Top things to do in London
London ranks high among the best places to travel in the world, attracting millions of visitors from all corners of the globe every year. It may not be one of the cheap places to travel, but there are so many things to do in London that it’s definitely worth a visit. So, once you’ve figured out the best time to visit London and the best time to book a flight – and you’ve watched King Charles’s coronation to get in the mood – where to start?
If you’ve never been to London, you’ll want to make sure to see the most important sights, but also some hidden gems we locals enjoy. I have been living in London for more than five years. I planned to just stay for a few weeks, but I fell in love with the city at first sight – and I still schedule in regular time for exploring my adopted home. I love to share my favourite spots as a travel writer, and I am on speed dial for friends, family and friends of friends who are visiting. It’s impossible to fit everything London has to offer into one trip (or even one lifetime!), but it’s easy to make the most of your time if you just know how.
Big Ben is London’s most famous landmark, so it’s a must-see for all travellers. The name refers to the huge bell inside the clock tower, which first chimed on May 31, 1859, but the whole building at the north end of the Houses of Parliament goes by this nickname. Big Ben was renamed Elizabeth Tower in honour of Queen Elizabeth II‘s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, but most people don’t call it that.
The tower underwent extensive renovations from summer 2017, and there was much excitement when the bells first rang again in November 2022. It’s still not possible to climb up Big Ben quite yet, but the big reopening for visitors is scheduled for later in 2023. Your best bet for a picture-perfect view of the tower and the Houses of Parliament is from Westminster Bridge.
Pro tip: If you want to take a selfie with Big Ben, the best spot is just behind the landmark, on Great George Street. When coming from Westminster Bridge, walk past the tower and the tube station (Westminster) toward St James’s Park, Westminster Abbey to your left. While it might be a bit cliché to pose next to a red phone box, the photo will still look great on your Instagram – and many Londoners snap this shot too.
If you followed King Charles‘s coronation (or other festive royal events such as Prince William and Kate Middleton‘s wedding) you’re probably already familiar with Westminster Abbey. But London’s most iconic church is even more impressive when you step foot inside yourself. Westminster Abbey was founded in 960 AD and has been the coronation church since 1066. It is also the final resting place of no fewer than 17 monarchs (the late Queen Elizabeth is buried in Windsor Castle), scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton and world-famous writers including Charles Dickens.
Westminster Abbey is both one of London’s top tourist attractions and a working church with daily services – so be prepared for crowds and parts of the abbey closed. The church is busiest in the mornings, so visit after lunchtime if you can book a time slot.
Pro tip: While it’s perfectly possible to explore the abbey with an audio guide (included in the ticket price), their guided tours are worth a bit of extra money. You will get to see parts of Westminster Abbey that are normally closed to the public, including royal tombs, the Poets’ Corner and Lady Chapel – and you’ll get to hear lots of interesting facts and anecdotes.