Every year, I’ve published a “What to get someone visiting London next year” gift guide, and looking back, I think it’s catered to the “basic” traveler a little too much.
What’s a “basic traveler”? Well… he or she is someone who wants to do the usual. The major sights, the classic attractions, the areas of London that locals actively avoid.
If that’s you, or the person you’re getting a gift for, don’t worry, that’s fine! No hate here. In fact you should check out last year’s gift guide because it should still be pretty helpful for that type of traveler. But over the last couple of years here at Love and London, we’ve shifted away from that. We want to help you see the other side of the city, the one with character, the one that Londoners rave about, the one that makes you say “I could totally see myself living here.”
So this year, because of that mission, and because we want to be supporting small businesses over the big guys as much as possible, this gift guide will be for the non-basics, and if you’re getting a gift for someone who fits this description, then you’ll absolutely grab some good ideas from this article.
Right… let’s talk gifts.
*Some of the links in this article are affiliated, which means if you purchase something after clicking it, I will earn a commission. This is at no extra cost to you and helps to support Love and London during a very difficult time.
Clothing to gift someone visiting London in 2021
There are two things that I think people would definitely appreciate being given as a gift in anticipation of their trip… a beautiful London-inspired jacket, and stylish-but-walking-friendly shoes.
For anyone visiting London in the spring or fall, a classic coat makes for a great gift, as receiving a nice new coat can feel quite luxurious, and of course, it helps keep your giftee warm, duh. If the visit is planned for summer, a light trench coat will work too, as evenings can still get quite cool.
This trench coat (shown above) from sustainable and ethical coat company Noize doubles as a vegan leather raincoat too.
For men in need of a coat that’s a bit warmer, the Everlane ReWool Overcoat has a very Londoner-approved shape and texture to it… quite sophisticated. In addition to looking great, this coat is made with recycled wool!
Walking shoes for London
I am always searching for shoes that are comfortable for traipsing around London but that still look good and don’t ruin the planet. So over the summer I picked up a pair of Allbirds’s new flats and well, they are SO comfortable…
On top of that, they are made more sustainably than most shoes. The Women’s Tree Breezers are made with renewable eucalyptus tree fibers and have a Brazilian sugarcane outsole, which is made with the world’s first carbon negative green EVA.
For men, I’d recommend the Men’s Tree Loungers, a slip-on made with similar materials and again they are machine washable, so when they start to get smelly or dirty, just chuck ‘em in the wash.
Allbirds makes quite a few different types of comfy and sustainably-made shoes that are great for travel, so check out the Allbirds site for some more gift ideas. They also have a really great return policy in case your giftee isn’t a fan.
Want more London-friendly clothing and shoe suggestions? Check out the London Packing Guide, which also makes for a great, affordable gift.
Make their flight or hotel stay more special
A little bit of luxury is SUCH a treat for someone with a big trip planned, so it would be such a lovely surprise to be gifted a flight upgrade or a more luxurious hotel stay than was originally expected.
If the giftee hasn’t booked their flight or hotel yet, this is your chance! Just make sure they don’t book anything before you actually get to give your gift.
If they HAVE booked it already, a flight upgrade might be a bit tricky if you aren’t on the booking yourself, but give the airline a call to see if there’s anything they can do to help you pay the difference for an upgrade from say, economy to premium economy.
The hotel is a bit easier, as you can likely call them directly, ask for the upgrade, and pay the difference via a payment form sent to your email.
Do something fun to “gift” this to your giftee… like print out a picture of the view from their upgraded room and put it in the card you give them on exchanging day.
If you want to book the hotel for them, I have some resources to help you find a great one.
This article gives suggestions for less touristy areas to stay in, and great hotels in those areas at different price points. Or find out which London hotels have their very own rooftop bars.
I have a whole video series sharing my stays at four different hotels in London, from budget up through to one of the most luxurious suites in London. Watch the whole series here on Youtube, and see one of the videos below.
Finally, if you happen to have the 3-Day London Itinerary, there are tons of great hotel recommendations in the London Hotel guide, which you will have gotten if you opted for the bonus package.
Give them a unique London experience
Of course, one of the BEST things you can get someone traveling to London is an experience they can do while actually here. People ALWAYS get more out of experiences than actual physical items when it comes to receiving gifts.
There are two ways you can give an experience to someone… book it for them, or give them a gift voucher for it.
Book it for them
This option is best if you are traveling with the person you’re getting this gift for, as it requires no effort on their part and because well, you probably know their itinerary pretty well if you’re traveling with them.
Because of COVID times, it might not be possible to book some tours out very far, but it’s worth a look, especially if you’re reading this well into 2021.
Tours and activities
Book a tour or activity for you to do together, and then pop the confirmation page into a card and BOOM, you’ve got yourself an amazing gift.
Now, because your gift recipient isn’t into those boring ole generic London walking tours, let me help you out with some unique tours and experiences you could book that will impress them with your knowledge of off-the-beaten-path London.
Black History Walks
A ton of Britain’s history is completely whitewashed, and therefore, most tours don’t cover the actual reality of what happened. Enter Black History Walks, which does walking tours around the city that will open your eyes to various parts of Black Britain.
I once did a walking tour of Notting Hill, which was truly eye opening. I thought I knew Notting Hill inside and out but I learned SO much about the impacts that the Black community have had on the area.
Women of London tours
Women of London tours takes guests around different areas of London and introduces them to the smaller and often missed tributes to the women who shaped London. They currently have two tours to choose from, one that covers women’s history around Westminster, and one about working women’s impact on East End history.
Uncomfortable Art Tours
Due to the UK’s (frankly horrifying) colonial history, a huge portion of the artifacts displayed around London’s major museums were actually stolen by the Brits from various countries around the world. But… well you rarely read about that when you stroll around the British Museum reading their plaques…
So get clued up on the true history of the pieces with an Uncomfortable Art tour. They currently run at six sites: the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain and the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum). You can even buy a “Display it Like You Stole It” badge on the tour, which is a call for museums to start being more honest about how their pieces were acquired.
London Photo Session
It’s so hard to get decent photos of the whole travel group when you’re dealing with cloudy skies, a stranger holding your (very expensive) camera, and people bobbing in and out of your shots.
If you want to have some professional-grade photos from your trip that you can frame and admire for years to come, gift your recipient a professional photo shoot. A photographer meets you and takes incredible photos of you with the London sights, without you having to worry about anything. Good photogs can even make rainy days look beautiful!
We work with a wonderful photographer named Ewa, and if you go through this page, you’ll find out how you can get extra photos by mentioning that we referred you.
There are of course a ton of other experiences and tours you can book as a gift for a London visitor, here are two articles that will give you more options:
Gift vouchers for London experiences
Ok so if you can’t book the tour or experience directly for them, that’s totally fine. Many indie tour operators and vendors sell vouchers, so you can pay for the experience for them but they can pick when they do it, or if they offer a few different tours, they can choose which tour they want to do.
My favourite food tour operator in London is Devour Tours, I rate them a bit better than the second one on this list because they incorporate a non-for-profit stop into their tours. Their first London tour takes guests around London Bridge to find out about the history behind many spots in the area and the food that is special to London in various ways.
Devour also does tours all over Spain and in Italy, plus they’re doing a ton of virtual experiences right now, so their gift voucher could be used in a ton of different ways.
Eating Europe Food Tours
Eating Europe also does great food tours, they started in Italy and now have tours all over Europe and they now have multiple tours in London, including a cocktail tour around Soho and a food and street art tour around East London.
You can buy a gift voucher, called a “Flexi Pass” from Eating Europe, which has no expiration date and can be used all over Europe, not just London.
Other tours and experiences
With so many small businesses in London struggling this year, so many will be offering gift vouchers for future spending, including restaurants, shops, tour companies, experienced-based companies and more. So if your gift recipient has a few “must do’s” on their itinerary, check all of their websites to see if they’re offering gift vouchers, and I think you’ll be in luck.
Some other small vendors in London giving gift vouchers:
- Women of London tours
- Carousel – a venue with constantly rotating chefs from around the world putting on supper clubs. Great for discerning food lovers.
- Hayman’s Distillery – head to London’s Balham to see how Hayman’s gin is made with a distillery tour.
Many of the experiences in this list of unique experiences to take in London link to a Virgin Experience Days page where you can buy vouchers for the experience suggested, so I recommend having a browse of that for more voucher ideas.
Gifts to Get Them Excited About Their Trip
Here are some things you can make or get your future London visitor to help build the anticipation for their trip.
No, not just any old guidebook for London… a beautiful coffee table book filled with both beautiful images and London info will help build the excitement for what they will see when here. It can then sit on their coffee or bedside table ready for them to browse as they wait for their trip to happen.
We’ve got a great list of the best London-related coffee table books, have a read and you’ll find at least a couple of lovely options for your giftee.
Or if you think they’d prefer something with less pictures and more words, there are tons of fiction and non-fiction books that are based in London and the UK that would be great to gift a bookworm. Give them a goal to finish them all before they head to the airport… book nerds love that kinda stuff.
We have two lists to help you with this:
- 13 Fascinating Books About London’s History To Read Now
- 11 Books Based In London And The UK To Read During Lockdown
3-Day London Itinerary
Your giftee would probably LOVE for a Londoner to sit down with them and give them a walkthrough of all of the best things to do in the city. You can give them the next best thing with the 3-Day London Itinerary, a digital itinerary made by a London expert (me) with a flexible plan for three days in the capital. It’s not completely linear, it has tons of options that will suit various different travel styles, tastes and budgets, so it’ll feel like your giftee has their very own custom itinerary.
The 3-Day London Itinerary will relaunch with the 2021 version in February, but from mid-November you can gift someone the itinerary, and it will land in their inbox on launch day. If you’re reading this after February, you can still give the itinerary to someone as a gift, just select the “gift” option at check out.
London Packing Guide or London Colouring Book
Need a little extra something to give? The London Packing Guide helps take the guesswork out of packing for such a big trip. It comes with a London weather guide, clothing and shoe suggestions (with links!), printable packing lists for each season, and more. Grab the London Packing Guide for just £9.99, and you can opt to give it as a gift at checkout.
There’s also the London Colouring Book, which has a bunch of London-themed colouring pages which can be coloured in by printing them out or by uploading them to your iPad to colour digitally. The colouring book was illustrated by Jen and Jennifer, a local illustrator who’s also a friend of mine. Check out the London Colouring Book.
Make a London-inspired food hamper
Hampers, or you might know them as gift baskets, are very popular to give as gifts in the UK, and you can pick up some very swanky ones depending on where you order from. I recommend making or buying one for your recipient, and filling it with English treats that they can enjoy before they’re able to make it over to London. Hopefully you’ll also get in on some of that snack action…
If you want to make a hamper yourself, find yourself a beautiful basket and load it up with English treats.
I’d recommend (with some links to where to order from if you’re in the US):
- English cheeses like Cheddar, Wensleydale with Cranberries, Red Leicester and Stilton (all links bring you to where you can buy them on iGourmet)
- Cheese crackers, like these ones
- Chutney. You put the cheese and chutney together on the crackers. YUM.
There are of course many other fun things you could add, like Christmas Pudding, English Sparkling Wine, English Cidre, and more.
If you’re like ermmmmm I don’t want to DIY a gift, iGourmet makes a “A Little Bit of Britain Gift Box” that does it all for you for $99. They have a couple of other British-themed options as well.
Or if you want to go PROPER London and super fancy, you can order a hamper from Fortnum & Mason in London. They are world-famous for their incredible hampers, with ones that go upwards of £1000. Their F&M hampers, the baskets themselves, are also collectors items.
Two Fortnum & Mason hampers that ship worldwide (not the only ones!):
Gifts to help preserve the London memories
How about a couple of cute things to help preserve the memories your recipient will make on their London trip?
I love this cute travel journal made by an independent craftsperson on Etsy. It’s made with recycled paper and the cover is made from textile industry waste, so it’s incredibly eco-friendly. They can use the journal to record their experiences and thoughts after each day of their trip, so they can always remember the small details of it.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with all of the ticket stubs, flyers, and small items you accumulate on a trip that you can’t seem to toss in the trash as they’re associated with your amazing time away. Gift a lovely little box for them to keep those bits and bobs in for the next few years, and to help them remember all of the fun they had.
Ok… I’ve given you a pretty good list. If you can’t find something for your London-loving giftee well then I might not be able to help you 😉 But again these gifts are great if you’re buying for someone that wants to avoid the overhyped and overdone, and who like GIFTS that are out of the ordinary too.
If you’re after something for someone who wants the touristy London, check out last year’s gift guide.
Happy gifting and let me know how it goes!
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