Days out in London

Here are just a few great ways to spend a day – or some days – out in London
© 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 into one manageable list? That’s where we step in. It’s kind of, y’know, what we do – finding the best possibly days out in London, plucked from all the best, 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 best brunches in town, before venturing out for a spot of shopping. Of course, the endless supply of top-notch theatre to see in the West End could comfortable fill a evening (trust us when we tell you that everyone with a sense of humour needs to see ‘The Book of Mormon’ And for somewhere to stay? We’ve rounded up the best 100 best hotels in London, too.

With any luck, you’re feeling inspired now 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 up that perfect day out in the capital. Read, and go forth!

Things to do, Event spaces

London Eye

icon-location-pin South Bank

The great ferris wheel on the South Bank began its first rotation back in the spring in 2000 – and remains the tallest cantilevered observation wheel in the world. But let’s not split hairs of over the technical details: the London Eye is great way to soar up into the sky and admire the city’s skyline. The sleek, organic-looking pods offer up sweeping views in every direction, with all the landmarks laid out before you like wares on a merchant’s rug.

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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

The Queen’s London residence, surrounded in lush parkland, is a real wonder. You’ll find all sorts to explore here: The Queen’s Gallery, the Royal Mews stables – open from February to November – and the gorgeous State Rooms, which are open to the public in August and September.

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Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Tower of London

icon-location-pin Tower Hill

Yes, the crowds are massive. And there’s a fair few stairways to climb. But the Tower is still one of the best historical attractions you’ll find not just in London but the entire UK. Who doesn’t want to get up close and personal with Queen Victoria’s crown – or better still, Henry VIII’s codpiece. Just beside it on the river sits Tower Bridge, an equally iconic landmark.

Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Houses of Parliament

icon-location-pin Westminster

Want to see where all the big decisions get made? Tours of the Houses of Parliament blend a millenium of history, modern-day politics (but don’t let that put you off) and some truly impressive art and architecture.The audio tour will regale you with all the details as you make your way through the Houses of Lords and Commons – they run from around an hour to 75 minutes, and featuring parliamentary staples such as Mr Speaker and Black Rod.

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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.

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Museums, History

British Museum

icon-location-pin Bloomsbury

When the BM first opened its doors in 1759, it layed claim to being the first national museum open to the public anywhere in the world. It was free then, and remains free to any ‘studious and curious person’ could marvel at the tens of thousands of artefacts inside, from all four corners of the globe.

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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.

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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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Attractions, Theme parks

Shrek's Adventure! London

icon-location-pin South Bank

Hosts dressed in Fifties-style garb greet you at the entrance to this riotously fun experience. Get set for all manner of mayhem, as you and the rest of the ‘Dreamworks Tour’ group is ushered into the big green ogre’s adventure.

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Attractions, Sightseeing

Up at The O2

icon-location-pin Greenwich Peninsula

Fancy a novel view of the city’s skyline? Strap yourself to a harness, and scale the O2 Arena. There’s nothing else in London quite like it, as you take in the sweeping views of the Docklands as the wind whips through your hair.

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Things to do

The Shard

icon-location-pin London Bridge

Controversial? Yes? Universally popular? No. But if you take to the viewing platform on the seventy-second floor of Renzo Piano’s Shard, you can enjoy 30-mile vistas across the city.

Attractions, Parks and gardens

Kew Gardens

icon-location-pin Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are two and a half centuries years old, but look as good as the day they were developed by Lord Capel John of Tewkesbury. There’s more to do here than look at glorious greenery: check out the treetop walk, sculptures by Henry Moore and Eduardo Paolozzi (to name a couple) and a lovely café too.

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© Oliver Knight
Things to do, Walks and tours

Hampstead Heath

icon-location-pin Dartmouth Park

On the opposite side of London to Kew, you’ll find the wild and undulating grassy sprawl of Hampstead Heath. It makes a wonderfully untamed contrast to the manicured lawns and flowerbeds found elsewhere in the capital.

Visit the 50 top London attractions
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

Selfridges – Time Out’s favourite London store – houses everything you could possibly need, and then some. With its concession boutiques, store-wide themed events and collections from the hottest new brands, its your first port of call for stylish one-stop shopping.

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

This East End addition to the RT stable welcomes live performers of pretty much every persuasion and boasts a café, where you can sit and listen to records before you commit to buying.

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