The Ultimate Tourist Guide: 15 Of London’s Must-See Attractions
With all the amazing things the buzzing capital has to offer your sight-seeing checklist could get ridiculously long if you want to see and do everything! Here we’ve whittled down the best, must-see attractions in London so if you’re here for a fleeting visit, a couple of days or you’re a Londoner looking to entertain a visitor from afar we’ll make sure you see the best of the city that never sleeps:
1 – The View from The Shard
There is no greater view of the city than from the iconic Shard with an unparalleled 360-degree view of up to 40 miles across the capital. Designed by master architect Renzo Piano, the Shard truly redefines London’s breathtaking skyline being twice as high as any other vantage point in the city giving unrivalled views, especially on a clear day. If the £25 price tag puts you off you can see the view at a few floors down at one of the fine dining restaurants and take in he city sights with a delicious glass of wine or a gourmet meal.
2 – Warner Bros. Studio Tour
A must visit for Harry Potter fans, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour captures the magic of the blockbuster films in a behind-the-scenes showcase of the sets, costumes, props and secrets of Hogwarts. You can step inside and see the famous Great Hall, explore Dumbledore’s office and explore never seen before treasures, see Harry Potter’s Nimbus 2000 and Hingrid’s motorcycle and learn how some of the most love creatures in the series were brought to life with special effects and animatronics.
3 – Tower Bridge Exhibition
Explore one of London’s most iconic bridges with the Tower Bridge Exhibition, an insight into the history of the bridge and how one of the city’s most well known landmarks came into existence with fascinating and informative exhibition content. See the city from a different angle with the panoramic glass bottomed high-level walkways as well as the historic Victorian Engine Rooms which are home to the beautifully intricate steam engines that once powered the mighty bridge lifts. Built 120 years ago, Tower Bridge is considered an engineering marvel and a must visit for anyone visiting London.
4 – The London Eye
When you think of London you can’t help but picture the London Eye, on of the cities most easily recognizable landmarks and is one of the world’s most biggest observation wheels. On a clear day (especially in Summer!) you can see as far as Windsor Castle which is an astonishing 25 miles away. A sedate ride on the London Eye will show you all the cities main sights in under 30 minutes and each capsules comes complete with an interactive touch screen which informs you about everything you’re looking at. Book tickets in advance for the best value and to beat the queues.
5 – National History Museum
A true treat for the eyes is the stunning National History Museum, home of creepy crawlies, life-sized moving dinosaurs and more artefacts than you can shake a bone at! As soon as you enter the museum you will be greeted by the famous Diplodocus skeleton and a swift left turning will have you in awe at the animatronic T-rex as well as an exhibition on biology which is great for kids along with the hilariously grotesque creepy crawly house. The latest addition to the museum, along with the fascinating Darwin Centre is a human evolution gallery exploring where we come from with never before seen pieces including the first adult Neanderthal cranium every discovered.
6 – Buckingham Palace
You can’t come to London and not visit the Queen so what not better way to take in the views of Britain’s most iconic buildings than to time it with the changing of the guards. Every day at 11.30 the changing of the guards draws in a huge crowd with a colourful and free display of precision marching and and music, you can follow them along to The Mall where they also change at St James’ Palace. Want to know when the Queen is home? Simply look out for the flagpole: if the royal standard is flying both night and day that means she’s home.
7 – Hyde Park
London’s biggest and most beautiful open spaces is the wonderful Hype Park, covering 350 acres of the city including the Serpentine which is a gorgeous man made lake used for paddle boating and even swimming in the summer. The famous Winter Wonderland fun fair and amusement park is housed in Hyde Park during the run up to Christmas and really captures the spirit of the festive season with a cute German market, glorious food and beer stalls and lots of rides and attractions to keep kids young and old entertained.
8 – Churchill’s War Rooms
Something a bit different and definitely one for the history buff is Churchill’s War Rooms, one of London’s most fascinating and evocative sites perfectly preserved from when Prime Minister Winston Churchill led the British military and the defence of the country throughout World War II. The tiny cubicle where Churchill slept will give you a chilling sense of realism of what it was like during those dark days and the improvised studio where he made some of his most famous speeches is also on display.
9 – Hampton Court Palace
Although strictly not in London (roughly a 30 minute train journey from central) Hampton Court is one of Europe’s most famous palaces and is bursting at the seams with history. Dating back to Henry the 8th reign you will see the great halls which are lavishly decorated to reflect their former glory with knowledgeable actors to complete the look. Two of his six wives are also said to haunt the place so don’t get lost in the haunted gallery! The gardens are also beautiful in the summer months with the Tudor tennis court, the chapel and of course kids will love the famous maze.
10 – Camden Market
The home of everything alternative, Camden Market makes a great day out if you really want to explore the raw, gritty side of London they don’t show you in the guide books. Around 200 stalls fight for space in the main bustling Camden Lock market selling everything from food and drink from the four corners of the world to vintage records, clothing, jewellery and everything in between. There’s always music playing and a party vibe so be sure to soak up the atmosphere with a locally brewed craft beer!
11 – Covent Garden
Covent Garden is one of the best places to spend a lazy afternoon exploring the various shops, bars and restaurants along the main square and the famous seven dials. With high-end shops such as Chanel and Dior as well as high street favourites and the famous indoor market there’s something for everyone and once you’ve maxed out your credit cards you can relax with a drink or something to eat as you watch the local street performers. The London Transport Museum, Royal Opera House and various theatres are also very close by making it an excellent lunch or dinner location.
12 – National Gallery
One of the most beautiful and prestigious galleries in London is the exquisite National Gallery is home to more that 2,000 masterpieces from virtually every European school of art. Located just off Trafalgar Square it’s easy to spend an afternoon lost in all the wonderful works of Monet, Giotto, Piero della Francesca and Raphael. The gallery also offers free guided audio tours should you wish to delve deeper into the world of fine art topped off with a visit to the gourmet on-site restaurant, the National Dining Rooms.
13 – Up at the 02
Where else in the world can you climb on a famous landmark and live to tell the tale? Up at the 02 offers a unique experience and breathtaking views over London as you climb over the 02 arena via a walkway suspended 52m above ground level. With a climb guide with the whole way there’s no need to be scared, a dose of ‘urban mountaineering’ will get your heart racing and your selfie hand twitching as the city skyline is literally at your feet. The regular daytime climb is great for families but daredevils can opt for the twilight climb at night and romantics can do a sunset climb and watch the sun set over the capital.
14 – Sky Garden
Want to do something fun but need to watch the pennies? 20 Fenchurch Street is home to the gorgeous Sky Garden, a beautifully landscaped garden in the heart of the city that’s absolutely free to visit and has spectacular 360 degree views of London from the sweetly scented wonderland. Designed to create a different viewpoint on London, Sky Garden offers drinks, dining, beautiful observation decks and an open air terrace of what is London’s highest public garden. Whilst entry is free, spaces are limited and require booking in advance.
15 – Imperial War Museum
The highly informative and interesting Imperial War Museum is a great day out with tanks and jets galore in Central Hall including a Harrier GR9 that was recovered from Afghanistan and a Land Rover that saw action in Iraq (complete with bullet holes). Whilst not for the faint hearted, the museum takes on a darker tone as you ascend the galleries to the Holocaust Exhibition where you can see a detailed replica of the Auschwitz concentration camp and trace the history of anti-Semitism.