13 Best Things to do in London [2023]: Ultimate Traveler's Guide!

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13 Best Things to do in London [2023]: Ultimate Traveler's Guide!
Wondering what's there to do in the big bustling city of London? We cover just about every attraction, from those that you definitely can't miss to the top tourist attractions. Whether you're here for only a couple hours or a few days, we've got you. Read on to find out more!

The UK's capital of London offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience, with a huge array of activities and attractions to suit all tastes and budgets. 

Love history and culture? You got it! 

Want to shop 'til you drop in bustling markets and designer stores? Check! 

Dream of donning your glad rags to hit up some of the swankiest bars and clubs around? No problem!

London offers it all, from expansive leafy parks, stunning historic architecture, and countless theatres to gleaming modern buildings, fantastic shopping streets, funky bars, and quirky attractions. Not to mention the many places associated with British cultural icons like Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Charles Dickens, and other well-known characters from both fiction and fact.

There are tons of fun things to do when in London! We'll take you through some of the top things to do in London and give you handy tips and tricks to make creating your itinerary a breeze. If London isn't your dream city, but you still want to head to the UK, you might also want to add on a trip to Edinburgh - another top UK city and the capital of Scotland.

Speaking of adding other cities to your itinerary, you're in luck if you're looking for more ideas of things to do worldwide! We've got you covered in a comprehensive guide of the top things to do in cities around the world. Check out our European collection here.

Without further ado, here are some of the amazing things to do in London. Whether you're here for a short or long time, we've got you covered for a great time.

Photo by Marcin Nowak on Unsplash

What are the free things to do in London?

Let's not pretend—a visit to London can be pretty pricey. 

From accommodation and meals to entrance fees and activity costs, visiting London, UK, can quickly put a dent in your bank account.

You can, however, find a variety of free and cheap things to do in London to help you keep the costs down.

It doesn't cost a single penny to visit most of the museums in London, including the outstanding British Museum, home to Egyptian mummies and a huge array of exciting exhibits. Take a virtual tour for a taste of what to expect. Other excellent free museums include the Museum of London, the National Gallery, the V&A, and the Natural History Museum, to name a few. 

Make sure to check out other top museums to visit in London

Photo by Dan on Unsplash

If museums aren't your thing, you can still take advantage of free things in London. Meet the deer in Richmond Park or stroll around the gigantic Hyde Park (among many other beautiful parks in London). Take a picture of the iconic Tower Bridge. See Downing Street, the famous road on which the British Prime Minister lives. Marvel at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. See Buckingham Palace from the outside and watch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. 

There are countless opportunities to soak in London without spending a single penny (or pence).

How Can I Spend 3 Days in London?

With three days in London, you'll have time to hit the big sights, see the city by day and by night, and start to get a feel for it all. If you feel like you might get bored of big-city travel in three days, London is the perfect city to plan as the starting point for a day trip. You can explore much of the UK from London with many train stations!

Pick your accommodation in a central area and plan your bucket-list London attractions (read on for some of our top choices!). Pre-booking tickets can help save time, and some places allow for skip-the-queue options. You can also purchase a Travelcard or Oyster card for convenient travel around central London. This is a great way to budget your travel expenses, as those can add up quickly!

Wondering where to stay? We've got you covered. Here are the five best hostels in London to consider for your living arrangement!

3 days in London, view of the city.
Photo by Mike Stezycki on Unsplash

While there's an overwhelming amount of things to do in just three days in London, here's a sample itinerary you could use to inspire your three days!

Day 1

Take your first day in London to get to know the city! Why not take the tube to Westminster, and come out just next to Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament? Cross the bridge over to the South Bank, and start walking towards the London Eye. Hop aboard to get a panoramic view of the city from above the Thames! 

When you get off, you can continue walking down to Tower Bridge, stopping along the way for views of St. Paul's Cathedral, the Millenium Bridge, Shakespeare's Globe, and more! 

Cross London Bridge (not to be confused with Tower Bridge) to get access to Borough Market, located close by. If you have time, pop into the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels and explore the Tower itself.

Day 2

Use your second day in London to get to know the city's museums. Head out to South Kensington to start with the V&A, Natural History Museum, and Science Museum. You can hit all three in one day or pick the one that speaks most to you! (Top tip: be sure to grab a scone from the V&A, they're amazing). 

Photo by Ben Stein on Unsplash

When you've finished at the museum, you can walk through Kensington Gardens, ultimately leading into Hyde Park. If you walk towards Hyde Park Corner, you'll end up right in front of Buckingham Palace! Head on up the Mall to Trafalgar Square, where you'll find the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Or continue onto Holborn for the British Museum.

To celebrate the end of your second day in London, and as you're in the right area, be sure to see a West End show in the evening!

Day 3

For your final day in London, treat yourself to an afternoon tea. You can get a lovely, budget-friendly £ 15-afternoon tea at Cafe Rouge and indulge in scones with clotted cream and jam, sandwiches, and cakes. 

Perhaps start your day with a journey up the Sky Garden or a fun walking tour to see some new parts of London? You could also use your final day to venture out to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour if you want to get your wizard vibe on in London. If you're not feeling like venturing out that far, you can spend the remainder of your day shopping in Covent Garden or Oxford Street.

Photo by Josh Mills on Unsplash

Things to Do in London When You Have 12 Hours

Twelve hours in London will allow you to get a brief taster of London city. You'll be able to visit a couple of headline attractions, enjoy a delicious meal, and perhaps squeeze in a bit of window shopping or even a night at the theatre.

London tours can be an ideal way to cram in as much as possible in a short period of time or to get a unique perspective of London. You could relax on a hop-on hop-off bus tour, complete with interesting commentary, or take a trip along the River Thames. While staying longer will let you see and do more, any trip to London is always fun!

With 12 hours, you want to decide what kind of 12 hours you want to have - historical, food, sightseeing, or something in between? Since you've got a tight schedule, you'll want to plan everything out carefully to make sure you can do as much as you can. Try either some fish and chips or an afternoon tea to hit those British food must-eats!

If time is limited when you visit London, you certainly don't want to be lugging your heavy baggage around with you. Store your things safely in one of LuggageHero's shops. Stores are conveniently located throughout the city, with more than 120 shops open 24/7. 

Photo by Charles Postiaux on Unsplash

What Should You Not Miss in London?

Since there's so much to do in London, it's impossible to write down everything, but some of the biggest highlights include:

  • Buckingham Palace
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Tower of London
  • Houses of Parliament
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • St. Paul's Cathedral
  • Camden Market
  • National Gallery
  • Tower Bridge
  • Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

Choosing the must-dos really depends on your personal interests with so many fun things to do in London. Whether you love art, history, nightlife, or something else, there's a highlight just for you! In addition to the list above, we've narrowed down some more top things to do in London based on diverse interests and parts of the city.

Photo by Zaymuel on Unsplash

13 Best things to do in London!

Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi on Unsplash

1. Visit a museum

We've mentioned it already, but there are so many museums in London, you have to visit at least one of them while you're there! Try the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, or the V&A if art is your thing. 

For history, you've got the British Museum and the Museum of London. Other notable museums include the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, London Transport Museum (not free), and the Science Museum!

2. Notre Dame de France

Don't be fooled by the French name—Notre Dame de France is located right in the heart of Soho. This energetic area is one of the city's central entertainment districts. 

The beautiful church has a special place in London's history—it was the city's first church made from cast iron. It dates back to the late 1860s and is home to some striking bold murals that depict biblical scenes. Visiting Notre Dame de France is one of Soho, London's top things to do.

3. The Theatre District

Whether theatre is your vibe, the Theatre District is home to several areas famous for more than just theatre. You'll find Piccadilly Circus, Soho, and Leicester Square closely knit together. You can shop 'til you drop, go clubbing until the wee hours of the morning or discover all the history built into the streets of the area. 

From Picadilly Circus, you're also a quick jump away from Regent's Street and Oxford Street, two of London's biggest shopping high streets!

4. Borough Market

Situated close to London Bridge, Borough Market is London's oldest food market. With many stalls undercover, eating your way around the market is one of the best things to do in London when it's raining (or when you just want some delicious food). Sample tasty treats like artisan cheeses, fresh oysters, aromatic coffees, smooth gelatos, and more!

Other top London markets include Camden Market, Spitalfields Market, Portobello Road Market, and Columbia Road Flower Market!

Photo by Laura Lugaresi on Unsplash

5. Platform 9 ¾

If you're a Harry Potter fan, one of the top things to do in London is to head to King's Cross Station to visit the kitsch Platform 9 ¾. 

See where Harry Potter walked straight through the wall and make full use of the plentiful cool photo opportunities. You're also a couple steps away from the St. Pancras hotel, well known as the hotel Ron and Harry flyover in the second film. 

If you love Harry Potter, be sure to look into visiting the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Watford! Book in advance to be sure you can get tickets, and plan at least half a day for your visit.

6. Crossness Pumping Station

You're definitely going to enjoy Crossness Pumping station if you love discovering quirky attractions away from the beaten path.

Descend underground to tour an old Victorian sewer—it's certainly one of the best weird things to do in London! Colorful and ornate, it's hard to believe sewerage could be so beautiful.

7. Experience Olympic History

Leftover from the 2012 Olympics, you can still visit Olympic Park in London's East End. Head out to Stratford station, follow the signs to wander through Olympic Park, and maybe even locate the Olympic rings! You can also ride the ArcelorMittal Orbit slide, the world's longest tunnel slide, for a fun, unique London experience. West Ham Football Club also plays their matches there if you want to take in a football match during your visit!

8. The Shard

The Shard is a towering and gleaming gem made from glass and steel. Standing at almost 310 meters (1,016 feet) tall, it's the highest building in the UK. Admiring the sweeping city views over a drink at The View from The Shard is one of the coolest romantic things to do in London. You and your love can head up 72 floors and be amazed!  

Insider tip: if visiting the Shard is out of your budget, book a free ticket to The Sky Garden! Views are comparable but come with the fun price tag of £0 - what's not to love? Be sure to book in advance to guarantee your spot!

Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash

9. London Eye

As well as being an all-around great thing to do in London, visiting the London Eye is also one of the fabulous things to do in London for Doctor Who fans. 

The gigantic observation wheel was featured in the 2005 episode of Rose. It was used to portray the transmitter for the Nestene Consciousness. Settle into one of the glass pods for an unforgettable ride with London's landmarks spread beneath your feet. The London Eye is perfect for quick trips to London and to get a lay of the land from above. 

10. Hampton Court Palace

If you love all things royal and want to travel back in time to the time of Henry VIII, a visit to Hampton Court Palace is a must. Experience all the history and luxury of a royal palace without even leaving London! You will need to budget extra time for this visit as it's located in Zone 6, but it's worth it.

Traveler's tip: if you're interested in visiting Hampton Court and either the Tower of London or Kensington Palace, consider becoming a Historic Royal Palace member to save money. Entrance to two of these attractions can be more than membership, which will get you in for free!

Hampton Court Palace Things to do in London
Photo by Greg Willson on Unsplash

11. Hampstead Heath

Visiting Hampstead Heath is among the best things to do in London when it's hot. As well as having lots of open green space where you can picnic, sunbathe, and play ball games, there are more than 25 pretty ponds spread throughout the area. Ducks and other water birds glide across the water, and there are a few ponds that are open for bathers. Cool down in the sunshine and dip in a natural pond surrounded by nature and wildlife. Wander through the Heath to find Parliament Hill for a sweeping view of the London skyline to rival Primrose Hill!

Photo by Amadeusz Misiak on Unsplash

12. Brick Lane

Whether you're looking for street art or street food, Brick Lane in Shoreditch is the place to visit. You'll find family-run authentic curry houses, among other delectable cuisines, while discovering cool and new street art from local and renowned street artists.

13. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

There are many things to do in London at night, including bar hopping and pub crawling between the city's excellent bars and nightclubs. You can also go on ghost hunts, dine outs, watch a show on the West End, and see major landmarks illuminated in their glory. 

If theatre is something you love, why not watch a play at the globally acclaimed Shakespeare's Globe Theatre? The reconstructed open-air theatre shows famous plays by the renowned playwright during their summer season. Book tickets for an atmospheric candle-lit indoor performance in the neighboring Sam Wanamaker Playhouse!

Insider Tip: Download the TodayTix app for all the best West End theatre ticket deals!

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre london attraction
Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

Plan your London itinerary with Pilot.

With so many cool things to do in London, planning a great itinerary will help you effectively and efficiently make the most of your time in UK's capital. 

Speaking of a great itinerary and trip planner, have you heard of Pilot?

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