Today I’m going to share 20 things that you should do on your first or next trip to London! This city has so much to offer, so from the tourist traps to ‘off-the-beaten-path’, here’s London through a [sometimes] local’s eyes.
Over the last 9+ years of my travel, I’ve been to London for more times than I can count. There have been trips that I’ve stayed close to 6 months and other times I’ve popped over for a weekend. These days, London has become a second home for me, it’s where the majority of my close friends live and where my partner’s family lives.
It’s safe to say that I’m familiar with the city! But for a long time, I’ve ‘lived’ there more than I’ve ‘traveled’ there. And as with anywhere you live, it tends to be the place you ‘explore’ the least. While I’m in London this year, I’m going to challenge myself to come back to my favorite things on this list (like afternoon tea and free museums!) and re-explore the city I’ve come to love.
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20+ Things to do in London
As I challenge myself to explore more of London, I’ll update and refine this post with new adventures and secret finds for you.
Have afternoon tea
There are so many cute and quirky places where you can have afternoon tea in London, it’s by far my top must-do activity! Wherever you choose to go, make sure it offers clotted cream, scones, and fresh jam. It’s the highlight of your whole afternoon. A glass of bubbles is always a nice touch as well.
If you want something truly quirky, have a look at these afternoon tea options in London:
- The Common Room: Wizarding Afternoon Tea
- Little Nan’s Deptford Bar
- Searcys At The Gherkin (I’ve done this one and the views are incredible)
- The Perception At W London
- Classic Afternoon Tea Bus London Sightseeing Tour
Enjoy a Sunday Roast at a Classic Pub
Going for a classic Sunday Roast dinner at the pub is something that we continue to do all the time. Make sure to order a Wellington (vegan options abound in London) and give the Yorkshire Pudding a try – **hint it’s not pudding in the American sense.
Wander through Hyde Park and St. James Park
Two of my favorite parks in London and definitely worth exploring – especially in the summer! Make sure to pack a picnic and join the hundreds of other Londoners out enjoying the sun.
Step back in time at the Natural History Museum
Arguably the best thing about London is the free museums. From top to bottom, the UK is littered with museums that you can visit for free, and London is no expectation. When you feel like your trip is getting expensive, spend an afternoon at the Natural History Museum (after enjoying your park picnic!)
The Natural History Museum in London is one of the best in the world. I never tire of exploring here.
Museum hop at the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery
Speaking of free museums, make sure to visit the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery on your trip. Personally, I prefer the National Gallery, but don’t take my word for it! The best thing about free museums is that you can explore both and pick for yourself.
Eat your way through Convent Garden
Convent Garden is one of my favorite places in London to meet friends for food and drinks! There are endless choices and every cuisine from pizza to ramen to tacos. Throw in the fun happy hours and tons of vegan choices and it’s no wonder is always busy!
My top 3 restaurant recommendations in Covent Garden are:
- Cafe Pacifico
- Club Mexicana
- Dishoom (a must-visit!!)
Explore Kew Gardens
Hop on the train to Richmond and spend a day exploring Kew Gardens. Grab afternoon tea at one of the many cafes and you’ll have experienced two of my favorite things to do, in one!
Visit an Exhibit at the British Library
The British Library often puts on beautiful exhibitions around popular literature. Last summer we visited the Animals: Art, Science, and Sound Exhibition and it was incredible. I highly recommend seeing what they have on. Explore the events and exhibitions at the British Library here.
Take a Walk Through Epping Forest
Epping Forest is almost 6,000 acres of ancient woodland that straddles the border between Greater London and Essex. Amazingly, an ‘ancient’ forest thrives next to a bustling, major city. A quick fun fact I learned about Epping Forest is that it’s thought to have been given legal status as a royal forest by Henry II in the 12th century!
While you’re there, keep an eye out for deer, Muntjac, and witches!
Vintage Shop in Brick Lane
By far, the most ‘touristy’ thing I’ve recommended on this list! But Brick Lane can’t be beaten for vintage shopping, with an underground vintage market that spans blocks! Now and then I’ll still head over and spend a couple of hours wandering through the latest vintage collections. It’s definitely worth a visit!
Go to a Show
You’re in London! Go see a show! Over the years I’ve only been to three shows in London, and I really wish I’d seen more. This is one thing I’ll be making sure I do when I get back! My favorite show of all time is Book of Mormon. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. Grab your tickets here.
Shop Your Way Through Camden Town
Another highly recommended shopping mecca in Camden Town. Here you’ll meander through winding alleys and storefronts to find everything from handmade goods to vintage to an entire warehouse of rave accessories. Camden Town is a great place to pick up unique souvenirs and while you’re there, have lunch at one of the food trucks.
Pose by a Red Phone Booth
Let’s face it… if you haven’t done this, have you even gone to London? (Bonus points if it’s THE red phone booth kiddy corner to Big Ben)
Ride on a Double-Decker Bus
This one only counts if you sit in the first row on the top deck, obviously the best seat in the house! All jokes aside, London has world-class public transportation so make sure you’re taking advantage of that on your trip.
Do an Infamous London Pub Crawl
Every few years one of our friends decides that they want to do a pub crawl for their birthdays. Personally, this is my least favorite activity because I am terrible at pub crawls! I can’t drink nearly as quickly as everyone else and always end up several pubs and drinks behind 😅
But London is famous for its pub crawls and people really do go all out! If you’re looking for one to try, I recommend the Monopoly Pub Crawl.
Follow Your Nose to Old Spitalfields Market
There are a lot of markets in London to choose from, but I always love Old Spitalfields Market. It’s one of my favorite places to take myself on a solo date. You can explore the stalls and eat your heart out.
Some of my top picks in Old Spitalfields Market are:
- Chai Guys
- Yi Fang
- Indi-Go Rasoi
- Yum Bun – My favorite!
- Merkame Ethiopian
But you really can’t go wrong! Everything I’ve eaten here has been amazing.
Take in the Views at The Garden 120
Located at 120 Fenchurch Street, The Garden 120 is the place to go in London for Skyline Views. A backup plan for great views of the London skyline would be the new Battersea Power Station Lift 109 where you can enjoy city views from 109 meters up. I’ve yet to do this one but it’s on my list!
Tour the Harry Potter Filming Locations
Ok, sue me… I couldn’t put together a list of things to do in London without including Harry Potter. On my first ever visit to London I did the Harry Potter tour of the city, to visit all of the filming locations and inspirations for the books. I’ve since visited Platform 9 ¾ and if you were ever a fan of the books or movies, you might as well play tourist for a day!
Go for Cocktails in Shoreditch
Shoreditch is a great location in London for cocktail bars and happy hour! If you’re meeting the girls for drinks, this is my top recommendation.
For the top happy hours and cheap drinks, try these:
- 25 Paul Street
- Old Street Records
- Barrio Shoreditch
- The Shoreditch
- The Breakfast Club Hoxton
Visit Mercato Metropolitano
Alright, for those of you who made it to the end of the blog post and list, I’m sharing my all-time favorite market in London. This is my hidden gem, so consider yourself lucky! No visit to the London food markets is complete without stopping by Mercato Metroplitano in Elephant and Castle. Yes, it’s a bit further away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, but the food is my favorite.
While you’re there, make sure to try the Sri Lankan fare and grab yourself some Nepalese Momos. These two stalls alone are something I will always come back for.
I’ll be honest, putting this list together helped remind me that I actually have done a lot in this city! It’s also encouraged me to explore and do more so that I can keep my love for London alive. There are plenty more things to do and plenty more things to share with you, but I hope this list gives you a good place to start.
If you want to see what daily life looks like in London (and abroad) make sure to follow me wherever you’re social. I’m @justynjen everywhere.
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