10 of the best things to see and do in central London

Aerial view of London — Photo courtesy of iStock/heyengel

The cosmopolitan city of London is a juggernaut of 32 boroughs and within each is a patchwork of vibrant neighborhoods. It is impossible to know everything at the same time, and even less to have the impression of having authentically experienced the place. Best to do it in stride, exploring one neighborhood at a time on foot to really appreciate the iconic sights as well as the lively, hip shops and pubs where the locals congregate.

Choose the thriving district of Clerkenwell as your base for exploring central London. This historically Italian enclave is teeming with hip young professionals who love fantastic cuisine and loft-style apartments. From this well-placed neighborhood, walk in all directions for a manageable taste of the city. Here are 10 places not to be missed.

YOTEL London

Exterior of YOTEL London CityExterior of YOTEL London City — Photo courtesy of YOTEL

YOTEL Clerkenwell is London’s first, bringing the expensive metropolis the affordable yet luxurious brand. If you like prime real estate at a decent price, YOTEL speaks your language. Additionally, YOTEL’s hospitality ethos features low-touch, high-tech sensibilities, especially comforting given the lingering concerns of the pandemic.

Check-in and check-out are seamless digital experiences, although there is always someone ready to help if needed. The rooms are compact and modern, equipped with their signature SmartBed™.

The Farringdon Eagle

Inside the Farringdon EagleInside the Eagle Farringdon — Photo courtesy of Kathryn Streeter

The EagleThe infectious vibe is apparent even from the sidewalk, where you can see friends gathered for the best of food and the best of times. Founded in 1991, it is committed to unpretentious food and drink, supposedly introducing London’s first gastropub.

Chef Edward Mottershaw oversees the kitchen and crafts an ever-changing menu that combines fresh ingredients with creative inspiration. The menu is displayed on large blackboards above the bar, but to find out before you go check out their instagram Account.

The Barbican

The sprawling Barbican CenterThe vast Barbican Center — Photo courtesy of © visitlondon.com/Jon Reid

This sprawling, iconic 40-acre Brutalist architectural complex in the oldest part of London known as “The City” offers a full-throated live-work-play destination. The multipurpose area includes a school, cinema, concert hall, library, conservatory and restaurants of all types and flavors. In addition to arts, culture and gastronomy, the Barbican also boasts Roman ruins from the Roman fort of Londinium, which you can explore freely.

leather market

Lots to browse at Leather Lane MarketLots to browse at Leather Lane Market — Photo courtesy of London Borough of Camden, London, UK

Discover London’s eclectic global cuisine at leather market, one of London’s oldest street markets. On weekdays, between 10am and 3pm, you’ll find the market bustling with locals who live or work nearby browsing the various food stalls that serve Thai, Ethiopian, Moroccan and Vietnamese cuisine. When you can’t handle another bite, browse clothing, trinkets, and art for something to take home.

Millennium Bridge

Millennium Bridge illuminated at nightMillennium Bridge illuminated at night — Photo courtesy of iStock/Deejpilot

To better experience London, take the time to walk on the emblematic bridges that cross the Thames. Start with the millennium bridge, a pedestrian-only bridge that will yield Instagrammable photos of Tower Bridge and The Shard; in the other direction, you’ll get great shots of the London Eye, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Return to central London via Blackfriars Bridge with a stop at The dark brothera cozy pub in a Flatiron building.

St. Paul’s Cathedral in London

St. Paul's Cathedral at nightSt. Paul’s Cathedral at night — Photo courtesy of iStock/TomasSereda

Standing at the highest elevation in the square mile area dubbed “The City” is St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, one of London’s treasures. The place of worship has been rebuilt several times over its 1,400 years, with the current masterpiece designed by famed architect Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London. Offering a resplendent view of the city, the famous dome can be discovered as part of your visit.

Tate Modern

Tate Modern along the riverTate Modern along the river — Photo courtesy of © visitlondon.com/Jon Reid

Enjoy a leisurely stroll through one of the world’s most famous museums, nestled on the south bank of the River Thames. Whether you visit a special exhibition (paying) or the permanent collection (free), book your Tate Modern ticket in advance to ensure there is no overbooking. Then stroll along the river, stopping to eat and drink at The arms of the founder‘ outdoor terrace, with a view of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the distance.

Exmouth market

Pedestrians enjoy Exmouth MarketPedestrians enjoy Exmouth Market — Photo courtesy of Kathryn Streeter

In the heart of Clerkenwell, visit this colorful street is full of cafes and shops. Savor a cauliflower shawarma or wood-fired pizza – and if you’ve caught the shopping bug, visit the many unique boutiques featuring an eclectic range of bags, jewelry and more. Anyway, take a coffee break at Briky and indulge in people watching.

St Bartholomew the Great

Historic St Barthelemy the GreatHistoric St Bartholomew The Great — Photo courtesy of Kathryn Streeter

Step back in time as you enter London oldest parish church, founded in 1123 with a monastery and a hospital for the city’s poor. The church survived both World Wars and the Great Fire, and it has been featured in films such as “Four Weddings and a Funeral”.

Sadler’s Well

Fancy a bit of nightlife? Since 1683, dance has been present in one form or another in Sadler’s Well in Angel, the neighborhood adjacent to Clerkenwell. Thus, Sadler’s became known as the dance hall of London. The modern interpretation is the vibe, with artists like BalletBoyz, Gandini Juggling and NDT 2.