If you’re anything like me, you’ve been dreaming about exploring London since you first laid your eyes on Lindsay Lohan’s The Parent Trap in 1998. I made the first trip across the pond to visit London with my boyfriend Douglas earlier this summer, and we seriously fell in love (see my Europe packing list must-haves here).
With so much rich history, beautiful architecture and delicious local delicacies, there’s an endless supply of adventures and experiences to be had in London. This magical city was the first stop on Doug and I’s 15-day Europe trip, and we want to share some of our favorite things to do in London with you!
Keep reading to learn how to make the most out of your time in London (we spent 3 days in London, for reference).
7 Things You Have To Do In London
1. Visit Buckingham palace + watch the changing of the guards
No matter how long you’re in London, you must go see Buckingham Palace! It’s absolutely breathtaking, and the history that comes with it makes the experience surreal. The 1% chance that I could potentially run into Kate Middleton and those adorable royal babies was enough to peak my interest, tbh.
We visited on a Saturday morning to witness the changing of the guards- an elaborate ceremony in which guards from various important posts are relieved by a new batch of guards. There was music, choreographed marching, and lots of magic in the air. The schedule varies (make sure to check the schedule here before you go), but usually starts promptly at 11am.
Doug and I arrived around 10:15 am and were able to get a great spot! Try to snag a spot at the Victoria Memorial, which is a huge stone statue right across from the palace, for the best views.
After the ceremony, you can walk through the Green Park (a gorgeous, completely green public park) into the city!
Shop my gingham skort look
2. Eat a traditional English meal
Ok, so English food gets a bad wrap, but you have to try some of the traditional grub while you’re there! Bangers, pie, mash “English breakfast” and fish and chips were the dishes Doug and I really wanted to try while we were in the city…and oh boy, did we.
Although neither of us ate fish at the time (he’s deathly allergic to seafood and I was eating a vegetarian), we still visited a fish & chips pub and noshed on some fresh chips! Doug was obsessed with HP sauce and put it all over everything the remainder of the trip. It’s like a brown, vinegar heavy ketchup that tastes very tangy and delicious- just try it!
My favorite meal that we had in London was the one pictured above, which we got at MotherMash. I ordered the Mediterranean veggie pie, cheddar mash, cabbage, baked beans and garlic green beans with a glass of rosé. Hey, if you’re going to do it big, DO IT BIG. The meal was divine, and MotherMash was such a lovely and welcoming spot (dress code and vibes are super casual). Highly recommend visiting!
And click here to check out more recommendations on where to eat a traditional English meal in London.
3. Spend a day doing a Hop-on-hop off tour to see all of the city’s famous landmarks
Call me a tourist, but the hop-on-hop off buses are the best ways to see all of the amazing landmarks, get transportation around the city, and LEARN! Doug and I did a hop-on-hop-off tour in almost every city we visited during our trip, but the one in London was the best.
We got to see and learn about every famous landmark and monument, and “free” transportation all around the city. Ours even took us to Notting Hill and the famous Rainbow Row (keep scrolling to read more on that).
The tour we decided on was the Original London Tour, and we highly recommend it! We opted for the 48 hour pass, and our tickets included a free river cruise on the Thames and 3 guided walking tours. We bundled ours with a London Eye VIP ticket (see more on that below), which was a great deal. We highly recommend this tour!
Here are some landmarks you can expect to see:
- Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, The Tower of London, London Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Notting Hill and more.
Shop my gingham skort look
4. Pick a hotel or Airbnb in a walkable area
This is true for anywhere you’re visiting #travelhack! The public transportation in London was epic, so it was important for us to be in a part of the city that was not only walkable, but was also close to the metro stations.
When we were looking at what part of town to stay in, we had no idea where to start. The city is so spread out, so there’s no ONE place that you should stay.
We wanted to be in a walkable area that was close to good restaurants and bars, safe and affordable. We ended up staying in Waterloo at the Hampton by Hilton, which we loved! The area was central to all of the major landmarks, and was super close to the underground. The free breakfast was low key one of our favorite meals, and the staff was incredible (they decorated our door with a happy birthday banner and had complimentary cheesecake waiting for us upon our arrival)!
5. Take a ride on the London Eye
The London Eye is a 400+ ft high massive Ferris wheel that overlooks the Thames River and the city of London. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in London!
That being said, if you do not buy the skip the line pass, this may be a less-than-glamorous experience for you. Pay the extra ~$15 and skip the 1-3 hour line!
Doug and I LOVED this attraction! We opted for the skip the line + VIP Champagne experience, and couldn’t recommend it more. We waited a whopping 5 minutes in line, got into a spacious carriage with only about 10 others (the non VIP option usually has double the amount of passengers), and sipped on delicious Champagne while taking in some of the most spectacular views in the city and learning all about London from our fabulous tour guide.
If you are scared of heights, this is still an activity you don’t want to miss! Doug is not a fan of heights, but he had so much fun on this, and wasn’t even a little bit scared. Get your tickets here.
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6. Visit the colorful houses in Notting Hill
One of the best places to #doitforthegram is in Notting Hill (yes, same as that famous movie!). The iconic and charming rainbow colored houses have become a major tourist attraction in the last few decades, and for good reason. These colorful homes made for an amazing photo backdrop! It was also just completely picturesque, and a great place to wander and get lost (because you will).
I’ll be totally honest- getting to this specific row of colorful houses was a bit of a challenge. I couldn’t find the exact address anywhere, and I had no idea how far away it actually was from our bus stop. After getting some guidance from a local, Doug mastering CityMapper, and trekking over 1 mile out of the way, we finally arrived (thank goodness I was wearing my comfy sandals)!
Make sure to put this address in your GPS or CityMapper (more on that + everything you need to pack on your Europe trip here) before you head off. The houses pictured above are located on Lancaster road between Basing Street and All Saints Road.
There are also some other areas of Notting Hill with adorable pastel houses that you can check out here.
Shop my chambray look here
7. Have Afternoon Tea
When in London, do as Lisa Vanderpump would do. Having afternoon tea was on our list of things to do, but sadly we never got around to it.
Afternoon tea is a tradition in which people gather to enjoy a leisurely and luxurious afternoon of warm tea, scones, biscuits and good conversation (and sometimes even champagne). It’s basically little me’s dream come true- and any little person who used to have tea party’s with their stuffed animals and imaginary friends!
Make sure to find out the dress code, make a reservation and account for at least two hours before you plan your afternoon tea. Also note, this is typically an expensive activity, so prepare to spend $50-$100 per person. Click here to see the top recommendations of where to sip your tea and eat your scones in style.
I absolutely LOVED London, and can’t wait to go back! I hope you found this post helpful and inspiring as you plan your trip to London.
If you’ve been, I’d love to hear some of your favorite things to do!
Thank you for reading and sharing.