Tourist attractions, festivals, markets and day trips. What will you get up to?
London is a dynamic, sprawling metropolis that refuses to stay still. It doesn’t matter whether you arrive in the heat of the European summer or the dead of January, there’s always a festival running, gig to attend, event to entertain you or tourist attraction to experience.
Standard attractions range from public museums and historical walks to panoramic viewpoints and royal close encounters.
Do yourself a favour and make sure you tick these off your London list when in town.
Top things to do in London
Tour Buckingham Palace
No trip to London would be complete without visiting the Queen herself… or at least her palace. While you’re there, wave like the Queen, poke fun at her guards (don’t actually poke them...) in their black fuzzy hats, witness the changing of the guards and tour her state rooms and art collections.
Ride the London Eye
It’s cheesy, it’s touristy and it has incredible views. Yup, it’s something you should definitely have on your list.
Hot tip: to avoid the crowds book your spot online before you arrive or arrive first thing in the morning. Weekends and evenings are generally the most crowded times to ride.
See Big Ben and Westminster Abbey
Catching a glimpse of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey is pretty easy to do when you’re spinning around on the London Eye.
If you passed on the Eye, you can see Big Ben easily from the banks of the River Thames. Westminster Abbey is also available to tour at a price.
Visit the Tower of London and Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is a beautiful construction of sandy brick and baby blue trimmings. You can walk across it to the Tower of London, which houses the crown jewels and other historical artefacts.Book your ticket to the Tower of London to avoid the queues during peak times.
Ride a double decker bus
No explanation necessary. This is a necessity and is super easy to achieve with the help of an Oyster transport card.
Other necessities when in London include a trip in a black cab and photo in a red phone booth.
Take the ultimate Harry Potter tour
Fans of the series can spend days exploring Harry Potter’s London. Walking and bus tours of the city are popular, as is a trip to Warner Bros. Studio, where the films were made.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can conduct your own Harry Potter tour and visit Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross Station for free.
Watch a play in the West End
The best shows performed by A-list actors reside in the West End. Book early if you want to ensure you get tickets, or be spontaneous and buy on the day for cheaper seats that are still for sale.
Take a walk in a park
London is 47% green space so it isn’t hard to find a park or reserve to enjoy. Famous city parks include St James’s Park, Hyde Park, Green Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew.
Go to the markets
London is well-known for its fabulous markets. The Borough is famous for produce, Portobello for antiques, Camden for designer wears from emerging artists and Spitalfields Markets is a mix of food and antiques.
While larger markets, such as Camden and The Borough, are open daily, many are open purely on the weekends. Check before you arrive to avoid disappointment.
Image: Camden Markets
Shop Oxford Street
This was meant to be a shopping holiday, right?
While Oxford Street is undoubtedly the most renowned shopping hub in London, other hot contenders for finding high-end brands are the nearby Regent and Bond Streets. There are also Westfield centres in Shepherd’s Bush and Stratford City.
London has a wealth of museums that are not only exceptional, but are free to enter with the option to donate.
Some of the best include British Museum, National Art Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum.
Day trip to Oxford or Cambridge
These university towns are known the world over for their academic achievements and historical architecture.
Both are accessible by train from London or by organised tour.
Day trip to Stonehenge
The mysterious neolithic monument of Stonehenge can be accessed from London.
During the summer and winter solstices, druids and revellers gather around the stones to celebrate the season’s change.
Otherwise, the monument is available to tour most days of the year.
See a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Located on the River Thames, tours operate daily at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and both modern and Shakespearean plays are performed at the venue.
Try to take that Beatles photo
Warning: You’ll need a clear road and a milk crate to get it right.
Alternatively, Beatles fans can tour Abbey Road Studios, visit The Beatles Story museum in their hometown of Liverpool or take a Beatles walking tour of the city.
Best events to attend during the year:
Guy Fawkes Night: A night of bonfires and fireworks commemorates the fact that Guy Fawkes and his fellow conspirators failed in their infamous Gunpowder Plot to assassinate King James I in 1605. 5 November
Glastonbury: The Woodstock of the UK, Glastonbury is one of the largest arts and music festivals in the world. You can book a Tipi or take your own tent and enjoy the indie-cool vibe. The line-up is A-list spectacular and many of the festival’s headline acts are UK-born and bred. 22–26 June 2017
Wimbledon: Marked by its distinct all-white clothes policy, Wimbledon is one of the four Grand Slam world tennis events, and a must for any fan.3–16 July
Image: City Discovery