London is the city of the British Crown, of noble buildings and a unique urban layout ruled by the tributary of the Thames, but it is also one of Europe's leading cities, an internationally inescapable political capital and home to some of the world's most eye-catching attractions. In this definitive guide I present the 22 best things to do during your visit to discover the spirit of London.
From the Tower of London to Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral and the Harry Potter theme park, I'll tell you the best tickets to get the most out of London with the most fun activities. Are you ready for this adventure?
1. Tower of London tickets
The Tower of London, which houses the official Royal Palace, is considered the most famous building in the city, not only for its history and for having been the protagonist of some of the most famous events of England's past, such as the beheading of Anne Boleyn, but also because it is the site of the jewels of the British monarchy, such as the coronation throne or the Imperial Crown of State.
During your visit to the Tower of London you will be able to enter the different buildings of the complex and take a guided tour with a representative of the Beefeater guard, on a tour in which you will learn the most bizarre stories of this monument, which is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. As one of London's most visited landmarks, it's best to book your tickets in advance.
2. Tickets for Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is the most important and distinctive Anglican building in England and also one of the most representative of London, as it has been the site of most of the coronations of British monarchs and royal weddings, such as that of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. With these tickets you can visit the interior of the abbey, which stands out for its central nave and chapel.
You can also visit the abbey's tomb, where some of the most important figures in the history of England are buried, such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Charles Dickens. There's no doubt that touring Westminster Abbey will be an adventure akin to travelling back in time.
3. Windsor Castle Tickets
To get a sense of the historical importance of the Windsor residence it's enough to mention that it's one of the most famous castles in the world and the oldest still inhabited. It is home to the royal family and also houses the crown museums, which you can tour during your visit to discover the works of art in the Royal Collection.
With these tickets to Windsor Castle you can also visit St George's Chapel, the State Rooms, where the monarch meets regularly with the Prime Minister of England, and the State Apartments, where you will find the servants' quarters and cellars.
4. Tickets for the London Eye
If you want to see the skyline of the English capital, one of the best alternatives is to visit the London Eye, a modern observation deck that works like a Ferris wheel. With this 30-minute ticket, you can see London from above in one of its glass capsules with sweeping views. From here you can see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the city's bridges.
Before entering the London Eye capsules you can also watch an introductory video showing you how the wheel was built, what materials were used and the inspirations behind an attraction that was initially questioned by the English but has already earned its place in the London skyline thanks to its tourist appeal.
5. St Paul's Cathedral tickets
Christopher Wren was one of the most famous architects in the history of England and his greatest legacy is St Paul's Cathedral, a 5-storey religious building containing many of Britain's heroes' memorials, a Golden Gallery filled with works of art and a terrace from which you can discover one of the best panoramic views of the city.
During your visit you can tour the interior of the cathedral, which is the only religious building with a baroque style entrance portico, and also see the bust of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, who was one of the most important figures of the Napoleonic Wars and who is buried in St Paul's Cathedral.
6. Harry Potter Studios Park tickets
If you are a fan of the Harry Potter saga in London you can visit the Harry Potter Studios Theme Park, where you will be immersed in the fantastic world of the young wizard created by author J.K. Rowling. From the very first moment, the experience will be unforgettable, as the transfer to the park will be in charge of a bus similar to the one that appears in the fiction. If you buy your tickets on the Hellotickets website you will have included transport to and from the park.
In addition, in the studios you can discover the authentic sets, the props that were used in each of the films and you can visit the popular Diagon Alley. You can also stop off at the park's gift shop and sample the butterbeer consumed by the characters in the saga. Are you ready for the magical journey of the Harry Potter theme park?
7. Thames River Cruise tickets
One of the best ways to see a different side of London is to opt for a cruise on the River Thames, the waterway that divides the British capital in two. During this trip you can experience the city from different perspectives, while you see the silhouettes of Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and Saint James Park on the horizon.
During these tours, which usually last about an hour and a half, you will be accompanied by an audio guide in different languages who will teach you about London's curiosities and the history of the city. You can also combine these Thames tours with other popular activities such as hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus tours or views of the city from the top of the London Eye Ferris wheel.
8. Tickets to climb to the top of the O2 Stadium
For a different experience in the heart of London, you can choose to tour the O2 Arena, which is a well-known multi-disciplinary venue in the British capital that has been used to host a variety of artistic and sporting events. The main attraction of the O2 is climbing up to its dome, which you can do in a harness and following the path of a handrail.
From the top of the O2 you'll access another of the city's main panoramic views, from where you can see Greenwich Park and the Olympic Park. Plus, you'll get an adventurous experience with this ticket which includes climbing and some of the most beautiful photos of London from the 52-metre high stadium.
9. Tickets to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
The Madame Tussauds Wax Museum is a tradition in major cities around the world, but its headquarters are in London, so if you visit the British capital you can visit what was the first wax museum in the world and discover figures of all kinds, from Madonna and James Dean to Louis XVI, Queen Elizabeth II, David Beckham and Kim Kardashian.
In addition, this museum also offers an immersive experience on board a taxi inside the exhibition through which you can learn about the history of London while you walk through a gallery filled with wax figures of the most important figures of London's past. A must-see if you're travelling to London with children.
10. Tickets for the London Dungeon
For an alternative experience, you can book tickets for the London Dungeon, a play that revisits the most terrifying and chilling events in the history of the British capital, such as the rotting of the Great Plague or the Great Fire of 1666.
During this show, which lasts approximately 2 hours, you can also take a boat ride through Traitor's Gate or experience first-hand the chases of Jack The Ripper, the popular serial killer who plagued London in the late Victorian era and was never discovered.
11. Tickets for The Shard
If the panoramic views from the London Eye or the O2 stadium aren't enough for you, you can opt to reach the top of The Shard, the 310-metre high building which is the tallest in England and allows you to see the city in all its splendour, especially on a clear London summer's day.
At The Shard, in addition to the 360-degree panoramic views, you can also use the interactive telescopes in the observatories on the 68th, 69th and 72nd floors and, if you want, you can also opt to include a glass of champagne and a tour guide who will tell you the history of the sites on the skyline with your ticket.
12. Tickets for Kew Gardens
If you want a different experience in London, away from the historic buildings at the epicentre of the English capital, you can buy tickets to visit Kew Gardens. It is a natural space of more than 120 hectares of landscapes full of exotic plants and species, which will allow you to escape from the hustle and bustle of London for a while to take refuge in this floral paradise that has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
During the tour of Kew Gardens you can visit its five glasshouses, The Hive and the Palace, which is the main building of the natural complex. You can also take photographs on the natural walkway formed by the trees on the Treetop Walkway and visit the two art galleries. If you're planning a trip to London with children, they can enjoy the Climbers & Creepers playground, which offers rides and attractions for the little ones.
13. Tickets for Shrek's Adventures in London
London is one of the havens of children's animation and Shrek's Adventures is a family experience at the world's most famous ogre theme park where you'll also meet legendary characters such as Puss in Boots, Donkey, Cinderella and Fiona, as well as stroll through Far Far Away, a 4D recreation of the Shrek universe.
Among other attractions you can also try your hand at the villains' bar, called the Poison Apple, which is staffed by Doris, another character from the Shrek saga who became famous as Fiona's friend, and attend over 10 different live theatrical shows, in what will be one of the best options available in London for the whole family to visit.
14. Old Royal Naval College Painted Hall Tickets
The Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College is considered the Sistine Chapel of London, as it is noted for its frescoes and wall decorations, which were designed by Christopher Wren, the same architect who designed St Paul's Cathedral. Initially, this hall of the building was to be a place for the Royal Hospital veterans to meet, but its beauty turned it into an attraction to visit.
From the Painted Hall, you will also be able to contemplate an open view of the Thames, as it is located on the banks of the river. With these tickets you can also see the other buildings in the Old Royal Naval College complex and have free time to visit the gardens and common areas.
15. Greenwich Observatory tickets
If you're someone who enjoys scientific experiences in London during your travels, you can't miss out on tickets to the Greenwich Observatory, where you can stand on the meridian line that divides the two poles of the planet and discover the stories behind the first star map, which established time zones and redesigned marine navigation methods.
This fascinating experience will take you through the work of the astronomers and physicists who began to shape the first GPS and early planetary organisations to aid ship navigation and ensure the smooth flow of trade that made England a world power. During the tour you can also get the best views of London from the Great Equatorial Telescope.
16. Tickets for Kensington Palace
Have you ever fantasised about being part of royalty? If the answer is yes, one of the closest experiences you can get is to visit Kensington Palace, the monumental building where the heirs to the British throne live. It contains the King's rooms, chambers, bedchambers and galleries, which are open to the public at these entrances to provide an insight into the royal lifestyle.
Kensington Palace, which has been a Royal estate since 1690, was the site of Queen Victoria's birth and upbringing and was also the residential home of Princess Lady Di. During the tour, you can also explore the gardens and walkways flanked by statues, sculptures and fountains, and visit the historical exhibits, which display jewellery, costumes and photographs of the palace and its inhabitants.
17. Tickets for the ArcelorMittal Orbit
Another place to see London from above is the ArcelorMittal Orbit, which at 114 metres is the highest point in the city's Olympic Park. From here you can get panoramic views, have your picture taken with the Olympic rings and see the skyline of East London, one of the most iconic areas of the British capital.
The ArcelorMittal Orbit is the tallest sculpture in the UK, so from the suspended walkways you can reach views of over 30 kilometres, easily spotting the legendary Wembley Stadium, St Paul's Cathedral, the viewing platforms of the O2 stadium and even the dome of Westminster Abbey.
18. Tickets for The Dare Skywalk experience
Tottenham Hotspur is one of London's most traditional football teams and since their 62,000+ capacity stadium was refurbished it is possible to access the viewing platforms at the top to complete the London skyline and also have your photo taken with the golden cockerel, which is the club's emblem.
The Dare Skywalk is one of the most striking activities in the city, because it combines panoramic views with a tour of one of the most famous stadiums in England, as well as a curious walk along the glass walkway that is located about 50 metres above the ground. From there you can also see the pitch and the stands which are packed with spectators every weekend.
19. Tickets for Kidzania
Travelling with children presents the challenge of combining adult experiences with children's activities and in London one of the best opportunities to enjoy a tour with the little ones is to visit Kidzania. These tickets allow you to enjoy an interactive city with themed attractions where children can play professional roles, dress up and play at being grown-ups.
Kidzania is focused on providing children with a wide range of alternatives so they can play their favourite profession, so they will have the opportunity to be firefighters, dancers, journalists, doctors, bankers, scientists, cooks or even airline pilots for a day.
20. Tickets for Sea Life London Aquarium
Sea Life London is one of the most renowned aquariums in Europe, partly because you can discover more than 500 species of marine fauna, including sharks, octopus, penguins and eels, but also because you can visit it in a place close to the epicentre of London, which is rare in more populated cities.
In total you can visit up to 14 themed areas with different marine habitats and more than 50 exhibits, including the Shark Wall, a walkway where you can see sharks swimming in a glassy pool right under your feet. Sea Life London is one of the best tickets for a family or children's tour in London.
21. Tickets for ZSL London Zoo
ZSL London Zoo is the ideal place for tourists who enjoy wildlife and the wonders of wildlife, as in this zoo you can find gorillas, giraffes, lemurs, tigers, lions and even exotic or endangered species such as Komodo dragons and panda bears, so the experience will be complete.
Among the zoo's special options you can also visit the butterfly house, the penguin beach and the reptile house, where you will find snakes, turtles and crocodiles living together in a thematic environment. By the end of the tour you'll have seen over 17,000 different animals.
22. Discover every corner of the city with the London Pass
If you want to get to know London in depth you can opt for the London Explorer Pass, an electronic pass with which you can save up to 35% money during your trip by choosing tickets from over 50 attractions available, including the Tower of London, St Paul's Cathedral, the British Museum, The Shard and Wembley Stadium.
This pass is valid for up to 60 days and is activated from the first use. From then on, you can access the number of attractions for which you have purchased the Tourist Card, which offers options of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 attractions. In addition, this card will also give you access to the Big Bus hop on-hop off sightseeing bus services and Thames river cruises.