then use the map to figure out how to get between them; the book also provides some suggested itineraries for each day in a three-day London itinerary.

To use this book, I recommend reading the entire thing – all the options – then start mixing and matching to fill each day. It’s a fun way to come up with different ideas, but not necessarily handy for knowing how to prioritize your time and not as useful for end-to-end planning.

My only other feedback is that the book is a bit myopic: it’s super focused on cultural experiences, like sights, museums, and artistic experiences; if you’re looking for non-cultural experiences, you’ll want to use another London guidebook too.

Time Out London

London Guidebooks - TimeOut
  • Best for: Visitors who want the best of the city with a hint of hip
  • Most Recent Edition: 2019
  • Price: ~$22
  • Link: Click here

For one more suggestion that’s somewhere between the comprehensive London guidebooks I already mentioned and the DK Eyewitness London Like a Local, check out Time Out London. Time Out is one of London’s best free publications, full of events and culture each week; their guidebook is an excellent guide for those who want to cover the basics but know and trust the Time Out brand.

The most recent edition is undoubtedly outdated due to the focus on new and interesting and how much has changed in the past few years. However, as this is the 25th edition, newer ones are sure to come as the world re-opens.

Guidebooks for Return London Visitors

Finally, you might be reading this as someone who’s already visited London and wonder: is there any value for me in reading these London guidebooks? Admittedly, the ones I’ve covered so far are aimed at first-time travelers – but there are some great guidebooks about London for return visitors. Here are the ones I think are worth using in your planning process.

111 Places in London That You Shouldn’t Miss

London Guidebooks - 111 Places
  • Best for: Return London visitors looking to head off the tourist track
  • Most Recent Edition: 2014
  • Price: ~$20
  • Link: Click here

111 Places in London That You Shouldn’t Miss is part of a series of guidebooks published by emons for many cities across the globe.

The general structure is that each location has a 1-2 page spread about it, and you can learn about the location and then decide if you want to visit. Missing from its pages are the essentials and must-see sights, but it is helpful to find loads of interesting places you’d easily miss even if you think you know London well.

If you like this style of guidebook, be sure to also check out Secret London: An Unusual Guide (below).

NFT (Not for Tourists) Guide to London

London Guidebooks - NFT
  • Best for: Repeat London Visitors, Potential Expats
  • Most Recent Edition: 2022
  • Price: ~$18
  • Link: Click here

The NFT Guide to London – not to be confused with any crypto stuff – is dense. When I first picked up this guidebook, it felt like a little brick… And it kinda is a brick of information! It’s an exceptionally dense – almost exhaustive – London guidebook. Within its pages, there are 152 maps about different parts of London with specific suggestions for each area.

There are specific categories about various aspects of London including, parks & places, colleges & universities, sports, transport, arts & entertainment, museums and much, much more. I personally found that the best section is the 37-page “General Information” section, which covers everything from events to kid’s activities to LGBTQ resources to hospitals and libraries.

This is a guidebook that’s more for those who’ve been to London many times and may want to discover new places or people considering a move to London as most of the resources are very locally oriented.

Secret London: An Unusual Guide

London Guidebooks - Secret London
  • Best for: Return London travelers or those who “hate crowds”
  • Most Recent Edition: 2021
  • Price: ~$18
  • Link: Click here

Last but certainly not least, Secret London: An Unusual Guide is another handy one for discovering new parts of the city you know and love. There are 1-2 sights and experiences per page, focused on the offbeat, unseen, and unusual spots across London; most are organized by location like “Westminster to Camden,” “Temple to Angel,” and “Tower Bridge to Shoreditch.”

Some of my favorites include the London Stone, Hampstead Observatory, and the London Wall, but there were also cool also breakouts and mentions of nearby locations, like nearby ghost stations and blue plaques of note.

Between these 15 London guidebooks and my site, I’m confident you can learn everything you need to plan your London trip. For one final tip in planning your trip, if you can’t afford the guidebook you’re looking for, you might try checking your local library to see which edition they have available, if any; just remember that older editions may be outdated or inaccurate in certain ways if you choose this route.

Have any questions about these resources or planning your London trip? Let me know in the comments or join my London Travel Tips Facebook community.

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Valerie fell in love with London on her first trip to the city way back in 2011. Since then, she spent a year living in London and visits as often as she can. Join her to explore my favorite city on earth and learn everything you need to discover the best London has to offer!

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