I’m sure you’ve already heard of London as it’s the capital of England and the United Kingdom and absolutely bustling with excitement….but, what do you do once you get there? I’ve put together this list of 55 things to do in London from towers & monuments to neighborhoods you should visit to places for entertainment & of course, their endless supply of museums loaded with history. So, without further ado, I present to you: The best things to do in London.
Towers & Monuments
1. Big Ben
Big Ben is what the Great Bell by the Palace of Westminster has been nicknamed. Who needs an expensive watch when you can see the clock from every street?
2. Cutty Sark
Cutty Sark is the name of a British clipper ship that was built on the River Clyde in Scotland. It’s a historic sailing ship and was one of the fastest of its time, but it now more known as one of the award-winning visitor attractions in Greenwich, London.
More commonly known as the Monument, this Doric column commemorates the Great Fire of London that occurred in September of 1666. You can climb 311 steps to reach the viewing platform near the top of the Monument.
4. The Shard
This is technically exactly what it sounds like…a giant shard of glass. This 95 story skyscraper will undoubtedly give you an incredible view of London.
Okay, even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, you know what Platform 9 3/4 is. Located in King’s Cross Station, this might just be the most famous railway platform in the world.
Portobello Road is home to the world’s largest antique market and has over 1,000 market stand adorning the streets. This market is open from 8:00AM to 6:30PM Monday through Saturday, so get your vintage on!
Piccadilly Circus was originally built back in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. It’s now called Piccadilly Circus because circus comes from the latin word circle, referring to the round, open space at a street junction. This busy square is right in the heart of London.
Pronounced “Lester Square”, Leicester Square is a pedestrianized square located in the West End of London since 1670. Leicester Square is London’s centre for cinema and celebrates a lot of big events, like the Chinese New Year. The World’s Largest Lego Store is also near by, where you can find a 20-foot-high model of the Big Ben made from 200,000 Lego bricks.
9. Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf is one of the busier financial areas equipped with skyscraper after skyscraper. Here, you’ll find the Ice Rink Canary Wharf, shopping centres, parks and markets.
10. Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square, named after the Battle of Trafalgar, is a public square in Central London. Here, you’ll find a plethora of sculptures, hungry pigeons, fountains, and (depending on the season), a giant Christmas tree!
11. Oxford Street
Oxford Street is one of the major roads in London and is essentially Europe’s busiest shopping street. So, if you’re ready to shop ’til you drop, this may just be the place for you.
Believe it or not, SoHo London is known for its somewhat risqué vibe. There are plenty of things to do here day in night including, but not limited to, exploring Riflemaker art gallery, listening to live jazz at Ronnie Scott’s or testing out the “Press for Champagne” button at Bob Bob Ricard.
13. Carnaby Street
Carnaby Street is another shopping hotspot in London. You’ll find tons of chic looks like the one above from their seemingly endless supply of fashion & lifestyle retailers and boutiques.
14. Little Venice
Little Venice is a neighborhood in London with Canalside views and venues like the Canal Cafe Theatre, the Waterside Cafe, and the Summerhouse Restaurant. You can take their waterbus service which runs from Little Venice and down toward Camden Town.
Parks & Gardens
15. Sky Garden
The Sky Garden, also known as the walkie talkie due to its peculiar shape, is a skyscraper in London featuring a top-floor restaurant. There is free entry to the Sky Garden, but space is limited so you must book your visit online in advance. Note that their dress code is smart/casual and they do not permit sportswear, sports trainers or flip flops.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are home to over 50,000 living plants. This oasis is located just 30 minutes from Central London and is open Monday to Thursday from 10:00AM to 7:00PM and Friday to Sunday from 10:00AM to 8:00PM, though these times change throughout the year, so it’s best to check their website before stopping by!
17. Camden Town
Camden Town is most known for its alternative vibe, which is popular among teenagers and tourists. You’ll find many interesting stops and cafes here during the day, but the town will truly become alive in the night. All through the streets, you will hear live music from alternative clubs and old-school pubs.
18. Borough Market
Borough Market is a wholesale and retail food market in London. This foodie hotspot has been around since the 12th century, so it’s easy to understand how it’s one of the most famous food markets in the world. The best time to visit is between 10:00AM to midday Wednesday to Friday and 8:00AM to midday on Saturday, so you can avoid the crowds. Saturday is obviously one of the most busiest days, but it’s also one of the most liveliest, so you’ll have to pick your poison!
Columbia Road Flower Market is open on Sundays from 8:00AM to 3:00PM (ish) rain or shine. As the concrete jungle comes to life with vibrant colors and floral scents, you may just find yourself coming home with a 10-foot banana tree.
20. Primrose Hill
Primrose Hill is located on the north side of Regent Park in London. Primrose Hill is actually most famous for its famous residents, like Kate Moss and Ewan McGregor. However, many people come here to enjoy a nice picnic as the sun sets over the city.
Liberty London is a two-story historic building filled with high-end fashion and luxury homeware. Around since 1875, this well-known spot is more than just a department store.
Barbican Conservatory is the second largest conservatory in London. Located in the heart of the city, you’ll find everything from luscious greens to exotic birds and tropical fish.
23. St. James’s Park
St. James’s Park circles around a small lake with two islands nesting within it. Here, you can say hello to some of the local pelicans while walking through the same soil Henry VIII used to,
Regent’s Park, one of London’s Royal Parks, is a combination of open fields and tree-lined pathways. Taking a more formal look at a park, you’ll be able to walk through the colorful flowerbeds, see the 12,000 roses in Queen Mary’s Gardens or even hire a rowing boat to sail out onto the lake.
The Kensington Gardens are also among the Royal Parks of London. Here, you’ll find a mix of temporary & forever beauty as art and architecture wind their ways through the green gardens.
26. Covent Garden
Covent Garden is located inside of the West End. It’s a must-see for any tourists looking to shop ’til they drop, watch a new film at the theatre, try something new to eat/drink or even just check out some of the local history and culture. Inside and around the Covent Garden, you can also find the London Transport Museum, the Royal Opera House, the Somerset House and, of course, the Covent Garden Market.
27. River Thames
The River Thames flows through southern England and is actually the longest river in England and the second longest river in the United Kingdom. This river is famous for landmarks like the London Eye, Tower Bridge, and Shakespeare’s Globe. For a more adventurous view of these sights, check out some of their river cruises!
28. Greenwich Park
What used to be a hunting park, Greenwich park is now home to a breathtaking view (as you can see above) overlooking the River Thames. As a Royal Park of London and one of the largest single green spaces in south-east London, you can literally follow in the footsteps of former kings and queens of England.
29. Richmond Park
Richmond Park is a deer park in the London Borough of Richmond created by Charles I way back in the 17th century. It has national, as well as international importance for wildlife conservation and is the largest of all of the Royal Parks. In fact, Richmond Park is a whopping 2,500 acres big– that’s three times the size of New York’s Central Park!
30. Hampstead Heath
Hampstead Heath is one of the highest points in London. It’s an ancient, public heath resting on a grassy ridge overlooking the city. Here, you’ll find three swimming ponds, a zoo, an athletics track, children’s facilities an education centre and a Lido. It’s no wonder that this is one of London’s most popular open spaces.
31. Hyde Park
Hyde Park is another one of the Royal Parks in London, famous for its Speakers’ Corner. Speakers’ Corner is an area where open-air public speaking, debate and discussion are allowed. Essentially, it’s a tiny cement platform that one can go up on and vent to strangers. The park is divided in two by Serpentine Lake.
Madame Tussauds London is one of the top tourist attractions in London. If you’ve checked out Madame Tussauds New York, it’s the same type of experience, but with different life-size wax replicas of iconic people.
The Coca-Cola London Eye is an observation wheel overlooking the River Thames. It’s Europe’s largest cantilevered observation wheel and has over 3.75 million annual visitors, making it the most popular paid tourist attraction in the entire United Kingdom. With prices starting at only 27 Euros, you can’t be disappointed with this view!
34. ZSL London Zoo
The ZSL London Zoo first opened in 1828 for observation and is now the world’s oldest scientific zoo. Check out the ZSL London Zoo website to see what kind of exotic animals you can expect here.
35. Luna Cinema
Luna Cinema is the United Kingdom’s #1 Open Air Cinema. Showing classic and new films equipped with a full bar, it’s kind of the perfect date. Check out their website to see what’s playing lately!
Historical Buildings & Museums
If you’re anything like me, you know all about Shakespeare’s Globe because you had to make an intricate drawing along with a detailed essay on it in the fourth grade… but, if not, I’ll catch you up to speed. Shakespeare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the famous Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse associated with William Shakespeare. Now, it’s a performing arts centre, cultural attraction and education centre.
Hampton Court Palace was built in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a friend of King Henry VIII. However, soon after, King Henry VIII took a liking to the place and moved on in with his six wives. Later on, Queen Victoria opened Hampton Court Palace to the public and it now is visited by people just like you who want to say hello to the spirits who never left, the exquisite construction that remains or the wondrous art collection.
Buckingham Palace is the administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Buckingham Palace is open to the public a couple months a year (between July and October), but it is important to note that you CANNOT take any photos once inside. There are security people in every room and they are very quick at spotting visitors trying to catch a memory.
Kensington Palace is located inside of none other than the Kensington Gardens. Famous for being the birthplace and intimate childhood home of Queen Victoria, there are over 300 years of history within these walls.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich, as you can see, is situated on a hill in Greenwich Park overlooking the River Thames. This observatory is best known for the fact that the prime meridian passes right through it, hence its nickname the Greenwich Mean Time. Founded in 1675 by King Charles II of England, this was built for practical astronomy (time-keeping, navigation, star positions and almanac publication).
Located along the South Bank is a premier tourist destination: The London Dungeon. Using live actors, rides and special effects, you can relive historical events in a rather light-hearted way. It takes almost two hours to get through the whole attraction and you can book your visit ahead of time online.
Churchill War Rooms is a museum in London that generally takes about 90 minutes to get through. It features the Cabinet War Rooms, which is an area underground that was home to a British command centre during the Second World War.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum is a museum in London dedicated to none other than Sherlock Holmes. Formerly a boarding house from 1860 to 1936, this museum is now privately run and open almost every day of the year [except Christmas].
44. Museum of London
The Museum of London features the extensive history of London, going all the way back to prehistoric times. Located on the London Wall with over six million objects to see, you’ll be visiting the largest urban history collection in the world.
45. Tate Britain
Tate Britain is one of four Tate art collections in London and it showcases British art from 1500 to today. On the first Friday of each month, they put on “Late at Tate Britain” and offer free entry to the art along with food and beverages. Check out their website for the latest events and hours.
46. Tate Modern
Tate Britain is one of four Tate art collections in London and it showcases international modern and contemporary art. To see their latest events, free and ticketed, head to their website.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, is the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, as well as sculpture. With over 2.27 million objects, you’ll definitely need to set aside some time to visit this luxury.
The National Gallery was founded in 1824 and consists of over 2,300 paintings from mid-13th century up until 1900. Showcasing traditional European art, you can view these masterpieces free of charge!
The Natural History Museum is another great museum that is free of charge. Located on Cromwell Road, this place is open everyday from 10:00 to 17:50, except from December 24-26. Check out their website to see the latest events going on.
The British Museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture. It comprises of over 8 million pieces and is free to all visitors daily from 10:00 to 17:30. Make sure to look online to see what to expect at their latest exhibits.
Oddly enough, St. Paul’s Cathedral actually reminds me of the Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin. However, this Angelican cathedral has been here for over 1,400 years. Sitting at the highest point in the city of London, Ludgate Hill, this place will truly leave you in awe.
The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place for the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It’s important to note that you can only visit the palace on Saturdays during July or August.
Westminster Abbey is a Gothic abbey church located in Westminster of London. They host daily services for all as well as showcase hundreds of years of history at their World Heritage Site.
54. Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge, often mistaken as London Bridge, is London’s oldest and most historic river crossing. Honestly, it reminds me a bit of something I’d see in Disney World, which isn’t a bad thing–I swear. This bridge is a must-see on anyone’s visit to London.
Millennium Bridge is officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge and is designed just for pedestrians to cross the River Thames. This steel suspension bridge is located between Blackfriars Railway Bridge and Southwark Bridge.
Hopefully these 55 things to do in London gave you a starting point for planning your time in this incredible city. If you’ve been to any of these places, comment below and let me know how you’ve enjoyed them! Additionally, if you’ve done something in London that’s not on this list, I’d love to hear all about it. And if you’re on your way to London now, safe travels!
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