Hello, birthplace of Shakespeare , need we say more? Well, yes we do, because so much went down in London — and is still going down! A place of wonderful contrasts, London is a city where new ideas and innovation meet rich history and heritage. This city is bursting with sites of huge historical events that helped shape where the world is today.
With world-renowned museums, stunning architecture, iconic markets, some of
the UK’s the world’s best dining, you won’t get bored in this banging city.
The capital of the United Kingdom, home of Harry Potter, and all things royal family (plus another 10 million people, ya know), this city has something for everyone, and some things that everyone should do.
Here’s our guide for what’s essential on your next trip to London.
One of the most amazing things about London is that for such a massive, global city, it can simultaneously feel quaint and cozy. This is best exemplified by London’s favourite pastime, grabbing a pint at the local pub.
Unlike the cookie-cutter pub chains that you’ll find in other cities, almost every pub you come across in London has a unique design and history. Some pubs, in fact, were coaching inns established as far back as the 1500s, which acted as resting places for inland travellers and their horses (back in a time, loooong before the Tube, when it took much longer to journey across and to the City proper).
Take for instance, The George Inn for example, established in 1543 with the pub itself having been in existence since 1677. In addition to the warm vibe on the inside of the pub, the patio at the front is a great place to sip a few pints in the summer months.
To put it simply, a visit to London is not complete without checking out the plethora of pubs that the city has to offer. Start at one, and you won’t be far from another… just make your way to the hubbub and chatter of nearby pub-goers and follow their tail!
Attend a play
If you can believe it, many people in London actually like Shakespeare. Seriously. Even non-students, people who are not forced to write essays on Shakespeare’s plays as part of a cruel joke that the education system is still playing on the world, will actually pay to watch these intolerably boring plays (can you tell we’re a little scarred from our university literature class?).
If there is any part of your soul that even remotely enjoys Shakespeare, then you need to travel to London because it’s probably the only place on the planet that you’ll be able to say, “I fit in.”
All joking aside, theater is practically a religion in London and there are some amazing plays that you can see in some incredible venues at relatively affordable rates. You can see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe (not the original, but there is nowhere like this venue in the world — plus the stage is actually outdoors!) or if you’re a Harry Potter fan you can catch the latest instalment in the HP world, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Catch a football game
North Americans who live in cities outside of New York, LA, and Chicago are used to having one local team in a major sport, if they’re lucky. This pales in comparison to London, which is the home to six separate Premier League soccer teams.
Soccer (or football as they call it) is by far the most popular sport in London, and taking in the atmosphere at one of these matches is a must for any sports fan.
Crystal Palace and Tottenham are consistently named as having some of the best atmospheres in the league, so if either of these teams are playing at home while you’re visiting London, you’re in for a real treat.
Peruse your way through the local markets
London has some incredible markets spread out all across the city. The Camden Locks Market has a wide variety of food options to choose from, and is relatively popular with tourists as it’s also close to where Amy Winehouse once lived (there is a statue of Amy inside by the Stables Market).
Borough Market near London Bridge has more of a local vibe and – in this writer’s opinion – is hands down the best market in the city if you’re in the mood for stuffing your face with delicious food.
Also worth a visit is the Brick Lane Market in East London and the Old Spitalfields Market, where you can find some cool vintage clothing and antique stalls, as well as a variety of food options.
Take public transit
It can be tempting to make the most of Uber in every city that you visit, especially if you’re from one of the last desolate corners of the world that has yet to legalize what is undoubtedly the best way to get around (*cough* Vancouver *cough*).
However, London has to be one of the most fun cities to take public transit and you should take advantage of this while you’re there. Despite the fact that you’ll hear many people in London complaining about how long they had to wait for “the tube”, they don’t know how good they have it. Their subway system is incredible and will take you anywhere in the city that you need to go.
Furthermore, many of the tube stations are attractions unto themselves. Liverpool Street Station and London Victoria both boast incredible architecture, while you can pay a visit to Harry Potter’s platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station.
Additionally, if you’ve ever waited in line for a bus at some point in your life, you’ll quickly realize the brilliance of the British people when you take your first ride on a double decker bus. One bus, double the seating capacity, great views. Genius.
Explore the nightlife
While you’ll notice that many of the pubs close quite early in London (about 11 pm on weeknights and midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday), that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a great spot to party until sunrise.
London is home to some legendary, world-renowned clubs like Fabric and Ministry of Sound as well as some more niche exclusive ones. The neighbourhoods of Soho, the West End, and Shoreditch are your best bets to find incredible nightlife.
Visit a chippy
Is there anything better to soak up all of the alcohol flowing through your veins than a super greasy, super delicious serving of fish and chips from one of London’s chippies? No. There is not.
Take in the sights
Big Ben, Parliament, Tower Bridge, Shakespeare’s Globe, the Millennium Bridge, Abbey Road, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, Westminster Abbey… perhaps it says something about how many sights there are to see in one city when the writer forgets about Westminster Abbey until ten other spots have been named. The list goes on…
Mark them on your offline maps (Google Maps or Maps.Me) and get goin’!
Take a stroll through the park
You don’t need to go too far out of your way to find beautiful green space in London. For such a huge city, London has done an incredible job of seamlessly integrating nature into its fabric.
However, if you’re looking for an official “park” to visit, you can take a stroll through Hyde Park (the largest of London’s royal parks), Regent’s Park (home to many events and the London Zoo as well a superb rose garden), or St. James’s Park which borders Buckingham Palace.
Visit a museum – for FREE
London isn’t usually known for its affordability, but it is worth noting that you can visit most of its museums for free. The British Museum, Tate Modern, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, and the Natural History Museum (just to name a few) all provide free entry.
In North America, free entry tends to translate to, “this event/place is garbage, we don’t really want you to come anyway.” Not the case with these museums. To name one point of interest, the British Museum houses the Rosetta Stone. If you don’t know what the Rosetta Stone is, please find your closest friend and ask them to slap you as hard as they possibly can, for your own good. Follow that up by getting your ass out to these free museums and educating yourself.
Eat as much breakfast as possible
No one does breakfast better than the British. No one. Slight variations exist all over the UK, but what you’ll generally get in London is the Full English and it is spectacular.
A Full English includes bangers (sausages), back bacon, baked beans, eggs, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, toast, and black pudding (yes, black pudding is bloody delicious).
Technically you should be able to make a Full English breakfast at home (although, it might be hard to find black pudding lying around the grocery store in Canada). However, it’s just not the same as demolishing a full plate of greasy food while sitting down in a London pub, pint in hand, first thing in the morning. Crumpets are available for vegetarians. Just kidding! Those probably have meat in them too and we bet they’re amazing, too.
See your favourite celebs drunk
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If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some tickets to the Graham Norton Show, take advantage.
Ok, so there is no guarantee that you will get tickets (you have to apply), or that you will actually see your favourite celebs full-on drunk (guests are provided alcohol on the show but only a select few, such as Mark Wahlberg, have been sloppy drunk).
However, tickets are absolutely free so you may as well try. Look ahead to see if the BBC is going to be filming a new episode while you’re in London and apply. Hopefully you’ll thank yourself later. These tickets are gold.
Drink in public
If you’ve ever had the police ask you and your S.O. to dump out a bottle of wine on the beach for committing the crime of enjoying a sunset, you’ll be pleased to hear that just like with double-decker buses, the British are a few steps ahead.
You’ll notice in the summer months that most people in London will grab a pint at the pub and take it out onto the sidewalk to drink with their friends, avoiding the mad dash for a seat on the patio that us Canadians are too often used to. Just be aware that you’re not allowed to drink on public transit in London (however national trains are a total go).
Take a day trip
One of the benefits of travelling to London is that the UK is so accessible and the rail network so extensive, much of England is easy to see on just a day trip. For instance, Brighton, a beautiful beach town at the southern tip of England, is only 1.5 hours away via train. Bath and Stonehenge are also popular day trip ideas.
Cycle the Thames River pathway
The Thames River is the heart of London, with many of the city’s most iconic attractions visible from the pathway that lines the river. The public Santander Bicycles that are located around London offer an easy way to cycle the pathway and dock your bike when you’re done, not to mention that the first 30 minutes are free.
Shop, shop, shop
As you’ve probably heard, London is a fashion mecca. Hunt for deals at Primark near Oxford Circus, peruse the chic shops of Carnaby Street, or visit the world-famous department store, Harrods. Maybe after blowing half of your holiday’s budget on clothes, you’ll look as dashing as the British. Probably not, but it’s worth a try.
Tour the Warner Bros. Studio – The Making of Harry Potter
No explanation necessary. Just go.
Shoreditch is so effortlessly cool, Ted Cruz will turn to stone if he comes within 40 miles of the place. Amazing hole-in the wall restaurants, bars, stores, and cafes are sprinkled throughout, so be prepared to get sidetracked if you come to this neighbourhood with plans. In short, Shoreditch is where it’s at and therefore, you need to be there.
Grab a jug of Pimm’s
Essentially the British version of sangria (although I’m sure there’s a loud group of Pimm’s enthusiasts that would like to have us crucified for the comparison), Pimm’s is just the best damn thing to drink in the summer.
A traditional Pimm’s cup is gin-based and is filled with mint and a variety of fruit. Many pubs around London will let you order Pimm’s by the jug to share with a group.
Take in a festival
London is an awesome place to be during the winter months, with Christmas markets basically choc-a-block in December. The rest of the year is filled with amazing festivals like Taste of London, the BBC Proms, the Notting Hill Carnival, and even Wimbledon if you’d like to classify sporting events as festivals (for the purpose of this article, we will).
Get tickets to the William Hill World Darts Championship
Writer’s note: No, I’m not being sarcastic. Darts might be boring AF, but I guarantee you that the audience is having the time of their lives. I was 18 when a friend from England told me that one of the best things to do when visiting London is to catch a darts tournament, if possible.
While I was convinced at first that he was taking the piss, I started to look more closely. You know those people that you can barely make out in the background when darts is on TV for some inexplicable reason? They’re not even remotely paying attention. They’re wearing costumes, they’re dancing, they’re chanting, and they’re days away from being sober again. Think Rugby 7’s, but louder. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself.
Eat as much Indian food as possible
You may have thought that fish and chips was the national dish in Britain because, you know, stereotypes. Well, you’re correct. But you probably didn’t know that fish and chips shares this honour with chicken tikka masala. You read that correctly and they do it very, very well.
A trip to London, or anywhere in the UK for that matter, is not complete without sitting down and devouring some mouth-watering Indian food. A quick Google search will lead you in the right direction for the best curries around town, but chances are high that if you take a stroll in any direction, you’ll run into some amazing Indian restaurants in short order.
With all these things and so much more no wonder London is one of the most visited cities in the world! There is something here for everyone.
What are your favourite things to do in London? Share with us using the hashtag #dailyhivemapped.