I have visited London numerous times so I thought I would share some of my favorite things and hidden secrets for those who are visiting!
Although the Tube system is fantastic, a lot of London can be walked, and I would definitely recommend doing so. We are spoilt with a rich history, meaning everywhere you turn there is something beautiful to see.
People who regularly use public transport in London will have Oyster Cards – these can be topped up and the money is automatically taken off for each journey and will cap you when you’ve reached the tariff for the day. You just tap them on the yellow button to get in and out of the barriers. You can now also use contact-less cards on the yellow buttons and they will work in exactly the same way! Alternatively, you can buy tickets from the machines at most/all underground stations – I would buy a day ticket for zones 1-5, as most people are unlikely to go out of these zones, and this can be shown on buses too.
Buses no longer take cash, so an oyster card or contact-less card must be used to get on the bus. You tap the yellow button with your card as you get on and this pays for the single journey. It caps you off after 3 journeys.
Things to see
For many of the big attractions, such as London Zoo, Madame Tussauds and Tower of London, you can get 2 for 1 entry with National Rail – You need to print the voucher off online and show your train ticket when you buy the ticket at the attraction.
- Walk along the Thames river towards Southbank – there are lots of lovely little shops and an open book shop under the bridge.
- London Eye – ££
- The London Dungeons – ££
- London Aquarium – ££
- National Theatre – book tickets online.
- ITV Studios – you can apply to see shows being recorded here via SRO Audiences – Shows I have seen: Jack Whitehall’s Back Chat, Big Fat Quiz of the Year, Alan Carr: Chatty Man and The Last Leg.
Walk over the bride to parliament instead of getting the tube as the station is very busy.
- Houses of Parliament
- Big Ben
- Westminster Abbey – £
- Parliament square – lots of statues of important people.
St James’ Park:
- St James’ Park – There are pelicans!
- Buckingham Palace
- The Mall
- Horse Guards Parade
- 10 Downing Street – you can see down the street but access is guarded by armed police.
- Check online to see when film premiers are on.
- M&M World
- China Town
Leicester square is a very short walk away from Soho, Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus.
- Covent Garden – the Moomin shop, the street acts, The Royal Opera House.
- Soho – nightlife.
- Piccadilly Circus – Comedy Store, Shopping on Regent’s Street , Ripley’s Believe It or Not! £, Waterstones (largest in London).
- Madame Tussauds – ££
- Sherlock Holmes Statue
- Baker Street
- Sherlock Holmes Museum – a must see for the book lovers – £
- Regent’s Park – Beautiful gardens and open air theater.
- Markets and shops – huge range of clothes, food and music from all around the world- £
- London Zoo – ££
- Platform 9 3/4 shop
- British Library
- Speedy’s Cafe – For where they film Sherlock
- Tower of London – ££
- Tower Bridge – you can now climb it and walk along the top.
St Paul’s Station:
- St Paul’s Cathedral – there are also lots of beautiful statues all around.
- Millennium Bridge – For the Harry Potter Lover
- Shakespeare’s Globe
- Tate Modern
- St Bartholomew’s Hospital – for the Sherlock lovers.
- Nelson’s Column
- Christmas Tree from Norway
- The National Gallery
- The National Portrait Gallery
- Royal Albert Hall
- Albert Memorial
- Kensington Palace – lived in by William and Kate.
- Natural History and Natural Science Museums
- Hyde Park – The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Winter Wonderland, Peter Pan Statue
Outside of London
- Harry Potter Studio Tour – A MUST see for Harry Potter lovers. Tickets must be booked online quite far in advance. Get the train to Watford, there is then a Harry Potter bus (£2 cash only) that will take you straight to the tour -££ – Watford
- Richmond Park – The largest of the Royal Parks. Roam around the park for a pleasant afternoon, gorgeous scenery and you may even find Deer – Richmond.
- Thorpe Park – A fantastic theme park – ££- Train to Stains and then a bus
- Windsor Castle– One of the official residences of the Queen. Visit the State apartments and see works by Shakespeare (until 2017). A walk from the station – £ – Windsor & Eton Central.
- Lego Land – Various amazing scultures made from Lego and lots of rides. A train from Paddington and a shuttle from the station -££- Windsor & Eton Central.
- Hampton Court Palace – Most famously know as being the home of Henry VIII, William and Mary and for the Gardens and Maze -£- Hampton Court .
Museums and Galleries
Most museums are free although they politely request donations. You have to pay for most exhibitions, can can purchase tickets on the day or online.
V&A – A gorgeous museum hosting a range of art and design with regular interesting exhibitions, including: William Morris wallpaper designs, the largest holding of Italian Renaissance items outside of Italy, and fashion – South Kensington
Science Museum – Lots of different exhibits including cars, medicine, planes and contemporary science –South Kensington
Natural History Museum – Plant and animal specimens and fossils. There are also lots of plaster casts of Dinosaurs! – South Kensington
British Museum -A huge range of artifacts from all over the words including China, Egypt and Greece. Must sees: Mummies, Rosetta Stone, Sutton Hoo Ship burial. – Holborn
Museum of London – My personal favourite – an interactive walk though of the history of Britain beginning with the stone age passing though Romans in Britain, Tudors, Victorians, World Wars, leading to Britain today. A must see and great for children. – St Paul’s Station
Tate Modern – Cross over the Millennium Bridge to find the Tate Modern for International modern and contemporary art. It also hosts art from artists such as Dali, Picasso and Warhol – St Paul’s Station
National Gallery – A range of paintings from many famous artists including Monet, Van Gogh, Raphael and Giotto – Charing Cross
National Portrait Gallery– Collection of Portraits of historically famous and important British people –Charing Cross
Tate Britain – British art from 1500 to the present day including pieces from Tracey Emin, Turner, William Blake and Henry Moore. – Pimlico
Sherlock Holmes Museum -A must for the Sherlock Holmes lover. The museum is a house full of artifacts and recreations of the books and the old TV series. Tickets can be bought in the shop downstairs. – Baker Street
Other Museums/Galleries that I have not been to, but have been recommended, are; The Saatchi Gallery and Imperial War Museum.
There are many fantastic plays and musicals in London – Tickets can be bought in the box office on the day, but these are limited and can be very expensive. For the seats and prices to suit you, book online in advance.
Great Plays and Musicals:
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – running for one more year.
- Matilda – If you are between 18-25 you can buy £5 tickets on the day. There are only a limited number, so you need to get there as soon as the doors open at 10am.
- Les Mis – a must see.
- Lion King – an incredibly popular musical, so must be booked online.
- Wicked – another incredibly popular musical, so must be booked online.
- Aladdin (my review) – a new, but very popular musical, must be booked online.
- The Book of Mormon
- Jersey Boys – about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
- The Woman in Black – more chilling than the film.
- The Globe Theatre – everything Shakespeare. It is open air and the benches are wooden, so definitely buy a cushion and blanket/wrap up warm.
The Barbican, The Royal Court Theater and The Old Vic are among some of the theaters which host some fantastic plays. Many of them star famous people, so keep your eye on their websites and book early!
London has a huge amount of comedy clubs and bars all across the city. Although we have the huge venues such as The O2, Wembly and Hammersmith Apollo, I personally prefer smaller venues and quite often see works in progress.
For smaller venues and works in progress, I look at:
- Soho Theater
- Leicester Square theater
- The Comedy Store
- Live at the Chapel, Islington.
The are a huge range of shops all across London, you could find anything you are looking for!
- Daunt Books – Edwardian bookshop on Marylebone High Street.
- Foyles – four floor and over 200,000 books! –
- Goldsoboro Books – rare first editions and signed books
- Oxfam – charity shops that Europe’s biggest high street retailer of second hand books, in various locations.
- Southbank Book Market – underneath the bridge, lots of second hand books.
- Waterstones, Piccadily – Europe’s largest books store – check online for book signings.
- Leicester Square – When you leave the tube station, there are a row of lovely old book shops, most containing; old books, collectors books and second hand books.
- Orbital Comics – huge seller of comic books and manga.
- Forbidden planet – Huge seller of merch, books, comics, manga etc. Check online for signings.
- Camden Markets – Lots of shops and Markets with a range of clothes, foods and products from all over the world. Lots of indipendent shops. I personally love going to Chin Chin Labs which sells Liquid Nitrogen ice cream
- Covent Garden – Lots of shops, including the Moomin shop and food. A beautiful place at Christmas.
- Regent Street – Home of Hamleys and Liberty, Burberry.
- Oxford Street – Home of Selfidges and Forever 21,.
- Harrods – Knightsbrige or a short walk from South Kensington.
- Ice Bar London – bar, table and walls are made from ice! Book online for a slot
- Evans & Peel Detective Agency – Can the detective help your case? Secret cocktail bar.
- Enigma Escape – 1 hour to solve clue to escape the room.