“You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” — Samuel Johnson
London is the capital of England and the most populous city in the United Kingdom. It was ranked by Forbes as the top most influential city in 2014. Its strengths include the arts, commerce, entertainment, fashion, finance, tourism and transport. Tourism is one of London’s prime industries making it as the world’s most-visited city.
Regardless of age and interests, London has something for everyone. London, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in London
Here’s my 7 Awesome Things to Do In London!
1. Take the River Thames Cruise and Enjoy the Sights
The River Thames snakes its way through the heart of London and passes by some of its famous sights. There are piers along both banks of the river where you can hop-on/hop-off to visit places of interest which include:
- Houses of Parliament and Big Ben – this is where Members of Parliament meet to propose and discuss new legislation. Visitors are allowed to attend the debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords. Its most famous feature is the Clock Tower, nicknamed Big Ben.
- London Eye – a much loved and popular landmark, this giant Ferris wheel’s 30-minute spin will reward one with amazing and great views of the city and beyond on a clear day.
- Tate Modern – housed in the former Bankside Power Station and is the world’s most visited modern art gallery.
- Shakespeare’s Globe – a modern reconstruction not far from the original theatre which aims to educate, experience and understand Shakespeare in performance.
- HMS Belfast – this large, light cruiser used in World War II is now permanently moored on the River Thames and was preserved and converted into a museum ship.
- Tower Bridge – an iconic symbol of London, the bridge deck is accessible to vehicles and pedestrians, while the twin towers connected by high-level horizontal walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. The most recent development was the spectacular glass floor across the high-level walkways.
- Assortment of Modern Buildings – various unusually shaped buildings can be seen on both banks of the river such as The Shard, which is the tallest building in the European Union, the helmet-shaped City Hall, “The Walkie Talkie”, “The Cheesegrater” and “The Gherkin”.
- Greenwich – best known for its maritime history and location of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Attractions and sites of interest include the clipper ship Cutty Sark, Old Royal Naval College, National Maritime Museum and Greenwich Heritage Centre.
Related Article: Where to stay in London?
2. Wander Around Historical Palaces and Feel Like a Royal
To best understand and appreciate British monarchy, one must visit the stately palaces where the royals lived in the past until the present times, learn the rich history associated with them and be impressed by the stunning architecture of these structures. Some of the most famous and visited are:
- Buckingham Palace – the Queen’s London home which is open to the public (when the Royal family is away on summer holidays).The Changing of the Guards is one of its main attractions.
- Kensington Palace – generation of royals lived here including Queen Victoria and Princess Diana. Current occupants include Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
- Hampton Court Palace – not been inhabited by the British Royal Family since the 18th century. It houses many works of art and furnishings from the Royal Collection.
- Tower of London – one of Britain’s finest historic castles located on the north bank of the River Thames, it served as a royal residence, a prison and place of torture and death, an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England.
3. Step Back in Time Inside London’s Awe-Inspiring Churches
London’s numerous and diverse places of worship with outstanding features and striking architecture have stood as silent witnesses to many important events that shaped British history.
- St Paul’s Cathedral – a masterpiece by architect Christopher Wren, Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married here in 1981 and funerals of many notable figures including Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher have occurred at the cathedral.
- Westminster Abbey – one of the most notable religious buildings in Britain and has been the traditional place of Royal coronation, weddings, burials and memorials. Prince William and Catherine Middleton were married here in 2011.
- Methodist Central Hall, Westminster – it was erected to mark the centenary of John Wesley’s death. It has been regularly used for political rallies – famous speakers have included Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Winston Churchill.
- Saint Martin-in-the-Fields – an English Anglican church which was constructed in a Neoclassical design which became extremely famous, being copied particularly in the United States. The church has a close relationship with the Royal Family, the executive branch of the British government and the Admiralty.
4. Walk Into Museums and be Overwhelmed with Vast Amount of Knowledge
London’s museums host artefacts and other objects of artistic, cultural, historical, or scientific importance from prehistoric to modern man for public viewing and most of them are free. These are but just a few of them:
- British Museum – one of London’s most popular tourist attractions housing vast collections of art and artefacts from Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Roman and Medieval Britain, among others. Probably, the most prized item in its collection is the Rosetta Stone, the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics.
- National Gallery – located near Trafalgar Square, under its roof is a collection of mostly pre-modern art numbering over 2,300 paintings including masterpieces by Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh, to name a few.
- National Portrait Gallery – the first portrait gallery in the world which collects and displays photographs and caricatures as well as paintings, drawings and sculptures of historically important and famous British people.
- Natural History Museum – exhibits a vast range of specimens from various segments of natural history. It is one of three major museums in South Kensington; the others are the Science Museum, renowned for its historic collections, awe-inspiring galleries and interactive and educational exhibits, and the Victoria and Albert Museum which specialises in decorative art and design.
5. Be Entertained at London’s West End
- West End – an area of Central London which contains many of the city’s major tourist attractions and entertainment venues including the commercial West End theatres. To see a West End play or musical tops a visitor’s to-do activity in London.
Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera are two of the longest running musicals which opened in 1985 and 1986, respectively. Other shows worth seeing include Miss Saigon, The Book of Mormon, Mamma Mia and Jersey Boys.
There are also shows for children such as The Lion King, Billy Elliot: The Musical, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, among others.
- Leicester Square – an area in West End which contains a number of nationally important cinemas frequently used for film premières, including the Odeon Leicester Square, Empire Leicester Square and Odeon West End. British and Hollywood stars can be seen during red-carpet premieres.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Leicester.
6. When in Britain, Watch What the British Play
Britain gave birth to a range of international sports including football, rugby, cricket and tennis. These are the most followed spectator sports and many of the crucial international fixtures take place in London.
- Football – remains as the most popular sport and is considered a religion in Britain. The Premier League tops the English football league system and London has its share of teams playing during the 2015-16 season – Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. The league runs from mid-August to early May of the following year.
- Rugby – in London, all rugby clubs play fifteen-a-side Rugby Union and two London teams play in the Premiership – Harlequins and Saracens. The season runs from February to September.
- Cricket – two county teams are based in London – Middlesex and Surrey, and matches run from April to September during football’s off-season.
- Tennis – held for two weeks from the last week of June to the first week of July, Wimbledon is the oldest, most prestigious and the only Grand Slam tournament played in grass. Royal spectators, strict white dress code for competitors and the audience eating strawberries while watching a match are part of Wimbledon traditions.
7. When in Britain, Eat What the British Eat
The full English breakfast is among the most internationally recognised British dishes, along with fish and chips and the Christmas dinner.
- Full English breakfast- a meal which usually includes bacon, sausages, eggs and a variety of other cooked foods, with a beverage such as coffee or tea.
- Fish and chips – a common take-away food consisting of battered fish, commonly cod or haddock and chips.
- Christmas dinner – usually consists of roast turkey served with stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, boiled or steamed brussels sprouts and parsnips; with dessert of Christmas pudding, sometimes mince pies or trifle.
- Other traditional British dishes include baked Cornish pasty, Yorkshire pudding (made from batter consisting of eggs, flour, and milk) to shortbread, Lancashire hotpot (baked dish made traditionally from lamb or mutton and onion, topped with sliced potatoes), steak and kidney pudding, jellied eels (consists of chopped eels boiled in a spiced stock), clotted cream (a thick cream made by indirectly heating full-cream cow’s milk using steam or a water bath and then leaving it in shallow pans to cool slowly) and Sunday roast (meal that is traditionally served on Sunday consisting of roasted meat, roasted or mashed potato, with accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy).
British dishes (left to right): Full English breakfast, Fish and chips, and Christmas dinner. (Photo Sources: Full English breakfast – internationalknitterofmystery.wordpress.com, Fish and chips – standard.co.uk, Christmas dinner – fandbnews.com)
This list is by no means exhaustive and there are many other things to occupy a London visitor’s time. However, it gives a balanced and variety of activities to do and sights to see for one to be fully immersed to the rich British culture, history and tradition. See you in London!
About The Writer:
Asher Villesca was born and raised in the Philippines but have been living with his wife, a nurse and their teenage son in the UK since 2003. They love to travel as a family and they’ve been to a few countries and they want to visit more in the future. Aside from travelling, other interests include sports, music, reading, watching BBC’s University Challenge (a TV quiz show) and becoming a vegetarian. As an accountant, he is more at home crunching numbers than weaving words. A newly qualified TEFL teacher, he is looking for a teaching stint anywhere in the world.