London… the infamous British city that hundreds – probably thousands – of posts and articles are written about. Yet, like many others, I wanted to write about it myself, as well as my favorite sites to see in London.
Because despite the typical dreary weather, this beautiful city filled with culture, art, a fun atmosphere, and magnificent attractions won me over.
Although, when I first visited London three years ago, I have to say I kind of really hated it.
Like despised the city.
The reason I was visiting London was because it was a short stop on my way to Salzburg, Austria, where I’d be studying abroad for the summer.
Since we were on our way to another destination, and it was a set tour, we had very limited time in London. Thus, we were severely rushed and I think it kinda ruined the whole thing for me. We didn’t get to visit very many London points of interests and I felt a bit stressed out during the trip, which was a huge downer.
Plus, the weather was depressingly shitty… which I know is typical for London.
BUT when I visited again a couple months ago, I had the best weather ever! Cloud-free skies, beaming sun rays, and light jacket temperatures. It was like the city was trying to make up for my last trip!
Whilst I was meandering around the glorious city for a few days, I visited multiple sites around central London and wanted to share the list with you for inspiration!
No doubt, there are hundreds of other articles naming off the many London attractions but, like every other traveler, my experience with London was unique and these are my favorite sites to visit in London. Not only does London offer numerous paid attractions that are super cool, you’ll also find tons of free things to do in London if you’re on a budget!
Table of Contents
- 1 The 20 best attractions and sites to see in London:
- 1.1 1. Buckingham Palace
- 1.2 2. National Gallery
- 1.3 3. Big Ben
- 1.4 4. Millennium Bridge
- 1.5 5. Westminster Abbey
- 1.6 6. Trafalgar Square
- 1.7 7. Palace of Westminster
- 1.8 8. Borough Market
- 1.9 9. St. Paul’s Cathedral
- 1.10 10. Piccadilly Circus
- 1.11 11. London Eye
- 1.12 12. Hyde Park
- 1.13 13. Tower of London
- 1.14 14. St. James’ Park
- 1.15 15. Tower Bridge
- 1.16 16. British Museum
- 1.17 17. Harrod’s
- 1.18 18. Royal Courts of Justice
- 1.19 19. The Shard
- 1.20 20. River Thames
The 20 best attractions and sites to see in London:
1. Buckingham Palace
One of the most recognizable attractions in London, Buckingham Palace is the London residence and headquarters for the monarch of the UK. It has served as the home for the UK sovereign’s since 1837, although it was formally known as Buckingham House before architect John Nash transformed it into Buckingham Palace in the 1820s for George IV.
Within Buckingham Palace walls is 775 rooms and the gardens is the largest private garden in London. Each summer, the State Rooms, which are used for official and state entertaining, are open to the public for viewing.
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2. National Gallery
The National Gallery is an art museum located in Trafalgar Square. It houses one of the greatest collection of paintings in the world; over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. As one of the most visited art museums in the world, the National Gallery is something spectacular.
But that’s not the best part… the museum is free to enter 361 days out of the year! So, if you’re on a budget, this is one of those cheap sites to see in London.
3. Big Ben
Another one of those undeniably iconic sites to see in London, Big Ben is at the top of most “what to in London” lists! And rightfully so, as it’s remarkable.
Also known as Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock located at the north part of the Palace of Westminster. Although, the dubbed name usually extends to both the clock and the tower, not just the bell.
As one of the most famous London landmarks, Big Ben should definitely be at the top of your list of places to see in London. But fame and popularity is not all this landmark has to offer, there are also some cool, random facts about it.
For example, did you know Big Ben has nearly never stopped? Even after a bomb debilitated the Commons chamber during WWII, the clock tower survived and Big Ben continued to let the people know what time it was.
Also, Big Ben’s timekeeping is regulated by a stack of coins put down on the huge pendulum. How cool, right?!
4. Millennium Bridge
While it’s known as the Millennium London Footbridge, this magnificent piece of architecture has been nicknamed simply the Millennium Bridge.
No doubt, this steel suspension bridge is the most striking out of the bridges crossing the River Thames. With its strong steel bands and comprehensive, yet simplistic design, the Millennium Bridge is breathtaking.
But that’s not all… The Millennium Bridge is one of the more nerdier sites to see in London. Harry Potter fans might recognize this particular bridge from the series, as it was featured in the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
The bridge is also dubbed as the “Wobbly Bridge” by Londoners, as pedestrians crossing the bridge can feel it occasionally swaying in the wind.
5. Westminster Abbey
With a history going back over a thousand years and the setting for every coronations since 1066, Westminster Abbey is one of the world’s most famous churches and should be near the top of everyone’s list of places to visit in London.
A treasured attraction filled with breathtaking stained glass windows, beautiful paintings, and a magnificent interior, this place is also the final resting home to 17 monarchs.
Though, that’s not all who lay here. There are more than 3,300 people buried here, many who played a significant part in the nation’s history, like Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton Sr., and Charles Darwin.
6. Trafalgar Square
One of London’s most vibrant public areas in the middle of the city, Trafalgar Square is a beautiful and relaxing place to just chill out after exploring the other attractions in London. Built around what was formally known as Charring Cross, Trafalgar Square is surrounded by beautiful architecture and holds magical fountains.
7. Palace of Westminster
Also known as the House of Parliament, the Palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, United Kingdom’s two houses of Parliament.
It’s also one of the most recognizable buildings in the world and with a history that spans over 900 years, dating back to the Anglo-Saxons time, this palace is much more than just beautifully architected.
Now known as UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace is a combination of both ancient and modern buildings. During the Great Fire of 1834, most of the previous palace was destroyed. The now present-day building houses a great collection of furnishings, artifacts, and works of art.
Visitors can take a peek inside UK Parliament year round, Monday through Saturday, to attend committee hearings and debates, or to take a tour though this magnificent site in London.
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8. Borough Market
Not a typical London attraction people will visit, the Borough Market is a huge area filled with hundreds of stands selling yummy food options, like vegan meals (including treats!), burgers, falafels, wraps, beer, and more! It’s amazing. Not only that, but it’s one of the largest and oldest markets in London, with the market site dating back to the 12th century!
Visiting the Borough Market is one of the more unusual places to visit in London, as it’s not on many lists. But, it’s no doubt one of my favorite things to do in London because you get to see tons of cool and unique things!
The market is open Monday to Saturday and the full market is open for business Wednesday to Saturday. On Monday and Tuesday, visitors can find hot food stands, and fruit and vegetable stands!
9. St. Paul’s Cathedral
As the second largest cathedral in the world and Northern Europe’s biggest church, St. Paul’s Cathedral is no doubt one of the most spectacular sites to see in London.
An Anglican cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of London, the cathedral took about 35 years to construct; built between 1675 and 1710. St. Paul’s Cathedral predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and it’s reconstruction was the first cathedral to be built after the English Reformation.
When visiting, plan to spend about 1-2 hours exploring what this London attraction has to offer. Doors open at 8:30 am and close at 4:30 pm. On Sundays, the cathedral is only open for worship. Costs to enter St. Paul’s Cathedral is £18 for adults; £16 for students and 60+; and £8 for children.
Learn more about visiting one of the best things to see in London here.
10. Piccadilly Circus
If you need to take a break from exploring London, definitely take a break here. Sit down, relax, take a couple breaths, and watch the world go by at one of the busiest squares in London.
Half a million people pass through this junction each day and most would compare it to a circus, hence the name! It can be a bit nuts here but that’s all part of the fun.
My favorite thing to do here: people watch! Although, don’t be underwhelmed by Piccadilly Circus’ simplicity. Just take a seat in front of the well-known Eros Statue and watch the craziness go by. You’ll be surprised at what you see!
11. London Eye
That giant ferris wheel you see in hundreds of pictures of London? That’ll be the London Eye.
A magnificent ferris wheel situated on the Southern bank of the River Thames. The London Eye is likely one of the most popular sites to see in London, being it’s a fun ride and visitors get a spectacular view of the city from above.
Fun fact: when the London Eye opened in 2000, it was the tallest ferris wheel in the world at 443 feet tall, with a diameter of 394 feet.
The London Eye is open daily from 11 am to 6 pm; sometimes from 10 am to 9:30 depending on the season and day. Standard ticket is £24.30 (if booked online).
12. Hyde Park
Right at the heart of London, you’ll find one it’s most beautiful attractions: Hyde Park. Whether you want to stroll through a beautiful park or sit back, relax, and have a picnic, Hyde Park is the place to do it.
And if it’s the middle of the summer with the sun blazing down, dip your toes in the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial. Or, if you’re brave enough, take a swim in the Serpentine!
13. Tower of London
No doubt about it, the Tower of London is one of my favorite attractions in London. It’s a huge area (castle of sorts) filled with history, dark stories, timeless tales, magnificent jewels, and bone-chilling executions.
There’s nothing boring about this place!
One of the most visited sites in London, the most alluring thing about this place is its history, which is filled with blood. Three young queens died here; Henry VIII beheaded four people here; hundreds said their last words before being executed on Tower Hill; and many others were left to be tortured or die quietly in the prisons below. It’s no wonder this place has ghosts that wander through the grounds (or supposedly so!).
Tip for visiting: make sure to go on the free, one-hour tour with the Yeoman Warder (aka the “Beefeaters”), which leave from the main entrance every 30 minutes.
This London attraction opens 9am to 5.30pm Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5.30pm Sunday and Monday (4.30pm winter). It costs £21.50 online for adults and £9.70 for children age 5-17.
14. St. James’ Park
With breathtaking views of nearby London attractions, like Westminster, Big Ben, the London Eye, and St. Jame’s Palace, St. Jame’s Park is a beautiful area to spend a couple hours taking a break and relaxing.
At just 23 hectares, St. Jame’s Park is the second smallest of eight parks in the central London area, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in stunning greenery, beautiful manicures lawns, a crystal clear lake, and spectacular wildlife.
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15. Tower Bridge
When you visit London, this is another one of those infamous sites to see in the city. Built between 1886 and 1894, Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge which crosses the River Thames.
No doubt, visiting Tower Bridge is one of those London must-do experiences!
If you’re looking to visit this iconic London attraction, you’ll learn all about the history of the bridge’s creation and how it works. You’ll also get panoramic views of the city, as well as an unusual view, as there’s now a glass floor exhibit where you’ll see London below your feet!
Learn more about visiting Tower Bridge here.
16. British Museum
Housing a vast collection of art pieces and thousands of artifacts, the British Museum is a great place to spend an afternoon.
One of the best free things to do in London, the British Museum is free to enter and has a permanent collection of about 8 million pieces, making it one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world.
Learn more about what the British Museum has to offer and what special exhibitions is has going on here.
Note: The picture above is not the British Museum, but St. Paul’s Cathedral. Though, the British Museum building is just as breathtaking 😉
Harrod’s is a world-class department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London. While you may not think of visiting a department store whilst exploring around London, I beg you to reconsider… as Harrod’s is most definitely one-of-a-kind.
For more than 160 years, Harrod’s has continued to attract and intrigue people from around the world. With 7 floors and 330 departments striving to provide the highest quality fashion, food, homeware, and technology, Harrod’s no doubt has something for everyone (especially those with deep pockets!).
While I didn’t purchase anything here, as my pockets are quite shallow, Harrod’s is one of those remarkable sites to see in London that’ll have you awe-ing.
Learn more about the department store here.
18. Royal Courts of Justice
Commonly called just simply the “Law Courts,” the Royal Courts of Justice is the building in London where the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales are. But that’s not why this is on the list…
The Royal Courts of Justice is a magical and enchanting building on London’s Fleet Street. With soaring arches and breathtaking stained glass windows, this magnificent architectural beauty of a building is quite a site to behold.
And, since it’s not on the list of many, it’s another unusual thing to do in London! In my humble opinion, one of London’s must-see attractions.
Not just because it looks like and reminds me of Hogwarts… well, maybe. 😉 In any case, it’s definitely something to admire!
19. The Shard
A glass shard cutting through the clouds, you say? Oh no no, that’s just one of the most recognizable and remarkable skyscrapers in the world.
At 95 stories, the Shard is the UK’s tallest building. Thus, the view from the Shard is absolutely spectacular! It’s one of the best things to do in London but definitely not the cheapest, at £25.95 per adult. If you’re on a budget and looking for some free things to do in London, this isn’t likely going to be on your to-do list.
But if you can wiggle out some spare change – alright, more than some spare change – from your wallet, taking in London from the Shard will be unforgettable!
20. River Thames
If you’ve been strolling through London for hours on end and need a little break, consider taking one somewhere that has a view of River Thames.
Flowing right through the middle of central London, it’s easy to find a seat along the banks and have a spectacular view of the surrounding area. Like this beautiful view of the Parliament building!
Additionally, many different tour groups and organizations offer boat cruises along the River Thames. It’s a wonderful way to sight see and take in the best London attractions from the water.
So… if you’ve made it this far – kudos! That was quite the read. When I suggest sites to see in a city, like London, I love to include some of the history behind each attraction.
Thus, for 20 sites to see in London, this post got quite long. But I did include the word “comprehensive” in my title 😉. And if I do say so myself, it’s very comprehensive.
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