London is one of the world’s most visited cities, and not without reason. This is one of the world’s best tourist destinations, largely because London is absolutely packed with culture. From endless museums and history to the charming quirks of the Royal Family, there are unique sights and even more unique experiences awaiting you in London.
From riding the underground to catching a red, double-decker bus, even simply travelling around London is a wonderful cultural encounter in itself. Throw in some fish and chips, a visit to a charming English pub or even a performance of Shakespeare at the Globe, and you have yourself a day out that can be rivalled by few other cities, anywhere.
Get ready for a fantastic time in the capital, as here are our 21 favourite cultural things to do in London.
- 1 Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard
- 2 Join a Beefeater Tour of the Tower of London
- 3 Watch Shakespeare at the Globe
- 4 Ride a Red Bus
- 5 Ride the London Underground
- 6 Visit Abbey Road for Beatles Nostalgia
- 7 Eat and Drink at an English Pub
- 8 Fish and Chips
- 9 Museums, Museums and more Museums
- 10 Watch the Tennis at Wimbledon
- 11 Run (or watch) the London Marathon
- 12 Attend a Rugby, Football or Cricket Match
- 13 Notting Hill Carnival
- 14 Eat and Shop at Camden Market
- 15 Explore Chinatown
- 16 Dine on English Curry at Brick Lane
- 17 Lavish Shopping in Knightsbridge
- 18 Catch a West End Show
- 19 A Night at the Proms
- 20 Leicester Square Premiere
- 21 St George’s Day Parade
Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard
Nothing much else says Britain quite like the Royal Family and in London, Buckingham Palace is the quintessential Royal destination. The residence of the Queen is one of the most iconic sights in the world, a palace that’s instantly recognisable and that millions of visitors flock to every year to see. Buckingham Palace is a building that’s ingrained in the image of London, and it’s a place that can’t be missed when in the city.
Make sure you coincide a trip to Buckingham Palace with the Changing of the Guard Ceremony because this is a unique event that will leave you in awe. Watch as red-coated soldiers in full dress uniform troop along the resplendent avenue outside of the palace to the sound of a marching band. It’s a cultural feast.
Join a Beefeater Tour of the Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the most historic buildings in the capital, as it dates far back to the Norman conquests of England in the early medieval era. The towering walls and impressive keep have long stood guard over the city, and within the castle the splendidly dressed Beefeaters have long stood guard over the Tower of London.
These halberd wielding Londoners were historically tasked with guarding the Crown Jewels, which are still kept in the Tower of London to this day, but now they have a rather more ceremonial role. They do, in fact, guide tours around the grounds of the tower, a wonderful experience for anyone visiting London.
Watch Shakespeare at the Globe
Who could possibly be more classically English than Shakespeare – other than Queen Elizabeth II herself? In London, you have the opportunity to see Shakespeare’s classic works being performed in a most authentic fashion and setting at the Globe Theatre.
Found in Southwark overlooking the waters of the River Thames, the Globe Theatre as it’s seen today is a detailed reconstruction of the original Elizabethan-era theatre built by Shakespeare’s company. Catch a performance throughout the year and be part of a true cultural experience in London.
Ride a Red Bus
Another cultural experience not to be missed is the simple act of riding a London bus. The distinctive red buses are famous the world over. Throughout the decades, although their designs and engines may have changed and been modernised, the overall look of the bus fleet has stayed true to its original models. To learn more about London at the same time, take a hop on hop off bus tour, or visit the London Transport Museum to see the famous bus through the ages.
Ride the London Underground
Perhaps more iconic – although that’s very much debatable – than the red bus, is the London Underground. The world’s oldest underground rail system may be aged in places, but it’s still classic, and riding the Underground is an experience in itself. Take your picture by the well-known station designs and remember to keep hold of a map for a great London souvenir.
Visit Abbey Road for Beatles Nostalgia
Britain has produced some of the world’s best music acts, and no one has been more beloved than the Beatles. They took the world by storm in the 1960s, and in 1969 at Abbey Road Studios in London they recorded their No. 1 album of the same name, Abbey Road.
Ever since, Abbey Road, a quiet, unassuming lane in central London, has become a tourist attraction in its own right. The simple zebra crossing, where the band created their equally simple album cover, has become a must-visit photography spot for fans.
Eat and Drink at an English Pub
Whenever you need a break from sightseeing in London, then jump into a charming English pub for some local refreshment. Pubs have been a mainstay of the English economy, culinary scene and local life for centuries, and London has some of the best in the country.
Along any street, you are likely to find a historic establishment when you are in central London. Enjoy the quirky names and the simple, yet hearty English food along with a few pints of the local brew too of course, before heading off to sightsee once again.
Fish and Chips
At the pub or at any of London’s markets, try England’s most famous dish: fish and chips. There are chip shops on most street corners, so don’t fear finding a suitable eatery when you are in London. This iconic dish is just battered fish and well-cooked chips, but the simple recipe is beloved across the nation and a must-try culinary experience when visiting the capital.
Museums, Museums and more Museums
London is a city of museums. The British public have long been keen on preserving both their own culture and history, and the history and culture of other nations, past and present too. London’s best museums are a treat to explore and the vast majority of them are free to the general public, giving you no excuse to not call in for a visit.
There is plenty of choice too, but top of the museum list must be the British Museum. Here you can see ancient artefacts from across the world, including Greek, Roman and Egyptian exhibits from thousands of years ago.
Dinosaur lovers can’t miss the Natural History Museum, while there are plenty of cultural and artistic displays waiting at the renowned V and A Museum. Then you have the Science Museum, the British Transport Museum, the Imperial War Museum – the list goes on and on. There’s almost too much choice in London when it comes to museums.
Watch the Tennis at Wimbledon
Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. Ever since 1877, players have wowed the crowds in the English summer with their racket skills. Generally held in June, this classic sporting event is attended by the best players in the world, and the London crowds love to be a part of the action too.
Enjoy strawberries and cream in the sunshine, watch the games from the stands or if you can’t get hold of one of the elusive tickets, head to the Mound to watch on the big screen with the rest of Wimbledon. It’s atmospheric and it’s wonderful to be a part of.
Run (or watch) the London Marathon
The London Marathon is another of the city’s iconic sporting events that see thousands turn out, rain or shine, to cheer on runners through the streets. The marathon takes competitors through the most recognisable of London’s landmarks, with the finish line being found along the famous Mall, near St James’ Park.
While it’s difficult to secure a spot in the marathon itself, such is the popularity, turn up to show your support and to be part of one of the city’s biggest and best events in the springtime.
Attend a Rugby, Football or Cricket Match
Londoners love their sport and the capital is the best place to catch a game of one of the three most popular sports in the nation, rugby, football or cricket. Most weekends throughout the year you will find a rugby or football match in full swing, while during summer, the quintessentially English sport of cricket becomes the city’s first sporting choice.
Notting Hill Carnival
Since 1966, Notting Hill Carnival has attracted revellers and partygoers from across the world. Held every August Bank Holiday, a whole weekend of festivities, colour and culture is found in Notting Hill. One of the busiest events of the London calendar, this is a must-visit festival, with vibrant parades and musical performances that showcase the best of the city’s multicultural diversity.
Eat and Shop at Camden Market
For a taste of London’s diverse culture any time of the year, then head over to Camden Town to visit the city’s best market. Food lovers will be in heaven, as here you can gorge on different cuisine from around the world, with anything from Thai to Pizza being on offer across the packed market stalls and restaurants that are found in a picturesque setting by the canal.
It quickly becomes apparent that London is an incredibly multicultural city to visit. Chinatown in Westminster is a shining example of this and it’s a wonderfully diverse place to explore. Discover the most authentic Asian food in the capital, visit Chinese temples and, if you are here in the Chinese New Year, then this is the only place to be in London.
Dine on English Curry at Brick Lane
Brick Lane is an equally multicultural part of the city and famous for one thing: curry. This is the legendary home of the English curry, a fusion of spices and flavours from the Indian subcontinent that has been refined over time to suit the local tastes of the English population. A favourite local pastime is dining out for a curry, be it the weekend or a weeknight. It’s a cultural thing and something not to be missed when visiting London.
Lavish Shopping in Knightsbridge
For a look at the lavish lifestyles of the London elite, in what can be one of the most expensive cities in the world, then head to Knightsbridge, home to expensive flats and upmarket shopping. Call into Harrods, where you can stroll through opulent departments and sample some fine dining in London’s most exclusive department store.
Catch a West End Show
London’s West End is the city’s premier theatre district, home to great shows and musicals throughout the year. Spend the evening watching a performance of classics or new shows in the West End, after enjoying a meal out in this always-lively London area. Even if you don’t have a ticket booked in advance, then you can simply show up and during the week to get yourself discount tickets to some of the best performances on the night.
A Night at the Proms
For eight weeks in summer, London puts on orchestral performances like no other city in the world. The Proms are held daily at the Royal Albert Hall – London’s best concert hall – and attract listeners from around the world. A night at the Proms is a wonderful musical experience, and towards the end of the run, you may even be lucky enough to secure a ticket for the Last Night at the Proms, the most extravagant of all the performances laid on each season.
Leicester Square Premiere
Film lovers won’t want to miss the opportunity to catch a premiere at the world-famous Leicester Square. Although not quite as iconic as Hollywood, this is the closest you will get in England, and even just walking through the square will give you the chance to see red carpets rolled out and actors and actresses in their finest.
St George’s Day Parade
On 23rd April every year, the English celebrate their national day. St George is the nation’s patron saint and in London, you can enjoy some fantastic cultural parades, as people dress up in national colours and bring out their patriotism for the day.
As London specialists, the team at Premium Tours knows a thing or two about the fantastic cultural opportunities in the city. Check out our list of London tours while you’re in town!