London is… Big. Thrilling. Multi Cultured. Fascinating. Inspiring. Food Heaven.
Check out my 15 Best Things to Do in London below:
#1 London Eye
I am terrified of heights.
But, on my most recent trip to London, I faced my fear, and booked tickets to go on the London Eye. It is probably the most touristy thing to do, but it is one of the few attractions that offers amazing 360 degree views over London. Some of the attractions you will see from above include Big Ben, River Thames, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Parliament, The Shard, St Paul’s Cathedral…. and many more!
The London Eye stands at 135 metres above ground and is essentially a giant ferris wheel. You (along with a few strangers) are put into a large pod – do not fear, there is room to stand up and also a few seats if being up high gets too much (i.e. me!). There are numerous opportunities to take photos of yourself/friends/family in front of London’s most famous buildings.
At night, the London Eye is colourfully lit up, so it makes for a great photo op!
Was it worth it? Yes!
Tip: Book your tickets in advance online here.
Getting to The London Eye: Waterloo is the closest rail station to the London Eye. Waterloo is about five minutes walking distance; take exit six for South Bank and follow the signs.
#2 Broadway Market
Held every Saturday, Broadway Market is the best market I have been to in London and in the world to date. While it may not be the biggest market, it sure does have every cuisine you can think of, every treat you can imagine, and the street vendors are super friendly and passionate about their products. It is THE market for ultimate food heaven. We enjoyed the Haggis Scotch Eggs, Haggis Toasted Sandwich, Mini Meringues from Meringue Girls, a French/Caribbean vegetable stew and a Berliner custard cream doughnut.
As well as the vast array of foods, you will also find stallholders selling flowers, vintage items, clothing and coffee. Other things I loved about Broadway Market is that there are dogs everywhere! Dogs AND Food meant one happy me. Some may say that Broadway Market is super busy, and I totally agree. But it is truly an amazing market. If you are in London and are after some foodie heaven, then definitely add this market to the top of your list!
READ: BROADWAY MARKET
#3 Sky Garden
If you are looking for some nature in the city (other than Hyde Park), head up to Sky Garden. It is essentially a glass dome 35 floors up, complete with landscaped gardens, exotic plants, observation decks and an open air terrace (check out the amazing 360 degree views of London). It also has a bar and two restaurants.
Entry is free, but there are a limited number of tickets for each day. You have to book your tickets online in advance, and you have to pick the day and time of your visit. I would recommend doing this about three weeks beforehand, to be on the safe side. In terms of what times to visit, we went in the morning – you could have a delicious breakfast (the food looked great) or a coffee, otherwise head up at night time and have a few drinks at the bar while you are there.
It was a very cool experience, mainly because we don’t have anything like this in New Zealand, and also it is free – bonus!
READ: BARCELONA Travel Diary
#4 Notting Hill
If you have a morning or afternoon to spare while in London, then I highly recommend spending it in Notting Hill. Head down Portobello Road and take many pictures of the pretty pastel townhouses. Then, walk a bit further and enjoy the Portobello Road Market. Fridays and Saturdays are the main market days – we visited on a Friday.
At the top end of Portobello Road is the antiques – my Mum bought a lovely silver plated teapot and I eyed up all the old school cameras. At the bottom end of the market are the fruit and vegetables – we bought some fresh blackberries and olives. Yum!
For a nearby lunch, stop at the famous Ottolenghi. We picked up salads and a delectable treat – peanut and chocolate s’mores, yes please! We enjoyed these at a nearby park. I have also tried their hot chocolate, which was lovely.
#5 Harrods and Harrods’ Food Hall
Walking into Harrods was like walking onto a British film set. Yes, it is one of those places I had seen in countless of films, and visiting was like a dream come true.
Harrods is a beautiful and glamorous department store located in Knightsbridge, which opened in 1849, and is one of the most famous attractions in the world today. The store spans over seven floors and has over 330 different departments, making it the biggest department store in Europe!
Harrods stocks everything, and I mean everything. Designer clothing, perfume, accessories, shoes, makeup, children’s clothing and toys, technology, homewares, food (my favourite section), beautiful teas, decadent chocolates, wine, food hampers, and last but not least, souvenirs… but not the souvenirs you would buy from a street-side stand. They sell Harrods bags, cups and mugs, travel accessories, jewellery, soft toys, stationery… and many more things. If you are looking for a mug or a bag with a map of London on it, then the Harrods gift shop is your place! I love coming here to purchase gifts for family and friends.
Tip: Don’t leave without checking out Harrods’ Food Hall, where all your wildest food fantasies will come true… I don’t want to give too much away (as this will be in my next post – Georgieats’ London Food Guide), but in the meantime, read more about it here.
87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge / Website
READ: PARIS Travel Diary
#6 St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is a beautiful Anglican church which dates back to the 1300’s – it has been around for some 718 years! It is an iconic London landmark with very interesting history and once you step inside the cathedral, you will be amazed. If you are feeling adventurous, climb to the top of the cathedral dome for panoramic views over London.
Having not visited St Paul’s Cathedral before, we opted to sign up for one of their free guided tours (check their website for gathering times). I would highly recommend doing so as you learn more about the history, more so from someone who is very passionate about it. On the tour, you will also be taken into an area in which a beautiful spiral staircase occupies the space. This can only be accessed if you do the guided tour. #Winning.
Both inside and outside, the cathedral is fascinating, magnificent and awe-inspiring. I was wowed from the moment we entered, to the moment we left.
After the guided tour, be super brave and climb 528 steps to the very top of the dome of St Paul’s. I almost spaced out, because of the super steep staircases and little room, but I made it! My tip: Just don’t look down.
Once you reach the top of the dome, you can walk around outside and the views are spectacular. Definitely worth every minute.
Tip: You can’t take photos inside the cathedral.
#7 Tower of London
Fun facts: William the Conqueror ordered the construction of the Tower of London in the 1070’s (wow) and over the years, it has been a fortress, a royal residence, and most famously, a prison and gallows. It is where Anne Boleyn (Henry VIII’s unfortunate second wife) was beheaded in 1536. It has also been the home of the British Crown Jewels since the 14th century.
Having not visited Tower of London before, we opted to sign up for one of their free guided tours with a Yeoman Warder or ‘Beefeater’. Our guide was Spike – who was passionate, funny and kept us entertained for the whole morning. The history of the Tower of London is fascinating and super interesting (it honestly reminded me of that Goosebumps episode “Terror Tower” which funnily enough looked vaguely familiar while walking through…).
I would highly recommend doing the tour as you learn more about the history and interesting facts, more so from someone who is very passionate about it, as opposed to just walking around and figuring it out for yourselves.
After the tour, head to ……….. to see the Crown Jewels. There is a line to get in, but it is pretty magnificent once inside. You are able to get a close up look of the Coronation regalia, St Edward’s crown, Sovereign’s Orb and the Jewelled Sword of Offering, Sovereign’s Sceptre, the Imperial State crown, a Giant Wine Cistern (which can hold the contents of 144 bottles of wine!), royal fashion, and of course, the stars of the show, all the beautiful jewels, in particular the diamonds.
On the way out, there is a great gift shop which I recommend visiting – I picked up a few skulls and some London memorabilia.
Tower of London is definitely a must see in London!
#8 Tate Modern
Tate Modern is a very spacious art gallery with a fabulous collection of artworks, sculptures, interactive art and many other things to suit everyone’s tastes.
On my first visit (22/07/15), I particularly liked the communist propaganda prints and Picasso’s works on show, namely the “Weeping Woman” and “Nude Woman with Necklace”.
Another highlight was definitely the amazing gift shop. They sell a wide range of books, art prints, cards and stationery. I picked up an Andy Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe (have secretly always wanted one), plus a few gifts for family and friends. Highly recommend if you enjoy art and are in the area.
READ: HAWKE’S BAY Travel Diary
#9 Warner Bros Studio Tour: Harry Potter World
I have read the books. I have watched the films countless times. I have dreamed of going to Hogwarts… and I am sure you have too!
If you are a Harry Potter fan, then the Warner Bros Studio Tour featuring Harry Potter is a must if you are visiting London! Simply take the train from Euston Station to Watford Station (use your Oyster card), hop on the Warner Bros Harry Potter shuttle bus (only a few pounds return) and within 15 minutes, you will have entered Hogwarts.
On arrival, we were given a short overview about Harry Potter World and the highlights we would see once inside, and then we entered through a huge wooden door (if it is your birthday, you get to open the wooden door – my sister was one of the lucky ones!) and were led through to the Great Dining Hall.
From there, you can see everything Harry Potter related: The Hogwarts Express (life size), The Chamber of Secrets (life size and my favourite film), Knight Bus, Forbidden Forest, Hagrid’s motorcycle, and sets of Dumbledore’s Office, The Burrows, The Cupboard Under the Stairs, Gryffindor Common Room and Boys Dormitory, plus a HUGE walk through set of Diagon Alley – amazing. You can also hop in the Weasley’s flying car or “ride” a broomstick. Don’t forget to check out the amazing miniature replica of Hogwarts too. There are also thousands of props and costumes to see.
At the end of the tour inside, head outside to see the original set of #4 Privet Drive and grab a butterbeer too – delicious! There is also an amazing gift shop on-site where you can purchase wands, costumes, cloaks, food products, and so much more. Highly recommend!
#10 Hyde Park
Hyde Park is the perfect place in London to get away from the hustle and bustle. And, there is so much to do. Have a picnic (courtesy of Harrods Food Hall), a nap, a session of meditating, people watching, dog patting, reading, rollerblading, flower smelling and admiring, bird feeding, renting paddle boats and/or swimming in The Serpentine, playing on the playground, admiring sculptures, playing a game of tennis, attending a concert and festival, or simply getting fit by walking/running the length of the park… seriously everything!
The park is massive (over 350 acres), so if you want to see it all, I would highly recommend hiring a bike (for a small fee). Super easy, practical and loads of fun.
READ: SYDNEY Travel Diary
#11 Borough Market
Another favourite market in London is Borough Market, for its overwhelming choice of different foods. The market is bustling with people, and it does get quite packed so make sure you come prepared! I have been twice and both visits have been great. My favourite stands are Pieminister, who serve the most delicious array of pies, hot from the oven. I recommend their ‘Free Ranger’ Pie with chicken, ham hock, leek and thyme, the ‘Classic Moo’ with beef and ale and the ‘Matador’ Pie with mushy peas. The pastry was perfect each time and there was loads of filing. At £4 each, this was a steal!
Also don’t leave without trying a doughnut from Bread Ahead Bakery – this is an absolute must! Their Salted Caramel Doughnut is EPIC.
If you are not into pies or doughnuts, other highlights at Borough Market include fresh fruit and vegetables, pungent cheeses, savoury breads, cookies the size of your hands, sweet treats, handmade chocolates, ice cream, ethnic food (for example from the ‘Soul Food’ and vegetarian Indian stands), haloumi burgers (from The Veggie Table), fresh juices and smoothies.
READ: BOROUGH MARKET
#12 Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
“Look like th’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under ‘t…” 🌸🐍
My favourite line from Macbeth… a play by William Shakespeare which I studied back in high school, and which was on show at Shakespeare’s Globe on my second trip to London.
Did you know that this is the very theatre where Shakespeare used to hold his plays in? Well, the original building did burn down, then it was rebuilt, and rebuilt again, but still pretty cool right? It was thrilling, thinking that wherever I was standing/sitting, Shakespeare had been in the exact same spots.
We booked our tickets online beforehand, so we had seats, otherwise you can stand in the Yard, where you are close to the stage and all the action… as long as you don’t mind getting wet from rain or standing for a long period of time.
For those who are not familiar with Macbeth – it is a story about three witches who tell Macbeth his fate – he will occupy the throne of Scotland. Thereafter, Macbeth and his wife kill the first man standing in their path – King Duncan. But to maintain his position, Macbeth must keep on killing – first Banquo, his old comrade, and then anyone else who gets in his way.
It was a wonderful experience, and I would recommend it while you are in London.
#13 Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is grand. Super grand. Like nothing I have ever seen before. Wait, hold up, that is a lie. Palace of Versailles, in my opinion, is still the grandest of them all. But anyhow, seeing as we don’t have palaces in New Zealand, it was pretty spectacular. But, the most exciting thing was not the actual palace itself, but the number of people lining up to get a good view for The Changing of the Guard.
The Changing of the Guard is a ceremonial procession which takes place by the fountain outside Buckingham Palace. At 11am each day, a group of soldiers are relieved of their duties by a new batch of soldiers. What I enjoyed most were the guards’ outfits – they wear a striking traditional red tunic, black and red trousers, and bearskin hats. Plus there is a marching band and policemen on horses. Definitely a sight to see!
After taking numerous tourist shots and experiencing the mass crowds at The Changing of the Guard, head down The Mall. It is a tree lined royal road which has Buckingham Palace at one end and Trafalgar Square at the other.
Fun fact: As you all know, the palace is the official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II. If the Queen is in residence, the flag on top of the palace will the the Royal Standard. The British flag (Union flag) is flown when the Queen is away from home.
Buckingham Place (nearest tube: Victoria) / Website
READ: QUEENSTOWN Travel Diary
#14 Shop till you drop at Primark!
If you have a few hours to spare and want to do some shopping at ridiculously good prices, then head to Primark – you will not be disappointed!
My favourite store is located on Oxford Street, near the Marble Arch tube station. My older sister recommended this store – she said it is like Kmart, but bigger and better. And she was right. It is like Kmart and Farmers on steroids!!!
Primark is seriously awesome. You will find clothing, sleepwear, swimwear, bags, shoes and accessories (for women and men), makeup and lots more. Just all mass produced. On my first trip, my sister and I picked up a variety of things – scarves (£2 each), tops (all under £5), pajamas, a colourful Aztec bag, shorts, socks, earrings and a London-inspired bag. On my second visit, I bought about 10 makeup foundation brushes (£2 each), leggings, t-shirts and sunglasses.
Be prepared to spend a few hours here because this store is on two levels and is massive. Also, the line for the changing rooms is super long. If you’re daring enough, find a corner and try on your clothes there – we did it and no one even cared. There was also another girl next to us doing the same thing!
#15 Victoria and Albert Museum
Lucky last, but not least, the Victoria and Albert Museum (the V&A) – my favourite museum in London. Walking in, the building and interior are architecturally stunning.
The V&A was established in 1852, spans over 5,000 years of art and is one of the world’s largest museums. They have a great variety of exhibits, and you will see everything from sculptures, paintings, photographs, medieval objects and prints, to costumes, textiles, glassware, silver, jewellery and furniture. I particularly enjoyed the exhibits of art from Asia and the Middle East, and the David Bowie section, in which the V&A holds a unique collection of David Bowie photographs, album artworks and memorabilia.
Ticket entry is free, however you have to buy a ticket if you want to see the special exhibitions on display (if I was re-visiting London this year, I would definitely check out the Frida Khalo exhibition, which opens on 16 June). We just roamed around by ourselves, and even though we didn’t see any special exhibitions, we still had a wonderful afternoon. There is so much to see and explore – you could literally spend a whole day here!
Hope you enjoyed my 15 Best Things to Do in London post! Stay tuned for my A Foodie’s Guide to London post coming very soon! x