You could visit London several times and still not know it all. Charming neighbourhoods, magnificent museums, street markets, World Heritage monuments, bucolic parks... London has more than a hundred tourist attractions, 9 million inhabitants and 35 million tourists a year. Here is a selection of what to see and do in the city.
1. Visit Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament
Located at the centre of England's political and religious power for over a thousand years, the Whitehall and Westminster district, these two attractions are one of the must-see attractions in London. Westminster Abbey is known as the 'Church of the Royal Family' for serving as the pantheon of the British monarchs and the site of their coronations since 1066. There is much to see at Westminster Abbey so don't make the mistake of overlooking it on your visit to London.
The Palace of Westminster, a World Heritage Site, houses the Houses of Parliament, where today the politics and future of the country are still decided and where you can see the tower where the greatest symbol of London is hidden, Big Ben, the bell that strikes the great clock. Check out ticket types for Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey opening times and Westminster Abbey ticket prices.
2. Ride the London Eye
Admire London from the sky aboard one of the largest Ferris wheels in the world, located in the heart of London. Its inauguration in 2000 earned it the title of 'Millennium Wheel' and its 135-metre height made it the tallest in Europe and, until 2006, in the world.
The London Eye is the best place to enjoy an amazing 360ºpanoramic view of the city and take the best photos of its skyline and some of its wonders, such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral, during the 30-minute ride on board one of its 32 glass capsules (one for each of London's neighbourhoods). If you want to see the city lit up, don't miss the London Eye at night; the experience will leave you speechless.
Check London Eye ticket types, London Eye opening times and prices for London's most famous Ferris wheel. This is one of the most popular attractions in the British capital, so you may be interested in combination tickets for the London Eye and a Thames river cruise or combination tickets for Madame Tussauds and the London Eye; it's a great way to save some much-needed lira on this trip.
Enjoy breathtaking views from The Shard
In addition to the London Eye, if you're not afraid of vertigo and you're attracted to strong emotions, the best place to see London from almost the sky itself is the observation deck of The Shard, the tallest building in Western Europe which, at 310 metres high, has changed the skyline of the city.
Do you want to know how to climb the panoramic observatory of this imposing skyscraper? In the post The Shard Tickets you will find all the details to get your tickets. And if you want to know more, you can also read this post about The Shard restaurant.
3. Get inside the Tower of London
This historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London is officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress. Built in 1066, this portentous medieval Norman fortress has served as a centre of uninterrupted power in British and European history for more than nine centuries and has been declared a World Heritage Site.
A tour of the Tower of London' s architectural ensemble of more than seven buildings and areas of interest will take no less than 3 hours and will reveal the fascinating story of how the Tower of London has changed its function over the years. Check out Tower of London ticket types, Tower of London prices and places to eat after your visit to the Tower of London.
4. Take an evening walking tour
Get ready to have a frightening time with a night tour of London that will show you the less 'pretty' side of the City of London through its darkest history and places like the Tower of London and its bloody tower, the first Psychiatric Hospital, the Plague Pits, the haunted areas of the East End and the stories of how and where one of the most famous serial killers in history, Jack the Ripper, operated. Check out all the information here.
5. Cross Tower Bridge
Built in 1894 over the River Thames, Tower Bridge is the most famous bridge to see in London and owes its name to its proximity to the Tower of London. You can access this stone drawbridge and see how the steam engine that lifts it up works, and climb to the top and walk on a glass walkway while enjoying great views of the city.
6. Get lost in Notting Hill
This neighbourhood, best known for films such as Mary Poppins, which sang of its bustling Portobello Market, and the film of the same name starring Julia Roberts, is a delight for a Saturday morning stroll, when all the stalls on Portobello Street are set up amidst the pretty, colourful houses.
7. Visit St Paul's Cathedral
The second largest cathedral in the world impresses with its huge dome and 111-metre high dome, which you can climb to get magnificent views of central London or descend into its crypt, where the remains of Nelson or the Duke of Wellington rest. Without a doubt, a visit to St Paul's Cathedral is a must before you leave London.
8. Take a walking tour of the historic centre of London
If you love getting to know a city by wandering through its streets, a walking tour through the old part of London will be a great way to discover the history of the city through places like Covent Garden, the Monument to the Great Fire of London, St. Paul's Cathedral or Tower Bridge. Here is a link to the article I have written on Top 10 Tours and Excursions in London.
9. Visit Buckingham Palace
The official London residence of the British Royal Family since the 19th century and now home to Elizabeth II is lavishly decorated with chandeliers, elegant furnishings and treasures from the royal collection throughout the rooms such as the Throne Room, where photographs are often taken at royal weddings.
You can visit Buckingham Palace as part of the attractions included in the London Pass or learn more about it with a palace tour.
Attend the Changing of the Guard in London
Visiting Buckingham Palace and attending the Changing of the Guard is one of the most typical things to do in London. It's a colourful military parade at the main entrance to the palace where you'll see regiments of guards on foot and horseback accompanied by an orchestra that entertains the ceremony with music.
Those who perform the changing of the guard in London are a special section of the British army called the Queen's Guard (the ones in the red uniform with the huge fur hat) whose mission is to protect the head of state, that is, Queen Elizabeth II.
If you want to know all the details about this curious spectacle, don't miss the article How to see the Changing of the Guard and Buckingham Palace in London.
10. Tour the city by sightseeing bus
Another way to get around London is on board one of the many sightseeing buses, which you'll see running around the city centre at all hours. With them you can admire the city from the heights, comfortably seated and hop on and off (its famous "Hop on-Hop off") as many times as you want in each of its hundreds of stops along all that can and should be seen in the wonderful metropolis of London.
There are several tour bus companies, including Big Bus Tours, City Sightseeing, The Original Tour, Vintage Tour and Golden Tours, partnered with Big Bus with the London Pass. All of them work in the same way and include physical guides or audio guides in several languages, although they differ in their routes and number of routes, in the prices, which are always cheaper if you buy them in advance and online, and in certain services and offers included.
11. Stroll through Hyde Park
Another must on a trip to London is a park, strange as it may seem. It's the largest and most famous park in the city, where you can stroll around a huge lake, various monuments, a rose garden and the gardens and Kensington Palace, which you can also visit inside.
12. Get to know Harry Potter's London
Tours of Harry Potter's London. For true fans of the most famous wizarding saga in history or for anyone who wants to have a good time, especially if you're travelling with children, Harry Potter tours are some of the most fun things to do whether you're visiting the real places that inspired the stories of the Harry Potter saga or shopping for Harry Potter souvenirs in specialist shops.
Are you still hungry for more? How about booking tickets to Harry Potter Studios Park? Just do it in advance so you don't run the risk of finding Harry Potter Park tickets on the resale market. At this attraction you can walk through Hogwarts Castle or the Forbidden Forest as if you were inside the films. And, if you're wondering, getting to Harry Potter Studios from London is quick and easy so don't hesitate!
13. Get cultured at the British Museum
Opened in 1759, it houses a vast collection of key works in human history, from the Rosetta Stone in its Egyptian Room to marbles from the Parthenon in Athens to a Moai from Easter Island.
14. Walk through Trafalgar Square
One of the most popular squares to visit in London, Trafalgar Square is home to the 50-metre high Nelson's Column, built in honour of the admiral and his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
15. Take a cruise on the Thames
They ply the waters of London's river and I consider them a must on at least one occasion to see another perspective of the city. These comfortable Thames river cruises come in a range of options, from the simple one-hour tour to more premium options such as a dinner cruise on the Thames.
There are Thames cruises to suit all price ranges. You can also take a flexible day ticket which allows you to hop on and off the boat as many times as you like during the day, allowing you to move comfortably from one end of the city to the other while taking a break from the long walks.
16. Take a tour of St James's Park
Located near Buckingham Palace, St James's Park is one of London's Royal Parks and the most loved by Londoners for its beautiful gardens and fun children's playgrounds.
17. Visit the Natural History Museum
This impressive museum displays spectacular recreations of all the earth's species, including mind-blowing scale reproductions of dinosaurs and an amazing skeleton of a blue whale.
18. Hypnotise yourself with the lights of Piccadilly Circus
This small square at the intersection of several streets is popular for its bustling life as a meeting place for locals and outsiders and is characterised by large video screens, neon billboards and the famous fountain with the sculpture of Eros. From Piccadilly Circus you can reach one of the city's most famous shopping streets, Oxford Street.
19. Take a tour from London
If you're lucky enough to have a long trip ahead of you or you've visited London before, you can make the most of your trip to discover other wonders within easy reach of the capital. There are tours from London to suit all interests and with various options to go to just one place or to make the most of the day by visiting several of them, as is the case of the tour to Stonehenge and Bath.
You can discover the most famous and mysterious megalithic complex on the planet with 5.000 years old, visiting Stonehenge on a trip from London; the renowned and picturesque university towns of Oxford and Cambridge; the medieval Warwick Castle and its marvellous gardens or the home of the British royal family for over 900 years, Windsor Castle -
. If you prefer, you can tour the bucolic English countryside of the Cotswolds; one of the most beautiful cities in the country, Bath; and discover the Magna Carta in Salisbury or where Shakespeare was born, in Stratford-on-Avon.
You can get to these places by alternative bus or train transport, but there are some guided tours that are more informative, convenient and even cheaper than going on your own.
Stonehenge from London, a must-see visit
If you ask me, if I have to choose one excursion, it's Stonehenge. Because of the historical value of this complex, getting to Stonehenge from London is worth it, either on your own or with an organised tour. There are many things to do at Stonehenge that will leave you with a good taste in your mouth, but without a doubt the best is to visit Stonehenge during the summer solstice. If you can choose the time of year to visit Stonehenge, don't hesitate because the experience will leave you speechless.
20. Take a bike tour of the city
Exercise, fun and great sightseeing is what this bike tour offers. Learn about the history of the city and more than 12 of its major landmarks, including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the street performers of Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square.
21. Visit Madame Tussauds
Known as "London's favourite tourist attraction" and one of the best to visit with the little ones thanks to its mind-blowing wax reproductions of 250 of the most popular characters from the history of cinema, politics, music, sport and show business.
And now, in addition to everything there is to see at Madame Tussauds London, there are now super-fun immersive experiences about Sherlock Holmes, Star Wars, Marvel and the history of London aboard the Spirit London Ride. Check out the types of tickets for Madame Tussauds
22. Shop in Candem Town
For a different kind of London souvenir, visit this quaint and popular neighbourhood which is home to the city's largest market with over 1,000 shops and street stalls where you can eat and listen to live music. If you dive around the area you're sure to find some of those secret London spots that don't appear in any guidebook.
23. The best art, at the National Gallery
This renowned art gallery houses an impressive collection of paintings by such geniuses as Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Goya and many more.
24. Visit Shakespeare's Globe
If you've seen the famous film 'Shakespeare in love' you'll get an idea of what you'll see on this visit to the reconstruction of the original Elizabethan theatre where Shakespeare's most famous plays were performed and where you'll learn about playwriting in 16th century London, including the experience of afternoon tea.
25. Enter the London Dungeon
If you know a bit about the history of the city of London you will already know that it has more than one dark episode... You've probably heard of Jack the Ripper or Sweeney Todd, but have you heard of the Gunpowder Plot or the Great Fire of London? If you buy tickets to the London Dungeon Museum you'll find interactive shows that will tell you about all these events and other equally chilling ones. Get ready to be scared for a cost of around 30 euros in the dungeons of the English capital.
26. Get spooked at the Sea Life Aquarium
Are you travelling to London with children or are you an animal lover? Either way, a visit to the Sea Life Aquarium is a great way to round off your trip to London. Not only is it the largest aquarium in England, but it also has themed areas, interactive activities and an amazing glass tunnel from which you can see the more than 500 species that live in the Sea Life Aquarium. Tickets are available from £34.
27. Catch a musical in the West-End
Who hasn't heard of London musicals? To experience one live is an experience you'll never forget. Some of the best musicals in London's West End include such renowned ones as Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. If you can afford it, don't hesitate to make it one of your London night out plans: the show is worth the money and for many of them you won't even need to know English, as the music and the staging will convey more than words.
28. Eat like a king in London without spending a lot of money
It's possible to eat well in an expensive city like London without breaking the bank, even if you're looking to eat near the London Eye or eat near The Shard. Being one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, the gastronomic offer is very varied and there are restaurants accessible to all budgets.
So that you don't fall into the typical "tourist trap" in the article The best gastronomic tours in London I give you a list of 10 great restaurants where you can enjoy eating during your trip. You will see options for all tastes!
29. Don't compromise on comfort when you arrive
When we arrive in a new city we can't wait to get to our hotel, drop our bags and visit things. Unfortunately, before we do that there's still one more rather cumbersome thing to get through: the airport. London has four airports and all of them are far from the centre. Do you know how to get from Stansted airport to the centre of London, from Luton airport to London, from Gatwick airport to the centre and from Heathrow airport to your hotel in London?
You won't be short of public transport, but my advice is to hire a private or shared transfer in advance. The advantage? You won't have to wait for your arrival and you'll be able to get around in comfort.
30. Choose the best time to visit London
When is the best time to go to London? It's a difficult question as every season of the year has its charm; whether you go to London in summer, winter, spring or autumn you will find that the city has its charm. However, seeing London at Christmas is one of my favourite options because of the decorations the city has to offer at this time and the many festive activities you'll find there. In any case, if you're not convinced, the most useful thing to do is to take a look at these posts in which I tell you what to do in London in each of the months of the year:
- London in January
- London in February
- London in March
- London in April
- London in May
- London in June
- London in July
- London in August
- London in September
- London in October
- London in November
- London in December
Finally, if after reading all that London has to offer you are overwhelmed and have doubts about how to make the most of your stay, I recommend you to visit these posts about what to see and do in London depending on the days you are going to spend in the British capital. Have a good trip!