Having a London bucket list is probably a smart organization for your trip. I remember my first trip to London and just thought I could wing it and “see it all!”
I sure was wrong! I ended up seeing almost nothing because I planned poorly and wasted my time. Getting from Heathrow to London takes a little while and then you need to get settled and beat any jet lag you may be facing.
I recommend if you are coming from a far distance to stay for at least 3 days to get the optimal bucket list experiences. Having a London bucket list when planning allows you to narrow down what you want to see and do, and can help with your research efforts. Make sure and plan where to stay in London so that you can easily access whats most important to you.
So I wanted to put together a London bucket list guide from various writers around the globe of their top places to visit to share with you. Sometimes places can be overlooked or even forgotten, so I found a lot of great places for you to check out.
Planning a family trip? There is a lot of crossover for best things to do with kids in London here. The city is incredible family friendly.
I would recommend prioritizing your London bucket list from the must do items at the top to wish list at the bottom. If you get to them all, wonderful. If not, you at least got to the ones that were most important for you!
Planning The Ultimate London Bucket List
London Eye has quickly become one of the most-recognized and visited landmarks of London. It’s an iconic site, a symbol of modern London.
Yes, it’s busy, expensive, and it’s a really touristy thing to do, but no trip to London would be complete without taking a ride on Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel! The 360° views during the entire ride are amazing. It’s such a great way to see London and surroundings from above and on a clear day you can see as far as as Windsor Castle, 25 miles (40 km) away.
No matter the season or time of the day, whether you visit London with kids or as a couple looking for more romantic things to do in the city – a ride on the London Eye is always a special experience that everyone will enjoy. Not to be missed!
TIP: Book your tickets in advance and splurge on the fast track ticket. If there is one place in London where you don’t want to stand in line, it’s here.
Pro Tip: book London hotels with a balcony for excellent viewing
If you’re planning on spending one or two days in London, a trip to Westminster Abbey should be on your London bucket list. This is just around the corner from the Houses of Parliament, and is one of the most important religious buildings in the UK.
Of course, you don’t have to be religious to come here. The building, which has been here in some form or another since the year 960, is a spectacular Gothic construction, and every single British monarch since 1066 has been crowned here. It’s also played host to 16 royal weddings. You can practically feel the history seeping out of the walls.
Westminster Abbey is also one of the most sought after places to be buried, although space is a little tight, and you have to do something pretty special to get a spot in here these days. It’s the last resting place of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and, more recently, Stephen Hawking, as well as various other notable writers, politicians and members of the royal family.
It’s not free to visit, unless you attend a service, and photography isn’t permitted inside. But we think it’s very much worth coming here nonetheless!
Finding The Universe
Walking along the Embankment
It’s also surrounded by plenty of restaurants, ice cream shops and pubs, with Londoners spilling out onto the streets with pints of beer during the summer. There’s a fun, buzzy vibe, and if you enjoy food and people watching it’s a delightful place to visit. It can get crazily busy at lunchtime and on Saturdays though, so if you can visit at other times you’re less likely to get caught in the crush. Still, I really enjoy visiting even at busy times.
Borough Market is open during the daytime Monday to Saturday, but there are only a few stalls open on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s closed on Sundays except in December.
If you are looking for a cool area to explore and enjoy something unique and fun, then go check out Brick Lane on the weekends. A lively street during the week, the weekends at Brick Lane are full of wonderful food markets and street food.
Clothing and craft pop up design co-ops and studios to explore, outdoor markets and really cool places to shop, eat, hang out and of course people watch. If you’re looking to find a nice eater, you’ll find so many eateries and food stalls with a global presence even for picky eaters, or check out the many Indian restaurants that make Brick Lane a foodie choice for Indian cuisine. If you’re visiting around London, make sure to check out my post on the best things to eat in London on where to go and eat in this fabulous city.
Kayaking Under Tower Bridge
London is a huge city with lots of unique things to do. Whether you are into architecture, food, theatre, art or adventure there is something special for everyone on the great London bucket list.
I am an outdoor enthusiast, who loves cycling, hiking and kayaking. Would you have thought it can all be done in such a bustling city like London? During my time in London, I did something really cool and this should be on everyone’s bucket list who visits the city. I took sightseeing to a completely new level. I took part in a kayaking trip along the Thames. London’s most famous attractions are along the river, so I was able to see the Houses of Parlament, the London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, Gherkin, Skygarden, HMS Belfast, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Cutty Sark.
We started from Battersea and paddled all the way to Greenwich and we covered this 17 km in under 3 hours. It wasn’t too exhausting as we went with the tide and we were in double kayaks. The highlight of the trip was definitely paddling under Tower Bridge.
If you need a place where you can be with yourself and actually hear your thoughts in a crowded city like London, you can find a place for that and that would be a Regent’s Canal. While taking a long and quiet walk along the Regent’s Canal you will have the opportunity to see London from a different angle and enjoy the amazing landscapes changing in every step you take.
Do you ever hear of Regent’s Canal? If not, don’t worry! I found it on my third time in London because this place is still one the best-kept London’s secrets. It starts at Little Venice and ends in Docklands in a very center of the British capital linking a diverse London’s attractions, like the London Zoo, Primrose Hill, and Camden.
If you are not big fans of walking, take a boat or kayak and enjoy the romantic ride. Or just visit some of the design shops, bookstores, waterside bars, and restaurants. For sure you will not regret it, and Regent’s Canal should be on everyone’s London bucket list.
Notting Hill is one of London’s most famous neighborhoods, and rightly so! It has been immortalized in film, song and art worldwide and is known for being one of the city’s most picturesque, colorful and quintessentially British areas. Even though it may seem a little cliché to visit, rest assured that Notting Hill is well worth adding to your London bucket list!
Start your day off with the lemon ricotta pancakes at Granger & Co (175 Westbourne Grove) and then take your time wandering through Notting Hill’s beloved Portobello Market. Locals recommend going early on Saturday or Sunday mornings to avoid tourist crowds, which can get quite hectic!
Be sure to take a peek at Notting Hill’s many beautiful mews homes and colorful streets – a couple favorites are St. Luke’s Mews and the area right behind Notting Hill Gate. Kensington Park Road is another gem!
If it’s a rainy day, reserve a seat and go see a movie at Electric Cinema, Soho House’s gorgeous, plush theater (191 Portobello Road). Afterwards, grab a traditional British pub dinner with a modern twist at Cock & Bottle (17 Needham Rd) which is a cozy, lively library bar that is well-loved by the locals!
Located in South East London, Eltham Palace is one of those hidden gems in London that not many people know about but that should be on everyone’s London bucket list. It’s actually not a palace at all, but a mansion that started off as a palace in the 11th century and has gone through a number of modifications through the ages to its current shape – possibly the finest Art Deco mansion you will find in London.
A 20th century architectural masterpiece, Eltham Palace has been used as a filming location in a lot of movies and series such as The Crown. The Entrance Hall is no doubt the highlight of the building with its bright domed roof and it’s wood veneer walls decorated with marquetry. The bedrooms are decorated in the Cunard style, taking inspiration from the cruise ships of the time.
But it’s not all about the Art Deco here. There is a very impressive remnant of its medieval past. The Great Hall with its hammer-beam roof, which has been lovingly restored to its former glory, also deserves a visit.
The last occupants of Eltham Palace, the Courtaulds, were keen travellers and a map room has recently been discovered at the property. A room a lot of us would dream of having.
These are the Cabinet War Rooms – it’s where hundreds of people worked in complete secret in bunkers and where now, you can see where it all took place. There are displays on the lives of those who lived and slept here, historic moments are documented and original equipment is displayed. There’s even the toilet where allegedly Churchill retired to in order to make telephone calls to Eisenhower.
Here, too, you’ll find an all-encompassing history of Churchill’s life and legacy. There are excerpts of his most famous speeches, memorabilia and photographs along with details of his personal life.
History was made In these rooms, they are atmospheric, even with the quantities of visitors who wish to come through them. I’ve traveled to many places throughout Europe and Asia charting the major instances of World War II, coming here to the nerve centre of operations in Britain was moving and informative.
All around London are opportunities to discover classic London favorites prepared in a new way for those seeking to partake in an unusual afternoon tea. The possibilities are endless and there’s a tea for every craving: whether sweet or savory, Disney or alcoholic drinks, there’s something in London for everyone. You’ll feel as though you won the Golden Ticket at The Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tea at One Aldwych. And the B Bakery Gin Bus is the perfect way to see the highlights of London from a red Routemaster bus, while sipping on trendy gin cocktails and eating delicious baked goods.Mrs. Potts and Chip make an appearance at Kensington Hotel’s Tale as Old as Time Tea… try the grey stuff (it’s delicious)!
Book ahead to avoid disappointment because these unique afternoon teas in London book up quickly!
Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower
As of right now, tours to Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower are suspended until work is done in 2021. That being said, you absolutely can and should take a visit to this amazing landmark. Sitting 16 stories above London, and in business since May 1859, it is the largest four-faced clock in the world-and it chimes!
The real, official name for the clock is the Queen Elizabeth II Tower and was renamed on her Diamond Jubilee. Upon reaching the 160th birthday of the historical landmark, the decision was made to fully renovate the mechanisms inside.
If you would like to visit this amazing place, you absolutely can-but you must be a UK resident, over the age of 11, and capable of climbing the stairs yourself. You must also wear sensible footwear, and you may not have any heart conditions or be in the later stages of pregnancy.
If you are curious about where Big Ben’s name came from-it’s the largest bell in the belfry. All in all, it is an amazing sight to see and stunning at night, especially. You should go for the sheer historical significance of the landmark, and to listen and hear the chimes go off through the city of London. Afterward, there are many delicious eateries that you can enjoy in the vicinity!
The London Mithraeum | Bloomberg Space
Immerse yourself in Roman London at the recreated Temple of Mithras during your London bucket list trip!
Discovered by chance in 1954 in the ruins of a bomb site, The Temple of Mithras is a roman temple dedicated to the Roman god, Mithras. Built around AD240, it is one of the UK’s most significant archaeological sites.
After being discovered the ruins were moved 100 yards down the road but have now been returned to almost their original spot – now the basement of Bloomberg’s European HQ in the heart of the city.
Descending seven meters below ground – the original pavement level in the third century – you are transported back in time. An atmospheric light show recreates the columns of the temple and sound effects offer a glimpse into the secret rituals of the cult of Mithras.
Around 600 (out of 14,000) artefacts discovered at the site are on display giving you an insight into the lives of the first Londoners. Included are writing tablets with the first known reference to London (or Londinium as the city was called then) and the earliest financial document in the City of London.
Entry is free however booking is recommended. Access to temple and the immersive experience is every 20 minutes.
Thames River Cruise
How would you like to see the biggest landmarks in London, all the while floating down the most famous river in England on a guided tour? Taking a cruise along the Thames was one of the highlights of my trip to London! You literally have iconic buildings and sites on both sides of you as you make your way down the river. Starting with Big Ben and the Parliament building, the London Eye, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard, H.M.S Belfast warship, Tower Bridge, etc.. Oh, and don’t let a cloudy overcast London day deter you, because that makes picture taking even better(might not be as crowded plus no ugly harsh shadows-yay!).
Most of the Thames cruise ships start from the port right next to Big Ben and Westminster bridge, you can’t miss it. They even have hop on/hop off options that you can go between all throughout the day. The ship I was on had port stops at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Tower of London and lastly Greenwich, where you could get off and visit the Royal Observatory and the Prime Meridian line among many other things to see and do there!
It definitely makes for a great day in London going on the cruise and stopping to see the sites you like along the way. And of course if you want, you can simply stay on the ship and enjoy the cruise for a few hours! The best way to see London bucket list items from a boat!
This stunning setting is home to a series of Food Halls including a boulangerie, patisserie, fromagerie, butchers which includes everything from the finest cuts of beef to woodcock, pheasant, and grouse. A fishmongers hall with an actual statue made out of fish. There’s charcuterie, chocolates, fancy cakes, teas and coffees imported from over the world and several eateries where you can indulge in sushi, French cuisine, steak, lobster and so much more.
The Halls are simply stunning and beautifully restored to their original features they make you feel like you have stepped back in time, making this a perfect stop on your London bucket list. Harrods Food Hall puts a new meaning to the saying “you eat with your eyes first.”
Shopping at Harrods is a wander down the roads of the rich and famous and what they eat. You can see wagyu beef that costs $185 a kilo, caviar, oysters, and $2,000 wines. You can spend nearly $25 on a sandwich!
Other Notable London Bucket List Items
- Ride a double decker bus
- Natural History Museum
- Views from St. Paul’s Cathedral
Planning to extend your trip beyond London and into Europe? Check out our European bucket list that is full of great things to do on the continent.
You can easily see London in 2 days if you are short on time. Just budget your time and plan in advance. Have a wonderful time planning your London bucket list stops and enjoy your trip!