We Asked People Who've Never Been To London What They'd Do On Their First Day

We Asked People Who've Never Been To London What They'd Do On Their First Day

If you'd never been to London in your life, what would be at the top of your to-do list? We asked London virgins over on our Urban Oddities Facebook group what they'd get up to here on their first day. Here are the results. Although we've a sneaking suspicion some people aren't exactly strangers to the city...

Major landmarks - Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum cropped up a couple of times. Image: Shutterstock

Many people (quite rightly) want to tick off some of the big boys as soon as they arrive in London: "Hyde Park. Tower Bridge. Piccadilly Circus" says Marina without missing a beat — and who can fault that logic.

"Parliament Square and the Thames, Trafalgar Square and surroundings, St Paul's" says John, another would-be tourist who's sticking with the quintessentials.

"Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Greenwich. Taking in all the sights in between" says Paula. Again, Paula, classic, can't go wrong. You'll have a ball. (And probably need to sleep for the next three days.)

Don plumps for Tower Bridge too: "Look up Tower Bridge lift times," he suggests, "Something everyone has to see once in their life and double up with a tour of the Tower lead by a Beefeater!! Job done!!!" (Be honest though, Don, have you been to London before? Confident use of exclamation marks for someone who hasn't.)

"Changing of the Guard, St James's Park to feed the pigeons, squirrels and waterfowl" says Rick, who's already London-savvy enough to know where the apostrophe in 'St James's Park' goes. (Hat doff, sir.)

"Natural History Museum, boat trip on the Thames and West End show" is on the cards for Claire. Sounds like a perfect day out to us... so long as that show's not a reboot of Cameron Mackintosh's Moby Dick (now THERE'S a reference obscure enough to baffle someone who's lived in London all their life).

More left field - St Pancras station, John Soane's Museum, Bowie tour

the many urns and statues at john soane's house
Sir John Soane's Museum

Some responders went more left field with their to-do lists — certainly for first timers in London, anyway.

"King's Cross and St Pancras stations; Fleet Street and the Strand (so many different styles of building); Sir John Soane's museum" suggests Tim. Three solid choices, and we'll come back to those stations in a bit. We'll also let Tim get away with calling it 'The Strand', seeing as most Londoners call it that anyway.

"A walk along the Southbank from Westminster Bridge to The Globe theatre, taking in a performance before heading round to Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market" says Karyn, who has her first day in London well planned out (wish WE were that organised on a Saturday).

"God's Own Junkyard. Bowie Tour London. Wanstead Park" says Nicola — Come on Nicola, WE'VE only done two of those! But yes, a great London intro nonetheless. Extra left field points to you.

"Go underground and see all the bits not normally seen by the general public. 'Ghost' stations, crypts etc etc" says Terrie — someone after Londonist's own heart. Bloody love ourselves a crypt.

Take in a view - Primrose Hill, Greenwich Park, Cable Car

Cheaper London sightseeing options for all the family: Cable Car/Emirates Air Line
The Emirates Air Line is on one of our readers' to-do list. Image: Warren Christmas

To believe you've made it to the fabled metropolis that is London, you need to stand back, and drink in a stunning view of it. One like that suggested by Tracey:

"Greenwich Park, at the top, at dusk as Canary Wharf is lighting up" Very atmospheric, Tracey.

Jill's also got a great viewpoint in mind; her dream day in Camden ends up "with a walk to the top of Primrose Hill for the best views of London." We're not going to argue with that. Unless it's New Year's Eve.

"The Monument," says Alexandra, "To learn a little more about the Great Fire of London. I'd like to see where it all started too, on Pudding Lane, which I believe is close by." You'll get some pretty incredible views from up the top of the Monument too, Alexandra. If you can stomach that spiral staircase, of course.

"Uber boat up the river and Emirates cable car" suggests Delyth, who knows all the right brand names to use. And that cable car suggestion segues us neatly into our final section...

Transport - DLR front seat, no. 11 bus, Angel escalator

t shirt with the front of a dlr train on it, with the phrase 'shotgun front seat' below it
You want this t shirt don't you

Remember how King's Cross and St Pancras stations were on Tim's list — well he's not the only tourist who wants to sample London's transport goodness straight out the gate. Many of you are savvy enough to realise the humble bus is the best way to see the sights:

"A ride, at the front, on the top deck of a bus, through central London, and look above the street level" says Andy, who clearly likes to keep on the move, as he also wants to take a guided river cruise from Westminster to Greenwich and walk along Oxford Street when the Christmas light are on.

"Upstairs on a no 11 bus (front seats if possible), as it passes a plethora of sightseeing landmarks between Fulham & Liverpool Street" says Rick from earlier. Again, Rick, excellent knowledge of which bus to catch... and are YOU sure you've not been to London before?

"Ride the top deck of any (double deck) bus going over Waterloo Bridge after dark" says Chris Green, who adds: "Wait till you can sit at the front of a DLR train and pretend you're driving it." YES, Chris. We've got a t shirt you might like.

Not many of our responders mention the tube itself, although Karyn chips in: "A tube to Warwick Avenue, taking a five-minute walk to Little Venice where you can take a canal bus along the Regent's Canal to Camden or London Zoo/Regent's Park." Karyn, either you've been spending some time on Citymapper, or you've been to London before.

And then there's Fiona, who says: "Go on the second longest escalator in the UK, at Angel tube station. Go on the DLR. Visit Deptford to see the street market and the Deptford Lift Bridge. Probably not everyone's choices!" We can safely say, Fiona, that this bridge, though magnificent, isn't going to be the FIRST bridge most tourists tick off their lists.

You've been to London before too, haven't you Fiona? And if not, then KUDOS.

Never been to London before? Tell us your dream to-do list in the comments below.

Last Updated 28 October 2021