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101 things to do in London: the people's choice

Discover the best things to do in the capital as recommended by real Londoners

© Belinda Lawley

After creating our own list of 101 things to do in London we decided to let you have your say. We asked Time Out readers, Facebook fans and Twitter followers to tell us their top things to do in the capital. Kayak tours, daytime clubbing, rooftop cinema and candlelit gigs – Time Outers named them all. Check out the people's 101 and explore this city like a true Londoner.

Learn a new skill with The Amazings

How’s this for an amazing idea: enterprising retirees in east London make a little cash by running classes teaching useful life skills. Bernadette explains the art of crochet, Dennis teaches glass-cutting, and Terry takes you foraging for food in Tower Hamlets. A big hit.

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Chill out at the British Library

Going by voting patterns, Time Outers place a huge premium on places that offer respite from the chaos of the capital. Time spent reading in the British Library makes many of you feel human again, as does a morning dipping into their enormous sound archive of old recordings. 

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Euston

Discover Churchill War Rooms

The nerve centre of the Allied war effort was astonishingly low-tech: a bank of (rotary) phones and some maps pinned to the wall. Despite the minimal military hardware and the hefty cover charge, it’s a smash hit with TO readers, as is the adjacent Churchill Museum.

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Whitehall

Visit the Elevator Gallery

While it’s believed to be home to more artists per capita than anywhere else in the world, Hackney Wick has remained relatively undiscovered – until now. Readers urged us to hit locations including the Elevator Gallery.

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Hackney Wick

Join the First Thursdays tour

Galleries in east London Judith White raves about the free bus/walking tours organised by First Thursdays, which take passengers on ‘a specially curated and always lively’ tour of east London’s independent art galleries. As the name suggests, they take place on the first Thursday of the month. Early booking is advised. 

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Enjoy top exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth London

This Swiss-owned gallery opened in 2003 in a former bank, with intact basement vaults, but has moved its flagship to a swanky new Savile Row space. H&W represents big name artists including Louise Bourgeois, international names such as Anri Sala, and home-grown talents such as Martin Creed.

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Wander the Horniman Museum

All hail the Horniman: museum, aquarium, gardens and creator of puerile merriment among day-tripping schoolkids for five generations. It’s a lovely place to stroll around, and hosts regular family-focused workshops. 

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Forest Hill

Scream at the Old Operating Theatre Museum

‘Anesthetics are for wimps,’ claims reader and OOTM regular Chris Parkins, who apparently longs to bring back the nightmarish pre-science torture contraptions on display at this ‘totally eye-popping’ museum. 

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London Bridge

See an opera at the Royal Opera House

Time Out readers are a cultured lot, as evidenced by the sea of endorsements for Covent Garden’s temple of high culture. An intriguingly large number of readers voting for the ROH also nominated Meat Liquor as one of their favourite things. Are we seeing the emergence of a hitherto unidentified demographic: the burger-loving operaphile? We do hope so. 

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Covent Garden

Read literary classics at Shoreditch House Literary Salon

Shoreditch House activities are usually members-only affairs, but in the ‘interests of the democratisation of literature’ their book club, which takes place in venues around the city, is open to all. Jacob Walton praises its foolproof formula of ‘guest authors, relaxed atmosphere and – best of all – free drinks and pizza’.

The best way to contact the Salon is to look them up on Facebook

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Explore Sir John Soane's Museum

It’s the city’s quirkier museums which seem to be flicking your switches. For every vote for a mainstream big name you cast two for left-field spots like Sir John Soane’s Museum, a townhouse crammed with personal trinkets from a nineteenth century architect. 

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Holborn

Visit Stuart Shave/Modern Art

This always on-trend gallery showing the likes of Jonathan Meese, Matthew Monahan, Eva Rothschild and Barry McGee was a well recommended gallery located along Eastcastle Street. 

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Get lost in Tate Modern

It was no surprise, meanwhile, that we received a raft of votes for Tate Modern, one of the most-visited art galleries in the world. But for all the masterworks exhibited on its walls, the view across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral seems to be the biggest draw. 

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South Bank

Wander in flowers at Chiswick House

A powerful west London voting bloc saw the lovely Chiswick House – an elegant neo-Palladian villa whose grounds allegedly helped inspire New York City’s Central Park– shimmy its way on to our list. 

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Chiswick

Have a kickabout on Clapham Common

You can play football with Venezuelans or tennis with toffs on this verdant chunk of south London that saw off competition HydeRegent’s, Green and St James’s parks, but a large group of the Clapham Common recommendations were for simply having a lazy drink on the grass outside The Windmill, queen of the South Side’s watering places. And we’re not going to argue with that. 

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Clapham

Take a dip at Brockwell Lido

It figures that ‘Brixton’s Beach’ would in fact be a lido in Brockwell Park. But what a lido it is, with a 50-metre Olympic-sized pool housed in a Grade II-listed art deco building, which is also home to the Lido Café.

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Herne Hill

Ride on Hammertons Ferry

A short boat trip that pleases West Londoners is taking the Hammertons Ferry from Marble Hill Park to Ham House and heading to Petersham Nurseries (‘Pastoral bliss for the city-weary refugee’ says Elle Smith).

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Ham

Swim at Hampstead Heath Ponds

Head to the north of the capital and take at dip at Hampstead Ponds. The men's and ladies' are open all year round but to use the mixed pond in the winter season you must join the Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club. With green and leafy surroundings the ponds make for a serene swim, but be warned: even in the summer the water is chilly. 

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Hampstead

Wander Kew Gardens

Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, the magnificent Kew Gardens isn’t shy of supporters. Time Outers offered plenty of highlights, including Roseanne Jameson’s ‘beloved Palm House, surely the most perfect building in London’. 

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Kew

Visit Little Venice

There was a flurry of affection for the waterside haunts of Little Venice, with two readers separately recommending 8pm on a summer’s evening as the perfect time to visit.

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Maida Vale

Bathe at London Fields Lido

Another outdoor swimspot making it on to the 101 is London Fields Lido. A dogged 18-year campaign by the London Fields User Group saved this 50-metre lido from demolition, and it reopened in 2006. This popular lido is heated and open year-round. 

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Hackney
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Eat pizza at Big Red

A series of readers pointed us towards the Big Red, a double-decker bus that’s been converted into a Deptford pizzeria. There’s satisfying Italian food, Meantime ales, frequent live music and cinema, and a weekday happy hour that lasts till 9pm. 

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Deptford Bridge

Enjoy a cuppa at Broadway Market

Londoners remain reassuringly fond of a cup of tea and a biscuit or five. Broadway Market is one of your favoured spots for indulging in such archetypically British behaviour, whether you’re knocking back a milky builder’s from F. Cooke’s pie and mash joint or an exotic foreign brew fromClimpson & Sons (Persian Pomegranate Pyramid, anyone?) 

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South Hackney

Lunch at Brunswick House Café

With its pleasingly idiosyncratic design, quirky Vauxhall hangout Brunswick House is a grand spot for a lazy lunch. It is also, Dan Carver informs us, the purveyor of the ‘Corpse Reviver Number Two’, which has, and we quote, ‘everything in it’. 

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Vauxhall

Visit Camden Town Brewery Bar

This fantastic independent brewery has opened an onsite bar, open Friday evenings and boasting all the Camden ales and occasional guest beers on tap. According to reader David Whitesmith, ‘the strange, sweet smell from the mash tun seems to add to the flavour.’ 

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Kentish Town

Marvel at the view in Container Cafe

The Container is part of View Tube, a large lime-green tin overlooking the Olympic Park. ‘For such a touristy location,’ says Noor A, ‘the food and coffee are surprisingly excellent.’ 

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Stratford

Breakfast at Counter Café

‘On the rare weekend when it’s not chucking it down,’ writes Katie D, ‘I cycle along the canal to Counter Café for an Antipodean breakfast overlooking the new Olympic site. Service is slow, it’s crammed with irritating hipsters from the nearby art studios, but the food and view are unbeatable.’ 

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Hackney Wick

Be sure to eat on Eat.St

‘If I’m really hungry I’ll eat a Rib Man wrap followed by a Yum Bun pork belly roll and a Big Apple hot dog (see our Old Street listing)’, confesses Stacey Hamilton. And who can blame her when London street food collective Eat.St only host their market from Tuesday to Friday lunchtimes. As well as Stacey’s fine trio, don’t miss Tongue N Cheek’s Italian offal sandwiches, Kimchi Cult’s Korean street food and Anna Mae’s pulled pork sandwiches. 

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Hang out on the terrace at The Frog

A big vote-winner, this: it seems there’s nothing Time Out readers love more than snagging a seat at this Clapham hangout’s rooftop terrace and enjoying the views over the Common with a cheeky Rioja. 

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Stroll down Brick Lane on a Sunday

According to Noemi Fumagall, Brick Lane on a Sunday offers ‘brilliant food and shopping’. She’s not wrong – the UpMarket has rare treats from Lithuania, Venezuela and Tibet; the Boiler House food hall has great Gujarati and Cuban dishes, the Tea Rooms boast vintage fashions and characterful collectibles, and the Backyard Market can’t be beaten for handmade clothes and accessories.

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Brick Lane

Find your signature scent at Floris

Readers including Vicky Dennis and Samantha Doyle follow in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale and Mary Shelley in frequenting this Jermyn Street seller of fragrances, established in 1730.

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St James'

Lose yourself in a book at Foyles

It’s tempting to mourn the dusty, disorganised charm of twentieth-century Foyles, but modernisation has been a rewarding process for London’s most famous bookshop. While its rivals struggle to stay alive, Foyles continues to delight our readers with its enormous collection and laid back coffee shop.

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Soho

Follow in Byron's footsteps at Hatchards

London’s oldest bookshop is also one of its best, a temple for collectors in search of rare and signed editions. Current patrons include a large swathe of the Time Out massive: past patrons include Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde.

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St James'

Say cheese at Paxton & Whitfield

Having sold cheese from the same Piccadilly location for more than 200 years, Paxton’s (‘where the Queen gets her cheese’ according to @Mariacos82) stakes a convincing claim for the title of Britain’s Greatest Fromagerie. Sublime.

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St James'

Discover literary gems at South Bank book market

‘A badly hidden secret’, says Amir S of a book market that occupies prime tourist territory under Waterloo Bridge and yet never feels crowded. Expect well-thumbed paperbacks and an unpredictable assortment of out-of-print titles and manuscripts.

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South Bank
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See saucy cabaret in Bethnal Green

Downstairs the BGWMC is the same working men’s club – with many of the same working men – that it’s been for 50 years. Upstairs it’s a retro-tinted home to cutting-edge entertainment including comedy, cabaret, magic and, if Diane Evans is to be believed, ‘nights of shameless and spontaneous decadence and debauchery’. Ooh Diane!

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Bethnal Green

Enjoy charity-conscious cinema

A much-loved gem is The Lexi, in suburban Kensal Rise, a tiny digital cinema with a wonderfully eclectic schedule and a pledge to donate all profits to a township in South Africa.

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Kensal Rise

Go country dancing at Cecil Sharp House

The home of the English Folk Dance and Song society is every bit as eccentric as you’d expect. As well as promoting barn-dancing, quadrille, ceilidh and country dancing, the venue hosts less active and more contemporary entertainment and, accordingly to folkie Jane Newburgh, ‘a bar where men with major facial hair consume more beer than darts players do’.

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Primrose Hill

Experience the unexpected at Café Oto

For those who like their live music challenging, unpredictable, improvised or just plain weird, Dalston’s Cafe Oto is the nuts. With ‘an intimate vibe, spot-on acoustics and beers from the Kernal microbrewery,’ says Jonathan Douglass, ‘it’s every muso’s dream venue.’

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Kingsland

See cutting edge theatre at Southwark Playhouse

Southwark Playhouse has established itself as the go-to place for exciting, inventive theatre, and its dark and musty space in the vaults beneath London Bridge station offers bags of character. With its pay-as-you-go pass, Southwark Playhouse also proves to be fantastic theatre at fantastic value.

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Elephant and Castle
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Comments

1 comments
Maryam
Maryam

not bad i give it a 4 star not 5