20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in London
Sights like the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, museums like the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, palaces like Buckingham Palace, and lovely parks like Green Park and Hyde Park all provide splendid opportunities for culture, history, and natural beauty.
But the sights in London aren't all about history and culture; there's great nightlife, shopping, and restaurants as well. Our guide provides plenty of great tips on how to save money, and find everything you need during your travels.
Don't miss our recommendations for the best places to visit in the United Kingdom, so that your vacation remains a happy experience.
The largest and richest abbey in the world, Westminster Abbey was founded by Edward the Confessor in the 11th century and is today a major tourist attraction. Enter the abbey from the nave of the western, or transept, or from the south entrance from Buckingham Palace Road. The most beautiful part of the interior is the Nave, entered through a doorway with pointed arches, beneath which is an elaborately carved rood screen, with statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary. You'll also find a magnificent display of wall paintings, including scenes from the life of Christ and other Biblical tales, and a collection of 600 statues and effigies. Behind the abbey is the Temple of St. Mary, with some exquisite medieval tiles. There are also the crypts of many of the abbey's monarchs. If the abbey is too crowded, don't miss the cloisters, with their elaborate carvings of vines, flowers and foliage.
The "Circus" itself, as it is known to millions, is a busy street in the heart of the city, covered with stalls, bars, and fast food outlets. With neon lights, buildings, and advertising posters, Piccadilly Circus offers a unique experience and its location and night-time character are an integral part of the British tradition. Famous landmarks and landmarks which have earned notoriety for their association with the Beatles are in close proximity to the square. It was where the group played during the era when they were discovered and formed in 1958, and it was a focal point of their rising popularity in the years that followed. Later, it became home to "Dracula," a restaurant in which The Beatles once met during their stay in London in 1964, and the film "Absolute Beginners."
Trafalgar Square, at the heart of London, is one of the most familiar spots in the world. Having recently been renovated, it is home to London's two most famous monuments, the Nelson Column and the fountains, erected in 1843. By the Nelson Column stands a bronze statue of the naval hero, erected in his honor in 1843. It's a work of art that holds a special place in the hearts of Londoners. Surrounding the fountains are statues and monuments representing commerce and democracy. They include the square's great glory: Sir Charles Barry's great masterpiece, the Palace of Westminster. The British monarchy also have their own royal square, the site of the Palace of Buckingham Palace. The grandest square in London has had many names. In 1745 it was named after Queen Caroline, the wife of George II. She has since become known as the 'Queen of Hearts'. After WWII, it was named 'Vauxhall'. Named after a military site for cannon, the nearby Vauxhall Bridge was also built in 1815. And finally, in 1952, it was known as 'Whitehall Place', for the proximity to Britain's premier government offices.
The London Eye is a giant glass-and-steel wheel, cantilevered high above the Thames River with the iconic Tower Bridge as a stunning backdrop. Situated on the south bank of the river, the Eye's 10.5-meter-diameter wheel gives 360-degree views from this point on the Millennium Bridge, London's new walkway, and South Bank Park. After viewing the views from the attraction, you may wish to visit one of the shops selling top-name brand products.
St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul's Cathedral is one of the best-known attractions of London, as it is a symbol of the capital. In all, it is 800 years old, and is ranked as the highest church in the entire British Isles. It is also the largest in London. The main point of interest is the famous dome, which covers the entire church. It was built in 1705 by William Gyfford at a cost of a staggering £500,000 (around $500,000). The cathedral contains some extraordinary treasures, including some fine paintings, and if you take time to visit, it can also be very interesting to wander around the lower floors of the cathedral and take a look at some of the galleries. There are also regular services on various Sundays in the cathedral, which are very popular with Londoners. Note that the cathedral is open every day, except during some holidays, from 8 am to 6 pm.
The most famous castle in Britain, Buckingham Palace was originally built for the duke of Buckingham in the 1500s. This impressive 18th-century palace has been the official residence of the monarch since 1837, but was frequently damaged and rebuilt over the centuries and is still undergoing renovation to this day. A visit to Buckingham Palace usually takes place on a royal tour, for which tickets can be booked in advance from one of the palaces Web sites. However, visiting the grounds on an open day or by simply turning up is another option. Practical matters are to be taken care of at the Sandringham House website, and tickets to be purchased at the British Tourist Authority. The palace is open every day and free of charge to visitors.
The British Museum is one of London's most famous institutions. Founded by Charles Towneley in 1753, it was the world's first public museum and houses a collection of over 2 million items that are anything but boring. There is a daily entry charge and you must make advance reservations. It has a series of permanent collections, such as the Ancient Egypt, Greek and Roman, Medieval Europe, and Pre-Columbian America and African collections, among others. The museum also hosts many special exhibits and other events throughout the year. For details of the programs and exhibition, please visit the website.
Millennium Bridge and Tate Britain
Millennium Bridge is actually a pair of bridges, each of which connects two sides of the River Thames in London. Completed in 2000, the unusual double-decker structure is a world-renowned structure. Suspended underneath the busy eastbound highway that stretches between Westminster and Canary Wharf, this inspiring structure is just the right distance from the busy modern city to provide a unique city escape. The most expensive new-build bridges in the world, the twin bridges are actually made of galvanized steel and have seen more than a million people cross them since they opened. The adjacent Tate Britain art gallery also boasts incredible exhibits such as Rembrandt's Self-Portrait and Leonardo da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine.
It doesn't get more modern than this hotel, located in what was formerly Mayfair, the most expensive area of London. This hotel, opened in 1927, was designed by Architect Charles Barry, responsible for the Houses of Parliament. The lobby is a soaring space, full of Art Deco style, with large sparkling crystals in an abstract design. Decor includes a number of Italian Renaissance reproductions, including tapestries. The hotel rooms offer the best and most lavish amenities, including a Beefeater's bar. A trip to Ritzy Piccadilly is part of a visit to Mayfair, a neighborhood full of exclusive shops and fashionable restaurants.
With a view over London that will stay with you forever, The Shard is the tallest skyscraper in Europe and the fourth tallest in the world. Designed by architect Renzo Piano, it has the world's highest and fastest elevators and is home to 1,000 residents in the sleek apartments of its 32 floors. Doing the utmost to meet the occupiers' needs, the apartments and facilities are the best in London. The view from the top of the Shard is one of London's most photographed and featured skyline sights. For visitor information you can visit their website or simply call their hotline, which is available 7 days a week from 6 am to midnight:
St. James's Park and Park Lane
St. James's Park is the largest of London's famous Royal Parks. It's home to the exclusive Kensington Palace and scores of walking and jogging paths that are open to the public. It also offers a variety of facilities, including public tennis courts and a small zoo. Park Lane, often called 'London's smartest street' for its luxury shops, houses, and expensive apartments, begins at the royal park and extends into Mayfair and Belgravia. Along the way is famous Bond Street with its designer shops and luxury establishments.
The weather-worn, 62-meter-tall tower called Big Ben or Elizabeth Tower in front of Westminster Abbey, was designed by Sir Charles Barry and built between 1858 and 1864. The tower can be seen from many places in the city, including Trafalgar Square. It plays a prominent part in London's musical heritage. It is named after Queen Elizabeth II's mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who lived to be 101. In 1963, the year of her death, the clock chimes were installed in order to mark the occasion, but the Big Ben bell inside is actually the oldest in England.
Covent Garden in London, England, is the oldest and most famous shopping district in the United Kingdom. Covent Garden has changed little over the years as shops have remained more or less the same. As in any good shopping area, you should plan to spend a lot of time in Covent Garden's narrow, bustling, stone-paved streets, where endless vendors tempt you with souvenir stands selling everything from crafts to exotic herbs and spices. This is a great place to shop in the evening when stores and restaurants stay open late.
This vast British public park, spread over 11,000 acres, is a great escape from the city bustle. While its two million annual visitors enjoy its fabulous collection of exotic plants, it is also home to about 50,000 species of plants including over 3,000 trees, one-third of which are very rare. With stunning beauty and hundreds of free attractions, there is something here for everyone. Highlights include the L'Hermitage Garden; the Glasshouse; an ever-changing display of flowers and plants in the "Forbidden Fruit" Gallery; the Orchid Gallery, the largest of its kind in the world; the Butterfly House and the wild garden. Admission costs £20 for an adult and £12 for students and seniors. Open daily until dusk.
Close to London's financial heart but removed from the city's bustle, Greenwich Park is at once a haven of peace and quiet and a demonstration of just how historic London's oldest park was once a royal hunting ground. In fact, many of its most well-known landmarks, such as the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory, can be found just inside its gates. The park is divided into six main areas: Greenwich, Old Royal Naval College, Royal Observatory, Military Hospital, Church End and West and East Suspensions. The highlight for many visitors is to visit the College and see the crown jewels of the palace before taking the Royal Mile to see St. Paul's Cathedral and the Tate Modern. A Victorian real tennis court is the place to learn to play and a nearby equestrian centre offers a choice of horse riding, equestrian tuition, horse shows and equine hospital care. In the northeast of the park there is a children's playground, while there's also a duck pond near the pier.
Hampton Court Palace
Built between 1530 and 1540 as the main residence of the Tudor monarchs, this magnificent palace is in the leafy southeast of London, about two and a half miles east of central London. It offers three-story Tudor galleries, with a collection of art and artefacts covering eight centuries, including spectacular ceiling-high murals. Among other royal treasures are the replica of Queen Mary I's richly embroidered crown and the collection of medieval armour that once belonged to Edward III. Hampton Court Palace is reached by using regular bus services, trams and a limited number of cabs. As the palace is in the inner reaches of London, visitors will need to park on the King's Road and walk about 0.75 miles to reach the palace.
More than one million people a year visit the fine collection of over 10,000 artworks at the art gallery at Windsor Castle, making it one of the most visited and trafficked art galleries in the world. The magnificent royal town of Windsor Castle, seat of England's monarchy, houses the Queen's collection of art, including more than 30,000 works by Rubens, paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, a magnificent collection of tapestries, and works by Picasso and Van Gogh. There are just a few attractions in Windsor Castle itself, but the castle's magnificent church and castle's other structures can all be explored. The excellent Victoria & Albert Museum houses the vast collection amassed by Prince Consort Albert, which includes paintings by Leonardo, Gainsborough, Monet, and Rembrandt. The excellent collection of historical photographs is displayed at the Royal Photographic Society in Oxford St., London, and in a gallery dedicated to Victoria and Albert at the Museum of Childhood in Brighton. There's even a planned museum and concert hall built on Windsor Great Park, designed by Foster and Partners, who also designed the Olympic Park.
In 1953, visitors to London Bridge, one of the most loved and charming London attractions, were not permitted to cross the bridge over the River Thames. London Bridge is one of four remaining London bridges that cross the river and in 1984, the bridge began letting passengers stroll the short stretch of street that forms the bridge and look out across the river at the ancient buildings on the bridge. Today, this stunning feature of the London skyline is now open to the public. The first London Bridge was built in 1209 and a new one was built around the same time. This was the first major bridge built over the River Thames in England. The bridge is made of a series of triangular panels that rest on arches of granite and brick, and includes shops, restaurants and other businesses. It also contains housing, the Sir Christopher Wren House, a memorial to Christopher Wren, the famous 16th-century English architect, and a chapel. A number of people have been executed at London Bridge since the Middle Ages and it was used as the location for some scenes in the 1968 movie, Ben-Hur.
Green Park is one of the world's most famous parks, thanks to its rich association with past and present royal history. Its proximity to Buckingham Palace makes it a favorite of both tourists and celebrities. There are several splendid pavilions, museums and the Queen's Gallery of British Art here. The Royal Military College, The Army School of Musketry and Queen's Huntingdon House are some of the notable attractions. Green Park hosts the equestrian events of the Royal Agricultural Show every year. The park is close to St. James Park (famous for its lavish rosy pelargoniums) and the north end of the district of Bloomsbury.
In 2007, Londoners were surprised to see a covered replica of Shakespeare's Globe re-erected on the Bankside where the 16th century original had stood. Although the £17 million building was an ambitious attempt to replicate the historic playhouse, some critics complained that the original design had been a more comfortable and pleasurable place to perform, complete with a tented stage and giant oak-framed, movable galleries that could be lowered for performances beneath the sun. The theatre's architecture and design give visitors an idea of what it was like in the early modern period, when Shakespeare was most active, but performances of new plays written in the present are among the venue's attractions. They are performed in the original language and are usually held at lunchtime, between 12 and 2 p.m., so as to give theatre-goers a chance to experience Shakespeare's plays in the days when they were first presented. Visitors are also given maps that help them to identify the actors and other performers playing the parts.