London is a vibrant city that’s a must-see on any European adventure. Filled with museums, it’s perfect for any history buff, while the city’s restaurant scene means that it’s a must-visit for the foodies out there. Basically, there’s something for anyone (and everyone) to enjoy! Here’s your ultimate London Bucket List: everything you must do, see visit, and eat on a visit to the city.
Now, I may well be biased because I lived on-and-off in the city for five years! But then again, where else can follow in the footsteps of great writers like Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare? And in which other cities can you enjoy breakfast with cityscape views, followed by a morning of street art, an afternoon of British tea time to rival that of royalty, Harry Potter sightseeing, and an evening of incredible cocktails?
#1 See The Elizabeth Tower (where Big Ben is Housed)
No trip to London would be complete without at least a quick glimpse of the world-famous Elizabeth Tower! Many mistakenly believe that the tower is called ‘Big Ben,’ but it’s actually the bell housed within that has that nickname…
#2 Admire Buckingham Palace
Best visited on a sunny day when the sky is blue and the birds are out, Buckingham Palace is the official inner London Royal Residence of the British Monarchy.
#3 Visit Westminster Abbey
The most famous ecclesiastical building in the UK is the impressive structure of Westminster Abbey. First founded in the 11th-century, it’s seen plenty of historical events over the years, including the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.
#4 Wander around the British Museum
Free to visit and best-known for its Egyptian Mummies, the British Museum holds treasures from all over the world. Highlights of the British Museum include the Rosetta stone and the Sutton Hoo Mask.
#5 Go on the London Eye (or at least see it)
The Grand wheel of the London Eye is as iconic to the London Skyline as the houses of parliament. One spin of the wheel will set you back a pretty penny, but the half-hour-long long ride and fantastic views over the city may well be worth the money!
#6 Enjoy a pint at the Sherlock Holmes
The UK is known for its quaint little pubs, and London is no exception! Follow in the footsteps of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes all the way to a pub of the same name to find a traditional pub and roof garden.
#7 Go up the Monument to the Great Fire of London
If you want to see one of the best views the city has to offer, then head to the Monument to the Great Fire of London. Built in the 17th-century, climb the 300+ spiralling steps to be rewarded with 360-degree views over the City of London.
#8 Enjoy a performance at the Globe Theatre
Sadly, the original Globe Theatre burned down during the great Fire of London. Luckily for us, there’s a near-perfect reconstruction by the Thames, and once there, there’s always a Shakespeare performance to be enjoyed!
#9 Follow Harry Potter to Platform 9 & 3/4
Throughout the UK capital, you’ll find that there’s oodles of Harry Potter inspiration, just waiting to be uncovered. And in King’s Cross Station, there’s a stage set 9 & 3/4 platform, as well as a gift-store nearby selling all manner of wizarding memorabilia.
#10 Enjoy a Coffee at Peggy Porschen
In the past couple of years, coffee culture has well and truly arrived in London. Now, you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds of artisanal cafés, including that of Peggy Porschen. Pretty is pastel pink, it’s well worth a venture into Belgravia for the quaint cupcakes and speciality coffees!
#11 Relax at St Dunstan’s in the East
The green oasis which can be found at St-Dunstan’s-in-the-East is the result of the Blitz destroying most of the Sir Christopher Wren church during WWII. Following the war, the decision was taken to transform the shell of the ecclesiastical building into a public space, thus creating the garden you’ll find today.
#12 Drink a James Bond Cocktail
Yes, it’s really possible to sip on the ‘shaken not stirred’ real-life cocktails that inspired James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, to make the Martini 007’s drink of choice! Head to Dukes Bar for the chance to sip on the original beverage itself…
#13 Visit the Sky Garden
The highest green space in the Big Smoke doubles up as a bar, meeting point with friends, restaurant, and great place to spend a rainy day. Located in the Walkie Talkie building, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a coffee while admiring breathtaking views over the city skyline. Just bear in mind that you’ll have to book your free ticketed entrance passes in advance!
#14 Eat at Camden Market
Hip, trendy, and cool, Camden is the go-to place for students and artists alike. When I lived in London, I used to reside in Camden, and so I’ll always have a soft spot for the vibrant London district! And every weekend, Camden Market is home to some of the best street food in London. Whatever you enjoy eating, you’ll likely find it next to the Lock!
#15 Shop at Portobello Road Market
Alleged to be the largest antique market of its kind in the world, the weekend-ly open-air stalls of Portobello Market are well worth a peruse around. After all, from sporting goods to vintage cameras, you never know what you might find next. Plus, it’s located in the ever colourful Notting Hill area of the city, so bring your camera along!
#16 See a show on the West End
Not far from Covent Garden, London’s theatre district is full of world-class plays, performances, ballets, and musicals year ’round. From firm favourites like Les Miserables to more recent additions such as ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,’ if you love watching live performances, then a visit to the theatre is a must-see London Bucket List attractions!
#17 Visit a Mews Street
Dotted all around London, Mews Streets were once where the horses were housed back when the city ran on horsepower. Today, almost all Mews Houses (typically two storeys high) have been converted into some of the most exclusive real estate in the city. Meander along the prettiest mews streets of London for an escape from city life!
#18 Have a picnic in Hyde Park
London is well known for its expansive green spaces and Hyde Park is one of the best the city has to offer. The Grade I listed park is the largest of the four royal parks. Best seen during the summer months when it’s possible to hire a boat on Serpentine Lake, Hyde Park is also a wonderful space to wander around when fall arrives and the leaves transform into beautiful shades of copper.
#19 Walk across Tower Bridge
The feat of engineering that is Tower Bridge makes it one of the most beautiful landmarks in London. Spanning the River Thames, it’s also possible to enter Tower Bridge for a small fee, and enjoy learning about the city’s history, as well as spotting some iconic landmark from the bridge’s summit.
#20 Visit Leadenhall Market
Featured in many films, including those of the Harry Potter franchise, Leadenhall Market is a beautiful Victorian covered alleyway dating back over a hundred years. If you want to visit the shops, then go during the week, while if you want to capture the place empty, your best bet is to head to Leadenhall during the weekend!
#21 Discover London’s Roman roots
During Roman times, London was based around what is now the city of London and was known as ‘Londinium’. As a result, it’s possible to see traces of the ancient civilization dotted throughout the city, and not just in museums like the British Museum! Instead, you can retrace the city’s Roman Roots in its Billingsgate Bathhouses, or marvel at the ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre in London’s Guildhall.
#22 Make biscuits at Biscuiteers
Just a short walk away from the iconic Portobello Road, Biscuiteers is a coffee shop, gift store, and bakery school dedicated to all things biscuit related. If you’re a sweet tooth or know someone who is, then you simply must go!
#23 Check out the smallest Police Station in Britain in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is best-known for its centrepiece known as ‘Nelson’s Column’ and which is guarded by four lions. The public space is also home to the National Gallery, which is free to visit and contains some of the country’s greatest masterpieces within its collections.
#24 Indulge in a fancy afternoon tea
You can’t visit London as a tourist and not check out one of the many afternoon teas on offer. Whether you want to head to a fancy hotel for your sandwiches, or you prefer to sip on your tea from the comfort of a converted doubled red decker bus, London has you covered in the sumptuous afternoon tea department!
#25 Shop in Covent Garden
Covent Garden is an area of the city filled with quaint eateries and independent boutiques selling all manner of wares. For some extra pretty views, head to the covered Apple Market of Covent Garden to find an Instagram friendly photo spot, and some forty or so stores.
#26 Hop on a double-decker bus
The iconic red London buses are not only a tourist attraction but how you actually get around the capital! Cheaper than the tube, and often quicker if you want to hop between two out-of-the-way attractions, no visit to London would be complete without a bus journey or two.
#27 Visit Abbey Road
If only to snap that iconic photo! Just like the Beatles. Enough said.
#28 Wander across Millenium Bridge
The iconic Millennium Bridge was opened to celebrate the year 2000 and connects the likes of the Tate Modern to the older parts of the city encompassing must-see attractions such as St Paul’s Cathedral. If you want to also visit the Cathedral, then I highly recommend purchasing your ticket in advance and buying a fast-track entrance ticket. Featured in the Harry Potter films, this pedestrianised foot bridge offers a unique look at the Thames.
#29 Take a trip to the Harry Potter studios
Just a little way out of London, the Harry Potter studios is where much of the magic to make the films happened (literally!) Enjoy a butterbeer (though I’m told they’re not to everyone’s taste!), see some of your favourite character’s wands, or simply marvel at the Great Hall.
#30 Go on a self-guided walking tour
London is a city best seen on foot, especially so if you want to discover the city at a more local level and see many of the sights often obscured from view when taking public transport. Fancy doing a self-guided tour for yourself? Check out my walking tour of London, as told by a local!
#31 Search for treasure along London’s Foreshore
Over three millennia worth of human habitation means that much of London’s waste has ended up straight in the River Thames. But then again, you know what they say: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Apart from, in this case, it’s actually true! Go ‘mudlarking’ along the Thames Foreshore and you’ll likely find old coins, vintage buckles, and all sorts of other things. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to purchase a permit if you want to peruse the shores!
#32 Take a day trip to the countryside
Oxford, the Cotswolds, and the White Cliffs of Dover are all easy to reach from London via public transport. So, if you want to leave the hustle and bustle of the city for a day, then you can explore the countryside, sea the see (the UK is a set of islands, after all!), or explore the famous university city all rather easily.
#33 Shop at Oxford Street
The UK’s most famous shopping street can be found in the form of Oxford Street. Together with Regent’s Street, the two iconic roads comprise of the best shopping to be found anywhere in the UK!
#34 Admire art at the V&A
Located in South Kensington, the Victoria and Albert Museum is dedicated to all things design, art, and fashion related. Free to visit (with the exception of special exhibitions), it’s best visited earlier in the day when tourist numbers are at their fewest and you’ll really get a chance to get up close and personal with the artworks on display.
#35 Stop by Neal’s Yard
The colourful and once secret courtyard of Neal’s Yard has since become an Instagrammer’s paradise. Situated in the very heart of the Seven-dials, this vibrant and a little-cramped space is home to world-famous Neal’s Yard Remedies, as well as several bars and cafés.
#36 Snap photos of Little Venice
The prettiest waterways to be found anywhere in the UK capital are those of Little Venice, a neighbourhood characterised by its mirror-like canals and picturesque houseboats. Warwick Avenue’s Tube station is just a five-minute walk away and you certainly won’t regret a small stroll along the water’s edge.
#37 Go ice skating at Somerset House
One of the very best Christmas activities in London is to go ice skating at Somerset House. The activity even featured in the film ‘Love Actually’ and is an incredibly romantic date idea if you’re visiting London with your beau during the festive season…
#38 Shop at Liberty London
Set up in a mock Tudor building (which was actually built during the 1920s!), Liberty London is best-known for its arts and crafts stock, as well as its fabulous interiors. Well decked in boughs and holly come the festive season, it’s a great place to (window) shop.
#39 Learn about dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum
Best seen earlier in the day and midweek (if possible) you can’t tick off London bucket list locations and not see the Natural History Museum. Included in the collections, you’ll find iconic dinosaurs (as well as rare species), and all kinds of crystals, rocks, as well as plenty of exhibitions on earth science.
#40 Enjoy the cocktails at the One Aldwych
Said (by yours truly) to have some of the very best cocktails in London, if you’re a lover of artisanal drinks, then you simply must enjoy a beverage at the One Aldwych, a luxury hotel in central London. While at this top bar, make sure to check out the quirky and fun show-inspired cocktails!
#41 Run in Regent’s Park
One of London’s largest green spaces, Regent’s Park is Grade I listed and was founded in 1835, initially for just two days a week. Today, it’s open to locals and visitors alike, seven days a week. In the springtime, it’s a great place to spot cherry blossoms, while in the summer Regent’s Park makes for the perfect picnic spot. When I was a student in London, we used to revise in the park during exam season…
#42 Spot deer in Richmond Park
The iconic deer park in Richmond is located on the fringes of central London and has been a deer park since the 17th-century. Today, it’s open to the public and houses well over 600 Red and Fallow deer, who are free to graze and roam around the green landscape.
#43 Drink champagne at the top of the Shard
The tallest building in London is located just south of the Thames. Pay the pricey entry fee, and you’ll be whisked all the way to the top via two elevators. The two viewing platforms at the top of the Shard offer stunning views over the city, and while there you can even sip on some champagne!
#44 Visit the Sir John Soane Museum
Located at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, one of the quirkiest London museums is that of Sir John Soane, an architect who lived in the UK capital during the 19th-century. Absolutely bursting with priceless artefacts, the museum really is a sight to see and I don’t want to spoil the surprise by telling you too much more. Of all the London Bucket List attractions in this article, the museum may well be my favourite. Then again, I used to volunteer there…
#45 Visit Piccadilly Circus at night
Best seen after the sun has set and the lights of Piccadilly Circus illuminate the night’s sky, this area of the city makes for the perfect introduction to tourist hotspots like Leicester Square.
#46 Hunt for street art in Shoreditch
The trendy and hip neighbourhood of Shoreditch is the perfect place to head to if you love street art. The walls in this district are covered in cool murals including works by STIK and even some Banksy. While there, don’t miss the vibrant nightlife or great coffee culture.
#47 Learn some history in the Tower of London
Home to the Crown Jewels and the scene of some pretty major historical events over the years, one of the very best things to do in London is to tour the Tower of London, which was once a former prison. Constructed as early as the 11th-century, it’s since played an important role in British history.
#48 Hike up Primrose Hill
One of the very best (and incredibly free) views of London can be found at the top of Primrose Hill in Regent’s Park. At 213 feet high, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a picnic on a warm summer’s day and admire the cityscape of London stretching out into the distance.
#49 Shop for flowers at Columbia Road Flower Market
Every Sunday, the Columbia Road Flower Market is held in North London. It’s the perfect place to go if you love all things flower-related and it’s easy to pick up a bouquet or two of flowers (or even an orchid) for a very reasonable price.
#50 Relax in Temple
To the North of the Thames, Temple is a quiet complex formed of secluded gardens and ancient buildings. There, it’s possible to get away from the hustle and bustle of busy city life in the shade of a centuries-old tree, or wander around Temple Church, an ecclesiastical building constructed by the Knights Templar and founded as early as the 12th-century.
#51 (Window) Shop at Harrods
The luxurious department store Harrods is located along Brompton Road and sells all sorts of luxurious goods. From accessories to clothing, to homeware: Harrods has it all. While there, make sure to check out the delectable food emporiums- you won’t regret it!
#52 Visit Benjamin Franklin’s House
The only surviving residence of famous American Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States can be found on Craven Street. The terraced Georgian house can be visited for a small fee and is open from Wednesday through to Monday.
#53 Smell the roses at Kew Gardens
For horticultural lovers, Kew Gardens is an absolute must-see on any trip to London. Located in South London, the botanical space is home to some 8.5 million items and is self-proclaimed to be the “largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world.”
#54 Learn about WWII in the Churchill War Rooms
For those interested in WWII history, the Churchill War Rooms probably need no introduction. For everyone else, the maze of bunkers was where British and other Allied leaders mapped out their route to victory in World War Two. Today, it’s possible to visit the bunkers and maze of tunnels that surround them for a small fee.
#55 Hail a London Cab
If only to say you’ve finally made it as a Londoner!
#56 Snap a photo of a red phone box
While most red telephone boxes have now been transformed into ATM machines and deliberators, there’s no mistaking their iconic look. Make sure to snap a photo of a telephone box. After all, if you don’t, then can you say you’ve been to London? (ha!)
#57 Tour the Tate Modern
Free to enter (with the exception of special exhibitions), the Tate Modern offers the chance to see many of the great modern artworks of our time in person. Highlights of the Tate Modern include the Marilyn Diptych by Andy Warhol, and several works by Pablo Picasso.
#58 Learn about Science in the Science Museum
Located along Exhibition Row, the Science Museum is free to visit (like all the major museums in the area, and indeed across London) and was founded in 1857. Today, its interactive displays and informative exhibitions make learning fun for all ages!
#59 Shop in Fortnum and Mason
Adorably quaint with its self-titled ‘Eau de Nil’ coloured façade (a shade which is similar to duck egg blue), Fortnum and Mason is a must visit for any sweet tooth. Filled with all things tea and homeware related, what really draws in the crowds are the delectable sweets on offer in the Department Store’s ground floor emporium.
#60 Visit Old Barnes Cemetery
The largely abandoned cemetery of Old Barnes is one of the few urbex sites left in central London. The disused graveyard is slowly being reclaimed by nature and is an eerily haunting place to stroll through. Nearby Barnes is a pretty district of London which feels like a town in its own right.
#61 Shop at Spitalfields Market
In prime position, pretty close to Liverpool Street, Old Spitalfields Market is in the East End of the city and comprises of over forty places to eat and drink, as well as twenty-five shops selling all kinds of artisanal products. Open on a daily basis, most stalls are open from 10 AM to 7 PM.
#62 Master using the tube
No, it’s not called the ‘subway.’ Nor is it called the ‘metro.’ If you want to get anywhere quickly (and avoid all the traffic), then the London Underground is your best bet! If you’re spending at least three days in London or more, chances are, you’ll be taking the tube.
#63 Chase time in Greenwich
Greenwich Mean Time is recognised throughout the world and is the solar time of the Greenwich Observatory in London. But did you know that it’s possible to visit the London Meridien timeline? While in Greenwich, make sure to check out the many museums, the Cutty Sark, and the Queen’s House, which is home to the prettiest staircase in London.
#64 Eat fish and chips!
If you’re a fish eater, then you can’t visit London and not try a traditional British specialty: that of fish and chips. To get the most authentic experience, make sure to coat your meal in plenty of salt and vinegar. Head to any supermarket, and you’ll discover that the most popular British flavour for crisps (as known as ‘chips’ to the Americans) is also salt and vinegar!
#65 Shop for books at Daunt Books
Lovers of travel and reading simply must check out the Edwardian interior of Daunt Books, a bookstore specialising specifically in travel tomes. Need I say more?!
#66 Delve deeper into the city’s past at the Museum of London
In the very heart of the City of London, the Museum of London looks at the city’s beginnings from when it was inhabited during the Neolithic period, and right up until the present day. Explore thousands of years worth of history through fun and interactive exhibitions which are great for all ages.
#67 Take a day trip to Paris!
If you’re short on time during your European adventure, then why not hop on the Eurostar and head to Paris? At two hours each way on the train, Paris may not be the quickest of day trips, but it’s always worth a visit if you’re short on time.
#70 Scout out filming locations!
Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Harry Potter, among oodles of others were filmed in London and its surrounds. So, if you’re a movie buff like me, then chances are you’ll want to discover some of these filming locations for yourself. To get you started, I’ve done filming location guides for Love Actually and Notting Hill!
St Luke’s Mews
#71 Visit the ‘fake’ Roman bathhouse of the Strand
In the heart of where you’d least expect, you’ll find an unusual attraction down an often closed-to-the-public side street. But, if you do make it to 5 Strand Lane, then you can expect to find a fake Roman bath house, believed during the Victorian era to date back well over two thousand years.
#72 Sip on a beer in the Churchill Arms
Often decorated for the season in oodles of things (including floral pieces during the summer months), the Churchill Arms is one of those iconic London pubs you’ll want to stop and each lunch at, or simply sip an ice cold drink in. I won’t ruin the surprise of how pretty this tavern is, you’ll have to head there for yourself!
#73 Learn about animals in the Grant Museum of Zoology
Part of UCL’s collection of museums, the Grant Museum of Zoology is one of those London Bucket List attractions that’s perfect for any animal lover. The collections date back to the 19th-century and comprise of all kinds of weird and wonderful animals from all over the world.
#74 Go searching for wisteria
At the beginning of May, each and every year, the trailing purple flowers of stunning wisteria can be found throughout the city. Predominantly located along the Mews Streets and small side roads which criss cross their way through South Kensington and Chelsea, if you love photography, then you must go searching for wisteria in London!
#75 Drink cocktails at bar 55!
Just by Camden Lock, where eateries and quirky restaurants are abundant, Bar Fifty Five make what may well be the best (and reasonably priced) sweet cocktails in the city. Personal favourites include the fruit flavoured mojitos, and the deliciously naughty oreo and ice cream concoction.
Where to stay in London
In order to truly make the most of the UK capital, I highly recommend dedicating at least a long weekend in order to really get a feel for the city and start to uncover some of the many hidden gems London has on offer. Although London can be a pricey place to stay, there are a range of options on offer:
Budget accommodation in London
Generator Hostel London: While I’ve never stayed at any of the Generator Hostels myself, my best friend has told me he stays in their dorms frequently and really enjoys the experience! Located in the very heart of the city, the hostel location at Tavistock Place is within easy walking distance of many of the main attractions you’ll likely want to visit (Oxford Street, the British Museum etc).
Astor Hyde Park Hostel: I have stayed in the Astor Hyde Park Hostel on many occasions while visiting the city (so much so that one time when I visited, one of the people on the reception desk actually recognised me from my last stay!) There are a range of different dorms on offer here, including female-only options. The basement is home to a huge kitchen and dining area while the WiFi is pretty speedy!
Mid-range accommodation in London
Point A Hotels: Once known as Tune Hotels, there are now six Point A Hotel locations spread across London (Canary Wharf, Liverpool Street, Paddington, Westminster, Kings Cross, and Shoreditch). Located close to tube stations, the hotels have double or twin options on offer and are a great place to base yourself if you’re in for a weekend of exploring the city.
The Nadler: This four-star hotel is more budget than some of the other options out there thanks to the fact that the Nadler has done away with many of the extras which you probably wouldn’t use anyway. There’s no bar, restaurant, or gym. Instead, there’s great attention to detail and the rooms are clean, comfortable, and friendly.
Luxury accommodation in London
Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard: If you’re truly looking for a luxurious experience, then the Shangri-La in London really has it all. Located within the Shard (which is currently the tallest building in London), this 5-star hotel offers magnificent bird’s eye views onto the River Thames and beyond.
St Pancras Renaissance: This luxury hotel is located minutes away from King’s Cross and St Pancras International, making it a great base from which to explore the rest of the city. Within this luxurious accommodation, you’ll find a pool, fast Wi-Fi and a whole host of other amenities you would expect from a 5-star hotel.
Best Guides and Tours of London
If you’re wanting to delve a little deeper into the history of the city which was once known as Londinium, then I highly recommend taking some tours of the city (even a few self-guided ones) and getting to know the city on a more local level. Here are the best guides and tours of London!
Self-guided tour of the Thames: This free and completely self-guided walking tour of the city was written by yours truly and takes a look at a quirkier side of the city you may not have ever heard of before. From a plank of wood known as the ferryman’s seat to the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Secrets of London Walking Tour: If you prefer your history to be more hands-on and to have a guide with you, then this walking tour explores plenty of aspects of the city. From streets which inspired Harry Potter to a glimpse of what is often said to be the smallest police station in the world, this tour has all that and more.
Harry Potter Walking Tour: For those looking for a fully guided Harry Potter tour of London, this walk covers plenty of wizarding inspiration from the films and books. Between the inspiration for Hogwarts and the street which was used to film the Leakey Cauldron, there will surely be an attraction you enjoy seeing!