35 Cool Things to Do in London (Ultimate Bucket List)

35 Cool Things to Do in London (Ultimate Bucket List)

Are you ready for the most gigantic post on things to do in London from someone who has lived there and visited several times? This is not me sitting at a desk trying to game the Google search algorithms writing based on desk research and copying and pasting.

The London Eye on the River Thames
London Eye: one of the fun things to do in London

This is us sharing some of what we think is the best of London based upon our recent 10 days of intense exploring from early morning to late at night, and, I also lived there for 2.5 years so have plenty of personal experiences and opinions!

This is also from a tourist perspective – as you are the ones most likely to visit London on a short trip. ALTHOUGH, we mostly travel through local experiences so you fill find a few of those on this list as well.

If you are moving to live in London or intending to experience London for longer and on a deeper dive into local experiences, your best of list would be very different.

When I previously lived in London I didn’t do hardly anything on this list. Local living is a vastly different experience to tourist travel – and London is a top tourist destination for a reason!

London Tube Station
London is easy to explore by Tube (underground train)

London is jam packed with top attractions, cultural experiences, cool neighborhoods, and surprises and hidden gems on every street, corner, and cobblestoned alley.

We walked on average 10 miles a day to see and do as much as we could. It’s one of our favorite cities in the world and has been our favorite family trip so far!

Since we’ve now visited over 10 countries with our daughters, and traveled full-time with them for seven years, that’s a gold badge we’re handing over to England’s capital city. (Here’s why we loved London).

For many of these London best things to do, we have individual posts with more in-depth information (and more posts still to come).

We also have our top 21 places to visit in London where you’ll see some overlap, but also different recommendations. Some cultural experiences will be British or English, so if you’re traveling to other places in the UK, you can experience them there also.

And you don’t want to miss our London travel tips post sharing essential things to know before visiting London!

TOP TIP

Many of the paid attractions are on the London Pass by Go City, which is a great money saving discount tourist card for a select number of days or attractions.

Depending on your math, you could either use it for all the attractions you want to do, or use the card for the most expensive and then purchase separate tickets for the cheaper attractions individually.

The London Sightseeing Pass is also a favorite tourist discount card of ours. We love their flexibility and diversity with offer entry to top London attractions, plus quirky local tours, and discounts on shopping and eating out. See more information and get your pass here. We did not get to try this one out.

Discover the Magic at Warner Bros Harry Potter Studios, London

Harry Potter London Studios
Entrance to Harry Potter Studios

High on the list of many visitors to London is the Harry Potter tour at the Warner Bros Studios. It was one of our favorite things to do in London with kids.

Located about one hour northwest of London, this backlot tour will take you through sets, props, and interactive exhibits of the real movie settings of the Harry Potter film series.

Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour, London
Cool fun at the studio

You’ll be amazed at how they created magical scenes from such small, intimate settings. We all loved this magical deep dive into the Wizarding World.

Allow for 3-4 hours for the self-guided tour. That will give you enough time to read the stories, ride a broomstick, walk through the forbidden forest and those scary spiders, and drink butterbeer.

Do a Beefeater Tour in the Tower of London

The Tower of London
Our Beefeater tour guide

A visit to the Tower of London would not be as good without doing the free 45 minute beefeater tour. 

Nicknamed Beefeaters, Yeoman Warders have been guarding the Tower of London since Tudor time when Henry VIII decided that the Tower should be protected by part of the royal bodyguard.

They were originally part of the Yeoman of the Guard – the monarch’s personal, crack bodyguard who traveled with him everywhere.

The Yeoman Body of 32 men and women are all drawn from the Armed Forces, and must have an impeccable record of service and high ranks.

Visiting the Tower of London was cool
Visiting the Tower of London was fascinating!

They share entertaining and gruesome stories of its macabre history from its former years (and I mean centuries) as a Royal residence, armory, treasury, and zoo (thank goodness they stopped that!)

The Tower of London is actually a castle comprising twenty-two towers but sitting in the middle is the original White Tower built in the 1070s by William the Conqueror. The walls, towers, and moat surrounding it came in the 1200s and have been there ever since.

There is a lot to see and do here. We’ll have a post coming soon. For now, you can see a few more pointers here.

The London Eye on the River Thames
London Eye Views

One of the most famous attractions in London, with some of the best views of the city, is the London Eye on the River Thames.

It is the tallest observation wheel in Europe and a great way to see different viewpoints of the famous buildings in London, like the Big Ben and Houses of Parliament. 

The capsule you sit in moves slowly enough (30-minutes to do a full revolution) that you get time to enjoy the experience and get great photos.

Visit a Royal Park

St James Park, London
St James Park

Londoners love their Royal Parks. These 5000 acres of quality green spaces provide a beautiful respite from a busy day exploring the city  There are eight royal parks in London, many of which are in the central tourist area, and all are free to visit.

They’ll have beautiful gardens, fields for picnics and sports, lakes with boat rides, tree-lined paths, beautiful views, wildlife, and many will have public events, concerts and festivals.

My favorites are St James’s Park, Regent’s Park, Kensington Gardens, Greenwich Park, and Hyde Park.

Regents Park, LondonRegents Park, London
Regents Park

As you are probably on a short visit to London, these are the London parks you’ll visit the most. But, London is full of delightful parks, gardens and squares all over the city!

We’ll have a post coming soon on parks and gardens to visit in London.

Shop and Eat at Borough Market

Borough Market, London
Borough Market

One of the best places to eat in London is the popular Borough Market on the south side of the River Thames, a collection of stalls and vendors selling fresh produce.

Whether you’re hungry for strawberries dipped in chocolate, soft local cheeses, bowls of Vietnamese pho, sausage rolls or a refreshingly sweet peach prosecco, you’ll find it here.

On the periphery you’ll find pubs, cafes, restaurants, murals and a few Harry Potter filming locations, including the Leaky Cauldron Pub.

I’ll warn you; weekends are shoulder to shoulder busy. During the week it is a much quieter experience.

Don’t Miss: Coffee from Monmouth and the sweet peach prosecco.

Experience a Traditional Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea at The Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington was fantastic!
Afternoon tea at The Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington was fantastic!

It is alleged that afternoon tea began in England in 1840, by Anna Stanhope, the Duchess of Bedford. As dinner was served late in the evening, this was a way of satisfying her hunger pains mid-afternoon. It became a fashionable form of entertainment and over the years it became an experience for more than just the wealthy. 

Some also say the French started it. But, let’s not get involved in that battle.

For now, we’ll celebrate the English tradition of high tea, named so for the high tables it’s served on. They come in layers of savory and sweet items such as scones with jam and cream, finger sandwiches, macaroons, and pastries.

The Ampersand Hotel, South Kensington, London

While you might think you’re required to drink copious amounts of tea with it, you can choose to have coffee, and many will now come served with flutes of champagne or cocktails. Now we’re talking! 

High Tea at the Ritz is infamous for setting the standard for afternoon tea. The Savoy is another old-school favorite for traditional pomp. We had many recommendations for high tea at Fortnum & Mason.

The Lanesborough is going to give you that vibrant floral Bridgerton afternoon tea flair. Equally aesthetically pleasing – in a bright and modern way is the Ampersand Hotel where we experienced our science themed high tea, which made Kalyra’s London for teens list!)

There’s even a quirky experience like afternoon tea while touring on a London bus or on a River Thames cruise

First time visitors will want to add a high tea experience to their list of things to do in London. 

See the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Image by DepositPhotos.com
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Image by DepositPhotos.com

Ok, so technically we didn’t see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace on this recent London trip – but I did see it when I lived in London.

We had planned for it on the day it doesn’t happen, so, check the schedule!

This is how you make Buckingham Palace a little more than just a sticky beak through the gates and a few “I was here” photos.

The Changing of the Guards is the ceremony where The Queen’s Guard hands over responsibility for protecting Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace to the New Guard. The pomp and ceremony of the precision drill and bands playing stirring music make it one of the most popular London attractions – and it’s free!

Buckingham Palace, London
Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace has been the official London Residence of the Royal Family since 1837. If the Royal Standard flag is flying it means Queen Elizabeth II is in residence, and if the Union flag is flying it means she’s out of town.

As the Queen has chosen of late to reside more at Windsor Castle, her favorite of all her palaces, the odds are you’ll see the Union flag.

Days & Times:

  • June – July: Daily
  • August – May: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.
  • Starts at 11am and goes for about 45 mins.

Eat a Traditional Sunday Roast

Edinboro Castle Pub, Camden, London
Sunday roast at the Edinboro Pub, Camden

You will see them all across London and the UK – traditional Sunday Roast. It is a British cultural experience not to miss.

It’s said to have started during the reign of King Henry the VII in 1485. The royal guards would eat roast beef every Sunday after church, which is claimed to have given them the name ‘beefeaters.’ (they now run the tours at the Tower of London).

On Sundays throughout the U.K., pubs and restaurants are packed full for the roast dinner; it’s considered the time for families or friends to get together and share great food.

Although Roast Dinners began with Beef, modern times make room for Chicken, Pork, Lamb or Vegetarian. Many places will offer a traditional Pub roast or one with a little more of a modern flair.

Don't miss fish & chips in a London Pub
Don’t miss fish & chips in a London Pub

Typically included are roasted potatoes and root vegetables, green vegetables like cabbage and spring greens, cauliflower cheese, and lots of gravy. It’s traditional to serve it with a Yorkshire pudding, which is a savory eggy batter poured over beef drippings.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Sunday Roast at the Edinboro Pub in Camden. They have a lovely beer garden and gluten free beer to match!

Just head to the nearest pub to find one! Here are 16 pubs we loved in London!

See the Iconic Big Ben

Big Ben, London
Big Ben

Big Ben is to London, what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. An unmissable iconic landmark. 

Big Ben is the 13.5 tonne iconic clock tower at the Houses of Parliament. Officially, it’s the Elizabeth Tower, but everyone calls it Big Ben after Benjamin Hall, the First Commissioner of Works when it was finished in 1858.

You can see it from many viewpoints in London, including the London Eye, Westminster Bridge, cruising along the river, and our favorite, from Parliament Square.

Parliament Square is next to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. It has statues of well-known political leaders including Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, and Nelson Mandela.

Winston Churchill Statue overlooking Big Ben
Winston Churchill Statue overlooking Big Ben

One of our favorite iconic London photos we captured on our trip – that even local Londoners didn’t know about – was that of Winston Churchill looking out upon Big Ben.

The Houses of Parliament is where all the important business in running the country happens. You can tour inside during select days and times. I was fortunate to have a friend working there when I lived in London who invited me in for a drink at one of the pub’s inside. It was a cool experience!

Tour Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abby, London
Outside Westminster Abbey

Since you’re at Parliament Square, let’s cross the road and tour Westminster Abbey, the Royal Church of England. Every monarch since William the Conqueror has been crowned here and many have been married in the abbey as well.

I enjoyed our self-guided audio tour of Westminster Abbey more than I thought I would, as did our kids (14 & 10).

You’ll walk through the beautiful, tiled sanctuary where weddings happen; the elaborate quire; visit the tombs of many royals and important people; pay your respects at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier; and see the bland Coronation Chair.

Inside Westminster Abbey, London
Inside of Westminster Abbey is amazing!

Don’t miss the Poets Corner where you’ll find the resting places of some of England’s finest: Chaucer, Dickens, Tennyson, Kipling, and Hardy.

I also enjoyed seeing the perspective of the abbey from walking around the cloisters and gardens. This tour is part of the the London Pass by Go City.

Tour Kensington Palace and Gardens

At the gates of Kensington Palace, London
Kensington Palace

Kensington is known as the home of the Young Royals. It’s the official residence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (i.e. Prince William and Kate) and their children. Harry and Meghan lived here for a time, and most famously, it was beloved Princess Diana’s home.

This is also where the legendary Queen Victoria was born. You can follow her Royal footsteps on a tour through her re-imagined childhood rooms and the King and Queen State Apartments, and the magnificent King’s State Apartments and Queen’s State Apartments.

Kensington Palace, London, England
Inside Kensington Palace

I loved the Life Through a Royal Lens exhibition sharing the Royal Family through photography, the views from the windows, the elaborate Kings Staircase and King’s Gallery.

And the most beautiful Kensington Gardens with their memorial to Diana and the legacy of her working doing good for the world. We really enjoyed this London experience.

Book a tour here, or use your London Pass by GoCity

Explore Covent Garden

Covent Garden, London
Street entertainment in Covent Garden

One of the most well-known places to visit in London is Covent Garden. 

Wander the cobblestoned areas surrounding the central marketplace, which had its beginnings as a convent garden in the 1500s. It served different purposes from then, but by the 1800s it had developed into the largest produce market in the world. Its overwhelming size prompted its relocation in 1974. 

It is also next to other tourist attractions in London, like Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Soho and the West End theater district. 

Covent Garden, London
Restaurant at Covent Garden

There are endless restaurants and bars and local stores. Performers rotate all day long on the street just below the balcony of the famous Punch and Judy pub (good luck trying to get on it!).

Don’t forget to spread out across the central Covent Garden marketplace area to explore the surrounding cobblestone streets and side alleys for other secret gems! .

When you need a break, head to Lamb & Flag for a family pub lunch in the oldest pub in Covent Garden. (this was one of our favorite London pubs).

See a theater show in the West End

matilda cambridge theater
Matilda Cambridge Theater | Source DepositPhotos.com

London is renowned as one of the best places in the world for theater. There are over 40 theater venues in the West End performing to over 14 million every year.

There is a large variety of musicals on offer, some of the most popular ones being the Lion King, Wicked, Les Misérables, and Hamilton. (I saw Les Misérables and Saigon when living in London)

On this family vacation to London, Kalyra, Savannah and I went to see Matilda in the Cambridge Theater in Covent Garden, while Craig caught up with his old Rugby teammates from Sydney in Chelsea.

Matilda the Musical is based on the Roald Dahl book and movie. Most of the cast are young children, who are very talented. We laughed the entire time!

I’m glad we added this it our London itinerary in the last minute as our teen said it was one of her favorite London experiences.

Explore the Murals in Shoreditch

Shoreditch, LondonShoreditch, London
Shoreditch

If you are short on time and want to experience more traditional London attractions, then save Shoreditch as a thing to do on your next London trip. 

Those with longer than three days in London and love exploring modern culture, you will want to do a mural tour of the Hip Shoreditch in East London. 

Street art in the UK is still technically illegal and considered a criminal activity, which means street art can pop up quickly, but taken down just as fast.

Shoreditch, LondonShoreditch, London
Powerful mural in Shoreditch

Shoreditch is the anomaly and is the epicenter of London’s street art scene as they fight back on the vandalism label. The most well-known secret street artists of all time – Banksy has left his mark in Shoreditch several times.

Shoreditch Street Art tour – this came so highly recommended to us, but we could not make it work with our schedule. Definitely a thing to do in London when we return. Check out this Shoreditch tour here.

Drink a Pimm’s & Lemonade

pimm's and lemonade
Pimm’s with a View

If you are coming to England and intend on experiencing a high tea, you cannot pass on drinking a Pimm’s & Lemonade. It’s somewhat of an unofficial drink of London, especially on a hot summer’s day. (What? You mean that’s a thing?)

James Pimm invented and marketed the very first “Pimm’s’ as a health tonic in the 1840s. It was a gin-based drink mixed with a secret mix of herbs and other liquids and was used to aid digestion. It was served in a small tankard style cup which was known as the ‘No.1 Cup’

Founder's Arms Pub, London
Founder’s Arms Pub is a top spot by the river for a drink

It’s a great drink to have with friends as it’s often served by the Pitcher, ice-cold and filled with fresh fruits. It has a mildly sweet and spiced flavor and is refreshing. I can’t believe I never drank it when I lived in London. I liked it a lot!

Choose a bar, any bar, but if you want to follow our advice: When it hits Pimm’s o’clock on a sunny day in London enjoy yours with a view at the Founder’s Arms on the River Thames at Southwark.

Have a London Ale + a Traditional Pub Lunch

Camden Head Pub in The Angel District
Enjoying a local cask ale at the Camden Head Pub in The Angel District

As we mentioned in our best pubs in the London post, we absolutely love the English pub experience, and had lunch in one almost every day. Well, at least we stopped in for a pint of ale!

Almost any pub in London will have a cozy, warm ambiance with an incredible historical tale to tell. You’ll find low ceilings, creaky stairs, live music, beer gardens, and beautiful London views. 

Most will offer a menu of traditionally English pub meals. We already mentioned the unmissable Sunday roast, but other English favorites to try are the fish and chips, bangers and mash and gravy, and pie with mash and gravy. You may even find some mushy peas – another English favorite.

And I was thrilled to find a couple of pubs that had gluten free fish and chips.

Camden Head Pub, The Angle, London, England
Craig enjoying a pint

Alongside your pub lunch, be sure to taste a traditional English ale pulled into the glass by a hand pump. As a previous bartender in London, I can tell you pulling a few of these pints of an evening can give you sore arms!

This is a uniquely British dispensing device that is specifically appropriate for traditional cask-conditioned ales. It allows the casks to be kept in a cooler cellar below the bar and the beer to be pulled or drawn up to the bar and gives a lower carbonation beer.

The English will tell you it’s a far better tasting beer. Craig agrees and drank plenty of them to arrive at that conclusion.

Do the Southbank Walk

Exploring Southbank in London
Exploring Southbank in London

We took any chance we could to walk along Southbank to get from A to B.

This South Bank to Southwark walk along the Thames starts at Westminster Bridge, looking towards the Houses of Parliament all the way to Tower Bridge. Or vice versa. It’s approximately  2.5 miles / 4km in total. 

There are stunning views all around and you’ll pass iconic attractions like the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe, The Shard, London Eye, and Tate Modern all under the omnipresent watch of St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Along the way, you’ll find some popular and famous pubs like our favorites The Anchor and The Founders Arms. Plus, sunsets from here are beautiful.

Straddle the Prime Meridian in Greenwich

Royal Observatory, Greenwich
The Prime Meridian

Head to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the Place of Time, located about 40 minutes southeast of Central London along the Thames.

Here you can learn the fascinating history of how the Royal astronomers experimented and studied the stars to come up with today’s modern version of time.

It’s measurement (GMT) all starts at the Prime Meridian. You can check off your bucket list that you have stood with one foot in the West and one foot in the Eastern hemisphere.

Royal Observatory, Greenwich
Great views of Canary Wharf from Greenwich

Putting the icing on the cake, is the view behind of the glittering modern skyscrapers forming the Canary Wharf skyline in front of the Thames.

It’s the perfect encapsulation of the modern and ancient worlds that London has evolved through to become this incredible city we love so much.

Visit Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, London
Lord Nelson statue at Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is one of the most famous places in London to visit. Everybody who visits loves to have their photos with the huge lions, which represent the courage of Britain. Kids will love climbing them!

The 52-m high statue of Lord Nelson dominates the square and the National Gallery is the stunning building in the background.

It’s really the center of London and has always been a place for Londoners to gather, whether that is to bring in the New Year together, or protest, rally or march for important rights and causes.

Trafalgar Square, London
Trafalgar Square is a popular London attraction

One of my favorite things about Trafalgar Square are the pedestrian lights surrounding it. They are LGBTQ traffic lights that include two men and two women holding hands and forming a heart, and various gender symbols including a transgender sign.

Take in the Best View of London from The Shard

The Shard
The Shard stands tall on the Thames

Piercing the sky above London is the needle-like structure of the Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe.

It’s quickly becoming a London icon and popular place to visit, especially for the incredible views from its 72nd floor open-air platform. There is an enclosed viewing platform on level 69 as well.

The Shard View is an expensive thing to do in London, but the 244m high sweeping London views make it worthwhile. I absolutely loved the fantastic perspective of the River Thames snaking through the city east to west.

It was particularly moving for me as I lived in London for two years and never saw it from this angle. I LOVE this city so much!

View from the Shard in London
View of the Thames from the Shard in London

Aim for about an hour before sunset so you can experience the dusk golden light views, sunset panoramic views, and nighttime views when those London lights sparkle.

You must reserve your tickets in advance. (It will also save you money). This attraction is included in the Go City Card. This would be the star event of the pass!

See 15 more fantastic places for London views.

STAY:

Want to experience 5-star luxury with these views? The Shangri La Hotel is located on Level 34 of the Shard. Each room has floor-to-ceiling windows providing spectacular views of the city, and maintains the theme of Oriental elegance found throughout the hotel. Check availability and book your stay here.

Explore Regents Canal (cruise or walk)

Camden Town, London

One of the best things to do in London that we haven’t done before was a canal boat cruise from Little Venice to Camden Markets in North London. 

Regent’s Canal is a nine mile ribbon of water that runs from Little Venice to the where it spills into the Thames at Limehouse.

It offers visitors a chance to experience a quieter side of London. What was once a busy cargo transportation route has become leisurely waterways through London offering people a tranquil place to walk, paddle, or boat ride.

Camden Town, London
Exploring the canal by foot

The relaxing and picturesque 40-minute canal ride will take you along Regents Canal, through the 248m Maida Hill tunnel, and past the exclusive neighborhoods of Maida Vale and Primrose Hill, with homes of celebrities, and expansive and landscaped back gardens of grand houses.

We also walked along here from Camden to Regents Park. We have more information in our full guide on a day out in Camden Town.

Explore Camden Town and Camden Markets

Camden Town, London
Camden Town is popular on a Sunday!

While you’re exploring Regent’s Canal, you must incorporate a stop off in Camden Town. It’s one of our favorite places in London for its eclectic, grungy, alternative style. 

It’s a London neighborhood known for the Camden Markets and its live music scene. Many famous artists from around the world have played here or got their start here, or sadly, died here.

Click the following link for our guide on things to do in Camden Markets which includes the canal boat ride, a Sunday pub roast, Regent’s Park, and some top pubs for live music!

Visit the London Museums + Art Galleries

British Museum, London
British Museum

We’re not big museum people, so we didn’t visit many for this London trip. We travel so much and have visited so many museums that we tend to run the other way now. 

However, on my next visit to London, I will plan to visit more as London has exceptional museums. And, as a bonus, the permanent collections at London’s museums are FREE. If you love museums, I have no doubt they would be one of the best things to do London.

You can find a museum of any size and to suit any interest. We even came across the Vagina Museum in Camden!

tate modern london
The Tate Modern is also a must visit

Most notable are the National Gallery and the British Museum. We did spend an hour in the British Museum and it was fantastic and I do wish it was longer.

The Tate Modern was another London gallery attraction we dedicated some time for and thoroughly enjoyed the art on display. It’s well worth adding this to your London itinerary, if not for the views alone!

Take a walking tour through London’s history

Walking around Kensington, London
Walking around Kensington

Every street and cobblestone alleyway in London has a fascinating historical story to tell. One of our favorite ways to experience the culture and history of a destination is to take a walking tour. 

What do you want to learn? There’ll be a walking tour for it. 

As we were visiting London with kids on this trip, we did not do the Jack the Ripper walking tour. But that was one of the first things I did when I moved to London. I LOVED it! Yes. It will freak you out. 

What freaked me out even more was I often had to walk past one of his killing alleyways of an evening after my shift at the pub to get home. The chills in my spine doubled the pace of my legs!

Walk Across Millennium Bridge

millennium bridge london
The Wobbly Millennium Bridge

The Millennium Bridge is one of the coolest, more recent additions to London city. Opened in 2000, it has a warped, futuristic look with magnificent views all round.

I loved the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral growing in front of your eyes with each step. And look behind for views of Tate Modern, and to the right for Tower Bridge views, and views of life on both banks of the river.

Millennium-Bridge-london
Walking across Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s
The river thames views
River Thames and Tower Bridge in the distance

It’s also known as the Wobbly Bridge as when it was first opened an engineering defect caused it to shake and wobble when people walked across it. They had to close it down for two years to fix it.

Be sure to look down. An unknown artist frequently comes by and secretly creates artwork out of the dried-up gum. Gross but cool.

city of london school
Daniel Radcliffe’s School / The gum art

Harry Potter Fans: London Boys School (on the left as you approach the north side) was where Daniel Radcliffe went to school. Remember when the Death Eaters attack London in the scenes from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? They were filmed on the Millennium Bridge.

Walk across Tower Bridge (and see it open!)

Tower Bridge, London, England
The iconic Tower Bridge

Another bridge you’ll want to walk across is Tower Bridge, another famous landmark of London. Almost anyone coming to London is already familiar with the elegant beauty of its neo-Gothic turrets and blue suspension cables.

Walk across Tower Bridge for free and get great views overlooking the Thames and back over the Tower of London.

You can head up into the north tower to the (paid) Tower Bridge Exhibition for higher views and to learn more of the engineering and history. It is a paid attraction and is included in your London attraction pass.

Tower Bridge, London, England
Walking across tower bridge

Check for times when the Tower Bridge will raise up its bridge arms so boats underneath can pass by. They do have to book it 24 hours in advance so you can plan ahead for this cool experience.

On average, Tower Bridge opens its bascules around 800 times a year, that’s around twice a day. Check opening times here.

Take a river cruise to see it from underneath as well.

Do a Thames River Sightseeing Cruise

River Thames Cruise, London
See Big Ben from the River Thames

There is nothing like seeing London from the perspective of its snaking River Thames.

The Lastminute.com London Eye River cruise is a 40-minute circular tour of the Thames on a small open-top ferry with guided commentary. The departure landing dock is right under the London Eye.

I loved the commentary that taught us a lot about the history of the Thames and the role it’s played in London life.

The cruise will take you past Big Bend and the Houses of Parliament before turning around to head east passing under many of London’s bridges spanning the river – each with their own name and story.

River Thames Cruise, London
Close up views of Tower Bridge

You’ll learn many stories about the iconic Landmarks you’ll pass like Big Bend, London Bridge, HMS Belfast, The Shard, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tower of London, St Pauls’ Cathedral, and Tower Bridge, which you’ll get to sail under before turning around to cruise back.

Book your Thames River cruise ahead of time.

You can see more in our Reel of the River Thames cruise. (Follow us over there for more fun travel adventures and tips!)

London River Cruises

Click on the links below to learn more about these river cruises on the Thames and to book your trip.

Tour St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral, London, England
St Paul’s Cathedral was spectacular

St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world and one of London’s most magnificent buildings.

There is a rule that St Paul’s must be visible from eight separate places throughout London which is why so many of the modern skyscrapers are unusual shapes. They are making room for that line of sight!

Now that you’ve seen that impressive dome from around the city, it’s time to see it from the inside and learn about this architectural masterpiece from Sir Christopher Wren, built after the Great Fire of London between 1675 and 1710.

We visited on a guided tour with Monograms travel, but standard admission includes an audio guide. Visit the crypt to see memorials of hundreds of well known and great people, including the bodies of Wellington and Nelson lying directly under the dome.

Sadly, the whispering gallery around the base of the dome was closed when we visited, but this is one of the best things to do in St Paul’s as well as the Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery, both at the top of the dome offering incredible views of London.

Ask the attendants if they can take you to the spiraling Harry Potter staircase. This staircase in St Paul’s was used as the “Divination Stairwell” located in the North Tower of Hogwarts Castle for the Harry Potter films, .

Get your photo at Platform 9¾ Kings Cross Station

Platform 9 3/4, Kings Cross Station, London
Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station

Even if you don’t follow the Harry Potter filming trail across London, I recommend you plan for getting your photo running the cart into the wall at Platform 9¾  at Kings Cross. 

That is of course if you are a Harry Potter fan, otherwise it might not float your boat. 

I was the only one in our family who did it and I had a load of fun. The Head Wizard was so cool in showing each person different witchy poses. As this was a once in a lifetime, I was not going to hold back!

We were lucky to only have a 10 minute wait. Lines here can be up to two hours. Get there as early as you can, or later close to finish time. Good luck muggles. 

Just so you know, Kings Cross Station is real. Platform 9¾ is not. They have a designated space at the station (not even on the platforms) for your photos with the cart going into the wall. 

There is a Harry Potter store here as well where you can buy your fan favorites.

Kings Cross Station, London
St Pancreas Station

If you want to see the platforms (where many scenes were filmed) either catch a train somewhere or ask the guards if they can let you on the platform to take a photo. Across the road is St Pancreas which is the background setting for the flying car scene in the second movie.

Kings Cross was my arrival point into London when I first arrived in 1997 as a broke backpacker with an infected foot and not knowing a soul. I was overwhelmed and scared. I got quite emotional coming back here as it reminded me of my journey from there to here and how much I’ve grown! You can read more about that story here. 

Visit Leadenhall Markets

Leadenhall Markets, London
Entrance to Leadenhall Markets

If you’re heading east towards Liverpool Street then I recommend you visit the stunning Leadenhall Markets in Central London.

These beautiful covered markets were originally established in 1321 as a market for butchers and fishmongers (However history says it was the center of Roman London as a bazaar area in the 1st Century!)

Much of the ornately decorated interior and cobbled laneways that you see preserved today is from a redesign in 1881.

It’s now a shopping precinct with trendy bars, cute cafes, boutique stores and a couple of taverns. One of the reasons tourists come here is that it was used as the exterior for Diagon Alley in the first couple of Harry Potter films.

The Lamb Tavern is a great pub here, in operation since 1790.

Follow the Harry Potter Film Locations Trail

Kings Cross Station, London
Kings Cross Station

There are quite a few locations in London where scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed. If you’re a fan, this might be one of your favorite things to do in London.

We didn’t specifically follow a trail or do it all in one day. But we knew where a lot of the locations were and, if it was in the area we were visiting, we made a side step to go and see it. 

One of the best ways to experience Harry Potter locations in London is through a walking tour. I wish we did this just so we could have heard more stories and felt more connected to each location. Doing it ourselves didn’t have quite the same magic and was more just a “well this is it,” snap a photo and then leave. 

House of MinaLima
House of MinaLima store

I’ve mentioned a couple in this post already (and I’ll write a separate post on each one soon)

Some of the major spots are:

  • Kings Cross Station & St Pancreas
  • The Leaky Cauldron at Borough Markets
  • Cecil’s Court and Godwin’s Court, Covent Garden
  • Leadenhall Markets
  • Millennium Bridge

Book your post on the Harry Potter walking tour here.

Watch a sporting match

Wembley Stadium, London. Image by DepositPhotos.com
Wembley Stadium. Image by DepositPhotos.com

If you can time it right, I highly recommend incorporating a sporting match into your London itinerary. 

You can either see a live match at one of the many sporting venues around the city, or simply from within a pub, or outdoor big screen when big matches are on. 

It is an electric experience with much fever and excitement with the English chanting, singing, and celebrating long into the night … if they win. God help London if they don’t!

As I lived in a house with Australians, Kiwis, South Africans, Irish, and Brits, you can imagine the fun we had at the pub neary every weekend watching cricket, rugby, or football.

Don’t forget London is home to Wimbledon! Cricket fans may also want to visit Lords (my dad’s favorite thing to do in London. He even played on it.) Rugby fans at Twickenham, and football fans, Wembley (there are a lot more!)

Get your Selfie at Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus, London
Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is like a mini Times Square in New York. Full of neon lights, massive flashing advertising billboards and people getting selfies. It’s overrated, but many tourists love it so I’m adding it here for you. 

It’s just a road junction with a circular space in the middle with a statue of Eros on it. 

From here you can easily walk to Piccadilly, Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue, the curving Regent Street, and Covent Garden.

Shopping on Oxford Street

Oxford Street, London
Oxford Street

Surprisingly high on many visitors’ list of things to do in London is to visit Oxford St, the world’s biggest high street (that’s Main Street for non-UK people).

Maybe it has no allure for me as I walked along it scores of times while living in London to get from A to B.

Oxford Street is one of the busiest streets in London, especially on a weekend, so be prepared for shoulder rubbing. It just gets too intense for me. 

It stretches 1.5 miles from the corner of Hyde Park all the way down to Tottenham Court Road and is filled with stores selling fashion, beauty, tech and homeware. You’ll find brands and department stores such as Gap, River Island, Primark, Selfridges, House of Fraser and Marks & Spencer.

There are also more than 500 restaurants along the street and side streets.

Take a day trip from London

Bath Abbey, England
Bath is a fantastic day trip from London (or overnight stay)

Need a break from the intensity of London? There are many fantastic UK destinations that are easy day trips from London.

We recommend going by train as it’s cheaper and easier than car rental. You could also do the National Express bus service.

We caught the train to Bath from London for two nights, and then Oxford for two nights in the middle of our London trip. Both were fantastic.

Instead of a day trip, we recommend an overnight stay, so its not as rushed.

Other top places to visit in England close to London include Windsor, Stonehenge, Brighton, Cambridge, and the Cotswolds. You can find a selection of day trip tours from Get Your Guide here.

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