What to See and Do in London

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London, the largest city and capital of the United Kingdom, boasts a rich culture and history dating back to Roman times. Renowned for its cultural and ethnic diversity, it stands as a cosmopolitan hub recognized globally.

Among tourists, London is incredibly famous, attracting millions each year to iconic landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower of London, and the British Museum. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the most important points of interest in the city, whether you’re already in London or planning to visit.

Sights and Attractions

Big Ben
Big Ben is London’s most famous symbol, instantly recognizable worldwide. It serves as the world’s most famous clock tower, an essential stop for thousands daily who capture its image from various vantage points across the city.

Did you know its official name is “The Great Westminster Clock,” with Big Ben referring specifically to the bell inside? Completed in 1858, it features four clock faces and underwent a recent restoration in 2022, subtly altering its color scheme.

We recommend visiting both during the day and at night for contrasting views. Notably, its light indicates when Parliament is in session.

Tower Bridge
Constructed in 1894, Tower Bridge stands as one of London’s most famous bridges. Its drawbridge capability allows passage for river traffic on the River Thames, lifting approximately 1,000 times annually.

Visitors can explore its interior and ascend to the bridge’s towers for stunning city views, crossing its glass-floored walkways. About 40,000 people cross the bridge daily, making it a bustling spot.

It’s important not to confuse Tower Bridge with London Bridge, a common mistake among tourists. Over the years, its ironwork has shifted in color from a chocolate hue to its current blue.

Tickets for Tower Bridge can be purchased on their official website.

Piccadilly Circus
Known as London’s equivalent of Times Square, Piccadilly Circus stands as one of the city’s liveliest and most famous squares, complete with the iconic Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain.

Featuring large electronic displays and a vibrant atmosphere, Piccadilly Circus offers a plethora of entertainment options, including theaters, restaurants, shops, and bars—a perfect meeting point for Londoners and tourists alike.

Trafalgar Square
This central square is home to Nelson’s Column, adorned with its famous lions at the base. Drawing large crowds, Trafalgar Square offers easy access to other attractions like the National Gallery.

For a picturesque shot of the square, position yourself on the steps of The National Gallery for a view of Nelson’s Column with Big Ben in the background.

London Eye
The London Eye has become an iconic symbol of the city—a giant Ferris wheel with glass capsules providing breathtaking views from a height of 135 meters. Ideal for first-time visitors, sunset offers particularly stunning vistas.

Each of the 32 glass capsules provides a 30-minute ride with seating available, though standing offers the best experience.

Tip: To skip the long ticket queues, it’s advisable to purchase tickets online in advance via the official website.

These attractions may have higher ticket prices, but the experience is well worth it for first-time visitors to the city.

Explore London’s diverse array of attractions and immerse yourself in its rich history and culture. Whether you’re captivated by iconic landmarks or seeking vibrant city life, London promises an unforgettable experience.

Warner Bros Studios Harry Potter

For the die-hard fans of the Harry Potter films and characters, a visit to Warner Bros Studios is an absolute must.

On this tour, you’ll explore film sets and stages, discovering costumes, props, and other artifacts used in the making of the movies. It’s an ideal plan if you’re traveling with children, as they’ll thoroughly enjoy this magical experience.

We strongly advise purchasing tickets in advance, as they are limited and can sell out quickly during your visit to the city. Tickets can be purchased on the official website.

Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station

If you’re not visiting Warner Bros Studios Harry Potter, here’s a free alternative plan you can enjoy. You can visit the famous platform where Harry crosses to reach his magical school.

This platform is located at King’s Cross Station, one of London’s most famous stations known for its excellent connectivity across the UK. The station’s exterior is among the most beautiful in London.

Inside the station, you’ll find the famous cart crossing the platform, located right next to the official Harry Potter store. The cart is officially part of the store, so you can only see it during store opening hours.

Prepare to queue up, where at the end, a professional photographer from the store will take your photo. You can decide whether to purchase the photo or simply take your own with your camera. If you’re alone, don’t worry—you can ask the person behind you for assistance in taking the photo, and vice versa.

Tip: Go early in the morning when the store opens to avoid long queues, which can stretch up to an hour.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the most famous palace in the UK and a major tourist attraction, serving as the official residence of the UK monarch. Every day, it draws thousands of tourists to its gates.

Since 1837, it has been the primary residence of the British Royal Family, also hosting state ceremonies and official visits.

During the summer, parts of the palace’s interior are open to visitors, with select dates available during the winter and spring.

As a fun fact, the palace boasts 775 rooms, 78 bathrooms, a police station, a swimming pool, a post office, a clinic, and even an ATM.

If you’re wondering if King Charles III is at the palace during your visit, simply observe the flag flying above the palace. If the Union Jack is flying, it indicates the monarch is not in residence; if the Royal Standard is flying, it means the monarch is present.

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

One of the most famous events among tourists, the Changing of the Guard attracts hundreds of spectators daily.

Lasting for 45 minutes, the ceremony involves the changing of the guard accompanied by a military band, taking place at the Buckingham Palace forecourt.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony starts promptly at 11:00 AM, with preparations beginning 15 minutes earlier. Check the official calendar for specific dates when the ceremony is held, as it may be canceled in inclement weather.

The procession starts at St. James’s Palace, so if you’re not at Buckingham Palace or haven’t secured a good spot, you can still catch a glimpse of the guards along the route.

Thames River Boat Cruise

For a unique perspective of London, we recommend taking a boat cruise along the River Thames. Boats depart near Westminster Bridge.

You have various options for activities, such as dining cruises or standard sightseeing tours. We recommend the sightseeing tour as it offers a more budget-friendly option, allowing you to hop on and off at various points.

From the river, you’ll see iconic landmarks like the London Eye, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, City Hall, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and many more.

The National Covid Memorial Wall

Located along the River Thames, directly opposite Big Ben, you’ll find this memorial wall dedicated to those who lost their lives during the Covid pandemic.

Stretching 500 meters, the wall is adorned with red hearts, each representing a life lost during the pandemic. It’s a poignant sight, highlighting the significant number of lives affected.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is a royal residence built in 1605 and notably the birthplace of Queen Victoria. For several years, it was also the residence of Princess Diana of Wales and Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II.

Currently, Kensington Palace houses some members of the royal family, including the Prince of Wales, the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent. Throughout its history, various royal family members have lived in its different apartments.

The palace is renowned for its vast and beautiful gardens, located adjacent to Hyde Park, which add to its allure. While parts of the palace’s interior can be visited, tickets must be purchased in advance.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is renowned as the coronation site of kings since 1066 and the final resting place of over 3,000 prominent British figures, including politicians, actors, and society members. It is also where all royal weddings are celebrated, underscoring its significance to the British.

This Gothic masterpiece is the most important Gothic building in the UK. Inside, you can explore many points of interest, including the Lady Chapel, the Throne of St. Edward, the cloisters, and the College Garden.

You can also view the Coronation Chair, used since 1308 for the coronation of all British monarchs. Tickets can be purchased on the official website.

Palace of Westminster

Here you’ll find the Houses of Parliament, housing both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. This grand palace boasts an astonishing 1,200 rooms.

Once a royal residence, it now serves as the legislative center of the British government. If you want to witness where the UK’s most important decisions are made, take a guided tour.

Tower of London

This iconic London landmark has served as a formidable fortress, royal residence, and at times, a notorious prison, earning its grim reputation as the “Tower of Terror.”

Within its walls, those accused of treason were imprisoned, tortured, and sometimes executed, making it feared among Londoners.

To delve deeper into London’s history, a visit here is a must. While entry is a bit pricey, it’s worth it to see the Crown Jewels—a priceless collection of crowns, swords, and more. Purchase tickets online to skip the queues.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Another beloved London landmark is St. Paul’s Cathedral. It ranks among the largest cathedrals in the world, soaring to a height of 110 meters.

Throughout history, it has endured events like the 1666 Great Fire of London and subsequent rebuilds. It holds great significance in London, hosting important events such as Churchill’s funeral and the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Visiting St. Paul’s is highly recommended not only for exploring one of the world’s largest cathedrals but also for the breathtaking views from its dome.

Tip: Opt for the audioguide to fully appreciate the cathedral’s history. You can also visit the crypt, where notable figures like Churchill, Florence Nightingale, and Alexander Fleming are buried.

St. Dunstan in the East

St. Dunstan in the East is a peaceful green space housing the ruins of St. Dunstan’s Church, originally built in 1100. The church suffered significant damage over the centuries, including during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and bombings in both World Wars. In 1967, the decision was made not to rebuild the church, creating a serene public garden.

Located in the City of London, it provides a quiet retreat amidst the bustling financial district.

Today, the ruins occasionally host events like Palm Sunday, and private bookings are also possible for special events.

The Monument

We arrive at another significant landmark for Londoners, commemorating the Great Fire of 1666. The Monument stands as a symbol of remembrance for this pivotal event in London’s history, which devastated much of the city (86%).

Visiting The Monument is highly recommended not only for its historical significance but also for its affordable entrance fee of just £6, offering marvelous views and insights into London’s history.

Best Museums in London

London boasts a rich array of museums covering art, history, science, and technology, many of which offer free admission, enriching the city’s cultural tapestry and global reputation.

Here are some must-visit museums during your trip

British Museum

The British Museum stands out as London’s most distinguished museum, established in 1759 and housing one of the world’s largest collections of antiquities. With over 7 million objects spanning civilizations from China, Egypt, Greece, and beyond, it’s a treasure trove for history enthusiasts.

Admission is free, and while there are optional paid audioguides for self-guided tours, we recommend visiting in the mornings to avoid crowds. Reserve tickets online to secure your preferred time slot and skip the queues.

Natural History Museum

Focused on showcasing objects, fossils, and plants from natural history, this museum boasts a collection exceeding 70 million species. Originally part of the British Museum, it gained its own space in 1873 due to its vast collections.

Upon entering, you’re greeted by the impressive hall featuring a diplodocus skeleton. Inside, exhibits range from aquatic animals to dinosaurs, all housed within a stunning Victorian-era building.

Entry is free, allowing you to delve into Earth’s history displayed in this magnificent museum.

National Gallery

Located in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery is a prestigious art museum renowned internationally for its collection of over 2,300 paintings. Masterpieces by Goya, Velázquez, Van Gogh, and Michelangelo adorn its walls, spanning from 1250 to 1900.

While general admission is free, advance booking is recommended to bypass the queues and enjoy both permanent and temporary exhibitions. Secure your tickets online for a seamless visit.

Imperial War Museum

For insights into wartime history, the Imperial War Museum offers a compelling narrative through its collection of military artifacts, uniforms, and personal accounts from World War I and other conflicts involving the British military.

Highlights include aircraft, military vehicles, weaponry, uniforms, and official documents that provide a poignant glimpse into these turbulent periods of history.

Admission is free, providing an invaluable opportunity to explore England’s and the world’s history during wartime. Reserve your tickets through their official website to plan your visit smoothly.

Science Museum

At this museum, you can engage with science in a fun and educational manner. Inside, you’ll encounter exhibits from various fields including industry, science, technology, and medicine. Noteworthy displays include the Apollo 10 command module and numerous interactive inventions and experiments that have shaped history.

We highly recommend visiting, whether with children who will greatly enjoy it or solo, as adults can also find it fascinating. Like many other museums in London, admission is free. Visit their website to secure advanced tickets.

Museum of London

If you’re keen on exploring London’s history in an engaging way, this museum is for you. Established in 1976, it features over 7,000 artifacts that narrate London’s history from its early beginnings to the present day.

You can witness London’s evolution through Roman times, medieval periods, wars, and other historical milestones. We recommend a visit to gain insight into how the city has transformed over its history. Admission is free, allowing you to visit on the day and explore everything the museum has to offer.

Sherlock Holmes Museum

To unleash your inner detective, there’s nothing better than a visit to this museum dedicated to the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Housed in a Victorian-era building, it’s where you can delve into the fictitious life of the character created by Arthur Conan Doyle.

Explore three floors filled with artifacts that immerse you in the adventures of that era, reminiscent of stories narrated in Doyle’s novels. We recommend this museum for true fans of the character, as it vividly brings Sherlock Holmes’ world to life.

Discover the breadth of attractions London has to offer, from magical Harry Potter experiences to historic landmarks and scenic river cruises. Whether you’re exploring the city’s cultural sites or enjoying its vibrant atmosphere, London promises an unforgettable journey.

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