On my recent trip to the UK, my sister and I spent 7 full days in London, so you bet we did a lot of exploring. And I mean a lot! We walked so much that we actually had to take a day off just to recover because our legs and feet were hurting so much. Since I already talked about where to eat in London, in this post I’m going to focus things to do when visiting London.
Soho – Soho is a neighbourhood that’s a great place to go if you want to escape the hoards of tourists for a while. It’s part of the theatre district, and it also has a lot of great restaurants (check out 10 Greek Street, Bibimbap, Lick, and The Pudding Bar from this post), bars, and shopping. You’ll find stores like Diesel, Miss Sixty, and MAC, as well as independent boutiques and the department story Liberty.
Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel – I saw this posted on Khushboo’s blog and I immediately added it to our itinerary. It was such a fun experience! First they let you choose your tea from a set of samples on the table, and they bring it out to you in adorable pots with paper crowns.
Then the feast comes… there were finger sandwiches (ham and grainy mustard on sun dried tomato bread was my favourite), scones, and of course pastries and desserts. The matcha mousse in an edible chocolate cup and the Victoria sponge cake were probably my top two favourites.
That wasn’t even it though – there was also a carrot meringue with filling, marshmallow mushrooms, and a “drink me” potion. The presentation of everything was seriously amazing, and it all tasted as good as it looked. I highly recommend this to everyone!
Borough Market – this farmers market is a foodie’s heaven. There are all sorts of vendors with produce, oil and vinegars, mushrooms, meat, and best of all, cheese. We must have sampled cheese from at least 5 or 6 different stalls.
There were also a million places with desserts like meringue and pastries, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any nut allergy friendly places except for Flaxjacks, which had a line of totally nut free granola bars. I went for the date bar, which was fantastic. There are also lots of stands with ready-to-eat foods like sausage on a bun, Indian food, grilled cheese, and Japanese. We split the gyoza and rice noodles with chicken – both were delicious.
See a play/musical - we were lucky enough to get somewhat last minute tickets to see Matilda at Cambridge Theatre on my second Saturday night there. We had a hard time deciding amongst all the great theatre options: Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mamma Mia, The Lion King, The Commitments, etc. But I’m glad we went for Matilda – it was great to see one of my favourite childhood books/movies on stage. And the male actor playing Miss Trunchbull was spot on hilarious!
Hyde Park – I literally had no concept of the enormity of this park until I saw it. It is massive! On my last day in London we enjoyed a picnic lunch of focaccia, cured meats, and cheese one from Whole Foods, then went for a bike ride on rented bikes throughout the park.
Portobello Market – This is a huge market that runs down Portobello Road in Notting Hill. There was everything from jewellery to vintage clothing to antique dishware to souvenirs. And of course there was tons of street food and baked goods as well.
Department stores – London has some seriously cool department stores. Harrods is the famous one, but personally I found it overcrowded with a confusing layout. I much preferred browsing the designer clothes and accessories at Liberty and Selfridges. Bonus: Selfridges has an awesome chocolate section!
Museums - I didn’t know this beforehand, but all museums in London are free, so they’re a great way to amuse yourself cheaply. We checked out the Science Museum (great exhibit on medicine through history), Victoria and Albert Museum (very cool “Disobedient Objects” exhibit and jewellery gallery), British Museum (loved the ancient Grecian sculpture), and my favourite: The National Gallery. I took a class on art history once, and it’s fascinated me ever since. It was awesome to see some of the paintings I’d studied in real life! I also highly recommend renting the headset for only a few pounds – getting to learn about the context and interpretations of the paintings really adds to the experience.
Historical sites and monuments - This is kind of a given, but I figured I’d throw it in here at the end. The Tower of London is a really neat site – but unlike what we thought, it’s not just a tower; it’s an entire fortress. So you definitely need to devote a good 2+ hours to this site. I also recommend buying the audio guide to learn more about its history.
We also made sure to visit the other famous sites like Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, the Parliament buildings, the Marble Arch, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. They were cool to see, but definitely not something you have to plan your entire day around. Most of the time we just walked by and snapped a picture so we could say we’d been there!
So that wraps up my long, but not exhaustive list of things to do when visiting London as a tourist!
Anything I forgot to include in this list?