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Kew Gardens
Photograph: RBG Kew Kew Gardens

The best things to do in west London

Explore all the very best attractions, pubs, restaurants and things to do with our guide to west London

By Lucy Lovell and Time Out editors
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Big, beautiful and bursting with things to do, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with London. The sprawling city is home to a mammoth selection of top sights, and the west is no exception. A sophisticated area with some of the prettiest sights in the capital, it has a huge array of attractions to keep any visitor entertained – and we’ve rounded up the best of them here. 

From partying at Notting Hill Carnival and feasting in a former garage to strolling along the picture-perfect canals of Little Venice, finding Holland Park’s Kyoto Garden or getting lost in the maze at Hampton Court Palace – there are loads of great things to do in west London. 

If, after all this lot, you’ve still got the energy to explore more of London, check out our month-by-month guide to the best events in the city, our guide to the best London attractions, or explore another side to the city in our guide to secret London. But for now, read on for the ultimate guide to things to do in west London. 

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in North London and East London

The best things to do in west London

1. Go deer-spotting in Richmond Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Richmond Park

What is it? Covering a staggering 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is the largest royal park in London. 

Why go? There are hundreds of red and fallow deer who have a grand old time roaming the grounds. They're pretty chill, except in rutting season (September-October) and birthing season (May-July) when it's best to give them more space. After an eyeful of deer, head to King Henry's Mound for panoramic views of the city, right across to St Paul's Cathedral.

2. Explore giant greenhouses at Kew Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Kew

What is it? An otherworldly haven of exotic flowers, plant life and even a treetop walk.

Why go? There's a whopping 300 acres to explore at Kew Gardens, which includes the world's largest surviving Victorian glasshouse, a Chinese Pagoda built in 1762, and a lively selection of exhibitions and conferences. There's plenty going on behind the scenes too, where scientists work tirelessly to preserve the future of plant life in not one, but two national bases for research into botanical studies. 

 

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Albertine_credit Ming Tang-Evans004.jpg
© Ming Tang-Evans

3. Drink fine wine at Albertine

Bars and pubs Shepherd’s Bush

What is it? A homely little wine bar on the ground floor of a slender Victorian townhouse. There’s a wooden bar at the back stacked full of top plonk from around the world. 

Why go? Shepherd’s Bush isn’t exactly known for its food and drink scene, so Albertine is a winey oasis in the desert. There's a proper restaurant upstairs, but the bar snacks are excellent – taking in everything from charcuterie to linguine to lovely oily grilled sardines. 

4. Rummage for vintage gems at Portobello Road Market

Shopping Vintage shops Portobello Road

What is it? A buzzing treasure trove of antiques, street food and vintage clothing along the pretty pastel-coloured streets of Notting Hill. 

Why go? Notting Hill has become one of London's most affluent and desirable areas, but Portobello Road Market still retains some of the laid-back coolness that kicked it all off. Browse through stalls packed with oddities, collectables and eccentricities, before refuelling in one of the area's brilliant restaurants. We'd recommend the local institution Lowry & Baker, or any of the top street-food vendors that pitch up on Fridays and Saturdays.

 

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5. Feast on fine Persian food at Sufi

Restaurants Iranian Shepherd’s Bush

What is it? Glorious stews, spot-on kebabs and delightful dips distinguish this peach of a Persian venue. 

Why go? It’s‬ hard to find a bad word to say about Sufi, a restaurant we’ve consistently praised since it opened in 2007. Sufi is just about smart enough for a date, though rugs and instruments hanging from‬ the walls are as exciting as the decor gets. But for exquisite Persian food at low prices (two can eat well for £25), it’s a fantastic option.‬ ‬  

© Will Rodrigues / Shutterstock.com

6. Spot pretty narrowboats in Little Venice

Attractions Rivers, lakes and ponds Little Venice

What is it? London's most picturesque narrowboat hangout, Little Venice is a floating idyll of waterside cafés, bars and shops. 

Why go? A walk along the canalside picking out your dream houseboat is the perfect antidote to inner-city living. A visit to Little Venice will also reveal some of the city's most-loved eccentricities, such as the charming Puppet Theatre Barge or the bustling comedy venue the Canal Café Theatre

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Notting Hill Carnival
Notting Hill Carnival © mubus/Shutterstock

7. Party your way around Notting Hill Carnival

Music

What is it? This celebration of West Indian culture and Europe’s biggest street party always takes place on August Bank Holiday

Why go? 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.

8. Get lost in Hampton Court Palace’s hedge maze

5 out of 5 stars
Attractions Historic buildings and sites Hampton

What is it? Based in the Tudor stomping ground of Hampton Court Palace, the Palace Maze was commissioned around 1700 by William III, and has seen a number of kings and queens getting lost among its hedges. Covering a third of an acre, this bad boy is referred to as a ‘puzzle maze’, and takes around 20 minutes to crack.

Why go? The hedge maze (the oldest in the UK, fyi) is just one of the top sights at the grand Tudor pile that Henry VIII ‘acquired’ from Cardinal Wolsey. Visitors can also wander down the corridor where Catherine Howard was dragged screaming, see how George I’s chocolatier prepared the king’s favourite tipple, and take a peek at King Charles II’s royal toilet. 

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9. Find the Japanese garden in Holland Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Holland Park

What is it? Holland Park is lovely enough – packed with sports facilities, play areas, woodland and an eco centre –but hidden inside it is a little haven of relaxation known as the Kyoto Garden.

Why go? The Japanese garden was a present from the city of Kyoto to London, and boy are they good at gifting. Inside you'll find enough coy carp, waterfalls and serene ponds to chill out even the most stressed city slicker. Visit in the early morning for a more peaceful visit – the park opens daily at 7.30am. 

10. Drink all of the gin at Sipsmith Distillery

Attractions Chiswick

What is it? Sipsmith were one of the first distilleries to open with the new wave of craft gin, and booze fans can take a tour of their Chiswick site to learn all there is to know about mother's ruin.  

Why go? Tours include a short history of gin in London, before you get to meet three copper ladies – Prudence, Patience and Verity – the three giant copper stills. Gin fans then get a tutored tasting of the Sipsmith range of gins. Cheers!

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Design Museum
Hufton + Crow

11. Discover a minimal masterpiece at the Design Museum

Museums Art and design Kensington

What is it? A temple to contemporary architecture and design with a minimal interior that even Marie Kondo would approve of, designed by John Pawson. 

Why go? The name might ring a bell, but this is the new and improved Design Museum. The £83m premises opened in 2016 with a bigger and better line-up of exhibitions, shows and talks. Check out their Friday Lates series, where on the first Friday of every month the museum stays open till 8pm with everything from free sketching workshops to open discussions sparked by themes in the exhibits. 

 

12. Cycle around Osterley Park

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Osterley

What is it? A stonking eighteenth-century mansion set in 350 acres of parkland. It was described by Horace Walpole as 'the palace of palaces'. We couldn't have said it better ourselves. 

Why go? As well as dazzling architecture and cheering grounds, the estate has recently upgraded its cycle track which stretches the perimeter of the park. It's good for prams and wheelchairs and perfect for a leisurely pedal. 

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Helios Courtyard at the Television Centre, BBC, London

13. Brunch in the old BBC Television studios

What is it? The former home of the BBC has now re-launched as a hip hub of restaurants, bars, apartments and a swanky rooftop pool. 

Why go? The decor for starters. New owners have run with the 1960s theme, and the interior is a delightful mix of elegant mid-century design with a playful naff edge. The growing food offering looks promising too, with top Mumbai flavours from Brixton's Kriket, to stacked burgers from Patty & Bun.

14. Bounce off the walls at Oxygen Freejumping

Things to do Acton

What is it? A warehouse full of 100% jumping action, with 150 interconnected trampolines, squishy foam pit and a giant air bag.  

Why go? Why wouldn't you go? Visitors can jump across the expanse in any direction they wish, bounding onto 'walk the wall' trampolines or over obstacle courses in 27,000sq ft of space. As well as these freejump sessions, there's a trampoline academy, fitness classes, family sessions and even dodgeball.

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Pitzhanger House & Gallery
Photograph: Pitzhanger House & Gallery

15. Reflect on great architecture at Pitzhanger Manor

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Ealing

What is it? Recently reopened after a three-year restoration, Pitzhanger Manor is Sir John Soane's restored Grade I-listed Georgian villa.

Why go? As well as getting an eyeful of Soane's architecture, visitors can take in some art with the launch of the new gallery housed in the former lending library. Hosting three exhibitions a year, visitors will find a changing selection of work from artists, designers and architects, kicking off with a series of reflective sculptures by Anish Kapoor. 

 

16. Drink by the river at The Dove

Bars and pubs Pubs Hammersmith

What is it? The Dove's prime riverside location means it comes into its own on Boat Race day (April 7, 2019), but this welcoming, cosy pub is worth a visit any time.

Why go? It's packed full of history (check the pictures that line the walls for more info), but most drinkers come here to sit in the vine-entangled conservatory or the riverside terrace overlooking the houseboats. If you're looking for a cosy, atmospheric boozer, The Dove is always a reliable option. 

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17. Bust out the BBQ at Mam

Restaurants Vietnamese Notting Hill

What is it? A stylish Vietnamese restaurant between Ladbroke and Westbourne Groves.

Why go? Chummy, informal and reliably great food, Mam is one of those great little local spots you could quite happily eat at every night of the week. Get stuck in with a Vietnamese BBQ, slurp some pho, or feast on a huge bowl of beef shortrib com. 

18. Have a boozy snooze at a gin hotel

Hotels Boutique hotels Portobello Road

What is it? It’s no secret that London is in the middle of a serious love affair with gin. The city is dotted with distilleries and dedicated drinking dens. Now there’s a gin hotel.

Why go? The Distillery on Portobello Road is home to Portobello Road Gin, where lovers of mother’s ruin can now rest their hazy heads. Blend your own batch of the good stuff at The Ginstitute downstairs before drinking giant G&Ts at GinTonica and falling into bed with a premixed cocktail from the minibar. If that’s not living, we don’t know what is.

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19. Marvel at the Leighton House Museum

Museums History Holland Park

What is it? A self-styled private palace of art, Leighton House reopened in April 2010 after a £1.6 million refurbishment that uncovered and restored many of the dazzling decorative features. 

Why go? The dour exterior doesn't let on to the intricate decor inside. Expect magnificent reception rooms downstairs designed for lavish entertaining, and a dramatic staircase leading to a huge, light-filled studio taking up most of the first floor. Four extensions were added over the years, the most striking addition is the ‘Arab Hall’ – designed to showcase Leighton’s huge collection of sixteenth-century Middle Eastern glazed tiles. 

Brompton Cemetery Open Day
© Robert Stephenson

20. Explore the catacombs at Brompton Cemetery

Attractions Cemeteries West Brompton

What is it? This historic Grade I listed cemetery is the final resting place of more than 200,000 people, including such illustrious Londoners as suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst and public-health pioneer Dr John Snow.

Why go? Cemetery seekers will find 39 acres of peaceful open space to explore, plus a visitors' centre and the glorious, recently restored chapel. Visitors can opt to take an eerie trip around the historic catacombs on a guided tour – yikes! Tours are drop-in and a small donation of £8 is suggested. We think it sounds dead good. Find out more here

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The Queen's Club
Willy Barton / Shutterstock.com

21. Watch tennis at The Queen's Club

Sport and fitness West Kensington

What is it? The Queen's Club was established in 1886, becoming the first multipurpose sports complex to be built anywhere in the world.

Why go? Wimbledon ain't the only lawn tennis club in London. The pre-Wimbledon men's tournament is a joy to watch, and members can grab a racket and use all the sporting and recreational facilities themselves.

22. Geek out at a convention at Olympia London

Things to do Event spaces West Kensington

What is it? This Kensington event space, first opened in 1886, includes the Olympia Grand and Pillar Hall and boasts a big ol' venue for annual conventions.

Why go? It hosts a huge range of headline events, such as the Ideal Home Show, A Place in the Sun Live, and the London International Horse Show.

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23. Go to a gig at the Apollo Hammersmith

Music Music festivals Hammersmith

What is it? Now officially known as the Eventim Apollo after a spell as the HMV Apollo, Hammersmith Apollo is a live music emporium that began life as an art deco cinema.

Why go? Highlights from the Apollo's glittering history include 38 Beatles gigs from 1964-1965, David Bowie's last gig as Ziggy Stardust in 1973, and several concerts by Queen in 1979. It now doubles as a 3,600-capacity all-seater theatre and a 5,000-capacity standing-room-only gig space, hosting everyone from Kenny Rogers to Slipknot.

24. Dine at 108 Garage

Restaurants Contemporary European Ladbroke Grove

What is it? A stylish Ladbroke Grove joint with ultra-contemporary cooking.

Why go? Sweetbreads, salt-baked celeriac and chicken liver – the menu at 108 Garage is populated with all the off-beat dishes you'd want from a hot dive restaurant. The decor is rough 'n' ready, but the cooking is meticulous. Go, if you can get a table.   

 

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AT_SyonHouse_CREDIT_BrittaJashinski.jpg
© Britta Jaschinski

25. Re-enact Downton Abbey at Syon House and Park

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Brentford

What is it? A romantic house built in the 1500s, featuring spectacular bedrooms (one of which was used by Queen Victoria) and a grand Roman hallway in black-and-white marble to the Red Drawing Room, with crimson silk walls and Roman statues. 

Why go? Its magnificently preserved grandeur has made it a popular filming location: 'The Madness of King George' was filmed here, as were Poirot, Downton Abbey and Stephen Poliakoff’s Dancing on the Edge. Outside, children will love exploring the vast gardens and the restored nineteenth-century Great Conservatory, with its huge iron-and-glass dome. 

26. Veg out at The Gate

Restaurants Vegetarian Hammersmith

What is it? Located opposite Sadler’s Wells, The Gate serves top veggie and vegan fare in a relaxed, pared-down restaurant. 

Why go? Share a meze platter (salty feta fritters, mushroom ceviche, featherlight artichoke tempura) or plunder the global carte for aubergine schnitzel, raw pad Thai or wild mushroom risotto cake. With its buzzy vibe, friendly service and occasional flashes of brilliance, this meat-free icon is a must-visit. 

 

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27. Explore Hogarth’s House

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Chiswick

What is it? After extensive restoration in 2011, Hogarth's House holds a huge collection of William Hogarth’s prints and a set of his engraving plates. The panelled rooms also house replica pieces of eighteenth-century furniture.

Why go? This free-to-enter museum is a bewitching little jaunt; the gallery in the former kitchen wing hosts a changing programme of exhibitions, and in the garden are mulberry trees, the fruit from which the Hogarths are said to have made mulberry pies for the Foundling children who stayed with them. 

28. Spot kingfishers at London Wetland Centre

Attractions Rivers, lakes and ponds Barnes

What is it? A 105-acre city wildlife area created by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in 2000. 

Why go? Formerly disused Victorian reservoirs have been transformed by landscaping and weathered by nature to become an extensive landscape of lagoons, islets and pastures. At intervals along the serene walkways are hides where you can gaze at all manner of birds through your binoculars – kingfishers, falcons, herons and lots more frequent this little urban oasis. 

Venue says Award-winning nature reserve in the heart of the capital. Enjoy fantastic views, wildlife, lakes, gardens. Plus shop, café and playground

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