Things to do in London: 42 things to tick off your list

When a man is tired of London and all that jazz – here are the best things to do in the capital

Updated on 25 July 2019 • Written By Tonje Odegard

Things to do in London: 42 things to tick off your list

Ah, London. Where do we start? London is so many things to so many people, but first and foremost it is the capital of England, the cultural hub of the UK, and a multicultural explosion of people from all walks of life and from all over the world.

London is a fashion capital. It’s a river-side town. It’s a city rich in history spanning back all the way to Roman times. It’s the cradle of industrialism and modern-thinking. It’s the home of the most famous royal family in the world. It’s the settlement of nearly 9 million people. Hell, it’s the home of Mary Poppins! It’s also one of the most popular holiday destinations on the planet, despite its notoriously bad weather.

Ah, how we love London and everything you can do here. Because there is so much to do. Below, we’ve gathered the absolute must-do things though, so get busy with these 42 amazing things to do in London.

See the sights: London attractions

See the sights of London, such as the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

London has such a rich history, spanning all the way from mediaeval times to the present day. The contrasts and merges of old and new in this city are remarkable, and that unique combination is best discovered through London’s many attractions – both historic and modern.

From age-old buildings with impressive Grade I and II-listed architecture and an iconic story (such as gothic cathedrals, mediaeval castles and impressive stone constructions), to contemporary new-builds with equally striking design and new-found legendary status (such as glass-fronted skyscrapers, funkily-shaped towers and graffiti-covered walls), London’s sights are as diverse as its history itself.  

The Historic Royal Palaces 

Tudor life in London is a huge part of British history and the royal palaces (Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kew Palace, Banqueting House, and Kensington Palace) gained their names by being the home to the royals of Britain for centuries.

The Tower of London with its immaculate lawn

The Tower of London is perhaps the most famous one – a place that is also known for its gory history of torture, imprisonment and executions. The adjacent Tower Bridge is also worth a visit, and you can witness it opening and closing, to make room for the Thames' many large river boats to pass underneath it, routinely throughout the week.  

Hampton Court Palace is the epicentre for Tudor London and is most notably the former home of notorious wife-killer King Henry VIII. The palace is beautiful and set in a gorgeous garden that includes a mystical labyrinth – well worth a visit.

Hampton Court Palace seen from its lush garden

Not far from Hampton Court is the botanical Kew Gardens, which in itself is worth a trip, with its luscious grounds and many greenhouses and conservatories housing millions of plant species from all over the world. The garden is also home to Kew Palace.

One of the many beautiful conservatories at Kew Gardens

Banqueting House has one of the most stunning ceiling murals in the country, painted by renowned Renaissance painter Peter Paul Rubens – crane your neck to admire the intricately-adorned ceiling and get lost in it for hours.

How stunning is that ceiling, huh?

Kensington Palace was the childhood home of Queen Victoria a couple of generations before Princess Diana lived there (at least until she was married to Prince Charles). It is currently the official London home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, AKA Will and Kate, and their three children.    

Kensington Palace with the statue of Queen Victoria 

Sky Garden at the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building

If good views from skyscrapers is your speed, then there is no better place than the Sky Garden on Level 35 of 20 Fenchurch Street, AKA the ‘Walkie Talkie’ building, located in the City. In addition to the outdoor viewing platform with epic views across London, you can take the vistas in from inside too, through the giant glass front. There’s a bar for refreshments, the Sky Pod at Sky Garden, as well as a restaurant, Darwin Brasserie at Sky Garden. As if that wasn’t enough, the glass atrium comes complete with a garden of luscious green plants.

Just look at that view!

The Shard

The crowning glory of modern London, The Shard, with its lit up tip and entire glass-covered exterior, is more than just a sight for sore eyes. You can head all the way up to the windy top and see the city from the viewing platform – but the skyscraper hides other experiences too. It’s home to the Shangri-La Hotel, for instance, as well as a host of great restaurants, including Asian restaurants Aqua Shard and Hutong, and British-leaning Oblix at The Shard.   

Look at her twinkling

London Eye

This giant ferris wheel has been a London icon ever since it opened in 2000 – giving the London Eye its apt nickname of ‘Millennium Wheel’. Take to the skies in one of its pods that will whizz you around for half an hour for a chance to see the wide and far sights of London. Standing on the South Bank and looking up to it is quite the experience, too.  

Get unrivalled views of London in the Eye

St Paul’s Cathedral

This is one of London’s most celebrated attractions – in fact, it’s been part of the London cityscape for more than 1,400 years! Yep, that’s right, it has survived fires, floods and wars, and is considered the ultimate icon to many Londoners.

The iconic St Paul's Cathedral

Abbey Road Studios

Are you a Beatles fan? This is a must-do for you then. Yeah, you can head to Abbey Road and have your photo taken walking on the zebra crossing, to recreate the iconic Abbey Road album cover, but what about heading to the actual recording studio  where the magic happened? It’s also where Oasis and Amy Winehouse recorded some of their material, so the place has seen more than a handful of legends walk through its doors. You can even hire the studio to do your own recording if you want. 

Join the queue to have your picture taken

Madame Tussauds London

The 200-year old wax museum once had Queen Victoria visit for tea, but since then has made a success out of presenting wax-doll versions of celebrities. Pose for funny photos with famous politicians, pop stars and actors – it’s a lot of fun.

Get your selfie with the waxed Meghan and Harry

Visit a museum and see an exhibition: Museums in London

As we’ve mention, London is full of history, and although the capital’s many attractions give an insight into London’s timeline and place in the world, they have nothing on the dozens of museums London has to offer. From purely historic ones and London-specific ones, to science-focused museums and art galleries, there is so much to discover. And the best part? They’re all free to enter!

The Victoria & Albert Museum, AKA the V&A

The V&A is known for having some of London’s most interesting temporary exhibitions, so it’s worth having a look at what the current exhibition is (note that exhibitions normally cost extra). On top of that, it has a wide collection of historic and contemporary art from several eras and numerous countries.

Tate Modern

If modern art is more your thing, there is no better place for it in London. Displaying artists work from 1950 an onwards, there are all sorts of obscure stuff to witness here. The architecture of the building (an old Power Station) with industrial and brutalist features, is also stunning, and the building’s main Turbine Hall pays host to numerous displays and installations – often interactive ones.   

The architecture at Tate Modern will impress you

Natural History Museum

Learn about the development of all things living at the Natural History Museum, from dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures to your pet cat. This is one of London’s most popular museums and the famous dinosaur skeleton (fondly nicknamed ‘Dippy’) was recently replaced by the skeleton of the great blue whale. This is as enjoyable for children as it is for adults.   

The skeleton of the great blue whale at The Natural History Museum

Sea Life London Aquarium

Crazy about fish and underwater creatures? You simply have to go to the Sea Life London Aquarium on the South Bank. In addition to seeing more than 500 species of fish and sea life, you can see penguin chicks, coral reefs, the UK’s first whale sanctuary, and even dive with sharks.

Discover more than 500 species at the Sea Life London Aquarium

The British Museum

There is so much to admire about The British Museum. For starters, the grand entrance is remarkable with the gigantic glass atrium forming an impressive sight worthy of serious Instagramming. The Grade I-listed building contains permanent displays featuring art from all the corners of the world, from the Orient and the Middle East to Africa, alongside temporary exhibitions.

Cameras at the ready as you step into The British Library

Science Museum

The Science Museum is as educational as it is enjoyable, and you don’t have to be a geek to appreciate its many displays and exhibitions. The home of human ingenuity, it showcases what man has been able to create in the past centuries, and it’s truly astonishing stuff. It’s got several huge galleries with impressive and mind-blowing artefacts on display. Most noteworthy are the ‘Exploring Space’, ‘Making the Modern World’ and ‘Flight’, which all have real models of space crafts, aeroplanes and other technological achievements.

Be in awe of human creation at the Science Museum

The Postal Museum

The biggest draw of The Postal Museum is the recently added Mail Rail – a space where you can hop on a miniature train through the underground tunnels that were once used to transport mail across London. It’s a novel and educational experience, but don’t even think about bringing claustrophobics here – the train is tiny.

Jump on the underground train and feel like a parcel for one day

London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum is an interactive museum that explores the history of London’s impressive transport systems, from the underground to the famous red busses. You can, for instance, sit in the driver’s cab of a red bus and guide a tube simulator through the tunnels of the Northern Line. 

Find out the history of transport in London

Museum of London

Interested in getting to know the depths of London’s history? You’ve found your place. This goes waaay back, mind you, to before it was even London as we know it. See what it was like in Roman times, how the Great Fire of 1666 came about and see how it evolved into the modern and industrial hub it is today.

Get clued up on everything about the capital at the Museum of London

Wellcome Collection

The Wellcome Collection is dedicated to anything relating to the area of medicine, which materialises itself in fascinating (albeit sometimes slightly ghastly) exhibitions and displays. It also runs interactive and fun temporary exhibitions, it has a stunning staircase (hello Instagram), and a cosy reading room if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. 

Get cosy in the Wellcome Collection's reading room 

National Portrait Gallery

Just off Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery has an impressive 215,000 pieces of work for you to view – that’s over 215,000 faces to explore! From Renaissance paintings to modern photographs, there is something for every art-lover here.

Get lost in the thousands of faces at the National Portrait Gallery

Be a foodie: London’s best restaurants and foodie destinations

London’s metropolitan multiculturalism is one of the defining elements that make this city so special. There are people from all over the world living in London, something that has translated to the capital’s food scene and made it into one of the most vibrant, diverse and colourful on the planet.

This means you can hunt down anything from Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Thai, Italian and Mexican, to pizza, burgers, vegetarian food, steak, sushi, fried chicken, vegan food, tacos, and pasta – all in one beautiful place.  

Have a browse through London’s hottest new restaurant openings if you want to be one of the first ones to try newly discovered gems, or sift through our full list of London’s best restaurants for inspiration on where to go.

Below, we’ve also gathered some British food occasion staples that we think you ought to try, from afternoon tea and Sunday lunch, to bustling food markets and entire areas of London dedicated to one cuisine.

Go for afternoon tea in London

Afternoon tea can be as pretty as a picture 

Having afternoon tea is one of the most British things you can do, but also one of the most indulgent. Afternoon tea, traditionally served on a three-tier tea stand, comes with finger sandwiches on the bottom tier (cucumber and cream cheese, say, or coronation chicken with brown bread); warm scones with clotted cream and jam on the second tier; and on the top tier, you will find bite-size desserts and sweet pastries.

A range of different teas is served alongside it, and if you want to make it extra special, you can have a glass of Champagne (or two) with it. For a full overview of the best afternoon teas in London, visit our page here. There you can discover themed afternoon teas, traditional afternoon teas, as well as Champagne afternoon teas.  

Go for a Sunday lunch

Sunday lunch is a must when in London

Going for a roast dinner on a Sunday is another British food tradition and usually involves enjoying a cut of meat, be it beef, lamb, chicken or pork, alongside the signature Yorkshire pudding, seasonal roast vegetables, roast potatoes and lashings of rich gravy.

We have gathered the restaurants in London that serves up the best Sunday roast and you can discover it all here.

Go for bottomless brunch

Bottomless food and bottomless drinks - what can be better?

The concept of bottomless brunch has completely taken over the capital with almost every restaurant in town offering one up. Not familiar with the idea? What it involves is going for brunch while having access to unlimited drinks (usually Prosecco or brunch cocktails such as Mimosa, Bellini and Bloody Mary) for a couple of hours.

Londoners are going mad for it, but with so many to choose from, we’ve gathered our favourite ones in this list of the best bottomless brunches in London – it’s time to get boozy!

Discover the best Chinese food in London in Chinatown

Head to Chinatown in Soho for the best Chinese food in the country

London has one of the biggest selections of Chinese food outside of China – so much, in fact, that it has an entire area of Soho dedicated to it. Enter Chinatown in central London for some of the absolute best Chinese, Cantonese and Sichuan food you’ll ever try.

Need some help deciding? Our list of the best Chinese restaurants in London should make things a little easier.

Go for fish and chips

What can beat some traditional fish and chips?

For another British food experience, we recommend you go somewhere to have fish and chips. Deep-fried battered fish is served alongside chunky chips that are drenched in salt and vinegar, with mushy peas and tartare sauce on the side – bliss. Here are the London restaurants serving the very best fish and chips.

Have a full English for breakfast

Get greasy with a full English

You might have heard of the full English breakfast – fried eggs, toast, sausages, bacon, black pudding, baked beans, hash browns, grilled tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms. Yeah, it’s a biggie! Although not the best option for health-conscious eaters, it is an experience to have it, and there's usually a veggie-option too if you prefer. Here’s where to go for the full package

Visit one of the city’s bustling food markets: London food markets

Maltby Street Market is always brimming with hungry Londoners

Alongside an ever-exciting restaurant scene, the London food world also involves some amazing food markets with street-food vendors dishing out delicious and trendy grub. Borough Market is perhaps the most renowned one, located near London Bridge station. Here, you can browse stalls selling everything from plump olives, rare cheeses and top-quality meat, to vendors serving up exciting street food of the likes of falafel wraps, cheese toasties and spicy curries.

Maltby Street Market in Southwark, Dinerama in Dalston and Street Feast’s various locations across London are excellent ones as well, whereas new kids on the block are also making waves. KERB food market in Seven Dials features some thrilling newbies alongside much-loved oldies.

The same goes for the new Arcade Food Theatre in Fitzrovia, which launched in July. Market Hall in Victoria also launched earlier this year and you can read all about it here.     

On top of that, there are tonnes of food and drink-related pop-ups in London all through the year. We do a monthly update of the best ones out there, so feel free to browse our round-up of the best pop-ups and residences in London.   

Explore London’s nightlife: Nightclubs in London

Partying in London is unlike anything else

London’s nightlife is another defining factor of the capital, with the city playing host to some of the world’s most amazing cocktail bars, nightclubs and, of course, good old British pubs. London is another city after nightfall and simply must be discovered.  

Soho probably has the most vibrant nightlife in the city, with the offering ranging from mainstream nightclubs, obscure under-ground drinking dens, and buzzy LGBTQ+ joints, to sophisticated lounges, high-end cocktail bars and mystical booze destinations. Explore our list of the best bars in Soho here.

Soho is always heaving at night-time

London also has a fantastic rave and music scene with world-renowned DJs playing across town every weekend. Clubs such as Fabric and Printworks are the destinations to look out for. You can also browse our list of best late-night bars in London for a less hectic experience.     

Mayfair is another place to explore and is perfect if you’re looking for sophistication and class – check out the best bars in Mayfair here – not to mention the lovely and tourist-heavy Covent Garden. If you’re feeling very fancy, hit up the bars in the well-healed area of Chelsea, or if trendy is what you’re looking for, browse our list of the best bars in Shoreditch here.

The Sherlock Holmes in Victoria is one of London's classic boozers

Then we have our beloved pubs, which are the backbone that this country, not just London, is built on, although admittedly, some of the UK’s best pubs can be found right here in wonderful London. Explore the best pubs in London here. We also have gastropubs, that are just a touch nicer than your average boozer, and which also serve high-quality food. Track down the best ones here, alongside our list of the most picturesque pubs in London here.   

Visit a rooftop bar and see the views: Rooftop bars in London

Get sky high in London

Drinking in London in the daytime is also a big part of London life – especially with the world’s new-found love of visiting rooftop bars. Hitting up one of London’s many rooftop bars is also a fantastic way to see some of the amazing views the city has to offer. 

Liking the idea of dining outside, too? Why not hit up our list of the best alfresco dining spots in London?  

Explore London’s neighbourhoods: The best spots in London to spend the day

If you want to discover the true spirit of London life, you need to explore one of its many neighbourhoods, which each have their own identity and character. From trendy east London to affluent west London, this city has it all. Below, we go into more detail on some of London’s most vivacious local areas.  

Shoreditch

The hip and photogenic Shoreditch 

Shoreditch in east London is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in the capital with a notorious cool-cat crowd. With lots of independent shops, micro-breweries, food markets and graffiti-clad buildings, you can spend hours, days and weeks in this vibrant part of London. The Columbia Road Flower Market is also a massive draw, as is vintage shopping on Brick Lane or hunting for treasures in Old Spitalfields Market.

The area also has an amazing array of restaurants – why not check out our list of the best restaurants in Shoreditch? If you’re after brunch, we’ve gathered the best brunches in Shoreditch here as well as the best breakfasts in Shoreditch here.  

Notting Hill

We adore the pastel-coloured houses of Notting Hill

The colourful Notting Hill has so much to offer among its pastel-coloured houses. The location for the iconic 1998 film with the same name, you’ve got the infamous Portobello Road with its Saturday antiques market; you’ve got the buzzy Notting Hill Carnival in August; and a plethora of cute little eateries for you to get stuck into.

For advice on what restaurants to go to, hit up our list of the best restaurants in Notting Hill, as well as the best places to go for breakfast.  

Little Venice

The picturesque area of north London called Little Venice

Called Little Venice because of its many small and intricate canals, a wander around this charming north-London area is as idyllic as anything. The picturesque area is perfect for a casual stroll or for a trip on one of the canal boats. Check out the best restaurants in Little Venice here.

Greenwich

The views from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich

Known for its maritime history, Greenwich is a fantastic place to do some exploring – this is also the home of Cutty Sark, the world-famous clipper ship. Also head to Greenwich to see the meridian line at the Royal Observatory, which overlooks the beautiful and peaceful Greenwich Park – this is an ace spot to catch the sunset.

The Old Royal Naval College has also recently re-opened its Painted Hall, which showcases an amazing painted ceiling. Explore the best restaurants in Greenwich here.

Camden

Head to the atmospheric Camden for some bargains

Head to Camden to visit the punk-haven in London, to get some bargain buys in the market stalls, to hit up some tasty street food at Camden Lock or to catch some seriously beautiful views over London on top of Primrose Hill. And if you’re thinking brunch, these top Camden brunch places should sort you out.

King’s Cross

The funky Coal Drops Yard is a restaurant haven

King’s Cross is a real from-rags-to-riches story. The area has been transformed from more than just a transport hub to the rest of the UK and European destinations, and is now an area bustling with exciting restaurants. Most excitingly in the newly developed Coal Drops Yard. For other King’s Cross restaurants, check out our list of the best restaurants in King’s Cross

Hackney and Dalston

The cute canals of Hackney

These north-east areas of London are the latest to be gentrified and invaded by hipsters. The result? Higher housing prices, an influx of trendy spots to stay and play, and a huge and exciting rise in independent restaurants. Check out our favourite Hackney restaurants here and our favourite Dalston restaurants here. These areas are also huge destinations for brunch, so why don’t you hit up the best places for brunch in Hackney

Chelsea

The pretty streets of Chelsea

The affluent area of Chelsea has pretty people, pretty buildings and pretty shops. Vintage and second-hand shopping on the King’s Road is nearly as amazing as browsing the high-end boutiques, but endlessly cheaper.

The beautiful area has some amazing restaurants, catering to the well-healed crowd. You can discover them here. The area is also full to the brim with delicious brunch spots, so hit up our list of the best brunch places in Chelsea for some help with where to go.

Go shopping in London: Shop until you drop in the capital 

The world-famous Harrods is always lit up

London is also famous as the ultimate shopping destination, with areas such as Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Regent Street drawing huge money-spending crowds on a daily basis, not to mention the popular high-end boutiques in Knightsbridge and the King’s Road in Chelsea, plus the huge Westfield shopping centres in Stratford and White City.

But in-between all that shopping, you gotta eat, right? Here are the best restaurants to hit up around Oxford Street, whereas here are the must-visit restaurants in Knightsbridge. If you happen to be visiting Harrods, you won’t even have to leave the building to eat at some amazing restaurants – see our full guide to the Harrods Dining Hall here.    

See a play or musical in the West End: Theatre and musicals in London

The Lion King is one of the most popular musicals in the West End 

More than 400 years after Shakespeare first introduced the world to his timeless plays right here in London, this city is still one of the top destinations for epic theatre and musicals in the world. Giving both New York and Paris a run for their money, London rocks up some of the best theatre productions there are.

There are so many plays and musicals to choose from, but if you’re looking for inspiration, you can visit places such as the Southbank Centre and the National Theatre.  

Visit the Harry Potter Studio: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter

Harry Potter has become almost as big a draw to the UK as London itself, and we have no trouble understanding why. You can now visit the studio where all the Harry Potter films were recorded and see the famous sets from the eight movies as well as props and backdrops – this includes Diagonal Alley, the Forbidden Forest, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Platform 9 ¾.     

Be an Instagram queen: London’s most Instagrammable places

There’s no denying that Instagram dictates a lot of travellers’ decision on what destinations to hit up. Thankfully, London has Instagram moments in spades, from epic photo opportunities around the cityscape, to out-of-this-world restaurants that will seriously pimp up your Insta feed – discover London’s most Instagrammable restaurants here as well as your must-try pink restaurants in London, and London’s most Instagrammable loos.

Are you spending the weekend in London and need inspiration for where to eat, stay and play? Check out our ultimate guide to a weekend in London.