Things to do in London
There's much, much more to do in London than just sightseeing. Even when you've had your fill of museums and galleries, palaces and monuments, you can be sure that you'll never be short of things to do, see and experience.
... the best and most iconic experiences
From fabulous theatre and a vibrant music scene to world class sporting events and a thriving tradition of public lectures, the variety and richness of experiences on offer in London is breathtaking. Whatever you like, and whatever your interests, you're guaranteed to find some great things to do in London.
And then there are the city's several thousand restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars to visit... and last, but by no means least, some of the world's best shopping!
The only danger is that you'll become overwhelmed by the sheer amount that is on offer. Many a Londoner despairs of ever having time to attend all the events and activities that interest them.
Below are some broad categories concerning things to do in London which we hope will help you to get an overview of all that London offers. Do your research, pick wisely - and enjoy!
Tours & Walks
See the main sights on an organised sightseeing tour of London, by double-decker bus, Thames River boat, or even by air! Duck Tours do both land and water with their amphibious vehicles. Driver-guided tours in a London black taxi offer a more personal approach, and if walking is more your thing you'll be spoilt for choice with a huge selection of guided and self-guided walks. Or delve a little deeper with specialist culinary walks and tours, ghost tours, Harry Potter tours... and even upmarket fashion and shopping tours.
London is one of the great shopping cities of the world, a shopper's paradise whether you're looking for designer brands or massive discounts, exclusive boutiques or market stall bargains. Flash the cash in Harrods, the ultimate department store, track down that elusive ingredient in specialist food stores, or make a fabulous 'find' in the markets and charity shops. From vintage clothing to modern design classics, antiques and crafts to the latest gadgets, you'll be hard pressed to think of a single thing that you can't buy in London.
London's many markets are a delight to explore, whether you're looking for foods, clothing, or pretty much anything collectable, retro, vintage or antique. There are craft markets and art markets, second hand book markets, fashion markets and a beautiful flower market. A network of farmers' markets sells locally produced foods of all kinds. Whether you're looking for trinkets and cheap funky fashion, or artisan cheeses and rare records, don't miss London's wonderful markets!
Restaurants & Cafés
Fish & chips, pie & mash, and the best curries outside the Indian Subcontinent... but that's just a tiny taste of the pleasure of eating out in London. There are plenty of ritzy top name restaurants to indulge in, but you don't need much cash to enjoy a fine Vietnamese, Japanese, Greek or Lebanese meal, as well masses of great Italian, Chinese and Indian options. In fact, you can eat your way right around the world in London, and vegetarians and vegans will find they are well catered for. From charming cafés to smart bistros, local snack bars to ritzy celebrity haunts, you'll be literally spoilt for choice when deciding what and where to eat.
Events & Festivals
London is a truly year-round destination, and there are events, festivals and 'happenings' pretty much non-stop through the seasons, from vintage car rallies to gay pride parades, ancient traditions to huge sporting events such as the London Marathon and Wimbledon. With 2000 years of history, eight million inhabitants and dozens of different communities and cultures, diversity is the keyword. Experience summer garden parties and Indian melas, Christmas festivities and the Notting Hill Carnival, participate in a pancake race or cheer on a boat race... Plus festivals celebrating everything from film to flowers, architecture to dance and mime.
Pubs & Bars
From characterful old pubs to trendy modern bars, Londoners love to relax with a drink. If beer's your thing then the city's historic pubs and alehouses are a real treat. There are several thousand to choose from, ranging from sophisticated to quiet and cosy, atmospheric to loud and rowdy. If you prefer wine and cocktails, stylish bars abound and there are plenty of cool trendy options, and club-bars with resident DJs. You'll find food and snacks on sale pretty much everywhere, but for a good meal choose one of the fashionable 'gastropubs'. More on Pubs in London
Fine teas in china cups, sandwiches cut in tiny triangles and scones with jam and cream...! Afternoon tea is a wonderful British tradition, and where better to enjoy it that in the elegant surroundings of one of London's stunning luxury hotels. The Ritz serves what is probably the ultimate afternoon tea, but there are dozens of options, offering a range of styles and prices. The best places are very popular, so book in advance, dress up and enjoy a real British institution!
London has been a royal city for almost 1000 years, and love them or loathe them, British Royalty past and present are very much in evidence, from palaces to pub signs, public sculpture to souvenir mugs. There are royal art collections to view, royal parks to enjoy and Princess Diana walking tours to take. You can even see the Queen herself if you attend one of the several annual ceremonies that she takes part in. Look out for shops with the coveted 'by royal appointment' status, and don't miss the fabulous crown jewels at the Tower of London.
Whether you're a football, rugby, cricket or tennis fan, London is a great place for sports lovers. See a premier league football match at Wembley, or catch one of London's many teams in a lower division game. Rugby fans will want to make the pilgrimage to Twickenham, while cricket fans are well catered for at the famous Oval, and at 'the home of cricket', Lord's. Every tennis fan dreams of attending the annual Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Several fine horse racecourses and show jumping grounds are easily accessible from London, or spend an evening at the greyhound races!
Theatre & Shows
London's West End Theatreland district is world famous for everything from blockbuster musicals and big shows to serious drama and experimental works. Sing along at Mama Mia, be entranced by the Lion King, or catch a big name treading the boards. And where better to see a Shakespeare play than at the authentically reconstructed Globe Theatre! There are more than 50 theatres in Theatreland, so the choice is enormous. Ticket prices can be stratospheric, so take a gamble on what you see and join the queues at Leicester Square's famous Half Price Ticket Booth.
London's long history has given the city numerous ceremonies and rituals, many of which are still faithfully carried out and open to spectators. Major state ceremonies include Trooping the Colour, the State Opening of Parliament, and Remembrance Sunday, all attended by the Queen. The Changing of the Guard takes place every second day through much of the year (daily in summer), and there are numerous gun salutes, thanksgiving services and processions throughout the year. The atmospheric and ancient Ceremony of the Keys takes place each night at the Tower of London.
Free things to do in London
There's no getting away from it, London can be an expensive city to visit. But it doesn't have to be so - there's a surprising amount to see, do and experience that is completely free. Start with London's fantastic museums and galleries, many of which are free to enter, as are all of the city's beautiful parks. There are regular free concerts, talks and displays, and the street entertainers and buskers won't cost you a penny (although you might consider a donation). There are free festivals, shows and parades throughout the year, and regular free pageantry with the Changing of the Guard. You may even see the Queen herself at one of the many free state ceremonies.
Special experiences and unusual things to do in London
So you've seen the sights, caught the shows and shopped till you dropped. And now you want something really special, a completely different and unique experience in London. Well, how about a hair-raising speed boat ride along the Thames, stepping back in time to the 18th century, or joining a mass cycle ride around central London? Go mudlarking on the Thames foreshore, stand where time begins on the Greenwich Meridian, or for a really unusual London experience, spend the night among Egyptian mummies at the British Museum!
London famously is a 'collection of villages', and the differences between neighbourhoods and areas can be dramatic. Proud Westminster and the bustling West End have quite a different feel to hilly, genteel Hampstead, smart Mayfair, posh Chelsea or cool, trendy Hoxton. Add literary Bloomsbury, Bengali Brick Lane and Jewish Golders Green to the mix and you start to get an idea of just how huge and diverse London is. Many of London's more outlying areas also merit a visit. Pick an area and start exploring!