Things to do in London
Dedicated to human history and culture, his seven million strong collection is one of the best in the world. Exhibitions span the Americas, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and Rome and Asia. The center of the museum is now the Great Court, a spectacular glass topped room designed by Norman Foster.
One of the few working palaces in the world, it has been home to the reigning monarch since 1837. The palace has 775 rooms, and every summer visitors can tour nineteen of them.
While a fire in 2008 threatened to destroy much of the area, Camden’s spirit refused to be extinguished. This remains the place to get in touch with your inner Goth. Explore the funky vintage shops, galleries, and open-air markets of this student-popular North London enclave.
Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms
Situated on the site of the secret underground headquarters of the British war effort this is one of the six branches of the Imperial War Museum. The museum includes both the Cabinet War rooms and a museum exploring the life of Churchill.
A mixture of quirky boutiques, courtyard eateries, and outdoor performers, this pedestrianized shopping area is a must-visit.
Dennis Severs House
A tucked-away time capsule of 18th- and 19th-century life, maintained as if still a residence.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
England’s first public art gallery it was founded in 1811 and remains an excellent collection of 17th- and 18th-century Old Masters, including Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto and Van Dyck. Surrounded by peaceful gardens it is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon.
Hampstead Heath / Kenwood House
There are few things more pleasant on a summer’s day than a walk through Hampstead Heath in north London. On the northern boundary of the heath is Kenwood House, a 17th-century home now owned by English heritage. Explore the art, sculpture, and architecture (used as a backdrop for the movie Notting Hill) before taking a stroll through the Heath’s 790 acres.
Dress to impress or risk getting turned away from the ruling monarch of high-end London department stores; the gourmet food court alone is worth a visit. For more cutting-edge fashion, head a few minutes away to Harvey Nichols.
Opened in 1839, this atmospheric Victorian cemetery is a fascinating place to visit. Karl Marx, among many other prominent people, is buried here, and you can learn a great deal of the place’s history by taking a tour with the highly knowledgeable Friends of Highgate.
A museum ship now operated by the Imperial War Museum, it was once the most powerful light cruiser ever built. It played an important role in World War II and the Korean War. Now, it teaches visitors about the UK’s maritime history.
Horse Guards Parade
This large parade ground in Westminster is the place to gaze at the bear skin hatted guards in their bright red coats. Changing the Guard can be seen here every morning at 11am, Monday to Saturday, and 10am on Sunday. But those lucky enough to be visiting on the Queen’s official birthday, June 12, will see the Trooping the Colour, an amazing display of military pomp and pageantry.
One of the largest parks in central London, it contains the Diana Memorial Fountain, Serpentine Gallery, and Speaker’s Corner. The perfect place for a picnic or a few hours spent rowing or boating on the Serpentine lake.
Pay for a guide on this giant observation wheel for informative, less-crowded enjoyment of the sweeping views over the Thames and the city below. Those with more cash to splash can reserve a private pod and sip champagne, even have a beauty treatment in the air.
Anchored in the West End, the London theater scene boasts everything from big, modern musicals to cutting-edge dramas at Kevin Spacey’s Old Vic to celebrity-studded performances at the historic Donmar Warehouse.
National Maritime Museum
One of the leading maritime museums in the world, this museum boasts displays and artifacts from every continent in the world. There are galleries dedicated to astronomy and time and, for children, a space to try a ship simulator.
National Portrait Gallery
Over 160,000 portraits are held here, spanning the 16th century to the present day. It was the very first portrait gallery when it opened in 1856 and continues to delight visitors with a collection that opens up the past.
Natural History Museum
Home to towering dinosaur skeletons, interactive exhibits and over 70 million plants, animals and fossils, its little wonder this is one of the cities most visited museums. Imaginative exhibitions currently include a live butterfly house and the chance to plunge into the deep of the ocean.
High-end department store Selfridges rubs elbows with U.S. chains, budget-minded Topshop, and 300 other consumer-friendly spots in Europe's largest shopping district.
A dizzying array of vintage collectibles for sale six days a week and site of the world's largest antique market on Saturdays.
Royal Academy of Arts
This independent, privately-funded organization is spearheaded by prominent artists whose sole focus is to increase awareness, enjoyment, and appreciation of visual arts. Art displays change routinely every few months, but perhaps the institution’s most celebrated annual event is the Summer Exhibition – which is touted as the world’s largest open submission contemporary art exhibition of its kind. The artwork runs across all forms of media including printmaking, film, architecture, painting, and photography. The majority of pieces selected can be purchased by visitors, but most are very expensive.
Royal Opera House
The current dramatic building is actually the third incarnation, the first two destroyed by fire. Constructed in 1858, this 2,252-seat, stately opera house boasts entirely natural acoustics – and the sound is remarkable. The Royal Opera House is a flurry of activity, showcasing some 300 performances in its 11-month season. Discover the enchanting world of opera and ballet and take a backstage tour of the iconic building (tours begin at 10:30am, 12:30pm, and 2:30pm, Monday through Friday; 10:30am, 11:30am, 12:30pm, and 1:30pm on Saturday; from £10/adult). It’s also home to exhibitions and six dining and bar venues.
Sadler's Wells Theatre
As the UK’s leading dance house, the space is dedicated to bringing the world’s very best performers to London. Cutting-edge and dramatic dance is always on offer here, including collaborations with artists and musicians.
Founded in 1857, the museum holds everything from the first jet engine to a reconstruction of Crick and Watson’s model of DNA. It isn’t just kids play. As well as an IMAX 3D cinema showing science and nature films once a month, the museum hosts an event called Lates, where adults can spend an evening sipping drinks and listening to music while exploring exhibitions.
Shakespeare Globe Theatre
The Globe was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company and rebuilt in 1997 by American actor and director Sam Wanamaker. Visitors can take tours, join costume workshops, learn about special effects and, of course, watch Shakespeare’s finest plays come to life.
Dating back to 1638, this sprawling marketplace explodes on weekends with art- and fashion-minded shoppers; an international food village provides tasty sustenance.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
A cathedral has stood on this site since 604AD, but its soaring dome has been an integral part of London’s skyline since the 17th century. Nowadays a working church, visitors are invited to join in the Lord’s Prayer in whatever language they choose. Those who wish to explore the building itself can wander the whispering gallery, so called because a whisper on one side can clearly be heard at the other.
Built in a power station on the banks of the Thames, step inside this cavernous brick museum for contemporary art immersion. Visiting exhibitions are world class, as is the permanent collection including the don’t-miss Seagram Murals by Mark Rothko.
This suspension bridge is one of the iconic images of London. While many gaze at it from the river few seem to be aware that you can actually take a tour inside, learn the history, and watch the bridge lift.
Tower of London
The dramatic and often bloody reign of Henry VIII continues to intrigue, not least because of his habit of acquiring, and disposing of, wives. Tour the Tower to learn more about the infamous Tudor ruler, admire the smartly dressed Beefeater guards, the oversized ravens, and the opulent Crown Jewels.
Right in the heart of central London, Trafalgar Square is always buzzing with people. At its center is Nelson’s Column, surrounded by statues, sculptures and fountains.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Commonly abbreviated to the V&A, this museum is home to the world’s greatest collection of arts and design, holding over 3,000 years worth of artifacts. Fashion lovers are particularly well catered for – they can explore exhibitions of dress, jewelry, and accessories from the 17th-century to today.
One of the cities most popular attractions, join the crowds to visit memorials to 17 English monarchs and some of the great minds of science, politics, and art in this Gothic architectural showpiece. Plan ahead and you can also secure tickets to a number of events that take place here, including concerts, choirs, and garden parties.
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