How to have the perfect London holiday experience

London's skyline with Bin Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Zoe Macfarlane

Posted July 26, 2022


Where else can you experience a rich history, vibrant present, and nod to the future, but in London? The capital of the United Kingdom is a city of contrasts. One minute you are exploring a century-old building, the next the hippest new bar or restaurant, and yet both still feel uniquely ‘London’.

Time spent in London is easily filled with your favourite things – whether it’s art, culture, history, shopping, or a touch of the odd (London is prided on its eccentricity after all). It’s not only the attractions that appeal but everything you see on your way to them. London is a multicultural city that has something for everyone. 

The perfect London holiday is one of variety. Every borough has attractions, activities, and entertainment – many free - that allow you to create fun-filled adventures every day. Use our handy guide to get planning!

a London street with a double decker bus and red telephone booth

Double-decker buses, yellow cabs and red telephone booths are common sights on London's streets.


Explore London’s art and cultural gems

With over 1,500 permanent exhibition spaces in London, accommodating art into your itinerary is effortless. Especially as most galleries and art museums are free! 

A firm favourite for locals and visitors alike is the Tate Modern, located on the banks of the Thames. Modern and contemporary art fill the six floors of this former power station. Break up your visit at the onsite restaurant; the panoramic vistas over London are perfect to consider the Picasso or Hirst that grabbed your attention.

For painting lovers, a meander around the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is a must. It has what’s considered one of the greatest collections in the world. Allow plenty of time to seek the world’s most iconic artists, from Van Gogh to da Vinci to Caravaggio. 

It’s not only art galleries that London does exceptionally well – museums, too! The British Museum has the accolade of being the first-ever national museum to open to the public. It’s home to eight million artefacts, with 50,000 on display at a time.

Other fabulous museums include the V&A for design, and textiles, the National History Museum, and the National Maritime Musuem, home of the Cutty Sark.

 

Westminster Abbey in London

Westminster Abbey has a long and storied history in London.


Delve into London’s history

Founded in 43 AD, London is a city where the past and the present meld. Beautifully restored buildings can date back up to a century, with Westminster Abbey capturing the hearts and imagination the most. This UNESCO World Heritage gothic church is most famous for hosting royal events, including 17 weddings (the last was the Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate). It’s also beloved for its daily church services.

Talking of royals, Buckingham Palace is another popular stop for those curious about the British monarchy. The official British royal family residence since the 19th century, this is one of the few working palaces left around the world. This doesn’t mean you’ll be invited in for a tea with the Queen, however you can explore the Royal Mews, State Rooms, and follow an audio tour narrated by Prince Charles. Time your visit for 10:45 am to see the impressive Changing of the Guards. 

If you want to tap into the city’s grungier history, be sure to stop by the Tower of London. Built in 1066, this historic fortress has been a prison, observatory, military storehouse, and Royal Mint. It’s the gruesome past that draws the most attention, with the Torture at the Tower exhibit the most revealing.

 

the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace

The Changing of the Guard is one of the most spectacular sights in London.


Best of British

You’ll notice a lot of several British idiosyncrasies while exploring London, so why not include some in your stay?

There’s an age-old debate over where the clotted cream or strawberry jam goes on top of a scone – so be the judge of that yourself at High Tea! While there are several spots for afternoon tea across London, our pick is either to book the quintessential high tea experience at the Ritz, Alternatively, indulge your inner child at a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory afternoon tea at One Aldwych.

Staying in London on a Sunday? Another food-based British must-do is a Sunday roast. The Pig and Butcher in Islington have a solid reputation for their roast and ambience. As does Covent Garden’s Simpson’s in the Strand.

Taking in a West End musical or play is another only-in-London activity for those that love shows while on holiday. See what’s on at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London’s oldest theatre, catch a performance of the Mouse Trap, the world’s longest-running show, or book tickets to trending shows at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. 

 

London Bridge

London Bridge isn't falling down any time soon.


Shop 'til you drop

For many Australians, London is so famous for its shopping that visitors leave half a suitcase empty for their bargains and fashion-forward brand purchases. While you can shop across London, there are a few standout destinations to consider weaving into your London day trips.

Oxford Street is one of London’s most well-known shopping streets, with some 300 stores lining this bustling thoroughfare. British chains, designer outlets, tourist tat stalls and landmarks stores all vie for your attention and dollar. Stop by iconic Selfridges and wander the most British store of them all, Marks and Spencers. 

Harrods is often on a traveller’s shopping wish list, in part for its iconic status, but also for the luxury brands it carries. Opened in the 1800s, Harrods is the largest department store in Europe, with some 300 departments and 5,000 brands. If a trip around Harrods hasn’t worn you out, Knightsbridge has more posh brands on offer, including Harvey Nicholls.

For an opposite shopping experience to Harrods, head to the bustling vibes of Camden’s weekend markets. Urban, cool, cheap, and a touch chaotic, it is as much fun to people-watch as it is to shop. Grab a pint by the canal when you’re finished.

 


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