Your suitcase is packed, your tickets printed: next stop, London! You’ve planned it all: the long walks along the Thames, a stroll on Portobello Road in Notting Hill, a picnic in a royal park… That was without counting the possibility of rain. Don’t despair, London will be no less exciting. Here are 30 ideas to save the day!
Get drunk on art
The Tate, the V&A, the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum… All these iconic museum keep their permanent collection free to the public: you only pay for the themed exhibitions. How brilliant! If this is not your first time in London, though, why not try something different and go behind the stage. The Royal Albert Hall will show you its incredible architecture, the Royal Opera House the costume room, the National Theatre the incredible logistics to change the decors. All come with lots of fantastic anecdotes.
Step into a Freemason building
There’s a sumptuous Freemason’s hall, just a few minutes walk from Covent Garden, and yes, it does open to the public for guided tours. It’s been used countless times for movies: James Bond for Spectre, for one. Quite a magical place to forget the rain…
Have a coffee in a church
The most famous is the Crypt Café, right under St Martin in the Field’s church (Trafalgar Square), which regularly has jazz evenings. For the wow effect though, try the Host Café, in St Mary Aldermary. Its stunning sculpted ceiling, like exquisite lace, makes it the best place in town to sip your espresso.
Explore a hidden tropical garden
The brutalist architecture of Barbican is home to an exhibitition space, a cinema and… a tropical garden, open to the public on Sundays. You may glimpse weddings, private events, photoshoots even. Canary Wharf too has a garden, a rooftop but sheltered one. Look out for the piano there to improvise a mini concert :). We’re also big fans of the Sky Garden, 155 m high in the city, under a stunning glass roof. You will have London at your feet, a view on the Shard, a choice of restaurants and bars. Bonus: the entry is free, juts book a slot online.
Go shopping, but not on Oxford Street
Try the famous shops of the Covent Market, the foodie haven of the Borough Market, the Harry Potter worthy Leadenhall Market, the narrow passages of the Camden Market… We love the covered galleries near Piccadilly, Burlington Arcade being a favourite. A real journey in time. Gentlemen still stop by to get their shoes polished there.
There are lots of funky bars in London. Draughts has over 500 board games. Flight Club is dedicated to darts but offers a gentleman’s club atmosphere, Bounce to ping pong, Bar Kick to table football. The more adventurous will try… urban axe throwing at Whistle Punks. Alternatively try Bingo, once an old fashioned activity, has gone back to being trendy – try the Bingo Academy in Camden or in Waterloo for example. For online games, you can find reviews here.
See a musical
London, like New York, loves musicals. There are plenty to choose from: Les Misérables, Charlie and the chocolate factory, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera… Have a look at the Theatre gallery in the V&A – some of the most iconic costumes (The Lion King, War Horse….) are featured there.
Be a child again
Ballie Ballerson is quite a fun concept: a pool, a million transparent plastic balls, LED lights changing colours, cool music… Get ready to dive in! Bonus : the bar serves retro cocktails…
Indulge in an afternoon tea
Cakes always are a good idea. You could try the exquisite Georgian room on the top floor of Harrods, enjoy your scones listening to a pianist at Fortnum & Mason’s or go for a themed afternoon tea. The Berkeley’s finds inspirations in the latest fashion shows, One Aldwych recreates the magic of Charlie and the chocolate factory, the Rosewood’s is all about iconic modern artists like Jeff Koons…
Create a street art piece
In 2008, Banksy had organised a street art festival in the Leake Street tunnel, right by Waterloo. He succeeded to make it a legal graffiti zone: yes, anyone can come and tag the walls, any time of the day. Including you! It’s become a famous setting for photoshoots and video clips.
House of Vans is in the very same tunnel. There’s a café, an art gallery, a mini screening rooms and… an underground skate space. It’s free too!
Find shelter in stunning bookshops
Daunt Books, on Marylebone High Street, has a delightful glass room, a wooden interior and a last century atmosphere: you are sure to fall under its spell. Waterstones in Piccadilly is less charming but there are 6 floors to explore with lounges you can cocoon in and lead through books (and a café on the last floor)/ Try Book for Cooks in Notting Hill too, fully dedicated to foodies! Ninja Books organises regular book crawls (same as a pub crawl but from a bookshop to another)
Take a selfie with Yoda
Madame Tussauds has added Star Wars to its galleries – yes, that includes Yoda and BB8…
Escape the rain and spend the afternoon in an independent cinema
Who could resist the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road, with its luxurious leather armchairs and sofas for 2. Even better, you can order snacks and wine at the bar and take them back to your seat… A number of hotels also have screening rooms, offering a VIP atmosphere. One Aldwych, in Covent Garden, is famous for its Film & Fizz evenings: 3 course dinner, movie, glass of champagne and popcorn for £55 per person. You could also try the Prince Charles Cinema: they often do movie marathons (movies from the same director or a saga, screened in a row overnight) and Singalongs…