Things to do in London! The must-see tourist attractions and the best sightseeing
After reading this blog you sure know how to spend a weekend (or hopefully longer <3) in London!
Must-see tourist attractions
Read about the best attractions in London, England.
West of the Westminster bridge: Big Ben & Palace of Westminster & Westminster Abbey
When walking through the city centre, you will definitely come across the Westminster bridge.
Big Ben & Palace of Westminster
Located at the westside you will find the Big Ben, being the bell in the 96-meter-high bell tower (Elizabeth Tower) of the Palace of Westminster. The Palace of Westminster is the House of Parliament and is one impressive building with over 1000 rooms and 100 stairs! With parts of this building dating back to 1097, the most of the building there is now was finished in 1870. For the best pictures, I really hope you visit it without the building being under construction, which as you can imagine, happens often.
Just at the other side of the Abingdon Street you find the impressive Westminster Abbey. The history of the abbey dates back to around the year 1000. The Westminster Abbey as you know it know, in its gothic style, is from around the year 1500. This is thé place where British royals are crowned, and where their funerals and weddings are held, including the wedding of Prince William and Kate https://www.westminster-abbey.org/nl/about-the-abbey/history/royalty/royal-weddings/ . Just so you know, Prince Harry and Meghan chose something more intimately in 2018, they got married at the St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle.
East of the Westminster bridge: London Eye – the impressive big Ferris wheel
Cross the Westminster bridge to the east to get to the London Eye. Do you dare to go in? This Ferris wheel is 135-meter-tall (443 ft), has a diameter of 120 meter (394 ft) and has 32 closed capsules. One ride takes about 30 minutes and gives you a spectacular view over the city. The London Eye was built in 1998 and back then it was the biggest Ferris wheel in the World.
Buckingham Palace & Changing the Queen's Life Guard
Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the Queen
Buckingham Palace is the headquarters and the residence of the monarch of the United Kingdom. The building consists of 77,000 m2 (830,000 sq ft) of floorspace, yep, that’s much. Your regular apartment will be less then 100 m2.
Visiting Buckingham Palace – only from July to September
It’s a big building and its always packed on the outside with tourist taking a picture and getting a glimpse from the outside. It is possible to visit Buckingham Palace – on the inside – but only from July to September (£24.00 per ticket). There are paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Vermeer and some of the finest English and French furniture in the world.
Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace
Changing the Guard begins on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at 11:00am sharp (10:00am at Sunday!) and will lasts for about 45 minutes. It will be busy so be on time if you want to have a good view.
Tower of London: packed with history – a must visit!
If you want to know more about history, make sure to visit the Tower of London. Have you seen The Tudors? Do you want to know more about the beheading of Anna Boleyn? Do you want to watch the crown jewels? Surely visit! This is an amazing place, it is truly packed with history. I recommend visiting this place and taking the tour inside. The tour is given by the Yeomen Warders also called Beefeaters, this are the ceremonial guards of the Tower of London. To become a Beefeater, you have to have 22 years of impeccable military service. The Beefeaters live, with their families, in the residential houses within the Tower of London. When you buy tickets online you get a discount. The online price for a ticket (with 15% discount) is £22.70 for adults 18-59, £17.70 for students or age 60+. Close to the Tower of Londen you will find the Tower Bridge crossing the river Thames.
Tower Bridge: the must-take-selfie place 😉
Located close to the – history packed – Tower of London you will find the Tower Bridge crossing the river Thames. Together with the Big Ben and the London Eye, The Tower Bridge is probably the most important icon symbol of London. The bridge is built between 1886 and 1894 with a length of 801 ft (244 m). The place to make a selfie of course 😉
Sightseeing in London: there is more!
Above the most important tourist spots that you have to visit when you are in London. But when you travel to London more often, you will discover that there is so much more to this beautiful city. I have some more sightseeing and activities in London for you!
Walking alongside the Thames
There is such a thing as the Thames Path! In total it is 184 miles (296 km), so that’s a bit much for the weekend. But as the name says, its all alongside the Thames, and therefore also through London city. The route is marked with the symbol of the National Trails. The total plan can be found here https://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/thames-path/plan and more about the route in London centre here https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/thames-path
The amazing Borough Market: make sure you are hungry
My favourite markets in London is the Borough Market. Make sure to come with an empty stomach! Such a great vibe here. There are traders with all kinds of delicacy’s like cheese, charcuterie, brownies, fruits, fish, chocolate, and more. You hungry yet? Navigate to 8 Southwark St, closed at Sundays.
Emirates Air Line cable car: Great views and information
The Emirates Air Line cable car doesn’t only provide amazing views! But there is also audio and video inside to tell you more about what you see around you, a big plus! A single trip ‘boarding pass’ 😊 costs £4.50. You can buy the boarding pass at ticket machines or the ticket office located at the Emirates cable car stations. The cable car goes between Emirates Greenwich Peninsula and Emirates Royal Docks. Emirates Greenwich Peninsula is easy reachable by the London Underground (grey) Jubilee line, close to this station you will also see the impressive O2 arena / Millennium Dome. Emirates Royal Docks is close to Royal Victoria DLR station. So, from both cable car stations you are at the underground and train system in no time.
Camden town & Camden market
Hop on the black Northern line and make sure to get off at Camden Town station. This part of London has an alternative vibe to it. Take a look at the Amy Winehouse statue and drink one to her at the pub Hawley Arms. Then head to the Camden Market. Such a colourful and full experience. They have so much stuff (and food!) here, you will be enjoying yourself for a few hours. Also pay attention to the shops that are inside the old horse stables! These stables and horse hospital used to be the home of 400 to 800 horses. The horses were used for pulling material to build trains and for the transportation of goods and luggage for the Camden Goods Depot.
St. Paul’s Cathedral & great viewpoint at the One New Change shopping centre
The Cathedral Church of Paul the Apostle or St Paul's Cathedral is a big cathedral in the city centre of London. With its big dome it dominates the skyline of London. The building originates from 1300, but the building you see now is more than 300 years old, from 1697. Such amazing history.
The best viewpoint to view the St Paul's Cathedral is on top of the One New Change shopping centre. Best to go in the morning or you will be – almost – unable to take pictures due to the sun 😊
The rooftop terrace of the 6th floor is free accessible! Head for: 1 New Change, London EC4M 9AF.
Walk through Temple and visit Temple Church
Such an undiscovered gem in the middle of London: Temple Church in the middle of Temple. This roman catholic church is located between Fleet Street and the river Thames around the year 1200. After world war II it needed to be partly rebuilt. Temple itself is the area in which the church is located. This area is the main legal district of London. It’s such a magic place to walk through! It has beautiful buildings and is very quiet.
Museums in London
The best about the museums in London is that they are free! I found that there are in fact more of 20 of them, but I will highlight my favourite free museums in London!
Please check the website of the museum before you go, to check if they are still free, to avoid disappointments.
British Museum: Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies and sooo much more history object!
This one is big, make sure to get a map and/or take a picture of the map at each floor. This museum is big and beautiful and it has collections of the old Greeks, a big Egyptian collection (mummies!), but also African historical art. This museum is packed with history that dates way back.
Not to miss are the Egyptian mummies (Mummy of Katebet), the Rosetta Stone, the Oxus Treasure (it’s small!), the Royal Game of Ur, Lion Hunt reliefs (really so great), the Parthenon sculptures, the Lewis Chessmen (the most famous chess set in the world), Samurai armour (Japanese knight), King of Ife (African art).
When you have enough time (4 hours) you can do the whole museum at your own pace. If you are on a tighter schedule and/or want to go more prepared, I advise to take a look at the site of the British museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/visiting/planning_your_visit.aspx to make sure what exhibitions or objects you want to see. Write down where your favourite exhibitions or objects are located, every room has a number, this will speed up your visit. You will have a great time!
Natural History Museum: dinosaurs, whales, science. Great with children!
This museum is 100% focussed on 4.5 billion (!) years of natural history. The museum is well taken care of and has a lot of interactive activities, also great to visit with children. You can see a giant whale and dinosaur, as well as great expositions regarding the human evolution and space. It’s really educative! Even for a quick visit this is great. Don’t forget to take a look at the mastodon in the Hintze Hall. Mastodons (often confused with a mammoth) were about 4.5m high and 9m long! Mastodons lived in the ice age about 13.000 years ago. So much to discover here!
National Gallery: paintings of Vermeer, van Gogh and da Vinci
My other favourite (free!) museum in London is the National Gallery. This is the place for paintings! Over 2300 paintings are located here, the big names are present. Take a look at impressive paintings of, among others, Vermeer, Monet, Bellini, van Dyck, Rubens, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli. The national gallery has made a list of 30 must see paintings https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/explore-the-paintings/30-must-see-paintings , that is always good to save or print 😉 At the website you can also find (printable) floorplans to prepare your visit https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/visiting . The National Gallery is located at Trafalgar Square, London. Close by stations of the London Underground are Charing Cross and Leicester Square.
Other free museums in London
Unfortunately, I have not yet visited them all! But, the other free museums in London, I’ll list them for you in different categories. So, check out the ones you like!
- Victoria and Albert Museum (fashion, furniture, paintings)
- Tate Modern (great building: old power station, paintings and photographs)
- Tate Britain (paintings)
- Sir John Soane’s Museum (antiquities, paintings)
- Guildhall Art Gallery and Roman Amphitheatre
- Wallace Collection (great building, paintings)
- National Portrait Gallery
- Contemporary art:
- Whitechapel Gallery
- Serpentine Galleries
- British Library (literary treasures, great building)
- V&A Museum of Childhood (historic toys and games)
- Horniman Museum and Gardens (musical instruments and history)
- Museum of London (history of the city)
- Museum of London Docklands (naval history)
- Science Museum
- Wellcome Collection (science, medicine)
- Imperial War Museum
- National Maritime Museum
- Royal Air Force Museum
- National Army Museum
Musical theatres in London
Theatres in London are a big thing. There are many theatres with many shows, mostly located at West End. How to know what musical plays were? This website https://officiallondontheatre.com/ claims to be ‘official’, and shows an overview of the musicals that are currently playing. I think it’s not complete, though 😊 If you want to buy your tickets at home, I advise Googling some more to be sure to know if your favourite musical is on. Start googling for tickets and you will see a wide range of options to buy tickets online.
Or don’t 😉
As you might expect, for new musicals there will be a waiting list, so if you really go to London for the musical, make sure to buy your tickets on forehand.
But no problem to go unprepared! If you are not sure which musical you want to go, or just want to leave it to chance, you don’t have to come prepared. You can also buy tickets at different ticket boots located in London. For example, head to the Leicester Square TKTS booth for half-price discount tickets on the day of the show, also the theatre box office often offers discount tickets for same day tickets.
You get what you pay for
It is great to arrange some discount, nonetheless tickets tend not to be really cheap. And if you really want to enjoy the show, your tickets will be more expensive. But that is better than only seeing half the stage or sitting behind a pillar 😊 Always make sure to check the visibility when buying the tickets.
Enjoy the show!! You will have a great experience.