A social distanced travel guide to London

Here's how to enjoy the Big Smoke safely this summer...

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  • 03 July 2020
  • • 11 min read

Thinking of travelling to the British capital once travel bans have been lifted? Now that London has started to return to some sort of normality with the government easing some of the Covid-19 restrictions, you can start making plans for your trip to the Big Smoke. However, while we can see light at the end of the tunnel, it’s important to remember that the pandemic is still upon us so your trip to London may be somewhat different to what you’re used to. Social distancing rules are still in place which means backpackers must make a conscious effort to protect themselves and others when travelling big cities. We’ve created the ultimate guide to London so that you guys know how to enjoy the city safely while social distancing...

Things to know before you go:

  • Hostels and other accommodation providers can reopen in England from July 4th with social distancing measures in place. in London Bridge has opened its doors again with new social distancing measures and hygiene protocols introduced within the venue. Check them out .

  • We recommend wearing a face mask when travelling around London and strongly advise to carry hand sanitiser at all times

  • Avoid public transport unless absolutely necessary. Walk or cycle instead.

  • As of 4th July groups from two households will be able to meet up anywhere, including indoors as long as you social distance

  • Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants are permitted to open their doors again on 4th July with social distancing rules in place

  • You can meet outdoors with a maximum of six people you don’t live with, as long as you stay 2 metres apart

Want more? Here are the

*As we’re sure you're aware, the situation in London is fluid with things changing and improving every day, however we must make it clear that our content is correct at the time of posting and has been built on the latest government advice and information we do have. We are doing our best to provide the most up-to-date information and clearest recommendations for you that may conflict with updated guidelines and we will therefore monitor and adjust when necessary. Our goal is to create a safe and useful guide for our guests, so that you can really enjoy your stay with us creating incredible moments and memories during your trip.

Go on a Royal tour of the city

Many of London’s sights and landmarks are bursting with British Royal history. If you’ve always wanted to learn more about the world’s most famous royal family, then take a Royal tour of London and visit some of the royal landmarks that are re-opening across the capital. For example, the Tower of London is reopening on 10th July, just make sure to pre-book your tickets online. The interiors of Hampton Court Palace will be open again on the 17th July, Kensington Palace on 30th July (you must book ahead of both) and the Queen’s favourite department store Fortnum & Mason will reopen its tearoom on 4th July.

To do the full royal tour of London safely during the pandemic, we recommend hiring a Santander bike so you can cycle past Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey (where Kate and William tied the knot), through the Royal parks and to the different London palaces.

It will be easy to social distance in the palaces and on the palace grounds. Just be sure to be mindful of safety when queuing for attractions. Want more? We’ve rounded up the

Picnics in London’s park and gardens

Did you know that despite being a built up city, London has 3000 parks? There is plenty of glorious green space in the capital where you can enjoy a socially distanced picnic or nice long walk through some of the most famous parks in the city. Explore the rose gardens of Regents Park, relax by the water at Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake, spot the deer at Richmond Park and get panoramic views over the city from Greenwich Park. We’ve rounded up some of where you can enjoy a picnic in the sun.

As well as these more well-known parks, London is also home to smaller green spaces which are perfect for those looking to explore more off-the-beaten-track. Battersea Park and Parsons Green are beautiful local parks with a chilled out atmosphere where you can grab takeaway cocktails or beers from the surrounding bars. Just remember to pack your picnic blanket. You can also book tickets to visit Kew Gardens, London’s Royal Botanical Gardens which has reopened its beautiful grounds with new social distancing measures in place.

Sip on cocktails in London’s riverside pubs, beer gardens and rooftops

London has a buzzing outdoor drinking culture in the summer months which is perfect if you want to meet up with friends in the fresh air, rather than inside. The Big Smoke is famed for its traditional British pubs, many of which boast riverside views or outdoor beer gardens where you can order some traditional British grub and Pimms while keeping a safe distance from other customers. Check out our which are set to open on 4th July with social distancing rules in place - be sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment.

Then there are the rooftop bars which are also perfect for a social distanced drink. The Pergola rooftop bar is a fantastic bar chain with outdoor seating with two branches in London (Paddington and Olympia). The easygoing atmosphere, long tables and street eats give it the kind of vibe that’s perfect for those more chilled out drinking sessions. What makes this one a top contender is that you will feel like you’re sitting in a botanical garden for drinks - the Insta-opportunities are endless!  Check out more .

Sightseeing on two wheels

Since we’re asked to avoid public transport including London’s efficient tube system, then the next best way to travel around is by bike! London is a big city, so while you can walk, travelling on two wheels will be much easier and quicker if you plan to go sightseeing or want to explore further afield. The government has new plans in place for new cycle lanes throughout the city and restrictions on car traffic, which is great news for backpackers and locals alike. You can hire a Santander bike from one of the docking stations throughout the city; just turn up, hire a bike and return it to any other station when you’re done. We recommend downloading the Santander app so you can see your nearest docking station.

Not a confident cyclist? Don’t worry! Just stick to one area in particular, like London Bridge in the heart of the city, then you should be able to see everything on foot. Our hostel in London Bridge is close to many of the city’s major sights and attractions like Borough Market, the Shard, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Bridge Experience, London Southbank and plenty of the best cheap eats, restaurants and bars. 

Check out the city’s museums

Museums got the go ahead to open up again in England on 4th July which is great news for culture vultures. London has some of the best museums in Europe, so whether you’re into contemporary art, history or science then London has the museum for you. Make sure to check the websites of the museums you want to visit as they have different opening dates - many will also require you to book tickets in advance and will only let you in provided you have a face mask. Check out - we’ve also rounded up the if you’d like to know more about the country and its heritage. 

From the V&A, the Natural History Museum to the Saatchi Gallery and The British Museum there is so much culture to be discovered behind London’s museums walls. These museums will have social distancing measures in place such as one way systems and limited capacities to avoid overcrowding.

Explore new neighbourhoods 

London is a diverse city with different neighbourhoods and cultures to explore. Each area has something different to offer. From gritty Camden which is plastered in street art, leafy Greenwich with its maritime history to Soho’s trendy boho streets or Shoreditch's amazing street food - there is so much to discover by bike or foot. The awesome thing about London is that you could be walking amongst skyscrapers one minute, and then discovering the hidden pubs, street art and food markets the next.

Need some more guidance on where to go and what each neighbourhood has to offer? Check out our guides to

Better yet, you can take a free walking tour from our hostel every day to discover more of the local area and beyond! The free walking tour we offer will have social distancing rules in place so that you’re spaced out well from other guests during the walk through London.

Stuff yourself at London’s street food markets

The famous food markets of London are back up and running with social distancing measures in place. If you’d like to get a taste of some of the best street food from around the world, then check out our guide on . Some of the markets we’ve added in the list includes Borough Market, Kerb Camden Market, Old Spitalfields Market, Market Halls Fulham, Brick Lane Market, Maltby Street Market and more.

Borough Market has to be our favourite though - and it’s just across the road from the hostel. Since the market can get quite crowded, Borough Market has put a queueing system in place to maintain a sensible flow of people into the venue. Want to know more? These are , tried and tested by us.

Get the best views of the city (in style)

The British capital is all about the views, so get high up and enjoy the London skyline from some of the best viewpoints or sky bars in the city. Some are free to enter, others have admission fees and a few only allow you in if you order a drink. The Emirates Cable Car is one of the coolest ways to experience the city from high up and has limited the number of people allowed inside one cabin to keep in-line with social distancing measures. 

Sky Garden boasts one of the best views over London from its glass roof terrace - and the good news is it opens again from 3rd July. You must book your time slot in advance but it is free to enter. Check out

EAT all the British food staples 

Sure, London is known for its international flavours but you can’t come to London and not experience true British cuisine. London’s pubs, fish and chip shops and independent cafes will be opening their doors again throughout July serving up the very best of British food. From hot pie and mash, a full English breakfast, a traditional Sunday roast to crispy fish and chips to shepherds pie and afternoon tea, food is a major part of experiencing a new city. We’ve created the so that you know where to go for your British food fix in the capital now that restaurants and pubs can reopen.

Make sure to book your table because there will be a limited capacity at many establishments as well as social distancing rules in place to ensure the safety of customers and staff. If you manage to get a table outside, even better!

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Where to stay?

St Christopher’s at the Inn, London Bridge

Our hostel is now open with new social distancing measures and hygiene protocols put in place. We have a traditional British pub downstairs which boasts an outdoor beer garden, just moments away from London’s major sights and attractions. Visit our Covid Hub for more information about what we’re doing to ensure the safety of our guests.

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