15 Essentials You Need to Pack for London in 2023
Ah, London. My favorite city on earth. I’ve traveled a lot, but there’s nowhere quite like London. However, there are a lot of preconceived notions about visiting London – from wondering which sights are worth seeing to knowing how to handle the infamously but perhaps overstated potential for rain during your visit.
If you’re planning your first trip to London (hooray!), you might wonder what it’s like and what to pack for London. Is everyone super formal or fashionable? (Sorta.) Do you really need to leave your jeans and sneakers at home? (YES.) Okay then… What do you need to pack for a trip to London?
I’ve been to London more than a dozen times between 2011 and 2023, and I lived in London for a year (2012-2013). I’ve packed my bag for London more than any other destination I’ve ever visited, and I’ve got it down to an art. If you are wondering which things to pack for London, I’m the gal to help you out. Before we jump into my packing list for London, here’s a quick refresher on why I recommend some items on this list.
This post was originally published in January 2021, and was updated in May 2021 and January 2023.
What’s the Weather Like in London?
You probably think you already know this, right? It’s rainy in London… right?
Yes, it does rain in London… but it doesn’t rain all day, every day, all year long! London has distinct seasons, and depending on when you’re traveling to London will have a huge impact on the weather and what you need to pack. Here’s a brief breakdown:
- Summer is London’s peak season. You can expect a lot of tourists to be visiting London around this time. In London in the summer, you can expect warm, sunny weather. London summer temperatures range between 55°-75°F (13°-25°C) most days. It certainly can rain (check the forecast before you pack!), but it’s not likely too. Instead, expect to dress in breathable, light clothing and bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and a reusable water bottle.
- Autumn is one of London’s shoulder seasons. Temperatures start to fall in the Fall, ranging from 45°-70°F (7°-21°C) and getting colder into late October and November. It will also start to get more rainy as the year winds down. You can see beautiful fall foliage in some parts of London (and the English countryside if you take a day trip). But you’ll want to start thinking about rain gear and layers as you pack.
- Winter is London’s rainiest season. You need to pack appropriately! Pack rain gear (like boots and an umbrella) and warm clothing to stay dry when out exploring the city. Temperatures range from 40°-55°F (4°C-13°C) in the winter, but it’s possible to get snow 1-2 times per year. Check the forecast and pack accordingly!
- Spring returns to London with March/April showers and May flowers. I love spring in London, as the city blooms with magnolias, tulips, and daffodils. There’s a good chance of rain in the spring in London, and the temperatures only start to get nice and warm toward the end of the season (ranging from 40°-60°F (4°-15°C)). Still, bring your rain boots to keep your feet dry while exploring the city.
As you’ll see below, some of the items I recommend on my London packing list are more seasonal and you won’t need them all year long. Be sure to pack based on the season you’re traveling to London plus the forecast for your trip.
What You Actually Need to Pack for London
I’ll be honest: I pretty much pack 90% of the same things over and over… and I bet you do too. Also, most packing lists are about 90% of those same things, right?
So instead of giving you a London packing list which is 90% of what you already know or are already planning to pack (yes, you do need 1 pair of underwear for each day…), here’s a packing list that’s 100% of things you need specifically for traveling in London.
Depending on the length of your trip and when you’re traveling, you might not need all of these items. Based on my own travels though, I’m confident this packing list for London is full of helpful items. It also doesn’t replicate the same list from some other destinations – this one’s just for London! Where it makes sense, my husband has also added his own recommendations for what men should pack for London.
1. The Lonely Planet London Travel Guide
Whenever I’m traveling, I like to check out the Lonely Planet guide for wherever I’m going. They always have the most up-to-date info and recommendations for packing as much into a trip as possible. London is a big enough city that it has its own book, which also comes in an ebook format or you can purchase specific chapters you need.
Excitingly, Lonely Planet has just updated their London guidebook and the latest edition was released in May 2022.
2. A Burberry Trench
While you might not need a trench during London’s summer months, the classic Burberry trench coat is a staple in any London wardrobe, and always looks good. It’s a splurge for one trip, but you’ll get enough use out of it during your trip. You also might fall in love with London and move there like I did, and then it’s definitely worth having!
Excuse me while I go spend every dime I’ve earned on this blog buying a Burberry Trench now…
3. Cute, Comfortable Flats
If you take my advice on sightseeing in London, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking. This is tricky since London is also a pretty fashionable town, and you don’t want to be obvious as a tourist in brand-new white sneakers.
If you’re looking for travel flats, I always recommend Tieks. While these are an investment at $175 per pair, they hold up so well while traveling. I put over two million steps into my first pair! Read my review here.
Most people think London is rainy, but as you now know, there are some great sunny, warm-weather months. On those days, London is the most beautiful city in the world, and you’re going to want sunglasses.
If you’re visiting London during the rainy season, you should plan ahead to keep your feet dry and bring stylish rain boots. I know rainboots take up a lot of space in your bag, so you can either pack them with socks, underwear, and other small clothing, or wear them on the plane to save space.
Keeping with the Burberry-ish theme (but not breaking the bank), these plaid pattern boots are cute but not too crazy. You could also opt for traditional black if that works better for your wardrobe.
If you don’t love this style, I also have a guide to the best rain boots for London.
6. Cross-Body Purse/Day Bag
I fell in love with Cath Kidston, a London bag designer, while living there. In particular, I love her funky and colorful designs (yet not too outlandish because this is sensible London after all).
While the style I used to buy isn’t in production anymore, there are loads of other great cross-body bags to choose from. I just picked a nice one for the photo, but if you click the button, you’ll see all the designs Cath Kidston currently offers.
No matter which design you choose, having a small day bag to hold your wallet and camera and other small items is wildly handy.
7. Oyster Card Wallet
To be fully transparent, you don’t need to buy this in advance and pack it for London. You can ask for a free Oyster card wallet when you buy your Oyster card, and the Transport for London people usually have free ones for travelers. But, you gamble not getting a cool design if you do it that way!
They give you a free one when you purchase an Oyster card in London, but there are also loads of designs available if you want something that makes it a little less obvious that you’re a visitor.
8. Instant Camera
London is one of the most iconic destinations in the world. While I’m sure you’re already bringing a camera and/or your smartphone to take pictures, it is a lot of fun to get actual real printed-off photos from your trip – and the Fujifilm InstaX pops them right out like a Polaroid camera.
I have this style camera that I take on Special Trips (read: always London) but there are other styles if you don’t love this vintage look.
9. Universal Adapter
Whenever you’re traveling internationally, it’s important to stay fully charged to capture all the photos and keep up on any online stuff (*cough* I never take time off because I’m a travel blogger *cough*).
Since the voltage is different in London, you’ll need a travel adapter to actually plug anything in.
A universal adapter like this is perfect, because it works for all the main zones, including the U.K. It also has two USB ports which help you charge everything up overnight in one go. I have a whole other list of travel adapters for London too, if you aren’t sold on this one.
10. The London Pass
As I advised in my massive guide to visiting London, if this is your first trip to London, the London Pass is a great idea. You get reduced or free admission to sights all over London, which will help you see the most of what this amazing city has to offer.
You can purchase a London Pass that’s good for 1, 2, 3, 6, or 10 days, depending on the length of your trip.
What to Pack for London when it Rains
If you happen to check the forecast for your trip and realize the weather isn’t going to cooperate, never fear – I also have suggestions for what to pack for London when it rains!
11. Proper Rain Coat
I mentioned bringing (or splurging on) a Burberry trench for your London trip, but this may not be the best choice if the forecast is all rain during your trip (Burberry coats are water repellant, which may not be enough for a strong day of London’s infamous drizzle). For women, I recommend the Shoreside from Joules ($105), the Curve Jacket from Danish company Rains ($135), or the waterproof Original Cotton Smock from Hunter ($225). GQUK has a great list for men.
Speaking of Hunter, they’re a great option for another London rainy-day essential: Wellington boots! These boots date back to the early 19th century in British style and are critical for keeping your feet dry. In addition to the budget option I mentioned above, Hunter has great Wellies (including the Iconic Tall Boot for women and men) and I also love the XtraTuf Legacy Boot, though they’re a bit more utility style.
I think Londoners are generally split on umbrellas; I never used one but I know locals who do. The main thing is to be conscientious with your umbrella – it doesn’t entitle you to the entire sidewalk! This budget-friendly umbrella from JUKSTG is a good choice, but I also have an entire list of the best umbrellas for London.
14. Waterproof Bag
There’s nothing worse than outfitting yourself in waterproof digs only to realize your bag is made of a material that’s going to get soaked! I don’t have a specific recommendation here, but I love waxed canvas bags to help keep the rain out. (Cath Kidston, mentioned above, has lots of waxed canvas options for women.)
Not to get all Victorian on you, but a handkerchief is a great option if you do end up getting a bit damp and want to tidy yourself up in the loo before a meeting or pint. I would go for something really simple like a plain white handkerchief that folds up nicely in a pocket or bag and is unobtrusive.
These five items (which do have some overlap with the above list) will help you stay dry and warm on a rainy London day without adding too many extra items to your suitcase.
What Else to Pack for London
Here are a couple of tips to help you pack for your trip to London:
- What to pack for London will vary a lot based on the season you visit. London’s summer months are noticeably drier and warmer than winter months. Be sure to check the forecast before you start packing for London… and pack that Burberry trench anyway because you look damn good in it.
- Adjust your packing list for London based on how long you’re traveling. If you’re only traveling to London for 1-3 days, you obviously don’t need as much clothing as if you’re making a longer trip. My rule of thumb is to pack one top for every two days of travel, and one pair of trousers for every 3 days. Don’t forget extra undergarments and socks!
- Pack for the European fashion standard. London isn’t the most fashion-forward city in Europe – and it’s not as formal as it used to be – but it’s still one of the more fashionable cities to visit on the continent. You can’t go wrong with blacks, neutrals, and solid-colored items from your wardrobe.
Have any other questions? Let me know in the comments or ask it in my London Travel Tips Facebook group!