London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, with a rich history and some of the most outstanding culture on the planet. Attracting 27 million visitors every year, London is the most visited city in Europe. Discover the city with our list of the best things to do and see in London, for visitors and locals alike.
Camden is a well-known cultural neighborhood in north London. Known for its alternative culture, the crowds here are filled with goths, punks, rockabillies and tourists alike. Camden has a vibrant body mod community and you will find a number of piercing and tattoo shops in this part of town.
Camden Market is eclectic and diverse, featuring street food from international cuisines, and lots of stalls selling trinkets and unique artwork to take home. Rummage through vintage clothing racks, find a used book to take on your travels, or visit one of the city’s best vegan bakeries at Cookies And Scream.
After your shopping spree, stroll down to Camden Lock to relax by Regent’s Canal or walk along the water all the way to King’s Cross.
Hyde Park is possibly the most famous park in London, and it is one of the largest. The park has historical significance, having hosted a number of demonstrations and protests including protests by the Suffragettes.
The park’s famous Speaker’s Corner is still occupied by debates, protests, and performance artists every week. The park is home to several memorial features, as well as two bodies of water, the most famous being the Serpentine. Here you can go paddle-boating, see a number of swans, and take in a breath of fresh air in the center of the city. A must-visit.
Order a full English breakfast at E Pellicci
What is it? A good old-fashioned caff. Since 1900 this workers’ café has provided carbs and protein in eggy, meaty and pan-fried form to the good people of east London.
Why go? Traces of bygone eras, like art deco interior details and Formica tables have earned E Pellicci Grade II-listed status, but what diners love best is that the fry-ups, grills and Italian plates are still all dished up by the same family.
Don’t miss: As strange as it might sound, you’re going to want to chase down your fry-up with a helping of bread-and-butter pudding – it’s a customer favourite.
Venue says A classic east London café serving the local community for over a century.
Hunt for antiques at Portobello Road Market
What is it? The world’s largest antiques market, on a pastel-painted, picturesque shopping street in Notting Hill – now traffic-free for socially distanced browsing.
Why go? Although home to fruit and veg stalls too, Portobello Market is best known for the antiques and bric-à-brac stalls featuring at the Chepstow Villas end of the road. Don’t be fooled by the fold-out tables – this isn’t cheap tat and there are some serious treasures here. For more secondhand goodies, head further up the road, beyond the Westway.
Don’t miss: The market at its antiquey best. Sections of the market are open six days a week but for vintage treasures, brave the crowds and go browsing on a Saturday.
Westminster is considered the political hub of London and is home to the Houses of Parliament and the world-famous Big Ben. Big Ben is the name of the bell housed within the iconic clock tower, and it still chimes every hour.
You can also find Westminster Abbey here, which is open to the public most days. Whilst visiting these landmarks, be sure to rest your feet in Parliament Square which features statues of important political individuals including Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.
What is it? London’s small – and somewhat ill-defined – Chinatown is an intense hit of Chinese culture sandwiched between Soho and a shuttered Theatreland.
Why go? Bilingual street signs, colourful pagodas, lion statues and grand red-and-gold gates welcome you to an area packed with restaurants and shops – many of which took a hit in 2020. It’s now pedestrianised to encourage punters back to supermarkets like See Woo and fast-food spots like Chinatown Bakery.
Don’t miss: Four Seasons, a restaurant famed for its Cantonese-style roast duck.
No trip to London is complete without a visit to the iconic London Eye. Originally constructed to celebrate the millennium, the Eye is a giant ferris wheel offering gorgeous views across the city. At night, the wheel is lit up in seasonal colors and is the centerpiece of London’s annual New Year’s fireworks display.
You can share one of the spacious pods with other keen visitors, or splurge on a private pod for you and someone special. Team your visit to the Eye with a trip to the adjacent London Aquarium to see aquatic creatures from around the world, including jellyfish, seahorses and crocodiles.
Have a Hawksmoor Sunday roast
What is it? When it comes to Sunday roasts, London has something for every taste (if that taste is for comforting mounds of carbs in the colder months). But if meat makes your meal, head to Hawksmoor.
Why go? Holy cow, the British-reared rump of beef is delicious, cooked to a rosy medium-rare – first over charcoal, then in the oven. It’s served with potatoes roasted in dripping, greens, carrots and roasted shallots, plus lashings of bone-marrow gravy.
Don’t miss: Your slot. Make sure you arrive well before 5pm to ensure you don’t miss this crowd-pleaser. When the roasts are gone, they’re gone.
Soho has long been known as the base of London’s sex industry. The area is now the most popular nightlife spot although there are still some sex shops dotted here and there, giving Soho a delightfully risqué vibe. Soho is often considered the center of the city’s LGBTQ* community with plenty of gay and lesbian bars to check out after the sun goes down.
In addition to bars and clubs, Soho has a number of theaters, jazz bars and restaurants to explore, making it a cultural hotspot. Its close proximity to Leicester Square means it’s also a great place to go for a few drinks after a play or stage show.
During the day, Soho loses none of its charm. Here you’ll find lots of music shops, small cafes and quaint bakeries. Stop for a coffee and pastry on Old Compton Street for perfect people-watching.
What is it? London’s highest public garden – three storeys of lush landscaped gardens on the thirty-fifth floor of a City skyscraper.
Why go? Located on Fenchurch Street, right in the heart of the City, this beautiful venue caused quite a stir when it first opened. That’s because you can zip up 35 floors of the Walkie Talkie and be transported to a public garden with truly spectacular views. As well as all the lush greenery, you’ll find an observation deck, an open-air terrace, two restaurants, two bars and an uninterrupted panorama of the city’s skyline with the Thames snaking by below. Entry is free – you’ve just got to book in advance online.
Don’t miss: Unbe-leaf-able prices! The restaurants at Sky Garden have been putting on half-price menus for a limited time since reopening.
Shoreditch is one of the trendiest areas of London having recently undergone extensive regeneration. It is now one of the hottest nightlife spots in the city and one of the coolest places to stay in London.
Packed full of bars and eateries, it’s the perfect place to spend a day and an evening. Check out Trapeze, a circus-themed bar that serves endlessly inventive drinks out of popcorn tub-style cups.
For pop culture lovers, there’s Far Rockaway, a chilled bar and restaurant filled with comic books, band posters and a regular 90s night. Or visit the Blues Kitchen for a blues night accompanied by sticky ribs and other American staples.
The Tower of London
What is it? An actual medieval castle on the north bank of the Thames, and, officially speaking, Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and fortress.
Why go? For all that bling (and the ravens). You can’t help but gawp at the staggeringly priceless collection of diamonds, tiaras and sceptres that make up the Crown Jewels. Arrive early to beat the crowds and catch a glimpse of these precious rocks that the Royal Family still uses on official occasions. This 900-year-old monument is one of the country’s finest historical attractions and has enough to see to fill a whole day.
Don’t miss: A tour with one of the Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters) to get the Tower lowdown by someone who lives and works there.
Along with Parliament and Big Ben, Tower Bridge is London’s next must-see architectural marvel, not to mention the most famous bridge that crosses the Thames. Construction on the bridge started in 1886, which means it’s practically modern by London standards, but Tower Bridge stands out for its stunning detail and moveable roadways that lift up when large ships need to pass through. The views from the bridge are an added bonus. From the elevated sidewalks visitors get a prime view of the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral’s iconic dome and one of the newest additions to London’s skyline, The Shard.
The Thames is the lifeblood of London, bringing industry to the city for centuries. It is England’s longest river, leading into the North Sea at its end. It has been the base for settlements since prehistoric times, and was a strategic importance to the Romans and English Kings, as well as during both World Wars.
There are a number of companies in London offering cruises across the Thames. Cruises run as regularly as every 30 minutes from several key locations. The cruises pass several key sightseeing locations, including Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye.
Some cruises run at night so you can see the sights all lit up, whilst others are served with a meal or afternoon tea. This is a lovely and unique way to view the city, traveling along the historic Thames.
What is it? A buzzy shopping mecca tucked away behind Oxford and Regent Streets and full of independent brands, quirky flagship stores and some of the city’s best places to eat and drink.
Why go? This pedestrianised street is one of London’s best shopping destinations. Creative Carnaby is known for being at the heart of the swinging ’60s in London, when the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Elizabeth Taylor were all regular visitors. Nowadays the area is home to shops like Monki and The Kooples as well as dining and drinking destinations Dishoom, Cahoots, Pizza Pilgrims and Le Bab.
Don’t miss: Carnaby’s Christmas lights. Carnaby Street’s annual winter display is always much anticipated and never disappoints. It’s yet to confirm its return for 2020 – but we’ll keep you updated as soon as we learn more.
Electric Avenue is a street in Brixton, south London, famous because it was the first market street in London to be lit by electricity. It spawned the #1 song by Eddy Grant and has been the center of some parts of London history, including the Brixton race riots in 1981. Today, Electric Avenue is home to Brixton Market, a diverse and eclectic food market.
Afterwards, check out the rest of the neighborhood. Brixton features a multitude of small businesses selling unique, quirky and handmade items. This is one of the most diverse areas of London and an excellent spot to do some shopping or catch some live music.
St James’s Park
What is it? A 57-acre park in Westminster, which is basically the Queen’s giant front garden.
Why go? St James’s Park has undergone a lot of changes over the years. In King Henry VII’s day it was swampy and used mainly as a deer-breeding ground. King James I drained it and moved more animals in (including elephants, crocodiles and exotic birds). Today it remains as it was redesigned in the 1820s, all lush landscape and winding paths. Spot squirrels scampering around and pretty views of Buckingham Palace at the western end.
Don’t miss: The park’s famous avian tenants – the pelicans. In 1664 the Russian ambassador presented a pair of pelicans to the king, and today the birds are still offered to the park by foreign ambassadors. Find them at the big lake in the middle.
A trip to London is incomplete without strolling through Green Park to catch a glimpse of Buckingham Palace. The palace has been home to the British Royal Family since 1837. It features 775 rooms and the largest private garden in London.
Some of the palace is open to visitors so you can see a little piece of the royal lifestyle. From outside, watch the world-famous Changing of the Guard. This procedure happens a few times every day and is a great opportunity to witness a historic tradition and the utmost discipline of the Royal Guard – who are all wearing the iconic London bearskin.
Piccadilly Circus is instantly recognizable, a square filled with bright lights and big electronic screens. Piccadilly Circus has been a busy London spot since the 17th century when it was a commercial hub.
Today it is still the heart of the West End, with easy access from Piccadilly Circus to some of London’s biggest theaters and nightclubs, including the Criterion Theatre. The Statue of Eros in the center of the circus is itself a popular meeting point and tourist destination.
Pay a visit to Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum at Piccadilly Circus to learn some new facts and see the world’s weirdest things. The Trocadero houses a games arcade and some niche shops to satisfy any pop culture cravings.
Feast on pasta at Padella
What is it? A carb-lover’s paradise near Borough Market, which more or less only serves pasta.
Why go? With a small menu of six antipasti and ten totally delicious pasta dishes, Padella’s whole ‘less is more’ formula has proven immensely successful. Ever since opening in London Bridge in 2016 it has been nearly impossible to get a table without queuing first.
Don’t miss: Padella’s sister site, Trullo. The hugely popular Islington restaurant was owners Tim Siadatan and Jordan Frieda’s first venture. You’ll recognise some menu items, like the famous pappardelle with beef shin ragú. Head there instead if you can’t stand the wait.
Oxford Street is not only London’s top spot for shopping but is Europe’s busiest shopping street. It has 300 shops and receives over 500,000 visitors every day.
Shop ‘til you drop in designer stores and internationally-famous department stores like Debenhams and House of Fraser. Selfridges features intricate and beautiful window displays that change with the seasons. These frequently feature interactive windows and work by acclaimed artists.
Around Christmas, the Oxford Street Christmas lights illuminate your shopping sprees and add some glitter to the evenings.
Visit Hogwarts at the Harry Potter Studio Tour
What is it? There are a whole lot of Harry Potter locations in and around London, but the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Watford is the most magical.
Why go? The capital is heaving with Harry Potter hotspots. Locations like Diagon Alley were set here and scenes from the world-famous movie franchise were filmed here. There’s walking tours and photo ops at the actual Platform 9¾ in King’s Cross. But you can’t beat the Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, just outside of the capital, to get up close with incredible props and sets from all eight of the HP films.
Don’t miss: The chance to fly your very own broom. Or drink butterbeer. Or wander in the Forbidden Forest. Or pose in the Great Hall. Or window-shop on Diagon Alley. Go!
Platform 9 ¾
Continuing on the Harry Potter subject.
King’s Cross is one of the city’s busiest locations with a train station that has been open since 1852 serving much of the country. Recent renovations have given a sleek, modern look to the station – try to find the hidden tunnel with walls that light up with art.
But for many people around the world, King’s Cross is known best for something else: the station that Harry Potter uses to journey to Hogwarts. Now you can visit Platform 9 ¾ in real life, in King’s Cross railway station.
Pose besides a luggage trolley disappearing magically into the wall and have your photo taken to commemorate your wizarding journey forever! Don’t forget to wear house colors.
Harrods is one of London’s most famous department stores, known particularly for serving the elite and the super-rich. Since opening in 1824, Harrods’ patrons have included Oscar Wilde, Laurence Olivier and the Royal Family.
The luxury is spread across a number of floors, laid out in style through Harrods’ themed halls. The food hall sells indulgent delicacies from fresh meat and cheese to superior marmalades and pates. The Egyptian hall sells fashion in opulent style to make you feel like a pharaoh as you pass through.
At Christmas, Harrods puts together a number of luxury Christmas hampers filled with goodies to make the festivities even more special. Explore the building and get lost while shopping for lavish perfumes, children’s toys, and even pets in London’s most exclusive department store.