London, England, needs almost no introduction. This dynamic capital city, a firm favorite on tourists’ bucket lists, offers a unique vacation experience. Around 20 million visitors a year want to dive into its rich mix of stunning attractions, ancient stories, pomp, pageantry, and cutting-edge culture.
There’s just so much to see. From the Gothic Westminster Abbey to the spectacular 21st-century Shard, there’s every style of breathtaking architecture to admire. You’ll get close to royalty through the ages at the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace. And you’ll see living history at Shakespeare’s Globe and the Houses of Parliament.
World-class museums, glorious parks, and awe-inspiring walks can all be enjoyed for free. Or you can hang out with the stars; all the big names want to perform – or shop – in London. The city is famous for its modern multicultural feel, too. Vibrant neighborhoods offer a diverse profusion of food, shopping, and entertainment.
Where to start? To help you choose, we’ve put together the guide below to the top attractions in London. There are also tips, hints, and kinks to help you get the best out of your London vacation. From world-famous landmarks to hidden gems, check out our list of the best things to do in London. And don’t worry if you can’t do them all. You’ll be back!
Looking to make the most of your trip to London? Then you need our private tour with locals – highlights & hidden gems! In just three hours, you'll see all the best that the city has to offer, from classics like Trafalgar Square and Borough Market to hidden treasures only a local would know about. And to sweeten the deal, we've included a special treat at a local eatery.
Looking to discover all that London has to offer? Hop on board a double-decker bus and enjoy a hop-on hop-off city tour. With a single or multi-day pass, you can enjoy the flexibility of getting on and off at any stop. Listen to engaging audio commentary as you learn about the city's most iconic sights. Plus, with a 24-hour ticket, you can enjoy a river cruise with optional walking tours. So come aboard and explore all that this amazing city has to offer!
Welcome to my Historical Pub Walking Tour of London! On this tour, we'll visit four traditional pubs in some of the city's most iconic locations. You'll get to sample different brews (at your own expense) and learn about the rich history of London's pub scene. This is a small-group tour, so you'll have plenty of opportunity to ask questions and get to know your fellow travelers.
- Most significant landmark – Tower of London
- Best park – Hyde Park
- Best free activity – Changing of the Guard Ceremony
- Best activity for kids – Natural History Museum
- Best activity for adults – Food and Drink Walking Tour of London’s East End
- Best food – Borough Street Market
- Best nightlife – Shoreditch
- Best all-around accommodation – The Ampersand Hotel
Things to Do in London, England
1. Victoria and Albert Museum
Address: V&A South Kensington, Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL
A visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the very best things to do in London, England. The museum’s 1.25 million fascinating objects collection includes every possible artifact. From Ancient Roman jewelry to Victorian underwear to digital art and everything in between, there’ll be something to capture your imagination. There’s even a mini pet cemetery.
This cathedral to culture showcases the very best in decorative design and art. It often has high-profile exhibitions that usually sell out. However, there are thousands of permanent exhibits that are free to visit.
And the building itself is gorgeous. Don’t miss the sumptuous ceramic staircase or the dazzling Sackler Courtyard created by Amanda Levete. This is the world’s first porcelain piazza and uses 11,000 handmade tiles. If you’re here at the right time, you’ll see the courtyard catching the sunlight giving it a look of 1960s Rome. It is one of the best things to do in London and is absolutely free.
Visitors can explore the museum’s many galleries at their own pace or take part in one of the guided tours offered by the museum. There are many private customized tours available, too.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is a 4-minute walk from South Kensington Underground (subway) Station. It’s located in the Kensington area of London, which is a great place for families to stay. In the Museum Quarter, you’ll find the world-famous Science Museum and Natural History Museum. You’re also close to Kensington Gardens and Kensington Palace.
The Ampersand Hotel, with its gym and games room, is great for families and is close to the Tube and the museums. For a more inexpensive option, try the London Lodge Hotel.
2. Barbican Conservatory
Address: Silk St, Barbican, London EC2Y 8DS
Real jungle meets concrete jungle in the Barbican Conservatory. In the heart of the Barbican, an icon of brutalist London architecture, there’s more than just the iconic performing arts and exhibition center.
There’s also a secret garden: London’s second-largest conservatory, home to over 1,500 exotic plant species as well as tranquil carp pools. This is one of the things in London that even Londoners don’t always know about.
Visits are free, but check the Barbican website first, as the Conservatory is only open on certain days, and you’ll need to book online. Tickets are released a week in advance. You may be lucky to grab one of the few day tickets released from 9.30 am each day the Conservatory is open.
While you’re at the Barbican, check out free exhibitions on Level G or in the Barbican Library on Level 2. And try the Barbican Kitchen, also Level G. This offers a fantastic range of food and is ideal if you’ve come for an exhibition or a performance. And the view across the Lakeside Terrace to old St Giles Church is gorgeous.
The Barbican area is a great place to base yourself on the City of London attractions such as the Museum of London, the Roman Wall, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. For a five-star boutique stay, try the Montcalm Barbican Rooms, only a minute’s walk from the Barbican Centre. Or for more affordable accommodation, try Citadines Barbican London.
For more hidden treasures, check out this tour of the Secret Gardens of the City of London. And if you want to see London’s largest conservatory, head to the world-famous Kew Gardens.
See Related: Best Castles in London
London has a small but well-defined Chinatown, which fabulously showcases Chinese culture. Exploring this vibrant area is one of the most fun things to do in London.
The Chinatown area is handy for the West End and Theatreland and covers half-a-dozen streets, including Gerrard Street and Wardour Street. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the hundreds of red lanterns strung across the streets and the stunning Chinese gates.
Some areas are pedestrianized, so you can take your time taking in the surroundings. I recommend browsing around one of the Asian supermarkets, New Loon Moon or See Woo, if you’re looking for an authentic Asian treat.
You’ll also find health clinics, barbershops, bakeries – and souvenir shops selling the famous waving lucky cats. But most people come to Chinatown for the food. For a more classic Chinese restaurant experience, my favorite is Wan Chai Corner, Gerrard Street. And I love the custard buns to take out at Lisle Street’s Bun House. But you’ll also find other Asian cuisines, bubble tea, crepes, steakhouses, and cocktail bars – something for everyone.
One of the best times to come is in January or February when you’ll see London’s Chinese New Year celebrations, the largest outside Asia. As well as the sensational dragon dance, there are lots of foodie treats on offer.
You will find several hotel and accommodation options nearby. Mimi’s Hotel Soho has great reviews and is in a wonderful central location, a short walk from Chinatown and the West End. For a more luxurious stay, try the stunning W London on Wardour Street.
4. Tate Modern
Address: Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Tate Modern is a riverside icon on London’s South Bank. The UK’s third most popular tourist attraction, it’s one of the top things to do in London. If you’re interested in modern art or want to see some cool things, head to Tate Modern.
Once a power station, this bucket-list London attraction is known for its outstanding architecture. The vast 110-foot-high Turbine Hall will take your breath away. And you’ll get great views of the River Thames from the Blavatnik Building Terrace Bar.
Although Tate Modern holds regular major ticketed exhibitions, its main collection is free. You’ll see the works of top international artists dating from 1900 until today. Leave plenty of time to enjoy the collection but avoid visiting at weekends if you don’t like crowds.
Tate Modern is not limited to artwork. There’s also a massive collection of performances, photography, live art exhibits, and film. You can even get arty yourself. At Tate Draw, you can create a masterpiece on a digital sketch pad and then see it projected onto the wall.
Southwark and Blackfriars Underground (subway) Stations are less than half a mile away from the gallery. St Paul’s Station is about three-quarters of a mile over the Millennium Bridge, but beware – this gets windy.
Or you could take the Tate Boat, which runs up and down the Thames every 30 minutes during the gallery’s opening hours. You can take the same boat upriver to Tate Britain, Tate Modern’s older sibling.
And a few minutes walk away — located between Mansion House and Blackfriars Tube (subway) stations — is Shakespeare’s Globe, a stunning reconstruction of the 1599 circular wooden open-air theater Shakespeare wrote for and even acted in.
For a 5-star stay a stone’s throw from Tate Modern, try Hilton London Bankside. The 3-star ibis London Blackfriars is also convenient, halfway between Tate Modern and Waterloo Station. And for a pub-based hostel, try PubLove @ The Steam Engine in Waterloo.
5. Go Ice Skating
Address: Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, Serpentine Rd, London W2 2UH
If you’re visiting London in winter, have the best time skating next door to an iconic London landmark. Wintertime in London brings a host of pop-up ice rinks in the heart of some stunning sightseeing spots. Skating here will make Christmas in London very special.
The UK’s biggest outdoor ice rink is at Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. Here you can glide around the bandstand under strings of twinkling lights. And if you don’t want to put the skates on, keep warm with a mulled wine or hot chocolate from one of the many bars and cafes. Be prepared for central London prices, though.
For spectators, it’s a good idea to bring a throw – for example, this one that doubles as an airplane blanket or pillow. Winter Wonderland is not only for skaters. There are fairground rides, circus shows, and a Santa’s Grotto. Entry at off-peak times is free and inexpensive at peak times, though you’ll need to book tickets whenever you visit. And you pay for skating, ice slides, and other attractions.
There are several other iconic places to enjoy ice skating in London. My favorite is Somerset House, where elegant neoclassical buildings surround you. For a riverside glide, try Battersea Power Station. Or, for a stunning Tudor setting, visit the rink at Hampton Court Palace.
Skating at one of these venues can be a blast whether you’re a pro or a beginner. You get to see the best of London while having fun. But be warned – they can all get very busy.
If you’re in London during Christmas, ice staking is a must-do. You could also take a bus tour to see London’s beautiful Christmas lights. Or catch the magic on a bike tour. Or, for the ultimate in luxury, see the Christmas sights in a traditional London black cab, complete with hotel pick-up.
See Related: Things to Know as an American Driving in the UK
6. Go on a Helicopter Tour
Address: South Nutfield, Redhill RH1 5JZ
There’s nothing like a stunning helicopter ride over the beautiful city of London. You’ll enjoy panoramic city views on your sky-high tour and see London’s biggest landmarks from a completely new angle.
For example, you can fly from Redhill Aerodrome in Surrey. From there, you’ll follow the course of the River Thames just above the height of the Shard. Get your camera out for St. Paul’s, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and more spectacular shots. If you plan the ride well, you can enjoy a beautiful sunset over London’s skyline.
Most helicopter flights have accommodation for three passengers. Those feeling loved up might want to choose the intimate flight for two plus champagne. What better setting for a proposal? And to follow, perhaps a Valentines-themed photoshoot or an ultra-romantic dinner cruise on the Thames. Or maybe a stroll to see some of the film locations for Love Actually.
The flight lasts about 35 minutes, with your pilot talking you through the panorama below. You’ll need to allow an hour for the whole tour, though, as there’ll be a safety briefing first. Redhill Aerodrome is easily accessible from central London. A train from London Bridge mainline station takes you to Earlswood Station, a ten-minute cab ride from the aerodrome.
See Related: How to Plan a Month-Long Vacation
7. Borough Market
Address: 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL
Borough Market, near London Bridge on the south side of the Thames, is the must-see place in London for all foodies. Here you can buy first-class fresh ingredients from the 100+ food stalls or enjoy artisanal street food. Or grab some snacks for a makeshift picnic – this is where a backpack cooler comes in handy.
I promise there’ll be something to suit everybody’s taste – but do be aware there are sometimes long queues. The busiest day is Saturday, but that’s when you’ll find the biggest and best range of stalls.
Borough Market is one of the oldest food markets in London, going back a thousand years. Once a wholesale market for greengrocers, it’s now a charitable trust. It supports short supply chains and champions sustainable food production. Proud of its community links, it remains one of the less touristy things to do in London.
A good way to enjoy the market is through one of the curated food tours available, many of which include free tastings. Or find out more about the area on a South Bank history tour.
See Related: Most Beautiful Villages in England
8. Columbia Road Flower Market
Address: Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG
The Columbia Road Flower Market is one of the oldest and most loved flower markets in London. Flower stalls line Columbia Road every Sunday, making it look like a paradise. And the smell is heavenly, too.
It’s one of the best places to visit on a lazy Sunday and also the best place to buy flowers, cacti, and bedding plants. Although the market’s open until 3 pm in all kinds of weather, make sure you get there early if you want the best blooms.
While enjoying the flowers, also check out the many independent boutiques, cafes, and antique stores nearby. I like stopping for tacos at Cheeky Chicos, Columbia Road, though it can get crowded.
The flower market is close to Queensbridge Road Underground (subway) Station, on the Central Line. While you’re in the area, why not visit Hackney City Farm, open on Sundays 10 am – 4:30 pm? Kids will love seeing the donkeys, pigs, and chickens. And there’s a great farm-to-fork Italian cafe onsite, too.
9. Portobello Road Market
Address: Portobello Rd, London W10 5TY
A must-see place in London, especially if you have a real nose for a bargain, is Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. This is one of the world’s largest antique markets, attracting tourists from across the world. The area, made famous by the Hugh Grant movie Notting Hill, is worth a visit to photograph the pretty pastel-painted Victorian houses. But if that’s your aim – avoid Saturdays.
This is when Portobello Road seethes with eager sightseers, bargain-hunters, and people-watchers. Saturday is when you’ll find the most stalls. Be prepared for plenty of friendly bumping and jostling, too – the market’s sometimes described as a pickpocket’s paradise.
But if you’re careful and want to experience the unique buzzing atmosphere and wonderful street food, it’s one of the most exciting activities in London. Look out for special events, such as the monthly vegan night market.
And, who knows, you may walk away with a bargain. There’s every collectible imaginable on sale here. Be warned, though. Don’t be fooled by the fold-out tables – the vendors drive hard bargains.
The market is about 10 minutes walk from two Tube (subway) stations, Notting Hill Gate and Ladbroke Grove. It’s best to start in Notting Hill and finish in Ladbroke Grove. While you’re there, look in on the fabulous little Museum of Brands to see what people used to buy…
If you want to base yourself locally, expect a comfortable stay, complete with XL bathrobes, at the Portobello Hotel. For a more budget option, try Ravna Gora. Be advised, though, that a base west of Hyde Park can mean significant traveling time if you visit many attractions in east and south London.
10. Natural History Museum
Address: Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD
South Kensington is home to about 80 million plants, rock, fossil, animal, and mineral specimens, all at the fabulous Natural History Museum. This world-class museum and research institution is a must-visit when in London for locals and visitors alike.
And if you’re traveling with kids, the museum has to be top of your list. With its tons of awesome exhibits and hands-on activities, it’s one of the most fun things to do in London.
Some attractions you mustn’t miss include the animatronic dinosaurs, the earthquake simulator, and the glow-in-the-dark crystals. For a special selfie, pose next to the most intact stegosaurus fossil ever found. And there’s always Hope. That’s the name of the vast blue whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling.
The Natural History Museum is close to both the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. You’ll find it hard going visiting more than one in a day, though. All have a range of great eateries to help you refuel mid-visit, and all have cool gift shops. And most important, they’re all free to visit.
For families wanting to make the most of the Museum Quarter, a rental in South Kensington or an apartment on Cromwell Road South Kensington might be a good choice.
Address: Romney Rd, London SE10 9NF
The center of old maritime London, Greenwich, is a fascinating place to visit. This area of London has a village feel despite the hundreds of tourists. A visit to Greenwich is one of the most fun things to do in London, so try to fit it in.
For first-timers, I advise heading to Maritime Greenwich, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Start with the National Maritime Museum, free and full of fascinating objects and interactive exhibits.
It’s also very close to some other fabulous attractions. There’s lovely Greenwich Park and the Old Royal Naval College, a riverside masterpiece by Sir Christopher Wren. See zero degrees longitude in the courtyard of the Royal Observatory. And don’t miss the world-famous Cutty Sark, a restored 19th-century sailing ship.
For a more modern vibe, ride the IFS Cloud Cable Car, the UK’s only urban cable car. The car can sway a bit, but you’ll have unforgettable views of the capital. Or try a Thames cruise. And try to fit in a browse around Greenwich market’s hundreds of stalls.
Greenwich is great for a day away from the city center, but there’s enough to fill at least a weekend. For a luxury stay, try the Intercontinental London-O2. For a more inexpensive visit, The Mitre by Innkeeper’s Collection is a cozy hotel in a traditional London pub.
See Related: London vs. Paris
12. Tower Bridge
Address: Tower Bridge Rd, London SE1 2UP
How about walking 140 feet over the River Thames? For a fun thing to do in London, visit Tower Bridge and spy on the world below you. Near the top of the famous landmark bridge are two glass floors you can dare cross. You can get the best selfie angles by using the mirrored ceiling.
If you’re nervous, take heart from the nearly 3 inches thick glass. And, of course, you can always use the regular walkway. Either way, you’ll get stunning views of London from a unique perspective. And 800 times a year, there’s the chance to see the bridge opening, so plan carefully if this is on your list of London must-sees.
You can choose either the self-guided option or take a guided tour. Tickets also give you access to the engine rooms with their gleaming Victorian mechanisms. You must queue whichever ticket you buy as part of the safety procedure.
While you’re in the area, there’s a quirky pub well worth a visit. This is the King’s Arms, 251 Tooley Street, SE1, on the south side of the Thames. There’s a bunch of good old British favorites on the menu, such as sausage and mash or beef and Guinness pie. Or you could rock up for the beer and the board games!
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13. A Break at the Beach
Needing a break from London? Get away from the city hubbub and relax out of town. A summer day is always well spent at the beach, or, as they say in Britain, the seaside. There are a few choices, but you’ll never go wrong with Brighton.
This beautiful south coast location has fresh air, excellent nightlife, and the glorious Royal Pavilion. It’s even home to the Brighton i360, one of the world’s thinnest towers.
Brighton is a dream for pub enthusiasts and has tons of shops with a funky and bohemian vibe. In particular, check out The Lanes and the Flea Market.
There are day trips available, or you could pack some lunch and take the pleasant 90-minute train ride to Brighton. You might even get to dip your toes in the English Channel. But don’t expect the water to be warm.
If you prefer to get away from the country, there are lots of day tours to Stonehenge or the Cotswolds. Or lose yourself for a day in the world of Downton Abbey.
14. Camden Market
Address: 32 Camden Lock Pl, London NW1 8AL
A world away from the city’s iconic buildings and landmarks, Camden Market is just as much one of London’s top attractions. With its hundreds of shops, stalls, bars, and cafes, it’s a buzzy and vibrant location and one of London’s best things to do.
What makes it super-appealing is the huge range of goods found here. You’ll find cheap souvenirs, expensive antiques, funky fashions, hipster bars, and street food.
Top tip: Come hungry, as you won’t be able to resist the aromas! The market is actually six separate markets and covers a huge area, indoors and outdoors, between Camden High Street and Chalk Farm Road.
You’ll need to allow at least 3 hours to do it justice. Camden Town and Chalk Farm are the closest Tube (subway) stations. If you want a less crowded experience, come on a weekday, but be aware that some stalls won’t operate.
The Camden area is also full of great pubs. To take advantage of local knowledge, try an organized pub tour. I try to head to the Spread Eagle, 141 Albert Street, if I’m in the area on a Sunday. Their Sunday roasts are to die for!
See Related: Best Over the Should Purses for Travel
15. Attend a Magic Show
Address: 12 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD
There’s nothing quite like the thrill of a magic show. No matter how old you are, a magic act is always fun – even if you think you know how it’s done. To enjoy the magic at its very best, head to a show at the Magic Circle.
The Magic Circle is a society of some of the world’s top illusionists headquartered in Euston, London. They like to keep their secrets, so you can’t just walk in off the street. Instead, book up to see one of their top-class shows. Book well in advance, as shows sell out quickly. A ticket will also allow you access to their museum.
This is one of the most fun things to do in London with kids. If you go to a Close-Up Magic Show, the chances are you’ll be asked to help out with one of the tricks. No question – it’s a great alternative to a night in the pub.
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16. Canoeing Down the Thames
You might have crossed the River Thames, but have you paddled on it? That has to top the list of cool things to do in London for my money. Luckily there are several companies giving you a chance to do just that.
Moo Canoes offer canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards for hire, all decorated with a cute cow print. Check out their Milk Float, a floating bar and cafe, at Hackney Wick.
Thames Kayaking provides a range of kayaking and adventure experiences with prices starting at £40 for two hours. Whatever company you choose, you’ll have an unforgettable experience. Ensure they’re British Canoeing Approved Paddle Sports Providers and compliant with the Port of London Authority.
See Related: Grand Union Canal Itinerary
17. House of Minalima
Address: 157 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8WQ
All Hogwarts fans will want to know the best Harry Potter things to do in London. One of these has to be the fabulous Harry Potter-themed exhibitions and shop at The House of MinaLima.
This quirky place is one of the most awesome things to do in London. It’s a wonderful collection showcasing Harry Potter movie art designed by brilliant MinaLima artists. There are posters, books, copies of the Quibbler, and items straight from the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio.
There’s also a floor dedicated to the Fantastic Beasts movies. And don’t forget to pick up some great wizard-themed artwork in the shop. I have to admit to owning a Hogwarts Express Ticket tea towel. Don’t judge!
Note that there’s no toilet or luggage storage space, but The House of MinaLima is just a couple minutes’ walk from loads of Soho eateries and stores.
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18. Severndroog Castle
Address: Castle Wood, Shooters Hill, London SE18 3RT
Shooter’s Hill, southeast of Greenwich, might not feature on your What to Do in London list. But hear me out. If you head out that way, you’ll come across a most unexpected landmark – the dinky Severndroog Castle.
This bijou fortress is little more than three rooms stacked on top of each other and was never meant to be lived in. The triangular castle stands as a memorial to an 18th-century naval commander at the wish of his grieving wife.
What makes it even more special is its position, high on Shooter’s Hill, one of London’s highest points. From the viewing platform, you’ll get a breathtaking 360° view of the landscape.
The platform can only fit ten people at a time, so you may have to wait your turn. And note that you’ll need to climb an 86-step spiral staircase to get there. In bad weather, the viewing platform closes, so check the castle’s website before you set out.
The castle is open every Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm, spring to fall. You can reach it by the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich, then the 486 bus. Love castles? Check out these other top castles near London. Love heights? Check out this amazing London abseiling adventure.
19. Buckingham Palace
Home to perhaps the world’s most famous balcony – and UK’s royal family – Buckingham Palace is one of London’s top tourist attractions. One of the best things to do in London is to walk up to The Mall to get a view of the iconic royal residence. This grand avenue is closed to traffic on weekends, public holidays, and ceremonial occasions, so these are the best times to come.
To look inside the palace, you’ll need to book a guided tour (or be invited by the King!). The magnificent State Rooms are open for ten weeks in summer and selected winter and spring dates. Check the Buckingham Palace website for dates and to book tickets.
Watching the world-famous Changing of the Guard ceremony is one of the best free things in London. You can see this in front of Buckingham Palace at 11 am every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, and more often in the summer. Check the full schedule on the British Army website.
20. St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral, the supreme achievement of Sir Christopher Wren, is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. St Paul’s is an iconic London landmark that’s been the site of many milestones in British history, including the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. This world-famous cathedral is also a working church, holding regular services throughout the week.
What makes it a must-see is the rich magnificence of its spectacular architecture and decoration. Entry tickets are £20.50 but are well worth it for the stunning experience.
You’ll have access to most of the cathedral, free guided tours, and two upper galleries, the Stone Gallery and the Dome Gallery. There are over 500 steps to the top (sorry – no elevator), but the reward is an outstanding view of the Thames. Sadly the famous Whispering Gallery is no longer open to the public.
The cathedral is open to sightseers Monday – Saturday. But entry’s free if you come to worship on a Sunday or participate in other services during the week.
Be aware that if you book through a third party, vouchers must be converted into tickets, meaning waiting in line. Using a London Pass is sometimes a good idea for attractions like St Paul’s, as it can save you money. But you’ll need to be organized and visit 2-4 attractions a day for the savings to kick in.
A short walk away is Pudding Lane, where the Great Fire of London began. Here you’ll find the Monument – a column with a viewing platform on top. If you’re feeling energetic, you can pay a few pounds to climb the Monument’s 311 steps to the top – and earn yourself a certificate.
21. Brixton Academy
Address: 211 Stockwell Road London SW9 9SL
O2 Academy Brixton is an iconic concert hall in Brixton, south London. It started life as the fancy Art Deco Astoria cinema in 1929. Then in 1983, it had rebrand as Brixton Academy and became one of London’s most legendary music venues. You weren’t a genuine music lover if you weren’t here in the ’80s.
A host of stellar acts have played here, including The Clash, UB40, Sex Pistols, The Smiths, and Madonna. It was also used in music videos for Wham! and Culture Club.
The venue is a must-see if only to pay homage to some of the world’s greatest rock and pop stars. Its Italian-style Art Deco dome and pillars are also well worth a look.
O2 Academy Brixton is one of the biggest non-arena music venues in London, with a capacity of nearly 5,000. Check the O2 Academy website for details of upcoming gigs.
If jazz is more your thing, I’d recommend the Effra Hall Tavern, a 10-minute walk away from Kellett Rd, Brixton. As well as live music four nights a week, this old-school London boozer does great food, and the beer prices aren’t too bad for the capital.
22. Brick Lane
Address: Brick Lane, London E1 6SB
You might know Brick Lane as a popular film adaptation of a book by Monica Ali. It’s also the name of a historic street in London’s East End.
It’s part of Banglatown, the heart of Britain’s Bangladeshi community. Street signs are in both English and Bengali, and the place is bursting with authentic Bengali restaurants. Brick Lane is the spot to pick for your top London curry, with a South Asian dessert from a local sweet shop.
If you come to Brick Lane at the weekend, you’ll also find huge indoor and outdoor markets. You can get pretty much anything here, including lots of home cooking.
Brick Lane and its neighboring east London streets are also famous for fabulous street art and graffiti. Guided tours can show you the best of the bunch, and you can even have a go yourself in a spray painting workshop. But you’ll be sure to spot some awesome art if you spend time in the area. Aldgate East and Liverpool Street are the closest Tube (subway) stations to Brick Lane.
23. British Museum
Address: Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG
The British Museum is London’s most popular tourist attraction for good reason. The museum houses an incredible collection of artifacts from all over the world, spanning centuries.
With so much to see, it can be overwhelming for first-time visitors. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your visit to the British Museum.
- Entry is free, but if you book online beforehand, you’ll get key information upfront.
- Start with the highlights: The British Museum is home to some of the most famous artifacts in the world, so make sure you don’t miss them. Highlights include the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone, and Egyptian mummies. And don’t forget the Sutton Hoo Burial (remember the movie The Dig?).
- If you’re short on time, pick up a map at the entrance highlighting must-see exhibits. Even better, download it here.
- Allow at least a couple of hours. There’s a lot to see at the British Museum, so it’s important to allow plenty of time to explore. That way, you’ll also have time to take a break if needed. The good news is there are several chic in-house eateries to choose from.
If you’d prefer a guided tour, many are available, including a crash course in archaeology.
24. Churchill War Rooms
Address: Clive Steps, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AQ
The Churchill War Rooms are a fascinating landmark and a must-see London attraction. They’re often overlooked, though. This isn’t due to their lack of historical importance. It’s because, unlike many higher-profile attractions, they’re underground.
The War Rooms were Britain’s World War II nerve center. The very simplicity and cramped conditions of the bunkers highlight England’s desperate position as the Nazis held Europe tight. The ingenuity on display is truly impressive.
You’ll see the tiny room disguised as a toilet where Winston Churchill spoke privately to the U.S. President. There’s also the improvised radio studio where he recorded his famed wartime speeches. You’ll even see Churchill’s underground bedroom.
If you’re interested in the history of World War II, the Churchill War Rooms are worth a visit. They’re right in the heart of Westminster, five minutes from Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, and St James’s Park.
For a luxury stay in this historic area, try the opulent St Ermin’s Hotel, Autograph Collection. For something a bit more pocket-friendly, there’s The Grand at Trafalgar Square.
25. Tower of London
The Tower of London has served many purposes over the centuries – royal palace, prison, and place of execution. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of London’s most popular tourist attractions today.
Not only can you marvel at the impressive fortress, but you’ll also get to see the famous Crown Jewels exhibition and hear tales of torture and execution. You’ll even see graffiti by the condemned prisoners.
The site is also home to the Tower Ravens, a flock of ravens that protect the Tower from harm, so they say. The cool raven-themed items in the shop make great souvenirs.
You’ll need to make a separate booking for one of the Tower’s spooky Twilight Tours or to see the 700-year-old Ceremony of the Keys. But regular entry tickets include a White Tower tour and a talk by one of the magnificently-dressed Yeoman Warders. And a skip-the-line tour comes with your own private Beefeater.
26. Westminster Abbey
Address: 20 Deans Yd, London SW1P 3PA
Westminster Abbey is a historic Gothic cathedral in Westminster, London, one of the UK’s most important churches. Founded in the 11th century, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Westminster Abbey has been the site of British coronations since 1066 and is the final resting place of royalty. So you’ll get to see the Coronation Chair and the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I. There’s also the Lady Chapel’s spectacular medieval ceiling and the famous Poets’ Corner, with memorials to over 100 writers.
And for an extra £5, you can visit the new Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. They’re 50 feet over the Abbey floor, and you get fantastic views on your way up. For those with limited mobility, there is an elevator.
The cathedral is also home to the poignant Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, commemorating soldiers who have died in battle. For a slice of British History, Westminster Abbey is a must-see London attraction. It’s open most days, though some areas will be closed to sightseers during church services.
27. Hyde Park
Address: Hyde Park Corner Station, London SW1X 7LY
Hyde Park is a great place to visit and one of London’s most popular tourist destinations. The park covers a whopping 350 acres, making it one of the largest in London. It’s home to many landmarks, including the iconic Serpentine Lake, Kensington Palace, and the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.
Besides enjoying Hyde Park’s scenery, you’ll also find plenty to do in this lovely green oasis. For a start, there are playgrounds for all ages, pay-and-play games, and the famous Lido. You can swim here on weekends from mid-May and every day from June to mid-September.
There are also deck chairs, statues, and several bars and eateries. Check out the free Serpentine art galleries on either side of the lake. And the park’s a great location for a bike tour.
One cool thing to do in London is to come to Speakers’ Corner (the closest Tube station Marble Arch) on a Sunday. This is when anyone can come and voice their views. If you feel strongly enough, you could too.
Hyde Park is also a popular spot for events and concerts, so check the schedule before you go. For the ultimate luxury accommodation nearby, treat yourself to the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. For a classy Park Lane address but with slightly more affordable prices, try JW Marriott Grosvenor House London.
If you stay north of Hyde Park, you’ll find the accommodations considerably cheaper, for example, the DoubleTree by Hilton London – Hyde Park. And for budget hostel accommodation, try the Urbany Hostel London.
28. London Eye
Address: Riverside Building, County Hall, London SE1 7PB
The London Eye, on the South Bank, is one of the top things to do in London. Built to celebrate Britain’s Millennium in 2000, it’s a giant Ferris wheel that offers stunning 360º views of the city. Londoners and visitors love to ride the London Eye, but getting on during peak times can be a bit of a challenge.
There are two ways to avoid queues. First, you can book online in advance for off-peak. These tickets may mean you have to visit at specific times, but they can work out a couple of pounds cheaper. Or you can pay a few pounds more for a London Eye skip-the-line ticket.
Either way, the London Eye is great for photos and a way to see the London skyline from a unique perspective. Another way to save money is with a dual attraction ticket. Look for Attraction Passes on the London Eye website.
See Related: Best & Most Beautiful Cities in Europe to Visit
Address: Shoreditch High Street Station, Braithwaite St, London E1 6GJ
Shoreditch, in London’s East End, is one of the capital’s hippest and most vibrant neighborhoods and one of London’s must-see destinations.
The area has had the benefit of major revitalization in recent years. As a result, it’s now home to some of the city’s best and buzziest bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. Whether you’re looking to relax or to party the night away, Shoreditch has all the options.
For some lively London nightlife, check out the circus-themed Trapeze bar or Shoreditch Balls for its cocktails-plus-mini-golf combo. The Blues Kitchen offers a bluesy evening, while the cozy Howl at the Moon has an Irish vibe. And Padella is my go-to place for inexpensive pasta. They don’t take bookings but if you’re in the area, you can join a virtual queue with the Dojo app.
Daytime activities in Shoreditch include checking out the cool street art and taking in the hip art galleries, such as the Autograph. And when you’re feeling homesick, try the wonderful Museum of the Home.
If you enjoy a hipsterish feel and want to avoid central London rates, consider basing yourself in Shoreditch. It’s well placed for Columbia Road Flower Market, Whitechapel Gallery, the Tower of London, and the grisly Jack the Ripper Museum.
The Z Hotel Shoreditch offers more inexpensive accommodations, while The One Hundred Shoreditch is a good mid-range hotel. And for Shoreditch luxury, try Mondrian London Shoreditch.
30. The National Gallery
Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN
The National Gallery, one of the world’s greatest art museums, is a must for any art lover. It’s also one of the best things to do in London. The gallery is located in Trafalgar Square – check out Nelson’s Column while you’re there.
The gallery’s stunning collection has over 2,300 works featuring all the greats from the Renaissance to the Impressionists. Look out, for instance, for the world-famous Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck and Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. There’s also a shop selling stylish gifts. And, as with all of London’s major publicly-funded museums, there’s a range of very classy eateries.
Entry to the gallery is free, but it’s best to book in advance. One handy feature of the gallery is that it’s open until 9 pm on Fridays. So if you do get arty before your party, I suggest your next port of call is The Chandos, just off Trafalgar Square.
This popular pub has an old-style bare-boards bar and quaint, snug cubicles filling up quickly. The comfy lounge upstairs has paneling, leather sofas, and stained-glass windows. Best of all, The Chandos serves Sam Smith’s beer.
See Related: Best Digital Nomad Destinations in the World
31. Leicester Square
Address: Leicester Square, London WC2H 7LU
Leicester Square is one of the most popular destinations in London. A hub of activity for centuries, today this pleasure playground is a must-visit spot for leisure activities. So whether you’re looking to catch a movie, enjoy a meal, or have fun, Leicester Square should have something to pique your interest.
There’s the Scenes in the Square statue trail – spot Harry Potter plus other famous film characters. You can turn your photo into a unique LEGO mosaic at the LEGO store. Or you can treat yourself at M&M’S London, the world’s largest candy store. If you’re here at Christmas, there’s a funfair. And for more grown-up entertainment, there’s the Empire Casino and Sports Bar.
Fun fact: The Tube (subway) journey from Leicester Square to Covent Garden is London’s shortest, traveling only 850 feet. At nearly £30 per mile, it’s one of the world’s most expensive train rides.
32. Piccadilly Circus
Address: Piccadilly Circus, London W1J 9HS
Piccadilly Circus, in the heart of London’s West End, is one of London’s most popular tourist destinations. You’ll find it where four busy roads meet: Piccadilly, Regent Street, Coventry Street, and Shaftesbury Avenue. This means it’s one of the best – and most hectic – places in London for shopping, eating, and entertainment.
The pace is pretty breathless, but for a bit of peace and quiet, head down Piccadilly. Here you’ll find St James’s Church, another masterpiece by Sir Christopher Wren. You can refuel with afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason. Or pause to admire the Horses of Helios statue in neighboring Haymarket.
Of course, one of the classic things to do in London is to meet up at Piccadilly Circus’s Eros statue. It’s also a great selfie spot. And did you know that its official name is in fact The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain?
Pro tip: Remember to look to the right when crossing the road!
33. Trafalgar Square
Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DS
Trafalgar Square is a public square in central London – the largest publicly-accessible square in the city. For this reason, it’s the go-to spot for protests, political rallies, and public celebrations.
It’s also a must-see place in London if you’re new to the city. The square is the perfect starting point for your London adventure. It’s within walking distance of countless tourist destinations, including Admiralty Arch, Horseguards Parade, St James’s Park, Cleopatra’s Needle, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben.
The square was built to commemorate Britain’s 1805 victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. The focal point is Nelson’s Column, a monument to British hero Admiral Nelson.
Among the various other historical statues, check out the Fourth Plinth. This is where leading modern artists take turns creating dramatic new large-scale sculptures. And there’s more entertainment on offer with street performers and artists.
Don’t miss the stunning classical architecture of St Martin-in-the-Fields at the square’s northeast corner. Under the church is the excellent Cafe in the Crypt where old tombstones line the floor. Look out for Crypt Lates jazz nights there, too.
See Related: Best Places to Travel Alone in the World
34. Oxford Street
Address: Oxford Circus Station, Oxford St, London W1B 3AG
Oxford Street is London’s most visited shopping street and Europe’s leading shopping capital. If shopping is on your list of things to do in London, a day in Oxford Street is a must.
There’s a wealth of high-street names such as Zara, Superdry, Primark, Uniqlo, Skechers, and Dr. Martens. Visit the UK’s only physical Disney store. Or find your favorite designer and luxury brands in the flagship John Lewis and Selfridges department stores.
Selfridges is worth setting aside a day for all by itself. Its magnificent food hall offers the best in upscale groceries, plus there are some super-chic eateries. And did you know that Selfridges has its own cinema?
When you’re tired of shopping, you can visit Oxford Street’s Twist Museum of Illusions. Or fight it out in Boom Battle Bar. Who could resist Augmented Reality Axe Throwing or Crazier Golf?
Try to visit Oxford Street around Christmas to see the Christmas lights. Selfridges, in particular, is known for their magical displays. You can go in comfort in a London black cab, or wrap up warm on an open-topped bus tour. Or if you’re on foot, I suggest warming up with a coffee at HR Higgins on nearby Duke Street.
Address: 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL
For a uniquely ritzy shopping experience, you have to check out Harrods. Covering five acres and having more than a million square feet of floor space, this world-famous department store is a must-see for any visitor to London.
There are eight floors of pretty much everything, from the bookstore on the lower ground floor to the Salon de Parfums at the top of the shop. And you mustn’t miss the sumptuous Egyptian escalator.
There are also 20+ cafes, bars, and restaurants offering a mind-boggling range of cuisines. All accept walk-ins and welcome children, though they only take payments by card.
What’s so cool about going to Harrods is having the front door opened for you by the famous green-uniformed door people. They can also challenge customers not conforming to the Harrods dress code. So avoid beachwear! You’ll also be asked to wear backpacks on your front or carry them by hand. This is to minimize costly accidental breakages.
Pro tip: If you spot something you like, you might be able to buy it cheaper at the Harrods Heathrow duty-free shop on your trip home.
36. Kew Gardens
Address: Kew Rd, Richmond TW9 3AB
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – or Kew Gardens – is a 300-acre botanical garden located in southwest London, in the borough of Richmond. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the world’s leading gardens, with over 50,000 plants from all over the globe.
The gardens are open year-round, and there’s always something amazing to see. Don’t miss the lush Palm House, the Waterlily House, and the award-winning Princess of Wales Conservatory.
Apart from the plants, there’s Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, the lake, the treetop walkway, the children’s garden, and lots of lovely spots for picnicking. And if you don’t want to bring your own lunch, there are plenty of cafes and snack bars.
You can book online to get the cheapest tickets and find out about planned closures. The closest Tube (subway) stop is Kew Gardens Underground Station, about a third of a mile away. If you need level access, you’ll have to go on one stop to Richmond and then catch a tube back to use the eastbound platform.
While you’re in the area, you should drop into Newens on Kew Road. This bakery has been supplying its signature Maids of Honour pastries for more than a century – a real taste of old England.
And if you want to base yourself locally, there’s plenty to see in this part of southwest London. As well as Kew Gardens, there’s Syon House, Chiswick House, Richmond Park, and the London Wetland Centre nature reserve. Nearby, Richmond has great shops and restaurants and some lovely riverside walks.
The 3-star Dukes Head Inn is a cozy traditional pub close to Richmond Station and theater. For a more luxurious stay, try The Petersham on Richmond Hill, close to Mick Jagger’s old home.
See Related: Best Gardens in Europe to Visit
37. Covent Garden
Address: Covent Garden Market, The Market Building, London WC2E 8RD
A trip to Covent Garden is one of the most fun things to do in London. There’s plenty to explore in this vibrant little collection of streets packed with historic architecture, chic stores, and buzzy eateries.
Most eye-catching is the gorgeous restored 1830 Market Hall with its grand arcades and pillars. This contains the Apple Market, full of handcrafts and gifts. Across the piazza is the Jubilee Market, known especially for its Monday antiques market. Note that most stores and stalls in the market don’t open until 10 am – sometimes 11.
Covent Garden is handy for many theaters, including the Cambridge Theatre and the Lyceum Theatre. You’ll also find street performers before the stately 17th-century St Paul’s Church – the “Actors’ Church.” And even if you don’t want to take in an opera, there are guided tours of the magnificent Royal Opera House. Other great attractions in Covent Garden include the London Transport Museum and the Bow Street Police Museum.
I always try to incorporate ice cream into a trip to Covent Garden. There’s Venchi Chocolate & Gelato in the main market – be prepared to queue. And for a real Italian vibe, try Gelatorino, Russell Street.
There’s so much to do and close at hand that it makes sense to base yourself in the Covent Garden area. For a good inexpensive hotel 500 yards from Covent Garden Underground Station, try the Z Hotel Holborn. And for chic boutique luxury, there’s the Henrietta Hotel.
38. St. James’ Park
St. James’s Park, in the center of London, is one of the cutest of the royal parks and is a stone’s throw from tons of great attractions. These include Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the Churchill War Rooms, 10 Downing Street, and Big Ben. This makes St James’s Park the perfect place to relax after a hard day’s London sightseeing.
The park features a lake, gardens, and plenty of open space to enjoy a picnic or stroll. There’s also a little kids’ playground and a cafe. What makes St James’s Park extra special is its small colony of pelicans living on Duck Island. And make sure you get a snap of the cute Duck Island Cottage.
39. Big Ben and Westminster
Address: Bridge Street London SW1A 0AA
Westminster is one of London’s most famous areas and home to some iconic landmarks. The very best of London, including Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Bridge, and Buckingham Palace, can be found here, making it a must-see destination.
There are tons of organized tours available by coach, black cab, or bike. There are plenty of free walking tours available online, too – for example, this route.
Big Ben is one of the most iconic landmarks in the whole of Europe, often appearing as the symbol of London and the United Kingdom. The name Big Ben in fact refers to the 15-ton bell at the top of the Elizabeth Tower. Its clock is the world’s largest four-faced clock, with each face close to 23 feet wide.
Next door, you’ll find the Houses of Parliament, an elaborate complex including 1,100 rooms and 100 staircases. You need to book in advance to see inside the Houses of Parliament. Expect some fairly strict security checks – but it’s worth it to see the splendor of these historic buildings.
You can get great fish and chips at the nearby St Stephen’s Tavern. You might even spot a politician or two doing the same.
40. The Shard
Address: 32 London Bridge St, London SE1 9SG
If you’re looking for breathtaking views of London, there’s no better place to visit than the top of The Shard. At 1,016 feet, it’s the tallest building not only in London but also in the UK.
The View from the Shard attraction offers panoramic views of the London skyline from the 72nd-story observation deck, 800 feet up. Even the toilets have great views.
You can also enjoy a drink or a snack (at appropriately high London prices) on Level 69 or the open-air Level 72 Skydeck while taking in the views. Be aware that there might be queues for the lift and that it can feel a little crowded. For this reason, you can’t bring tripods or big items of photographic equipment.
There are also seven other bars and restaurants elsewhere in The Shard. For example, you can have a cocktail at GONG on Floor 52 or contemporary British cuisine at Aqua Shard on Floor 31. And if it’s all given you a taste for heights, try this experience of climbing the roof of the O2 London Arena.
How to Get Around London
One of the best ways to get around London is by Tube. This extensive underground railway system is a lot cheaper than taking cabs. You can get great Tube Map apps on Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Buses are also inexpensive, but you’ll need to do a bit more research regarding routes and stops.
If you’re planning a lot of sightseeing, consider getting a Visitor Oyster card before leaving home. These are plastic smartcards to use instead of paper tickets. They can be used on all public transport in London, including from Heathrow and Gatwick airports, and will keep your transportation costs down.
You add pay-as-you-go credit depending on the length of your vacation. For example, £50 credit will last about a week. You apply online for your Visitor Oyster card, and it’s sent to your home address anywhere in the world. This means you can start using it as soon as you set foot off the plane. Find out how long a Visitor Oyster card takes to be delivered to your location.
You can also set up contactless payments with a bank card or mobile device. If you’re in a central location, consider putting on some comfy shoes and walking! You’ll likely spot plenty of unexpected gems along the way.
What are some of the best things to see in London?
There are so many amazing things to see in London! A few of our favorites include Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Tower Bridge. The daily Changing of the Guard ceremony is an iconic London sight, and it’s free!
What are the best places to visit in London?
The British Museum, Tate Modern, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London are some of the best attractions to check out when visiting London. A day in Covent Garden or The Museum Quarter in South Kensington will also give you plenty to do.
What is the Number 1 tourist attraction in London?
The most popular London attraction is the British Museum. Other top London tourist attractions include Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery, the London Eye, and Tate Modern. And millions of people come to look at Big Ben every year.
Are three days in London enough?
You can pack a lot into three days if you plan well. It’s best to focus on a small area if you want to visit London for only a few days. For example, explore the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Shoreditch. Unless you stay for at least a week, aim to base yourself close to the attractions you want to see, or you’ll spend too much time traveling. As a rule of thumb, stay close to the Thames for the largest number of attractions and landmarks.
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