Essential London Apps That Will Improve Every Bit of Your Life
These days our phones are more than just a communication device: they help us wake up, pretend to go running, entertain ourselves when we lie in bed instead of running, and even find love so that we aren’t alone when we avoid exercise. They are our best friend combined with our PA and can make our lives so much better... or worse depending which way you swipe. Like any relationship, finding the right app can be a harrowing journey, sometimes ending in tearful deletes and starting all over again. But these babies... these are the good ones. They’ll help you do all the things and then some.
What it does: Streamline the Santander Bike experience
While Boris Bikes are a pretty great (and cheap) way to get around, finding a docking station and figuring out the damned terminal can be less than awesome. Then, once you’ve claimed your trusty steed, how to get from point A to point B can also be a tricky operation. Luckily, the official app will help you find the bikes, let you pay, give turn-by-turn directions, and help you find a docking station with empty spots just calling your name.
What it does: Get in the tube carriage that will let you out right at your exit
Anyone who takes the same route every day starts to figure out exactly what carriage to get into to land you right in front of the destination exit, but imagine that Victory! moment every journey. Plan your route, check statuses for delays, save time, and feel super smug.
What it does: Untangle the web of the underground
There are times when knowing every tiny detail of a journey is important. And no matter how well you think you know it, the moment when you’re 20 minutes late to a job interview and the tube is delayed is when you realize you are at least a little oblivious. Tube Map helps you find platforms, departure times, walking distances, and status information, and the best part is it’s mostly available offline, making it ideal for when you’ve forgotten a stop is closed and need a plan B asap. Nailing the interview is totally on you, though.
London Bus Live Countdown
What it does: Know exactly when your bus is arriving
There are few things worse than standing at a bus stop waiting for what feels like hours with no end in sight. Or, even worse, the bus shows up, but is terminating in two stops. With this pocket countdown, you can see which busses are coming when. Yes, this means busses can be awesome again.
What it does: One app to rule them all and get you where you’re going.
This one brings together all the utility of the apps we’ve already mentioned, and unites it into one insanely useful hub. It doesn’t matter if you’re walking, taking public transit, Uber, or cycling, complete with step-by-step directions: all the options are covered by City Mapper. The app even can tell you how many calories you’ve burned, which doors to use on the tube, when your bus will arrive, and where the Boris Bike stations are and how many spaces/bikes are available.
iPhone, Android, Windows phone
What it does: Have you met your personal driver?
If you haven’t heard of Uber by now, we assume you either have an actual person driver or haven’t left your home very often for four years. Either way, welcome! Being out in public is great. And being able to hire and pay for a private car, with (mostly) up to the minute updates of arrival times has changed the way many of us go out. The only catch? Most of the drivers are from outside of London and completely rely on SatNav to get around. Que: backseat driver rage.
What it does: London cab at your beck and call
Similar to Uber, only instead of private cars you’ll get a classic London Black Cab complete with a driver who has thankfully passed The Knowledge and knows his way around town better than even you do, as great as you are at backseat driving. With options to pay through the app or with cash, it’s a bit more flexible than Uber.
What it does: Find the burger to fill that empty place in your heart
Sometimes you have a craving and only a burger will sort you out. Enter Burgerapp, London’s meat patty detective, who has your back with more than just a burger finder. The app allows you to search for specific styles, sides (double fried pickles anyone?), sauces, and even beer pairings. Let those tasty juices run over your chin and consider this the best £2.29 you’ve ever spent.
London’s Best Coffee
What it does: Find your coffee fix exactly the way you like it, no matter where you are
While there may be a Costa/Nero/Starbucks on almost every corner, the coffee revolution had seriously been upping the ante (and quality, thankfully) in the independent coffee world. With over 200 cafes, roasters, and stalls listed, you can go as far into the deep end as you want; since it also provides information about beans availability, what machines are used, and methods of preparation, you can go so far out of the kitty pool. Prepare for the best coffee shakes in town.
Craft Beer London
What it does: Makes sure you always know where to get a brew
With 10% growth for the third year in a row and a new brewery opening on the average of every two days in the UK, this app very helpfully lets you sort through a very saturated, boozy field to get that perfect pint across town. You’ll find information on pubs, breweries, bottle shops, and more.
What it does: Last minute booking at awesome restaurants
We have the sweet problem of being spoiled in our choices of restaurant options, which means a bit of curated help can be handy. With categories like Hidden Gems, Michelin Starred, Hustle & Bustle, Gastro Pubs, and more, Uncover helps you make a booking and, at some spots, even lets you pay directly through the app. As great as that is, the real benefit is that many of the restaurants are spots that are normally booked out for ages, so you get prize reservation at the last second.
What it does: Bar guides, knowledge, and bespoke recommendations
With their drink-filled website and the current app, loaded with nearly 70 city guides, these gals have your back when it comes to pretty much everything booze related. Even so, they’re managing to take it even further with the next generation app, which is still in Beta testing, but will soon be your life line directly to the BarChick. Like Whatsapp, but for bars, it will allow you to message BarChick anytime and get tailored bar recommendations and reviews sent directly to you. Hell, they’ll even get you booked in. Hot dates, work drinks, off the wall bar crawls in weird parts of town, they’ve got you. It’s launching soon and if you want to be on the beta list to check it out email BarChick@BarChick.com and you can be their boozy guinea pig.
What it does: Helps you figure out if it’s an umbrella or sunglasses kind of day
The weather in London is a bit like your friend who gets a case of multiple personality disorder after a few pints: gorgeous one second and pissing it down the next with frequently little warning besides. These guys have your back, with a hyperlocal weather app so you know up to an hour in advance what to wear, pack, and prepare for. With super cool radar animation you can see exactly what the clouds are doing and where they’re going.
What it does: Opens your eyes to the other side of London
There are loads of places that everyone knows, but what about that awesome sculpture deep in Regent Park? Or the crypt on Fleet St? Or that one meadow that’s never crowded on Primrose Hill? Find all those ridiculously picturesque spots and off the beaten track that you would have only found by getting lost, actually looking up from your phone, or walking down some seriously shady back alleys.
What it does: Tells you all the dark history of London
Being nearly 2000 years old, it’s safe to say London has its fair share of history, plenty of it right under your feet (literally) without you ever knowing. While the blue plaques around town might give some clues, the underbelly is where it gets really interesting with torture, sex shops, lewd antics, murder, and so much more.
Street Art London
What it does: Get your street art ID on
The walls of London have become pieces of art with resident artists making a collection of pieces that we only wish would stay forever. This app shows where some of the better known artworks are located and where you can find more of the same. Filter by location and artist, and see more beyond the graffiti.
What it does: Shows you all the super cool events taking place in London everyday
London is one of those massive cities that has actually cool things happening all the time... that you generally hear about after they’ve finished and you’re stuck liking it on Instagram. Covering everything from art exhibits to pop-ups, fitness workshops to outdoor markets, there’s always something mega going down that has more bragging potential than whatever you are doing right now.
What it does: Tickets for everything
YPlan is for anyone who has an allergy to planning ahead more than a couple of days. With tickets available for events ranging from West End shows, gigs, burlesque, comedy, and much more, you can buy tickets (often discounted) for just about anything and not feel like you’re giving up too much of your spontaneity.
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Haley Forest is a London writer who is waiting for the day someone creates a bacon deliver app. Follow her at @HCForest.