Things to do in the City

A view towards St Paul's Cathedral taken between two reflective glass walls at One New Change.
St Paul's Cathedral taken from One New Change © / Antoine Buchet.
Discover London's oldest quarter, the City, where historic sights meet modern landmarks.
Content contains affiliate links, marked with asterisks (*). If you click through and make a purchase, Visit London receives a commission – every purchase supports London’s jobs and economy.
  • The City is also known as the Square Mile.
  • Tower Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral are within the City.
  • Shopping in the City includes Leadenhall Market, One New Change and The Royal Exchange.
  • There are plenty of restaurants to choose from including Michelin-starred eateries and the highest restaurant in London, Duck & Waffle.
  • Main stations within the City include Liverpool Street, London Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Fenchurch Street, Cannon Street and Moorgate.

What is the City?

Founded by the Romans and home to some of Britain's best-loved attractions, the City includes icons such as Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral. 

The City is based on the original Roman town of Londinium, which was founded in around AD50. The London City boundaries have remained almost constant since the Middle Ages and it's often called the Square Mile, as it's almost exactly one square mile (2.6 sq km) in area.

Geographically, the City is roughly bordered by Temple and Chancery Lane station to the west, Liverpool Street and Barbican stations to the north, Tower Hill to the east, and the river Thames to the south. The City sits in central London, a short walk from the West End, London Bridge, the South Bank, Bankside, Shoreditch and Brick Lane.

Things to see in the City

The City contains architecture spanning centuries, as well as iconic landmarks, unique museums and hidden gems. There are also plenty of quiet spots for some "me time".

Top City attractions

View over the City of London's skyscrapers on a clear day including the Gherkin and the Walkie-Talkie.
Spot modern skyscrapers and iconic buildings in the City. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
  • Venture from the crypt up to the Golden Gallery at St Paul’s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece.
  • Get a head for heights by climbing the 311 steps up The Monument, a memorial to the Great Fire of London of 1666.
  • Marvel at grand architecture from the 17th to 20th centuries, including the Bank of England, the Old Bailey and the Guildhall.
  • Discover one of the leading examples of 1960s concrete Brutalist architecture, the Barbican Complex, which hosts the arts-focused Barbican Centre.
  • Brave the glass walkway at Tower Bridge, and delve into the bridge’s history with an exhibition inside the icon. 
  • Spot modern skyscrapers – some of which have been given quirky nicknames by locals: "The Walkie-Talkie" building at 20 Fenchurch Street, "The Cheesegrater" at 122 Leadenhall Street and Sir Norman Foster's 30 St Mary Axe, more commonly known as "The Gherkin" to name a few.
  • Learn about the Tower of London’s varied history as a zoo, prison and palace – this ancient building is technically just outside of the Square Mile boundary. 
  • Cross the Millennium Bridge, near St Paul’s, for striking views of the City.

Insta-worthy hidden gems

  • Visit usually private City buildings on special open days, such as Open House London weekend. Past options have included ornate livery halls, Mansion House and The Lloyd's Building.
  • Be moved by tales of heroes who died saving others, commemorated in plaques at The Watts Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice in Postman’s Park.
  • Explore the many City churches dotted around the area, including some created or redesigned by Wren. Among the more unusual are St Alban on Wood Street – which has just a tower remaining that acts as a traffic island – and historic Temple Church.
  • See the three skulls above the entrance of St Olave's Church, one of the few to survive the Great Fire of London, on the corner of Hart Street and Seething Lane.
  • Marvel at the elaborate decorations at Bevis Marks Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the United Kingdom. 
  • Grab a shot for the ‘gram in pretty Paternoster Square, home to the restored Temple Bar and the lovable Shepherd and Sheep statue.

Oh-so-quiet City gardens

London's Sky Garden complete with trees and glass windows overlooking the City.
Enjoy sweeping views of the capital from London's Sky Garden. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
  • Take in spectacular views, for free, from the Sky Garden or the rooftop Garden at 120.
  • Be amazed by thousands of palms, ferns and tropical plants in the Insta-famous Barbican Conservatory.
  • Unwind among the ruins of St Dunstan in the East, which was damaged in the Second World War, but now hosts a garden popular with Instagrammers.
  • Discover plants used in medicine at the Barber Surgeons Garden.
  • Read a book in the Moor Lane Community Garden, which takes its inspiration from the iconic architecture of London Wall and the Barbican.

Classy culture in the City

  • Hold a gold bar and learn about the history of Sterling at the Bank of England Museum.
  • Examine a changing display of 250 artworks and special exhibitions at the Guildhall Art Gallery.
  • Delve into manuscripts and literary works from the 15th century to the present day at Guildhall Library.
  • Step into Dr Johnson's House, a Georgian townhouse that was once home to writer Samuel Johnson. See displays of his works and restored interiors of the age. 

Quirky City museums

Walk the historic streets

  • Follow the City Visitor Trail to explore key sights at your own pace – download the app for on-the-go tips.
  • Join a London City walking tour, many of which take in key sights and fascinating history, from the iconic to the unusual.
  • Head to the City of London Information Centre to pick up themed walking trail guides, brochures and City maps – the helpful staff there speak more than 10 languages.

Shopping hotspots

People walking past the shops of Leadenhall Market in the City, London.
Browse the stalls at historic Leadenhall Market. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
  • Browse the stalls and shops for food, fashion and more at historic Leadenhall Market – this beautiful Victorian covered market was used as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.
  • For high street favourites, from Next to Hackett, head to One New Change – or pick up accessories at its weekly Friday Up Market.
  • Indulge in jewellery and high-end goods at stylish The Royal Exchange, which hosts the likes of Fortnum & Mason, Tiffany & Co. and Jo Malone.
  • Make sure to also explore Old Spitalfields Market, just outside the Square Mile. Find a wide range of trendy shops and stalls, from skincare boutiques to chocolate shops.

Top-notch restaurants in the City

This area is a great place to dine in style, with Michelin-starred City restaurants, eateries with a side helping of panoramic views, and historic hangouts.

  • Gorge on Michelin-starred fare at Club Gascon, La Dame de Pic or City Social.
  • Kids under 12 can eat free at Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen with the purchase of an adult meal – perfect for a sightseeing pit stop.
  • For great views of London, dine at Coq d'Argent; Sky Garden's stylish Darwin Brasserie; the highest restaurant in London, Duck & Waffle; or Helix at The Gherkin, which offers an impressive 360-degree vista.
  • Carnivores will want to try out the prime cuts at Hawksmoor, Blacklock City or Paternoster Chop House.
  • Step back in time at seafood specialist Sweetings, which dates from 1889, or historic Victorian chop house Simpsons Tavern – two of the most historic places to eat in the City.
  • You'll also find a great choice of restaurants available at foodie hub Bloomberg Arcade, which features Indian eatery Brigadiers and burger hotspot Bleecker.
  • Fancy something on the go? Pick from some of London’s best street food vendors every Thursday lunchtime at KERB Gherkin.

Cool City pubs and bars

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub alleyway with a woman walking towards the pub's side entrance.
Seek out historic City pubs, such as Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

The City is home to some of London’s oldest pubs and trendiest bars, which are busy on weeknights as workers mingle over a few drinks. Check opening times, as some close on Saturdays and Sundays.

  • Enjoy a gin and tonic at the City of London Distillery bar, which also runs tours, tastings and workshops. It’s the only working gin distillery in the City.
  • Seek out historic City pubs, such as cosy Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street and old-school gin palace the Viaduct Tavern. Perfect for a quiet pint!
  • Tune in to live music seven days a week at lively Eastcheap Records or upscale jazz specialist Oriole.
  • Or make use of happy hours and deals at cocktail specialists London Cocktail Club, Simmons and Dirty Martini near Monument (and other City locations).
  • Tantalise your tastebuds with hundreds of wines at Humble Grape.
  • Pick up a putter and join your mates for some competitive action at tech-filled urban golf bar Puttshack Bank.
  • Take in City views from Iris at the top of the Gherkin, Madison above One New Change or Jin Bo Law – just some of the many rooftop bars in the City.

Unmissable City events

London’s Pearly Kings and Queens adorned in sequins during the annual Harvest Festival in the City of London.
Celebrate the harvest with London’s Pearly Kings and Queens. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
  • Book ahead for the daily Ceremony of the Keys, which has taken place almost every night at the Tower of London for 700 years.
  • Spot works by leading artists in public spaces across the neighbourhood at the annual Sculpture in the City display.
  • Keep an eye out for free events, performances and exciting installations along the Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate.  
  • See the annual Lord Mayor’s Show, which ushers in the new Lord Mayor of London with lots of pageantry.
  • Join events, performances and displays spanning the arts, history and wellbeing at Bishopsgate Institute.
  • Hunt for treasures at the Goldsmiths’ Fair, giving you a chance to see inside striking Goldsmith’s Hall.
  • Be dazzled by the sequins adorning the Pearly Kings and Queens, as you join them for their annual Harvest Festival in Guildhall Square.
  • Cheer on the runners or compete in the London Marathon and London Landmarks Half Marathon, which both pass through the City.

Cosy hotels in the City

See more hotels in the City.

Travel around the City of London

St Paul's Cathedral after dark, viewed from the Millennium Bridge in the City, London.
Cross the Millennium Bridge for striking views of the City. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

From Liverpool Street, it's easy to travel by Tube, bus, taxi and train into central London or other local areas. You can also hire a bicycle and ride to your next destination.

Other main train stations in the City of London include London Blackfriars, City Thameslink, London Fenchurch Street, London Cannon Street, and Moorgate.

Travel into east London on the DLR from Bank station.

Take one of the river bus services from the banks of the Thames in the City, which is a great way to see London. You can also cruise along the river Thames with City Cruises from the pier outside the Tower of London.

If you're going to be in London for more than a day, it's worth buying a Visitor Oyster Card* in advance. The Visitor Oyster Card is delivered to your home before you arrive in London. It is one of the easiest ways to get around London.

If you do not have a Visitor Oyster Card, but still plan to travel around London for more than a day, buy an Oyster card at the Tube station. Learn more about Oyster Cards.

More about the City

Find out more about the City at the City of London website.

Visit more London neighbourhoods

Where to next? Check out other top London areas, including nearby London Bridge, West End and Shoreditch.