The top things to see and do on a London city break

To say there's a lot of ground to cover on a city break in the British capital is a massive understatement, so give these trip ideas a read and get going!

Visit some of London's essential landmarks

If it's your first time in London, your itinerary probably looks like a list of the city's most iconic attractions. Consider booking a holiday letting near Westminster or The City of London for a prime location near London's top tourist spots.

Step out of a London picture postcard and into Westminster

In Westminster, see the iconic clock tower that houses Big Ben, the bell that chimes hourly, or visit Buckingham Palace and watch the changing of the guard. You can also admire the striking Palace of Westminster, peek into Westminster Abbey and catch a glimpse of 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister's office and residence. The London Eye stands just across the river Thames from Westminster.

See the sights in the City of London

Once a walled Roman city, the so-called Square Mile is one of the world's most important financial centres. From the domed St Paul's Cathedral, cross the Millennium Bridge over the Thames and you'll reach Shakespeare's Globe, which recreates the original Elizabethan theatre where the Bard's plays were staged. The Tower of London and the stately Tower Bridge are close by.

These areas in London are all about art and culture

Whether you're interested in museums or musicals (or both), there are London locations offering concentrated doses of culture, art and entertainment.

Visit the museums in South Kensington

Museum hopping is a breeze in South Kensington, where the neighbouring Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum offer diverse displays to please children and adults alike. If you've had your fill of exhibitions and wish to go shopping instead, the upmarket Harrods department store is a short walk away.

There's endless entertainment in the West End

You'll find a score or so of theatres in the West End, but there's more to this locale than simply being London's theatreland. Leicester Square, for instance, has several cinemas and plays host to most British film premieres. For visual art, visit the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, both located near bustling Trafalgar Square.

Experience London's eclectic side

You might not see these neighbourhoods in a typical London brochure, but they're worthwhile stops if you want to get to know the city's subcultures a little better.

Come on then to chaotic, colourful Camden

This inner-city district has undergone substantial gentrification, but Camden retains much of its role as the nucleus of London's alternative culture. You don't need to be a goth, punk or hippie to feel welcome here, though – it's a place for everyone, especially for those who can appreciate a good gig. Camden's music scene is legendary, as is the eclectic Camden Market, a treasure trove of bric-a-brac and unorthodox fashion.

The edgy East End marches to its own beat

Cockney rhyming slang originated in London's East End, an area known for its arty, indie vibe. If you're not sure where to start exploring, head for Brick Lane, home to excellent curry shops, offbeat boutiques and vibrant Sunday market. Shop for locally designed goods and vintage finds in street art–riddled Shoreditch, or hit the trendy pubs and bars in hip Hoxton.

You'll feel far from the city in these tranquil green spaces

There's no shortage of attractions in central London, but you'll also find some verdant gems tucked away from the heart of the Big Smoke. A bonus of staying in holiday rentals near these parks: they're cheaper than lodging in London's city centre.

Go for picnics and bike rides in Richmond Park

Covering 2,500 acres, Richmond Park is the biggest of London's Royal Parks. Home to a large population of deer – they won't bother you if you keep a safe distance – the park offers cycling, fishing and horse riding. You'll find lovely gardens within the Isabella Plantation, while Pembroke Lodge, a Georgian mansion, offers refreshments and garden seating. Besides the park, residential Richmond features the Kew Gardens and a high street with a wide array of shops and restaurants.

Hike the grassy slopes of Hampstead Heath

Depending on which part of the city you're coming from, it can be a bit of a trek to Hampstead Heath in the northern part of central London. That said, trudge on to Parliament Hill and you'll be rewarded with fantastic views over the Big Smoke. You can also take a dip in Hampstead Heath's bathing ponds and lido; the women's and men's lifeguarded bathing ponds are open all year round.