London is a cosmopolitan city where you can find people of different backgrounds and culture all living and working together. There is so much to offer in London in terms of history as well as cuisine and shopping but there is definitely some things you have to do if you are ever visiting London.
While there are many more beautiful churches in Europe boasting fantastic architecture and design, there are 2 famous churches in London worth your time visiting. The St Paul Cathedral with its world-famous dome, is an iconic feature of the London skyline and has been here for 1400 years. The interior of the church features many intricate mosaic paintings and artwork on the Dome and gallery. One of the most famous Royal wedding that took place here is the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
Another notable church to visit is the Westminster Abbey which is the official site of coronations and other ceremonies of national significance. In 1987 Westminster Abbey, St. Margaret’s Church, and the Houses of Parliament were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The famous Royal wedding that took place here is the one for Prince William and Kate Middleton.
For full write ups of the churches, see my other post 48 hours in London with your London Pass – Day 1
2.Fish and Chips
You simply CANNOT leave London without having at least 1 meal of fish and chips. There are still various arguments on who invented the fish and chips but it is no doubt that it was first created in England. As early as 1863, it is believed a northern entrepreneur called John Lees was selling fish and chips out of a wooden hut at Mossley market in industrial Lancashire. Others claim the first combined fish ‘n’ chip shop was actually opened by a Jewish immigrant, Joseph Malin, within the sound of Bow Bells in East London around 1860.
Well, is it any different from Fish and Chips from other parts of the world. I guess there could be shops in Australia or America or even other parts of the world selling fantastic fish and chips but since you are stepping in the land where fish and chips originated, you should give it a try. One of the best ones are the shops with a long history and queue.
3.Watch a Musical
Just like the Broadway in New York, musicals are taken very seriously in London as well. There is a musical showing in every theater every single night in London and there are more than 80 theaters just in London city.
With so many British actors and actresses starting out from musicals, UK musicals have one of the highest standards in the world. Remember to book your tickets in advance as watching musicals is definitely one of the favorite evening activities of the British.
4.Have an English high tea
When in Rome do as the Roman do so when in England, do as the British do which is to enjoy a traditional British afternoon tea. Afternoon Tea is a meal composed of sandwiches (usually cut delicately into ‘fingers’), scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and cakes. The British typically spend their afternoons with families and friends over sandwiches and sweets and chat about everything under the sky.
There are a few famous high tea restaurants or cafe where the locals like to go to and some of these afternoon teas are not cheap at all. You can try the one at Fortnum and Mason, Ritz Carlton or The Wolseley as they all well known for serving very delicious food for their high tea set.
5. Visit a farmer’s market
Europe is famous for their local farmer’s markets where you can get fresh local produce, home baked sweets, products from small scale traditional farms and factories as well as fabulous food. London has 2 very popular markets and every year there are many tourists and local who flock to them to experience the markets.
Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, with a market on the site dating back to at least the 12th century. Some of the best things to try at the market includes fresh seafood like raw oysters or fish and chips as well as some of the local sauces or marmalade. For my full review of the market you can read Borough Market
The Camden markets are a number of adjoining large retail markets, often collectively referred to as “Camden Market”. It is the fourth-most popular visitor attraction in London, attracting approximately 250,000 people each week. Camden market is more interesting then Borough in a way as they have more to offer as there are over 1000 shops and stalls selling fashion, music, art and food. Camden is in zone 2 and there are two underground stations at which to get off, Camden Town and Chalk Farm Road, both of which are on the Northern Line. The market is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm.
6. Big Ben, London Eye and ‘London Bridge’
Leaving London without seeing these iconic landmarks will be like having burgers without the patty. Hearing so much about Big Ben in stories and London Bridge in the famous London bridge is falling rhyme, it is almost a given everyone will see these buildings.
Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower. When completed in 1859, its clock was the largest and most accurate four-faced striking and chiming clock in the world. The clock tower has been part of a Grade I listed building since 1970 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The clock is now undergoing renovations to include a lift and is clad up in scaffolding and is expected to re open in the year 2020.
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames in London and is Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel. The London Eye offered the highest public viewing point in London until it was superseded by the 245-metre (804 ft) high observation deck on the 72nd floor of The Shard, which opened to the public on 1 February 2013
The bridge which is often mistaken as the London Bridge in the famous nursery rhyme is in fact called Tower Bridge. Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. The bridge deck is freely accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians, whereas the bridge’s twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. Read more about my visit to the Tower Bridge 48 hours in London with your London Pass – Day 1
7. See the British guards in action
The British Royal guards in their symbolic red uniform and black furry hats are well loved by every one. From plushies to movies or comedy series, you can often spot the red soldier being used as a symbol of Great Britain. While they look all nice and friendly due to the wrong representation in certain fictional series, they are in fact quite strict and fierce and will not hesitate to shove, shout or arrest you if you are in their way of carrying out their duties as the Queen’s guards.
One of the most interesting times to catch them in action is during the guard changing ceremony which are generally in 2 locations; the Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London. The change of guard ceremony happens at Buckingham Palace around 11 am daily but you can only see them beyond the gates if the palace is not open to visitors during your visit. For the ceremony at Tower of London, it happens every 2 hours and you can watch them up close as long as you are not in their way of duty. You can also get a closer pictures of the guards at the Tower of London.
8. Shop till you drop on London’s longest shopping street
We doesn’t enjoy shopping? Well most adults do and when there is a street that houses all major British high street brands, you definitely need to reserve one day just to check it out. Oxford Street is a major road in the City of Westminster in the West End of London, running from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch via Oxford Circus. It is Europe’s busiest shopping street with approximately 300 shops. There is also the annual switching on of Christmas lights which has become a popular sight for locals and tourist. British popular brands like Primark and Marks and Spencers have their flagship stores located on Oxford street.
On the topic of shopping, it might also be worth visiting the Harrods for their signature bags and cute Harrods bear products.
9. Indulge in Harry Potter Magic
Transport into the magical world of Harry Potter with the Warner Brother Studio – Making of Harry Potter tours. The studio is just about 1.5 hours from central London and is a must for all Harry Potter fans. Be prepared to spend an entire day at the studio walking through real sets and props used for the movies as well as secrets of the film. Read more on my Warner Brother Studio visit Warner Brothers London Studio Tour – The making of Harry Potter
Additional tip: While there is a 9 3/4 platform within the studio, it is just a plain backdrop for you to take pictures but for a real experience complete with the flying scarf and wands, you need to visit King Cross Station. They have a station with a photographer and staff who will help you simulate a flying scarf as you pretend to crash into the wall. It is an experience every Harry Potter fan would love.
10. Watch a football match or Visit the museums
The last point is a tie between a soccer match and museums since they are relatively based on preference and hobbies.
English football is well known in the world wide with English Premier Leagues playing in almost every country. With fans worldwide, England has some of the most popular fan club like Liverpool Fan club and Manchester United Fan club. While they are not located within London City, there are still some clubs in London like Chelsea (Stamford Bridge), Arsenal (Emirates Stadium), Tottenham Hotspur (White Hart Lane) and West Ham (London Stadium). For the lads or any football fan, it will be a great experience watching a match locally in the stadium of the football club they support. Do book tickets online as it is extremely difficult to score a seat for popular matches.
London has some of the most interesting and popular museums in the world. Some of them include the British Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery, Natural History Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.
The British Museum, is a museum dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection numbers some 8 million works and is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence.
Tate Modern is Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world
The National Gallery is founded in 1824 and houses a collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. It is among the most visited art museums in the world, after the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Natural History Museum in London is a natural history museum that exhibits a vast range of specimens natural history. The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons especially the large Diplodocus cast that hung by the central hall before it was replaced in 2017 with the skeleton of a blue whale.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Its collection spans 5,000 years of art, from ancient times to the present day, from the cultures of Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa
There are still so many things you can do in London like relax in one of the many public parks, visit Nottingham hill and join a pub crawl tour so make London your next holiday location.
Footnote: Some of the details in this post is reference from Wikipedia as a source.