The Best Things to do in London

The 15 Best Things to do in London

You’ll never tire of the UK’s capital city, not when there are so many exciting things to do in London. Here you’ll find the world’s greatest museums, some of the world’s most recognizable landmarks (Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, anyone?), and the UK’s best theaters, food markets, and walking tours. 

With so many great things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. That’s why we decided to compile our list of the absolute best things to do in London for you. Keep to these exciting, unique, and fun London bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an exceptional time exploring this wonderful capital city!

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The 15 Best Things to do in London

1. Watch the Changing of the Guard

Best Things to do in London: Buckingham Palace

Few London sightseeing attractions capture the imagination as profoundly as Buckingham Palace. This London landmark is best described as iconic, and if it’s your first time in the city, you’ll want to make a quick beeline to the gates in St James’s Park. 

Buckingham Palace is a marvel in itself, and you’ll love admiring the gorgeous architecture of this regal, royal abode. Queen Elizabeth II and many other members of the royal family often stay here when they are in London, and if you see the Royal Standard flying high from the balcony, you know that Queenie is home.

This does mean that – except for a brief window of opportunity in summer when a few tours are allowed – you can’t actually go inside the palace. We don’t mind though, because the best show is waiting for you outside. Head to the gates at 10:45 am, and you’ll catch the Changing of the Guard when the Queen’s Household Guards change over duties.

Accompanied by all the pomp and fanfare you’d expect, the guards on duty are replaced by the new guards taking over for the day. You’ll see lots of marching soldiers in their finest uniforms, accompanied by marching bands in an expertly choreographed military drill. 

The ceremony generally takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, but you can check the Changing of the Guard website for exact dates and times.


2. Visit the Museum of London

London is a city of museums (and the vast majority are entirely free to enter!), so it can be a challenge to decide which museums you should add to your London itinerary. We can say with certainty though that the Museum of London is one of the must-do things in London!

This excellent museum is dedicated entirely to London’s history, meaning you’ve got around 2,000 years’ worth of history to delve into. You’ll learn about the city’s Roman roots, its medieval expansion, and its decimation due to plague and fire before rising from the ashes to become the modern, multicultural metropolis you find today. 

The Museum of London focuses on the stories of Londoners, whether they be royalty or chimney sweeps, and you’ll hear from everyone from soccer stars to refugees as you explore the city’s history and character.

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3. Join a themed walking tour of London

Fun Things to do in London: Walking Tour

It’s impossible to see all of London on a single walking tour. The city’s just too big, too sprawling, and has too many layers of history and topics of interest. Instead, we recommend choosing from a long list of themed walking tours that take place in the city and focusing on a particular area of interest that just might intrigue you.

Themed walking tours are incredibly popular in London, and there are a surprising number of unique themes to choose from. Foodie fans will want to opt for a foodie-focused walking tour that takes you to London’s best markets and street eats, while Harry Potter fans won’t want to miss out on a tour of all the filming locations across the city.

There are Sherlock Holmes tours, Changing of the Guard tours, Jack the Ripper Tours, Ghost Tours, Medieval Tours, and so, so many more!


4. Tour the Houses of Parliament

London Things to do: Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament are the heart and soul of Westminster. Overlooking the River Thames, this is where the government meets and debates throughout the year, and you can take a guided tour to learn more.

The Houses of Parliament are officially called the Palace of Westminster because this is technically a royal palace. Inside the grandiose building, you’ll find the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as centuries of tradition and history. 

Outside, you’ll be able to tell the time by looking upwards at the enormous chiming hands of Big Ben, one of London’s most well-known landmarks.

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5. Take a Beefeater Tour of the Tower of London

Best Things to do in London: Beefeater Tour of the Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the city’s most historic sights, and the best way to explore this mighty castle is on a Beefeater Tour.

Dating back to 1066, the Tower of London was originally founded by William the Conqueror in an effort to stake his claim on the crown of England and control the people he’d just invaded. William built the White Tower, the oldest keep in the castle, and every monarch after added extra walls, keeps, and towers to create the monstrous fortress you see today.

The “Beefeaters” are the traditional guards of the tower and of the monarchy, although today, they perform a largely ceremonial role. You’ll see them in their black and red jackets with their distinctive regalia and hats leading group tours of the Tower of London, where you’ll learn all about the 1,000-year-old history hidden behind the stone walls.

The tours are officially named the “Yeoman Warder Tours” because the official title of a Beefeater is a “Yeoman Warder of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London, Member of the Sovereign’s Body Guard of the Yeoman Guard Extraordinary.” 

While on the tour, you’ll see famous bed chambers slept in by royalty, hear about ghastly tales of murder and deceit, listen to ghostly stories in darkened towers, and visit the glittering “Crown Jewels” of the monarchy. It’s quite the tour, and in our opinion, it’s easily one of the best things to do in London!


6. Take a Photo at Tower Bridge

London Bucket List: Tower Bridge

From the ramparts of the Tower of London or the embankments of the River Thames, there’s no chance you won’t spot the distinctive spires and turrets of Tower Bridge. This beautiful work of architecture dates back to 1894, and it’s one of the most recognizable London attractions.

You’ll want to take a selfie as you walk over the bridge, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the drawbridge being raised or lowered to allow tall-masted ships to pass beneath it. But there’s more to do at Tower Bridge than taking photographs, and if you book your ticket in advance, you can explore the upper levels of the bridge.

The Tower Bridge Exhibition is found in the upper rooms and walkways of the two towers that rise above the River Thames. The two towers are up to 65 meters high, and you’ll have exceptional views of the riverside (including the Tower of London) from the viewing areas. 

The exhibition also allows you to explore the bridge’s history, including the original Victorian steam engines that allowed the drawbridge to operate.

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7. Delve into the past at the British Museum

What to do in London: British Museum

A trip to the British Museum is one of the top things to do in London. This world-famous museum is home to some of the most exceptional archaeological finds in history, but best of all, the British Museum is completely free for anyone to visit!

You’ll find the British Museum on Great Russell Street, right in the heart of the capital. There are as many as eight million objects held within the museum, making this one of the largest and most extensive public collections anywhere in the world.

The sheer size of the British Museum is guaranteed to awe, and you’ll love the sense of grandeur as you marvel at the neoclassical facades that welcome you. Inside, you’ll need hours of spare time to even scratch the surface of the many exhibitions on display, and you can easily return time and time again to find countless new objects and exhibits of interest.

The British Museum covers thousands of years of human existence, with a particular focus on the ancient world. A few of the innumerable highlights that you can see include the disputed Elgin Marbles, which were taken from the Parthenon in Athens, as well as the linguistically important Rosetta Stone, which was found in Egypt. 

There are ancient shipwrecks, Assyrian archaeological finds, Egyptian mummies, and so much more waiting to be discovered inside the British Museum!


8. Admire the views from The Shard

Unique Things to do in London: The Shard

The Shard is the tallest building in London. You’ll see the unmistakable outline of this elegant skyscraper from almost anywhere in the city (if you’re flying into London, it will be one of the first things you spot from your window seat) because The Shard rises to an impressive height of 309.6 meters.

This is the tallest building in the United Kingdom, as well as London, and one of the tallest in any European country (the seventh-tallest, to be precise). One of the best things to do in London is to take the elevator to the 72nd-floor observatory, where you’ll be awed by the incredible views across the capital.

You can enjoy a glass of prosecco or a cold beer as you look out over the city, and if it’s a sunny day, you’ll want to step out onto the open-air viewing platform where the best panoramas are to be had. 

If one trip to the top of The Shard isn’t enough to satisfy your love of a good city-wide panorama, then you’ll be happy to hear that you can book a high-level room at Shangri-La The Shard for an extended stay at altitude!

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9. Enjoy an evening of theater in the West End

Must do things in London: West End

London’s West End is one of the world’s foremost theater and entertainment districts, and you’ll love watching a show here during your stay in the city. 

Located to the west of the City of London, the West End is home to an incredible concentration of playhouses, theaters, events venues, and cinemas. The most famous street is Shaftesbury Avenue, where you’ll find iconic venues like the Apollo Theatre and the Palace Theatre, as well as popular showings of musicals like Les Misérables and cultural phenomena like Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Book your tickets in advance to score a deal (particularly on matinees and weekday showings), then book a table at your favorite restaurant for a pre-theater meal before an afternoon or evening of West End entertainment!


10. Ride high into the sky on the London Eye

Best Things to do in London: London Eye

A trip on the London Eye is one of the most fun things to do in London. The London Eye is one of Europe’s tallest and biggest observation wheels, and you’ll love the experience as much as you enjoy the supreme views from the observation pods.

The London Eye first opened in 2000 as a tribute to the Millennium, and back then, it was the tallest observation wheel in the world. It’s since been superseded by others, but with a height of 135 meters, you won’t be complaining when you’re riding high into the sky!

You’ll find the London Eye is located on the Southbank, on the opposite side of the River Thames to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. You’ll slowly revolve around as you make yourself comfortable in the observation pod, with an ever-changing panorama of London revolving around you. 

While the standard ticket is an excellent way to see London’s sights from above, you can step things up a notch by booking a London Eye experience. These change throughout the year and range from private hire and champagne reception options to “Cupid Pods” on Valentine’s day and festive experiences at Christmas.


11. Take a tour of St Paul’s Cathedral

London Bucket List: St Paul’s Cathedral

The distinctive dome of St Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s most famous sights, and you can learn more about this iconic cathedral’s history and heritage by joining a guided tour.

Daily tours of St Paul’s Cathedral are run entirely by volunteers who simply have a love for history, so rest assured that you’ll be in enthusiastic hands as you delve back centuries into the past. There’s a lot to learn because there’s been a place of worship on this religious site since the 7th century AD.

St Paul’s Cathedral is located on the highest hilltop in the City of London, and the present-day design with its magnificent dome was built by Sir Christopher Wren in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London. If you’re feeling energetic, then you can climb the 528 stairs that lead to the top of the dome, where excellent views of the city await!

St Paul’s Cathedral is steeped in as much artwork as it has history, and a real highlight of the tour will point out the best works of art in the building. 

This is very much a place of worship still, and at certain times of the day, you’ll hear the choirs and organ players practicing, while if you’re religiously minded (this is an Anglican church), you can even join a church service.


12. Eat street food at Borough Market

Best Things to do in London: Borough Market

London Bridge is one of the many crossings of the River Thames. The modern bridge you see today is just the latest in a long line of bridges stretching back to the Roman era, if not earlier, and the archways and underpasses on the southern side of the River Thames are the perfect locations for one of London’s oldest, yet most exciting markets. 

Borough Market has a history dating back a millennium, and it’s thought to have been trading by London Bridge for at least 1,000 years. The market was officially formalized in 1756, and since then, it’s been providing Londoners with some of the best and freshest food in the city. 

Borough Market is first and foremost a food market. Vendors sell fruit and vegetables picked that morning in the countryside, while fishmongers offer sustainably sourced seafood, and cheesemongers sell artisanal cheese. Whatever you love, you’ll find it here!

But in addition to the more traditional grocery-style shops, Borough Market is the best place in London for street food. You’ll find a rich smorgasbord of British and international cuisine, ranging from hog roast sandwiches and bangers and mash to fish curries and laksa.

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13. Attempt to hike the entire London Loop

London has a never-ending network of walking paths and trails that connect the urban with the city’s last pockets of nature, but few are as encompassing as the London Loop. 

This epic loop is 150 miles long, but it’s conveniently split into 24 more manageable sections that you can tackle as day trips. The London Loop takes in much of the outer suburbs of Greater London, and it’s an excellent way to escape the crowded city center and experience a different side of the capital. 

The London Loop is waymarked the entire way and takes in locations like Old Bexley, Petts Wood, and Uxbridge. We’ll be honest, you’ve probably never heard of any of those places if you’re not a Londoner, but that’s what makes the trail so interesting!

Another great long-distance hiking walk you could also attempt is the London Capital Ring Walk. At 78 miles, this is much shorter than the London Loop, and it also keeps you a little closer to the central sights with a route that passes no further than 10 miles from Westminster at its greatest extent. 

The London Capital Ring Walk takes in many of London’s more famous areas and districts, including places like Richmond Park (an old royal hunting ground), Olympic Park (where the 2012 Olympics were focused), and places like Wimbledon Park, Highgate, and Crystal Palace.


14. Book tickets for a London summer festival

Best Things to do in London: Summer Festival

London is full of energy in the summer, and why wouldn’t it be when the sun often stays high in the sky until as late as 10 pm in June and July?

Summer is the best time to enjoy London’s outdoor parks and beer gardens, and it’s the best time of the year for music lovers looking to embrace the warm weather and long days. Throughout summer, London hosts an impressive lineup of music festivals across the city, and you’ll have trouble deciding which ones to book tickets for.

In June, London’s Hyde Park hosts the British Summer Time Festival, a roaring event that in the past has seen headliners like Adele performing to packed-out crowds. In July, hip-hop lovers can book tickets for Wireless Festival, a three-day festival that takes place in multiple locations in the city. 

Kew Gardens hosts the family-friendly Kew the Music festival, Live at Chelsea sees golden oldie headliners, and Kaleidoscope takes place at Alexandra Palace. Whatever your music tastes, you’ll find a festival for you in London!


15. Join the festivities at Winter Wonderland

London Bucket List: Winter Wonderland

Winter isn’t often the first choice of season to visit London, but we’re hoping to change your mind. Sure, the weather is unpredictable (it might rain, it might snow, it might even be sunny!), and the days are criminally short, but have you heard of Winter Wonderland?

Winter Wonderland is London’s answer to the great European Christmas market tradition, and like everything the city does, this six-week-long winter festival is carried out on an enormous scale. Starting in mid-November, Winter Wonderland entertains tens of thousands of revelers every day until the first week of January.

You’ll find Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, where beer tents and fun fair rides sprawl across much of the famous public park. The festival takes inspiration from Germany, and you can find an entire Bavarian village dedicated to selling bratwursts, schnitzels, and beers. 

There’s much more than this, and you can spend your afternoon or evening ice skating, enjoying the rides, shopping for Christmas gifts, and drinking mulled wine. If you happen to be in town in December, this is definitely one of the coolest things to do in London!

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There you have it! The 15 best things to do in London. What’s your favorite thing to do in London?


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About the Author:

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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