After a three-week workcation in England, I found lots of cool and historic things to do in London. This post features my top recommendations.
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The best things to do in London
Whether you stay one day or three weeks in London, it’ll never be enough time. So take a look at all the cool things I experienced in London. And then create your own itinerary based on the length of your stay.
Abbey Road and Abbey Road Studios
My husband and my son are huge Beatles fans. So, of course, we needed to walk across Abbey Road like their famous album cover. You’ll also find a cool gift shop next to Abbey Road Studios. And outside the studio, it’s encouraged to sign the Abbey Road graffiti wall.
Where is Abbey Road made famous by the Beatles located in London?
The Abbey Road zebra crossing is located in the St. John’s Wood neighborhood of London. It’s near Abbey Road Studios 3 Abbey Road in London.
Big Ben / Elizabeth Tower
Did you know that Big Ben is not the name of this iconic tower? Big Ben is actually the nickname of the bell that sits inside the tower. The tower has gone by Stephen’s Tower as well as the Clock Tower. Most recently, it was renamed Elizabeth Tower on Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Fun fact about Big Ben: It’s just one of four bells in the Elizabeth Tower, according to the UK Parliament website. But Big Ben is the largest at 13.7 tonnes (1 tonne is equal to 1,000 kg). So about 30,203 pounds.
Where is Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower located?
Big Ben in the Elizabeth Tower is located in the north part of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster overlooking the River Thames.
It seems odd to say this so soon after the Queen’s passing. Buckingham Palace is the King’s official London residence and a working royal palace. Tours were on hold when I visited during the mourning period. But you can explore the State Rooms on a guided tour on selected dates. They are not open for tours every day.
If you’re looking to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, you can watch from outside the gates. But arrive early to get a good spot. Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace take place at 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays and daily in the summer.
Where is Buckingham Palace located? Buckingham Palace is located in the City of Westminster, which is a city and borough in Central London.
After visiting Harrod’s – London’s iconic department store – I now know what it must feel like when people visit the Mall of America for the first time. My husband and I could not find our way out of there! It was a maze!
We actually stopped by Harrod’s twice. To do some shopping and to eat dinner. And then take some decadent dessert to go. Not pictured: My mini chocolate Victorian tea cake. I wonder if they deliver to the States? It was delicious!
Where is Harrod’s in London located? The Harrod’s department store is located at 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, in London, SW1X 7XL.
The Houses of Parliament
If you’ve seen Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), then you’ve seen The Houses of Parliament. The two houses are the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It’s a beautiful and impressive building. They do offer guided tours that you can book online. Additionally, you’re welcome to watch debates and committee hearings for free at The Houses of Parliament.
Where are The Houses of Parliament located? The Houses of Parliament are located in Westminster next to the River Thames. See The Houses of Parliament map for details.
One of eight Royal Parks, Hyde Park is the largest of four connected parks near Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace. When we first visited, we didn’t know where Kensington Park ended and Hyde Park started. And I’m still not sure. Regardless, Hyde Park is beautiful with lots to do or even just a serene stroll through its many pathways.
Hyde Park is home to many concerts, the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, tennis courts, horseback riding, soccer (or football) fields, as well as playgrounds for children as well as seniors. You’ll also find the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park. This is a popular place for swimming and boating.
If you’re up for walking and love history, then take the self-guided Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. Follow 90 inground plaques on this urban hike that covers 7.5 miles and takes you through four Royal Parks, three palaces, and two mansions.
Where is Hyde Park located? Hyde Park is located in the postcode W2 2UH. With 350 acres, Hyde Park covers a lot of ground – literally.
It was amazing to learn that Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century. The stunning architecture you witness today was constructed in 1881. Here you’ll find shops, boutiques, pubs, wine bars, and restaurants. Public areas of the market are open 24 hours.
Leadenhall Market is also a Harry Potter filming location where Hagrid and Harry go shopping for wands and entrances to Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron.
Where is Leadenhall Market located? Leadenhall Market is located in what’s known as Square Mile in London on Gracechurch Street.
If you’re wanting some great views of London, then definitely book a ride on the iconic London Eye. And I highly recommend a fast pass with flexible timing so you don’t have to wait in line.
The tallest cantilevered Ferris Wheel in Europe, you’ll enter one of the glass capsules that takes you 135 meters or 442 feet into the air. Here you’ll have great views of the River Thames, Tower Bridge, The Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, and more of the London skyline. On a clear day, you can see as far as 40 km away. Each ride on the London Eye lasts 30 minutes.
Where is the London Eye located? The London Eye is located on Westminster Bridge Road outside the Riverside Building / County Hall. Just look up. You can’t miss it.
Another one of the eight Royal Parks, Kensington Gardens is located, well, in Kensington. It’s connected to Hyde Park.
We stayed right across from Kensington Gardens so loved our stroll through the beautiful and historic grounds. You’ll find lots of pathways, a lake with swans, geese, and ducks. Kensington Gardens also leads you to the Princess Diana Memorial Playground and many sculptures and monuments. We especially loved the Italian Gardens at Kensington. Established in the 1860s, this ornamental water garden was restored in 2011.
The 7.5-mile Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk runs through Kensington Gardens also.
Where are the Kensington Gardens located? Kensington Gardens covers 265 acres and is located in postcode W2 2UH.
Kensington Palace in London, England
And since you’re in the neighborhood, I highly recommend touring Kensington Palace. It’s the official London residence for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. And was the home of King William and Queen Mary in the late 1600s.
The tour covers the King’s State Apartments, the Queen’s State Apartments, and the Gardens. You’ll also find special exhibits and a café at Kensington Palace.
Where is the Kensington Palace located? Kensington Palace is located in postcode W2 2UH. We entered Kensington Gardens from Bayswater Road and the palace was just a short walk away.
London Fashion Week
The catalyst for my three-week workcation: London Fashion Week. My beautiful and talented niece, Anyse at AnyseFashion, was invited to London Fashion Week. And I, of course, had to support her. I’m so proud and happy for my niece. She demonstrated grace under fire when the airlines lost her entire collection of dresses.
Yes, her ENTIRE collection! As well as her and her boyfriend’s normal luggage.
Cutting to the chase, she arranged a friend to drop off a different collection for me in the Twin Cities. And then I checked that suitcase with me and flew it across the pond. Imagine me walking around Heathrow, with two checked pieces of luggage, a carryon and a backpack. Fortunately, my niece and her boyfriend met me after I got through customs. Which, by the way, is super quick and easy these days.
There’s much more to this saga of the lost collection, which I’ll share another time.
But can you believe that this dress pictured is from her BACK-UP collection? My niece is so talented. And she makes custom dresses for weddings, cruises, proms, or just because. Please check out her website, AnyseFashion, and support an emerging fashion designer. Make a girl’s dream come true.
NFL football game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
We’ve been Minnesota Vikings season ticket holders for nearly 20 seasons. So when we learned that my workcation would overlap an NFL game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, we were in! So much fun – especially since the Vikes won! They beat the New Orleans Saints 28-25. Skol!
A NFL game is definitely one of the top things to do in London. And what a beautiful stadium!
Where is Tottenham Hotspur Stadium? Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is located at 782 High Road, London, England, N17 0BX
Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station
King’s Cross Station – and underground Tube station – is worth a visit. And for you Harry Potter fans, King’s Cross Station is also home to Platform 9¾. It’s a fun photo op. The line may look long, but moves quickly. Here you’ll also find a Harry Potter gift shop.
Where is Platform 9¾ in London? You’ll find Platform 9¾ in London at King’s Cross Station on Euston Road, N1 9AL.
Portobello Market Street in Notting Hill
Named one of the prettiest streets in the world, Portobello Market Street is located in Notting Hill. Anyone else a fan of the movie? This is the area where you’ll find the famous blue door.
Portobello Market is also the world’s largest antiques market – with lots of shops, antique stores, restaurants, and boutiques. We heard Portobello Market gets super crowded on the weekends. Sometimes attracting up to 1,000 people where you can barely move. We visited on a Thursday morning/noonish with very few people.
One of the shopkeepers recommended lunch at a charming Greek tavern, Tavernaki right on Portobello Market Street. One of the best restaurants we experienced in London.
Where is the Portobello Market? The Portobello Market is on Portobello Road in the Notting Hill borough, London, W10 5TY.
Enjoy the walk along the River Thames, take a boat cruise, or a water taxi.
Fun fact about River Thames: Although it has a notorious reputation as a dirty water source, the River Thames is now considered one of the world’s cleanest rivers.
How do you pronounce Thames is a frequently asked question. Thames is pronounced temz.
Where is the River Thames located? In the heart of Central London. You can’t miss it if you are planning to check out the landmarks and attractions such as Big Ben / Elizabeth Tower, the London Eye, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and more.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare. So I loved our 50-minute tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. You can watch a Shakespeare play in this open-air theatre. Shows must go on regardless of the weather conditions, so dress accordingly.
While Shakespeare did not perform here, the reconstructed theatre represents the theatre where he wrote many of his plays.
Where is Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre located? The address for Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London is 21 New Globe Walk.
St. Pancras International Train Station and The Meeting Place sculpture
The historic St. Pancras International Train Station is considered one of the most beautiful train stations in the world. With its stunning Victorian gothic architecture, I must agree. The train station was built in 1868 and is still an active train station.
You’ll also find The Meeting Place sculpture at the St. Prancas International Train Station. It’s a 9m bronze statue capturing the romance of traveling. And the base of the sculpture tells a story all on its own.
Where is the St. Pancras International Train Station? The historic St. Pancras International Train Station is located on Euston Road, London, N1C 4QP.
Where is The Meeting Place sculpture? The Meeting Place sculpture is located inside the St. Pancras International Train Station on The Grand Terrace.
Tower Bridge in London
Don’t confuse the Tower Bridge with the London Bridge (which is not as pretty). You can walk across the Tower Bridge for free (at the pedestrian level). However, I recommend taking the tour to learn all about the history. And to take in all the views from the Tower Bridge and the River Thames.
Note that there’s a portion of the Tower Bridge with a glass floor – 42 meters or 138 feet above Thames River and 33.5 meters or 110 feet above the road level. If you’re uncomfortable walking across, there is a narrow path without glass on either side.
Be prepared for stairs as there are 206 steps up and then 206 steps down.
Where is the Tower Bridge in London located? You can find the Tower Bridge spanning the River Thames on Tower Bridge Road.
Tower of London
One of the most memorable tours we took when we first visited London years ago was the Tower of London. So I had to go back.
This notorious and historic landmark dating back 1,000 years is a castle, fortress, and a prison. And the Tower of London is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here are some of the top highlights at the Tower of London.
- The mysterious resident ravens and their legends and superstitions. And fun facts like their wingspan measures up to 1.5 meters.
- The Crown Jewels – it was surreal that one of the crowns was not on display as it was with the Queen as she laid in state.
- The prison and the disturbing stories of torture and execution
- The Queen’s Garden
- The White Tower
- The Wardrobe Tower
- Many exhibits especially from the medieval times
- And more
Where is the Tower of London located? The postal code for Tower of London is EC39 4AB.
The Tube – London’s Underground
Get yourself an Oyster Card! The same size as a credit card, the Oyster Card is a convenient payment method to take all public transportation. And I highly recommend The Tube. London’s Underground rail system is so easy to use and get around.
The View from The Shard
I highly recommend visiting The View from The Shard. At 310 meters / 1,107 feet, this architectural beauty is the tallest building in western Europe. You take an elevator up to floors 68 and 69. Then take the stairs up to the open-air Skydeck on the 72nd floor.
You’ll find a couple of bars as well as lots of seating and photo-op props.
I also recommend making a dinner reservation at the Oblix restaurant. If not for the food or drinks, definitely for the night view from the 31st floor. This photo of The Tower Bridge was taken the night before Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. All the area bridges on the River Thames lit up in purple to honor Her Royal Majesty.
Where is The Shard located? The Shard is located at 32 London Bridge Street in London, SE1 9SG.
West End Theatre District
If you love NYC’s Broadway, then you will love the West End Theatre District. Timing did not work out for us to take in a show. But we did go to Mary Poppins when we visited the last time. It was such a memorable experience. Going to the West End Theatre is one of the top things to do in London.
Where is the West End Theatre District? The theatre district in London covers a large area. I recommend looking up the address of the specific theater for exact location. We took the underground train to Oxford Circus or Bond Street when we needed to get close to the West End Theatre District.
My visit to London coincided with the mourning of Queen Elizabeth the II. While I didn’t stand in line (it was more than 6 miles and up to a 24-hour wait at times), I did walk the long queue. And the line ended at Westminster Hall.
But we did tour Westminster Abbey several years ago when we first visited London. I highly recommend. It is so beautiful – love the history and architecture. And lots of renowned people are buried in Westminster Abbey including several monarchs including Elizabeth I, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, Laurence Olivier, and more.
Where is Westminster Abbey located? Westminster Abbey is located at 20 Deans YD in London, SW1P 3PA.
Build a perfect London, England itinerary
Of course, this list of the top things to do in London, England is not exhaustive. Even thought I spent three weeks in England, I still didn’t get the opportunity to see and do all the things I wanted. Next time! And when you visit London, make sure to pick up The London Pass. It provides access to more than 90 attractions and some of the best things to do in London.
- Abbey Road Crossing and Abbey Road Studios
- Big Ben / Elizabeth Tower
- Buckingham Palace
- Harrod’s Department Store
- The Houses of Parliament
- Hyde Park
- Leadenhall Market
- London Eye
- Kensington Gardens
- Kensington Palace
- London Fashion Week
- NFL London
- Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station
- Portobello Market Street in Notting Hill
- River Thames
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
- St. Pancras International Train Station
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- The Tube – London’s Underground
- The View from The Shard
- West End Theatre District
- Westminster Abbey
Check out my England blog series
I’m currently writing and publishing a series of blog posts about my three-week workcation in England. It’s a work in progress so please check back regularly and/or sign-up for my newsletter updates.
- Best scenic and historic day trips from London
- Top things to do in Oxford, England
- Best day trip from London – the historic Bletchley Park
- Guide to Oxford Castle & Prison