The UK’s capital city, London covers 950 square miles, is home to over nine million people and attracts more than 30 million visitors annually, all looking for the best things to see and do in London.
So, where do you start to make the most of your trip? The best things to do in London will depend on your personal preferences. Are your interests in history and culture? Maybe historical architecture is your prime concern.
Are you all about the performing arts, concerts, ballet, opera or the theatre? Or maybe high-end dining is more to your taste. Enjoying some of the world’s favourite haute cuisine prepared by Michelin chefs in some of Europe’s favourite restaurants.
In this blog, we’ve put together 50 of the best things to do in London in their different boroughs, so you spend less time travelling, and more time exploring.
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50 Best Things to Do in London
1.The City of London
Let’s start at the beginning, with the City of London. The birthplace of London is just one mile square in area and was founded in AD 50, with the Roman name of Londinium.
Today, as the UK’s financial centre, The City is a heavily populated, busy, bustling area of historic buildings and modern skyscrapers.
Attractions in the City of London include numerous historical sites, churches, civic buildings and the favourite shopping precincts of Royal Exchange, Leadenhall Market and One New Change.
To keep the wheels of commerce turning are numerous cafes, eateries and street food stalls to grab a bite during the day.
In the evenings, take your choice from old English pubs, trendy cocktail and wine bars, local eateries, fast-food joints and international restaurants, including Michelin-starred venues.
2. St Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul´s Cathedral is one of the most famous and visited sights of London.
Located on Ludgate Hill, the original cathedral was destroyed in The Great Fire of London in 1666. It was rebuilt to a design by Sir Christopher Wren and was completed and consecrated in 1710.
Inside the church, you can view monuments and memorials to various historical figures, including the Duke of Wellington, Admiral Lord Nelson, JMW Turner and Sir Christopher Wren.
You can also climb to the Stone and Golden Galleries for great views of the London skyline.
Purchase your tickets in advance here.
3. Bank of England and Museum
Located on Bartholomew Lane and established in 1694 to become England’s Central Bank, the building also houses the interesting Bank of England Museum.
Free to visit, inside you will see old gold bars, historical British currency, forgeries, and how they were discovered. You can also view historical documents from such notables as the Duchess of Marlborough, Nelson and George Washington.
4. Visit The Tower of London, one of the top things to do in London
Sitting on the eastern edge of the Square Mile, one of the favourite attractions with visitors looking for things to see in London is the Tower of London. In fact, on average, the Tower welcomes over three million paying visitors every year through its doors.
The White Tower, built in 1066 by William the Conqueror, is considered the finest example of Norman fortress architecture in Europe.
Attractions in and around the tower include the Crown Jewels and the famous Tower Ravens. The Tower Green, White Tower, Bloody Tower and the Medieval Palace. Exhibitions include the Line of Kings, Armoury in Action, Torture at the Tower and the Fusiliers Museum.
Tickets for the Tower of London can be bought from the tower box office or online.
The best way to explore The tower of London is by a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide where you’ll learn all about this historical site.
5. The Old Bailey (the UK’s Central Criminal Court)
Just a couple of hundred yards from St Paul’s Cathedral, the UK’s Central Criminal Court was built on the site of one of England’s most notorious prisons, Newgate.
There is no entrance fee, and the public can view trials from the public galleries. No phones, cameras, snacks or drinks are allowed inside.
6. City of London Guildhall
Located off Gresham and Basinghall streets, London Guildhall is the seat of the City of London government (as opposed to the UK government).
Dating back to 1411, the interior appears more church than a civic building, with ceilings over 25 metres high. It is a Grade I listed building.
Various tours are available, including monthly tours when the council is sitting. All tours have to be pre-booked from the City of London Guides.
Additional information: City of London Chuildhall
7. The Barbican Centre, Europe’s largest centre of the arts
Situated on Silk Street, the Barbican is a centre for film screenings, art exhibitions, classical and contemporary music concerts and theatre performances.
More of a complex than one single building, it was designed in the mid-nineteen-sixties and completed in Brutalist style in 1982.
The complex houses cinemas, theatres, art galleries, exhibition halls, conference rooms, a library, shops, cafes, restaurants, numerous green spaces, and a gift shop. It is also home to the London Symphony Orchestra.
A complete programme of activities can be found online at: The Barbican Centre
8. Tower Bridge
Spanning the River Thames on the edge of the square mile, Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894, is a Grade 1 listed building, and joins the boroughs of Tower Hamlets on the one side and Southwark on the other.
You can view the bridge as it lifts to allow shipping through, enjoy a birds-eye view of the surroundings from nearly 140ft above the river, or visit the Victorian Engine Rooms for a history of this iconic drawbridge.
Tickets are available online or from the bridge.
9. Covent Garden
A part of London’s West End, a day (or longer) can be spent seeking out some of the things you want to see in London around vibrant Covent Garden.
It is an energetic area of the old and the new, popular with fashionistas, theatregoers, and fine diners. A place people like to linger, to see and be seen.
Just walking the area will have the pulse quickening. The main square and surrounding streets are full of chic cafes, quality restaurants, unique independents and international retail brands.
But there’s much more to Covent Garden than just a walk through its central square. There are also some excellent attractions just around the corner.
Read also: Where to stay in London
10. Covent Garden Market
From the mid-1600s, Covent Garden Market supplied fresh fruit, veg, herbs and flowers to the population of London. Over the years, the market expanded, but time wasn’t on its side.
With an increasing population and poor access to old, narrow streets, in 1974, Covent Garden Market moved to a new site in Nine Elms, and the original site was redeveloped into a large retail area.
Now it is a market for everyone, split into different products on different days.
The Apple Market: Open Tuesday through Sunday. An arts and crafts market offering artisan goods, handmade jewellery and crafts, watercolours and prints. On Monday, the market specialises in collectables and antiques.
The East Colonnade Market: Open Monday through Sunday, this market specialises in hand-knitted children’s clothing, artwork, handmade soaps and scented candles, jewellery, handmade bags and handbags, cakes and sweets.
The Jubilee Market: On the South Piazza, the market is open seven days a week. On Monday you will find Antiques. Tuesday through Friday, it’s a general market selling clothing and a range of home goods. At the weekend you will find arts and crafts.
Around the market there are also specialist shops, cafes and food stalls, where you can grab a seat and check your purchases over your favourite coffee.
11. Royal Opera House
One of the world’s most famous theatres, the current Opera House is the third to be built on the site and opened its doors in 1858. It was in 1892 however, that it formally became known as The Royal Opera House.
Today it is home to The Royal Opera, The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House and the Royal Ballet.
Guided tours are available at the theatre, and times and performances can be booked from the box office or online from the official site.
12. National Gallery
The National Gallery was founded in 1824, with the purchase of a private collection of paintings from banker John Julius Angerstein and displayed at his house at 100 Pall Mall, until a permanent venue could be found.
In 1831 it was decided a new purpose-built gallery should be built on the edge of Trafalgar Square, and the new National Gallery opened its doors in 1838.
With certain collections being moved to their own buildings and extensions being added to the building, the gallery today houses over 2,300 paintings dating back to the 13th century, with works from Matisse, Renoir, Rembrandt and many more.
Best of all, entrance is totally free, as are any temporary exhibitions. Find out what’s on at: The National Gallery
13. London Transport Museum
Highlighting the link between transport, its infrastructure and the city, the London Transport Museum holds thousands of items, including locomotives associated with London transport since 1800.
After several moves as it grew, the collection finally settled in the Flower Market building in Covent Garden in 1980, and is designated ‘Outstanding’ by the Arts Council of England.
14. The South Bank
If you’re concerned about what you can see and do in London while trying to keep pre-teen family members happy, take a close look at staying around South Bank.
Bordered by the Thames in central London and close to Westminster, South Bank has branded itself as a centre for culture and the arts, yet is also home to many of the capital’s more modern attractions.
Soak up the atmosphere. Stroll the banks of the river. Check out the numerous cafes and tearooms, and do a little window shopping.
Jot down popular eateries such as the Oxo Tower Restaurant and bar and the South Bank Centre Food Market, a street food market with cuisines from Europe and Asia.
Or, in the summer, The Green Room, where you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer and delicious pizza in the open air.
Most importantly, you are also close to some of London’s most popular attractions.
15. Sealife London Aquarium
Located on Westminster Bridge Road, the Aquarium opened in 1997 and attracts over one million visitors a year. More than just an aquarium, you can get up-close and personal with sharks and rays. Waddle with Gentoo penguins and enjoy over 5,000 aquatic animals.
Conservation plays a big part in the Aquarium’s life, and you will see critically endangered species, and learn how the Sea Life Centre is trying to reverse the trend.
Tickets to the Sea Life Centre can be bought on the day or online.
16. The London Dungeon
A fabulous attraction for the whole family – that is if you’re into scary stuff like haunted houses, eerie cemeteries or Jack the Ripper.
A great time for all, with murderous characters around every corner, scary rides in the darkness and audience participation to solve the dilemmas. The whole family will love it.
Tickets are available at the door or online.
17. London Eye
The London Eye was opened in 2000 for the Millennium celebrations. At 443 feet tall, with a Ferris wheel of 394 feet in diameter, it was officially named the Millennium Wheel and, at that time, was the highest viewpoint in London.
Within a short period, the wheel became internationally known as The London Eye. Today it carries over three million visitors aloft every year. To enjoy the best things to see in London from a height of over 400 feet.
The London Eye sits by the River Thames between Hungerford Bridge and Westminster Bridge and operates from 11am until 6pm, with one rotation taking 30 minutes.
Tickets for the Eye can be bought from the ticket box or online. Various options are available, from booking your own pod, to a London Eye champagne experience, a multi-ticket including a 40-minute river excursion, or a fast-track option where you can avoid the queues.
Buy online your entry ticket here.
18. The Shard
Standing at 32 London Bridge St, The Shard is one of London’s newest attractions. Ten years in the planning, it was completed in 2012 and is the tallest building in both the UK and Western Europe.
Construction of its 73 floors is of galvanised steel and 56,000 square metres of glass. Not a job for your average window cleaner.
The Shard is a multi-purpose building containing offices, a top-class restaurant and bar, and an 18-floor hotel. The restaurant and bar are open to non residents, and there are areas with jaw-dropping 360° views across London on the 69th and 72nd floors.
There is no entry charge provided you are a hotel guest or using the restaurant or bar.If you just want to enjoy the view, buy online your entry ticket here.
19. The Southbank Centre
Located on Belvedere Road, Southbank: the Southbank Centre is a complex made up of the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the Purcell Room, the National Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection.
If your favourite things to see in London are all about culture and the arts, then a visit to the Southbank Centre should be high on your list of things to do in London.
The complex is home to six resident orchestras and attracts over four million visitors a year wanting to tour the complex or take in a show.
You can also spend time exploring the Southbank Food Market, numerous cafes, restaurants and bars. And shops selling everything from music-related souvenirs, books and gifts to exclusive ceramics, jewellery, prints and textiles.
Bookings to the complex or shows can be made onsite or online. For more information and booking, visit check this site.
20. National Theatre
A short walk along the Southbank will bring you to the National Theatre. In 1963 the theatre put on its first performance under Sir Laurence Olivier, although it wasn’t until 1976 that the theatre moved to its current location.
The building contains three theatres, the Olivier, Lyttelton and Dorfman. A complete list of current productions and what will be playing during your visit can be found at: https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk
If you continue to the edge of Southbank and the beginning of Bankside, you will be close to the Tate Modern, the Globe Theatre and Borough Market.
21. London Borough of Southwark
As you stroll the riverbank through Bankside, you will reach the London Borough of Southwark. It is one of the oldest boroughs in the city, and a popular area with Americans looking to trace their roots back to the Pilgrim Fathers and their journey on the Mayflower.
The English Separatists Church was founded in Southwark in 1520 and the congregation was persecuted remorselessly. The Master of the Mayflower, a number of his crew, and some of the passengers lived in Southwark, and most of the arrangements were made for the historic voyage from there.
The journey is documented as starting from Dartmouth in Devon. But the voyage began in 1620 from Rotherhithe in Southwark, picking up further passengers in Dartmouth, making a total of 102. Thirty-seven of these were members of the Southwick Separatist church congregation.
Seek out the numerous references to that historic journey. Walk along old cobbled streets, and seek out the famous Mayflower pub and its many references to the Mayflower and its Captain.
With shopping centres, plenty of cafes, pubs, and eateries and some of the favourite attractions to see in London, it’s a great area to spend a little exploring time.
22. St Mary’s Church
Rotherhithe’s local parish church, St Mary’s, dates from the 12th century, with the current building completed in 1716. It has strong historical ties with the Pilgrim Fathers and the Mayflower.
Captain Jones, the Mayflower skipper, is believed to have been buried in the churchyard in 1622. Unfortunately, over the years, the grave has been lost, and a memorial plaque was put in place in 1995, the 375th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage.
23. Shakespeare’s Globe
Located at 21 New Globe Walk, in the Bankside Cultural Quarter, Shakespeare’s Globe is the third Globe Theatre to be built. Opened in 1997, it sits close to the theatre’s original site, and its design and construction have been kept as accurate to the original as possible.
The Globe is an open-air theatre where the show goes on whatever the weather, so warm, waterproof clothing is a good idea through the cooler months. Failing that, in 2014, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse opened to compliment the Globe.
It is an indoor theatre recreating the atmosphere of a playhouse during the Jacobean period of 1603 to 1625.
Further information and booking can be found here.
24. The Clink Prison Museum Southwick, something different to do in London with the kids
In southern England, a popular slang term for prison is ‘clink’, as in ‘he’s in clink’ (prison or jail).
Now you can sample life in one of London’s oldest prisons. Make your way to Clink Street, Southwick. The Clink dates back to 1144, and spans over 600 years as one of London’s most notorious prisons.
Drunkards, harlots, debtors and heretics would regularly find themselves incarcerated within its walls. Now converted to a museum on the same site, pay it a visit if you’re looking for something different to do in London with the kids.
Enter, and imagine the original prison’s sights, sounds, smell and misery. Handle the various instruments of torture and listen to the misfortune and torment that found so many people ending up in The Clink.
Further information and booking check this site.
25. The Tate Modern
Close to the Millennium Bridge, the Tate Modern was built on the site of the old Bankside power station, and utilises much of the station’s architecture in its construction.
It is one of four Tate Galleries in the UK, made up of two in London, one in Liverpool and one in Cornwall. It opened in 2000 and has added further galleries to house its increasing collections.
Entry is through what used to be the power station’s turbine hall, while different collections are housed in the six-storey high boiler house.
The Tate holds a vast collection of Modern Art and is one of the most extensive galleries of Modern art in Europe. It is in the top things to do in London, and one of the UK’s favourite attractions.
Entry to the standard exhibitions is free, with a possible charge for temporary showings. The gallery is open seven days a week from 10.00 to 18.00.
26. Borough Market
Sometimes you need a little respite from all the rushing from one attraction in London to another. A little downtime. A little time to just browse and recharge the batteries.
Located at 8 Southwark Street, the market has a history dating back 1,000 years. Borough Market’s three main areas are divided into Three Crown Square, mainly wholesale, where you will find the larger producers and retailers.
Green Market, where you will find small, specialist traders. And the Borough Market Kitchen, an area of street food traders offering street food from around the world. It is one of London’s oldest food markets.
If that’s not enough, the area is full of specialist shops, restaurants, bars and cafes.
27. More things to do in London: Notting Hill
With fabulous streets and lanes crying out to be explored, colourful, pastel-painted properties, street art, trendy cafes, bars and pubs, ethnic and international restaurants and plenty of window-shopping opportunities, Notting Hill has something for everyone.
Not just a busy multi-ethnic district of homes and businesses, Notting Hill is also home to several quirky, out-of-the-ordinary things to see and do in London.
The annual Notting Hill Carnival is one that everyone knows, attracting thousands of visitors from across the UK and Europe.
But there are also lesser-known attractions in Notting Hill, which you will be glad you found while searching for different things to see in London.
28. Portobello Market
Also known as Notting Hill Market, Portobello Market stretches for almost a mile along Portobello Road, and is considered by many to be one of the best markets in London.
Whichever day you visit, you will find stall holders set up along the street, but Saturday is the market’s big day, with everything from fruit and veg stalls, home goods, clothing stalls for all ages, computer accessories, home décor and book stalls.
Saturday is also the day you will find vintage and retro clothing stalls, second-hand stalls, souvenir stalls and the famous antique stalls. One word of caution if you’re looking for antiques, choose carefully. Not all are as old as you might think they are.
29. The Museum of Brands
Located on Lancaster Road, Notting Hill, the museum traces the changing pattern in advertising from the Victorian era through the swinging sixties up to the present day.
From soap, shampoos and household goods to cars, TVs, music, chocolate and sweets, the museum has a time tunnel of how different brand advertising has adapted and changed through the years, to keep pace with changing trends.
Tickets are available online from: The Museum of Brands
30. The Graffik Gallery
Across Europe, Street Art has developed into an art form in its own right, championed by the likes of Banksy, Futura 2000, Barry McGee and Enrique Enn.
Located at 284 Portobello Road, the gallery exhibits works from various world-famous urban artists, including Banksy.
Free to enter; besides the extensive collection of street art on view, the gallery holds gallery workshops for up-and-coming urban artists.
31. The Coronet Theatre
Located in a Grade II listed building at 103 Notting Hill Gate, The Coronet Theatre is a small 195-seat auditorium, with an extra 90 seats in its studio space.
The theatre’s history dates back to 1898. Over the years, it has swayed between theatre and cinema until, in 2014, it was once again commissioned as a theatre. The venue specialises in a diverse range of international productions.
A full itinerary of upcoming productions and booking can be found at: The Coronet Theatre
32. A Thames Cruise – see the city from the water
Wherever you stay in London, you’re never that far from the banks of the River Thames and one of the most popular things to do in London. So why not make the most of it?
More visitors than ever are choosing to explore the sights and attractions of London from the water, rather than on congested roads, busy trains and on buses. Numerous cruise options are available from different companies, and we’ve broken them down as follows.
HOP ON HOP OFF TOURS
With a 24-hour unlimited pass, all you have to do is pick the attractions you want to visit, such as the London Eye, House of Commons or Tower Bridge. With no time constraints, you can spend a whole morning at one attraction. Or plan to visit two, three, four or more on the same day.
Book online: River Thames Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Cruise
FIXED TIME WATER TOURS
Numerous fixed-time tours take you past a number of London’s most famous monuments. Multi-lingual commentary and often snacks and drinks are available to purchase onboard.
Book online: Westminster to Greenwich River Thames Cruise
LUNCH OR AFTERNOON TEA TOURS
Take in the views while you enjoy a light lunch or an English Afternoon Tea. Menus include scones, jam and thick double cream, finger sandwiches, cakes and a choice of teas.
Book online: Afternoon Tea Cruise on the River Thames
LONDON DINNER CRUISES
See London’s big attractions lit up on one of the many dinner cruises. Wine or champagne and a quality three or four-course dinner. Some also include live music and dancing.
Other cruises include a tour of the Thames combined with another attraction, such as the London Eye or the Cloud Cable Car. Or where large groups can hire a cruiser complete with a bar, DJ or live entertainment to party on the river.
Book online: River Thames Dinner Cruise
To give Kensington its full title, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea will provide you with an insight into what to expect. As the smallest borough in Inner London, it is awash with old money and modern affluence.
It is one of the city’s wealthiest boroughs, and one of the most popular districts with visitors looking for things to see in London.
Kensington High Street and the surrounding area is home to numerous foreign embassies and consulates. You can stroll streets full of Victorian townhouses and explore desirable 18th-century mews properties decked with hanging baskets and colourful potted plants.
Take a stroll down Knightsbridge, and look around Harvey Nichols and Peter Jones. Call into Harrods for one of their famous Afternoon Teas.
Do a little window shopping at the 160 retailers along Kings Road, or visit Sloane Street to browse some of the world’s most exclusive and luxurious brands.
For those seeking cultural things to do in London, Kensington also has an excellent selection of museums, royal palaces and beautiful gardens.
34. Victoria and Albert Museum
Located on Cromwell Road, Kensington, the Victoria and Albert Museum is named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and was founded in 1852.
With over 1.5-million objects on show, it is the most extensive permanent collection of design, decorative and applied arts worldwide.
It includes ancient oriental ceramics, fashion in motion, jewellery, photography, architecture and even Alexander McQueen evening dresses.
The museum also regularly features temporary exhibitions. Free to enter, the V&A is open from 10.00am to 5.45pm, and 10.00pm on Fridays. Full details can be found at: https://www.vam.ac.uk/
35. The Natural History Museum
Close to the V&A on Cromwell Road, construction of the building began in 1873, and the museum was founded in 1881. Over the years, it has grown and today houses a staggering 80 million objects.
Not all can be shown at the same time, but the collection is split into five main sections. Mineralogy, entomology, botany, zoology and fossils. Within the groups are various specimens collected by the famous naturalist Charles Darwin.
Full details of the collections, opening hours and ticket sales can be found on the official site.
36. Science Museum, one of the best things to do in London for the whole family
Located on Exhibition Road, Kensington, and just a minute’s stroll from the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum opened its doors in 1857.
From award-winning exhibitions to permanent items such as Puffing Billy, the world’s oldest steam locomotive and Stephenson’s Rocket, circa 1829, the museum is a major draw with the whole family, attracting over three million visitors a year looking for the best things to do in London.
Check out the museum’s IMAX documentaries such as Wonderlab, Pattern Pod and Exploring Space.
Totally Free, opening times are 10.00am to 6.00pm seven days a week. Full details of current attractions can be found here.
37. Enjoy London´s Nightlife
Whether you’re visiting London to eat and take in a show, or to hit the pubs and party till dawn, the city is alive with restaurants, pubs, clubs and theatres to meet your every need.
With around 40 theatres and numerous restaurants, The West End and its adjacent areas of Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Chinatown and Soho is probably the best place for fine dining, catching a top show, or taking in a concert.
With its colourful history of risqué massage parlours, clip-joints, skin flicks and sex shops, Soho has always been a magnet for the curious. Today, if you try hard enough, you can still find the odd ‘Knock three times and ask for Fred’ kind of clubs, but mainstream bars, pubs and restaurants have reclaimed most of this eclectic area.
Soho is also the place to be for the LGBT community, especially around the clubs and bars of Old Compton Street. The latest fashion and lifestyle trends, and more music pubs and bars, can be found around Carnaby Street and the surrounding lanes.
If you’re looking for quirky bars and clubs in Soho, look out for Barrios Cocktail Bar, with its multi-coloured décor and bottomless drinks packages. Basement Sate, dimly lit French chic with black leather furnishings offering everything from a cloudy cocktail to Scotch on the rocks.
Or maybe Be At One on Regent’s Street. Two bars, one big and airy with resident DJs to kick the evening off, and downstairs a club bar where you can dance the night away.
Although a short tube ride away, if House Music is what rocks your boat, why not visit where it all started? The Ministry of Sound, at 103 Gaunt Street, London, first opened its doors in 1991, and has been at the forefront of House ever since.
The club is split into four rooms: The Box, 103, Baby Box and The Loft, and you can join hundreds of other revellers enjoying the unique sounds from the DJ boxes.
38. Kensington Palace
Built originally as a small suburban getaway for the well-heeled, Jacobean Kensington Palace dates back to 1605. It was bought by King William III and Mary II as a retreat from an increasingly busy London, and has remained a royal residence ever since.
Over the years, various kings and queens have added their own embellishments, to make the palace what it is today, the home of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
You can book the entry ticket online and guided tours are available.
39. Kensington Palace Gardens
Free to enjoy, the palace gardens were originally a part of the palace grounds and sat in front of the palace adjacent to Hyde Park. In fact, for over 100 years, Kensington Gardens was a part of Hyde Park and used by Henry VIII as a private hunting ground.
A fabulous place to take lunch on a busy day exploring the things to see in London, check out the Sunken Garden, stroll through Cradle Walk, take in the Wildflower Meadow and seek out the Formal Gardens. All this in over 250 acres of beautiful city countryside.
40. City of Westminster
One of London’s 32 boroughs, the City of Westminster lies in Central London, east of Kensington and west of the City of London.
An attraction in its own right, it encompasses the historic districts of Soho, Covent Garden, the West End and St James’s, and is home to many of the most popular attractions to see in London.
For those times away from the sightseeing, there are several shopping areas. Visit Fortum & Mason on St James’s. Window shop down Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street in the West End, or go designer shopping in Mayfair.
Plenty of cafes, tearooms, pubs and restaurants will provide brunch, lunch and dinner, while the nightlife around Soho and the West End will have you dancing through the night.
Recommended tour: Westminster and Changing of the Guard Tour
41. The Houses of Parliament (Palace of Westminster)
Although a royal residence is believed to have been built on the site as far back as 1016, the building was rebuilt in Gothic Revival style circa 1870. Today the oldest part of the palace as we know it dates to 1087.
The Palace of Westminster was first used for the Parliament of England meetings in 1295. In 1707 the full British Parliament had its first session in the Palace of Westminster and has done so, pretty much, ever since.
Today, the Palace of Westminster is home to the House of Commons, the House of Lords and Westminster Hall.
You can turn up at the palace and queue to watch various parliamentary debates in either house from the public galleries. Others, such as PM Question Time, require pre-booking. Full details can be found here.
42. Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower)
Big Ben is one of the city’s favourite attractions with people looking for things to do in London. The Palace of Westminster’s clock tower dates to 1844, when the palace was rebuilt after the fire of 1834.
The Tower is 316ft (96m) tall. The dials on each side are 22.9ft (7 m) in diameter. The minute hands are 14ft (4.2 m) in length, and each numeral is 23in (60cm) long.
The bell first chimed across London on 31st May 1859, and has done so, more or less, up to the present day.
Full details, times and booking can be found here.
43. Trafalgar Square
Probably London’s most famous public square, Trafalgar Square dates back to the early 19th century, and is surrounded by some of the city’s most iconic attractions.
Constructed on what used to be Charing Cross, the square has numerous statues and fountains. Admiral Lord Nelson on his plinth and the lions guarding it, taking pride of place.
Trafalgar Square has always been a square of the people and has seen massive gatherings for everything from the Bloody Sunday demonstration in 1887, to ban-the-bomb and climate change demos in more recent times.
It is also a favourite venue for locals and visitors to see in the New Year, with Big Ben’s chimes reverberating across the city at midnight.
44. Westminster Abbey
If you want one attraction to see in London that encompasses British history, it must be Westminster Abbey.
Founded as a monastery in AD 960 by Benedictine monks, the abbey as we know it today has seen significant reconstruction and refurbishment over the centuries.
Today it is considered a mainly Gothic-style church, is a Grade I listed building and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1987.
The abbey has been the Coronation church of every crowned British monarch since William the Conqueror in 1066. Royal weddings held in the abbey date back to 1100, and over 30 kings and queens are interred in the vaults.
The last British monarch buried in the abbey was George II, who died in 1760. Since then, they have been laid to rest outside of London, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
Book online: Westminster Abbey Entrance Ticket
45. Westminster Cathedral
Located on Victoria Street in Westminster, Westminster Cathedral is the mother church of the Catholic faith in the UK. Compared to much of London’s religious architecture, it is a young building, with the first bricks laid down in 1895, and the building consecrated in 1903.
Of brick construction in early Christian Byzantine style, the church is reputed to have the highest and widest knave in the UK. It is decorated with over 125 varieties of marble, and the church contains many religious artefacts.
The cathedral is open Monday to Friday from 08.00 to 19.00 and Saturday and Sunday from 10.00 to 13.00. Admission to tour the church or join in services is free.
46. Buckingham Palace
Built between 1703 and 1705 and known as Buckingham House, it became the Queens House when it was bought by George III in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte, as their London family home.
Extended during the early 19th century, it became the official London residence of British monarchs with the accession to the throne of Queen Victoria in 1837, and became known as Buckingham Palace.
The palace has 775 rooms, is 108 metres long, 120 metres deep, 24 metres high, and sits in 39 acres of grounds.
Very much a working residence, it hosts State visits, banquets and tea parties for presidents, kings, queens and religious heads from around the world.
It is also the setting for functions recognising the achievements of the British government, industry, sporting achievements and charities.
The palace is open through the summer months, with reduced tours through December, January and Easter.
Information on the various tours and opening times can be found on: https://www.rct.uk/visit/buckingham-palace
You can watch the Changing of the Guard from outside the palace gates, usually every other day. Arrive at 10.30 for an 11.00 start.
You can book the entry ticket online .
Recommended tour: Changing of the Guard Walking Tour
47. The British Museum – the world’s first museum free for all to visit
By the beginning of the 18th century, Britain had been exploring the world for over 200 years. Not only exploring, but collecting artefacts from the increasing number of countries her ships and armies visited.
Having collected objects and treasures amounting to over 180,000, in 1753 an Act of Parliament was created, to allow ‘all studious and curious persons’ free entry to view these artefacts. In actual fact, limiting access to just the affluent, scholars and students.
In 1759 the law was amended, allowing all and anyone with an interest to view the collections FREE of charge – and it has remained that way ever since.
Today, the museum has over 8 million objects documenting life and culture from the beginning of humanity to the present day.
The British Museum is one of the world’s most visited museums. It attracts over 6 million visitors every year and is one of the most popular tours to do in London.
Full details of new exhibitions and booking can be found Here.
48. Visit alternative Camden – one of the best things to do in London
Although human settlements are known to have existed in the area since 7000 BC, Camden started life as little more than a hamlet in 1791. Some 40 years later, with the opening of the Regent’s Canal in 1820, Camden began to develop into an area of commerce and trade.
Located centrally in the City of Westminster, Camden is now an area in Greater London with just over 250,000 residents. It’s not just the area’s boundaries that have changed. Its young, energetic population is a melting pot of ethnicities, reflected in its many shops, markets, music, pubs and eateries.
Markets are a big draw in Camden. From fresh produce markets to mixed markets selling everyday clothing to retro fashion, jewellery and trinkets, household goods, accessories, vinyl records and music tapes, kids’ toys, bric-a-brac, and so much more.
Camden’s most popular market areas are Regent’s Canal by Camden Lock, Inverness Street, Buck Street Village and the Stables. If you want the big high street shops and fashion brands, head for Camden High Street.
For cultural history, amongst others, look out for art exhibitions at The Cob Gallery and Camden Art Centre, or visit the Jewish Museum London for Jewish history.
With its alternative and arty culture, street art is also popular, with some of the best found around north Camden and Castlehaven Road, Kentish Town and Hawley Street. Organised Street Art Tours are available online.
Said to be the birthplace of punk, music has always played a big part in Camden’s nightlife. Well-known artists such as the late Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty, and Liam Gallagher used to gig in local pubs like the Hawley Arms on Castlehaven Road, before fame and fortune arrived.
Some of today’s most popular music venues around Camden include:
- The Hawley Arms, Castlehaven Road
- Koko, the Underworld and the Electric Ballroom
- Jazz and Blues can be found at the Jazz Café or Blues Kitchen
- While for English Folk music and loads of folk memorabilia, visit Cecil Sharp House on Regent’s Park Road
You will find plenty of street food choices as you tour the markets. However, for evening dining, you can choose gastropubs, restaurants and takeaways offering cuisine from around the world. Think English, American, Spanish, Greek, Cypriot, Asian, Japanese, Caribbean or Indian.
The railway, Underground (Metro), and numerous bus routes arrive in Camden from around the city, making exploring this colourful district one of the favourite things to do in London.
49. Visit Sky Garden – and get a birds-eye view of London
Are you getting a little neckache from constantly looking up at London’s main attractions? Then take a break and head for Sky Garden.
Located on the 32nd floor at 20 Fenchurch Street, London, the Sky Garden opened its doors to visitors in 2015. The building itself, often referred to as the Walkie-Talkie due to its shape, is a modern steel and glass office building 34 storeys tall.
The Sky Garden offers 360° views of some of London’s favourite attractions, including The Shard, The Gherkin, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Thames.
Whatever time of year you visit Sky Garden, you can enjoy that lush, green Mediterranean vibe. Much of the décor is made up of drought-resistant plants such as African Lily, Red Hot Poker, Bird of Paradise and fragrant herbs such as French Lavender.
The Sky Garden, the highest garden in London, includes an observation deck with an open terrace area. Two bars, Sky Pod Bar and City Garden Bar. And three restaurants, The Fenchurch Restaurant, Fenchurch Terrace and Darwin Brasserie.
Access to the Garden is FREE but must be booked online, along with access to the bars or restaurants if you wish to enjoy a drink, lunch or dinner during your visit.
Full details and booking can be found at: Sky Garden London
50. Go behind the scenes of the Harry Potter film sets
One of the best things to do in London with children is taking a tour Warner Bros. Studio. Who doesn’t love Harry Potter? Is there a better way to spend time with your children than heading to the world of Harry Potter?
There are Warner Bros. Studio Tours with transfers available. You will board the bus in central London. Once at the Studios,you will explore your favorite filming locations such as the impressive Great Hall, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor common room, the cobble-stoned Diagon Alley and picture the local witches and wizards as you pass Ollivander’s, Flourish and Blotts, and Eeylops Owl Emporium, and much more.
>>> Book Warner Bros. Studio Tour with Transfers <<<
So, 50 of the best things to see and do in London. Many you will have read about and maybe visited. Others, I hope, will give you a reason to start thinking about what you want to see and do in London on your next short break in the city.