The Best Things to Do in London
Collected by Emma John , AFAR Local Expert
For culture, art, history, nightlife, and food, London can't be beat. What else do you need? From the tippy top of the Shard to the dungeons at the Tower of London, from the green swaths of Hyde Park to the stones of Westminster Abbey, from the Tate Modern to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, squeeze as much time as you can into exploring this fascinating and thoroughly modern city.
1 Whitehall, Westminster, London SW1A 2DD, UK
This underground bunker lay undisturbed for 30 years after the end of World War II, and is now open to the public in its restored original state. The maps are as they were the day the war ended. It's moving to contemplate that this is where...
48 Doughty St, London WC1N 2LX, UK
There’s oodles of literary history in Bloomsbury. The elegant squares and rows of townhouses in this part of town, just east of Tottenham Court Road and south of Euston, were home to any number of authors, poets, and journalists and you can...
21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT, UK
Don’t let anyone tell you that going to the Globe Theatre is what the tourists do. It’s what theatre lovers do. Since this ambitious, open air, Shakespearean-style theatre opened, its productions have been one of the top contributions...
Romney Rd, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF, UK
To do Greenwich properly, you should really arrive by boat. After all, this is the site of the former Tudor palace that was home to Henry VIII, which is now buried beneath the Old Royal Naval College — a former hospital for wounded sailors...
Riverside Building, County Hall, South Bank, London SE1 7PB, UK
The giant ferris wheel on the south bank of the Thames is made up of 32 futuristic glass capsules - all of which are sealed, air-conditioned and big enough to house 25 guests. Riding the attraction is effectively being stuck in a bubble, albeit...
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, London N1 2UN, UK
Possibly no music venue in London has quite as intriguing a backstory as the Union Chapel in Islington. The 19th-century Gothic Revival church, with its mosaic floor, its carved ceiling, its stained glass windows, and its chunky brick belltower,...
13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP, UK
Sir John Soane was an 18th-century architect who died nearly 200 years ago. He was also an undiagnosed hoarder. The man's townhouse, which has been left untouched since his death and which free to the public, is an extraordinary jumble of his...
St John's Wood Rd, London NW8 8QN, UK
Even if you don’t know your long-on from your silly mid-off, the world headquarters of the game of cricket is worth the pilgrimage. Almost hidden amid the upscale residential neighbourhood of St John’s Wood, its size, once you get on...
7 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BY, UK
There’s something almost cheeky about the Prince Charles Cinema. Tucked in a little alley behind Leicester Square, it seems to thumb its nose at the great swathes of visitors who go to the square to spend silly money in its vast multiplexes....
Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3DG, UK
Checking out the famously preserved mummies at the world’s oldest public museum is on many London wish lists, but there’s much more to the British Museum than ancient Egypt. Other must-sees include the Elgin Marbles and the African...
St. Martin's Pl, London WC2H 0HE, UK
Nestled in the corner next to the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square, the National Portrait Gallery isn’t as overwhelming as its larger sibling. It’s an absolute beaut of a gallery, with a permanent collection (free to...
93 Guilford St, London WC1N 1DN, UK
There's nowhere more exclusive in London than Corams Fields—because this is the one square in the city where adults aren't allowed, unless they're accompanied by a child. A seven-acre park and playground, funded by charity for the past 80...
149 Piccadilly, London W1J 7NT, UK
Famously given the address No 1, London when it was first built on the north side of Piccadilly, the Duke of Wellington's former home is one of the few Georgian houses in London that still stands alone. From Hyde Park Corner you see it in all...
183 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BE, UK
Completely unique and always fascinating, the Wellcome Trust, not far from the British Library, is a free museum devoted to the marvels of the human body. It has regular exhibitions, taking sideways scientific looks at everything from the the...
Somerset House, 150 Strand, London WC2R 0RN, UK
Tucked away inside the large space of Somerset House, this small gallery leaves a large impression. It houses the collection of the Courtald Institute of Art, a stunning set of early 20th-century art with a focus on French Impressionist and...
Hertford House, Manchester Square, Marylebone, London W1U 3BN, UK
This elegant town-house gallery is one of the capital’s lesser-known art spots, but it's simply packed with priceless paintings, furniture and porcelain. Its decorative exhibits range from armor to portraits, and it's a good stop as part of...
Almeida St, London N1 1TA, UK
If you've seen the big West End shows and you’re looking for something a bit more intimate, nothing beats this classy venue in sophisticated Islington. Small in size, the Almeida still packs a huge punch, constantly winning awards for...
London Bridge, London SE1 9DA, UK
If you’re looking for a moment of peace and reverence surrounded by gothic grandeur and ancient history, head for this often overlooked gem. It doesn’t get the noisy crowds of Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s, but Southwark is one...
Bankside, London SE1 9TG, UK
It’s impossible to ignore the hulking 1950s architecture of the Tate Modern, slap-bang in the middle of the most-walked part of the South Bank. A visionary refurb of this former power station has resulted in an artistic behemoth with multiple...
Cromwell Rd, South Kensington, London SW7 5BD, UK
On its own, the architecture of the Natural History Museum is enough of a reason to walk through its doors one afternoon. The stunning archways and staircases create a grand backdrop to equally impressive exhibits, and you could spend countless...
Chester Rd, London NW1 4NR, UK
Regent's Park in London lives up to its name and is quite royal, boasting rows of manicured flowers and plants. (There's also a theater, zoo, and walking paths.) I always make a beeline for the Rose Garden: a circular garden chock-full of roses of...
St Katharine's & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB, UK
Visitors to this turreted riverside castle enter a thousand years of history filled with cultural significance (but go early to avoid lines to see the crown jewels). Tudor fans can view the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded and the kinds of...
20 Deans Yd, Westminster, London SW1P 3PA, UK
William and Kate’s wedding brought a 21st-century focus to this 700-year-old abbey, which is built on the same spot as a Benedictine monastery enlarged by Edward the Confessor in the 1040s. The site of every coronation since 1066, it boasts...
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