1. Take a Walking Tour of the City
Whatever it is that you’re interested in, I’m sure there will be a walking tour dedicated to it. There are other firms, but London Tours is the most well-known, with walks dedicated to Jack the Ripper, Shakespeare, and pubs. London Walks cost £15 for adults, £10 for students, and £5 for children and last between two and two and a half hours. Due to the outbreak, you must now book ahead of time and pay on the night to ensure that you receive your money’s worth! You can find free and ‘pay what you can’ walking tours all throughout the city, or you may take a bus tour, which is usually more expensive. However, spending a little more for the opportunity to speak with knowledgeable guides and learn all you can about this amazing city is well worth it!
2. Take a trip to the top of The Shard
If you want to face your fear of heights, The Shard, one of London’s most renowned structures, has an observation area that is 800 feet (or 244 meters) above the city. On a clear day, you can see for nearly 40 miles and view St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Tower of London, and the Tower Bridge. The breathtaking view isn’t cheap – expect to spend between £25 and £29 for the privilege – but it’s something that everyone should do at least once. There’s no need to walk hundreds of flights of stairs to get to this one; there’s a lift. If the entry fee didn’t make you squirm, there are a few pubs and restaurants nearby that serve up opulent cocktails and delectable cuisine so you can take in the sights while feasting like a king. For the complete experience, try the Aqua Shard or Oblix.
3. Ascend the O2
The O2 Arena is a huge venue in London’s South East. It is home to world-famous and iconic sports, music, comedy, and entertainment events, as well as a cinema, retail center, and a variety of restaurants… and it is walkable. Another option for those who like taking in views, this 365-meter excursion lifts you 52 meters above ground, giving you vistas of Greenwich, the Olympic Park, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Canary Wharf, and the Shard. Choose from daylight, sunset, and twilight climbs for a complete 360-degree panorama of East London. They also offer celebration and dinner packages, but if you’re going to treat yourself (or a special someone) to the latter, it’s better to go on a non-windy day.
4. Attend the Keys Ceremony.
This is without a doubt one of London’s most famous events. Every night, when the Tower’s gates are ceremonially sealed, an ancient rite known as the Ceremony of the Keys takes place in the Tower of London. It’s breathtaking to see, eerily atmospheric, and you’ll feel as if you’re ‘watching’ history unfold. Tickets are just £5 and may be purchased on the Historic Royal Palaces website; however, they sell out quickly, sometimes months in advance, so keep a look out for new releases.
5. Attend the Changing of the Guards ceremony.
The Changing of the Guards, like the changing of the keys, is an elaborate show that marks the transition of the Old Guard to the New Guard. It begins at 11:00 a.m. at Buckingham Palace and lasts 45 minutes. It is free. It is not necessary to make a reservation, but you should check the website often to ensure that there are no last-minute changes to the itinerary.
6. Take a stroll in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace grounds, in keeping with the Royal theme, were opened to the public for the first time this year (2021). For £16.50 per person (£15 for students), you may just wander and/or picnic on the grounds, or for £60 per person (£54 for students), you can enjoy a tour of the staterooms and gardens.
The garden is generally reserved for the Queen and her visitors, thus seeing such magnificent grounds should be on everyone’s bucket list. The royal beehives, wildflower meadow, and Waterloo Vase are among the hidden beauties in the enormous, wonderfully managed landscape. The Royal Collection Trust website has tickets and other information.
7. Pay a late visit to a Museum
It’s all well and good to visit a museum during the day, but as it gets dark (sadly not in a ‘Night at the Museum’ type of manner), the mood changes dramatically. Several museums across the city provide ‘latest’ admission (access beyond regular hours), however, some are more frequent than others.
The British Museum offers late on Fridays until 10.30 pm, despite the fact that they’ve been postponed due to the pandemic (boo). On Thursdays, the Hayward Gallery is open until 9 p.m., and Fridays, the National Gallery is open until 9 p.m. Another popular alternative is the Natural History Museum, which is open until 10 p.m. on the last Friday of each month, and occasionally includes a silent disco to round off the evening.
Lates are held in the Royal Academy, the Tate Modern, the V&A, and a slew of other iconic London museums and galleries, with cocktails, guided tours, engaging presentations, and even silent discos. Visit their websites for more information.
8. Attend a West End performance
Experience the enchantment of a theatre in London’s West End (which is on par with Broadway in terms of renowned, if not better…)! With so many options, from book adaptations to offbeat musicals to award-winning plays and pantomimes, you’re sure to discover something that catches your eye. As we emerge from our pandemic ‘hibernation,’ London’s theatres are bringing back some classic and more avant-garde musicals and performances. The Lion King will be performed at the Lyceum Theatre, Mamma Mia will be performed at the Novella Theatre, and 16-year-old Jamie will be performing in Everybody’s Talking about Jamie at the Apollo Theatre. Book tickets ahead of time to get the cheapest prices, and keep in mind that since “Freedom Day,” theatres have been running at full capacity with only little social separation.
9. Visit the British Library and read a book.
The British Library is one of the world’s biggest libraries, with an estimated 170-200 million pieces from throughout the globe, including the legendary Magna Carta. To use the Reading Rooms, you must first apply for a Reader card, which requires some preparation ahead of time since you must schedule an in-person visit. The appointment entails turning over-identification and receiving a picture card. It’s free, lasts for four years, and gives you access to the BL’s library, so it’s a good deal. After registering, you may reserve a seat in one of the 11 Reading Rooms and pass away the hours among intellectuals engrossed in one of the many fascinating books.
10. Take a bus or tube all the way to the end of the line
It’s quite self-explanatory and pointless…but strangely calming. If you don’t want to take the train back home, there are lots of attractions to see near the end of the line, including Richmond’s famed pubs, Walthamstow’s Mother’s Ruin distillery, and High Barnet’s Victoria Bakery’s sausage rolls.
11. Take a cable car ride in the Emirate of Dubai.
Take the cable car from the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks and marvel at London’s renowned skyline as you travel down the Thames. Sunset is the greatest and most popular time to visit, but lengthier trips are available after dark so you can really watch the city come alive. The vehicle circles every 30 seconds, and the trip takes a little under 10 minutes. A single ticket costs £4 and may be purchased using your Oyster Card!
12. Climb the monument
‘The Monument’ is a permanent memorial to the Great Fire of London in 1066, which was a watershed event in the city’s history. The climb to the summit is 311 steps, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the city. Tickets are £5.40 (£4.10 for students with ID) and may be purchased in advance or on the day of the event.
13. Go to Kyoto’s Garden
You haven’t experienced genuine inner calm until you’ve seen the Kyoto Garden’s waterfall, which is located inside Holland Park. With tiered waterfalls, a koi pond, stone lanterns, and Japanese maple trees, the Kyoto Garden is a typical Japanese-style garden. The garden was given to the city of Kyoto in 1991 as a gift to commemorate the long relationship between Britain and Japan. The garden is available to the public for free and opens at 7.30 a.m. and closes 30 minutes before nightfall. When you need a vacation from London life, here is the perfect place to contemplate and unwind!
14. Go on a London Eye ride
It’s a cliché, but there are a reason clichés exist. For more than a decade, the famous London Eye has been one of London’s most popular tourist attractions, providing one of the most unusual ways to appreciate the city’s skyline.
It’s effectively a huge Ferris wheel, and it entails climbing inside a pod that gently turns, enabling you to take in the spectacular views. You’ll be 135 meters above ground level at the summit, with views of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
You should be able to see up to 40 kilometers, all the way to Windsor Castle, on a clear day! It’s also the site of the New Year’s Eve fireworks, which may be seen from numerous vantage points near Westminster Bridge. A regular ticket costs £24.50, while a fast-track ticket costs £34.50.
15. Pay a visit to a private members’ club.
This one may be difficult, and you’ll need to establish some connections. The quantity of private members’ clubs in London is unrivaled in the world, as is its exclusivity. Any chance of membership often necessitates ‘seconders’ (people you already know in the club who can vouch for you) and a lot of money (although a touch of fame also helps).
If you have a friend who is a member of one of these clubs, they are typically permitted to invite visitors. You must be on your best behavior and follow any severe regulations since any misbehavior would reflect poorly on the buddy who so graciously provided you entrance to this realm of pomp and pleasure.
Attempting to get access to a private members’ club is a worthwhile endeavor. Even if it’s only to sit at the table and read the newspaper like a gentleman of the nineteenth century.
Most importantly, have fun!