I’ve had a long-time love affair with London. I’ll never forget stopping over there briefly in college after a semester in Italy. The moody weather, friendly black cab drivers, accessible and dignified culture and (let’s be honest) adorable accents left such an impression that it was the destination I chose for my first solo trip 5 years later. It has since become one of my all-time favorite cities.
So when my co-worker Liz came to me looking for some things to add to her upcoming London itinerary, I was more than happy to oblige. And thus, a blog post was formed!
HERE ARE MY TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN LONDON
1. Eat your way through Borough Market
With stall after stall of fresh food including produce, cheese, juice, baked goods, sausages and more, Borough Market is a foodie’s paradise. It’s frenetic with people crisscrossing every which way in search of their next nibble. Follow the crowds to the Kappacasein stand and try their legendary “toasted cheese” sandwich. Yum.
2. Walk the Thames Path
From Borough Market, head out towards the Thames River and you’ll find the Thames Path, part of a 184 mile National Trail that runs right through downtown London. As you walk along the river, you’ll pass by the Globe Theater, Tate Modern, Gabriel’s Wharf (which is super cute), the London Eye and street performers galore. Stop in any of the attractions that may catch your eye (or that may help you escape from a rainy day).
3. Take your picture with some London icons at Parliament Square
After you’re done meandering along the Thames Path, head across the Westminster Bridge to check out the sights around Parliament Square. Here you’ll find Big Ben (my favorite London icon- back from the days when I first saw Peter Pan!), the grandiose Parliament and the regal Westminster Abbey. If that isn’t enough, from here you’re only a 1/2 mile walk to the heart of London’s royal presence: Buckingham Palace.
4. Have High Tea
I’ve always found the tradition of “having tea” to be so alluring and refined. Taking a moment to stop and enjoy a piping hot pot of tea along with cold cucumber sandwiches, freshly baked scones with clotted cream and an array of sweets is the perfect way to spend a rainy London afternoon. Head to Claridge’s for their ritzy Champagne Tea (£49 pp) or I’d recommend you try the Orangery at Kensington Palace for their super affordable and delicious Afternoon tea (£18.95)
5. Check out antiquities at the British Museum
For anyone who likes history, architecture and learning about the past, the British Museum is all that and more. The sheer size of the gorgeously designed building is nothing in comparison to the truly amazing and ancient artifacts it holds. Egyptian statues, sculptures from the Parthenon, Easter Island Moai, the Rosetta Stone! To help you get the most out of your visit, grab a Multimedia Guide (£5) for insider insight on the best of the best of the Museum’s collection.
6. Explore St Paul’s Cathedral top to bottom
St. Paul’s Cathedral itself is a gorgeous fixture on the London skyline, but there are some unexpectedly cool things to see here as well. Under the main floor is a crypt that’s a somber and sweeping monument to those who are laid to rest there, such as Lord Nelson, Lord Wellington, Sir Christopher Wren and Sir Alexander Fleming… to name a few. Then, head up to the Whispering Gallery to experience the amazing acoustics before continuing on to climb to the top of the cathedral’s dome. There you’ll see sweeping views of downtown London. (As with the British Museum, definitely grab one of the audio tours, which is included in the £15 admission to the cathedral.)
7. Visit TKTS for cheap theater seats
London has a fantastic theater scene, and if you have time on your trip, definitely check out the TKTS Booth in Leicester Square for the cheapest tickets around. I’ve used TKTS to see shows like Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King and to get the best choices, the trick is to arrive right as the booth opens (9 AM Monday – Saturday, 10:30 AM Sunday). Most tickets run around £30/ ticket, but there’s a range, depending on availability and demand.
8. Listen to free speech in action at Speakers Corner
If listening to random people stand on their soapbox (literally!) and tell you what they really think about the world sounds fun, then this is the place for you! Since the 1800s, people (including Karl Marx and George Orwell) have been demonstrating their right to free speech on this little corner on the north-east end of Hyde Park. Today, the tradition is still going strong (especially on Sundays) and you can expect to find people ranting, lecturing and discussing a variety of different topics such as religion, capitalism and the faults of humanity to little pockets of crowds who respond by heckling, mocking or simply listening to what the speaker has to say.
9. Embrace your inner book-nerd at the British Library
For any bibliophile, the British Library is the ultimate destination for a small but quality display of legendary manuscripts. You’ll get up close to a Gutenberg Bible, the original Alice and Wonderland, the Magna Carta, one of Jane Austen’s notebooks, letters from Charles Darwin, sketches by DaVinci and music that was hand-written by Mozart, Handel and the Beatles. And that’s just scratching the surface!
10. Be entertained at Covent Garden
Ending this list on a lively note is Covent Garden, an area full of restaurants, shops, entertainers and lots of upbeat crowds. It’s the ideal place to relax, enjoy a bistro-like dinner along the main piazza and shop in the main market to buy souvenirs for your friends and family back home… or blog-writing co-workers (hint, hint Liz!)
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF MY LIST? DO YOU HAVE ANY MUST-SEE PLACES TO ADD?