Let your smartphone be your tour guide with the best London apps for visitors
Technologically advanced and always on the go, London is a fast-paced, switched on city. Luckily for visitors, there’s a whole digital world set up to help them navigate it. Whether you want an app that can book a table at the best restaurants, a digital map of the city or simply a taxi service, almost everything you could possibly need is accessible from a smartphone. From Streetmuseum and Citymapper to StreetHub and Velocity, these are the best London apps to download before your next trip.
When it comes to sightseeing, Visit London is one of the best London apps available to visitors. It’s packed full of information about the city’s landmark sights and attractions and features a whole host of useful functions such as recommended itineraries, area guides, events calendars, offline maps and tips for tourists. On top of that, it’s completely free.
A fascinating and inspiring app for visitors, Museum of London’s Streetmuseum offers a unique perspective of the city. It uses hundreds of images from the museum’s archive to give visitors a then and now outlook on many streets and sights. Simply select an attraction from the list, or search for nearby destinations, and hold up your phone to see the scene as it was in the past. Helpful descriptions detail interesting facts and help users find the right viewpoints.
An essential travel companion wherever you are in the world, Google Maps is one of the most up-to-date digital navigation maps on the market. Particularly useful when sightseeing by foot (and available offline via download to avoid roaming fees), the foolproof app shows your position as you move around, with directions on how to reach your chosen destination and how long it will take. Select a route and benefit from optional audible progress reports as you travel.
Whatever time of day or night, there’s never a shortage of taxis in London. If you’re in a central area, you’ll never have to wait for more than a few minutes for a taxi to appear. Like in many cities, Uber is widely available. If you want a more traditional London black cab experience, use Hailo or Gett to order a licensed black cab to your location. A bonus of using Gett instead of flagging down a cab is that rates are fixed rather than set by the meter
Taking a ride on London’s famous underground system is on many travellers’ itineraries, but unless you’re a local, working out the quickest way to get from A to B can be challenging. This is where Citymapper comes in. Put aside your colour coded tube map (a digital version, Tubemap, can be downloaded) and programme in your destination to discover all the available route options and how long they’ll take. The app is constantly updated with journeys rerouted to factor in any delays.
London has an exceptional food scene but with so many people competing for tables at the top restaurants, it’s a good idea to book in advance. A number of apps, such as Open Table and Velocity, offer instant online booking. The former features an enormous array of options across all cuisines and price ranges, while the latter focuses on last minute reservations at fine dining restaurants, with reviews and inspiration sections arranged by theme, such as Date Night and Hidden Gems.
Planned your sightseeing but need some inspiration for evening entertainment? Try Dojo, a free lifestyle app that’s got its finger on the pulse of London’s nightlife, dining and events scenes. The app offers ideas for every day of the week, from comedy shows and exhibitions to restaurant openings and quirky pop ups, alongside weekly guides to concerts, romantic date spots, and much more. There’s also a large array of venues organised into categories. Select ideas that you like and add them to your personalised collection space for later.
A member’s only guide offering exclusive news and opportunities for its users, Urbanologie is the place to go to discover the newest restaurants, bars, clubs and pop-ups in London. Download the app to read about the most exciting openings and receive invites to special events almost every week. Membership is required but the app is available in several cities across the globe, so it’s ideal for the frequent traveller.
With seven floors, over 300 departments and 90,000 square metres of space, a trip to Harrods can be daunting. Luckily for shoppers, the Harrods app is here to help. An essential download for those planning to visit the famous Knightsbridge department store, it features an interactive map and index where users can search for brands and generate a route from their current location to their chosen destination. The app also offers entertaining extras such as interviews and videos with fashion designers, beauty tutorials and an innovative Test the Look makeup studio.
While London is renowned for its designer shopping streets and high-end department stores, the city’s boutique shopping scene offers something a little different. Hundreds of these lesser-known boutiques can be discovered through StreetHub, a GPS-led app that details the independent boutiques in close proximity to close to you, with directions and examples of what’s on offer.
A self-styled beauty concierge, Ruuby is the first app of its kind in London. It takes the stress out of booking beauty appointments by connecting users with some of London’s top beauty salons and therapists and doing the hard work for you. So whether you’re looking for somewhere to get a blow dry before a night out, fix a manicure or enjoy a full-blown pampering session, Ruuby can book you an appointment wherever you are in the city.
London is known for its unreliable weather, but that’s part of the city’s charm. If you’re questioning whether to risk wearing those suede shoes or pack an umbrella for the day, look to Dark Sky. One of the best London apps, its reliable, hyperlocal weather information delivers down-to-the-minute forecasts.