Just some of our favourite London things
I'm often asked what a Londoner would recommend for visitors to do in London. It's hard to know where to start. There are just so many things to do... and I might be a little Hackney-centric, but here are some of my favourites.
London can be very tiring, covering a lot of ground. Up and down escalators, hopping on and off buses and pounding the pavements for miles. Plan your days well so you're not trekking back and forth. It's a big city and travel within it can add up.
One of my favourite ways to see the main sights is by river boat. The Thames Clipper allows you to get a day ticket, hop on and off when you like, or just stay on for the ride. There's a cafe and toilet. It passes the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Tower of London, St Paul's, London Eye and many more key attractions. Wave at the people as you pass under millennium bridge. Or head out on a guided tour to Greenwich and back.
Other ways to get around London
On foot (check out apps like go jauntly) and make sure you've got comfortable shoes, you'll certainly clock up the miles. Tube (avoid peak travel times if you can and remember to stand on the right), bus and overground (use an Oyster card or contactless - you'll need one for each traveller), Lime bike or similar, grab a rickshaw in Central London and of course, Uber or a traditional London black cab. Although be aware that traffic can be very slow at peak times.
The usual suspects, in no particular order
If it's your first visit to London you'll probably want to tick off all the main attractions.
- Buckingham Palace
- Royal Albert Hall
- Hyde Park
- Regents Park
- London Zoo
- London Aquarium
- Science Museum
- Natural History Museum
- V & A
- St Pauls
- National Gallery
- Tate Modern
- Tate Britain
- Hayward Gallery
- Whitechapel Gallery
- The British Museum
- Covent Garden
- London Eye
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- Docklands Museum
- Southbank Centre
- Barbican Centre
- The Shard
- Trafalgar Square. Giant lion statues, Nelson's column and fountains. Also very handy for the National Gallery, St Martins-in-the-Fields Church, Admiralty Arch and The Mall.
- Highgate Cemetery. Full of mature trees, Shrubbery, wild flowers and notable people.
And some other ideas...
- Dennis Severs House . This Spitalfields house was built in 1724. Walk through time following the story of an imaginary Huguenot family who lived there.
- Postal Museum. Ride a mail train and explore the history of our postal system.
- London Transport Museum. Learn about the history of London transport in the heart of Covent Garden.
- Museum of the home. Rooms through time showing how homes and life have evolved in the past 400 years.
- Twist Museum. London's home of illusions, Oxford Circus.
- Wilton's. A grand East End music hall presenting theatre and music.
- Foundling Museum
Museum of Comedy
At the end of Museum Street, just around the corner from The British Museum. A small, friendly venue with a little bar area, up and coming comedians and numerous comedy artefacts. The Monday Club is one of our favourites.
- The Dickens Museum. The London home of Charles Dickens.
- Shakespeare's Globe. A reconstruced Elizabethan theatre. See a show, have a tour, or both.
Somerset House. The home of cultural innovators.
- Kenwood House. A former stately home in Hampstead, now with English Heritage.
- Fenton House. 17th century merchant's house and gardens, Hampstead. Now with National Trust.
- The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
- Cutty Sark, Greenwich.
- HMS Belfast. A historic warship and museum on the Thames.
- Earth Hackney. A theatre and concert hall hosting art and music shows.
- London Transport Museum, Covent Garden.
- Churchill War Rooms. Walk the top secret corridors of Churchilll War Room sand glimpse at what life would have been like, SW1.
- Kew Gardens. Beautiful botanical gardens.
- Craft Council Gallery. A public space dedicated to craft, Islington.
- Serpentine Galleries. Contemporary art gallery in Kensington Gardens.
- Barbican. Cultural centre including theatre, dance, library, art and design, music and cinema. Iconic brutalist architecture, including tours.
- Sutton House, National Trust Tudor house in the heart of Hackney.
- Last Tuesday Society, Bethnal Green. Museum of curiosities, cocktail bar.
- The Kings Head, Kingsland Road. From the outside this pub looks like a forgotten, run down East End boozer. But inside you'll find the butterfly, polar bear and the wildcat rooms.
- Mare Street Market. Bar, restaurant, flowers, barbers and tattoos!
Grab a bite in central London
We love Rossodisera on Monmouth Street or Da Mario, just around the corner on Endell Street. Or for a very fancy treat in Marylebone, Orrery.
Head over to Euston, NW1 for delicious vegetarian curry at Diwana Bhel Poori House. Bring your own drink (from the shop next door).
If you're in the Spitalfields area, there are plenty of market food stalls, or this place is perfect for tea and cake or full lunch. The Market Coffee House & Bar. Next door to Liverpool St. Station you'll find a wealth of choice at Eataly. Get a take out and head to the park just to the left of Spitalfields market. A little further up, in Shoreditch, is the fabulous Gloria - Italian food with 70s Capri-style trattoria. Or near Aldgate tube is the Whitechapel Gallery restaurant.
We love to go high, somewhere with a view.
- The Shard. Head to the 52nd floor for drinks or dine on the 32nd.
- Shushi Samba East or just have a drink looking down on the Gherkin.
- Monument marking the Great Fire of London in 1666.
- Boundary Roof top bar with a fabulous restaurant in the basement.
- Netil360 Bar, garden and cafe with views over East London.
- Sky Garden. It's free to visit the sky garden, but you need to book tickets.
- St Paul's with its 528 steps
- Tower Bridge. High level walk ways, glass floor and stories of London.
- The Rooftop at Trafalgar St James Views over London, smart/casual dress.
London is made up of many little villages, each with its own character. A day just walking from one to the other can be fascinating. Hackney Central to Hackney Wick. Covent Garden to Trafalgar Square, Knightsbridge to Soho, Gospel Oak to Hampstead. Or just a wander along the Southbank from County Hall to the Aquarium. You'll see lots of street entertainers. Cross the bridge from South to North and head up into the West End. You'll find more entertainers in Covent Garden.
The markets also have their own personalities. For a vast range of food try Borough Market. Covent Garden for sophisticated gifts Camden or Spitalfields Market for a mix of vintage, clothing and gifts.
On Sundays the famous Columbia Road Flower Market is worth a visit. Quite often you'll find musicians playing. The Royal Oak has a very nice restaurant upstairs. Then perhaps walking onto Victoria Park for the food market. Or on Saturdays Broadway market has a fabulous mix of food and gifts. Near by, just to the East of London Fields, on Mentmore Terrace you'll find the famous E5 Bakehouse full of ethically sourced foods, local produce and cafe.
From here, head South to Netil Market and onto Broadway Market, walk along the canal heading East, past the famous gas towers, along to a wonderful warehouse style restaurant with performance in the basement, Bistroteque. Heading back via Bethnal Green Tube, pop into Town Hall Hotel for a drink or wander onto Lee Hurst Back Yard for a bit of comedy.
A walk further East can take you to the Palm Tree, often with live music at the weekends or head out to Number 90, Hackney Wick, for food, art and music at the canal-side bar or Crate Brewery for pizza and beer.
From Liverpool Street station walk over to Old Spitalfields Market. From here you can cut through the brewery visiting places such as Rough Trade Records or have a walk along Fournier Street to see the fantastic Georgian houses, turning left up Brick Lane.
At the weekends this area is packed with market stalls. During the week you'll find a few curry houses and the 24 hour bagel bakery right at the top. Where you can get a bagel at any time of night or day, freshly baked!
Kings Cross there's a huge area, recently redeveloped, full of shops, restaurants, cafes and huge square with fountains.
Down by the river
One of my favourite walks is from St Pauls tube station. Walk through Paternoster square and to St Pauls. From here you can walk across the millennium bridge and over to the Tate Modern.
There's a fantastic view of St Pauls looking back from the cafe on the 6th floor. You'll also be able to see Shakespeare's Globe.
If you're visiting The Tower of London or Tower Bridge then a walk around St Katherine's Dock is nice and peaceful. It's worth trying to see the bridge at night when it's all lit up.
There are cafes and restaurants and lots of boats to admire. Don't forget to have a look at the sun dial outside Tower Hill station.
If you want to head further East, walk through the old warehouses of wapping, along to the Prospect of Whitby. (Read about our tour of Wapping here).
For a view back over London get the train to Gospel Oak and walk up to Parliament Hill. Then on into Hampstead Heath and into the pretty village streets of Hampstead. The Holly Bush, one of the oldest pubs has flickering gas lamps.
Young at heart
- Hackney City Farm
- Museum of Childhood. (V&A) Opens July 2023
- Secret Adventures
- Ride the Slide, Olympic Park
- Ridley Road Market Bar
- West Reservoir. Open water swimming, kayaking, sailing.
- Climbing and bouldering - The Castle, Strong Hold, Mile End Climbing
- London Lidos (of course, London Fields is our favourite)
- White Water Rafting
- Arcelormittal Orbit Slide
- OtherWorld VR
- The Moth Club
- Canoe & Kayak hire
- Dopamine Land: multisensory experience
- All Stars Bowling
- Beyond Retro
After all that, you'll be ready for a sit down... and we do love picnic on a London day out.
We have three London PACMAT prints. Inner London, London Parks and London National Park City to help you plan your days, or keep as a souvenir.
> Read how we tried to tick off the parks.