My dream trip to London is based on reliving favorite moments from two years spent living in this glorious city. My favorite things to do in London include revisiting some of our favorite places to eat, drink, and shop in addition to famous attractions.
In no particular order, here’s what I suggest you put on your itinerary.
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1. Go Shopping in Knightsbridge
I first hit a few shops on Brompton Road like REISS, Karen Millen, and the like. Then, I stop into Harrods and Harvey Nichols — two famous department stores that flank the top of Sloane Avenue, a shopping street that I used to walk multiple times per week.
Truth be told, Harrods is much-changed since I lived in London with many of my favorite little eateries long gone. But now they have a new Laduree cafe inside for macaron fans and the food halls are still good places to stop for edible souvenirs. I suggest you grab a picnic and bottle of bubbly in the food hall to take over to Hyde Park, weather permitting.
If you’re on a shopping itinerary though, exit either department store to head down Sloane Avenue to browse high-end shops like Prada and Jo Malone. You’ll hit Sloane Square and the famous King’s Road at the bottom.
2. Walk the King’s Road
From Sloane Avenue, turn right onto the King’s Road, a roughly 2-mile eclectic mix of high street shops, eateries, the Saatchi Gallery, and fantastic interior design stores.
I personally think that the further you walk away from Sloane Square on King’s Road, the cooler it gets. There’s Vivienne Westwood’s World’s End store, a cozy Manolo Blahnik store on Old Church Road (believe it or not, I used to buy shoes in the sale bin for £70), and more.
And just before Heal’s is the Chelsea Potter pub—our old local—which is steeped in rock and roll history as a former favorite of Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. We lived just off the King’s Road (in a flat below Boris Becker, of all people).
During a recent June visit, I tackled the Brompton Road-Sloane Avenue-King’s Road walk in just over a half-day, soaking in the sights and considered it my workout. I was rushed but suggest that you take your time.
3. Spend a Day Shopping on Oxford, Bond, Regent, and Carnaby Streets
I realize that these are four of the most major shopping streets in the entire city, but their proximity to each other means you can cruise all of them on the same day if walking doesn’t bother you.
Oxford Street is busy with high street fashion like Topshop and Gap in addition to Selfridges (highly recommend). Bond and Regent Street tend to have more designer shops. Liberty of London and Hamley’s Toy Shop are both on Regent Street. And, Carnaby Street is home to more independent brands.
The good news is that the many restaurants and bars in the area provide nice rest stops in between retail therapy (see afternoon tea below).
4. Pick Up Tea and More from Fortnum and Mason
Fortnum and Mason is such a quintessential British department store. It’s beautiful, from the china displays to women’s accessories to the food hampers.
I stock up on banana jam every time I go and probably spend the most time browsing here than in any other department store in the city.
Pre-order a decadent F&M hamper and take it around the corner to Hyde Park for a picnic if weather permits.
Or, stop in here for lunch or a proper cup of tea (they have “tearistas” to help you select a favorite from the lengthy menu) after ending some shopping on Regent Street, which is what I like to do.
5. Have Afternoon Tea at Least Once
Fun things to do in London definitely include afternoon tea. Ideally, I’d enjoy afternoon tea daily. I adore it. My hit list includes:
- Brown’s Hotel
- Fortnum and Mason
- The Ritz
- The Dorchester
- The Savoy
- Four Seasons Park Lane
The top four can serve as perfect breaks for the aforementioned power-shopping itineraries. All are fabulous.
6. Eat (Lots of) Curry
Brick Lane in the East End is famous for authentic curries through there are casual and colorful shops, stalls, and galleries worth popping into. We happened upon the Sunday UpMarket during our last visit, which I’d recommend.
Our visiting friends used to like to take the Jack the Ripper walking tour (which passes by his crime scenes and ends in the famous Ten Bells pub where two of his victims allegedly drank before their murders). Then, we’d head over to Brick Lane for dinner.
Back in the day, we’d go to The Shampan restaurant (now closed) with local friends and coworkers most frequently. Aladin has been there for ages and Cinnamon are also very popular and excellent choices.
7. Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum
With its focus on art and design, Victoria and Albert is my favorite London museum.
I particularly love their gallery of Japanese art and have seen special exhibits that involved famous designers from around the world, like one I recently saw featuring Alexander McQueen.
8. Sip Posh Cocktails in Famous Bars
I’m partial to the Art Deco style Beaufort Bar at The Savoy with its beautiful vintage barware and classic cocktails. The Rivoli Bar at The Ritz is another fabulous alternative.
Note that you need to dress smartly for both (check websites for details).
9. Eat Fish and Chips
No trip to London is complete without a trip to a proper chippy for fried fish the size of your forearm accompanied by chips (fries).
After a quick stop into the British Museum, we wanted to go to nearby Fryer’s Delight but wound up at Alen’s Fish and Chips… it was fantastic.
10. Go Market Shopping
I tried to pick one market for the purposes of this post but it was too hard. I feel that Covent Garden Market is for foodies and I love browsing all of the specialty items from pastries to chocolates to pickles.
I used to kill time at Spitalfields market in the East End while waiting for my husband to get off of work (his office was nearby at Liverpool Street) for the more down-to-earth vibe, food, and unique handicrafts.
I loved browsing Portabello Road on Saturdays when antique dealers set out stalls retailing old silver, china and other curios in all price ranges. The list goes on. Visit London has a nice run-down of London’s best markets to consider.
11. Explore the British Museum
The British Museum never gets old for us. I’ve been there more times than I can count, and it can be done in less than an hour, which is handy with kids (this is how you visit the British Museum with kids).
Top exhibits include the Rosetta Stone, of course, but also the mummies (the cat ones in particular) and Elgin Marbles..
However, I regret never taking advantage of their adult learning programs that dive deeper into various subject matters related to exhibits and history in general.
Take a look at the British Museum’s calendar of events prior to your visit to see what extra programming is on offer during your stay.
12. Attend Berry Brothers Rudd Wine School
If I was on an extended trip, I would love to attend a themed tasting or wine school class at Berry Brothers Rudd, Britain’s oldest spirit and wine merchant (established in 1698).
They are the Royal Family’s supplier of wine and located in a really amazing wine shop on St. James Street.
13. Book a Private Tasting Capsule on the London Eye
While a spin in the London Eye sightseeing wheel is a great way to see the city, you could step it up a notch by booking a wine or champagne tasting experience with an expert for you and up to 20 guests in a private capsule. The one-hour event will take two full and festive rotations.
14. Book a Private Helicopter Tour
Now this is one thing I haven’t done but if you’re short on time in London, why not see all of the important sights from above?
Plus, it will help give you the lay of the land. A variety of companies offer this service but I saw a 20-minute tour for $250 USD per person.
15. Drink a Proper Pimm’s Cup
I miss Pimm’s. Sure, we have it here in the U.S. but either I forget to order it or it doesn’t quite taste the same.
No visit to London, especially during the summer, is complete without a proper Pimm’s Cup. I stopped for this one at the Chelsea Potter pub on the King’s Road. Delicious.
16. Chelsea Flower Show
The Chelsea Flower Show is a seasonal event that happens in May. If I was ever to plan a late spring trip, I would center it around this annual event that has been happening since 1913.
It is the most prestigious flower show in Britain with cutting edge design and mind-blowing plants in a space that is large enough to park 500 London buses.
17. Go to the Theater
There’s nothing quite like London theater as many Broadway productions such Matilda actually originate there. You can grab same-day tickets at the half-price TKTS booth in Leicester Square.
18. Have Dinner in the Shard
The Shard skyscraper wasn’t built when we lived there but I would love to dine with a view from near the top.
I’m not exactly sure which of the many restaurants I’d pick (taking suggestions). There is also a viewing deck on the 87th floor but I have a feeling I’d want to linger a while over a cocktail.
19. Eat Pub Lunch or Dinner
While there are Michelin stars and celebrity chefs galore in London—and I highly suggest you book a fair share of nice dinners—I look forward to proper pub food. British food gets a bad rap but if you go to the right places, it’s seriously amazing.
One such place is the Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe (East End), named because it’s thought that the actual ship departed from here. Our table also had a lovely view of the Thames but you could dine on the outdoor patio.
Our most recent meal of lamb pie, baked Camembert, and then some was amazing. It’s busy so make a reservation.
20. Shop the Christmas Markets
If you have the privilege of visiting London during the holiday season, not only are the above shopping streets decked out with displays and lights, but London has a variety of Christmas markets to browse. I’m considering going next year (with an empty suitcase for wares). See also this helpful guide regarding Christmas in London.
Stay in a London Luxury Hotel
Where to stay in London is a very difficult question to answer as there are so many fantastic options.
Narrow it down by part of town you’d like to stay in and try to be near a Tube station (most are). Pay attention to room size as they can be quite small which may require a family of four to book two rooms instead of one, for example.
Also, consider whether or not you’d prefer a larger hotel or a boutique property.
We stayed at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square during our last trip which strikes a nice balance between luxury, value, and location. It’s in a historic building and next door to the Tower of London. Tower Hill tube station is only steps away, too.
Alternatively, we also recently enjoyed a great stay at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair, which is a good central location near Hyde Park, shopping and theatres for those new to London.
BOOK LONDON HOTELS WITH EXTRA PERKSI can add perks like daily breakfast for two, room upgrades subject to availability and more through various hotel VIP programs like Virtuoso.
Save With The London Pass
One of the best ways to sightsee in London is with the London Pass discounted attractions pass. Not only can it save money and provide fast track entry (skipping the queues) to major London attractions, they also have a very handy and helpful app.
It is one of the best attractions passes you can buy and this is a great deal!