Some people might find it sad, but you and I know better: solo travel is great. It’s empowering and freeing – and sure, it’s also sometimes a little bit scarier than going with the comfort of a group. But that won’t stop us from taking those solo trips when the mood strikes and the budget allows.
London is one of those great places in the world where it’s easy to travel solo – and there are lots of great things to do in London alone. With a convenient public transit system, plenty of signage, world-class hospitality, and welcoming pubs, there’s no shortage of ways to spend time on your London itinerary if you’re exploring the city on your own.
My very first trip to London back in 2011 was a solo trip, and I obviously had a great time despite “how scary it is to travel alone to a foreign country” (joking, obviously!). If you’re ready to discover some of my favorite things to do in London when I visit on my own, read on. You’ll soon have more ideas than you can fit into your trip unless you – like me – decide that you want to relocate there to enjoy even more time in London.
1.-3. Tuck into Afternoon Tea On Your Own
Many travelers will cringe at the idea of sitting down alone at a restaurant’s table. However, few things are more pleasant than indulging in a cup of tea, alone with your thoughts and sprawling views of the Thames. And, to be honest, all your worries will dissipate as soon as the waiter brings a three-tiered tray bursting with freshly baked scones and finger sandwiches.
Indulging in a solitary afternoon tea is one of the top things to do in London alone. Naturally, there’s no shortage of places where you can partake in the British tradition. Laid-back, traditional, fusion, stylish…you name it, London has it. Iconic hotels such as The Ritz and Savoy always host memorable afternoon teas in their most decadent rooms. You can also find affordable alternatives that are delicious.
Need some suggestions for afternoon tea in London? Here are some of my favorites:
- Fortnum & Mason – For an iconic tea experience in one of London’s most traditional tea rooms, there’s no place like F&M
- sketch – They just redesigned their main dining room – a real bummer – but I’m sure afternoon tea here is still delightful.
- The Dorchester – I had high tea here once and it was truly delightful. As one might guess, it’s also a splurge, but worth every penny!
4. Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham
It’s hard to tell why, but the British have a long-standing predilection for everything related to decorum and protocols. The Changing of the Guard is an example of this. The traditional ceremony takes place every day around 10:30 am at Buckingham Palace.
As the name suggests, the ceremony is nothing more than the New Guard replacing the Queen’s Guards to protect Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace. The Regimental Band and occasional pipers also accompany the marching guards while playing a selection of music. The even better news is that witnessing the ceremony is completely free! Make sure you arrive early to find a good spot.
5.-7. Head to the Cinema for a Motion Picture Show
Whether you’re a self-acknowledged cinephile or the occasional film watcher, catching a movie is arguably one of the best things to do alone in London and anywhere in the world, to be honest. Being an enormous city, London has movie theaters galore, or cinemas as the British call them. I’m not talking about standard chain cinemas. London has cinemas whose history and atmosphere alone make it worth watching a movie there.
I’ve put together an entire article describing London’s best cinemas. However, here are three venues that won’t disappoint:
- The BFI Southbank – Haven for cinephiles who can spend hours dissecting a movie, the BFI has a stunning selection of independent, non-English movies and even motion pictures dating to the silent era.
- The Prince Charles Cinema – My favorite cinema in London, this independent spot just off Leicester Square is known for weird and wild films and fun overnight marathons.
- The Screen on the Green – Another cinema with a great history behind it, the Screen on the Green is one of the oldest continuously running cinemas in the UK. The venue boasts lots of style and character, and comfort, with fancy footstools, cushions, and blankets at your service.
8. Take a Spin on the London Eye
I don’t know about you, but I’m a fierce believer that you enjoy certain activities better when in solitude. One of them is contemplating the skyline of a city. There’s no need to say that London’s cityscape makes everyone heave deep sighs – I mean, you don’t get the chance to witness such beauty every day.
The spin on the London Eye is a well-known alternative for travelers who want to indulge in panoramic views of the English capital. The ride lasts 30 minutes, giving you enough time to enjoy the views with your own eyes and snap a few pictures to immortalize the memories.
If you’ve read any of my itineraries, you’ll know I always advise people to book a ride 45 minutes around sunset to experience the city’s buildings light up.
9.-11. Shop the Stalls at One of London’s Many Markets
Visiting London markets is one of the top things to do in London alone. Markets pop up in every corner and street of London, and, much like museums, there are options for every taste and budget. Markets also make an excellent alternative to experience local life.
Far from being a tourist trap, markets are a huge part of the London lifestyle. Foodies make daily trips to Borough Market searching for organic veggies and sustainable goodies. Bargain hunters invade Brick Lane Market every weekend to find that perfect vintage garment. Design-conscious Londoners flock to Portobello Road Market to scout antiques for their new homes every Saturday.
Even better, wandering through one of London’s markets is one of the best ways for solo travelers who want to blend in and avoid the discomfort of traveling alone.
London is home to many great markets, so if you need a few to get started planning, here are three of my faves that are lovely on your own:
- Borough Market – Perfect if you love food (who doesn’t), you can grab a meal here or stock up on great ingredients for your Airbnb kitchen.
- Greenwich Market – You’ll need to plan a Greenwich day trip to reach this market but it’s well worth it to wander the stalls for great souvenirs and snacks.
- Spitalfields Market – Located in east London, this market is full of vintage finds and food stalls. It’s fun to walk the market and then explore nearby Shoreditch and Brick Lane.
12. Climb the London Monument
The London Eye isn’t the only vantage point to see the city unfold in all its glory. The London Monument is a fluted Doric column jutting out 202 feet off the ground. Sir Christopher Wren built it between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the City.
The unsteady walk to the top resembles more an athletic endeavor than a tourist plan, with a staircase of 311 steps. However, the views you get once you ascend are well worth the effort.
13.-15. Wander the Halls of London’s Great Museums
Museums are an obligatory stop for all travelers and one of the best things to do alone in London. London has more than 170 museums – not a modest number, huh? Like markets, London museums come in all shapes and colors. Astronomy, taxidermy history, transport, dinosaurs, London has a museum for each one of these interests.
The British Museum not only houses history but is a testament to history, being the world’s oldest national public museum. Victoria and Albert Museum has curated one of the world’s most eclectic collections, with items ranging from wallpapers to ceramics.
Like markets, London has a great many great museums; here are three of my favorites though you’ll undoubtedly discover your own:
- Museum of London – If you love London and love history too (y’all know how I feel about those two things together), there’s no place like the Museum of London to learn more about both.
- The British Museum – Fair criticisms of how the collection was acquired aside, there is no museum on earth like the British Museum. At least stop by for the Rosetta Stone!
- The Natural History Museum – Okay, here’s one more museum chock-full of science and history and other things I love. This place is great if you can make it for one of their Lates.
Please don’t get me wrong: there are great art museums in London too; these ones are just my favorites.
16.-18. Have a Picnic in one of London’s Parks
This plan is suitable for solo travelers who happen to be in London during warmer seasons. It might be shocking to some, but London is rife with green spaces despite being a sprawling metropolis. So much so that it fits the UN’s definition of a forest.
Come spring, having a picnic in one of the city’s parks is a fixed event on a Londoner’s agenda. Even stores and restaurants sell ready-made picnics for a decadent al fresco experience.
My best advice is that you check out my post about London parks and choose one that suits your interest as London parks are more than just leafy trees and ponds. On the top of my head, here are a few parks worth visiting: Green Park, a fantastic royal park; Hampstead Heath, famous for being a vantage point to see the London skyline (did anyone say mouthwatering views?); and Richmond Park, London’s largest royal park and once Henry VII’s favorite hunting spot.
Need help to pick a park? I have a list of all the main parks across London, but here are three to get you started:
- Green Park – When it comes to picnic spots, there’s nowhere quite like the Green Park – and you’ll have plenty of company as it’s popular with locals too.
- Hyde Park – One of Central London’s biggest parks, this is a great spot for a stroll past the Serpentine, or to see Princess Diana’s Memorial Garden.
- Russell Square – A lovely little urban park near Russell Square Station, you might recognize this iconic park from movies and TV like Sherlock.
19. Go People-Watching at Piccadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square
Much of what makes London the vibrant and multicultural city it is is the people that inhabit her.
London is home to people from all walks of life. There are certain pockets of the city where this becomes extremely noticeable: Piccadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square. Piccadilly Circus is the busy junction with neon signs showcasing ads of famous brands like McDonald’s, SANYO, and Coca-Cola.
While the junction is a tourist attraction in its own right, it has become a popular meeting point for Londoners, perfect for people-watchers. Meanwhile, Trafalgar Square welcomes thousands of people who visit its surrounding attractions, like the National Gallery or Nelson’s Column.
20. Enjoy a Solo Pint in the Pub
Going to a pub is another challenging alternative, especially if you’re a shy person. Believe me, though; it won’t be long until you find yourself talking to strangers and telling them about your adventures in the city.
The British love their pubs, and they have a diversity that echoes that of markets or museums. Enjoying a pint in a pub isn’t as much about the food and alcohol as it is about unwinding with colleagues or friends after a long workday. Pubs are also a meeting point for special occasions, like football or rugby matches. Don’t hesitate to step into the first pub that pops on the street or do a little research if you’d like to know the more popular ones.
21. Take in a Show at Shakespeare’s Globe
Going to one of Shakespeare’s plays at the Shakespeare’s Globe is a must for theater fans or anyone who enjoyed High School Literature classes.
The thing is, witnessing a show at the Shakespeare’s Globe is more than watching a mere play. Shakespeare’s Globe reconstructs the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse for which William Shakespeare wrote his play. Today, the theater hosts the English playwriter’s most famous works, including Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and The Merchant of Venice.
However, the original theater’s layout isn’t the only thing the modern reconstruction has replicated. How spectators take in the show is the same as in the 1500s, meaning you’ll spend two hours on your feet. Don’t worry, they also sell seat tickets, although you might be further from the stage.
22. Enjoy Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is my favorite building in London. So I might be biased when I say you’ll regret not visiting the stunning cathedral. Besides its breathtaking architecture, the cathedral hosts the Choral Evensong, a mass taking place from Monday to Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 3 pm. It lasts about 45 minutes, and entry is free.
It is a very moving experience even for those who don’t profess any religion or belief. While the Evensong services aren’t terribly crowded, the earlier you get there, the better seats you will get. In fact, if you arrive about half an hour early and sit in the chairs near the crossing, you may be invited to sit in the Quire, which is where the singers usually are.
23. Grab Lunch and Stroll the Southbank
If you’ve decided to take a spin on the London Eye, you can easily combine the activity with lunch and a stroll down the Southbank.
A vibrant commercial district, the Southbank sits across the City of Westminster. The area is brimming with restaurants, theaters, street performers, second-hand book stores, an aquarium, and all the attractions you can imagine.
Southbank also makes an unbeatable vantage point to admire some of London’s iconic buildings, including Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral. You’ll also find an extensive selection of restaurants and food trucks offering takeaways or sit-down meals for passersby.
24. Take a Thames Cruise
London has an unbreakable relationship with the Thames. Since its beginning, the river has defined the city from its economy to its organization. Today, the River Thames is also a vantage point to witness a different side of the city.
Many companies organize sightseeing cruises that pass by landmarks sitting right on the banks of the river. There are many alternatives. Hop-On/Hop-Off cruises are worth considering to avoid riding the Tube to visit iconic sights.
Evening cruises are excellent for a unique view of the city at night. You also have speedboat experiences for adrenaline junkies. Once again, London proves that it is a city with options for every single person.
25. Walk the Victoria Embankment or Queen’s Walk
One of the best ways to explore London, in my opinion, is by taking a walk down one side or the other of the Thames. Queen’s Walk and Victoria Embankment are the two promenades stretching along the banks of the River Thames.
The Queen’s Walk sits on the southern bank of the River Thames between Lambeth Bridge and Tower Bridge. From this side, you have fantastic views of the old Tower, London’s newest skyscrapers in the financial district, St. Paul cathedral, and Westminster.
Victoria Embankment is on the north bank of the River Thames. It runs from the Palace of Westminster to Blackfriars Bridge in the City of London. Contrary to Queen’s Walk, Victoria Embankment is a less trodden alternative. This path abounds monuments and sculptures, and the Southbank landscape will be your view.
Both walk paths have tons of shoreline bars, pubs, and restaurants where you can stop by to drink and eat overlooking the Thames river.
26.-28. Day Trip Beyond London On Your Own
In general, England and European countries have one advantage over other nations. They’re pretty small, facilitating travelers’ circulation from one country to another.
London has excellent transport links to other parts of England and mainland Europe. If you’re staying in London for a week, I suggest organizing a trip within England to avoid wasting time on train or bus rides. If you’re staying longer than a week, you can choose to see more parts of the UK or organize a getaway to Paris or Brussels for a more ambitious plan.
Should you choose this alternative, here are a few of my favorite day trips:
- Greenwich: perfect for astronomy lovers, being home to the Royal Observatory. Plus, it’s only thirty minutes away from London.
- Stonehenge: the impressive monolith draws visitors from far and wide, and some travelers won’t leave England without visiting it.
- Paris: Like London, Paris is a stop everyone wants to include in their itinerary. You won’t get to see all the city has to offer, but a day is enough to get a glimpse of the city of love.
If you’re planning a solo trip to London, now you know how to spend your time. If your trip’s not coming up soon, be sure to bookmark this page as I’m always adding new activities and ideas based on my own trips to London. Have any questions about these things to do in London alone? Let me know in the comments, or join my London Travel Tips Facebook community.