London is absolutely jam-packed with interesting things to see and wonderful things to do, but there are some attractions that you simply cannot miss off your list the first time you visit this iconic city.
Here’s a list of 7 Things in London not to miss
Whether your idea of a holiday consists of seeing every sight on the tourist map, or you much prefer to find your culture through a destination’s nightlife and foodie scene, this list will show you the big seven attractions that can define any trip to the capital.
Also read 13 Things Not to do in London
So, make sure your Oyster card is topped up, download Google Maps, and get ready to see the biggest sights that the fair city of London has to offer.
1. Buckingham Place and the Changing of the Guard
It is actually illegal to visit London without going to see the Queen’s house. Well, it isn’t, but it should be.
Buckingham palace should come top of any list of London attractions simply because so much of the city’s history, royal and otherwise, emanates from this very spot.
Surrounded by the verdant expanse of St James’s Park, you can walk down the famous Mall with the grand palace growing ever nearer. As you approach Her Majesty’s abode, stroll around the impeccable grounds and appreciate how magnificently the British Royal Family live.
Next, you’ll want to witness the fantastically over-the-top pageantry of the changing of the guard in the palace’s courtyard. Led by a marching band, the new troops march in, decked out in all their finery, to take their watch over the royals in splendid fashion. For anyone not from the UK, this is a curious scene indeed and one that draws thousands to London every year.
The official start time for this event is 11.30am and it lasts for half an hour – it usually takes part every other day on odd dates. Nearby tube stations include St James’s Park and Hyde Park Corner.
2. Trafalgar Square
One of the most iconic public spaces in the world, Trafalgar Square attracts thousands every year for selfies with lions and a chance to see the impressive Nelson’s Column.
There’s always something going on in the square and festivals, and events are held here regularly. Big events such as St Patrick’s Day and Eid are celebrated with some gusto, but other, smaller festivities are also common.
In the off chance there’s nothing on, you can enjoy the dramatic surroundings of the square and check out the Fourth Plinth; a place where incredible contemporary art is displayed for all to see.
Right next to Trafalgar Square you’ll find two of the city’s best museums: The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. While the former houses one of the most comprehensive and incredible collections of fine art in the world, the latter is famous for the incredible likenesses you will find here.
Charing Cross is the closest station to the square. As soon as you emerge from the Underground, you’ll see it right in front of you.
3. Big Ben and Westminster Palace
You’ve seen it so many times on the news that you’ll probably think that Big Ben is nothing new – you could not be more wrong.
Seeing the magnificent architecture of the clock tower, looming over the Thames like an ornate sentinel, is a completely different experience in person. Surrounded by the magnificence of Westminster Palace, you will likely be surprised at just how big and imposing the building is.
You may just stand and stare at the place where the UK’s laws are drafted and decided, or you may wish to take a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. Whatever you do, you need to see this splendid feature of London during your trip .
The closest tube station is Westminster. From here, you can walk directly to Big Ben and the other attractions in Westminster.
4. The Southbank
This is cheating a little bit because the Southbank is full of incredible attractions, not just one.
A walk along South Bank of river Themes will take you past some of the most iconic buildings in the capital, and it also gives you a chance to stop off at a few as well.
You could start your day at Big Ben and walk all the way onto Borough Market (a jaunt that takes no more than 45 minutes) for a few well earned drinks.
If you stop at any though, make it the Tate; a wonderful museum filled with contemporary and modern art.
Once you get to Borough Market, you can weave your way through the throngs of people, each shopping for fresh produce, unique crafts and delicious food in a true Victorian setting. Grab yourself a hot cider and enjoy the busy atmosphere.
5. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
The two expanses of green combine to make one of London’s largest and grandest open areas, and they are wonderful attractions in their own right.
Dissected elegantly by the calm water of the Serpentine, Hyde Park is a fantastic place to spend the afternoon discovering the many different monuments that are situated here. If the weather is particularly fine, why not take a boat out on the lake and enjoy an ice cream?
Explore Hyde Park in London
You can then head over to Kensington Gardens, where you have a number of options. You could take a tour of the palace itself, which hosts a number of exhibitions and is the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visit the Serpentine Gallery or just wander aimlessly through the meticulously kept grounds themselves.
If you happen to be staying in a Notting Hill Hotel then you are perfectly placed to see this wonderful attraction, as it’s just a stone’s throw away from the area.
From further afield, you can get the tube to either Lancaster Gate, Queensway, Knightsbridge, Marble Arch or Hyde Park corner, all of which are situated around the park’s perimeter.
6. Tower Bridge and the Tower of London
These two imperious London landmarks are easily combined and should not be left off any itinerary.
Take the tube to Tower Hill station via the District or Circle Lines and you are within walking distance of both. Firstly, you will want to head to the Tower of London, which holds many dark secrets of the city’s feudal past.
Plenty of people have met their grisly demise as prisoners of the tower and you can learn their story on a tour of the castle.
After you’ve had your fill of gore, you can walk across the Tower Bridge and even ascend it. The views across the Thames are quite spectacular, but it’s the views straight down through the new glass floors that might leave the biggest impression of you – not one for those with a fear of heights!
7. The West End
Visiting London without taking in a show is close to sacrilege, so you must make the effort to go to the West End at one point during your stay.
The very heart of the area is Piccadilly Circus, and moving back from here you will find the many venues that make up London’s theatre land. Covent Garden and Soho are two wonderful parts of the West End, where you will find atmosphere and character aplenty.
There’s theatre to accommodate everyone, whether you are after contemporary dance, a classic musical or a well-known production, you can’t go far wrong in this part of town.