9 ways to escape the everyday in London

We’ve all heard of them, but many of us have never visited (or, if we have, it's definitely time to visit again) some of London’s top tourist attractions and landmarks. From historic palaces to much-loved parks, bustling shopping streets to world-class museums - they’re all on our must-visit list. So while one of Europe’s most popular cities is quieter than usual, why not make the most of the peace and quiet by escaping to and reconnecting with one of the most famous cities in the world. Raring to go? Here are nine ways you can escape the everyday in London. 


Must-visit attractions in London

Tower Hill

The Tower of London is a historic royal palace, former prison and fortress and national landmark on the banks of the River Thames in London. The White tower. UNESCO world heritage site. View of the palace from across the river, from the South Bank river w

Visit the 1,000-year-old Tower of London without the usual crowds. London’s iconic castle and UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to the Crown Jewels, legendary Yeoman Warders (also known as Beefeaters) and tons of tumultuous tales. Uncover stories of execution and torture at this former prison (that, more recently, held notorious gangsters The Kray Twins), meet the palace’s guardians, the ravens, and see the impressive armour on display in the White Tower.

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Head down to the leafy suburbs of south-west London to explore Hampton Court Palace – former home of Henry VIII – to learn about the day-to-day lives of the Tudor Court. Traipse the kitchens where 200 cooks prepared meals for the household, wander the grand gardens enjoyed by past kings and queens, and stop by The Great Vine (thought to be the oldest and largest grapevine in the world) where, in September, the fruits are harvested and sold to visitors.

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Places to visit in London

City of London

The Millennium footbridge over the River Thames in London looking towards St Paul's cathedral and the City of London.

A cathedral for Saint Paul has stood in London for more than 1,400 years, but today’s masterpiece was designed by Britain’s most famous architect, Sir Christopher Wren. Miraculously escaping destruction, it was a symbol of wartime resistance and is now one of the most recognisable sights in the city. Typically teeming with tourists, you can now walk the cathedral floor, admiring the ceilings decorated with mosaics, without the extra hubbub. Descend into the underground Crypt to see the tombs of historic figures, or climb up to the Stone Gallery, 52 metres above the ground, for views of London over the surrounding rooftops.

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On the opposite side of the river, you’ll find the tallest building in the UK. Standing at 309.9 metres high and made up of 11,000 glass panels, The Shard is inspired by the spires of London’s churches and the masts of tall ships. Its high-speed lifts carry you up 68 floors to a panoramic viewing platform where you can find the perfect backdrop for a selfie. If you’re in the mood for food, treat yourself to a glass of bubbly or a meal at one of The Shard’s six swanky bars and restaurants. Alternatively, admire the sparkly skyscrapers of Canary Wharf from the Thames in your very own Skuna hot tub boat. A unique outing for you and your mates, the hot tubs are heated to a balmy 38°C, meaning you can take to the water all year round.

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Free things to do in London

Trafalgar Square

Couple in Trafalgar Square with the National Gallery in the background, London. A man giving a woman a piggyback past the fountain.

Stop by the National Gallery on a short break in London. Acting as a backdrop to the thronging Trafalgar Square, the gallery houses over 2,600 paintings spanning the mid-13th century to 1900. Like many museums and galleries in the city, entry to the main exhibitions is free – so you can see works by Monet, Turner, Van Gogh and Cezanne without paying a penny. There are free curated art routes for you to follow, too, taking you through more than 700 years of art history. And with fewer people inside, you’ll have unrestricted views of your favourite pieces.

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If moving pictures are more your thing, then make your way down to Leicester Square. Usually full of fanfare and world-famous movie stars, the iconic square is now also home to a film-themed statue trail, filled with some of our all-time favourite film characters from Mr. Bean to Paddington, Mary Poppins to Batman. While you scour the buildings and gardens, why not listen along to the free audio tour, packed with movie clips, trivia, humour and interviews, specially designed with social distancing in mind. 

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Museums in London

South Kensington

The Natural History Museum in Kensington is a huge building designed by Alfred Waterhouse, and is a fine example of the Romanesque style of architecture.

The Natural History Museum not only houses 80 million specimens of exotic animals and plants but, as one of Britain’s most striking examples of Romanesque architecture, is a work of art in itself. Take your time getting to grips with the pre-historic lives of dinosaurs (and even meet a T-Rex), walk unobstructed beneath the skeleton of the largest animal on earth and journey through the middle of a giant metallic globe – without the queues – to learn about earthquakes and volcanoes.

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Another of London’s famous institutions is the Imperial War Museum, which lets you see war through the eyes of people who have lived it. Through a collection of war relics, documents and films – from Spitfires suspended from the ceiling to powerful propaganda – you can get a glimpse into the conflicts involving Britain, its former Empire and the Commonwealth. Over in the east, the National Maritime Museum uncover epic stories of exploration through its collection of maritime treasures, including a real-like Fijian canoe (known as a drua) and the jacket Nelson wore (and died in) at the Battle of Trafalgar. The AHOY! Children's Gallery also gives little ones a playful insight into life on the sea. 

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Family days out in London

Regent's Park

Reconnect with nature at the world’s oldest scientific zoo. Catching a glimpse of a giraffe plucking leaves off trees or eagle-eyed meerkats poking their heads out of the sand doesn’t just make for a wholesome day out, but also helps support ZSL London Zoo’s conservation efforts. From Tiger Territory and Gorilla Kingdom, you’ll get to see an abundance of animals from around the world. There are immersive areas too, meaning you can get up close and personal with cheeky monkeys and laidback sloths. Though can you brave the UK’s first-ever walk-through spider exhibit?

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The kids will also love SEA LIFE London Aquarium, where you’ll discover the array of aquatic life that inhabits the depths of the planet’s rivers, lakes, seas and oceans. Explore the UK’s largest coral reef, stroke starfish in the rockpool and take an underwater stroll through the Ocean Tunnel. See mythical seahorses, sharks and a colony of Gentoo penguins too. You’ll also get to learn about what the SEA LIFE Trust are doing to help conserve marine life all over the world.

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Rooftop bars in London


Interior view of the Sky Garden, London, England. People sitting at tables with the sun setting over the London skyline seen through the large glass window.

Hidden away in the financial district, above a typical office building, is a lush rooftop garden perfect for indulging in a cocktail from the adjoining restaurant and bar, Coq d’Argent. The terrace offers panoramic views across the City of London, towards the famous Gherkin, Walkie Talkie and Cheese Grater buildings, and the grand pillars of the London Stock Exchange. Accompany your views with a tipple or two, or sit down to some brunch on the partially covered, heated veranda – think escargots, marinated duck breasts and lots of warm, freshly baked bread.

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Other viewing platforms include London’s highest public garden, the Sky Garden, on Fenchurch Street. Grab yourself a free timed ticket for entry to lush greenery, landscaped gardens, an observation deck and an open-air terrace. Surround yourself with plants that flourish all year round – like the African Lily and the Bird of Paradise – and cheers to the views with a glass of bubbly from one of the garden’s bars.

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Best parks in London

Hampstead and Highgate

Couple taking in the London skyline from Parliament Hill Hampstead Heath London England

With three open-air public swimming ponds, 800 acres of ancient grassy heath and spectacular views of London, a visit to Hampstead Heath is hard to beat. This hilly open space is said to be one of the last remaining ‘lungs of London’ that everyone can enjoy, and when the sun’s out, the park that inspired The Chronicles of Narnia can get pretty busy. But with so much space, it can sometimes feel like you have the place to yourself. Fly your kite on Parliament Hill, have a look around Kenwood House, or simply bring a picnic and while away the afternoon under endless skies.

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Down south, overlooking the River Thames, is the 183 acres of Greenwich Park. Standing on the Prime Meridian (home to Greenwich Mean Time) this leafy space is rich with history and nature. Follow in the footsteps of former kings and queens as you explore flower gardens, see wild deer frolicking amongst the long grass and pay a visit to the Royal Observatory, which rises up over the city and has fantastic views of Greenwich, Canary Wharf and beyond.

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Shopping in London

Covent Garden

Three women wearing headscarves and carrying shopping bags walking through Covent Garden Piazza, London, England.

Stock up on post-lockdown fashion, beauty must-haves and lifestyle goodies in Covent Garden, one of London’s coveted shopping destinations. Birthplace of the Punch and Judy puppet show, this cobbled plaza has everything from Mulberry to MAC, Ladurée to Lacoste, and plenty of places to stop for a bite to eat. The shops even extend out to the narrow streets of Seven Dials, all lined with boutiques, high-street brands and quirky cafés – see if you can find concealed Neals Yard, famous for its colourful facades.

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Also in the West End (just out of sight of Oxford Street) is Carnaby Street, lauded as the epicentre of style, and the birthplace of the Swinging 60s. Previously home to Mods, Skinheads and Punks, this retail district has bagged itself a number of one-off boutiques, beauty emporiums and high-end fashion brands over the years. Located around a small collection of pedestrianised streets, Carnaby’s multi-coloured buildings house names like MONKI, Levi’s, Barbour and Birkenstock, as well as the prestigious Liberty’s department store.

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Places to eat in London


The Lecture Room at Sketch, London

Nab yourself a table at the highly sought after sketch, deemed one of the most beautiful restaurants in the city. Dine in mystical forests, sip on tea on plush, pleated chairs and nip to egg-shaped toilet cubicles. If that doesn’t intrigue you, we don’t know what will. Brainchild of restaurateur Mourad Mazouz and chef, Pierre Gagnaire, Michelin-starred Sketch is a hub of four separate restaurants, each with their own exuberant designs. The Gallery is a fuschia fantasy, while The Glade’s carpet portrays a fluffy forest floor. The casual Parlour is an all-day affair, while the Lecture Room serves up an unforgettable seven-course tasting dinner.

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For something slightly more traditional, book a table at Rules – the oldest restaurant in London. Established in 1798, this old-school eatery specialises in game, oysters, pies and homemade puds. Sit at red velvet booths draped in white tablecloths and tuck into braised wild rabbit or a good ol’ steak and kidney pudding, and round off your meal with everyone’s favourite…sticky toffee pudding. As well as hosting the likes of Edward VII, Rules has even appeared in Downton Abbey not one but three times. It doesn’t get more British than that.

Find more of the best places to eat in London

With restrictions easing across England, please continue to follow government guidance and remember to plan ahead and check attraction websites before travelling. Take a look at our top tips on how to escape the everyday responsibly to see how you can make the most out of your day trips and breaks. 

28 Apr 2022(last updated)

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    Tower Hill

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    City of London

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    Trafalgar Square

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    South Kensington

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    Regent's Park

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    Hampstead and Highgate

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    Covent Garden

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