Discover the charm of London with our guide to the best attractions and things to do. We cover ancient history, diverse cultures, famous landmarks, local hangouts, and unique experiences.

By: Paul Healy | Published: 13 Jan 2024

London is a vibrant, world-class capital with more wonderful things to do than you could hope to see in one visit.

Nonetheless, as long-time residents, we’ve put together our curated list of the unmissable attractions in London.

We’ve included all the top attractions as well as the best neighbourhoods, the most satisfying museums and galleries, and the most worthy local experiences.

Enter a world where hipsters and history meet rain and rebellion in our guide to the best things to do in London.

1. PALACE OF WESTMINSTER & BIG BEN

Home to the British Parliament, no visit to London would be complete without witnessing the iconic Palace of Westminster and Big Ben. The architectural grandeur of this majestic complex stands proudly on the banks of the River Thames.

The palace is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture, with intricate details and towering spires.

We highly recommend visiting the House of Commons and the House of Lords on the official guided tour. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get a glimpse into British democracy.

Guided Tour // Book your Westminster Palace Guided Tour.

2. WESTMINSTER ABBEY

Westminster Abbey was built in the 11th century and has hosted coronations, weddings, and burials for royals.

The Gothic architecture is stunning with soaring spires, intricate stone carvings, and ornate stained-glass windows. Inside, the nave features high-vaulted ceilings and majestic columns.

The highlights at Westminster Abbey are:

  • Coronation Chair – Where Edward VIII, George IV, Queen Victoria, and Queen Elizabeth II were crowned.
  • Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I Tomb – The final resting place of the famous half-sisters.
  • Poets’ Corner -Where writers such as Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Laurence Olivier, and Geoffrey Chaucer are buried.
  • College Garden – A secret garden behind the abbey (Tue / Wed / Thu).
  • Lady Chapel of Henry VII – Stunning chapel with pendant fan vaulting and fragile rose windows.

Tickets // Book this fascinating guided tour, or these skip-the-line-tickets to avoid the queues.

3. BRITISH MUSEUM

The British Museum has a special collection of art, artifacts, and relics representing thousands of years of history. The permanent collection of over eight million artifacts is the largest in the world.

Here are some of the most impressive things to see at the British Museum:

  • The Rosetta Stone, which helped decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.
  • The Bust of Ramesses the Great, a 7.5-tonne statue from Luxor.
  • The collection of 140 mummies and treasures from Tutankhamun.
  • The Elgin Marbles, a 2,500-year-old sculpture that used to adorn the Parthenon in Athens.
  • The colossal human-headed lions from the Assyrian Palaces.

Additionally, the Great Court is one of London’s unique public spaces and the largest covered square in Europe.

Tickets // The British Museum is free to visit, however, a guided tour is a great way to learn more about a specific section.

4. BUCKINGHAM PALACE

The official residence of the British monarch, Buckingham Palace is an iconic landmark in London that offers a glimpse into the traditions of the British royal family.

Although the neoclassical façade is adorned with strong details, most first-time visitors to Buckingham Palace can’t help but notice that the huge building looks a little dull.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to think of a more iconic thing to do in London than a stroll through the Royal Parks and Palaces, finishing up at Buckingham Palace.

State Room Visit // Buckingham Palace State Rooms are open for 10 weeks each summer, book your visit well in advance.

5. CHANGING OF THE GUARD

The Changing of the Guard is a formal ceremony where the Old Guards currently protecting Buckingham Palace are replaced by the New Guards.

The Old Guard leaves St James’s Palace at 10:43 am and marches up the Mall to Buckingham Palace. The New Guard leaves Wellington Barracks at 10:57 am and marches up Birdcage Walk towards the palace.

Changing of the Guard takes place on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. The best place to see it is from the Buckingham Palace Forecourt. It’s a good idea to arrive early.

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CHANGING OF THE GUARD, THE MALL

6. THE NATIONAL GALLERY

The National Gallery houses an extensive collection of European paintings from the 13th to the 19th century from Renaissance masterpieces through to Impressionist offerings.

The iconic pieces include Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Virgin of the Rocks.” There are also works by Titian, Cezanne and Claude Monet.

For art lovers, it’s an unmissable thing to do in London. And it’s completely free.

Out front, don’t miss the rotating sculpture on the Fourth Plinth. It was intended to hold a statue of William IV but has remained empty since 1841 due to a lack of funds. Every few years an artist is commissioned to provide an installation for the 4th plinth.

7. TOWER OF LONDON

The Tower of London – the imposing fortress on the banks of the River Thames – has guarded the city for over 900 years. It’s one of the top attractions on our City of London walk.

The White Tower is the oldest part of the Tower of London and the centerpiece of the complex with displays of armor, weaponry, and royal artifacts.

The highlight is the famous Crown Jewels, the most complete collection of Royal regalia in the world.

Tickets // Take a Yeoman Warders tour, also known as Beefeaters, who will regale you with tales of intrigue and royal scandals. Alternatively, this early access tour gets you inside long before the queues form.

8. VISIT LONDON’S BEST MARKETS

London has excellent markets where you can find everything from rare delicacies to vintage crafts. Here are some of our favourite markets in London.

BOROUGH MARKET (FOOD)

The bustling Borough Market boasts a staggering array of tantalizing treats, from artisanal cheeses and freshly baked bread to exotic spices and gourmet street food. Visit Borough Market on our Southbank London walk.

PORTOBELLO MARKET (VINTAGE & RETRO)

Portobello Market is a collectables paradise with antique furniture, vintage clothing, retro jewels, and quirky curiosities. Despite its popularity, it still holds onto a bohemian atmosphere. Visit Portobello Market on our walking tour of Notting Hill.

CAMDEN MARKET (MUSIC & FASHION)

Camden Market is a celebration of counterculture in London with a mix of music, fashion, arts, crafts, and food spread across 4 unique spaces. Explore alleys filled with punk fashion and gothic accessories, while munching down on the trendiest street food. Visit Camden Market on our Regent’s Park to Camden walk.

COLUMBIA ROAD FLOWER MARKET

This small cobbled lane in East London comes alive every Sunday with traders selling a massive selection of flowers. It’s one of our favourite weekend activities in London with several independent shops on the street selling all sorts of artisanal products.

9. NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

The National Portrait Gallery celebrates British history through portraiture; vividly telling Britain’s story through its influencing faces. The gallery has recently reopened after an extensive transformation as part of the Inspiring People project.

Located just off Trafalgar Square, the Portrait Gallery has a fantastic permanent collection which is free of charge as well as temporary exhibitions which you need to pay to enter. Check what’s on at npg.org.uk.

Our favourite section is the photographs is the modern photography on the ground floor.

10. ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL

The dome of St Paul’s Cathedral – one of the largest in the world – has graced the London skyline since the 17th century when Sir Christopher Wren’s re-build began following the Great Fire of London.

Inside, the grand nave is scattered with monuments to the good and the great of British history, dominated by the great West Doors.

There are 3 galleries within the dome: the Whispering Gallery, the Stone Gallery, and the Golden Gallery. It’s 528 steps to the top for a panoramic perspective of London’s landmarks.

Tickets // Book a discounted entry ticket.

11. LEAKE STREET ARCHES

Leake Street Arches is a gem of urban artistry, located in 8 former railway arches beneath Waterloo Station.   

Originally made famous by the street artist Banksy who organised the Cans Festival here in 2008. Since then, the Leake Street Arches have become a canvas for local and international artists who have transformed the cavernous tunnel into an explosion of murals and thought-provoking graffiti.

In addition to the art, Leake Street has some cool dive bars, a gaming café, and an excellent Polish Restaurant.

For more great art, try our walking tour of the Shoreditch street art.

12. TATE MODERN

Tate Modern houses the UK’s national collection of modern and contemporary art in the converted Bankside Power Station. It’s a magnificent art gallery in a splendid building and it’s completely free to visit.

The giant Turbine Hall often houses enormous installations. The galleries contain several notable works by Lichtenstein, Mondrian, Picasso and many more.

Head to the Tate Modern Café on Level 10 in the Blavatnik Building for free views over the city of London. Members can get an even better view from the Level 5 Members Bar in the Natalie Building.

13. LONDON VIEWPOINTS

London is a city of iconic skylines and there are several locations that provide panoramic vistas of the capital. Here are a few of our favourite places with incredible views of London.

SKY GARDEN

Located at the top of the Fenchurch Building, better known as the Walkie-Talkie, the Sky Garden is a lush indoor garden with floor-to-ceiling windows. This unique free public space provides a 360-degree view of the city. Entrace is free but timeslots must be booked in advance.

THE SHARD

Redefining the London skyline, The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe and offers a cool perspective on the city. The official viewing platform is an exorbitant £32 and has very random opening times, making it a bit of a tourist trap. So go for cocktails at Aqua Shard or Sky Lounge instead.

LONDON EYE

The London Eye – a now iconic massive Ferris wheel on the South Bank – is one of the best ways to get an awesome view of London. It’s also not cheap, but we think it’s worth it for first-time visitors to London. Book your skip-the-line tickets.

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VIEWS FROM THE SHARD

14. KEW GARDENS

The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew is a 300-acre horticultural paradise and UNESCO World Heritage Site of gardens, glasshouses, and arboretums.

The highlight at Kew Gardens is the Palm House, an extraordinary Victorian glasshouse with a diverse collection of plants. Inside, towering palms and exotic blooms fill the space with tropical vibes.

Waterlily House nurtures aquatic plants creating a serene ambiance, and the Japanese Landscape is a meticulously designed garden featuring traditional elements such as pagodas, bridges, and bonsai trees.

Tickets // Book your skip-the-line Kew Gardens Tickets.

15. THE PAINTED HALL

The Old Royal Naval College is a magnificent landmark on the banks of the River Thames in Greenwich. The building was originally the birthplace of Tudor monarch Henry VIII and his daughters Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I. It was later redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren.

Celebrating 300 years of British history, it’s one of the most impressive UNESCO World Heritage sites in London.

The centrepiece is the stunning Painted Hall, a magnificent baroque masterpiece adorned with intricately painted murals.

Adjacent to the Painted Hall, the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul is almost as impressive with stained glass windows and intricate woodwork.

Tickets // Book skip-the-line Painted Hall tickets.

16. COVENT GARDEN

Covent Garden is a dining and entertainment hub in the West End of London that weaves together history, culture, and retail in a lively piazza.

Surrounded by boutiques, market stalls, and street performers, Covent Garden has a vibrant tourist-friendly atmosphere.

There are big brand stores, street performers and plenty of great bars and restaurants.

Visit Neals’ Yard, a colourful hidden square. Shop in the historic Jubilee Market for vintage jewelry and gifts. Try the cocktails and the seductive speakeasy, Cache Cache

Christmas at Covent Garden transforms the square into a winter wonderland.

17. SHOP IN AN ICONIC DEPARTMENT STORE

London’s department stores are a grand way to drain your wallet. It’s a great city for shopping – here are some retail heavyweights to check out:

HARRODS

The British icon is stacked with rare items, luxury fashion brands, homewares, and technology in a sprawling space with over 300 departments. The food hall in the Grade-II listed building is the perfect place to pick up some tasty morsels.

SELFRIDGES

One of the most exclusive department stores in London with a bright modern feel and high-end designer brands, Selfridges is an unmissable thing to do in London. After picking up some gifts, catch the latest release in their in-house cinema.

LIBERTY

Liberty is an exclusive London department store in the West End. It’s stocked with designer items, top-end homewares, high fashion, and much more. Even if you don’t want to shop, the mock-Tudor building is reason enough to visit.

18. SEE A WEST END SHOW

There are 39 theatres in the West End of London hosting performances from famous screen actors through to unknown rising stars.

The oldest theatre is the Theatre Royal, Dury Lane which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The Donmar Warehouse, one of the newest, is an intimate contemporary theatre where you can see world-class performances by A-listers just a few feet away.

No visit to London would be complete without strolling past the iconic marquees of the theatre district and finding a world-class performance.

Tickets // Check what’s on in the West End via Ticketmaster.

19. VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM

The Victoria & Albert Museum is a celebration of human creativity and one of the best free things to do in London. A vast collection spanning 5,000 years offers a captivating journey through fashion, sculpture, ceramics, photography, and performance.

From ancient Egyptian artifacts to contemporary installations, the V&A presents an eclectic mix of exhibits housed in a truly remarkable building. Here are a few highlights:

  • The Raphael Cartoons – The 7 huge paintings by Raphael were designs for tapestries to hang in the Sistine Chapel.
  • Fashion Gallery – See the evolution of fashion in an impressive collection of over 75,000 items. 
  • Tipoo’s Tiger – A sculpture of a tiger mauling a soldier which also contains an organ that can be operated by turning a handle.
  • Glass Chandelier – The huge chandelier by Dale Chihuly makes a grand statement in the Cromwell Road entrance. 
  • Cast Courts – Housed in a 25-metre-high hall these incredible plaster and electrotype reproductions include a copy of David’s Michelangelo and Trajan’s Column, which needed to be cut in half to fit.

20. BRICK LANE

Brick Lane was originally a path through open countryside on the outskirts of the City of London. Existing throughout most of its history as one of the most deprived parts of London, it welcomed immigrant groups who started to embed the street with the cultural diversity it is known for today.

At the end of the Second World war, Bengalis from the Sylhet district of what is now Bangladesh came to London and opened the curry houses for which the street is now famous.

Today Brick Lane and the surrounding Spitalfields and Shoreditch areas combine to form one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in the capital. See the best of the area on our Shoreditch Street Art guide including:

  • The Brick Lane Vintage Market in the Truman Brewery.
  • Pizza and cocktails at Apples & Pears.
  • Try a bagel from Beigel Bake, a 24-hour institution.

21. NOTTING HILL

Notting Hill is a picturesque neighbourhood in London known for its busy market, street carnival, and cultural heritage.

Over the last hundred years, people from all around the world have flocked to live in Notting Hill. Leading the way were Caribbean immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s, who today live side by side with Moroccan, Spanish and Portuguese communities.

There are plenty of wonderful things to do in the area, which you can see on our Notting Hill walk. We also recommend taking a pitstop for a classic Notting Hill breakfast.

For the full guide, read: best things to do in Notting Hill.

22. SOUTH BANK WALK

One of the best ways to collect some of the iconic sights of London is to walk along the South Bank from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge.

Starting at the Houses of Parliament, the walk includes the Southbank Centre, Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge and Borough Market.

Over an easy 4 mile walk you explore some of the best attractions in London.

All the details plus a map can be found on our Southbank London walk.

23. WATCH A FOOTBALL MATCH

The English Premier League is the wealthiest football league in the world and one of Britain’s greatest exports. Home to several top-tier clubs, seeing a football game is a great thing to do in London.

The Premier League season runs from August to May, but if you can’t get to a match, several of the biggest stadiums in London provide interesting tours of these cultural landmarks that are very important to Londoners.  

Here are the details for our pick of the best stadium tours in London –


MAP | THINGS TO DO IN LONDON

Our map includes all the best things to do in London which we covered in this guide. To help you decide where to stay, read our guide on the best places to stay in London which includes a breakdown of all the best areas.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


WHERE TO STAY?

As long-term London residents, we’ve developed a detailed guide outlining the best places to stay in London. We have 10 great neighbourhoods to consider including Westminster, Soho and Mayfair.

Read the full list in our guide to the best places to stay in London.

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MORE LONDON GUIDES

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