London, the capital of England is a 21st-century, gorgeous city with history going back to Roman times. At its centre stand the imposing Houses of Parliament, the iconic ‘Big Ben’ clock tower and Westminster Abbey, the site of British monarch coronations. Across the Thames, the London Eye observation wheel provides panoramic views of the South Bank cultural complex and the entire city. London seems to be the definition of a variety of cultures, from the quirky to the outgoing, crazy, and artsy. There are several attractions, activities, and experiences to discover in this charming city. Here are some of the ten must-do’s whenever you have the opportunity to visit London.
A trip to London would definitely be incomplete without visiting Big Ben, like going to France and missing out on the Eifel Tower, or going to China and not visiting the great wall, it is an unthinkable nonsensical waste of opportunity. Perhaps one of the most photographed landmarks in London, Big Ben – aka the Elizabeth Tower – is an iconic feature on London’s horizon. As the second-largest clock tower of its kind in the world, it’s over 150 years old and has survived the bombings of WWII. Listen out for the famous Great Bell chiming in the Westminster Quarters, every quarter-hour.
2. Visit the Queen’s House
Buckingham Palace, the official residence of the Queen of England, is on everyone’s to-do list. This stunning early 19th-century building has 775 rooms and welcomes around 50,000 guests each year to private events and functions, not to mention the State Rooms which are open to the public during the summer. Don’t miss the priceless art of the Royal Collection hanging on the walls, as well.
3. See an all-singing, all-dancing musical
Theatrical art in its purest form presents itself in London’s West End, where there is an insatiable appetite for Broadway transfers but also where there is home-grown success: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epic ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, Cameron Mackintosh’s ‘Les Miserables’, the RSC’s ‘Matilda the Musical’ and a number of others are among the recent hits. Last-minute tickets from the Leicester Square ticket booth are usually your best bet for a bargain.
4. Have a laugh for free at Theatre Royal Stratford East
A great way to see the local upcoming talents, Comic Mondays is held in the bar at Theatre Royal Stratford East and is London’s longest-running free comedy night. Sessions start at 8 pm, with a full bill of stand-ups on a mission to make you smile. And if one of the comics doesn’t tickle your funny bone, you’ll still have cash in your pocket to buy a drink.
5. Dance till dawn at Fabric
Wondering if there is nightlife to experience in this so-called dull town? This would be the perfect place to start. It is still unconfirmed whether the good-time boys and girls who flock to this nightclub have homes to go to. We may never know because the music (garage, house, techno) plays from 11 pm into the night – until 7 am on Saturday morning and 8 am on Sunday morning. The good news for employers is that it closes at a far more sensible 5.30 am on Monday mornings.
How perfectly gorgeous and romantic would it be to have a little picnic blanket set out, get comfy with your loved one and watch a movie under the starlit sky, it sounds like a stolen scene from a movie itself. It is completely possible as London’s outdoor cinema season usually runs from late spring to September, with more screens popping up every summer. Among your choices you can check out the Rooftop Film Club in four urban locations across town, Luna Cinema, which tends to present evening screenings in pretty parks and squares, and Dalston Roof Park where you pay £5 membership and can see films for free.
7. Visit a park with the world’s weirdest entrance policy
The perfect place to bring your kids, Coram’s Fields is one of the most child-friendly open spaces in central London. Set on the former site of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital, which was established in 1747 as a sanctuary for unwanted babies, Coram’s Fields continues to protect children by enforcing a strict policy that only permits adults to enter if accompanied by a child under 16. The children’s park on this beautiful walled garden site is simply the best for miles around. There’s an enormous sandpit and all sorts of toddler climbing frames, see-saws and swings on the east side. There’s also a city farm and an adventure playground for the older kids with a zip wire, tunnel slide and lots of climbing equipment made out of natural materials. Robust ride-on toys come out during certain periods, and kids adore making the most of this large and beautiful inner-city space on borrowed wheels.
There are extravagant department stores, markets where you can find affordable treasures and window-shopping opportunities so enjoyable that amazing online shopping ever took off. Swerve off Oxford Street and discover the places where shopping will never feel like a chore. One such example and one of the trendiest places for bargain gear is the Princess May car boot sale, a school playground in Stoke Newington. Every Saturday and Sunday sellers just roll up and spread out their wares. Keen shoppers look for vintage fashions, vinyl and anything stylishly retro. Gates open at 8 am Saturdays and 7 am Sundays.
Whether you’re on your way home from a night’s clubbing or you’ve been up since 5 am with your three-year-old, gloriously quiet mornings in central London are your reward. Head for St John Bakery, just behind Maltby Street Market for their famous freshly made doughnuts oozing with jam or go Proustian with just-baked madeleines dipped in your cup of tea. Then in the afternoon indulge in the British culture of Fish and Chips. You can even watch it being prepared before your very eyes on CCTV at Kerbisher and Malt. Then finally end the day by cosying up to the fire in a quaint old club. Nothing beats sitting by an open fire drinking a good pint in a charming old pub. On a cobbled street on the lanes above Hampstead village, the Holly Bush is one of the perfect spots for just that. The eighteenth-century interiors are pleasingly far from contemporary.
10. Check out the world famous sports stadiums and museums
If you love sports then there is lots to see and do in London. There are football, Cricket, and Rugby stadiums, as well as other facilities dedicated to tennis, rowing etc. Check them out London’s best sports museums and stadium tours.
11. Madame Tussauds
No visit to London would be complete without visiting Madame Tussauds. According to Wikipedia Madame Tussauds is a museum and tourist attraction located in Central London, housed in the former London Planetarium. It is known for recreating life-size wax models of celebrities. The attraction houses its famous Chamber of Horrors. Set up by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud on Marylebone Road in 1884 it is the first Madame Tussauds.
The possibilities are endless on the streets of London but 101-things-to-do-in-london shares an exhaustive list of options available. When it comes right down to it though, London is a definite bucket-list-must-have.
Kenyans need a visa to travel to the U.K. Get information on how to apply for your visa on the Gov.UK Website.
There are two flights available per day, with an eight-hour, and fifty-five-minute duration. Flights are from Nairobi, Kenya (NBO) to London, United Kingdom (all airports). There are also flights from Mombasa.
Shingai is an upcoming writer with a passion for words and expression through writing. She lived in Zimbabwe as a child and has traveled to over ten countries. She craves adventure and hopes to be an inspirational writer. She is currently pursuing a degree in English Literature with a minor in Psychology at Daystar University.