This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2017. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.
There are loads, and I mean loads, of things to do in London.
Most tourists will stick by the well trodden path on their first trip to London – Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square… these are all activities that are well worth doing, but after you’ve done them once, you don’t need to do the same things again.
If you’ve been to all the classic London attractions before and are wondering what to do next, here are 8 totally underrated activities to do in London!
Where to stay in London:
I loved my stay at The Hoxton Shoreditch in London. The rooms were all decorated in different ways (I know this because the other bloggers and I all compared rooms!). Mine had retro carpet and lamps which gave it a very cosy feeling. I would absolutely stay there again next time I’m in London!
1. Explore Greenwich
Greenwich is one of those places that was never at the top of my list, but I was pleasantly surprised by when I finally did it. It was by far my favourite London activity from this most recent trip to the city.
I started at Greenwich Observatory (entry is included in the London Pass) and stood on the Meridian Line, where I silently geeked out about the fact that I was at Longitude 0º. The rest of the observatory is worth a visit, too, as you can see a bunch of old timepieces and learn about the history of astronomy and navigation.
Surrounding the observatory is an absolutely gorgeous park with views of the Old Royal Naval College building and some eastern parts of the city. If you walk down towards the Thames, you’ll also pass by the Maritime Museum (which is free to enter) and the Cutty Sark ship replica.
Greenwich Market is a fabulous place to stop for lunch around here, as it has loads of different cuisines for cheap. I ended up getting 6 fried pierogi and a fresh juice for only £7.50. Bargain.
If you have the London Pass and are planning on seeing the Tower of London or Westminster afterwards, hop on the City Cruises line from Greenwich pier. I did this open-top cruise along the Thames on a sunny day and it was so much nicer than catching the tube!
2. Take a walk around Shoreditch
Shoreditch is hands-down my favourite area of London. It’s the hippest, craziest, most colourful place to spend an afternoon.
My favourite thing to do in Shoreditch is to walk along Brick Lane. If you head there on a weekend, you’ll even find markets featuring arts & crafts, clothing, and food hidden inside some of the buildings and down the alleyways that surround this popular street.
The street art in Shoreditch is phenomenal. Every surface seems to have a massive mural, or political propaganda, or posters, or just a selection of random colours splashed all over it. I tend to go a bit photo crazy with the all the art around here! Book a Shoreditch street art tour if you want to see this area in more detail.
3. Find the old London wall
I wasn’t planning on seeing the London Wall on my trip, but I managed to spot this historic site while walking around downtown with my cousin who lives in London.
The London Wall was originally built by the Romans around 200 AD and there are only a few scattered pieces remaining. For such an old structure, it seems weirdly out of place in between the modern office buildings and skyscrapers that surround it.
To find it, walk along ‘London Wall’ (that’s the street name!) and you’ll find a large chunk of it near the Museum of London.
4. Visit the British Library
My visit was mainly so that I could photograph the towering bookcases and curved stairwells in the lobby, but the library (which is the second largest library by volume in the world) is actually somewhat of a museum too.
As you walk in, you’ll see a large glass-covered bookcase directly in front of you. This is The King’s Library, which is a collection of over 85,000 books that were acquired by King George III himself.
Next, head into the Sir John Ritblat Gallery. This gallery features a collection of precious books and manuscripts includes original notes by Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, and Lewis Carroll, and even lyrics from The Beatles.
The walls of the library also host ever-changing art exhibitions. When I was there, I spotted a beautiful set of illustrations by Sir Quentin Blake of characters from Roald Dahl’s stories. Having once read these books intently, this exhibition brought back some lovely childhood memories.
5. Wander through Borough Market
While I do enjoy wandering through markets, they aren’t usually my first choice of activity. As if to prove me wrong, our morning tour of Borough Market turned out to be one of the most interesting things I did in London on this recent trip!
Borough Market is located on the southern end of London Bridge, and has a history that dates back about 1000 years. This market used to be a hotspot for trade between travellers as the bridge was the only river crossing in London.
Our tour was hosted by Celia Brooks – an American who moved to London and became a food writer, and TV personality, and now tour guide. She showed us all the best stalls to get local specialties and scored us a ridiculous amount of free tastings.
You can explore Borough Market by yourself, or book Celia’s tour on her website.
6. Visit Kensington Palace
The palace itself is a very old but well kept building, where you can walk through a number of rooms that are set up to look like how they originally were in the 17th and 18th centuries. I enjoyed walking up the glamorous King’s Staircase and seeing the gardens which were filled with spring daffodils.
What I found most interesting was that Kensington Palace was the primary residence of Princess Diana after her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981, and over 1 million bouquets were left outside the palace after her death in 1997.
An exhibition called ‘Diana: Her Fashion Story’ was showing, where some of the dresses she wore were displayed alongside photos of her wearing them. I’m not particularly interested in fashion, but I actually found this exhibition super interesting!
7. See the city skyline from Primrose Hill
When I asked my peeps on Instagram what I should do in London, I had at least 3 people suggest Primrose Hill. What? Primrose Hill? Why had I never heard of this place!?
On my last day in London, I took a bus to Primrose Hill to see what all the fuss was about. Even with cloudy skies and chilly weather, there were still plenty of people on the lawn enjoying the views. The skyline wasn’t the most amazing one I’ve ever seen, but it sure wasn’t bad either!
There are a number of other places to check out around Primrose Hill – the London Zoo is just across the road, and if you’re up for some exercise then the famous Abbey Road crosswalk is only a 20 minute walk away.
8. Check out Baker Street Station
Baker Street station on the Circle Line is one of the best preserved stations from the world’s first ever underground railway system which was built in 1863.
While it has been updated a few times over the years, the station was restored in the 1980s to look similar to its original appearance. You can find old photos and plans on the walls along the platform.
This station was also made famous in the fictional Sherlock Holmes book series. If you’re a fan, you can find some tiled art inside the station to commemorate it or do a Sherlock Holmes walking tour!
How I got there:
You know how some people always seem to get free upgrades on flights? That literally never happens to me. Ever. But when I flew from NYC to London on British Airways, I got to fly in Premium Economy for the first time ever! A little extra legroom and fancier meals (the same ones that are served to business class) were such a treat. It made the 7 hour trans-Atlantic flight slightly more tolerable!
*My trip to London was sponsored by Visit Britain, who invited me along with a few other bloggers over to challenge us to see as much of London as we could on a small budget. I’m proud to be an honest and transparent blogger, so every opinion expressed on AGWT is a true review of my experience!