One of my favourite cities in the world is undoubtedly my home city of London. Bursting to the seams with any sort of touristy nuance you could think of, while simultaneously embodying a rich culture, there is (as cheesy as it sounds) something for everyone across every neighbourhood.
London City itself is only a very small percentage of Greater London, approximately one square mile. However, when people say they’re going to London, they tend to explore far beyond what is offered in “real” London.
First off I suggest getting an Oyster Card and topping it up as you go. It’s an incredibly convenient way of travel; all you have to do is tap your way through the ticket barriers at each station and it takes the correct amount of money off depending on when and where you need to go.
I was born in the heart of the city eighteen years ago, and have a soft spot for all the wonderful British things you can get up to in England’s bustling capital.
1. Walk across Tower Bridge
If you take the tube you can get straight to Tower Bridge, one of London’s most iconic structures. Walking down the embankment along the River Thames and across the brdige, you can spot the Tower of London of the left hand side. Once an execution prison, it now is home to the Crown Jewels.
2. Explore London’s Financial District (and spot the Walkie-Talkie, the Gherkin and the Shard)
3. Climb to the top of the Monument to the Great Fire of London
It was completed in 1677 just 61 metres from where the great fire started. You can get yourself a certificate if you climb up the 311 stairs winding up in the inside to the 360 degree views of London at the top. The Shard dominates the skyline.
4. Check out St. Paul’s Cathedral from the free viewing deck across the street
If you like, the cathedral lobby is also free if you don’t want to pay to tour the building.
5. Cross the twisting Millennium Bridge over the Thames
The road leading straight down towards the Thames from the cathedral ends at Millennium Bridge which sort of twists and turns its way across the river. It also happens to the bridge that is blown up during one of the Harry Potter films, so for fanatics like myself, be sure to reenact this iconic scene.
6. Appreciate modern art at Tate
The other side of the Millennium Bridge houses the internationally renowned Tate Modern Art Gallery which you can explore and gain a greater appreciation for modern art.
7. Find William Shakespeare’s stone outside the replica Globe Theatre
Next door to Tate is the beautiful recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where one can watch his iconic plays reenacted inside the open-top stage.
8. Push a Hogwarts trolley through the wall at King’s Cross’ Platform 9 3/4
Just off the train at King’s Cross Station you can find, tucked into the wall at Platform 9 3/4, Harry Potter’s trolley complete with suitcases and his Hogwarts scarf.
9. Have a peek around University College London, one of the city’s best
10. Experience the world of shopping on Oxford Street
11. Ride the London Eye
If you hop off the train at Waterloo you’ll come out right where the London Eye is situated. It’s right on the south bank of the River Thames and is an impressive structure, the third largest of its kind in the world.
It is one of the most internationally well-known symbols of London and if you choose to ride, there are amazing views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament along with a view of London-town 26 miles in every direction.
12. Walk across the bridge at Charing Cross
13. Visit Nelson in Trafalgar Square
Located right at the Charing Cross tube station, this large public square sits directly in front of London’s National Gallery and features large fountains, an impressive statue of Nelson on his iconic column and is the location of many live events throughout the year.
14. Walk down Whitehall to visit the horses of the Royal Cavalry
A walk along Whitehall will straight past all the departments in the parliamentary system (defence, customs and revenue, agriculture, etc.) as well as the Queen’s Royal Cavalry where you can nab a photo with the very patient horses.
15. Wave to the Prime Minister at Downing Street
Not that you will actually catch a sight of him, but still worth a wave.
16. Walk under the Admiralty Arch
The entrance to The Mall to Buckingham Palace, you can access this archway from Trafalgar Square.
17. Watch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace
If you walk under the archway at Trafalgar Square, you will make your way down The Mall past St. James Park. At the end of this road sits the impressive Buckingham Palace, the London home of the Queen of England.
18. Spend an afternoon taking in the greenery of St. James’ Park
Spanning The Mall of Buckingham Palace, this is a cute place to bring a picnic and enjoy the afternoon sun.
19. Appreciate the beauty of Westminster Abbey, where many royals are crowned, married and buried
Once you reach the end of Whitehall, you’ll come to the famous Westminster Abbey where a number of monarchs are buried along with the likes of Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin. It is also where Queen Elizabeth II was crowned and where Will and Kate were married.
20. Listen to the chimes of Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster is part of UK Parliament where the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet. Big Ben is the large bell inside the Elizabeth Clock Tower at the northern of the Palace of Westminster, although the tower is often mistakenly called Big Ben as a whole.
21. Take in the view from Westminster Bridge
22. Visit New Scotland Yard and pretend to be a detective
23. Visit the boroughs of Kensington
If you take the tube to South Kensington, you will enter into a scene straight out of Made in Chelsea, full of high-end designer stores, more up-market cars than not and penthouses worth $140 million.
24. Take it all in at Harrod’s Department Store
You can walk through the massive establishment, ride Egyptian escalators, stare at watches worth thousands of pounds, wave at the doormen clad in their forest green tuxedos and top hats, try proper French macaroons from Laduree and hear live opera singers on the indoor balconies.
25.Visit the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum
A further walk down the road from Harrod’s will bring you to the architecturally beautiful Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum, both lovely buildings with plenty of exhibits inside. Also, for those who enjoy aesthetically pleasing buildings, they are both symmetrical.
26. Enjoy sweet things at Covent Garden Market while watching street performers
27. Take the Thames Clipper
From Westminster, near Big Ben and the London Eye, catch a Thames Clipper for a half hour boat ride down the river towards Greenwich. Try and travel with TRS because they aren’t a proper guided boat cruise, meaning faster, cheaper service and funnier commentary.
28. Visit the Old Royal Naval College at Greenwich
The Thames Clipper drops you off right on the wharf with the college and the National Maritime Museum. Fun fact, the word ‘wharf’ actually stands for Ware House At River Front!
29. Stand on the centre of the world at the Greenwich Meridian Line
A walk up a rather steep hill takes you directly to the Royal Observatory which houses the Greenwich Meridian Line: the centre of the world [equivalent to the equator but divides the east and west, rather than the north and south]. It also is the middle of the time zone system we use.
30. Create your own pasta dish at Vapiano
When you first walk in, each guest is given a meal card to use for the evening. Whenever you buy a drink or order food, you swipe the card at various locations around the restaurant. At the end of the evening, you return your card to the front desk and pay off your balance. It’s a delicious way to enjoy fresh pasta with a communal and inviting atmosphere.
31. Experience the world of Harry Potter at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour
Hands down one of the coolest parts of my trip was visiting the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden in northwestern London and experiencing the making of Harry Potter and the magic of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for myself. I have been obsessed with all things Harry Potter for years now and have read every book many times!
From the train station you are whisked away in the Knight Bus straight to the door of the Studio where you are greeted by a mass of people outside Studio J and K. From the moment you walk in, all sorts of props and scenery are to be seen: from the flying car to Harry’s room under the stairs.
The experience starts with a feature film introducing you to the world of Harry Potter, spoken by the cast themselves and then you are invited to walk through the door of the Great Hall itself. It’s a magical experience to say the least.