Being the capital of the UK and England, there are so many things to do in London! I’ve narrowed it down to 24 things you have to do in London. Whether it’s your first time in the city, or you’re a seasoned visitor, I hope this list inspires you to find a new favourite, or revisit an old one.
What’s the First Thing I Should Do in London?
It can be difficult knowing where to start when London has so many things to do. However, my suggestion is to take time to wander and explore. My favourite area of London to do this in is Soho. Filled with cafes, restaurants, and not far from Covent Garden, you’ll enjoy everything London has to offer.
Table of Contents:
- Camden Market
- Big Ben
- Covent Garden
- Seven Dials Market
- Boating in Hyde Park
- Tower Bridge
- Buckingham Palace
- See a Show in The West End
- Shakespeare’s Globe
- The Shard
- The Tower of London
- Borough Market
- The National Gallery
- Leicester Square
- Sky Garden
- Wembley Stadium
- Houses of Parliament
- Abbey Road Studios
- The O2 Arena
- Portobello Road Market
- Shop at Westfields
- Tate Modern
- Sherlock Holmes Museum
Camden Market is home to many street food shops and independent stores. Perhaps one of the coolest areas of London, you’ll find many interesting things to do here. From circus shops to booksellers, to poke bowls, there really is something for everyone.
Situated in the former Pickfords stables, this large market will keep you entertained for hours. Also referred to as Camden Lock, the river running through this area of London makes it ideal for a lunchtime hangout.
Big Ben is the colloquial nickname for the bell that resides in the clock tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster (otherwise known as the Houses of Parliament). The tower is officially called Elizabeth Tower – this name was commissioned in 2012 as part of the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations.
A visit to London without getting a glimpse of Big Ben would be incomplete. Ensure this is on your list of things to do in London, especially if it’s your first time in this incredible city.
One of my favourite locations in London is Covent Garden. Filled with well-known stores, such as Chanel and Urban Decay. You also have a collection of stands located within the covered area. Covent Garden also features many famous London eats, including The Ivy (a personal favourite of mine). Around the piazza, you’ll often find performers, ideal for entertaining children in London.
Seven Dials Market
Seven Dials Market is in the Covent Garden district and is home to some of London’s best food! The last time I visited I enjoyed some delicious vegan donuts, and I’m itching to go back to try Pick & Cheese – a whole restaurant dedicated to cheese!
Boating in Hyde Park
There’s nothing like London in the summer. If you’re lucky enough to be looking for things to do in London whilst the sun is out, you must take a trip to The Serpentine and hire a boat. There are both rowing boats and pedal boats available. Being on the water is a wonderful way to experience the city.
Tower Bridge is a beautiful suspension bridge connecting north and south London together. Often Tower Bridge is confused with London Bridge, so much so that at one point in time an American bought the original London Bridge believing it to be Tower Bridge. You can actually see this original bridge in all its glory in Lake Havasu City in Arizona.
Fun fact: Boats have right of way at Tower Bridge, so if a boat with a tall mast wants to pass, the busy London traffic is brought to a stop!
Home to the royal family, although the Queen is more commonly at Windsor Castle, it is well worth a visit to Buckingham Palace. In the summer of 2021 the gardens were open to the public for the first time ever to enjoy. If you’re lucky you might catch a changing of the guard – a very British site!
See a Show in the West End
For those who enjoy the theatre, you must take a trip to The West End. This is London’s theatre district and is a must thing to do in the city! The West End has shows including Les Mis, Hairspray, The Phantom of the Opera, to Shakespeare. Book tickets ahead or see what you can get on the day – I’d highly recommend seeing an evening show during your visit.
If the West End isn’t enough theatre for you, London is also home to Shakespeare’s Globe. This is a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre that was an Elizabethan playhouse for which Shakespeare wrote plays. As an English Literature grad, I love everything Shakespeare has to offer and think this should be on your list of things to do in London. The theatre Globe puts on many of Shakespeare’s plays and often does tours of the building.
Still a relatively new thing to do in London is taking a trip up The Shard, only opening in 2013. This is the tallest building in the whole of the UK, and you can pay to visit its viewing platform “The View from The Shard.”
The Shard is home to the Shangri-La Hotel, as well as three incredible restaurants. If you’re in the market for somewhere to celebrate a special occasion, the Oblix restaurant does an incredible afternoon tea that I’d highly recommend.
The Tower of London
The Tower of London is an infamous castle dating back to 1078. Over time The Tower of London has been used for a variety of reasons and holds a significant place within British Royal history. From being used as a prison, including during the two world wars, to being home to the Crown Jewels, for fans of the Royal Family, this is a must-do thing in London.
Today The Tower is a popular tourist destination, and you can even see some of the Crown Jewels for yourself. It is also rumoured that this castle is haunted by Anne Boleyn who is buried within its grounds.
Fun fact: at least 6 ravens are residents at The Tower of London. Their presence is believed to protect The Crown and The Tower.
Markets are one of the things London does best, and Borough Market is no exception. With approximately 1,000 years of history, Borough Market is located in the Southwark (pronounced Suth-uk), and is a produce market. You’ll find everything from cheesemongers to fishmongers, pastries to wine, and even ceramics in this quintessentially British market. If you’re looking for a taste of old London meets new London, this is the place to be.
The National Gallery
The National Gallery sits at the top of Trafalgar Square (a must-see in London in its own right) and is home to works from Seurat, Monet, and Rembrandt. This is one of many free things to do in London as entry doesn’t cost a penny. The UK is home to many wonderful national galleries with free entry, and The Welsh National Museum is also a thing to do in Cardiff if you’re touring the whole nation.
Fancy spotting your favourite celeb at a film premiere? Then Leicester Square is the place for you. The spelling of this place can be confusing to those who haven’t come across it before, but it’s relatively simple to pronounce, being said “less-ter.” Many incredible films have graced the cinemas in this place, including my personal favourite – One Direction: This Is Us.
Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden. Located in the Walkie Talkie building, you’ll experience stunning views of the city from this place. Entry is free, however, you do have to book ahead. With beautiful plants and large windows, this is somewhere you’ll enjoy drinking, eating, and observing the views.
Wembley Stadium is home to the England football team – and is visible across London, identifiable by its large arch. However, if you’re not a fan of football, don’t worry. This venue is also home to incredible live music, having been graced by the likes of Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, and Adele.
Houses of Parliament
Also known as The Palace of Westminster, The Houses of Parliament is home to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Sat on the north bank of the River Thames, this beautiful Grade I listed building is where the laws in the UK are made.
Chinatown borders Soho and is home to many Chinese-owned businesses, restaurants, and supermarkets. If you’re after a delicious Chinese meal, this is the place in London to be. Chinatown features a stunning main gate, located on Wardour Street. This is a bustling district not to be missed on your list of things to do in London.
Abbey Road Studios
Fans of The Beatles will be familiar with Abbey Road Studios. Located on, you guessed it, Abbey Road, ensure your get that classic Beatles photo on your trip to this destination. Other artists who have recorded at this studio include Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Ed Sheeran.
The O2 Arena
One of the best music venues in London, The O2 Arena was originally built for the millennium. Opening in 2007 this venue can hold roughly 20,000 people and has seen some incredible artists perform. It was also used as a sports venue in the 2012 London Olympics. If you get the opportunity you should definitely add watching a concert here to your list of things to do in London. A recent development of the venue has also made it a destination for shopping and eating.
Portobello Road Market
Portobello Road Market is located in Nottinghill, a very pretty area of London that featured in a classic rom-com by the same name (featuring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts).
The market has a real collection of stalls, from antiques to food. You can see what to expect each day on the market’s website!
Shop at Westfield
London is home to two Westfield shopping centres. My personal favourite is the one based in White City. These large shopping centres are home to all the shops you could ever want, so if you’ve come to London on a shopping trip you must visit! You can easily spend a whole day in these centres, and with food, drinks, and even cinemas available it’s no wonder why!
The Tate Modern is an art gallery, home to contemporary art. It was reportedly the most visited museum in the UK in 2020. With works from artists such as Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, and Liechtenstein, lovers of modern art will adore this gallery.
Sherlock Holmes Museum
London is the setting for some incredible pieces of literature and Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous. Whilst he may be a fictional character, Baker Street is very much real and is home to the Sherlock Holmes Museum. For fans of the books this is a must thing to do in London, and if you’re a fan of the BBC adaptation why don’t you explore the city some more and see what other filming locations you can spot (although a lot of it is also filmed in Cardiff).
What’s the Most Important Thing to do in London?
Whilst there’s not one singular thing that you must see in London, I think if it’s your first time in the city you must see the main attractions. I’m talking Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, perhaps even Oxford Street if shopping is your thing! Whatever things you end up doing in London, I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time!
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About Katie May
I’m a digital marketer from London who graduated with a degree in English Literature and Philosophy from Cardiff University. I love all things travel, beauty, food, and books, and love writing! I really hope you enjoy spending time on my blog that features posts including if Glossier makeup is worth it, and things you must do in Los Angeles.