Things To Do in London for Solo Travelers
There’s something so freeing about traveling alone, and London is one of those great cities where solo travelers can just slip into the crowd and explore.
London bursts with history, has amazing shopping, an enormous art and culture scene, and some of the best places in the world for dining and enjoying a glass or two with a view. And that’s before you get to the royals with all the pomp and ceremony that just standing in front of Buckingham Palace and numerous other places affords.
The perfect visit to London when flying solo includes a mix of all of the above, and I’ve come up with this list of things to do alone in London to help get you started.
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Getting around London
If it’s amazing Instagram shots you’re after, then start your visit to London off with a 2-day hop-on hop-off bus pass.
This is a top tip for any new city, and especially London while you get your bearings. You will learn all about the city’s most famous places like Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London (and get a fab photo of Tower Bridge), and of course, it’s your ride all day long.
Once you’ve done the tour, taking a regular red double-decker bus is a fun way to lose yourself in the madding crowd of commuters, people watching, and sightseeing as you make your way around the city. Sitting up top in the front seat of a number 9, 11 or 73 bus, you’ll pass by many important landmarks, as well as some you might not have heard of.
You can buy an Oyster Card online or at most tube stations, or simply tap your contactless credit card to get around on all London public transportation.
If you like a bit of exercise on your travels, then a guided bicycle tour of London is perfect, as well as offering so many great sights to take in too. You’ll cycle over Tower Bridge, visit the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, and enjoy riding along the Thames.
Shopping London’s iconic streets
Shopping solo is one of life’s little pleasures. No one hanging around the fitting room door waiting for you to hurry up and decide, no one needing to do their own shopping in places you couldn’t care less about, and no time frame.
If Oxford Street and Regent Street are on your hit list, take the tube to Marble Arch and start there, gradually shopping your way down to Oxford Circus, then pivot right onto Regent Street and shop all the way down to Piccadilly Circus.
You’ll start with Primark, a cult destination for inexpensive fashion and accessories, and the exclusive Selfridges department store filled with designer brands (don’t forget to visit the foodhall too). You’ll pass Apple, a huge H&M, Liberty, Hamleys toy store, Burberry, and more as you make your way via Oxford Circus, which connects the two streets. You can even take a little detour onto Carnaby Street for concept and retro stores too.
Filling up on delicious food in historic markets
Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill is super famous (and popular) for antiques and vintage clothing. Pick up an amazing or quirky souvenir here and it’ll be a conversation piece for years, and pick up some delicious street food from one of the stalls or cafes along the route, from Caribbean to Middle Eastern to Thai. The bustling atmosphere makes Portobello Road Market one of the best things to do alone in London.
Borough Market is a food market that dates back to the 12th century. Locals still come here in droves for fresh produce and to grab a bite to eat. It’s located at Southwark and from late afternoon each summer day becomes a bustling scene of outdoor restaurants. Come hungry!
Covent Garden is more than a shopping and market spot, it’s also a fun place to come any time of day or night. You’ll find restaurants, bars, and pubs here, buzzing with locals and tourists. It’s also close to the West End, and many of the restaurants here offer a pre-theater menu that’s perfect if you’re planning to see a show.
Alternatively, take a pub crawl tour of historic pubs around the West End, discovering the “real” London.
Taking a traditional British afternoon tea
Afternoon tea is such a London experience, and most of the posh hotels offer the chance to drink out of their fine china and feast from three tiers of sandwiches, scones, and cakes.
You’ll definitely need to book your afternoon tea in advance (sometimes weeks in the case of The Ritz or Claridge’s), but there is an even better way to imbibe than in a stuffy dining room: take an afternoon tea bus tour of London.
On this fun 1.5-hour tour on a traditional double decker bus, you’ll be driven around the famous London landmarks all while sipping on your glass of Prosecco and nibbling on scones with jam and cream.
Cruising along the Thames
If it’s a lovely day, and yes London does have them, take a river cruise along the Thames from Westminster to Greenwich.
Greenwich is such a lovely area, filled with boutique shopping and places to eat, but it’s most famous for being the starting point of time itself. Greenwich Mean Time is the place from which all clocks in the world are set.
There’s a big maritime influence here, so if that is up your alley then book tickets to board the Cutty Sark and National Maritime Museum. A Royal Museums Greenwich day pass will give you access to both, plus the Royal Observatory and The Queen’s House. When hunger strikes, a traditional pub lunch at one of the many spots on the river is a great choice.
Admiring the many art galleries alone in London
Hop off the bus at St Paul’s Cathedral and tour through Sir Christopher Wren’s architectural masterpiece. Just be sure to buy your tickets online as they are limited.
Then cross the River Thames via the Millennium Bridge which leads you to the Tate Modern. Housed in the old Bankside Power Station, this is a great place to explore on your own, taking as much time as you like to soak in the art (and views).
For something off the beaten track, a little gallery that not many people know about is the Queen’s Gallery located on the southwest corner of Buckingham Palace. Dating back to 1831, it was once the private chapel of Queen Victoria, before Queen Elizabeth II commissioned its post-war redevelopment as a gallery for the Royal Collection in 1962. Heading solo to an art gallery is one of the best things to do alone in London.
Taking in London’s most Instagrammable spots
For the best views of London on a gorgeous day, you must take a ride on the London Eye. This enormous Ferris wheel has air-conditioned capsules to show off the Thames and all the iconic buildings and bridges along it. Lines can be long, so purchase your London Eye tickets in advance and avoid some of them.
The Tower of London is great if you love royal history and want to hear tales of skulduggery, kidnapped princes, and “off with their heads.” You’ll be greeted by a beefeater (also known as Yeoman warders) inside the grounds, where you can tour at your own pace. You’ll see the ravens that still live there, and if you want to see the Crown Jewels of the British Monarchy, this is the place.
Lines can be long here too. Buying skip-the-line tickets in advance will save you time Free Yeoman Warder tours can be joined inside the Tower of London, where you’ll hear about the castle’s history and the fascinating past.
But honestly, the best views of London in my opinion are the unexpected ones that come into focus from the top floor of a Big Bus open-top sightseeing tour. Charge your camera and try to get the seat in front. You’ll capture the very best of London at your leisure this way, then head somewhere with a view for a drink.
Enjoy your London vacay!