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The 101 best things to do in London

Discover the city with our list of the best things to do and see in London, for visitors and locals alike. From free days out to unmissable restaurants, this is your ultimate London checklist for 2022

Written by
Laura Richards
,
Katie McCabe
&
Paula Akpan
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March 2022: Is it spring already? Pretty much! The capital is already looking a lot more flowery and fun. Leicester Square will soon be full of gamboling lambs and bunnies. This is perfect weather for strolls through art galleries, sunny parks and, if you’ve got your wooly hat, the odd beer garden too. 

There’s a lot to do in London. An awful lot. You can fill your days and nights with visits to incredible art exhibitionsiconic attractions, secret spotsworld-beating theatre and still barely feel like you’ve scratched the surface. This London bucket list (curated by our editors and always hotly debated in the Time Out office) is a good place to start.

Our city checklist will help you hunt out what’s still happening in London – including some actual real-life events – from underground shows to something new at one of London’s landmarks. Go and get acquainted with this brilliant city. 

Written by Laura Richards, Ellie Walker-Arnott, Lucy Lovell, Emma Hughes, Anya Meyerowitz, Stephanie Hartman, Grace Allen, Katie McCabe, Charley Ross and Alexandra Sims. 

This article includes affiliate links. These links have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, click here.

The best things to do in London

See a world-class exhibition at the V&A
  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • South Kensington

What is it? A cathedral to culture, the V&A is a world-class museum championing the very best of decorative art and design.

Why go? High-profile ticketed exhibitions often sell out, but the permanent exhibits are fascinating and free to visit (book a ticket and time slot through a new and socially distanced system). 

Don’t miss: The world’s first all-porcelain courtyard created by architect Amanda Levete with 11,000 handmade tiles. When it catches the sunlight, the glittering ceramics make London look like 1960s Rome. 

Eat your way around Borough Market
  • Things to do
  • Borough

What is it? Dating back to the thirteenth century, London’s oldest food market is a cornucopia of gourmet goodies - your go-to for artisanal finds.

Why go? It used to highlight British produce but nowadays you’ll find global traders and street-food vendors: enjoy French confit-duck sandwiches, Ethiopian stews and scotch eggs (elevated, of course).

Don’t miss: Once notable for its crowds, the market now has a Covid-safe capacity (facemasks remain compulsory). Arrive early (get coffee from Monmouth), pick up from Neal’s Yard Dairy, Brindisa and Bread Ahead, and head for a riverside picnic.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Bankside

What is it? A riverside icon on London’s South Bank dedicated to modern and contemporary art. It’s the younger, hipper sibling to Pimlico’s Tate Britain.

Why go? To be inspired and challenged – even by the architecture. Tate Modern is based in what was Bankside Power Station. Its 2016 Switch House extension added gallery space and incredible 360-degree views of the London skyline. Step inside to discover works by the likes of Warhol, Matisse and Bourgeois, all part of the free permanent collection.

Don’t miss: The Tate Boat (decorated with Damien Hirst dots) runs up and down the Thames between Tate Modern and Tate Britain every 30 minutes during gallery opening hours. Just tap in and out with an Oyster or contactless card as you would on the tube or bus.

  • Shopping
  • Home decor
  • Soho

What is it? Unapologetically eccentric and always original, Liberty is a whimsical department store near Oxford Circus. It was founded in 1875, but the mock-Tudor Marlborough Street incarnation – constructed with the timbers of two ancient warships – was built in the 1920s.

Why go? Although Liberty trades on its history, it squeezes fashion-forward innovation into its wood-panelled rooms. Browse silks, Liberty-print cottons and one-off designer collaborations.

Don’t miss: The Liberty Christmas Shop. Open for a sizeable chunk of the year, it’s a magical, glitter-covered, gift-wrapped festive grotto, perfect for selecting weird and wonderful decorations for your tree. Brussels sprout bauble, anyone?

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  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Bethnal Green

What is it? One of London’s oldest and best-loved flower markets, packed to the brim with all manner of floral delights.

Why go? A weekend institution in east London, the Sunday flower market that lines Columbia Road is a hipster paradise and one of the best places in the city to buy flowers, bedding plants, cacti and even a banana tree if you’ve got the patio space at home and the upper body strength to carry it there. 

Don’t miss: The best blooms and bargains. The market goes on until 3pm in all weathers, but for the best buys you need to get there for 8am (or hold out to the end for a bargain on unsold stock). Head down side streets to find cute cafés, shops, antique dealers and galleries sticking to market opening hours.

  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Bethnal Green

What is it? A good old-fashioned caff. Since 1900 this workers’ café has provided carbs and protein in eggy, meaty and pan-fried form to the good people of east London.

Why go? Traces of bygone eras, like art deco interior details and Formica tables have earned E Pellicci Grade II-listed status, but what diners love best is that the fry-ups, grills and Italian plates are still all dished up by the same family.

Don’t miss: As strange as it might sound, you’re going to want to chase down your fry-up with a helping of bread-and-butter pudding – it’s a customer favourite.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Kew

What is it? Oh just 3,00 acres of beautiful green space, filled with stunning vistas, rare plants, Victorian glasshouses, a Chinese pagoda and a treetop walkway. You know, nothing too grandiose.

Why go? This world-leading botanic garden is captivating any time of year. Right now, it’s a crunchy, autumnal paradise; keep an eye out for its annual lights trail Christmas at Kew when the festive season comes around.

Don’t miss: The newly restored Temperate House is a horticulturalist’s delight, home to encephalartos woodii, one of the rarest plants in the world, that outlived the dinosaurs.

  • Bars and pubs
  • St James’s
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? If you’re looking for a mind-blowingly strong and delicious cocktail in sumptuous surroundings, this hotel bar is the right place.

Why go? It’s Stanley Tucci’s go-to and was Ian Fleming’s when he was penning the Bond books. Cocktails are among the most expensive in the city, but bar snacks are fabulous. Stagger across the cobbles of St James’s on your way out (the drinks really are that strong).

Don’t miss: It’s famous for its theatrical presentation of Martinis, created from a trolley that’s wheeled to you.

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Dulwich

What is it? The UK’s first purpose-built public art gallery is a total south London gem.

Why go? Sir John Soane is one of this country’s greatest ever architects and his genius design of this south London gallery is matched by its extraordinary collection. Its numerous Old Master paintings include no less than four Rembrandts as well as works by Canaletto, Gainsborough and Van Dyck. Not enough for you? It’s in picturesque Dulwich Village, does great family workshops, has intriguing temporary shows and a nice café.

Don’t miss Rembrandt’s ‘Girl at a Window’ has been pinched on several occasions, so catch it while you can. Also, don’t miss the gallery’s extraordinary in-house mausoleum, creepily illuminated through Soane’s signature coloured glass.

  • Shopping
  • Vintage shops
  • Portobello Road

What is it? The world’s largest antiques market, on a pastel-painted, picturesque shopping street in Notting Hill – now traffic-free for socially distanced browsing.

Why go? Although home to fruit and veg stalls too, Portobello Market is best known for the antiques and bric-à-brac stalls featuring at the Chepstow Villas end of the road. Don’t be fooled by the fold-out tables – this isn’t cheap tat and there are some serious treasures here. For more secondhand goodies, head further up the road, beyond the Westway. Plus, you can grab yourself a selfie in front of the famed pastel houses in the area.

Don’t miss: The market at its antiquey best. Sections of the market are open six days a week but for vintage treasures, brave the crowds and go browsing on a Saturday. 

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Bathe in neon light at God’s Own Junkyard
  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Walthamstow

What is it? A whole lot of neon artwork on display at a salvage yard in Walthamstow. 

Why go? Its late owner, artist Chris Bracey, collected lights for nearly 40 years, as well as crafting and restoring them. Now on display at a salvage yard in Walthamstow, some are seedy – having advertised the 1960s strip clubs and peep shows of Soho – while others are heartwarmingly nostalgic.

Don’t miss: The glowing grotto’s ‘Rolling Scones’ café serves hot drinks (or something stronger to suit the electrified vibes).

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Soho

What is it? London's entertainment epicentre in the West End with a somewhat torrid history. It now teems with drinkers and diners on its pedestrianised streets. 

Why go? Soho’s iconic and long-standing businesses need your support right now. Plus, the hedonistic spirit of the area lives on in its streets. 

Don’t miss: Grade-II listed pub The French HouseCharles de Gaulle used it as a base in exile during World War II, Dylan Thomas and Francis Bacon both drank here and beer, famously, is only ever served in halves. 

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  • Nightlife
  • Alternative nightlife
  • Haggerston

What is it? An LGBTQ+ performance venue with a basement disco and a full roster of shows, which acts as a platform for forward-thinking queer entertainment.

Why go? One of the brains behind The Glory is drag legend Jonny Woo, so no surprise that it does gender-ambiguous and adventurous alternative cabaret so brilliantly.

Don’t miss: Up-and-coming stars of the scene. It’s a genuinely mixed space where the vibe is less ‘anything goes’, more ‘everything encouraged’. Drop by for a drink and see how the night unfolds (typically, fabulously).

  • Things to do
  • Chinatown

What is it? An intense hit of Chinese culture sandwiched between Soho and a shuttered Theatreland, Chinatown is one of London's foodie gems.

Why go? Bilingual street signs, colourful pagodas, lion statues and grand red-and-gold gates welcome you to an area packed with restaurants and shops – many of which have taken a hit across the pandemic. It’s now pedestrianised to encourage punters back to supermarkets like See Woo and fast-food spots like Chinatown Bakery.

Don’t miss:  Four Seasons, a restaurant famed for its Cantonese-style roast duck.

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  • Cinemas
  • Barbican

What is it? A large, leafy greenhouse within the iconic performing arts and exhibition centre.

Why go? This labyrinthine arts complex is part of a vast concrete estate – an icon of brutalist London architecture – that also includes 2,000 covetable flats and lots of confusing walkways. Which makes the fact that it’s also home to the second-biggest conservatory in the city a very lush surprise. The indoor garden has 2,000 plant species. It’s like stepping into the happy ending of a dystopian thriller, when the characters finally find signs of life on an abandoned planet. 

Don’t miss:  Inside, the focus is on world-class arts, taking in every imaginable genre. Plus, its theatre venues have finally reopened

  • Theatre
  • Shakespeare
  • South Bank

What is it? A reconstruction of William Shakespeare’s circular theatre, which was destroyed by a fire, sat a few hundred yards from its original site.

Why go? It’s the closest you’ll ever get to experiencing the Bard’s plays as his Elizabethan audience did. To stand or not to stand, that is the question. In the era of Mr Shakespeare himself, many theatregoers would stay on their feet when watching a play. Known as ‘groundlings’, those who stood would get an ace and up-close view of the show. At the Globe, this tradition has endured and you can get a standing spot for as little as £5. Honestly, the action is so engrossing that by the time you realise your feet hurt, it’ll all be over.

Don’t miss: A midnight performance. You’ll have to book well in advance for one of these late-night shows but it’s worth it for the raucous atmosphere. Pop to the pub beforehand for a pint or two – and maybe a coffee to keep you awake into the early hours. 

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Get cultured at the Southbank Centre
  • Things to do
  • Cultural centres
  • South Bank

What is it? A riverside titan of arts and entertainment, the Southbank Centre is made up of multiple venues hosting some of London's most sought-after events.

Why go? Whether or not there's an event on, it's still great for a visit. Munch on vegan cake at the food market or pick up a rare first edition at the bookstalls. 

Don’t miss: While you’re there, head along the South Bank to the Globe and gawp at the hallowed Shakespearian playhouse.

Have a Hawksmoor Sunday roast
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Spitalfields
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? When it comes to Sunday roasts, London has something for every taste (if that taste is for comforting mounds of carbs in the colder months). But if meat makes your meal, head to Hawksmoor.

Why go? Holy cow, the British-reared rump of beef is delicious, cooked to a rosy medium-rare – first over charcoal, then in the oven. It’s served with potatoes roasted in dripping, greens, carrots and roasted shallots, plus lashings of bone-marrow gravy.

Don’t miss: Your slot. Make sure you arrive well before 5pm to ensure you don’t miss this crowd-pleaser. When the roasts are gone, they’re gone. 

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Party all weekend at Notting Hill Carnival
  • Music

What is it? Europe’s biggest street party, the annual Carnival takes over the streets of Notting Hill every summer.

Why go? This yearly celebration of London’s Caribbean communities, their culture and traditions, has been taking place since 1966. Over Sunday (family day) and Bank Holiday Monday there’s a parade and fantastic live music, including reggae, dub and salsa, as well as 37 static soundsystems, soca floats, steel bands and a whole lot of delicious Caribbean food. 

Don’t miss: The warm-ups and after-parties. Soundsystems on the street and in the squares are a big draw, but that’s where you’ll hear some of best DJ sessions. 

  • Theatre
  • Public and national theatres
  • South Bank

What is it? One of the UK’s most prominent performing arts venues, which sits proudly on the South Bank – and is about to make its comeback.

Why go? The NT got many of us through lockdown with its free-to-stream series of crowd-pleasing plays – now we can return the favour by buying a ticket to an in-person production.

Don’t miss: Its new Kae Tempest production, ‘Paradise’, or its new musical ‘Hex’ later this year. 

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Perch up at the counter at Kiln
  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? Oh, just one of London’s top restaurants. No biggie.

Why go? Pandemic silver lining: you can now book a table or space at the counter, rather than rocking up and trying your luck. Owned by Ben Chapman of Smoking Goat and Brat, with a kitchen headed up by Meedu Saad, Kiln serves up delectable dishes influenced by the food of northern Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

Don’t miss: The plump Isaan-style Tamworth sausages, punchy jungle curries and signature clay-pot-baked glass noodles with pork and crab – the last is a steal at just £6.75.

Swim in Hampstead Heath Ponds
  • Things to do
  • Hampstead Heath

What is it? Bathing ponds in the middle of the wild green space of Hampstead Heath, where you can splash about any time of year. In fact, it’s the only place in the UK to offer life-guarded open-water public swimming all year round.

Why go? With men’s, women’s and mixed ponds, there’s nowhere better – or more picturesque (the ponds are a short walk from Parliament Hill, with views over the city skyline) – to cool off on scorching London days. The mixed pond is members-only and not lifeguarded in winter. Competent swimmers aged eight-plus are allowed. Just jump right in: there’s no shallow end!

Don’t miss: Looking for a hot shower afterwards? You’ll only find them at the Ladies’ Pond. Sorry, chaps. 

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  • Museums
  • Natural history
  • South Kensington

What is it? A home to a rather impressive 80 million plant, animal, fossil, rock and mineral specimens. This South Kensington spot, which is also a world-class research institution, is full of wonders.

Why go? To come face-to-face with animatronic dinosaurs, a man-sized model of a foetus, a dodo, a giant sequoia tree, an earthquake simulator and glow-in-the-dark crystals. 

Don’t miss: A great big blue whale skeleton which hangs from the ceiling of the Hintze Hall and goes after the name ‘Hope’. 

Hang out with the plants at Sky Garden
  • Attractions
  • Fenchurch Street

What is it? London’s highest public garden – three storeys of lush landscaped gardens on the thirty-fifth floor of a City skyscraper. 

Why go? Located on Fenchurch Street, right in the heart of the City, this beautiful venue caused quite a stir when it first opened. That’s because you can zip up 35 floors of the Walkie Talkie and be transported to a public garden with truly spectacular views. As well as all the lush greenery, you’ll find an observation deck, an open-air terrace, two restaurants, two bars and an uninterrupted panorama of the city’s skyline with the Thames snaking by below. Entry is free – you’ve just got to book in advance online. 

Don’t miss: Unbe-leaf-able prices! The restaurants at Sky Garden have been putting on some great deals since reopening, and it’s free to visit at weekends

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Get a history lesson at the Tower of London
  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Tower Hill

What is it? A real-life medieval castle by the Thames and, if we want to be technical, it's actually speaking, the Queen's Royal Palace and fortress.

Why go? For all that bling (and the ravens, if we're honest). You can’t help but gawp at the staggeringly priceless collection of diamonds, tiaras and sceptres that make up the Crown Jewels. Arrive early to beat the crowds and catch a glimpse of these precious rocks that the Royal Family still uses on official occasions. This 900-year-old monument is one of the country’s finest historical attractions and has enough to see to fill a whole day.

Don’t miss: A tour with one of the Yeoman Warders (aka Beefeaters) to get the Tower lowdown by someone who lives and works there. 

Have multiple dinners at Market Hall Victoria
  • Restaurants
  • Food court
  • Victoria
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? This is the second Market Hall (the other two are in Fulham and off Oxford Street) and the best thing to happen to Victoria since the trains arrived.

Why go? Food halls are taking over the capital, and while they all have their charms, Victoria’s Market Hall is definitely home to some of the biggest and best names. Where else can you munch on roti canai, salt beef sarnies and wontons all in the same sitting?

Don’t miss: Flaky, buttery roti from Gopal’s Corner, a Reuben at Monty’s Deli and rainbow dumplings by Baozi Inn are all must-orders.

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  • Museums
  • History
  • Bloomsbury

What is it? One of the county's most famous institutions, dedicated to human history, art and culture.

Why go? There’s so much to see at the British Museum –Parthenon sculptures, Lewis Chessmen, The Rosetta Stone. The world-famous Egyptian stone, the key to deciphering the hieroglyphs, is the most sought out item in the collection. If you think you’ve done it all, delve deeper by looking out for new acquisitions, or pop into one of the museum’s temporary exhibitions.

Don’t miss: The Mermaid in the Enlightenment gallery. It once belonged to Queen Victoria’s grandson Prince Arthur of Connaught and is said to have been caught in Japan in the eighteenth century. It’s not true, though... The head and torso of a monkey has been attached to the tail of a fish using the dark art of taxidermy to create what is possibly the capital’s most fascinating fake.

Admire the views from The Shard
  • Attractions
  • Towers and viewpoints
  • London Bridge

What is it? Western Europe's tallest building and London's one and only 95-storey skyscraper, so it's certainly not to be sniffed at.

Why go? Despite only being a few years old, The Shard has become a celebrated addition to London's iconic skyline.  It’s also an ace place from which to cop a look at London in all its glory.

Don’t miss: The very top. There are bars and restaurants all the way up, but at public visiting area The View from The Shard, the tower boasts floor-to-ceiling windows with amazing views. You can peer out over the city at 244 metres above ground level. It’s as if you’re perched over the capital on your own cloud — and it makes for one awesome snap. Say cheese!

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  • Shopping
  • Soho

What is it? This central London street is a buzzy shopping hotspot. Tucked just behind Oxford and Regent Streets, you'll find quirky independent brands next door to flagship favourites, as well as some of the finest places to eat and drink in the city. 

Why go? This pedestrianised street is one of London’s best shopping destinations. Creative Carnaby is known for being at the heart of the swinging ’60s in London, when the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Elizabeth Taylor were all regular visitors. Nowadays the area is home to shops like Monki and The Kooples as well as dining and drinking destinations Dishoom, Cahoots, Pizza Pilgrims and Le Bab. 

Don’t miss: Carnaby’s Christmas lights. Carnaby Street’s annual winter display is always much anticipated and never disappoints. It’s yet to confirm its return for 2021 – but we’ll keep you updated as soon as we learn more.

  • Attractions
  • Rivers, lakes and ponds
  • Little Venice

What is it? A quaint and extremely instagrammable corner of London, it's known for its stunning waterways and narrowboats.

Why go? It's a special spot, packed with a bustling community of boat-dwelling Londoners, Little Venice is a special spot. Wander through Rembrandt Gardens, feast on seafood at The Summerhouse or browse the plants and have a cuppa in the Quince Tree Café at charming Clifton Nurseries. Then hop on board a cruise travelling between Little Venice and Camden Lock, or wander east along the canal towpath to London Zoo or Primrose Hill. 

Don’t miss: The Puppet Theatre Barge. This intimate water-borne theatre is the setting for quality puppet shows that put a modern twist on traditional tales and kids’ classics. 

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Spy Buckingham Palace from St James’s Park
  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Westminster

What is it? A 57-acre park in Westminster, which is basically the Queen’s giant front garden.

Why go? It's gotten a pretty big facelift since King Henry VII’s heyday when it was a swampy stretch of land, used mainly as a deer-breeding ground. King James I drained it and moved more animals in (including elephants, crocodiles and exotic birds). Today it remains as it was redesigned in the 1820s, all lush landscape and winding paths. Spot squirrels scampering around and pretty views of Buckingham Palace at the western end. 

Don’t miss: The park’s famous avian tenants – the pelicans. In 1664 the Russian ambassador presented a pair of pelicans to the king, and today the birds are still offered to the park by foreign ambassadors. Find them at the big lake in the middle.

Have afternoon tea at Claridge’s
  • Restaurants
  • British
  • Mayfair

What is it? The most quintessentially English thing you can ever eat at one of the most traditional and elegant hotels in London. 

Why go? Forget brunch, afternoon tea is really where it’s at. With flattering lighting, the scent of fresh roses and classical musicians playing away in the corner, the Foyer at Claridge’s is a class act. This elegant art deco space is where chic A-listers and other ‘people with taste’ come to take tea. Expect tasty patisserie, sensational just-baked scones and incredible finger sandwiches. 

Don’t miss: The drink at the heart of the ritual. Sip on a fine bone-china cup of Claridge’s Blend, a bespoke tea designed for this very occasion. 

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  • Clubs
  • Farringdon

What is it? Fabric is London’s most iconic club. The former meat factory is a bastion of drum ’n’ bass. 

Why go? ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ Not just the words of Charles Dickens, but of every exhausted clubber to emerge from Fabric at 4am. Numerous attempts have been made to shut down this treasured superclub over the years (we nearly lost it for good in 2016) but Londoners have always rallied around to save it. The queue might snake as far as Farringdon station some Saturday nights, but if you haven’t been to Fabric, you haven’t experienced London nightlife. End of story.

Don’t miss: A legendary extended set from Chilean-born Germany-based techno warrior and semi-regular at Fabric Ricardo Villalobos – you’ll never have a Saturday night like it.

Watch ‘Hamilton’ at the Victoria Palace Theatre
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Victoria

What is it? Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning musical, currently the best and most sought-after ticket in London. 

Why go? You can’t do London without seeing an all-singing, all-dancing West End show. Fact. We have an insatiable appetite for Broadway transfers like ‘Hamilton’, ‘The Book of Mormon’ and ‘Kinky Boots, but there’s homegrown success, too: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘Les Misérables’ and the RSC’s ‘Matilda’ are among the hits that just keep on going.

Don’t miss: Your shot. For ‘Hamilton’ try the £10 ticket lottery available online for all performances. For other shows, last-minute tickets from the Leicester Square ticket booths are usually your best bet for a bargain. 

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Visit the famous residents of Highgate Cemetery
  • Attractions
  • Cemeteries
  • Highgate

What is it? A magnificently gothic, overgrown, 53,000-grave cemetery (housing 170,000 dead) in north London.

Why go? A stroll through a graveyard may seem like a  macabre way to spend an afternoon, but the chaotically overgrown Highgate Cemetery really is something special. It was one of London’s seven great Victorian cemeteries but fell into disrepair. Today, you can go and witness it in all its crumbling glory. The West Cemetery requires booking in advance for a guided tour. Entrance to the East Cemetery is £4.50 and must be bought in advance.

Don’t miss: The cemetery’s famous residents. Find the final resting places of, among others, ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ author Douglas Adams and poet Christina Rossetti. You can also visit Karl Marx. You can’t miss his spot – it’s topped with a massive sculpture of his head.

Spot deer in Richmond Park
  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Richmond Park

What is it? Strap in because this is the capital's biggest, grandest royal park.

Why go? With its ancient woodland, think open space and rural wilds in the heart of the city. This former royal hunting ground has changed little over the centuries, but modern-day visitors are more likely to be wielding a kite than a bow and arrow. Look out for wild red and fallow deer but be sure to keep your distance (especially during autumn’s rutting season).

Don’t miss: The Isabella Plantation for swathes of blossom in spring and summer. Rent a bike to really get to see the whole park. 

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  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • South Kensington

What is it? Founded in 1857, the Science Museum is one of London’s largest tourist attractions, and one of the world’s major museums.

Why go? From daytime play for little ones to lates for geeky grown-ups, the Science Museum is a happily noisy home of scientific discovery that’s free to visit for one and all. Head to Wonderlab: The Equinor Gallery, a state-of-the-art seven-zone area of the museum that’s ticketed, allowing you to see live experiments and shows away from the crowds, or Space Descent, an immersive VR trip through the cosmos with British astronaut Tim Peake as your guide.  

Don’t miss: Amazing objects that have shaped the last few decades, from the first Apple computer to Apollo 10, which orbited the moon in 1969.

Feast on pasta at Padella
  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • Borough
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? A carb-lover’s paradise near Borough Market, which more or less only serves pasta.

Why go? With a small menu of six antipasti and ten totally delicious pasta dishes, Padella’s whole ‘less is more’ formula has proven immensely successful. Ever since opening in London Bridge in 2016 it has been nearly impossible to get a table without queuing first.

Don’t miss: Padella’s sister site, Trullo. The hugely popular Islington restaurant was owners Tim Siadatan and Jordan Frieda’s first venture. You’ll recognise some menu items, like the famous pappardelle with beef shin ragú. Head there instead if you can’t stand the wait.

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Admire the view from Primrose Hill
  • Things to do
  • Primrose Hill

What is it? A grassy hill on the northern side of Regent’s Park, and the name of the surrounding swanky neighbourhood.

Why go? From Primrose Hill, London's skyline is picture-perfect and, while this might be your priority for heading to this spot, it shouldn't be the only one. This well-kept annexe of Regent’s Park is also surrounded by posh cafés and nice shops and frequented by some of London’s friendliest dog walkers, making it a great place to people-watch.

Don’t miss: The sunset. When the sun starts going down, it casts glorious rays across the city, so set your camera to ‘panoramic’ and play ‘spot the landmark’ as London is bathed in awesome orange light.

  • Attractions
  • Hertfordshire

What is it? Sure, there are lots of Harry Potter locations in and around London, but the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Watford is the most magical. 

Why go? The capital is heaving with Harry Potter hotspots. Locations like Diagon Alley were set here and scenes from the world-famous movie franchise were filmed here. There’s walking tours and photo ops at the actual Platform 9¾ in King’s Cross. But you can’t beat the Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter, just outside of the capital, to get up close with incredible props and sets from all eight of the HP films.

Don’t miss: The chance to fly your very own broom. Or drink butterbeer. Or wander in the Forbidden Forest. Or pose in the Great Hall. Or window-shop on Diagon Alley. Do you need any more reasons?

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  • Restaurants
  • Food court
  • Seven Dials

What is it? A 40-metre electric conveyor belt laden with all the dairy your heart could desire? No, it isn’t the stuff of fevered cheese dreams. This is real life – and you can dig in at Kerb Seven Dials.

Why go? Pick & Cheese is run by the team behind Camden Town’s fabled The Cheese Bar, and they really know their stuff. Here, they’ve put together 25 pairings, including coolea with hazelnut brittle and fresh ricotta with sherry cherries. Just take a seat and they’ll do the rest.

Don’t miss: The Basque-style burnt cheesecake. And the four-cheese toastie, and the whole baked Waterloo, and… whatever else you can stomach, really. 

Get lunch to go from Brick Lane Beigel Bake
  • Restaurants
  • Jewish
  • Brick Lane

What is it? A charmingly scruffy bakery that has been serving Londoners fresh bagels since 1977.

Why go? Ah, the salt beef beigel (or bagel). It’s salty, it’s beefy, the mustard will singe a layer of skin from the inside of your mouth (you have been warned) and it’s an absolute classic. Beigel Bake allegedly churns out 7,000 of the boiled bready beauties a day! That’s why they’re consumed by everyone from night-shift taxi drivers and party people to savvy tourists and local pensioners. At less than a fiver a pop, it’d be rude not to.

Don’t miss: Your place in the queue. Much like the fast-paced delis in New York, Beigel Bake offers fairly brusque service. Know exactly what you’re having before you order, and have your cash ready.

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See Tower Bridge lift up
  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Tower Bridge

What is it? The capital’s most famous bridge, which crosses the Thames near the Tower of London. Not to be confused with London Bridge as it rather frequently is.

Why go? The historical structure is a little bit of a stunner. It lifts up in the middle when large vessels are passing underneath (you can check out lift times on its website) and it gained a daring glass floor on the high walkways in 2014, allowing slightly braver visitors to look straight down to the road and river 42 metres below. Each of the six glass panels is 11 metres long and weighs more than 500kg. Just don't think about it too much when you’re walking across them. 

Don’t miss: Your chance to stand inside Tower Bridge’s Bascule Chambers. These underground caverns allow for the movement of the huge counterweights when the bridge is raised. The subterranean space is normally out of bounds but is sometimes used for concerts and events. 

Take a tour of Sipsmith’s gin distillery
  • Attractions
  • Chiswick

What is it? The home of Sipsmith gin. It planted its copper stills here in west London in 2009.

Why go? Sipsmith was the first of the new wave of London gin distilleries, becoming the first copper pot still in London for nearly 200 years. Now you can sip a G&T while listening to a little history of gin in London, tour the Sipsmith stills and get a tutored tasting. To drink deeper, book on to the Sipsmith Sipper Club every Tuesday – after the distillery you head to Charlotte’s Bistro for a gin-themed slap-up meal.

Don’t miss: The wall of weird and wonderful gin experiments in the bar. This is where Sipsmith’s master distiller gets creative, cooking up unusual flavour combinations that don’t go on general sale. If you’re lucky you might get to try one. 

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Pick up something to read at Daunt Books
  • Shopping
  • Bookshops
  • Marylebone

What is it? A totally beautiful, independent bookshop, founded by James Daunt in 1990. 

Why go? Daunt Marylebone, the small chain’s flagship store, might be London’s most beautiful bookshop. Occupying an Edwardian building on Marylebone High Street, it boasts an incredible galleried main room and stained-glass windows that feel like they’re from a long-lost world. All the books are arranged by country – regardless of content – which makes for a fun and unique browsing experience. Take home your books in a branded tote bag for the true Daunt experience. 

Don’t miss: The other amazing bookshops in London, like King’s Cross bookshop barge Word on the Water, tech-free Libreria in Shoreditch, Persephone Books on Lamb’s Conduit Street, which sells pretty reprints from female writers, and the stellar London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury.

See a seasonal movie at Prince Charles Cinema
  • Cinemas
  • Independent
  • Leicester Square

What is it? The legendary Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square is central London’s coolest movie house.

Why go? It’s a breath of fresh air in tourist-trap central. The two-screen independent shows an eclectic mix of new releases, cult and arthouse titles. It’s comfy, cheap and very cheerful, and the programming is as good as it gets.

Don’t miss: Expect double bills, short seasons, singalongs and unusual screenings – epic 70mm presentations of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ take place in one screen while people acapella-along to ‘Pitch Perfect’ in the other. 

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Party at Lovebox, a music festival in a London park

What is it? Consistently one of the finest festivals in London, Lovebox caters for cool kids and party monsters alike, packing as much fun into two days as many festivals manage in three.

Why go? Music festivals don’t have to mean muddy sleeping bags and washing with baby wipes. Lovebox (and London’s other music festivals Field Day, South West Four, Wireless, Citadel, All Points East and British Summer Time) attract ace acts, stellar food and all the alternative entertainment you could ask for. And you can just get the tube back to your bed when you’re done. Winner!

Don’t miss: Previous years have boasted acts like Solange and Childish Gambino, but make time for the other goings-on, like disco crazy golf, hip hop karaoke and spoken-word performances.  

  • Museums
  • History
  • Clerkenwell

What is it? Built by the Post Office a hundred years ago, this underground train line was once used to move mail around the city. Now a chunk of the network has been opened up for visitors. 

Why go? While everyone knows about the London Underground, the Mail Rail was shrouded in secrecy until recently. Shuttling letters and parcels across the city for nearly eight decades and delivering post through six-and-a-half miles of tunnels, it was taken out of service in 2003. But its tracks are now humming again, encouraging visitors to make like a letter and hop aboard the tiny electric tube train to discover a secret subterranean London.

Don’t miss: The Postal Museum’s calendar of events, from historical walking tours to papermaking workshops for kids. 

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Regent’s Park

What is it? A Grade I-listed Royal Park, which is home to London Zoo, a boating lake and lush rose gardens. 

Why go? Londoners’ nostrils have a pretty hard time of it, what with the traffic, the bin lorries and the lack of public loos. On balance, though, we really can’t complain, especially considering that we’ve got free and unticketed access to one of the country’s largest collection of roses in Regent’s Park. Queen Mary’s Gardens are home to around 12,000, of more than 85 varieties, including the unique Royal Parks rose. The fragrance is fantastic throughout the year, but visit in early June to see the blooms at their best.

Don’t miss: The Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre for further alfresco pleasures. It’s a magical way to enjoy excellent outdoor theatre from April to September.

  • Restaurants
  • North African
  • Seven Dials
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? A tiny North African-inspired restaurant in Neal’s Yard.

Why go? Man, The Barbary’s good. Not just good – in our opinion, this atmospheric Covent Garden joint is one of the very best eateries in London. Its menu gallivants down the eponymous North African Barbary Coast (running from Morocco to Libya, atlas fans), with all the smoky, meaty, gutsy fare that encompasses. It’s also minuscule: all 24 seats are at a horseshoe counter that wraps around the teeny kitchen, so you can eyeball the chefs while waxing rapturous over the food.

Don’t miss: Your chance to secure a sat. The restaurant has a walk-in policy almost all of the time, but you can reserve seats online for up to four people at noon and 5pm. 

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Get archaeological at the Museum of London
  • Museums
  • History
  • Barbican

What is it? Doing what it says on the tin, you'll find anything and everything about the capital's history at the Museum of London.

Why go? A trip to the Museum of London will make you see the city in a whole new light. You can discover what the city was like even before it was christened Londinium. Reignite your understanding of the Great Fire of 1666, before honing in on the revolutions, innovations and trends that turned us into a global metropolis.

Don’t miss: A Roman inscription from AD 160-170, featuring the first recorded use of the word ‘Londoners’. 

See a play at the Boulevard
  • Theatre
  • Private theatres
  • Soho

What is it? This new London theatre incorporates an innovative performance space (featuring Europe’s most advanced revolving stage) and a stunning art deco-style restaurant and bar.

Why go? For Instagrammable interiors, a pre-theatre fixed-price menu that draws inspiration from the production you’re about to see and a members-club vibe without the extortionate joining fee.

Don’t miss: The inventive cocktail menu which has been curated by renowned barman Fin Spiteri. It ranges from classic cocktails with unexpected twists to exciting new flavours and combinations, including alcohol-free options.

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Have bottomless brunch at Darcie & May Green
  • Restaurants
  • Global
  • Paddington
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? A funky floating restaurant by Paddington station.

Why go? London boasts plenty of great brunch spots, but how many of them are on an actual boat? Part of the Daisy Green group, Darcie & May Green is cute and colourful; it even has a rooftop bar. At £39.50 a head, the bottomless brunch deal gets you two dishes and as many glasses of prosecco or mimosas as you fancy in 100 minutes (there is a one-drink-at-a-time rule, mind).

Don’t miss: We love the sweetcorn and spring green fritters topped with feta, as well as the avo and perfectly poached eggs. Also good is the banana bread with berries.

  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Spitalfields

What is it? A remarkable house on east London’s Folgate Street has been dressed to resemble the home of eighteenth-century Huguenot silk weavers.

Why go? To imagine you’ve stepped into a painting by an Old Master. Walking into Dennis Severs’ House is rather like that. It’s open for tours throughout the year: visitors silently pass through its ‘still-life drama’, visiting each room to see evidence of an eighteenth-century silk weaver’s family life without meeting a soul. It’s a unique, unnerving experience.

Don’t miss: The Annual Christmas Installation. Visit on a frosty winter’s night for a truly atmospheric experience.

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Visit Wilton’s, the oldest music hall in the world
  • Theatre
  • Performing arts space
  • Wapping

What is it? The oldest grand music hall in the world. This Grade II*-listed building is home to plays, opera, puppetry, classical music, cabaret, dance, magic shows and more. 

Why go? If ever there was a venue that embodied the term ‘shabby chic’, Wilton’s Music Hall is it. It started life as five houses back in 1690. Then it was an ale house serving sea captains. Fast forward to 1858 and pub landlord-cum-entrepeneur John Wilton built the magnificent auditorium. Since then Wilton’s has been a base for the East End Methodist Mission, a soup kitchen, a shelter during the Blitz and a rag warehouse. After a tasteful restoration, it’s still standing as a place to enjoy a great night out. 

Don’t miss: Those shabby-chic vibes. You don’t need a ticket to eat and drink at Wilton’s. Feast on seasonal dishes at the Mahogany Bar or revisit the era of the gin palace in the Cocktail Bar. 

  • Museums
  • History
  • Hoxton

What is it? A venerable East End insitution only lattery called the Museum of the Home. Housed in a set of 18th-century almshouses, this lovely little venue has for more than a century offered a vivid physical history of the English interior.

Why go? This place displays original furniture, paintings, textiles and decorative arts, the museum recreates a sequence of typical middle-class living rooms from 1600 to the present. It’s an oddly interesting way to take in domestic history.

Don’t miss: There are tons of intriguing pieces to catch your eye- from a bell jar of stuffed birds to a particular decorative flourish on a chair.

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Climb the roof at the O2 Arena
  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Greenwich Peninsula

What is it? Built as the Millennium Dome to mark the year 2000, these days the O2 Arena is best known for being a major live music venue.

Why go? It welcomes amazing artists from all over the world, so there’s that. But there is loads to do here even when the likes of Katy Perry or Jay-Z aren’t strutting their stuff. Think restaurants, bars, a bowling alley, a cinema, an Oxygen Freejumping trampoline park and new outlet shopping centre Icon. 

Don’t miss: The opportunity to scale the dome. Book a dusk slot for Up at the O2 – a 52-metre climb up and over the venue’s roof – and look westward for one of the most spectacular city views going. You’re welcome. 

  • Attractions
  • Libraries, archives and foundations
  • King’s Cross

What is it? The UK’s national library (not to mention the largest in the world).

Why go? The British Library’s collection includes well over 150 million items, in most known languages around the world. It receives copies of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland. And it’s also home to some extraordinary treasures, like the world’s earliest dated printed book, the Diamond Sutra, and one of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks. The foundation of English law, the Magna Carta, manuscripts by Shakespeare and Dickens and copies of The Beano – they all have a home at the British Library.

Don’t msis: Original manuscripts handwritten by some of the world’s greatest musical talents in the Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery. See early drafts by John Lennon of The Beatles hits ‘In My Life’, ‘She Said She Said’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ written on a piece of Lufthansa-headed notepaper.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Holland Park

What is it? Holland Park is one of London’s loveliest green spaces, home to sports facilities, play areas, woodland, an eco centre and the remains of Holland House, which was badly damaged during World War II.  

Why go? The park is also home to a remarkable hidden treasure: a traditionally designed Japanese garden. Created as part of London’s Japan Festival in 1992, the carefully tended Kyoto Garden has water features, and traditional Japanese trees and plants.

Don’t miss: The most photogenic time of the year. Visit the garden in autumn to catch it at its vibrant best.

  • Music
  • Music venues
  • South Kensington

What is it? The Proms are an eight-week summer season of orchestral concerts held inside iconic, circular concert venue the Royal Albert Hall.

Why go? From mid-July to mid-September, The Proms’ annual festival of classical music takes over the Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park. Founded in 1895, the Proms are a quintessential London tradition. As a venue, the RAH is unbeatable too – it’s a total stunner both inside and out. 

Don’t miss: Getting your hands on tickets. For each concert there are about 1,400 cheap standing tickets, but if you want to wave your Union Jack flags at the famously rousing Last Night, apply by ballot online from mid-spring. Alternatively, for last-minute tickets on the day, join the (fun) queues on the Queen’s Steps.

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Watch tennis at Wimbledon
  • Sport and fitness
  • Leisure centres
  • Wimbledon

What is it? Wimbledon is a leafy south-west London suburb that plays host to the world’s greatest lawn tennis championship every summer.

Why go? There’s more to Wimbledon than the oldest tennis championship in the world – it’s home to a windmill and the fictional Wombles for starters – but summer is the best time to head to SW19. During July every year, the world’s best tennis players arrive to battle it out, while the world’s biggest tennis fans arrive to sip Pimm’s, guzzle strawberries and cream, and vicariously bask in sporting greatness. Bag seats on Centre Court, lounge around on Murray Mound or catch the action for free on a big screen just outside the grounds on Aorangi Terrace.

Don’t miss: Tickets. They’re hard to get your hands on. The top spots must be applied for by ballot (UK applications start the August before) but there are also tickets available each day during the tournament for those prepared to queue.

See a movie with a view at Rooftop Film Club
  • Cinemas
  • Peckham

What is it? A collection of outdoor cinemas around the capital, offering a premier viewing experience of both London’s skyline and the best films out there. Choose from the Bussey Building in Peckham, the Queen of Hoxton in Shoreditch and Roof East in Stratford. 

Why go? Cinema seats have definitely become comfier over the years, but the deckchairs at all three of Rooftop Film Club’s locations make for an incredibly relaxed time. With a spectacular sunset vantage point, headphones to ensure you don’t miss a moment and plenty of great drinks and snacks, you’re in for a real treat. Make the most of the city without having to move! 

Don’t miss The bottomless popcorn ticket option. Need we say more?

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Bike along the South Bank on a Santander Cycle
  • Attractions
  • South Bank

What is it? Santander Cycles (formerly known as Boris Bikes) is London’s bike hire scheme, designed to make cycling around the city hassle-free. 

Why go? Find a dock, jump on a bike and head off around town, skirting the crowds and covering much more ground than you would on foot. Our recommendation? Take a spin beside the Thames and spot a who’s who of London’s riverside landmarks on National Cycle Network’s Route 4. Packed full of highlights – the London Eye, the Globe, Tate Modern – the route combines quieter roads with traffic-free paths, letting you sightsee to your heart’s content.

Don’t miss: Anything. See something you’d like to explore en route? Just find a dock, ditch your bike and do as you please. You can pick up another when you’re ready to set off again. 

Catch fringe theatre at The Yard
  • Theatre
  • Off-West End
  • Hackney Wick

What is it? An extensive programme of classical theatre, live art and contemporary performance at a stripped-back venue in Hackney Wick.

Why go? Whether you’re a seasoned Edinburgh Festival-goer or on your first foray into the world of fringe theatre, the programme of shows and events here is not to be missed. It’s a chance to experience contemporary stories in ever-inventive ways, and an affordable alternative to the big-budget, Broadway-style productions in the West End.

Don’t miss: An opportunity to explore the theatre before your chosen performance starts. Built out of salvaged materials by a team of 50 volunteers, this venue boasts quirky details everywhere.

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Step inside the Palace of Westminster
  • Attractions
  • Parliament and civic buildings
  • Westminster

What is it? The Palace of Westminster is the home of Parliament, made up of the Houses of Parliament (the House of Lords and House of Commons) and (the currently silent) clocktower Big Ben.

Why go? The Palace of Westminster is a wonderful mish-mash of architectural styles, dominated by neo-gothic buttresses, towers and arches. It contains 1,000 rooms, 11 courtyards, eight bars and six restaurants, for use by staff, MPs, lords and their guests. Members of the public are welcome, too. Book a tour to follow in the footsteps of the Queen at the State Opening and get a sense of how Parliament functions. You can even have afternoon tea at the end of your tour in a room beside the Thames. 

Don’t miss: ‘New Dawn’, a sculpture by Mary Branson in Westminster Hall which commemorates the long campaign for women to get the vote. Or the statues in St Stephen’s Hall, one of which was damaged when members of the suffragette movement chained themselves to it in 1909. 

  • Attractions
  • Olympic Park

What is it? The UK’s tallest sculpture, Anish Kapoor’s curiously curvaceous 114.5-metre-high ArcelorMittal Orbit was one of the more unexpected sights at the Olympic Park in 2012. Then German artist Carsten Höller added the world’s longest and tallest tunnel slide to it. As you do.

Why go? We consider a good hurtle down the slide all the way to the ground a pretty thrilling experience. It’ll speed you from top to bottom in just 40 seconds. 

Don’t miss: Those impressive views. There are windows at strategic points so you can see out – if you dare to take the plummet without closing your eyes. 

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Visit the Whispering Gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Attractions
  • Religious buildings and sites
  • St Paul’s

What is it? The Grade I-listed St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most famous buildings in Britain and an iconic feature of the London skyline. 

Why go? Sir Christopher Wren’s baroque beast is a marvel to look at, with an enormous dome and gorgeous interiors, but it actually still operates as a working church. All the services are free and open to all people of all faiths, including the incredibly popular Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. But to really nose around, climb the dome and head down into the crypt you’ll need a sightseeing ticket. Adult tickets are £20 on the door and include a multimedia guide or guided tour and access to an exhibition about the cathedral’s fascinating history.  

Don’t miss: The Whispering Gallery. That’s the indoor balcony at the base of the dome, where the acoustics of the cathedral’s architecture create a bizarre aural phenomenon. Stand on the exact opposite side of the dome as a friend, whisper something (‘I’m watching you’ is good) and they’ll hear you loud and clear, despite being more than 100 feet away. Spooky.

  • Attractions
  • Ships and boats
  • Greenwich

What is it? The world’s last surviving tea clipper, Cutty Sark was once the fastest ship of her age. That was over a century ago now, but she is still a spectacular sight, perched on her glass pedestal at the Thames’s edge in Greenwich.

Why go? The ship was nearly destroyed by fire in 2007, but reopened to the public in 2012 looking more handsome than ever. The £30 million restoration has seen her elevated three metres above the dry dock, allowing visitors to get closer than ever to its 65-metre-long gilded hull. Discover the ship’s history and explore the many cargoes that filled the Cutty Sark’s hold, from tea and whisky to wool and buffalo horns.

Don’t miss: The nearby National Maritime Museum. Continue your nautical education in Greenwich with a trip to NMM. The collection includes great works of art, incredible treasures and the actual blood-stained uniform that Lord Nelson was wearing when he was fatally wounded on board HMS Victory.

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Linger over brunch at Après Food Co
  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Clerkenwell
  • price 1 of 4

What is it? A cute Clerkenwell café serving up mega-tasty free-from brunches.

Why go? Brunching can feel a bit joyless if you have specific dietary requirements or want to compensate for festive overindulgence by making lighter choices. But Après Food Co does proper platefuls that are nutritious and delicious.

Don’t miss: The old-fashioned American pancakes topped with whatever takes your fancy. They can be made gluten- and nut-free on request.

  • Things to do
  • Quirky events
  • Piccadilly Circus

What is it? It’s the TV show that used to be presented by Richard O’Brien. Only now there’s no Richard O’Brien, or TV. 

Why go? The rise in puzzle-oriented escape-game attractions around London has created a new kind of experience for mates who like something more challenging than a pub quiz, and we think this is the best of them: a lovingly recreated version of the TV show, complete with the glass dome and all the physical, mental and mystery challenges you’d expect. Even if your team loses, it’s a proper giggle.

Don’t miss: The crystals! You’re playing for those shiny, shiny gems, remember?

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Crystal Palace

What is it? This south-east London park was once the grounds of an enormous glass exhibition hall known as The Crystal Palace, which burned down in the 1930s. 

Why go? For the dinosaurs. Yeah, you read that right. The park is populated with Victorian dinosaur sculptures, which are extremely anatomically incorrect. Hire yourself a pedalo and you’ll be able to admire the beasts which inhabit the shores of the lake from a brand new angle. You can even take a waterborne dinosaur selfie, which should win you a few Instagram likes. Other good reasons to visit the park include a maze and the ruins of the old Crystal Palace’s aquarium.

Don’t miss: Capel Manor Urban Farm, where, when you’re done with the concrete animals, you can find real meerkats, pigs, horses and more. 

Meet the Horniman Museum’s fat walrus
  • Things to do
  • Forest Hill

What is it? An ethnographical and anthropological museum, opened by tea trader John Horniman in 1902, which is known for its taxidermied animals, among (many) other things.

Why go? Unlike a lot of museums, this south London gem allows visitors close contact with many of the artefacts displayed (some can even be held or tried on). Aside from impressive anthropology and natural history collections, the museum also has a pretty garden, and hosts events ranging from crazy golf to farmers’ markets.

Don’t miss: The chance to come face to face with the museum’s walrus. Anatomically incorrect after being stuffed to bursting point (thus losing his signature folds of skin) the rather bloated mammal is one of the museum’s most popular exhibits.

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  • Things to do
  • Sport events
  • Marylebone

What is it? A 1920s-inspired crazy golf club in a former department store on Oxford Street. 

Why go? An ode to the English Riviera, the Swingers West End course includes a helter-skelter and big wheel, with beach huts and bandstands – plus lush palms for a ‘Miami Vice’-meets-Torquay vibe. Think of your best childhood seaside holiday, then add booze. Lubrication is provided on-course in the form of cocktails delivered by roving caddies, and you can refuel between rounds with street food by Made of Dough, Patty & Bun and Hackney Gelato. Striped blazers and straw boaters at the ready, old sport – we’ll see you on the first tee. 

Don’t miss: The original Swingers site, 16,000 square feet of crazy golf in an office block next to the Gherkin.

  • Attractions
  • Farms
  • Spitalfields

What is it? A welcoming and brilliantly maintained urban farm, complete with cute animals, just off Brick Lane in east London.

Why go? You can get a little taste of the countryside in the East End at Spitalfields City Farm. Friendly residents up for a pat include Bayleaf the donkey and a lovable pair of hairy hogs. The farm shop sells homegrown produce like freshly laid eggs, and the range of veg grown is remarkable for the location. There’s always something going on, from the homely café and laidback weekend festivals to family volunteering programme Families Go Wild. A proper city gem with a lovely vibe.

Don’t miss: The annual goat race. A rival to the famous Boat Race on the Thames, which sees Oxford and Cambridge universities go head to head, Spitalfields City Farm’s goat race pits two goats against each other on the same afternoon. It’s a lot more exciting than its riperine equivalent and over a lot quicker.

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Indulge in brunch at Duck & Waffle any day of the week
  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary European
  • Liverpool Street

What is it? Sky-high dining destination Duck & Waffle is typically open 24 hours a day – but a 10pm curfew has gotten in the way of normal service. So instead, enjoy epic round-the-clock views of London’s skyline over brilliant brunch.

Why go? There’s something wildly indulgent about ordering bottomless brunch any day of the week. Enjoy dishes such as the signature confit duck leg, fried duck egg, maple syrup and waffles – with the most spectacular background views.

Don’t miss: Stay put with a champagne negroni to watch the sun come down over the city.

  • Attractions
  • Zoos and aquariums
  • Regent’s Park

What is it? London’s world-leading zoo, in Regent’s Park. These zoological gardens have been entertaining visitors of all ages since Queen Victoria was on the throne. 

Why go? A visit to London Zoo and its exotic inhabitants has been a must for animal-mad Londoners since it first opened to the public in 1847. The 36-acre gardens have been designed to make animal encounters into an incredible experience. Hit the South American coastline to spy lively penguins or explore a huge, living indoor rainforest inhabited by sloths, armadillos, monkeys and more. 

Don’t miss: The zoo needs your support right now in tough times. Pay a visit or even volunteer to help out with the resident animals

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Hunt ghosts at Hampton Court Palace
  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Hampton

What is it? A grand Tudor pile that Henry VIII ‘acquired’ from Cardinal Wolsey. It was later home to royal Stuarts and Georgians too, who all left their mark on the palace.

Why go? The remarkable thing about Hampton Court Palace is that you can stand in the very rooms where history was made. Wander down the corridor where Catherine Howard was dragged screaming, see how George I’s chocolatier prepared the king’s favourite tipple and take a gander at King Charles II’s royal bog. There are also ace gardens and the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze. 

Don’t miss: The wintertime Ghost Tours. These after-hours adventures, with tales of paranormal activity and regal apparitions, are frighteningly good.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? Cahoots is a quirky 1940s tube-themed bar, deep beneath the streets of Soho. 

Why go? Tapping into Londoners’ fixation with public transport and all things retro, Cahoots models itself on a WWII tube station, complete with vintage signs, tiling and a replica Underground carriage upholstered in that famous geometric moquette fabric. Elaborate cocktails are detailed on newspaper-y menus and served by staff in full costume – it’s the only time you can legally drink on the tube, and in great style. Check out the newly-opened Ticket Hall & Control Room, a bar masquerading as an Overground train station next door. 

Don’t miss: A spot in the carriage – it’s the best seat in the house.

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  • Museums
  • Military and maritime
  • Lambeth

What is it? London’s Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917 with the intention of documenting Britain’s participation in the First World War. It’s now a powerful look at conflicts both past and present. 

Why go? The IWM’s First World War Galleries examine the politics and legacy of the 1914-1918 conflict, but also day-to-day life in the trenches. In photographs, artefacts like tins of food and a collection of letters (many from combatants who never came back), the museum tells a powerful story. There’s also the Holocaust Exhibition, featuring personal stories, incredibly moving testimony, clothes and artefacts from the death camps of Europe (not suitable for under-14s). 

Don’t miss: You can hear real voices from the First World War via the museum’s sound archive. As you might expect, it’s an emotional experience.

  • Museums
  • Transport
  • Covent Garden

What is it? A museum in Covent Garden which explores the history of the capital’s world-famous transport system in an interactive way that is fun for vehicle (and London) enthusiasts of all ages.

Why go? To see the first (steam-powered) Underground engine, sit in the driver’s cab of a red bus and guide a tube simulator through the tunnels of the Northern Line. Though no longer a constant feature of London’s roads anymore, the classic Routemaster bus can still be admired in the LTM’s vaults (and hey, there’s no waiting for it to turn up). Hop aboard for a taste of what it’s like to navigate London from the driver’s seat of a bus or tube train; kids even get their own fleet of miniature versions to play on.

Don’t miss: The posters. Design buffs should head straight for the classic poster displays. Many are design icons, though none is greater than Harry Beck’s original tube map.

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Buy doughnuts at Maltby Street Market
  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Bermondsey

What is it? A market in Bermondsey, only open at the weekend. It’s a foodie paradise with a community feel.

Why go? Whether you’re on your way home from a night’s clubbing or you’ve been up since 5am with your three-year-old, seek out the embrace of Maltby Street. Nestled around the atmospheric Victorian rail arches of the Ropewalk you’ll find around 30 artisan food and drink traders selling everything from craft beer to Mozambique-style peri-peri meats. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Bad Brownie’s gourmet chocolate brownies are definitely recommended. If you’re on a health kick, grab a green juice from the good folks at Bumpin’ Rinds.

Don’t miss: St John Bakery for its famous freshly made doughnuts oozing with jam, or go full Proust with just-baked madeleines.

Grab a seat by the fire at The Holly Bush
  • Bars and pubs
  • Pubs
  • Hampstead

What is it? A traditional eighteenth-century boozer right in the heart of Hampstead. 

Why go? Nothing beats sitting by an open fire drinking a decent pint in a charming old pub (reading Dickens while you toast your toes is optional). On a cobbled street above Hampstead village, The Holly Bush is a perfect spot for just that. The menu is reliably gastropub, but the low-beamed bar and eighteenth-century interiors are charmingly antiquated.

Don’t miss: Nearby Hampstead Heath. A stomp around in crunchy autumn leaves followed by a warming tipple beside The Holly Bush’s roaring fire might just be the perfect London day out. 

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  • Things to do
  • Cultural centres
  • Alexandra Palace

What is it? Alexandra Palace, aka Ally Pally, was built in the 1870s as an entertainment and education venue for the people of London and it’s still doing that job today by, among other things, hosting an incredible firework display to mark Bonfire Night every November.

Why go? Well, what can’t you do at Ally Pally? It’s long served as a music venue, attracting big name bands. It’s home to a forest adventure ground, a skate park, a farmers’ market, an ice rink, a garden centre, a boating lake and a golf course. The palace’s ‘hidden’ theatre is also set to reopen, having been closed to the public for the last 80 years. Look out for seasonal food festivals like StrEATlife, too, or crafting events and vintage expos if that’s more your bag. Alternatively, pack a picnic and simply soak up those sensational views of the city skyline in Alexandra Park. 

Don’t miss: That enormous mast. Alexandra Palace is known globally as the birthplace of television. In 1935 the BBC leased the eastern part of the Palace, from which the first public television transmissions were made. Cool, huh?

Visit the Serpentine Gallery’s pavilion
  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Hyde Park

What is it? A small but beautiful lakeside gallery exhibiting modern and contemporary art.

Why go? From outdoor sculptures in Kensington Gardens to the well-programmed exhibitions in the galleries, there’s always a good reason to visit the Serpentine. There’s a great little art bookshop there too, which handily stays open between exhibitions while the gallery space itself closes. Also, be sure to check out the Sackler Gallery, the Serpentine’s sister venue, which resides in a refurbished, Grade II-listed, former gunpowder depot a short walk away. 

Don’t miss: The Serpentine Summer Pavilion. Every summer, the Serpentine Gallery invites a different so-hot-right-now architect to design a temporary outdoor space for visitors to lounge around in. Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Ai Weiwei are among the famous names to create a pavilion. The results make London’s increasingly faceless corporate architecture look even less inspiring than usual. 

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Experience heaven on the dancefloor at Horse Meat Disco
  • Nightlife

What is it? This disco-loving DJ collective first got started in a basement in London’s Chinatown, and now pump out endorphin-boosting tunes at their current home, Eagle London in Vauxhall (in between running parties all over the world).

Why go? With a mind-bogglingly in-depth knowledge of all things disco, these guys have built quite the reputation for delivering truly groove-tastic events. Tunes are varied – with a little soul, funk and house all thrown in – and the queer-friendly venue has a brilliant ‘everyone’s welcome’ vibe.

Don’t miss: Every Sunday night, 8pm-3am, you can catch Horse Meat Disco at the Eagle. If you want to feel the funk at home too, look out for HMD’s weekly radio show on Rinse FM.

Go swimming at the Olympic Park
  • Sport and fitness
  • Parks and gardens
  • Olympic Park

What is it? The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford was created for the London 2012 Olympics, and there’s still plenty to do there these days. Go for a swim at the London Aquatics Centre, in a pool where Ellie Simmonds broke records and Michael Phelps won all those golds.

Why go? To swim in the pool of champions and by some kind of peculiar chloriney osmosis, perhaps become one yourself. You can use the ten-lane 50m competition pool, which is 3m deep, and the training pool, where you can just splash about if you like.

Don’t miss: The diving pool and dry-land diving facility for both newcomers and Tom Daley-level twizzlers. It’s all there and it’s the same price as your local community pool, so why not give it a go?

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  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Aldwych

What is it? An eighteenth-century neoclassical palace between the Strand and the river. It’s an art gallery, event space and music venue.

Why go? There’s loads to see and do all year round. In lieu of summertime gigs and outdoor cinema, find outdoor art installations.

Don’t miss:Beano: Thea Art of Breaking Rules’ which opens at the gallery this autumn. 

Get in focus at the Photographers’ Gallery
  • Art
  • Galleries
  • Soho

What is it? The UK’s leading centre for exploring photography. Camera keenies, this is your place.

Why go? This gem is tucked down an alleyway off Oxford Street and although modest, packs a punch when it comes to exhibitions. It’s all about lifting the lid on all walks of life. A visit is a must for any arty dabbler or committed photo fan. Also, it’s free every day before 12 noon. Oh, and the shop is excellent.

Don’t miss: The gallery’s calendar of courses and workshops. Learn about photography curation over ten sessions, explore the art of the photographic essay in two parts or sit in on a discussion about street photography. 

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Spot wildlife at Walthamstow Wetlands
  • Attractions
  • Lee Valley

What is it? Europe’s biggest urban wetland nature reserve, which opened to the public in 2017.

Why go? The scenery is dreamy. It’s a peaceful oasis just a short tube ride from Zone 1. Bird-watching enthusiasts will be able to spot all sorts of different feathered friends, from kingfishers to peregrine falcons, wildfowl and more (54 species, in fact). Entry is totally free but permits are available if you take your birding seriously, and are necessary for angling too. 

Don’t miss: The Larder caf, which is housed in the wetlands’ Victorian Engine House, serving comforting classics like fry-ups, toasties, jacket potatoes and homemade soups. It’s the perfect place to warm up after a weekend stroll.

Eat amazing Turkish food on Green Lanes
  • Things to do
  • Green Lanes

What is it? The lengthy thoroughfare of Green Lanes is home to one of London’s biggest Turkish communities. 

Why go? For the best Turkish food this side of Istanbul. Think amazing pastries, verdant vegetable shops, life-changing kebabs and thick coffee that will have your eyes on stalks. Green Lanes runs for six miles from Newington Green to Palmers Green, but you want to head to the stretch nearest Harringay Green Lanes station to soak up the atmosphere and feast on meze at Gökyüzü.

Don’t miss: Dessert. Pop into Antepliler’s sweet side for boxes full of honeyed, sticky baklava. 

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  • Museums
  • History
  • Holborn

What is it? The former home of genius architect Sir John Soane, who in the nineteenth century turned his central London house into an eccentric museum, offering the public the chance to see his impressive collection of art, furniture and architectural ornamentation.

Why go? Among the museum’s biggest crowd-pullers is a series of paintings by fellow Londoner William Hogarth entitled ‘A Rake’s Progress’, which, in eight scenes, charts the downfall of a young man who inherits and squanders a fortune.

Don’t miss: The monthly late events the museum hosts which allow guests to explore the sprawling art collection by atmospheric candlelight.

  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Islington

What is it? A nineteenth-century gothic revival church in Islington with a packed programme of music, comedy and special events.

Why go? For the atmosphere and the architecture. You’ll find old wooden pews flanked by impressive stonework, and a stage which is close enough to touch backdropped by a beautiful rose window.

Don’t miss: Daylight Music offers a chance to just drop in and listen to some wonderful sounds. The concerts take place most Saturday afternoons and visitors pay what they can to enter. Bring a little extra cash to buy cake from the charity café.

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  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • South Bank

What is it? A giant ferris wheel on the South Bank, with equally enormous views of the city.

Why go? Turning at a stately 0.6 miles per hour, the London Eye is more like a graceful pirouette than a fast spin cycle, providing astounding views of the skyline and cityscape. Many of London’s landmarks are visible from this 135-metre-high wheel. Spot Big Ben, Tower Bridge and a tea-sipping Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Don’t miss: After-dark views. Book an evening spot to see the city sparkling at night. Even better, take a spin near Christmas for extra glitter. 

Dance under the lasers at Printworks
  • Nightlife
  • Canada Water

What is it? Printworks is a huge former newspaper printing press in Canada Water which recently reopened as a club space.

Why go? For the expansive post-industrial setting, the moody darkness and the jaw-dropping lasers. Even though parties rarely go beyond midnight, Printworks provides a much-needed space to lose yourself to some of the finest dance music on the planet every week.

Don’t miss: The live music. As well as DJ sets, you’ll find bands and solo artists like Little Dragon and Skepta performing headline shows in the raw space.

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  • Music
  • Jazz
  • Soho

What is it? An iconic jazz club opened in a Soho basement in 1959 by saxophonist Ronnie Scott. He wanted to create a space where musicians could play in an intimate setting rather than big concert halls. And it’s even more initimate under social distancing.

Why go? To soak up the vibes. From Miles Davis and Count Basie to Nina Simone, all the legends have played at Ronnie’s. It moved to its present home on Frith Street decades ago and remains a must on any great jazz musician’s itinerary.

Don’t miss: Upstairs at Ronnie’s. Missed out on tickets to the main show? The upstairs bar has live music every night of the week.  

  • Shopping
  • Markets and fairs
  • Lisson Grove

What is it? A huge (London’s largest, in fact) indoor antiques market in Marylebone, that is a total treasure trove for dedicated lovers of all things vintage.

Why go? It can attract a bit of a luxury-loving Chelsea crowd (Kate Moss and Keira Knightley have been known to browse here) but this Marylebone antiques emporium is a precious London timewarp. The multi-storey art deco building is a maze of milliners, furniture sellers and lovable misfits flogging bronze sculptures. Everything looks like it’s seconds from falling over.

Don’t miss: Alfies has a cracking rooftop space where you can have a coffee surrounded by your haul of vintage hat boxes and old custard tins.

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Catch a classic at BFI Southbank
  • Cinemas
  • Independent
  • South Bank

What is it? A four-screen cinema with a varied programme of films and events as well as food and drink options, from weekend brunch to weekday tipples. 

Why go? To make an evening (or day) of it under one roof. After work, arrive for dinner before a showing, see the film then head to the brand new riverside bar for a debrief over some movie-themed cocktails. Alternatively enjoy a leisurely breakfast beside the Thames before a lunchtime film. There’s also a recently opened bookshop, the Mediatheque – where you can discover treasures from British film and TV history – and an exhibition space, currently hosting ‘Musical Spaces’ which reveals the sets of big-screen musicals. 

Don’t miss The movie-and-meal offer for just £25 (£22 for members). Simply pick the film you fancy and call the BFI Bar & Kitchen to book your spot.

  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Euston

What is it? A gallery housing a vast collection of (sometimes grisly but always fascinating) implements and curios relating to the medical trade. 

Why go? Medical research charity the Wellcome Trust created its free-to-visit gallery on the Euston Road to help foster a wider appreciation and understanding of medicine. Innovative exhibitions, talks, performances and events reflect themes of medicine and the body in all kinds of creative ways, often through art. The permanent collections include an image library so you can see X-rays from over 100 years ago.

Don’t miss: The Reading Room. Home to over a thousand books and a bunch of objects, it’s a quiet space to explore, read or strike up an intelligent conversation with fellow visitors. 

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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Bank

What is it? The recently revealed ruins of a Roman temple deep beneath the City of London.

Why go? What a surprise it must have been to discover a Roman temple during the 1954 construction of an east London office building. It took an excavation led by the director of the Museum of London (WF Grimes) to establish that the site was home to a Roman Mithraeum – a temple erected by worshippers of the god Mithras around the third century AD. The temple was relocated to a nearby 3.2 acre site, where it now stands, open to the public. Visitors can also view hundreds of artefacts left or lost by the very first Londoners.

Don’t miss: The contemporary art gallery, located on the ground floor of the London Mithraeum. The regularly changing exhibitions are designed to complement the site’s unique history.

Go behind the scenes at the Royal Opera House
  • Music
  • Classical and opera
  • Covent Garden

What is it? A major opera house and performing arts venue  in the heart of London. It’s a Covent Garden institution, and one of the best opera houses in the world. 

Why go? For opera, of course, or breathtaking ballet from The Royal Ballet, who also call this iconic building home. The smaller spaces offer a line-up of experimental and independent dance and music works. You can book on to a backstage tour, which takes you around the auditorium and behind the scenes, often with a chance to see the Royal Ballet in class. The Velvet, Gilt and Glamour Tour offers a look at the building’s architecture as you hear stories of the opera greats who have performed there.

Don’t miss: The best seats in the house. If you’ve got the dosh, the seats on the third floor balcony are said to have the finest sound quality.

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Sip cocktails at The Connaught Bar
  • Bars and pubs
  • Hotel bars
  • Mayfair
  • price 4 of 4

What is it? One of the best bars in the world, dontcha know.

Why go? With its mirrors, low lighting, Gatsbyish silver leaf and plushly upholstered nooks, this is a seriously glamorous spot for a cocktail. Nothing here comes cheap, but it’s worth making your martini last so you can soak up the glamour.

Don’t miss: The martinis, of course – they’re mixed on a trolley in front of you and pepped up with a selection of special Connaught bitters.

More great things to do across the globe

Looking for something to do in London today?

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  • Hotels

In coming up with this list of the 100 best hotels in London, we considered design, location, service, amenities, architecture, and value for money, as well as less tangible elements like ambience, history and the character of the reception cat. 

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