The 16 Best Things to Do in London for an Epic Summer Vacation

Majestic London: fresh from back-to-back British screen hits and a royal coronation, is hotter than it ever has been. Storied hotels, upscale sweet treats, unique attractions, and a backdrop of rich and renowned history, are enough to make this the most epic of summer visits. Whether you’re heading there solo, as a couple, or with the whole family, here are 16 ways to make those memories cherished.

Make Time for Sweet

Sweet teeth are satisfied for there’s an afternoon tea brewing in every corner of the city. Great Scotland Yard’s The Parlour, is our tip amongst the most recent additions to the scene. A decadent tier of savory followed by sweet is served within a lavishly outfitted 1820s Grade II listed building with whimsical Edwardian and Victorian architecture. Portions are generous, and your camera is in for a feast—note that themes may be seasonal depending on the time of visit. The hotel is part of the Hyatt Group. IHG loyalists might want to get their sugar fix at the InterContinental London Park Lane instead. It’s held in The Wellington Lounge with fabulous vistas by Wellington Arch. Mini Cornish pastries, soft scones, and a delightful selection of tarts, cakes, and choux buns ensue. Over 20 teas are available including their bespoke No.1 Park Lane blend.

 InterContinental London Park Lane
InterContinental London Park Lane, Photo courtesy InterContinental London Park Lane

Tour Majestic Structures

As a city dotted with majestic structures, visitors are wise to book a tour for the best of them. The Royal Albert Hall is after all the world’s most famous stage: no other place on earth has hosted such iconic moments in history for legends from Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and Muhammad Ali; right up the Spice Girls in Spiceworld: The Movie. This was the Suffragettes’ ‘temple of liberty’, a place of celebration during Nelson Mandela’s state visit, where the original Von Trapp family toured, and even the world’s first bodybuilding contest was judged by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Your tour delves into the beautiful love story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert whom the venue is named after, with special access to a number of corners used by the royal family when attending shows. Pair your tour with afternoon tea within the chandelier-strewn Coda Restaurant on level three, and sip from tea sets commemorating the hall’s striking exterior. The Royal Albert Hall has proudly been observing the tradition of afternoon tea for over a century years, even serving Queen Elizabeth II for the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Institute. Finish the day with tickets for a show.

Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall, Photo courtesy Royal Albert Hall

Dine Deliciously

With thousands of delicious eateries, London’s finest must tick every box to stand out from the crowd. Sketch is irresistible. Made up of multiple drinking and dining destinations, the Conduit Street townhouse is an art-fashion-infused feast. There aren’t many establishments where the toilets are a spectacle in their own right (consult social media for more). F&Bs include the Glade, a forest of hand-woven carpets and rich velvet upholstery making decadent nibbles and cocktails a delight; the Gallery, a golden pink-hued boudoir best for afternoon tea; a buzzing Parlour, eclectic yet luxurious; and Michelin starred restaurant the Lecture Room & Library. Sketch certainly takes being spoiled for choice to a whole other level. Fancy London’s latest hotspot? Kapara in Soho is setting the scene alight. A Tel-Aviv fantasy brought to life, this 2023 opening from Israeli-born chef Eran Tibi has all-day spaces that span a ground-floor restaurant, lounge, bar, alfresco terrace, and electrifying basement. You and the party will nosh on warm Moroccan buns, oxtail in cous cous, and desserts spinning with majood dates and black treacle. Wash them down with spiked homemade old-school Israeli soda, and remember to add a pin…you’ll be back for more. For a casual sensation, pop into the legendary Bao in Soho for a classic Taiwanese bun. The restaurant’s been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand for eight consecutive years.

Sketch, Photo courtesy Sketch/Jean Cazals

Sip Cocktails With a Twist

Two city bars seriously step out of the box when it comes to creativity: Mr. Fogg’s and Cahoots. Mr. Fogg’s Pawnbrokens is the latest addition to Dean Street, a cocktail den of adventure where guests immerse in a Victorian-era collection of global knick-knacks and eclectic cocktails themed to the adventures from which they were acquired. You have here three distinct rooms, each with its own unique decor—one of which is covered in vintage carpets and rugs. Cocktail standouts include the Priceless Heirloom served in a porcelain vase, and the Tea Leaf’d, a vodka-Earl Grey concoction served in a teacup on saucer. Meanwhile, a short stroll to Kingly Court lies an underground speakeasy, Cahoots. Guests sip spiffing cocktails (our favorite is Winston Churchill) in a 1940s setting comprising of a tube train, ticket hall, and signal station. Live entertainment strums all week, and bar nibbles are generously portioned. For those with energy to burn, slip on an orange jumpsuit at Alcotraz, a prison cocktail bar where patrons ‘smuggle’ a bottle of liquor past the warden so bartenders can mix up personal cocktails to be enjoyed from behind bars. Actors playing guards and inmates turn up the theatrics and there are picture opportunities aplenty both in and out of your group’s private cell. You’ll have a riot.

Cahoots, Photo courtesy Cahoots

Take the Whole Clan Out to Play, Rain or Shine

The city’s parks are summer’s favorite playground (and if you really love blooms, don’t miss the RHS Chelsea Flower Show), but when the weather’s unpredictable, consider sheltered options. Monopoly Lifesized is an immersive, physical edition of the game, where you’ll form teams to compete in challenges during an 80-minute super game. There are four lifesized boards to choose from (we suggest the Luxury) and afterward, reward yourselves with alcoholic or non-alcoholic cocktails at Top Hat, where food and drinks are Monopoly themed and thus, highly photogenic. Family into spooky? The London Bridge Experience will give you a jump. Delve into 2000 years of gruesome history at the world’s most famous haunted bridge, first with an interactive education, then with a walk through a scare maze, awarded the city’s best scare attraction for over a decade. Think clowns, zombies, butchers, and more. Families traveling with younger kids can opt for a reduced scare version of the show called the ‘Guardian Angel show’. Upgrade if you’re in the mood for a Stein of Paulaner beer and bratwurst hotdog afterward. 

Curious young minds can enjoy nature without getting wet over at the BBC Earth Experience, a new exhibit at The Daikin Center in Earl’s Court. Wander three breakout zones, and get lost in natural worlds on multi-angle screens. Those penguins will jump right out during David Attenborough’s narration.

BBC Earth Experience
BBC Earth Experience, Photo courtesy BBC Earth Experience

Get Creative With a Class

Creatives dot the city, so sign up to learn a skill. Inamo’s sushi and sake masterclass leaves guests with new skills in creating their own nigiri and maki pieces, alongside tastings of premium sakes in a fun and collaborative environment. You’ll feast on your self-put-together plate at the end with new pals. Those who prefer cheese may want to create their own pie at Pizza Pilgrim’s pizza masterclass, the Selfridge’s outpost has a school to learn for all ages, including little chefs. While sweet lovers can join the Doughnut Time Academy. Their rings are the prettiest and tastiest in London and you can put together your own in a fun and informative masterclass. Think of yourselves as artists? Neon Naked offers life drawing classes across town in ultraviolet light. Models pose clad in neon paint and fluorescent props, as the room brushes away with neon colors on paper. Dance beats and drinks turn up the class, and guests are encouraged to show off their creations at the end.

Neon Naked
Neon Naked, Photo courtesy Neon Naked Life Drawing

Be Dazzled by Stage

London is a hotbed for live arts. The West End, Britain’s Broadway, is currently hosting show-stoppers Moulin Rouge! The Musical at The Piccadilly Theatre, and UK-popular hitmakers Louise Redknapp, Jason Donovan, and Peter Andre will take to The Dominion Theatre for the award-winning Grease The Musical from June 2nd and beyond. Summer Nights never sounded so good. Music lovers should keep a lookout for festivals at Southbank Centre where Meltdown is the longest-running artist-curated musical festival in the country, whilst close by along the river, the Underbelly Festival offers a variety of performances from burlesque to comedy.

For those who prefer jazz, don’t miss PizzaExpress Live on Dean Street,  a venue that’s hosted internationally acclaimed musicians since 1976, including Amy Winehouse and Norah Jones, whilst over at Proud Embankment, a majestic two-story venue hosts an enchanting array of shows spanning cabaret and circus. Entertainment is accompanied by brilliantly curated cocktails and a fine dining menu worthy of a star, with current shows including the acclaimed Dirty Cabaret Dancer and the sexy, The Male Room. A Proud experience is a London must-do for anyone coming to town with an allure for adventure and a taste for a treat.

Proud Cabaret
Proud Cabaret, Photo courtesy Proud Cabaret

Check off the Star Attractions

First-timers won’t want to miss the skyline icons like The London Eye, tip: time your visit for when the sun’s in front of Big Ben, and upgrade to the champagne experience to fast track and enjoy a more luxurious rotation. The kids will have a fun day out at London Zoo, while adults should check their seasonal events for specials such as Zoo Nights and VIP sleepovers. Viator’s Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tour and River Cruise tick off all the must-sees, but for the big on-the-go sightseeing experience complete with a multi-course meal and fizz, try a Thames dinner cruise with City Cruises. You’ll board a fabulously glassy boat to take in sights as you dine on a delectable British fare, complete with a musician for entertainment. When full, head to the top deck and marvel at Tower Bridge as you pass right under it, and enjoy the newly restored Big Ben from a perfectly clear vantage point.

City Cruises
City Cruises, Photo courtesy City Cruises

Dress Up and Immerse in a New World

Reserve to immerse in another time and place. At The Wands & Wizard Exploratorium, patrons are given a spellbinding chance to become wizards in training within its enchanting Soho house. An interactive afternoon tea sees a multi-layered, bewitching castle of treats led by ‘professor’; a magic wand experience brings movie set effects to the anointing of your own mystical stick; and a cocktail/mocktail potion session puts a science class spin on the traditional cocktail class. Don’t miss the bonkers and very social media-friendly unicorn-spouted drink, best enjoyed with a complimentary loaned cloak. You’ll want to stay in this epic tale, so do book more than one experience at a time. Looking for an after-party? Don sequins and suspenders and head to The Candlelight Club, London’s secret 1920’s party with live jazz, retro DJs, and cabaret. Venues are pop-up, and you’ll need to sign up for the mailing list to find out more about the next speakeasy.

Wands & Wizard Exploratorium
Wands & Wizard Exploratorium, Photo courtesy The Cauldron Co.

Stay at Hotel Cafe Royal

When exploring London, stay in the heart of it all: Hotel Café Royal. For over 150 years, Café Royal has hosted legends including Princess Diana, Oscar Wilde, and David Bowie. The lights have never dimmed, and now this beloved Regent Street haunt remains not only an exquisite dining destination, but also a spa, and luxury hotel to the triple. 159 rooms and suites are available for perusal, and summer families will need not scour long. Two-Bedroom Family Rooms here make all the difference. Connected by a generous lobby, parents will move between rooms in full privacy, whether in tandem with kids, relatives, or a nanny. Wide triple-glazed windows mean quarters are warmed with natural light whilst perfectly soundproofed. Carrara marble bathrooms dipped in Diptyque and heated floor-up, feature mirror TV screen, rainfall shower, and oversized bathtub. You’ll discover modern touches throughout your boudoir, from touch lighting to wired desksides and a top-of-the-line Nespresso, yet simultaneously appreciate the building’s rich heritage: the walls are designed with rustic Portland stone to mirror the architecture of the street façade, and a beautifully curated art collection showcases it all through time. This extends to the walls of The Gallery, your breakfast spot, and the jewelry box that serves afternoon tea. Meanwhile, Cakes & Bubbles by the ‘World’s Best Pastry Chef’, Albert Adrià, lies a cheesecake to end all cheesecakes, and the Alex Dilling restaurant has London’s most coveted tasting menu. The basement level’s Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Centre offers every component of Zen including gym, pools, steam, and treatments. Kids are permitted during certain hours of the day. Note: Two and three-bedroom suites are also available for larger families. Hotel Café Royal is a treat no matter what age of guest.

 Hotel Cafe Royal
Hotel Cafe Royal, Photo courtesy Hotel Cafe Royal

Switch Off at a Spa

London’s hectic, but two of the finest city spas will soothe. AIRE Ancient Baths hail from Seville, but the London outpost opened within one of the West End’s most historic buildings: the 18th Century townhouse of JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan. Mosey over to reception and you’ll even find a rare first-edition copy of the book under a glass cabinet. From the moment guests arrive, it’s downward transportation into a Romanesque time of (original) ceiling roses, brick vaulted ceilings, and a wide selection of thermal baths soothed by candlelight and classical melodies. This is where time stands still, and modern-day stresses evaporate. You’ll even need to leave that phone behind in your locker. Instead, soak up the bath of a thousand jets; drift off in the Floatarium, a unique bath with high salt content; or sign up for a signature massage (couples options available in tandem). For a classic, above-ground luxury spa, head to Hyde Park for The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane. This is just the place for jet lag, with a range of treatments that’ll leave long-haul bodies sprung up for exploration. Their signature Deep Sleep Lavender Massage is perfect for those arriving in the afternoon and looking to get a quality night’s rest. It includes a heat experience incorporating a salt-wall sauna, herbal steam room, and vitality pool, before a full body massage with calming notes of lavender. Arriving in the morning? The power of four hands should do the trick, namely a signature massage with two synchronized therapists. Whatever the choice, these are the heavenly respite any trip to London needs.

AIRE Ancient Baths London
AIRE Ancient Baths London, Photo courtesy AIRE Ancient Baths London

Escape the City Noise

Escape the city: book full-day tours to Bath and Stonehenge and other quaint English towns on GetYourGuide, or factor in overnight for the ultimate weekend break. After gorging on London’s fancy afternoon teas and addictive ‘Big Smoke’ Byron Burgers, a detox might just be in order. Enter the Glass House Retreat, a wellness wonderland created by Joy Jarvis, focusing on plant-based food, feel-good activity, and a ton of pampering. This is the UK’s first purpose-built detox and wellness retreat, and one night is enough to change bad habits. Watching the sunrise over the local stables and Essex countryside from your chic wide-windowed room; working your way through delicious organic meals packed with nutrition; and partaking in the included fitness classes that span aerial yoga to aqua aerobics in the pool, makes for the detox of dreams. Don’t forget to pack those Sweaty Bettys, you’ll want to take a snap on these grounds. Be sure to book a spa treatment or four minutes in the Cryo Chamber for an added boost, or relax in the complimentary outdoor sauna or with a guided meditation in the social-media famous glass dome. Digital detox safes are available for guests who prefer to lock away phones, and the resort is adults only, so each day is (largely) soundtracked by nature. You’ll be back in buzzing Central London in less than an hour, ready to take on the West End with a healthier attitude to exploring with balance. 

Glass House Retreat
Glass House Retreat, Photo courtesy The Glass House Detox & Wellness Retreat

Have an Unforgettable Date

For an activity that you and the spouse have never done together before, London is never short of ideas. DNA VR is a chance to play together, totally immersed in virtual reality. Suitable for all gaming levels including complete novices, choose from over 50 games over three experience types including zombie battles and K-Pop dancing. VR masters are on hand to help get the most out of your session (and teach you how to use the equipment) as you don headsets and take to the digital world. Other options include a VR escape room and single-player games. Animal lovers, you’ve heard of pet cafes in Asia, but how about a pug cafe in London? CuppaPug is an adorable pink paradise filled with pups. Pugs have the freedom to roam and play with their human guests as much as they like (which is pretty much all the time since they are highly social and love interaction), and it wouldn’t be a cafe without a latte and a pug face cupcake. For social gaming and a brilliant soundtrack, it’s all about Electric Shuffle, where you and a friend, or a group, will shuffleboard on a high-tech system that figures out your scores, records highlights, and basically frees you up to enjoy the sharing pizzas and cocktails. Or dance, if the music takes you over. All in a deliciously decored venue. Don’t miss Flight Club too for a similarly happening game and feast, based around social darts.

CuppaPug, Photo courtesy CuppaPug.

Toast on London’s Best Bubbles

Toast to your first or final day in the Big Smoke. In the heart of Mayfair, Le Comptoir Robuchon has just the trolley—the champagne trolley. This upscale French restaurant from late Michelin-starred record holder, Chef Joël Robuchon, features a 20-seat marble counter as well as individual tables to enjoy classic French fare with an impressive wine list. The trolley circulates with a monthly pick of greats, ranging from exceptional independent producers to Laurent-Perrier classics and vintages. Led by a team of experts, including those who worked alongside Robuchon for decades, you’re in excellent hands when it comes to selecting the perfect bubbles and food pairing, especially when kicking back to a weekend DJ mix. Tip: ask the sommelier about English sparkling offerings. Over by Bank, Bob Bob Ricard City is a long-time champagne destination. The British-French restaurant is most famous for its ‘Push for Champagne” button, conveniently located at every table. You’ll find here a high-end dining experience of comforts including Truffle & Champagne Humble Pie, plus excellently portioned caviar to compliment bubbles. The wine list is naturally extensive, including the finest French from Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Rhone; and selects from Spain, Italy, and South Africa, but for something special speak to the sommelier, who may be able to dust an off-list vintage for an unforgettable pour. A decade ago, the establishment caused a sensation by capping their markup on fine wine no matter the price of the bottle, meaning the best value fine wine and champagne in the city. Let’s just say you’ll be pressing the button just as generously. Don’t miss the glorious wine vaults, visible from the bar area.

Bob Bob Ricard
Bob Bob Ricard, Photo courtesy Bob Bob Ricard

Join the Party

It’s one thing watching the stage, then it’s another being on it. The Murder Express Part Deux offers a fully immersive show and four-course meal designed by BBC MasterChef Professional Finalist Louisa Ellis. Head over to ‘Pedley Street Station’ and board a first-class carriage with hilarious actors as they solve a murder mystery along the aisles. The production’s been such a hit (along with the rich chocolate cremeux) that the run has been extended all the way through to winter. Are your feet itching to dance? Mamma Mia! The Party at The O2 is guaranteed to raise the roof and get you tapping. Guests are transported to the sunny island of Skopelos for a four-course Greek feast while a new Mediterranean romance is played out all around them. It’s an exotic escape, live band in tow. If singing along to Money, Money, Money, and Dancing Queen wasn’t enough, stick around for a glittering ABBA disco at the end. This is the ultimate night to remember at Niko’s family-run taverna and you’re very much part of the party.

Mamma Mia The Party
Mamma Mia The Party, Photo courtesy Mamma Mia! The Party/Grant Walker

Hit the Beach

Summers in London call for a day out on Brighton Beach: and in a similar vein to Coney Island, it’s less than an hour’s train ride away. Brighton Palace Pier is the main attraction for all the family, lined with arcades, Brighton Rock candy stores, and fairground rides. The waters below are popular for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, whilst the shores offer space for volleyball and frisbee. Grab a deckchair or have a dip, these beaches are pristine-clean and the area is full of retro charm. Those keen to stay beyond sunset can do so from the comfort of Brighton’s jewel overlooking the seafront, the historic 1890s Hotel Metropole that’s recently been unveiled as Doubletree by Hilton Brighton Metropole. Enchanting red terracotta exteriors contrast with sleek modern interiors and are filled with a neighborly atmosphere (fresh baked cookies all around) to make seaside sights a delight both in-room and on The Salt Room terrace. For heightened views, the famed Brighton i360 is just two minutes walk away from your Victorian beach slumber. 

Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach, Photo courtesy Visit Brighton.

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