Best things to do in London

by Hadi Al Khatib

London is a vibrant city with cultural and historical attractions for travelers of all styles. Between parks and museums, markets and squares, boat rides and bike rides, the England and UK capital offers entertainment that can appeal to all types of people. With all these options, you’ll have an extended list of things to do in London. You can visit world-famous attractions like Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, and Westminster Abbey or explore different museums, marvel at the wonderful architecture, and relax in the city’s lush parks. Here are the top things to do in London.

Best things to do in London

London. Source: Shutterstock

Top Sightseeing: Top Things to Do in London

Now that you are here, make sure you check the top things to do in London. We gathered everything that we think would make your stay there unforgettable:

1. A visit to the 10 top attractions in London

A trip to the city would be incomplete without a visit to some world-famous London attractions. Here are 10 top attractions in London:

  • Buckingham Palace: Starting the list of the top 10 things to see in London is Buckingham Palace, the administrative headquarters and official London residence of the monarch. The palace has several staterooms open during the summer months, so you can take a guided tour to learn more about the rich history of the place and its royal occupants. When visiting Buckingham Palace, don’t miss the changing of the guard, which happens several times a week between 10:30 am and 11:30 am.
  • Tower of London: The Tower of London is one of the oldest attractions in the city, which served as a royal palace, a public records office, a political prison, an arsenal, a jewel house, and a place of execution. Take a guided tour of the Royal Castle with one of the Yeoman Warders to discover its history and marvel at the Crown Jewels.
  • Westminster Abbey: Westminster Abbey is a popular historic spot, and a must see in London. The iconic and prestigious church plays host to different royal ceremonies, including weddings and coronations. It also has a crypt that holds the remains of around 17 monarchs and some distinguished scientists like Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, and Stephen Hawkings. Westminster Abbey is open to the public daily.
  • The London Eye: The London Eye is the perfect place to go for the best views of the city. Towering over 130 meters above the city, this Ferris wheel with 32 glass capsules offers the best view of popular London landmarks, including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. Windsor Castle, which is almost 30 miles (48 km) away, is visible from the London Eye on a clear day. A 360-degree trip around the wheel will take you around 30 minutes.
  • The Tower Bridge: Constructed in Victorian style, the Tower Bridge is a movable bridge with roadways that lifts for passing ships. It’s one of the popular tourist attractions in London and is still considered an engineering marvel. This must see attraction is easy to find and is close to popular attractions like the Shard and the Tower of London.
  • The Shard: Towering more than 80 stories above the city at 309.6 meters high, the Shard is a London skyscraper that offers the best views of the city. You’ll easily spot top London landmarks like the London Eye, Wembley Stadium, and St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Shard’s viewing deck.
  • Palace of Westminster: The Palace of Westminster plays host to the two chambers of the UK Parliament – the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It is one of the most famous buildings in London, alongside the Clock Tower (Big Ben) at the north end of the palace.
  • Hampton Court Palace: The Hampton Court Palace is a Thames-side historical attraction and one of the most popular palaces in Europe. A favorite residence for most Tudor kings and queens, you’ll explore the former home of Henry VIII and his wives. The Tudor kitchens also offer a sight to behold.
  • Kensington Palace: Kensington Palace is one of the UK’s historical palaces and also one of the finest royal residences in London. Steeped in significant royal history, it is one the best places to learn more about the nation’s historic royal palaces.
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral : One of the most iconic landmarks in London, St. Paul’s Cathedral is a must. Highlights of a trip to the cathedral include visiting different chapels and crypts, climbing 528 steps to the top of the dome for the best view of London, and discovering the Golden Gallery in the upper part of the dome.

2. Visit one of London’s museums

One of the 10 best things to do in London is to visit one of the city’s many museums to learn more about the country’s rich history and culture. The city is home to several free-entry museums. During your trip to London, you can visit the following:

  • The British Museum: The British Museum is one of the most famous London tourist attractions, displaying the finest collections and antiquities like the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, Egyptian mummies, and other important artifacts from various cultures across the globe. Entry to the museum is free.
  • Natural History Museum: The Natural History Museum houses over 80 million artifacts detailing the history of life on earth. Discover exhibitions of fossilized sea creatures, dinosaurs, nature gardens, insects, mammals, minerals, and history. Admission is free, but you may be required to pay and pre-book some temporary events and exhibitions.
  • Science Museum: The perfect place to experience science first-hand, the Science Museum has major exhibitions detailing the science behind space exploration, energy, and manufacturing. You can visit one of the museum’s temporary exhibitions or even the IMAX Theater to catch a science movie. Entry is free, and you may be required to book a free admission ticket.
  • Victoria and Albert Museum: This museum of applied arts and design has over two million items in its collection. The Victoria and Albert Museum features various exhibitions, including clothing and garments, furniture, photography, paintings, modern technology innovations, and much more. Admission to the museum is free.
  • National Maritime Museum: The National Maritime Museum is the perfect place to discover Britain’s seafaring history. It houses over 3,500 model ships and a collection of over 100,000 charts and maps dating hundreds of years back. Discover exhibitions on artworks, objects, and photographs detailing centuries of global exploration. Entry is free, but we recommend booking tickets in advance online to guarantee entry.
  • London Transport Museum: Uncover the history of London’s transport network and system at the London Transport Museum. The museum has fascinating exhibitions like the first underground railway system in the world, The London Underground (Tube), the padded cell, the red double-decker bus, and other transportation icons. You can enter the museum at a fee.
  • Design Museum: The Design Museum is home to over 1000 objects dating back to the 20th century to current times. You’ll see all kinds of items, including the London Underground (Tube) map, computers by Apple, and a vintage Vespa scooter. Entry to the museum is free. No pre-booking is required.

3. Shop at the best markets in London

If you love shopping for different items while on your trip, you have different market options in London, from fashion to vintage and antique markets. Located next to the London Bridge, the Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest markets in the city, with various locally produced items. Alfie’s Antiques Market is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for decorative items, memorabilia, jewelry, homeware, artwork, and furniture. Other markets you might consider visiting include Camden Market, Columbia Road Flower Market, Leadenhall Market, Portobello Road Market, and Covent Garden Market.

4. Visit the Sky Garden

Located on the highest floor of the Fenchurch Building, the Sky Garden is the highest public garden in London. The garden features a vibrant social space offering the best panoramic views and an outdoor terrace that is open throughout the day. Exotic plant species such as African lilies, French lavender, and Bird of Paradise plants are available in the garden. Entry is free, but we recommend booking early to secure your spot.

5. Warner Bros. Studios Tour

Harry Potter fan? For fun things to do in London, the Warner Bros. Studio is right up your alley. The tour will grant you the perfect Harry Porter experience, with access to places like the Forbidden Forest, Hogwarts Great Hall, Diagon Alley, and Hogwarts Express. Discover artifacts and costumes used for filming, including potion jars, ball gowns, Quidditch uniforms, and much more.

6. Wander around Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a must-visit place in London that features some top attractions, including historic buildings, galleries, statutes, fountains, and monuments. Highlights of a trip to the gigantic square would be a visit to the National Gallery, seeing the imperial measures, watching street performers and artists, or making a wish in one of the two fountains on either side of the square. Entry is free at Trafalgar Square. It is open to the public 24/7.

7. Relax and enjoy a picnic in one of London’s royal parks and green spaces

London is home to eight royal parks, including Hyde, Greenwich, Richmond, The Green, Kensington Gardens, Bushy Park, St. James’s Park, and Regent’s Park. These parks provide the perfect relaxation space, while some are close to popular landmarks and attractions in the city, like the ZSL London Zoo in Regent’s Park.

8. Hop on an open-top double-decker bus and enjoy a guided tour of top London attractions

There’s no better way to enjoy some of the top 10 London sights than taking a double-decker bus tour. The open-top double-decker bus passes through popular landmarks like the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, Big Ben, and the Palace of Westminster. You’ll receive fascinating stories and facts from your guide throughout the trip. The bus tour lasts approximately 2 hours with no stops.

9. Tour popular stadiums and sporting venues

London is home to popular sporting venues like the famous Wembley Stadium, which has hosted top sports tournaments and some of the biggest concerts. A trip to London would be incomplete without a visit to the most popular tennis venue in the world, the All England Club in Wimbledon. Other popular stadiums and sports venues worth visiting during your London trip include Lord’s Cricket Ground, London Stadium (former Olympic Stadium, the O2 Arena, Twickenham Stadium, Emirates Stadium (the home of Arsenal Football Club, the Oval Cricket Ground, Copper Box Arena, and Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea Football Club.

10. Cruise along the Thames River

A Thames boat tour is the most relaxing way to enjoy the best view of the city, including popular London attractions like the Tower of London, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and the famous Tower Bridge. There are river tours for all tastes and budgets.

Map of London attractions

London boasts ancient buildings, grand places, and other sites that attract millions of tourists worldwide. One of the best things to do in London is to visit the Madame Tussauds wax museum to see the wax sculptures of some notable figures. You can also catch a show in one of London’s outdoor theaters, tour Churchill’s War Rooms, or ride above the Thames River aboard the IFS Cloud Cable Car. London is a large city and navigating it can sometimes be challenging.

Best things to do in London

London. Source: Unsplash

How to get to the city center from London airports

If you’re visiting London, chances are you’ll be landing at one of London’s six airports: Heathrow Airport (LHR), Luton Airport (LTN), Gatwick Airport (LGW), London City Airport (LCY), Stansted Airport (STN), or Southend Airport (SEN). Getting to central London from these airports isn’t complicated because of the different transportation options available.

  • Located 14 miles (1.6 km) from London, London Heathrow Airport offers multiple transportation options. The Heathrow Express Train is the best option to beat the busy London traffic. Located at Terminals 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the airport, this connection will get you to central London’s Paddington Station in around 20 minutes. You can also take the London Underground train system, the Tube, an affordable and convenient option. The Tube is the best option if you’re headed to different parts of London because you can switch to other lines. The Piccadilly Line services all the major Terminals at LHR and will take you approximately one hour to the Piccadilly Circus station. Coach transfer services like Megabus and National Express are convenient if you have a lot of luggage. Though more expensive, taxis and rental vehicles also offer a convenient transportation option from the airport. You’ll take approximately an hour to the city center, but keep in mind it can take longer in rush hour.
  • London Gatwick Airport is the second busiest airport in London, located 28 miles (45 km) south of the city center. From LGW, you can take the Gatwick Express train, a non-stop service that will get you to Victoria Station in around 30 minutes. Other options include the Southern and Thameslink trains, which are slightly slower and affordable but service different stops. Though pricier, you can pre-book a minicab or opt for on-demand taxi services.
  • London Stansted Airport is the third biggest airport in London and the most preferred by low-cost carriers like easyJet. Located approximately 40 miles (64 km) north of London, you’ll find multiple transportation options to the city center. The Stansted Express is the fastest option offering non-stop trains to Liverpool Station in around 47 minutes, from where you can take the Tube, taxi, or bus to the city center. You’ll need to buy a ticket that covers you for the whole journey in advance. You can book online up to 6 months in advance or at least 2 hours before your trip. When you book online, you’ll receive your ticket through email. You can also book a seat with the Airport Express bus, a cheaper and more convenient option that will get you to Stratford, Liverpool Street, and Victoria Stations in less than 2 hours. You can also pre-book a minicab or request an online taxi, which is convenient but slightly expensive.
  • The quickest way to London from Luton Airport, located 29 miles (47 km) northwest of the city center, is the East Midlands/Thameslink train. This train will take you to St Pancras and Blackfriars stations in less than an hour. If you have plenty of time, you can take the bus, which is a more affordable option. The National Express, A1, A2, and Green Line 757 buses will get you to central London in less than 2 hours. Though more costly, taxis are available at LTN, and you may have to deal with rush hour traffic.
  • London City Airport is closer to the city center than all other London airports, located just 8.6 miles (13 km) from central London in the Docklands area. The Dockland Light Rail (DLR) system serving the Woolwich Arsenal Line is the most convenient transportation option to central London from LCY. It will take you to multiple London Underground stations in less than 25 minutes, where you can connect to the city center. You can also opt for taxis like the London black cabs or pre-book a minicab.
  • London Southend Airport is the least busy airport of all the six, located 40 miles (64 km) east of London. The train is the most affordable and quickest option, taking you less than an hour to London. Taxis are also a convenient option, though more expensive. The Coach X30 and Bus Routes 7, 8, and 9 offer an affordable alternative to the city center from SEN.
  • You can book a ticket with Omio to London from any European city like Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, or Brussels.

How to get to the city center from London train stations

If you’re visiting London by train, you’ll arrive at one of the four major train stations in the city: Waterloo, King’s Cross, Paddington, and St. Pancras. Getting into central London from these train stations isn’t that difficult because of the different transportation options available.

  • There are four ways of getting to central London from Waterloo train station, located just 0.9 miles (1.4 km) from the city center. The easiest and quickest option is to use the subway (London Underground), which takes less than 10 minutes on the Bakerloo line. You can also take the direct train from Waterloo to Charing Cross station, which will take approximately 20 minutes. The Line 139 Bus offers the most affordable transportation option from Waterloo to central London. Taxis are also available, though more expensive, and might get caught up in London traffic. If you have less luggage, you can walk to the city center, just 20 minutes from the train station.
  • The subway (London Underground) is the quickest way to get to central London from London Kings Cross station, which is 1.4 miles (2.3 km) apart. You’ll take approximately 7 minutes on the Piccadilly Line. The Line 91, 73, and N73 buses offer the most affordable option to the city center and will take approximately 20 minutes. Though expensive, taxis from Kings Cross train station to central London are convenient alternatives for travelers with extra luggage.
  • Located northwest of central London, approximately 2.3 miles (3.66 km), London Paddington station is served by four London Underground lines: Hammersmith and City, Circle, Bakerloo, and District. The subway (London Underground) will take less than 15 minutes to get to central London on different lines. The quickest way to get to the city center from Paddington Station is to use the Elizabeth Line train, which takes approximately 10 minutes and drops you closer to popular attractions like the British Museum. Paddington Station is well served by Line 7, 36, 98, 205, and 390 buses. Taxis are also available, though slightly expensive, and you’ll likely get caught up in London traffic during rush hour.
  • St Pancras Station is located north of central London, approximately 2.1 miles (3.4 km) away. The best way to get to the city center from St Pancras Station is to use the subway, which takes approximately 15 minutes to Charing Cross railway station on the Piccadilly Line. The train station is also served by Line 91, 73, 168, and 205 buses, which are affordable and take approximately 20 minutes to the city center. Black cabs, on-demand taxis, and car rentals are also available at St Pancras Station.
  • You can book a ticket with Omio to London from any European city like Amsterdam, Manchester, Edinburgh, Brussels, or Paris.