What to Do in London
This post is our guide to things to do in London, with tips on free things to do, suggested nighttime activities, things to do with kids, top attractions and other points of interest, updated for 2018. You may also want to check out our pay-what-you-wish walking tours.
- Top 10
- Free Things to Do
- Top Attractions + Museums
- Nighttime Activities
- Things to Do with Kids
- Seasonal and by Month
- By Neighbourhood
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN LONDON
In this section, we list our top 10 things to do in London. In reality, these are the top 10 concepts, as we are listing many more than 10 items. Of course, many things might belong on this list, so be sure to check out our other sections of this post.
TIP: Many of London’s top attractions and tours are included for free or at a discount with any of the many London tourist discount passes available to you.
1. Witness the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
This world-renowned spectacle takes place daily in the summer and 4 days a week the rest of the year (weather permitting).
Our definitive post explains how and when the ceremony takes place, who make up the guards, and shows you where to get the best spots to watch. We also include a video for easy consumption.
Or, you could have us take you along on our free Westminster Tour.
And did you know that you can tour Buckingham Palace? Well, there are 3 different options and not all are available all year. We detail it all in the link above.
2. Tower of London and the Crown Jewels
Both the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels are enduring symbols of the British Monarchy. This is another bucket list trip for first-time visitors to London.
We give tips on how to visit, what you will experience, the best times to go (including exclusive early-bird tours), as well as tips on how to save money, in our guide to visiting the Tower of London post.
Top Tip: Entry into the Tower of London the Crown Jewels exhibit are included for free in both the London Pass and the IVenture London Card.
The Tower of London is the final stop on our Old City of London Tour.
3. Our Pay-What-You-Wish Walking Tours
Whether you’re in town for a weekend in London or sightseeing for the day, our London tours cover popular tourist destinations as well as off the beaten path parts of town.
We offer both guided tours and self-guided tours that take you through the heart of The City and Westminster and help you decide what to do in London and what to see.
4. Walk Across Abbey Road
Recreate the famous album cover by the Fab Four who recorded their material at the Abbey Road studios, located right beside the most famous traffic crossing in the world!
They didn’t go far to reach the crosswalk and neither will you. It’s located just a short walk from the St. John’s Wood Underground station. We detail how to get to Abbey Road in a blog post.
You might also be interested in our self-guided tour of Beatles sights in London, which includes this stop.
For London music lovers, you may be interested in taking our (pay-what-you-wish) London Rock N Roll Tour, which includes many Beatles’ sites. Mondays and Thursdays at 14:00 (2 pm).
5. Ride a Double Decker Bus and Cruise the Thames
London has several hop-on-hop-off bus tour options to choose from to take you from one popular attraction to another. Additionally, there are many themed bus tours, such as the Harry Potter Tour, the Jack the Ripper Bus Tour and a ghost ride.
Check out our bus tour comparison post.
Likewise, there are many Thames River cruises available to you, including hop-on-hop-off options, circuit cruises and even commuter rides.
Learn more from our boat tour comparison post.
6. Get Your Harry Potter On
Fans of Harry Potter are at the epicenter for settings in both the books and film franchises when they visit London. It seems that just about everywhere in this city has been used as a backdrop or main setting.
There are no costs to visit these locations and to take your own photos. We have created several posts on finding Harry Potter sights, including how to find Diagon Alley, the Ministry of Magic, Platform 9 3/4, or check out our free, self-guided tour of Harry Potter London locations.
Want to meet other Muggles? Then join us for our pay-what-you-wish, guided Harry Potter London Film Location Tour.
7. Experience the Street Art of London
London is one of the world’s premier cities to view street art and there is no better place to see it than in London’s East End. World-renowned artists as well as the anonymous hit the London streets to put up some of the most impressive pieces of artwork.
Jam packed full of eclectic, interesting, shocking, and beautiful street art, this area of London is practically blanketed in some of the most famous street art in existence.
You could join us on one of our free London Street Art and Graffiti Tours.
While you are in the neighborhood, you might want to check out our free, self-guided East London Food Tour and it’s surrounding areas.
8. Visit Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster
Famous the world over, Westminster Abbey has seen over 16 royal weddings, is the burial location of 17 monarchs, has held globally watched events (such as the funeral of Lady Diana Spencer), and is also home to the United Kingdom’s Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.
Likewise, the Houses of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster is also open for touring and is located adjacent to Westminster Abbey.
You can also attend a public viewing of either Houses of Parliament for free (see our section below).
9. Attend a Concert or Major Sporting Event
As a mega-city, London offers more big-name entertainment options than you could possibly take advantage of in one trip. The city has several major venues to choose from, including:
London is home, of course, to several world-famous football teams, and attending a home game is a must-do for some visitors. Below are the major teams. You can also tour their stadiums and team museums.
- Tottenham Hotspur
10. Visit a London Museum
Click here for even more free London museums.
We’ve even put together an itinerary for London museum lovers.
There really is so much to do in London that doesn’t cost anything that you could spend an entire visit visiting free attractions, museums, and events. Several can be visited by day, some by night, and even a few can be visited at both times.
Many of the items mentioned in the top 10, such as watching the Changing of the Guard or visiting one of London’s many museums are also free to do, as well as items in other sections of this post, are absolutely free to do.
Many attractions have buy-1-get-1 free offerings.
Visit the Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament (located inside the Palace of Westminster) is the legislative body for the United Kingdom.
Any time the House of Lords or the House of Commons is at work inside the Palace, the public may enter the building and sit in the public galleries to watch the political debates as they take place!
A particularly popular time to visit is at noon on Wednesdays when the Prime Minister takes questions.
Read our guide on how to visit Parliament.
Walk Across Tower Bridge
There is a price to enter the Tower Bridge Experience, but it costs nothing to cross Tower Bridge and it’s spectacularly illuminated in the evening.
The bridge opens and closes several times a day, so be sure to time out your visit to witness this. Sometimes, the bridge is scheduled to open is drawbridge at night.
Find out more information on our Tower Bridge post.
Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral for Free
St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey have a hefty price-tag for entry, but for those who are traveling on a budget, it is worth noting that both churches hold services on weekday evenings and throughout the day on Sundays that are free for the public to attend.
Guests at the services are not allowed to wander throughout the building. This means no audio tours or taking in the museums and memorials throughout both churches.
However, worshipers are invited to come inside and sit in the main body of the buildings and partake in a church service being held in some of the most breathtaking religious sites in the country.
Sky Garden – London’s Free Observation Deck
At the top of London’s new “Walkie Talkie” building sits a restaurant, bistro, bar…and free public garden!
The views from this building are almost unbeatable in London, and even though the outdoor viewing balcony closes around 5, the atrium stays open until the late hours of the night.
Watch the sunset from the garden and enjoy the sights of London as it lights up the night.
Guests must pre-book but there is no cost to do so. Public ticketed hours are from 10 am till 6 pm (Mon-Fri) and 11 am till 9 pm (Sat-Sun), though the restaurants and bars remain open until 1 am on most nights.
Learn how to book your spot on our Sky Garden post.
Be sure to also check out the other options for great “free” views of London.
The British Museum
Founded in 1753, the collections held at the British Museum span over two million years of history!
World famous objects kept here include the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon sculptures which are displayed alongside classic sights such as Egyptian mummies and ancient works of art from across the globe.
The British Museum isn’t the only free museum in London. Other notables include the Tate Modern, the National Gallery and the Imperial War Museum. Read our post on other free museums in London.
OK. It’s not as crazy as Times Square, but it’s close. There’s no need to spend a dime here. You will be entertained just by the cacophony of buses, cars, people and just about every other sound imaginable. Learn about what’s to see in this most central of areas.
Or you could join us on our Piccadilly Circus, Soho, and Chinatown Tour, which runs several times a week.
Get an All-Inclusive Tourist Discount Pass
A tourist discount pass affords you discounted entry into most of London’s most popular tours and attractions. While the passes themselves certainly aren’t free, if you plan your itineraries well, you will end up getting one or two attractions for free each day.
There are several different types of London tourist discount passes, so be sure to read our comparison post to learn about how you can save more of your hard earned money while in London.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Westminster Abbey
- Buckingham Palace
- The Changing of the Guard
- The Palace of Westminster and Parliament
- 10 Downing Place
- St. James’s Palace
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- The Tate Modern
- The British Museum
As a mega-city, London has no shortage of night activities. For our full list of recommendations, visit our full post on things to Do in London at Night, where we break down by free, family-friendly, restaurants, and entertainment.
We also have a post where we list and review all of the night sightseeing tours available to you, including our pay-what-you-like evening tours. We have several dozen ideas as well as links to other resources.
Below the video, we recommend just a few of our favorite ideas.
- The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London
- Stroll through Piccadilly Circus
- Museums with Late Night Openings
- Sky Garden Observation Deck.
- Watch a West End Musical
- Dinner Cruise on the Thames
- Pub and Club Crawls
- Watch Street Performers
- Take a Jack the Ripper Tour
- Or Join a Pub Crawl
Many of London’s top attractions are kid-friendly and all of our daytime Walking Tours are great for families. For more family-friendly activities to consider, visit our post on Visiting London with Kids
Visit a Museum
These museums have dedicated children’s sections or activities that entertain and educate during a family visit.
Tour Buckingham Palace
Open to the public, you can explore certain sections of the palace, home to the royal family. Family activity bags are available free of charge, so be sure to ask for one when picking up your tickets. At the State Rooms, there is a drawing and coloring room.
Explore Harry Potter’s London
Lovers of the Harry Potter series will adore London! We have created several posts on finding Harry Potter sights, including how to find Diagon Alley, the Ministry of Magic, Platform 9 3/4, or check out our free, self-guided tour of Harry Potter London locations.
Want to meet other Muggles? Then join us for our free, guided Harry Potter London Film Location Tour.
Ride the Stratford Slide
This is the world’s highest and longest tunnel slide. It was originally intended to be a piece of art, but in 2016 the slide was added which takes guests from the observation tower at the top, 12 circles throughout the curves on the structure, and all the way to the bottom in a 40-second trip!
- Location: The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
- Tickets: £16.50 for Adults / £10.50 for Children / £13.50 for Concessions / £52.00 for a Family of 2 adults and 2 children
- Note: Riders MUST BE AT LEAST 1.3m tall and above the age of 8. Only children above the age of 14 can ride unaccompanied by an adult.
- Book HERE.
See a Show
There are several theatres throughout London that have excellent programs for kids, such as the Little Angel Theatre and Half Moon Young People’s Theatre. Both theatres have kid-themed shows running often and at times host interactive workshops.
Another effective way to plan your trip is to discover London by neighborhood. This has the advantage of cutting down on time spent traveling from one area to the next.
London contains many distinct neighbourhoods and districts. You can explore on your own and we’ve created over a dozen self-guided tours, many of which also provide tips on things to do, restaurants and places to stay, as well as growing list of self-guided GPS-enabled audio tours.
Of course, you can join us for one of our many pay-what-you-wish walking tours for deeper insight into the neighborhoods shared by one of our knowledgeable and personable guides.
Below is a list of 13 top areas.
- Old City of London
- St. James and Piccadilly
- Hyde Park and Kensington
- Covent Garden (+ Covent Garden Food Tour)
- Trafalgar Square
- Leicester Square
- Camden Town
- Borough Market
We have also created guides based on the time of year. Click on the links below for the corresponding time that you plan on being in London. These also include monthly weather expectations to help you plan how to dress.
- January (weather)
- February (weather)
- March – (weather)
- April – (weather)
- May – (weather)
- June – (weather)
- July – (weather)
- August – (weather)
- September – (weather)
- October – (weather)
- November – (weather)
- December – (weather)