Attracting 27 million visitors every year, London is the most visited city in Europe. It’s no surprise that London is top of so many people’s travel plans: the city was founded by the Romans and has thrived over the centuries.
Today, 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.
TIP: Get the London City Pass (discounts, free entry, priority entry and free boat ride on the Thames) and check out these Harry Potter tours
The City of London is the ancient center of London but is actually the smallest city in England. The London that we’re familiar with covers a much wider metropolitan area and is home to almost 9 million people.
Split into the vibrant and distinctive areas of North, West, South and East London – as well as the commercial and tourist hub of Central London – every district has its own recognizable neighborhoods. There is always something to see and do in London. With some of the world’s best art, entertainment, shopping, dining, and history, it’s impossible to be bored in London.
Let’s explore the best things to do in London:
1. Hyde Park
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.
Want to see it from above? Try the London: Helicopter Flight Experience
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.
Book online: Westminster Abbey Entrance Ticket
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.
Related tour: Regent’s Canal Waterbus Little Venice & Camden Town
4. London Eye
A trip to London isn’t 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.
Book online: The London Eye Tickets
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.
Take a tour: Piccadilly and Soho Beer Bike Tour
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.
Available tour: Jack the Ripper walking tour
7. Hampstead Heath
Hampstead Heath is one of the largest parks in London, covering a massive 790 acres. It sits atop of one of the highest points in London, offering excellent views of the city from Parliament Hill.
The Heath features grassy fields, wooded areas, and a number of large ponds. It is the best place to experience nature in London with plenty of wildlife around and small woods in which to get lost.
There are swimming lidos for those feeling brave enough to swim outdoors in the great British weather. For history buffs, visit Kenwood House, a historical stately home that is known for its curated art collection.
Interactive tour: Hampstead Self-Guided Walking Discovery Game
The BFI – or British Film Institute – is a must-see for film lovers. The BFI is situated on the ever-popular Southbank and is the perfect spot to relax after a stroll along the waterfront taking in the culture and atmosphere of this vibrant part of the city.
The BFI show films every day, from mainstream blockbusters to reshowings of cult classics to one-off screenings of indie hits. There is also a library and shop for those who like to take their cinema seriously. The BFI also houses its own bar and riverfront restaurant for a delicious meal or to chat about the latest film releases over some drinks.
9. Thames Cruise
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.
Check out this list of cruises you can book online.
10. Baker Street
One of the cultural staples of London is Baker Street, best known as the street that Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous detective Sherlock Holmes lived on.
Today you can find a Sherlock Holmes museum near the Underground station, especially popular after the BBC revival ‘Sherlock’.
Madame Tussauds is just around the corner, the internationally-famous wax museum where you can pose with your favorite celebrities.
Afterwards, escape the crowds of Baker Street in the nearby Regent’s Park, or by climbing Primrose Hill for London’s most spectacular view of the city.
11. Brixton Academy
For those on a hunt for live music, London has thousands of unique venues to offer. Venues span every niche or you can just go to an open night at a local pub and see some up-and-coming musicians. One of the best venues in town, though, is Brixton Academy in south London.
The Academy was originally a theater and cinema called the Astoria, opened in 1929. Fifty years later, the venue became the Academy and now hosts some of the biggest rock and pop acts in the world.
Some acts that have played at Brixton Academy include The Clash, Sex Pistols, New Order and Madonna. The Smiths played their final ever performance at Brixton Academy. This is the go-to music venue if you want to catch some live music in London.
12. The O2
The O2 Arena was originally constructed in celebration of the millennium, under the name of ‘the Millennium Dome’. It once acted as exhibition center with various exhibits and hands-on activities aimed primarily at children.
Today, it is a premier destination for live music and stage shows, hosting the biggest names in entertainment on a regular basis. It also houses a cinema as well as various bars and restaurants featuring cuisines from all over the world.
The O2 is an ideal spot to hang out with friends. If you’re seeking some adventure, try climbing to the top of the O2. On these guided walks, you can climb along the dome to the roof where you will witness beautiful views of the city. Afterwards, take the Emirates Air Line across the water. The Air Line is a cable car link offering an exciting and unique view of the city.
Top rated (most booked) tour: Climb The Roof of The O2 Arena
Another great way to explore the nightlife of London is this top rated London Pub Crawl and Nightlife Tour
13. Brick Lane
Brick Lane was made famous by the book and film adaptation of the same title. As the book’s narrative made clear, Brick Lane is the heart of London’s Bangladeshi community. An incredibly diverse neighborhood, Brick Lane features road signs in both English and Bengali, and is well-known for its abundance of curry houses.
This is the perfect spot to find something spicy to eat but be sure to go to one of the many sweet shops for some authentic South Asian desserts. The area also features a number of trendy bars as well as regular marketplaces, attracting a young and fashionable crowd.
For an art fix, head around the corner to find Whitechapel Gallery – or hunt down the many pieces of street art on Brick Lane and its neighboring streets.
London’s Chinatown can be found around Gerrard Street, sandwiched between Soho and Leicester Square. With its Chinese lanterns and eye-catching red arches, it’s difficult to miss this vibrant neighborhood. Filled with authentic Asian restaurants as well as supermarkets and secret bars, there is always something new to explore in Chinatown. For a slice of genuine Asian cuisine, try the HK Diner for delicious roast duck, good service, and big portions. They also serve bubble tea, an Asian trend that has recently swept across the city!
15. Electric Avenue
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.
16. Piccadilly Circus
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.
17. Oxford Street
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.
18. Leicester Square
Walk in the footsteps of Hollywood stars by paying a visit to Leicester Square. The square is most famous for hosting film premieres to some of the biggest blockbusters. In fact, the square has been a London hotspot since 1670 and an entertainment center since the 19th century.
The square is surrounded by a number of cinemas with some of the city’s biggest screens, as well as a variety of restaurants. The garden in the center of the square is perfect for cooling off in during the summer or resting your feet after a long day of exploring London.
Visit the Prince Charles Cinema for cult films, singalong screenings, and epic marathon nights. Leicester Square also hosts celebrations for the Chinese New Year where you can see traditional dancing dragons and get lost in the crowds.
London is an ideal city for art lovers with so many galleries to visit, featuring the best in classic and contemporary art. Most of the city’s galleries are free to visitors, including the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery has something for everyone with work by da Vinci, Turner, van Gogh and Rembrandt on display.
For prolific modern art, visit the Tate Modern on the Southbank. The building itself is a piece of art, towering above the waterfront. Inside, find pieces by Picasso, Klee and Delauney. The gallery also features exciting temporary exhibits on every level of the building making it the perfect place for an art fix.
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.
21. Platform 9 ¾
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.
London is one of the best cities in the world for culture with a number of free museums to enjoy. On Exhibition Road in South Kensington, you can find many museums close together.
Start with the Natural History Museum and pose for a photo with the infamous Diplodocus skeleton in the main hall. Explore the museum and find ancient fossils and stuffed animals including a dodo replica.
Afterwards, go to the Science Museum next door for hands-on activities and to investigate scientific progress throughout the ages.
A short stroll to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) will shift focus to cultural history.
The V&A Museum has artwork on show alongside fashion and living tools from around the world. Here you will find art students diligently sketching the classical statues and ironwork.
Finally, pay a visit to the British Museum where you can see the Rosetta Stone, mummified remains and explore centuries of archaeological discoveries.
The Samsung Digital Discovery Centre is perfect for children, with hundreds of free activities to explore history and culture through modern technology.
23. Bond Street
Bond Street connects to Oxford Street and is a popular shopping district in its own right. Bond Street differs to Oxford Street in its selection of stores, with a much greater focus on the exclusive and the designer. Bond Street is one of the most expensive shopping streets in London and is worth visiting for a taste of the indulgent.
Doormen stand patiently outside many shop entrances. Diamonds glitter in the windows of watchmakers, jeweller’s, and even handbag stores. On this street you will find Tiffany’s, as well as the flagship stores for Cartier and Ralph Lauren.
After a spot of window shopping – or flashing the cash – pose with the ‘Allies’ statue of Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt sitting on a bench. Finish your trip to Bond Street by seeking out London’s oldest outdoor sculpture above the entrance to Sotheby’s. This sculpture is from Ancient Egypt and is over 3,000 years old.
24. Buckingham Palace
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.
25. Explore at Night
London is a vibrant metropolis both during the day and throughout the night. There is always something happening even after dark, from one-off events to club nights. As the sun sets, London’s lights switch on providing the city with a magical illumination.
There are free walking tours that explore the city at night or hop on a night tour bus. See St Paul’s Cathedral lit up after dark or visit the Gothic architecture of Big Ben and Westminster Cathedral. Go to Soho and the West End for buzzing nightlife amongst the big neon signs.
Travel a little further out to Hampstead Heath for a spot of stargazing or see Hyde Park at night where bats are frequently sighted. Finally, after a long day and night exploring one of the best cities in the world, visit Polo Bar at Liverpool Street for 24/7 greasy spoon dining.
Where to stay: Best Hotels in London, England
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