There are many reasons why people visit London. Some people visit for the history and cultural attractions, such as the British Museum, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and Buckingham Palace. Others come to see the city’s world-class theaters and a show in the West End or to go shopping on Oxford Street and in Covent Garden.
We love it for all of these reasons and more. When we first visited we didn’t realize that we needed more than 2 days. There are just so many things to see and do in London that you really need to prioritize what you are most interested in and then go from there.
Since then we have been a few times and done different things on each visit. So, we wanted to put together the best things to do in London for every type of visitor.
Deciding exactly what to do in London can be overwhelming, to say the least. London has a long and fascinating history that stretches back over 2,000 years. This history is reflected in the city’s many iconic landmarks, such as the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. add to those world-class museums, fantastic shopping, a food scene that rivals the best in the world, and stunning parks and gardens and you can see what I mean.
There is no doubt you will find something that interests you and these are our favorite things to do in London for inspiration.
For a great introduction to all the top London Landmarks and attractions get tickets for the London Hop On Hop Off Tour – If you don’t have a long time in London, this is a great way to get an overview of the city, with stops right by Covent Garden and at both ends of The Strand.
Covent Garden is one of our favorite places in London. It is the heart of old London town, and feels like the London of Eliza Doolittle and yet completely up to date at the same time.
One of the most popular attractions in Covent Garden is the central market, which is housed in a beautiful 19th-century building and is home to a wide range of stalls selling everything from handmade crafts and gifts to fresh produce and flowers. The area around the market is also home to a number of high-end stores and boutiques, as well as street performers and buskers.
The Jubilee Market just across is the spot to find real London market sellers and some bargain gifts, and outside in the square is one of the best spots to watch street performers.
Covent Garden is easy to get to from central London, with a number of underground stations nearby, including Covent Garden, Leicester Square, and Charing Cross.
In our opinion, The National Gallery is the finest art gallery in London.
Situated smack in the middle of Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is the best place to see incredible classic and contemporary art pieces by European Masters such as Canaletto, Caravaggio, Titian, Turner, Rubens, and Van Gogh. The museum is home to a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to the early 20th century.
It was founded in 1824 and has been housed in its current building since 1838. In addition to the permanent collection, the National Gallery also hosts a number of special exhibitions and events throughout the year, so be on the lookout for those.
You can access it through several underground stations nearby, including Charing Cross, Leicester Square, and Piccadilly Circus.
Camden is a spot in London that has always been cool. From the swinging 60s to punk 80s to hipster millennials, it has always drawn an artistic crowd.
Camden Market is a popular destination for shopping, with a wide range of stalls selling everything from vintage clothing and accessories to art and crafts. The market is also home to a number of food stalls and restaurants, offering a variety of cuisines. If you are looking for real London souvenirs, usually made by locals, this is the place to get them.
While you are in the area you will not want to miss Camden Lock which is a historic canal lock that is now a popular tourist destination. The area around the lock is home to a number of shops, restaurants, and pubs, as well as a street market.
Other highlights include The Roundhouse, The Camden Canal, and the Camden Town Brewery if you want to grab a pint with lunch.
Carnaby Street is the grooviest street in London. Located in the West End. it was the place to hang out in London’s swinging 60s filled with music venues, and shops, and was the place to see and be seen.
In addition to shopping and dining, Carnaby Street is also home to a number of events and festivals throughout the year. These include the Carnaby Christmas lights, which is something you should make a point to see if you are visiting during the holiday season.
Carnaby Street is easily accessible from central London, with several underground stations nearby, including Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, and Tottenham Court Road.
Going to London without sampling a West End show is just as sacrilegious as going to New York without seeing a Broadway show.
Located in the heart of the city, the Theatre District is home to a number of iconic theaters, including the Lyceum Theatre, the Apollo Theatre, and the Victoria Palace Theatre.
The West End is known for its wide range of shows, from classic musicals and plays to modern comedies and dramas. Some of the most popular shows in the West End include “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Misérables,” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.”
To get the best prices for tickets, go to the actual theatre the show is on and ask about tickets available for that day. If you don’t mind sitting alone, or a little higher up in the theatre, you can get some excellent deals. Going to the TKTS Hut in Leicester Square or one of the many ticket shops around the square are also good places to get last-minute deals.
The main residence of King Charles III is home to himself and several other members of the British Royal family most of the year.
Buckingham Palace was originally built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703, but it was acquired by King George III in 1761 and has been the official residence of the monarchy ever since. The palace is home to the Queen and Prince Philip when they are in London, and it is also used for state occasions and official receptions.
Buckingham Palace is open to the public during the summer months when visitors can take a tour of the palace’s state rooms and see some of the royal art collection. The palace is also home to the Royal Mews, which houses the royal carriages and coaches.
Highlights to see at Buckingham palace are the Ballroom, the Picture Room, the Throne Room, and the White Drawing Room. If you are a real Royalist you can check out the Changing of the Guard which takes place every from April to July, and on alternate days from August to March. It begins at 11:00 am and lasts for about 45 minutes. Read about another royal residence How to Visit Windsor Castle.
Buckingham Palace is located in the City of Westminster, near Green Park and St. James’s Park. It is easy to get to from central London, with several underground stations nearby, including Victoria, Green Park, and St. James’s Park.
Probably one of the most iconic buildings in London, The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, is the seat of the UK government. Located on the north bank of the River Thames, the Houses of Parliament is home to the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the UK Parliament.
Read more: How to Visit The Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament in London
The Houses of Parliament are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are known for their impressive architecture, including the iconic clock tower, Big Ben. The palace was originally built in the 11th century, but it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since then, and it has undergone numerous renovations and expansions.
Visitors can take a tour of the Houses of Parliament and see some of the historic rooms and chambers, including the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Royal Gallery. The tours are run by the UK Parliament and are available on most days when Parliament is not in session. There are two main ways to visit the Houses: with an audio tour (60-75 minutes) or a guided tour (90 minutes). You used to be able to do afternoon tea here but that is currently not running.
If you want an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour Get Your Guide offers a 2-Hour Guided Tour of the Palace of Westminster, the Royal Gallery, the Prince’s Chamber, the House of Commons, and The Chamber of the House of Lords.
London has many wonderful museums – many of them free – and this is our personal favorite. The Natural History Museum at South Kensington is a fantastic day out for the whole family. The museum is home to a collection of over 80 million specimens, including fossils, minerals, and animals.
Highlights include Hintze Hall (Green Zone) with its 75 feet blue whale skeleton and the museum’s most famous is the incredible hall of dinosaurs in the Blue Zone. The museum hosts many events such as talks, late-night openings, sleepovers, and silent discos, so it is worth checking out what is on when you’re in the city.
The Shard, at 95-Storys, is the tallest building in the UK and is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. It is located in the London Bridge area, near the River Thames.
The Shard was designed by architect Renzo Piano and was completed in 2012. The building is home to offices, restaurants, a hotel, and residential apartments, as well as a public observation deck on the 72nd floor.
The Shard’s observation deck, known as The View from The Shard, offers panoramic views of London and is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can take a lift to the top of the building and see views of the city from up to 244 meters (800 feet) above ground.
You can book your time on the website, and choose your time. Or you can grab a skip-the-line ticket here. Visits are timed to enter within a 30-minute slot, but once you’re up there, you can stay as long as you like. They even provide a weather guarantee so if the weather is bad – therefore your view is too – you can come back another day for free.
Picadilly Circus is one of the most famous intersections in the world. Like New York’s Time Square, Piccadilly Circus is filled with neon lights and lots of activity. Located in London’s West End, Piccadilly Circus is the heart of London’s shopping district. It has held on to the tradition of showcasing billboards since 1908. But today it is one big wall of a giant neon sign.
Piccadilly Circus is surrounded by a number of popular attractions, including the London Pavilion, the Criterion Theatre, and the London Trocadero. If you are into photography this is a great place to shoot at night.
Check out this 3 Hour Private Walking Tour of London – Get to know all the history with a knowledgeable local guide dishing you all the dirt on the area over the years.
London’s nightlife is legendary. Whatever you’re interested in, you’ll find it here. Make sure to spend at least one evening out on the town in this electric city.
If you’d rather have a more relaxed evening, London has character-filled pubs by the bucket load, which you’ll find on pretty much every street.
The Tower of London was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and has played a number of roles over the centuries, including a royal palace, a treasury, a mint, a prison, and a royal armory. The Tower has several sections you can visit, and is a fantastic place for anyone interested in history, the British monarchy, or plots.
A couple of our favorite things that you shouldn’t miss are the White Tower, the Crown Jewels, and the medieval White Tower. The Tower of London is also home to the famous ravens, which are considered good luck for the kingdom. They live on the South Lawn and have been guarding the tower since the 1660s on orders of Charles II who was warned that if the birds ever left the fort, it and the crown would fall.
Not to be confused with the London Bridge, the Tower Bridge is located right at the Tower of London. Be sure to take a walk across the bridge and go on a tour of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
Tower Bridge was built in the late 19th century and was designed to allow tall ships to pass through the river while still allowing for road traffic. The bridge has two towers connected by walkways, which you can go up and they offer beautiful panoramic views of the city and the river.
In addition to its iconic design, Tower Bridge is also known for its bascule bridge, which can be raised to allow tall ships to pass through. The bridge is raised around 50 times per year, and visitors can watch the process from the walkways or from the river.
The London Eye is an icon of the city of London. It isn’t a Ferris wheel but is the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. The London Eye was built as part of the Millenium Project, initially going to be a temporary structure as part of the celebrations moving into the year 2000.
The 32 pods of the London Eye represent London’s 32 boroughs, it stands 135m tall, can carry 800 people in one trip around, and moves at the leisurely pace of 26cm per second. It is a fun way to get a great view of the city. In addition to the views, the London Eye is also home to a number of other attractions, including a 4D cinema experience (which is pretty cool) and a sky bar.
St. Paul’s Cathedral has stood on this spot for over 1,400 years and it is one of the most popular places to visit in London. The cathedral, located on Ludgate Hill in the City of London, is open to the public where they can admire the dome, stained glass windows, and the Golden Gallery, or join a service.
The cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was completed in 1710. It is known for its impressive architecture and its large dome, which is one of the highest in the world. St. Paul’s Cathedral is also home to a number of important works of art, including paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds and mosaics by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.
Visitors can also head down to the crypts and tombs where important war leaders including the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord Nelson are buried. There are guided tours of St. Paul’s Cathedral, touch-screen multimedia guides, and a 270-degree immersive film experience called Oculus are available.
For those looking for a London experience with a difference, Dennis Severs’ House is the place to go, and I’d highly recommend it. This “still-life drama” captured the lives of the house’s Huguenot silk-weaver owners from 1724 to the start of the 20th century.
Visitors are taken back in this time through the generations of the family’s ups and downs through sights, smells, and sounds throughout ten rooms. The intention is that the visitor feels like they have “passed through the surface of a painting” to experience this world.
Everything is conducted in silence, and there are also Silent Night tours in the evening, to add even more atmosphere. Reserve places for evening visits.
The Victoria and Albert, named after Queen Victoria and her husband Albert – or simply the V & A, is a state-of-the-art world-leading Art & Design Museum. Five millennia of human creativity are showcased here.
The museum is home to a collection of over 2.3 million objects, including art, design, and decorative arts from around the world. The V&A was founded in 1852 and is named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The museum is known for its impressive collection of ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, and other objects, as well as its art collection, which includes works by artists such as Raphael, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt.
If you are an art lover you will not want to miss this museum.
London has a lot of macabre history, and one fun the most fun things to do in London is to visit the London Dungeon. Visitors go through a series of rooms, chambers, venues, and experiences to meet with some of the most sordid characters of the city’s past, such as Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd.
The London Dungeon is based on the dark and gruesome history of London and features a number of interactive exhibits and shows, including the Torture Chamber, the Great Fire of London, and Jack the Ripper. The show is suitable for ages 10 and up, and it is not recommended for young children or those who are sensitive to horror themes.
London’s premier contemporary art gallery, Tate Modern is fittingly housed in the former Bankside Power Station. Home to a huge international and national collection of modern art, the pieces are dramatic, and always provoke opinions. It is one of the four branches of the Tate galleries, along with the Tate Britain, the Tate Liverpool, and the Tate St Ives.
Opened in 2000, some of the most famous paintings from 1900 onwards by modern artists such as Picasso, Dali, Rothko, Warhol, and Pollock are here. It also houses large-scale installation works.
As you know we are not really fans of Aquariums and this one is really no exception. If it is something you fancy then you should know that it is located on the South Bank and is home to a collection of over 500 species of marine animals, including sharks, rays, seahorses, and tropical fish.
London’s most elite department store has been delighting the rich and chic with its wares since 1849 and wowed Victorians with England’s first escalator in 1898. Even if you aren’t going on a shopping spree, the building is very beautiful and well worth a visit.
Make sure to check out the Egyptian Room, and Food Hall. Or stop in the delicious bakery and treat yourself to a pastry and coffee. But make sure you are dressed decently to enter, as the dress code set in 1989 – no excess skin showing, no offensive pictures or writing on clothes – still applies.
Dave and I wanted to add our visit to Greenwich. Standing on the Prime Meridan with a leg in the eastern and western hemispheres at the Royal Observatory is a very cool experience. But there are a lot of other things to see and do in the area.
We took a stroll through the Royal Naval College and marveled at the Painted Hall – a masterpiece dating back to the 18th century. Greenwich Park is also a place to wander around with views of London and the Thames.
Westminster Abbey is 1100 years old and all coronations have taken place here since William the Conquerer in 1066. Many a royal wedding has taken place at Westminster Abbey including William and Kate, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Westminster Abbey is a stunning architectural masterpiece, with a mixture of Gothic and Romanesque styles. The abbey is home to a number of beautiful chapels and chapels, including the Henry VII Lady Chapel, the Chapel of the Order of the Bath, and the Chapel of St. John the Baptist.
Westminster Abbey has a number of beautiful gardens, including the Dean’s Yard and the St. Margaret’s Churchyard. The gardens are a peaceful and serene place to relax and enjoy the beauty of the abbey. Everyone is welcome to attend daily services at this church which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The British Museum, located in the Bloomsberry area, is well worth a visit for its huge collection of artifacts. What’s more it free, you don’t have to pay to access it. The museum is home to a collection of over 8 million objects, including art, archaeology, and natural history from around the world.
The British Museum was founded in 1753 and is known for its impressive collection of ancient and modern art and artifacts. Some of the museum’s most famous exhibits include the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, and the Lewis Chessmen. The museum also hosts a number of special exhibitions and events throughout the year.
Located south of the Thames and across the London bridge, the borough market is a food lover’s dream come true. This historic food market in central London is full of stalls selling all kinds of street food and specialty dishes.
Have a sit and enjoy your meal or snack on the go as you stroll. The soft pretzel, paella, and chocolate fudge are a must-try when you visit the market. While it is busy during peak hours, there is plenty of food for all, you just might have to wait in line longer to get served.
Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster and is probably the most famous clock in the world. It was designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin and was completed in 1859.
The clock tower is 96 meters (316 feet) tall and is home to four clock faces, each of which is 7 meters (23 feet) in diameter. The clock is known for its accuracy and is a symbol of the United Kingdom’s timekeeping traditions.
The clock tower is open to the public on certain days of the year, and visitors can take a tour of the tower and see the clock mechanism. Big Ben is a popular attraction, and it can get very busy, especially during peak season. To avoid crowds, you may want to visit during the week or during the off-peak season, which is usually from November to March.
The museum is located in Colindale, in the borough of Barnet, and is home to a collection of over 100 aircraft, as well as a number of exhibits and displays on the history of the RAF. The RAF Museum was founded in 1972 and is known for its collection of aircraft, including planes from World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.
A great family activity especially for kids interested in planes.
The museum offers an interactive experience with a flight simulator and some games. While entry is free, you can pay extra for a tour guide. The gift shop is available and full of aircraft models and other souvenirs you can buy.
Take a break from all that London has to offer and enjoy a relaxing day at Hyde park which has been described as one of the best royal parks in London. The lush and spacious grounds offer the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Hyde park is very popular among locals and tourists and for good reason. Hyde Park covers an area of 350 acres and is home to a number of attractions, including the Speakers’ Corner, and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.
Enjoy a stroll through the park on a sunny day or picnic with friends with breathtaking views of the serpentine lake. Other activities you can indulge at Hyde park include; cycling, boating, or skating.
Located on the top floor of the Walkie-Talkie building, The Sky Garden was opened in 2015 and is home to a number of plants, trees, and flowers, as well as a number of restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Visitors can take a tour of the garden and enjoy the views from the viewing platforms, or they can dine at one of the restaurants. Enjoy 360-degree views of London’s skyline at Sky Garden. You cannot beat the views that this skyscraper building with indoor gardens has to offer.
Enjoy some coffee and cake, food or wine while you take in the views of the London bridge or Thames. Tickets to sky garden are free online and can be booked up to 3 months in advance.
Prime minister Winston Churchill used the massive bunker as his living and working quarters. Most of what is here are as it was left. If you love British history, then the Churchill war rooms are a must-see attraction when in London. See the papers the prime minister used to write his speeches on, maps rooms, the phone used to make calls to world leaders, and more.
The Churchill War Rooms were used as the underground headquarters for the British government during World War II. The museum includes a number of exhibits and displays on the history of the war and the role of Churchill, including a replica of Churchill’s war cabinet room and a number of interactive displays.
There is also a small section known as the Churchill museum that chronicles his life and early childhood.
Located in the east end, in the borough of Tower Hamlets, brick lane is one with a 450-year legacy to its name. Fun fact the street was once used as home to a thriving Brick and tile business in the 15th century and hence the name.
Today Brick Lane is popular for its Sunday market and South Asian restaurants. The Brick Lane Market is a popular destination for vintage clothing, antiques, and other second-hand goods. The market is open from 9 am to 5 pm and is a great place to explore and shop. While it is certainly busiest on Sunday, it is the best day to visit Brick Lane.
Street food is also in abundance if you don’t want to visit the restaurants nearby.
Located in the west end of London near Chinatown, Leicester square has lots of things for you to do and see. Leicester Square is known for its entertainment, and it is home to a number of theaters, cinemas, and live music venues. The square is a great place to see a show, a movie, or a concert.
There are several world-class cinemas in Leicester square such as Prince Charles cinema and cinema world, where many film premiers are held every year. There are also statues of Harry potter and other important entertainment figures.
If you do make it out here make sure to check out Leicester Square Gardens, the London Film Museum, and the Trocadero Centre. The square is a great place to spend the day exploring.
At Trafalgar square, you will find historic buildings such as the national gallery which is just 2 minutes away, and the St Martin in the field church.
Trafalgar Square is also home to historical statues such as the Nelson column and the lion sculptures.
Sit down at the fountain and experience the buzz of the city center. Lots of public events are held at Trafalgar square and there is always something for you to see.
London has a lot to offer for the fun of Harry Potter, one of Britain’s most loved literary characters.
Step inside filming locations such as Hagrid’s hut, the great hall, and Dumbledore’s office located in London. See and take photos of the original sets, costumes, and props.
With the Warner Bros Studio tour you get behind-the-scenes secrets of making the Harry Potter movies.
A truly magical experience for cinema lovers. Take a ride on the Harry Potter Hogwarts at King’s cross station. Learn more about spells and portions at The Cauldron. Booking the Harry Potter Tour of London is a great way to avoid getting overwhelmed or missing out on any spots.
Also known as Kew gardens, the Royal botanic gardens are a UNESCO world heritage site thanks to their diverse plant life. The gardens also serve as a world-class research institution.
Admire and marvel at the huge assortment of plant life from the giant trees, massive lily pads, and scented roses.
Take advantage of the treetop walkway for a bird’s eye view of the massive garden.
Overlooking Trafalgar Square, the national portrait gallery takes you through England’s history with portraits and photographs of its most famous personalities from royalty, artists, sportspersons, actors, singers, and much more.
Art subjects go as far back as the Tudors, a dream for those who love British history or history in general.
Step back in time and experience what life was like onboard royal navy worship during world war ii. HMS Belfast is not only one of London’s iconic landmarks but also a beautiful piece of war history.
The ship has about 9 decks you can explore as you learn about the history of the ship and its sailors.
Escape the hustle of the city at Hampstead Heath, one of London’s most popular green spaces that span over 320 hectares.
There is something for everyone here as the park boasts of a zoo, swimming pond, playgrounds, tracks, splash ponds, sports facilities, and more. Enjoy the views of London as you marvel at the beautiful trees and greenery at the heath.
The best way that you can save money and see all of the sites is to get yourself a London City Pass Select your pass duration and enjoy access to over 80 attractions including the Tower of London, The Shard, and a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.
With only a short amount of time, this will help you get around quickly and skip the line at a bunch of places. Definitely worth it.
Buying an Oyster card for £3: is a worthwhile investment to get around London on the tube if you are in London for a week or more or if you are planning on hopping about the zones a lot. You can find locations to buy an Oyster Card and places to top it up on this website. Read our tips: How to Get from London Airport to City Centre
If you are planning on traveling a lot around London in one day or week, or month even, it is worth getting a London Travel Card.
Since London is a huge metropolis with things going on year-round, there is really no bad time to visit the city if you are dressed for it and prepared for rain. Since it is a busy city year-round, there is no bad time to visit London, but there are better times for weather and crowds.
Make sure to plan ahead and don’t miss out on all the incredible experiences that London has to offer – find the best things to do and book them easily via GetYourGuide
Harry Potter fans will love the Harry Potter Tour of London where you’ll visit Platform 9 3/4 and Diagon Alley. You may also want to check out the Warner Bros Studio Tour from King’s Cross for die-hard fans.
London never stops. It is always reinventing itself and is always fresh as well as reliably full of history and character. Whether you’re going for the bustle, the art, music, food, museums, galleries, or just the buzz of it all, you can have a different experience every time. So when are you going to visit London?
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