JOY42

25 Things to Do in London

TravelHannah DrakeComment

With our wedding getting closer (3 MONTHS!) and our guests starting to make arrangements to attend, I was inspired to create a list of things to do in London based on things I've done or want to do. It seems like the trend for many of our American guests is to spend some time in London before coming to the wedding and then getting out to the countryside or even to Scotland, Wales, or Ireland after the wedding. With only a few days to spend in London, it's hard to even know where to start.

I'm by no means an expert on London. I've only spent a handful of days in the Big Smoke between trips before I moved and trips since I moved. So I turned to friends here in England and my Instagram followers for more of a variety than just my experiences and my wish list. There are plenty of London bloggers and Instagrammers who can offer a more in depth look into the city and everything it has to offer (I'll include some of my favourites at the end.), but I tried to include the big things. If you're here looking for ideas for a trip, use this as a starting point and definitely do your own, more extensive research. I've tried to group things together based on geographical location and to include something for everyone, but London is incredibly rich in history and culture and it was hard to narrow it down! No doubt you've seen something in your own searches that aren't included on this list, but I figured you all wouldn't want to read an endless post about everything London has to offer. Feel free to add your favourite London attractions in the comments below!

Don't forget to check out my 10 Items for a Day Trip to London to make sure you have everything you need for a day of exploring the city.

Illustration from B Bakery

Have Afternoon Tea (on a Bus)

Don't expect to see every Brit suddenly drop everything at 14:00 in the afternoon to sit down in beautiful pastel dresses for a posh high tea. From what I can tell, tea culture is more of just drinking tea all day at work the way most Americans drink coffee. Some people might treat themselves to an occasional afternoon tea on the weekends, but I don't know many people who do and it seems like more of a tourist "trap" than anything else. But if you want my opinion--and I know you do--it's one activity not to miss. I personally love afternoon tea with all the works, but I'll even settle for a scone with clotted cream with my tea, which is commonly referred to as "cream tea", which is not having cream in your tea. There are plenty of options to choose from, but make sure you make a reservation to ensure you have a table and that they'll have everything read. (Some places might require notice just to make sure everything is prepared in time.) If you're into it, go big and get a pretty pastel, flowery dress, but it's certainly not required. Check out The Telegraph's top rated afternoon teas in London, but beware some of them are quite pricey, especially with a glass of champange. But hey, it's vacation! But if you want to combine a classic afternoon tea with an adventure, I recommend--simply because I really want to do this--checking out the B Afternoon Tea Bus. Be aware there is a dress code, children under 5 are not permitted, and there are limited dietary restriction options. They do offer other tours, including a dinner tour and a gin lover tour. Prices will vary on day-to-day and at different tables.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
from £45.00
Discounts
Children 6-11 are offered a discounted rate
Some gift vouchers available online
Hours
12:30-15:00 from Northumberland Avenue
12:00, 14:30, 17:00 from Victoria Coach Station
On the Tube
Waterloo, Charing Cross, or Victoria, depending on where your tour starts

TAKE A RED DOUBLE DECKER BUS TOUR

Illustration by Diana Aleksanian

You don't even have to have tea aboard. Normally, I don't go for this kind of thing, but I think it's a really great way to see the city and I'd like to do it some day. There are probably a few options out there, but I recommend The Original Tour because it's a hop-on, hop-off tour, meaning you can use it as your transportation around the city and learn about the city. You can purchase either a 24 hour ticket or a 48 hour ticket and save on tube tickets for the day. Yeah, it's fun to ride the tube, but you don't get to see anything while you're travelling, so if you have limited time in the city, get out in the fresh air and see as much as possible! There are more than 60 stops, so you should be able to cover a lot of the city. Check online for departure points and to see the three different routes available. Bonus: There's free wifi on-board and your ticket includes a hop-on, hop-off Thames river cruise.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£29.00 for adults and £13.50 for children (5-15) online
£32.00 for adults and £15.00 for children in person
Note: It's £9.00 to upgrade to a 48 hour ticket for adults and £4.50 for children; Your time starts from the time you first validate your ticket
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts (2 adults, 2 children)

 @a_ontheroad

@a_ontheroad

 @hannahlarson42

@hannahlarson42

WANDER AROUND NOTTING HILL

If you've ever seen the film Notting Hill, you're probably quite familiar with the area. You'll find the iconic pastel coloured homes along the streets in this trendy neighbourhood, along with a number of shops, cafes, bakeries, and restaurants and you'll want to visit them all. Somehow I find myself in Notting Hill, wandering along Portobello Road, nearly every time I'm in town. When Luke and I went in September, we went there to go Biscuiteers Boutique for afternoon tea. It's picturesque and an Instagram favourite. I loved wandering around the little shop and seeing all the beautifully iced biscuits. (If you want to have a proper afternoon tea there, you have to book at least 24 hours in advance.) At the very least, it's fun to walk through the neighbourhood on the way to something else to see the iconic houses and the streets made famous by the 1999 film. Every time I'm there, I feel like I'm about to run in to the Beckhams at any moment and I'm not even sure why because I have no reason to believe they live in Notting Hill.

WHAT TO KNOW
On the Tube
Take the Central, Circle, or District lines to Notting Hill Gate

 @mewsingsldn

@mewsingsldn

FIND HIDDEN GEMS IN THE PADDINGTON MEWS

What's a mews you ask? Well, it's a row of houses or flats that have been converted from old stables. They feel like the quietest streets in the whole sitting and they're usually incredibly colourful and overgrown with plants and flowers. I've seen some great mews in Paddington, Kensington, and Notting Hill, but they're probably all over. (Just don't quote me on that.) They're often well hidden so if you're walking too fast or not paying close enough attention, you might just miss 'em. We stumbled upon one of them that I've seen quite often online, Bathurst Mews, in September. And I literally mean stumbled upon it. We were walking through Paddington and walked right by it before it clicked what I had seen out of the corner of my eye. I think we spent a good 30 minutes wandering slowly down the street taking in all the colours and flowers. And of course taking photos. For a list of some of the best, check out The Department of Wandering's post Mews Flash on her favourite mews, complete with the nearest tube station for each.

 @wallis_p_

@wallis_p_

 @a_ontheroad

@a_ontheroad

EXPLORE THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

If museums are your cup of tea, don't miss the Natural History Museum. If it's Christmastime and you like to ice skate, don't miss their picturesque rink outside! I haven't been inside (yet), but again it was recommended by a number of people. I first heard about the museum when I read a story about a boy who corrected the museum on their dinosaur knowledge. 

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
FREE, although some temporary exhibits may have a cost
Hours
10:00-17:50
Last Admission
17:30
On the Tube
Take the Circle, District, or Picadilly lines to South Kensington

TOUR KENSINGTON PALACE

Luke and I went to Kensington Palace when we were in London in the autumn, but we opted not to do a tour. Instead we sat in Hyde Park overlooking the palace and played our favourite card game Hanabi while we gave our feet a rest. We did go in with the intention of having a cup of tea and a scone, but the line was too long, so we just looked around the gift shop and saw the garden that had been planted in memory of Princess Diana for the 20th anniversary of her death. I would really like to go back and do a tour some day, but I don't think you should hold your breath over running into the royals. I would imagine they do quite a good job of separating the areas where they Royal Family lives and setting up security if they're out in the more public areas. Be sure to book tickets in advance to ensure there is availability the day you'll visit and to get the cheapest price.

According to Wikipedia, Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century, and is currently the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and Princess Eugenie. Today, the State Rooms are open to the public and managed by the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces, a nonprofit organisation that does not receive public funds.The offices and private accommodation areas of the Palace remain the responsibility of the Royal Household and are maintained by the Royal Household Property Section. The palace also displays many paintings and other objects from the Royal Collection.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£15.90 for adults (16+) and free for children online
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts, and student (16+) or senior (60+) discounts with ID
Hours
10:00-18:00 March-October
10:00-16:00 November-February
Last Admission
17:00 March-October
15:00 November-February
On the Tube
Take the Circle or District lines to Kensington High Street (10-15 minute walk), take the Central line to Queensway (10-15 minute walk), or take the Central, Circle, or District lines to Notting Hill Gate (20-25 minute walk)

STROLL THROUGH HYDE PARK

I'm not sure if this is the correct line of thinking, but I think of this park as London's Central Park. It's certainly not as large, covering only 350 acres versus Central Park's 843. But I think it functions similarly as a place for people to escape city life and enjoy the outdoors and the culture throughout the park. According to Wikipedia, it is the largest of four Royal Parks that form a chain from the entrance of Kensington Palace through Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, via Hyde Park Corner and Green Park past the main entrance to Buckingham Palace. The park is divided by the Serpentine and the Long Water. I've walked through it a few times, but haven't spent nearly enough time exploring everything it has to offer. But it's a great way to catch a breath of fresh air while exploring London.

 @hannahlarson42

@hannahlarson42

 @royal.standard

@royal.standard

WINDOW SHOP IN MAYFAIR

If shopping is more your speed, check out Mayfair. If you're here over the holidays, you can't miss it because the Christmas displays are to die for! It's a more high end neighbourhood so not everyone can afford the prices at these stores, but that doesn't mean it's not fun to just look. If you're looking for other shopping destinations, check out the 8 Best Shopping Areas in London. Covent Garden is always a fan favourite, but beware that it's fairly touristy.

WATCH THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD

I have a confession. I've never seen the Changing of the Guard! In fact, I've only been to Buckingham Palace once and that was on my very first trip to England back in 2016. However, it seems like it's at the top of the list of what most people want to see in England, so I had to include it. You MUST do research before you decide to go watch because the Changing of the Guard isn't actually done every day. Check out the days and times you can watch here. If there are any schedule changes, they post online and on the Buckingham Palace social media accounts. Try to get there early to get a good spot, but be aware that it will be very crowded as it's undoubtedly one of the most popular tourist attractions to see. Even if you're not able to get there for the actual ceremony, you will still see a handful of guards outside the palace, which is pretty cool in and of itself.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
FREE
Hours
11:00 on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
Cancellations
The ceremony can be cancelled due to wet conditions as late as 10:45, in which case websites won't be updated in time to inform people already en route or at the Palace
On the Tube
Walking distance from Victoria, Green Park, St. James's Park, though the most pleasant walk is from Green Park

WATCH THE CHANGING OF THE QUEEN'S LIFE GUARD

If horses are more your style, watch the Changing of the Queen's Life Guard at Whitehall instead! I had no idea this even happened, but when I was telling my sister to try to visit the Royal Mews while she's here (see below), she said my step mom had found out about this ceremony and they were going to try to go to that instead. Make sure to check the dates here as sometimes the ceremony is cancelled due to scheduling conflicts. So what exactly is it? 

The Queen's Life Guard, mounted on immaculately groomed horses with breastplates shinning in the sun, present a stirring sight as they ride through the streets of London to Change the Guard on Horse Guards Parade. The Queen's Life Guard is normally provided by men of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment which consists of a Squadron of The Life Guards, who wear red tunics and white plumed helmets, and a Squadron of The Blues and Royals with blue tunics and red plumed helmets.

If you can't make the morning ceremony, catch the afternoon parade: The Four O'Clock Parade, also known as the Dismounting Ceremony takes place at 16:00 hours in the courtyard within the Horse Guards building. The guards are inspected by an Officer and then the mounted guards take the horses back to the stables for the night. Two dismounted sentries will then guard the entrance until 20:00 when the gates to Horse Guards are closed and then one sentry will remain on duty until 7:00 when the gates re-open. The Four O'Clock Parade started in 1894 when Queen Victoria found the entire guard drinking and gambling while on duty. As a punishment, she said they had to be inspected every day at 16:00 by an officer for the next 100 years! The 100 years finished in 1994. However, the reigning Queen wanted the parade to continue as a tradition.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
FREE
Hours
11:00 on weekdays, 10:00 on Sundays
16:00 for the parade
Cancellations
The ceremony can be cancelled due to wet conditions as late as 10:45, in which case websites won't be updated in time to inform people already en route or at the Palace
On the Tube
Take the Bakerloo or Northern lines to Charing Cross (5 minute walk) or Bakerloo, Northern, Circle, or District lines to Embankment (10 minute walk)

VISIT THE ROYAL MEWS

I had no idea this existed, but if you're a horse lover, you have to go! I visited with a friend back in the autumn and enjoyed it so much. They give you an audio tour to guide yourself through the exhibits. You'll see carriages you've seen on TV that royals have ridden in for some of the most important moments of their lives, including the magnificent Gold State Coach used for coronations, as well as the Queen's cars. It's also where they keep all the royal horses and everyone who lives on the grounds (on the second story) works there caring for the horses, cars, and carriages. If your lucky, you might even catch them exercising the horses in Hyde Park. Allow for at least an hour inside, even longer if you generally go through exhibits and museums more slowly.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£11.00 for adults and £6.40 for children (5-16) online and at the gate
Note: If you have your ticket validated before you leave, it becomes a 1 year pass
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts, and student or senior (60+) discounts with ID
Hours
10:00-17:00 April-October
10:00-16:00 February-March, November
Last Admission
16:15 October-March
15:15 February-March, November
On the Tube
Walking distance from Victoria, Green Park, St. James's Park, and Hyde Park Corner

VISIT THE CHURCHILL WAR ROOMS

After Dunkirk and Darkest Hour both coming out in 2017, I figured there may be some added interest in visiting the Churchill War Rooms: History was made in Churchill War Rooms - an underground bunker that allowed Britain's leaders to plot the allied route to victory during the Second World War. Walk the labyrinth of rooms and corridors that stretch below Westminster that sheltered Winston Churchill and his war cabinet from the German bombing raids, and explore the Churchill museum to learn the story of his life and legacy. Plan on spending at least 90 minutes there, but some people easily spend at least half a day there.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£18.90 for adults and £9.45 for children (5-15) online
£21.00 for adults and £10.50 for children on the day
Discounts
Yes, they offer disabled or family discounts, and student (16+) and senior (60+) discounts with ID
Hours
9:30-18:00
On the Tube
Take the Circle or District lines to Westminster

 @catching_the_sunrise

@catching_the_sunrise

 @heyitsvalerie_

@heyitsvalerie_

SEE WESTMINSTER ABBEY

Who among us didn't set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to watch William and Kate get married at Westminster Abbey? I definitely did! (Side note: Harry and Meghan are not getting married at Westminster Abbey. They're getting married outside of London in Windsor.) I've been outside a couple of times, but I've never gotten there at the right time to go in. So my best advice is to plan ahead if you want to go inside. You can also attend services there, as they are free and open to all, so check online for service times.

According to WikipediaWestminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom's most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar"—a church responsible directly to the sovereign. According to a tradition first reported by Sulcard in about 1080, a church was founded at the site (then known as Thorn Ey (Thorn Island)) in the seventh century, at the time of Mellitus, a Bishop of London. Construction of the present church began in 1245, on the orders of King Henry III. Since the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066, all coronations of English and British monarchs have been in Westminster Abbey. There have been at least 16 royal weddings at the abbey since 1100. Two were of reigning monarchs (Henry I and Richard II), although, before 1919, there had been none for some 500 years.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£20.00 for adults and £9.00 for children (6-16) online
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts, and student (17+) or senior (60+) discounts with ID
Hours
9:30-16:30 (weekdays), 9:00-14:00 (Saturdays)
Last Admission
15:30 (weekdays), 13:00 (Saturdays
On the Tube
Take the Circle or District lines to Westminster

 @jacob

@jacob

 @2ndfloorguy

@2ndfloorguy

SEE BIG BEN & PARLIAMENT

Look, I'll be straight with you right now. You're going to be disappointed with Big Ben if you try to see it in the next three years. Big Ben is currently undergoing a £60 million refurbishment, which includes being covered in scaffolding, though it will come down from the top as the work progresses. Unfortunately, this also means the clock is silent except for when marking major events like New Years or Remembrance Day. However, Parliament is still a sight to behold and the clock face will only be covered when work is being done on the glass, so you'll likely still see the face (if that's any consolation). So I still recommend it as it's central to so many iconic London sites. If you're interested in touring Parliament, check out the various tours they offer here. Unless you have a lot of time to spare or are incredibly interested in British politics, I think walking around the outside of the building is a great experience alone.

WHAT TO KNOW
On the Tube
Take the Circle or District lines to Westminster

 @tmnikonian

@tmnikonian

 @antbuchet

@antbuchet

RIDE THE LONDON EYE

For me, this is kind of a one and done thing. If you're into that kind of thing, I do recommend doing it once, but it's not something you'll likely want to do every time you're in London. I rode the London Eye the first time I visited London and we hit the jackpot. We went after dinner and managed to catch the best part of the sunset on a clear night while we were spinning around above the city. We could see what seemed like the edges of the city and got to see all the landmarks below light up as we began our descent. It was absolutely breathtaking. The London Eye sits between the River Thames and County Hall. At the time of its opening in 2000, it was the world's tallest Ferris wheel, but it has seen been surpassed by two others, making it the third tallest, currently. The wheel itself is incredibly picturesque, but definitely take a ride if you're interested in incredible 360 views of the most iconic landmarks in the city. Check out their website for more information about all the attractions available, including fast pass tickets and bundles with other attractions.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£24.30 for adults and £19.80 for children (3-15) online
£27.00 for adults and £22.00 for children at the gate
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts
Hours
10:00-20:30 June-August (times may vary day-to-day)
11:00-18:00 September-May (times may vary day-to-day)
On the Tube
Take the Circle or District lines to Westminster

CATCH A SHOW

When in a big city, catch a show, right? I have yet to see a show in London (or NYC, for that matter), but I do love going to the theatre and I went at least once a year in Denver, I think. Luke has entered a few lotteries and was able to purchase day-of tickets to a few shows, including Book of Mormon more than once. Every day I can, I enter the Hamilton lottery, which just opened in London and every Friday, Luke and I both enter the Harry Potter lottery. So far, no luck, which is usually okay considering it would mean dropping everything and taking a last minute day off to go down to London for the show. Be sure to check out what's showing while you're in town. There are probably a few ways to get tickets, like London Box Office, but also do some research to see if you can score cheaper tickets through lotteries (if you're willing to risk it).

EXPLORE THE NATIONAL GALLERY

I haven't been to the National Gallery myself, but this was one thing that was recommended by a number of people I surveyed. According to WikipediaThe National Gallery is an art museum in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, in Central London. Founded in 1824, it houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. The Gallery is an exempt charity, and a non-departmental public body of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Its collection belongs to the government on behalf of the British public, and entry to the main collection is free of charge. It is among the most visited art museums in the world, after the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Unlike comparable museums in continental Europe, the National Gallery was not formed by nationalising an existing royal or princely art collection. It came into being when the British government bought 38 paintings from the heirs of John Julius Angerstein, an insurance broker and patron of the arts, in 1824. After that initial purchase the Gallery was shaped mainly by its early directors, notably Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, and by private donations, which comprise two-thirds of the collection. The resulting collection is small in size, compared with many European national galleries, but encyclopaedic in scope; most major developments in Western painting "from Giotto to Cézanne" are represented with important works. It used to be claimed that this was one of the few national galleries that had all its works on permanent exhibition, but this is no longer the case. Check out their site to see what's on and to book tickets.

WHAT TO KNOW
Hours
10:00-18:00 (daily), 10:00-21:00 (Friday)
On the Tube
Take the Northern or Bakerloo lines to Charing Cross or the Northern or Piccadilly lines to Leicester Square

GET SOME FRESH AIR AT TRAFALGAR SQUARE

The National Gallery sits on the edge of Trafalgar Square, so while you're there check out the most famous square in town. According to WikipediaTrafalgar Square is a public square in the City of Westminster, Central London, built around the area formerly known as Charing Cross. Its name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory in the Napoleonic Wars with France and Spain that took place on 21 October 1805 off the coast of Cape Trafalgar, Spain. The site of Trafalgar Square had been a significant landmark since the 13th century and originally contained the King's Mews. After George IV moved the mews to Buckingham Palace, the area was redeveloped by John Nash, but progress was slow after his death, and the square did not open until 1844. The 169-foot (52 m) Nelson's Column at its centre is guarded by four lion statues. A number of commemorative statues and sculptures occupy the square, but the Fourth Plinth, left empty since 1840, has been host to contemporary art since 1999. The square has been used for community gatherings and political demonstrations, including Bloody Sunday, the first Aldermaston March, anti-war protests, and campaigns against climate change. A Christmas tree has been donated to the square by Norway since 1947 and is erected for twelve days before and after Christmas Day. The square is a centre of annual celebrations on New Year's Eve. It was well known for its feral pigeons until their removals in the early 21st century.

 @tmnikonian

@tmnikonian

 @glacdao

@glacdao

SEE ST. PAUL'S CATHEDRAL

For some reason, unbeknownst to me, St. Paul's Cathedral just hasn't been on my London radar in the past. But after doing some research and looking at some photos, it's definitely a must for my next trip! According to WikipediaSt Paul's Cathedral, London, is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London and is a Grade I listed building. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren's lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognisable sights of London. Its dome, framed by the spires of Wren's City churches, has dominated the skyline for over 300 years. At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967. The dome is among the highest in the world. St Paul's is the second-largest church building in area in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral. St Paul's Cathedral occupies a significant place in the national identity. It is the central subject of much promotional material, as well as of images of the dome surrounded by the smoke and fire of the Blitz. Services held at St Paul's have included the funerals of Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher; jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria; peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars; the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer; the launch of the Festival of Britain; and the thanksgiving services for the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees and the 80th and 90th birthdays of Elizabeth II. St Paul's Cathedral is a working church with hourly prayer and daily services. Worshippers do not need to pay for entry. Please note large bags are not permitted into the cathedral.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£16 for adults and £7.00 for children (6-17) online
£18 for adults and £8.00 for children at the door
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts, and student (16+) or senior (60+) discounts with ID
Hours
8:30-16:30
Last Admission
16:15
On the Tube
Take the Central line to St. Paul's (2 minute walk), Circle or District lines to Mansion House or Black Friars (5 minute walk), or Central, Northern, Waterloo, and City lines to Bank (7 minute walk)

TAKE IN THE VIEWS FROM THE SKY GARDEN

I never even knew this existed until my friend recommended it when I was surveying for London recommendations. He said it's a great way to see London from the sky that's not the Shard (or the Eye). The Sky Garden is a unique public space that boasts two destination bars and two beautiful restaurants, spanning three storeys and offering 360-degree views across London. Online, you can book a table to relax and enjoy the views over delicious food or a drink, or you can book a free visit just to see the garden and the sprawling city below. The website also tells you the sunset and the sunrise times for the day, if you want to make your visit extra special.

VISIT THE TOWER OF LONDON

If you're into British history, like me, you'll love it. I had been watching The Tudors just before I finally visited the Tower of London with my mom in October, so it was even more incredible having just brushed up on some of the most infamous history that took place inside those walls. The Tower of London is located along the banks of the River Thames. (Bonus points for pronouncing it "TEMZ" to hide the fact that you're a tourist.) According to WikipediaIt was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionheart, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site. The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times, and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. From the early 14th century until the reign of Charles II, a procession would be led from the Tower to Westminster Abbey on the coronation of a monarch. In the absence of the monarch, the Constable of the Tower is in charge of the castle. This was a powerful and trusted position in the medieval period. In the late 15th century, the castle was the prison of the Princes in the Tower. Under the Tudors, the Tower became used less as a royal residence, and despite attempts to refortify and repair the castle, its defences lagged behind developments to deal with artillery.

Plan to spend at least a few hours there; you may even feel rushed with only two hours, as there is so much to see. I highly recommend doing a free beefeater tour once you're inside. They meet right near the entrance and expertly guide you through the beginning of the tower. You go through the Crown Jewels and the armoury on your own or with a guidebook or audio guide purchased online or at the gate.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£21.50 for adults and £9.70 for children (5-15) online
£24.80 for adults and £11.50 for children at the gate
Note: Your ticket is not for a specific time, but is for a specific date
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts, and student (16+) or senior (60+) discounts with ID
Hours
9:00-17:30 (10:00 on Sunday & Monday) March-October
9:00-16:30 (10:00 on Sunday & Monday) November-February
Last Admission
17:00 March-October
16:00 November-February
On the Tube
Take the Circle or District lines to Tower Hill 

 @patrickcolpron

@patrickcolpron

 @jetaime.07

@jetaime.07

WALK ACROSS TOWER BRIDGE

It's often mistaken for London Bridge, but London's most famous bridge is in fact Tower Bridge, located right next to the Tower of London. The bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 and underwent a "facelift" from 2008 to 2012 to keep up on superficial maintenance and underwent renovations in 2016 to keep up on structural maintenance. During the 2012 Summer Olympics, a set of Olympic rings hung from the bridge.

While I've never walked across the bridge myself, it's certainly on my list of things to do in London one day and I've got to admire it almost every time I've been in London. Walking through the glass walk way, though, is not for the faint of heart. If you're afraid of heights, this might not be the activity for you.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£8.70 for adults and £3.80 for children (5-15) online
£9.80 for adults and £4.20 for children at the gate
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts, and student (16+) or senior (60+) discounts with ID
Hours
10:00-17:30 April-September
9:30-17:00 October-March
Last Admission
17:30 April-September
17:00 October-March
On the Tube
Take the Circle or District lines to Tower Hill to the north side, take the Northern or Jubilee lines to London Bridge to the south side, with a short walk to Tower Bridge

 @sonchicc

@sonchicc

 @philipp_pley

@philipp_pley

TAKE IN THE VIEWS FROM THE SHARD

Situated at the top of Western Europe's tallest building, The View from The Shard is a premium visitor attraction with spectacular panoramic views of the city stretching for up to 40 miles. It’s the perfect first stop for all visitors to London and a must do for those living in the capital – you’ll experience the entire city like never before. The Shard is probably the most famous stationary way to see the London Skyline, but it's not for the faint of heart and will cost you a pretty penny. However, if you love getting up high and seeing a city from above the clouds, this is for you. With your ticket, you get: 

  • Access to the indoor viewing gallery and the open air Skydeck on Level 72 where you’ll be exposed to the elements and the sounds of the city below.

  • Access to London’s highest Champagne experience and Sky Boutique.

  • London Landmark Guarantee – you’ll be walking on air amongst the clouds, but if they spoil your view, you can return for free! *Terms apply

  • Our friendly Guest Ambassadors will bring the view to life with their in depth knowledge of London’s skyline.

  • Drinks and snacks available to purchase throughout the attraction.

  • No time limit in the attraction.

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£20.95 for adults and £14.95 for children (4-15) online in advance
£30.95 for adults and £24.20 for children on the day
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts
10:00-21:00
On the Tube
Take the Northern or Jubilee lines to London Bridge

EXPLORE BOROUGH MARKET

From what I know, Borough Market and Camden Market are two of the biggest markets in London. The later isn't quite my cup of tea. While it has great building facades, it's also full of touristy trinkets and overpriced souvenirs. When I was there, it was so packed you were shoulder-to-shoulder with everyone around you and it actually induced what was probably my first anxiety attack. Google it though and see if you want to check it out, you might catch it on a quieter day. However, I would say your time is better spent at Borough Market. According to their siteBorough Market has existed in one form or another for around 1,000 years. Its precise start date is impossible to pin down: there was no official opening, no ribbon-cutting ceremony, not even a brief mention in a chronicle. The best date available, and the one used as the basis for the Market’s millennium celebration, is 1014. Borough, then as now, was a place defined by its position at one end of London Bridge—for centuries, the only route across the river into the capital. It is likely that London’s first post-Roman bridge was constructed here in the mid-990s, partly to bolster the city’s defences against Viking raiders who routinely sailed up the Thames to kick seven shades of wattle and daub out of the locals.

WHAT TO KNOW
Hours
10:00-17:00 (Monday-Thursday), 10:00-18:00 (Friday), 8:00-17:00 (Saturday)
On the Tube
Take the Northern or Jubilee lines to London Bridge

SEE SHAKESPEARE'S GLOBE THEATRE

This another thing I'm dying to do, but haven't gotten around to yet. Everyone has studied Shakespeare and we all know his plays were performed at the Globe Theatre. Visiting this place would absolutely be like travelling back in time. According to WikipediaThe Globe Theatre was a theatre in London associated with William Shakespeare. It was built in 1599 by Shakespeare's playing company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, on land owned by Thomas Brend and inherited by his son, Nicholas Brend and grandson Sir Matthew Brend, and was destroyed by fire on 29 June 1613. A second Globe Theatre was built on the same site by June 1614 and closed by an Ordinance issued on 6 September 1642. A modern reconstruction of the Globe, named "Shakespeare's Globe", opened in 1997 approximately 750 feet (230 m) from the site of the original theatre. From 1909, the current Gielgud Theatre was called "Globe Theatre", until it was renamed (in honour of John Gielgud) in 1994. It's now the only building in London to have a thatched roof. And yes, you can still see plays there!

WHAT TO KNOW
Cost
£15.00 for adults and £8.00 for children (5-15) online
£17.00 for adults and £10.00 for children at the door
Discounts
Yes, they offer family discounts at the door, and student (16+) or senior (60+) discounts with ID online or at the door
Hours
9:00-17:00, tours depart every 30 minutes
On the Tube
Take the District or Circle Lines to Blackfriars (10 minute walk), the District or Circle Lines to Mansion House (10 minute walk), the Northern and Jubilee Lines to London Bridge (15 minute walk), or the Central line to St. Paul's (15 minute walk)


 Illustration by Sarah Gooch

Illustration by Sarah Gooch

What's your can't miss London spot that I didn't include on the list?

I had some trouble embedding Instagram posts directly, so instead I've added them as images, making them clickable to the original source. You can also see the Instagrammer who posted the photo if you hover your cursor over the image, even if it's from my account. Other images were found through Google. You can find the artist's name on illustrations when you hover your cursor over the image.

Follow