London is such a fun city. From the adorable British accents to the colorful houses to the royal family, the city feels like just the right mix of stepping back in time combined with modern perfection.
As soon as you land, get an Oyster Card for the Underground. The Tube is by far the easiest way to get around the city, and the Oyster Card makes it easy to get in and out and saves you some money rather than having to buy individual passes for each trip.
What to Do:
Harry Potter Tour: Okay, so the Harry Potter Tour at Warner Brother Studios is a little bit out of the city, but if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then it is absolutely worth it! Leave yourself a half-day to fit this in. Book your tickets and select your time online, but then you’re free to explore for as long as you want. It takes about 3-4 hours on average, but obviously could be faster or slower depending on your style. It took us about 3 hours, and Ryan read every single sign haha. We suggest going first thing in the morning, because then there will be the least amount of people there, and you’ll still have time to explore London later in the day.
Walk across Tower Bridge: Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic sites in London. Walking across it is so fun, because you can get different views of the bridge and the city. You can also pay to walk across the glass floor on the upper level and visit the other exhibits. There is even a sunrise yoga class on the glass floor walkway once every month, which seems like the best way to start your day in the middle of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Go up The Shard: One of our favorite things to do in a city is to get a view from above. It might have something to do with our love for aerial views, but it’s always fun to get a new and different perspective of things. Plus, I’m not the best with directions, so it helps my get a grasp on how the whole city is laid out. Make sure to book your reservation online in advance to save yourself money and time.
Go Shopping on Regent Street: Everyone needs a little retail therapy while traveling, and Regent Street is arguably the best street for fashion in London. Whether you want to spend all of your money or just window shop, all of the stores are absolutely stunning. It also has one of the biggest Apple stores I’ve ever seen in my life. And make sure you go to Liberty. It is the most perfectly decorated department store that fits inside of an old tudor-style building. Walk around the corner and grab Ben’s Cookies, or walk down the street to Picadilly Circus and watch all the classic red buses circle the round about.
Harrods: Speaking of shopping, Harrods is a luxury department store that is perfectly designed and has the most beautiful high-fashion clothing, accessories, and beauty products. If you’re a fashion lover, spend a few hours walking about the store, and then grab a snack or stop in one of the restaurants and just enjoy being surrounded by all the beauty.
Ride the London Eye: The London Eye is probably one of the most iconic spots in London. Save yourself time and money by booking your tickets online ahead of time. As you ride around the ferris wheel, you’ll get some of the most incredible views of the city. You can even propose or get married in those little capsules, which would definitely make it the experience of a lifetime. And apparently now you can sleep in the London eye too.
Tower of London: See the Crown Jewels. Seriously. They’re unreal. So so beautiful. And could you even imagine wearing one of those crowns on your head? The rest of the tour is pretty grim, but you can explore a medieval palace and walk the walls of the ancient fortress, so if you’re into history, this is definitely a must.
Walk across the bridge to Big Ben: Obviously, Big Ben (which is actually just the name of the bell and the clock and not the entire tower), is one of the most iconic sites in the city. We loved walking back and forth across the bridge, because it gave us plenty of time to stare at all the beauty of Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings. Also, the spot under the bridge on the opposite side of Big Ben is one of our all-time favorite picture spots in the city.
St. Paul’s Cathedral: St. Paul’s Cathedral is absolutely stunning. It’s 528 steps to the Golden Gallery at the top, so be mentally prepared to climb some stairs. But once you get there, the 360 degree views of the city are totally worth it.
Shakespeare’s Globe: Since I was an English major in college, Shakespeare’s Globe was a must on my list of things to do in London. You can take a tour of the theater, and learn more about the history of the building and of Shakespeare and his works. If you’re really feeling up to it, see a classic Shakespeare play like Twelfth Night or Romeo and Juliet, but be prepared to stand the entire time in true Shakespearean Theater fashion.
Churchill War Rooms: Another perfect place for history buffs to visit is the Churchill War Rooms. Explore the secret World War II bunker and museum and learn all about the life and legacy of Winston Churchill.
Westminster Abbey: Westminster Abbey is one of the most beautiful churches in the world, plus it’s where Will and Kate got married, so basically it’s a must-visit during your trip to the city. You can take a tour throughout the week or, for a free option, everyone is welcome to join in on one of their worship services on Sundays. We went to an organ recital on Sunday night, and it was a beautiful way to enjoy the church in its true form.
Stroll through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace: Or bike through them. While they’re technically separated, it’s all part of one beautiful garden area. Make your way over to the Peter Pan Statue, past the swans swimming in the pond, Kensington Gardens, and Kensington Palace. Say hi to Will and Kate and their adorable babies at Kensington Palace. Okay, well not actually, but you can pretend. There’s also a Princess Diana Fashion exhibit going on there right now, so hello, why wouldn’t you go? All of her gowns are seriously to die for.
Buckingham Palace: If you’re anything like me and obsessed with British royalty, Buckingham Palace is the perfect place to see a sliver of what it would be like to be the king and queen. The changing of the guard happens at 11:00 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, but check this site to know exactly what the schedule will be like when you’re there. During the changing of the guard it gets super crowded, so while it’s a unique experience, it’s also nice to stop by the palace on a day when it’s a little calmer and just take in all of its ornate beauty. And say hi to the Queen obviously.
See a broadway play: We saw Les Miserables, and it blew. my. mind. It was everything I could’ve hoped for and more. We haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack since. Thanks Spotify. Other incredible plays we’d highly recommend are The Lion King, Wicked, Mamma Mia, and Aladdin.
Walk around Notting Hill: If you couldn’t tell from our Instagram feed, we’re obsessed with all the colorful houses and adorable door fronts in Notting Hill. Notting Hill is seriously one of the cutest parts of London, and wandering through the area makes for the perfect Saturday activity. Stop by Fabrique Bakery and get the vanilla bun, apple cake, or flourless chocolate cake. Or get all three. You won’t be disappointed.
Trafalgar Square: Trafalgar Square is surrounded by museums, fountains, galleries, and classic British architecture. Take a minute to sit on the steps and take in all the beautiful chaos of the city.
Spend a day exploring the Museums: Almost all of the museums in London are free, so it’s a perfect way to spend a day in the city without breaking the bank. Some of our favorites are the Natural History Museum, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, and the National Gallery.
Where to Eat:
Have Afternoon Tea at Sketch: Okay I might be biased, but I think this was one of my favorite things we did during our time in London. Sketch is so cute, and I’m just obsessed with all the decoration. But also, afternoon tea is such a cultural tradition and makes you feel like a royal, so who can say no to that? Also, make sure you check out the bathrooms, because their like little space pods and it’s hysterical and also so cool. Make a reservation ahead of time, because afternoon tea books out months in advance.
Grab brunch at Farm Girl Cafe: Brunch is by far my favorite meal of the day, and healthy restaurants bring me life. When we’re traveling, it can be hard to eat healthy, so finding a delicious restaurant like Farm Girl Cafe is a dream. Make sure to get the Avocado Toast and Hot Chocolate.
Eat dinner at Dishoom: It’s not a trip to London without eating Indian food. Did you know that chicken tikka masala is the national dish of London? How fun is that?! Dishoom is one of the best Indian restaurants in London. Make sure to get the vegetable samosas and chicken ruby. Also, apparently the breakfast there is delicious.
Grab brunch at Granger and Co: Okay since I’m obsessed with brunch, I going to suggest eating brunch everywhere, but their dinner is also incredible. Granger and Co. has the most unique and delicious juices and drinks, so make sure to get one with your meal. And the courgette chips are a must.
Maitre Choux: Maitre Choux makes possibly the prettiest pastries of all time. So they’re both delicious and perfect for an Instagram photo.
Borough Market: Make sure to stop by on Saturday morning as that’s when most of the shops are open. We recommend getting these delicious doughnut from Bread Ahead Doughnuts or racelette, a delicious concoction of melted cheese on top of potatoes, at Kappacasein Dairy.
Covent Garden: Walk around Covent Garden Market and eat at Shake Shack, because why not?
Download the CityMapper app. It’ll honestly change your life. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it really makes getting around the city so much easier. It tells you when the exact Tube route to take, or if the bus is faster, and how much an Uber will cost for the same trip. And it will give you the time you’ll arrive at your destination too. It’s incredible. Plus, it has city plans for most big cities, so it’ll work as you’re traveling around other cities too.
Check out the London Pass as well, and see if it’s worth it for the activities you’re wanting to visit during your trip. Also, consider spending a day on the hop-on hop-off bus (you get a free one-day pass included in your London Pass).
If you want to spend some time exploring outside of the city, consider hopping on the train for a day trip to Oxford, Bath, the Cotswolds or Beachy Head.
Sam’s London look:
Ryan’s London look:
Read about the perfect place to stay in London here.