If you’re visiting London for the first time, or you’ve only been there for an occasional weekend, it can be difficult to get your bearings. There you are, with all your downloaded bits of paper and maps on how to get to all the museums and attractions you want to see – only to find that you’re spending more time on buses and the Tube than seeing the things you want to see.
Luckily there are a few ways around this. First up, just enter the name of the attraction you’re going to into our Quick Search option – once the description comes up you’ll be able to see a list of other things to see and do in the area, and how far away they are (usually within a mile, and often much less). Or you could also take a look at our London Villages Guide to see which areas you’d like to spend the day exploring. Finally, you could check out our guide below, which lists the main cultural centres in London and what to see and do once you’re there.
Here’s our Six of the Best: Cultural Centres in London.
Southbank: The south bank of the Thames has loads of things to do in the stretch between Westminster and Waterloo Bridges. There’s the EDF Energy London Eye, the SEA LIFE London Aquarium and the London Film Museum, all near the Southbank Centre with the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Royal Festival Hall. If you’re a theatre person, Southbank has three main theatres with a wide variety of performances throughout the year – the National Theatre, the Old Vic and the New Vic. There’s also BFI Southbank, the cinema and film centre of the British Film Institute, with an IMAX cinema, films and archives.
Trafalgar Square: The famous London square was built around the National Gallery, and also has the National Portrait Gallery and St Martin-in-the-Fields church where there are free lunchtime concerts. Just off Trafalgar Square is the heart of London’s theatre and film district, Leicester Square, where there are top West End shows from theatres including the Prince Edward, the Royal Opera House and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
Greenwich: Greenwich is one of the oldest parts of London, and the place to go if you want to explore some historical sites. There’s the newly opened Cutty Sark, the Greenwich Heritage Centre, Greenwich Market, Greenwich Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum, the Old Royal Naval College, the Peter Harrison Observatory and the house of the first Duke of Marlborough, Marlborough House. After soaking up all that history, relax or take a walk in Greenwich Park.
City of London: Right in the heart of London and bordered by Liverpool Street, Tower Hill, Blackfriars and Barbican Tube stations, the City of London is a square mile in area and has some of the best things to see and do in the city. There are famous London attractions including St Paul’s Cathedral, the Barbican Centre, the Museum of London and the Old Spitalfields Market. Start off on a walk from Liverpool Street Station to see London landmarks like The Monument and the Tower of London, keeping an eye out for other old buildings like the Old Bailey and the Bank of England Museum.
Bankside: Not so long ago, the main thing to see in Bankside in the south-east of the city was a disused power station and derelict wharf buildings. The power station is now the Tate Modern, just one of many things to do in the area, which also includes Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the London Dungeon, London’s oldest jail the Clink Prison Museum, the wine centre Vinopolis and The Golden Hinde.
South Kensingston: South Kensington, or South Kens to those in the know, is said to be London’s museum quarter, quite an achievement when you consider how many other museums there are in the city. But it’s a description that’s probably deserved, as there’s the Science Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Natural History Museum all within a few minutes of each other. There’s also the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal College of Art, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and the Serpentine Gallery.
Remember you can also search for things to do in London by category, whether it’s a museum, art gallery, restaurant or historical site. Enjoy your day out – and drop into the forums to let us know how you got on.