Top 10 London Tourist Activities
London is a tourist’s dream. You can spend an eternity in London and never run out of things to do. Samuel Johnson said it best, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. In that vein, here are my top 10 tourist activities to do in London.
Open-Top Bus Tour
Let’s start with the quintessential London tourist activity. I was hesitant to go on one of these tours because it’s seen as for tourists only and not people who live in London, not to mention my native London friends made fun of me for even considering it, but I must admit, I really enjoyed. Yes, I saw the same things I saw on my daily walks, but this time, I learned the history behind all those tall, old buildings.
The tour stops at places like Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and Tower of London. The bus is hop-on, hop-off, so you can get on at any of their stops if something catches your eye, and then get back on somewhere else.
We went with The Original Tour company because it included discounts to other tourist attractions, like the London Eye and a River Thames boat tour. We paid £34/person for a 24-hour ticket, which means if you buy at 11 a.m., you can ride until 11 a.m. the next day.
The London Eye
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel that looks over the River Thames, Big Ben, and the Palace of Westminster. You ride to the rop in a giant pod with about 15 other people. It is so cool seeing London from a bird’s eye view.
Our tickets were discounted because we purchased through The Original Tour company, but stand-alone tickets are £27.50.
River Thames Boat Tour
This is such a fun experience and gives you a completely different perspective of London. Our tickets were included with our open-top bus tour tickets but you can find other boat tours here. There are also dinner boat cruises and party cruises!
Explore the Neighborhoods and Markets
Some of my favorite neighborhoods in London are Camden, Shoreditch, Brixton, Notting Hill, and Chinatown. Camden has a great market that is open every day, and on Sundays, the Columbia Road Flower Market is a must! Brixton is also great for concerts. I saw Jeremy Loops at the O2 Academy Brixton and it was fantastic!
Walk through the parks
London is famous for its parks, and for good reason. I loved spending weekends strolling through the parks or going for a run after class. I was lucky to live at the intersection of three parks, Green Park, St. James’ Park, and Hyde Park, so I am definitely partial to those three. Hyde Park is the biggest and has a gorgeous lake in the middle where you can watch kids scream as they try to feed large swans. It is also home to Kensington Palace (aka Will and Kate’s home) and hosts Winter Wonderland each winter. Buckingham Palace sits right between Green Park and St. James’ Park. You can’t go wrong spending an afternoon in one of London’s beautiful parks.
Visit a Museum
Like its parks, London is known for its museums and the best part? They are completely free! My favorite museum is The British Museum, which is home to the Rosetta Stone and so many other unique artifacts. I also really enjoyed my visit to the Natural History Museum.
King’s Cross Station
Any Harry Potter fans out there? Well, I could write an entire blog post about all the Harry Potter places to visit in London, but the most famous is probably King’s Cross Station. When I visited London as a child, there wasn’t anything acknowledging the Harry Potter connection, but over the years, the station has really leaned into its fame. There is a Harry Potter store and a luggage cart stuck halfway in the wall with a line to take pictures. Worth it for any major Potterhead.
Take in the sights at famous roads, junctions, and squares
Like Times Square in New York City, there are a few famous squares in London that are a must for any tourist. Piccadilly Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Trafalgar Square, Oxford Circus, Leicester Square, and Abbey Road top the list. Watch street performers, listen to local artists, and take photos in the iconic phone booths!
Get a drink at a pub
You can’t visit London without stopping by a local pub for a pint. If beer isn’t your thing, don’t fret, London is also known for its gin and tonics.
If you are lucky enough to visit London in the winter months, you must visit one of the Christmas Markets. They are hard to miss and you can find them in Hyde Park, Leicester Square, and under the London Eye at the Southbank Winter Festival (to name a few). I could write an entire blog post about the London Christmas Markets. Let me know in the comments if you would like to see that!
How to get around
London is not just known for its tourist attractions, even its public transportation is famous. The black cabs are iconic and the red double-decker buses are recognizable all over the world. An Oyster card (the public transportation card) gives you access to the underground (aka tube or subway) and the buses. You can also use your contactless credit card to tap in and out of stations and buses. London is also a walkable city and you can get to a lot of places on your own two feet.
Unfortunately, at the end of 2019, Uber lost its license to operate in London, however, they are appealing the decision. Check to see if Uber is still operating before your visit.
What are you favorite tourist activities in London? Let me know in the comments!