Planning a trip to the U.K and looking for quirky things to do in London?
With an abundance of museums, art galleries, chic restaurants, charming pubs, hip neighborhoods, and plenty of world-renown landmarks, London can be intimidating, especially to a first time visitor.
Adding that London is one of the world’s most multicultural cities, there is an overwhelming range of options to explore when it comes to food, shopping, and entertainment.
Although the city is packed with sights, many major museums, galleries, parks, and open markets are in Central London. Venturing in other neighborhoods as well is a must, but whatever you do in London, you will surely get a taste of the city’s unique character.
Interesting facts about London
- The name London derives from the Celtic word “Londinous” which means to be bold.
- London is the biggest city in England, followed by Birmingham and Manchester.
- If the Queen wants to visit London, she has to ask for permission from the Mayor of London.
- You can tell that the Queen’s at home in Buckingham Palace – by the Royal Standard (flag) that are flown on the flagpole. The Union Jack is raised for the rest of the time.
- London has 0ver 80 billionaires – one of the most popular cities for rich folks!
- More than half of the London Underground is actually overground.
- Big Ben is actually the bell inside the tower and NOT the tower and the clock itself!
- Open in 1828, London Zoo was the world’s first zoo.
- Winnie the Pooh was a real bear who lived in London Zoo.
1. Explore Millenia of History at the British Museum
Founded in 1753, the British Museum is one of the world’s oldest museums and a top cultural institution in the United Kingdom.
It houses some of the most valuable artifacts in human history, including the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, massive Assyrian sculptures, Parthenon sculptures, and many more ancient works of art. In fact, its collection of antiquities is so vast that it covers millenia of human history. And it’s free to visit!
2. Have Lunch in Eclectic Camden
Camden is a vibrant neighborhood in north London, popular for its cultural diversity and alternative atmosphere, and where a popular market takes place every day, attracting locals and visitors alike.
The place is filled with bookshops, vintage clothing stores, vegan bakeries, cafes, and stalls selling everything from art to handmade jewelry.
Take a stroll through Camden Market to discover the impressive range of street food options, including Indian, Turkish, Chinese, and countless others, and have lunch on the picturesque Regent’s Canal.
The most gorgeous architecture of the city can be found in Westminster, the political powerhouse of London.
The Palace of Westminster is home to the Houses of Parliament and the iconic Big Ben. A neo-gothic, incredibly-detailed structure of towers, arches, and buttresses, with 1,100 rooms and many courtyards, the palace cannot leave you indifferent. In the same area, you can also find Westminster Abbey, a place of great cultural significance for the British, with equally stunning architecture.
This is where many important cultural and political figures in the history of the UK were buried, and where many royal weddings took place.
Besides being the longest river in England, the Thames is a really important part of London’s development and history.
Traveling along the Thames is a wonderful way to get to know the city and understand its true vastness. Even better, the cruises usually pass by important landmarks, such as the London Eye, the Palace of Westminster, Tower Bridge, and London Bridge.
All sights are lit up at night, so night cruises are a great choice for a romantic dinner.
5. See the City from Above with London Eye
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel built in celebration of the new millennium, which now affords visitors stunning views of London.
For a complete experience, interactive tablets allow you to identify key sights in the skyline. Each rotation takes 30 minutes and is fairly slow, giving you the opportunity to have a thorough look and recognize your favorite parts of the city.
Visitors can share a pod with others or take on a private pod. The wheel is lit up at night when it becomes a colorful, distinctive element on London’s skyline.
6. Witness the Changing of the Guard at the Buckingham Palace
The Buckingham Palace has been the residence of the British Royal Family since 1837.
Although it features hundreds of rooms, only some areas are open to visitors. Still, you can get a good glimpse of the royal life.
What really attracts visitors, however, is the famous Changing of the Guard. The ceremony lasts for 45 minutes, but the dates and times differ, so it’s better to check in advance if you want to witness this historic tradition.
7. Stroll around Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus is the equivalent of New York’s Times Square, and you will easily recognize it because it is the busiest and most dazzling square in London, where bright lights, billboards, and huge screens tell you that this is one of the main commercial and social hubs of the city.
Both locals and visitors meet near the statue of Eros in the center because Piccadilly Circus is a great starting point for those who want to see London’s biggest shops, nightclubs, theaters, and quirky museums.
Within a short walk, visitors can reach other important areas of London, such as Soho, Chinatown, or Trafalgar Square.
8. See the Museum of Brands
The Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising, with its 12.000 tins, jars, posters, toys, and artifacts.
It will let you retrace the history of the United Kingdom (and not only) since 1800 to nowadays, and it’s one of those quirky places to visit in London that not many people know – not even the locals.
Best day trips from London
Although you can hardly run out of things to do in London, in fact, you can explore London in 2 days then explore other interesting locations nearby will give you an even better idea about the wealth of history, culture, and art that the UK boasts about.
London is surrounded by popular landmarks, castles, and historic towns, which means that you can easily use London as a hub while you take some day trips to some of the most beautiful locations in the United Kingdom.
You have probably heard about Stonehenge as one of the most intriguing mysteries of the prehistoric world. A massive stone circle believed to have been built by our Neolithic ancestors around five thousand years ago, Stonehenge is truly an impressive sight.
Visitors can freely wander around on walkways and marvel at the sheer immensity of the stones and their puzzling display.
To get to Stonehenge, take a train from London Waterloo to Salisbury. The journey takes only 90 minutes and the trains run every hour. Once you get to Salisbury, find the Stonehenge Tour Bus that will get you right to the monument.
Windsor is mostly famous for the Windsor Castle, which is Queen Elizabeth’s official residence and one of the largest castles in the world.
While at the castle, you can witness the Changing of the Guard, explore the Windsor Great Park and other important buildings on the grounds, including the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and the Albert Memorial Chapel. You can also take a stroll around Windsor and you will find that there are plenty of things to do in the area.
Visitors usually spent their time checking out the beautiful chapels, towers, and museums, and taking boat trips on the river. Windsor is only 40 minutes away by train from London Waterloo and around 45 minutes by car. Being so close to Greater London, it’s a great day trip option if you’re short on time but still want to explore a bit more than just London.
The city of Bath was once a Roman hotspot due to the area’s thermal springs, which the Romans used to create what we would now call a spa facility.
Naturally, the Roman heritage makes Bath one of the most unique spots to visit on a day trip from London. You can start by exploring the stunning historic spa, known as the Roman Baths Complex, which includes the Bath House, the Sacred Spring, and the Roman Temple, then visit the Thermae Bath Spa, the modern rooftop pool.
Continue your trip with an exploration of the city’s impressive 18th-century Georgian architecture, best represented by the Royal Crescent Complex. The grand medieval Bath Abbey and the picturesque Pulteney Bridge are also well worth your time.
Bath is only 115 miles away from London so you can get there in 90 minutes by train from London Paddington, or 2 hours 30 minutes by car. Direct trains are available twice an hour.
Oxford is well known for the historic, world-famous university, but the city is much more than just gorgeous academic buildings and it is definitely worth a day trip from London.
The grand architecture, which attests to centuries of tradition and prestige, contrasts with the youthful atmosphere of the city, which is mostly populated by students. Visitors love to take a tour of the colleges, but there are also many markets, shops, museums, and quaint bridges to explore.
Getting to Oxford takes about 1 h by train from London Paddington and London Marylebone, or 1 h by bus or car from the center of London.
Since Brighton is one of the most popular seaside towns in England, there is no shortage of things to do in the city on a day trip.
The city hosts the world’s oldest aquarium, the 18th-century Indian-style Royal Pavilion, and the opulent Brighton Palace Pier, and welcomes visitors with plenty of amusements and wheel rides along the pier.
Brighton is also packed with flea markets, bohemian cafes and pubs, and fish & chips restaurants. The beaches are also an irresistible attraction.
Brighton is around 1 h by train from London Victoria Station or London Bridge. By car, it takes around 2 hours.
Although smaller than its academic rival Oxford, many say that Cambridge is the prettiest among the two historic university towns.
Besides being greener and more tranquil, Cambridge is so close to London that a day trip will be both relaxing and interesting.
You can spend hours checking the beautiful architecture of the old colleges and the collections of the town’s amazing museums. Hiring a boat to punt along the River Cam is also a great afternoon activity.
Cambridge is just 64 miles away from London so you can get there in 45 minutes by train from London King’s Cross and 70 minutes from London Liverpool Street. Trains go several times an hour. By car, it will take you around 2 hours.
Where to eat in London
No doubt, London is a top destination for foodies. The range of excellent restaurants, from the most expensive to the most budget-friendly, and the expansive international cuisine are hard to match. If you’re looking for some interesting options to make sure you’ll have an unforgettable, delicious taste of London and experiment some of the multicultural richness of the British capital, these are our top recommendations for the best places to eat.
Almost hidden away on a little side street opposite of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Xi’an Impression is a small restaurant, but the minimalist design makes it seem bright and spacious, and you’ll feel instantly welcomed.
Excellent Chinese dishes are available at friendly prices. Vegetarians can find a great range of choices as well. Chinese noodles come in a variety of forms and flavors, and this is the best place to explore new combinations of exotic ingredients.
Koya Soho is one of Londoners’ favorite Japanese restaurants.
Once a best-kept secret, the restaurant has attracted a lot of attention lately. The place is small, but clients can comfortably sit on a stool and watch the chefs do their magic in the kitchen behind the counter.
The main attraction is the authentic Japanese breakfast, which can comprise traditional grilled fish with miso soup and rice. The restaurant offers both traditional dishes and original recipes.
Santa Maria Pizzeria
In a multicultural city like London, it is easy to find the best of everything.
If you’re in the mood for some top-notch Neapolitan pizza, Santa Maria Pizzeria is a great choice.
The wood-fired oven spreads delicious, aromatic flavors, and the pizza comes out with a blistered crust and a yummy interior. There is a wide range of toppings available.
Wild Food Cafe
Located in charming and colorful Neal’s Yard, Wild Food Café is a plant-based organic eatery, where food comes in original and playful combinations of flavors and ingredients from all over the world.
The ingredients come from small organic farms or are foraged from natural environments. The menu changes seasonally.
The Golden Chippy
Fish and Chips is the most popular British staple food, so if you are in London, make sure to stop by The Golden Chippy for some of the best Fish and Chips in the city and truly local experience.
Located in Greenwich, this establishment has a small seating area, but it is very welcoming, and the food is excellent with amazing flavors. The fish is always fresh and the chips are crispy outside but soft inside.
The prices are relatively good, especially since the portions are quite large. The Fish and Chips come with a green salad.
Offering an authentic mix of Indian, Sri Lankan, and Thai food, Amrutha Lounge is a small, cozy restaurant with innovative dishes that cater mostly to vegans but which are loved by everyone.
Popular classics are also on the menu. The food is prepared from scratch with great attention to detail to ensure the maximum quality.
The place was voted one of the most popular restaurants in London, yet it is incredibly affordable.
The Ledbury is truly one of the best restaurants in London and almost on a league of its own, yet the prices match the quality.
If budget is no issue, this is a Michelin-starred restaurant where both the food and the ambiance are spectacular. Everything is at the highest standards, and the French-inspired cuisine is described as culinary perfection.
The food presentation and the wine selection can satisfy even the most sophisticated palate.
Best Hotels in London
London has so many stunning hotels that narrowing your search down to one could seem daunting. Each hotel, however, has its own distinctive character and the chances of finding a place that suits your taste and preferences are really high. Whether you prefer the prestige of old establishments, English refinement adapted to modern times, or innovative design and architecture, London has it all.
Claridge’s hotel is a legendary place that has attracted kings, queens, and many important figures of the British elite during its long history.
With its Art Deco luxurious design and hybrid additions, it is a quintessential example of British opulence, but with a contemporary touch after its recent refurbishment. Situated in Mayfair, the hotel offers impeccable service, a glamorous restaurant and bar, a spa, and a gym. The great concern for details is evident. An afternoon tea becomes an exercise in the refinement in the cozy foyer. At the Fera restaurant, a white, leafless tree in the center exemplifies the hotel’s exceptional taste for originality.
The Ritz hotel is all about glamour and refinement, and this covers every single aspect, from service to interior design.
Everything from the lavish hallways to the stunning dining room and the extraordinary charm of the Long Gallery and Palm Court reminds you that this is one of the best hotels not just in London, but in Europe as well.
The bedrooms are no less opulent with their original Louis XVI-style decorations. Needless to say, the service and cuisine are excellent.
The Savoy is one of London’s most iconic hotels, right near the Waterloo Bridge, on the north bank of the River Thames.
Combining Edwardian style with Art Deco, the hotel features large bedrooms with a traditional English design.
The Savoy Grill run by famous chef Gordon Ramsay and Kaspar’s seafood restaurant are known as excellent. The place also includes two classy cocktail bars. Overall, the historic elegance and the modern sophistication of the place make the Savoy a perfect choice for a stay in London.
Shangri-La is a hotel located in the tallest building in London, the Shard, where it occupies floors 34 to 52.
Naturally, this means Shangri-La is an excellent choice for those looking for gorgeous aerial views of London.
Decorated with opulence and luxury in mind, Shangri-La astounds guests from the very beginning of their visit, with the abundance of marble and silks. The floor-to-ceiling windows guarantee amazing views in every direction. The hotel also features an indoor swimming pool at the highest floor.
Brown’s Hotel has a history of over 175 years which intertwines with the history of London in significant ways.
Founded by the former valet to Lord Byron, the hotel became a favorite of writers such as Agatha Christie and Rudyard Kipling and of many intellectuals, scientists, and political figures.
Today, the hotel maintains a large part of the original design and decorations, but significant changes were made to modernize it. The blend of classical and modern led to impressive results, and rooms are incredibly stylish while providing the best in terms of comfort. Brown’s is also located in Mayfair.
With a perfect location in Mayfair, The Connaught is an impressive achievement in terms of architecture and design.
After its recent refurbishment, the hotel offers guests the opportunity to choose between classic and contemporary rooms, all of which include a separate dressing.
The traditional Englishness of the hotel combined with the minimalist additions makes The Connaught an extremely original place. Chic bars and restaurants also feature outstanding design and offer some of the finest drinking and dining options in London. The Aman spa in the hotel is widely popular as well.
This 5-star hotel is in London’s Knightsbridge and looks out over Hyde Park.
It has air-conditioned luxury rooms and offers a personal butler service, free WiFi and an in-room Sony tablet.
The Lanesborough’s traditional rooms mix 19th-century style with modern luxury. Many also have scenic views over Hyde Park. The rooms all have tea/coffee making facilities and a daily wake-up call service.
Additionally, guests at this hotel gain complimentary access to the Lanesborough Club & Spa which includes fitness, spa and well-being facilities
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Get Insurance before traveling to London
Use travel insurance while visiting London so you are covered for theft and medical expenses. There are a lot of adventurous activities to do in London, and it’s best to have peace of mind while swimming, hiking and trying some of the best food in the world.
Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
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