Nine Things To Do Your First Time in London
From the Tower Bridge, to Buckingham Palace, there is no shortage of sites to see and activities to do in London. Not only is London a fantastic city to keep returning to, but it is also a wonderful destination for first timers to Europe, especially with kids or multigenerational travelers. Despite having traveled multiple trips, there is always something new that I’ve discovered with each visit. The following sites and activities are perfect for any first-timer’s trip to London!
1. Bike Tour of London
I looked to Fat Tyre Bike Tours to give us an overview of the major sites. Our four-hour bike tour took our small group to famous sites such as Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and Princess Diana’s memorial.
We rode through all four royal parks and heard anecdotes about each place from our guide, David. These stories included the numerous break-ins to Buckingham Palace, an arrogant but successful general (Wellington), the city’s reaction to Diana’s memorial (they didn’t like it and thought it was too plain), and people jumping into the fountains at Trafalgar Square after Spain won the World Cup in 2010.
This was a great activity to do when we visited London for the first time because it introduced us to the sites and the history all at once! Plus, we got some exercise – win, win! Kids of all ages can participate.
2. Tower of London
One day, we walked along the water all the way down to the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. This castle, first built in 1066, was used for different purposes, including a palace, a fortress, and a prison. Throughout time, different monarchs added to the fortifications of the tower, making it almost like a small village.
We were also able to see the Crown Jewels. This included several magnificent items such as crowns, scepters, orbs, rings, swords, spurs, bracelets, and robes. The Imperial State Crown alone had 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies on it. One scepter had a 563 carat diamond on it!
3. The Tower Bridge
On a subsequent London trip, we took the kids to the Tower Bridge. This is a very kid friendly stop and mine enjoyed it immensely! The Tower Bridge offered us the opportunity to really explore the bridge from the inside out. We first watched an animated video about the tower’s history and construction, and then we were able to stroll the glass walkways (about 120 feet above the River Thames) and enjoy the panoramic views of the city.
We explored the Victorian Engine Rooms and could go at our own pace. On the way out, there is a children’s area set up with coloring pages, markers, and games.
4. The London Eye
This is a great activity to do as a family. We bought the skip the line fast pass tickets and hopped right onto the Eye. It’s comprised of 32 capsules, each holding up to 28 people, though we only had two other people with us. What a view we had! The 30-minute ride offers jaw-dropping views over the city. We not only were impressed with the views, but of the architectural engineering of the London Eye itself.
Right nearby is a great playground for the kids called Jubilee Adventure Playground. It’s a fun climbing playground that will be sure to get out some of the kids’ energy!
5. Big Ben & Parliament
The London Eye is conveniently located next to the Westminster Bridge, where you can walk across and have great views of Big Ben and Parliament. If it’s cold outside, you can grab some hot mulled wine or hot cider to go. We continued walking towards Buckingham Palace and admired the large grounds.Parliament
6. Ride a Double Decker Bus
That’s it. Ride the bus. Get a seat at the front on the upper level. My kids were the most excited for this activity!
7. Jack the Ripper Tour
One night, we went on a Jack the Ripper tour. Our guide brought this mysterious crime to life and led us to the actual places where the Ripper victims were killed or found.
It was very eerie to know that 124 years ago, in the then-impoverished area of Whitechapel, with no lights down these streets and alleys, these gruesome murders were committed. Our guide also carried with him something they call “Ripper Vision” which is a handheld projector. Through this, we were able to see the actual shocking photos of the victims, letters sent from the Ripper, and sketches and headlines from the newspapers of that time.
We did not bring children on this tour. Even though they are technically allowed, it is not recommended for children under the age of 14.
8. Abbey Road Studios
For any lover of the Beatles or pop and classical music in general, you can book an everything Beatles rock tour and visit Abbey Road Studios. The gift shop itself is an experience! And get the picture everyone takes on Abbey Road. Is it cliché? Yes. Should you do it? Also yes! Trust me, you’ll cherish that picture for years to come.
9. Boat Ride to Camden Market
From Abbey Road you can go to Little Venice where you can pick up a cute boat ride from the London Waterbus Company. It’s a 45-minute ride through the canal that goes past the zoo and Regents Park, all the way to Camden Market. This a large indoor and outdoor market full of shops selling everything from handmade jewelry to vintage clothing to beautiful glass pieces. Plan to eat here as well as there are a variety of delicious food options!
If you’re considering a European trip with your kids then London is a great city to start with. As the resident London Expert at Firefly Travels, I would be thrilled to help you plan any or all of these top adventures on your next European vacation! Not only do you have these activities and more, London is an easy city to navigate, there is no language barrier, and there are so many food options that even your pickiest eater should find something to eat!
One last tip? Don’t forget to look right when crossing the street! Happy travels!
Are your ready for a London Adventure? Contact Cheryl today to help you plan an unforgettable Firefly Travels vacation.