A fascinating and cosmopolitan capital, London conquers the hearts of its visitors. There are the most popular sights such as Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. But there’s plenty more to see in London. The people who know this best? The Londoners.
The capital of England and the United Kingdom is an endless supply of things to do and places to see so we’ve selected 25 experiences that are good examples of everyday life in London. Read on for a locals guide to London.
1. Get lost on the Tube (underground)
Your trip to London isn’t complete if you haven’t got lost in the colourful underground maze at least once. London’s iconic underground transport is 150 years old and is undoubtedly the fastest way to get around the city. It’s also home to some of the most beautiful stations in the world. If you’re fascinated by history and architecture, stop off at Westminster Station, Southwark and Gants Hill.
2. Drink a beer at the Princess Louise pub
The Princess Louise pub on High Holborn is one of London’s oldest Victorian Era public houses, dating all the way back to 1872! It has one of the best-preserved Victorian interiors in London, making you feel like time has stood still. This is a great place to relax in with a couple of pints and escape the hustle and bustle of modern London.
3. Shop for antiques at a London market
Portobello market is the most famous of all the antique markets in London. Whether you’re shopping for antique furniture, or just looking to pick up a couple of trinkets, the market on Portobello Road is a great day out. Already famous for its appearance in the film Notting Hill, Portobello Road is a popular stretch of street to visit on any day of the week. To see it in full swing, go on Saturday – the main day that the market stalls are open.
4. Go to a free exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery
Located on the affluent King’s Road in Chelsea, the Saatchi Gallery showcases contemporary art exhibitions of emerging artists. It has a strong reputation for introducing unknown artists to the world, who later have become recognised worldwide. In the last 20 years, the Saatchi Gallery presented 15 of the 20 most visited museum exhibitions in London. It’s a must-see for all art lovers.
Opening times: The Saatchi Gallery is open from 10AM to 6PM, 7 days of the week.
5. Rent a “Boris Bike”
These bikes have their nickname ‘Boris Bikes’ because Boris Johnson was a key supporter of the cycle hire scheme, and he was the mayor of London at the time. Their official name is Santander Cycles, and they can be found all around the city. Unmissable in their bright red colour. It costs £2 to use the bike and after that, the first 30 minutes of each journey is free. Cheaper than the tube, and far cheaper than a taxi, bikes are a great way to get around London (if it’s not raining!).
Tip: Download the Santander Cycles app so you can easily know the location of the docking stations as well as bike and the space availability.
6. Drink a glass of champagne in a baroque Notting Hill bar
There’s no better place to go bar hopping in London than Notting Hill. Each bar has it’s own character and story. We love Beach Blanket Babylon. The cocktails in this place are described as the best in the area and the interior decoration rivals that of Versailles.
7. Watch a film in a pub… for free.
If there’s one thing Londoners know how to scout out, it’s free events. London is often characterized as a very expensive city to enjoy life in, however, there are tons of things to do for free if you know where to look. All around the city, there are film screenings that are completely free.
8. Eat an instagrammable colour-explosion cupcake
You know the ones we mean. The over-the-top colourful unicorn cupcakes, sprinkles and all. As seen on any semi-famous influencers’ Instagram. As much as we want to look away, there’s a mysterious allure to these sickly sweet mouthfuls of rainbow butter that make us want to sink our teeth straight into them. Try one at The Hummingbird Bakery or Crumbs Couture. You’ll find one in Richmond, Soho, South Kensington, Notting Hill, Spitalfields or Islington.
9. Listen to live music at The Jazz Cafe
Everyone from Amy Winehouse to Bobby Womack has played at the iconic Jazz Cafe in Camden. The atmosphere here is truly electric, and the relatively small capacity of 150 people seated, makes for a special, intimate experience every time. Choose to sit right by the stage, or watch the show from the restaurant upstairs while you tuck into dinner.
10. Have a typical Sunday Roast
On Sunday’s, Londoners have a roast. They might debate over the meat (chicken, lamb, beef), or whether or not to have a Yorkshire pudding (tip: ALWAYS have the Yorkshire pudding), but one thing’s for sure: Sunday’s in London are made for a Sunday roast. One of the best in the city is at the Tabernacle, an old church converted into a cultural centre, theatre, art gallery, and restaurant. They also do an excellent Bloody Mary.
11. Have a picnic in one of London’s parks
Despite being a busy metropolitan city, London is full of green spaces. Some parks are so big that you’ll forget you’re in a city entirely. Richmond park has some of the best wildlife. There are herds of deer that live in the park – pretty unbelievable when you see its location in the heart of London! Some of our other favourite parks are Hyde Park, Green Park, Queen’s Park, and Regent’s Park. All have something different to offer, but each as beautiful as the next.
12. Go to a free concert in Shoreditch
Another thing to do in London for free. Our favourite kind of price tag is a big fat zero, and can you blame us? The quality of free events in London is incredibly high and should not be taken for granted. Some of the best live music and comedy clubs in Shoreditch are completely free of charge.
13. Learn how to taste wine at a wine bar
London has some fantastic wine bars with impressive wine cellars to satisfy any taste. If you love wine, but don’t know that much about it, London is a great place to pick up some wine tips. Many wine bars offer a short tasting course to help you know more about the wine you’re drinking. Learn about wine from a nook inside a cosy pub such as the Humble Grape, or go to a wine tasting with a view at the Skylon Tower. Either way. there’s wine involved, so we’re in!
14. Attend a Piano concert
See a piano concert at Piano on Kensington High Street (where else?). The entrance is free (woohoo!) and you can even make a song request by writing a post-it note and sticking it on the piano! Audience participation at its finest.
15. Watch the rowing races on Hammersmith canal
Take a walk on the banks of Hammersmith Canal and take in the beautiful scenery. If you go around springtime, time your visit to see The Boat Race – the renowned rowing race between Oxford University and Cambridge University. The race passes through Hammersmith and draws crowds of up to 270,000 people. Order a jug of Pimm’s – England’s favourite summer drink – and watch the race unfold.
16. Go to see a musical in the West End
Seeing a show in London’s West End is a magical experience. Book your tickets in advance and head to one of the restaurants nearby for a pre-theatre menu. Watch a classic like The Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables and be transported to another time. Or go for something decidedly more modern such as The Book of Mormon or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
17. Spend an afternoon in a beer garden
London may not be notorious for its sunny days, but trust us, they do happen sometimes. And when they do, the only place to be is in a beer garden. London pubs often have gardens tucked away behind their facade, that get forgotten about in the winter. Some of our favourite beer gardens are at The Castle in Tooting, The Tankard in Elephant & Castle and Barrio Shorditch in well, Shoreditch.
18. Get lost in a world of modern art at the Tate Modern
Admire the paintings of Jackson Pollock, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and many others at the Tate Modern. Do you know what our favourite part about the Tate Modern is? Yes, you guessed it, the free admission. Spend all afternoon walking around the Tate Modern, completely free of charge. Afterwards, treat yourself in the bar-restaurant on the 7th floor while taking in the view of London.
19. Hunt for treasures at a Charity Shop
One of Londoners best-kept secrets is the treasure trove that is charity shops. Items are donated to the shop by the residents who live in the area, so it’s worth heading to areas like Chelsea and Kensington where average house prices are around £3 million. You can guarantee they’ll have something good to give away! Be prepared to get stuck in and really root around to find something good. Persistence is key.
20. Have afternoon tea
Typically around 4pm, the English have afternoon tea. Although not a daily occurrence anymore, it is a common treat to have on the weekend in London. Afternoon tea is not just tea. Oh no. It usually comes with small sandwiches, miniature pastries and delicate cakes. It’s a sophisticated feast, essentially. You’ll want to try one.
21. Step into the past
Visit the Dennis Severs’ House on 18 Folgate Street. An amazing place that reconstructs the sounds, smells, objects, and atmosphere of London’s past. It is a is a “still-life drama” imagining what home life would have been like for a family of silk weavers in 1724.
22. Enjoy a drink in the sky
London is not short of sky-high bars from which you can order a fancy cocktail while overlooking the city. Just about every iconic skyscraper in the city has a bar somewhere near its point. The best ones? The aptly named Sky Bar, Sky Pod Bar and Skylight Rooftop Bar are all fantastic.
23. Catch a street performance in Covent Garden
On any day of the week, you’ll find violinists, opera singers, acrobats or comedians all performing their craft in Covent Garden. Sit in one of the outdoor bars in the square, order a mulled wine and wait for a show to start!
24. See a concert at the Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is a magnificent building that has hosted concerts by some of the greatest performing artists in the world. It is perhaps London’s most iconic venue. A privilege for the artists playing there just as much as it’s a privilege for the audience. Share a moment of history with your favourite artist and book a ticket now!
25. Explore Notting Hill’s colourful houses
One of the most desired neighbourhoods in London to live in, Notting Hill has some of the most fabulous houses. There are the white marble townhouses that ooze class, and the colourful mews houses down cobbled roads. Get lost in a real estate daydream. Then come back to earth for brunch in one of Notting Hills vibrant cafes.
Last but not least, take a look at this London Fun Facts video to discover some interesting details about this city!