Days out in London

Here are just a few great ways to spend a day – or some days – out in London
Treetop walkway at Kew Gardens
© Matt Brown, Flickr
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Let’s be honest: London is brimming with so many endless things to do, you can spend your entire life trying to tick every last box. But what if you’re after just that one great day out? How do you sift through the endless list of attractions and distractions for one manageable list? That’s where we step in. It’s kind of what we do, y’know. Let us find you the best possible days out in London, plucked from all the beautiful, quirky, thrilling and enthralling things to do in the city.

For instance, you could scale The O2. That makes a pretty leftfield start to the day – climbs kick off at 10am daily. Maybe you could follow that up with a journey down the Thames on the river bus, before getting stuck into one of the best brunches in town and venturing out for a spot of shopping. Of course, the endless supply of top-notch theatre to see in the West End could comfortably fill an evening. And for somewhere to stay? We’ve already rounded up the 100 best hotels in town.

With any luck, you’re feeling inspired to go out and seize London by the horns. Take a look below at our definitive guide to all the best attractions, shops, eateries and events that can make the perfect day out in the capital. Happy exploring!

Attractions

Things to do, Event spaces

London Eye

icon-location-pin South Bank

It might have been knocked from its heady heights as the world’s tallest ferris wheel – you’ll have to head to Las Vegas for that – but the London Eye remains an iconic part of the London skyline. Snap-happy tourists arrive here in their droves, so be prepared to queue for one of the spacious 25-person pods. Once you’re airborne, take in those far-reaching views of the Thames and beyond. On a clear day, you might even see if the Queen’s opened the curtains at Buck House.

Time Out says
Attractions, Zoos and aquariums

SEA LIFE London Aquarium

icon-location-pin South Bank

What was once a prosaic council building on the South Bank is now full to the brim with sharks, penguins and other water-loving wildlife, thanks to this world-class, world-famous aquarium. The finned predators prowling the Shark Walk are a definite highlight, as are the billowing jellyfish in the fairly recent Ocean Invaders addition. This is the perfect place to keep the sprogs entertained on a morning or afternoon.

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Attractions, Sightseeing

Buckingham Palace

icon-location-pin St James's Park

You know how Instagram makes everything look prettier in photos than IRL? Well, you don’t need to worry about that with the Queen’s pad, which is a stunner in the flesh as well as all those postcards. All year round, you can take a gander at pieces from the Royal Collection at the Queen’s Gallery, while from February to November you can check out the Queen’s horses in the Royal Mews.

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Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Tower of London

icon-location-pin Tower Hill

As long as you leave plenty of ticket-collecting time, your trip to the Tower of London should be a blast. It starts with a 50-minute tour led by a Beefeater where you’ll learn about the 900-year history of this imposing fortress (in short: torture, prisoners, weapons and exotic animals). Feast your eyes on the crown jewels and prisoner graffiti – you’ll even meet the raven keeper. If you want to get eyeballs-deep in London’s bloody history, then put the Tower of London on your bucket list.

Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Houses of Parliament

icon-location-pin Westminster

If you’re interested in UK politics or just want a better understanding of it, the Houses of Parliament isn’t to be missed. Seriously – this is where laws get passed, y’know! Book an audio tour and soak up the history of this grand old nineteenth-century building and if you’re feeling flush, stay for afternoon tea overlooking the Thames.

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Attractions, Zoos and aquariums

London Zoo

icon-location-pin Regent's Park

The zoological gardens that reside in Regent’s Park have been entertaining the crowds since Victorian times – but it’s in the last 15 years that the Zoological Society London has really given it an overhaul. The 36-acre park has been refashioned to support conservation, with the welfare of its inhabitants a high priority, and visitor’s encounters more informative than just point-and-stare.

Time Out says
Museums, History

British Museum

icon-location-pin Bloomsbury

There are more than eight million artifacts within the British Museum’s walls and every single one of them has a story to tell. You could easily spend hours here losing yourself in thousands of years of culture and history from the world over. Its big hitter is the Egyptian mummy, which pulls in gawping kids and adults alike. If you’d rather dodge the crowds, head to the newly re-opened Sir Joseph Hutong Gallery: a treasure trove of objects from China and South Asia.

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© The London Dungeon
Attractions

The London Dungeon

icon-location-pin South Bank

The Dungeon spent four decades under the railway arches on Tooley Street at London Bridge. Then, in 2013, it upped sticks to a new home on the South Bank. It may lack the mucky, subterranean charm of the former site – but believe us, all the frights and gross-out moments inside are still just as icky.

Time Out says
Museums, Transport

London Transport Museum

icon-location-pin Covent Garden

Not just one for nerdy trainspotting types – TfL’s transport museum offers a genuinely compelling and enjoyable journey trhough the history of getting around in London.

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Visit the 50 top London attractions

Shops

Shopping, Toys and games

Harrods

icon-location-pin Brompton

The distinctive terracotta façade with its dark-green awnings never fails to stirs up some excitement for every visitor to Harrods. The legendary food halls and 27 restaurants are worth a trip alone.

Shopping, Home decor

Liberty

icon-location-pin Soho

Liberty was founded in 1875, but the present Marlborough Street site, with its ships’ timbers and leaded windows, was built in the 1920s. The interconnecting jumble of rooms, with the odd fireplace and cushioned window seat, makes for a unique shopping experience.

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Shopping, Bakeries

Selfridges

icon-location-pin Oxford Street

There's a reason why Selfridges is one of our favourite London stores. It's a veritable maze of goodies. From contemporary art installations to swoon-worthy stationery and a floor devoted to finding you your perfect pair of jeans. And it's all available to take home – for a price. While most of us can't afford the high-end stuff, there's definitely a little something in here for everyone. And even if you just go to browse or sip a coffee in the cafe, Selfridges is well worth the trip.

Shopping, Specialist food and drink

Neal’s Yard Dairy

icon-location-pin Covent Garden

A thoroughly British shop with a traditional French attitude to cheese retailing in that, like an affineur, Neal’s Yard buys from small farms and creameries in Britain and Ireland, and matures the cheeses in its own cellars until theyre ready to sell in peak condition.

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Shopping, Music and entertainment

Rough Trade East

icon-location-pin Brick Lane

Rough Trade's rock 'n' roll legacy continues to live on in both sides of London, wth the original shop in Ladbroke Grove and this East End addition, which opened in 2007. This is a real music lover's paradise, with a cafe and cushions to perch upon to read books or listen to records. They also have regular free live performances from major acts, although good luck getting tickets for those shows.

Shopping, High street

Hamleys

icon-location-pin Soho

Both a tourist attraction, with regular school-holiday events for children, and a ginormous toy shop, Hamleys has all the must-have toys for kids both little and large. The hands-on demonstrations will easily keep you in this five-floored cornucopia for hours.

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© Ben Rowe
Shopping, Shopping centres

Kingly Court

icon-location-pin Soho

Kingly Court has helped London’s Carnaby Street to reclaim its 1960s reputation as the heart of swinging London. The three-tiered complex boasts a funky mix of established chains, independents, vintage and gift shops, plus a café-filled courtyard.

Shopping, Vintage shops

Portobello Road Market

icon-location-pin Westbourne

Best known for antiques and collectibles, this is actually several markets rolled into one: antiques start at the Notting Hill end; further up are food stalls; under the Westway and along the walkway to Ladbroke Grove are emerging designer and vintage clothes on Fridays and Saturdays.

Browse our 100 best shops in London