Home to the financial district and some of London’s tallest buildings, the City of London has a colourful history that’s waiting to be discovered. With ancient Roman ruins, sky high green spaces and Victorian markets, there is much more to London City than meets the eye. Here’s our list of 9 unique things to do in the City of London:
The Sky Garden is London’s tallest public garden sitting on top of 38 storeys overlooking all of London. Enclosed within a glass dome, the garden features three terraces with an abundance of trees, plants and tropical flowers from around the world. Entrance to the garden is free but you’ll need to book a ticket to enter. We recommend reserving your ticket a few days in advance of your visit to avoid disappointment.
There are three restaurants and bars in the Sky Garden so why not extend your visit and enjoy some drinks and delicious food while soaking up those amazing views!
Tower of London
The Tower of London has a rich and bloody history. Once a prison that hosted many public executions such as those of Henry VIII’s wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, the tower is now open to the public. The crown jewels are kept at the Tower of London and each night the ceremony of the keys takes place when the tower guards lock each door to the tower. Visitors can apply to escort the guard for this very important, 700-year-old tradition.
You can buy tickets to the Tower of London from their website and entry includes a guided Yeoman Warder tour.
Guildhall Art Gallery
The Guildhall Art Gallery is a gallery like no other. It houses the City of London Corporation’s art collection and in the basement, you’ll find the remains of London’s Roman amphitheatre. The remains were discovered in 1999 during the renovation of the building and have been preserved 20 feet below the current street level. Permanent exhibits at the gallery include ‘Victorian Paintings’ and ‘Pictures of London’.
Every Friday there are free tours of the Guildhall Art Gallery and the Roman amphitheatre that showcase the highlights of the Gallery’s permanent collection. Booking is not required, just walk in!
Bank of England Museum
Hidden off the side of the actual Bank of England, visitors to the Bank of England museum will have the chance to hold a genuine gold bar – if they can lift it! Free to visit, the museum will take you backstage on the workings of the bank since its establishment in 1694. Hear how bank notes are printed and how banks have changed over the past 300 years in this decedent museum full of columns, sculptures and porticos.
Audio guides are available at the museum’s reception to enjoy the full immersive experience.
London Mithraeum and Bloomberg Space
Located within Bloomberg’s European HQ buildings, the London Mithraeum and Bloomberg Space are part of a cultural hub that’s free for the public to visit.
The London Mithraeum contains the reconstructed remains of the Temple of Mithras, estimated to have been built in the year 240 AD, the remains were uncovered in the 1950s during excavations following the blitz attacks. There are also Roman artefacts on display that were discovered during the building of the Bloomberg HQ including waxed writing tablets used for notetaking and accounts.
The Bloomberg Space was created to showcase the best in contemporary art while honouring the building’s ancient historical background. Exhibits at this space change every couple of months. The current exhibition is by Claudia Wieser and “transforms Bloomberg SPACE into a perspective-bending scene where the ancient and the contemporary conflate and collide”.
The Leadenhall Market dates back to the 14th century and was originally a market for meat, fish and poultry. Restored in the 1990’s following many repair attempts since the great fire of London in 1666, a visit to Leadenhall Market will take you back to Victorian London with its cobbled streets, old shop fronts and traditional style pubs. Now days, shops in the market range from upmarket clothing retailers to sellers of antiques and other curios.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s most recognisable landmarks with its domed roof. After years of being destroyed and rebuilt, the incredible building then survived the 1950’s blitz attacks and became a symbol of Britain’s resistance to the Nazis. There’s lots to see inside St. Paul’s, including intricate mosaics and 400 years’ worth of sculpture and religious artwork.
There are a range of tours available in St Paul’s including a free 90-minute guided tour that cover the cathedral floor, the crypt, the Geometric Staircase, the Chapel of St. Michael and St. George, and the Quire. These areas are not usually open to the public.
Museum of London
This free museum tells of the story of London from ancient times to present day. Here you’ll learn how London grew in Roman and Medieval times, survived the 16th century epidemic of the plague, was very nearly destroyed by the Great Fire of London of 1666, became an industrial hub in the late 1800’s and everything in between. Each age of London is covered in a separate exhibit with paintings, installations and infographics.
There is also an interactive ‘Beasts of London’ exhibit that showcases the influence of animals on the capital. Famous voices such as Kate Moss and Nish Kumar tell stories from the animal’s perspective in this magnificent display of lions, elephants, horses, rats and, of course, pigeons.
The City of London’s website contains a bank of free downloadable self guided tours. Choose from a range of themes and areas:
- Shakespeare’s London
- The Great Fire of London
- The Art of Faith
- Roman London
- Charles Dickens
…and lots more.
Round off your trip to the City of London with an overnight stay at the Clayton Hotel City of London. Just a ten-minute walk from Liverpool Street, the Clayton Hotel City of London is at the heart of the square mile and provides easy access to the city’s main attractions.