Noisy, vibrant and multicultural, London is one of the largest cities in the world with a population of 8 million people. It is a leading global city of culture, fashion, finance, politics and trade and remains one of the most visited city. As one of the world’s top tourist destinations, it’s only appropriate that London is home to an abundance of things to do.
Getting around is easy; the famous London Underground, also known as the Tube, is one of the most extensive subway networks in the world. London is also home to a diverse culture that plays out in the city’s public squares, markets and performing arts. The many public parks are the perfect gathering space for locals and tourists and provide easy access to many of the iconic tourist attractions in London, such as Buckingham Palace.
In this post, we'll cover:
27. Piccadilly Circus
A square filled with bright lights and huge flashing advertisements, Piccadilly Circus, is instantly recognizable. London’s version of Times Square, the major intersection, has long been a prominent part of the city landscape.
A commercial hub in the 17th century, Piccadilly Circus is now at the heart of London’s arts and entertainment district. It’s home to many nightclubs and theaters, none more renowned than the famous Criterion Theatre.
For locals, the Statue of Eros is a popular meeting spot within the circus and provides easy access to boutique shops, museums and the Trocadero Houses.
26. National Portrait Gallery
When the doors first opened at London’s National Portrait Gallery, it became the first gallery of its kind anywhere in the world. The collection, which continues to grow, features portraits of prominent figures in British history.
Next to the National Gallery at St Martin’s Place, the gallery also includes caricatures and sculptures. Some of the most famous portraits found in London include the famous Chandos portrait, which features William Shakespeare.
In addition to the interior experience, there are three busts at the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery. They represent the founders of the gallery, which opened in 1856.
25. Wallace Collection
Speaking of impressive art, one of the best free things to do in London is to explore the Wallace Collection. Located in Manchester Square, the historic townhouse puts on display Sir Richard Wallace’s impressive collection of art. Upon his death, his wife donated the art to Britain, and the gallery opened in 1897.
The pieces date between the 15th and 19th century with a particular focus on French art during the 1700s. The gallery is split into 25 sections and also offers period furniture, amour, and prominent paintings from Old Masters.
24. Portobello Road Market
A world-renowned market in the Notting Hill Region, the Portobello Road Market is open every day of the week. The market itself dates back to the 1500s and continues to be a major part of local life in London.
In the beginning, it was a humble market at the Portobello Farm. The open hayfields and orchards were replaced by a bustling neighborhood in the 19th century. Now, the market is a top spot for second-hand clothes and vintage wear.
As the largest market in the UK, there are over 1000 local vendors. Although it’s open seven days, the best experience is on Saturday, when every stall is open.
23. St. James’s Park
As one of eight royal parks in London, St. James’s Park is one of the most picturesque green spaces in the city. Famously, the park has the iconic backdrops of Buckingham Palace, Whitehall and the Clarence House.
Beyond the renowned buildings, you’ll find a park that is well-manicured with colorful flower beds ready for ceremonial occasions. Rocking up with a blanket and a picnic basket is a popular thing to do at St. James’s Park.
Sit back and relax while enjoying the pelicans that roam the open space. Once a gift from Russia, the pelicans have lived at St James’s Park for almost four centuries.
22. Covent Garden
After the Portobello Road Market, another popular market is found at Covent Garden. The large neighborhood is teeming with vibrant restaurants and boutique stores. While you’ll find street acts and live music along the busy streets of Seven Dials, Neal’s Yard and Central Square.
The Covent Garden Market is the perfect place to pick up a cherished souvenir to remember your travels through London. Other popular attractions within Covent Garden include the London Transport Museum, with the famous double-decker bus, along with the Royal Opera House.
21. Greenwich Park
Overlooking the River Thames, Greenwich Park offers some of the best views in London. The park features an envious collection of 17th century landscaping among pristine modern gardens.
The park has been around for over 500 years with roots that date back to the Roman era. There is a lot for visitors, young and old, to do in the park. From the gorgeous Rose Garden, which blooms spectacularly during the summer months, to the Greenwich Park Playground, where kids can blow off some steam. For lunch, head to the Pavilion Cafe, which was built in 1906.
20. Camden Market
With the diverse neighborhood of Camden, the Camden Market reflects the array of personalities within the district. The eclectic community market has an appropriate collection of vintage clothing stalls, along with local artwork and hand-crafted trinkets.
But it’s the cuisine at the Camden Market that should motivate you to visit. With street eats, international cuisine and one of the best vegan bakeries in London, the market is a culinary treat.
19. Imperial War Museum
With a focus on international conflict from the First World War to the present day, the Imperial War Museum does an amazing job of capturing the life-changing experiences of those who had their lives torn apart by these tragic events.
As a world leading war museum, you can’t help but be touched by the stories on display. The museum was created amid WWI and will challenge how you see the world. With six floors packed with stories of everyday humans, you may ask yourself how you would react if you were living during that period.
18. Tate Britain
What began as the Tate Gallery in the late 19th century has been split into two prominent galleries. Tate Britain and Tate Modern are now on either side of the River Thames, connected by the brilliant Millennium Bridge.
Tate Britain is the most popular, as it houses the original collection of significant British art. The collection is world renowned and offers an incredible experience for anyone, not just lovers of art. Once you have explored Tate Britain, simply walk across the river and do it all again at Tate Modern.
17. Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
As the largest urban park in London, Hyde Park is a top attraction for visitors and locals alike. Since opening in 1635, the park has been a common gathering place for picnics, events, or simply reading under the trees. Hyde Park comes with a man-made lake popular for boating or swimming in the summer.
Kensington Gardens were once a part of the sprawling park, but now feature a separate section of public arts, architecture and beautiful gardens. Highlights include the Serpentine Galleries, historic Kensington Palace and the Albert Memorial.
16. Borough Market
The historic Borough Market is the premier food market in London. After opening in the mid-18th century, the market has not lost traction with Londoners who still flock to the market for fresh produce and culinary excellence.
Where some markets celebrate the past, the Borough Market is all about living in the present. There’s no greater example of this than with the many creative eats on-site along with a focus on sustainability and international cuisine.
Long gone are the days of the market being a place of simple wholesale. The Borough Market also has lively festivals and events to keep things exciting.
15. Natural History Museum
Visitors could easily spend an entire afternoon exploring the vast National History Museum in London. The architectural marvel opened in 1754, with many original exhibits still on display. The world class attraction is a leading research center that houses a wonderful collection covering paleontology, botany and zoology and more.
All up the Natural History Museum is home to around 80 million artifacts from dinosaur skeletons to specimens collected by the one-and-only Charles Darwin. As it’s one of the most visited attractions in London, get an early start to beat the crowds while having more time to explore the impressive museum.
14. Victoria and Albert Museum
Also known simply as the V&A, the Victoria and Albert Museum is a part of the Exhibition Road museum district. Alongside the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, the V&A is well-worth a visit.
The museum has a total of 145 galleries waiting for you to explore. The daunting number will be hard to complete, but it’s worth a shot. On the inside, you’ll discover art and artifacts that cover 5000 years of history. It’s not just artwork either, with period costumes, jewelry, sculptures and prints on display.
Everything is categorized into different geological regions. With so much on offer, choose the area that you like best and explore thoroughly.
13. Warner Bros. Studio London
Touring the Warner Brothers Studios is one of the top things to do in London with kids. The experience will be memorable, especially for fans of Harry Potter who will be able to explore the Wizarding World.
Fans of the books and movies that took the world by storm will be able to explore authentic sets from the films. These include venturing down the iconic Diagon Alley, venturing through the Forbidden Forest, or sitting down in the Great Hall at Hogwarts!
However, nothing beats the chance to charge at the entrance of Platform 9 and 3/4. Here you can see the train where many scenes from the movies were filmed.
12. National Gallery
Alongside the National Portrait Gallery, London’s National Gallery is one of the top art museums on the planet. The art collection on display covers an incredible seven centuries from the 1200s to the 1900s.
But one of the museum’s best features is its impeccable collection of Dutch and Italian work from the 15th and 16th centuries. You can view works from such luminaries as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and van Gogh.
11. Churchill War Rooms
As one of the most interesting historical sites, the Churchill War Rooms offer an unforgettable experience. It’s an eerie experience stepping into the rooms from which Winston Churchill was able to direct Britain’s defense of its homeland during the Second World War.
It’s impressive to think that it all went down in such close quarters. Churchill presented several renowned speeches from the makeshift radio studio and also slept on-site. The museum does a significant job of bringing the early 1940s to life and is a stark reminder of how close the UK came to tragedy.
10. Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is a large, mainly Gothic, church located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the most notable religious buildings in the United Kingdom and is the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs.
Most of the present building dates from 1245 to 1272 when Henry III decided to rebuild an old abbey in the Gothic style. The building was later significantly expanded: the Chapel of Henry VII was added between 1503 and 1512, while the two West Front Towers date from 1745.
9. Houses of Parliament
Appropriately following the Churchill War Rooms, the Houses of Parliament are another top tourist attraction in London. Located below the tolling Big Ben, a 318-foot (97 meter) tower, the parliament stretches along the River Thames.
The Houses of Parliament have been home to the British government for multiple centuries. Before that, it was Westminster Palace and home to William the Conqueror.
A great way to experience this attraction is to wander into Parliament Square, where you’ll find striking a statue of Winston Churchill alongside other prominent political figures like Nelson Mandela.
8. St Paul’s Cathedral
One of the most stunning pieces of architecture in London is St Paul’s Cathedral. The biggest and most renowned church in the city is found on the top of a historic Roman temple. The original church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, but the rebuild is impressive, to say the least.
Featuring twin Baroque towers and a monumental dome, St Paul’s Cathedral belongs on the same level as other iconic churches from around the world. Although the view of the church is spectacular, the interior is just as memorable. Walk up the stairs to see the amazing interior detail plus the famous Whispering Gallery.
7. Trafalgar Square
Close to Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square was born from Lord Horatio Nelson’s wartime victory of the Spanish and French at the beginning of the 19th century. The main attraction within the square is the 183-foot (56 meter) granite monument, Nelson’s Column.
The column overlooks the beautiful fountains and bronze reliefs which were, ironically, made from the abandoned French cannons. Trafalgar Square is in a central location, with the National Gallery and St Martin-in-the-Fields being within walking distance.
6. Tower of London
One building in London that has played many roles over the centuries is the impressive Tower of London. The World Heritage Site has been a prison, a private zoo and even a treasure vault over the years and now offers fascinating tours for visitors.
The iconic tower tells the tales of British history having been built back in the 11th century. As you explore the Tower of London, you will witness startling displays of royal armor, the Crown Jewels exhibition, plus the stories of ghastly executions that took place around the building. Complete the trip by seeing a famous ‘Beefeater’.
5. London Eye
Situated on the banks of the River Thames, the London Eye is an enormous, 443 foot (135 meter) high observation wheel carrying 32 exterior glass-walled capsules. It offers fantastic views over central London.
The wheel does not usually stop to take on passengers as the rotation rate is slow enough to allow passengers to walk on and off the moving capsules at ground level. It is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over 3.5 million people annually.
4. Buckingham Palace
As one of the most iconic attractions in London, Buckingham Palace is known around the world. Built in the 1800s, the Palace has been home to the Royal Family since Queen Victoria took over the throne. If you’re at Buckingham Palace and the rooftop flag is flying, then you know the Queen is inside.
One of the best experiences to see in London is the Changing of the Guard. At any time of year, crowds flock to Buckingham Palace at 11:30 to see the procession take place. The event is an enthralling display of precision and discipline.
3. British Museum
Containing over 13 million artifacts, the British Museum is home to one of the world’s best collections of antiquities. The artifacts hail from various eras of our ancient world, including Babylonia, Assyria, along with early Europe and China.
The expansive museum deserves a generous selection of time, but where should you begin? Some of the top permanent exhibits include the bust of Ramses the II, the Parthenon’s Elgin Marbles along with Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone.
The British Museum also has a large bookshop covering ancient history plus souvenirs and replicas of your favorite artifacts.
2. Tower Bridge
In a city of landmarks, none may be more recognizable than London’s Tower Bridge. Next to the Tower of London, the bridge is a suspension bridge that took eight years to complete. Tower Bridge, which opened in 1994, features two striking towers that rise 213 feet (65m) above the River Thames.
Sign up for a tour to experience a fascinating behind-the-scenes excursion inside the tower, which culminates in epic skyline views from the observation deck.
1. Big Ben
The 150 year old Big Ben Clock Tower is one of the most famous tourist attractions in London. The name Big Ben actually refers not to the clock tower itself, but to the 13 ton bell housed within the tower and takes its name from the man who first ordered the bell, Sir Benjamin Hall.
The present-day Big Ben bell was constructed in 1858 after a first bell of 16 tons cracked irreparably two years prior. The clock has become a popular attraction and has appeared in many films. In the movie Mars Attacks! for example the Big Ben is destroyed by a UFO attack.