Are you planning a solo travel trip to London and are wondering what you should do? Here are the very best things to do alone in London, from its cultural attractions to drinking in a British pub.
My home town of London is not only one of the best places for a solo trip in Europe, but is one of the most popular solo travel destinations in the world. And this is not just me being biased; studies of solo travel consistently report London as a favourite destination.
To help you make the best of my hometown, here is my pick of the best things to do alone in London. Whether you are an art aficionado, a fervent foodie or a seasoned shutterbug, I have you covered.
At the end of the article, you’ll also find advice on choosing accommodation in London and safety tips for female solo travellers in London.
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SAVE MONEY WITH A LONDON PASS!
Did you know that London has two excellent sightseeing passes?
Use the London Pass for unlimited sightseeing across 90+ attractions over a set number of days. Alternatively, a London Explorer Pass allows you to decide how many attractions you would like to visit in a 60-day period.
Solo Travel in London: The Best Cultural Activities
1. Enrich your mind at one of London’s major museums
Visiting a museum is an ideal solo travel activity and London has these in spades. Better still, entry to the permanent exhibitions in most of London’s museums is free.
Lovers of fashion and design will adore the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), and history buffs will flock to The British Museum. Budding geologists should point their compass towards South Kensington’s Science Museum, whilst those itching to learn more about our natural world may want to check out its next-door neighbour, The Natural History Museum.
Don’t feel that you have to ‘do’ a museum by visiting every exhibition room. That’s a surefire way of developing museum fatigue.
In my many years of living in London and visiting its major museums, I haven’t done this and don’t intend to either.
Instead, create your bucket list of not only which museums to see, but also what to see when you are there. Take it at your own pace and focus on what interests you.
Even if you are not a museum person, the buildings that these collections are housed in are works of art and London landmarks in their own right.
2. But don’t forget its smaller museums
By ticking off the major museums on our travel bucket lists, there’s the risk that the smaller museums are omitted. If you are in a city for a limited time, this is inevitable as priority is given to the big hitters.
London is home to some wonderful, smaller museums which are perfect for mooching around alone if time permits.
Local’s Tip! The Pick of London’s Best Small Museums
London Cinema Museum – for a journey into cinema’s past
Horniman Museum – a quirky natural history museum in a beautiful setting, famous for its giant stuffed walrus
Museum of Brands – for a surprisingly fascinating insight into marketing and brands.
3. Join a tour or talk at The British Museum
The British Museum is one of my favourite hangouts and it has a stimulating programme of events year-round. These range from excellent free gallery tours, that are led by volunteers, to more in-depth explorations of cultural and historic subjects.
You can just turn up on the day for most of the free gallery tours. However, book online for the paid-for talks as these are very popular.
But if you miss out on the talks, don’t miss out on the museum. It truly has a world-beating collection, from imposing African statues to the glorious Lindisfarne Gospel from Northumbria’s Holy Island.
4. Visit one of London’s free art galleries
Is art more of your thing? If so, you’ll be spoilt for choice in London. Again, permanent exhibitions are usually free.
For artistic immersion, head to The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. For modern art enthusiasts, there’s Tate Modern housed in the husk of a disused power station on London’s South Bank.
More intimate galleries that I can recommend are The Wallace Collection, The Queen’s Gallery and Dulwich Picture Gallery.
5. Gawp at the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London
The Tower of London is a very popular attraction for very good reasons. Don’t expect this to be a visit to a dry historical site.
Over its colourful 1,000-year history it has been a fortress and a palace. It was used to store records of government and was the site of a royal menagerie, the Royal Mint and armouries.
READ THIS NEXT: 15 Insider Tips for Visiting the Tower of London
Today’s visitors arrive in their droves to gaze in wonder at the Crown Jewels, the gold and gem-encrusted ceremonial items worn by British kings and queens, and to revel in its sometimes gory history. It was from here that Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes were incarcerated and were led to their grisly fate.
Their stories and more are brought to life during the free 45-minute walking tour led by the famous Yeoman Warders, also known as ‘Beefeaters.’ Delivered with style and humour, this is one of the highlights of the Tower of London that can’t be missed.
6. Dive into WW2 history at the Churchill War Rooms
Step back into the dark days of the Second World War by visiting the fascinating Churchill War Rooms.
This painstakingly preserved subterranean warren was home to Churchill and other top-ranking British officials during World War II. From here, the British government directed the Second World War.
The sense of history is almost tangible.
7. Go to the cinema alone
Solo cinema-going should be the norm, not the exception.
Let’s face it; why do you need to go with someone else to watch a movie? Whilst a shared post-movie critique can be fun, it’s not as if you’re going to chat with one another during the film. Or I sincerely hope not.
I’m a total cinephile and go to the cinema on a weekly basis at the very least, often on my own. To my mind, hunkering down in a cosy cinema on a winter afternoon takes a lot of beating.
In central London, my go-to place for a dose of movie magic is Picturehouse Central. Big screens, comfortable seats, good café and thoughtful programming. Plus its Members’ Bar is one of the best spots in London to grab a drink!
For a boutique cinema experience, try the theatres in the Everyman Cinema chain.
As their screens tend to be smaller, this is not the best option for those big blockbuster movies. However, what the Everyman lacks in screen size, it gains in comfy sofas and armchairs, some with footstools, and waiter service to your seat.
For a journey into cinematic past, pick Prince Charles Cinema (off Leicester Square) or The Electric Cinema on Portobello Road.
The retro-styled Prince Charles has a wonderfully eclectic programme at bargain prices for its central location, especially if you take up their cheap membership.
The Edwardian Electric Cinema is the very definition of a picture palace, with its extravagant Baroque interior housing plush armchairs and sofas. Check out its discounted rates for Sunday matinée screenings.
8. Browse the BFI’s Archives in the Mediatheque
Another favourite place to watch a movie is the British Film Institute (BFI) on the South Bank, which is also home to the uber-cool Mediatheque.
The Mediatheque comprises booths with comfortable seats where you can settle down with a film or TV programme from the BFI’s extensive and diverse archive collection.
And best of all, it’s absolutely free.
9. Catch a play or musical
Another great thing to do in London by yourself is to go to the theatre.
London has so much going on theatrically, suiting all tastes and budgets. And as a single, it is easier to score a single ticket.
Local’s tip! Buying London Theatre Tickets
Try for a matinée performance, typically held two or three times a week in the afternoon. As these performances are less popular, tickets are usually easier to get hold of and can be cheaper.
Download the app TodayTix for bargain seats and flash sales
Alternatively, stop by the well-loved TKTS booth in Leicester Square or visit TKTS London online for theatrical bargains.
10. Experience Elizabethan London at The Globe Theatre
See Elizabethan theatre brought vividly to life in one of London’s most famous buildings, Shakespeare’s Globe, built a few hundred meters from the original Globe, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed.
I’ve seen a few productions here and it is an unforgettable experience. In an attempt to reproduce the bawdy atmosphere of 16th Century theatre-going, “groundlings” stand in the central space in front of the stage. Applauding and jeering are actively encouraged.
As much of Shakespeare’s Globe is open to the elements, the theatre operates a summer programme only. Groundling tickets sell for as little as £5.
11. Embrace your inner classic music aficionado at St Martin in the Fields
If classical music is more to your taste, St Martin in the Fields holds regular free 30-minute concerts. I love the church’s inexpensive café in its crypt and its terrace cafe, both of which are good lunch options if you are in the Trafalgar Square area.
Another good option for free lunchtime concerts is the historic church of St. James in Picadilly.
12. Attend a service at St Paul’s Cathedral
Welcome to another of my favourite places in London, the majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral.
If you are not pushed about scaling the cathedral’s dome, why not attend one of its daily services? Not only is this completely free, but you also have the opportunity to hear the choir resound in this acoustically sublime setting.
My recommendation is to go for one of the choral evensong services and you can check the schedule here.
13. Lose yourself in literature in an old-fashioned bookshop
To me, a bookshop is a perfect refuge for the solo traveller. Sadly, in these days of Amazon – other online retailers are available – bookshops are becoming ever rarer, and those with character are rarer still.
Luckily for us locals, London has managed to cling onto many of its bookshops.
King amongst these is Daunt Books in Marylebone. Solo travellers will be bowled over by its extensive collection of travel publications, perfect for an hour’s browsing.
The Best Things to Do Alone in London: Sightseeing
14. See London’s highlights on a self-guided tour
Forget about those hop-on-hop-off tourist buses clogging London’s streets. The very best way to see the capital is on foot.
One of my favourite things to do in London is to seek out its familiar, and less familiar, sights by doing a walking tour. And the beauty of doing a self-guided tour is that you can go at your own pace (and skip the less interesting bits).
Insider Tip! Best London Walking Tour Books
15. Or join a guided walking tour
The street art tours in East London have been highly recommended by friends. However, armed with a little information, you can do this by yourself.
READ THIS NEXT: Street Art in Brick Lane, London: A Self-guided Walking Tour
16. Bag a good spot for the Changing of the Guard
There are few things that Britain does better than pomp and ceremony, and the Changing of the Guard is an excellent place to experience this.
The Changing the Guard is when the Queen’s Guard transfers responsibility to the New Guard and spans three locations: Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace and Wellington Barracks. This 45-minute ceremony takes place on select days (typically Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays) and starts at 11 am. Times and days do change and you should check the schedule here.
This spectacle is completely free to watch. That said, to understand what is going on and to bag the best spots, it’s worth looking at this inexpensive walking tour with a local guide.
17. Visit the Sky Garden
For the best free view in town, head to 20 Fenchurch Street, otherwise known as the Walkie Talkie building, which is home to London’s garden in the clouds.
The Sky Garden offers a 360-degree panorama of London’s iconic skyline. On a clear day, the views are sensational, from the Tower of London and Canary Wharf to the east, and St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye to the west.
Advance booking is essential.
READ THIS NEXT: Visiting The Sky Garden, London
18. Or take in the view from The Shard
If your budget can stretch to it, buy a ticket to take the elevator to the top of The Shard, the pointy building near London Bridge.
Soaring to a height of over 310 meters above the River Thames, this is the tallest building in the United Kingdom and the highest viewing platform in London. The London panoramas from its viewing platforms are hard to beat.
READ THIS NEXT: Visiting The Shard, London: Tips from a Local
For the best prices, buy your ticket from The Shard’s ticket office. However, these tickets are not refundable if your plans change (although they are exchangeable for a new date or time, albeit subject to a hefty £15 amendment fee).
But did you know that you can visit The Shard for free?
Aqua Shard, one of the building’s six restaurants, offers some of the best views in the building. Although you won’t reach the dizzy heights of level 68 and beyond, its double-height glass walls on floor 31 envelop you in London’s skyline.
Advance reservations are advised.
19. Go on a London photographic safari
Another great solo travel activity in London is to capture some of the city’s iconic images to make your friends back home green with envy.
But that said, even as a Londoner, I am tempted to book a photography walking tour.
An alternative is to check for photography meetups In London, another good way for solo travellers to make friends on the road.
20. Take a stroll along the Victoria Embankment
There are so many walks to do in London, but I’m picking this one as it takes in so many of London’s top sights.
The 2km Victoria Embankment river walk from the Palace of Westminster to Blackfriars Bridge is a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
If the weather is kind to you, take a break in the Victoria Embankment Gardens near Charing Cross Station. A café is open in the warmer months, and there are summer concerts on the garden’s bandstand.
Alternatively, if you are seeking open spaces, walk the Pymmes Brook Trail in North London.
21. Smell the flowers in Columbia Road Market
Visiting at least one market is a good use of time during your solo trip to London. There are so many to choose from: Portobello Market, Brick Lane Market, Old Spitalfields and Borough Market to name but a few.
But my favourite has to be the Columbia Road Flower Market, which is one of the best things to do in London by yourself on a Sunday.
Every Sunday, this East End road is transformed into a blooming wonderland, the air perfumed with the scent of flowers. Arrive early to get your pick of the blooms (the market opens at 8 am).
Or if you are after a bargain, arrive around 2 pm when the stallholders start to reduce their prices. The market closes at 3 pm.
This area between Shoreditch and Brick Lane is also packed with vintage shops, and fantastic cafes and delis. Perfect for Sunday brunch.
22. Borrow a four-legged friend for the day
If you are missing companionship, why not borrow a dog for the day? The innovative Borrow My Doggy pairs dog owners with dog sitters.
What could be better than having a canine companion to explore London with? And you get to help out dog owners.
23. Take a riverboat along the Thames
Take a riverboat along the Thames for a leisurely day out and a chance to see many of London’s most famous bridges from a different perspective.
A one-day River Roamer ticket gives you unlimited travel on the Thames Clippers’ service.
This will allow you to hop on and hop off between 23 piers along the river and explore some of the city’s attractions. These include Battersea Power Station to the west, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Tate Modern, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and historic Greenwich to the east.
24. Explore Kew Gardens
Strolling around the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew is one of my favourite things to do as a solo traveller in London.
Home to the world’s largest and most diverse collection of plants – over 50,000 plant species at the last count – Kew Gardens is one of the capital’s treasures.
The recently restored Temperate House and the Palm House offer a warm winter refuge for plants and visitors alike and are jewels of Victorian engineering.
Embrace your inner child by walking across the Treetop Walkway, suspended 18 metres above ground and offering a bird’s eye view of the forest. Or check out Kew Gardens’ art installation, The Hive, an immersive sight-&-sound experience triggered by bee activity.
Although there’s something to see in Kew Gardens all year round, I prefer the explosion of colour in springtime and the spectacular foliage of the arboretum in autumn.
25. Explore Maritime Greenwich
There are few better days out when you are alone in London than taking the riverboat to Greenwich and explaining its collection of UNESCO-listed buildings. It helps that it has a clutch of great riverside pubs and restaurants.
Although it is most famous as the place of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian of the world, Greenwich is also home to a collection of buildings and historic landmarks that showcase English artistic and scientific endeavours in the 17th and 18th centuries.
- The Queen’s House – first Palladian building in England.
- The Royal Naval Hospital – originally designed by Christopher Wren and further embellished by other architects, including Nicholas Hawksmoor.
- The Royal Park – expansive views over London and home to the Royal Observatory, Maritime Museum and Meridian Line.
- The Royal Observatory – the baseline for the world’s time zone system and for the measurement of longitude around the globe
26. Take a day trip from London
Thanks to extensive rail connections, it’s super easy to take a day trip from London.
As most Londoners will take a trip out of town at the weekend rather than on a weekday, try to take a day trip Monday – Friday. You’ll find that trains and the destinations themselves will be quieter.
With its broad shingle beach and cool bohemian air, Brighton is a very popular day trip from London. The university cities of Oxford and Cambridge are also great choices for a day out.
Even Liverpool, home of The Fab Four, is reachable as a day trip from London.
For something a little different, but no less historic, try Rochester in Kent, which was once the home of Charles Dickens. Visit one of the seaside towns in Kent or walk along the dunes of Camber Sands and explore the neighbouring town of Rye, West Sussex.
Finally, if you’re in the mood for a walk through ancient woodlands, I highly recommend heading to Epping Forest in the northeast corner of London, which is spectacular in autumn.
READ THIS NEXT: 31 Easy Day Trips from London by Train
But perhaps you want someone else to take care of all of the arrangements for you or want to benefit from the knowledge of a guide? There are some day trips from London where it makes sense to join an organised tour with a guide.
Here is my pick of the best
Stonehenge Half-Day Tour
Stonehenge is one of the most popular day trips from London but is not the easiest place to reach by public transport, requiring a train and bus/taxi journey. This half-day tour includes a return transfer and an audio guide.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK
Windsor, Stonehenge and Oxford Tour
Three top destinations are bundled into one neat package here. You can choose to visit the interior of Windsor Castle and will benefit from a live guide.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK
Full-Day Cotswolds Tour
Like Stonehenge, exploring the Cotswolds’ chocolate box villages can be tricky if you don’t have a car. This excursion visits four of its loveliest villages – Burford, Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, and Stow-on-the-Wold – and is led by a live guide.
>>> CLICK HERE TO BOOK
Self-enrichment as a Solo Traveller in London
27. Learn a new skill
Learning a new skill works on so many levels as a solo traveller. Apart from the potential enrichment resulting from the activity, it is a fun way to spend time in a strange city and a fantastic way to meet new people.
Check out obby to find classes that are available around London. There really is something for everyone, from calligraphy and cocktails (assume that the writing comes first!) to eco pouch making with sustainable designers.
28. Take a class at the School of Life.
London’s School of Life has an extensive programme of classes and workshops, focussing on helping attendees find fulfilment in key areas of their lives.
Speakers discuss a range of subjects from how to find love, to developing your emotional intelligence.
The Best Things to Do Alone in London: Physical Activities
29. Start your weekend with a Park Run
If you are in London by yourself on a Saturday and have your running gear with you, why not take part in a Park Run?
These organised 5K runs are great fun as well as good places to meet new people as a solo traveller. Sign up for free on their website.
30. Unleash your inner Ginger Rogers at a dance class
If running isn’t for you, consider dropping into the famous Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden for a dance class.
From tap to hip hop, there are classes for all levels, throughout the day and well into the evening. Prices are from £10 for an hour’s session; advance booking is required.
31. Rent a bike to enjoy London’s parks
For something a little more leisurely, rent a bike to explore one or more of London’s wonderful parks. The Hyde Park loop is particularly good.
You can rent one of the distinctive Santander Cycles. Download the Santander Cycles app or go to any docking station with your bank card and touch the screen to get started.
For a fun way to explore London and to meet other solo travellers, join a guided bike tour of London that takes in the city’s highlights such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, as well as some hidden spots.
Eating & Drinking as a Solo Traveller in London
32. Read a book over a flat white
Let’s be honest. Rain is not an impossibility in London.
Cosying up in a café is a good wet weather standby if you are alone in London. Order your coffee – and something decadent to go with it – open up your book or laptop or just people watch.
33. Dine at a supper club
The prospect of eating out alone is enough to bring even the most experienced solo traveller out in a cold sweat.
If you are visiting London alone and don’t fancy a table for one, why not try one of the city’s supper clubs?
These imitate spaces are where aspiring chefs test their offerings before committing to the rent of a permanent home. As such, you can eat very well for a fraction of the usual price.
Plump for one that offers long sharing tables, which are good places to strike up conversations with new people.
34. Pack a picnic for one of London’s parks
London is home to more than 3,000 parks, covering almost 18 per cent of the capital. The best known of these are its eight Royal Parks, which include Hyde Park, St. James’s Park and Regent’s Park.
These are the perfect spots for a DIY lunch or supper. Do as the locals do. Grab yourself a “meal deal” from a mini-supermarket (typically a sandwich, drink and fruit/bag of crisps for under a fiver) and pick the perfect spot in the park of your choice.
No dining companions are required.
35. Treat yourself to afternoon tea
There are few more quintessentially English culinary experiences than afternoon tea.
High tea, as it is also called, is usually served between 2 pm and 4 pm and typically includes crustless finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, sweets and pastries. These are arranged on a tiered platter and are served with your choice of tea (or coffee).
Put aside a few hours for this experience. To make it truly special, why not add a glass of champagne?
Afternoon tea is served in a large number of venues across London (start by checking here). But you can also combine eating and sightseeing on an afternoon tea bus or having high tea sailing along the Thames.
36. Sip a G&T in a London pub
Saving one of the best things to do alone in London ‘til last.
Few things are as quintessentially British as a pub, and just because you are travelling alone doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on this experience.
One of my favourite central London pubs is the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. This Victorian boozer oozes history and has been the haunt of many a London luminary over the years, including Dylan Thomas.
Head upstairs to bag one of the pub’s comfy armchairs. Write your journal, read a good book and order a glass or two of your favourite nectar. And you never know, you may soon make new friends.
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Where to Stay as a Solo Traveller in London
Choosing the right place to stay as a solo traveller is an essential part of your travel planning.
London is a pricey city in which to stay, especially if you are travelling alone. You’ll pay a premium for staying within the central (transport) Zone 1; prices usually start to drop the further out you venture.
Base yourself in one of these zone 1 neighbourhoods: buzzy Soho or Covent Garden, trendy Hoxton, elegant Mayfair, or Islington with its abundance of excellent bars and restaurants. All of these areas have good transport links.
Here are a few options to consider:
Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity Covent Garden
Centrally located on The Strand, one of London’s most historic streets, this aparthotel offers a range of rooms, including those with a kitchenette. I have used Staycity in France and was very impressed.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
These modern studio apartments in the heart of Islington have all you need for a successful solo trip to London, including a fully equipped kitchenette.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
Covent Garden Hotel
This wonderfully located hotel in the charming Seven Dials area of London is one of the boutique Firmdale Group properties in London. It’s not cheap but it is one of the best places to treat yourself (it also has a great bar and restaurant).
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
9 Hertford Street
This one-bedroom apartment is a more affordable luxury choice, a stone’s throw from Green Park. Extremely elegant but also functional.
>>> CLICK HERE TO CHECK RATES & BOOK
>>> None of these places takes your fancy? Check out other great accommodation choices in London here.
Is London Safe for Female Solo Travellers?
London is one of the safest and best destinations for women who are travelling alone.
For English speakers, the locals talk your language and, despite what you might have heard, they are pretty friendly. This is one of the most diverse cities on the planet and one that is tolerant of all types of people.
Apart from the occasional wobble, London’s transport system is extensive and user-friendly. This is a very busy city at all times of the year, and this activity helps to keep things safe.
As in many cities, petty crime, including pickpocketing, is not unusual. In recent years, there has also been the threat of terrorist attacks.
A little bit of common sense goes a long way. If a street or an area doesn’t feel right, trust your gut and don’t go wandering alone. Avoid walking through London’s parks after sunset.
Remain vigilant. Keep your belongings close to you and use your hotel safe to store valuables.