London's history stretches all the way back to Roman times, so it's no surprise that it's an exciting place to visit if you're fascinated by the past. Many of the city's pubs, restaurants, and venues have a rich history behind them, plus there are ample museums, historical sites and activities to discover. If you want to delve into historical experiences whilst you're in the capital, we've got some great suggestions for enjoying your time here. Check out our guide to a weekend in London for history lovers.
Guide to a weekend in London for history lovers
In this guide
- History-filled hotels
- Historical bars
- Dinners with history
- Historic nights out
- Activities for history fans
- Places for lunch
- On-theme shopping
- More historical dinner spots
- Brunches for historians
- Check out some museums
- London's historic pubs
A long-standing piece of luxury
Staying at The Langham means staying in one of London's oldest hotels – one of the first grand hotels in Europe. You'll get luxury five-star accommodation in the heart of the capital here, with award-winning on-site dining options and modern amenities. Added to that, parts of the hotel are rumoured to be haunted.
The oldest hotel available
Opened in 1837, it's widely believed that Brown's Hotel is the oldest hotel in the capital so it's an ideal place for history fans to stay. This Mayfair hotel is grand and traditional, offering upscale accommodation with great amenities. There are award-winning dining options and additional services like spa treatments.
Iconic and comfortable
Claridge's opened back in 1854, making it one of the city's oldest hotels. This iconic hotel is a sophisticated place to stay and is packed with thoughtful touches to ensure your comfort. A variety of rooms and suites are available plus facilities like a spa, health club, and drinking and dining destinations.
Enjoy a drink with some ruins
Lokma in Bermondsey is an interesting destination for history fans. This is a Turkish bar and restaurant serving authentic cuisine, cocktails, Turkish wines, and shisha. Check out the bar - this unique space has a glass floor that reveals the remains of 11th century Bermondsey Abbey. Despite the historical influence, the interiors are bright and contemporary.
Themed on a historical figure
Award-winning venue The Churchill Bar & Terrace is inspired by Winston Churchill. The books on the shelves reflect the historical politician's interests and there are artefacts including letters to his wife and original photos. Innovative and sustainable craft cocktails are the speciality here paired with sophisticated bar snacks like charcuterie or caviar.
Atmospheric spot for wine
Opened in 1890, Gordon's Wine Bar is the oldest wine bar in London. It's an atmospheric place with a distinctive weathered interior crammed with old bottles plus an external terrace. The wine list is extensive with bottles from all over the world, including vegan, organic, and natural choices. Simple food with an emphasis on cheese is also available.
An original for cocktails
The American Bar at The Savoy is a historic cocktail bar recognised as the oldest in London. Notable figures such as Marilyn Monroe and Ernest Hemingway have come here for drinks, and famous recipes have been developed here. Admire the Art Deco interiors whilst you relax with a classic or original cocktail.
Dinners with history
Eat a meal inspired by Greco-Roman feasts at Bacchanalia in Mayfair. This immersive restaurant features elaborate interiors that tell the stories of ancient myths with antique sculptures and original art by Damien Hirst. Sophisticated Mediterranean dishes are on the menu, finished at your table to make the experience even more memorable.
The oldest of them all
History fans will enjoy dining at Rules – it's the oldest restaurant in London, opened in 1798. Numerous famous faces have been here and the luxurious setting feels timeless and historical. You can expect plush booths, carpeted floors, and refined paintings. Traditional British cuisine is on the menu, with game meat being a speciality.
Glamorous seafood restaurant Scott's is located in Mayfair and has a history dating back to 1851. It's a luxurious dining spot showcasing sleek and modern design. Diners can expect luxury seafood like lobster and caviar, plus fish-based mains and veggie alternatives. A broad choice of cocktails and wine complete the experience.
Historic nights out
Jazz since 1959
Head to Soho for Ronnie Scott's. It's the oldest jazz club in the capital and opened in 1959. Food is served in the main club and there's an intimate speakeasy-style bar upstairs. Wherever you are in the venue, you can enjoy live music, with some of the biggest names in jazz making appearances here.
Long-standing rock 'n' roll spot
St Moritz Club was founded as a fondue club in 1960 and has a rich history behind it. It's a down-to-earth venue that now hosts regular club nights and live sets from up-and-coming artists. Top names in rock 'n' roll have performed at this lively venue as well as visited it to relax. Lemmy, Lou Reed, and U2 are amongst the famous faces to have hung out here.
The spirit of the 60s
Opened in 1965, The Scotch of St James is a nightclub that has attracted some big names as clientele including The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Cara Delevingne. The venue is discreet and still full of the hedonistic style of 1960s London. Set over two floors, the comfortable space feels exclusive and bohemian.
Activities for history fans
Atmospheric North London site
See the final resting places of famous historical and celebrity figures, notably Karl Marx, at Highgate Cemetery in North London. Self-guided and guided tours are available at this atmospheric destination. The cemetery showcases impressive Victorian architecture and is divided into two sections – you can get tickets for one or both of them.
A story that spans centuries
Westminster Abbey is a fascinating destination for history buffs. This stately Gothic church has 1,000 years of history behind it and is known as the site of royal weddings, funerals, and coronations. Visitors are welcome and you can tour the building to take in all of its impressive heritage.
Palace packed with heritage
Known as the home of Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace is a Grade I listed palace that's still owned by the monarchy today. Visit to explore the imposing building and grounds, including the notorious haunted gallery. At this attraction you'll also find gift shops, a café, and a varied events programme catering to a range of ages and interests.
Discover London's past
History lovers can't miss a visit to the Tower of London. This eye-catching structure stands out from the modern buildings surrounding it and is packed with 1,000 years of history. During a visit you can learn more about the Tower's past and its importance as well as see fascinating artefacts including the Crown Jewels.
Places for lunch
Much-celebrated Indian meals
Michelin-starred restaurant Veeraswamy opened in 1926 and is the capital's oldest Indian restaurant. This vibrant place is full of traditional charm. It's a popular choice for lunch, with a light business lunch menu on weekdays and an indulgent weekend lunch of special dishes. Expect the likes of smoked chicken tikka and Tandoori tiger prawns.
Classic British dining
Check out Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden for a traditional meal. Opened in 1871, it's one of the oldest chip shops in London. The simple and classic dining room has white tiled walls but outdoor seating is also available. The fish here is sustainably sourced and the menu features simple options like fish, chips, and pies.
Traditional food and setting
The Tower Bridge branch of M. Manze has been open since 1902. At this place you can sample a traditional London meal in a timeless tiled dining room. The food is hearty and filling and the menu is simple. It's all about meat pies served with mash and gravy or liquor, paired with a side of jellied eels.
Own some military history
Military history enthusiasts will enjoy shopping at Hearts & Daggers Militaria in Islington. Military antiques from the 19th and 20th centuries are sold here, with new stock constantly coming in. You can sell your antiques to the shop too. Behind the bold red shopfront you'll find militaria pieces from all over the world.
Pioneering antiques centre
Grays Antiques began life in 1964 as the first permanent covered antiques market in the country. Today this groundbreaking and atmospheric centre is home to numerous dealers in antiques, watches, fine jewellery, and gemstones. It's a fascinating place to browse or hunt for a unique treasure and is popular with London's antiques lovers.
Luxury shopping arcade
Mayfair's ornate Royal Arcade is an impressive and historical shopping destination. Built in 1879, it's the city's oldest purpose-built shopping arcade. It retains its original Victorian features and houses a number of luxury retailers. You can shop for fine confectionary, jewellery, antiques, and modern art in a space that's full of character.
More historical dinner spots
Long-standing seafood restaurant
Fish and seafood specialist Wiltons began as a fishmonger in 1742 and is now the second-oldest restaurant in the capital. It's a timeless and elegant setting that feels like you're stepping into history. You can enjoy refined seafood recipes in this tasteful environment such as oysters or grilled Cornish plaice.
Buzzy restaurant with entertainment
Quaglino's is a long-standing and lively restaurant that first opened in 1929. It attracts a distinguished clientele that includes celebrities and royalty. The buzzing atmosphere is enhanced by live music and entertainment every night. Both the food and decor are grand and elegant. Diners can choose from set or à la carte menus.
A space full of history
Soho restaurant Quo Vadis is packed with history. The site was formerly a brothel and the home of Karl Marx. Today it's a bright and refined place to eat with distinctive stained glass windows and a calm atmosphere. Traditional British cuisine is on the menu, prepared with top-quality local produce.
Brunches for historians
A unique space for brunch
The Fitzrovia branch of Attendant Coffee Roasters certainly stands out from neighbouring cafés. This unique café is housed in a Victorian public toilet dating back to 1890. The original tiles and urinals are still in place, offering an unusual historic experience. Food is served all day including breakfast and brunch.
Glitzy Covent Garden dining
The Ivy's Covent Garden location has been open since 1917. Dine in glitzy surroundings with refined art on the walls, stained glass windows, and leather banquettes. The food brings together British favourites and global recipes with a choice of menus including a brunch served at weekends with dishes like cheese soufflé and eggs royale.
Opened in 1982, Terry's Café is a vibrant traditional eatery with a rich history behind it. The interior is packed with heritage and decorated with framed pictures. Expect a typical British café menu where the focus is on fried breakfasts cooked with local ingredients. Plant-based options and lighter dishes are also offered at this old-school establishment.
Check out some museums
Immersive wartime museum
Visit Churchill War Rooms for a fascinating historical activity. This is the secret underground bunker where Sir Winston Churchill and his government ran the country during World War II. During your visit you can explore the rooms and corridors where crucial wartime decisions were made. Guided tours of the space are available too.
Explore a pioneering ship
The Cutty Sark was a groundbreaking clipper ship and is now a museum and notable landmark in Greenwich. Visit to explore the decks and learn about the ship's history and the challenges of sailing in past times. Family-friendly activities take place here, and you can even have a go at climbing the rigging.
The spooky side of history
Discover the more grisly side of London's history at The London Dungeon. This spooky destination is an attraction for the whole family, bringing gothic tales to life with special effects, costumed actors, and some dark humour. Take your terrifying final boat ride to the gallows, enter a witch trial, or immerse yourself in the story of Guy Fawkes.
London's Roman history
Discovered during construction work in the 1950s, the London Mithraeum is an ancient temple and one of the most famous Roman discoveries of the last century. The temple was originally built in the third century and now you can visit to see it for yourself, as well as check out Roman artefacts found on-site.
London's historic pubs
Real Victorian features
Grade II listed pub The Albert was built in 1862 and got through The Blitz unscathed. It stands out from the modern structures around it and retains many of the original Victorian features. Pub grub and a wide choice of drinks are served. This pub also features a gallery of prime ministers and a parliamentary division bell.
Hundreds of years old
Pub and restaurant The Guinea is brimming with history. As well as allegedly being London's oldest steakhouse, a pub has stood here since 1423 and the current building has stood since the 1720s. Big names like Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby have been amongst the clientele and there are autographs from celebrities in the toilets.
Rustic historical pub
One of London's oldest pubs is The Seven Stars, which was built in 1602. The venue has a lengthy history, and much of the Victorian interior remains untouched. There's a rustic look with wooden beams and floorboards. Homemade pub grub and a varied selection of drinks are also offered.