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Do you have a solo travel trip to London planned and are wondering what you should do by yourself? Here are the very best things to do alone in London, from cultural immersion to drinking in a British pub.
I’m biased, I know, but my home city of London is a fantastic city to visit on any occasion, and in any company.
But, equally, it is great for the solo traveller and, in my humble opinion, one of the best places for a solo trip. To help you make the best of a solo travel trip, here is my pick of the very best things to do alone in London.
Whether you are an art aficionado, a fervent foodie or seasoned shutterbug, I have you covered!
The best cultural activities to do alone in London
Enrich your mind at one of London’s major museums
Museum-hopping is an ideal solo travel activity, and London has these in spades. Better still, entry to the permanent exhibitions in most of London’s museums is free.
Lover of fashion and design will adore the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), and history buffs will flock to The British Museum. Budding geologists should point their compass towards South Kensington’s Science Museum, whilst those itching to learn more about our natural world may want to check out its next-door neighbour, The Natural History Museum.
Don’t feel that you have to ‘do’ all of a museum by visiting every exhibition room. That’s a sure-fire way of developing museum fatigue.
In my many years of living in London and visiting its major museums, I still haven’t done this and don’t intend to either.
Instead, create your bucket list of not only which museums to see, but also what to see when you are there. Take it at your own pace and focus on what interests you.
Even if you are not a museum person, the buildings that these collections are housed in are works of art and London landmarks in their own right, worthy of a visit.
But don’t forget its smaller museums
In ticking off the major museums on our travel bucket lists, there’s the risk that the smaller museums are omitted. If you are in a city for a limited time, this is inevitable as priority is given to the big-hitters.
However, if time permits, London is home to some wonderful, smaller museums which are perfect for mooching around alone.
Join a talk at The British Museum
The British Museum is one of my favourite hang-outs and it has a stimulating programme of events year-round. These range from excellent free gallery tours that are led by volunteers, to more in-depth explorations of cultural and historic subjects.
You can just turn up on the day for most of the free gallery tours. However, book on-line for the paid-for talks as these are very popular.
But if you miss out on the talks, don’t miss out on the museum. It truly has a world-beating collection from near and far, from imposing African statues to the glorious Lindisfarne Gospel from Northumbria’s Holy Island.
Visit one of London’s art galleries
Is art more of your thing? If so, you’ll be spoilt for choice in London. Again, the permanent exhibitions are usually free.
For all-round artistic immersion, head to The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. For modern art enthusiasts, there’s Tate Modern housed in the husk of a disused power station on London’s South Bank.
More intimate galleries that I can recommend are The Wallace Collection and Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Go to the cinema alone
Solo cinema-going should be the norm, not the exception.
Let’s face it; why do you need to go with someone else to watch a movie? Whilst a shared post-movie critique can be fun, it’s not as if you’re going to chat with one another during the film. Or I sincerely hope not.
I’m a total cinephile and go to the cinema on a weekly basis at the very least, often on my own. To my mind, hunkering down in a cosy cinema on a winter afternoon takes a lot of beating.
In central London, my go-to place for a dose of movie magic is Picturehouse Central. Big screens, comfortable seats, good café and thoughtful programming. Plus its Members’ Bar is one of the best spots in London to grab a drink!
For a boutique cinema experience, try the theatres in the Everyman Cinema chain.
As their screens tend to be smaller, this is not the best option for those big blockbuster movies. However, what the Everyman lacks in screen size, it gains in comfy sofas and armchairs, some with footstools, and waiter service to your seat.
For a journey into cinematic past, pick Prince Charles Cinema (off Leicester Square) or The Electric Cinema on Portobello Road.
The retro-styled Prince Charles has a wonderfully eclectic programme at bargain prices for its central location, especially if you take up their cheap membership.
The Edwardian Electric Cinema is the very definition of a picture palace, with its extravagant Baroque interior housing plush armchairs and sofas. Check out its discounted rates for Sunday matinée screenings.
Browse the BFI’s Archives in the Mediatheque
Another favourite place to watch a movie is the British Film Institute (BFI) on the South Bank, which is also home to the uber-cool Mediatheque.
The Mediatheque comprises booths with comfortable seats where you can settle down with a film or TV programme from the BFI’s extensive and diverse archive collection.
And best of all, it’s absolutely free.
Catch a play or musical
Another one of the great things to do in London by yourself is to go to the theatre.
In as much as London has a wide selection of cinemas, equally, it has so much going on theatrically, suiting all tastes and budgets. And as a solo traveller, it is easier to score a single ticket.
Embrace your inner classic music aficionado at St Martin in the Fields
If classical music is more to your taste, St Martin in the Fields holds free 45-minute lunchtime concerts multiple times a week.
The church also has an inexpensive café in its crypt, a good lunch option if you are in the Trafalgar Square area.
Lose yourself in literature in an old-fashioned bookshop
To me, a bookshop is a perfect refuge for the solo traveller. Sadly, in these days of Amazon – other online retailers are available – bookshops are becoming ever rarer, and those with character rarer still.
Luckily for us locals, London has managed to cling onto many of its bookshops, and king amongst these is Daunt Books in Marylebone. Solo travellers will be bowled over by its extensive collection of travel publications, perfect for an hour’s browsing.
The best things to do alone in London: Sightseeing
See London’s highlights on a self-guided tour
Forget about those hop-on-hop-off tourist buses clogging up London’s streets. The very best way to see the capital is on foot.
One of my favourite things to do in London is to seek out its familiar, and less familiar, sights by doing a walking tour. And the beauty of doing a self-guided tour is that you can go at your own pace (and skip the less interesting bits).
Or join a guided walking tour
From a food walking tour of Borough Market to immersion in Harry Potter’s muggle land, there’s something for everyone.
The street art tours in East London have been highly recommended by friends. However, armed with a little information, you can do this by yourself.
Take in the view from the Sky Garden
For the best free view in town, head to 20 Fenchchurch Street, otherwise known as the Walkie Talkie building, which is home to London’s garden in the clouds.
The Sky Garden offers a 360-degree panorama of London’s iconic skyline. On a clear day, the views are sensational, from the Tower of London and Canary Wharf to the east, and St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye to the west, on a clear day the views are sensational.
Advance booking is essential.
Go on a London photographic safari
Another great solo travel activity in London is to capture some of the city’s iconic images to make your friends back home green with envy.
This is a very easy thing to do as a solo traveller. London almost begs to be photographed, from the skyline of The City to the panorama from the top of The Shard.
But that said, even as a Londoner, I am tempted to book onto a photography walking tour. £49 for four hours.
An alternative is to check for photography meetups In London, another good way for solo travellers to make friends on the road.
Take a stroll along the Victoria Embankment
There are so many walks to do in London, but I’m picking this one as it takes in so many of London’s top sights.
The 2 km Victoria Embankment river walk from the Palace of Westminster to Blackfriars Bridge is a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
If the weather is kind to you, take a break in the Victoria Embankment Gardens near Charing Cross Station. A café is open in the warmer months, and there are summer concerts in the garden’s bandstand.
Smell the flowers in Columbia Road Market
Visiting at least one market is a good use of time during your solo trip to London. And there are so many to choose from, Portobello Market, Brick Lane Market, Old Spitalfields and Borough Market to name but a few.
But my favourite has to be the Columbia Road Flower Market, which is one of the best things to do in London by yourself on a Sunday.
Every Sunday, this East End road is transformed into a blooming wonderland, the air perfumed with the scent of flowers. Arrive early to get your pick of the blooms (the market opens at 8 am).
Or if you are after a bargain, arrive around 2 pm when the stallholders start to reduce their prices. The market closes at 3 pm.
This area between Shoreditch and Brick Lane is also packed with vintage shops, and fantastic cafes and delis. Perfect for Sunday brunch.
Borrow a four-legged friend for the day
If you are missing companionship, why not borrow a dog for the day? The innovative Borrow My Doggy pairs dog-owners with dog sitters.
What could be better than having a canine companion to explore London with? And you get to help out dog owners.
Take a riverboat along the Thames
Perhaps you prefer to take to the water? If so, taking a riverboat along the Thames might just be the thing for you.
A One-day River Roamer ticket gives you unlimited travel on the Thames Clippers’ service.
This will allow you to hop on and hop off between 23 piers along the river and explore some of the city’s attractions. These include Battersea Power Station to the west, the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Tate Modern, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and historic Greenwich to the east.
Go on a day trip from London
Thanks to London’s extensive rail connections, it’s super easy to take yourself on a day trip.
With its broad shingle beach and cool bohemian air, Brighton is a very popular day trip from London. The university cities of Oxford and Cambridge are also great choices for a day out.
For something a little different, but no less historic, try Rochester in Kent, which was once the home of Charles Dickens. Visit one of the seaside towns in Kent or walk along the dunes of Camber Sands and explore the neighbouring town of Rye, West Sussex.
Finally, if you’re in the mood for a walk through ancient woodlands, I highly recommend heading to Epping Forest in the north-east corner of London, which is spectacular in autumn.
Self-enrichment as a solo traveller in London
Learn a new skill
Learning a new skill works on so many levels as a solo traveller. Apart from the potential enrichment resulting from the activity, it is a fun way to spend time in a strange city and a fantastic way to meet new people.
Check out obby to find classes that are available around London. There really is something for everyone, from calligraphy and cocktails (assume that the writing comes first!) to eco pouch making with sustainable designers.
Take a class at the School of Life.
London’s School of Life has an extensive programme of classes and workshops, focussing on helping attendees find fulfilment in key areas of their lives.
Speakers discuss a range of subjects from how to find love, to developing your emotional intelligence.
The best things to do alone in London: Physical activities
Start your weekend with a Park Run
If you are in London by yourself on a Saturday and have your running gear with you, why not take part in a Park Run?
These organised 5K runs are great fun as well as good places to meet new people as solo traveller. Sign up for free on their website.
Unleash your inner Ginger Rogers at a dance class
If running isn’t your preferred fitness activity, consider dropping into the famous Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden for a dance class.
From tap to hip hop, there are classes for all levels, throughout the day and well into the evening. Prices are from £7 for an hour’s session and there’s no need to book.
Rent a bike to enjoy London’s parks
For something a little more leisurely, rent a bike to explore one or more of London’s wonderful parks. The Hyde Park loop is particularly good.
You can rent one the distinctive Santander Cycles for as little as £2 for 30-minutes. Download the Santander Cycles app or go to any docking station with your bank card and touch the screen to get started.
Eating & drinking as a solo traveller in London
Read a book over a cup of Flat White
Let’s be honest. Rain is not an impossibility in London.
Cosying up in a café is a good wet weather standby if you are alone in London. Order your coffee – and something decadent to soak it up – open up your book or laptop or just people watch.
Dine at a supper club
The prospect of eating out alone is enough to bring even the most experienced solo traveller out in a cold sweat.
If you are visiting London alone and don’t fancy a table for one, why not try one of the city’s supper clubs?
These imitate spaces are where aspiring chefs test their offerings before committing to the rent of a permanent home and, as such, you can eat very well for a fraction of the usual price.
Plump for one that offers long sharing tables, which are good places to strike up conversations with new people.
Treat yourself to a G&T in a London pub
Saving the best thing to do alone in London ‘til last.
Few things are so quintessentially British as a pub, and just because you are travelling alone doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on this experience.
One of my favourite central London pubs is the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. This Victorian boozer oozes history and has been the haunt of many a London luminary over the years, including Dylan Thomas.
Head upstairs to bag one of the pub’s comfy armchairs. Write your journal, read a good book and order a glass or two of your favourite nectar. And you never know, you may soon make new friends.
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- 10 Easy Ways to Beat Solo Travel Loneliness
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