Updated On: November 08, 2023 by Ciaran Connolly
Don’t know what attractions to visit on your trip to London? We have you covered with our guide to the top things to do in London.
London will amaze you with its beautiful streets and historical buildings. Our list of the top things to do in London provide you with the the most popular attractions, stunning sights and advice on how to make the most of your time in England’s Capital.
Top Things to Do in London: Attractions
There is an endless amount of things to see and do in London. The amount of choice can be overwhelming so below we have complied a list of the top 10 things to do in the Swinging City.
1. Big Ben
Big Ben is one of London’s most iconic landmarks. The actually name of the clock tower is the House of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower and it is the bell inside the tower that is called Big Ben. Once you see Big Ben in person you quickly realise why the name given to the bell was given to the whole tower itself as it is just that big. After 5 years of restorations, Big Ben is finally free of its scaffolding and it is now looking more magnificent than ever.
Big Ben, just under 100 meters in height, stands tall next to the Houses of Parliament, which you can also visit. You can get great views of the tower from Westminster Bridge and Parliament Square. See Big Ben glisten in the sunshine or go at night to view the four clock faces of the tower illuminated. It is also recommended to time your visit to hear Big Ben chime on the hour.
2. Westminster Abbey
Located close to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey lies in the centre of London. The royal church is where coronations of the royal family take place and it is steeped in over a 1000 years of history. The church has held weddings such as, Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridges and has held many funerals including Diana, Princess of Wales funeral in 1997.
Westminster Abbey is also the burial site for many Royals such as Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots and Edward VI. However, it is not only royals that are buried at Westminster Abbey. Well known people in history for example, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Laurance Olivier and Charles Dickinson were also laid to rest in the historic church.
Many events and tours are held at Westminster Abbey. Guided tours run from Monday to Saturday with four time slots, 10:30, 11:00,11:30 and 2:00. You can also pay for General Admission for Westminster Abbey which is open 9.30am – 3.30pm Monday to Saturday.
3. Buckingham Palace
Want to get an inside look of Buckingham Palace’s 19 state rooms? Time your trip to the palace during the Summer as Buckingham Palace opens it’s doors to the public for 10 weeks from the 22nd of July to 2nd of October. Walk in the halls and view the rooms of the Queens official London Residence. Some rooms you will visit are the Throne Room, Ballroom and Music Room. You will also see the Queens hidden door in the White drawing Room, the Mars and Venus statue by Canova in the Marble Hall and you will get to walk up the exquisite Grand Staircase.
To celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Buckingham Palace have a space during the tour dedicated to the Queen’s Accession. Here you will see the Queens first official portraits taken by Dorothy Wilding and will view the Queen’s breathtaking personal jewellery collection. See the Diamond Diadem that the Queen wore at the procession of her coronation and the dress and robe that the Queen would have worn in 1937 at her parents coronation.
Read our article on Buckingham Palace for more information.
4. Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is a bustling public space in central London and is a vibrant area surrounded by museums, galleries and historical monuments. Trafalgar Square is used as a spot for rallies and demonstrations on different political, religious and general issues. In the center of the square stands Nelsons column, a monument to commemorate Admiral Nelson after his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Four lion statues protect Nelson’s column and two fountains add to the public space. The 4th plinth on Trafalgar square is used to display a new art sculpture twice a year.
The National Gallery is located at Trafalgar Square and has a collection of over 2000 paintings for you to see. With works from Michelangelo, Claude Monet, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio to name a few, the National Gallery has an impressive collection of European Art. Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks are also on show at the Gallery.
5. London Eye
Located on the South bank of the River Thames, the London Eye gives tourists a panoramic view of the city in every direction. It is London’s most popular tourist attraction as it gives people a great birds-eye view of London’s most famous landmarks. The London Eye consists of 32 glass pods that rotate to give you a 360 degree view.
The London Eye doesn’t stop to let you hop on but it does go at a slow pace to ensure you have plenty of time to get on, once on the ride lasts around 30 minutes. You can choose to ride the London Eye during the day or if you can time it around sunset you will get a stunning view of London as the sun goes down and all of London’s biggest attractions are lit up.
6. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Once the place for which Shakespeare wrote his plays, the Globe Theatre is a now a world-renowned theatre and educational centre. The culture landmark is definitely something you should visit on your trip to London for its historical significance alone. The Globe Theatre is an open air theatre that still puts on Shakespeare productions, it is recommended to bring a coat as the plays go on rain or shine. The original Globe Theatre burnt down from a misfired prop in 1613 and it was rebuilt again. However the Globe theatre that stands today wasn’t opened until 1997. Sam Wanamaker had a vision to rebuild the Third Globe Theatre and made it an accurate reconstruction of the 1599 amphitheatre.
The Globe Theatre show new writings, concerts and film screenings and hold educational workshops and community projects. Whether you want to go see a play or want to do a guided tour of the theatre you will be impressed by the fabulous history of the “Wooden ‘O'”. Immerse yourself in the amazing culture and arts of London at the Globe Theatre.
7. Kensington Palace
Kensington palace is the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the birthplace of Queen Victoria. Kensington palace offer tours from Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm and tickets cost £20 for adults and £10 for children. The tour includes access to Victoria’s re-imagined childhood rooms and the King and Queen State apartments.
If you don’t have time to do the tour, the Kensington Palace Gardens are a beautiful landscape to walk around and soak in the views and atmosphere. The Sunken Gardens are located next to Kensington Palace. Walk around the tranquil space and you will see a statue of Diana, Princess of Wales which was commissioned by her sons Prince William and Prince Harry. If you want an escape from the busy city, the gardens at Kensington Palace offer just that, a peaceful oasis. There is also a gift shop and restaurant on the grounds. It is the perfect spot to enjoy some afternoon tea.
8. Hyde Park
Hyde Park is the perfect place to enjoy relaxation and leisure in one green space. There is an endless amount of activities to enjoy in Hyde Park. Walk around the Rose Garden and take in the gorgeous scenery or get active in the Tennis and Sport Centre located in the park. During the Summer there is a lovely atmosphere around the park with families having picnics and friends swimming in the Serpentine Lido.
There are a selection of places to eat in at Hyde park so you won’t go hungry while enjoying your time out in the open. Lido Bar and Café, Serpentine Bar and Kitchen and the Lodge Café all provide food and refreshments to the public and are open daily. Hyde Park is also the venue for concerts and performances. Many famous acts have performed to thousands of people at the beautiful park. Some of these acts include, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Pavarotti, Celine Dion and Adele.
9. Royal Albert Hall
If you have time, seeing a concert in the Royal Albert Hall is definitely something you should try and do. The magnificent concert hall offers tours to visitors. There are two types of tours that you can do. A standard tour of the Royal Albert Hall will bring you around the auditorium and you will be able to look at the royal areas. The other type of tour offered is a Behind the Scenes tour of the concert hall. This type of tour is only offered a limited amount of times in the year and it gives you access under the stage and the dressing rooms.
Experiencing a live concert in the Royal Albert Hall is breathtaking. The amazing talent is enhanced by the incredible interiors of the hall. A unique experience that the Royal Albert Hall offers is to watch the worlds most iconic films on a big screen accompanied by a live orchestra. BBC Proms is also held for 8 weeks during the Summer in the 150 year old Royal Albert Hall.
10. Tower of London
If you are interested in history then visiting the Tower of London should be on the top of your list of things to do in London. The World Heritage site once guarded royal possessions and the Royal family during times of war. It is open daily from 9:00 to 5:30 and tours are put on for visitors to learn more about the fascinating history of the castle. Tickets cost £29.90 for adults and £14.90 for children.
In the tour you will get to visit the White Tower which was built by William the Conqueror. The castle has a rich and interesting history with it having many different uses, a castle, a prison, an execution site and a fortress over 1000’s of years. Included in your tour you will get to see the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign Sceptre with Cross up close and meet the famous ravens at the Tower of London
Top Things to Do in London: Museums
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is open daily from 10:00 to 5:50 and entry to the Museum is free, however, there are admission charges for some of the special exhibitions and events. The exterior of the Museum is incredible and will have you in awe before you even enter inside to see some historical objects from a collection of 80 million.
View the Barbary lion skull that was found at the Tower of London and a Moon rock in the Treasures Gallery. The museum also has a Charles Darwin collection and many dinosaur fossils, including Dippy the Diplodocus, a dinosaur skeleton cast of the fossilised bones of a Diplodocus carnegii skeleton. You could easily spend the day wandering around the museum and discovering all it has to offer.
Victoria & Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum is another free museum that you can access in London and there is no time slot needed. Without ever seeing the exhibitions or collections you will be amazed by the interiors of the museum itself, from the exquisite tile floor to the enchanting frescoes. In the museum you can view an architecture collection, medieval and gothic collection, and a through the ages fashion collection to name a few. Some exhibitions and events have a separate charge, until 2023 the museum has a Beatrix Potter exhibition and an Africa Fashion exhibition.
The museum has a gift shop and a café and outside there is a paddling pool that the children can safely play in while you sit down outside. There are free activities at the museum every day for families with hands-on making events and performances to keep everyone entertained.
Madame Tussauds is a world-famous wax museum in London. Madame Tussauds is a multi-chain museum but the London museum is where it all began. There are many different zones to explore in Madame Tussauds from Sport to Music stars. Get pictures with your favourite stars and icons life-like wax figures. With fictional wax figures from the Marvel and Stars Wars series and film stars like Dame Helen Mirren there is a wax figure for everyone’s interests.
If you book online tickets are £33.50. This ticket includes access to all zones and other attractions including Kong: Skull Island experience and Alien Escape. Pay an extra £5 to experience Madame Tussauds new 4D Marvel Super Heroes Movie that brings you up close to the action. Madame Tussauds is an attraction that shouldn’t be missed when you visit London.
Churchill War Rooms
Churchill War Rooms are open daily from 9:30- 6:00 and tickets are £26.35 with a free audio guide included that takes you through the momentous site. Walk through the Cabinet War Rooms where Churchill and other leaders plotted the allied route to victory during the Second World War. Discover all about Churchill’s 90-year life and legacy as Prime Minister in the interactive Churchill Museum. You will also get to see the original Number 10 Downing Street door and the Transatlantic Telephone Room. This fascinating museum is definitely worth experiencing especially for any World War II enthusiasts.
The British Museum
The British Museum is the world’s oldest national public museums and was the first museum to open its doors to the public for free. The museum has impressive collections from Egyptian, Greek, Roman, European and Middle Eastern countries. Some of the most famous objects in the museum are the Rosetta Stone, which shows us ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Parthenon Marbles and Ester Island’s Hoa Hakananai’a maoi statue. You will spend hours exploring the incredible collection.
Top Things to Do in London: Family Fun
Worried about keeping the little ones entertained during your trip to London? Don’t worry we have you covered with our tailored list of things to do in London for families. There is so much to do and see in London with the family to keep everyone entertained. Let’s look at a few.
If you are looking for something fun and exciting to do while you are in London, the Shrek Adventure is guaranteed to do just that. If you book online standard tickets are £24 for the interactive fairytale experience. Go on an adventure and meet the famous characters from Shrek on your way. You and the children will start your journey on a 4D flying magic bus and will stop at places like Shrek’s swamp, the Poison Apple pub and Farquaad’s Dungeon before meeting Shrek himself. This immersive adventure is sure to be a talking point of your trip to London long after it is over.
Harry Potter World
Any Harry Potter fanatics out there? The Harry Potter tour is just the spot for you to get your dose of magic whilst in London. Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter is a self guided exhibition and studio tour. The Award winning tour allows you to explore the iconic sets. Some sets you will visit are the Great Hall and Forbidden Forest. You will also get to see costumes from the wizarding world, the Quidditch costume to name one. Don’t forget to take a picture on Platform 9¾.
Go behind the scenes and learn how the magical creatures were brought to life on screen and what special effects were used. Whether you are a Harry Potter fan or not this tour is sure to delight everyone as it is a magical experience.
Enjoy a family day out in London by spending the day discovering the thousands of animals at ZSL London Zoo. There are three routes around the zoo. Some of the animals you will see on the pink route are giraffes, okapis and rainforest life. See penguins, lions and flamingos on the orange route and finally the blue route will bring you to camels, tigers and reptiles. You can also book in to feed penguins and gorillas if you wish. The Animal Adventure play area is a safe space for your kids to play while you can watch from the Peckish Parrot kiosk. London Zoo is the perfect escape with your family from the hectic city.
Sea-Life London is a great family-friendly attraction that you can enjoy during your trip to London. Save this attraction for a rainy day, which is likely to occur in London, as a way to pass by a few hours. Sea-Life London has the UK’s largest jellyfish experience and also the UK’s largest living Coral reef. The children will be fascinated by the sea life, including sharks, octopus and rays. This interactive aquarium allows you to touch a real starfish and the pirate treasure hunt will keep the children entertained as they make their way through the aquarium. With three zones; Ocean Invaders, Rainforest Adventure and Coral Kingdom, to explore, you and the kids won’t be bored at Sea-Life London.
Top Things to Do in London: Day Trips
There is an endless amount of things that you can do with your time while you are in London but if you are staying for a longer period of time it may be worth your while to have a look at a few day trips out of London. This is a great way to see some of the beautiful areas outside of the city in just a day.
Stonehenge and Bath
Step back in time to the Neolithic period and visit one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments. Go and see the prehistoric stone circle and view the hundreds of prehistoric objects from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site that are on display at the visitor centre. Among some of the prehistoric objects you will see are are an arrowhead, battle axe, grape cup and chalk plaque. There is a Stonehenge Audio Tour that you should download prior to your visit as connection may not be reliable once you arrive at Stonehenge.
If you are doing a day trip from London you want to make it worth your while, therefore it is recommended to visit more than one place on your day out. It is common to visit Bath with Stonehenge as there is less than an hour drive between the two. At Bath you will see Bath Abbey ,an Anglican parish church and former Benedictine monastery and you will pass by Pulteney Bridge. The bridge is famous for having shops built across it on both sides. Bath is named after its Roman-built baths so it is only right you visit the 2,000 year old magnificent Roman public baths and Roman temple while you are there.
There are so many different tours you can choose from for your day trip to Bath and Stonehenge. Here are four options we found for you;
- Stonehenge and Bath Day Trip from London
- Stonehenge and Bath Day Trip from London with Optional Roman Baths Visit
- From London: Stonehenge & Roman Baths Full-Day Trip
- Stonehenge & Bath: Full-Day Coach Tour from London
Windsor and Oxford
Visit Windsor Castle, the second home to the Queen of England. Go into St George’s Chapel, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married and the tombs of past monarchs are located, including Henry VIII. It is more than likely that you will have to upgrade your tour ticket to include an entrance fee to the castle.
Next it is on to Oxford and you will get see the canals of Oxford on a walking tour of the city. Pass by the Sheldonian Theatre and Bodleian Library, which is the main research library of the University of Oxford, and is one of the oldest libraries in Europe. If you would like to go into the University of Oxford you will have to pay an admission fee as it is usually not included in tours. A lot of day trips to Oxford and Windsor include Stonehenge so if the Roman Baths aren’t your thing then this could be another option for you.
Here are two examples of potential tours that you could choose to do;
- Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford Day Trip from London
- London: Full-Day Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford Tour
Swap the fast paced city for the peaceful countryside. The picturesque Cotswolds is the perfect place to escape from the busy bustling city. Explore vibrant towns and idyllic villages such as Bibury, Burford, and Stow-on-the-Wold. The Cotswolds beauty will enchant you the minute you arrive.
Downton Abbey fans can choose to include a Downtown Abbey tour to their day trip to the Cotswold and get to see locations where the historical TV drama series was filmed. Or choose a tour that brings you to the medieval market town of Stratford-upon-Avon which is the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Many day trips to the Cotswolds also include a tour to Oxford and Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s birthplace, if you wish to do this.
Here are three options of tours you could choose from;
- Downton Abbey Village, Blenheim Palace and Cotswolds Day Trip from London
- From London: Oxford, Stratford & Cotswolds Guided Day-Trip
- From London: Oxford and Cotswolds Villages Day Trip
These tours are designed as tasters and are flying visits. If you want to see a place in detail, spend time exploring and not be rushed then day tours would not be recommended for you. But, if you are short in time and want to see as much as you can then these day trips are perfect for you.
Top Tips For Your Trip
- Comfort is Key: You will be walking a lot on your trip so comfort is key. Walking around London is one of the best ways to see the city so it is important that you bring comfortable shoes.
- Transport: The Tube can be confusing to navigate especially if underground transport is new to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are information boxes on the wall around the stations that you can press and ask what route you need to take. They will talk you through exactly what to do. If you don’t want use the tube there are other options. There are plenty of Black Taxi Cabs around and buses run regularly and stop at most attractions. You can also choose to use Free Now Taxis or Ubers, this way you can play online and it is often cheaper.
- Money: Bring enough spending money. London is a city of luxury and is quite expensive. There are many companies, for example Londoneye.com ,that offer bundle packages to do more than one attraction and it can be cheaper than buying them separately. Tipping isn’t as essential in London as it is in America but it is appreciated.
- Time: If your only going to London for a weekend you won’t be able to see everything. It is far too big and you will tire yourself out. Choose the main attractions that you want to see. Planning your trip in advance will be paramount to you getting the most out of your trip. This is the best way to not waste money and time.
Want to read more on London before your trip. Here are a few more of our articles that you may be interested; Your Ultimate London Travel Guide I Top 13 Places & Things to Do in London I Staycation London: 8 of the Best Places to Stay in the Capital I Unusual and Uncommon Things To Do in London