The Ultimate London Bucket List For First-Time Visitors

With its extensive list of free museums to explore, incredible West End shows to enjoy, posh afternoon teas to be had, and picturesque parks to stroll through, London can keep you busy for months. However, as a first-time visitor, we have to start somewhere. So, here is the ultimate London bucket list to make sure you tick off all the main highlights during your visit to this beautiful city.

Accomplishing all the activities on this ultimate London bucket list will allow you to have the quintessential London experience—as a tourist—after that, the rest of the trip is up to you.

If you are a musical fan, you could fill up every evening with a West End show, if you are an art lover, you can spend every morning exploring different museums, if you are a music lover Abbey Road should be on your list, and the number of incredible restaurants in this city could bring a foodie to tears.

That is the beauty of London, there is truly something for every kind of traveler, and you can customize your London trip to whatever you like the most.

So without further ado, here is the the ultimate London bucket list, perfect for first-time visitors.

The Ultimate London Bucket List For First-Time Visitors

Walk the beautiful streets of Kensington

My favorite thing about working in London with our show had to be the location we were living in, Kensington—I know!

Kensington is a gorgeous neighborhood, with swoon-worthy architecture and serene residential streets with the cute little private parks you always see in movies.

Living in this area and walking through it every day to get to work, made me think how anyone going to London should take the time to visit this neighborhood to get that movie-like quintessential London feel.

See the colorful houses of Nottinghill and explore the Portobello Market

If you have seen the movie—Nottinghill—you know what else is in this area of town, the cute little travel bookshop where Julia Roberts’ character meets Hugh Grant’s character. Sadly, the house is there but is only an ugly souvenir shop.

They really missed their chance.

But with or without the travel book shop, Nottinghill is an adorable neighborhood to explore, the Portobello Market is a London classic, and Nottingham postcard-worthy colorful houses are a must on any London bucket list.

Take a walk through lush Hyde Park and visit the aggressively cute squirrels

Hopefully, the park will be lush by the time of the year you decide to visit London. I arrived in January so it was not the greenest it has ever been, but it was still an enjoyable winter walk.

One of the most memorable and iconic elements of the park has to be the aggressively cute squirrels, both because they are actually aggressive and cute.

These squirrels have never heard about personal space in their lives, and it’s hilarious to see. If you stare at them for more than one split second, they will come straight to your feet.

Visit the iconic Natural History Museum and say hello to Hope

One of my absolute favorite things about London is the museums being free, it really helps leverage the travel costs for tourists in such an expensive city.

And even though London has so many different museums to explore one that should absolutely be in your ultimate London bucket list is the Natural History Museum.

It’s such a classic.

The building itself is gorgeous and the main hall of the museum is just so impressive, I love to spend time in this area. Sometimes I don’t even go into the exhibitions I just spend time in the main hall, going up the stairs, and admiring Hope, the museum’s famous resident, a tour tonne whale skeleton hanging from the roof.

Explore the incredible coffee scene in London

Exploring the incredible coffee scene in London is an absolute must-do for coffee enthusiasts.

From tiny coffee shops where you can barely stand in, to coffee shops housed in a Victorian men’s “loo”, to Japanese-inspired minimalistic ones, there are just so many amazing coffee shops to try.

Here are some of the best coffee shops in London, but if I had to pick one to recommend to travelers it would be Watch House, due to their spacious locations, great coffee, extensive food menu, and convenient locations, as they have a few shops around the main spots of the city.

Visit the historic Westminster Abbey

Seeing it from the outside is impressive enough, if you want to see the inside of this historic building make sure to book in advance.

I have to admit, one of my favorite things about the Abbey was the gift shop, where I got my sister a pin of a corgi with a crown. I mean, how cute is that?

Visit the beautiful Daunt Books in the heart of Marylebone

Daunt Books is a locally loved independent bookshop with different locations around the city, with the one in Marylebone being one of the most iconic.

The Marylebone location is housed in a beautiful original Edwardian bookshop with oak rooms, skylights, and lots of room to roam around and get lost in the location-based bookshelves.

Definitely one of the cutest bookshops in London, specializing in travel books in the posh neighborhood of Marylebone. Get their cute tote for a practical London souvenir.

Enjoy the best hot chocolate of your life at Knoops

I used to be a Hotel Chocolat girly on my past trips to London but that changed very quickly this time around after trying Knoops.

The concept of Knoops is that you can choose which percentage of chocolate you want, and, if like myself, you have no idea where to begin, the employees are very helpful in guiding you.

The first time I entered Knoops the lovely girl working helped me decide on a 54% with a touch of sea salt, I added a marshmallow, and I created a recipe for addiction. It became my go-to for the rest of my two-month stay in the city.

London 101: Visit the London Eye

Whether it is by just admiring it and snapping a picture of it across the river, or riding it if you are more adventurous than I am— the idea of a Ferris wheel looks so romantic but it also kind of terrifies me.

However, at least getting a glance at the London Eye is a must on an ultimate London bucket list.

Wander the shops in Covent Garden

Covent Garden is London’s shopping and entertainment hub and a must on our ultimate London bucket list.

It’s such an easy and beautiful area to stroll around, leisurely popping in and out of shops.

On most days off from work we end up in this area as it truly has it all, some of my favorite shops, a great variety of restaurants, and some of the best London coffee shops.

See the street art of Shoreditch and the East London vibe

East London is a vibe, so make sure to also explore the Shoreditch neighborhood and admire the street art in the area.

Also one of my favorite coffee shops in London is here; Allpress Espresso Bar.

Visit an extravagant indoor market from the 14th century: Leadenhall Market

Walking through the city of London you will have no shortage of imposing beautiful architecture, but this indoor marketplace is something else.

Leadenhall Market is one of the oldest markets in London, dating all the way back to the 14th century, an incredibly ornate structure that you won’t want to miss.

Walk over the iconic Tower Bridge

Visiting Tower Bridge is a must for any first-time visitors to London, as it is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.

If you are interested in history you can always book a guided tour of it, or if like me, you are just speed walking through the city getting your ultimate London bucket list completed, then walking over it and ending up on the South side of the river will provide a great photo opp with the whole bridge in the frame.

Have dinner with a view at Duck and Waffle

Duck and Waffle is a popular 24-hour restaurant located on the 40th floor in East London with a pretty cool panoramic view of all of London.

A great place to go to for special occasions or a nice dinner during your trip.

If you are not hungry or want to keep it on a budget, they also have a bar in case you only want to go up for a drink, and the view. I would recommend booking in advance.

Say hello to Big Ol´Ben!

Hooray! If you are reading this it means that the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben renovations should be done by now and the next time you visit London he should be nice, shiny, and visible!

So make sure to grab that selfie with Big Ben, the most unmissable item on the ultimate London bucket list.

Grab a snack at the popular Borough Market under the railway lines

A destination that cannot be missed from the ultimate London bucket list is the historic Borough Market, one of the oldest food markets in London, older than the Leadenhall, dating back to the 12th century.

Nowadays it’s still a popular spot with locals looking for fresh quality ingredients and tourists, who come here for a delicious snack, such as fresh sausage rolls, sandwiches, and tasty chocolate-covered strawberries.

A place you definitely want to visit while hungry.

Visit the fancy-looking pink pelicans in St James Park

Taking a stroll through a park is never a bad idea, but it is even a better idea when you have fluffy brightly pink pelicans to look forward to at at the end of that walk.

And you can find these elegant-looking birds at the pond in St James Park, close to the Duck Island Cottage.

Have dinner at the most popular Indian restaurant in town: Dishoom

Before going to London everyone kept telling me I needed to try Dishoom, and after finally doing so, I got the hype.

Dishoom is a super fun and tasty restaurant, but you need to set expectations straight, is a highly social restaurant, meaning, the lights are dim, the music is a bit loud, and if you have to wait for a table you will first be sent to grab a drink at their bar.

It’s a really fun concept, I just did not know what I was walking into, but once you understand the vibe you know what to expect.

If you are traveling with a group of friends or a partner I think it is a very fun place to visit during your trip to London for a fun and delicious dinner.

Admire European masterpieces at the stunning National Gallery

The National Gallery is such a beautiful building that just visiting the museum for the sake of seeing the building is completely acceptable, but luckily they also house some of the best European art.

Visiting the National Gallery is completely free, but I would advise you to make a reservation in advance so you don’t have to wait in line since it can take a while.

Don’t miss out on the impressionist exhibition, my favorite section of the museum.

Visit the lions at Trafalgar Square

While we are already in the area we might as well pay a visit to the Trafalgar Square feline residents, the seven-tonne bronze lions which surround Nelson’s column.

There is a legend that if Big Ben would chime thirteen times the four lions would come alive, so make sure to snap a picture of them before that happens and they run away forever.

Get some delicious souvenirs at the popular Tea House Fortnum and Mason

Food is one of my favorite souvenirs to take back home, and what better souvenirs to bring from England than some fancy tea, and biscuits to go along with it?

Fortnum and Mason is a famous tea house, selling an incredible array of teas, as well as delicious biscuits packaged in the most beautiful tins that make a great souvenir once the biscuits have been devoured.

Stroll through Leicester Square: London’s location for movie premieres

Chances are you will probably end up here at one point on your way from Covent Garden, but in case you don’t, do make a point to pass by it.

Who knows? You might accidentally run into a movie premiere like I did, and get to see Zendaya walking down the stairs. Just saying.

Take the iconic photo of the phone booth with Big Ben in the back

Okay, another top-tier item in the ultimate London bucket list has to be to snap that photo of you standing next to the iconic red phone booth with Big Ben in the back.

And yes, travel is not only about the photos, but still is nice to have them!

These photogenic phone booths are hard to miss with people lining up to take a photo with them across the street from the Parliament Square Garden.

The first phone booth always has a line, the second one tends to be emptier and you still get a pretty good shot.

Sip a coffee at the locally loved Monmouth coffee shop

Now, this wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t recommend a couple of coffee shops, and another one of the best coffee shops in London is the locally loved Monmouth Coffee Company.

Monmouth Coffee is a roaster, retailer, and wholesaler in London and is considered to have been a pioneer of the coffee culture in England.

The coffee is incredible, and the space in Covent Garden is super cozy, especially if you manage to get a booth in the back of the shop.

Go window shopping at Oxford and Regent Street

Whether you are window shopping or real shopping, taking a stroll through the busy Oxford and Regent Streets is a must while visiting London.

Packed with a variety of flagship stores, there’s is nothing you can’t find here, and if you cannot fit anything else into your suitcase, strolling through the street to admire the architecture is still worth it.

When in London do as Londoners do and visit a pub

If you are running low on time but still want to make it to a pub to do as locals do, you can always just come for a beer.

If you have a bit of time make sure to find a pub and settle in for a pub dinner, like a hearty pie or fish and chips for the ultimate London experience.

Visit the modern food court at Seven Dials Market

Sometimes it can be a bit intimidating to decide on a place to eat, especially in a city as big as London, where lots of times you won’t even make it inside a restaurant without a reservation, for that, visiting places like the casual Seven Dials Market is the perfect plan.

Seven Dials Market is a fun modern food court in the heart of Covent Garden, offering a variety of cuisines in a very casual format, from a little sushi stand to a tacos stand, a conveyor belt cheese bar, and more.

Stop by the picturesque Neals Yard

Another classic London bucket list item that you cannot miss is the picturesque Neals Yard courtyard.

Neals Yard is a quaint and colorful courtyard that is home to a variety of independent cafes, restaurants, and wellness brands, and one of the most colorful little corners of London.

It is also home to one of my favorite pizzas in London, Homeslice, a great spot to stop for a quick lunch or dinner.

Enjoy afternoon tea at a beautiful fancy hotel

The only way to have the ultimate London experience is to indulge in afternoon tea, preferably at a high-end hotel—if we are doing it, let’s do it right.

Brown Hotel is perfect for a classic high-end afternoon tea in a cozy antique-filled drawing room.

For a modern and fun twist on the classic afternoon tea Sketch provides a delicious and super cute tea service, perfect for a girl’s day.

Go shopping at the famous Liberty’s department store

Another fun item to add to your London bucket list is shopping at Liberty’s, the iconic London department store founded in 1894.

You can find anything in this luxury department store, from the trendiest high-end skincare to up-and-coming fashion brands, to many items showcasing the store’s famous floral liberty print, which would make a lovely souvenir.

Watch at least one of the many incredible musicals on the West End

No London bucket list would be complete without a visit to the West End to enjoy one of the many incredible productions.

If you only have time for one, Les Miserables is a classic and my all-time favorite, I have seen it twice and it never disappoints.

If you are booking last minute make sure to download the app TodayTix where you can check for discounted last-minute tickets to some of the best shows in the West End.

Visit St Paul’s Cathedral

Admire the beautiful St Paul’s Cathedral, a city architectural landmark, and a significant religious and cultural venue for important events such as Prince Charles’s wedding to Diana.

Eat your way around Camden Market

This one I would leave up to you, Camden Market is considered a must as a tourist attraction for anyone visiting London for the first time, but to be honest, I am not a big fan of it.

Camden Market is a big open-air market packed with street food stands from all over the world, souvenir shops, and small independent shops.

If you don’t have the time to go all the way to Camden Market, I would recommend skipping it and doing Borough Market instead.

Ride an iconic red double-decker bus

This is both for tourist and practical reasons, as chances are you will need to ride it anyway to get across the city, but it is also a London bucket list item—so that is two birds with one stone.

The N9 bus route is the one I regularly take as it goes from Kensington through Picadilly and to Covent Garden, all of my favorite areas.

Make sure to get the second-floor seat, and obviously, try to get the first row for the best view of the city.

Admire the impressive Houses of Parliament

While visiting Big Ben you can already count this one in, but is worth mentioning to make sure you are aware that the big building next to Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben is the Houses of Parliament.

This impressive building is one of the main centers of political life in the United Kingdom and is featured in many movies—like Sherlock Holmes, where Roberty Downey Jr. is seen jumping out one of the windows.

See a show inside the iconic Royal Albert Hall

An item that would make a great addition to your London bucket list, if time allows it, would be to see a show inside the iconic Royal Albert Hall.

This time around in London we were lucky enough to be working in it, so I know firsthand how incredible any show will look inside this historic building.

The historic guided tour of the building is also incredibly interesting.

Visit Piccadilly Circus on your way to somewhere

Some people like to compare Piccadilly Circus to Times Square, but it is not, there are only a handful of LED screens here and a few billboards.

You will probably get to see Piccadilly Circus while on your way to somewhere, like Covent Garden, but don’t go too far out of your way to see it.

London’s extensive offer of experiences, from its free museums and world-class theater productions to its elegant afternoon teas and beautiful parks, provides never-ending entertainment for first-time visitors.

And while visiting such an enormous and iconic city can become an overwhelming planning process, this ultimate London bucket list should help make the most of your trip to this buzzing city.

So, whether you are visiting for the first time, or returning to fulfill your London bucket list, hope this post helps you complete your ultimate London experience.

Is there anything that you think we should add to the ultimate London bucket list? Let us know in the comments to keep this post as useful as possible.

Happy travels!

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