What are the best London Tourist Attractions?
London is a vibrant city full of history, culture, and character. There are literally hundreds of London tourist attractions, and it can be difficult to work out which ones are essential for your trip. Not sure where to start? Here are 20 of the most essential tourist attractions and things to do in London.
I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through one of my affiliate links.
20 Best London Tourist Attractions
How to use this map: click the tab on the top left to see the list of places. Click the blue icons on the map to see more information about each place. Click the star to add to your own Google Maps.
1. Visit Buckingham Palace
No trip to London would be complete without seeing the residence of the British monarchy. The architecture and gardens are worth admiring, even if you’re not interested in royalty. Visitors can tour the State Rooms (used for official events), take a walk through the beautiful gardens, or watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony. Plus, if you time your visit right, you might even catch a glimpse of the King!
2. See Big Ben and Parliament
One of the most iconic London tourist attractions, Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the clock tower at Parliament. The bell is huge and weighs either 13.7 or 15.1 tonnes (depending on which source you believe). The clock tower itself is called Elizabeth Tower, and it looks beautiful at night when all the clock faces are lit up. There are 312 pieces of glass inside each clock face, and there is a special light which is illuminated when Parliament is in session.
3. Tour Westminster Abbey
This gothic cathedral is one of the most important religious buildings in Britain. It’s also where many British monarchs have been crowned and buried throughout history. Westminster Abbey is one of the most famous churches in the world, and it’s easy to see why. This magnificent Gothic building has been the coronation site for English monarchs since 1066 and is the final resting place of over 30 British Kings and Queens (including Queen Elizabeth II in 2022) and other notable figures such as Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling.
4. Explore Tower Bridge
London tourist attractions don’t get much more iconic than this. Tower Bridge is one of London’s most famous landmarks but also causes the most confusion amongst tourists. To clarify: Tower Bridge is not the same as London Bridge, they are two very different bridges. London Bridge is not much to write home about but plays a very important part in London’s history. Tower Bridge is the pretty one pictured below.
Tower Bridge is a working bridge that raises up to allow tall ships to pass underneath. Opened in 1894, this suspension bridge spans the River Thames and offers stunning views of both the City of London and Tower of London (which is next on my list).
5. Visit the Tower of London
This place could be added to the list of London tourist attractions which have a bit of a grim history (there are a lot). The Tower of London was the site of many a gory execution. It was also home to various elaborate methods of medieval torture and scores of royal prisoners too. It is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Anne Boleyn, amongst others.
This London Fortress was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 and it houses the British Crown Jewels, which are said to be worth up to £4billion. The Tower is protected by the Yeoman Warders (the ‘Beefeaters’ with the red uniforms) and there are 6 onsite ravens who live on the South Lawn. Legend says if the ravens ever leave the Tower, then the kingdom will fall. Luckily this has never happened!
6. Visit St Paul’s Cathedral
A well known cathedral and London tourist attraction, St Paul’s was designed by world-famous architect Sir Christopher Wren. It’s definitely worth a visit for its incredible architecture and history, and inside is a whole host of rare and beautiful artworks. The crypt is the largest in Western Europe, with Sir Wren being the first person to be buried there.
St Paul’s Cathedral was one of the only London buildings to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666, when all the buildings around it were burned to the ground. And whilst St Paul’s was bombed during WWII, it was only the dome which was damaged and rebuilt. There are many viewpoints of the beautiful dome, this one was taken from the top of the One New Change shopping centre.
7. Take in the view from Primrose Hill
If you want a break from all the sightseeing, head over to Primrose Hill for a picnic (check out this brilliant picnic set) and some breathtaking views of London below. The area itself has some pretty rows of houses and cute cafes. The hill can be a bit of a climb depending on where you start from, but it’s always worth it. Another view like this can also be seen from Greenwich Park to the east of the City.
8. Shop on Oxford Street
Oxford Street is one of London’s busiest shopping streets, with everything from high-end stores to more affordable options. It’s also home to Selfridges, one of the most famous department stores in Britain. Many huge brands have their flagship stores here and it’s always crazy-busy. A decent shopping bag is a must.
9. London Tourist Attractions: Catch a West End show
The West End is home to dozens of theatres showing everything from musicals to Shakespearean plays. Tickets can be pricey, but it’s definitely worth it for a truly classic London experience. As far as London Tourist Attractions go, seeing a show in the West End has to be done if your budget can stretch to it. Harry Potter fans will love this Hogwarts Express ticket holder.
10. Explore Hyde Park
Hyde Park is one of the largest parks in central London and a great place to relax or people-watch. Make sure to check out Speaker’s Corner, where anyone can stand on a soapbox and give speeches about whatever they like!
Hyde Park is one of London’s eight Royal Parks and is perfect for picnics, paddle-boating on Serpentine Lake, or just relaxing with a good book. In summer Londoners flock here for social gatherings in the sun.
11. Take a ride on the London Eye
For breathtaking views of London, there’s nothing quite like the London Eye ferris wheel. At 135 metres tall, the London Eye is the tallest ferris wheel in Europe. The iconic London tourist attraction opened in the year 2000 and is also referred to as the Millennium Wheel. At the time it was the tallest cantilevered observation wheel in the world.
Make sure to buy your tickets in advance to avoid long queues. You’ll also need to allow extra time for this attraction, as the wheel takes a quite a while to get round. Consider taking some compact binoculars with you – the views are amazing.
12. Learn about Britain’s history at The British Museum
The British Museum houses some of the world’s most famous archaeological treasures, including the Rosetta Stone and Parthenon sculptures. This London tourist attraction is guaranteed to keep History buffs entertained with over 8 million artefacts.
13. Soak Up Some Culture at The National Gallery
One of London’s must-visit museums, The National Gallery houses an impressive collection of Western European paintings from the 13th to 19th centuries. With more than 2,300 paintings on display, you’re sure to find a few favourites among them. There are many other museums and galleries which could be included in my list of London tourist attractions, but for now I will just include this one and the British Museum. I have included some more recommendations at the bottom of this post.
14. Visit Covent Garden
Covent Garden is not necessarily a London Tourist Attraction as such, it is more an extremely popular area (or region) of London. Full of entertainment and dining options, you will also find the Royal Opera House, various theatres, branded stores and also independent boutiques too. The central piazza is covered and there is always music and entertainment all round the piazza. You could easily spend several days here, so you will need to plan your time wisely!
15. Indulge in a London Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British experience not to be missed while visiting London. Sip on Earl Grey and nibble on finger sandwiches while enjoying delectable desserts like scones with clotted cream and jam. Add champagne for a luxury touch.
There are many versions of afternoon teas in London, including themed variations and even an afternoon tea served on a red bus! All of the top class hotels serve afternoon tea, and so do most of the rooftops and skyscrapers too. In the map above I have shown the famous Afternoon Tea at the Savoy.
London Afternoon Tea is also a very popular gift for two – you can buy one here.
16. Enjoy a show at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
This London tourist attraction is often overlooked, but Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is the perfect activity for culture vultures visiting London. This open-air theatre hosts productions of both Shakespearean plays as well as contemporary works by modern playwrights. So whether you’re a fan of The Bard or not, there’s bound to be a show that piques your interest. It’s open air, so most of the seats are exposed to the elements, I recommend taking a packable rain coat and/or an umbrella.
17. Visit the South Bank
The South Bank District is a large area along the south bank of the river Thames, packed with entertainment and things to do. It has a chilled atmosphere and is lovely to visit at sunset for drinks or dinner. You will also find many London tourist attractions such as museums, galleries (for example the Tate Modern), theatres (Shakespeare’s Globe), the HMS Belfast, many pubs and restaurants, vintage markets, shopping options and food stalls.
18. Go up to the Top of the Shard
This London tourist attraction affords the best view in the whole of the City. It was designed by Renzo Piano to look like a shard of glass, hence its name. London Shard is the tallest building in the UK and Western Europe, with 95 floors (72 habitable floors).
There are three restaurants within the Shard and a champagne bar at the top. You can also book into a yoga class or a silent disco at the very top. Remember to bring your compact binoculars with you – these are the best views in London.
19: London Tourist Attractions: Visit Camden Town
Camden Town is a lively social hub with a huge focus on music, food and street art. The world famous Camden Market is a treasure trove of delights from food to clothing to bric-a-brac. Camden itself is situated on Regents Canal (a London tourist attraction in its own right) and there is a pretty lock (Camden Lock) around which several pubs and cafes can be found.
Camden is famous, amongst other things, for being the place where Amy Winehouse lived and worked. You will see many Amy monuments dotted around the area. It’s also the site of the Camden Town Brewery, where you can buy the famous Camden Hells Lager and Camden Pale Ale.
Camden is popular with tourists, young people and the alternative crowd. No matter what your music or style is, you will fit in and be accepted in this eclectic and unique area of London.
20. Spend a day in Borough Market
Borough Market is quite legendary amongst Londoners, it is widely hailed as one of the best fresh produce markets in London. It gets extremely busy so it is best to get there early. You can grab a glass of prosecco, a cocktail or coffee whilst you are perusing the stalls. It is perfect for lunch, as there are many delicious lunchtime dishes from all around the world, to eat there and then, or to takeaway. Don’t forget to take a shopping bag for all that cheese and wine!
Borough Market is also surrounded by many pubs and restaurants so you will be spoilt for choice. Borough Market has a history dating back over 1000 years and is popular with celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay. There is also a new Borough Market book which makes an excellent gift.
London Tourist Attractions
There you have it – my 20 essential tourist attractions in London. I hope this guide has given you some inspiration for planning your own trip to this amazing city. Whether you’re interested in exploring its rich history or indulging in some traditional afternoon tea, you are sure to have a wonderful time discovering all that London has to offer.
Other London Tourist Attractions
There are honestly hundreds more places to visit and things to do in London. I intend to write an e-book one day as there is too much for one blog post!
Other London tourist attractions and places of note that I recommend are: the Tate Modern, Notting Hill, Shoreditch, Islington, Greenwich, Canary Wharf, Chelsea & Kensington, the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the V&A, HMS Belfast, Emirates Air Line and all 8 of the Royal parks and gardens!
The Shard is my favourite London viewpoint, but for a free option you should definitely check out the Sky Garden.
If you are wondering why I have not included Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square in this list, it’s because although they are famous spots, I don’t really consider them tourist attractions worth visiting. They are mostly about advertising and don’t really show much of what London is all about. This is just my opinion of course. I’m also not a fan of Times Square in New York – so at least you can say I’m consistent!
Pinterest Pin – London Tourist Attractions
If you found this post helpful and would like to support my work, click here to buy me a coffee.
Stuck on travel planning? Download my 10 free bucket lists.Tags: London, UK