Things to do in London

London Walking Tours

Whether you have two days in London or an entire lifetime, there are spots that demand your attention.

See all the best things to do in London by signing up for London walking tours designed to amaze, impress, and astound.

London Walks

You can get to know London by motoring in a taxi from place to place while reading your guidebook along the way. Go it alone and explore iconic landmarks like Trafalgar Square, royal palaces, Kensington Gardens, and Hyde Park.

However, many opportunities are available where expert guides take you on group or private tours of various locations and tell you about fascinating history in the process. Options like one of the following classic walking tours in London allow experts to tell you about the slasher legends, pubs, and waterfront happenings that helped give this city its 5-star status.

Jack the Ripper

Many tours take horror-loving tourists and avid historians down the same alleyways once haunted by Jack the Ripper. One company opts for a fully immersive jaunt that includes handheld projectors casting people-sized images on the walls of Whitechapel. Other tours boast more murder sites and Ripper-relevant locations than their competitors.

Read through the tour descriptions and decide how you want to rediscover one of London’s most fearful times. You can visit the building where a suspect worked as a barber, or retrace the steps of one victim as she unknowingly walked with the Ripper before her untimely demise.

These spots tell the story of a serial killer whose trail of tragedy has become indelibly woven into the history of London itself.

Ghost Walks

We’re all about the weird, and what's weirder than ghosts? Imagine so many specters you have to break down your ghoul stroll by city sector. Ghost walks take participants through reportedly haunted sites, including Greenwich. There’s also a paranormal-focused tour where the hosts use tools of the trade to connect with ghosts and poltergeists.

Special mention goes to the virtual tour offered by Ghosts of the Old City. Those concerned with accessibility or anyone who just wants to stay out of the legendary London fog can tour the dark corners of London and hear spooky tales from the comfort of their hotel bed.

Photographer: Michael Mouritz

Secret Village — Hampstead

Hampstead is a small London enclave about 4 miles northwest of Charing Cross. Here, residential flats and lush outdoor spaces come together to create an oasis of boutiques, lauded eateries, and upscale pubs tucked into Georgian buildings.

They ooze charm, offering some of the best unique things to do in London. A walk through Hampstead is a walk through history as you spy old coaching inns turned into pubs, Charles Dickens’ stomping grounds, and even a few spaces that may look familiar to Mary Poppins fans.

Classic London

Tours that target the “classic London” vibe tend to hit on all parts of this great city that helped make it so great. From the secrets hidden at stately Westminster Abbey and a local’s view of Covent Garden to stops by the Tower of London and even the Eye, this tour is like a greatest hits album come to life.

Pub Walks

Pub culture and London culture are one and the same, so it’s no surprise you can walk in any direction in the city and get pints and prawn crisps. However, an official pub walking tour turns a quick drink into a social experience. You get to meet people and be escorted to some of the best watering holes around.

There’s also a guide who provides trivia about the neighborhood and pub you’re in. For music lovers, this is also a great way to catch some live music in London, adding to the city’s vibrant nightlife.

By the Water Tours

London is technically a land-locked city. Combine the majesty of the river Thames with the countless streams, ponds, lakes, and canals that weave through the Big Smoke, and you have a lot of waterfront property begging to be explored. If you feel drawn to these spots, look for tours that go by the water.

Some explore specific patches, such as a stroll around Little Venice (no striped shirt and straw hat required). Others, such as a tour of Royal London, incorporate bodies of water more incidentally, but we think those fountains and duck ponds still count.

Thames Riverside Walk

Be your own tour guide and get ready to trek alongside the Thames. The official Thames Path covers an impressive 79.5-mile stretch that takes travelers past a number of top sights. Some of the many include the House of Parliament, Syon Park, Hampton Court Palace, Canary Wharf, the Royal Docks, Battersea Park, and Kew Gardens.

You’d probably have to be a top-rated marathon runner to even attempt to cover the entire walk in one trip, but you can use apps such as Go Jauntly to plan out your route and maximize your time along the river.

Photographer: the blowup

Historical Tours

Way back in around 43 AD, Romans came to present-day England and established a new town they called Londinium. Walking tours of London’s most historic nooks, crannies, and castles cover highlights of what’s happened since.

Westminster and the Churchill War Rooms

Anyone who has taken 5th-grade history knows how much of an impact World War II had on the city of London. However, there’s a difference between reading about it in a book and experiencing the feel for wartime strategy and bravery as you walk into the subterranean Churchill War Rooms and make your way from bunker to bunker.

Bookend your tour with a stroll around Westminster, where you can see the Abbey and other must-hit spots, such as Big Ben.

Blood and Tears Walking Tour

Does your idea of a great Friday night include a glass of wine and an endless playlist of true crime podcasts? Get ready for a serious upgrade, because the Blood & Tears Walk packs the stories of a whopping 11 serial killers into a 2-hour journey through some of the most disturbing cases London has ever seen.

Forget about missing out on the nitty-gritty details. Host Declan McHugh has been researching the most notorious murders in the city for over three decades, and he’s spilling the tea at every turn.

Changing of the Guard Walking Tour

Part of the allure of Britain’s Royal Family is that even in modern times, the King and his subjects still honor traditions that go back centuries. This Changing of the Guards tour lets you experience one such tradition from a prime vantage point.

There’s the added bonus of a guide whispering in your ear so you don’t miss out on any of the little details that make this iconic spectacle a required piece of every visitor’s itinerary.

Kensington Palace Gardens with Royal High Tea

Limber up those pinkies and get your palate ready for a pot of Earl Grey, because it’s time for tea in one of the most royal places on the planet. Kensington Palace is a primo royal residence and has been since the 17th century. Currently, William and Kate and a slew of their relatives live within the palace while they’re in London.

This makes downing scones and finger sandwiches at the pavilion outside a pretty hoity-toity affair.

Photographer: Rahul Chakraborty

Fictional Tours

Some walking tours in London take you far out of the realm of double-decker buses and fish and chips. You’ll visit fictional lands with their own iconic sights, sounds, and … owls?

Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour

Whether you’re a fan of the original Arthur Conan Doyle series or you find yourself keen on interpretations by Robert Downy, Jr. or Benedict Cumberbatch, there’s no denying Sherlock Holmes is a fan favorite. Now you can visit the actual spots covered in Doyle’s books, as well as film and TV interpretations, via a Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour.

Charge your phone ahead of time, so you can take a pic near Piccadilly Circus, where Holmes and Watson had their first tête-à-tête.

Harry Potter Walking Tour

You don’t have to use the famous sorting hat to figure out which Harry Potter Walking Tour to take. The one offered by Get Your Guide includes visits to Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron.

You’ll also play interactive games, such as House competitions and trivia tests, that help you pass the time as you wait your turn to peer into the Clink Prison Museum and make your way to Potter star Daniel Radcliffe’s school.

Cultural Tours

Hark! Here come some London walking tours with a theme. From tasty trips to restaurants and bakeries to a chance to traipse around the West End, these tours are dripping in culture, entertainment, and the occasional plate of buttery escargot.

Food and Culinary Tours

There are almost as many food tours in London as there are cups of tea, but that’s a good thing. That means you can find a walking tour that suits your taste buds or do several tours without worrying too much about overlap.

Secret Food Tours offers many options, including tours of Camden Food Market, the London Bridge area, Indian restaurants, beer gardens and pubs, Shoreditch, and SoHo. Depending on your route, you’ll get to taste everything from mango lassis to bacon and egg baps as you learn about the city one bite at a time.

West End Theatreland Tour

More than 16 million people travel to London’s West End theater district every year. They’ll attend productions, such as Les Miserables and Frozen the Musical, at noted venues, including the Sondheim Theater and Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

You can experience the general area for free by taking a self-guided walking tour voiced by veteran actor Ian McKellen. With Ian leading the charge, you’ll see the best parts of London’s theater district and learn about its origins.

Photographer: Eamonn Wang

Shakespearean London Walk

Fans of great works, such as Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice, know William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon. However, much of his work was done while he lived in the city proper. Get thee to London and thou shalt have a chance to walk the same areas paced by the great and much-revered Shakespeare.

Choose London Walk’s Shakespeare tour and you’ll be serenaded by a lute while learning about the Bard’s life and career.

If thou sees thyself as a loner, thou might prefer a self-guided Shakespeare tour that includes visits to archaeological sites of the original Rose Theatre in Southwark. You’ll also see the Globe Theatre that took over Shakespeare’s performances after construction was completed in 1599.

Hidden London Secrets Tour

You know about Big Ben, the Shard, and Canary Wharf, but there are some lesser-known elements of life in London that are equally worth exploring. Sometimes, to understand the true nature of a city, you need to go beyond the typical tourist treks.

Get Your Guide’s Secrets of London tour is a mix of quirky sights and historical treats, including a scavenger hunt for old gas lamps and door knockers. A similar tour by the London Transport Museum dips into back streets and other off-the-beaten-path locales to explore how London became the urban marvel it is today.

The Beatles Tour

Everyone is familiar with Hey Jude, Twist and Shout, Strawberry Fields Forever, Let It Be, Here Comes the Sun, and Come Together. You don’t have to be the actual Sgt. Pepper or live in a Yellow Submarine to know the Beatles are one of the most recognizable and respected bands of all time. They also worked and played in London, and there are several tours dedicated to all things Fab Four.

Sign up for the Beatles London Walking Tour by Golden Tours and you’ll get to see some of John, Paul, Ringo, and George’s favorite locations. The Marylebone and Abbey Road leg gets you a front-row seat to filming locations for A Hard Day’s Night and Help, plus you can do your best strut across the crosswalk once trod upon by the groovy foursome.

The Soho and Mayfair tour goes by murals dedicated to the Beatles, as well as studios they used. It’s worth its weight in gold records.

Street Art and Graffiti Tour

London has many museums, but there’s also an astounding accumulation of museum-worthy masterpieces that are right out in the open. Brick by brick, nontraditional creators have turned London into an alfresco venue where painted concrete becomes a mural and alleyways are transformed into showplaces.

Take a free Street Art & Graffiti Tour from Strawberry Tours. Go through noted spots, such as Brick Lane and Truman Brewery, both unofficial homes of mesmerizing street art. This may also be your only chance to uncover a secret outdoor museum that changes weekly.

Photographer: Paolo Bendandi

Education & Discovery Tours

Sign up for a guided tour of one of London’s many museums, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, which offers free tours. At the British Museum, you can go around the world in just 90 minutes or focus on LBGTQ themes and histories via a rotating selection of key exhibits and displays.

The Female Voices tour is also popular, as are the African Heritage tour and a tour dedicated to Treasures of Europe.

Vintage and Antique Shopping Tour

Some of the 1,000 antique dealers in London operate independently in small storefronts or via stalls at the area markets, while others only come out for festivals or other shopping events. One of the best ways to take in the extent of London’s vintage and antique wares is to walk through hot spots, such as Portobello Road and Kensington Church Street.

Portobello Road, in particular, has achieved an almost fairy-tale level of fame due to the colorful stalls and varied goods hanging from kiosks and table-top shops. Get knick knacks for home or snag gifts that make way better souvenirs than yet another Union Jack mug.

Architecture and Design Tour

When a city is a few millennia old, you’d expect there to be a bit of an architectural hotchpotch going on — and in London, what you expect is exactly what you get. Victorian-style homes, Tudor-era buildings, modern structures that are geometric and reflective are all ready to be gawked at.

A true architectural tour orchestrated by leading lights, such as Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers, gives you insight not only into the styles but also how some of these iconic structures came to be.

Lace-Up Your Shoes and Discover Walking Tours in London

You can get around London by plane, train, or automobile, but in many cases, there’s no better way to get to know the city than by exploring it on your own two feet. From visiting haunted pubs to enjoying art, the places you’ll visit on these walking tours prove how limitless and diverse the city of London is.

To cap off your stay, work in a performance that’s as evocative as it is escapist. Cirque du Soleil shows in London are designed to help you realize the unimaginable. Are you ready to be dazzled by a soundtrack that echoes into your soul? Or acrobatic feats unachievable by the ordinary? Or perhaps you'd like to experience a story, one brought to life by a gathering of the extraordinary. 

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