Let Time Out London’s critics guide you through the best things to see and do in London. From free days and unforgettable experiences to unmissable markets, museums and restaurants, this is your ultimate London checklist.Less
Dating back to the thirteenth century, London’s oldest food market is a cornucopia of gourmet goodies. It used to highlight British produce but nowadays you’ll find global traders and street-food vendors: enjoy French confit-duck sandwiches, Ethiopian stews and scotch eggs (elevated, of course). Once notable for its crowds, the market now has a Covid-safe capacity. Arrive early (get coffee from Monmouth), pick up from Neal’s Yard Dairy, Brindisa and Bread Ahead, and head for a riverside picnic.
This riverside icon is dedicated to modern and contemporary art, but it's a historic piece of architecture, too: the former Bankside Power Station. Its 2016 Switch House extension added gallery space and incredible 360-degree views of the London skyline. Discover works by the likes of Warhol, Matisse and Bourgeois, all part of the free permanent collection, then take the Tate Boat (decorated by Damien Hirst) along the Thames to Tate Britain. It runs every 30 minutes during opening hours.
When it comes to Sunday roasts, London has something for everyone but if your priority is big hunks of succulent beef sitting next to mounds of carbs, head to Hawskmoor. Holy cow, the British-reared rump of beef is delicious, cooked to a rosy medium-rare – first over charcoal, then in the oven. It’s served with potatoes roasted in dripping, greens, carrots and roasted shallots, plus lashings of bone-marrow gravy. Arrive before 5pm to ensure you don’t miss this crowd-pleaser.
Unapologetically eccentric and always original, Liberty is a whimsical department store near Oxford Circus. It was founded in 1875, but the mock-Tudor Marlborough Street incarnation – constructed with the timbers of two ancient warships – was built in the 1920s. Although Liberty trades on its history, it squeezes fashion-forward innovation into its wood-panelled rooms. Browse silks, Liberty-print cottons and one-off designer collaborations, then make a beeline for the Liberty Christmas Shop.
An east London Sunday institution, the flower market on Columbia Road is a hipster paradise and one of the city’s best places to buy blooms. For locals and visitors alike, it has tons of photogenic charm and atmosphere. The market goes on until 3pm in all weathers, but for the best bouquets, get there for 8am (or hold out to the end for a bargain on unsold stock). Head down side streets to find cute cafés, shops, antique dealers and galleries sticking to market opening hours.
Since 1900, this workers’ café has provided carbs and protein in eggy, meaty and pan-fried form to the good people of east London. The food may not be much more than reasonably priced, above-average cafe grub, but the atmosphere and decor are second to none. Traces of bygone eras, like its art deco interior and formica tables, have earned E Pellicci Grade II-listed status, but what diners love is that the full-English fry-ups, grills and Italian plates are still dished up by the same family.
With 300 acres of green space dotted with rare plants, Victorian glasshouses, a Chinese pagoda and a treetop walkway, Kew Gardens is unlike anywhere else. This world-leading botanic garden is captivating any time of year. Right now, it’s a crunchy, autumnal paradise; its innovative annual Christmas lights trail is coming soon. The newly restored Temperate House is a horticulturalist’s delight, home to encephalartos woodii, one of the rarest plants in the world, that outlived the dinosaurs.
The world’s largest antiques market sits on a picturesque, pastel-painted street in Notting Hill – now traffic-free for socially distanced browsing. Although it sells fruit and veg too, Portobello Market is best known for its bric-à-brac stalls at the Chepstow Villas end. Don’t be fooled by the fold-out street tables: there are some serious treasures here. Sections of the market are open six days a week, but for vintage finds, brave the crowds and go hunting on a Saturday.
This labyrinthine arts complex is part of a vast concrete estate – an icon of brutalist London architecture – that also includes 2,000 covetable flats and lots of confusing walkways. Inside, the focus is on world-class arts, taking in every imaginable genre, although its theatre and music venues are closed for now. It’s also home to the second-biggest conservatory in the city, a lush indoor garden with 2,000 plant species, for which tickets are like gold dust.
If you’re looking for a mind-blowingly strong and delicious cocktail in sumptuous surroundings, you’ve come to the right place. It’s Stanley Tucci’s go-to and was Ian Fleming’s when he was penning the Bond books. It’s famous for its theatrical presentation of Martinis, created from a trolley that’s wheeled to you. Drinks are among the most expensive in the city, but bar snacks are fabulous. Stagger across the cobbles of St James’s on your way out (the Martinis really are that strong).