Set along the River Thames, London is sure to be on everyone’s bucket list. With its iconic landmarks and historic buildings, the beauty and wonder of the capital city leaves visitors wanting more, eager to come back for a second and third visit. Whether its history and beautiful architecture your after or a chance to sit down in an old English pub and have a shandy with a friendly local, London has something for everyone.
On my first trip to London, I was overwhelmed. We only had two days to explore and as we were on the tail-end of our 3 week trip around Europe, we were tired. Luckily, Devan had already spent some time in London on a previous trip, so he was a little more in tune of what I would absolutely need to do and see. After 3 weeks of eating pizza, pasta and seafood in the Mediterranean, I longed for pub food. The thought of enjoying a cider and a steak and kidney pie consumed me. I’m happy to say I had my fill of pub food and can’t wait for the next opportunity to head back to a city I loved so much.
For first-timers visiting London, the list of things to do can be endless. You’ll want to catch the most famous landmarks like Big Ben and The London Eye, but there’s a number of other attractions that shouldn’t be missed, even if you’re short for time. It’s easy to accomplish a lot in just a few days in London as the Tube makes it relatively painless to get from A to B in a matter of minutes. Stay close to the city centre in order to cut your travel time down even more and you’ll be surprised and how much you can do and see. To help you out, I’ve created a London Bucket List, a list of things not to miss for the first time traveller. Some of these things I’ve done, others are ideas for things I hope to do next time, and with flight prices decreasing between Canada and London, I might just find myself going back sooner rather than later.
London Bucket List
1. Visit Buckingham Palace, and if you’re lucky, see the changing of the guard ceremony. If you’re visiting throughout August and September, take a tour of the palace and see the state rooms and special exhibition, which changes yearly. Unfortunately, we visited in October when the Queen was there, so we were unable to go inside.
2. Take in all that is London in the Piccadilly Circus and get your photo in front of the statue of Eros.
3. Take a ride on The Coca-Cola London Eye. In just 30 minutes you can get a birds’ eye view of many of London’s major attractions. Go during the day to get 40km views of London or at night to see the glowing lights of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
4. Have afternoon tea as the locals do. Enjoy this favorite British pastime in one of the luxury hotels around London like the Ritz or the Savoy, or take an afternoon cruise down the River Thames where you can indulge in tea and dainties.
5. Take a walk across the Tower Bridge and feel like your right out of the Spice Girls movie! Enjoy the panoramic views and take in a bit of history as you learn all about the bridge and how it works.
6. Visit Trafalgar Square and if you’re an art buff, take a walk through the National Gallery. If you’re visiting London near Christmas, make sure to see London’s largest Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.
7. Visit the Tower of London, and see the famous Crown Jewels! Learn about the history of one of the Worlds most famous fortresses on a Beefeater tour where you’ll be amazed by the tales told by the Yeoman Warder. We were lucky enough to visit just before Remembrance Day when 888,246 ceramic poppies were laid in the surrounding moat in honour of the first century since the outbreak of the first World War. We even got a glimpse of the Queen as she was visiting the exhibit!
8. Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral and visit the crypt where you’ll find the tombs of some of Britain’s greatest hero’s.
9. Take a selfie with Big Ben in the background. You haven’t been to London unless you have taken a shameless selfie with this iconic landmark.
10. Take in one of London’s many markets and get your fill of unique trinkets and delicious food. Popular markets include the Camden Lock Market, Maltby Street Market and the Columbia Road Flower Market.
11. Visit Westminster Abbey and take an audio-guided tour and learn about the history of Kings and Queens in this 700 year old building.
12. Visit the British Museum and take in the works of man from prehistoric to modern times.
13. Head over to Somerset House where you will find a collection of exhibits. Watch the fountains dance in the courtyard or take a skate on London’s favorite ice rink.
14. Take a photo in a red telephone booth, because what’s more iconic of London than red telephone booths!
15. Take in a show at the Lyceum Theatre. Currently they are showing Disney’s The Lion King!
16. If its panoramic views you’re looking for, a ride to the top of Western Europe’s tallest building, The Shard is sure to satisfy you.
17. Take a ride on London’s underground, commonly known as The Tube.
18. Sight see on a double-decker bus. London has many hop on/hop off bus tours which will allow you to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
19. If you’re a huge Harry Potter fan, take a tour of the Warner Bros. Studio and get a behind the scenes look at costumes, props and sets from the movie.
20. EAT! Indulge in steak and kidney pie, bangers and mash while sipping your favorite beer or cider. Take in the drinking scene, as it is rated one of the best in the world by visiting a plethora of English pubs.
What else is on YOUR London Bucket List?