Planning a trip to London soon? Be sure to check out our list of the best things to do in London before heading off!
Last updated: 15th Jun 2022
So you’ve decided to visit London! As you probably could’ve guessed, the capital city is packed with fun, interesting, tasty, thrilling, educative, relaxing, adventurous, and creative activities. So to help you plan, we gathered the best things to do in London so you can make the most of your trip.
Let's kick the list off with the most touristy of the tourist activities…
After an £80 million makeover, Big Ben is back. We won’t hear the “bing bongs" until early 2023, but that doesn’t make the 96 m structure any less impressive. Now officially the UK’s most photographed building, why not snap a pic with it? Right beside it, you’ll see the Houses of Parliament, the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, which you can enter for a tour, to watch talks and events or sit in on a debate.
Watch the Tower Bridge lift
The Tower Bridge, not to be confused with the less pretty London Bridge, crosses the Thames near the Tower of London. What you really want to see is when the Tower Bridge lifts its middle to allow large boats to pass beneath. And if you’re brave enough, you can walk across the bridge too which has a glass floor, so when you look down all you see is the river. Maybe bring a spare change of pants just in case.
Stand in the historic of Westminster Abbey
For those interested in history, architecture, or the royals, Westminster Abbey is a top attraction. Different from museums, at Westminster Abbey, you’re literally standing where a lot of history took place. For example, it's been the coronation church for the British royal family since 1066, and 17 royal weddings have taken place there.
Feel like royalty in Buckingham Palace
In the summertime (between July and October), Buckingham Palace is open to the public. Visitors can see the 19 State Room, The Grand Staircase, The Throne Room, lots of paintings by world-famous artists, the garden, and so much more. Picture huge chandeliers suspended above you, art on the walls and details carved into the ceiling, golden staircases and ruby carpets.
Watch a tennis match at Wimbledon
In sports, there aren’t many venues as iconic as Wimbledon. Tennis fan or not, everyone knows about it. If you’re a fan of sports, watching a match might be one of the best things to do in London. But even if there are none scheduled during your visit, you can always explore the Wimbledon museum instead, which is the largest tennis museum in the world!
Cruise down the Thames
Why not check out the city from a different perspective? Hop on an award-winning cruise with an expert guide that can tell you everything there is to know about the capital. From historical landmarks and the history of buildings to facts about Harry Potter, it's one of the best ways to learn about the city.
Slide down the worlds tallest slide at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
London hosted the Olympic Games in this massive park in 2012, attracting more than 16 million people. It's free to visit every day, and, besides the tennis courts and swimming pools, there are trails, playgrounds, water fountains and a huge attraction - the ArcelorMittal Orbit. This 178-metre tall sculpture also has a slide. And yes, you can slide down it. If you’re not too scared. It is the world’s tallest and longest tunnel slide, after all.
Find tickets for events at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park - here
Be inspired by London’s art galleries
London is packed with art galleries, exhibitions and other inspiring creative projects. There’s the Tate Modern for contemporary and modern art. The gallery holds interesting pieces from collections such as Queer Lives And Art, Women And Art, Black Identities And Art, Animals And Art, and more. The Dulwich Picture Gallery is also fantastic and was the world's first purpose-built public art gallery.
The Serpentine Gallery is another brilliant free art gallery that holds contemporary art. And Somerset House is an arts centre that describes itself as “the UK’s largest and most exciting creative community”. In a word, the gallery is vital. There are many more art galleries that are worth checking out, but we have to move on!
Or goggle a different kind of art at The Photographers' Gallery
If paintings aren’t really your thing, perhaps you'll prefer The Photographers' Gallery. As you might have guessed, this is a place where photography takes the lead. The gallery is the UK’s leading centre for exploring photography and, if you’d love to get involved yourself, they offer workshops, courses and more.
Or see the some neon sign art at God’s Own Junkyard
Photo: God's Own Junkyard on Facebook
God’s Own Junkyard is home to dozens of neon signs, some dating back to the 1960s. Using random objects he finds and renewed waste, owner Chris Bracey makes and restores neon signs. Some have even been featured in productions such as Batman and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's so beautiful that even Vogue had a photoshoot there, and it's free to enter.
Educate yourself in London’s museums
There are loads of museums in London to check out. The National History Museum is home to Sophie the Stegosaurus, the most complete skeleton of its kind to be found. The Science Museum is home to some curious exhibitions, including a Stephen Hawking display featuring some work never seen by the public before. The free display will be available until March 2023. The Museum of London has Paul Simonon's (The Clash) bass, a photography exhibition, and the Votes for Women display.
Experience something different at Wellcome Collection
This free museum and library deserves its own section. The Wellcome Collection invites visitors to ponder the connections between medicine, art, life, and science. Created by medical research charity Wellcome Trust, the museum features collections such as X-rays over 100 years old and The Reading Room, where you'll find over 1,000 books.
Have a picnic in one of London’s many parks
It might surprise you to hear London has plenty of parks. You can stroll past the cute Duck Island Cottage and hang with the pelicans in St James' Park. Richmond Park has significant importance in wildlife conservation, and it's the home to herds of deer. Regent’s Park offers a beautiful from Primrose Hill, which has been recognised as London’s best scenic view, and Holland Park has the beautiful Kyoto garden
All of London’s parks are beautiful; we can’t choose which is best. So sadly you’ll be tasked with choosing which you’d like to lounge in yourself!
Take a walk on the wild side at Walthamstow Wetlands
Walthamstow Wetlands is just 15 minutes from central London and is Europe’s largest urban wetland nature reserve. The reserve is open daily and is home to foxes, mice, bats, voles, birds and lots of smaller creatures. There’s also a cafe on-site, more than 13 miles of path to stroll down and soak in the scenery, and ten reservoirs that create a sense of peace when you gaze across them. Stunning.
Find tickets for events at Walthamstow Wetlands - here
Meet the animals at Spitalfields City Farm
This small non-slaughter farm is perfect for animal lovers. Spitalfields has pigs, ferrets, goats, sheep, donkeys, guinea pigs, and more. Just off Brick Lane, you don’t have to travel far to say hello. You can even buy fresh produce from the farm, such as eggs, vegetables, and botanical cordials. The farm even hosts the occasional event, including a goat race which is obviously one of the best things to do in London.
Feed the gorillas at London Zoo
Photo: London Zoo on Facebook
ZSL London Zoo is an ethical zoo with every animal you could want to see. That includes lions, hippos, sloths, penguins, reptiles, otters, meerkats, tortoises, flamingos, gorillas, tigers, insects, jellyfish and more. And there are some unbelievable experiences on offer. You can feed gorillas, experience what it's like to be a giraffe keeper, meet the penguins, monkey, and meerkats, and more. We’re jealous!
Catch a movie at the British Film Institute
While you could watch a movie just about anywhere, the BFI is special, possessing one of the most important film and TV collections in the world. It holds over 11,000 titles, covering 120 years of Britain's history of art and film. There are even family-friendly movies playing so the whole family can head down.
Eat, shop, wander, and chill in Chinatown
There are lots of great things to do in London’s Chinatown. You could attend Chinese New Year celebrations in January/February time, eat your body weight in dumplings and then tuck into matcha desserts. Take a picture with the beautiful, colourful arches, learn more about Chinese culture at Chinese Art Now, and shop for trinkets.
Immerse yourself in culture and history on a walking tour
Perfect no matter your budget thanks to free options, walking tours are a fantastic way to learn more about the city you’re visiting. Choose from all sorts of walks of various themes, including The Beatles, Harry Potter, Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, historic pub walks, canal walks, photo walks, foodie walks, and walks that take you off the beaten track.
Check out what art is on display on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square
Every six months, art that sits on top of the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square is replaced with a new piece. When the art piece is due to be replaced and unveiled, people travel from all over to count down and see what new art piece lies beneath the cloth. As such an iconic area of London, you can also simply relax, enjoy the view, and do some people-watching.
Explore endangered species at Kew Gardens
Find peace in the Japanese gardens, explore 37 acres of woodland, discover rare plants, flick through books detailing 2,000 years of plant knowledge, and investigate the Palm House - an indoor rainforest. Walk across the treetop canopy, check out The Hive installation, and check out the world's first public gallery for botanical art.
London is overflowing with shops. You could stop by Harrods, a luxury department store with big-name designers such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Canada Goose, Hublot, Chanel and more. Or Bond Street, a street full of similar luxury brands. Or, if you’re mindful of cash, Oxford Street is home to over 300 shops, including Urban Outfitters, Selfridges, Primark, and Nike Town. And Carnaby Street is a pedestrianised street for shopping and had Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones as regular shoppers.
Break a leg at the theatre
With the West End and a deep love for the arts, you can bet there are plenty of theatres in London that’ll whisk you away into a story. Boulevard Theatre is London’s newest, but if you like a bit of history, Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theatre is located on the bank of the River Thames. And The Yard Theatre is all about contemporary stories.
Haggle your way through the colourful Columbia Road Flower Market
Open on Sundays, London’s flower market on Columbia Road is one of the city’s oldest flower markets where people go to buy homegrown flowers, cacti, herbs, shrubs, succulents and more to brighten up their lives. Just be sure to get there early as the market shuts around 3 pm.
Visit Ally Pally
There’s almost too much to get up to at Alexandra Palace. There's the adventure playground Go Ape, a boating lake, the farmers market with 30+ stalls, golf, ice hockey matches, the Red Bull Soapbox Race, and more. But perhaps more importantly, there are always lots of great live music gigs to attend.
If you’re unfamiliar with Piccadilly Circus, it’s almost like England’s equivalent of Times Square in New York with all the lights and big screens. There's lots to see and do, including viewing the Anteros Statue on top of the fountain or taking a picture in front of the Piccadilly Lights (that's the big screens). There's Piccadilly Arcade full of luxury fashion brands and Waterstones - the largest bookshop in Europe spanning over eight floors. You can also expect lots of pretty listed buildings.
Eat and drink 'til you drop at brunch
Photo: The Joiner on Worship on Facebook
England is known for its love of a booze-up, so it only makes sense to hop on the brunch trend while you’re here! There are many kinds of brunches, including music-themed ones with drag artists, where you can jam, dance, sing, eat, and drink all the cocktails your body will let you. It’s a proper good laugh.
From free performances in little pubs to big names on comedy club stages, there are lots of comedy events in London waiting for you. With such talented acts, you’ll be helplessly laughing until your jaw, stomach, and thighs hurt from slapping them.
Life is stressful, and we carry that stress in our bodies. Heading to a spa to have it massaged, soaked, steamed, or bathed out is a fantastic idea, especially with the wide range of insanely good spas in London. Some stand-out spas include AIRE Ancient Baths, The Retreat at The Londoner, and Hedgerow by Agua.
Browse the Borough Market
Photo: Borough Market on Facebook
Wading your way through Borough Market is widely recognised as one of the best things to do in London. There’s so much to discover including cheeses, Levantine-inspired cocktails, Taiwanese street food, Persian sharing dishes, wine, lobster, Indian food, Russian and Baltic bread, specialist teas, and so much more. The market dates back to 1014 and is a perfect example of how multicultural London is, which is what makes the city so great.
See a Proms concert at Royal Albert Hall
The Proms is an eight-week programme of orchestral concerts that are performed in the Royal Albert Hall, one of London’s most iconic venues with a capacity of 5,272. In 2022, The Proms start on the 15th of July and run until the 10th of September. And there’s even a CBeebies Proms performance for the kids.
Or tour The Royal Opera House
As you could probably guess, the opera house has a lot of history. And what better way to learn about it than with a tour? Tours include topics such as the history of the building and how to put on a production, the stories of the women who made the opera house, the relationship between theatre and crime in Covent Garden, and how the LGBTQ+ community contributed to the house and more.
Eat a full English
If you’re visiting from another country, you have to. If you’re visiting from another part of England, you still have to. We don't make the rules. They’re so tasty it hurts! Choose from a few establishments, including Regency Cafe, where you get to customise your plate, Smiths of Smithfield, and Riding House Cafe. You just can’t beat a proper full English.
And then go for a Sunday roast
If you can manage this after the full English then hats off to you. Because it’s a lot of food. You just can't beat a huge slab of meat or a nut roast with all the veg, potatoes, and Yorkshire puddings. It’s heaven on a plate and Marksman Public House, Blacklock Shoreditch, Harwood Arms, and Canton Arms are some of the best places to get it.
Walk beneath the Thames in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel opened in 1902 and around 4,000 people use it each day. It helps people get across the River Thames safely and some believe it to be haunted by the ghosts of deceased Victorians. But we’re sure it’s fine… probably.
Hunt for dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park
Sure to go down a treat with the littluns, Crystal Palace Park has dinosaurs dotted around that have always been popular with kids. In front of each dinosaur sculpture, there's a short piece of writing explaining the animal and the understanding we have of them. It’s a nice fusion of education and fun.
Deep dive for treasures in Portobello Road Market
The Portobello Road Market has fruit and veg, clothes, cakes, and other stalls, but it’s best known for all the antiques, little trinkets, wall plaques, pottery, jewellery and all sorts of cool little items. The market itself is surrounded by pastel buildings and is open Monday to Saturday.
Join the party at Notting Hill Carnival
This sunny, party is an annual Caribbean festival and has gone down in the streets of London since 1966. It takes place over two days and you'll know it's on because of all the colour, mind-blowingly beautiful, artistic costumes, sound systems bumping reggae, ska, and RnB, steel bands, and Caribbean food. Every year has a theme and it's free to attend, so why not?
Cool off in Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds
Photo: Hampstead Heath Swimming Ponds on Facebook
Hampstead Heath Ponds is the only place in the UK you can swim outdoors at any time of year with lifeguards looking out for you. The area is beautiful, green and full of wildlife. There are womens, mens, and mixed ponds so everyone can feel comfortable making it perfect for those uncomfortably hot summer heatwaves. Just watch out for the ducks!
Be wowed by the The Painted Hall
In a nutshell, The Painted Hall is like the English version of the Sistine Chapel. The hall was designed in the early 18th century and features 40,000 square feet of walls and ceilings adorned with stunning paintings of royalty and mythical creatures. It’s breath taking, and completely free to visit!
Immerse yourself in the world of magic with Harry Potter
There are a lot of Harry Potter related activities to get stuck into in London where you can release your inner child. You can visit Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Railway Station or visit the House of Minalima, the studio that made the props for the movie and many others. You could also check out the Warner Bros Studio, where they serve butterbeer and have the real props, costumes, SFX, VFX, and so much more.
Unwind in a garden 160 metres above ground
Photo: Sky Garden on Facebook
This skyscraper holds London’s highest garden, the Sky Garden, and with free entry every day of the week, there’s no reason not to check it out. There are restaurants and bars up there, but if you want to take advantage of the zen vibe, there's morning yoga, live music and DJs to enjoy too.
Blow your taste buds away at a Michelin star restaurant
The only issue you’ll have at these insanely delicious restaurants is choosing which to book a table at. Seriously. With 66 Michelin-starred restaurants in the city, you’ve got your work cut out for you. If you’re really stuck, Core by Clare Smyth has three Michelin stars and chef patron Clare Smyth has won numerous awards, including Worlds Best Female Chef.
Go nose hunting in Soho’s
In the mid-90s, noses bizarrely started appearing on the walls in Soho. Some have been taken down, but seven still remain. Eventually, artist Rick Buckley admitted he created moulds of his nose and stuck them around the area, protesting against the increase in surveillance. Can you find them all?
And have a drink in a Soho gay bar when you’ve found them all
Photo: She Soho on Facebook
Soho is one of the best areas in London for nightlife, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, it’s been the centre of London’s LGBTQ+ community for decades with gay bars all around Old Compton Street. Go to G-A-Y for your typical gay bar, Friendly Society for strange decor, and Yard for a slightly older crowd.
Have a leisurely stroll through Little Venice
You can already tell by the name that this canal area will be peaceful and perfect for an afternoon stroll. Complete with cafes and pubs by the water, it might be the best place in London to relax and unwind. You could even get a boat ride if you like!
See what Camden has to offer
Photo: Camden Market on Facebook
The market is probably the area most are likely to visit, and with over 1,000 shops selling clothing, art, food, music and more, it’s clear to see why. The entire area has an alternative feel and champions the unusual. Wading through it all and finding little treasures is definitely one of the best things to do in London.
Stuff your face until you can’t walk at Seven Dials
Photo: Seven Dials on Facebook
Dairy lovers in particular will love this multi-level food court that's full of cheese. But if cheese isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are still lots of dumplings, cakes, sandwiches, meats, cocktails, beers, noodles, and more to devour.
Find tickets for food experiences in London - here
Pay your respects at Highgate Cemetery
Highgate is the resting place of many famous names such as George Eliot (poet, novelist), Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Christina Rossetti (poet), and Malcolm Mclaren (impresario, musician, designer, and promoter/manager of the Sex Pistols and New York Dolls). The cemetery is also simply gorgeous and has a magical quality to it, as you can see above.
Feel Uber British at afternoon tea
Photo: Fortnum & Mason on Facebok
Can you think of anything more British than going for afternoon tea? Exactly, so if you’re in England’s capital, it only makes sense to tuck into a slice of cake and sip on some Earl Grey. There are many places in London where you can get your tea/coffee and cake fix, including The Wolseley, The Zetter Townhouse, Town House at The Kensington, Aqua Shard, Fortnum & Mason, Claridge’s, The Ritz, and more.
Wilton's Music Hall has served as a music hall since 1859. The RIBA award-winning building is the oldest music hall in the world and showcases theatre and live music. As you could’ve guessed, the Grade II* listed building is gorgeous and of significant cultural and historical significance.
Get creative at the Southbank Centre
Photo: Southbank Centre on Facebook
The Southbank Centre is a complex made up of multiple artistic venues. There's a bit of everything in there, including literature, comedy, music, exhibitions and more. And when you get peckish, there’s also a food market. The centre is the largest arts centre in the UK and definitely worth a look.
Eat even more at the Market Hall’s in Victoria, Canary Wharf, and off Oxford Street
Photo: Market Halls on Facebook
Enjoy some live music while you tuck into Malaysian street food, gourmet kebabs, dim sum, sushi, taco, Italian pasta, and chicken burgers. And wash it back with gin, coffee, or a Brewdog pint. Each market has different stalls, so you’ve plenty to choose from. Tip: happy hour at Oxford Street is every day from 5-7 pm
Find tickets for food experiences in London - here
Enjoy the views from Western Europe’s tallest building
The Shard is a 95-storey skyscraper and is a staple of London. From that height and with a panoramic view, there isn’t much you can’t see. At night, with a glass of champagne, it’s the perfect way to feel a bit fancy, relax and get some brilliant photos.
Be wowed by St Paul’s Cathedral
Photo: St Paul's Cathedral on Facebook
This Grade I-listed building is mind-blowingly magnificent. Where do we start? Walk up 259 steps to The Whispering Gallery, the room with acoustics that allow you to hear a whisper from across the room, which has a width of 112 feet. The Nave is also amazing, with detailed art all over. And the chapels have plenty to look at, with St. Dunstan's Chapel and its 17th-century oak screen and mosaic by Salviati.
Have a drink or two in London’s best bars
Photo: Prospect of Whitby on Facebook
Whether you prefer historic traditional pubs or modern bars, there’s something for you. Cahoots is a 1940s tube-themed bar, the Sky Garden bars are probably the best for a great view, and Callooh Callay has creative cocktails. For traditional pubs, try Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The Ten Bells, or Prospect of Whitby.
Dance your troubles away in London’s best nightclubs
Photo: Ministry of Sound on Facebook
London has so many mind-blowing, pyro-heavy, crazy nightclubs with the best DJs in the world regularly on the decks. Fabric came in at number 15 on DJ Mag's list of the top 100 clubs in the world. Ministry of Sound came in at number 23 and is easily one of the biggest clubbing brands in the world. Egg London has a 24-hour licence, meaning the parties can go well into the next day and beyond.
And those are the best things to do in London! Perfect for any kind of person, the city of London has just about anything and everything to entertain, feed, educate, inspire, and beyond. Have a great trip!
Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.