London is truly a world-class city with great museums, excellent cuisine, and fascinating history that’s equaled only by a handful of places around the globe. It’s bound to take several trips just to graze the best of what the city has to offer but if you’re determined to make the most out of your holiday, ensure that you partake in at least a few of these essential experiences in London.
Essential Experiences in London
1. Ceremony of the Keys, Tower of London
It’s a giant responsibility to guard one of London’s most recognizable and historic structures, which is why the Yeoman Guards at the Tower of London take their jobs very seriously. Every night, for the past 700 years, these dedicated royal guards perform the Ceremony of the Keys, where the Chief Yeoman Warder comes out of the Byward Tower carrying the keys. He will pass by the Traitor’s Gate, where he will meet members of the regiment that will escort him to meet the sentry. The entire ceremony takes exactly eight minutes.
The ceremony is free and open to the public, but requires a ticket that charges £ 1.00 (GBP) processing fee for entry. It is not unusual for tickets to run out months in advance so if you know for sure when you’ll be staying in London, I highly suggest you secure your spots as soon as possible. The tickets are also non-transferable so ensure that you bring a valid form of identification that day of.
2. Seeing a Shakespeare play, Globe Theatre
No other real individual, apart from the Queen herself, is more synonymous with London than William Shakespeare. The prolific playwright of the first Elizabethan era was the most successful dramatist of his time. Many of his plays were box office hits that also stood the test of time.
Visitors to London now have an opportunity to see an authentic Shakespearean play at the meticulously reconstructed Globe Theatre in London’s Southwark neighborhood. This modern Globe Theatre hosts a number of performances every year, given by some of the best actors and actresses in their craft. The stage is open-air, just like it was in the 17th century and the production is sans microphones, spotlights, and speakers to provide audiences with a genuine theatre experience just as it was when Shakespeare was alive.
3. Watching a show on West End
Another one of the essential experiences in London revolves around the arts. This time, head towards the West End and catch a show. Whether it is a musical or a play you seek, you will not be disappointed. Many of the most prominent British names in Hollywood had their start in theater like Emma Thompson, Lawrence Olivier, and most recently Benedict Cumberbatch.
One of the most anticipated shows this year will be the J.K. Rowling’s play about Harry Potter’s son, Albus Severus, entitled Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
4. Spend the day at Wimbledon
Wimbledon is the oldest and most prestigious Grand Slam tournament in tennis. Held annually every third week of June at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in the suburbs of Wimbledon, it is the only Grand Slam still played on grass. It’s one of the highlight of British summer sports.
The Championships at Wimbledon showcases some of the best characteristics we love about the English, namely queuing and upholding tradition. Join The Queue for the opportunity to get same day tickets at Centre Court, arguably the sport’s most famous arena, or simply peruse the grounds and catch a more intimate match on the outside courts.
5. Catch a football match
Watching an English football match definitely deserves a spot in this list of essential experiences in London primarily because no other sporting event brings out the emotions quite like football. The English are known for their stiff upper lip but all that goes out the drain during a match. London has five teams in the Premier League and countless more in secondary and other minor leagues giving anyone visiting London ample opportunity to catch a game.
6. Indulge on the traditional Afternoon Tea
British food offerings aren’t exactly the most exciting unless of course you’re sitting down for traditional afternoon tea. Not only will you feel like a member of the English upper class, you’ll also savor some of the most appetizing English foods you’ll likely ever eat while staying in London. Cute little teacakes, finger sandwiches, scones, and the infamous Devonshire clotted cream are just a sampling of what you’ll get. The ultimate indulgence is afternoon tea served at the Orangery at Kensington Palace but for those who are a bit pressed for time, check out the one offered by Fortnum & Mason.