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Top 10 Things to Do in London

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.)

Photo via Flickr: @EEPaul

 

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.

Photo via Flickr: @AndyRobertsPhotos

 

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!

Photo via Flickr: @TheCreativePenn

 

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!)

Photo via Flickr: @apdk

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF MY LIST? DO YOU HAVE ANY MUST-SEE PLACES TO ADD?

 

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12 Responses to Top 10 Things to Do in London

  1. Mandy Kilinskis September 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    I have yet to have the pleasure of taking high tea in London, but I assure you that it’s on my list of things to do next time I visit.

    I’m also a huge fan of Westminster Abbey. It’s beautiful to look at from the outside, but the inside is even more breathtaking. And with so many monarchs, actors, and writers laid to rest, it’s a delight for any history or book nerd. Also Jeremy Irons voices the audio tour, which is just a treat for your ears.

    But great post, Chris! I definitely look forward to trying out a couple new things next time I go!

    • Chris September 26, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

      @Mandy, high tea is one of life’s simple pleasures… and it’s even better when in London!

      Thanks for the tip about the Westminster Abbey audio tour… I had no idea that Jeremy Irons narrates it. A treat indeed!

  2. Liz September 26, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Chris, you are AMAZING! I’m now itching to go right away. Of course, my trip will now be almost completely dictated by this list. Can’t wait to tell you more about it.

    P.S. the website looks beautiful!

    • Chris September 26, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      Aw, thanks Liz. I’m glad you like my list! Can’t wait to hear all about the adventures that you have on your trip… report back if there are new things to add to the list, too 🙂

  3. Hilarye September 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    This is a great list. London can be really overwhelming for people because it’s bustling and there is so much to see and do!

  4. Chris September 26, 2012 at 11:12 pm #

    Thanks @Hilarye! London definitely can be really overwhelming… so much to see, so little time. But after a handful of visits, I finally feel like I can commit to 10 of my favorites. The things I’d want to see over and over again.

  5. Bobbi Lee Hitchon September 27, 2012 at 2:52 am #

    I love that list isn’t everything people would expect to see or do, but everything they must. I think I tried them all when I studied there. I especially loved speakers corner and Borough Market! Such an amazing city. There really is no end of things to do there!

    • Chris September 27, 2012 at 7:27 am #

      Oh, you got to study there? How lucky! It would be nice to have more time to explore and dig a little deeper. And I’ve never been to the Tower of London (something that I’ve wanted to see)… one day!

  6. Leon marker October 9, 2012 at 5:25 am #

    Really. I like this great list. i will try 10 things to do in london next month.

  7. Liz December 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    Sadly I wasn’t able to accomplish all of these things during my trip to London. I was really excited about Speaker’s Corner and the Borough Market, but I wasn’t around on the right days!

    The British Museum was by far the best museum I’ve ever been to. I guess it makes sense in terms of the country’s colonization history, but I wasn’t expecting to be as astonished as I was. Fun fact: I spoke to one of the gift store guys who told me that if there’s something there that you want to see that isn’t on display, you can still arrange to see it. All you have to do is go to their item list online, find the item number, and contact the museum. They’ll help you set up a time to go into their basements to view it!

    I also think that St. James’s Park should be added to this list. It’s really charming, with lots of beautiful birds and crazy history. At one point, it was inhabited by camels, crocs, and an elephant (my favorite).

    Thanks for the tips, Chris. They were more helpful than you could know!

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