No matter how many times we’ve visited London, our hearts do a little pitter-patter upon every arrival in the UK’s vibrant capital city. We also still enjoy experiencing London’s most popular attractions!
London is a place like no other. It’s a city of contrasts – a cradle for pomp, properness and pageantry, but also as a trendsetter in the world of fashion, music, art, and culture. The list of things to do here is endless.
First-timers, or those who haven’t been back to the city in years, should be certain to visit some of London’s most popular. They are iconic, fun, and unforgettable!
We just happen to have a recommendation on one of the best and most cost-effective ways to see these sites and many more: The London Pass. This smart card entitles the holder to access over 90 popular attractions throughout the city and its environs from 1 to 10-day options.
London Popular Attractions
The official residence of the monarch of the United Kingdom, Buckingham Palace is also the setting for state occasions and royal hospitality.
Visitors are always welcome to peer through the gates and watch the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony. However, for 10 weeks each summer and selected dates throughout spring and winter, visitors can explore its magnificent State Rooms on an expert guided tour. The experience lasts around 90 minutes and reservations are mandatory. The palace’s gilded ceilings, glittering chandeliers, and historic treasures are absolutely stunning.
This massive English Gothic cathedral, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, has hosted almost every British coronation since 1066. It was also where the current Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and Cambridge (William and Kate) were married. This historic venue was also the home to the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Henry VII Chapel built in 1503 is one of the most beautiful in Europe, and the Poet’s Corner has tombs and monuments for Chaucer, Tennyson, Browning, and others. You simply can’t be in London and not see this awe-inspiring cathedral.
Tower of London
Deemed one of the world’s most famous fortresses, the Tower of London was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror. It has served as a royal palace, notorious prison, armory, and even a zoo.
The tower is most known for its collection of the Crown Jewels including the 530-carat Star of Africa diamond and Queen Victoria’s jewel-studded crown. But it also has a dark and macabre side. Execution Row is aptly named due to its executions – mainly those of royal blood and political traitors. Probably the most famous of these is Anne Boleyn, the first of Henry VIII’s wives to be executed.
Located close to the Tower of London, this massive suspension bridge is also affectionately known as the Peter Pan bridge (if you’ve seen the movie you’ll know why). As a highly recognizable landmark, its span reaches 800-feet and is freely accessible to both motorists and pedestrians. And here’s the fun part. Visitors can explore the underground tombs here and even brave the haunting tales of London’s notorious past at the London Tower Bridge Experience.
Among London’s most popular attractions, this has been rated the scariest. It features an interactive experience with real-life actors and animation. But even if being scared isn’t really your thing, don’t miss visiting the Tower Bridge with its high-level walkways, stunning panoramic views and clear glass floor.
Natural History Museum
This is honestly one of the best museums in the world, and better yet, it’s one of the free London popular attractions.
London’s Natural History Museum is home to life and Earth specimens comprising some 80 million items representing botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology, and zoology. It’s also famous for its exhibition of massive dinosaur skeletons and incredibly ornate indoor and outdoor Victorian architecture.
And while in the area, be sure to catch two other nearby museums located on Exhibition Road – Victoria and Albert, sporting the world’s largest decorative arts collection and the Science Museum showcasing the extensive history of the Western world through science, medicine, and technology. And like the Natural History Museum, tickets are complimentary, though reservations are required for all three museums.
As one of the highest vantage points in London, the London Eye (or Millennium Wheel) is Europe’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel that provides stunning 360-degree vistas of the River Thames and the city skyline of London.
32 glass capsules representing London’s 32 boroughs slowly rotate on this massive Ferris wheel allowing riders 30-minute daytime, sunset, and nighttime views of this glorious city.
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
Visitors to London are allowed to attend debates, watch committee hearings, and take a guided tour inside the Houses of Parliament, where the UK’s supreme legislative body resides. The imposing building alone is so incredibly ornate, perched on the shores of the picturesque River Thames.
The iconic Big Ben forms part of the Houses of Parliament. Though only UK residents are allowed to tour inside the world’s most famous clock, visitors should stroll past and photograph one of the most Instagrammed landmarks on the planet. When the bells of this towering timepiece toll each 15 minutes, they can be heard for over five miles away.
West End Theatre District
Catching a play in London’s West End theatre district is as mandatory as attending a Broadway production in New York City. Don’t say you’ve come to London and didn’t see a play!
We have seen several here (CATS, Le Misérables), and most recently, Hamilton. There’s something special about lively Leicester Square where many of these theatres are concentrated. And the theatres themselves are absolute architectural masterpieces.
Though it may not be easy snagging discount tickets for new-released or the most popular top-end productions, visitors can head to the official discount TKTS booth in Leicester Square for same-day deals. And don’t forget to dine at one of the many restaurants that offer special menus for theatre goers.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the English Baroque style after the Great Fire of London in 1666, St. Paul’s Cathedral with its massive world-famous dome is a city icon. The church was the site of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding in 1981 and the funerals of the Duke of Wellington and former prime ministers Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher.
Admission fees cover the entrance to the crypt (not to be missed) and the circular Whispering Gallery with its stunningly impressive acoustics. Entrance also includes the Golden Gallery which features a 152-step climb to the top of the cathedral offering almost indescribable views.
Visit a London Pub
No, it’s not necessarily an attraction, but it certainly should be a tradition. We would be totally remiss if we did not recommend a pub visit during a trip to London. If you haven’t had a plate of true-blue English fish and chips or bangers and mash along with a pint, well, then, you haven’t really experienced London.
The pub is a longstanding British institution and some 3,500 of these line the capital’s streets varying from centuries-old watering holes to more modern gastropubs. We’ve been fortunate relying on the word of locals as to their favorite neighborhood pubs. But when you ask, be sure to make it clear you’re looking for something authentic and ‘non-touristy.’ If you’re staying in one of our recommended cottage properties, chances are the owners will have their favorites to share as well.
Of all the London popular attractions, this is the one which has been exported to the rest of the world, but nothing beats the real thing.destinationhistoricLondonmuseumUnited Kingdom