London is a vibrant multicultural city that attracts over 21 million visitors every year. There is something for everyone in this 24/7 city which never stops. From ancient history to modern-day architecture, adrenalin-fuelled days out to gentle strolls in the royal parks, and some of the finest cuisine in the world to a thriving theatre scene, there are so many places to visit in London. In truth, a one-day visit will only scratch the surface of things to do in London, but it’s long enough to see some of the most famous London sights and fall in love with the place.
But with HeyTripsters’s trip plans for London, you can make the most of your time there and see some of the most iconic London sights – and maybe a few hidden gems too. The centre of London is relatively small and it is possible to walk around much of it. But we suggest you try the London Underground (also known as The Tube), jump on a red bus, and take a ride in a taxi (just don’t go too far in the taxi as they can be quite expensive).
But to start your day of visiting London attractions, there is nothing like a Full English Breakfast or ‘Fry-Up’ to set you up for a busy day of sightseeing.
1. Full English breakfast at Terry’s Cafe – a hidden gem popular with locals
Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day and it’s one that the Brits do like nobody else. A traditional Full English consists of bacon, sausage, fried egg, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding, and toast or fried bread – all washed down with a cup of tea. When planning your list of London things to do, breakfast must be on it.
These days, variations on the Full English include scrambled or poached eggs, chips or hash browns, and even guacamole!
At Terry’s Cafe in Great Suffolk Street, south of the River Thames, you can enjoy a traditional Full English in a quintessential London cafe. The portions are enormous and everything is sourced from the local Smithfield and Borough markets, two of the most famous markets in London.
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2. Follow HeyTripster plans to find popular London markets
Right in the heart of London and just a 15 minute walk from Terry’s Cafe, Borough Market is a throng of activity 7 days a week with wonderful atmospheric halls and passages to explore. Established in 1885, this is London’s premier food market. These days it attracts a lot of tourists and the prices reflect so you won’t want to buy too much. But with so many artisan foods on offer, this is a must-see – particularly if you’re what the Brits call a ‘foodie’!
The market is open from 10am to 5pm every day and there is street food as well as a dazzling array of fresh fruits and vegetables, all manner of different breads and some incredible seafoods and meats.
Whatever your tastes and whether you’re looking for a snack to eat right away or some ingredients for later, there is something for everyone here.
Before you go, be sure to visit Monmouth Coffee which is located on the edge of the market at 2 Park St. The coffee here is sublime and will be just the pick-me-up you need after some time strolling around the market.
Open Hours: 10:00 – 18:00 (Tuesday to Friday) / 08:00 – 17:00 ( Saturday) / Closed on Mondays.
Location: View on Google Maps
Phone Number: 207 407 1002
3. The South Bank and London Eye tickets – a unique view of the city
Borough Market exits onto the south bank of the River Thames right by London Bridge (not to be confused with the iconic Tower Bridge). Heading west along the river, it will take around 10 minutes to walk to the lively area known as The South Bank. Here you will find street entertainers, fairground rides, and more great places to eat and drink.
As you approach The South Bank, you can’t fail to notice Shakespeare’s Globe. The theatre has been constructed as an exact replica of the original Elizabethan Globe Theatre that was home to plays written by William Shakespeare.
Further along, you will find the Tate Modern, a great place to see contemporary, thought-provoking art. For those travelling with young children, The London Aquarium and Shrek’s Adventure are appealing. Or why not visit the London Dungeons for a taste of macabre history.
But the main attraction of The South Bank is The London Eye. Opened on 31st December 1999 to celebrate the new millennium, The London Eye quickly established itself as a major landmark and now appears on the iconic London skyline silhouette merchandise popular among tourists. A slow-moving Ferris Wheel, consists of 32 capsules, with each capsule holding up to 28 people. Interestingly, the capsules are numbered 1-33 with the number 13 being omitted as it is thought to be an unlucky number.
At its tallest point, The London Eye is 135 metres high and, on a clear day, you can see for 40km. See if you can spot Wembley Stadium’s famous arch off the northwest. The London Eye offers stunning views of The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, The Shard, the River Thames, Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London and The Tower Bridge and St.Paul’s Cathedral among other sights. If you are interested in a full-day itinerary including the London Eye designed by a real Londoner you can check this HeyTripster trip plan.
4. Take a walk around popular London sights like the Houses of Parliament with a HeyTripster plan created by a real Londoner
The Houses of Parliament, or Westminster Palace to give its correct title, is the seat of the UK government. It houses both the House of Commons (where MPs meet and Prime Minister’s Question Time takes place) and the House of Lords (where the upper house sits). It is in the latter that the Queen’s Speech takes place at the State Opening of Parliament. Both Houses have areas that are open to the public for free.
The current Houses of Parliament were finished in 1860 and have been undergoing almost constant renovation to this day. Westminster Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At the north end of the Houses of Parliament sits the clock tower often referred to as Big Ben – although Big Ben is in fact the name for the striking bell, not the tower itself.
5. Discover more than 1000 years’ of history at Westminster Abbey
Rebuilt under the reign of Henry VIII, Westminster Abbey is a fabulous example of Gothic architecture that is actually no longer technically an abbey. It is now what is known as a ‘royal peculiar’. This means it is a church-owned by the monarch rather than the diocese. It has seen every coronation since William the Conqueror claimed the English throne in 1066. It was also the site of Queen Elizabeth II’s marriage to Prince Phillip and, more recently, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.
The ‘abbey’ is home to an Aladdin’s Cave of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles, books, and artefacts. It is also home to more than 3000 statues. High above the abbey floor, in the stunning 13th-century triforium, are the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries. First opened to visitors in 2018, this unique space is a fantastic place to explore over 1000 years of history. You can also lookup this HeyTripster trip plan designed by a real London local that includes Westminster.
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6. Buckingham Palace – official London residence of HRH Elizabeth II
Is there any more famous place in London? The office and official London residence of Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace is a grand building that dominates the view as you stroll from up The Mall, and is one of the most popular London tourist attractions. Outside the gates of the palace stands a golden memorial to Queen Victoria that is highly intricate in detail. You can get up close to the memorial and some people even climb on it to get a better view of what is going on within the palace gates.
The balcony at Buckingham Palace is the place where the Royal Family gathers to greet and wave to the crowd on special occasions such as royal weddings and jubilees, and it is instantly recognisable.
The courtyard in front of the building sees the Changing of the Guard, a wonderful display of British pageantry that generally takes place once every two days between 10.30 – 11.00 am. It’s worth checking the schedule before heading to the palace as these times are occasionally subject to change.
From July – October, 19 Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms are open for public viewing. As you would expect, the rooms are palatial and luxurious. There are some wonderful masterpieces on display throughout the palace.
7. Meet an English hero at Trafalgar Square
It’s often said that the statue of King Charles I on horseback, located at the south end of Trafalgar Square, is the exact centre of London. With the city constantly growing and evolving though, this may not be entirely accurate anymore.
Trafalgar Square itself, one of the most famous London sights, is dominated by the 45 metre tall Nelson’s Column. A statue of legendary naval Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson stands atop the column and there are four lion sculptures at its base. Nelson’s Column was constructed between 1840 – 1843 to commemorate the life and achievements of Lord Nelson who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Keep an eye out for ‘The Fourth Plinth’ in the northwest corner of the square. When it was designed, Trafalgar Square was intended to have four plinths, one in each corner with each housing a statue. Three of the plinths had their statues duly put in place. The northeast plinth has a statue of King George IV, the southwest plinth has General Sir Charles James Napier, and on the southeast plinth stands Major General Sir Henry Havelock. The fourth plinth was due to host a statue of William IV, but after funds for the project ran out in 1841, this plan was scrapped. The fourth plinth was empty for 158 years before a decision was taken in 1999 to make it the temporary home to a series of contemporary art pieces.
Currently on display on the fourth plinth is a piece entitled The End by Heather Phillipson. Originally put on display in July 2020, it shows a dollop of whipped cream and an assortment of toppings: a cherry, a fly, and a drone, and will remain in place until September 2022.
8. Covent Garden – a real London shopping experience
Covent Garden is one of the most popular shopping neighbourhoods in London. With over 200 brands it is a fashionista’s dreamland. From British fashion designers such as Mulberry and Paul Smith to Polo Ralph Lauren and Tiffany & Co, Covent Garden offers a unique experience that shopaholics shouldn’t miss.
There are also a multitude of artisanal cafes, pubs, and bars. Simply strolling through Covent Garden for a spot of people watching is a joy to behold. Just around the corner from London’s famous West End, it’s a great place to go for a pre-theatre meal or drink.
9. Follow a HeyTripster plan created by a local Londoner for tips on the best theatres and West End Shows
Famous throughout the world, the West End is home to some of the most spectacular shows on the planet. Visiting theatres is one of the most popular activities in London. Whether you’re looking for classics such as Les Miserables or The Phantom of the Opera or something boppy and modern like Mamma Mia, there is something for everyone.
If you fancy grabbing a show and have something particular in mind, you can book ahead. But if you don’t mind what you see and want to save some money, head to the TKTS booth at The Lodge in Leicester Square. Here you can pick up cheap tickets on the day of the show.
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10. Oxford Street – London’s most famous shopping experience
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Of course, no London shopping trip would be complete without a trip to Oxford Street. Home to luxury department store Selfridges, where you can pick up designer clothing and accessories for men, women, and kids, homewares, beauty, toys, electricals, and jewellery. Selfridges also boasts a luxury food hall where you can try the most expensive sandwich in the world – Wagyu beef and foie gras on sourdough – for a whopping £85!.
From modern brands such as Bershka that sells the latest in urban street fashion across two floors to the flagship store of bespoke tailor Hawes & Curtis, Oxford Street has something for everyone.
If you’re in need of refreshments, why not stop by The Flying Horse? This traditional British pub has been serving ale since 1790 and is the oldest pub on Oxford Street.
11. Regal shopping in Regent Street
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Another world-famous shopping street, Regent Street is home to luxury brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, ZARA, and Hackett. But one of the most eye-catching stores on the street is Liberty. Housed in a magnificent mock Tudor building, Liberty is a must-see. If you want to pick up something in one of its iconic ‘Liberty print’ fabrics, they start at just £22.50 per metre. In recent years, Liberty has collaborated with other designer brands and you can now visit Nike, Uniqlo, Manolo Blahnik, and Barbour in-store.
Another famous UK heritage brand is Burberry. Its check pattern is known throughout the world and Burberry has ranges for men, women, and children. At the Regent Street store, you can have leather bags and accessories monogrammed in-store.
While going between stores, don’t forget to look up and take in the gorgeous Georgian architecture that makes Regent Street so unique and gives it its character.
12. Experience London like a local with a stroll down Carnaby Street
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A popular shopping area since the swinging sixties, Carnaby Street is an eclectic mix of shopping and dining in the heart of the West End. Just a few minutes walk from Oxford Street, you’ll discover heritage labels alongside boutique stores each with their own particular style and take on the products they sell.
For an equally extensive choice of food and drink, head to Kingly Court, a vibrant courtyard with 3-storeys of exquisite cuisine and on-trend drinks bars.
And be sure to visit the nearby Newburgh Quarter of Curiosity, a delightful cobbled street brimming with boutique stores and big brands.
13. Boutique shopping at The Royal Exchange
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Britain’s first-ever specialist commercial building, The Royal Exchange was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571. It was a hub of trading and exchanging until it was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was subsequently rebuilt and housed insurance firm Lloyds of London until fire struck again in 1838.
The current building, designed by Sir William Tite, was completed in 1843 with trading commencing on 1st January 1844, over 2 months after the building was officially opened by Queen Victoria.
The building fell into disrepair in the 1980s although trading continued. In 2001, the Royal Exchange was extensively remodelled to house a collection of boutique stores and restaurants.
The most famous food hall in The Royal Exchange is that of Fortnum & Mason. Serving Fortnum’s famous tea blends and the brand’s best-loved treats, it is a place to truly dine in elegance. Preserves, wine, and spirits are also available to buy – with worldwide delivery available on some items.
And, of course, there is the chance to order an iconic Fortnum & Mason hamper. Hampers can be bespoke designed and ordered in-store.
14. Dine like a royal with produce from London’s famous Fortnum & Mason Store
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The Fortnum & Mason store is located in Piccadilly and is the number one choice of the Royal Family. Initially, a small grocery store established in 1707, it has grown to become an internationally acclaimed purveyor of exclusive high-quality produce.
From a small grocery store in Piccadilly in 1707, it has grown into a celebrated store with an international reputation for the exclusivity and quality of the products it sells. Fortnum’s Food Hall is an irresistible display of gourmet pleasures, from chocolates and biscuits to smoked salmon and Stilton, vintage marmalade, and seasonal produce. Passionate about provenance, we are proud to recommend every jar, spoonful, and slice for our hungry customers.
Although it is a department store, Fortnum & Mason is still predominantly known for the quality of its food and drink. Fortnum & Mason claims to have invented the Scotch egg (a boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and coated in breadcrumbs) so why not try one while you’re there?
Fortnum & Mason was actually the brainchild of William Fortnum who was a footman to Queen Anne. At the time, the Royals insisted on new candles every day. This led to a huge amount of excess wax which, rather than throwing away, Fortnum sold. He made a tidy profit and eventually convinced his landlord, Hugh Mason, to join him in expanding a grocery shop sideline into a formal business. In 1761, William’s grandson Charles entered the service of Queen Charlotte. This affiliation with royalty saw a boom in business and the rest is history.
15. Places to visit just outside London
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Located just under 3 miles from the centre of London and on the Regent’s Canal, Camden Market is the only attraction on our list located outside of the city. This provides a good opportunity to experience The Tube. Camden can be reached on the Northern Line which is black on the map of the London Underground. Camden is a bohemian, unconventional market that provides a very different shopping experience from the glamour of Regent Street and The Royal Exchange.
Since opening in 1974 with just 16 stalls, Camden Market now has over 1000 traders and attracts shoppers from all over the world who are keen for a unique experience. This diverse community of creatives, artists, and artisanal traders is open every day and has places to shop, eat, drink and dance.
Around an hour from London by Tube or car, you can visit the Harry Potter studios in London. The studios include many original props from the Harry Potter series of films. Visit Privet Drive, Hogwarts, and Diagon Alley. You can even enjoy a glass of butterbeer at the onsite cafe. Despite being slightly outside of the city centre, the Harry Potter studios are considered a London tourist attraction as it is within the M25 motorway.
Closer to the centre of London, fans of Harry Potter can visit Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. There is a great photo opportunity with a luggage trolley and you can choose your preferred house colours to wear. Photos are available to buy but you can take your own pictures free of charge if you wish. Right next door is an official Harry Potter store where you can pick up merchandise – but be warned, it’s quite pricey!
16. Kensington Palace
Situated on the western side of Hyde Park, Kensington Palace is a popular London tourist attraction and the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – Prince William and Princess Kate. The palace was the birthplace of Queen Victoria and has been a significant building in the lives of young royals for over 300 years.
After falling into disrepair over the years, Kensington Palace was refurbished and reopened in preparation for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II in 2012.
It is now a modern London tourist attraction with a choice of routes through the history of the building. Many of the displays are digital and interactive making Kensington Palace one of the most popular places to visit in London with children.
Until 2nd January 2022, the Royal Style in the Making exhibition is open looking at the relationship between the Royal Family and leading fashion designers. The exhibition includes the wedding dress of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Entrance to Kensington Palace costs £23.00 for adults and £11.50 for children.
HeyTripster daily trip plans include recommendations and suggestions by locals who have live in and know their home city. Our plans are designed to cut through the waffle, provide unique local insights and introduce you to the best places to eat, drink and visit.
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I’m a professional writer with a passion for travel. I love to visit new places and discover new experiences. Like any tourist, I’m drawn to places by the major sights and attractions, but I also like to go off the beaten track and unearth what the city or town I’m in is really all about.
HeyTripster gives me the opportunity to share my love of travel and to let other people know about some of the tips I’ve picked up and hidden gems I’ve discovered.