I know some of you actually live in/have lived in London, so pass on your higher-quality suggestions! Here are mine, based only on a single (awesome) visit last spring. Predictably, they’re mostly book-, museum-, and history-oriented.
OF COURSE the first one will be St. Paul’s. I have so many feelings about St. Paul’s that I’ve spewed them all over tumblr already, so I’m not even going to pretend to be objective, but you should read Connie Willis’s Fire Watch (it’s short! it’s my favorite short story!) and if you have more time her Blackout/All Clear, and then go get all emotional in the building.
I loved the Victoria & Albert Museum so, so much. Their medieval collection is particularly great (PRIORITIZE IT), as is their jewelry collection. The costume exhibit was closed in the spring (still crying about that!) but is open now. And they have a really insane plaster model court—the Victorians liked making reproductions of major world monuments, and they’re all just thrown together in one space. Victorians, amirite?
The Imperial War Museum is very cool; my longstanding obsession with the Blitz meant that I had to make it out there, and it was definitely worth it. They have a cheesy but delightful Blitz Experience (models and a little bomb shelter with lights and noises and so on) and a WWI trenches experience with dummies and that sort of thing. I don’t know, I’m a nerd.
I was (personally) less impressed by the Science and Natural History museums, but the Wellcome Collection was spectacular—they had a Brains exhibit on when I was there.
The Museum of London is, again, great if you’re interested in history. They have a lot of reproductions, so it’s less of an archive and more of an educational museum, but they’ve done a great job of covering all of the city’s history from pre-Roman times to the present. There’s a reproduction Victorian street with shops, and a fun exhibit on turn-of-the-century design. It’s also in the Barbican, so you’ll get to enjoy that if you enjoy brutalist architecture (if enjoy brutalist architecture: you are wrong, it’s terrible, sorry poins).
The British Library’s Treasures Room is definitely worth seeing if, again, you’re into history and/or books and/or music.
This is cheesy, but I got trapped in the Liberty London flagship store during a rainstorm and actually really enjoyed wandering around the reproduction Tudor building. Westminster Abbey was entirely worth it, despite being crowded, particularly if you’re interested in history and architecture. Oh, and I made a point of visiting the Albert Memorial mostly because of this story.
I also went to Oxford for one night and was really glad that I got to do that, but it sounds like you guys aren’t as far away so maybe that won’t appeal or could be done another time. But if anyone else is going to Oxford, let me know, I have FEELINGS.