Top 20 Things to Do in London

As a Londoner who’s always searching for hidden gems, here’s my personal list of favourite things to do in London.

In the video (and list below) you’ll find some hidden gems alongside the iconic sites. When it’s one of the bigger attractions, I’ve tried to pick out a little detail or aspect you might not have appreciated! Hope you enjoy it and would love to know your suggestions in the comments too!

I’ve split my top 20 things to do in London into groups; museums, religious sites, green spaces and then miscellaneous. Also I’ve included a bespoke google map at the bottom so you can decide where to visit geographically!

Let’s get stuck in!

Watch the video here;

 

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MUSEUMS

1. The Garden Museum

Set in the 14th century tower and church of St Mary’s in Lambeth. The Garden Museum does what it says on the tin but has the added bonus of a panoramic London view point. It’s epic and tower-only tickets are just £3. Find out more here.

Visit The Garden Museum

2. Victoria and Albert Museum Cast Courts

Free to visit and the World’s greatest museum of art and design, it’s practically impossible to not find something  inspiring at the V&A. One of my favourite things to do is visit the Cast Courts, a 19th century room for of replicas which are works of art in their own right. It’s like a trip to Italy without the faff of flying!

Top 20 Things to do in London

3. Marianne North Gallery, Kew Gardens

There’s plenty to see at Kew Gardens, the epic green houses are obviously high on the list, but you shouldn’t miss this gem of a gallery. It’s over 800 painting by Marianne North, a Victorian artist who travelled the world painting plants. Find out more about visiting here.

Top 20 Things to do in London

4. Sir John Soane’s Museum

Sir John Soane was an architect in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His home was a work of art in itself and is packed with his collectables. Free to enter and they now allow photography! Find out more here.

Best Small Museums - Sir John Soane Museum

5. Two Temple Place

A Victorian mansion less than 5 minutes from Temple Station. Not only is it beautiful inside but they host interesting art exhibitions each year. Plus it’s all free! Find out more here.

Ceiling Two Temple Place

RELIGIOUS SITES

6. St Paul’s Cathedral

One of the most iconic buildings in London – and the world! If you’ve been to St Paul’s before you’ll want to book a triforium tour. It takes you behind the scenes to see some amazing hidden gems. They’re currently not running them again yet, but you can see what happened when I joined one here.

Behind the Scenes St Paul's Cathedral

7. St Mary Aldermary

Built by Christopher Wren (same architect as St Paul’s) this City church has one of the most amazing ceilings in London. Made of plaster in the 17th century, the craftsman was Henry Doogood and he definitely did a good job!

Best London Ceilings

8. Saint Mary Magdalene, Paddington

This was a new Victorian church I discovered recently at Open House London 2020. Specifically you should visit the 19th century undercroft chapel. It’s the work of Ninian Comper and is in the style of a 15th century chantry chapel. Find out more about visiting here.

Open House London Highlights 2020

9. Westminster Abbey, Henry VII Chapel

Near the top of every first time visit, it’s surprising that Londoners have often never been inside Westminster Abbey. This was me a few years ago, until I became a Blue Badge Guide I had never been before! Now I lead private tours inside this amazing space, rebuilt in the 13th century.

One of my favourite places within the Abbey is the early 16th century Henry VII Chapel. Not only is it beautiful, but it is packed with history. You can read more here.

Westminster Abbey

10. St Bartholomew the Great

This overlooked church can be found in the City of London, not far from St Paul’s Cathedral. Founded in 1123, it’s now open for free and is well worth visiting. I’ve recently written about the 7 best sneaky bits of St Bart’s history here.

St Bartholomew the Great History

11. Neasden Temple

Standing outside this temple in North West London, you can hardly believe your eyes! This is the first traditional Hindu Mandir in Europe, built with thousands of tonnes of stone and marble. Read more about it here.

Neasden Temple

12. Fitzrovia Chapel

This sparkling Victorian Chapel was the former Middlesex hospital chapel. Now the hospital’s gone it’s rather stranded amidst a new development but from the inside it’s one of London most jaw-dropping interiors. Find out more here.

Fitzrovia Chapel

GREEN SPACES

13. Redcross Gardens

Red Cross Garden

5 minutes from Borough Market is this peaceful gem. With a little pond and set in front of Victorian cottages it’s an oasis in Southwark. Read more about its history here.

14. Barbican Conservatory

Set inside the brutalist concrete jumble of the Barbican Centre, there’s a literal jungle that’s free to visit! Find out more in the short video below.

 

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15. Postman’s Park

One of the City’s Pocket Parks, this one is special. It has the memorial to heroic self sacrifice, an art installation from George Frederick Watts which celebrates the everyday heroes that tragically lost their lives while saving others.

16. Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

One of the underrated ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries, Tower Hamlets has over 250,000 burials and is full of surprising, emotional and inspiring stories. It’s also set in 27 acres of woodland area so is beautiful to visit anytime of the year. Find out more here.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Miscellaneous

17. Borough Market

With a history going back to 1014, Borough Market is the biggest foodie hub in the capital, bursting with international food stalls, restaurants and grocery shops. But one overlooked aspect is this part of its architecture;

Top 20 Things to do in London - Borough Market

You might think it looks familiar to the current Floral Hall and there’s a reason for that. This 19th century cast iron gem started life in Covent Garden! It moved here in 2003 and is Grade II listed.

18. Trinity Buoy Wharf

Combining a lovely riverside walk, an epic view and a bit of history, take a trip to Trinity Buoy Wharf in East London. Find out more here.

London Skyline Views

19. Painted Hall, Greenwich

The Sistine Chapel of London, Greenwich’s Painted Hall is just staggering. Built in the 17th century as a dining hall for retired sailors, it was painted by Sir James Thornhill. Find out more here.

Painted Hall

20. The London Library

You wouldn’t guess that behind a fairly normal 18th century facade in St James’s is 17 miles(!) of book shelves. The London Library is the world’s largest independent lending library and runs regular public tours. Find out more here.

Inside the London Library

Phew! You made it! Browse all top 20 things to do in London on a map below;

It was hard to only choose 20 places and I still seem to have a never-ending list of things to do in London! What are your favourite you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments!

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