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Best Things To Do in London

No matter your reason for visiting, London has something for everyone. History buffs looking to brush up on the British narrative will delight in the Tower of London. Admirers of art or theater will praise the National Gallery and the West End Theatre District, while fans of the monarchy can't skip Buckingham Palace. Although London lives up to its reputation as one of the most expensive cities to visit, it does boast an array of attractions that are free to visit, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, among others.

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in London

Free
The British Museum is both an architectural beauty and a trove of some of the world's most noted antiquities. In fact, many travelers it's the best museum in all of London. What's more, it's free to visit. From the Rosetta Stone to the Elgin Marbles to the Lindow Man, the British Museum is a history buff's dream containing artifacts in the millions. The immense collection can make an initial museum visit seem overwhelming: Pick the exhibits that most interest you, and plan return trips if you feel so inclined.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
British Museum
The British Museum is both an architectural beauty and a trove of some of the world's most noted antiquities. In fact, many travelers it's the best museum in all of London. What's more, it's free to visit. From the Rosetta Stone to the Elgin Marbles to the Lindow Man, the British Museum is a history buff's dream containing artifacts in the millions. The immense collection can make an initial museum visit seem overwhelming: Pick the exhibits that most interest you, and plan return trips if you feel so inclined.
... more

#2

#2 in London

Although its exterior might be grim and even unimpressive (especially when compared to stately Buckingham Palace), the Tower of London's interior is always bustling with activity. The tower, which actually comprises multiple towers – 12 of which can be explored by the public – offers something for everyone. If you're enchanted with the history of the monarch, don't miss the famous crown jewels exhibition. Among the items you'll see is the Imperial State Crown – which is still worn by the queen for each State Opening of Parliament – and the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross. If you have more than an hour to spend here, take an entertaining tour led by the Yeoman Warders (tower guards). During the hour-long excursion (included in your admission ticket), the guards will regale you with tales of the tower's bloody past. Lastly, don't forget to visit the White Tower, an iconic symbol of London's heritage and one of the world's most famous castles. Inside, you'll find the 350-year-old exhibition, "Line of Kings," along with artifacts from Henry VIII, Charles I and James II.
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Castles/Palaces Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Tower of London
Although its exterior might be grim and even unimpressive (especially when compared to stately Buckingham Palace), the Tower of London's interior is always bustling with activity. The tower, which actually comprises multiple towers – 12 of which can be explored by the public – offers something for everyone. If you're enchanted with the history of the monarch, don't miss the famous crown jewels exhibition. Among the items you'll see is the Imperial State Crown – which is still worn by the queen for each State Opening of Parliament – and the Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross. If you have more than an hour to spend here, take an entertaining tour led by the Yeoman Warders (tower guards). During the hour-long excursion (included in your admission ticket), the guards will regale you with tales of the tower's bloody past. Lastly, don't forget to visit the White Tower, an iconic symbol of London's heritage and one of the world's most famous castles. Inside, you'll find the 350-year-old exhibition, "Line of Kings," along with artifacts from Henry VIII, Charles I and James II.
... more

#3

#3 in London

Buckingham Palace, the London home of Queen Elizabeth II, is open for tour (except for the queen's private quarters, of course) in the summers and select dates during the winter and spring. On the tour, you'll have access to the 19 State Rooms where the queen and members of the royal family host guests for state, ceremonial and official affairs. Opulently accented with chandeliers, candelabra, paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, and exquisite English and French furniture, these rooms display some of the most magnificent pieces from the Royal Collection. Along with the grand interiors, the State Rooms are also a witness to history. Those who followed the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton closely will recognize the Throne Room, which served as the backdrop for the official wedding photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
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Castles/Palaces Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, the London home of Queen Elizabeth II, is open for tour (except for the queen's private quarters, of course) in the summers and select dates during the winter and spring. On the tour, you'll have access to the 19 State Rooms where the queen and members of the royal family host guests for state, ceremonial and official affairs. Opulently accented with chandeliers, candelabra, paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, and exquisite English and French furniture, these rooms display some of the most magnificent pieces from the Royal Collection. Along with the grand interiors, the State Rooms are also a witness to history. Those who followed the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton closely will recognize the Throne Room, which served as the backdrop for the official wedding photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
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#4

#4 in London

Free
Locals and tourists alike tend to adore Portobello Road Market. Located in the posh Notting Hill neighborhood (made famous by the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts movie of the same name), the market stretches down the long Portobello Road, considered to be the high street (or main street) of Notting Hill. The market is filled with merchants of all kinds (more than 1,000 to be exact) selling a variety of common flea market items including antiques, art, jewelry, clothing and food. But what stands out about Portobello Market (aside from its adorably colorful location) is its collection of antiques and quintessentially English items. In just a few blocks, visitors can find a wellie shop, scores of vintage tea sets, quality London souvenirs and Banksy recreations. The market is also billed as being the largest antiques market in the world. If you have a penchant for fashion, the best sampling is found at the end of the market near the Ladbroke Grove Tube stop. There, visitors will not only find the greatest concentration of locals but a great selection of vintage attire as well.
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Shopping Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Portobello Road Market
Locals and tourists alike tend to adore Portobello Road Market. Located in the posh Notting Hill neighborhood (made famous by the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts movie of the same name), the market stretches down the long Portobello Road, considered to be the high street (or main street) of Notting Hill. The market is filled with merchants of all kinds (more than 1,000 to be exact) selling a variety of common flea market items including antiques, art, jewelry, clothing and food. But what stands out about Portobello Market (aside from its adorably colorful location) is its collection of antiques and quintessentially English items. In just a few blocks, visitors can find a wellie shop, scores of vintage tea sets, quality London souvenirs and Banksy recreations. The market is also billed as being the largest antiques market in the world. If you have a penchant for fashion, the best sampling is found at the end of the market near the Ladbroke Grove Tube stop. There, visitors will not only find the greatest concentration of locals but a great selection of vintage attire as well.
... more

#5

#5 in London

This medieval church, graced by many royal weddings and coronations, offers a magnificent peek at London's far-reaching history. Westminster Abbey is pretty much always busy – and the staff keeps you moving at a pretty swift pace – so do a little research ahead of time to avoid missing your personal must-sees. For instance, if you're a bibliophile, consider a visit to the Poets' Corner. This is the final resting place of famed authors Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling, among others. If you're fascinated by all the intrigue surrounding the British royalty, you might like to visit the shared tomb of enemies and half-sisters Elizabeth I and Mary Tudor.
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Westminster Abbey
This medieval church, graced by many royal weddings and coronations, offers a magnificent peek at London's far-reaching history. Westminster Abbey is pretty much always busy – and the staff keeps you moving at a pretty swift pace – so do a little research ahead of time to avoid missing your personal must-sees. For instance, if you're a bibliophile, consider a visit to the Poets' Corner. This is the final resting place of famed authors Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling, among others. If you're fascinated by all the intrigue surrounding the British royalty, you might like to visit the shared tomb of enemies and half-sisters Elizabeth I and Mary Tudor.
... more

#6

#6 in London

Free
The portal to London's buzzy West End, Piccadilly Circus lives up to its name. Regularly compared to New York's Times Square, Piccadilly Circus is the meeting place of five busy roads and is the center of London's hustle and bustle. Whether it's businessmen and women on their way to work in the morning, shoppers en route to the department store-clad Oxford Street (just a few streets north) or lively club and bar hoppers passing through at night, Piccadilly is always thrumming with activity. 
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Piccadilly Circus
The portal to London's buzzy West End, Piccadilly Circus lives up to its name. Regularly compared to New York's Times Square, Piccadilly Circus is the meeting place of five busy roads and is the center of London's hustle and bustle. Whether it's businessmen and women on their way to work in the morning, shoppers en route to the department store-clad Oxford Street (just a few streets north) or lively club and bar hoppers passing through at night, Piccadilly is always thrumming with activity. 
... more

#7

#7 in London

Free
Once the recreational stomping grounds for King Henry VIII, this long swath of green stretching from Kensington Palace in the west to Oxford Street in the east is now open to the public and a must-visit for travelers looking for a relaxing moment away from the city's hustle and bustle. Among Hyde Park's meandering foot and bike paths and flourishing flora and fauna, you'll find a few standout attractions that are worth exploring. Watch the swans and boats glide over the serene Serpentine Lake (or rent a vessel yourself), visit the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain or stop by the Speakers' Corner, a site for public speeches and debates since the 19th century (previously used by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell). If you continue on the memorial walk you'll likely pass through Kensington Gardens where you'll find the ornate Albert Memorial, the Italian Gardens and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. 
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Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
Once the recreational stomping grounds for King Henry VIII, this long swath of green stretching from Kensington Palace in the west to Oxford Street in the east is now open to the public and a must-visit for travelers looking for a relaxing moment away from the city's hustle and bustle. Among Hyde Park's meandering foot and bike paths and flourishing flora and fauna, you'll find a few standout attractions that are worth exploring. Watch the swans and boats glide over the serene Serpentine Lake (or rent a vessel yourself), visit the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain or stop by the Speakers' Corner, a site for public speeches and debates since the 19th century (previously used by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and George Orwell). If you continue on the memorial walk you'll likely pass through Kensington Gardens where you'll find the ornate Albert Memorial, the Italian Gardens and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. 
... more

#8

#8 in London

Free
Sitting in Trafalgar Square, London's National Gallery features a labyrinth interior so large that it requires a color-coded map to navigate. The museum features paintings in the Western European tradition from the 13th to 19th centuries, including Italian Renaissance masterpieces and French Impressionist works. Among its 2,300 in-house pieces, visitors will find famed paintings, such as Botticelli's "Venus and Mars" and Van Gogh's "Sunflowers." 
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
National Gallery
Sitting in Trafalgar Square, London's National Gallery features a labyrinth interior so large that it requires a color-coded map to navigate. The museum features paintings in the Western European tradition from the 13th to 19th centuries, including Italian Renaissance masterpieces and French Impressionist works. Among its 2,300 in-house pieces, visitors will find famed paintings, such as Botticelli's "Venus and Mars" and Van Gogh's "Sunflowers." 
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#9

#9 in London

Catching a show in London's West End theater district is just as necessary as watching a play on Broadway during a trip to New York City. The quality is some of the best in the U.K., and the constant mix of new and classic productions with local and world-renowned (think Andrew Lloyd Webber, Benedict Cumberbatch) talent excites both visitors and locals alike. Even if you don't consider yourself much of a theater devotee, recent travelers said the atmosphere, specifically near the lively Leicester Square, where many of the theaters are concentrated, is worth a late-night wander.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
West End Theatre District
Catching a show in London's West End theater district is just as necessary as watching a play on Broadway during a trip to New York City. The quality is some of the best in the U.K., and the constant mix of new and classic productions with local and world-renowned (think Andrew Lloyd Webber, Benedict Cumberbatch) talent excites both visitors and locals alike. Even if you don't consider yourself much of a theater devotee, recent travelers said the atmosphere, specifically near the lively Leicester Square, where many of the theaters are concentrated, is worth a late-night wander.
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#10

#10 in London

Free
Along with Parliament and Big Ben, Tower Bridge is London's next must-see architectural marvel, not to mention the most famous bridge that crosses the Thames. Construction on the bridge started in 1886, which means it's practically modern by London standards, but Tower Bridge stands out for its stunning detail and moveable roadways that lift up when large ships need to pass through. The views from the bridge are an added bonus. From the elevated sidewalks visitors get a prime view of the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral's iconic dome and one of the newest additions to London's skyline, The Shard.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Tower Bridge
Along with Parliament and Big Ben, Tower Bridge is London's next must-see architectural marvel, not to mention the most famous bridge that crosses the Thames. Construction on the bridge started in 1886, which means it's practically modern by London standards, but Tower Bridge stands out for its stunning detail and moveable roadways that lift up when large ships need to pass through. The views from the bridge are an added bonus. From the elevated sidewalks visitors get a prime view of the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral's iconic dome and one of the newest additions to London's skyline, The Shard.
... more

#11

#11 in London

Free
Located on the South Bank along the Thames, the Tate Modern is part of a group of four museums (all named Tate) that house the 70,000 artworks that comprise the national collection of British art. As its name suggest, this Tate holds the more contemporary-style pieces than its three other counterparts, making it more of a hit or miss among travelers. Dalí and Picasso, among many British artists, are represented inside this repurposed power plant – but you'll find the works are scattered. Art is grouped by theme rather than by artist.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Tate Modern
Located on the South Bank along the Thames, the Tate Modern is part of a group of four museums (all named Tate) that house the 70,000 artworks that comprise the national collection of British art. As its name suggest, this Tate holds the more contemporary-style pieces than its three other counterparts, making it more of a hit or miss among travelers. Dalí and Picasso, among many British artists, are represented inside this repurposed power plant – but you'll find the works are scattered. Art is grouped by theme rather than by artist.
... more

#12

#12 in London

The Churchill War Rooms are the underground bunker that Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his war cabinet used to shelter from bomb raids and plot their steps during World War II. The maze-like corridors tell the story of this volatile time period, centering on the larger-than-life leader that Churchill was.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms are the underground bunker that Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his war cabinet used to shelter from bomb raids and plot their steps during World War II. The maze-like corridors tell the story of this volatile time period, centering on the larger-than-life leader that Churchill was.
... more

#13

#13 in London

Free
Londoners and out-of-towners alike enjoy spending a morning (or afternoon) at the Camden Market. Camden Market is actually multiple markets spread out in the neighborhood of Camden. Open daily starting at 10 a.m., it sprawls with about 200 stalls carrying close to everything, from furniture to food and lots of fashion. Looking for cheap graphic T-shirts and dresses? Head over to the first set of Camden Market stalls located closest to the Tube station, on the right of the high street. If you're looking for more of a mix of items, walk over the bridge to the lock market, situated on the peaceful Camden Lock. To the right of the high street, you'll find stalls filled with ethnic cuisine, fashion and souvenirs, to name a few. But head to the left and you'll find a wider variety of food stalls, selling a range of delicacies from pressed juice to Portuguese desserts, and even hot dogs. This area gives way to the long and winding stables market, consisting of vendors selling vintage home decor, leather goods and clothing.
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Shopping Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Camden Market
Londoners and out-of-towners alike enjoy spending a morning (or afternoon) at the Camden Market. Camden Market is actually multiple markets spread out in the neighborhood of Camden. Open daily starting at 10 a.m., it sprawls with about 200 stalls carrying close to everything, from furniture to food and lots of fashion. Looking for cheap graphic T-shirts and dresses? Head over to the first set of Camden Market stalls located closest to the Tube station, on the right of the high street. If you're looking for more of a mix of items, walk over the bridge to the lock market, situated on the peaceful Camden Lock. To the right of the high street, you'll find stalls filled with ethnic cuisine, fashion and souvenirs, to name a few. But head to the left and you'll find a wider variety of food stalls, selling a range of delicacies from pressed juice to Portuguese desserts, and even hot dogs. This area gives way to the long and winding stables market, consisting of vendors selling vintage home decor, leather goods and clothing.
... more
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#14

#14 in London

The Houses of Parliament, composed of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, fill the massive Palace of Westminster. Guided and self-guided tours (which come highly recommended by recent travelers) take visitors through multiple areas of the building, including Westminster Hall (the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate), the House of Commons Chamber and the Royal Gallery, to name a few. If you're not interested in perusing the halls that make up the U.K.'s governing body, many travelers say that simply admiring the iconic structure's impressive exterior is enough, and an absolute must-do for anyone visiting London. 
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament, composed of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, fill the massive Palace of Westminster. Guided and self-guided tours (which come highly recommended by recent travelers) take visitors through multiple areas of the building, including Westminster Hall (the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate), the House of Commons Chamber and the Royal Gallery, to name a few. If you're not interested in perusing the halls that make up the U.K.'s governing body, many travelers say that simply admiring the iconic structure's impressive exterior is enough, and an absolute must-do for anyone visiting London. 
... more

#15

#15 in London

Free
The palatial Victoria & Albert Museum, named in honor of the 19th-century royal couple, is known more commonly in its shortened form the V&A. Located in South Kensington, this free museum is a compendium of applied art across a number of genres, disciplines and time periods. The collections are arranged by categories, such as architecture, textiles, furniture, drawings, jewelry, and so on, making it slightly easier to navigate this mammoth museum. Among the permanent collections, the V&A also offers diverse temporary exhibitions and free guided tours, along with free weekly public lectures.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Victoria and Albert Museum
The palatial Victoria & Albert Museum, named in honor of the 19th-century royal couple, is known more commonly in its shortened form the V&A. Located in South Kensington, this free museum is a compendium of applied art across a number of genres, disciplines and time periods. The collections are arranged by categories, such as architecture, textiles, furniture, drawings, jewelry, and so on, making it slightly easier to navigate this mammoth museum. Among the permanent collections, the V&A also offers diverse temporary exhibitions and free guided tours, along with free weekly public lectures.
... more

#16

#16 in London

Free
Located in Kensington, this museum brims with more than 70 million different specimens and exhibits, from dinosaur bones to a simulated earthquake. The Natural History Museum is also a favorite among families, so you'll find it crawling with kids. To help you better navigate the museum's various exhibits, consider downloading the free Natural History Museum App for your smartphone. Along with interactive maps of the museum's interior, it also features audio guides, as well as behind-the-scenes info on its vast collections.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Natural History Museum
Located in Kensington, this museum brims with more than 70 million different specimens and exhibits, from dinosaur bones to a simulated earthquake. The Natural History Museum is also a favorite among families, so you'll find it crawling with kids. To help you better navigate the museum's various exhibits, consider downloading the free Natural History Museum App for your smartphone. Along with interactive maps of the museum's interior, it also features audio guides, as well as behind-the-scenes info on its vast collections.
... more

#17

#17 in London

Besides Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral is arguably the second must-see church in London. With its imposing dome, one of the largest in the world, St. Paul's forms a predominant spot along London's skyline. It's also a survivor: Although an older incarnation burnt during the Great Fire of London, Sir Christopher Wren's dome (completed in 1711) survived numerous World War II bombings.
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
St. Paul's Cathedral
Besides Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral is arguably the second must-see church in London. With its imposing dome, one of the largest in the world, St. Paul's forms a predominant spot along London's skyline. It's also a survivor: Although an older incarnation burnt during the Great Fire of London, Sir Christopher Wren's dome (completed in 1711) survived numerous World War II bombings.
... more

#18

#18 in London

The London Eye (the giant Ferris wheel found in many London panoramas) located on the River Thames is meant to deliver great views – not a thrilling ride. It circles around slowly, offering an unbeatable bird's-eye perspective of London's South Bank. However, those with a fear of heights should beware: When you're more than 400 feet high, the 360-degree views can be a bit disconcerting.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
The London Eye
The London Eye (the giant Ferris wheel found in many London panoramas) located on the River Thames is meant to deliver great views – not a thrilling ride. It circles around slowly, offering an unbeatable bird's-eye perspective of London's South Bank. However, those with a fear of heights should beware: When you're more than 400 feet high, the 360-degree views can be a bit disconcerting.
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The unsolved crimes of London's infamous Jack the Ripper have captivated generations of both Londoners and visitors alike. How the story of a local serial killer, who brutally murdered and mutilated at least five women in the late 1800s, has remained a story of intrigue hundreds of years later, can be just as much of a mystery. But those who fancy themselves novice detectives can join the Jack the Ripper Tour with Ripper Vision to figure out not only why he did it (the killer has never been identified and the motive never solved) but how he got away with it.  
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
The Jack the Ripper Tour with Ripper Vision
The unsolved crimes of London's infamous Jack the Ripper have captivated generations of both Londoners and visitors alike. How the story of a local serial killer, who brutally murdered and mutilated at least five women in the late 1800s, has remained a story of intrigue hundreds of years later, can be just as much of a mystery. But those who fancy themselves novice detectives can join the Jack the Ripper Tour with Ripper Vision to figure out not only why he did it (the killer has never been identified and the motive never solved) but how he got away with it.  
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Going to a pub is essential for properly experiencing British culture. Not going to a pub while in England is equivalent to not having pasta in Italy; pubs are ingrained in the country's culture. If you want to experience pub culture beyond simply grabbing a drink, consider a tour with London's Liquid History Tours. Liquid History Tours takes visitors to some of the city's most notable pub and ale houses, adding a bit of history and fun facts about the pub and area along the way. Stops include the Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, which has hosted the likes of Charles Dickens, and the Old Bank of England, which acted as the former law courts of the Bank of England.
... more
Sightseeing Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Liquid History Tours
Going to a pub is essential for properly experiencing British culture. Not going to a pub while in England is equivalent to not having pasta in Italy; pubs are ingrained in the country's culture. If you want to experience pub culture beyond simply grabbing a drink, consider a tour with London's Liquid History Tours. Liquid History Tours takes visitors to some of the city's most notable pub and ale houses, adding a bit of history and fun facts about the pub and area along the way. Stops include the Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, which has hosted the likes of Charles Dickens, and the Old Bank of England, which acted as the former law courts of the Bank of England.
... more

If you're a foodie, you'd be remiss not to book a food tour while in London – one of the world's undisputed culinary capitals. Yes, you can go to a chippy (fish and chip shop) or have tea at Harrods, but to really dig deep into London's eclectic culinary scene, a tour is the only way to go. Luckily, the city offers plenty. One of the most popular tour outfitters is London Food Tours, which promises participants a taste of local life thanks to its neighborhood-themed tours, including the East End Food Tour and Twilight Soho Food Tour.
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Tours Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
London Food Tours
If you're a foodie, you'd be remiss not to book a food tour while in London – one of the world's undisputed culinary capitals. Yes, you can go to a chippy (fish and chip shop) or have tea at Harrods, but to really dig deep into London's eclectic culinary scene, a tour is the only way to go. Luckily, the city offers plenty. One of the most popular tour outfitters is London Food Tours, which promises participants a taste of local life thanks to its neighborhood-themed tours, including the East End Food Tour and Twilight Soho Food Tour.
... more
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