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Bucket list destination:

London

  • London, Greater London, United Kingdom (UK)

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Sarah Barrell

World-class culture, fashion, music, and food – London has it all in spades. Combining a palpable sense of history with a vibrant cosmopolitan edge, this global metropolis has something for everyone.  

Traditionalists will love the royal landmarks and slew of legend-heavy heritage buildings that date back centuries. Hipsters will find inspiration in the gritty East End – a hotbed of galleries, nightclubs, funky restaurants and street markets.   

In terms of the sheer number of bucket list experiences in one place – nowhere even comes close. And yes, it rains, but the majority of London’s best bucket list experiences can be enjoyed equally whatever the weather; be it an international art museum, or a pint in a cosy 500-year-old pub.

Orientation

London’s vast size is broken down into culturally distinct suburbs.

The Thames, with many star attractions clustered around it, runs west–east through the city; central London lies between Chelsea Bridge (west) and Tower Bridge (east).

Just north of its banks, Soho and Convent Garden – which together constitute London’s so-called ‘West End’ – are the city’s beating heart, packed with restaurants, nightlife and theatres.  

Just east lies London’s financial centre, known as the ‘City of London’, then slightly further east still is the uber-trendy, edgier suburb of Shoreditch.

West of Soho lie the major museums of South Kensington and the boutiques of Knightsbridge and Notting Hill. 

Tours, tickets & transfers

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

  • London

See London on a full-day sightseeing tour of the city, led by a guide. Hear the history of top London attractions like Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, and a guided tour of St Paul’s Cathedral. After the sightseeing tour, watch the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace and tour the Tower of London. As a bonus, this experience also includes a one-way River Thames sightseeing cruise, which can be used on the day or another time. Upgrade to include a Standard London Eye ticket, after the tour. - See all of London's most iconic sights in one day - Visit two of London's most iconic landmarks - Watch a traditional British military ceremony - Marvel at the scale and splendour of St Paul's Cathedral - See the priceless Crown Jewels collection at The Tower of London - Enjoy a scenic cruise on the River Thames - Finish with spectacular views on the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel

Price £115

Min age 0

Rating 4.22 / 5 [1408 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • London

Get up close to some of the most powerful and historic buildings in the world on this 3.5 hour bike tour of central London. Follow a guide as you take in the architectural diversity of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, and St. Paul’s Cathedral; explore the bustling Covent Garden; and brush shoulders with the bronze lions in Trafalgar Square.

Price £45

Min age 10

Rating 4.85 / 5 [1137 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • London

Experience the perfect way to see many London landmarks in a short amount of time with a knowledgeable driver guide and see the most popular locations that are the essence of the city, including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. Half a day is all you need to taste the real London with a cabbie who knows the city inside out, hidden secrets and all where a busload of 50 people can’t. Even tips on where to grab the best coffee. You will have time for photo opportunities and short walks in iconic sights to see most of London in 4 hours, and feel free to tell your guide on the day what you would like to see and not to miss. --------------- Important: No tickets are required for this tour and you won't be entering any attractions, only passing by and stopping for photo opportunities. ---------------

Price £379

Min age 0

Rating 4.94 / 5 [1040 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • London

Discover London after dark on a 1.5-hour night tour of the city. Traveling by double decker, see top London attractions lit up, including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. Learn fascinating facts about these legendary landmarks from your expert guide and hear insider tips on exciting places to visit in the capital at night. - 90 minute open-top bus tour of locations especially chosen for their night-time appearance - All departures are guaranteed live guided - The most comprehensive night time tour of London available - Enjoy 'traffic free' London on this relaxing easy paced tour - The only night time tour to cover the area of Kensington - including the Royal Albert Hall, Natural History Museum & Harrods

Price £29

Min age 0

Rating 4.27 / 5 [777 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Website >
  • London

What could be better than a tour of London by black taxi? With your own personal driver guide, you'll see London at your own pace. You can stop whenever you like to take photos, decide how long you want to spend at each attraction, and you can even plan your own customized itinerary! Our traditional London taxis can take up to 5 people while our newer electric Black cabs can take up to 6 people.

Price £212

Min age 0

Rating 4.88 / 5 [689 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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Travel advice

When to go

London teems with tourists year-round, but hotels ramp up their rates around peak holiday periods (Christmas, Easter, and summer school holidays).  

Thankfully, most of London’s biggest bucket list experiences are weather-proof (most are indoor), so can be done all year round.

Summer (July and August) usually has the best weather, but come with horribly long queues for the major sights in July and August. Better to visit outside of these months. 

May, June and September are the best months – fewer crowds and decent weather. Christmas is also a special time in London – the festive atmosphere is unrivalled. 

Getting there and away

London’s four main airports, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton, are accessible by regular train and coach services.  

From Gatwick, take the train to London Bridge or Victoria (take the faster ones with only one or two stops). Fast trains to Luton depart from King’s Cross and from Liverpool Street to Stansted. The Heathrow Express goes direct to Paddington in 20 minutes, but you can also catch the Underground directly into the city centre – a much cheaper option and often more convenient option. 

Taxis from all the airports to the city centre are expensive and run the gauntlet of horrible rush hour traffic. Only take one if you can’t easily get there by train. 

Getting around

The cheapest and best way to explore London is on foot or by self-service bikes. Central London is not as big as it seems and most attractions are within walking distance of one another.  

If you have to travel further, the underground train network (The Tube) is extensive and efficient, though avoid the weekday rush hours if possible. Buses are an excellent, unheralded and more pleasant alternative.  

Ubiquitous black cabs are the luxury, but pricey, option. Uber taxis are widespread and efficient, especially outside the city centre where black cabs are fewer. 

Where to stay

London is vast, and getting around can be time-consuming and draining. The key to enjoying a visit here is to base yourself as close to the experiences you are coming for, to minimise travel time. Being able to walk or cycle to where you want to go will make your visit significantly more enjoyable. 

Soho & Covent Garden 

Most first-time visitors stay in the centrally-located West End (Soho and Covent Garden), an area packed with bars and restaurants. West End theatres, Leicester Square, Covent Garden and many major landmarks and museums are on the doorstep. Streets are inevitably crowded, but hotels are well-insulated from the noise, and often hidden away down quieter streets. 

South Kensington 

Upmarket South Kensington is 15 minutes from the West End, a good choice if you’re coming for the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, Harrods or the Albert Hall. It’s easy to dip into the West End for sightseeing, with excellent bus and tube connections. 

The South Bank 

The South Bank (around Waterloo) is a good base if you’re coming for galleries and or the performing arts – the Hayward and Tate Modern are both on the banks of the Thames. It’s also home to the excellent National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Old Vic theatres. It’s an easy 20-minute stroll to Leicester Square and the West End. 

Around Shoreditch 

The East End of London is funky, arty and gritty, home to design hotels, hip restaurants, art studios and graffiti. Shoreditch is the focal point – it is, however, a trek on the tube or bus to the main sights and landmarks from here – not good if you’re coming for sightseeing.  

Knightsbridge 

If designer shopping and high-end dining are your priority, opt for Knightsbridge, close to Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols and a stroll from Bond Street’s exclusive boutiques. 

Richmond  

If you’re coming for Kew Gardens or Hampton Court, head for swanky, leafy Richmond. This village-like suburb has upmarket shops and restaurants on its own high street, and has lovely riverside walks and pubs. It’s only 20-minutes by (regular) trains to the West End, so a great base for those don’t want to be in the crowded centre.  

Where to eat or drink

Although London has a reputation as an expensive city, it’s possible to eat well and affordably almost anywhere if you do your research. Soho’s small grid of streets if choc-full of every type of eaterie, from Thai to Turkish, while the quiet side streets around Covent Garden also have a good mix of affordable – and upscale – restaurants.

Chinatown is a great option for Asian food, while Brick Lane – in the East End of London – is the place for curries of all kinds. For quick and easy street food, the new chain of Market Halls bring together a handful of food stands in one place, along with a bar and seating.

Upscale areas like Knightsbridge, Kensington and Mayfair are home to a high proportion of Michelin-starred restaurants, many in five-star hotels.

Where to shop

Regent Street is the place for the big designer brands, Covent Garden and Marylebone High Street for eclectic boutiques. Oxford Street has the tacky souvenir and discount stores. Bond Street has the top-end, exclusive shops and brands. Savile Row and Jermyn Street are filled with gentleman’s tailoring and dress shops. 

Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Liberty – London’s famous department stores – are a destination in their own right. London’s excellent markets are great for food and gifts. See our recommendations of where to shop.