London felt like one of the biggest and busiest cities I’ve ever been to. There was SO much on the go, with an endless supply of things to do/see/eat/drink. Just doing the research for things to do in London was overwhelming enough – hundreds upon hundreds of blog posts and articles listing ‘Top Must See Things in London” and “Must Visit Spots in London”. These lists aren’t your usual Top 10’s either, we’re talking Top 100, some even more.
Eventually I stopped reading and we just did our own thing, figuring out the best things to do as we went along. So, here I am, adding to the never-ending supply of blog posts about things to do in London with a few of things that we managed to squeeze into a week.
1. A boat trip to Greenwich
We arrived in London in the early morning and saw the sun was shining. So decided to do something that involved us being outside to take advantage of the glorious sun (as we weren’t sure if we’d see the sun again on our trip!). We went to Embankment and hopped onto the ferry that took us to Greenwich. The ticket cost 12 Pounds for the round trip (we used our Oyster card as it was cheaper), using Thames River Services. The trip took about 40 each way and was a really cool introduction to London. There is a guide providing commentary along the way, pointing out the London Bridge, South Bank, St Paul’s Cathedral, Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern, Tower Bridge (read more about the Tower of London), The Shard etc. The guides are really funny, and well worth a tip at the end of the trip.
Once at Greenwich you can visit the museum, stroll through the market, relax in the park and enjoy a meal at one of the pubs. We had our first pie and gravy at a pub called Pie and Mash (super original name).
2. Walk around South Bank at night
South Bank is so beautiful at night, it’s so cool to see all of the lights along the bank and the bridges all lit up. There’s loads of trendy bars and pubs along the bank to enjoy a few drinks, we just walked along the bank though and crossed Tower Bridge. It also makes for some beautiful photo opportunities.
3. Visit Buckingham Palace
You have to visit Buckingham Palace – it’s just one of those things. Although, I’d have to admit it was a slight let down. It just doesn’t seem as grand in real life, though it was cool to see it in real life after only seeing it in movies and on the news. We managed to catch the end of the changing of the guards so saw the guards marching down The Mall, which was also pretty cool.
4. A picnic in the gardens
The gardens surrounding Buckingham Palace are absolutely beautiful, and go on for days. There’s Green Park, St James Park and the Buckingham Palace Gardens. On our way to the palace we stopped at a M&S and bought some picnic snacks to enjoy in Green Park. It was the start of Autumn when we were there, so the leaves were all starting to change colour turning the park into a beautiful Autumn wonderland. I loved this picnic, and could spend hours strolling through the parks.
5. Walking Tour
I always find that walking tours are the best way to get to know a city – especially when you have limited time available. On our Eurotrip a few years we discovered Sandemans New Europe Tours who offer free walking tours in all over Europe and the UK. Every tour that I’ve ever been on with them has been amazing, the guides are all young, energetic and really knowledgeable about the city that they’re in.
The free tour started in Covent Garden and covered the main highlights of London, including Buckingham Palace, the gardens, Parliament, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square among others. They also offer other paid for tours which I’m sure are just as good, some in London include The Grim Reaper Tour, Old City Tour, Alternative Tour, Ale Tour, Pub Crawl and Oxford Day Tour.
6. Oxford Street/Piccadilly Circus/Traffalgar Square
All the famous Streets and Squares that you’ve heard about on TV and in the movies – another must visit in London. While this was my first visit to London, it was so strange how familiar everything sounded – I already knew the names of the popular streets, I recognised the suburb names, the Tube stops and the shop names. So it was cool to see it all in real life, even if it’s actually just a Square with a fountain in the middle – it’s a famous Square! Oxford Street was such fun to walk down (it’s REALLY long!) and there are loads of shops, slightly overwhelming at times.
Then Piccadilly Circus is quite a sight to see, especially at night with all of the lights. London really is an exciting city.
7. Watch a theatre production
This was an overwhelming experience in itself – particularly the finding something to watch part. My word, there is a lot going on on the London theatre scene. We ended up watching the Book of Mormon, after hearing it was really good, at the Prince of Whales theatre in Piccadilly Circus. It was really good – not for the faint/sensitive hearted! I’d definitely recommend going to some sort of theatre production in London, or even just a comedy show – there’s more than enough on offer to choose from.
8. Lunch (or dinner) in a traditional English pub
English food is actually pretty boring – fish and chips, pie and gravy…? But hey, when in London right? There are so many cool Traditional English pubs scattered around London (everywhere in the UK actually), offering a good pint and decent meal. And usually quite cosy.
9. Museums and Galleries
You need more than a week in London to visit all of the museums and galleries – there are so many, and they’re all huge. We managed to squeeze in a quick visit to the Science Museum and also a few hours strolling around the Tate Modern Gallery – both were really cool, and I’d recommend including them in your plans. I wanted to get to the National History Museum, but we ran out of time – something for next time though!
10. Sky Garden
I’m so glad that I found out about Sky Garden! It’s the free version of getting a good view of the London skyline (you can skip paying a fortune to go up The Shard. Sky Garden is situated in the Cheese Grater building and takes you up 155 meters to experience London from the top. It’s an amazing view from a beautiful indoor garden. As I mentioned, it’s free, but you need to make sure to book a spot in advance – you can do that on their website. Definitely worth it!
11. St Paul’s Cathedral
We only managed a quick visit on this one, and really just a stroll around the Cathedral – next time I’d like to make time to go inside.
12. Camden Town
Camden Town was loads of fun – I loved browsing through the markets and checking out all of the cool things on sale. We met up with a friend who lives in London who showed us around the town. We started off taking a walk to Primrose Hill (the hill the Red Hot Chili Peppers sing about in their song Emit Remmus) – we wouldn’t have known about this hill if it weren’t for our friend. It’s a proper locals joint – everyone gathers on the hill with a few drinks to watch the sunset – with super chilled vibes. We later ended up in a local pub – where we stayed for the rest of the night…and quite a few more beers.
All photos taken by Michael Langer.