If you’re planning an unforgettable adventure in the capital, some things shouldn’t be missed. From retracing the steps of English kings and queens to cruising down a London river in a floating hot tub, Culture Trip has curated a list of things to do on an epic trip to London.
The city of London is a vibrant hub of culture teeming with things to see and do. It boasts over 170 fascinating museums (some of the best on the planet), as well as countless galleries home to a medley of world-renowned art. With a rich history dating back to 6000 BC, the city has played a huge part in the development of humanity as we know it today, and its architecture is second to none – from Baroque designs dating back to the 1600s to the more abstract Art Deco of the 1920s.
With so much on your doorstep, knowing where to go and what to do can be tricky, so here’s Culture Trip’s pick of the best things you can do to make the most of your time in London.
The London nightlife scene is packed with funky bars and clubs, but knowing which ones are worth your time is the real struggle. Alcotraz is something very different, offering an immersive theatrical cocktail experience that makes a great alternative to London sightseeing. Step into a prison jumpsuit, take a seat behind bars and enjoy three delectable cocktails crafted by your fellow inmates. Alcotraz has two venues: one on Brick Lane – which is ideal for exploring the vibrant surrounding area, with its murals and classic British pubs – and one in Covent Garden (the best area to check out the city’s shopping scene). So, be sure to plan your day accordingly.
For something truly original, you need to try SkunaBoats. Grab a few cans of your favourite beverage (unless you’re the designated hot-tub driver), and step onboard the floating tub. Weather isn’t an issue, as you can choose to bathe in a heated boat set at 38C (100F). Float down past the Central London Docklands, and see the city from an entirely different perspective. However, be prepared to be stared at – people are often (understandably) bemused to see a floating hot tub. If you visit in the height of summer, you can opt for a barbecue boat, where you’ll get to bask in the sunshine and cook up a feast onboard.
London is a mishmash of history and architecture spanning many years. Down one street, you’ll find post-war high-rise blocks, while down another, you’ll see grand, stone-coloured structures dating back to the Georgian era. However, head towards the centre, and you’ll be greeted by tall skyscrapers puncturing high above the city skyline. A historical walking tour of the city will cover every top London sight and architectural structure in just half a day, including a 1,400-year-old cathedral, the royal Buckingham Palace and Westminster, all while retracing the steps of English kings and queens.
If you want the classic London experience packaged up into one fun day out, then look no further than the Gin Lovers Afternoon Tea Bus Tour. Whizz round the city on a red double-decker bus and see the top London sights, including Westminster Abbey, a perfect example of English Gothic architecture, and the famous clock tower, Big Ben. You’ll get to feast on a delectable afternoon tea of sweet treats and savoury snacks along the way, provided by Brigit’s Bakery. You’ll also get to sip on three refreshing cocktails crafted by Slingsby Gin, proud producers of some of the finest gins in the country.
London is home to a thriving LGBTQ community, but visiting as a curious traveller can seem daunting if you’re not too sure where to go. This tour of London’s LGBTQ scene will take you to all the worthwhile bars, clubs, art exhibitions and more, all alongside a local guide and LGBTQ advocate. Listen to captivating stories about London’s queer scene and history, and meet fascinating people along the way. Head off the beaten track and see a side of the city away from the mainstream hum.
Rewind to the 1970s and be prepared to release your inner roller diva at a roller-skating class. Follow your guide as you learn a variety of tricks and moves while grooving to retro tunes. Once you’ve nailed it and feel up to a good standard, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase tickets to a roller disco after the class, where you can continue to zoom around, enjoy drinks and snacks from the bar and boogie the night away on wheels.
A trip to London isn’t complete without a visit to the V&A, the world’s leading art and design museum. Housing 4.5 million objects that span over 5,000 years, a travel-trail treasure hunt is undoubtedly the best way to explore the site and all it has to offer. Hunt down a range of travel-inspired treasures alongside a professional museum hunter, and learn fascinating facts containing clues to search for the likes of Silk Road camel figurines to win you that first-place prize.
The Milk Float hires out paddleboards and kayaks so that you can explore London’s waterways. Cruise down the canal with views of the impressive London Stadium (formerly the Olympic Stadium), and admire the street art all around, with Hackney Wick boasting an impressive array of graffiti on just about any wall you come across. Once you’re finished kayaking, head to Crate Brewery for a pint of freshly brewed beer and a wood-fired pizza. All beer is brewed in-house, and the pizza choices are super creative, with the Kashmiri dhal and Middle Eastern lamb being highlights.
Despite many investigations, the Jack the Ripper case remains one of the world’s most mysterious criminal cases. Jack the Ripper terrorised the streets of London, killing and mutilating women in the most chilling of ways. To this day, the identity of this person and the motives behind their actions remain a total mystery. Take a walking tour of Whitechapel to retrace the steps of London’s most notorious serial killer, using handheld projectors help to envision how the streets looked all those many years ago in 1888, as well as receiving a detailed insight into Jack the Ripper’s exact movements.
The Tower of London dates back to 1066 as a palace and a safe place of defence. It remains one of the world’s last-standing Medieval buildings and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander back through a rich timeline of history, and visit the grounds where many gruesome executions took place. See where the Crown Jewels are kept – estimated to be worth several billion pounds – and reimagine how life would have been all those years ago.
If you consider yourself a foodie, there’s no better place to go in the city than Borough Market. Its current location dates back to 1756, with rumours circulating that it could be over 1,000 years old. Head here for award-winning raclette, classic English wine and seasonal and organic produce (ideal for stocking up for a picnic at the top of Primrose Hill). Take a Secret Food Tour of Borough Market and London Bridge to explore the area in more depth. Sample classic British foods, visit local pubs and see famous sights along the way.
The Globe Theatre is a beautiful Elizabethan building that provided a base for top-notch entertainment during William Shakespeare’s time. Although the original structure burnt down in 1613, the existing venue is a perfect reconstruction and even uses some of the old timbers as part of the new theatre. It’s also the only building with a thatched roof in the city – these types of roofs have been banned since the Great Fire of London swept through in 1666. Opt for an informative tour of the theatre for insight on how shows were produced, or snap up tickets to one of Shakespeare’s transformational works of art.
Kew Gardens is London’s biggest UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s also home to the most diverse collection of flora on the planet. Weave between trees and wander through the Great Broad Walk, before stopping for a bite to eat at the on-site café. Get lost in one of the jungle-like glasshouses, showcasing a range of different plants from different climates, and retrace the steps of King George III at Kew Palace. It’s easy to forget that you’re only a stone’s throw away from Central London.
Although the Hampstead Heath Ponds are the ideal place to spend a hot summer’s day, they’re open all year round. If you’re brave enough to join dedicated Londoners, a wintery dip might just be the most liberating thing you do on your trip to the city. There are female, male and mixed ponds, so pack a picnic (with supplies from Borough Market, of course) and make your way over. Be sure to save some time to explore the surrounding area – you’ll find acres of lush greenery and beautiful, grand houses lining the pretty streets.
The Natural History Museum is an absolute must-visit when in London. While it houses the planet’s most significant natural history collection, the museum’s architecture alone is worth a visit. See real dinosaur bones and a life-size blue whale figurine, and explore the intricate timeline of evolution. A trip to the Natural History Museum won’t cost you a penny either, so be sure to grab a souvenir in one of the museum shops – all products are made sustainably with recycled and organic materials.
Karl Marx, George Michael and Christina Rossetti are just a small selection of the famous people buried at Highgate Cemetery. This Victorian burial ground boasts Gothic architecture and tombs influenced by Egyptian times. Wander through paths lined with twirling trees, and see if you can spot some of the more unique graves of interesting characters (keep an eye on their names). While it may be the place of rest for many, it’s also a thriving habitat for an abundance of wildlife, so it’s the ideal location to do a spot of birdwatching – if that’s your thing. You might even spot a badger if you visit at the right time.
The British Museum contains over 2 million years’ worth of preserved human history. Embark on an exhilarating treasure hunt of the museum and unravel fascinating facts and secrets along the way. Your professional museum hunter will guide you through some of the world’s most prized treasures and provide insightful facts along the way.
Step out of the busy London streets and straight into the Wild West. Take your (illegally smuggled) liquor of choice along and let expert Moonshine Saloon bartenders serve you bespoke cocktails crafted with a variety of garnishes and syrups. This immersive cocktail experience sees you as the protagonist in a stealthy liquor-smuggling expedition, where you’ll get to explore the moonshine distillery, mingle with the local people or even challenge them to one of the on-site games. You’ll be dressed to blend in with the regulars to minimise the chances of being busted, but be sure not to give away any secrets when the sheriff swings by.