Whether you’re embarking on a solo travel adventure to London for the first time, or just fancy a day trip to enjoy London on your own terms, we have some of the best things to do in London alone.
Take advantage of your solo status, and venture off the Central London tourist trail into new parts of London. Without the harness of another person, you have the freedom to move outside the tourist bubble and explore some truly beautiful areas, all at your own pace. Consider a London Walks tour for neighbourhoods like Little Venice, Hampstead or Chelsea. Your guide is a mine of local knowledge because they’re locals. They know the churches that have concerts running, the pubs that have quiz nights, the parks with concerts and the minor galleries with regular talks, often in the neighbourhood you’re already in. Trust us, you’ll get more information from a 5 minute chat with a guide than in two hours poring over a guide book!
Not everyone is a fan of eating alone in a restaurant, but eat you must and London’s markets are ready and waiting with sensational street food to eat on the go. Borough Market on Southwark Street with its atmospheric Victorian railway arches may have been made famous in Harry Potter, but the market’s history dates right back to Roman times. Sample cheese, wine, French style pastries and more at over 100 stalls, restaurants, cafés and shops at Borough Market. In East London, there’s the Brick Lane Sunday Upmarket (also popular for its street art), Columbia Road Flower Market, and Spitalfields Market where the gourmet food trucks are open every day. Over in the West End, Berwick Street Market in Soho is bustling and the place to feast on global cuisines from concept traders.
A guided walking tour from London Walks is an ideal activity on a solo trip to London. First off, you can take your pick of over 500 guided walking tours and see the London you want to see, in the capable hands of an expert. You can indulge your interests with a tour dedicated to the Beatles, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare or The Blitz. Or, you can see London’s most famous landmarks like Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (plus the lesser known but no less fascinating parts too) in the Old Westminster Walking Tour. A London walking tour with London Walks is an entirely natural, and entirely comfortable, social situation. You could even take in the classic London pub walk!
London is a treasure trove of artefacts and antiquities with over 150 London museums to explore, from the big hitters like the Natural History Museum and the British Museum, to the more unusual like the National Army Museum and Sir John Soane’s Museum. Museums, being places for reflection and absorption, lend themselves well to solo visits, but if daytime crowds are off-putting for you, many of London’s museums have night time opening and events too.
It’s actually quite hard to meet Londoners in London. 37% of today’s Londoners were born abroad, and in neighbourhoods like Kensington, that figure is more like 51%. When you’re part of a duo or party, you eat with, chat to and experience everything with them. When you’re on your own, however, it’s a chance to meet the genuine article, a real Londoner. Londoners will cut you slack precisely because you’re a visitor. So, if you’re in London solo, don’t be afraid to take a proper London bus, or the Tube, and chat to the person sitting next to you. Talk to the front line Londoners, the cabbies, gardeners, street sweepers. Strike up a conversation with the person behind the counter in the cheese shop, or at the market stall. The factory setting for most Londoners is civilised indifference, but if you need help, they’ll be kindness itself.
Charming bookshops situated in Victorian terraces to books on barges, London’s bookshops present a delightful way to while away a few hours alone in London. One of our favourites is Primrose Hill Books, close to Camden, an independent bookstore selling both new and second hand books. Then there’s Daunt Books, another independent, with locations including Marylebone, Holland Park and Hampstead. Hatchards on Piccadilly lays claim to being London’s oldest bookshop, whilst The Notting Hill Bookshop could well be its most famous, thanks to its interior being copied in the movie Notting Hill. The most unique though, has to be Word on the Water, an independent bookshop on a Dutch barge in London’s King’s Cross.
Some might balk at the thought of seeing a movie alone, but there’s lots to recommend it, not least the opportunity to seek out London’s more quirky cinemas and showings. The Electric Cinema on Portobello Road first opened in 1911. Today, you can take your pick of modern day, classic and cult films, all from the luxury of your leather armchair. Or toddle along to the Prince Charles Cinema in the West End, one of the last independent cinemas in London. Other cinematic hidden gems in London include Rich Mix in Shoreditch and the glorious Edwardian Everyman Screen on the Green in Islington.
Blessed with 3000 parks covering around 18% of London, you’re never too far from a green space in London. And so, if you find yourself with a spare few hours alone in the capital, use it to explore some of the finest parks in the whole of Europe. London’s 8 Royal Parks are a good starting point, and span over 5000 acres between them. Take a dip in the Serpentine at Hyde Park, visit the Serpentine art galleries at Kensington Gardens, enjoy views of St Paul’s Cathedral from Richmond Park and see the Diana Fountain at Bushy Park. At St James’s Park, close to Buckingham Palace, you can see the 5 resident pelicans being fed each afternoon at the lake. Nearby, the Canada Memorial is a draw at The Green Park. In Regents Park, the formal floral displays in The Avenue Garden are a highlight of the spring and summer months, whilst Greenwich Park, overlooking the River Thames, is home to the Royal Observatory.
Tower Bridge to the Gherkin and St Paul’s, London has one of the most recognisable and spectacular skylines in the word, certainly worthy of some one-on-one attention. For a skyline view, there’s the London Eye in South Bank, of course, which is handy for seeing all of the London landmarks like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and The Shard. But for something different, book free tickets for The Sky Garden aka the Walkie-Talkie in the City of London. Located in The Fenchurch Building, it’s London’s highest public garden and has panoramic views of the city.
Everyone knows the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and the Tate Modern as some of the best art galleries in London. But, if you’re in London alone, why not take the chance to go to the little private galleries? In these small, quiet galleries, you will get a chance to see some really wonderful works of art that often won’t be seen again for decades once they move into private ownership. There really are a plethora of these small galleries, like Waddington Custot in Mayfair, Mall Galleries in St James, Thackeray Gallery in Kensington, The ARX in Knightsbridge and The Osborne Studio Gallery in Belgravia.
In many ways, shopping is the perfect thing to do in London alone. Surrounded by other shoppers, you certainly won’t feel self-conscious being on your own, and you’ll have the diversion of some of the best boutiques and shops in the world to keep you interested, even if you’re only window shopping! Some of the most popular shopping streets in London include bustling Oxford Street, trendy Covent Garden and swanky Bond Street. But, in the interest of embracing your adventurous solo spirit, you could seek out the more unusual shopping areas of London, like Connaught Village, a short walk from Oxford Street and packed with independent shops.