Things to do when visiting London

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.

Carnaby Street Soho

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.

Sanderson Hotel afternoon tea

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.

Sanderson Hotel afternoon tea

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!

Sanderson Hotel afternoon tea

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.

Borough Market

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.

Borough Market Japanese food

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!

Matilda the musical

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.

Hyde 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.

Portobello market

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.

Crouching Venus

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.

Tower of London

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!

londonlandmarks

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?

23 Comments

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23 Responses to Things to do when visiting London

  1. Ah I’m so glad you had a fantastic trip, Chelsea…it looks like you did everything I could’ve suggested! Picnics in the park are one of my all-tie favourite things to do in London during the summer. Jealous you saw Matilda- I couldn’t get tickets on my last 2 trips…at least none that weren’t crazily overpriced. I did see Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory which was brilliant!

  2. I am so insanely jealous of you! I can’t say anymore!

  3. Seeing your photos makes me want to go to London again ASAP!

  4. Joe is going to be thrilled we’re going to high tea if our day or two in London works out next year ;) I refuse to miss that experience (my mum and I went for tea every few months growing up, and I loved it), so he’ll just have to deal ;) I love the sound of soho, too, and getting to see a show in the west end?? Love to do that some day :)

    • Chelsea

      You’re going overseas next year? That’s so exciting!!! Let me know if you need any other tips/suggestions. I started writing a post about tips for visiting London, but I’m not sure if I’ll post it. I can definitely share the tips with you if you’d like though. :)

  5. Annnnd now I want to go to London. I said this on Khushboo’s post about it too, but I seriously need to try the Mad Hatter’s tea thing! I adore Alice in Wonderland so much.

    • Chelsea

      There was also another hotel that had a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory themed tea. I think Alice in Wonderland is a way better theme though. ;)

  6. You’re so lucky you got to do this! I really believe travel is the best thing we can spend money on!!!

  7. I haven’t been to LONDON is AGES and it’s about time I get my butt on back there!!!!! Thank YOU for the to-do list! :)

  8. Not gonna lie — the Mad Hatter’s tea is probably my favourite part. I’ve never had proper afternoon tea before, but I think it sounds so quirky (??) and fun. Then again, I’m a sucker for history so I’d get a huge kick out of all of those historical sites as well. Gah! Need to make it out there…

    • Chelsea

      Afternoon tea is the best! And the Alice in Wonderland theme just took it over the top. It was hands down one of my best experiences there.

      If you ever visit this neck of the woods, I’ll take you for afternoon tea at thsi cute place in Burlington. ;)

  9. How amazing is Soho- Seriously, i could live there.

    (not really, it got too crowded at night and someone threw a pint of cider on me). Outside of that….Matilda?!! That is amazing- I didn’t know they had a musical made! Where is the Harry Potter tourist attractions huh ;)

    • Chelsea

      I wanted to go on a Harry Potter studio tour, but it was all sold out!! :( :(

      We did walk along the Millenium Bridge where party of HP 7 was filmed though haha.

  10. you are seriously adorable!!! I think you pretty much covered everything I did! Borough market was naturally my fav :)

  11. That is such a nice picture of you and your sister!

    I was in London for week in 2010 (oh wow was it that long ago??) and I absolutely loved it. I did a lot of the same things as you but I think Borough Market, Portobello Market and Hyde Park were my faves :)

    • Chelsea

      Borough Market was amazing, wasn’t it? We just don’t have anything comparable here! Although the Evergreen Brickworks Market is pretty wonderful.

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