Looking for things to do in London? Look no further. I have visited our capital at least once a year for over 30 years, and not long after Richard and I became a couple one of our first long weekends away was to London. During that time I’ve pretty much seen all the main sights and I have my favourites! Here are my top 10 must have experiences in London.
1. See a West End show
For me just like no trip to New York City would be complete without seeing a Broadway Show, no trip to London is complete without seeing a West End show.
There are loads of great shows currently on in the West End so it’s a tough choice! My current top 5 are;
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
The Woman in Black
Phantom of the Opera
2. Shop in Harrods
Harrods is the iconic London department store and a visit to the city wouldn’t be complete without a look around, and lets face it, don’t you want to go home with one of their green bags? Harrods had to be included in my 10 Must Have Experiences in London.
You don’t have to spend a fortune here, but you certainly could, there are items for purchase to suit all budgets.
My favourite departments are the Christmas department, obviously best in the lead up to Christmas, and the Food Court, which is exceptional year round.
Head to the deli counter and the cheese counter which is next to it. The staff will be happy to let you try the produce, and it’s good! Across the same hall is a cake counter and their cupcakes are some of the best I’ve tasted.
Head through into the next hall where you can find all kinds of varieties of tea, coffee, chocolates and sweet treats. The Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate is highly recommended!
Purchases in the Food Court are taken away in white carrier bags with green writing. If you want the green bag with gold writing you need to buy something in another department. You can pick up a pen or small souvenir for a fair price.
3. Wander Carnaby Street
Carnaby Street is a very cool back street area in Soho between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, it’s also pedestrianised. There are many cafes and eateries in the area as well as shops, Dr Martens, Irregular Choice, Levi and the iconic Liberty London can all be found on Carnaby Street.
Strolling around here could fill an afternoon on its own.
4. Watch the street performers in Covent Garden
There is always something going on in Covent Garden, particularly at weekends. You can see several street performers from mime artists to circus style performances. The best ones always attract a large crowd and often look fairly dangerous! Join the crowd to watch and cheer, at the end of the performance you will be asked for a donation by the performer, you can pay what you like.
While you’re in Covent Garden don’t miss walking through the boutique style shops and the markets. You will find lots of hand made products here as well as arts and crafts.
5. Hang out in Camden Town
Camden Town is home to London’s alternative scene, home to todays punks, goths and rockers. You can find lots of music and clothing stores and some of London’s best markets.
Camden also has some of the best street art in the city and a variety of arts and crafts for purchase. Independent shops line alleyways and arcades with products you won’t find anywhere else.
There is great food in Camden Town as well, from street food to fine dining. If you’re looking to splash out on a fancy dinner you can’t go wrong with Shaka Zulu. This restaurant could be one of the 10 Must Have Experiences in London in its own right.
6. Check out Borough Market
You will find Borough Market in Southwark, on the south side of the London Bridge. It is huge, you can’t miss it when walking down the main road.
This is not your average market and it is not just for foodies (although if you are foodies like us you will LOVE it) There are plenty of fresh produce stalls selling pretty much anything you can think of. There are also pubs, restaurants and loads of street food – and it’s good so make sure you try some.
Best time to come would be late morning and plan to stay through lunch. If you’re a big group then even better as there is something for all tastes and you could all get something different.
7. Visit the Tower of London
Possibly one of the best known attractions of my 10 Must Have Experiences in London. A historic castle on the north banks of the River Thames and a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can buy tickets online – here. This is an experience you can only have in London and from someone who has been to visit several times it’s always high on my list of recommendations of places to visit in the city.
Join one of the Beefeater tours once you’re inside the castle. They are free and are the type of tour you just turn up for, starting times are listed at the entrance. The Beefeaters know the castle the best and the detailed historic facts and stories they tell you on the way round cannot be beaten, you will not take in as much about the Tower of London if you have never visited before and walk round on your own.
Don’t miss visiting the exhibits, you can even see the real Crown Jewels but don’t expect to linger here. The tour through the exhibit is undertaken on mostly conveyor belts to keep people moving.
Expect to spend most of a day here to see everything. Arrive first thing in the morning for opening as the crowds build throughout the day, whether it’s school holidays or not this is always a busy London attraction.
8. Visit the London Dungeon
The London Dungeon is an acquired taste but we love it. If you are squeamish this is not for you. There are real rats at the entrance, although they are caged and can’t be touched, and throughout you are going to see a fair bit of gore – but that goes hand in hand with the history of London!
This is very much a showing of the dark side of the history of London, all the major names are featured like Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd and you can walk through settings of some key events such as the Black Death and the Gunpowder Plot. Expect to take a couple of hours to see all the exhibits, there’s only one section which you have the option to skip so there isn’t really a way to get through quickly if you haven’t set aside enough time.
To get here you are best taking the underground to Waterloo station. Check online before you go as well, there are often multi-pass tickets if you’re visiting more than one attraction that give you a bit of a discount.
9. Ride the London Eye
The London Eye seems to change it’s name all the time depending on who is looking after it, I think at the moment it’s the Coca-Cola London Eye, but to us it will always just be the London Eye.
I first went on the London Eye in 2000 the year it opened along with the Millennium Dome (now the O2) down the river. Although the Millennium Dome experience can no longer be had you can still visit the London Eye and it’s just as good as it was when it opened.
As with all attractions like this get your tickets in advance as the lines can be huge and you don’t want to waste time queuing while you’re in London if it can be avoided.
Even if you have been on the London Eye before it’s worth a revisit if you haven’t been to the city in a while, who could get bored of this skyline?
10. Walk in Hyde Park
When walking around the buzzing city gets to be a bit too much there’s no better place to chill out on a sunny day than Hyde Park. For a change of pace get the underground to Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Lancaster Gate, High Street Kensington or Notting Hill Gate for quick access to the park. From any of these stations you will be less than a 5 minute walk from one of the entrances.
You can rent boats and spend some time on the Serpentine or you could hire a bike to cover more of the park in a short space of time. If you just want to relax you will find plenty of seating scattered around the park or bring a blanket to lay out on the grass.
If you have no had enough sightseeing while you are here check out the Queen Victoria’s memorial to Prince Albert, opposite the Royal Albert Hall, and Kensington Palace.
If you have more time after completing my 10 Must Have Experiences in London or if you’re looking for an itinerary to follow check out our post on things to do in Westminster.