Traveling to London? I have gathered up 150+ things to do in London. This extensively researched list features all of the best things to do in London – from private tours in vintage mini coopers, to where to have afternoon tea, plus how to stay overnight at the zoo. This list of things to do in London will keep you busy if you are a tourist, study abroad student, or local.
After extensive research, I have created a list of things to do in London including museums, historical sites, places to shop, tours to take, restaurants, pubs, and more things to do in London. This is a complete resource of all the best things to do in London for planning your trip.
When you marry a Brit, you end up spending a good amount of time in London, and I am always searching for new and different things to do in London. I haven’t done everything on this list, but I have done many of the items on the list. The things I haven’t done come recommended by friends or based on online reviews. If you have suggestions, I would love to hear them in the comments.
Note: This list of 150+ Things to Do in London was first published in January 2018, while I do try to keep it up to date, restaurants and business may close, museums hours may change, and site may close for renovations. I have linked to the relevant websites so that you can find up to date info.
1. British Museum – One of the best museums in the world, the British Museum has the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian Mummies, and Parthenon sculptures. The best part is admission is free and you can see the highlights in just an hour. Visiting this museum is one of my favorite things to do in London. This museum is on all the lists of best things to do in London.
2. The National Gallery – This art museum has paintings from medieval times through Impressionist works. One of the most famous paintings in the collection is The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck. You can also see paintings by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh here. Entry is free.
3. Museum of London – This is the place to learn about the history of London, starting in 450,000 BC up to present day. Highlights include an original elevator from Selfridges department store with decorated bronze panels, and the Lord Mayor’s Coach, and remains of the old Roman city wall. Admission is free.
4. Tate Britain – This large museum has British Art from 1500 to present day. Tate Britain is the best place to see paintings by J.M.W. Turner who bequeathed all of his own collection to the museum.
5. Tate Modern – This museum housetates work from 1900 to today. Here you will find works by Degas, Dali, Kandinsky, Matisse, O’Keeffe, Turner, Duchamp, Picasso, Pollock, Monet, Hirst, and Rothko just to name a few.
6. National Portrait Gallery – The gallery has the most extensive collection of portraits in the world, dating from 16th century to today. Go there to see portraits of everyone from monarchs to William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Paul McCartney. Admission is free.
7. British Library – This library has a gallery dedicated to treasures including handwritten Beatles lyrics, Da Vinci’s notebooks, and Shakespeare’s First Folio. They have an excellent special exhibition called Harry Potter: A History of Magic which is on through February 28, 2018. Admission is free, but you do need to buy tickets to special exhibitions. This library is one of the lesser known things to do in London, but I think it is worth the trip.
8. Victoria and Albert Museum – This museum focuses on art and design and has a large collection of paintings, photographs, and sculptures. It also has the largest and most comprehensive collection of fashion in the world. I highly recommend going to see fashion collection. Admission is free.
9. Churchill War Rooms – This museum is housed in a secret WWII bunker and tells the story of Winston Churchill’s life and legacy. Friends have highly recommended this museum and say it is one of their favorite things to do in London.
10. Imperial War Museum – This museum covers modern wartime history from WWI to today.
11. National Maritime Museum – Learn about the North-West Passage expedition, the history of East India Company trade, and battle at sea during WWI.
12. Sherlock Holmes Museum – This museum on Baker Street is decorated to be the home of the fictional detective.
13. Natural History Museum – There are 80 million plant, animal, fossil, rock, and mineral specimens in this museum. You can see an extinct dodo and a massive blue whale skeleton here. (pictured above)
14. Museum of Architecture – Examine London’s architecture through the ever changing exhibitions at this museum. If you are visiting in December, go see The Gingerbread City. London architects, landscape architectures, engineers, planners, and designers, compete to create gingerbread houses forming a miniature city.
15. Science Museum – See space suits, historic telescopes, medieval clock mechanisms, satellites, planes, and explore special exhibitions. The permanent exhibitions explore the history of medicine while temporary exhibitions tackle topics like “Can Graphic Design Save Your Life?”. Entrance is free.
16. Wellcome Collection – This museum explores health, life, and our place in the world. Admission is free.
17. V&A Museum of Childhood – Learn about what childhood was like throughout London’s history. See objects like toys, textbooks, clothing, furniture, and games. Admission is free.
18. London Transport Museum – Explore vintage buses, trainers, coaches, bikes, and more. This interactive museum looks like so much fun, and the vintage double deck buses are exceptionally cool. This museum is free for kids but not adults.
19. Saatchi Gallery – This is the place to see cutting edge contemporary art. Many of the artists featured in the gallery’s exhibitions are unknown and Saatchi Gallery is the venue introducing them to the public.
20. Clink Prison Museum – This museum occupies what was once a prison that dates back to 1144. Learn about darker side of London’s history and see torture devices.
21. Charles Dickens Museum – The museum is at 48 Doughty Street, the author’s London home where he wrote Oliver Twist. The Georgian home is decorated with original furnishings and you can see Dickens’ study and writing desk.
22. The Design Museum – The design museum recently relocated to a posh modern new building. Here you can explore temporary exhibitions and pop-ups that explore good design.
23. Somerset House – This historic palace (Queen Elizabeth I once lived there) has become a center for the visual arts. The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House is known for its collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by artists including, Manet, Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh. They collection also includes 20th century works by artists like Modigliani, Matisse, and Kandinsky. Entrance is free.
24. Queen’s House Greenwich – This classical style building is the only building that remains of the 16th and 17th century palace complex in Greenwich. It is home to 450 works of art, and has stunning interior architecture including a grand spiraling staircase. Admission is free.
25. The Benjamin Franklin House – Shockingly, this is the only Franklin resident that is still in existence. Today it is a museum and research center.
26. William Morris Gallery – This museum in Morris’s former home showcases the decorative art of the Arts and Crafts movement. If you are interested in interior design, this place is for you. Plus entry is free.
Historic and Architectural Sites
1. Tower of London – The Tower of London is a castle, fortress, royal palace, and infamous prison. It is one of the top things to do in London because the history is fascinating and the free tours led by Beefeaters are excellent. The Crown Jewels are housed at the Tower of London, just be prepared to wait in line to see them. Just like the British Museum, the Tower of London is on every list of best things to do in London.
2. Westminster Abbey – This massive church is where Prince William married Kate Middleton, and where the Queen’s coronation took place. See the Coronation Chair, the Poet’s Corner with the graves of Geoffrey Chaucer, and Charles Dickens, and the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries are opening this year and will feature treasures from the Abbey’s collection and offer views into the church. This is a very popular destination for tourists so you should book tickets in advance. Remember at the abbey isn’t open on Sundays.
3. Tower Bridge – The Gothic style bridge opened in 1894 and is one of London’s most recognizable landmarks. You can simply walk across, or visit the onsite museum to learn the history of the bridge.
4. House of Parliament and Big Ben – You can view the buildings from the Thames, or you can opt to take an audio tour of the House of Commons, House of Lords, and Westminster Hall. Tours of Big Ben and Elizabeth Tower are unavailable until 2021 due to repairs being done to the buildings.
5. View from the Shard – This modern skyscraper offers exceptional views of the city. Just see the view, book the champagne experience, or go to a Silent Disco (Saturday nights at 10pm – definitely one of the coolest things to do in London).
6. St. Paul’s Cathedral – This is the cathedral where Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married. You can see the crypt and visit the tombs of England’s heroes and you can climb the dome for a panoramic view of London. You can also visit for a church service or organ recital. Note that the cathedral is open for worship only on Sundays.
7. Trafalgar Square – This grand square was built in the 1830s and home to many architectural sites and museums including the National Portrait Gallery, The National Gallery, Nelson’s Column, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields (a church dating back to 1726). Trafalgar Square gives visitors a prime view of Big Ben (note: Big Ben is currently under scaffolding with construction continuing until 2021).
8. The Monument to the Great Fire of London – This is the tallest freestanding column in the world. Climb the stairs up 160 feet to the viewing platform for 360 degree views of London. This is a great spot to take a photo of Tower Bridge.
9. Rainbow Row in Notting Hill – The multicolored pastel row homes are part of Notting Hill’s charm. Many of the side streets off of Portobello Road are lined with multicolored homes. Perhaps the most famous street is Lancaster Road where there are vibrantly colored homes between All Saints Road and Basing Street.
10. Cutty Sark – Visit the world’s only surviving tea clipper, built in 1869 to carry tea from China to Britain. She was the fastest ship of her time.
11. St. Pancras Hotel and Train Station – This stunning Gothic Revival style building contains a hotel and a train station. It’s just beside the British Library and definitely worth seeing if you are in the area.
12. Highgate Cemetery – Famous for being the burial place of Karl Marx, Highgate Cemetery has intricate architecture and catacombs to explore. The Victorian cemetery within Highgate can only be visited on a guided tour.
13. Neasden Hindu Temple (BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir) – A Hindu temple with incredible architecture that is open for self-guided visits.high
14. Jewel Tower – This tower was built in 1365 to house treasures belonging to Edward III. It was one of only two buildings to survive from the medieval Palace of Westminster.
Theater, Music, and Event Venues
1. The West End – Theater in London is about half the price compared to going to a Broadway show in New York City, so see a show while you are in London. I very highly recommend seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child if you are a Potter fan.
2. Globe Theater – This reconstruction Shakespeare’s Globe Theater opened in 1997 and is an affordable place to see a show. Tours of the theater are also offered.
3. Royal Albert Hall – You can see Cirque du Soleil, orchestra performances, or late night jazz at this historic theater. They have free music on some Fridays too! You can also fun events like yoga with live music and concerts from touring musicians.
4. The O2 – This is the venue for big concerts and events. You can also climb over the roof of the O2.
5. Roundhouse – An intimate concert venue featuring musical performances and events.
6. Alexandra Palace – Come here to see bands like The Chainsmokers, hockey games, and events like the World Championship of Ping Pong.
1. Buckingham Palace – Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the Queen. Watch the changing of the guard at 11am on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays or Sundays – weather permitting in the Fall, Winter, and Spring. In the summer the changing of the guard takes place daily. If you are visiting in the summer, you can book tickets for a tour of the state rooms which are open 10 weeks a year (book in advance). This is one of the classic things to do in London, even if it is a bit overrated.
2. Kensington Palace – See the grand King’s State Apartments, stroll through the Palace Gardens, learn about the palace’s history, and visit the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection. Oh, and Will, Kate, Harry, and Megan live here.
3. Kew Palace – Kew Palace was the summer home of King George III. Today visitors can explore the royal kitchens which were preserved in 1818, tour re-created Georgian rooms and step inside the ice house. You can walk through the upper floor of the palace which has been untouched for centuries. Outside the palace, be sure to see the 163 foot tall Great Pagoda, a Chinese inspired pagoda designed in the 18th century. To reach the palace you need a ticket for the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, once inside you can access the palace.
4. Hampton Court Palace – This palace is Surrey has lots to see and do. See Henry’s Crown, explore the kitchen garden, view the paintings in the Mantegna Gallery, or join an evening ghost tour.
5. Eltham Palace – An Art Deco style palace in the London suburbs with 19 acres of gardens.
1. Jack the Ripper Tour – We loved this fun walking tour of the Whitechapel neighborhood. We retraced the steps of Jack the Ripper’s victims and ended the tour by discussing who might have been responsible for the crimes. This is another once of my favorite things to do in London.
2. Pub Tour – A 2 mile walking tour with stops at 4 historic pubs.
3. Food Tour – Secret Food Tours offers different food tours where you can try classic British food while getting to see famous London attractions. (There are lots of companies that offer different food tours, but I thought this company looked like the best).
4. Harry Potter Walking Tour – A 2 1/2 hour walking tour that takes guests to Harry Potter filming locations.
5. Harry Potter Magical Pub Crawl – For Harry Potter fans over the age of 18.
5. Jason’s Canal Boat Trip – Cruise along Regent’s Canal on this tour from Little Venice to Camden.
6. Rock Music Tour – You can pick a half day or full day tour and see where Jimi Hendrix lived and died, where Freddie Mercury hung out, and 50 other places linked to music history.
7. Afternoon Tea Bus Tour – This tour is on the top of my list of things to do next time I am in London. A vintage double decker bus drives your around London’s sites while you have afternoon tea.
8. Bike Tour – Opt to see London’s most famous sites on the Grand Bike Tour, or opt go on the Secret Bike Tour. I haven’t checked out these bike tours yet, but I do think that bike tours are a great way to pack more sightseeing into a day.
9. Shoreditch Street Art Tour – Shoreditch is one of London’s coolest neighborhoods and the street art includes works by Banksy.
10. Helicopter Tour – Take an 18 minute helicopter flight over the city.
11. Private Classic Mini Cooper Tours – These private tours are customized for you based on what you want to see. You can pick from a wide variety of options (ancient pubs, Harry Potter, great views, hidden London, vintage markets, street art, etc.) and tours start at $225 for 3 people. This is on my list of things to do in London next time I visit.
1. Hyde Park – Perhaps London’s most famous park, there is lots to do in Hyde Park. You can open water swim in the Serpentine Lido, rent a rowboat, play tennis, go horseback riding, or dine at the waterside cafe. At Christmastime Winter Wonderland takes place within the park and it is definitely worth checking out.
2. Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill – We stay near Regent’s Park when we are in London and I like to go jogging in this park. You could also opt to rent a paddleboat or see the 12,000 roses in Queen Mary’s Gardens. (Regent’s Park is pictured above).
3. Kensington Gardens – The Serpentine Galleries which house displays of contemporary art and architecture are within the gardens. You can also play in the Diana Playground and see the grand Albert Memorial.
4. Kew Royal Botanic Gardens – A UNESCO World Heritage site, you could easily spend an entire day at at Kew. See the Palm House, a Victorian glasshouse that supports a rainforest climate for tropical plants, walk through the Japanese landscape, stroll across the 18 meter treetop walkway, and see the 14,000 trees in the arboretum. Even though Kew Palace is closed during winter, the gardens are filled with activity at Christmastime. The gardens are decorated with lights and a massive ice skating rink is set up.
5. Hampstead Heath – Unlike the other parks on my list, Hampstead Heath is a city park and not a royal park. This park has a zoo, an athletics track, and an open air swimming pool. They say that this sprawling park is a slice of the countryside.
6. St. James’s Park – This park is beside St. James’s Palace (which is home to some members of the royal family and is not open to public) and Buckingham Palace. It is home to pelicans which first arrived in the park 400 years ago when they were presented to King Charles as a gift from the Russian Ambassador. Be sure to check out the colorful flower beds at the front of Buckingham Palace.
7. Richmond Park – Did you know that 650 deer roam this park? This park also offers off road cycling, horseback riding, and golf.
1. Dishoom – This restaurant specializing in food from Bombay is wildly popular and delicious. They have six locations and serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They accept reservations for breakfast (pictured above) and lunch, but at dinner they only take reservations for groups of 6 or more. We went for breakfast and loved it!
2. Andina and Ceviche – A quartet of Peruvian restaurants that I have fallen in love with. I have eaten at both Andina and Ceviche and the food is sophisticated, inventive, and always delicious. Ceviche was #9 on Time Out’s list of 100 Best London Restaurants.
3. The Palomar – An Israeli restaurant in Soho is fantastic. Nigella Lawson described the food as “Gorgeousness” and the restaurant has been a Michelin Bib Gourmand recipient for four years running. You might be unfamiliar with many of the foods on the menu, but I am convinced you will love every bite. It is a smaller space so I highly recommend making a reservation.
4. The Orange – This effortlessly chic restaurant in Chelsea serves modern European cuisine. There is also a pub on the ground level.
5. Dean Street Townhouse – This beautiful restaurant in Soho is part of Soho House but is open to the public. They serve food all day, and have afternoon tea. The restaurant is popular with Londoners and I recommend making a reservation.
6. Malibu Kitchen at The Ned – The Ned is the new hotel opened by the same group behind Soho House and my London friends have all been telling us how amazing the restaurants at The Ned are. The food is California inspired with lots of vegan and vegetarian options.
7. Peggy Porschen – This cute as a button bakery in Belgravia is an Instagram staples, and perfect place for tea and baked goods.
8. Ivy Cafe – One of my favorite London restaurants, The Ivy Cafe serves up classic British cuisine with a modern twist. The English Breakfast is the best I have tasted, and they also serve Afternoon Tea and food all day long. They have locations in St. John’s Wood, Blackheath, Wimbledon, and Richmond. They also have many locations of their sister restaurants, The Ivy and The Ivy Brasserie.
9. Nopi – They serve Middle Eastern and Asian inspired small plates, and it was the top restaurant that friends recommended to me. They have locations in Spitalfields, Islington, Notting Hill and Belgravia.
10. Viet Food – My cousin took me this Vietnamese restaurant in Soho with a menu featuring 50 small plate dishes, and we loved it.
11. Duke of York – You might be the only tourist at this pub in St. John’s Wood. The pub has been around since 1826 and we love their Sunday Roast. And save room for the sticky toffee pudding.
12. The Warrington – A grand pub with excellent pub food, I make it here whenever I am in London.
13. Scott’s – This posh restaurant in Mayfair is known for their oyster and caviar bar and selection of market-fresh seafood.
14. Polpo – A Michelin Bib Gourmand winner, this affordable Italian restaurant has a several of locations.
15. J. Sheekey – An upscale seafood restaurant in Covent Garden. Charles loves this place.
16. Frenchie – A beautiful bright restaurant, French is a London outpost of Frenchie in Paris. Order a la carte or have the five course tasting menu.
17. Bumpkin – A British brasserie with farm to table cuisine and a trio of locations.
Where to Have Afternoon Tea
1. Brown’s – Brown’s Hotel is where Queen Victoria used to have tea. The restaurant is on every list of Best Afternoon Teas from Vogue to The Telegraph. We went here based on my sister’s recommendation and I can understand why it’s her favorite. There is a big tea selection and the sandwiches and scones were fantastic. (pictured above)
2. Fortnum and Mason – This department store on is a London institution and the Queen herself opened the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon. Tea sommeliers are on hand to help you with your tea selection.
3. Sketch – This restaurant has pink furnishings and sketches on the walls and it is a very popular spot for tea.
4. Claridge’s – Tea is served in the foyer and reading room at this hotel in Mayfair, it is also one of the most popular spots for afternoon tea.
5. The Goring – Kate Middleton stayed here the night before her wedding, it is also my sister’s favorite hotel in London. The restaurant serves afternoon tea daily, and my sister raves about the scones.
6. Mr. Fogg’s Residence – I haven’t been here yet, but I am definitely going next time I am in London because this just looks like so much fun! The restaurant is designed to be the imaginary home of Phileas Fogg the main character in Around the World in 180 Days. This is the place to add some cocktails to your afternoon tea.
7. The Savoy – We celebrated our 4th anniversary with tea at The Savoy. Tea is served in the glass-domed Thames Foyer, and is the place to go for a very traditional afternoon tea.
8. Blakes Hotel – Have tea in an Art Deco secret garden in Chelsea – complete with eclairs. Book in advance if you want the table inside the giant gold and glass birdcage.
9. Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard – Have tea while enjoying views of London from above, with a prime view of Tower Bridge. They offer a classic British tea experience and a Asian inspired version. A gluten-free tea is available if you book it in advance.
10. The Langham – This is where afternoon tea as born. The Langham has a kid friendly tea where children receive a teddy bear.
1. Harrods – Harrods has a dress code, no torn denim and no flip flops, so dress appropriately. They have a beautiful food hall to explore if you aren’t in the mood to shop. And if you do want to shop, you will find top high end designers here.
2. Fortnum and Mason – Located on Piccadilly Street, this is a perfect place to shop for gifts and teas.
3. Dunhill – The place for high end menswear and accessories. The flagship stores is at 2 Davies Street in Mayfair.
4. Liberty London – A luxury department store at the intersection of Great Marlborough Street and Regent Street known for products with unique floral prints.
5. Selfridges – If you watched the television series Mr. Selfridge, you know that this store on Oxford Street redefined shopping.
6. Camden Street Market – Browse over 1000 shops, stalls, bars, and cafes at this outdoor market.
7. Portobello Road Market – While this market is open daily, it is known for being home to the largest antiques market in the world, which takes place on Saturdays.
8. Carnaby Street – This street is closed off to traffic and has a wide variety of shops ranging from independent shops to more major retailers. This street also has the coolest holiday decorations in London.
9. Borough Market – A famous food market that is open Monday to Saturdays. They do offer food tours of the market.
10. Covent Garden – Yes, this area is touristy, but it is still fun. There are a wide range of shops, restaurants, and outdoor market stalls here.
Brewery and Distillery Tours
1. Beefeater Gin Distillery Tour – Learn the history of gin and see how it is made. The tour ends with Gin and Tonics.
2. Camden Town Brewery Bar – Camden Town beer is my go-to when I am in London. Tours are £15 and include at couple of cans of beer.
3. The London Distillery Company – This gin distillery offers a variety of tour experiences, including a gin lab experience were you can design and distill you own bottle of gin.
4. Sipsmith – A gin distillery offering tours on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings.
5. Meantime – The brewery in Greenwich offers daily tours for £20.
6. The Five Points Brewing Co – They offer brewery tours on second Saturday of each month for £15 and are located in East London.
7. Gin Journeys – Try five cocktails at five bars at this distillery tour/bar crawl.
8. East London Liquor Company – ELLC is a vodka, gin, rum, and whisky distillery that offers 11 different tours. You can learn to mix cocktails or take a tour where you can taste various spirits.
Pubs and Bars
1. The Churchill Arms – This place is a classic. Located in Notting Hill, The Churchill Arms is known for their incredibly flowers decorating the outside of the bar in spring and summer, and their elaborate Christmas decorations which involve putting 80 Christmas trees on the outside of the pub (pictured above). It is part pub and part Thai restaurant.
2. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – This pub was originally built in 1538 and it was rebuilt in 1667 after it burnt down in the Great Fire. Mark Twain and Charles Dickens have been here, and rumor has it there might have been a time when the place was a brothel.
3. Ten Bells – A pub in Spitalfields where two of Jack the Ripper’s victims were last seen.
4. The Bloomsbury Club – The Standard describes this bar as being “Awash with gorgeousness”. It has Art Deco styling and an outdoor terrace.
5. Gordon’s Wine Bar – Housed in a cellar, this is the oldest wine bare in London.
6. The Owl and the Pussycat – A lovely pub in Shoreditch with patio seating in the summer and a cozy fireplace in the winter.
7. Chahoots – A speakeasy underground in an old tube station. I recommend making a reservation.
8. Bourdon House at Dunhill – The bar in the cellar has a courtyard where you can sip cocktails al fresco.
9. Ye Olde Mitre – This pub is hard to find, but is one of the oldest pubs in London.
10. The Spaniards Inn – This pub was featured in both Dicken’s Pickwick Papers and Stoker’s Dracula.
11. Cross Keys Coven Garden – A pub with lots of character, it does get crowded after work.
12. Salotto ‘900 – A speakeasy above the pub named The Italian Job in Notting Hill.
13. Calloh Callay – There is a pub within a pub at Calloh Callay that can only be accessed through the back of a wardrobe.
14. Evans & Peel Detective Agency – The name of this speakeasy caught my attention. To make a reservation you need to submit a case with the “detective” and the doorman will question you about it when you arrive. This is on my list of things to do in London during my next visit.
15. The Culpepper – This spot is a pub, restaurant, hotel, and rooftop garden in one.
16. People’s Park Tavern – A pub and brewery beside Victoria Park with a big hacienda garden and DJs on the weekends. Definitely the place to hand out on a nice night.
17. The White Horse – A classic pub with a beer garden.
18. The Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge – Decorated to feel like the home of your eccentric Great Aunt, this is an award winning cocktail bar that hosts cocktail events and parties that are open to the public each month.
19. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town – Ok, the Brits know how to name their bars. This basement bar is underneath Breakfast Club in Spitalfields. To enter you need to go the bar at Breakfast Club and ask to see “The Mayor”.
20. Looking Glass Cocktail Club – An Alice in Wonderland themed bar in the trendy Shoreditch neighborhood.
21. The Morpeth Arms – This pub has a dark history, it was originally a prison and deportation holding center for convicts being sent to Australia. If you visit when the pub isn’t busy and ask the bartender very nicely they might let you into the cellar to tour the cells. There is also a Sky Room not he second floor of the pub that is decorated in a 1920s style and is equipped with binoculars so that you can look across the street at the British Intelligence Service building.
1. The Goring – This classic British hotel comes highly recommended. The rooms are luxurious and they have accommodations for families.
2. The Ned – This hotel from the Soho House group just opened and I have heard the most wonderful things. While Soho House has several properties catering to members, this is their first hotel that caters to the general public. The rooms were designed with a nod to 1920s glamour.
3. Gir Lion Lodge at London Zoo – Stay at the zoo! This sounds like the most fun thing ever – you get an after hours tour of the zoo, watch feeds, dinner, breakfast, and luxury accommodations. And lions nearby.
4. The Soho Hotel – This hotel has 96 individual designed bedrooms and a prime location.
5. London House Hotel – A modern and affordable option right in the city.
Other Things to do in London
1. Ride the London Eye – Be sure to book tickets in advance, this is one of the more popular things to do in London.
2. London Zoo – Visit 800 species of animals. Oh, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone filmed in the Reptile House.
3. Take an Afternoon Tea Cooking Class – I did this and loved it!
4. Ride the Emirates Air Line – This cable car takes you across the Thames for stunning views of the city. Plus it is more affordable than the London Eye.
5. Visit Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station – A must for Harry Potter fans, and one of the most popular things to do in London.
6. Abbey Road Intersection – Take the tube to the St. John’s Wood station and walk to the intersection of Grove End Street and Abbey Road, just in front of Abbey Road Studios. The Beatles recorded their Abbey Road album at the studio, and took the photo of the album cover at that intersection (or zebra crossing as the Brits call it). This is a popular spot for photos and might be busy.
7. ArcelorMittal Orbit – This sculpture in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was built for the 2012 Olympics and stands over 100 meters tall. Climb the stairs to the top for view of the city. To get down from the viewing platform you can walk, take the spiraling tunnel slide, or if you are feeling adventurous, you can free fall abseil.
8. Walk along Regent’s Canal – This 8 mile canal connects lots of London sites including the Lord’s Cricket Grounds, the London Zoo, and Little Venice. I love go jogging alongside the canal (it is a surefire way of making sure that I don’t get lost in London’s maze of streets). You can also admire the incredible mansions by where Regent’s Canal and Regent’s Park meet. This is one of the best off the radar things to do in London.
9. Visit the ruins of St. Dunstan-in-the-East – This church was destroyed in 1941 in the Blitz but the north and south walls still stand. Nature has taken over the space in the most beautiful way with greens growing over the remaining walls.
10. God’s Own Junkyard – Visit neon artist Chris Bracey’s collection of work. The space is filled with neon signs, and has a cafe and bar. It is only open to the public on weekends.
11. Sky Garden – Visit three stories of public gardens under the glass dome a skyscraper. In addition to the gardens there is a restaurant and observation decks. Tickets are free but need to be booked in advance.
Side Trips (for when you run out of things to do in London)
1. Windsor – You will find Windsor Castle in this town just outside London. The castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, and the Queen’s weekend residence. You can tour the castle and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays you can watch the changing of the guard. With the royal wedding taking place in London this is bound to become one of the most popular things to do in London.
2. Castle Combe – This village in the Cotswolds is utterly charming and an easy day trip from London. You can go with a tour group, but I think it is easier to take the train and go on your own. (pictured above)
3. Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) – This real life castle is better known as Downton Abbey. The castle is a working estate in Hampshire and offers tours, afternoon tea, and a variety of special events.
4. Harry Potter Set Visit – You need to book this ASAP because it is super popular. This is your chance to visit the actual Harry Potter sets (including the Great Hall at Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, see props, costumes, and learn about the films’ special effects. Plus, it is only a 20 minute train ride from London. Even though it is outside the city, it is considered to be one of the best things to do in London.
5. Stonehenge – The prehistory monument and wonder of the world. It’s a 2 1/2 trip from London and you will need to book tickets in advance.
6. Lacock – I recommend pairing this with a trip to Castle Combe which is the next town over. Lacock is a darling town, and home to Lacock Abbey which is where movies such as Harry Potter have filmed.
7. Shere and Godalming – If you are a fan of the movie The Holiday, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Bridget Jones you will recognize these countryside towns. Heads up – Rose’s adorable little cottage from The Holiday isn’t real. It was a shell of a building built on an empty lot for filming. The White Horse in Shere (the pub featured in The Holiday) is real though.
8. Mersea Island – This island has sandy beaches and the most darling pastel colored beach huts. Add this to your list of things to do in London if you want a fun photo opportunity.
9. Oxford – This college town has incredible architecture, plus museums, parks, pubs, waterways for rowing, and a castle.
10. Stratford-upon-Avon – Visit Shakespeare’s birthplace where you can tour his home, see a play at the the Royal Shakespeare Company, and visit the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare was buried. The town itself looks lovely with rowboats in the river, farmer’s markets, and buildings with thatched roofs.
And just in case you need to know what to pack – I put together a blog post sharing a complete packing list!