I’m gonna help you out here. The colors, zones, names – they all get confusing. I’m going to go line-by-line and lay out what’s important at stops on the line in Zones 1 & 2.
DISTRICT (the green one)
The District line sucks, just know that. See how it splits near Earl’s Court? You don’t need to panic too much about that one. That’s only if you’re switching from going North-South to East-West, for example, wanting to get from Edgeware Road to Hammersmith. Then you would have to switch trains to get to the destination you want.
Some stops speak for themselves, but not all.
Hammersmith is a large tube and bus station, and is the closest stop to the Hammersmith Apollo, a famous music venue in London. You can also use this stop to get on the Piccadilly, Hammersmith and City, and Circle Lines, although the last two are across the street from the actual station. (This was my home base!)
High Street Kensington, if you go towards Edgware Road on the DL, is the stop to get off to see Kensington Palace. This is where Princess Diana used to live when she was alive, but also dates back to Queen Victoria. It has beautiful gardens and you don’t need to go inside to take in the large park (Kensington Gardens) around it.
South Kensington is home to the museums, and the train will most likely tell you this. Here you can get off and go to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and Royal Albert Hall. This area is also filled with gorgeous homes (like the one from The Parent Trap!) and expensive stores. There’s also access to the Piccadilly line here.
Victoria is home to a large train station, and also national bus service. These trains and buses will take you other places in the UK, including Gatwick Airport. This is one of a few stations with easy access to Buckingham Palace, as it is just up the road. Also get off here if you want to go see Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. And you should. You can also get access to the Victoria line here.
St. James’s Park speaks pretty easily for itself. Here you can go to St. James’s Park, and if you want to skip getting back on the tube, Parliament Square is just up the road.
Westminster is my favorite tube station of all time. You exit towards Parliament Square, and right above you is Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. It is the most incredible view and it was the first time my mom saw Central London (on purpose). Right across the street is Westminster Abbey, and if you cross the Thames, you are on Southbank with the London Eye. If you head up Whitehall, to the North, you can see 10 Downing Street and will run into Trafalgar Square. You can also change to the Jubilee line here.
Embankment lets you exit right near the Thames River, and you can either walk across the incredibly cool Golden Jubilee Bridges, or take a water taxi to the Tower of London. You can also change to the Bakerloo and Northern Lines here.
Blackfriars is your stop if you’re looking to see the Millennium Bridge (from Harry Potter) or Shakespeare’s Globe, which is just across the bridge. Right next to the Globe is Tate Modern, the art museum with very iconic modern art.
Monument will give you a great view of the Tower Bridge from the actual London Bridge. This stop is just right around the corner from the tower monument for the Great Fire of London, which destroyed a lot of the city in 1666.
Tower Hill is the last stop I will be highlighting for the DL. This is where you will get off for both the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
CENTRAL (the red one)
The Central line is named pretty well. It goes right through Central London, west to east.
Shepherd’s Bush is the stop to go to one of the largest malls in London, and the UK. It’s called Westfield, and this is one of two (the other is way out in zone 3 to the west). It’s a very Americanized shopping center, but it’s cool to see and it’s probably got something you need.
Notting Hill Gate is also on the District and Circle Lines. Obviously it’s named after the area, Notting Hill. There are some really cool colorful homes here, but it is also the northwest corner of Kensington Gardens.
Marble Arch is the beginning of Oxford Street, the long shopping street in London, which has just about everything. This is the very western side of it, and it is marked with a very large Marble Arch (designed originally for Buckingham).
Bond Street is another entrance to Oxford Street. You can also get access to the Jubilee line here. If you get off, you will be right by the Disney Store and Debenhams, a large department store.
Oxford Circus is one of the craziest stations I have ever seen, and it’s also on Oxford Street. You come out in a “circus,” which is a large traffic intersection that kind of looks like a circle, but I think it’s a circus because it’s crazy. This is right by Niketown, H&M, Apple, Urban Outfitters, etc. You can also get the Victoria and Bakerloo lines here.
Tottenham Court Road is the last station on the shopping part of Oxford Street. It has been recently re-opened after remodeling, so it actually very nice. You can also get the Northern Line here.
Holborn is where you’ll want to get off if you’re going to the British Museum. It’s a little confusing, as it is off the main road, but there are plenty of signs to help you get there. It always helps to look at a map beforehand! You can also get the Piccadilly Line here.
St. Paul’s is pretty self-explanatory, as well. This is where you can get off to go to the famous Cathedral. Just north of this stop is the Museum of London, which is worth a visit.
Liverpool Street is one I included because of its large train station. This can also take you to other places in the UK, including London Stansted Airport. This is the closest station to Central London that will get you to that airport. This station also homes the Hammersmith and City, Circle, and Metropolitan Lines.
PICCADILLY (the dark blue one)
The Piccadilly Line isn’t the worst, but it’s not the best. It’s also the one that extends from Heathrow Airport on the west and Cockfosters (ha) to the east.
Knightsbridge (towards the middle of the map) is where you get off if you want to feel like you live in a rich neighborhood. Here you can see very nice houses (include the one from The Parent Trap) and very expensive stores. This is also the closest stop to Harrod’s, a large store that is very neat to see during Christmastime. It is on the south end of the large Hyde Park, near the waterway called “The Serpentine.”
Hyde Park Corner is another entrance to Hyde Park, and probably the one that makes the most sense. This is the stop to take during the winter to see Winter Wonderland, a large carnival-type market set up in the park. You can also access Buckingham Palace Gardens very easily, and across the intersection is the London Hard Rock Cafe.
Green Park is at the northeastern corner of Green Park, which is located right next to Buckingham Palace.
Piccadilly Circus is the stop that takes you to – you guessed it, Piccadilly Circus. This is also on the outskirts of the Theatre District, if you’d like to catch a show. You can also easily access China Town from here.
Leicester Square is the real entertainment area. It houses two large cinemas, which are the two main movie premiere theaters. It also is home to M&M World, near China Town, the Theatre District, and just north of Trafalgar Square. There is endless things within walking distance to do here.
Covent Garden is home to the Covent Garden Market, another large marketplace in the city. You can also find the London Transport Museum here, which does have an entry fare, but is really cool if you are interested in learning more than I can teach you.
King’s Cross St. Pancras is the massive station on the Piccadilly (and Northern, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City, Circle, and Victoria) that is mainly known for Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter. You can wait in line to take a picture like Harry or visit the gift shop right next. During Christmastime, St. Pancras has a large tree covered in stuffed animals. Kings Cross has national trains, and St. Pancras has international trains to places like Paris.
NORTHERN (the black one, purple on this map)
(I have changed the color to purple, since obviously black and white wouldn’t make it stand out that well)
The Northern Line is a fairly confusing line. As you can see, it splits right down the middle and goes in two different directions. We did ride the wrong line once, and it’s not very fun. The line you want will say “via Tottenham Court Road” or “via London Bridge” for example. That should help you out if you pay attention to this.
Camden Town is where you’ll find Camden Lock Market. Check out my things to do page for more about this – it’s a great place to spend a day!
Charing Cross is right below Trafalgar Square, where you can find the National Gallery.
Waterloo is another large train station. This is where you can get overground trains to other places in London and the UK. It is also where you can get off for Southbank, which is home to the Eye. Around the corner, there is a really cool museum called the Imperial War Museum.
London Bridge is another that speaks for itself. This lets you off very close to London Bridge (not Tower Bridge!) and also right below The Shard, the largest building in the UK.
BAKERLOO (the brown one)
This one is cleverly named by combining two stops – Baker Street and Waterloo!
Baker Street is where Sherlock Holmes lived! There is no such thing as 221b Baker Street, but you can pretty close, and that’s where the Sherlock Holmes Museum can be found. There is also a very nice Beatles merch store, if you’re a fan. This station is also another way to access the zoo.
Regent’s Park is the stop just on the edge of Regent’s Park, where the London Zoo is located.
HAMMERSMITH & CITY (the pink one)
Just take the Circle instead.
Shepherd’s Bush Market is where you can get off to go to Shepherd’s Bush Market. You can also access the Westfield London mall I mentioned before, as they are fairly close to each other.
Paddington is a large train station where you can also catch overground trains to other parts of the country, including Heathrow Airport.
JUBILEE (the gray one, changed to teal for this picture)
St. John’s Wood has one really iconic thing to offer: Abbey Road. Here you can risk your life by trying to recreate the album cover (it will never compare) and visit the studios gift shop. Don’t forget to bring a Sharpie to sign the wall!
Obviously, this is not all of the lines. But I have covered the most important stops, which often overlap! For example, the Victoria line (the light blue one & THE BEST ONE) is a very quick line, reaching from King’s Cross to Victoria in only 4 stops. The Circle line is the yellow one, but as you may notice, lines up with either the District line or Hammersmith and City. The Metropolitan line (the maroonish one) stays up north and minds its own business.
Other cool things to note: the blue/teal dotted line is the DLR, or Docklands Light Railway, which goes over eastern London and the dock ways, but is above ground and a really cool experience if you’re in the area. The orange dotted line is the London Overground, which doesn’t even mark all of the stops. This can be a little more expensive, and covers the less traveled areas on the outskirts of Central London.
That is a lot of information to take in. But it will all make sense when you actually get a to a station and ride the tube. Plus, it’s always handy to know where everything you want to see is.
Also, disclaimer: this is just my knowledge from a semester there. I’m sure true Londoners have much better advice!