The 50 Best Things to Do in London
London is a must-see destination for most travelers, thanks to its history, culture (we see you, Meghan Markle worshippers) and delicious food (seriously—don’t fall for anyone telling you otherwise). But it can be easy to get caught up in a guidebook itinerary on your first visit to London (or second…or third), and there’s a lot more to see and do than Buckingham Palace. Here are 50 things worth adding to any London journey.
1. Begin your London travels with a stroll past Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, all of which can be seen within two hours, allowing you to move on to less touristy offerings throughout the city.
3. Descend underground to the Churchill War Rooms, the actual subterranean bunker where Winston Churchill led Britain to victory during World War II.
4. For something stranger, wander through the oddities at The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History, which displays everything from dodo bones to two-headed kittens.
5. Take a trip on the Thames Clipper, a water taxi that connects the Tate Britain to the Tate Modern (and offers close-up views of London’s sights along the way).
6. For a great panorama of the city, book a free visit to Sky Garden, London’s highest public garden.
7. An even grander view can be found on the London Eye, a busy tourist attraction that is actually worthwhile (especially if you book a timed ticket in advance online).
8. Attend a West End play—any West End play. Score discount, last-minute tickets at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square.
9. Plan months ahead to purchase seats for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a jaw-droppingly magical two-part play at the Palace Theater.
11. Grab a table at The American Bar in the Savoy Hotel to indulge in one of the city’s best (and most expensive) cocktails. When in—London.
12. For more affordable drinks head east to Bethnal Green where Satan’s Whiskers offers an intimate, friendly spot for a few cocktails (try the Frozen Gold Rush).
13. Around the corner, Coupette is a French-inspired cocktail joint with the city’s best drink: the Champagne piña colada.
14. Imbibe in an old subway toilet at WC Clapham, a wine and charcuterie bar that is much classier than it sounds.
15. Londoners love gin, and you will too after embarking on Gin Journey London, a neighborhood tour that visits distilleries and bars celebrating the botanical spirit. Opt for Shoreditch, Bermondsey or Soho.
16. The city boasts thousands of classic pubs, making it hard to pick the right one, but some of the best are the oldest. Grab a pint at Ye Olde Mitre or The George Inn, both of which are hundreds of years old.
17. Book a traditional Sunday roast lunch at the Harwood Arms, London’s only Michelin-starred pub.
18. Sidle up to one of the counter seats at The Barbary, where delicious small plates are inspired by the Barbary Coast.
19. Order the bone marrow at St. John Smithfield, a dish Anthony Bourdain once called his favorite of all time.
20. Line up for dinner at Dishoom, an intensely popular Indian restaurant with several locations throughout town. Brunch is also advisable, where you’ll want to order the mouth-watering Bacon Naan Roll.
21. Dalston is the hub of Turkish cuisine in London and you can’t go wrong at any of the locally-owned spots. Hasan Meze & Mangal, which is BYOB, is particularly recommended.
22. London’s markets are overwhelming sensory experiences that can’t be missed. Start with lunch at Borough Market, where dozens of food stalls and restaurants offer global cuisine (the gooey grilled cheese sandwiches at Kappacasein are a particular favorite).
23. On Saturdays, Londoners flock to Broadway Market, a long row of sellers and food stalls in Hackney. The adjacent Netil Market is perfect for an afternoon cocktail or some snacks.
24. Head early to Columbia Road Flower Market, a lively collection of flower sllers in East London that sets up shop every Sunday.
25. Enjoy a scoop of the city’s best homemade ice cream at Udderlicious, which boasts two locations and a fan-selected flavor of the month.
26. High tea is requisite while in London, so skip lunch and book into Fortnum & Mason, where the offerings are unlimited and can be packed to go once you’re full.
27. Sketch is also a popular spot for afternoon tea, known for its millennial pink dining room and space pod toilets. Be sure to reserve a table weeks in advance.
28. Book one of the hotel rooms at Shoreditch House, an offshoot of Soho House that features a rooftop swimming pool and one of the buzziest bars in London. You don’t have to be a member to stay.
30. Splurge on an overnight stay at Cliveden House Hotel, a grand five-star poperty outside Windsor where Meghan Markle slept the night before her wedding.
31. Downton Abbey devotees can hop a train west to Highclere Castle, which offers tours of the rooms and grounds and hosts special events throughout the year. Pro tip: Viking Cruises has special access to the castle and its add-on “Oxford & Highclere Castle” excursion can score you a tour even when it’s shut to the public.
32. Also outside the city is Warner Brothers Leavesden, home to “The Making of Harry Potter” studio tour, an ideal visit for Potterheads and casual fans alike.
33. Harry Potter fanatics can also go on a walking tour of London with Tour For Muggles, which strolls past iconic locations from the film series.
34. Speaking of movies, rom-com lovers can seek out the blue door from Notting Hill at 280 Westbourne Park Road. Nearby, look for Alice’s Antiques on Portobello Road, a shop used in the recent Paddington films.
35. Sports fans can drunkenly root for a local football (soccer) team at Emirates Stadium.
36. Or attend a cricket match at Lord’s Cricket Ground, where games can last for seveal days.
37. Ascend Primrose Hill for a peaceful view of London’s skyline, which is particularly picturesque at sunset.
38. Take a stroll through Hyde Park, where visitors can get a glimpse of Kensington Palace, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain and the Serpentine, a lake that invites boating and swimming during the summer months.
39. Follow Regent’s Canal through Little Venice, where dozens of houseboats line the pathways. Stop in for a coffee at The Waterside Café, which is so close to the water that it’s actually on a boat.
40. In the winter months strap on a pair of ice skates and test your skills on the rink at Somerset House, which opens annually from November to January.
41. Enjoy local and exotic plants year-round at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which puts on a magical display around Christmastime.
42. Take a dip in the Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond, a women’s-only outdoor swimming spot in Hampstead Heath.
43. London has several posh department stores, but none are as photogenic as Liberty London, which is worth a browse even if you can’t afford any of the goods.
44. Scour for treasures (and some junk) along Portobello Road, home to the world’s largest antiques market.
45. Burberry is the quintessential British attire, but if you can’t afford the high price tag, head to the Burberry outlet in Hackney for a discounted classic trench.
46. More eclectic wares can be found in Camden Market, which sells a mix of vintage and new clothes and accessories, as well as delicious eats.
47. Head north to Walthamstow where God’s Own Junkyard is a brightly-lit haven of clever neon signs that also sells food and drink at its Rolling Scones Café.
48. Pose for the classic shot at Abbey Road’s crosswalk. Arrive as early in the morning as possible to avoid the crowds of people clambering for that perfect Beatles imitation—and hey, watch out for cars!
49. Embark on a street art tour around Shoreditch with Street Art London to uncover works by Banksy, Invader and Roa.
50. End your stay with a final pint (or several) at The Churchill Arms, a quirky pub in Notting Hill that covers itself with hundreds of Christmas trees during the holiday season.