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London, as a metropolis, is incredible; a maze of iconic buildings, landmarks, culture, history and culture. It is a kaleidoscope of old and new crashing together, with each little pocket boasting its own personality.
You could live in London for twenty years and still have your breath taken away by a hundred things a day. There is so much to see in the city but what are the truly authentic things to do in London?
Well, to help you out, I’ve put together a list of London’s must-see bits and bobs to make any future visit an adventure you won’t ever forget.
Some of my most outrageous and memorable moments have been in London and I hope you have the same experience.
Iconic Things to See and do in London
1 – Stay in Aldgate
Where you stay is about as important as it comes, which is why we recommend you stay in Aldgate, in one of the amazing City of London hotels. The Motel One in Tower Hill is a firm second on the list too. I’ve stayed there twice now and love it.
Not only will you be able to enjoy the sky-tickling buildings at London’s heart, you’ll be able to easily access every part of the city. The Old Spitalfields Market is only 10 minutes walk away and Liverpool Street station is about the same.
Brick Lane, where you’ll find some of the best street art in London AND the best curry, is only a 15 minute walk away too. More about this later!
You’re also not far from Swingers, the cocktail bar with a different. In Swingers you can play mini golf, chow down on incredible pizza, burgers or mexican food and knock back a few drinks, not to mention karaoke. Definitely worth a visit.
2 – Picnic on Primrose Hill
Of all the postcard-worthy views in London, the one from Primrose Hill is the best; the glorious skyline reflecting the setting sun as you sip on a bottle of champagne (read: prosecco) to keep warm, the evening sky nipping at your skin.
Oh and guess what’s right next door, LONDON ZOO! Make sure you call in and support all the great work they do for conservation and research.
Primrose Hill makes for a great second or third date spot. When it gets a bit chilly you can snuggle up and keep warm 😉
3 – Eat at a Market
Eating is definitely one of my favourite things to do in London and it doesn’t get more authentic than grabbing lunch at a London market.
Every single market in London will make your taste buds freak out in the most fantastic way. Period. But Brixton Market is extra special and has SERIOUS variety.
Don’t book, just walk around and grab whatever table is empty at whatever eatery you spot, NONE of them are bad. Oh, and take your own drink. It’s cheaper and it’s allowed.
I had brunch at “Burnt Toast Cafe”, eggs florentine, it was delicious. I sat at a small table outside so I could watch all the market-goers walking by. It’s a great spot for people watching.
Other great foodie markets include Borough Market and Camden Market. Think halloumi fries, fresh bakes olive bread, cheesecake brownies and much, much more! You certainly won’t be hungry.
4 – Head to The Shard
The Shard is the tallest building in Europe, and every inch of it is covered in floor to ceiling windows. Needless to say, the views are stunning. It’s like being in a hard, pointy cloud, haha.
They have a “bad weather” guarantee, so if you pre book and it turns out that the weather is awful, you can visit another time for free (T&Cs apply, of course).
There are restaurants and cocktail bars as well within The Shard, but they are rather pricey so be prepared for that. Depending on when you visit there are also morning yoga classes in The Shard.
5 – Go to The Globe Theatre
Is there ANYTHING more iconic than seeing a performance in the legendary Globe Theatre?! I think not.
You have never experienced a theatre production like it, especially if you get a “groundling” ticket. Chairs hadn’t been invented when The Globe was built, which means you and 699 others get to enjoy an amazing performance the way Bill Shakespeare wanted you to.
Tours start from £13.50. Not too bad for a slice of history!
6 – Walk Across Tower Bridge
This isn’t just because Tower Bridge is London’s most famous and most beautiful bridge, but because they have added glass floors to the high walkways, meaning you get to soak up incredible aerial views of the Thames and the traffic from forty-plus metres up.
Life is all about new perspective, after all. However, this is probably not the best thing to try if you have vertigo or a fear or heights.
7 – Rags & Riches In Portobello
The best day to pop along to the Portobello Road market is a Saturday, where your senses will be overwhelmed by stalls selling antiques, treasures and bric-a-brac.
Yes, at first sight, it all looks a little bit like a giant game of eye spy and feels like you’re playing “Where’s Wally” with bargains instead of Wally, but there are some serious gems to be had here.
If you’re the kind of person that loves rifling through sales racks and takes pride in the incredible deals you manage to unearth then you’ll be in your absolute element. You never know what you find. After all, it is the world’s largest antiques market.
8 – Enjoy Brick Lane
Thanks to the Hipster revolution, Brick Lane and Shoreditch have gotten a bit of a bad rap in recent years, but it is still a seriously cool place to go. Cool cafes, amazing record stores and some of the most poetic graffiti you’ll see anywhere in the world.
You’ll also see more groomed beards, braces and Doc Martens than you ever thought possible, but hey, there are worse things.
Personally I absolutely love the Brick Lane area. It’s an amazing melange of cultures from around the world as well as creativity. Wandering down the side streets in search of incredible graffiti is, without a doubt, one of my favourite things to do in London.
SO there you have it, some of the most essential and authentic things to do in London to get a taste of this incredible city.
If you’re planning on visiting London soon I have a bunch of articles about where to stay in London and places to visit in London, so check out my recommended reading list below.