Must-see London for visitors
Ten things every visitor should do in London to avoid those 'I can't believe you didn't see…' moments
Fri Oct 11 2013
Olivia Rutherford / Time Out
When you've only got a few days to explore Europe's third biggest city, you have to prioritise. But what are the things that you'll regret missing when you get home and the water cooler crowd's retrospective travel tips come flooding in? Here are the ten London activities we think you'd be a fool to miss out on. Those who've completed the list already might also like to browse our collection of 101 things to do in London.
While this free museum is bursting with memorable exhibits, it's definitely the enormous diplodocus skeleton cast in the Victorian buidling's stunning entrance hall that sticks in the memory of visitors of all ages. The Dinosaur Gallery is also very impressive, though the 2005 animatronic T-rex is perhaps not the fearsome finale it once was (to grown-ups, at least). The Science Museum and the V&A are the NHM's neighbours, so pay them a visit afterwards.
Take a tip from us: Queues for the dinosaur gallery can get more intimidating than the dinosaurs themselves and once full the gallery loses some magic; get there early at peak times, or go and see the lifesize (enormous) model of a blue whale in the mammals room instead.
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO LONDON'S BEST MUSEUMS
- Cromwell Rd, SW7 5BD
Heaps of fresh fruit and vegetables, platters of seafood, huge speciality cheese wheels, crisp organic breads and just about anything else a food obsessive could be tempted by is available at this ancient and enduringly popular market. The ingredients are of the highest quality, but also often with prices to match, so if you're looking for an affordable meal it's best to join the queues for one of the burrito, burger, hog roast, falafel, raclette or other hot and delicious lunch stalls.
Take a tip from us: The market gets so full as to be no fun at all on Saturday lunchtimes. Go on a Friday or get there early so you can actually get near the food, rather than be pushed past it.
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO LONDON'S BEST STREET FOOD MARKETS
- Southwark St, SE1 1TL
Of all the impressive sights in our impressive city, there's nothing quite as striking as the imposing landmarks of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square and Big Ben at Westminster, with 10 Downing Street sitting between the two. Tick loads off your sightseeing list on one 15-minute walk down Whitehall.
Take a tip from us: From Westminster, wander across the river for the London Eye, London Dungeon and Southbank Centre, or pass Westminster Abbey on your way to St James's Park and a picturesque, shady route to Buckingham Palace.
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO LONDON'S BEST ATTRACTIONS
- WC2N 5DN
Browse Portobello Road Market and Notting Hill
It sounds like an excuse to watch the Hugh Grant romcom yet again, but Notting Hill is genuinely a lovely area to explore, especially if you favour the finer things in life. Boutique shops and civilised restaurants pepper Westbourne Grove, while Portobello Road is stuffed with shiny trinkets, specialist antiques, gift shops and high-end food stalls.
Take a tip from us: There's not much shelter from bad weather in the area, so make alternative plans in case of rain. If you get caught in a downpour during your shopping, though, you could run for the cover of the nearby Whiteleys shopping centre, which was also featured in a Richard Curtis film – its lovely atrium was used in 'Love Actually'.
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO LONDON'S BEST SHOPS
- Portobello Road, W10
Any shopper could happily spend a good hour roaming the glossy halls of London's most glamourous department store, but the Food Hall, for its beautifully tiled and gilded walls as much as its wares, is the corner that will really take your breath away. Who even knew that macarons came in so many colours? If you've just had lunch, start with a wander through the dazzling jewellery collections, or admire the pedigree puppies (and designer doggie accessories) in the pet department.
Take a tip from us: The Food Hall may be lovely to look at, but the prices of everything are unsurprisingly high. Make a note of the brand that's caught your eye and Google it to find it elsewhere, cheaper.
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO LONDON'S BEST DEPARTMENT STORES
- 87-135 Brompton Rd, SW1X 7QN
All eight million objects in the British Museum's permanent collection are worth a look, but the most memorable are surely the mummies. Rooms 62-3 hold exhibits from as far back as 2686 BC which represent the ancient Egyptian view on death and the afterlife. And make you feel like you're Indiana Jones. Want to see the key to our understanding of heiroglyphics while you're in town? Pop over to the Rosetta Stone. Or do you feel the Greeks made more of an impact? Be wowed by the Elgin Marbles, which have been on public display here for nearly 200 years (but wanted back by the Greek government for over 30).
Take a tip from us: You won't be able to see the whole museum in one visit, so choose some exhibits or eras ahead of time and build your route around them.
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO LONDON'S BEST FREE MUSEUMS
- 44 Great Russell St, WC1B 3DG
You could fill months exploring London's art scene, and many of its galleries and exhibits are iconic. Often the most memorable, though, are the exhibitions that fill Tate Modern's five-storey high Turbine Hall from October to March. Once you've had your fill of the gallery's eclectic collection and unique events, head outside to take in the building itself from a blustery vantage point on the Millennium Bridge.
Take a tip from us: The gift shop in the Tate Modern is excellent, and the perfect opportunity to pick up books and souvenirs that will gather admirers rather than dust.
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO LONDON'S BEST ART EXHIBITIONS
- Bankside, SE1 9TG
Primarily, of course, this is a massive toy shop, but Hamleys also provides a good half hour of free entertainment for little ones as they gaze at magic bubbles, magic tricks, magic worms and other exciting and engaging demonstrations. In the meantime grown-ups can enjoy a big old trip through an entire memory town built of Lego, Sylvanian Families, Scalextric and gadgets you had assumed never made it past the '80s.
Take a tip from us: The ground floor can seem overwhelmingly hectic, so pick the floor that most interests you, start there and work back downstairs.
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO KEEPING KIDS ENTERTAINED IN LONDON
- 188-196 Regent Street, W1B 5BT
Hyde Park may be a touch more famous, but Regent's Park is London's finest. It contains more fun than one park should be able to hold: a boating lake, an open-air theatre, several award-winning gardens, playing fields, a pub, an ice-cream shop and even London Zoo. Wander through Queen Mary's Garden to admire the city's largest collection of roses and get some fresh air away from traffic-packed bustle of the rest of central London.
Take a tip from us: We very much recommend that you visit London Zoo if you have time, but if you'd like a sneak peek, walk along its perimeter within the north end of the park and along the Regent's Canal and you might spot a hairy anteater, warthog or giraffe.
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO OUTDOOR LONDON
- Chester Rd, NW1 4NR
There's no more British way to pass a few hours than by enjoying a pint and some stodgily satisfying food in a pub. Wander into the first one you find and you'll likely be disappointed (in the food, in particular), but put a little effort into finding somewhere good (with our guide to London's best pubs, for instance) and you'll never want to leave. Want to live like a local? Settle in for way longer than you intended.
Take a tip from us: Don't judge a pub by its cover. Often the pubs that look the most presentable thanks to a 'trendy' redesign are the least likeable. You'll get a lot more character from a traditional boozer (like the Princess Louise).
VISIT OUR GUIDE TO LONDON'S BEST PUBS
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