The London Bucket List | An Insider’s Guide to 30 Must-Do Experiences
No doubt that London is one of the great metropolises of the world and it never fails to exhilarate, entertain and make an ever-lasting impression. It’s a city in which you’ll never run out of things to do, see and experience. Adventure and new experiences lurk on every corner- all you have to do is give in to wanderlust and go exploring. London has its array of tourist sights to see and bucket list items to tick off. Having said that, however, it’s very easy to get off the tourist trail and live London like a local. In this ultimate London bucket list guide, I’ll discuss all the must-visit places as well as my favourite places of interest in London making sure you have a trip like no other.
What I personally love most about London after living here for 25 years, is its variety; the variety of people you can meet, the food, culture, shopping. It’s a though somebody went to every country in the world and bought back a piece to London. In some way, shape or form almost all cultures are represented here. That being said, however, British history and culture seep through every crevasse of the city and you could spend a week alone just learning about it.
In a city that never sleeps there’s an adventure waiting on every corner and people fall in love with London for its diversity, uniqueness, variety and urban vibes every single day. What are you waiting for? Let’s dive straight into the ultimate London bucket list and all the places you have to see in London.
#1 BIG BEN & HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
Probably the most iconic sight of London and that the top of the London Bucket list. No doubt you’ll pass by or see the emblematic Big Ben at some point during your time in London. The adjacent House of Parliament are worth checking out too, however, entrance is restricted and security is tight. Note that a huge restoration of Big Ben is currently in progress meaning that the entire clock tower is covered in scaffolding. Works are scheduled to last until 2021.
#2 LONDON EYE
The London Eye is another top attraction that’s simply unmissable from the London skyline and snapshot of the River Thames would be completely naked without it. It rotates ever so slowly giving tourists a chance to hop off and on as well as fill their SD cards on the way around. I would personally advise against wasting your money on the London Eye. It’s incredibly expensive, crowded and the queues can be insane. Instead, keep reading for the best places to go for epic views of London.
#3 BUCKINGHAM PALACE
The residence of Her Majesty the Queen in London and one of the most famous palaces in the world. A look through the fence is highly worth it just to admire the neoclassical architecture. Tours of the State Rooms of the Palace are open in the summer months only and can be booked on their website.
#4 CHANGING OF THE GUARD
The Changing of the Guard is one of the most famous royal ceremonies there is in connection with Buckingham Palace. Watch the guards change over as a new one takes his post. Changing of the Guard happens almost every day at 11.00am, but check the Buckingham Palace website for the exact dates and times.
#5 HAVE AN ENGLISH CREAM TEA
There’s nothing more quintessentially English than a cream tea. Cream tea is taken much more seriously than you think and it isn’t simply a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’ll be served a huge pot of tea of choice, including milk and sugar, scones with clotted cream and jam as well as finger sandwiches and an assortment of cakes. Head to The Palm Court at the iconic Ritz Hotel, one of London’s oldest and most glamorous hotels for the most extravagant experience. If you fancy a health-conscious, fully plant-based cream tea experience, head to Farmacy, one of my favourite new London restaurants.
#6 TRAFALGAR SQUARE
Trafalgar Square is one of London’s biggest public squares and was originally built to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Here you’ll also find the memorial of Lord Nelson, his statue can be seen at the top of the Corinthian column which is guarded by the famous four lions. There isn’t much to do here but take a seat by one of the large fountains and admire the stunning architecture at the transport yourself to times bygone.
#7 NOTTING HILL & PORTOBELLO ROAD MARKET
While open any day of the week Saturday is the best time to visit this sprawling market in West London. Browse some of the most unique antiques and shop for something special in the numerous stalls that line the streets of Portabello Road. Antiques don’t tickle your fancy? Don’t worry there are plenty of other stalls in Portobello Road selling all kinds of bric-n-brac. When you’re done, take a walk around the Notting Hill neighbourhood to see all the now Insta-famous colourful houses.
#8 BRITISH MUSEUM
Witness the power and breadth of the British Empire in its time. The name is a little ironic really as this museum houses all the art and artefacts that originally came from abroad. Highlights include the world-famous Rosetta Stone, Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture as well as some the most well-preserved Ancient Egyptian mummies in the world.
#9 TOWER OF LONDON
The Tower of London is one of the most famous prisons in the world. It was built in 1078 and used as a prison for 850 years. However, it has also been home to the Royal Mint, the Treasury, and armoury and of course the famous Crown Jewels of England. Take a tour to learn about its gruesome history and the tales and fables of the Crown Jewels.
#10 TOWER BRIDGE
Adjacent to the Tower of London is the iconic Tower Bridge. (It’s often mistakenly called London Bridge, but London Bridge is further upriver and really not very exciting). Marvel at this great feat of suspension bridge engineering and design and don’t forget to visit inside the Towers, the Victorian Engine room at the upper walkways that connect the towers together.
#11 SHAKESPEARE’S GLOBE THEATRE
The Globe was first built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company however the original building burned to the ground during an accidental fire in 1613. Rather than reconstructing it, a new one was built adjacent and since then has been a space dedicated to Shakespeare’s plays. You can purchase a standing ticket and enjoy an authentic Shakespeare production for just £5.
#12 NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Worth a visit for just the exquisite Victorian architecture of the museum itself, this museum is a gem for those interested in the Natural World. Discover where dinosaurs came from, how the solar system works and just about anything else. A great museum choice if travelling with kids!
#13 SKY GARDEN
London has a truly iconic skyline that can’t be missed and there are various places you can view it from. Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street is one of the newest places for an incredible view of the city. Not only is the view amazing, but it’s also the highest indoor garden in London and there are many cafes, bars and restaurants for you to relax at and take in the view. Entrance is free, just reserve your ticket ahead of time on their website. The best time to go is sunset but it’s also the most crowded.
#14 ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
The iconic London church is unmissable from the London skyline. Pop in and gaze at the grandest dome in the city and one of the largest in the world. The impressive neoclassical architecture is something to marvel both inside and out.
#15 BOROUGH MARKET
For all things food head to Borough Market just on the south side of London Bridge. Eat your way through traditional British pies, pasties and fish and chips as well as the highest quality fresh fruit juices and smoothies, breads, cheeses, cakes, pastries and many more delicious, local products.
#16 THE SHARD
One of the newest, tallest and possibly most talked-about additions to the London skyline and a view from here or the Sky Garden aren’t to be missed. The Shard is home to many offices, hotels, bars, restaurants and an observation deck. Instead of paying for the observation deck, I recommend you head to one of the bars at Hutong or Aqua Shard restaurants for a delicious meal or cocktails with the epic London skyline before you.
#17 PICADILLY CIRCUS
Located at the edge of Soho, Picadilly Circus, London’s liveliest traffic junction is London’s Times Square. Bright lights and flashing billboards fill your eyes with today’s hottest products. Mingle with the crowds, meet up with friends or simply take photos at this iconic spot.
#18 OXFORD STREET, REGENT STREET & CARNABY STREET
Located just off one another these three streets makeup London’s hottest shopping area. Head to Oxford Street for UK fashion brand Topshop’s flagship store, Niketown as well as all your other major fashion brands. At the top of Carnaby Street, you’ll also find Liberty’s one of London’s coolest and most unique department stores. Head to Carnaby Street for a pedestrianised, independent, boutique fashion experience as well as a plethora of pubs and restaurants to choose from when you’re ready to drop.
#19 THE NATIONAL GALLERY
Located on the top end of Trafalgar Square this is London’s most important historical gallery. You can take a tour through the Italian Renaissance, French Revolution and Britain’s art history in just this one museum.
#20 COVENT GARDEN
Covent Garden is a glass-ceilinged, neo-classical building that was once a farmers market and now an area for shopping, theatre and restaurants. It’s a great place to wander around in, window shop and of course, check out the street performers. Don’t forget to check out Neal’s Yard, a tiny court with some cool shops, colourfully painted buildings and some of the smallest alleyways in the city.
#21 RIDE A DOUBLE DECKER BUS
The classic double-decker Routemaster of London will always be a symbol of the city, even though most buses have now been swapped out for greener, safer and cleaner electric buses. There is, however, one route that is operated by the old, classic routemaster- the number 15, heritage route. Nowadays the route has been limited to just running on weekends for only 60 days a year.
#22 SEE A MUSICAL AT THE WEST END
London’s theatreland or West End is full of highly acclaimed musicals and plays from classics like Les Miserables to modern productions like Aladdin. London’s theatre scene is bursting with talent and a night at the theatre is a must-do.
#23 KEW GARDENS
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet from the non-stop movement of London life head to Kew Garden for a breath of fresh air. Wander around the vast gardens and make sure to visit the Japanese gardens, Great Pagoda and Rock Gardens as well as the famous Palm House- a stunning indoor rainforest. Entry cost 16.50. I probably wouldn’t recommend a visit in late autumn or winter.
#24 LITTLE VENICE
Little Venice is such a lovely area of London and overlooked by many visitors. Located near the Warwick Avenue tube station in West London it’s a small area full of meandering canals, leafy gardens and cafes on canal boats. It’s a superb place to wander around for a couple of hours and get off the tourist trail. I’m not sure why it’s called Little Venice, it reminds me more of Amsterdam.
#25 DRINK A PINT OF ALE AT A PUB
Pub culture is what London and Britain are all about. Between 5-6pm on weekdays pubs fill out and overflow onto the street with office workers having a quick pint before heading home. The pub is the place where you meet friends, have a long lunch with family on Sunday or come to read the newspaper and have an ale. Ale is the traditional drink of choice in pubs, it’s more fruity or hoppy than beer, has less gas and is served cool and not cold. I highly recommend you give it a try!
#26 PICNIC IN HYDE PARK
Visitors are always surprised to discover how green London is. Central London is full of many parks from Primrose Hill and Regents Park in the North to Hyde Park and St. James Park further south. A picnic is a fabulous way to enjoy and see the parks and get a feel for London life, provided it isn’t raining. Head to any one of the sandwich/sushi chains such as Pret a Manger, Eat or Itsu, load up on ready-made picnic treats and head to the park.
#27 EAT AN ENGLISH BREAKFAST
A London Bucket List wouldn’t be a London Bucket List without an English Breakfast. Probably the most famous breakfast in the world the English Breakfast cannot be missed when in London. Traditionally served with eggs cooked how you like, sausage, bacon, hash brown, grilled tomato and mushroom, baked beans and toast. Yes, it’s a lot of food and yes it will keep you full until dinner. If like me, you prefer the plant-based version there are a few places in the city that do an epic one. Head to Gallery Cafe or Farmacy for the best vegan English Breakfasts.
#28 VISIT WESTMINSTER ABBEY
A tremendous Gothic Church and one of the most important in London. It’s the Coronation site of Queen Elizabeth II and most recently the place Will and Kate got married.
#29 CLIMB TO THE TOP OF PRIMROSE HILL
Head just north of Regent’s Park and London Zoo, climb to the top then relax and take in the view of the city centre from London’s highest point that isn’t in a building.
#30 SHOP AT HARRODS
A London shopping bucket list must-do! London’s most iconic department store and a must for any first-time visitor. I head straight for the food hall which has some amazingly delicious temptations on offer. Even if you aren’t interested in shopping come just to check out the building. If you don’t get to Harrods, Fortnum & Mason or Selfridges make great alternatives.
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