Naturally, your trip to London will be special all on its own – how could it not be, in a city so glamorous and filled with history? But for an extra touch of magic, here are some absolute must-do activities to add to your itinerary, from the spectacular to the romantic.
The first is a traditional afternoon tea, an English institution that will leave you feeling both stuffed and rather posh. These are often served in high-end hotel restaurants like the Shaftesbury Suites London Marble Arch and we recommend that you skip lunch if you have a booking for afternoon tea – the collection of little morsels soon fills you up. The menu usually includes dainty finger sandwiches, cakes and pastries, scones with jam and clotted cream, plenty of tea and, if you’re lucky, champagne. Everything is served prettily with white doilies and so on – it’s the ultimate experience of English hospitality.
Bus tours are a popular way to see the city from the streets, but did you know that you don’t have to pay £20 for a hop-on, hop-off guided bus tour to see London’s best sights? You can actually cruise past everything you want to see for just £1.50 per ride by choosing the right route on London’s iconic red buses. Bus number 11 leaves from Trafalgar Square every few minutes and takes you past a long list of famous attractions such as St Paul’s Cathedral for a fraction of the price of a guided tour. Bring your own map, hop off at your leisure and enjoy!
Though you might be in London to experience England, it’s important to appreciate the unique nature of the city itself – a melting pot of international cultures. It’s easy to see this in Chinatown near the West End, where restaurants catering to tourists sit side by side with Asian grocery stores and eateries serving things that taste rather odd to Western minds. Go for a wander and drink it all in; if you happen to be in London around Chinese New Year, don’t miss the parade!
While you’re in the West End, the theatre is another must-see. With Christmas right around the corner, the theatres are full of Christmas pantomimes and slapstick seasonal comedies, as well as year-round favourites like Les Miserables, Wicked and The Book of Mormon. If you haven’t booked in advance, you can easily get yourself a last-minute discount ticket from the TKTS booth in Leicester Square or one of the many other stalls in the area. You can also try showing up to the theatre when it opens in the morning, around 10am, to ask if they have any tickets left aside for that night – you might just find yourself in the front row! Some shows, including the Book of Mormon, also run a ticket lottery a few hours before the show every night. Just show up, put your name down, and wait to see if you’ve won!
And of course, don’t miss the chance to gaze over London from the air. There are plenty of ways to do this: you can take a ride on the London Eye, now complete with a 4D experience that takes you on a thrilling simulated flight over the city as well as your half-hour long ride on the wheel itself. If you’d rather keep your feet planted somewhere solid, try The View from the Shard where you can see London from the highest floor of its tallest skyscraper. Local tip: if you don’t want to pay £30 just for the view, you can visit one of the bars and restaurants on slightly lower floors. For the price of a glass of wine you’ll see just as far – and in a much classier atmosphere.