Discover London’s top attractions, landmarks and sightseeing spots that you’d be crazy to miss, even if you’re a local
Best Place To Visit In London
A visitor, a day tripper and a tourist all walk into London and… It turns out that there are certain iconic London attractions that they all simply must visit. These museums, galleries, monuments and parks are part of the fabric of the city – to experience them is to reveal part of the capital’s culture and history.
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But where to start? We’ve compiled a list of the top 50 attractions in London so you can start ticking off your bucket list. And the best news? Lots of these London attractions are free, and for those that aren’t, you can book below.
Still looking for some sightseeing inspiration? Check out our list of 101 things to do in London and find out what’s happening in London today, this week and this weekend.
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What is it? The capital’s tallest tower, which joined London’s skyline in 2012. Measuring 310 metres, The Shard was built with everything in mind: offices, homes, hotels, bars, restaurants and, of course, the alluring viewing platform. From the highest point with public access (floors 69-72) you get a fantastic 360-degree view of the city. There is a silent disco on selected Saturday nights and other events, such as gigs and gin tastings throughout the year.
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What is it? Have you ever wondered what London looks like from 53 meters above North Greenwich? Find out with a ticket to Up at The O2 where you can choose between daytime, sunset and dusk climbs. The ultimate AAA pass gives you access to the roof, where you’ll be able to look out over the capital and see famous sites such as the Olympic Park, Thames Barrier, The Shard and Canary Wharf.
What is it? This network of curly red scaffolding towers over the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from its position right next to the Olympic Stadium. Designed by artist Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond, it stands 114.5m (376ft) high – with lifts (and a 455-step staircase) up to two platforms from which you can enjoy the interesting, if not quite spectacular, the view. There are also two of Kapoor’s amusing distorting mirrors inside and the options to celebrate down or slide down to the ground.
Why go? Two things: the view and the slide. Hold your stomach and enjoy the fast descent down the 12-loop corkscrew.
What is it? Much like the Millennium Dome – or, as it’s known to those who don’t remember the twentieth century, the O2 Arena – the London Eye was built to celebrate the year 2000. Since then, the Eye has been a resounding success and it’s hard to picture the London skyline without it. It rarely stops, so you won’t be standing on ceremony when you go on. Before you know it, you’re halfway up in the sky, taking in a sweeping view of the city.
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Why go? The location. Not only does it offer a great view of the capital, but there are plenty of attractions nearby.
What is it? Like the Pantheon Crypt in Paris, where you can see the tombs and memorials of great figures from history, Westminster Abbey is a popular attraction for viewing the tombs, paintings, busts and stone dedications. In fact, seventeen monarchs are buried here, along with dukes, countesses and the ‘celebrities’ of history (Think Darwin, Dickens and Hardy). Founded by Benedictine monks in 960 AD, there have also been 16 royal weddings here and every single British coronation has taken place within the abbey’s walls since 1066.
What is it? A chance to see world-famous art, glimpse royal opulence and enter HRH’s headquarters. Tourists and locals alike know the facade of Buckingham Palace, which stands at the end of The Mall. But it was not until 1913 that this addition was made, by King George V and Queen Mary. Before that, in 1633, the palace wasn’t even royal – it belonged to Lord Goring, who was forced to cede ownership to the royal family (under King George III) due to a flaw in his contract. Poor chap.
What is it? A resplendent palace with plush grounds on the outskirts of south-west London. From the Tudor indoor tennis court to the Royal Maze, from the King’s private toilet to the Magic Garden adventure playground, there is something for all ages. History buffs and art enthusiasts should purchase a ticket to the Palace and Gardens; those with small children in tow will appreciate the Magic Garden and Maze ticket. Be sure to keep an eye on the site for their seasonal opening hours.
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What is it? The seat of British democracy. Take an audio tour of the House of Lords and House of Commons to bring the building to life. It takes around 90 minutes and features leading parliamentary figures such as Mr Speaker and Black Rod. Are you feeling hungry? Choose the tour that comes with afternoon tea next to the River Thames.
What is it? In 1802, Marie Tussaud made her wax debut in the capital (32 years after she founded the show in Paris). In 1884 she decided to put down permanent roots in Marylebone and she has been there ever since (well, her heritage at least). Visitors to Madame Tussauds today will find around 300 lifelike models including contemporary actors such as George Clooney and historical icons such as Einstein and Monroe. Elsewhere, the Queen stands proudly on the Royal Balcony and stars like the Marvel cast have their own Hall of Heroes.
What is it? Although St Paul’s is iconic, the cathedral as we know it today is actually version six, at least. Mark Five was razed by the Great Fire of London in 1666, Mark Three was also destroyed by fire in 1087, and Mark Four fell into ruins under Henry VIII. Thankfully, Sir Christopher Wren’s design, completed in 1708, survived 12 monarchs and two world wars. If you have paid for the main entrance, you will be invited to an introductory talk before being taken on a 90-minute tour.
What is it? An opportunity to enjoy thinly sliced sandwiches, fresh cakes and the tinkling of gleaming silver teapots in the gold and white splendor of the Ritz Hotel’s former Ballroom. It’s so popular that you can book sittings from 11.30am to 7.30pm every day – sure, it’s not strictly afternoon, but all accompanied by the delicate sounds of a pianist, harpist or string quartet.
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What is it? There’s more to this ornate Victorian bridge than something cool to look at: you can actually venture inside. Check out the engine rooms with their spinning wheels and pistons, then head up to the glass-floored viewing platform above the drawbridge, where you can immerse yourself in the history of this magnificent building.
Why go? Time it right and you’ll see the bridge rise to let steamers and barges through. Want to know something fun? A full schedule of bridge lift times is available on their website.
What is it? Where William, Kate and the children hang their hats. This tourist attraction has a chic style: it hosted the most fashionable salons in the Georgian era, was home to Queen Victoria in her youth, then the sassy Princess Margaret and then the elegant Princess Diana. Now the main palace is a beautiful visitor magnet with peaceful gardens to wander.
What is it? Big Ben is the nickname for the big clock in Westminster’s iconic clock tower, but even locals think “Big Ben” when they see the Elizabeth Tower. You can’t come in for a tour due to maintenance work but you’re a minute from the river, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey here, so it’s an easy visit.
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What is it? The place where England won the World Cup in 1966. Wembley still has a magic about it, even when you don’t have a ticket to a match or a rock concert. Take the tour and you’ll get to go down the players’ tunnel and climb the 107 Trophy Winner’s steps, plus, using 360-degree video, experience the electric atmosphere at some of the stadium’s biggest events.
What is it? A huge art museum right on Trafalgar Square which is free to enter. Perfect, whether you have ten minutes on your lunch break to check out Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” or time to wander through the entire collection of Western European paintings from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. Check out Friday Lates for access to exhibitions, creative workshops and life drawing sessions.
What is it? A secret, secure bunker, hidden behind Downing Street and Parliament Square, where Churchill and his cabinet could monitor the progress of the Second World War, receive intelligence and give orders. It’s the little details that make the biggest impression, from a daily updated weather notice board to the scratch marks on Churchill’s
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