“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson

It’s been 238 years since Johnson uttered those legendary words to his faithful Boswell and they’re no less true now than they were in 1777.

Spend any amount of time in contemporary London – from 24 hours to 24 days – and you’ll be constantly overwhelmed with the numbers of things here to see and do. Aside from the obvious, touristy stops (though don’t knock ’em as most are worth a visit), there’s the seemingly endless list of neighbourhoods to check out, highly recommended markets to hit up, and specialty stores or restos to visit.

It’s thrilling.

It’s exhausting.

The other downside? It’s impossible to be here for any length of time and not feel like you’re missing out on something else worth doing or seeing every minute of the day. A neat little pop-up sweet shop over here, a new food festival over there, a movie under the stars in Hyde Park, a one-day-only tour of some hidden treasure of a location, a new blooming garden to marvel over. How is it that Londoners aren’t perpetually checking themselves into clinics to recover from their inevitable severe bouts of social anxiety? From what I’ve seen their coping mechanisms seem to involve pubs and…well, just pubs.

During my current four-month long visit, I’ve learned that my best coping mechanism seems to be making lists. Lots and lots of lists. One or two of those and suddenly the city (and my time) seems manageable again. I’ve got lists for markets, theatre, afternoon tea, gardens, even cemeteries. Putting everything down in black and white helps keep the focus and prevent those previously mentioned unsightly breakdowns. Not that the niggling feeling of missing out ever quite goes away…but at this stage, I’m starting to think that might be my issue, not London’s. The other important coping mechanism? Don’t carve any plans in stone. Get comfortable with being spontaneous and changing plans at the last minute and you’ll find yourself discovering the extraordinary when you least expect it. On your way to a museum but encounter a party in the park? Ditch the museum and grab a Pimm’s at the Alice in Wonderland-themed drinks tent.

Said lists also come in handy when the inevitable questions and emails from family, friends and friends of friends start rolling in. “I’m coming to London. What should I do? What should I see?” Pull out those handy dandy checklists, and BAM…minutes later, they’ve got themselves a personalized itinerary, instructions on travelling the city and what to pack into each day of their stay. I’m thinking of starting to charge for my bespoke tour planning services, and if you find lists are your thing, I suggest you do the same.

I’ve also compiled one big, personal list of the 101 things I must see and do in London while I’m here. Some are fairly general, some are specific to things I nerd out about (I’m looking at you, London Tube) and some are just plain fun. Some I’ve read about and researched, some are raved about by locals, some have a poster on the Tube that just speaks to me. All very much seem worth doing. I’ve bolded those I’ve been able to check off but there’s lots still to come.

Feel free to crib from it to make your very own or drop a comment to let me know what would make your ultimate London list. But for now, here’s my list of 101 things to do in London (with handy * added for things that are free of charge for those travelling on a budget):

1. Travel back in time at Dennis Severs’ House, Spitalfields
2. Join a free art tour at the National Gallery, Trafalgar Square*
3. Ascend Westminster Cathedral bell tower, Victoria*
4. Indulge in afternoon tea at the Savoy
5. Brave the chilly waters of Hampstead Heath’s swimming ponds
6. Get a word in at Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park*
7. Brunch like the stars at the Chiltern Firehouse
8. Try fragrance profiling at Penhaligon’s, Covent Garden
9. Travel back in time on the London Underground and grab a drink at Cahoots!
10. Pay homage at Postman’s Park, the City of London*
11. See both Tates in one day*
12. Ride the Routemaster heritage routes
13. Drive a tube train at the London Transport Museum
14. Climb the Monument
15. Read Beatles lyrics and marvel at the Magna Carta at the British Library*
16. Take refuge in Highgate Cemetery (and see the rest of the Magnificent Seven)*
17. Celebrate Canada Day in Trafalgar Square/Maple Leaf
18. Marvel at the architecture of Leadenhall Market*
19. Take cover at James Smith & Sons umbrella shop, New Oxford Street*
20. Watch the tennis at Wimbledon
21. Wince at the Old Operating Theatre museum, London Bridge
22. Buy a bouquet at Columbia Road flower market, Bethnal Green
23. See Chelsea in Bloom during the Chelsea Flower Show in May*
24. Brave the tourist hordes at Westminster to pay homage to the icons within
25. Stay late at London’s best museums*
26. Travel on the Thames Clipper service
27. See medicine grow at Chelsea Physic Garden
28. Catch a complimentary concert at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square*
29. Walk along the treetops or breathe in the Palm House at Kew Gardens, Richmond
30. Drink in history while sitting in the cellars of Gordon’s Wine Bar
31. Bypass Brick Lane’s curry houses, Tower Hamlets and head to Fieldgate Street in Whitechapel
32. See Tower Bridge rise up*
33. Fill a hamper at Fortnum & Mason
34. Take a backstage tour at one of London’s theatre spaces
35. Take a candlelight tour of Sir John Soane’s Museum, Holborn
36. Visit London’s listed Tube stations
37. Take a spin on the London Eye
38. Eat five-star food on a one-star budget at the Vincent Rooms
39. Walk through London’s 5 central Royal Parks (St James’s Park, Green Park, Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill, Hyde Park and Kensington gardens)
40. See parts of London on two wheels
41. Soak up nature indoors at the Barbican conservatory on a Sunday*
42. Explore the world of working from cafes and find a favourite! (Mine was Ginger & White in Belsize Park)
43. See a world-class classical concert (LSO, London Phil, etc.)
44. Pop into a pop-up store*
45. Visit the London Canal Museum, King’s Cross
46. See a movie under the stars, on a rooftop or maybe underground
47. Admire the city from the top of Primrose Hill and Parliament Hill*
48. Queue for lunch at a stall at Borough Market and eat in the gardens of Southwark Cathedral
49. Play in the fountains in Granary Square (after brunch at Caravan)*
50. Get back to nature at Mudchute City Farm, the Isle of Dogs
51. Spend your salary (figuratively) at one of the many gorgeous Arcades (eg. Burlington Arcade, Mayfair)
52. Browse more than 200,000 titles at the new Foyles flagship*
53. Explore the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Whitechapel
54. Stalk the streets on a ghost bus tour
55. Rush and/or watch a West End show or catch a play at the National
56. Admire the roses in Regent’s Park*
57. Play table tennis at the Book Club, Shoreditch
58. Sip a craft beer straight from the source at Bermondsey Beer Mile
59. Pay homage to Jeremy Bentham at UCL, Gower Street*
60. Tour the London 2012 Olympics sites*
61. Spend the evening in a world famous jazz club like Ronnie Scotts
62. Enjoy the relative peace of Stoke Newington and Clissold Park*
63. See the Christmas lights twinkling in Covent Garden, Regent Street, and Oxford Street*
64. Visit the revamped Kensington Palace, Knightsbridge
65. Explore the St Pancras Renaissance hotel, King’s Cross on a tour
66. Walk alongside the barges in Little Venice*
67. Wander the overgrown gardens of the bombed out St-Dunstan-In-The-East*
68. Feast on views in a rooftop restaurant
69. Join the circus at Circus Space, Hoxton or the Aeronaut in Acton
70. Test your knowledge with a team at a pub quiz
71. Walk with caution on a Jack the Ripper tour, Whitechapel
72. Enjoy the cosiness of a meal at the Dean Street Townhouse
73. Reminisce about loves lost at Keats House, Hampstead
74. Skip the Saturday morning lie-in for the best doughnuts in town at St John Bakery
75. Find a good local pub for a luxurious Sunday roast (or two)
76. Take a tour through parliamentary history at Westminster
77. Wave a Union Flag at the Proms
78. Visit the courtyard at Somerset House*
79. Forage for antiques on Bermondsey Square*
80. See theatre Elizabethan-style with a groundling ticket to the Globe
81. Meander the Southbank from London Bridge to Vauxhall (perhaps the best afternoon/walk in the city)*
82. Visit the Whispering Gallery in St Paul’s Cathedral
83. See justice in action at the Royal Courts of Justice, Fleet Street*
84. Help lock up the Tower of London
85. Be spellbound by the Harry Potter Studio Tour, Watford
86. Look up at the art installations in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts*
87. Shop with a stylist at Selfridges, Oxford Street
88. Shop within your budget at London’s best charity shops
89. Lose yourself in Hampton Court Maze, Hampton Court Palace
90. See Liberty, the shop that’s as beautiful as its wares*
91. See celestial sights at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich
92. Cross the Thames in a cable car
93. Eat what you’re given at London’s no-choice restaurants or in the dark
94. Head back in time for a tour of one of London’s many closed Tube stations
95. Join the night owls at London Zoo, Regent’s Park
96. Go underground at the Churchill War Rooms, Westminster
97. Walk among dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum*
98. See X-rated AND forensic artifacts at the Wellcome Collection
99. Admire the ‘Great Room’ at Kenwood House
100. Contemplate life and death (and mummies) at the British Museum*
101. See World War I’s stories re-told at the Imperial War Museum and try your luck at following the path of a WWI Zeppelin raid*

The above list was compiled using Time Out, The Telegraph and my own, whacked out mind.

Your turn – what are your must-do and must-sees of London? Share below!