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21 Things to Do in London When It Rains

So, you’ve saved up all your money and you and your bestie have arrived in London. You’ve waited all year for this and you’re going to have the best city break. Nothing is going to stop you.

Then you wake up early on the first morning and are devastated to see that the heavens have opened, and the forecast says it’s going to last all weekend.

But, let’s face it, you haven’t come to London for the weather and there’s still plenty to do, even in the rain.

Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a seat, get comfy and see our top 21 things to do in London when it rains.

James Smith & Sons, Umbrella Shop

Clearly, this has to be your first stop!  The Umbrella Shop was founded in 1830 by the original Mr Smith, who made umbrellas in a small workshop out the back. In 1851, a man named Samuel Fox invented a lightweight steel frame, and James Smith II was one of the first umbrella makers to use it.

His business took off and he moved to 53 New Oxford Street, which is where the shop remains today. And it looks exactly like it did all those years ago. Go grab yourself a beautiful, classic umbrella ready to start your weekend. Just ask the cabbie to take you to ‘The Umbrella Shop’ – they’ll know where to go.

Afternoon Tea

The places to have afternoon tea in London are numerous and iconic. You might not be able to afford to stay in these hotels, but you can certainly waltz in feeling like you do! The Palm Court at The Ritz is one of the most beautiful places to enjoy finely cut sandwiches, teacakes and pastries. Could they have the perfect scone, fresh from the oven with strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream? They have 5 sittings a day, 7 days a week, so you can try them out for yourself – no excuses.

Scones

Trampolining

Not just for the kids, these trampoline parks will bring out the inner child in you, and there’s no experience required. Imagine giant airbags, slam dunk basketball, foam pits, dodgeball courts and a resident DJ. Hours of fun to be had by all. Flip Out London has three outlets around London, and Oxygen Free Jumping is at The O2 in Greenwich. You can also get lessons at the School of Trampolining to help hone your skills.

Behind the Scenes Tours

Many of London’s most famous theatres have behind-the-scenes tours. You can choose from the National Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe and the beautiful Royal Opera House. The Royal Opera House tour will take you to see the inner workings of this Grade I listed building. You will get to go under the stage, see how the technical teams work and you even get to sit in the royal box. If the theatre isn’t your thing, how about a behind the scenes tour of the Harry Potter films?

The Globe Theatre

Grab a Book and Take a Seat

Two amazing libraries to visit are Wellcome Reading Rooms and The British Library.

Wellcome Collection is a gallery, library and event space. The reading space is a beautiful double height room with an eclectic collection of furniture, ensuring you’ll find the perfect spot to relax.

The British Library, built in 1973, is the largest national library in the world with approximately 25 million books – so you’re not going to run out of things to read. They also house an almost complete collection of British and Irish newspapers from 1840, run masterclasses, and hold talks and exhibitions.

Learn to Skateboard at House of Vans

It’s never too late to start learning to skateboard, and where better than the House of Vans? This 30,000 square foot space in the Waterloo Tunnels has been transformed with neon lights and all things American.

This has to be one of the coolest spots in town, with a concert space, café and excellent skate and BMX areas. Or, how about the all female skate nights with cocktails, music and even yoga?

Shopping

Well, who’s coming to London and not doing a bit of shopping? Certainly not me and my bestie!

Why not head down Regent Street to see some of London’s most famous shops? Hamleys is the ultimate toy shop and not just for the kids. It’s been on Regent Street for over 250 years. How about the recently renovated Apple Store, considered the pioneer of Apple’s retail future? Or, the amazing Liberty opened in 1875 and housed in an iconic mock Tudor building? It’s the ultimate place for unique luxury gifts.

Don’t forget the numerous shopping centres, all undercover and waiting for you and your credit card.

Regent Street

Brass Rubbing

Yes, this is a thing! Make your way to St Martin-in-the-Fields situated in the north east corner of Trafalgar Square, and in the basement of the church you’ll find brass rubbing.

Popular in the Victorian era, when visitors to churches wanted to take home a memento of their visit. It’s now been brought up to date and is something all the family can do.

They’ve a collection of over 100 replica brasses from all over the UK, and staff on hand to show you how it’s done. Prices start at £4.50

Electric Cinema

Situated in Portobello Road, Notting Hill, the Electric Cinema is one of the oldest working cinemas in Britain and one of the quirkiest cinemas in London. With a capacity of 83, you get to watch all the current movies from large leather and velvet armchairs, sofas and even beds. Each one with a side table, lamp, footrest and even cashmere blankets if you get cold. To top it off, there’s a bar that serves all types of food and great cake! This is a really special night out and not your typical visit to the cinema.

Indoor Crazy Golf

Did you know that there are no fewer than 11 crazy golf courses in Central London? Not all are indoors but there are a couple that are. Even better, some are in pubs!

Plonk have set up their glow-in-the-dark courses at four pubs around London. Their website has all the details. Swingers has two multi-million dollar courses, one in a WW2 bunker near The Gherkin and one just off Oxford Circus in an old department store. These adult-only venues have great street food from some of London’s favourite vendors and the obligatory cocktails. Check them out to see what all the fuss is about.

Art Galleries

No matter what your taste in art, London has you covered. Impressionists, sculpture, modern or the old masters, there is something for everyone.  If you just have time for one gallery, the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is the perfect choice, as it has one of the greatest collections of paintings in the world. Here you’ll find all the classics including da Vinci, Renoir and Constable. Better still, it’s free.

The National Gallery

Covered Markets

There is something special about wandering round a market. No matter what you are looking to buy, London will have a market selling it.

Borough Market in Southwark Street is London’s largest and oldest food market. It has existed in some form since 1014, and has become the place to go for all things foodie. You name it, breads, cheeses, meat, fish – it’s all here.

If you’re looking more for vintage clothing, books and bric-a-brac, Old Spitalfields Market in the East End is the place to go. If you can get there on a Thursday, you’ll have the extra pleasure of strolling through the antiques market.

Ten Pin Bowling

An oldie but a goodie! No matter what your level, it’s always fun to get a group together for some beer, fast food and a bit of ten-pin bowling.

For somewhere a bit smarter than your average alley, check out The Croc Bowling Alley at The Ham Yard Hotel in Soho.

This original 1950s bowling alley is the real deal, with specially commissioned solid maple bowling lanes, a silver grand piano and three driftwood crocodiles on the walls.

Sea Life London Aquarium

Had enough of the art galleries and museums? Why not try something different and head over to the aquarium. Situated on the banks of the River Thames, this world-class aquarium has over 600 species of fish. You can walk on the glass tanks where the sharks are swimming below or stroke a starfish at the Rockpool.

The aquarium has over 6,000 inhabitants. You can see everything from turtles to penguins to crocodiles, and everything in-between.

Royal Observatory Planetarium

The Planetarium is part of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Perched on a hill with fantastic views over London, the digital show, ‘The Sky Tonight’ is presented by an astronomer from the Observatory. Lie back on the comfy chairs and let them whisk you away to a far-flung galaxy – and all for only £8.

A Matinee at the Theatre

Most of the West End shows have matinees two or three times a week. There is something a little bit naughty about being in the theatre in the middle of the afternoon. It also tends to be a bit cheaper and easier to get tickets.  So, if you fancy School of Rock, The Book of Mormon or Hamilton, hit the matinees.

Ping Pong Bars

It seems they have thought of everything you can do with a drink in your hand! Following in the footsteps of New York, London has taken to the ping pong craze.

It’s become so popular there are now more than 15 places in London to play and have a drink.

Bounce is one of the biggest with two locations in Shoreditch and Holborn. With a combination of pizza, drinks, ping pong and karaoke, what’s not to love?

Alexandra Palace Ice Rink

Know locally as the Ally Pally, Alexandra Palace was first opened in 1875. Now, it’s a whole entertainment complex, which includes the newly renovated theatre that had been closed for 80 years.

Open year round, the ice rink is a stunning place for casual ice-skating or even for some skating lessons.

Museums

Doesn’t matter which London museum you want to visit, any of them will blow your socks off. Some say the Victoria and Albert is the world’s greatest museum of art and design. The works at the V&A span everything from marble sculptures to Art Nouveau and paintings by Britain’s favourite John Constable.

Both the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum are only minutes away, so you can make a day of it and visit all three. Best of all, they are free.

Natural History Museum

Spa Treatment

Ladies and gents, this really should be top of the list of things you want to do when it’s raining in London. Put on your fluffy robe, switch off your phone and just have a bit of ‘me’ time.

No matter your budget, you should be able to find the perfect spot for a few hours of indulgence.

It’s hard to single one out, but the ESPA Life at The Corinthia Hotel looks amazing with the centrepiece being a glass-walled sauna amphitheatre!

Pub

If all else fails, on a rainy day in London where better to go than the pub! It’s really hard to single one pub out, because there are so many great ones to choose from. You will literally find one on every street corner. One of Charles Dickens’ favourite was the Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden, which used to host bare-knuckle fights. Possibly the oldest pub is the Spaniards Inn perched on a hill by Hampstead Heath, which has been open since 1585. Some of its most famous clients included Keats and Byron. Now they have a range of cask ale, craft beers, fine wines and a great Sunday roast. Sit yourself down beside a roaring open fire and relax.

That’s our list of 21 things to do in London when it’s raining. Now there are no excuses to be glum when your city break ends up a bit damp.

If this has ‘wet’ your appetite for a trip to London, Premium Tours runs lots of exciting tours to the nation’s capital, come rain, hail or snow! Contact us to find out more.

Gate in China Town

Everything You Need to Know About Chinatown, London

London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, attracting well over 19 million international visitors a year. The city is split into distinctive areas of North, West, South, and East London, as well as commercial and tourist hubs with each offering unique characteristics. Whether you enjoy sightseeing or shopping, there’s always something to see and do.

Tucked right in the heart of London’s West End is Chinatown – a bustling district that offers a glimpse into East Asian culture, with its wide selection of restaurants and shops.

What makes Chinatown unique is that it feels nothing like London. Tourists are instantly transported to a place that is immediately unrecognisable from the surrounding areas. The streets are lined with red paper lanterns and signs with Mandarin writing. Elements of traditional Chinese architecture are also present, including what’s known as a Paifang or a gateway with an elaborate frame.

If you have any future travel plans for London, you’ll definitely want to add this district to your bucket list. Here’s everything you need to know about Chinatown in London.

China Town London

History of Chinatown

Just like the city of London itself, Chinatown (nicknamed ‘The Imperial City’) has a rich history that’s filled with interesting facts.

The original area of Chinatown wasn’t in the West End. It was actually located in Limehouse in the East End. Chinese sailors from the East India Company had settled near the end of the 19th century and had established a community. Around thirty businesses opened in 1914, mostly to supply goods to Chinese sailors. But a decline in shipping along with destruction to the area during the Second World War forced the district to dwindle significantly.

It was during the mid-20th century that the Chinatown we know today started to develop. A handful of Chinese restaurants opened on Gerrard Street in the West End. Other businesses opened up soon after, and over the next few decades the neighbourhood blossomed into a hub for Chinese culture and became what it is today.

Chinatown is now home to over 80 restaurants featuring a range of East Asian cuisine from dim sum to hot pot, as well as cafes and bars. There’s also no shortage of supermarkets filled with authentic ingredients imported directly from Asia and other businesses that offer an array of services.

What initially started as a small community to cater mainly to Chinese sailors is now one of London’s most vibrant destinations and a must see for any traveller.

Getting to Chinatown in London

Chinatown in London is located right in the West End, and is close to popular attractions such as Soho and Leicester Square. Its central location makes it easily accessible by public transport, as there are several Underground stations and numerous bus routes a short walk away.

Here’s how to get to Chinatown:

Address: 55-57 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0BL, United Kingdom.

Tube: Leicester Square is the closest Underground station from Chinatown, as it’s only about a minute walk away. Ride the Tube to the station, and take exit two. Then turn the corner and you’ll be right in the middle of the district. You can also take Tottenham Court and Piccadilly Circus; both are less than half a mile from the main areas.

Train: Charing Cross is the closest train station and is about a 10-minute walk away. Follow the street signs or ask for directions if you get lost.

Bus: There are numerous buses that drop passengers off near Chinatown, including routes 14, 24, 27, 27, 134, 168, and C2. Note that these routes do not travel directly through Chinatown. Be sure to pay attention to where your bus is travelling to or ask the driver which is the closest stop on that route.

Alternatively, taxis are also readily available, but expect to pay a higher fare than public transport. Simply tell the driver you want to visit ‘Chinatown’ and they’ll know exactly where to take you. Chinatown is a relatively small area in the West End. It’s possible to walk down all of its winding streets in only a few hours but you’ll want to allocate at least a half-day trip for a more immersive experience.

Chinese New Year in Chinatown, London

Chinatown is accessible all year round with most restaurants opening at 12pm and closing at midnight. Have a sudden late night craving for dumplings? Some restaurants are even open 24 hours. It’s a good idea to check business hours first, if you have a specific place in mind you want to visit.

One of the best times to visit is during Chinese New Year – a major Chinese festival that celebrates the beginning of Chinese New Year, which falls between mid-January to late-February. The actual days the celebration falls on varies each year, as it’s based on the lunar calendar instead of the more widely used Gregorian calendar.

Chinese New Year in 2019 starts on 5th February and will last until 19th February, running for a total of 15 days. The celebration is said to be the biggest outside of Asia, with most of it taking place in Chinatown.

The dragon is seen as an auspicious animal in Chinese culture, which brings good luck and prosperity. Visitors to Chinatown during Chinese New Year can watch dragon dances. Performers in traditional garb hold up a long figure of a dragon with wooden poles and mimic its graceful movements down the streets.

Even the restaurants and cafés partake in the celebrations, as special menu items are offered during this time. There are also plenty of food stalls and stages set up along Charing Cross Road for musical performances and martial art displays.

If you’re visiting London during these dates, then you won’t want to miss this spectacular event.

Chinese New Year lantern

Best Restaurants

No trip to Chinatown is complete without eating at one of its many restaurants. From Cantonese cuisine to Sichuan specialities and dim sum, there is a wide selection of places to try. Here’s an overview of the different cuisine that can be found in Chinatown, and recommended restaurants:

Cantonese

Cantonese cuisine originated from the Guangdong Province in southern China and is one of the eight culinary traditions. Its prominence is largely thanks to emigrants from the Guangdong region who have set up restaurants outside of China including Chinatown in London. Cantonese cuisine is distinguished by its use of ingredients like soy sauce, cornstarch, vinegar, and sesame oil to enhance flavours. Roast meats such as duck and steam buns are also popular dishes.

Be sure to make a visit to these restaurants for Cantonese food:

  • Four Seasons: Four Seasons has a wide selection of Cantonese cuisine, but travellers come here for their world-famous roast duck with its crispy skin and tender flesh. The Financial Times even rated this restaurant as having the best roast duck in the world.
  • Plum Valley: Plum Valley is another popular destination for Cantonese cuisine with its varied menu. The restaurant is located near Piccadilly Circus and offers a more upscale dining experience with its minimalist style.

Dim Sum

Dim sum (translated to ‘touch your heart’) consists of bite-sized dishes such as dumplings, buns, and rolls that are served in steaming hot baskets. Dim sum is prepared in different ways and is best enjoyed with a group of people to share the dishes.

Here are some restaurants that specialise in this cuisine:

  • Dumplings’ Legend: Dumplings’ Legend serves nine varieties of Xiaolongbao (translated to ‘soup dumplings’) in flavoursome broth and fillings from pork to crabmeat and more. If that’s not enough, the restaurant also serves an impressive 47 variations of dim sum dishes.
  • Leong’s Legend: Can’t seem to get enough dim sum? You’re in luck as Leong’s Legend offers all you can eat dim sum for a fairly modest price. Leong’s Legend offers a wide selection of mouth-watering dishes so you won’t go hungry here.

Hot Pot

Hot pot is another Chinese cooking method and is prepared with a simmering pot of soup. Ingredients including meat and vegetables are placed on small plates, and are then cooked in the broth. Just like with dim sum, hot pot is another example of communal dining so it’s best enjoyed with others.

Here are the places worth checking out for hot pot:

  • Shuang Shuang: Shuang Shuang is the first restaurant in London to serve hot pot and is unique from other restaurants in that it features a conveyor belt. Simply pick and choose the ingredients you want to add to your pot, and ignore those you don’t want. Shuang Shuang offers a fun and enjoyable experience.
  • Hot Pot: Looking for something a little different? Hot Pot is actually the name of a Thai restaurant and is well known for its hot pot. Diners can also choose from other dishes including curry, rice noodles, and stir fry. If you enjoy spicy dishes then you’ll definitely want to put this restaurant at the top of your list.

Sichuan

Sichuan cuisine originates from Sichuan Province in China, and features bold and spicy flavours from heavy use of chilli peppers. There are different local variations within Sichuan Province, which include Chongqing, Chengdu, Zigong, and Buddhist vegetarian. Dishes from each region all have distinctive and complex flavours.

Here are some of the best restaurants for Sichuan cuisine:

  • JinLi: Conveniently located on Leicester Street, JinLi serves authentic Sichuan food including its signature grilled fish in chilli oil dish. Griddled dishes from cooked duck tongue to king prawns are other specialities that JinLi offer. And if you love singing, there are authentic KTV karaoke rooms right upstairs available for hire.
  • Baozi Inn: Baozi Inn specialises in spicy street food including skewered meats and vegetables loaded with lots of different spices. You’ll also want to try their signature Sichuan spicy beef noodles, which pack a savoury broth and large cubes of tender beef.

The first few restaurants may have only served Chinese cuisine in the beginning. But other eateries have since opened up that offer other cuisines including Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Malaysian, and even some European dishes. Visit Chinatown on an empty stomach for the chance to sample a variety of cuisines.

Some of the more popular places are busy especially during rush hours so it’s a good idea to make a reservation in advance. That way you won’t have to wait too long to get seated.

Feel like having a drink? There are plenty of cafes and bars around Chinatown that are perfect for any occasion. Candy Cafe offers Asian desserts and bubble tea – a milk tea drink from Taiwan that contains chewy tapioca balls. Or if you prefer having a cocktail, there’s a speakeasy bar hidden behind a door on Gerrard Street called The Experimental Cocktail Club. Other enjoyable bars include the Opium Cocktail and The Light Lounge. Both offer fun atmospheres and a great selection of drinks.

Dim Sum

Accommodation in Chinatown

It’s possible to walk around all of Chinatown in a single afternoon. But if you want to experience all that this charming district has to offer, you’ll need at least a few days. Accommodation is fairly limited in Chinatown but there are plenty of nearby hotels in Leicester Square, Soho, and Covent Garden.

Some of these hotels include:

  • Radisson Blu Edwardian, Hampshire
  • Hotel Cafe Royal London
  • St Martins Lane
  • Premier Inn London Leicester Square
  • The Savoy, A Fairmont Hotel
  • Royal National Hotel
  • The Piccadilly London West End
  • W London Leicester Square

 

These hotels place you within walking distance of Chinatown, including its many restaurants and bustling supermarkets. Chinese New Year is one of the busiest times of the year so if you plan to visit around mid-January to late-February, be sure to book rooms in advance.

Chinatown in London offers a unique look at East Asian culture and is a must-see. Indulge in some of the top rated restaurants in the world or simply walk around through the many delightful shops. There’s plenty to see and do here.

At Premium Tours, we offer a fantastic range of guided London tours that take you through some of the best spots in the city. Contact us today for booking information and our travel experts will be happy to help.

christmas decorations

Things to Do in London in November

For some, the slow march of winter may be too much to handle after the usually short, but inevitably intense English summer. But in London, the gradual onset of colder weather need not deter you from enjoying great days out all through the month, because there are plenty of activities in the city that can help take your mind off the weather or help you to embrace it.

From strolling through the museums and unique attractions that can only be found in London, to experiencing the unique winter-themed events that begin in November on the lead up to Christmas. There’s a lot to do in London, and November can be one of the best times to enjoy a different side of the city.

Experience Fireworks on Bonfire Night

Remember, remember, the 5th of November! The start of the month sees the English tradition of Bonfire Night being played out loudly and brightly across London. In the evenings, parks throughout the city play host to huge fireworks displays to remember the events of the 5th of November, 1605, when the infamous Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the English Parliament and King James I in the gunpowder plot. There are many great events you can attend to watch the fireworks displays, but one of the best is held at Alexandra Palace, where not only can you enjoy fireworks exploding across the night sky, but you can enjoy the funfairs and ice rink too.

fireworks Alexandra palace
‘Alexandra Palace fireworks’ by James Cridland – https://flic.kr/p/5AqJ4F

Watch Christmas Lights Being Switched On

Some people may assume that November is far too early to begin thinking about Christmas, but these days, the build-up to the festive holidays starts far in advance of the 25th December. London starts early, and the city slowly becomes decked out with Christmas lights, displays and pop-up festivals partway through November. Rather than simply enjoying the lights once they have been switched on though, you can actually experience the celebrations that turn them on, as there are countless events across the city that countdown to and switch on the lights that stay brightly lit for weeks to come afterwards. Some of the best can be found on the famous Oxford Street and on Regents Street.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is a glorious place to visit any time of the year, but in November, it can be a particularly mesmerising place. Towards the end of the month, Hyde Park opens up its Winter Wonderland Extravaganza. It’s a festive treat, where not only can you find theme park rides, ice skating rinks and food stalls galore, but where you can enjoy Christmas themed shows, Santa’s Grotto and a cool Ice Bar. Some of the attractions and shows are ticket only and sell out quickly, so plan in advance if you want to experience the best of Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland in November.

hyde park winter wonderland
‘Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park’ by Tianna Spicer – https://flic.kr/p/e8FDJs

Richmond Park

Richmond Park is one of the most beautiful places in London. It is a verdant park of tranquillity in an otherwise urban world, where huge herds of deer can be seen wandering through the fields and through the forest. In November, the park is at its most colourful, as the many trees begin to turn shades of brown and red as autumn sets in. It’s a wonderful time of year to visit Richmond Park, and as long as you wrap up warm to fight the cold weather, you’ll find that it’s a spectacular display of British nature.

Borough Market

Borough Market is one of London’s best markets. It is one of the oldest and most historic marketplaces, traders have set up shop here for hundreds of years and, today, the market is as bustling and busy as it ever has been. Found next to London Bridge close to the banks of the River Thames, this is a great place to enjoy the predominantly food-based shops and stalls. There’s an incredible diversity of culinary treats on sale from across the world, from Indian curries to Southeast Asian-style street food and plenty of cheese and cakes too. For London, the prices are more than reasonable, and the only trouble will be choosing what exactly it is you want to eat here, from all the many choices that are available. In November, the stalls begin to display their festive treats and you can expect to find everything from mince pies to mulled wine.

Borough Market
‘Borough Market’ by Aurelien Guichard – https://flic.kr/p/geGhMU

Leadenhall Market

Found right in the heart of the City of London, Leadenhall Market is another of London’s most historic marketplaces. Dating back to 1321, these days the market is a boutique haven, with shops lining the brightly lit, undercover hallway. Leadenhall is just as famous for the role it played in the Harry Potter movies. This was the setting for Diagon Alley. In November, Leadenhall plays host to one of the best Christmas Lights displays, and midway through the month you can catch the switching on ceremony and admire the extravagantly decorated Christmas tree that will take pride of place here.

Covent Garden Market

Covent Garden is a lovely, charming market hall in central London. A grand, Victorian-era building houses a range of small, independent shops and cosy restaurants and cafes, while street performers and musicians provide plenty of entertainment for visitors. Covent Garden, like many places in London, hosts its own Christmas markets towards the end of November. There are a great many stalls selling Christmas gifts and cooking up festive food, while there’s usually even a pop-up ice rink to skate around.

Covent Garden christmas
‘Covent Garden’ by Aurelien Guichard – https://flic.kr/p/aMmJCc

Leicester Square

Leicester Square, London’s most famous theatre and cinema district, never misses out on the start of the festive fun when it reaches November. The huge, open square becomes home to a multitude of Christmas market stalls, complete with dazzling lights and festive themes. There are grottos, a huge Christmas tree and of course, plenty of warming and delicious food being cooked up in the cold evenings.

Oxford Street

Any time of year, you can guarantee that Oxford Street, one of London’s most iconic shopping areas, will always be busy. Even November is no exception, and you can expect the pavements to bustle with shoppers trying to get in their pre-Christmas bargains in the inevitable autumn sales. And of course, at some point during the month, the Christmas lights will come on, too.

oxford street
‘Oxford Street Lights’ by Paul Robertson – https://flic.kr/p/aYkYHD

Enjoy a Pantomime Production

A pantomime is a very British tradition, where during the Christmas period, theatrical performances are put on to entertain the audience in a festive or fun-filled way. Although historically, pantomimes were held after Christmas for the most part, in London these days, they begin in November. They are family friendly and light-hearted – usually! – with anything from Snow White to Dick Whittington being performed at venues across the city. Make sure to book in advance, as a pantomime production can be a tremendously popular performance to attend.

Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is one of London’s best-known museums, famed for its enormous dinosaur skeletons and a vast array of exhibitions that showcase the natural history of the world. As early as October, and right through to January, people begin to visit the museum not just for the dinosaurs though, but to strap on some skates to hit the ice rink. Every year the Natural History Museum sets up one of the city’s most loved ice rinks, complete with a centrepiece Christmas tree and plenty of festive decorations. And of course, you can still see the dinosaurs inside the actual museum too.

ice skating
‘Natural History Museum Ice Skating Rink’ by Matt Brown – https://flic.kr/p/ZtMa62

The British Museum

The British Museum is one of the world’s most famous museums and, best of all, entrance is always free to the main exhibits. November is as good a time as any to explore the displays here, especially given the chilly weather out on the streets. Escape the cold and stroll around the many floors for a few hours, or better yet, check the events schedule and see what unique exhibitions are being held through the month.

Kew Gardens

Kew Gardens is the biggest and most diverse botanical garden in the United Kingdom. The enormous, glass pagoda is just one big greenhouse, and it’s full of strange and wonderful plants from across the world. The surrounding, more English style gardens are just as beautiful to wander around too, particularly when the autumn climate begins to turn leaves from green to brown. Kew Gardens also play host to their very own ‘Christmas at Kew’ festival, which begins in mid-November. You can see a spectacular display of lights after darkness falls, with laser beams lighting up the night sky around the gardens.

Christmas Kew
‘Christmas at Kew’ by Jan Kraus – https://flic.kr/p/DnswCB

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, home to Nelson’s Column and built in commemoration of the famous Battle of Trafalgar, is always a busy and lively place to visit when in London. Towards the end of November, the people of Oslo, the capital of Norway, donate a huge Christmas tree to the people of London, and each year since the 1940s it’s been placed in Trafalgar Square. You can see it being readied and set up, with the extravagant light display too, before the big light switching-on ceremony that takes place at the start of December.

Attend the Remembrance Day Parade and Service

Every second Sunday in November, the streets of London make way for the solemn march of the city’s Remembrance Day Parade and Service. The events commemorate November 11th, which is the official Remembrance Day of the United Kingdom, when the guns on the Western Front during World War I fell silent. The streets are always lined with people paying their respects as veterans and others parade past, on their way to a service that is given at the Cenotaph in White Hall, in respect of everyone who has given their lives in conflict. It’s a moving experience to be a part of.

Remembrance Sunday
‘London November 10 2013 028 Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey’ by David Holt – https://flic.kr/p/hr1bNR

Backyard Cinema

The Backyard Cinema in London is one of the most unique and unusual cinema experiences to be found anywhere in the city. The Backyard Cinema literally began in the founder’s back garden, but it became such a successful concept that now it travels around the city, to different pop-up venues, offering themed cinema nights and unusual screenings. In November, it’s a great experience for film lovers, as events begin to take a festive turn, with showings of Christmas movies in Christmas attired locations. It’s incredibly popular, as it really is a step above your average cinema experience, so make sure you book tickets in advance for the few showings that are held each month.

Cosy up in a Warm London Pub 

In summer, the people of London will spend the occasionally hot, summer days and long evenings basking in the warm outside air of a beer garden at the many pubs are found in London. Come November, and the age-old tradition of visiting the pub never stops. With the cold winter evenings moving in though, the people of London simply stay inside, and many of the older, historic pubs have a cosy interior, with the occasional roaring log fire to sit by while you enjoy a warm glass of mulled wine or a mug of hot apple cider to beat the chill. There are many gastropubs to choose from where you’ll find an array of delicious warming food.

pub
‘Inside The Garden Gate Pub In Hampstead – London.’ by Jim Linwood – https://flic.kr/p/UJGSMZ

The London Jazz Festival

In November, the city hosts the epic sounds of the London Jazz Festival. It lasts for almost two weeks, and across London, different venues will be holding jazz-themed music events and concerts, as part of a citywide festival that has been held continuously since the 1970s. The Jazz Festival sees musicians from across the world descending on the bars and concert halls of London. While there are many great and established stars that come to play, it’s also a great opportunity to see rising talent and learn more about the unique sounds of jazz music.

St Andrews Day in London

St Andrew is the official patron saint of Scotland and St Andrews Day is the official national day of Scotland. But even in London, this Scottish holiday has started to have a big following and plenty of celebrations are held across the city. It falls on the 30th November, and it can be a fantastic way to round out the month in London. Scottish pubs will inevitably put on the best shows, but be prepared for a long night of antics.

To find out more about things to do in London during November or to book one of our popular London tours, contact Premium Tours today.

bread

Here Are the 19 Best Markets in London

If you have time to explore for a few hours after your London tour and want to see something truly unique, why not see what the city has to offer in the way of markets? Some of the oldest markets in London have been established for centuries, and with new offerings popping up frequently, there has never been a better time to indulge in London’s market scene.

Of course, there are lots of places to shop in London, but if you’re interested in bargain-hunting, perusing antiques, or simply doing some serious people-watching, the many markets throughout London have got everything you could possibly need – and more!

Here is our guide to the 19 best markets in London to keep you busy.

1. Old Spitalfields

With its central location tucked between trendy Shoreditch and vibrant Whitechapel, Old Spitalfields Market is a great choice if you want to be impressed. Set in a huge Victorian market hall, it really does have something for everybody. Whether you’re in the mood for luxury designer clothes and one-off pieces, books, homewares, music or food, there is plenty to see and buy.

With a ‘New Weekends’ initiative starting this year, now is a great time to visit Old Spitalfields to show your support to new stalls and up-and-coming brands. The market is open every day, with plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars for a quick bite or lazy lunch. Mark this one in your diary and make a day of it!

‘Spitalfields in London’ by La Citta Vita - https://flic.kr/p/kebvWD
‘Spitalfields in London’ by La Citta Vita – https://flic.kr/p/kebvWD

2. Brick Lane Market

In an area that rose to notoriety due to being the scene of Jack the Ripper’s crimes, Shoreditch’s Brick Lane is vibrant with multicultural life, attracting an artistic and hipster crowd.

Sunday markets galore, Brick Lane is actually home to five different markets, selling everything from secondhand bargain furniture, vintage pieces and artworks, to handmade jewellery, electrical goods and touristy trinkets.

A bonus of the area’s cultural diversity is the food on offer, with many permanent restaurants and cafes in the streets surrounding the markets, as well as pop-up stalls selling unique street food. Whether it’s Pakistani or Bangladeshi curries, or bagels from the famous 24-hour Brick Lane Beigel Bake, there’s plenty to choose from, whenever you decide to visit.

3. Greenwich Market

If you like all things hand-crafted, Greenwich Market in South London is sure to be high on your list of places to visit during your next trip to the capital. The market, London’s only set within a UNESCO World Heritage site, is open 7 days a week, with particular focus on Saturdays with 100 stalls selling the best in arts and crafts. From boutique fashion houses, handmade jewellery and antique trinkets, to artisan candles, original local artworks and unique homewares. With 50 street food vendors to keep you energised throughout your visit, this is sure to be a great day out.

Greenwich market
‘Greenwich Market – Greenwich Church Street, Greenwich – sign’ by Elliott Brown – https://flic.kr/p/dnh7Df

4. Borough Market

A long-time foodie favourite, Borough Market is a close-knit group of restaurateurs, café owners and wholesale food sellers on the South bank of the Thames, near London Bridge in Southwark. It is one of the oldest food markets in London, with historians finding records of markets on the site dating back to the 12th century. With this history comes a great reputation and the crowds to go with it, so expect it to be busy if you’re planning on a bite to eat at a popular time like Friday evening or over the weekend. If you’re looking for farmers’ markets in London, then you’ll love Borough market as it has lots of fresh organic produce.

5. Maltby Street Market

Relatively new to the street food scene having been established in 2010, Maltby Street is one of South East London’s brightest new destinations. Packed into a small laneway, there are food and drink vendors galore, with a particular nod towards upcoming and small-scale producers. Open Saturday and Sundays, a tasty visit is guaranteed!

Maltby street market
‘Maltby Street Market’ by Alexander Baxevanis – https://flic.kr/p/cFxZpd

6. Broadway Market

Since the 1890s there have been records of markets in this area, in the heart of Hackney, East London. Open from 9am to 5pm every Saturday, there is only a brief window to quench your appetite for all things street food, with the most current trends catered for in one of London’s hippest locales. From loaded doughnuts and fruit bowls to burgers and global delicacies and more, there are tasty treats for everyone. Alongside all the food options are stalls selling the most interesting and unique clothing, arts and crafts. You can see their interactive map here. 

7. Camden Market

One of the most famous and legendary of London’s markets is Camden. Technically a sprawl of various different markets, Camden welcomes around 250,000 visitors a week, so expect the hustle and bustle of a thriving destination.

Best known for its punk influence, Camden Market, which incorporates Camden Lock, Buck Street Market, the High Street and Stables Market, is unique and always buzzing. It is the place to go if you have plenty of time to be amazed by the wares on sale. If you’re after some edgy jewellery, band t-shirts, quirky furniture, global trinkets and trawling through stacks of vinyl, this is the place to be. It really is an eye opener with great atmosphere and a multitude of tasty food stalls to boot.

camden market
‘London: Camden Market’ by Jorge Franganillo – https://flic.kr/p/23VYdWy

8. Canopy Market

If you’re looking for a way to combine your loves of food and art, then Canopy Market in Kings Cross is the place for you. A specifically curated range of local, artisan producers cater this weekend market with all the good stuff on offer. Handmade chocolates, cannelloni, charcuterie, local cheese producers and bakers selling a top-notch selection of street food including, we’re told, the best cheese toasties in town.

Alongside the foodie heaven is a rotating selection of local artists and craft producers, selling original artworks, jewellery and fashion. It’s a great way to see the best of London’s local and artisan producers and artists.

9. South Bank Food Market

Known for being a cultural hub, South Bank is also home to a great global foodie treat. On the forecourt behind the Southbank Centre, you will find foods from around the world including Thai, Mexican, Mauritian and Greek, to name a few, as well as amazing baked treats and hot drinks. With its central location, it is a great spot for lunch, with plenty of bench seating around to take in the sights and delicious smells while you eat.

cupcakes south bank market
‘Cupcakes’ by Garry Knight – https://flic.kr/p/9GzHBt

10. Alfie’s Antique Market

If vintage is your style, the largest undercover antiques market in London, Alfie’s, will have you swooning over vintage clothes, homewares, collectables and designer wares from the 1930s and 1940s. Housed in an impressive Art Deco building, this is Marylebone’s biggest and best vintage destination.

11. Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road Flower Market is probably one of London’s most photographed spots, and it’s easy to see why. Open from 8am on Sundays, this is the place to go to stock up on fresh cut flowers, bedding plants and even mature trees! Perhaps not the easiest buy to take home with you, but an interesting sight nonetheless.

Supported by sixty independent shops lining the road, selling everything from cupcakes and coffee, to high-end artworks, the Columbia Road Flower Market is a one-off.

Columbia Road Flower Market
‘116 365 Columbia road flower market’ by Upupa4me – https://flic.kr/p/ruUp3p

12. Brixton Market

In the pedestrianised centre of Brixton, Brixton Station Road, Electric Avenue and Pope’s Road unite to put on an exciting market experience. The markets are open all week long, with special retro and vintage markets and flea markets making regular weekend appearances.

Market stalls selling a range of wares from handcrafted bags and soaps, to retro bric-a-brac and vintage clothing will keep you busy, whilst street food vendors will keep you fed on Spanish Paella and authentic Ethiopian cuisine, among many, many other choices. Just a minute from Brixton tube station, this is well worth a visit.

13. Camden Passage

Not to be confused with the aforementioned Camden Markets, Camden Passage is an altogether more relaxed affair. Based in Islington, North London, Camden Passage is a narrow, car-free street of contemporary and vintage shops selling a manner of interesting items such as clothing and handbags, antiques, books and furniture, with a relaxed vibe. Market stalls appear on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, which liven up the area selling secondhand furniture, vintage goods and collectables. With cafes and pubs galore, it’s a lovely local spot to enjoy the good weather.

Camden Passage
‘Camden Passage’ by Dun.can – https://flic.kr/p/MQKNpo

14. Netil Market

Located in trendy South Hackney, East London, Netil Market is made up of a small but perfectly formed group of food traders, permanently set up in shipping containers. With great eats from around the world including Caribbean soul food and modern African cuisine, there’s plenty to set your taste buds alight, and if it’s coffee and cake you’re after – you’d be in the right spot too! Saturdays are market days with a range of pop-up stalls selling their homemade wares, and with music and entertainment too it’s a great spot to while away the hours.

15. Leadenhall Market

This place is sure to be a treat for the architectural enthusiasts and Harry Potter fans alike. Set in a stunning Victorian covered precinct, restored in the early 1990s, with market heritage dating back to Roman times, Leadenhall Market is as beautiful as a market setting could be. And for eagle-eyed Potter fans, you’ll even recognise it as where many of the Diagon Alley scenes were filmed for the world-famous wizarding story.

Whatever your reason for visiting, Leadenhall won’t disappoint with a quintessentially British array of high-end fashion boutiques, an award-winning pub and various restaurants and cafes of the highest quality. A truly luxurious market experience.

Leadenhall Market
‘Leadenhall Market’ by Kevin Spi – https://flic.kr/p/gw5Kgp

16. Northcote Road Antiques Market

Based in London’s South West, Battersea’s Northcote Road Antiques Market is a must-see if you want to snap up some classic pieces. With antiques ranging from grandfather clocks and fine china, to retro homewares and vintage jewellery, this place is an Aladdin’s cave of all things from a time gone by. Open seven days a week, it’s a mecca for antiques lovers from across the world.

17. Covent Garden Market

With a grand, historical centrepiece, Covent Garden is a must-see if you like a taste of history. With a slightly European vibe, its open central piazza and pavements lined with cafes are full of places to watch the world go by. If you’re visiting London with children, then the regular street performers and magicians will ensure the whole family is entertained.

Covent Garden Market has become a serious shopping destination with a range of high-end permanent retail outlets, such as Mulberry, calling it home. If you are looking for something unique, you can also find some gems in the stalls, with Mondays being best for antiques, then Tuesday to Sunday offering a wide range of everything from books and homewares, to handmade jewellery and fashion.

Covent Garden
‘Inside Covent Garden market building’ by Charles D P Miller – https://flic.kr/p/nRKpb8

18. Flat Iron Square

A relative newcomer on the market scene formed only in 2016, Flat Iron is an exciting mix of music, food and market stalls based around seven railway arches in Bankside, South London. The mood is relaxed and trendy with ‘The Garden’, an open-air area, home to a stage for regular live music performances and weekend flea markets, where there are sure to be interesting and unique pieces to snap up at bargain prices. With regular events in the schedule, Flat Iron is sure to be a lively choice for your London market visit.

19. Portobello Road Market

Open every day except Sunday, Portobello Road is a London institution in the market world. Known for excellent second-hand furniture and quirky one-offs, Saturday is the best day to visit Portobello Road Market at its fullest. You will find a range of antique stalls, fashion boutiques, second-hand goods and fruit & veg from local suppliers all in one place.

Lined by the multi-coloured facades of the road’s townhouses, it is a photographer’s delight and an entertaining day for all the family with weird and wonderful street performers dotted around too.

Portobello Road
‘Portobello Road’ by Shadowgate – https://flic.kr/p/aMSiGa

With so much to see and do in London, planning your visit can be overwhelming. Contact us to help you make the most out of your next visit to the big city. With a range of London tours to cater for any budget, our expert guides can show you the best our city has to offer and offer guidance to help you discover your perfect London experience.

19 Things to Do in London with Toddlers

London is an exciting, busy and bustling city. With so much to see and do, it can be tricky to know exactly what’s available to keep your little ones amused. Britain’s notoriously fickle weather is bound to make an impact on your visit, so whether we’re basking in glorious sunshine or it’s raining cats and dogs, having a great supply of interesting options is just what you need to keep the fun times going.

Luckily, most of the best London tourist attractions cater for young people, and more interesting places than ever are being created for our children, so you don’t need to feel like you’re missing out.
With that in mind, here’s our handy guide to 19 of the top things to do with your toddlers on your next trip to London, to keep them amused whatever the weather…

1. Buckingham Palace, Changing of the Guard

Taking place from 10.30am four days a week, this is an exciting spectacle for children and adults alike. Accompanied by music, the changing of the guard takes around an hour or so and is weather dependant, so check the ceremony schedule online first and get there early to beat the crowds. You can always do a bit of Queen spotting beforehand!

2. London Zoo

It’s never too early to start a fascination with the natural world, and London Zoo is a great day out for all the family. With under 3s going free, buy your tickets online in advance to get discounts and beat the queues. With plenty of interactive areas to get involved with and frequent feeding displays, there are over 660 species of animals to see. There are great family-friendly refreshment options, plenty of toilets and baby changing facilities across the site, as you would expect, along with plenty of indoors and outdoors seating areas to stop and re-group.

3. Museum of Childhood

Based in Bethnal Green, this museum is really well designed for family day out. Free admission is a good start and free family backpacks can be picked up from the reception desk, filled with age-appropriate items for children from 6 months to 5 years old, including activity ideas, a guide to the museum, and toys to interact with to bring the museum displays to life. With a great café offering child’s portions and baby foods, as well as delish cakes, coffees and lunches for the adults, everything is here for an easy day out.

4. Diana Memorial Playground

Based in Kensington Gardens, this memorial is brilliant – but busy. Open everyday from 10am, it’s best to arrive as early as possible to avoid queuing (yes, queuing for a park – that’s how good it is!). The main attraction is a massive wooden pirate ship adventure playground, surrounded by sensory trails, sculptures and tepees, all set in a beach surrounded by trees. For the younger visitors, there’s plenty of space to do their own thing and plenty of benches for the adults too.

5. HMS Belfast

Permanently moored as a museum on the Thames near Tower Bridge, this ex-warship is sure to impress if you have a big boat fan in your family! With under 5s getting in for free, they can sit in the captain’s chair and explore this massive ship through interactive displays and activities. There are toilets and baby changing facilities as well as a café and there’s a great gift shop too – perfect for those pocket money treats. You probably want to allow at least a couple of hours to explore the boat and then, when you’re done, you’re in the centre of the city with restaurants and public transport links within easy walking distance.

6. Sea Life London Aquarium

An opportunity to see the creatures of the deep is sure to wow the little ones, and with free admission for children under 3, it doesn’t cost the Earth either. A great escape if the weather isn’t so obliging outside, this is an impressive attraction for the whole family. There are feeding events daily and hands-on displays to keep toddlers entertained as you go around. It can get busy during school holidays so, if you have the option, aim for an off-peak visit to get the best views (and shortest queuing times).

7. Hackney City Farm

For over 20 years, Hackney City Farm has been giving Londoners a taste of country life in the city. If farm animals are more your toddler’s vibe – think goats, not gorillas – this is the place to be. Free to visit, there are regular activity classes for a small fee, such as children’s pottery classes and baby music classes, as well as all the fun of the farm to explore. If you’re particularly taken with a certain furry friend, you can sponsor an animal to contribute towards their care. For the grown-ups, there’s also an excellent shop selling honey from the farm’s own bees and freshly laid eggs.

8. London Transport Museum

What toddler, at some point, isn’t obsessed by buses? When the phase hits, this is the place to be – a museum exploring the history of London’s public transport network. Under 17s get in free and there is a full family guide to make sure you get the most out of your visit with the little ones. There are craft workshops, story times and hands-on exhibitions to enjoy. Its convenient location, close to Covent Garden, also means there’s plenty to explore nearby to make a real day of it.

9. Baby Loves Disco

As the name suggests, this is not a regular day out – it’s a family disco! A monthly event in London, these family discos are run across the country, with Fatboy Slim even playing at their Brighton Fringe event in 2016. Essentially it’s music adults can enjoy, played at a safe level for children from 0 years and up, with all the disco lights, bubble machines, drinks and snacks you could ever need. But don’t worry, if you don’t have the energy you used to, there are also chill-out areas for when it all gets too much and you need a sit down. Tickets need to be booked in advance, non-walking children get in free, and you can find event dates and locations on their website.

10. Covent Garden Street Performers

Magicians, street artists, singers, musicians and poets all showing off what they can do best line the streets around bustling Covent Garden. Make sure you have some coppers for the kids’ favourites and it’s an easy way to while away the hours (and there are cafes and shops right there for you, too).

11. St. James’s Park

London has an abundance of beautiful parks, but set against the stunning backdrop of Westminster, St James’s is ideal for you and the children alike. There is a wide array of ducks to feed, resident pelicans to watch, and vibrant flowerbeds to marvel at. And when that gets too much for the little ones, there’s a great café too, doing breakfasts, lunches and snacks.

12. The Dockland Light Railway (DLR)

To most people, this is just part of the public transport network of London, a way to get to work, or a normal mode of transport. But to a toddler, it is a magic train without a driver! The DLR trains are automated, which means your little one can have a go sitting at the front being ‘the driver’, while you enjoy the views. Much of the network is above ground, which means you can see some of the sights as you go, such as the Emirates cable car, Canary Wharf, and the planes coming in and out of London City Airport.

13. Science Museum

The Science Museum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city, with displays and exhibitions on everything from antibiotics to space travel. While that does sound a bit grown up for toddlers, there are also designated spaces for the under 5s, including The Garden. Not an actual garden – it is in fact in the basement – it is an interactive space designed specifically for children between the ages of 3 and 6, where they can learn about science through play. Experts are on hand to help answer questions so you can make the most of your time there. The museum is free to enter, with family-friendly cafes open daily.

14. Tumbling Bay Playground

Part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, the Tumbling Bay Playground is a park on an epic scale. Designed to create fun spaces from the natural environment, there are sand pits, rock pools and rope bridges between trees. There are also, of course, the obligatory slides and swings to keep everybody happy. Alongside, is the Timber Lodge community centre and café, with toilets, changing facilities and a range of hot and cold snacks and drinks for parents and children.

15. Natural History Museum

History lovers old and young have flocked to this great museum since its opening in the 1880s. The ornate interiors are breathtaking and the displays are curated to inspire and inform. Although the giant skeleton of Dippy the Dinosaur has been replaced by Hope the Blue Whale in the great hall, there is still so much to see for the avid dinosaur fans in your family. Free entry (to the main exhibitions), a kid-friendly café and specific themed events over school holiday periods means a busy and exciting day for you all.

16. Pottery Café

With cafes in Battersea and Fulham, Pottery Café has been going for 20 years and is London’s original paint-your-own pottery experience. With a massive range of pre-made items for you to decorate, and excellent coffee, cakes and snacks on offer, you can get creative with your little one here. All the paints are water based so safe for everyone – and washable! Booking is recommended and staff are on-hand (excuse the pun) if you fancy trying a handprint or footprint to commemorate a milestone for your little one.

17. Tate Modern

An art gallery may not be the first thing you think of when contemplating a toddler-friendly day out, but the Tate is not the norm when it comes to galleries! Its industrial setting means there are plenty of open spaces for toddlers to run around and burn off that excess energy, and with the dedicated family-friendly Start Gallery – a collation of the best-loved artworks – it’s a great introduction to the world of art. With a buggy park, baby changing facilities and various kid-friendly café and refreshment options, it has everything you need for an interesting and fun day out.

18. Brockwell Park

Visiting Brockwell Park, near Herne Hill in South London, is a great idea if the sun is shining on your day out in London. There is a large adventure playground including zip line, as well as a duck pond, paddling pool and recently refurbished lido for those odd occasions where it really gets hot enough to strip off! Brockwell Hall, dating from the early 1800s, is situated in the centre of the park and now houses a café for snacks, drinks and ice creams to top off an excellent trip.

19. Mudlarks, Museum of London Docklands

Mudlarks is a permanent exhibition at the London Docklands Museum, specifically targeted to children under 8 years of age, explaining the history and stories of the rest of the museum through hands-on activities and displays. With easy access, Mudlarks is on the same floor as the main entrance and right next door to the restaurant, café, toilets and baby changing facilities, so it makes for an easy and informative day out. Open every afternoon and all day during the school holidays, entry is free but you need a ticket that you can buy on the day or in advance online.

If you have been inspired to visit the vibrant capital city with your family, have a look at our amazing range of London tours, or call our team. We can help you to plan the ideal day in London for you and your toddler. If you are looking for the best free things to do in London then you can see our guide here

london night

27 Fun Things to Do in London in the Evening

Historic landmarks, royal palaces and attractions galore, London is also full to the brim with fantastic eateries offering an array of international cuisines from across the globe, lively bars, gastropubs, and a wealth of museums and galleries to explore.

But the fun doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. In fact, it just gets better. The UK capital really is the city that never sleeps, with a variety of fun activities to enjoy until the early hours.

Whether you want to continue your cultural experience, try innovative, quirky and fun places to eat and drink, or simply want to soak up the lively and buzzing atmosphere of the capital in the dark hours, London offers one of the best nights out you’ll ever have.

Here are 27 fun things to do in London during the evening and even into the small hours.

1. The Tower of London, Ceremony of the Keys

Every night at 9.50pm, the Ceremony of the Keys takes place at the 950-year-old Tower of London. Although you need to plan ahead and get tickets, the event is free to watch. The brief ceremony, which has been taking place since the 14th century, is performed by the Beefeaters and marks the official locking of the Tower.

But don’t worry about being locked in for the night. Once the ceremony is over and ‘all’s well’, they’ll let you out through a small side door.

2. London’s Museums

If you fancy visiting one of London’s museums after dark, there are plenty to choose between. Many museums have a weekly late night opening and most are free of charge, such as the British Museum Spotlight Tour that takes place every Friday evening. The Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum all have monthly after-hours access and special evening exhibitions.

For a more atmospheric visit, you can take a candlelit tour of Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn on the first Tuesday of every month.

natural history museum

3. Art Galleries

Housing one of the world’s most extensive collections of modern art from 1900 to the present day, the Tate Modern is one of the most visited galleries in the capital. If you haven’t got time to fit it into your day, you can visit the Thames Side gallery in the evening. It’s open until 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

The National Gallery, home to a world-class collection of art from some of the greatest artists in history including Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Renoir and Turner is open until 9 pm on Fridays. If you’re feeling creatively inspired, The National Portrait Gallery holds drop-in drawing classes on Friday evenings.

4. Haunted London Bus Tour

Step back in time and explore the dark and haunted streets of London from the safety of a vintage open-top double-decker bus. Then retrace the steps of Jack the Ripper in the sinister East End, and learn about the body snatchers while walking through the deserted Smithfield Market. Finish off with a comforting drink at the warm and inviting Sherlock Holmes pub.

5. Twilight Open Bus Tour

See the beauty of London lit up in the evening sky. Take an open top bus tour around some of London’s most popular landmarks such as the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral, and see them illuminated in all their glory.

6. Walk along the South Bank

If you prefer to stretch your legs, a gentle evening stroll along the South Bank will give you a stunning view of the River Thames and London’s landmarks twinkling in the night sky.

london south bank

7. The London Eye

A ride on the London Eye will give you spectacular far-reaching views along the River Thames and across the sprawling capital. But watching the sunset and the city light up from up high is a truly special experience. You can even buy ‘Day and Night Experience’ tickets to enjoy the ride during the day, then once again in the evening.

8. Views from the Shard

Europe’s tallest building also offers ‘Day and Night Experience’ tickets to see the fabulous views during the day, and the sparkling lights illuminating the River Thames at night.

9. The Sky Garden

Another fantastic place to get sunset and night-time views of the capital is from the Sky Garden at 20 Fenchurch Street. Spanning three storeys, London’s highest garden can be visited for free and the atrium stays open until late at night. The 360-degree views are lovely during the day, but at night they’re spectacular. Enjoy an evening cocktail at the Sky Pod or City Garden bars while you’re there.

10. Thames River Cruise

Enjoy a closer look at London’s illuminated landmarks while sipping champagne and savouring a delicious dinner on a Thames dinner cruise. Whether you want a sunset cocktail or want a five-course meal with music, entertainment and dancing, an evening cruise along the Thames is an unforgettable experience.

the london eye at night

11. Late Night Shopping

Enjoy a spot of retail therapy among the bright lights of the West End. The department stores, designer boutiques and high-street brand stores on Oxford Street are open until 10 pm on Thursdays.

12. Piccadilly Circus

A popular tourist attraction during the day, Piccadilly Circus really comes into its own at night. Soak up the bustling atmosphere and the bright neon lights before taking a stroll around nearby Soho, Chinatown and Leicester Square.

13. Jazz and Italian Coffee in Soho

As well as its risqué red-light reputation, Soho is also famous for its vibrant nightlife. You’ll find some great bars and restaurants here, ranging from casual and quirky to high-end fine dining venues. Head to the iconic Ronnie Scott’s for a great evening of jazz before savouring a late night espresso at the buzzing Bar Italia.

14. Covent Garden

Covent Garden is just as lively and vibrant in the evening as it is in the daytime. Head to the cobbled central piazza and enjoy the amazing talents of the street performers, from the famous ‘living statues’ to magicians and musicians, before grabbing a bite to eat in one of the nearby eateries.

15. A West End Musical

London’s West End is famous worldwide for its theatre scene. Grab an early pre-show dinner, then enjoy one of the iconic musicals such as The Lion King, Les Misérables or Mamma Mia!

16. Hippodrome Casino

If you fancy a flutter in sumptuous surroundings, then a night at the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square is definitely on the cards. This magnificent venue has four gaming floors, six bars, a music and cabaret theatre, and a fantastic restaurant that claims to serve the best steaks in London.

roulette

17. The Globe Theatre

Enjoy a night of Shakespeare at the faithful reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre on Bankside. The Bard’s most famous plays featuring some of the world’s most talented actors can be seen at incredibly affordable prices. You can buy a standing ticket for just £5!

18. Comedy Clubs

Not only can you laugh the night away enjoying some top comedy acts, but you can do it for free! The Angel Comedy Club at Camden Head and the Top Secret Comedy Club in Drury Lane host a range of top-class stand-up acts and shows with free entry and incredibly cheap drinks for a great value night out. Comedy clubs are extremely popular and tickets sell out quickly, so be sure to book early to avoid disappointment.

19. Immersive Theatre

Alternatively, if you want to get in on the action, you can take part in an immersive theatre show.  From murder mysteries and battle-against-the clock escape rooms to Agatha Christie courtroom dramas, there’s a range of thrilling shows and events that will have you battling your wits and visiting other eras in a fun night of escapism.

20. After Hours Shrek’s Adventure

The adventures of the loveable green ogre aren’t just adored by kids. Shrek’s Adventure London, near the London Eye, hosts after-dark adventures for adults only. Release your inner child with 10 live interactive shows peppered with hilarious adult humour and take a 4D bus trip driven by Donkey. Then finish up your evening with a tipple at the Poison Apple Pub.

21. Quirky Bars

London is full of quirky bars! Drinking out has never been such fun. Step back in time to 1920s Chicago and choose from a range of ‘prohibition’ cocktails at Bart’s on Sloane Avenue. Dress in a vintage outfit and dance along to music from the 40s and 50s in an underground station bar at Cahoots in Soho.

For a truly bizarre experience, spend a night out in a lavatory! The WC underneath Clapham Common station is a 100-year-old former toilet, and now serves a fantastic range of fine wines and cheeses on cubicle door tables, while offering live music on Sunday and Mondays from 8-10 pm.

vintage outfits

22. Mad Hatters Tipsy Evening Tea

Many London venues serve Afternoon Tea. But how about an ‘Evening Tea’ with a difference! Every evening the Sanderson Hotel hosts the quirky Mad Hatters Tipsy Evening Tea with an Alice in Wonderland theme.  Enjoy a delicious indulgence of savoury and sweet delights such as smoked salmon scotch eggs, vodka and cranberry tartlets and aged rum trifle, while sipping on speciality cocktails. The Hot Bouquet cocktail is a must try during cold winter evenings.

23. Pub Theatres

Enjoy a pint and a play in one of London’s pub theatres. Venues such as The Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court and Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate offer a great value night out featuring fringe theatre, comedy acts and edgy drama as well as discount drinks.

24. Haunted Pubs

Considering London’s long and turbulent history, it’s no surprise that there are a few haunted pubs around. Enjoy a pint and soak up the atmosphere while listening to spooky stories at the following pubs:

  • The Ten Bells in Spitalfields was the famous stalking ground of Jack the Ripper. Unchanged since the autumn of 1888, the pub is said to be haunted by the ghost of a Victorian landlord who was axed to death there.
  • The ghost of highwayman Dick Turpin is said to haunt the Spaniards Inn at Hampstead Heath, once his local pub.
  • The Viaduct Tavern near St Paul’s, once a gin palace, sits on top of former underground prison cells. It’s said to be haunted by the ghosts of previous inmates.

25. A Brick Lane Curry

If you’re a curry fan, then a trip down iconic Brick Lane is a must for a great night out. The vibrant and colourful Bangla Town, full of the unmistakable aromas of heady eastern spices, really comes to life in the evening.

As well as the main strip, there are lots of tiny side streets to explore with a wealth of lively bars and restaurants, not to mention the famous curry houses. Cinnamon and Sheba are two of the best known, with a wonderful selection of authentic Bengali dishes.

And if you’re feeling peckish after a hard night’s partying, be sure to grab a hot and fresh beigel from the famous Brick Lane Bakery.

26. A Late Night Dinner

London really is the city that never sleeps. No matter how late it is, you can enjoy a delicious meal with views at the Duck and Waffle in Bishopsgate. The restaurant, located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, is open 24/7 and offers a special late-night menu featuring sharing plates of snacks, generous main dishes and champagne cocktails.

eating dinner

27. A Dino Snores Night at the Natural History Museum

A fun night out in London doesn’t just have to be for adults. Kids from ages 7 to 11 can enjoy the thrilling experience of a sleepover with the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. Once the doors have closed, set up camp in the famous Hintze Hall gallery and spend an action-packed night exploring a torch-lit trail and taking part in workshops and science shows before settling down to sleep (if you can) at midnight.

You can find more information on our range of London tours here. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.