Whether you're a first-timer in London or you've lived here your whole life but have realised you're yet to tick off any of the iconic city must-dos, you've come to the right place. There are a handful of activities, landmarks and experiences that are synonymous with the city, from iconic buildings and restaurants to markets, parks and more. Here's our ultimate guide to bucket-list activities in London.
Guide to bucket-list activities in London
In this guide
- Hampstead Heath Ponds – Take a dip in Hampstead
- Old Spitalfields Market – Life-long traders and tasty street food
- Padella – The ultimate spot for pasta
- Primrose Hill – Pretty Primrose Hill
- G Kelly, M. Manze & F. Cooke – A slice of London history (and pie)
- Natural History Museum – Billions of years of history
- Science Museum – For the science buffs
- Highgate Cemetery – One of London's magnificent seven
- The V&A – For design aficionados
- The Lyceum Theatre – Go for The Lion King
- The Shard – London's most iconic building
- Sketch – Afternoon tea in Sketch
- Beigel Bake – A smidge of Jewish taste and tradition
- Sky Garden – Views from a giant conservatory
- Shakespeare's Globe – All about Shakespeare
- Columbia Road Flower Market – Seasonal blooms and indy boutiques
- Richmond Park – Ancient trees and fallow deer
- Ye Olde Mitre – A classic London boozer
- Tower of London – The iconic Crown Jewels
- Westminster Abbey – A beautiful Gothic cathedral
- Buckingham Palace – London's most famous landmark
- Churchill War Rooms – See where the war was won
- Hyde Park – A lush London park
- Borough Market – A 1,000-year-old market
- Tate Modern – For cutting-edge contemporary art
- Millennium Bridge – The not-so-wobbly bridge
- St. Paul's Cathedral – An architectural landmark
- The National Gallery – A hub for European art
- Neal's Yard – The multicoloured façades of Covent Garden
- Kew Gardens – Get your fill of beautiful blooms
- Poppies – Fish, chips and everything else
- Greenwich Park – Stand on the division of the eastern and western hemispheres of Earth
- Portobello Road Market – Antiques galore
- The Churchill Arms – A flower-covered façade and Churchill memorabilia
- Abbey Road Studios – For The Beatles fans
Take a dip in Hampstead
Hampstead ponds are one of those need-to-do-it-at-least-once London activities. They've been around for many years and have gained a cult following among Londoners in every season. There are three ponds to choose from, ladies, men's and mixed, and all three are open year-round. You can usually just rock up, but they get busy during the warmer months, so book ahead if you want to guarantee a spot. Take a stroll on Hampstead Heath post-dip if you want to dial up the wholesome-ness.
Life-long traders and tasty street food
There's been a market where Old Spitalfields Market has been for over 350 years, home to life-long traders and new, exciting emerging brands. There's a weekly line-up of all kinds of trinkets and treasures, from vintage clothes and items to vinyl, ceramics, jewellery and handmade goods. There's also a bustling food market serving all kinds of delicious treats, like bao buns, frothy chai latte, Kenyan-Indian fusion street food and hand-pulled noodles.
The ultimate spot for pasta
Anyone who knows the London foodie scene will be familiar with Padella, the OG city pasta spot serving delicious handmade pasta, a simple Italian menu and negronis. There are two spots, one in Shoreditch and another in London Bridge, both with a reputation for quality and price. There are a few mainstays on the menu, such as the cacio e pepe, which is a must-order, alongside seasonal options like the pumpkin ravioli. Oh, and make sure you leave room for the tiramisu. Buon appetito!
Pretty Primrose Hill
The views from the top of Primrose Hill are some of the best in London. It's a great spot to see what iconic buildings you can spot in the distance, since skyscrapers pepper the city skyline. Make your way around all of the quaint Primrose Hill delis and assemble a local picnic, then stroll to the top of the hill, lay out a blanket and enjoy while you soak up the views.
A slice of London history (and pie)
You can't come to London without trying pie and mash; it's one of the most iconic British dishes that's been around for an age and is still kicking about today. For the real deal, you should order a classic beef pie with a dollop of mash doused in parsley sauce and a side of jellied eels if you want to be super traditional. Back in the day, they used to have sawdust scattered all over shop floors for people who ate the eels and spat out the bones. At the end of the day, the sawdust would be swept away and replaced, ready for the next round of eel eaters. If you're a plant-based eater, G Kelly also serves vegan pie and mash alongside the traditional beef.
Billions of years of history
London is known for its incredible museums, especially the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. It houses 80 million objects spanning billions of years, including permanent collections like extinct taxidermied animals and a real giant whale skeleton. Delve into the fascinating story of our planet, from its fiery beginnings through billions of years up to the modern day.
For the science buffs
The Science Museum is another one of London's legendary museums, chock with award-winning exhibitions, objects and stories of some of the greatest scientific achievements of our time. It's one of the most popular museums in London and houses interactive exhibitions and collections spanning everything from climate change and space to aircraft history and more.
One of London's magnificent seven
Highgate Cemetery is one of London's magnificent cemeteries, of which there are seven. It's most famous for being the burial site of Karl Marx and other notable figures like sculptor Edward Hodges Baily and George Michael. Legend says that the cemetery is stalked by a vampire at nighttime, along with other mysterious paranormal happenings.
For design aficionados
The Victoria and Albert Museum is a leading art and design museum showcasing exhibitions spanning everything from textiles and art to graphic design and applied arts. They also host a range of workshops, talks and events, usually to support the exhibitions.
Go for The Lion King
You have to go to a theatre show on any bucket-list trip to London, and the Lyceum Theatre is one of the most famous. It's set in a Grade II-listed building that dates back more than 200 years ago. It's home to the award-winning The Lion King musical, one of the most famous West End shows ever, but has also played host to a range of other shows.
London's most iconic building
Everyone who comes to London will no doubt see The Shard piercing London's epic skyline. Soak up the panoramic views of the city and beyond, up to 40 miles away, at any of The Shard's award-winning bars and restaurants.The 310-metre glass skyscraper is the tallest building in the UK, home to a fancy hotel, restaurants and the tallest observation platform in the city - the viewing gallery on the 72nd floor.
Afternoon tea in Sketch
Afternoon tea is one of the most quintessentially British things you can enjoy, especially on a trip to the Big Smoke, where the options are as good as it gets. Sketch serves one of the most iconic afternoon teas served in a quirky, 18th-century townhouse tea room featuring the classics like finger sandwiches and homemade cakes and scones; all washed down with English Sparkling and Champagne.
A smidge of Jewish taste and tradition
Beigel Bake is for sure the most famous bagel shop in London. It was established in 1855 on Brick Lane and has continued to keep the traditions of the Jewish East End thriving amongst the multiculturalism of this buzzy part of the city. If you want to keep it authentic, ask for the salt beef bagel with mustard and pickles.
Views from a giant conservatory
Unsurprisingly, London's highest public garden boasts incredible views of the city's skyline. It's located on the 36th floor of the Walkie-Talkie building and is surrounded by lush plants; it's almost like a giant conservatory. Perch with a cocktail in hand and take in the views or sit back, relax and listen to live music at one of their events. If you're an early bird, they host regular morning yoga sessions - the spectacular views are great for getting a double dose of wellness.
All about Shakespeare
Although the glitzy West End gets most of the theatrical attention in London, there's also the iconic Shakespeare's Globe. Though the original theatre burnt down in 1613 during a performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII, it was soon rebuilt on top of the original timbers and structures. There's a regular timetable for performances, including a range of plays designed for children, and the option to take a tour of the venue.
Seasonal blooms and indy boutiques
Columbia Road is steeped in history and was initially a path in which sheep were driven to the slaughterhouses at Smithfield. These days, it's home to a bustling flower market which comes to life every Sunday, along with the buskers, independent shops and cafés that line the street. Pick up your weekly seasonal bunch or opt for succulents, cacti, house plants, herbs and more for a nifty price.
Ancient trees and fallow deer
Richmond Park is one of the places to go in the city when you're craving some fresh air and time in nature. It's a National Nature Reserve famed for its wildlife, including herds of majestic deer that roam freely amidst ancient trees. It's one of London's eight Royal Parks, covering 2500 acres, including The Isabella Plantation, a 40-acre woodland garden set within a Victorian woodland plantation planted in the 1830's.
A classic London boozer
In general, hitting up one (or ten) of London's pubs is definitely a bucket-list activity, but Ye Old Mitre is a great option if you're looking for a traditional London boozer. It's hidden down a narrow passageway in Holborn and is notoriously hard to find, but well worth it when you do. It was built almost half a millennium ago for servants of the Bishops of Ely and is an ideal visit for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of a super busy central London pub whilst soaking up the traditional, no-frills pub experience.
The iconic Crown Jewels
This historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames houses 1,000 years of gruesome British history. Perhaps the most famous reason people visit is to see the priceless Crown Jewels, which take centre stage under armed guard in the Jewel House. This includes the collection worn by British kings and queens at their coronations and royal occasions.
A beautiful Gothic cathedral
Westminster Abbey has been the site of all of the royal shenanigans since 1066, including coronations, weddings and funerals. Take a tour of the impressive building, built in a beautiful gothic architectural style, and snap a few photos of the beautiful ribbed vaulted ceilings, pointed arches, and rose windows. Initially, the abbey was to serve as the resting place of all the Kings of England, but now, whoever can afford to be buried there, can be, so there are more than 3500 people that have been laid to rest in the cathedral.
London's most famous landmark
Buckingham Palace is one of London's most famous landmarks, home to the British monarchy and the site of the must-see Changing the Guard ceremony. Take a snap standing outside or explore inside the palace during the summer months, where you can take a closer look at the State Rooms.
See where the war was won
Visit the site where the crucial decisions that helped determine the outcome of the war were made, Churchill War Rooms. They're located a stone's throw from the Prime Minster's residence at 10 Downing Street and offer an intimate look at the secret underground bunker where Winston Churchill and his government ran the country during World War II.
A lush London park
Hyde Park is a famous Grade I listed park in the middle of the city, home to The Serpentine lake and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. It was initially established as a hunting ground for King Henry VIII, but today is one of the city's most famous parks for recreational use and events such as Winter Wonderland and various music concerts.
A 1,000-year-old market
Foodies will love Borough Market in London Bridge, one of London's most famous food markets dating back to around 1,000 years ago. You can stock up on staples, like olive oil, fruit and cheese, or grab a bite to eat from any of the street food traders, spanning everything from bao buns and curries to dumplings and more.
For cutting-edge contemporary art
Visit one of the most famous art galleries in the world, Tate Modern, perched on the banks of the River Thames. It's free to visit and showcases incredible collections of cutting-edge contemporary art dating back to 1900. There are regular exhibitions featuring talented artists based on different themes, and many of them are also free to visit.
The not-so-wobbly bridge
The Millennium Bridge (often nicknamed The Wobbly Bridge) is a pedestrian-only bridge which links St.Paul's Cathedral with Shakespare's Globe and the iconic Tate Modern art museum. You can enjoy magnificent views of London over the Thames, where some of the city's top landmarks are peppered across the skyline.
An architectural landmark
St. Paul's Cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks featured in London's epic skyline. The Anglican cathedral is the second largest church in the country, built by Sir Christopher Wren after London's Great Fire of 1666. It hosts many important events, like royal weddings, funerals and annual Christmas carol concerts. It's open to visitors throughout the week, allowing guests to explore the majestic cathedral floor and crypts, the resting place of some of the nation's greatest figures.
A hub for European art
To see some of the most impressive collections of European paintings in the world, check out The National Gallery. This acclaimed gallery houses art dating back from the 13th century to the early 20th century, including works by some of the greatest, like Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci and Monet. It's also totally free to visit.
The multicoloured façades of Covent Garden
You might recognise Neal's Yard as being one of the most Instagrammable streets in Covent Garden. It's chock full rainbow buildings comprising independent shops and boutiques selling everything from food and clothes to beauty products and more.
Get your fill of beautiful blooms
Escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city at Kew Gardens, a tranquil place to escape to amongst nature. You can stroll between tree-lined pathways and wander around the beautifully manicured flowerbeds, but their most famous attraction is the Princess of Wales Conservatory. It houses a variety of incredible plants alongside ten computer-controlled climate zones, and a series of micro-ecosystems.
Fish, chips and everything else
No trip to London is complete without chowing down on classic fish and chips, and Poppies is an excellent place to indulge. It can be found in multiple locations around the city and serves the nation's favourite dishes, like steak pie with tartare sauce, fish and chips, and desserts like sticky toffee pudding.
Stand on the division of the eastern and western hemispheres of Earth
This former hunting ground in Greenwich is one of the largest green spaces in south-east London, home to incredible city skyline views, 17th-century landscapes, lush gardens and ancient towering trees. It's also where the Royal Observatory is located, the home of British astronomy and the world-famous Meridian line, which divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the earth.
Portobello Road Market is the world's largest antique market, stretching over a mile on Fridays and Saturdays with a constantly changing line-up of traders. Pick up restored antiques and collectables, or zhuzh up your wardrobe with all the vintage gems on offer here. There's also a food market where you can feast on street food from around the world.
A flower-covered façade and Churchill memorabilia
The Churchill Arms is regularly hailed as one of the most beautiful pubs in London, with its flower-covered façade. It was built in 1750 and was a favourite of Winston Churchill's grandparents - see if you can spot all of the Churchill memorabilia scattered around (it's pretty unmissable). They serve a broad and changing range of cask-conditioned ales, lagers and ciders and a decent selection of wine from around the world. As for food, expect a menu of spicy, authentic Thai fare.
For The Beatles fans
Abbey Road studios is the recording studio where The Beatles recorded most of their music in the 60s. It's located opposite the iconic Zebra Crossing on the front of their Abbey Road album and is one of the most famous recording studios in the world. Leave a message on their renowned graffiti wall or hire a room to record your own music in.