Things to Do in London
Lined with grand Victorian buildings and big-name shopping boutiques, Regent Street was London's first dedicated shopping block, dating back to the early 19th century. Running for just over a mile (2 km) between Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Circus, the historic boulevard is now both a major traffic thoroughfare and one of London's busiest streets, welcoming more than 7.5 million annual visitors.
Regent Street is well-established as a shopping Mecca, with over 75 flagship stores including Liberty department store, Hamley’s Toy Store and one of the world’s largest Apple stores, plus designers like Burberry, J.Crew, Anthropologie and COS. Above the dazzling shopfronts, the street is also home to an impressive array of Grade II listed buildings, including the All Souls Church, built by acclaimed architect John Nash, and an eye-catching collection of contemporary street art.
Immortalized on-screen in the eponymous 1999 romantic comedy film, Notting Hill is much more than just a backdrop for the famous Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts’ love affair. The west London district, stretching over Ladbroke Grove, Portobello Road and parts of North Kensington is one of the city’s hippest destinations, lined with vintage boutiques, bijou cafés and indie music venues. Located between the upmarket neighborhoods of Knightsbridge and Kensington, Notting Hill brings a dash of bohemian cool to the stately Victorian townhouses and cobbled side streets, making it the perfect location for the annual Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s biggest and most flamboyant street festival.
Notting Hill is also home to the world famous Portobello market, where one of the largest antique markets in the world is held alongside stalls selling everything from vintage and alternative clothing to handmade crafts and jewelry.
Largely recognized as the world’s greatest museum of art and design, the Victoria and Albert Museum, often nicknamed ‘the V&A’, is one of the capital’s premium museums, taking over a 12.5-acre plot in central London’s South Kensington. Opened back in 1852 and designated in honor of the reigning monarch Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the museum’s vast collection is spread throughout an incredible 145 galleries and spans 5,000 years of creativity.
Containing over six and a half million objects sourced from all around the globe, the free permanent collection is split into four main departments - Asia, Furniture, Textiles and Fashion; Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics & Glass and Word & Image. Most notable are the Medieval & Renaissance galleries where a magnificent series of sculptures, carvings and artworks mark the birth of art as we know it; the Jewelry Gallery, with its glittering collection of jaw dropping jewels and the British Galleries.
Few British royals were as universally adored as Princess Diana, the affectionately nicknamed ‘People’s Princess’, and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain is just one of the many tributes and memorials erected in her name after her untimely death back in 1997.
Opened by Her Majesty The Queen in 2004, the unique water feature is the design of Kathryn Gustafson and represents Diana’s life, quality and openness, a continuous circle of flowing water, crafted from Cornish granite and crossed by three bridges. The memorial fountain lies on the route of the Princess Diana Memorial Walk, an 11km circular trail running through five of London’s royal parks and linking sights like Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace and the Princess Diana Memorial Playground.
Forever synonymous with the lovable Paddington Bear, star of Michael Bond’s iconic children’s books, Paddington Station ranks as one of London’s most famous train stations. Located in west London, the busy station serves both national railway and London underground trains, making it an important transport hub, as well as offering a high-speed train link to Heathrow airport.
The grand Victorian-era building dates back to the 19th century, but today it’s a modern and bustling station, crammed with shops, cafés and fast food restaurants. Paddington Station is also a key stop on Paddington Bear tours of London and fans can snap a photo with Marcus Cornish’s Paddington Bear statue or shop for official toys and merchandise at the Paddington Bear shop.
More Things to Do in London
The London Film Museum, tucked away in a quiet part of Covent Garden, was founded and created by Jonathan Sands in 2008 following the success of Star Wars, the Exhibition. It is entirely dedicated to the British film industry and hosts regular, big-ticket film-themed exhibitions featuring original props, costumes and sets of all kinds. Past exhibitions include Bond in Motion, Charlie Chaplin - The Great Londoner and Ray Harryhausen, Myths & Legends.
The museum was once voted the best family attraction in Britain by the Telegraph. It also features a permanent exhibition (50 percent of which is from Sands’ personal collection) which contains cinema artefacts, photography, films and multimedia tools, taking visitors on a journey through the history of the seventh art, the democratization of its techniques and the story behind today’s blockbusters.
Known to many as the home of the most famous tennis tournament in the world, the Wimbledon grounds also house the world’s largest tennis museum. Numerous onsite galleries and exhibitions allow visitors to experience the evolution of the famous sport.
The collection of tennis memorabilia contains artifacts dating back to 1555, as well as interactive multimedia such as touch screens, a 3D cinema and a holographic John McEnroe. Items on display include championship trophies, film and video footage, championship player mementos and the Wimbledon library. An interactive gallery called CentreCourt360 presents visitors with a viewing experience of Centre Court.
The Cenotaph is a war memorial that stands on Whitehall Street in central London. It began as a temporary structure built for a peace parade at the end of World War I and in 1920 was replaced by a permanent structure made of Portland stone. It is now considered the United Kingdom’s primary war memorial, also commemorating those killed in World War II and other wars in which Britons fought and died. King George VI unveiled the memorial for the second time in November 1946 following the end of World War II. The design of the Cenotaph has been replicated elsewhere in the U.K., as well as in Australia, Canada, Bermuda, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Standing 35 feet high and weighing 120 tons, the memorial has the words “The Glorious Dead” inscribed on it twice. It is the site of the annual National Service of Remembrance, held on Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday closest to November 11.
Fans of Harry Potter will be familiar with the importance of Platform 9 ¾. The fictional platform is located at the very real King's Cross train station in London between platforms 9 and 10. In the Harry Potter books and films, Platform 9 ¾ is where the Hogwarts Express can be boarded on September 1 at 11am. There is a wrought iron archway in between platforms 9 and 10, and the students must walk or run directly at what appears to be a solid wall barrier.
Due to the logistics of platforms 9 and 10, filming of Platform 9 ¾ actually took place between platforms 4 and 5. But so many people came to see Platform 9 ¾ that eventually half of a luggage cart was permanently installed to look like it is going through the archway. Harry Potter fans from around the world come here to have their picture taken with the luggage cart. There is also a Harry Potter themed shop located nearby where you can purchase a wide variety of souvenirs and prop replicas.
One of London’s most celebrated royal parks, Regent’s Park was first laid out by John Nash in 1811, as a hunting ground for Henry VIII and remained a private royal retreat until 1845. Today the 410-acre public park offers welcome respite for the residents of North West London as well as housing the hugely popular London Zoo, where visitors can get up close and personal to an incredible 760 animal species.
The park’s highlights include a boating lake; the recently opened Hanover Gate treehouse playground; the Queen Mary’s Gardens, an exquisite rose garden containing over 400 varieties; and the formal Victorian William Andrews Nestfield’s Avenue Gardens. Perhaps the most famous spot is the idyllic peak of Primrose Hill, as renowned for its many celebrity residents as it is for its expansive views over London, making it one of the city’s liveliest picnic spots.
A striking example of Palladian architecture with its imposing Corinthian columns and regal façade, the Mansion House makes a fitting residence for the Lord Mayor of London. The official residence and head office of the Lord Mayor since 1752, the house remains an important political center, hosting numerous civic meetings, fundraising events, receptions and dinners throughout the year.
The Mansion House is open to the public for guided tours (weekly or by appointment), allowing visitors to admire the opulent drawing rooms, peek into the Old Ballroom and marvel over the Egyptian Hall, actually designed in a classical Roman style. Highlights of a visit include the 18th-century Hallkeeper's Chair; the glittering crystal chandeliers in the Salon; and the Harold Samuel art collection, which features notable paintings and sculptures by 17th-century Dutch and Flemish artists.
Camden Market is actually a group of markets including Camden Lock Market, Camden Stables Market, and Camden Canal Market. It's the largest street market in the UK and has been going since the 1970s. Here you can find everything and anything from books, to clothing, to designer jewellery, CDs, food, and alternate fashions. You might even see a few famous musicians, and you'll definitely see some unique fashion statements!
Camden is a lively area full of cafes, pubs, and live music venues. Camden Market is a place to wander and follow your eyes, your ears, and your nose.
Blackfriars Bridge is the busiest of the four bridges located in central London. It crosses the River Thames bringing both road and foot traffic from one side to the other. The bridge has been updated several times, but the current bridge is 923 feet long, 105 feet wide, and has five wrought iron arches. Stone carvings decorate the piers of the bridge. On the east side the carvings show marine life and seabirds, and on the west side the carvings depict freshwater birds. This reflects the tidal turning point in the river. Most river boat tours along the River Thames will sail underneath the Blackfriars Bridge along with Millennium Bridge, Southwark Bridge, and London Bridge.
In 1982 the bridge gained international notoriety when the body of Roberto Calvi, a former chairman of Italy's largest private bank, was found hanging from one of the arches of the bridge. Five bricks were attached to his body, and around $14,000 in three different currencies was found in his pockets.
One of London’s most fascinating yet often-overlooked museums, Sir John Soane’s Museum is dedicated to its namesake, the much-celebrated neo-classical architect who designed a number of acclaimed Regency-era buildings including, most famously, the Bank of England. The museum, housed across three purpose-built houses in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Central London, was the personal project and one-time home of Soane, designed to inspire and showcase his works to budding architects and students. Opening to the public after his death in 1837, the museum, although recently restored, remains true to Soane’s original design and displays over 20,000 architectural drawings and models.
The building itself is also part of Soane’s work, with highlights including a unique geometric staircase and an exquisite mirrored dome ceiling in the Breakfast Room.
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