Even the most cursory of wanders around London will give you a glimpse of the city’s depth — a depth of history and culture that nowhere else can quite match. If you find yourself wondering what to do in London among the many options available, these five things to do are a great place to start.

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1. Get some history

The Roman city of Londinium was located here, but people have lived in the London region since prehistory. Whatever period of the past calls your attention, you’ll be able to explore it, either by visiting one of the many excellent (and usually free) museums or joining a walking tour. We loved learning about the London of Dickens’s time on Context’s Charles Dickens tour; you might prefer to explore the Tower of London for a glimpse of the passing of time in its architecture.

London is a pretty awesome city.
A walking tour can be a good way to see the city.

2. See a show

London’s West End is justifiably well known, with hundreds of shows running at any one time. Runs may last years or even decades, and the play or musical completely takes over the theatre. For example, the Lion King has been at the Lyceum since 1999, and the interior of the theatre was repainted to match the sets. If the show ever moves on, it’ll have to be painted back! Next on my list is Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap, which is in its 64th year — the longest run of any show, anywhere in the world, ever. I think I should be able to catch it.

Many nearby restaurants offer great pre-show meal deals, especially if you’re happy to eat before 7pm. Keep an eye out for them!

The Lion King (photo provided)
The Lion King (photo provided)

3. Eat

Speaking of eating, make sure to explore London’s culinary scene while you’re there. As the cultural melting pot that it is, you’ll find cuisines from all around the world, and restaurants that cater to every budget. Head to Brick Lane for the flavours of India, have afternoon tea at an upmarket hotel, or enjoy typical English fare at one of the hundreds of pubs in the city. Make sure to have a traditional British roast for Sunday lunch, washed down with a local real ale (yep, warm beer) or refreshing cider.

Traditional English roast
Traditional English roast

4. Head to the water

The Thames is a key part of London, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it. Hop on a short boat trip (some of the hop-on hop-off bus trips include one with their tickets) or just enjoy a pleasant stroll along the riverbanks. Cross at the millennium bridge near the Tate Modern, or admire the splendor of Tower Bridge. Westminster Bridge is a great spot for iconic photos of the Houses of Parliament, and an excellent starting point for a stroll along Southbank.

Emirates Air Line cable car
One way to experience the Thames is to cross it — by cable car, perhaps?

5. Explore the parks and gardens

I’m always surprised by how green London is, with its parks and gardens dotted around. Promenading in Hyde or Regent’s Park was a popular pastime in Queen Victoria’s time; perhaps now you’d prefer to have a picnic or just watch the squirrels run around.

You might be lucky enough to come across a fair or other event in one of the parks, as we did recently.

There are hundreds more things to do in London — markets, festivals, events, attractions — but these five are a starting point! What do you want to do on your next trip to London?

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