Things To Do
It would take a lifetime to visit all of the amazing tourist attractions in London. 65 millions tourists a year visit London, trying to do just that. Check out VisitLondon.com for a list of the most popular attractions in London. For those with intern purse strings, check out their list of Free London Attractions.
Sights in London: London is known for its iconic historical sites that are completely unique to the city. The Houses of Parliament, in which unruly political debates have raged for centuries, and the adjacent clock tower with its famous bell (Big Ben is actually the name of the bell, not the tower itself), are of course “must-sees.” Another big attraction in London is the famous London Eye–the world’s largest levered observation wheel that gives ticket holders an actual bird’s eye view of London.
Some places in London are iconic, simply because of the people who spend their time there and the things to do. Covent Garden in West London is famous for the street performers singing, dancing, and even miming. Visit Piccadilly Circus, also on the West End in Westminster, for great shopping, theaters, restaurants, and pubs.
For the artistically inclined, you can gain free entry into several of London’s famous national museums. See some of the greatest works of art at the National Gallery in London, which features paintings from artists like Degas and Van Gogh. The Tate Britain and the Tate Modern are also popular, and free to enter.
If you’re hoping to get a glimpse of Prince William, his brother Harry, or their royal grandmother, visit royal sites like Buckingham Palace. If you arrive at 11am, sharp, on specific days you’ll be able to see the Changing of the Guard – a tradition that is as British as it gets!
Shopping in London: A shopaholic visiting London should be sure to visit the historic department store Harrods. While the designer threads might be well out of an intern’s budget, it is definitely worth a trip to see the sumptuous Victorian interior. For more affordable shopping, stop by Portobello Road. Located in the famous Notting Hill, Portobello Road features markets of all kind: flea markets, secondhand markets, fruit and vegetable markets, and antique markets.
If you’re living near Bayswater, you should visit Whiteleys department store, which dates all the way back to 1912. Whiteleys features a mixture of high fashion designs and vintage clothing. The Dresser, also in Bayswater, is a great place to get secondhand high-end designer clothes at a steeply discounted price. Bonus: all of the proceeds go to charity!
But, perhaps, the best shopping experience in London is just walking down its many charming ‘high streets’ (the British version of “main street”), discovering small boutiques, coffee shops and quirky boutiques. Make sure that you don’t miss this experience!
Theater in London: Another great way to spend time in London is to go to the theater. As one of the lesser-known bargains in the expensive city, theater tickets are easily accessible and relatively low-cost, even at full price. There are several popular and famous theaters in London, including many on the West End, which is the traditional theater district. The Globe, on the other side of the Thames, is an accurate replica of Shakespeare’s original theater, and definitely deserves a visit. For more information and specific shows, check out Time Out London’s theater page.
Nightlife in London: With its varied mélange of people, London naturally also boasts a great nightlife scene. A popular (albeit expensive) option is the Pacha nightclub, located in the Victoria district. Pacha is known for its glamorous atmosphere, complete with chandeliers, original oak paneling, and stained glass ceiling.
Another popular nighttime spot is The Ritzy Café. Despite its name, this jazz bar in Brixton, South London is reasonably priced. Ritzy’s has great food and high quality eclectic music housed in an intimate setting. Another popular place for younger London residents is the Duke of Edinburgh in Brixton, with its enormous outdoor beer garden. It gets especially popular in the summer when punters flock to its wooden tables and weekend BBQ’s. Check out the LondonTown.com list of London’s Top Clubs and Top Bars for more popular nightlife stomping grounds.
Outdoor Activities in London: When it’s not raining, London is a great place to spend the day outdoors, especially since most of the fun outdoor activities are free. London has a wealth of parks, both new and historic. London’s answer to New York’s Central Park Hyde Park, near Oxford Street, is a particularly beautiful location, perfect for picnics, working out, or bike riding. Next to Hyde Park is Kensington Gardens. Featured at Kensington Gardens are the famous Serpentine Gallery and the Princess Diana water sculpture. For a list of London’s best parks, check out the Days Out Guide.
London is famous for its outdoor festivals, music concerts, and other events that happen throughout the year, especially in the summer. Check out Time Out London’s Guide to Outdoor London for a schedule of open-air theater shows, movies, concerts, and festivals. The Guardian has also published the 10 Best Outdoor Activities in London.
Speaking of kayaking, there are plenty of water-based activities in London, as well, besides walking in the rain! With the Thames River so accessible, you can take a water taxi for a new view of the city, take a walk by the riverside, take a river cruise tour, or go canoeing. Check out the Trip Advisor breakdown of the many water activities available in London.
Professional Sports in London: Football is undoubtedly the most popular game in London. London also has 13 football clubs (that’s soccer to Americans), more than any other city. If you’re in the city from August to mid-May, definitely take advantage of the football matches that are inevitably going on. VisitLondon has all the details about getting tickets and when the matches take place.
And for those who are passionate about cricket, London lays claim to the hallowed Lord’s Cricket Ground, home of the Marylebone Cricket Club, in St. John’s Wood. Watching a test match or a one-day international at Lord’s is the experience of a lifetime. And for variety, there is the Oval, home of the Surrey County Cricket Club.
These listed activities included are just the tip of the iceberg. There is an almost overwhelming amount of things to do in London: so much so that it bears repeating the old adage, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life!”