London is a treasure trove of brilliant activities and days out worth boasting about. We're completely spoilt for choice with things to do in London, whether you live and work in the capital or you’re planning a holiday, there's loads of ways to fill a free day with fun.
We've delved into the depths of secret London, wandered around the top London museums and attractions, and sifted through our London events calendar to bring you 101 of our favourite things to do in the city. Think of this as your definitive check list of the best things to do in the capital from all corners of the tube map - and then get out there and discover the greatest venues, events, views and hidden corners that this incredible city has to offer.
Discover something new at an institution with centuries of Covent Garden heritage. The Royal Opera House backstage tour takes you around the auditorium and behind the scenes, often with a chance to see the Royal Ballet in class. The Velvet, Gilt and Glamour Tour offers a look at the building’s architecture as you hear stories of the opera greats who have performed there.Read more
Hawksmoor is one of London’s greatest restaurants for steak, so who better to trust with Sunday lunch? Roast rump of longhorn beef is started on a charcoal fire then finished in the oven and served with roast potatoes cooked in duck fat, yorkshire puddings and veg, and bone marrow and onion gravy. Available at Seven Dials, Spitalfields, Air Street and Knightsbridge branches.Read more
A great way to see upcoming talents, Comic Mondays is held in the bar at Theatre Royal Stratford East and is London’s longest running free comedy night. Sessions start at 8pm, with a full bill of stand-ups on a mission to make you smile. And if one of the comics doesn’t tickle your funny bone, you’ll still have cash in your pocket to buy a drink.Read more
In London’s West End there’s an insatiable appetite for Broadway transfers like ‘The Book of Mormon’ and 'Kinky Boots', but there’s homegrown success, too: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘Les Miserables’ and the RSC’s ‘Matilda the Musical’ are among the hits. Last-minute tickets from the Leicester Square ticket booth are usually your best bet for a bargain.
Visit our London Theatre Tickets page to book now.
Imagine you’ve stepped into a painting by one of the Old Masters. Walking into Dennis Severs’ House is rather like that. Restored in the style of east London’s Huguenot period, it’s open for tours throughout the year. In silence, visitors pass through its ‘still life drama’, visiting each room to see evidence of an eighteenth century silk weaver’s family life without ever meeting a soul: a dinner lies half-eaten, a fire still crackles, a chamber pot needs emptying. A unique experience.Read more
You can’t but gawp at the staggeringly invaluable collection of diamonds, crowns, tiaras and sceptres that make up the Crown Jewels. Rock up early to catch a glimpse of these precious rocks that the Royal Family still uses in official occasions. The 900-year-old Tower is one of the country’s finest historical attractions and has enough to see to fill a whole day. Don’t miss the entertaining tours by real live Beefeaters.
From mid-July to mid-September The Proms’ annual festival of classical music takes over the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park. For each concert there are about 1400 £5 standing tickets, but if you want to wave your flags at the famously rousing last night, apply by ballot online from mid-spring. Alternatively, for last-minute tickets on the day, join the queues on the Queen’s Steps.Read more
Ready for some interactive fun? You can experience an alternative take on the magic of fairytales by embarking on a swampy adventure in the bowels of County Hall. Shrek and Donkey aren't the only characters you'll encounter – a whole host of Dreamworks favourites get a look in at an attraction that's enormous fun if you're prepared to throw yourself into the action.
Having been forced out of the premises where it spent the best part of a century by Crossrail, London’s biggest independent bookshop moved into a shiny new home in 2014. The 107 Charing Cross Road site boasts eight levels of bookshelves, an events space, an art gallery, a café and a nifty interactive search tool that makes tracking down books an absolute doddle. It’s also an incredibly beautiful shop just to stroll around. Take that, internet!Read more
Medical research charity the Wellcome Trust created its free-to-visit gallery on the Euston Road to help foster a wider appreciation and understanding of medicine. Innovative exhibitions, talks and performance events reflect themes of medicine and the body in all kinds of creative ways, often through art. The permanent collections include an image library so you can see X-rays from over 100 years ago.Read more
If you’re a fan of twentieth-century design, you can check out a carefully researched example of an authentic 1960s room set at this intimate east London museum. Housed in an old almshouse building, the Geffrye charts the change in British living rooms from 1600 onwards. A major change once we hit the 1960s was not just the way the telly replaced the fireplace as the focal point of a room but the big Danish influence, visible in items such as the teak storage unit and the Fritz Hansen coffee table (both now oh-so cool). You'll come away inspired.Read more
Such is the density of Turkish restaurants between Dalston and Stoke Newington that, of an evening, the smell of grilled meat can be intoxicating. While Mangal II on Stoke Newington Road is the one with the hilarious Twitter account and famous regulars (artists Gilbert & George), Mangal Ocakbasi, just round the corner on Arcola Street, does the better food. Prices have risen in line with its popularity, but it’s still remarkably good value (especially considering you can bring your own booze and there’s no corkage). Order a mixed meze followed by a mixed grill and you’ll leave fat and happy.Read more
There’s an undeniable frisson to being in a working studio, and the daily tours of the Beeb’s radio and television HQ in the West End let even the non-luvvies among us experience some of that thrill. After you’ve taken in the glorious art deco reception and a had a glimpse of the real newsroom, the best bit of the tour is getting to read news stories in a virtual-reality studio. It’s all great, interactive fun and a brilliant chance to see behind the scenes of a British institution.Read more
The ornate mock Tudor exterior and the warren of rooms and galleries are all part of the magical experience of a shopping trip to Liberty. Established in 1875, the original store sold fabrics and fine objets d’art from the Far East. Eclectic style throughout its fashion, beauty, gift and home departments continues to set rather than follow trends, with leading designers selling exclusive ranges through the store.Read more
Banish thoughts of trouser clips and oily repair kits – now that pedal power is fashionable the savvy cyclist gets his bike checked while enjoying a barista-prepped coffee at a cycle café. Look Mum No Hands! is the cream of the crop. The Old Street branch has a large workshop, plus a menu of salads and hot dishes that changes seasonally, plus locally baked cakes and craft beers.Read more
Can’t decide between the Picassos at Tate Modern and the Constables at Tate Britain? Do both! The Tate Boat (decorated with Damien Hirst dots) runs along the Thames between Tate Britain by Vauxhall Bridge and the Tate Modern on Bankside every 40 minutes during gallery opening hours, seven days a week (except Dec 24-26).
Tucked into a little dry dock in bustling Bankside, the full-sized replica of the Golden Hinde galleon looks like it’s just dropped out of the sky, ‘Time Bandits’-style, from another century. As well as daily tours and pirate fun days, there’s the Family Overnight Living History Experience: dress as Tudor sailors, learn about life on a ship then bunk down on the Gun Deck after supper.Read more
The Magna Carta, works of Shakespeare and Dickens, copies of The Beano – they all have a home at the British Library. However, you can also see original manuscripts handwritten by some of the world’s greatest musical talents. See early drafts by John Lennon of ‘In My Life’, ‘She Said She Said’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ written on a piece of Lufthansa-headed paper.Read more
Sir John Soane’s Museum in Holborn takes its name from the architect whose sprawling art collection it houses (he built the Bank of England, so wasn’t short of a few bob). Among the museum’s biggest crowd-pullers is a series by fellow Londoner William Hogarth entitled ‘A Rake’s Progress’, which, in eight scenes, charts the downfall of a young man who inherits and squanders a fortune.Read more
When saxophonist Ronnie Scott opened a basement jazz club in Soho in 1959, he created a space where musicians could play in an intimate setting rather than big concert halls. From Miles Davis and Count Basie to Nina Simone, all the legends played at Ronnie’s. It moved to its present home on Frith Street decades ago and remains a must on any great jazz musician’s tour itinerary.Read more
Nothing beats sitting by an open fire drinking a good pint in a charming old pub (reading Dickens while you toast your toes, optional). On a cobbled street on the lanes above Hampstead village, the Holly Bush is one of the perfect spots for just that. The menu is reliably gastropub, but the low-beamed bar and the eighteenth century interiors are pleasingly far from contemporary.
Tim Hunkins' eccentric collection of mechanical sculptures looks nothing special from the outside, but don't be deterred. If you're a fan of all things quirky, ironic and genuinely original, venture inside, fork out for some tokens and get stuck in. You can do a spot of money laundering, experience a total eclipse (by getting into a cupboard and shutting the door, basically), have your foot tickled by dodgy-looking chiropodist or test your nerve by seeing how long you can bear to hold your hand beneath the salivating jaws of ferocious dog. Prepare to be charmed.Read more
Since 1900 this workers’ caff has provided carbs and protein in eggy, meaty and pan-fried form to the good people of east London. Traces of bygone eras, like art deco interior details and Formica tables have earned it Grade II-listed status but what diners love best is that the fry-ups, grills and Italian dishes are still served by the same family.Read more
The geeks queue around the block for Science Museum Lates, which take place on the last Wednesday of the month (clever timing; most of the museums seem to have settled on a Friday night for their regular after-hours openings). But despite the throng, these adult-only affairs are brilliant, with masses of themed activities to choose from. For many, though, the biggest treat is simply being able to get at the interactive Launch Pad exhibits without having to elbow a bunch pesky school kids out of the way first.Read more
Hire yourself a pedalo in Crystal Palace Park and you’ll be able to admire the Victorian (anatomically incorrect) concrete dinosaurs which inhabit the banks of the lake from a brand new angle. You can even take a waterborne dinosaur selfie, which should win you some Instagram points. Other good reasons to visit the park include a maze, a children’s farm and the ruins of Crystal Palace proper’s aquarium.Read more
A weekend institution in east London, the Sunday flower market that lines Columbia Road is the hippest and one of the best places to buy flowers, bedding plants and even a banana tree if you’ve got the patio space at home. It goes on until 3pm in all weathers, but for the best buys you need to get there for 8am.Read more
This celebration of West Indian culture and Europe’s biggest street party always takes place on August Bank Holiday. Sunday is family day, and on Monday the streets get especially crowded so arrive by tube then walk to Chepstow Road, Ladbroke Grove or Westbourne Grove. Sound systems on the street and in the squares are a big draw, but some of best DJ sessions feature at the warm-ups and after parties.Read more
There once was a time when London street food meant hot dogs from a dodgy-looking cart at 2am. Nowadays our pavements offer such middle-class prizes as venison burgers, n’duja pizzas and lobster rolls, and the best way to lap up some atmosphere while you get gourmet grub all over your face is by heading to a night market. For crowds as trendy as the traders we recommend Street Feast’s various iterations (usually in Shoreditch, Dalston and Lewisham) and for smiling faces and family-friendly fun visit Make Night Market (usually in Bermondsey or Kingston).Read more
Bilingual street signs, colourful pagodas, lion statues and grand red and gold gates welcome you to Chinatown, the area between Leicester Square and Shaftesbury Avenue that’s packed with restaurants and shops devoted to Asian culture. Browse the weird and wonderful products in supermarkets such as See Woo, pop into Chinatown Bakery for a cheap, delicious lunch or end your night out with a meal in Four Seasons, a Wardour Street restaurant that stays open until 4am.Read more
Some of the most interesting corners of the city are the areas that are neglected and crumbling, the deserted streets whose past is written on the wall or concealed beneath rubble. Paul Tallin of Derelict London, who has been recording and photographing these atmospheric buildings and streets for more than a decade, leads a great programme of walking tours. Plan ahead, though; they tend to get booked up as fast as they're announced.Read more
The colours at Kew change throughout the year – from February’s stunning sea of two million purple and white crocuses and March’s pink blossom Cherry Walk, to the rich red poppies that bloom in August and the autumn fruit of the berberis plants. Download the free Kew Gardens app to find out what’s in bloom on any day of the year.
Get a taste of the countryside in central London at this welcoming and brilliantly maintained green spot just off Brick Lane. Friendly residents up for a pat include Bayleaf the donkey and a loveable pair of hairy hogs. The farm shop sells homegrown produce like freshly laid eggs – the range of veg grown is remarkable for the location. There’s always something going on, from the homely café and laid-back weekend festivals to the kids’ Wild Club. A proper city gem with a lovely vibe.Read more
Holland Park has many great assets including sports facilities, play areas, woodland and an eco centre, but it also has a remarkable hidden treasure: a traditionally designed Japanese garden. Created as part of London’s Japan Festival in 1992, the garden has water features, Japanese trees and other pretty plants, and is carefully tended to ensure it remains a picturesque spot.Read more
The London 2012 Olympics has left us with a collection of wonderful venues and attractions, and among the many great reasons to visit the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – playgrounds, waterways, meadows and a squiggly red sculpture – are the professional-level sporting facilities. Try track cycling in the velodrome where Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton won gold medals in 2012, or sign up for a beginners’ course at the Tom Daley Diving Academy, which is based in the London Aquatics Centre.Read more
Every weekend a great gang of street food vendors materialise behind the Royal Festival Hall, determined to make sure you don't go hungry, whether you're headed for a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a free informal dance in the RFH's Clore Ballroom or one of the great seasonal festivals on the river bank. Grab a craft beer and snack on freshly barbecued corn on the cob, or fuel up on something substantial like delicious Iberican braised pork cheek and butter bean purée from the Donostia Social Club van, or spicy Korean barbecue from Korrito.Read more
A stroll through a graveyard may seem like a fairly macabre way to spend an afternoon, but then again the chaotically overgrown Highgate Cemetery really is something special. While a visit to the West Cemetery requires booking in advance, entrance to the East Cemetery costs just £3 on the gate. It’s here you’ll find the final resting places of, among others, ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ author Douglas Adams, artist Patrick Caulfield (whose headstone spells out the word ‘DEAD’ in big letters) and father of socialism Karl Marx, whose tomb is modestly topped with a massive sculpture of his head.Read more
Greenwich Park and Richmond Park have deer, Clissold Park has goats and Holland Park has peacocks. In St James’s, the crowd-pulling wildlife is, believe it or not, pelicans. The baggy-beaked birds were first given to the park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador (pelicans being the seventeenth-century equivalent of a bottle of Jacob’s Creek and some Ferrero Rocher, presumably), and can be seen chowing down on fish (and the odd pigeon) by the park’s central lake.Read more
Facts? Figures? Historical accuracy? All totally overrated, if you believe the comedy duo behind this fun, fallacy-filled walking tour of the city. Starting every Thursday at 7pm outside St Paul’s Cathedral (look for the ‘flamboyant jackets’), the tours cost £10, last around two hours, and comprise of a healthy mixture of improvised skits and out-and-out porkie-telling. Highlights of the route include the South Bank, the Thames Mermaid and Trafalgar Square. One of which we suspect may be made up.Read more
The craze for wild swimming continues to gather pace and you don't have to leave London to indulge a taste for adventure. For a bracing weekend dip in a spectacular setting, head to London’s Royal Docks, where on Sundays you can take advantage of sessions that cater for both casual swimmers and those training for competitive events. There are lifeguards to watch over you and all swimmers are issued with a safety tag in case they find themselves in metaphorical as well as literal deep water.Read more
There’s something incomparably exhilarating about experiencing London on two wheels, as any cycling enthusiast will tell you. If you’re not a seasoned cyclist, however, navigating the busy streets on two wheels can be daunting. Enter this bike tour company based in Gabriel’s Wharf on the South Bank, which lets you into the bike club in the safety of a group tour. The tours take in all the sights in a hugely enjoyable way – the Christmas lights route is an atmospheric seasonal special.Read more
About as far from a bog-standard walking tour as it’s possible to get, London Loo Tours take a look at the city’s history through the murky prism of public sanitation. Running on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the tours drop in on conveniences notable for their heritage, size or location, and often end up at Cellar Door – a cocktail-slash-cabaret bar that enjoyed a former life as an underground gents’ WC. Seriously – we’re not taking the piss.Read more
London’s outdoor cinema season usually runs from late spring until the autumn, with more screens popping up every summer. Among your choices are the Rooftop Film Club in four urban locations across town, Luna Cinema, which tends to present evening screenings in pretty parks and squares, and Dalston Roof Park where you pay £5 membership and can see films for free.Read more
There’s plenty of highbrow, sophisticated fun to be had in the redeveloped Granary Square, which is home to University of the Arts London and some seriously posh restaurants. Of course, if you’d rather, you can just strip down to your swimmers and cool off in the fountains. There are over a thousand in total, blocked off into four rectangular grids, which squirt and splash in choreographed patterns from 8am until late. Each of the jets is individually lit, so visit after dark for a stunning light show.Read more
Though London’s cycle hire scheme was the idea of ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the bulky red steeds will forever be known as ‘Boris Bikes’ after current Mayor Boris Johnson (himself an evangelist of two-wheeled travel), under whom the scheme was implemented in 2010. Access to the bikes costs £2 per day and, as long as you re-dock yours within 30 minutes (time enough to get from Shoreditch to the West End), that’s all you’ll be charged. Download the scheme’s mobile app to check the status of your nearest dock and to plot a cycle-friendly route through town.Read more
Hampstead’s ladies’ and men’s ponds are the UK’s only places offering life-guarded open-water public swimming all year round. (There’s a mixed pond, too, but it’s members-only in winter.) Competent swimmers aged eight-plus are allowed in but remember there’s no shallow end – just jump in. In winter there’s ample health advice to make sure you’re up to splashing about in ice-cold water!Read more
Londoners’ nostrils have a pretty hard time of it, what with the traffic, the bin lorries and the lack of public loos. On balance, though, we really can’t complain, especially considering that we’ve got free and unticketed access to one of the country’s largest collection of roses in Regent’s Park. Queen Mary’s Gardens are home to around 12,000 roses of more than 85 varieties, including the unique Royal Parks rose. The fragrance is fantastic throughout the year, but visit in early June to see the blooms at their best.Read more
If you somehow plan your visit to miss the many exhibitions, art shows, gigs and film screenings that take place at Somerset House, there’s still plenty to do at this peaceful West End enclave. Top of the list should be enjoying a cold drink in the Edmond J Safra Fountain Court and – if it’s warm enough – having a splash amid its array of graceful jets. In December and January, a huge Christmas tree and ice-rink pop up, with mulled wine stalls completing the festive romance.Read more
Originally created in the late 1600s to cultivate native and exotic plants, this walled garden to this day holds a unique collection of thousands of plants that can be eaten or used in medicine. Popular for wedding hire and perfect for a peaceful stroll, the garden is also a charming spot for afternoon tea (at the Tangerine Dream Café) before you head back out into twenty-first-century Chelsea.Read more
Fans of fairytales and folk art would do well to seek out this one-of-a-kind tree stump, located next to the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. Nearly a millennium old, the stump has elves, fairies and other diminutive characters carved and painted on its surface. In the late ’90s, famous fan of the oak Spike Milligan raised funds for its restoration, which saw it secure Grade II-listed status. There can surely be few garden gnomes that command such respect.Read more
A postcard-worthy view of the city’s skyline isn’t the only reason to visit Primrose Hill – it’s surrounded by posh cafés and frequented by some of London’s friendliest dog walkers, making this well-kept annex of Regent’s Park a great place to people-watch. When the sun goes down, though, it really is all about that view, so pack a picnic, set your camera to ‘panorama’ and play ‘spot the landmark’ as London is bathed in an awesome orange light.Read more
Seeing a play isn’t the only reason to visit Denys Lasdun's 1970s concrete edifice. Behind-the-scenes life there is like a permanent piece of site-specific theatre, which you can explore on daily tours with guides who have a seemingly endless supply of fascinating anecdotes about the building and its history. Book a table for afternoon tea afterwards at House, the National's newest restaurant. The menu is wittily themed to reflect past productions and the moreish pork pie – a nod to the National's production of 'Sweeney Todd' – is not to be missed.Read more
Victorian south-east London was far more fascinating than most other parts of the capital thanks to tea trader Frederick John Horniman, who wanted to ‘bring the world to Forest Hill’. He began to collect specimens and artefacts of natural history and culture from all over the world to create his own museum in the late 1800s. The present museum opened in 1901 and the 130-year-old over-stuffed walrus is still its star attraction!Read more
The Peter Harrison Planetarium in Greenwich Park is the only place in London where you can take your eyes on a tour of the universe. In these days of HD and 3D TV, the Planetarium has raised its game, with state-of-the-art projection technology and spectacular films revealing the latest scientific discoveries. Shows include Space Safari, which is suitable for children under eight.Read more
For generations, an evening stroll to see the lights has been a Christmastime tradition. Switched on in early November, usually by a celeb who’s likely to draw a crowd, the lights in Oxford Street tend to be more modern and might even promote a new movie, whereas the Regent Street lights are usually classic and classy. Check out Selfridges’ beautifully dressed Christmas windows, too. Magical.Read more
Almost every one of London’s top museums is free to visit, leaving you no excuse to plead ignorance in matters of natural history, science, fashion or world culture. It also leaves you with spare cash for the excellent special exhibitions at the V&A, the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, and for dynamic live shows and 3D films at the Science Museum.Read more
Whether it was to bring the audience closer to the action or just because they hadn’t invented chairs yet, back in Shakespeare’s day theatregoers would spend performances on their feet. At the Globe theatre on the South Bank the tradition continues, with 700 standing tickets released for each performance. Not only do these tickets cost a very affordable £5, they also offer the best view of the show – assuming you’re not incredibly short, that is.Read more
Making the city’s skyline a whole lot more spiky than it used to be, the Shard has quickly become an iconic London landmark. The tallest building in Western Europe, the tower has floor-to-ceiling windows offering amazing views. The public visiting area, The View From the Shard, allows you to look out 244 metres above ground level, as if you’re perched over the city on your own cloud.
Okay, at an elegant 0.6mph, the London Eye doesn’t really spin, but the views as it wheels round to 135 metres above the ground can be pretty thrilling nonetheless. Look out over the Thames and central London (you can even see if the Queen’s opened her curtains at Buckingham Palace), or book a special package – options include romantic champagne trips and a two-trip ticket so that you can ride early in the morning and at dusk on the same day.
The city’s iconic red buses may not be a constant feature on the roads these days, but you can admire them at these Covent Garden vehicle vaults – without having to wait ages for one to arrive. Hop aboard for a taste of what it’s like to navigate London from the driver’s seat of a bus or tube train; kids even get their own fleet of miniature versions to play on. Design buffs should head straight for the classic poster displays.Read more
Every one of the world’s great touring art exhibitions passes through the Tate galleries, the Royal Academy or the National Gallery at some point, while the Hayward’s reputation for hosting innovative art ensures world famous names attract queues around the block. Booking ahead is always advisable, and don't forget Time Out First Thursdays – free evening openings at east London galleries.Read more
Remember your old Star Wars, He-Man or Sylvanian Families toys? They're all here, in fun displays that make for a fab afternoon of browsing and reminiscing. That's adults covered, and if you have kids you're in for an even fuller day of activities. Favourites include coin-operated vintage automata and old-school trains chuffing around tracks, dressing-up gear, the famous indoor sandpit, a nightclub-like baby sensory pod, plus craft activities galore in school holidays. As you’d expect from the V&A, the café’s pretty decent too.Read more
It’s far from the most vertiginous landmark in London these days, but the Monument still offers a darn fine view of the City. Tower Bridge, City Hall and the various skyscrapers of the financial district can all be seen from the top of the Christopher Wren-designed column, which was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London. There’s a certificate for everyone who completes the 60-metre climb to the top, while those unable to make the ascent can check out a live stream of the view via a screen at the entrance.Read more
The city’s most famous bridge recently gained a daring glass floor on the high walkways, meaning visitors can now look straight down to the road and river 42 metres below. Each of the six glass panels is 11 metres long and weighs more than 500kg. Try not to think about that as you're walking across them. Regain your equilibrium by taking in the stunning views of London to the east and west from the windows.Read more
The IWM’s First World War Galleries examine the politics and legacy of the 1914-1918 conflict, but also day-to-day life in the trenches. In photographs, artefacts like tins of food, and a collection of letters (many from fighters who never came back), the museum tells a powerful and moving story.Read more
The capital has many excellent art spaces dedicated to photography. Atlas in Marylebone specialises in classic and modern twentieth century work, photojournalism and fashion, Hamiltons in Mayfair shows and sells works by greats such as Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts, and the Photographers’ Gallery on Ramillies Street boasts space for special exhibitions, a bookshop and a print sales room.Read more
If you’re taking a tour of this grand palace of politics you can book ahead to enjoy afternoon tea afterwards. Sadly there’s no chance of seeing the PM – teas are served on Saturdays and selected days during Parliament recess – but you can nibble on savouries and cakes in in the elegant Terrace Pavilion with views of the Thames rarely enjoyed by the public.Read more
For everyone from T-Rex-obsessed toddlers to budding paleontologists, the Natural History Museum remains the ultimate destination for matters pre-historic. A walk around the dinosaurs gallery, with its life-size models and skeletons, allows you to appreciate the sheer scale of these creatures, while the four animatronic displays reveal more about how they lived.Read more
If you've already paid your respects to Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles, it's time to delve deeper at the BM. You’ll find the Merman in the Enlightenment gallery. It once belonged to Queen Victoria's grandson Prince Arthur of Connaught and is said to have been caught in Japan, in the eighteenth century. It's not true though; this specimen is a cut-and-shut job – and it's not pretty. The head and torso of a monkey has been attached to the tail of a fish using the dark art of taxidermy to create what is possibly the capital's most fascinating fake.Read more
There are stalls selling veg and new goods through the week, but on Saturdays Portobello Market is at its best. At the Chepstow Villas end of the road you’ll find the antiques and bric-a-brac stalls. Don’t be fooled by the fold-out tables, this isn’t cheap tat, there are some serious treasures here. For secondhand goodies, head further along the road, beyond the Westway.Read more
In late June leafy south-west London becomes the focus of the world’s greatest lawn tennis championship. Top tickets must be applied for by ballot (UK applications start the August before) but there are also tickets available each day during the tournament for those prepared to queue. The action is also broadcast for free on a big screen just outside the grounds, on Aorangi Terrace.Read more
Can’t get to Florence to examine Michelangelo’s David up close? An impressive five-metre-high reproduction is on show over in Kensington, in the V&A’s Cast Courts. Collecting plaster-cast reproductions of European monuments and works of art for the British public was popular in the nineteenth century, and present-day museum-goers are still benefitting from a practice of which the V&A was at the forefront. The high-ceilinged, light-filled galleries have become an invaluable record of many sculptures whose originals have been since damaged.Read more
Both inside and out, Sir Christopher Wren’s baroque beast is a marvel to look at, but it also sounds pretty awesome, too. Up in the Whispering Gallery (the indoor balcony at the base of the dome), the acoustics of the cathedral’s architecture create a bizarre aural phenomenon: stand on the exact opposite side of the dome as a friend, whisper something (‘I’m watching you’ works rather nicely) and they’ll hear you loud and clear, despite being over 100 feet away. Spooky.
Part tourist attraction, part overly ostentatious public transport, it’s fair to say the Emirates Air Line (as the cable car that runs from Greenwich Peninsula to Royal Docks is officially known) has proven itself a bit of a white elephant since opening in 2012. Oddly enough, not many Londoners are factoring it into their daily commute. Still, the flipside to its lack of popularity is that, unlike pretty much every other attraction offering a grand view of the city, you shouldn’t have to queue to have a go. Nor will you have to part with much cash – using an Oyster card, a 20-minute round trip costs just £6.40. Bargain.Read more
The stunning centrepiece of Greenwich’s maritime heritage, the Cutty Sark spent the end of the nineteenth century keeping London supplied with one of its favourite commodities: tea. The ship was nearly destroyed by fire in 2007, but reopened to the public in 2012 looking more handsome than ever. The £30 million restoration has seen the ship elevated three metres above its dry dock, allowing visitors to get closer than ever to its 65-metre-long gilded hull.Read more
After just shy of a century at the old Highbury Stadium, Arsenal FC moved into the Emirates Stadium in 2006. This impressive 60,000-seater arena is open to tours throughout the week (aside from match days, obviously), during which visitors can check out the dressing rooms, dugout, pressroom and more. For diehard gooners, there’s the ‘Legends tour’, which costs £37.50 and is led by a former Arsenal hero. There’s also a dedicated Arsenal museum on site, which costs £7.50 on the door.
Whether you’re a ping-pong pro or a wiff-waff wally there’s fun to be had at Bounce Shoreditch, the second of two vast bars dedicated to table tennis. Just like its Holborn predecessor this place buzzes with fun as balls land everywhere but the table. The music is loud, the pizza is good and when the lights go low you’d better hope you’re not wearing white underwear because those UV lights make more than the balls glow.Read more
If there’s one thing London’s trendy set love more than an Aperol spritz (a blend of orangey aperitif, prosecco and soda water), it’s an unconventional party space. Open-air Peckham bar Frank’s Café has both (it’s located on top of a multi-storey car park), with sensational views across London to boot. As with all of the city’s rooftop bars, queues can become formidable when the sun’s out. They’re worth sticking out, though: Frank’s is a scene-leading bar that, for once, lives up to the hashtagged hyperbole.Read more
Board games are for life, not just for Christmas. If you’re already skilled at Carcassonne, Pandemic, Seven Wonders and other modern classics then Draughts, with its library of over 500 games, is going to rock your geeky world. If you’re a Monopoly fan looking to experiment then step this way – there’s a whole world of serious gaming to get stuck into.Read more
This massive trampoline park offers 150 interconnected trampolines for energetic people to bound around on to their heart’s content. Sure, you can take lessons in the trampoline academy, but you’ll probably have more fun flinging yourself at the walk-the-wall trampolines in one of the ‘freejump’ sessions. Bouncier than Tigger on a pogo stick.Read more
Every summer, Hyde Park’s Serpentine Gallery invites a different so-hot-right-now architect to design a temporary outdoor space for visitors to lounge around in. Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Ai Weiwei are among the more famous names to contribute work, which often makes the increasingly amorphous architecture of the city’s financial centre look like reserved office blocks by comparison.Read more
A few blocks south of Tower Bridge, Bermondsey Square has been developed as a classy enclave of bars and arty hangouts. However, the Friday antiques market is no new arrival. For years it’s been a savvy spot for browsing vintage homeware, furniture and jewellery. The hardcore buyers show up when it opens at 6am but you’ve got until 2pm to surf the stalls.Read more
Housed in a former air-raid shelter in Soho, Cahoots is a theme bar, but, somewhat impossibly, a cool one. Tapping into Londoners’ fixation with public transport and all things retro, it models itself on a wartime tube station, complete with vintage signs, shiny tiles and a replica train carriage upholstered in that famous geometric fabric. Elaborate cocktails are served by staff in full costume – it’s the only time you can legally drink on the tube, and in great style.Read more
A visit to London Zoo and its exotic inhabitants has been a must for animal-mad Londoners since it first opened to the public in 1847. Nowadays it offers extra special experiences for those who want to get that bit closer to the wildlife. Younger visitors (ages 7-11) can stay overnight in the zoo’s bug house thanks to the Bedbugs Sleepovers, which include a torchlit tour of the zoo after dark, games, storytelling and talks. Soon grown-ups will be able to have a really wild adventure, too; there are plans afoot to build a safari camp next to the lion enclosure.Read more
Community cafés are happily on the rise in London – places where local people come together and serve what their talents can muster. This vegan and vegetarian community café sits in peaceful Vauxhall Square. The dishes reflect the nationalities of its contributors and the meals are super-affordable – starters £3, mains £8, puds £3, BYO drink. Book ahead, it’s very popular.Read more
You’ve already found that Stephen King you were missing and are just calmly flicking through the newest Nigel Slater when a duck glides past the window. So goes shopping at Word On the Water, a 1920s Dutch barge that serves as a floating bookshop. Prices are reasonable and the selection is excellent – the only issue is that it moves. Check the Word On the Water Facebook page before you set off to work out which bit of Regent’s Canal it’s moored at.Read more
Islington’s nineteenth-century gothic revival church is always a glorious place to watch music, comedy or whatever else is on the bill, but tickets often take some forward planning. Daylight Music offers a chance to just drop in, listen to some wonderful music and soak up the venue’s lovely atmosphere, and all for free. The concerts take place most Saturday afternoons. Bring a little cash to buy some cake from the charity café.Read more
Sensory overload is a serious danger at London’s oldest food market, with mouth-watering sights and smells at every turn. If you taste just one thing (unlikely, what with all the free samples on offer) make it this: a sublime sandwich from one of the city’s best tapas restaurants. You’ll have to wait a bit at lunchtime, but the queue moves quickly and the anticipation just serves to make that first mouthful of succulent sausage even more memorable.Read more
When it comes to booze, it doesn’t get more London than Beefeater Gin. They’re even named after our Tower’s guards. Celebrate our city’s very own alcoholic output with a visit London’s to oldest gin distillery to find out how the 150-year-old company cook up mother’s ruin and learn facts and figures about the spirit’s history. And your attentions will be rewarded with a generous G&T, naturally.
London's newest attraction for children is a remarkable replica of the adult world where four-to-14 year-olds get an introduction to the grown-up world while having fabulous role-playing fun. Adults can look on enviously as their offspring enjoy activities such as putting out fires, preparing pizza, producing a newspaper and cutting hair. Or they can take advantage of KidZania's location slap-bang in the middle of Westfield to snatch a few hours' peaceful shopping, safe in the knowledge that they won't be missed at all.
A pile of colourful shipping containers are carefully arranged to create Pop Brixton, which feels a little like a giant Lego fort where all the bricks are filled with treasures. The thoroughly modern mall was commissioned by Lambeth Council to provide affordable workspaces and venues for local independent businesses, and is already home to some stellar shops and food outlets. The hungry are spoilt for choice but we advise prioritising a visit to Kricket for their delicious Indian small plates.Read more
Islington’s Little Angel Theatre presents its own shows and touring productions, runs education programmes and makes its own puppets in the workshop next door. Children and adults enter the worlds of fairy tales, comedy shows and drama and are completely drawn in by the expressive magic of this timeless art. There are children’s holiday workshops and marionette courses for grown-ups, too.Read more
Maintaining the freedom of fringe arts in an intimate space above a pub, the award-winning Finborough Theatre company still manages to compete with theatreland’s bigger players for quality. The focus is on new writing or neglected plays from the nineteenth and twentieth century that would rarely been seen elsewhere, and productions regularly transfer to the West End.Read more
Every aspect of the fish-frying process has enjoyed an upgrade to ensure this Shepherd’s Bush chippy is the best in town: excellent fish, light batter, homemade tartare sauce and double-fried chips. To compensate for the lack of cheery chippy shoveling potatoes at the fryer there’s a live video feed from the kitchen so you can even watch the peas being mushed.Read more
Although most visitors to the capital won’t get further than the common pigeon, there’s a whole lot more to birdlife in London than the feathery pests of Trafalgar Square. Venture out to leafy Barnes in the south-west and, as well as a picturesque landscape, there’s the opportunity to spot kites, sandpipers, kingfishers and more at London Wetland Centre. Over 200 species of bird have been spotted in total, along with various reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and – eep! – bats.Read more
One of the trendiest places for bargain gear is a school playground in Stoke Newington. Every Saturday and Sunday sellers just roll up (no need to book a pitch) and spread out their wares. Keen shoppers look for vintage fashions, vinyl and anything stylishly retro. Gates open at 8am Saturdays and 7am Sundays.Read more
After suspiciously cheap curry, Brick Lane’s second greatest contribution to London’s gastronomic index is the salt beef beigel, which have been served up at this charmingly scruffy bakery since 1977. It allegedly churns out 7,000 of the boiled bready beauties a day (that’s why it never closes), which are consumed by everyone from night-shifting taxi drivers and party people to savvy tourists and local pensioners. At just £3.70 a pop, it’d be rude not to.Read more
Teenagers may flock to Camden for stalls and shops crammed with goth essentials in 50 shades of black, but Cyberdog is a burst of colour with a space-age anti-retro philosophy. Its three-floor flagship store in the Stables Market is as much a club space as a boutique, with music pumping and wildly clad dancers gyrating on podiums to inspire your spending.Read more
Having played host to some heroic oarwork during the London 2012 Olympic Games, Lee Valley White Water Centre is now open to aquatic adventurers of all abilities. Activities on offer include canoeing, kayaking and – for those with an appetite for some real adrenaline – white water rafting. The latter costs as little as £30 per person (for a full raft of nine during special off-peak times), and includes some basic training and use of the centre’s equipment.Read more
Whether you’re on your way home from a night’s clubbing or you’ve been up since 5am with your three-year-old, gloriously quiet mornings in central London are your reward. Head for St John Bakery, just behind Maltby Street Market for their famous freshly made doughnuts oozing with jam, or go Proustian with just-baked madeleines dipped in your cup of tea.Read more
See that big white thing held up by yellow sticks by the Thames in Greenwich? It was originally called the Millennium Dome, and Londoners hated it. But it’s enjoyed a new lease of life since being repurposed as a live music venue, and even if there’s no international megastar playing a gig, there’s still plenty to do. The latest attraction is Up at the O2 – a 52-metre climb up and over the venue’s roof. Book a dusk slot and look westward for one of the most spectacular city views going.