London is an incredibly vibrant city with ample activities. Here are the top things to do in London, England.
1. Visiting museums
As an arts and culture lover, visiting museums is the #1 thing to do in London for me. There are over 170 museums in London, and I am sure you will find a few that you love. Many of the museums are completely free, making them ideal if you are traveling on a budget, as well.
Here were the museums in London that I visited:
- The British Museum
- The National Gallery
- Tate Modern
- The Tower of London
- Museum of Freemasonry (they had an open doors day when I passed by, so I walked in!)
- Charles Dickens Museum (I love Charles Dickens; The Tale of Two Cities is one of my favourite novels. Being able to visit where Charles Dickens used to live was a very nice experience)
Other museums that I will go visit on my next trip to London:
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- The Science Museum
- The National History Museum
There are also many other museums, like the London Transport Museum if you love the double deckers, the Imperial War Museum, and so many more!
2. Visiting iconic tourist attractions
As one of the most famous and oldest of the world’s great cities, London has so many iconic tourist attractions you do not want to miss.
Here is my list:
- Big Ben
- Westminster Abbey
- Buckingham Palace
- London Eye
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Trafalgar Square
- Piccadilly Circus
- Hyde Park
- The Shard
Many of these tourist attractions are conveniently located along the Thames River, so you can easily walk from one to the other.
3. Enjoying a cruise on the Thames River
This is the perfect way to take in the capital’s iconic riverside landmarks, such as the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and so much more. Not to mention the bonus of not having to worry about being stuck in traffic and trains.
Some tour companies offer hop-on, hop-off services at various key landmarks. Others may offer speedboat tours and lunch and dinner cruises.
4. Enjoying afternoon tea
Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British thing to do. There are many beautiful afternoon tea places around London. I highly recommend that you give at least one or two a try!
5. Checking out a Michelin-star restaurant
The Michelin Guides are a series of guidebooks that have been published by the French tyre company Michelin since 1900. The Guide awards up to three Michelin stars for excellence to a select few establishments. The acquisition or loss of a star or stars can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant.
London has a long list of Michelin-starred restaurants. Some of the restaurants are reasonably affordable, at around £30-40 per person. Still expensive, but much less expensive than the ones in Toronto where the minimum is $150 per person.
6. Trying different cuisines
As an international hub, London has a vibrant food scene. You can find all cuisines around the world, such as Italian, French, Chinese, Ethiopian, Indian, and of course, British.
7. Taking a leisurely walk down the street to admire the architecture
The architecture in London is classy. What’s even better is that the beauty of history is everywhere you go.
I loved the architecture in London. It is so different from downtown Toronto where all you see are skyscrapers. There are still skyscrapers in London, no doubt, but no matter where you look, you can see lots of beautiful buildings that flaunt the beauty of history. Even some of the train stations had a history to tell.
8. Trying out one of the coffee places
If you think Starbucks dominates the coffee scene, you will be surprised to find that this iconic coffee chain is difficult to come by in London. Instead, Costa, Pret A Manger, and Caffè Nero are the three biggest chains.
Speaking of coffee, one huge surprise I found was that there was no drip coffee anywhere to be found. Not even in Starbucks. There was no blonde, no Pike Place, ever! I asked some of my British friends, and they looked at me with a confused expression, “what is drip coffee?” Only espressos and espresso-based drinks (e.g., cappuccino and latte) are available.
Coffee is expensive though, with your typical espresso starting at around £2.50, and lattes, cappuccinos and other specialty drinks are more expensive. The price ratio between sandwiches and other quick snacks and coffee in coffee shops threw me off a bit. The ratio is much narrower than what you see in Canada, where food offerings are priced much higher than coffee. It was very interesting to see how different the relative prices of the same items can be across different countries.
Espressos had a much stronger effect on me than coffee. I can feel the sudden rush of adrenalin much more strongly than when I just sip on drip coffee in Canada. I had a hard time finishing the espressos I ordered, but it was nonetheless an interesting experience.
What I also love is that they do not charge extra for plant-based milk.
9. Checking out Platform 9 ¾
If you are a Harry Potter fan, or even if you have just heard of Harry Potter or watched a few movies, you will want to check out Platform 9 ¾, in King’s Cross railway station.
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.
On the platform, you can pose beside a luggage trolley disappearing into the wall and have your photo taken!
10. Harry Potter Studio Tour
If you are a serious Harry Potter fan, you will not want to miss the Harry Potter Studio Tour.
The Harry Potter Studio Tour is a hugely popular tour among many people I met. A friend of mine was a huge Harry Potter fan, so her trip to London almost entirely consisted of everything Harry Potter.
The destination is a 50-minutes drive from London. You can also go with a local tour group; many of them offer day trips to the Harry Potter Studio.
11. Visiting markets
London is such a vibrant city with so many interesting markets to explore. For example, there are over 1,000 shops and stalls selling fashion, music, art and food in the Camden Market. It has been ranked as the fourth-most popular visitor attraction in London, attracting approximately 250,000 people each week.
In addition to the Camden Market, the Borough Market is also another super fun and interesting fresh food market. It is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, with a market on the site dating back to at least the 12th century.
12. Exploring the nightlife
London is well known for its colourful and varied nightlife. There are so many fantastic bars, restaurants, theatres, comedy shows and so on. I am sure you will find something that you enjoy.
13. Joining a walking tour
A guided walking tour is a great way to get to know London. You may learn about history, charming neighbourhoods and interesting spots that you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. If you don’t want a guided tour, you can choose a self-guided one so you can enjoy the city at your leisure.
14. Taking a day trip outside of London
London is a beautiful city full of history, but day trips from London are just as amazing.
I initially planned to go to Oxford and Cambridge to see the universities, but the trip was cancelled so I ended up switching my plan and went to Stonehenge instead. The UNESCO world heritage site was beautiful. You can check out my detailed review of the historical site here.
As you can see, there are a ton of things to do in London. London is one of my favourite spots on my bucket list, and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to visit this amazing city.