What are the must-try things in London for a first-time visitor?

Visiting London for the first time? You’ve got a lot to look forward to! As one of the world’s truly global cities, London offers as much variety as you could ever dream of. 

Whether you’re in town to explore the culinary scene, attend a concert, visit a football match, or just explore the magic of London life, an amazing time awaits you. As the ever-quotable Dr Johnson quipped, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

At London Bites, we’re often asked by visitors what are the essential foods and experiences that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to the Big Smoke. With this in mind, we thought we’d prepare a list of not-to-be-missed things that will give first-time visitors a sense of the real London. 

So, read on to discover a selection of unmissable London experiences for your consideration. From indulgent British dishes to historic buildings and boozers, they’re something to inspire travellers of all kinds!

And while you’re here, take a look at our London Food Tours, where we take you to the best, hidden food spots in London. If you have any questions at all, please get in touch.

Shakespeare Globe Theatre exterior

Attend the Theatre

Whether you’re into edgy contemporary plays, grand big-budget musicals, or classical Shakespearean performances, London is one of the world’s centres for going to the theatre. 

People travel from all over the world to visit London’s record-breaking West End shows, but Londoners, too, are regular theatregoers. The Theatres Trust estimates that there are currently around 263 theatres in the UK’s capital city. 

From intimate indie spaces seating fewer than 50 guests to famous venues like the London Palladium that seat over 2,000, London offers performances for all occasions. Check local listings when planning your trip and don’t miss enjoying this quintessential London pastime.

If it’s your first time in England, a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe is recommended. This building is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre where Shakespeare would have originally staged his plays. Go and see one of the bard’s masterpieces and feel as though you’ve travelled through time.

Eat World-Class Indian Food

Curry often tops polls of the UK’s favourite food. In fact, the British are so fond of Indian cuisine in general that it’s said that Britain is home to the best Indian food found anywhere outside of India (Britain is home to over 10,000 curry houses).

But where to go? Well, you’re going to find high-quality Indian cooking across the city, but if you want to go for a curry in an iconic part of town, we recommend Brick Lane. This area is famous for its diversity of international cuisine and many popular curry houses are found here. 

Get our thoughts on the best Indian restaurant on Brick Lane so you don’t miss out! 

And if you’d like to see Brick Lane in the company of knowledgeable, local foodies, take London Bite’s East End London Food Tour.

London Eye

Take the London Eye

The London Eye (or Millenium Wheel) is a 135-metre revolving wheel located on London’s South Bank. Welcoming over 3 million people each year, the London Eye is massively popular, but certainly worth the visit. 

Since welcoming its first passengers in February 2000, the London Eye has become one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. 

By taking a 30-minute revolution on the wheel, you’ll get to enjoy some of the best views in the entire city, and the capsule moves slowly enough for you to capture fantastic photographs of the cityscape.

Buckingham Palace Guard Change

Feel Regal at Royal Sites

Even more iconic than the Millenium Wheel is Buckingham Palace, home to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Form an image of London in your mind’s eye and it probably won’t be long before you picture a member of the Queen’s Guard with their furry bearskin hats. 

Take a pleasant walk through St. James’s Park and you can admire the 18th-century palace and the changing of the guards from the street outside. If you want to go inside you’ll need to check listings and book a ticket in advance as the palace is only open for a limited number of weeks each year.

If you’re interested in all things royal, London is home to many other sites of interest, such as Kensington Palace, Kew Palace, the Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey.

Go For Afternoon Tea

The tradition of Afternoon Tea started around 150 years ago when Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford, began taking a light meal of tea, cakes, and sandwiches between lunch and dinner. The Duchess of Bedford had grown weary of the long wait between her usual mealtimes, so, a British institution was born. 

You’ll find no shortage of choices when it comes to picking your ideal location for Afternoon Tea. From the small and casual to the luxurious and very expensive, there’s Afternoon Tea for all budgets and preferences.

British Vogue even recently compiled a list of their Top 21 Best Afternoon Teas in London. Popular choices include The Savoy, the Harrods Tea Rooms, and Fortnum & Mason.

Have a Pints in Historic Pubs

There are few things more British than a good old-fashioned pub and London has more than its fair share.

Many of the city’s oldest bars are steeped in history, but if you’re in the mood for a tipple, we recommend heading to Fitzrovia. Located near the British Museum and the fantastic shopping street of Marylebone High Street (don’t miss Daunt Books), Fitzrovia is legendary for the famous drinkers who used to haunt its pubs. 

Head to the Fitzroy Tavern or the Wheatsheaf and follow in the footsteps of famed writers, such as George Orwell, Dylan Thomas, and Quentin Crisp.

Sherlock Holmes Home in Baker Street

Visit 221B Baker Street

While we’re on the topic of literature, no bookish visitor to London should miss a trip to 221B Baker Street, the fictional former residence of none other than Sherlock Holmes. 

On Baker Street, you’ll find the Sherlock Holmes Museum which recreates the Victorian-era settings in which Holmes would have resided. The museum is packed with memorabilia linked to the Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales and will provide amusement for guests of all ages.

Traditional British Fish & Chips

Eat Traditional Fish and Chips

Our final must-try thing for first-time visitors to London is…Fish and Chips! What journey to the UK’s capital city would be complete without a portion of Britain’s most famous comfort food? 

It’s impossible to pick a number one destination for well-prepared Fish and Chips but Time Out recently put together a selection of their favourite London places for Fish and Chips – an ideal choice on a cold London night! 

We hope we’ve given you plenty of inspiration for your first London adventure. If you would like to explore the city’s cuisine in the company of expert local guides, please check out our London Food Tours

If you’d like to know more about our tours, please get in touch.

Buckingham Palace Guard Change