London Travel Apps

23 Super-Useful Apps to Download Before You Go to London

In Android, iOS by Patricia Rey MallénLeave a Comment


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London: city of museums (over 160, making it the world’s top museum city), must-see landmarks (10, or 25, or 100, depending on who you ask,) and great pubs (yeah, those would take a lot longer to count – though someone has!).

Imbued with history and filled with culture, the prospect of a visit to the UK can be exciting and overwhelming in equal measure — I mean, with so much on offer, where do you even start when visiting for a few days?

Whether this is your first trip or your hundredth, London can and will still surprise you, whether it’s an unusual attraction, a newly-opened play, an overlooked cozy nook, or a surprisingly sunny day in the fall (so you can, in true local fashion, cheerfully discuss it with the bartender at the pub).

More than most other cities, London has a wealth of apps to help locals and visitors alike make the most of the city. We’ve tracked down 23 of the best ones, to help with everything from finding your way around to scoring deals on meals and tickets to, yes, knowing what the weather is going to (potentially) be like tomorrow.

Transportation & Navigation

London Red Bus

CityMapper London

In short, CityMapper is a great transportation resource, and one pretty much everybody can benefit from.

Are you awful with directions (raises hand)? Get it. Do you get confused with new transportation systems (raises hand)? This is for you. Are you great at finding your way around, even in a city you had never been to before (I envy you)? Download it anyway.

CityMapper combines all of the city’s transportation options into one handy map, allowing you to compare price and travel time between different modes of transport, including Uber, cycling, and walking.

It also features real-time departures and disruptions, so you make the most out of your time in London, and don’t get blindsided by any mysterious Tube maintenance work or roadworks you didn’t know about.

iOS and Android, free

Tube Live

It’s hard to visit London without spending some time underground. The city’s (in)famous Tube is a vital part of getting around this sprawling city, and Tube Live is the best way to navigate it.

This beautifully-designed app takes into account how long it will take you to get to the nearest station, whether there are planned works on any lines, warns if you’re getting close to the last train, and provides information about station facilities like toilets and parking.

iOS and Android, free

Station Master

A great companion to Tube Live, Station Master provides useful and fun facts about stations across the entire underground network. Each station is shown in 3D, pointing out where exits, passageways, or corridors are, and showing which carriage is most convenient for a speedy exit.

It also includes accessibility info such as step count, elevators, and even the size of the gap between train and platform — also useful for able-bodied travelers with heavy bags. It’s all sprinkled with history tips and facts about each station, turning your commute into a guided tour.

iOS only, £3.99

Santander Cycles

Are you feeling fit (or brave)? Jump on one of the shared city bikes, available all around London, and see the city on two wheels. Commonly known as Boris Bikes for the former mayor who started the service, Santander Cycles are a convenient and environmentally-friendly way to traipse around London.

The service requires membership, which you can sign up for on the app, and it costs £2 for as many half-hour rides as you like in a 24-hour period. Docking stations are every few blocks all over the city, so you’ll have no problem finding one!

iOS and Android, free

MBNA Thames Clipper

Many of London’s landmarks, from the Houses of Parliament to the Tower Bridge, look down on one key element of the city’s landscape: the Thames river. But how about looking at London from the Thames’ perspective for a change?

MBNA offers you exactly that with its river transportation system (as well as being a sometimes-convenient way to get from A to B), and the app makes it even easier by allowing you to skip lines or print tickets by doing everything from your smartphone.

iOS and Android, free

Virtuo

Despite London having an excellent public transportation system, sometimes you need to take matters into your own hands.

If you want to take a day trip out of town without dealing with trains or buses, check out Virtuo. This mobile rental service has just launched in London after rave reviews in other European cities, and promises to make the process of renting a car 100% hassle-free.

You can book your car of choice before arrival and have it waiting for you at the airport or train station, find it yourself with the help of the app, unlock it with a virtual key and drive away. There’s no need to fill in paperwork or wait in line at any point.

iOS and Android, free

Museum & Sights

Houses of Parliament

Natural History Museum

Fancy a trip through 4.5 billion years of natural history? Take a trip to the Natural History Museum, and make the most of it with the museum’s official visitor app.

It provides a guided walk through Hintze Hall, the museum’s central space, narrated by Sir David Attenborough himself giving behind-the-scenes tidbits and insights.

Besides this (as if you would need anything else to be convinced), it also allows you to buy tickets, find your way around on your own, and keep you updated on events and exhibitions.

iOS and Android, free

Museum of London’s Streetmuseum

Few cities have as turbulent and fascinating a history as London. Its streets tell uncountable tales of the miseries, the good ol’ days, and the transition times between them.

Streetmuseum pulls the Museum of London’s vast collection of photographs showcasing both momentous times in history and everyday events, “from the Great Fire of 1666 to the Swingin’ Sixties.”

Just point your phone at a street or monument, and the app will bring back an image from the same place at some point in history, so you can see them both side by side, including streets and buildings that may be no longer with us.

iOS only, free

National Trust

The National Trust’s mission is to “preserve and protect historic places and spaces” around the UK, and it manages over 350 properties and 600,000 acres of land, both inside and outside the capital.

The app has detailed information about the Trust’s properties and landholdings, showing you how to get them, key information such as opening hours and entry prices, and tell you if there is anything special going on when you plan to visit.

iOS and Android, free

Hidden London

Want to see a different side of London? Discover some of its deepest secrets? Or just be surprised by unexpected gems alongside the city’s most famous spots?

Hidden London is for you. Developed and compiled by a born-and-bred Londoner, the app is focused on unknown, buried, or overlooked places. Among some of the most interesting include Roman thermal baths in central London, a crypt underneath Fleet Street, and the first English dictionary, housed in the home that saw it be born.

iOS only, free (in-app purchases)

Riverside London

Remember what we said above about seeing London from the Thames’ perspective? You can also do that from dry land.

Riverside London takes you on walks along the riverside on South Bank, Bankside, and London Bridge. The app includes recommendations on places to eat, attractions, and events happening beside the water. If your trip happens to be in summer, be sure to check it out!

iOS and Android, free

VoiceMap London

Despite the appeal of wandering aimlessly through London’s streets, you don’t have to. There’s no need to hire a guide, either — just get one on your smartphone instead.

VoiceMap has a wealth of audio tours of London, covering all sorts of topics and areas. Choose from a tour discovering the Soho eateries worth waiting in line for, a photography walk around Candem, or a tour of theaterland headed by none other than Ian McKellen. You’ll see the city with new eyes (and ears).

iOS and Android, free (in-app purchases)

Food & Drink

London Pub

London’s Best Coffee

If you need a caffeine kick to keep up with sightseeing, London’s got you covered. Between chains, franchises, and little mom-and-pop stores, there’s no shortage of coffee in the UK capital.

If you want to be selective, though, London’s Best Coffee has you covered. This app focuses on independent cafes, mostly in the inner part of the city — no mean feat, since it adds up to over 200 places.

The app has been called “absurdly detailed,” and that’s accurate: each cafe comes with a review, the type of beans on offer, machines in use, and available brewing methods.

iOS only, £2.29

The Pub Finder

Oh, pubs. Centers of (potential) debauchery, bastions of British daily life, cozy spots to visit on any trip to London.

Find the best with The Pub Finder, a crowdsourced app mapping out all the pubs in London, submitted by locals and visitors alike. Users can also rate pubs they’ve already visited, with each rating counting towards an overall score — the darker the colour of the pin, the better the pub.

iOS and Android, free

TablePouncer

Looking for a last-minute reservation at a hot restaurant? Take it with a side of discount by booking through TablePouncer.

The app lets you make bookings for the same or next day with savings of up to 50% per meal. You can pick where to eat by cuisine, proximity, or party size, and have it all solved in less than ten seconds. New deals are added each week, so there’s no need to go to the same place twice (unless you want to, of course!).

iOS and Android, free

British St.Food

London is a holy grail for street food lovers, full of food trucks, markets, and trestle tables, and British St.Food is your guide to the best.

Run by Richard Johnson, street food connoisseur and founder of the British Street Food Awards, this app showcases and pinpoints to the best eateries in the UK, including London.

The app shows what each trader is selling and where, on a GPS-powered map that’s updated daily by sellers checking in. Daily specials and offers are also available, and users are encouraged to upload photographs and reviews.

iOS and Android, free

General Info

Tower Bridge

Visit London

When it comes to planning your days, let’s make it simple: the app version of London’s official guide is a valuable resource, and well worth downloading before leaving home.

It includes updated info on attractions, landmarks, eateries, and transportation, as well as hidden gems, insider tips and unique, hand-picked lists and itineraries put together by experts.

The GPS feature allows you to find out what is going on around you, or any particular area you’re planning to visit).

Working completely offline, the app allows you to save all the info you’re going to use when out and about. It also acts as a booking service, offering deals on events around the capital.

iOS and Android, free

London Pass

Quick weekend trip? Extra days on a business trip? Make the most of your time with the London Pass app.

This app touts itself as “an interactive guidebook,” offering info about different areas, useful tips like exchange rates and public holiday information, ideas for days out, and transportation maps.

The app is particularly useful if you’d purchased a London Pass (you know the deal, one ticket for several attractions and tours around the city, with fast track entry to many of them) — there’s pertinent info for pass holders, including special deals at restaurants, shows, and stores.

The app is equally useful if you don’t have a pass, though, so check it out!

iOS and Android, free

Met Office Weather

Oh, the British weather. Often reviled, occasionally loved, always a topic of idle conversation.

Weather in London, much like the rest of the UK, can change in a matter of minutes and really affect your trip. Your phone probably already has a weather service, but for the most accurate information, check the Met Office Weather app.

Released by the UK’s official meteorology service, it offers up-to-date accurate weather forecast (daily and hourly), provides weather warnings, and lets you know how much rain is likely to fall within the next 24 hours.

Nothing will catch you off guard now, whether it’s a sudden downpour, or a random comment from a salesperson. They’re both equally likely…

iOS and Android, free

Tickets, Events & What is Going On

London Night Street

Time Out London

An inevitable fixture in London resource lists, Time Out is a cliché for a reason. This timeless publication (it just never seems to get old) is a wealth of information on what to do around town, from not-to-be-missed restaurants to newly-opened plays.

Its app is comprehensive and easy to use, listing up-to-date events near you as well as recommendations broken down by specific categories, such as Editors’ Picks or Free & Cheap. Lists and individual items can be downloaded and accessed offline, letting you create your own personalized itinerary.

iOS and Android, free

London Theatre Direct

Planning to catch a play (or two) while in London? Download London Theatre Direct, and take the hassle of deciding and buying out of the experience.

The app works as a two-in-one, giving show times and addresses for theaters around the city, and letting you purchase tickets in-app. You can search by regular or last-minute tickets, discounts, deals, and the best seats, all from your smartphone.

iOS and Android, free

Stagedoor

If you’re looking for the alternative side of London (in theater talk, of course), then Stagedoor is for you. This app highlights off-the-beaten path and hidden theater gems all through the city, focusing on lesser-known venues and newly-released shows.

Choose between musicals, opera, comedies, children’s shows, cabaret, and many other categories, and shuffle through reviews from past attendees and critics to find the perfect play for you. Buy tickets in-app at a discount price (for iPhone users, Apple Pay is enabled) and enjoy!

iOS only, free

Dropit

“Shop ’til you drop” gets a whole new meaning in London. In a city rife with high-end boutiques, thrift stores, and street markets, the possibilities for retail therapy are endless… and a little overwhelming.

Dropit takes some of the pressure off by taking care of your bags after a particularly fruitful session. Just take all your new acquisitions to any of its partner stores sprinkled around the West End, leave them with your accommodation’s address, and wait for them to be delivered to your door. Easy!

iOS and Android, free (in-app purchase for service)

 

Images via Benjamin Gillet (feature photo), Dun.can (red bus and phone booth), bryan (night street), Gabriel Villena (Buckingham Palace guards), Martin Hesketh (Houses of Parliament), George Rex (pub sign), mangMangW (Tower Bridge)

Make the most of a trip to London with these 23 great apps.
About the Author

Patricia Rey Mallén

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A roaming writer and tech enthusiast, Patricia has been wandering the globe for 10-odd years. A passionate Apple lover, she is familiar with Genius bars from Sydney to Reykjavík to Mexico City. She only vaguely remembers life before the Internet, but will forever long for the days in which mobile phone batteries lasted for over a week.

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