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Cool Things to Do in London

Discover a galaxy of cool things to do in London and make your next trip extra special

London can be whatever you want it to be. Almost anything can be found in this city of 15 million people, from world-class sporting attractions to fascinating museums, parkland walks, and hedonistic nightlife. Whether you're traveling solo or you need ideas for a family of five, filling time is never a problem. So let's explore some suggestions about cool things to do in London to make your trip as exciting and action-packed as possible.

cool things to do london

Britain on a Budget

London is not one of the world's cheapest destinations, we'll have to admit. But that doesn't mean visitors have to spend huge amounts of money filling their time in the British capital. If you look around, you'll find a huge amount of cheap (or even free) cool things to do in London. In fact, you could spend a week in London and never pay an admission fee. Let's see how it's done.
Explore the British Museum's treasures
The British Museum is probably among the top five historical and archaeological museums in the world. Where else can you see marbles from the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, suits of Samurai armor, and Viking chess sets from the Scottish islands? With everything this museum has to offer, you'd expect a hefty admission fee, but that's not the case. In fact, admission is free (donations are encouraged). So dive in and discover a truly incredible set of artifacts and artworks.
Take a tour of London's other free museums and galleries
Free admission isn't just a feature of the British Museum. It's actually common across the UK, and especially in London. The National Gallery? Free of charge. The Tate Modern Gallery? That's free too. And so is the Museum of London. Sometimes, the latest exhibitions come with an entry fee, but all of these attractions have exceptional free galleries. From Warhol's prints of Marilyn Monroe at the Tate to fascinating Roman finds at the Museum of London, there's so much to see. So many cool things to do in London won't cost a penny.
Sample some delicacies at Borough Market
After checking out some museums, you're sure to be hungry. As you probably know, London is a great dining destination, with plenty of upmarket restaurants. But there's one place where great food can be had for absolutely nothing. Just south of the Thames, Borough Market is a cornucopia of fine food. From artisan Comté cheese and Parma ham to vegan brownies, gorgeous balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and chutneys, customers can try foods from across the world. Samples are part of the fun, so tuck in. If you've got the cash, splurge on goodies, but you can pretty much eat here for free if that's not the case.
friends in front of big ben
londong night

Make the Nights Count: Evening in London

Whenever you visit London, it's essential to use your evenings well. London is a city where life kicks off after work - in some places, it doesn't stop until 7 a.m. the next morning. Whether you want a quiet night or an evening of dancing, things to do in London at night aren't hard to come by. Here are some of our favorites.
See some live music at one of the city's famous venues
On any night of the year, there are sure to be cool things to do in London for music lovers. Rock fans should definitely check the schedules at Bush Hall in West London, Koko in Camden, or 93 Feet East in Brick Lane. The LondonEars gig listings provide a huge selection of events at smaller venues as well. If jazz is your passion, be sure to book a table at Ronnie Scott's or the Camden Jazz Cafe. Classical fans won't want to miss concerts at the Royal Albert Hall or Festival Hall on London's South Bank. If you don't mind queueing, free concerts also regularly take place at Rough Trade record store in Shoreditch. This is the place to head for cutting-edge bands and new releases.
Get down to London's premier nightclubs
London's nightlife makes it the UK's party capital. The scene stretches from East End Grime clubs to Dalston electro and indie bars, Soho jazz cafes, or plush, West End luxury clubs. Whether you love Afrobeat, techno, or good old-fashioned disco, the city caters for every taste. If you're up for a dance marathon, the recently reopened Fabric in Farringdon is the place to be. South of the river, Ministry of Sound is a legendary electronic dance venue. Newer venues like Printworks offer vast dance floors, beats till dawn, and good vibes that will last the whole weekend.
Settle In at one of London's finest pubs
If you want something more sedate, there are few cooler things to do in London than visiting the capital's pubs. Pubs remain social centers for Londoners, and there are gems pretty much wherever you look. If you're in the east, Stoke Newington's Rose and Crown or the Sebright Arms in Bethnal Green are cosy and sociable places to spend the evening. And some, like Holborn's Ye Olde Mitre, are also museum pieces in themselves, having been serving pints since the 17th century. Even the outer suburbs have some amazing options, from the Spaniard's Inn on Hampstead Heath to the Spotted Horse in Putney. 
Trace the footsteps of Jack the Ripper
London's nightlife has also historically had a seedier side, and it can be thrilling to learn about the city's history of crime. No figure is more infamous than Jack the Ripper, an anonymous murderer who killed five women in 1888 and was never caught. It's a terrifying story, but it's even scarier when told by expert guides as night falls on Aldgate in East London. Learn about Victorian society and the suspects in the Ripper Case, and discover grizzly details about a series of killings that still shock visitors. It's definitely one of the cool things to do in London that aren't for the faint-hearted.
teenagers in front of big ben

London with Teenagers

Keeping teenagers happy in strange cities can be a chore, especially when those cities don't cater very well for independent-minded young people. Thankfully, that's definitely not the case in London, which is an excellent place to take teenagers. London is filled with activities and attractions that those aged 13-18 will adore. There are plenty of cool things to do in London with teenagers, and here are some of the best.
Take a stroll down Oxford Street - London's fashion capital
If your teen(s) are into fashion, London is a great place to be. To be more specific, Oxford Street is the place to head. Stretching from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch, Oxford Street is home to a huge variety of big-name brands and department stores. John Lewis and Selfridges offer a little bit of everything. Don't miss out on the rooftop restaurant at the latter, as it's a real oasis in the heart of the city. Fashion lovers will be in their element at stores like Topshop, H&M, Primark, and Nike Town. And look out for clearance sections too at stores like Mango, where last year's designs are often on sale at bargain prices.
Enjoy a day of discovery at the Science Museum

London's Science Museum is the ideal attraction for teens with a taste for experimentation and technology. Located in the South Kensington museum district, youngsters can come face to face with interstellar probes, watch magical movies taken from space in the IMAX cinema, or experience intense G-forces in the Red Arrows simulator. Everything is geared up to allow visitors to interact and learn while having plenty of fun at the same time. And "Lates" make its exhibitions available in the evening as well - the perfect way to round off a day of London sightseeing.

Get close to the stars of the pitch at London's soccer venues

Not all teens are science geeks though, and that's just fine. There are plenty of cool things to do in London for sports fans as well. The city's EPL teams are probably the biggest attraction. You can book tours of Arsenal's Emirates Stadium, Chelsea's Stamford Bridge, the Olympic Stadium (home to West Ham), or Wembley (home to the England national side). Tickets for matches are sometimes tricky to get hold of for a reasonable price, but most fixtures don't sell out, and spaces are available. However, if you want a more authentic soccer experience for a lower price, visit less famous teams like Brentford, Barnet, Fulham, Watford, or Charlton. A good tip is to look for matches in competitions like the Carabao Cup, which hardly ever sell out, and still feature big teams. But just visiting the stadiums is a thrill for real fans.

Take a ride on the Emirates Air Line to the O2

While teenagers may not be excited by buses, taxis, or the Tube, there's a pretty good chance they will enjoy the Emirates Air Line. Built to coincide with the 2012 Olympic Games, this cablecar stretches from Greenwich to the Royal Victoria Dock, offering incredible views during its 10-minute journey. When you get to Greenwich, the O2 Centre is unmissable for those with teens, hosting events on DC Superheroes and world-famous music acts. And for those with a head for heights, there's a 90-minute climb across the domed venue called "Up at the O2." This should feed any teen's taste for an adrenaline rush.

london zoo in summer

Scorching Hot Ideas for Summer Holidays in London

When summer arrives, Londoners have more or less forgotten the snow, hail, wind, and rain of the winter, and it's time to unwind. From June to August, the capital really comes into its own. A busy schedule of festivals, exhibitions, and experiences make summer the prime time to visit the city. So if you want a period when finding cool things to do in London is as easy as possible, pencil in a summer break.
Attend one of London's summer music festivals
You might think that the urban environment of London would struggle to accommodate open-air music festivals, but that's totally wrong. The city's parks are large enough to host some spectacular events, drawing huge crowds and global acts. Over in East London's Victoria Park, Field Day sees indie kids gather in early June. Urban music takes center stage at Finsbury Park's Wireless Festival in early July. Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath caters for classical fans with the Heritage Live series in June. Meanwhile, British Summer Time takes over Hyde Park with an eclectic range of pop acts in mid-July. If you love music, finding cool things couldn't be easier.
Visit an open-air lido to cool off in style
One of the great things about London's history was the creation of huge open-air municipal pools before World War Two. These pools, or lidos as they became known, are popular spots for locals when the temperatures soar, but they are open to all-comers. Tooting Bec Lido is a standout attraction with its immense 90-meter-long pool, but London Fields is probably the star of the show. Close to the boutiques and pubs of Broadway Market, this pool is a fantastic place to relax and get some exercise in between bouts of shopping or sightseeing. But there are lidos all over the city, from Gospel Oak to the Serpentine in Hyde Park. So pack your swimming kit and you'll be able to chill out whenever you like while exploring London on a summer vacation.
Watch a movie in a beautiful outdoor setting
Movie fans also have plenty of cool things to do in London when the summer months arrive, with superb opportunities for outdoor screenings. The Film4 Summer Screen series at Somerset House on the Strand is a highlight event. It offers a selection of cult movies, craft cocktails, gourmet food, and DJ sets in a beautiful location. But it's far from alone. The Nomad Cinema in Brompton Cemetery has a spooky setting and donates much of the entry fee to sustainability charities (which we think is pretty cool). The Rooftop Film Club pops up with high-altitude screenings across the city every year, while Secret Cinema stage lavish and well-attended screenings of popular movies. If you go to one of their events, expect a great atmosphere, but try to get into the spirit with the right costume.
weekend with friends

When the Weekend Comes

If you're in London for an extended period, you'll almost certainly have a chance to sample the city's weekend activities. And you're in luck as well: Between Friday and Sunday evening, Londoners love to fill their schedules with all kinds of social, sporting, cultural, and gastronomic experiences. So here are some cool things to do in London when the working week is over.
Activities in London on Friday nights
On Fridays, Londoners tend to pile into bars and pubs, which can often be a little busy for tourists' tastes. But if the local watering holes are jam-packed, that's not a problem. Instead, why not head to London Zoo, which puts on regular Friday night late openings? With plenty of critters to meet, bars to enjoy, live music and light shows, it's a great way to start the weekend. Alternatively, you could enjoy an evening of laughter at the Comedy Store, which lays on Friday night showcases featuring established and new stand-up talent. The British Museum opens until 8:30 p.m. on Fridays as well, with regular, free live music performances at 6:00 p.m. 
Ways to Make the Most of Saturday Daytimes
Aside from ticking off London's museums and galleries, Saturdays offer endless cool ways to keep yourself occupied. For example, the weekend is a great time to get out in the fresh air by exploring some of London's parks. Take horse-drawn carriage rides to manor houses in Richmond Park, visit the Zoo in Regents Park, or canoe down to Little Venice. Or buy some morsels at a farmers' market and head for a picnic at Parliament Fields in Hampstead Heath, where the whole of London is spread out in front of you. Of course, you don't have to get outdoors, but in a city with so many beautiful green spaces, Saturday is a fine time to do so.
Exciting things to do in London on Saturday evenings
Saturday is probably London's biggest party night. However, if you're looking for cool things to do in London on Saturday, it doesn't have to revolve around the dance floor. For starters, there are regular Saturday evening cabaret shows like Café de Paris or Proud. Then there are quirky bars that offer a slightly offbeat Saturday night out, like the Fulham Beach Club, where you can relax with piña coladas in a tropical-style setting. And for truly flamboyant visitors, nothing beats the events laid on by the Great Masked Ball, who stage costumed receptions at secret locations throughout the summer. If the idea of masked waltzes with a live orchestra sounds appealing, there's nothing like it.
Cool ideas for London activities on Sundays
On Sundays, London chills out, as many people recover from the night before and families take center stage at the capital's attractions. If you have a spiritual side, taking in a Sunday service at St. Paul's Cathedral is a powerful experience. For classical music lovers, the Classical Coffee Mornings at the Royal Albert Hall are a must. Alternatively, there are plenty of Sunday walking tours to join. Sunday is also a great time to visit the 2012 Olympics site. Enjoy the soaring ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture, numerous playgrounds for kids, and the chance to tour the athletics venue itself. 
boat trip in london

Make the Most of a London Trip with Friends

Visiting London is great on your own, but it's even better with friends. However, when you visit anywhere in a group, it's essential to find activities that will keep everybody happy. With that in mind, let's have a look at some cool things to do in London with friends that should cover all the bases.
Enjoy a delicious brunch to kick things off
Whenever you head out with friends to explore London, there's no excuse to miss out on a top-quality meal. Londoners have fallen for brunch in a big way in recent years. This means that finding somewhere to fill up on gourmet croissants or even a monster British fry-up won't be hard. If you want a taste of Manhattan, Balthazar in Covent Garden is ideal, having branched off from a New York institution. Caravan's middle-eastern inspired brunches light up the morning dining scene in King's Cross, Exmouth Market, and Bankside. The Bloody Marys at the Dean Street Townhouse, meanwhile, will restore anyone's spirits.
Go shopping for vintage clothes and vinyl records
If you and your friends are in the market for cool stuff, London is unbeatable. The fashions of the 60s and 70s are available at reasonable prices at vintage emporiums like Dalston's Beyond Retro or Camden's Rokit. Portobello Market offers a massive variety of antiques and generally cool items that can't be found anywhere else. If your group is into music, there's an even larger selection of places to visit. Some of the world's best crate-digging can be enjoyed at stores such as Rough Trade, Honest Jon's or Phonica. So if you're looking for a private-press reggae 12-inch from the 70s, you might just be in luck.
Roll out a blanket and picnic in style
If the weather's fine, it's time for a picnic, but there's an art to staging a classic London outdoor meal. For one thing, you've got to choose the right place. Seclusion and peace and quiet is easy to find in Richmond Park, but the views from the South Bank or Temple can be captivating as well. Then there's the all-important food. Borough Market is hard to beat when it comes to buying bread, olives, cold meats and cheese. And you can stock up on cold beers at BottleDog in Holborn. The final ingredients are a soft blanket (check out Spitalfields Market for some luxurious woolen examples) and an umbrella or two because, in London, rain is always a possibility.
cool things to do in london

Cool Things to Do in London in 2018

If you're heading to the English capital in 2018, the city's calendar is probably more packed than ever before with cool things to do in London. It's not possible to list every event or activity taking place in 2018, but there are some upcoming highlights that visitors should be aware of.
Join a London summer street party
London might not be up there with New Orleans or Rio de Janeiro, but it does have a vibrant tradition of staging street parties. And visitors are always welcome! The most famous is probably Notting Hill Carnival, which was started by the West London district's Caribbean community in the 1960s. Nowadays, it's a lively mixture of spicy food, soca beats, and outlandish costumes, taking place at the end of August. But it's not the only street party in town. Regent Street, for instance,  hosts its Summer Streets shopping events in July. Over in London's East End, the Whitecross Street Party (also in July) is a fun blend of art, music, and food.
Make your trip a musical feast
2018's calendar is also going to be lit up by an endless stream of musical extravaganzas. We've already talked about a few of the capital's outdoor festivals, but they are really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to music. The BBC Proms is probably the most famous event of all. The Proms runs daily concerts for eight weeks between July and September, and its "Last Night" is a one-of-a-kind classical music party. And whether you're into U2 or country stars like Kacey Musgraves, the list of gigs left in 2018 is mouth-watering. 
Catch a premiere at one of London's movie events
London is always a great place to catch a movie, thanks to outstanding cinemas such as the BFI Southbank and the Curzon. This means that it's also lucky enough to have some excellent film festivals. The London Film Festival is the largest, running from 10-21 October, and it always brings a host of famous names to show off their latest creations. But it's not alone. There's also the London Short Film Festival, the Irish-themed St. Patrick's Film Festival, and BFI Flare, which is a superb LGBTQ+ event. And don't forget open-air programs such as the Film4 Summer Screen, too. London is always an exciting place to be a film fan.
World-class art and fashion events to savor
Then there are times when London's art and fashion communities come to the fore. In September, it's the turn of models and designers to strut their stuff at London Fashion Week. Here you can snap up the latest designs from global labels. September also sees the London Design Festival hit town, so if you're into unique ceramics or just outlandish design concepts, it's a great time to visit. Finally, October's Frieze Festival turns Regents Park into a superb sculpture garden, and it includes pop-up exhibition spaces for up-and-coming artists. If you love to get the low down on new talent, or want to pick up a print or two, this is the event to attend.

Forget About Crowds: Non-Touristy Ideas

So far, we've looked at the kinds of events that visitors to London would tend to enjoy, and they've been fairly conventional. (Even if they do sometimes involve tours of the murders committed by serial killers.) But what if you want to find cool things to do in London that are off the beaten track? Well, you're in luck. London is vast, and there are offbeat activities for everyone.
Pay a visit to south London's hidden gems
Most tourists restrict themselves to central London. That's understandable, given the concentration of attractions and events there, but other parts of the city have their own appeal. South London, for example, can be fascinating. There are magical dinosaur sculptures to discover in Crystal Palace Park. There are also less well-known museums such as the Horniman in Forest Hill, which has a wonderful musical instruments collection. And let's not forget the 22-mile-long cave network at Chislehurst, which once served as a venue for Jimi Hendrix concerts.
Get involved in some sporting action
At the weekend, London's parks are always filled with people playing sport. Usually, it's games of soccer, and generally anyone who wants to play can take the field. But if you're worried about being turned away, there are apps like footyaddicts which make it easy to find spaces in informal matches. Ultimate frisbee is another common park sport, and you can find details of matches on the PickupUltimate website. And if you love golf, there are even public courses just 20 minutes from the center at places like Trent Park. Hire some golf clubs and put on a polo shirt and you'll be ready for the first tee.
Hire a canal boat and see London from its historic waterways
You might not know it if you stick to roads and the Tube, but London is criss-crossed by canals. They were built in the 19th century to transport coal and grain and are still used today, but not for freight haulage. Instead, they are all about leisure. If you fancy exploring the canal network, you can hire small craft from companies like GoBoat. Or why not take the helm of a narrow boat yourself, on routes out of the capital? With links all the way to Birmingham, this is a great way to see the English countryside.
Go underground to get a unique view of the city
If water isn't your thing, maybe going deep underground is. As with most major cities, London has a fascinating underbelly. There are abandoned stations aplenty, and even a unique Post Office Railway which used to move mail between sorting centers. These days, it moves visitors on 15-minute journeys that few Londoners ever experience, let alone tourists. And if you get a taste for London's subterranean side, don't miss the Hidden London tours run by the Transport Museum. These tours often descend to empty stations and other secret sites. It's absolutely fascinating.
As you can hopefully see, finding cool things to do in London could hardly be easier. London is a city that keeps on repaying visitors the deeper they look, offering new experiences and events for everyone to enjoy. It doesn't matter whether you're traveling with friends on a trans-Atlantic city break, or taking your family on their first trip to England: Filling your days with unique, unforgettable experiences is simple. So start filling that vacation schedule and prepare for the trip of a lifetime

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