Foodies, culture vultures, and history buffs–London undoubtedly has something to see and do that suits nearly everyone’s taste and budget!
“London opens to you like a novel itself… It is divided into chapters, the chapters into scenes, the scenes into sentences; it opens to you like a series of rooms, doors and passages. Mayfair to Piccadilly to Soho to the Strand.
After living as an expat in Asia and traveling around Europe together, my fiancé and I decided to move back to London, where he’s from, for an undetermined amount of time. Funnily enough, I spent 8 years of my life as a child living an hour outside of London, so I already was familiar with the city. Over time, both as a child and now as an adult, I have gotten to know the many nooks and crannies of the buzzing British capital.
1. Visit Warner Brothers Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter
This is incredibly touristy, and real Londoners will likely roll their eyes. It’s also not technically in London– it’s actually located in nearby Watford. Regardless, taking a tour of the Harry Potter Warner Brother studio is an absolute must-do while in the area. Tickets must be purchased in advance and you should allocate a minimum of 4 hours to your self-guided tour– trust me, you’ll need every minute to interact with every exhibit and read every placard.
2. Join one of Eating Europe’s London Food Tours
There is so much good food in London, and much of it can be found in the city’s many markets! Eating Europe’s expert local guides lead you on a walking tour of the diverse food scene in London. Guides share the stories behind every dish you get to taste, and they share historical and cultural insights along the way. While there are a number of excellent food tours at your disposal, I recommend Eating Europe, as they make a conscious effort to eliminate food waste on tour and to share cultural knowledge you would only get from London insiders. Explore the East End of London and learn about its Jewish influence or stroll through SoHo at twilight. You won’t be disappointed, no matter which of Eating Europe’s tours you choose.
3. Indulge in afternoon tea
There is simply nothing more British than partaking in the long-standing tradition of afternoon tea. So, it seems only right to book an afternoon tea at one of London’s many fine tea rooms. Tea can be spendy, especially if you book yours at one of the more posh establishments (like the Langham, listed below). A rough guideline is that any afternoon tea that costs less than £30 per person is relatively good value.
My favorite tea spots are:
📍The Ivy in Chelsea
📍Fortnum & Mason
📍Palm Court at the Langham
4. Walk across Tower Bridge
The beautiful bridge you’ve probably seen on postcards from London is not the London Bridge, which is pretty lackluster. Tower Bridge, however, has visitors clutching for their cameras and Similar to walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, there is something quintessentially “London” about crossing the Thames by walking over the Tower Bridge.
Pro-Tip: Get a great pic of the whole bridge from the South Bank side.
5. See a West End production
No visit to London is complete without seeing a show on the West End. The Lion King, Wicked, Les Miserables, Hamilton; these are just the tip of the iceberg. The West End is a true London tradition, ingrained in the very fiber of the city. Puritans banned live theater for a time, until its return in the 1600s. Since then, it’s been an unstoppable source of entertainment and a landmark of English culture.
Drop into a FREE MUSEUM
London is a spendy city to visit, and one that isn’t especially known for its fabulous weather, making free museums a great place for budget travelers to escape inclement weather. Here are some of my favorites:
📍National Portrait Gallery
📍Victoria & Albert Museum
Hit up the COLUMBIA FLOWER MARKET
This one ~just~ missed cracking the top five because it’s only open on Sundays. Starting at 8 AM, this Victorian road transforms into a flood of florals and live music. Potted plants and colorful stems fill buckets at stalls where vendors call out their best bargains.
Head to GOD’S OWN JUNKYARD
This neon sign collection is the largest in the U.K. It’s such a vibe that it was used as the setting for a 2011 Vogue Magazine shoot. DSLR cameras are not allowed, but you can take photos with your phone camera for personal use.
Roam past THE ROYAL PALACES
The Royal Family has many estates across the U.K. Enthisiasts can take a walk in the Royals’ shoes by visiting one of the many palaces. Not all of the palaces are open to visitors, but those that are typically are open to the public for a limited number of weeks during the summer season. Fro example, Buckingham Palace is open to visitors for 10 weeks roughly from July to September.
📍Windsor Castle (day trip)
Traipse through HITCHIN LAVENDER FIELDS
If you happen to be visiting in the summer, you’ll want to jump on a train and make the 20-minute journey to Hitchin to visit its famous lavender fields. The lavender is peak-bloom in late July/early August.
Picnic in a PARK
London on a sunny day is ideal for throwing down a blanket, grabbing a book, and snacking away the afternoon in one of the city’s many green spaces. Because many people in London don’t have yards or gardens of their own, and almost no one has air-conditioning, its also very common for residents to sunbathe in the park on exceptionally warm days.
📍Primrose Hill (especially good for sunset)
Where to stay in London
Airbnbs can run you as much as a hotel in certain boroughs of London, and there are some beautifully designed hotels that are well-worth the spend. Here are my favorite places for a staycation in London, and the hotels I recommend highly for visitors:
Tara is a freelance travel writer, content creator, and adventure enthusiast. On her blog, SillyLittleKiwi.com, she writes in-depth blogs focused on slow, meaningful travel in the 60+ countries she’s wandered through. Follow her on Instagram and Youtube.