Number one on our list of the top 10 things to do in London is the Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. If truth be told it’s a very busy spectacle these days, and you’ll be confronted by a crowd of thousands (literally thousands!), but it’s one of these attractions that you simply must do.
Not only will you get a close up of Buckingham Palace, but you’ll also experience the atmosphere of an expectant crowd as they hear the drums and trumpets coming down the Mall behind them. When they finally reach the railings and wheel into the forecourt you’ll be smiling from ear to ear.
Just make sure you get there in plenty of time, because the best spots will be gone a couple of hours before it starts. Have a read of Craig’s review on his blog before you do, because he explains all you need to know about the best places to stand, where the parade route goes, and what time you need to arrive to get a decent view. Feel free to ask him some questions about it, or post a question on the forum
Number two on our list of the Top 10 must dos in London is a ride on the London Eye. It’s best to do this on the very first day of your holiday, because a) it’s relatively quick (the ride itself only takes 30 minutes, but you could be waiting another 30 mins in the queues), and b) it will give you a great overview of London on your first morning.
You want your first day to be great, and get you excited for what’s coming next (right?), and what could be more exciting than this: going around a gigantic ferris wheel in a 360 degree glass pod? You’ll be able to see all of the landmarks and attractions below you, from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, to St. Paul’s and The Shard.
10 AM to 8.30 PM (last week of Jan-3rd week of Mar); 10 AM to 9.30 PM (3rd week of Mar-1st half of Apr); 10 AM to 9 PM (2nd half of Apr); 10 AM to 9 PM (Sun-Thu, May-Jun); 10 AM to 9.30 PM (Fri-Sat, May-Jun); 10 AM to 9.30 PM (Jul-Aug); 10 AM to 8.30 PM (Sep-1st week of Jan); Closed (middle 2 weeks of Jan)Cost: Adults £0.25; Children £0.20 (3-15); Infants free (under-3)
The interior dome of Christopher Wren’s masterpiece rises high above the mosaic floor and, due to a bizarre acoustic effect, anything whispered on one side of the dome can be easily understood on the other – 107-feet away! Don’t ask us how it works, because we haven’t got a clue (it must be something to do with the echo), but it’s worth going up there just for the view. The next set of stairs will take you outside the dome, where you’ll have a fantastic view of London’s skyline.
If you are super-brave then you can go up another flight of stairs to the very top of the dome (actually on the summit of it!), but unfortunately Craig chickened out of climbing those, so we haven’t got any photos. You should definitely read his amusing review of the cathedral, though, because he explains everything else you can see inside as well. If you’d like to ask him some questions about how scary the stairs are, then he’ll be happy to help.
8.30 AM to 4.30 PM (Mon-Sat); Closed (Sun, except for worship); Last entry 30 mins before closingCost: Adults £18.00; Children £8.00 (6-17); Infants free (under-6); Family ticket £44.00
Did you know that you can have a tour of Parliament every Saturday? (Well, most Saturdays – check the dates on that page first.) The inside of Parliament rivals Buckingham Palace for its beauty – and that is not an exaggeration. Just wait until you see inside the House of Lords with its plush red leather seats and golden throne. This is where the Queen sits every year in her flowing robes and crown at the State Opening of Parliament.
Craig has attended every kind of event at the Houses of Parliament (there are lots of different ones), and you might like to read them all to get a taste of the place. But make sure you read his review of the Saturday guided tour and the Saturday audio tour, because they’re the ones we’re recommending for this Top 10 list. He has also written a review of the Summer Opening, House of Commons and House of Lords.
The public can attend debates on Mon-Fri, and take tours during Aug/Sep, and most Saturdays
No top ten list of things to do in London would be complete without a visit to the Tower of London. This World Heritage Site is 1,000 years old and is famous for its ravens, Bloody Tower, Traitor’s Gate and Crown Jewels.
There is so much to see and so much to learn at the Tower of London that you can easily spend three or four hours walking around it, but there’s also a much easier way: how about a guided tour with a Yeoman Warder? Tourists know them better as the Beefeaters (those soldiers in the red tunics and black hats, who guard the Tower night and day). Lots of people don’t realise it, but you can actually have an interesting tour with one of those guys, who will lead you round the grounds and tell you gruesome and grisly stories about the executions. You’ learn all about the tragic Anne Boleyn, Guy Fawkes, Thomas More and the Princes in the Tower, and see inside the Chapel Royal where all the headless bodies were buried.
10 AM to 5.30 PM (Sun-Mon, Mar-Oct); 9 AM to 5.30 PM (Tue-Sat, Mar-Oct); 10 AM to 4.30 PM (Sun-Mon, Nov-Feb); 9 AM to 4.30 PM (Tue-Sat, Nov-Feb); Last entry 30 mins before closingCost: Adults £25.00; Children £12.00 (5-15); Infants free (under-5); Family ticket £63.00
Getting your photo taken next to one of the giant horses at Horse Guards is another must-do for a tourist. There are two horse boxes on the Whitehall side of Horse Guards, and a couple of Foot Guards in the courtyard, and the area is packed with tourists all hours of the day.
Whenever you go past on the bus there will be a hundred-or-so holidaymakers standing by the horses patiently waiting for the turn to step up and get a photo (they never stand there long, because they’re all afraid the horse will kick them!). Sometimes you see the tourists trying to make the soldiers smile as well (they never succeed, because they’re famously stoney-faced!).
Craig has written a big review of Horse Guards on his blog, and you might like to time your visit with one of the daily ceremonies as well. You can see Changing the Guard at 11 AM, and the Dismounting Ceremony at 4 PM. You may as well go and have a quick look at Downing Street whilst you’r there as well, because it’s only next-door.
No.7 on our list of Top 10 things to do in London is watching a play at the Globe Theatre. The Globe is an authentic reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse which stood here in Shakespeare’s day, and every summer they have a season of plays by William Shakespeare himself. They perform all the biggies, from Hamlet and Othello, to King Lear and Romeo and Juliet.
What’s really great about this place is that it’s all open-air inside, and the actors play to the crowd like they’re part of the cast. They will bound out of the back doors and storm through the pit, or lean over the balcony seats and shout to the stage, and the audience really feels like part of the play. Granted, they may not understand a single word of what’s being said (this is Shakespeare, after all!) but what could be better than thinking you part of the English army during Henry V’s big speech? This is theatre how it’s supposed to be!
If you really want to know what it’s like watching a play at the Globe then read Craig’s review of Julius Caesar. He has has also been to one of the guided tours, which is also worth doing. Feel free to ask him some questions about the Globe before you go, or post your own question on the forum.
One of the most popular things to do in London is an open-top sightseeing bus. It’s usually one of the first things that a tourist wants to do. But take our advice: if you’re going to ride a bus then do it on your very first morning. Don’t save it for the end.
They only give you a quick look at the landmarks and attractions, and there’s nothing worse than seeing a great place for the very first time, and then realising you can’t fit it into your itinerary! You’re bound to see some things that you never even considered, so treat it as a taster, a pick-n-mix menu, for what you want to see later in the week.
The two most popular bus companies in London are the Original Bus Tour and Big Bus Tour, and Craig has reviewed them both. Read his review of the Original Bus Tour and review of the Big Bus Tour before you go, to get an idea of how long they take, and what you’ll see (and whether they’re worth the money!).
Our Top 10 list of London must-dos continues with some shopping at Harrods. Every tourist has to do some shopping at some point (you want to buy some souvenirs, right?), and the best shop in London is Harrods. Unfortunately it’s also the most expensive! This is the world’s most luxurious department store, and you can easily blow a few grand just on a new pair of shoes!
Luckily they do have some cheap stuff in there as well, so if you want to get hold of one of their much sought-after green plastic bags then head for the sweets. Their chocolate department is like nothing you’ve ever seen: it’s straight out of Willy Wonka’s sweet factory. You might be able to afford one of their silver tea caddies as well, or a London teddy bear from their toy department.
10 AM to 9 PM (Mon-Sat); 11.30 AM to 6 PM (Sun)
No Top 10 list of the best things to do in London would be complete without a boat ride. The boat from Big Ben to Greenwich is one of the best hours you’; spend in London (as long as it’s not pouring down with rain, of course!). There are a couple of companies that we recommend: City Cruises and Thames River Services (TRS), but they both follow exactly the same route, so it doesn’t really matter which one you pick.
You’ll board the boat in the shadow of Big Ben, and then float slowly past Cleopatra’s Needle, the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Then you’ll sweep majestically under Tower Bridge and past the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf. It will then drop you off at Greenwich, a short walk from the Cutty Sark and National Maritime Museum.
Craig has written numerous reviews about these boat rides (he has been on all of them, loads of times), and we definitely recommend reading through them before you go to get a taste of what they’re like. Here’s his review of City Cruises, and his review of TRS. You might also like to read his review of the Thames Clippers as well.
Look through our guide to what’s on in London for more ideas about things to do
|> What’s on in Jan|
|> What’s on in Feb|
|> What’s on in Mar|
|> What’s on in Apr|
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