Top 15 Things To Do in London

London is absolutely packed of things to do and places to see and it may not be possible to get round to everything. 

So, let’s take a look at the top 15 must-sees in the city. 

1

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the official London home of Queen Elizabeth II and has been the home of previous kings and queens since 1857. The building is found at the end of Pall Mall, a long street leading up to the palace. When royalty first moved in, it had many problems, ventilation being one of them but Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, decided to do something about this and work was done and extensions were added during her reign.

During the second world war, the Palace was struck by bombs several times with the most destruction being in 1940 of the chapel.

The Government of the United Kingdom is responsible for maintaining the palace in exchange for the profits made by the Crown Estate. The Palace is occasionally open for the public to view many of its sumptuous rooms and artwork. 

Free to watch is the changing of the guard which takes place at the front of the Palace on certain days from 10.45am onwards.  The Queen’s new Guards, wearing red tunics and bearskin hats, take over in a formal ceremony with music from the old guards and they’re very popular to watch.

When the queen is in residence the royal standard (flag) flies over the palace but this is only one of a few homes she lives in.

2

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London and is an historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames. As well as being used as a prison, it has also served as a royal residence and now famously homes the crown jewels. 

The resident governor is in charge of the yeoman warders, or “beefeaters,” as they are commonly called. They still wear a Tudor uniform and live within the Tower and are responsible for the public tours of the Towers. Black Ravens with clipped wings are kept on the grounds by the yeoman ravenmaster which is a tradition dating back to King Charles II.  It is said that if the ravens leave the Tower, the fortification and the state would fall.

After the damage caused during the blitz was repaired, it was reopened to the public and is one of the most popular tourist attractions now as well as a UNESCO world heritage site.

3

The London Eye

The London Eye was originally named the Millennium Wheel as it was erected in 2000 on the South Bank of the River Thames. This huge ferris wheel, with a height of 135m, provides tourists with a view of London.  The 32 capsules, holding up to 25 people, represent the 32 boroughs of London and it takes 30 minutes to rotate. They are numbered 1 to 33 but number 13 is excluded for superstitious reasons.

In March 2020, on its 20 year anniversary, several of the pods were turned into experiences of London, such as a pub, a west end theatre and a garden party.

Next to the London Eye you can find the aquarium, which opened in 1997 and holds a large collection of sea life creatures.

4

Westminster Abbey

This large gothic church was originally called Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster and is found in the centre of London in the City of Westminster. It is probably the UK’s most well-known religious building, founded in 960.

Westminster Abbey has traditionally hosted the coronations of kings and queens of England and Britain as well as many royal weddings and is the burial site of British monarchs, prime ministers, poets and other chosen heroes. It still holds religious services for the Church of England, although it was originally Catholic until the monastery was dissolved in 1539.

5

Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster is the home of the Houses of Parliament, serving as a meeting place for the House of Commons and House of Lords which is the symbolic centre of political power. Found on the north bank of the River Thames, it lies centrally in the City of Westminster and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  There are over 1000 rooms including Westminster Hall, the Jewel Tower, the cloisters and the crypt of St Stephen’s Chapel and, most famously, the Elizabeth Tower where Big Ben is found.

6

Big Ben

Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell found in the north end of the Palace of Westminster but is also used to refer to the Clock and the Clock Tower. The Clock Tower was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. 

Big Ben is the largest of 5 bells and chimes on the hour after which the other four bells chime at 15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour.

In August 2017 the tower stopped operating to undergo repairs and improvements and is expected to reopen soon this year.

7

Shopping Area

London has an array of shops including boutique, markets and top designers. Oxford Street is where you will find the high street chains and other landmark stores including Selfridges. Some of the UK’s most famous shops can be found on Regent’s Street such as Hamleys, a kids favourite, and Liberty of London, which has its own fabric line and luxury homeware and fashion.

For more alternative fashion visit Camden Market and pick up more unusual souvenirs.  London has it all from flower markets to huge indoor shopping centres … or you could enjoy a stroll along the long shop-lined streets for a bit of window shopping.

8

Harrods

Harrods is a large department store that was founded in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod on Brompton Road, Knightsbridge and is currently owned by The Qatar Investment Authority.

Today you can find over 5000 brands of luxurious goods in fashion, beauty, jewellery, furniture, food and accessories.  The Food Hall is set on the ground floor in a grade II listed room where food, wine and other bespoke culinary treats can be found.  There are many restaurants located throughout Harrods and a memento of your visit can be purchased from the souvenir shop.

9

Covent Garden

Covent Garden, originally a fruit and vegetable market, is now a popular and vibrant place to meet friends to shop, eat and drink. Filled with street performers, theatres, independent shops and restaurants, it is a fashionable place to go and offers cover on those not so dry days.  

Covent Garden is also home to The Royal Opera House and Royal Ballet for a more cultural trip.

10

The Shard

This tall glass skyscraper, named because of its jagged peak, homes many restaurants and offices, a hotel, private residences and a viewing area. Designed by an Italian architect, Renzo Piano, it can be found in Southwark replacing the Southwark Towers and was completed in 2013.

The Shard, Western Europe’s tallest building, led the countdown to 2022 in the UK, lighting up the sky. The viewing platform, by far the highest in London, offers 360º views of up to 40 miles (on a good day)! Today it dominates the skyline of London.

11

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral, with its famous dome, was the masterpiece of Sir Christopher Wren, who is buried in the crypt with other famous figures such as artists, Constable, Turner and Reynolds, as well as national heroes, the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.

It was rebuilt around 1675 to 1710 following its destruction by the Great Fire of London in 1666. It has one of the highest cathedral domes in the world and is built on the highest point of the City of London.  

As well as being the location of funerals for important figures, it was famously where Prince Charles and Princess Diana were married.

Its many steps lead to historical areas, such as the Whispering Gallery, where the slightest whisper can be heard all over the cathedral. The Stone and Golden Galleries offer views of London and there are several other chapels found within the Cathedral itself.

12

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar square is one of the busiest places in central London surrounded by theatres, museums, galleries, cafés and many historical buildings and shops.

In 1843, Nelson’s Column was put up and bronze lions sit at the base on guard. Now, the square is a place of protest and national democracy but can also be seen in many films and photo shoots and hosts cultural events too.

As well as statues and fountains, the smallest police box can be found, where a telephone was installed to call for assistance, but now this is used as storage.

Trafalgar Square is now linked to the National Gallery, an art museum with paintings dating back from the mid-13th century and regularly hosts free exhibitions. 

13

London Museums

London has an array of museums and galleries showing collections from old to modern life and historic to cartoon.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1857, now located on Brompton Road holds collections of ceramics, costumes, jewellery, silver, glass and many other antiquities.  It owns the largest collection of post-classical sculptures and is free to view.

The British Museum, National History Museum, Imperial War Museum, Science Museum, Design Museum and London Transport Museum are also well worth a visit and are, on the most part, free.

London has an array of museums and galleries showing collections from old to modern life and historic to cartoon.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1857, now located on Brompton Road holds collections of ceramics, costumes, jewellery, silver, glass and many other antiquities.  It owns the largest collection of post-classical sculptures and is free to view.

The British Museum, National History Museum, Imperial War Museum, Science Museum, Design Museum and London Transport Museum are also well worth a visit and are, on the most part, free.

14

Madame Tussauds

Founded by Marie Tussaud in 1835, this museum displays waxworks of famous people and historical figures from from all over the world.  It allows the public to get close to their heroes (or not) to take photos of these life-like sculptures and the museum is not only found in the UK but in many other countries. You can find yourself standing next to Nelson Mandela, Captain America, David Beckham or Elvis Presley.

15

London's Parks

There are many parks or green spaces in and around London of which 8 of them are Royal Parks: Hyde, St James’s, Regent’s, The Green, Richmond, Greenwich, Kensington Gardens and Bushy.

Hyde Park is probably the most famous of them all and hosts concerts, leisure activities such as horse riding, jogging and tennis and a Winter Wonderland over the festive period but it offers plenty of places of tranquility too. On a Sunday you can listen to people share their views at Speakers’ Corner and there is a long history of Hyde Park being the site of protests, rallies and marches.

St James’ Park is the oldest and is surrounded by Westminster Palace, St James’sPalace and Buckingham Palace.

The largest of the Royal Parks is Richmond Park and many deer can be seen roaming the 2500 acres.

Regent’s Park has an open air theatre and you can visit London Zoo here.

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