101 things to do in London: attractions

Find the best of London with our ultimate list of things to do in the capital

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Feeling adventurous? Looking for attractions in London? Or fancy revisiting a favourite London experience? Choose between ‘Attractions and days out’ or ‘Things to do outdoors’, then browse the lists for the very best diversions the capital has to offer...

What's missing from the list? Have your say: on Facebook | on Twitter using #ultimatelondon or in the comments form below


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  • Buckingham Palace

    Buckingham Palace Rd, SW1A 1AA

    The Queen’s official residence may not be the most fairy-tale of palaces, but it remains one of the most famous in the world and justifiably so. The State Rooms (19 in all) are open to the public from late July to early October each year, and in 2011 will display the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress.

    Other royal palaces worth making a beeline for are Hampton Court Palace, Eltham Palace and Kensington Palace.

    Read our guide to royal events, venues and locations in London

     

    Buckingham Palace
  • Changing of the Guard

    © UK MOD Crown Copyright 2011

    Buckingham Palace, SW1A 1AA

    The Royal Family is fashionable again thanks to Kate and Wills, so it’s more than okay to indulge in a bit of monarchical pageantry. The Changing of the Guard takes place every day from May to July at 11.30am in the Buckingham Palace forecourt and every other day the rest of the year. For a better view, head to Horse Guards Parade at 11am where you’ll get the same show without the crowds. Afterwards, try on a bearskin hat and a tunic at the Guards Museum.

    Read our guide to royal events, venues and locations in London

    Changing of the Guard
  • Dash round a sport's ground

    Be knocked for six by tour of Lord’s Cricket Ground and visit the oldest sporting museum in the world – the MCC Museum. The tour takes in the pavilion, the Long Room, the home and away dressing rooms, the media centre and the grandstand, while the museum is a treasure trove of artifacts including the original Ashes urn.

    For football fans be sure to seek out tours of the home of English football, Wembley Stadium, where you can see, among other things, the 1966 crossbar and the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy, and hold aloft a replica FA Cup.

    See more sports ground tours

    Dash round a sport's ground
  • Dr Johnson's House

    17 Gough Square, EC4A 3DE

    Make a pilgrimage to the house where the first ever dictionary of the English language was compiled. Dr Samuel Johnson lived in this four-storey Georgian house just off Fleet Street, feeding oysters to his spoiled cat, Hodge, as he toiled over the exhaustive tome. There’s a statue of Hodge in the small square outside the house, oyster shells lying around his paws.

    Read more about Dr Johnson's House

    Dr Johnson's House
  • Explore Greenwich

    For a historic World Heritage site, there’s a lot that’s new in Greenwich at the moment. Discover Greenwich opened recently, orienting visitors to rich cultural pickings in all directions.

    Don’t miss the Sammy Ofer Wing at the National Maritime Museum, the views from the Royal Observatory, the lovely market and the ales at The Old Brewery pub.

    Find events, restaurants and pubs in Greenwich

     

    Explore Greenwich
  • Float along Regent's Canal

    Jason's Yard, opposite 60 Blomfield Rd, Little Venice, W9 2PD

    Slow the pace right down with a tranquil trip along Regent’s Canal in a long boat. You’ll start at the exclusive watery enclave of Little Venice and wend gracefully to Camden Lock, passing through London Zoo on the way (look out for the exotic birds and warthogs visible from the banks).

    At Camden, there’s plenty of time for a root around the markets before returning on a later boat.

    Read more about Jason's Canal Boat Trip

     

    Float along Regent's Canal
  • Houses of Parliament

    Palace of Westminster, SW1A 0AA

    Visitors are welcome to observe the debates at the House of Lords and House of Commons. The highlight is undoubtedly Prime Minister's Question Time at noon on Wednesday, when the incumbent PM fields a barrage of hostile questions from the Opposition. That’s probably the liveliest session to witness here at the House of Commons, unless you’re a committed student of politics.

    Don’t forget, though, tickets must be arranged in advance through your MP or embassy.

    Read more about the Houses of Parliament

     

    Houses of Parliament
  • Lee Valley White Water Centre

    Lee Valley White Water Centre

    Station Rd, EN9 1AB

    Paddle for dear life at this newly opened Olympic venue, open to the public until London 2012 events begin in earnest, and again afterwards. This man-made white-water course is 300m long, can be set to various levels of ‘churn’ and even has a conveyor belt to take rafters back up to the top of the course without leaving their vessel.

    Read more about Lee Valley White Water Centre

     

    Lee Valley White Water Centre
  • Leighton House Museum

    Ben Rowe

    12 Holland Park Rd, W14 8LZ

    The double-storey Arab Hall alone makes a visit to this unusual Victorian house near Holland Park worthwhile. Thousands of sixteenth-century Middle Eastern tiles and mosaics collected by artist Frederic Leighton (who had the house built to his exact specifications) cover the walls, and the delicate indoor pond and fountain are an exquisite touch. The more you look, the more you’ll find in this remarkable artistic Aladdin’s Cave.

    Read more about Leighton House Museum

    Leighton House Museum
  • London Wetland Centre

    Queen Elizabeth's Walk, SW13 9WT

    You don’t need to be a birdspotter to enjoy the huge variety of avian life on show in this lovely, 104-acre wildlife park – one of London’s best-kept secrets. Our favourite residents are the cute white-faced whistling ducks that reply if you whistle in the right tone. There’s also a rain garden, a giant chess set and regular guided tours.

    Also suggested by:Secret LDN.

    Read more about the London Wetland Centre

    London Wetland Centre
  • Lose yourself in Camden

    Spend a day soaking up the atmosphere of one of London’s most lively villages. Of Camden’s various markets, the Lock Market and warren-like Stables Market are the best, selling classy arts and crafts, vintage furniture and clothes, jewellery and much else besides.

    After a walk along the pretty canal, why not do a celebrity-spotting all-nighter in the grungy pubs, famous clubs and music venues (such as The Barfly and Koko) and busy bars?

    Read our Camden area guide

     

    Lose yourself in Camden
  • Sealife London Aquarium

    © Sea Life London Aquarium

    After a £5 million makeover in 2009, this sprawling waterworld on the South Bank has become a big draw for families and fish fans alike. Among the new additions are a family of jumpy gentoo penguins and some laid-back Cuban crocs.

    But the main event is the Shark Walk, which lets visitors stroll on a Perspex platform as giant predators patrol beneath their feet – including Jaws-alike sand tiger sharks and 4.5m nurse sharks. The piranhas, meanwhile, are best seen at feeding time.

    Read more about the London Aquarium

     

    Sealife London Aquarium
  • Take a spin on the London Eye

    Andrew Brackenbury / Time Out

    The majestic white wheel presiding over the Thames at Waterloo is a globally recognised London landmark. So it’s strange to think the Eye was originally supposed to come down after five years following its erection as part of the capital’s millennium celebrations.

    From inside one of its pods, you get flabbergasting views over London. Peek into the Queen’s back garden, marvel at the Shard skyscraper or just follow the snaking line of the glittering river...

    Read more about the London Eye

     

    Take a spin on the London Eye
  • 'Drive' the DLR

    Grown adults like riding in the front seat of a Docklands Light Railway train just as much as children. Why? Because the trains run automatically, so there’s no driver, no driving cab and nothing to stop you pushing on an invisible throttle as the train pulls out of the station. The tracks are elevated as they weave between the skyscrapers on the Isle of Dogs, which makes the whole experience a little bit city-of-the-future, and a little bit like you’re riding the slowest roller coaster on earth.

     

    'Drive' the DLR
  • National Theatre tours

    South Bank, SE1 9PX

    See how the magic is created on a behind-the-scenes tour of the enormous backstage areas that enable the National’s repertory system to work. You’ll see the huge platform stages on wheels, the revolving stage at the Olivier, the fly tower and – perhaps most intriguing of all – the prop and set-building workshops, where sculptors, carpenters, smiths and painters are creating anything from silicone rashers of bacon to polystyrene rubble.

    Read more about the National Theatre

     

    National Theatre tours
  • Navigate the Thames

    There are so many ways to enjoy London’s mighty river. Walk along the Thames Path for fantastic views or plunge into the water on a Duck Tour, in an amphibious vehicle.

    Thames Clippers run regular services between Millbank Pier and Royal Arsenal Woolwich, but the fastest river ride is a London RIB Voyage.

    The distinctive metal fins of the Thames Barrier are worth seeing, and for something different, why not try walking underneath the river in the Greenwich foot tunnel.

    Also suggested by:The Londonist

    Find things to do on and around the river Thames

    Navigate the Thames
  • Parliament Hill

    © Scott Wishart

    Hampstead Heath, East Heath Rd, NW3 2SY

    This famous little hillock rises steeply from the bottom of Hampstead Heath and offers one of the best views over central London to be found anywhere in the capital. Benches at the top provide a perch as you tick off the Shard, the BT Tower, the Gherkin and Canary Wharf Tower. Turn 180 degrees and you can enjoy the antics of the kite flyers, who are always here making the most of the breeze.

    Read more about Parliament Hill

    Parliament Hill
  • Poke your beak into London Zoo

    © ZSL London Zoo

    Outer Circle, Regent's Park, NW1 4RY

    Lions and tigers and bears are all present and correct, but the enclosure to head for is the pool at Penguin Beach.

    It’s the largest in England and gives much better views than before, with glass sides that fully display the penguins’ transformation from comic waddlers to graceful underwater swimmers.

    Don’t miss the daily ‘Animals in Action’ show and artist-engineer Tim Hunkin’s unusual clock outside the Blackburn Pavilion, which springs into life on the half hour.

    Read more about London Zoo

     

    Poke your beak into London Zoo
  • Scale Monument

    © Jonathan Perugia / Time Out

    Monument St, EC3R 8AH

    Climb 311 steps to the top of the tallest freestanding stone column in the world, and you’ll find the views over London are spectacular. What’s more, you get a certificate for your trouble.

    Designed by Sir Christopher Wren as a monument to the Great Fire of London – and taking six years to build before it was completed in 1677 – it stands 61m high. Its height, incidentally, marks the distance of the Monument from the spot where the fire started, in a baker's shop on Pudding Lane.

    Also suggested by:London Is Cool

    Read more about Monument

     

    Scale Monument
  • Take a tour of the capital

    You’ll stumble across lots of fascinating things as you casually stroll around London, but you’ll miss out on the fascinating anecdotes and explanations behind much of what you see.

    Why not try viewing the city from a different perspective, on one of the capital’s many themed and esoteric tours? There are photographic tours, alternative tours of east London, cycling tours, jogging tours and (our favourite) a tour in a 1960s Mini.

    Also suggested by:Secret LDN, InFormed London and The Londonist

    Find more London tours

     

    Take a tour of the capital
  • Royal Observatory

    © National Maritime Museum, London

    Blackheath Avenue, SE10 8XJ

    Go star-spotting inside the observatory’s fabulous planetarium under the guidance of an astronomer. The journey takes in black holes, clouds of glowing gas, comets and shooting stars, as well as taking a close look at the planets. See Jupiter’s moons and Saturn’s rings before you wander off to inspect the rest of the observatory’s delights, which include the largest refracting telescope in the UK.

    Read more about the Royal Observatory

     

    Royal Observatory
  • See the first red phone box

    © Lisa Payne

    Under the decorative arches of the Royal Academy of Arts is the prototype for the red telephone box. Before 1924, few will now remember, telephone boxes were white. Everyone’s got a mobile phone these days, but there’s still something charming about Giles Gilbert Scott’s design classic, and its evocation of a vanished era of pips, rummaging for change and ‘blue’ calling cards wedged into windowpanes.

    Also suggested by:Secret LDN

     

    See the first red phone box
  • Shakespeare's Globe

    21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT

    This faithful reconstruction of the Bard’s own theatre is one of Bankside’s most iconic buildings. You may think standing up for an entire play is a bit much, but seeing any Shakespeare performance as a groundling is an involving and doubly dramatic experience. Tours of the building include exhibitions all about Elizabethan theatre and Shakespearean London.

    Read more about Shakespeare's Globe

    Shakespeare's Globe
  • Spend a day on the South Bank

    Quite simply, a brilliant day out. In summer, free outdoor performances, imaginative artworks and Jeppe Hein’s ‘Appearing Rooms’ fountain installation amuse visitors – but there’s always something going on around the terraces in front of the Royal Festival Hall, the BFI cinema and the National Theatre, whatever the time of year.

    The addition of restaurants and cafés along the riverside has helped create a buzzy atmosphere, though favourite pastimes still include the classics – watching the skateboarders under the Queen Elizabeth Hall and browsing at the second-hand book stalls under Waterloo Bridge.

    Read our guide to the South Bank

    Spend a day on the South Bank
  • Take an open-top bus tour

    © Grant Rooney

    Visitor Centre, 17-19 Cockspur St, SW1Y 5BL

    It may sound cheesy, but the Original London Sightseeing Tour is a brilliant way to see central London. The informative commentary comes in seven languages and the tour is hop-on, hop-off, so you can stop for breaks anywhere that takes your fancy. The ticket price also includes two walking tours and a river tour. Comprehensive? We think so.

    Good alternative bus tours include Ghost Bus Tours, Harrods Vintage Bus Tour and the Big Bus Tour.

    Also suggested by: London Is Cool

    Read more about the Original London Sightseeing Tour

     

    Take an open-top bus tour
  • Tower Bridge

    Tower Bridge, SE1 2UP

    Tower Bridge is being repainted, but don’t worry, it’s still the same iconic light blue. Check the website for dates the mighty bascules will next be raised, but that’s not the only reason to come. An entertaining exhibition in the old steam rooms, and up on the west walkway, tell the history of the bridge. The views are spectacular, and interactive kiosks have just been added to tell you more about significant buildings on the skyline.

    Read more about Tower Bridge

     

    Tower Bridge
  • Wheelhouse Pottery

    © Andrew Brackenbury

    Merton Abbey Mills, Merantun Way, SW19 2RD

    There are few more meditative and absorbing activities than being at the helm of a potters’ wheel, with a lump of wet clay under your hands. Classes take place on Saturdays at the Wheelhouse in south-west London craft centre Merton Abbey Mills, and anyone from six to 60 is welcome. Prices start at £15 and each proto-potter is allocated their own wheel for the session.

    Read more about the Wheelhouse Pottery

     

    Wheelhouse Pottery
  • Whitechapel Bell Foundry

    32/34 Whitechapel Road , E1 1DY

    This East End bell-making institution has dropped a few clangers in its time – Big Ben and Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell probably being the most famous. But the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is significant not just for its bells – it’s possibly Britain’s oldest manufacturing company, trading since 1570. Fascinating 90-minute tours take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays, though you have to book well in advance. So why not give them a bell?

    Read more about Whitechapel Bell Foundry

    Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace Rd, SW1A 1AA

The Queen’s official residence may not be the most fairy-tale of palaces, but it remains one of the most famous in the world and justifiably so. The State Rooms (19 in all) are open to the public from late July to early October each year, and in 2011 will display the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress.

Other royal palaces worth making a beeline for are Hampton Court Palace, Eltham Palace and Kensington Palace.

Read our guide to royal events, venues and locations in London

 

Users say

17 comments
Eileen J
Eileen J

Tom hasn't been to Kew Gardens.  We will make that one of our places to visit.

sky
sky

thank very much I now know what to do when I go on holiday next week

micheal
micheal

hibbs its fkin london. OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO PAY!" ITS FKIN OVBIOUS. LONDON IS A RIP-OFF

micheal
micheal

hibbs its fkin london. OF COURSE YOU HAVE TO PAY!" ITS FKIN OVBIOUS. LONDON IS A RIP-OFF

miriam bouchoucha
miriam bouchoucha

am bored in london, just came in london to have fun and this morning i get up and have no idea what to do pleas help me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 wanna action thanx

...
...

wait a second... did u just say u were 15 and had a daughter?!

Princess Thomson
Princess Thomson

This is a good list but a few free museums could to added! Im 15 and my daughter loved the zoo and aquarium, as did I!

noob's mum
noob's mum

the entire family enjoyedd this day out i dont know what they're going on about!

Noobs Cousin
Noobs Cousin

these are boring things list good stuff like the dungeon and stuff

aideen mallon
aideen mallon

this is amazing me an my children loved it thanks

Noob
Noob

You noobs this wasn't helpful.

Hibbs
Hibbs

Very helpful things but you. Could say whether someone has to pay to enter or if its free

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