London, a city that is both ancient and modern, is steeped in history and shrouded in countless myths and legends that have taken hold of the public’s imagination. From petrifying tales of supernatural entities haunting the city’s graveyards to whimsical fables about the city’s iconic landmarks, these stories offer a captivating glimpse into the city’s cultural psyche.
Through this journey, we will debunk some enduring myths, separating folklore from fact and shedding light on the truth behind London’s most enchanting tales. This exploration is not to diminish the charm these stories add to London’s character but to deepen our appreciation for the city and its rich, multi-faceted history.
Don’t let some of the London Travel myths discourage you from visiting. London is a fabulous city that should be high on your bucket list!
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links on this blog are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost, the author may earn a small commission if you purchase through these links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
1. London is always rainy and foggy.
This is a common misconception about the weather in London. Sure, London has its share of rainy days, but it’s not as perpetual as some make it out to be. The city sees plenty of sunny days and even occasional snow in winter. The weather in London is as changeable as anywhere else in the UK, so just come prepared!
2. The food in London is bland and tasteless.
On the contrary, London has a thriving food scene with diverse cuisines from all over the world. From traditional fish and chips to Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s something for every palate. Don’t miss out on trying dishes like savory pies, fusion street foods, and delicious curries.
3. London is too expensive.
While it’s true that London can be costly, countless free activities and attractions such as museums, parks, and historical landmarks can be enjoyed without spending a penny. Plus, with proper planning and budgeting, you can find affordable accommodation and dining options.
4. You can’t go wrong with black cabs.
Black cabs are a classic symbol of London, but they can be pretty pricey. Consider alternative transport options like the Underground or buses, which are cost-effective and convenient.
5. The London Eye is the best place to see the city.
While the London Eye does offer stunning views, other spots like The Tate Modern and Sky Garden provide equally breathtaking panoramic views of the cityscape. Plus, they are FREE! Two new places for great views of London that are free are 8 Bishopsgate and 22 Bishopsgate if you can’t get Sky Garden tickets.
6. Londoners are unfriendly.
This stereotype couldn’t be farther from the truth. While everyone’s experience may vary, generally, Londoners are polite, helpful, and welcoming to visitors. Just remember to respect local customs and norms.
7. English food equals Fish and Chips.
Yes, Fish and Chips is a traditional dish, but London’s culinary scene is much more diverse. You can enjoy a variety of dishes from around the globe, reflecting the city’s multicultural character.
8. London is all about the royalty.
While London is home to the Royal Family and offers a rich royal history with sites like Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, it’s also a vibrant city teeming with modern art, innovative cuisine, and a dynamic music scene. There’s so much more to London than just the monarchy!
9. London is just a big city with no green spaces.
This couldn’t be more wrong. London is one of the greenest cities in the world, with over 8 million trees and 3,000 parks, including Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, and Greenwich Park. These green spaces offer a tranquil retreat from the bustling city.
10. The British Museum is the only worthwhile museum.
While the British Museum is indeed a treasure trove, London boasts over 170 other museums catering to various interests. From the Victoria and Albert Museum for design enthusiasts to the Natural History Museum for science buffs, there’s a museum for everyone in London.
11. Pubs in London are dingy and old-fashioned.
A mix of traditional and modern establishments characterizes London’s pub scene. While some retain their vintage charm, others have been revamped with contemporary interiors and offer a wide selection of craft beers and artisanal food. I love the charm of the traditional style pubs. We don’t have that many old pubs in the United States.
12. Everyone in London is always in a rush.
While Londoners move briskly, especially during rush hour, they also know how to slow down and enjoy the city’s many charms. You’ll see locals lounging in parks, spending hours in cafes, and meandering through markets. One of the great attractions for us as visitors is their relaxing Pub Scene and outdoor spaces that Londoners take advantage of all year long.
13. The London Underground is difficult to navigate,
On the contrary, the Tube, as Londoners call it, is one of the most efficient and well-signed metro systems in the world. Plus, there are plenty of apps and maps available to help you navigate. I recommend the City Mapper app.
14. Tea is the only drink of choice.
While tea is a popular drink, London’s coffee culture is booming, and the city is home to many independent coffee shops and roasteries. Not to mention, London’s bustling pub scene widely serves beers, ales, ciders, and cocktails.
15. London is unsafe.
Like any major city, London has areas that are less safe than others. However, the city center and most tourist areas are safe, and crime rates are generally low.
16. Driving is the best way to get around London.
Actually, due to heavy traffic and congestion charges, it’s often faster (and cheaper) to use public transportation or even walk.
In the UK, they drive on the left side of the road, and for someone who is used to driving on the right, London is not the place to learn. If you want to rent a car to visit the countryside, consider renting a car from Oxford.
17. London shuts down early.
While some smaller shops and cafes might close earlier, London’s nightlife is buzzing, with many pubs, clubs, and restaurants open until the early hours.
18. London is the only option available in the UK.
While London may be a popular destination, there are plenty of other cities and towns in the UK that offer unique experiences and attractions. From Edinburgh to Brighton, each location has its charm and character. I love the Cotswolds of all the places in the UK.
19. You should always use the Tube.
While the Tube is an efficient way to get around London, it may not always be the fastest option. Walking between nearby stations or using alternative transportation such as buses or bikes can sometimes be quicker. I always check with the City Mapper app to see what the best mode of transportation is and how much it will cost.
20. London functions like the rest of Europe.
While London shares some similarities with other European cities, it also has distinct cultures and customs. For example, in London, pubs typically close at 11 p.m., while in some European countries, nightlife can last until the early morning hours. The UK uses the Pound as its currency, vs. European countries use the Euro. The UK drives on the left side of the road, vs. European countries drive on the right.
21. London is dirty and industrial because of its nickname of “The Big Smoke”
While London may have been known as “The Big Smoke” due to its history of pollution, it has since significantly improved its air quality. London now has more green spaces and parks than any other major city. So, while it may have been true in the past, this nickname no longer accurately reflects the current state of London. Furthermore, there are many other nicknames for London, such as “The Big City” or “The Capital,” so calling it “The Big Smoke” is not a necessity.
22. Big Ben is the name of the iconic clock tower in London.
Although many people refer to the Elizabeth Tower as “Big Ben,” this is incorrect. The name “Big Ben” technically refers to the bell
23. London Bridge is the most recognized bridge in London.
London Bridge was made famous by the nursery rhyme, and many people expect the London Bridge to be more than an ordinary bridge. They often confuse the Tower Bridge for London Bridge. Tower Bridge was built in 1894 and was designed to blend with the Tower of London in a neo-classical design requested by Queen Victoria. For many years, London Bridge was the only way to cross the Thames River. It has been rebuilt many times over the years from timber, then stone, to concrete and steel that it is today.
Urban Legends Debunked – Don’t believe the local folklore of London Myths
24. The Ravens at the Tower of London signify doom.
While it is true that ravens are kept at the Tower of London due to an old superstition that if they ever leave, the Crown will fall, this is more of a tradition than a prophecy to be feared. The ravens are well cared for by the Tower’s Ravenmaster, and their “departure” is prevented by keeping their wings clipped.
25. London is swarming with rats.
Though the saying goes that in London, you’re never more than six feet away from a rat, this is a myth. The claim is based on a misunderstanding of a study from the 1900s, and modern pest control efforts keep the rat population much lower than the myths suggest.
26. There are vampires at Highgate Cemetery.
While the gothic architecture and eerie ambiance of Highgate Cemetery might lend itself to tales of the supernatural, there’s no evidence to support the vampire myth. It’s merely an urban legend fueled by a few notable horror films.
27. Green Park doesn’t have flowers because of Charles II.
Legend has it that Charles II’s wife ordered all the flowers removed from Green Park after she caught him picking flowers there for another woman. However, this story is entirely unproven. In reality, Green Park’s lack of flowers is due to its naturally occurring grassland habitat.
28. The legend of Spring-Heeled Jack, who terrifies Londoners.
Spring-Heeled Jack is a character from Victorian folklore rumored to have a terrifying appearance and the ability to make extraordinary leaps. While the stories are certainly chilling, they are just that—stories. There’s no evidence that Spring-Heeled Jack ever existed beyond the realm of folklore.
29. The City of Westminster houses Coco Chanel lampposts.
Some lampposts around the city indeed bear a design that resembles the Chanel logo, but they are not a tribute to the iconic fashion designer. The intertwined “CC” actually stands for “City Council.”
30. If Big Ben ever strikes 13, the lion statues will come alive to defend London.
This is a whimsical myth that adds a sense of magic and charm to the city. However, rest assured, the lion statues around London are just that—statues. Even if Big Ben were to strike an unexpected 13, we can safely say the lions wouldn’t come to life.
Final thoughts on London Myths: while these myths add a layer of mystique and charm to London’s rich tapestry of history, they are ultimately just that – myths. They may make for fascinating tales to share over a pint at the pub or to scare the children on a night, but it’s essential to differentiate between folklore and fact. London is a city steeped in history, tradition, and culture, and it’s these aspects, rather than fanciful tales, that truly make it a remarkable place to explore. Always remember, the truth is often just as intriguing as the myth it debunks.
Our Trusted Resources
Booking.com: for booking accommodations
Fare Drop: for finding the best airfare deals.
Discover Cars: for car rentals
Airalo: for eSIM card
Trainline: for booking train tickets
International Drivers Permit: for getting your IDP