London is one of those cities that’s just so full of cool and interesting sights to see that you could visit for an entire week and not even move past the tourist sights. That’s probably why it’s such a popular destination for travelers and tourists the world over. If you’re planning your first trip to London, these are the 20 most popular sights in London. I’ve seen them all a few times and I still love them! I’m forever a tourist in London, even after living there for six months!
The 20 Most Popular Sights in London
1 | Big Ben
There’s nothing more iconic in London than Big Ben, that massive clocktower rising up over the parliament building. Its golden façade lights up the otherwise gloomy skies of London, making it a perfect central landmark.
2 | Buckingham Palace
You’ve got to go see the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace! But a word to the wise, get there a couple hours early if you want to stake out a spot with a view right near the gates. When the queen isn’t in residence, you have a chance to also visit the interior of the palace.
3 | Westminster Abbey
Famously known as the wedding venue for Will and Kate, this historic church is a staple of British history. Come to mass and you can avoid the entrance fee, plus you’ll experience the building as it’s meant to be used which I’m always a fan of.
4 | Tower of London
This historic fort and castle is loaded with history (and the Crown Jewels!) so be sure to take a tour with the beefeaters to get the most out of your visit here. Don’t forget to ask them about the ravens!
5 | Tower Bridge
Right next to the Tower of London is the iconic Tower Bridge that passes over the Thames River. The pedestrian sidewalks on the bridge are wider than the driving lanes, encouraging foot traffic and frequent selfie stops.
6 | Harrod’s
Let’s go get lost in Harrods. I’ll always remember this line from The Parent Trap, and it wasn’t until I tried to navigate the massive shopping mecca of Harrods that I truly understood what they meant. If you can’t imagine getting lost in a luxury department store, you haven’t been to Harrods!
7 | St. Paul’s Cathedral
The only thing more impressive than the architecture of this massive Anglican cathedral is the decadent baroque interior design. Don’t miss out! (Note that to get in for free as well, you can just come for mass.)
8 | Millennium Bridge
Made famous from the Harry Potter movies, the Millennium Bridge is as much a work of art as it is architecture. Cross from St. Paul’s on the north bank to Tate Modern on the south bank via this pedestrian bridge.
9 | Tate Modern
Whether you’re a fan of contemporary art or not, this museum cannot be missed. Within the mammoth brick walls of this former factory lives floor after floor of the world’s finest modern art, and it’s free to enter. Special exhibits require a ticket purchase, but are often worth the price of admission, as it was on my most recent visit for the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit.
10 | Piccadilly Circus
The Times Square of London, Piccadilly Circus is the center of action as red double decker buses converge and luminescent billboards lure shoppers into the many storefronts. I can’t spend too much time here as the crowds are usually overwhelming, but a walk through is always entertaining!
11 | London Eye
Speaking of crowded tourist hot-spots…the London Eye is a veritable breeding ground for tourists. A ride on the Eye on a clear day is definitely worth it for the views, but in general this area is to be avoided because of the crowds.
12 | Shakespeare’s Globe
The building may be a replica, but the performances are real. Come to Shakespeare’s Globe and be dazzled by the authentic performances of some of the world’s finest plays, while sitting in the open-air theatre that was customary in that period.
13 | Trafalgar Square
Relax by the fountains or column and watch the people go by in Trafalgar Square, then perhaps pop in to the National Gallery or National Portrait Gallery, at the head of the square.
14 | British Museum
One of the best museums I’ve been to, and it’s free to boot, the British Museum houses pieces of great artistic and historic importance. Not the least of which is the Rosetta Stone, our key to understanding ancient Egyptian literature and civilization! I visit this museum as often as I can, since it contains more exhibits than you could ever see in one day.
15 | The Shard
This skyscraper was being constructed when I lived in London and was complete on my recent visit. The Shard stretches high above the city’s skyline and offers visitors at the viewing platform or restaurant some of the best views in the city.
16 | Covent Garden Market
The covered market in the Covent Garden neighborhood is a hectic mix of stores and restaurants, stalls and vendors, street performers and eager tourists. It’s a great place to buy souvenirs from as local artisans offer their unique crafts here.
17 | Oxford Street
For a more traditional (yet equally crowded) shopping experience, head over to Oxford Street and explore all the brand name stores. It’s the most popular shopping street in London, and with hundreds of major and international brands, it’s no wonder people flock to it!
18 | Victoria & Albert Museum
An unimaginably large collection of arts and design, the V&A Museum is not overwhelming but rather inspiring. No matter what style or genre of design you prefer, you’ll find something you like here. For me, I’m always drawn to the massive Chihuly glass chandelier inside the main entrance. This museum is also free…most museums here are, which I really love about London.
19 | Camden Lock
Hectic and eclectic, the Camden Lock market is a bit further north of the main attractions in London, so take the tube to get there. You’ll never see all of the market but even a taste of it for a couple of hours will leave you in sensory overload!
20 | King’s Cross
It seems inevitable that on a visit to London you’ll visit the famous Platform 9¾ spot in King’s Cross tube station. It has gotten a LOT more crowded since I lived in London, where people now queue up to take their picture with the cart in the wall. This is probably due to the opening of the Harry Potter souvenir shop next door. But if you’re devout HP fan, it’s worth the wait to get your photo at this spot!
And there you have it, the 20 most popular sights in London. Visiting all of these will give you a taste for London but I hope you stay long enough to explore the London that people actually live in, the London that’s beyond the tourist path. Either way, I know you’ll enjoy your visit, because it’s such an amazing city!
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