Samuel Johnson’s famous quote could not be truer… “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”London may not be the biggest city in England, but that is the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of England. London could be England’s smallest city, yet it’s the most extravagant, as it has so much richness to offer in every aspect. With its extraordinary night-life, entertainment, dining, art, and shopping one can truly never tire of London. There are many popular cities that tourists like to visit in Europe, but London is said to be the most visited city, with over 27 million visitors every year. London should most definitely be on everyone’s bucket list as one city to visit and get the most out of.
London oozes culture, and its history is so rich, one has so much to learn, explore, and discover. With its many distinct areas, London is divided into South, North, East, and West London as well as Central London, which is the hub that tourists flock to. You might be surprised to discover that London expands out to a larger metropolitan area, which is rarely seen by most visitors but is worth checking out as well. Explore a little more, expand your horizons a little, and truly take in everything the Greater London area has to offer.
Now let’s dig in and get exploring!
1. Coca-Cola London Eye
This famous cantilevered ferris wheel is an awesome attraction in London. It’s better known as The London Eye and is located by the beautiful South Bank of the River Thames. Basically, it’s a Ferris wheel on steroids and it’s the tallest in Europe. With over 3 million visitors per year, it’s said to be the most commercial and high-grossing tourist attraction in the country. It first opened in the year 2,000, and at a height of 442 feet was then the highest public viewing point over London. When another very famous building in London, called The Shard, which is over 800 feet high, opened its doors to the public in 2013, it superseded it as the highest viewpoint. The glass pods of the London Eye move ever so slowly as you ascend to the highest point, so it may be a little scary for those with a fear of heights, but hey we only live once! Conquer your fears and give it a try, because there is still nothing better than sitting in one of those glass pods with a 360-degree birds’ eye-view of the entire city of London.
2. Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour
This is surely one of the most convenient ways to get around and explore the city of London, its sights, and landmarks. Not sure where to go and which sights to see? It’s as simple as this, buy a day ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus, and let the sights and landmarks that London has to offer come to you. As you sit back and relax atop a double-decker open-top bus, an experienced, knowledgeable, and entertaining tour guide narrates your adventure, explaining what’s what in this beautiful city. When you decide you want to change routes, all you need to do is get off at the next stop and hop onto another bus, and off you go to explore another part of London. With over 100 stops and 8 routes to choose from, there is plenty to see and learn about without having to walk everywhere. For those that have fitness devices and want to get in their 10,000 daily steps, best get off every couple of stops and do a little exploring on foot. For the rest of you, enjoy the ride.
3. Hyde Park
Situated in Central London, Hyde Park is one of the biggest and certainly one of the most famous parks in the city. There are generally four Royal Parks located in London. Hyde Park is considered the biggest. The parks create a chain, starting from Kensington Palace. You will then get to Kensington Gardens, at the main entry to Buckingham Palace. There is plenty of history in this park, as many protests have taken place here throughout the years. The famous Speaker’s Corner in the park is still very much used for debates and protests, as well as by performing artists putting on a show for the public. The park is not just beautiful lawns and shady trees, but there are also 2 lakes, the most famous one called Serpentine. You may be in the middle of the city yet you can escape a little and enjoy nature at its best. Take in the fresh air while watching swans swimming about. Better yet, rent a paddle-boat and really enjoy the lake.
If you’re looking for something a little different, go visit Camden. It’s in North London and it’s well-known for being a richly cultural neighborhood where among the tourist crowds you will find the likes of goths, punks, and rockabillies. Along the streets, you are likely to find tattoo parlors as well as body piercing studios, and other such eccentric shops. There is a market in Camden and it’s known for having a wide variety of stalls such as international street food stalls, and stalls selling unique hand-made trinkets, and artwork. You can also find vintage clothing stalls to add that shopping flare to your visit to Camden. If you want to add more flavor to your travel experience, visit one of the previously-loved-book stalls, where you can pick your favorite book, and go sit at an eatery like Cookies and Scream, which is the city’s best vegan bakery. Once you’ve shopped and eaten to your heart’s content, take a walk to Camden Lock by Regent’s Canal or simply walk along the water to King’s Cross.
In the heart of London’s West End, Soho is a spot that is diverse, fun, and never sleeps. It’s no wonder it’s said to be the most popular night-life spot in London. It’s rich in history, has different venues to suit people of different tastes, and has an atmosphere that may be described as risqué, which is unique to Soho. Tourists and Londoners alike flock there for just these reasons. Soho, however, is not just all about bars and clubs, it also has a cultural side with theatre houses, jazz bars, and restaurants to try out. Whether you prefer nightlife or daytime activities Soho has it all, with its music shops, small cafes, and bakeries, offering all sorts of delicious treats, you can refuel to continue on your travels.
If you are a movie enthusiast, this is definitely a place that you need to visit when in London. BFI stands for British Film Institute and it’s on the popular Southbank, which is an ideal place to relax after exploring this part of the city. Whether you enjoy old cult classics, new blockbusters or art nouveau, indie movies, the BFI has them all, and they show films every day to the public. If showing movies is not enough, they also have their own library and shop with anything and everything movie-related, in the same building. They also have their own bar and restaurant along the river, where you can enjoy a delicious meal or a refreshing drink discussing your favorite movies. All in all, a very worthwhile place to visit.
7. The O2
The O2 Arena was originally built to celebrate the millennium and it was named ‘The Millenium Dome’. It was used as an exhibition center mainly for exhibits, as well as arts and craft activities for children. It’s now used for stage shows and to bring live music to the public, hosting famous names in the entertainment and music industry regularly. If the music shows don’t attract you, then you might prefer to watch a film in the cinema, or come and dine in any one of the various restaurants and bars that offer a variety of different cuisines from all over the world. If all this still doesn’t sound adventurous enough, then you might want to climb to the top of the O2. A guide will take you up there and help you navigate the ropes. You will get to experience the breathtaking views of the city from atop the dome. Once your height thrill tour is done, you can take the cable car link called the Emirates Air Lines across the water to get a different view of the city to finish off your visit.
8. Piccadilly Circus
With its dazzling lights and huge LED screens, Piccadilly Circus is a stand out square that is easily recognizable as one of London’s hottest tourist landmarks. It has been a busy hotspot in London for many centuries, even when it was just a commercial center. Today Piccadilly Circus is the heart of the West End. With it being close to some of London’s biggest and most famous theatres and nightclubs like the Criterion Theatre, it truly is a vibrant popular tourist attraction. While there, take a peek inside the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum to learn weird and wonderful facts that may or may not freak you out a bit, you know you want you! You may want to hop into the games arcade in the entertainment complex, Trocadero too. Admire the Statue of Eros in the center of the circus itself and maybe even take a selfie or two beside it.
Photo: Getty Images
9. Electric Avenue
Electric Avenue is a famous street in Brixton, South London. It became famous because it was the first market street in London that was lit up by electricity in the 1880s. Today it’s lined with butcheries, fishmongers, and it hosts the Brixton Market, which is a diverse food market. You will be able to buy African, Carribean, South American, and Asian products too. Not only did it inspire Eddy Grant’s number 1 hit song “Electric Avenue”, but some of London’s history took place here too, like the Brixton riots in 1881. Overall it’s rich in history, food, culture, and let’s not forget shopping.
Right between Soho and Leicester Square, you will find the unique little suburb of Chinatown. As the name says it’s, this is little China. With its vibrant and colorful lanterns and red arches, one cannot miss this place. Authentic Asian restaurants are aplenty, as well as supermarkets, secret bars, and massage parlors. Never a dull moment in Chinatown with all sorts of different little nooks and crannies to explore. Be sure to try out a place called HK Diner for a delicious Asian food explosion, good service, and generous servings. While there try out their famous roasted duck, you will not taste a better duck than this. Lastly, in keeping with the Asian trend, try out their bubble tea, which is a Taiwanese tea-based drink. Play around with the different toppings that can be added to your bubble tea such as chewy tapioca balls, fruit jelly or agar jelly to tantalize your taste buds.
11. Leicester Square
Leicester Square has been a hotspot since the late 1600s and has remained an entertainment hub since then. Many famous movie premieres were hosted there for big blockbuster films. You definitely get the feeling that you’re walking in the footsteps of Hollywood’s rich and famous when visiting the Square. There is a garden in the middle of the Square, which many people use to take a breather from their escapades around London. You will also find cinemas with some of London’s biggest screens and many different restaurants surrounding the Square. Being so close to Chinatown, the Chinese New Year is celebrated in the Square, where you will find the vibrant and colorful dancing dragons as well as lively crowds, always keen to join in the festivities.
12. Oxford Street
With over 300 stores and more than 500,000 feet coming through daily, it’s no wonder Oxford Street is a huge shopping hub, as well as the busiest shopping street in Europe. Debenhams and House of Fraser are some of the many internationally renowned stores and designer stores on Oxford Street. The window displays are simply amazing, changing with the seasons, and what’s trending at the time. Some are even interactive and include work done by famous artists. One of the best displays you will see is during Christmas time, because Oxford Street is transformed into a street with bright, shimmering lights, and Christmas decorations, which add a really festive feel to your shopping experience.
13. Brick Lane
Just like in the book and film that shares the same title, Brick Lane is situated in the core of the Bangladeshi community in London. Its diversity is evident even in the road signs, which are both in English and Bengali. If spicy food is your thing then you’re in the right place, because there are plenty of authentic curry restaurants to choose from, one better than the next. If you have a sweet tooth and like to experiment with different foods, visit their sweet shops that stock a variety of South Asian desserts. If a vibey night-life is more your vibe, then you also have some trendy bars where you can pop into, to have a drink or two. These bars and marketplaces tend to attract a young and trendy crowd. To add to the lively ambiance, you can find street art all around the lane and its neighboring streets. You could also visit the Whitechapel Gallery, which is nearby for an extra art experience.
14. Brixton Academy
Brixton Academy was originally a theater and cinema called Astonia in 1929. Fifty years later it became a venue that now hosts some of the biggest pop and rock acts around the globe. Brixton Academy is in South London and is one of the best venues for live music events, open mike nights, as well as for up-and-coming musicians too, not just famous acts. Some of these include Madonna, Sex Pistols, The Clash, and New Order.
15. Thames Cruise
The Thames River is England’s longest river. Many travel agencies provide cruises across the Thames. These cruises run regularly throughout the day on a daily basis from different spots along the river. It’s a nice way to explore and see some tourist sights like Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament, and The London Eye. There are also night cruises where you can see the city lit up, as well as cruises, which include a meal or afternoon tea as part of the package. A definite must when visiting London.
16. Hampstead Heath
Being situated on one of the highest points in London, one can get a beautiful view of the London landscape from here. Expanding over 790 acres, Hampstead Heath is one of the biggest parks in London. With some wildlife in the park, one can truly feel like they’re getting in touch with nature right here, surrounded by beautiful tall trees, grassy fields, and some ponds. There are even some outdoor swimming pools where one can cool off and enjoy a swim, if brave enough. To add a little culture and history, you can visit Kenwood House, which is famous for its curated art collection.
After undergoing some renovations, Shoreditch has become one of London’s trendiest areas with the hottest nightlife spots. It’s the ideal place to stay when visiting London because it has plenty of bars, restaurants, and bakeries, which can be enjoyed day or night. There are many unique bars and restaurants to choose from. One being Trapeze, which is a bar with a circus theme where they serve experimental cocktails out of popcorn tub-style cups. Far Rockaway is a bar and restaurant packed with comic books, band posters, and they often have 90s themed nights. Blues Kitchen is another great place to try out if you enjoy the blues playing in the background, while you enjoy a delicious rack of ribs or any other American inspired dishes.
18. Platform 9 ¾
Platform 9 ¾ is a newly renovated platform that adds a new modern look to the King’s Cross train station, with hidden tunnels that have its walls adorned with glow-in-the-dark art. It has been opened since 1852 and it said to be one of the busiest places in London. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, be sure to get there, who knows, with a little imagination, you might get transported to Hogwarts. Take a pic with the luggage trolley that magically disappears into the wall for that added extra wizard touch to your visit. House colors are essential!
19. Bond Street
Bond street may connect to Oxford street, but they are two very different shopping experiences. Bond Street is more about exclusive and designer stores, making it one of the most expensive shopping streets in London. It’s quite a unique shopping experience with doormen waiting at every shop entrance to escort you in. Glitter and glamour is one way to describe what this street offers. Diamonds, watches, jewelry, and handbags aplenty, glittering and glimmering on the shop windows. Tiffany, Cartier, and Ralph Lauren are some of the famous names you will find here.
20. Buckingham Palace
Your London experience would not be complete if you haven’t visited Green Park to get a peek of Buckingham Palace. This Palace has the largest private garden in London and has 755 rooms, and is where many generations of the Royal family have lived since 1837. One can witness part of a historic tradition showing the Royal Guards utmost discipline during the Changing of the Guards. It’s a process that happens a few times a day. A part of the palace is open to the public as well, so one can get an idea of how royalty lives.
Home to the Houses of Parliament and the very famous Big Ben clock tower, Westminster is said to be the political hub of London. Tourists like to visit Trafalgar Square to see the monuments and the guard change at Horse Guards Parade. Politicians frequent Whitehall’s’ many pubs. Another favorite tourist spot is Westminster Abbey, which contains the graves of some historical figures like Charles Darwin. It’s open to the general public every day, except Sundays, as it’s still a working church. You will also find Parliament Square in Westminster.
22. Baker Street
Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous character Sherlock Holmes lived on Baker Street and has hence made this street well known. Today there is a Sherlock Holmes museum close to the underground station as well, which has become famous after an adaptation of the series “Sherlock” aired on BBC. With Madame Tussauds around the corner, Baker street is thought to be a real cultural staple in London.
23. Madame Tussauds
Part of Baker Street’s cultural feel since 1836, Madame Tussauds is most definitely one of London’s top tourist attractions. Get the feel that you’re up close and personal with your favorite celebrities with these life-size wax figures. With over 250 figures to choose from, you can immerse yourself in this wonderful museum. Experience a piece of the movies too, like Star Wars, Alien or even The Voice, with all its judges and actors.
Harrods opened in 1824 and has seen the likes of Oscar Wilde, Kylie Minogue, and the Royal family walk through its doors. This makes it one of London’s most famous department stores. With many floors, each with its own theme, Harrods is a luxurious store from top to bottom. Even the food halls are extravagant in the delicacies they have for sale, ranging from top range meat, cheeses, marmalades, and patês. Feel like Cleopatra in the Egyptian Hall and explore the rest of the building while splurging on luxurious clothing, perfumes, and even children’s toys.
You can find many museums close to one another on Exhibition Road in South Kensington. Learn about scientific processes at The Science Museum and let the kids have a go at the interactive activities they have available. Hop next door to the Natural History Museum to find the infamous Diplodocus skeleton in the main hall. Find ancient fossils and stuffed animals, as you navigate through the rest of the museum. Art students flock to the Victoria and Albert Museum to sketch their favorite statues and ironwork, while others come to view artworks, fashion, and living tools from different parts of the world. To discover ancient archeological findings, visit the British Museum where you will find mummified remains and the famous Rosetta stone. If you’re looking for something that will really appeal to your kids get to the Samsung Digital Discovery Centre. They can explore some history and culture with a variety of free activities using modern technology.
With several art galleries around, it makes London an art lover’s dream city. Much like the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, entry to most galleries is free of charge. With works by Da Vinci, Turner, van Gogh, and Rembrandt, the National Gallery has something for everyone’s taste. The building of the Tate Modern is itself a piece of art. There you will find works by Picasso, Klee, and Delauney.
27. Tower of London
Come and explore over 1,000 years of history at London’s famous world heritage site and iconic castle, Tower of London. Bedazzled by the breathtaking famous collection of gemstones known as The Crown Jewels. Take the Yeoman Warder tour and learn about stories of treachery and torture in England’s history. Meet the ravens and discover why they are known as the guardians of the Tower. You can even join in interactive plays retelling of daring escapades, meet the prisoners that filled the dungeons, and even try to plot your own escape. An exciting, fun-filled day for the whole family awaits you at the Tower of London.
28. Windsor Castle
Not only is it one of the official residences of the British Royal family, but Windsor Castle has been the setting for many historical events that have taken place in Britain. Visit the oldest and the biggest occupied castle in the world, as it’s open to the public all year round. Windsor Castle was founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and has housed 39 monarchs throughout the centuries. Today The Castle is used for State and social events by The Queen. Her majesty also spends her weekends at the Castle.
29. Richmond Theater
Richmond Theater is a British Victorian Theater that opened its doors in 1899 and has been delighting the public with great productions ever since. It’s one of the most successful theaters in England, presenting a wide variety of dramas, musicals, operas, dance shows and family shows throughout the year. There is something for everyone to enjoy. This venue is also used by charities to host charity events where local artists meet and perform.
30. Explore the Night
There is something to do during the day or at night in London. Night-life in London is hip and happening with one-off events, night clubs, and bars – always somewhere to go once the sun goes down. Free walking tours are available to enjoy the city at night, as well as night tours on a bus. Soho and the West End provide a buzzing nightlife lit up by big bright light,s and neon signs. See all the sights at night as they’re illuminated, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, and Westminster Cathedral or visit Hyde Park where bats are seen flying about regularly. To end off your London experience, visit Polo Bar on Liverpool Street for some good old delicious home-made comfort food, as it is open 24 hours.