So you are in London or planning a trip to London but unsure what to do? Well, you have come to the right place. London is one of the most visited cities in the world and for good reason. It is filled with so many fun things to do for all ages.
There are also so many things to do that are free, meaning you don’t have to break the bank to have an amazing time. Of course, there are also things that will cost money but if you know where to look, London can be super affordable. Here is a list of 11 things that you should consider doing when in London
1. See Big Ben
The Elizabeth Tower, commonly called Big Ben, is a clock tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London. It is the third-tallest free-standing clock tower in the world.
Big Ben is located on the north bank of the River Thames in an area called Westminster on the opposite shore to London’s main financial district, known as The City or “the Square Mile”.
You can’t miss it. The big clock tower is right next door to the Palace of Westminster and will make for a great photo op.
2. See the Crown Jewels
It’s probably obvious that the most popular attraction at the Tower of London is the Crown Jewels. Known officially as the Royal Regalia, these are priceless works of art set with some of the world’s finest gemstones. Most are several hundred years old and have been used in coronations for centuries.
They’re kept inside a vault in Waterloo Block and you can see them by joining a 45-minute guided tour led by an official Yeoman Warder (known colloquially as “Beefeaters”).
The tour is free, but it doesn’t include entry to the Tower itself, so you’ll need to buy tickets separately if you haven’t already done so.
You’ll be able to see hundreds of sparkling gems – including sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds – set into gold crowns worn by kings and queens at coronations since 1661 (including Queen Elizabeth II).
There are also scepters, orbs, swords, robes, and even a silver gilt toilet seat! You’ll learn all about their history from your Beefeater guide and how they’ve survived for over 400 years despite being targeted by thieves on many occasions.
3. See a West End Show
A trip to London isn’t complete without seeing a West End show. As the heart of theatreland, you can find all kinds of shows from musicals like Hamilton, to comedies such as The Book of Mormon and dramas including The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time. These are some of the best shows in the world, so if you want to be entertained this is an absolute must-do for when you visit London.
You’ll often see the Head Waiters wearing very colorful dresses trying to convince people into buying tickets outside theatres they do get commission so will try and get as much money out of you as possible. You can buy tickets yourself online or even go on day seats where they sell leftover tickets cheap on the door in the morning!
When choosing a show there is something for everyone – our tip is to look at what’s playing around when you are visiting London and which one appeals most to you!
If you want something more classic then Wicked and Les Miserables always seem popular, but we love Hamilton which has swept across America but now landed in Shaftesbury Avenue at the incredible Lyceum Theatre.
4. Visit Buckingham Palace
If you’re a fan of royal history and royalty, then the last place you want to be is anywhere but Buckingham Palace. The official London residence of British monarchs has been home to some of the most momentous events in history.
Visiting Buckingham Palace isn’t just about seeing what’s inside; there are plenty of things on offer for those who aren’t interested in going inside. You can tour the palace grounds and gardens, attend one of their special events or watch the changing of the guard at 11:00 am every day except Sundays from April through July (and daily from August through March).
There are over 750 rooms within the palace walls, many of which have seen some truly historic moments over time this has been an official royal residence since 1837!
Though much of what there is to see will be inside these various rooms or galleries (including some original furnishings dating back centuries), do remember that this remains an active royal residence and there will be personnel stationed throughout your tour (a fact that also lends itself to an interesting contrast between old and new).
Be sure to arrive early so as not to miss any behind-the-scenes information about how this place functions today!
5. Visit Westminster Abbey
This is a must-see for history buffs, as Westminster Abbey is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs.
It’s a Gothic monastery church in London that boasts exquisite architecture from just about every period from the thirteenth to twentieth centuries.
It contains paintings, mosaics, stained glass windows, and sculptures representing some of the most brilliant art in Western Europe. Notable people buried there include Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
You can enjoy free audio guides to explore by yourself or take a tour with an experienced guide who will bring to life its many stories spanning over one thousand years of history.
6. Take a guided tour of Parliament.
If you’re interested in the history and mechanics of British democracy, taking a guided tour of Parliament is an excellent option.
Tours are free and depart from Westminster Hall on a regular schedule; they last roughly 90 minutes. Visits include entry to both houses (the House of Commons and House of Lords), so you’ll get to see some pretty impressive architecture.
Also keep your eyes peeled for portraits of notable figures such as Winston Churchill, Elizabeth I, Oliver Cromwell and Charles I—all painted by Sir Peter Lely.
The tour takes place in English only but there are several languages spoken by guides who will be happy to help any visitors who have difficulty understanding their native tongue.
7. Ride on the London Eye
The London Eye is a large wheel located on the banks of the Thames. It’s been around since 2000, and it’s very popular with tourists. While you’re in town, you can get your own bird’s eye view from one (or more) of the 32 glass pods that make up the wheel.
Each Glass pod represents one of London’s boroughs or famous landmarks and it’ll take 30 minutes for one full rotation which will give you plenty of time to take pictures.
There are multiple ways to get there. You can ride one of the many buses that go by the Eye, or you can take a ferry from Westminster Pier. You can also just walk the route takes about 20 minutes, but if you’ve got time to kill then why not?
Tickets cost £35 for adults and £25 for children ages 3-12. There’s an option to pay extra for a fast track ticket if lines are long, but they’ll probably be long anyway about 3.5 million people ride it each year!
The entire trip takes 30 minutes and gives passengers spectacular views of London above and below them.
8. Grab Indian food in Brick Lane London
Brick Lane is a famous street in London, known for its Indian restaurants. It’s also home to street art, which makes the area even more fun to explore. You can go there for a meal or just to take some photos of the colorful walls and murals that adorn them.
If you’re looking for a place where international cuisine meets culture and street art, Brick Lane is an ideal destination.
On top of being a restaurant row, this multicultural neighborhood has plenty of other things going on: markets full of food stalls offering everything from sushi to kimchi; shops selling everything from vintage fashion to handmade jewelry; and art galleries featuring local artists’ work as well as exhibitions by international names such as Banksy (who has created many works here).
9. Eat Fish and Chips
When you get fish and chips in London, make sure you go to a proper fish and chips shop, not a chain. Just like any other type of street food, the best fish and chips come from places that specialize in it.
In London, there are plenty of little shops in most neighborhoods that will serve you fresh fish with crispy batter and hot fries on the side.
Get your fish battered. Some restaurants also have breaded options, but this is not how they do fish and chips in London.
The batter is usually made with beer (yum!) so it’s crispier than if it were just coated in flour or whatever else they use for breading.
If you don’t like vinegar on your fried food (or if you want to try something new), ask for ketchup or mayonnaise instead.
I know this might sound weird at first but trust me—it’s delicious! Ketchup goes great with fries anyway, so why not? Also: mayo is delicious on everything (again…trust me).
And finally—don’t forget to eat your fried fish and chips with your hands! A fork might work but it breaks the experience completely—the point of eating fried food is because it’s simple, greasy goodness (and therefore less elegant)!
10. Visit Natural History Museum, Science Museum, or British Museum (or all three!)
While all three museums are free to enter, you will occasionally have to pay for some of the special exhibits that they host. When this is the case, usually only one section of each museum will be ticketed. If you’re not interested in the exhibit that costs money, you’ll still be able to see most of the museum.
If you were only going to visit one or two museums while in London, I would say the Natural History Museum and Science Museum are your best bets (I personally always find time for both).
The British Museum is also great though (and possibly has more to offer than the other two), so if history interests you then it’s definitely worth a visit as well!
To learn more about what these museums offer, check out their websites: Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and British Museum (the latter of which has a great timeline feature on its website)
11. Go for a walk in Hyde Park, Regent’s Park or St. James Park
You can’t go to London and not take advantage of its beautiful parks. Hyde Park is the largest, but some locals prefer Regent’s Park or St James Park for their quieter atmosphere and picturesque settings.
Bring something you’ve been meaning to finish–a classic novel, your favorite non-fiction book, or even your Bible–and get lost in it on a bench as the city passes you by in all its chaotic wonder.
You can also take a picnic. Nothing says summer like lounging on the grass with good food and good friends (or just good food, if you’re more of an introvert). Pack yourself some sandwiches and snacks and enjoy them under the shade of a tree.
Parks are meant to be enjoyed with others, so why not bring your friends. They’ll enjoy exploring London as much as you will, even if it’s just strolling in one of its many gorgeous parks. Feel free to exchange stories about your adventures!
12. Visit Borough Market
With over 100 vendors, London’s Borough Market is the place to be on a Saturday. Located in Southwark, this market has been around since the 12th century, making it the best place in London to try new foods from different cultures.
The market is open Thursday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., so you’ll have three whole days to shop for ingredients for your next meal or just snack on some street food between your other sightseeing activities.
Street food ranges from European-style waffles and Belgian fries to Indian Kati rolls and English pies—but don’t worry about missing out if you’re vegan or gluten-intolerant! There are options for everyone at Borough Market!
13. Go to a Pub
Pubs have a rich history in British culture, and they’re an essential part of life in London. They offer a fun and casual atmosphere to meet with friends, have a pint, and try some traditional British food like fish and chips or bangers and mash. Some pubs even host pub quizzes (trivia nights).
Guinness is the most popular beer in the UK. However, if you prefer something lighter, there are plenty of options to choose from! Don’t be afraid to ask your server for suggestions!
When visiting London pubs, be sure to consider tipping around 10% on your bill–this isn’t mandatory but can help build a good rapport with locals.
If you want to learn more about the brewing process of your favorite British beers, consider taking a tour at one of these famous breweries: Fuller’s Brewery Tours (London), Black Sheep Brewery (Yorkshire), Wadworth Brewery Tours (Wiltshire), Theakston Brewery Tours (Yorkshire).
No matter how much fun you’re having, make sure you stay safe: Don’t get too drunk; don’t wander alone; keep an eye on your wallet and phone; follow transportation rules; etc.
14. See London from above with Skygarden or Sky Pod Bar
There are two places in London where you can get an amazing view of the city: Skygarden and Sky Pod Bar. Both offer stunning views, so it’s up to you which one you prefer.
Skygarden is a free viewing platform on top of the Walkie Talkie building in Fenchurch Street. You don’t need to pay anything to go there, but you do have to wait until its open hours (10 am-8 pm). The best views are at night when all of London glows with lights below your feet!
If you want something more than just a bird’s eye view of the city then head over to Cabot Circus where there’s a bar called Sky Pod Bar!
This place is pricey though; entry costs £25 per person for an hour long experience (£15 if booked through Groupon) where you can order food and drinks as well as see some really cool people watching opportunities from above!
15. Hop on a Thames River Boat Cruise
There are a number of companies that offer Thames River Boat Cruises, but the best ones are on the London Eye, which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. The Thames Cruise will take you from Westminster Pier to Greenwich Pier, or vice versa.
The cost of this cruise is £30 per person and includes a drink, such as wine or champagne (but not beer). Children under 16 go free with an adult who is paying for them to be there.
You will see many of London’s famous landmarks along the way including Big Ben and Parliament Square, St Paul’s Cathedral (with its signature dome), and Tower Bridge (with its drawbridge).
The Houses Of Parliament & Big Ben again on the other side of Tower Bridge & finally Canary Wharf Tower at Greenwich Pier before getting off at either Westminster Pier or Greenwich Pier depending on which side you started your journey from in order to head back into London by train or bus!