London has endless sights to visit and varying opinions on which places are worth it and which are skippable! Here’s the #1 Top Sights list of places that are must-sees when visiting the English Capital.
Buckingham Palace & Changing of the Guard
Buckingham Palace opens up its Sèvres-china-stuffed, gold-leaf-adorned State Rooms to the public from July to October each year. Expect priceless Rubens paintings, a piano Queen Victoria played, 350 clocks and even the odd secret door. Get a ticket that includes access to the Royal Mews, where the coach that has been used for every coronation since George IV in 1820 is on display. That said, many visitors are happy to settle for watching the Changing of the Guard outside the palace, a free event which typically happens four days a week at 11am (check exact timings in advance).
The View from the Shard
What is it?In 2012, Italian architect Renzo Piano transformed London’s skyline with a strange but striking structure that’s now the capital’s tallest tower. Reaching 244 metres from the ground, The Shard was built with everything in mind: offices, homes, hotels, bars, restaurants and, of course, the alluring viewing platform. From the highest point the public are allowed access (floors 69-72) you get stunning 360° views of the city. There’s also a weekly silent disco up there on Saturday nights.
From prison to palace, treasure vault to private zoo, the magnificent Tower of London has fulfilled many different roles down the centuries. One of Britain’s most iconic structures, this spectacular World Heritage Site offers hours of fascination for visitors curious about the country’s rich history – after all, so much of it happened here. Inside the massive White Tower, built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, is the 17th-century Line of Kings with its remarkable displays of royal armaments and armor. Other highlights include the famous Crown Jewels exhibition, the Beefeaters, the Royal Mint, and gruesome exhibits about the executions that took place on the grounds. The adjacent Tower Bridge, its two huge towers rising 200 feet above the River Thames, is one of London’s best-known landmarks.
If you’re looking for places to visit in London with your family London Zoo is one of the most popular attractions for a day out with the kids. With over 12,000 wild animals – gorillas, tigers and meerkats to name a few – London Zoo is the world’s oldest historic zoo and is dedicated to preserving all manner of wildlife and species. There are a range of exhibits from Into Africa and Butterfly Paradise where you can discover some of the world’s most unusual animals – the kids will love it!
One of the most famous churches in the world, with 1,000 years of history. This is where William the Conqueror and Queen Elizabeth II were crowned and William and Kate exchanged vows. The Gothic edifice, all echoey cloisters, mosaic-encrusted chambers and martyrs carved into the stonework, hosted the funeral of Princess Diana and is the burial ground of everyone from Geoffrey Chaucer to Oliver Cromwell.
Insider tip: It gets exceptionally crowded so arrive before 10am. Quieter corners to seek out are the extraordinary 13th-century octagonal Chapter House with the oldest door in London and rare medieval sculptures, and the Pyx Chamber, which used to be a royal treasury and has an altar that predates the Reformation.
Royal Botanical Kew Gardens
when the sun is out, a trip out to the Royal Botanical Kew Gardens is worth it! Walk around the 121 hectares of exotic oases in the quiet and rural West London which provides a relaxing break from the bustle of the inner city. Climb up the Treetop Walk and through the Nature Trails and Rose Gardens and you’ll see why Kew Gardens is considered one of the top places to visit in London.
The British Museum
Displaying one of the world’s finest collections of antiquities, the British Museum contains more than 13 million artifacts from the ancient world. With priceless objects from Assyria, Babylonia,China,Europe, and elsewhere, it’s hard to know where to begin. But most tourists head first for the museum’s most famous exhibits: the controversial Elgin Marblesfrom the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, the colossal bust of Ramesses II, the Egyptian mummies, and the spectacular hoard of 4th-century Roman silver known as the Mildenhall Treasure.
London’s newest attraction, the ArcelorMittal Orbit, has now become one of the most iconic places to visit for both its curious structure and its views over London. With two observation platforms, visitors can overlook the Olympic Park, which hosted the 2012 Olympic Games, and enjoy a panorama over East London and the City. In the summer the Orbit even hosts a bar so you can catch the sunset with a drink; one of the best ways to spend a long warm evening.
Nothing says “London” more emphatically than the 318-foot tower housing the giant clock and its resounding bell known as Big Ben. It’s as iconic a landmark as Tower Bridge. The tolling of Big Ben is known throughout the world as the time signal of BBC radio. Below it, stretching along the Thames, are the Houses of Parliament, seat of Britain’s government for many centuries and once the site of the royal Westminster Palace occupied by William the Conqueror. Tours of the parliament buildings offer a unique chance to see real-time debates and lively political discussions. From Parliament Square, Whitehall is lined by so many government buildings that its name has become synonymous with the British government.
Visit Kensington Palace
This palace was once home to the late Princess Diana of Wales but is now the stylish royal residence of the new Duke and Duchess of Cornwall (Royal Family). The picture-perfect palace estate provides avenues to learn about her Majesty the Queen and her monarch’s beautiful exhibitions. You can explore the history of royal weddings and the extraordinary lives of royal leaders such as Queen Victoria. Royalty speaks at every point in this palace and visitors can have high tea around the corner at The Orangery.
Ranking among the top art museums in the world, London’s National Gallery represents an almost complete survey of European painting from 1260 until 1920. The museum’s greatest strengths are in its collections of Dutch Masters and Italian Schools of the 15th and 16th centuries. Among its highlights are a cartoon (preliminary sketch) of the Madonna and Child by Leonardo da Vinci.
Take a ride in the London Eye
The London Eye is a gigantic Ferris wheel located on the south bank of the River Thames. It was completed at the beginning of the 2000s, which is why it bears the nickname The Millennium Wheel. The wheel stands tall at 443 feet and has a diameter of 120 meters. A complete wheel turn takes about 30 minutes and the capsules provide visitors with a stunning 360° view of London. It’s recorded as the world’s tallest Ferris wheel and is a true beauty at night when it comes alive with bright neon colours.