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London vs. New York City

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Two of the world's most iconic cities are London and New York -- but which is better?

This post compares New York and London so you can decide which is the best vacation destination for you.


Which Is Bigger? London Or New York?

As of 2022, London’s population was about 9.5 million vs. New York's 8.1 million.

Size-wise, New York City is 783.8 square kilometers and London is 1,572. London is bigger than New York by nearly double!

London aerial view

London gets 30 million visitors annually while New York gets more than double with 65.2 million! 

People-wise, New York is bigger. London is geographically larger.


Green Space

London has 35,000 acres of public parks, gardens and woodlands, equaling 40% of public green space. (Here’s a rundown of 20 London parks and gardens).

Bow Bridge in Central Park

New York City has only 14% public green space. Though the city has 1,700 parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities, many of these are so tiny that you might not even see them.

While New York does have some gorgeous parks, including the magnificent Central Park, when it comes to green space, London wins hands down. 


Getting Around 

The NYC subway system is extensive and can get you almost anywhere in NYC. The fare is always $2.75 no matter where you go.

London’s Underground is also expansive, but the fare goes up the farther out you go. Tourists are not likely to go beyond London’s Zone 1 and 2, but your ride will still cost nearly $1 more than a subway ride. 

London’s tube stops running from midnight to 5 am, but in New York, you can ride the subway nearly 24 hours a day!

Both cities have buses, though NYC by bus is a bit slower. London’s buses get around more quickly. Better still, they are double-deckers! 

Taxis are available in both cities, but London black cabs, as cool-looking as they are, are more expensive than a New York yellow taxi.

As for getting to and from the airport, both cities have equally inexpensive options, though the transport in London is somewhat easier to use.

Based mainly on the lower public transportation cost, New York beats London.


London Weather Vs. New York Weather

Many people picture London as a perpetually gray and rainy city.

But New York is wetter and gets 46.23 inches of precipitation each year (including rain and snow). London’s annual precipitation is 24 inches. 

London seems rainier because there are more rainy days than NYC and it doesn’t get as much snow as NYC. If you are looking for a snowy Christmas, head to New York.

Rainy day in London

Temperature-wise, London is milder than NY both in winter and summer. In winter, the average temperature is about 40°F (5°C) and summer highs get up to around 74°F (23°C).

New York’s winter average lows are between 20°F to 30°F (-6 to 4°C). Summer highs average 80°F (26°C).

But NYC can have summer heat waves when temperatures can be 90°F (32°C) or more for days at a time. Fortunately, New York City has lots of air conditioning! 

Due to the lack of extremes that NYC can experience, London wins this round of the competition.


Tourist Attractions

Both cities have wonderful iconic attractions, world-class museums, river cruises, historic sites and more.

London and New York City have something for everyone. But London has more of something for everyone. 

Not only does London have more attractions (492) vs. New York City’s attractions (295) according to TripAdvisor, many of London's attractions are free.

This makes London seem like the better tourist destination, but it depends on your interests. New York's attractions are

Trafalgar Square

If you plan to visit a lot of museums, London is the better city for you.

Most of London's top museums, like the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Tate Modern are free.

NYC’s best museums (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and the American Museum of Natural History) have a hefty ticket cost.

Fortunately, you can save on museum costs with an NYC discount tourist pass. Also, NYC has lots of museums with free days/hours.

If you love skyscrapers with incredible views, come to New York. There are now five skyscraper observation decks, each with a different view. 

empire state building at night

London does have the London Eye and the Shard, but nothing compares to the lofty views of NYC at night when the entire city sparkles.

If you love history, London can’t be beat. You’ve got several centuries' worth of structures to see, like Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London

New York, on the other hand, has a handful of buildings dating back to the pre-Revolutionary War era (before 1776).

Overall, looking at all the attractions and things to do in London vs. things to do in NYC, we think both are equally fantastic. 


Who Has Better Food? London or NYC?

If you love ethnic cuisine, great inexpensive food, or Michelin-starred restaurants, NYC is for you! 

More than 150 countries are represented in the Big Apple. Dining in NYC is like taking a round-the-world trip!

Add in the cheap New York classics like pizza and bagels, and you will find yourself in food heaven.

Pizza Pie

London doesn’t have as much diversity as New York City, but it has its fair share of great ethnic cuisine, most notably Indian and Chinese.

Traditional British food gets a bad rap that isn't entirely warranted.

Done right, Sunday Roast can hit your sweet spot. Fish and Chips, though a bit greasy, go great with a pint of ale. 

High points for travelers and locals alike are a full English breakfast, and of course, High Tea - a must-have when in London!

High Tea

If you are seeking haute cuisine, the Big Apple has 76 Michelin-starred restaurants, six more than London, though stars come and go. 

Regardless of the number of starred restaurants, New York City is one of the food capitals of the world and, simply put, London is not.


Entertainment And Nightlife

Theater, bars, live music, dance clubs, and attractions open late -- both London and NYC have all of these. This category isn’t as clear-cut as the others. 


Theater 

Broadway vs. the West End? This comes down to opinion.

Some say that London’s theater attracts better actors. Others say that Broadway gets more musicals and London has more plays.

Broadway marquees in Times Square

The bottom line is that both have excellent productions which is why so many shows cross the Atlantic Ocean.


Drinking Establishments

NYC's bars and breweries stay open very late. So late, it’s early!

Last call is 4 am and first call is 7 am (except on Sundays when it is noon). NYC is indeed the city that never sleeps!

In comparison, London pubs close around 11 pm, in time for people to get the last tube home at midnight. 

London does have a vibrant club scene so people can party until 3 am, but many Londoners prefer to catch the last tube.

For those looking for a bar crawl that goes all night long, NYC is the place. 


Live Music

As far as medium to big-size concerts go, both cities can accommodate them.

New York City has Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden and more.

Radio CIty Music Hall

London has the O2, Wembley Arena and plenty of others.

Diversity and quality of music in smaller venues is where London has a slight edge. But this is mere opinion. 

If we stick to the numbers, London comes out ahead with 207 music venues and ten major music festivals. NYC lags slightly with 188 music venues and two major festivals.

All things considered, we call it a tie between London nightlife and NYC nightlife.


Shopping

NYC has Barneys, Saks and Bergdorf Goodman. London has Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges. Both cities have well-known chain shops, great bookstores and more. 

What London has that New York City does not is several famous and fabulous markets like the Portobello Road Market, Borough Market and Camden Market.

One benefit that NYC has that London doesn’t is the amount of tax you pay on clothes. In NYC, clothing purchases up to $110 are tax-free. Beyond that, you pay 8.875%. 

London has a 20% VAT tax. Before January 1, 2021, the UK allowed visitors from outside the EU to get the VAT tax refunded. That scheme no longer exists. 

If you care more about variety, either city will satisfy you. If you are planning a clothing shopping spree, head to New York City for better savings.


Safety

Statistically, the numbers skew in favor of London as the safer city. But both cities are among the top 30 safest big cities in the world, according to The Economist Safe Cities Index for 2021

One reason that London is somewhat safer is the extensive network of both private and public CCTV (closed-circuit television).

There are 500,000 CCTV cameras around London with 15,516 in just the Underground alone.

empty street at night in NYC

New York City doesn't have anything close to that many security cameras, with just 15,000 cameras used by the New York Police Department.

Generally, London is safer, but NYC is also safe for tourists since they aren't likely to visit high-crime neighborhoods.


Which Is More Expensive For Tourists: New York Or London?

Both London and NYC almost always appear in travel magazines’ top ten lists of the most expensive cities in the world for tourists.

But it's not definitive as to which is more expensive than the other. It can depend a lot on the type of traveler you are, what kind of accommodations you prefer, and what sights you plan to see.

Accommodations will be your biggest expense. Looking at 3-star hotels, the average cost for a room in London hotels is lower than in New York City hotels.

If you are two people traveling, a London Double Occupancy hotel room is $196 (175 GBP). In NYC, a Double Occupancy hotel room is $274 (245 GBP). 

Average NYC Hotel Rate

As we wrote above, NYC’s public transportation is less expensive than London’s. But the cost of seeing London’s best attractions is lower than the cost in NYC.

Food can be as inexpensive or expensive as you want it to be in both cities. The same holds true for entertainment, depending on how you choose to spend your evenings. 

One thing is for sure - London’s West End theater tickets cost less than Broadway tickets. Luckily, there are ways to get deep discounts on Broadway tickets.

Given the lower cost of accommodations, and the many free or lower-cost attractions, London comes out on top.


So Who Wins? New York City or London?

The answer is going to depend on your interests and your budget. Both cities are exciting and have an impressive array of attractions. 

Both are walkable, safe and easy to get around. Great dining and entertainment options are plentiful.

Both London and New York City are unique, special cities to visit. Whichever city you choose, you cannot go wrong!

Find out more about these iconic cities from our London Travel Guide and our New York Travel Guide.


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About The Author

Courtney

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: October 20th, 2022
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