How many things to do in London are there? Too many to count! Our capital city is a wonderful, magical playground with everything from nature to history, art, sports, music, food and culture to explore. So where do you start? How about kicking off your visit with a good handful of the most popular London experiences, sights and attractions. Let's dive right in.
If you're looking for cheap things to do in London, Hyde Park is a lovely place to spend a morning or afternoon when the weather's good. If you're in luck there might be a concert or outdoor performance to enjoy, and they hold an annual half-marathon to join in with. 350 acres of gorgeous, rich green space await you in the heart of one of the world's best-loved cities, a vast area of peace and quiet, rich in wildlife and so calm it's hard to believe you're surrounded by bustle. Best of all, it's free.
London's parks are legendary. This is one of the planet's greenest cities. If you want to relax and chill out far away from the manic city vibe try all the Royal Parks: Richmond Park and Bushy Park, Regent's Park and Kensington Gardens, Greenwich Park, St James' Park and Green Park.
The Queen lives there a lot of the time. People gather around the massive fairytale golden gates at the front of the palace every day, watching the Changing of the Guards, peering into the grand gravelled sweep of the drive and onwards to the enormous building. You can visit the State Rooms and the Royal Mews, the Queen's Gallery and Clarence House, and of course beautiful Green Park itself. Buckingham Palace Gardens contain 350 or more types of wildflower and 200 types of tree. You can tour the gardens, and also enjoy the displays at the Household Cavalry Museum and Guards Museum.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
This was where the London Olympics took place, and Team UK won a record breaking number of medals. Now the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is open to the public, offering brilliant sports-inspired days out, family activities, inspiring art and culture. You can enjoy the green spaces at your leisure, take a formal Park Tour to find out all about it, and relive the amazing 2012 Olympics by touring the places where medals were won and lost, reputations made and thrown away. Epic stuff. There are trails to explore, and the London Aquatics Centre is nearby. You're close to the Copper Box Arena, Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, Lee Valley Velopark, Olympic Rings and the Agitos.
Harry Potter Studio Tour
Of all the amazing things to do in London, the Harry Potter Studio Tour is one of the most popular with children... and their parents love it too! Why not walk in our hero's footsteps on the Harry Potter Studio Tour? You'll enjoy fabulous film sets like the Great Hall, Forbidden Forest and Diagon Alley. There's a massive collection of props from the films and, of course, exhibits of the brilliant costumes created for them. As well as a host of very cool permanent exhibits there's a constant stream of new attractions being added, some for a limited time only.
Music is your passion. And huge venues are the most exciting of all, especially when one of the planet's biggest bands, sporting stars or comedians is appearing there. The O2, originally the Millennium Dome, has been transformed into one of the nation's biggest entertainment venues, it's really easy to get to and from, and they host some of the finest stadium events in the UK, if not in the world.
Shoreditch Street Art
Not so long ago graffiti was looked at as vandalism. Now it's one of the hottest art forms to hit the streets, and the towns and cities that tap into it have opened up entire new tourist attractions. Brighton is one of them, Shoreditch is another, an area packed with stunning displays of colourful, skilfully made graffiti art that creates an artistic trail like no other. And yes, you can see at least one Banksy artwork in Shoreditch. Head for Rivington Street, Great Eastern Street, Cremer Street, Princelet Street, Toynbee Street, Shoreditch High Street and Heneage Street for some of the best street art in the city.
Brick Lane, once a slum, is incredibly trendy these days. There's no more Jack the Ripper, although the Ten Bells pub remains. Now it's a contemporary, edgy destination full of art galleries, restaurants, markets and festivals. Why not give The Old Truman Brewery at 91 Brick Lane Houses a go, with its vibrant market, vintage clothing stores and chic boutiques? Or discover a host of authentic curry restaurants, warehouse art exhibits, clubs and bars? Give the Vibe Bars beer garden or 93 Feet East at150 Brick Lane a go.
Borough Market is giant wholesale and retail food market in Southwark, in fact its one of the capital's biggest and oldest, dating way back to the 1100s. It's rammed with excellent fresh food and drink from all over the world, and you're bound to see something you've never tasted or heard of before. This is an exceptional London destination for dedicated foodies!
Natural History Museum
Things to do on a budget in London include the capital's many wonderful museums, most of which offer free entry. The Natural History Museum is free, as are the Science Museum, British Museum, National Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, the Tate and Tate Modern, Museum of London, Imperial War Museum, National Portrait Gallery, the Wallace Collection, Whitechapel Gallery, Serpentine Galleries, National Maritime Museum, National Army Museum, RAF Museum and a whole lot more, over 40 free museums to visit in total.
The Shard must be one of the newest and best fun things to do in London, with dizzying views across the city and beyond. There are restaurants and bars to enjoy, but also London's highest viewing platform, offering a 360-degree view that takes your eyes forty miles or more. The View from the Shard puts on all sorts of cool entertainment, from album launches and silent discos to yoga classes. The high-speed lifts zoom you to the top at a high speed of 6 metres a second, up to the indoor viewing platform and the open-air Skydeck. Experience Europe's highest Moët & Chandon Champagne bar if you like, or just marvel at the extraordinary vistas that open up before you.
St. Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral is the official seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. High up on Ludgate Hill, it sits at the highest point of the ancient City of London itself and is one of the nation's best-loved Grade I listed buildings. It survived two World Wars and the inside is absolutely magnificent, history personified.
London's favourite charnel house, Westminster Abbey holds the remains of many of the country's great and good. Over 3,300 people are buried there and many more commemorated. This is the place every royal coronation since 1066 has taken place, and it also happens to contain a large collection of religious art and artefacts, including England’s oldest altarpiece, stunning wall paintings, the Cosmati Pavement and a gorgeous stained glass window by the artist David Hockney.
Offbeat things to do in London
How about some unusual cheap things to do in London, a bit off the beaten track?
- Hire a kayak and paddle up or down the Thames for city views you can't get any other way
- Trace the ancient underground rivers of London through the streets and see the marks they've left behind them, a fascinating thing to do on foot. Look for the route of the Walbrook, Tyburn, Fleet, Hackney Brook, Moselle, Westbourne, Counter's Creek, the River Brent and the River Rom, all north of the Thames, plus Earl's Sluice, the River Peck, Neckinger, Falconbrook, Graveney, Quaggy and Sudbrook
- Explore London's canal network on foot, and be amazed how areas of the city join up in ways you didn't expect
- Play a game of Quidditch
- Take a London Ghost Tour or scare yourself silly on the Jack the Ripper Tour
Enjoy an outdoor art trail at The Line, the capital's first Art Walk