When I was a child my favorite uncle told me so many stories about London, he said: “a bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else”, funny, but true. There is nowhere in the world quite like London. This is not just another capital city, it’s a thriving metropolis with a unique personality formed by its iconic landmarks, centuries of history, world-class shopping and achingly cool fashion, arts and food scenes. You can’t go far in London without stumbling across one of the city’s iconic attractions. A 40-minute walk along the South Bank will take you past the Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge. There are also 8 Royal Parks to explore, and over 300 museums and galleries, many offering free admission. Here are our picks for the 10 essential attractions to round out your visit to London.
Westminster Abbey is a stunning gothic church and UNESCO World Heritage site that sits behind the Houses of Parliament. Every year, the Abbey welcomes over one million visitors who want to explore this wonderful 700-year-old building – the coronation church of England. Audio guides are available in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese or there is the highly-popular verger-led tour. Kings, queens, statesmen and soldiers; poets, priests, heroes and villains – Westminster Abbey is a must-see living pageant of British history, many famous names are part of the rich history of Westminster Abbey. More recently, it was the church where Kate and William were married in 2011.
Trafalgar Square & National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, at the heart of London, is one of the city’s most vibrant open spaces. It is a lively place often used for a wide range of activities including special events and celebrations, St Patrick’s Day, Pride, Eid and Chinese New Year; filming and photography; and rallies and demonstrations. on the north side of the square, you will find the National Gallery that was built in 1838 displays over 2,000 Western European paintings from the middle ages to the 20th century. Discover inspiring art by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Turner, Renoir and Van Gogh. The pictures in the collection belong to the public and admission to see them is free.
The British Museum
Founded in 1753, The British Museum is one of the world’s oldest museums. It is vast and its collections, only a fraction of which can be on public display at any one time, comprise millions of objects. World-famous objects such as the Rosetta Stone, Lindow Man, Parthenon sculptures and Egyptian mummies are visited by up to six million visitors per year. The British Museum is open 7 days a week and the entrance is free.
Piccadilly Circus is a busy square in the heart of London, was built in 1819 with the aim of connecting Regent Street and Piccadilly Street, which was famous for its ample shopping opportunities. It is famous for the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain from the 19th-century and for the impressive display of neon lights and video displays (a miniature version of Times Square).
Tower Bridge was built 120 years ago to ease road traffic while maintaining river access to the busy Pool of London docks. Built with giant moveable roadways that lift up for passing ships, it is to this day considered an engineering marvel and beyond being one of London’s favorite icons, it is arguably one of the most famous and instantly recognizable structures in the entire world. Nowadays London’s Tower Bridge unveils a glass walkway 43 meters (140 ft) above River Thames. (You may also like – 11 Cool Bridges From Around The World)
London’s highest viewing platform at the top of Western Europe’s tallest building, it’s London’s newest landmark. Designed by Master Architect Renzo Piano, the Shard redefines London’s skyline and has become a dynamic symbol of London. At a height of up to 244 meters, the View from The Shard offers spectacular views over London for up to 64 km (40 miles). They are almost twice as high as any other vantage point in the city, and the only place where visitors can see the entire city at once.
During its illustrious 150-year history Harrods has established itself as a world-class luxury shopping destination. 7 floors and 330 departments showcase the best of luxury merchandise, from high-end fashion and accessories to the finest homewares and the latest technology. But Harrods is much more than a department store or a splendid building. Harrods is a British institution, rich in history and romance, shaped by its owners, architects, customers and, above all, its staff. 33 years after it’s opening a Frenchman would invent a “step-less” escalator in 1898 that was used in London’s Harrods store.
Royal Albert Hall
Opened in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall is one of the capital’s most prestigious historic buildings and tourist attractions. It was built to fulfill the vision of Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s consort) of a ‘Central Hall’ that would be used to promote understanding and appreciation of the Arts and Sciences and would stand at the heart of the South Kensington estate, surrounded by museums and places of learning. It has been the scene of over 150,000 performances including the celebrated BBC Proms, classical music, jazz, rock, pop, opera, dance, comedy, circus, tennis, exhibitions, public meetings, scientific conversations and award ceremonies. Till today the Royal Albert Hall is very busy and we highly recommend you to enjoy one of the shows/events it has to offer.
Maybe the Most Famous Ferris Wheel in the world, located on the South Bank of the River Thames in London. On average, the London Eye receives more visitors per year than the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramids of Giza. The 32 capsules on the London Eye are representative of the 32 London boroughs, and each one weighs as much as 1,052,631 pound coins. Despite there only being 32 capsules, for superstitious reasons they are numbered 1–33, for good luck number 13 is left out.
Houses of Parliament & Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower, commonly called Big Ben, are among London’s most iconic landmarks. Technically, Big Ben is the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13 tons. The Big Ben stands at the north end of the Houses of Parliament, was completed in 1859 and the Great Clock started on 31 May, with the Great Bell’s strikes heard for the first time on 11 July and the quarter bells first chimed on 7 September. The clock tower looks spectacular at night when the four clock faces are illuminated. (You may also like – The World’s 10 Most Beautiful Clocks)
The Palace of Westminster, more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament, is right on the River Thames. A magnificent Neo-Gothic building dating from the 1840s, Parliament is made up of two houses: the House of Commons and the House of Lords and both have their meeting chambers here. It is possible to take a tour of the building or watch a debate or question time. Once a year, usually around May, the Queen visits and from her throne in the House of Lords officially opens the new session of Parliament.
Keep calm and go to London.