London is a city that will constantly captivate and enthrall you, no matter how many times you visit. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time in the city, you’ll still find something to be fascinated as – I’m from the capital and I’m still finding new things to do in London all the time!
There’s so much to do and see in London that it could take a lifetime; but if you only have three days in the city, you can still see the most popular tourist attractions and experience London living at its finest.
The best things to do in London range from old cathedrals to modern skyscrapers; and from city parks to comprehensive museums. Whether you’re backpacking in London or visiting the city with your family, you’ll love these attractions which give a real essence of the city. Let’s get stuck into the list!
Things to do in London
My favorite London attraction – and possibly the most quintessential thing to do in the whole of Britain – Westminster Abbey is a 700-year-old building in the heart of central London. It was the site of the wedding of everyone’s favorite royals, Will and Kate, and many kings and queens of England have been crowned in the same spot. In fact, the Coronation Chair is on display and can be admired by visitors to the abbey – it is the oldest piece of furniture in the country that is still used for its original purpose.
The architecture of both the interior and exterior of the abbey are well worth admiring, and many visitors to the abbey love to admire the memorials and try to find their favorite British historical character. Buried within the walls are monarchs such as Henry V, Elizabeth I and Edward the Confessor, as well as numerous poets, novelists and lots of other notable people.
The London Eye
Going up in the London Eye will give you a spectacular vista over the whole capital and Greater London; it takes about 30 minutes to do a full circuit, so you’ll have plenty of time to admire the view and snap some amazing pictures.
Each pod can hold up to 25 people, and there’s room to walk around, so you don’t have to worry about being restrained to one particular viewpoint. You can buy tickets beforehand, which is cheaper – but beware that if you do so you are restricted to one time and in London, the weather can never be relied on! It is slightly more expensive to buy tickets at the ticket office of the London Eye, but you will be able to judge when is the best time to see the birds-eye view at the actual time. Remember to also, walk the South Bank for its fun, cultural delights.
Tower of London
It’s rumored to be London’s most haunted building, which comes as no surprise when you consider how many prisoners the Tower of London has seen! It has had several different uses throughout its past: it has been the Royal Mint, a zoo, an observatory and of course, a jail.
Many colorful characters from British history have been ‘sent to the tower’; notable ones include Elizabeth I, Henry VI, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Today, visitors can learn all about these stories and learn the history of the tower, as well as see its most celebrated attraction, the Crown Jewels.
Free Museums and Galleries.
Although these free museums could keep you occupied for a week, I’ve put them under one heading as different people will want to see different museums. Many of London’s best museums are completely free to visit, which is great for a rainy day in the capital (and I’ll be honest, we get a fair few of those…).
If you are interested in nature and geography, check out the Natural History Museum; my favorite museum in London. With exhibits about dinosaurs and natural disasters, it’s a fascinating place to learn about the world around us. If you’re more into social history, the Imperial War Museum details Britain’s involvement in various wars, including World Wars One and Two. The Science Museum is a great place to visit with kids, as there are lots of hands-on exhibitions about physical science and technology, and the V&A museum is one of the best tributes to art and design in the world, with thousands of exhibits through the ages.
If you’re looking for something a little more British, check out the Museum of London for all things related to the capital. The British Museum – which was the first public museum in the world – has exhibits from all over the world that are very impressive too. And if you’re an art fan, the National Gallery and the TATE are world-class galleries that are completely free to enter and browse!
Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) and the Houses of Parliament
A fairly easy one to check off your list of the best things to do in London, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are located by the River Thames. There’s plenty of great angles where you can get an iconic shot of the buildings, either side of the Thames or further down the river.
If you want to impress your travel mates with your London knowledge, let them know that the tower is actually called Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben the bell inside the tower!
The inside of Elizabeth Tower is not currently open to tourists, however, it is possible to book tickets to a parliamentary debate, if you organise them in advance. These are generally free, but tickets are limited – so if this is something that you want to do in London, reserve in advance to avoid disappointment.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Another renowned building of London, the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral often features on TV shows and postcards, so seeing the exterior is mandatory during your trip to London. It’s well worth taking a peek inside as well; to admire its fine baroque architecture and learn about some of the fantastic historical events that have taken place here.
A cathedral has stood on the site of St Paul’s for over 1,400 years; the present Cathedral opened in 1710, after the one before it perished in the Great Fire of London in 1666. If you’re interested in the British Royal Family, Prince Charles and Diana were historically wed here – and it was also the place of Admiral Lord Nelson’s Funeral.
You can’t visit the capital without seeing the Queen’s residence! No matter what your feelings are toward the British royalty, it can’t be denied that seeing the Change of Guards is one of the most British things to do in London.
The Change of Guards takes place at 11 am every day in the summer and every other day in the winter. Sometimes it is called off due to rain, and it is well worth trying to see it during the warmer months, as during the winter their iconic red jackets are covered with a coat!
If you’re visiting London during July and August, Buckingham Palace is open to visitors. You won’t get any glimpses of the Queen – she doesn’t live there during these months – but you’ll be able to see various rooms of the castle. Tickets are fairly expensive, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience!
Beautiful Tower Bridge is one of the best photography spots in London; from the bridge you can see some of London’s best skyscrapers, including the Gherkin and the newly built ‘Cheese Grater’, as well as the Tower of London and other historic London buildings.
The bridge is pretty spectacular, too; it was constructed between 1886 and 1894 and, with its grand appearance, is the most popular bridge in London. Visitors can head to the Tower Bridge exhibition, which has a glass floor and interesting displays about the bridge’s history. The attached Victorian Engine Rooms are a great place to learn about the inner workings of the bridge.
Even though there are dungeons of the same style all over the world, the London Dungeons do a fantastic job in telling the capital’s goriest parts of history in an unforgettable way. Learn about serial killers like Jack the Ripper and the real extent of the Bubonic Plague, while being scared out of your wits by the amazing actors!
Even though it rains a lot in Britain, we do love our parks. Hyde Park is known as the green lung of the city, and is a fantastic place to take five from the busy surroundings of London. The park features ponds, fountains and boating opportunities across its 350 acres, as well as ample walking opportunities. On a Sunday, Speakers’ Corner is home to people sharing their views on a variety of matters, which is always worth a visit.
If you’re not at the park over the weekend, there are plenty of bars and cafes to kick back and relax in. London has a plethora of things to do and these are just the beginning. Once you are done with these, you can even look up this list of family-friendly places to see in London.
Claire Martin is a British travel blogger and freelance writer. She blogs about eco-travel and overland adventures on her blog Claire’s Footsteps; she has spent the last year and a half driving around the entirety of Australia and is currently back in the UK planning an overland trip through Asia. She wants to explore as much of the world as possible in an eco-friendly manner, and invites you to do so as well!