You could visit London several times and still not know the city past its more well-known landmarks. Charming neighborhoods, magnificent museums, street markets, World Heritage Sites, bucolic parks... London has more than a hundred tourist attractions, 9 million inhabitants, and is visited by 35 million tourists a year. That many people can't be wrong, so here is a selection of what you have to see and do in the city.
1. Visit Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament
Located at the center of England's political and religious power for over a thousand years, the Whitehall and Westminster district, these two attractions are among the top must-sees in London. Westminster Abbey is known as the "Church of the Royal Family" for serving as the pantheon of the British monarchs and the site of their coronations since 1066.
The Westminster Palace, a World Heritage Site, houses the Houses of Parliament, where today the politics and the future of the country are still decided and where you can see the most iconic tower of London: did you know that the name Big Ben is actually the name given to the bell of this great clock tower?
Check out the types of tickets for Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament in this guide to Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.
2. Go on the London Eye
Admire London from the sky aboard one of the largest Ferris wheels in the world, located in the heart of London. Its inauguration in 2000 earned it the title of 'Millennium Wheel' and its 135 meters high made it the tallest in Europe and, until 2006, in the world.
The London Eye is the best place to enjoy an amazing 360º panoramic view of the city, and take the best photos of its skyline and some of its wonders, such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, or St. Paul's Cathedral, in the 30-minute ride aboard one of its 32 glass capsules (one for each district of London). Check out the types of tickets for the London Eye.
3. Step inside the Tower of London
This historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London is officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress. Built in 1066, this portentous Norman medieval fortress has served in its more than nine centuries of life as a center of uninterrupted power in British and European history and that is why it was declared a World Heritage Site.
The tour of its architectural ensemble, consisting of more than seven buildings and areas of interest, will take you no less than 3 hours and will reveal the fascinating story of how the purpose of this building has changed over the years. Have a look at the different types of tickets for the Tower of London.
4. Take a nighttime walking tour
Get ready to have a frightening time with a tour that will show you the less 'pretty' side of the City of London through its blackest history, seeing places like the Tower of London and its bloody tower, the first Psychiatric Hospital, the Plague Pits, the haunted areas of the East End and the stories of how and where one of the most famous serial killers in history, Jack the Ripper, stalked his victims. Read more about London night tours.
5. Cross Tower Bridge
Built in 1894 over the River Thames, Tower Bridge is the most famous bridge to see in London and owes its name to its proximity to the Tower of London. You can access this stone drawbridge and see the operational steam engine that lifts it, and climb to the top and walk on a glass walkway while enjoying great views of the city.
6. Lose yourself in Notting Hill
This iconic neighborhood is known by films like Mary Poppins, who sang through its bustling Portobello Market, or by the film that bore the same name, starring Julia Roberts. Notting Hill offers a delightful walk on a Saturday morning when all the stalls are put in place on Portobello Street among its beautiful colorful houses.
7. Visit St. Paul's Cathedral
The second-largest cathedral in the world will leave you in awe with its great dome and its height of 364 feet, to which you can climb and get magnificent views of central London or descend to its crypt, where the remains of Horatio Nelson or the Duke of Wellington rest.
8. Take a walking tour of the historic center of London
If you love getting lost in the streets of a city, a walking tour through the old part of London will be the most exciting way to discover the history of the city through places like Covent Garden, the Monument to the Great Fire of London, St. Paul's Cathedral or Tower Bridge. Here's the article I wrote about London Tours.
9. Visit Buckingham Palace
What has been the official London residence of the British Royal Family since the 19th century and now inhabited on occasion by Elizabeth II, houses lavishly decorated chandeliers, elegant furnishings, and treasures from the royal collection throughout rooms such as its Throne Room, where official photographs are often taken at royal weddings.
You can visit Buckingham Palace as part of the attractions included in the London Pass or learn more about it with a Palace Tour including afternoon tea.
10. Tour the city by sightseeing bus
Another way to get around London is aboard one of its numerous tourist buses, which you will see circulating at all hours in the city center. Aboard one of them you can admire the city from high above, comfortably seated and get on and off (that's why they are famously called "Hop on-Hop off") as many times as you want in each of its hundreds of stops along all that can and should be seen in the wonderful metropolis of London.
There are several tour bus companies, among which are Big Bus Tours, The Original Tour, Vintage Tour, and Golden Tours, associated with Big Bus with the London Pass. All of them work in the same way and include physical guides or audio guides in several languages, although they differ in their itineraries and number of routes, in prices, which are always cheaper if purchased online, and in certain services and offers included.
11. Stroll through Hyde Park
Another of London's must-sees is a park, and not without reason: Hyde Park is the largest and most famous park in the city and in it, you will find a huge lake, various monuments, a rose garden and Kensington Palace.
12. Discover Harry Potter's London
The tours of Harry Potter's London will be an essential experience for true fans of the most famous wizard's saga in history or for anyone who wants to have a good time, especially if you're traveling with kids. Harry Potter tours are some of the most fun things to do in London, whether it's visiting the actual locations that inspired his stories or a day trip to Warner Studios, where many of the scenes from the eight films were filmed.
13. Get cultured at the British Museum
Opened in 1759, it houses a vast collection of items key to human History, such as the Rosetta Stone in its Egyptian Room, pieces of marble from the Parthenon in Athens, or a Moai from Easter Island.
14. Pass by Trafalgar Square
It is one of the most popular squares in London, where you can admire the 164-feet Nelson's Column, built in honor of this admiral and the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
15. Take a cruise on the Thames
Going on a cruise is an essential inclusion in your itinerary, to at least once see a different perspective of the city. These comfortable Thames river cruises offer different possibilities, from the simple one-hour tour to the premium experience with dinner included.
You can also get a flexible ticket that lasts for a whole day and allows you to get on and off the boat as many times as you want during the day, allowing you to move comfortably from one end of the city to the other while taking a break from walking everywhere.
16. Tour St James's Park
Located near Buckingham Palace is one of the Royal Parks of London and the most loved by its citizens because of the beauty of its gardens and its fun children's areas.
17. Visit the Natural History Museum
This impressive museum exhibits spectacular recreations of every species on Earth, with mind-blowing scale reproductions of dinosaurs and an amazing skeleton of a blue whale.
18. Hypnotize yourself with the lights of Picadilly Circus
This small square at the intersection of several streets is popular for its bustling life and is a meeting point for both locals and outsiders. You will remember it by large video screens, neon billboards, and the famous fountain with a sculpture of Eros. From Picadilly Circus, you can reach one of the city's most famous shopping streets, Oxford Street.
19. Go on a day trip departing from London
If you are lucky enough to have a long trip ahead of you or have visited London on previous occasions, you can make the most of your trip to discover other wonderful places within easy reach of the capital. There are day trips from London for every kind of interest, and with different options to visit one place or several of them in one day.
These day trips will take you to discover the most famous and mysterious megalithic complex on the planet that is 5,000 years old, Stonehenge; the renowned and quaint university towns of Oxford and Cambridge; the medieval Warwick Castle and its wonderful gardens or the one that has been home to the British royal family for more than 900 years, Windsor Castle.
Or, you can explore the bucolic English countryside of the Cotswolds; one of the most beautiful cities in the country, Bath; and discover the Magna Carta in Salisbury or where Shakespeare was born, in Stratford-on-Avon.
You can get to these places by bus or train, but some guided tours will provide you with direct transportation and will be more instructive, comfortable, and even cheaper than going on your own.
20. Take a bicycle tour of the city
Some exercise, a fun experience, and a bunch of must-see places are what this bike tour offers you, where you will learn the history of the city and more than 12 of its main attractions, such as Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, the street performers of Covent Garden, or Trafalgar Square.
21. Visit Madame Tussauds
It is known as "London's favorite tourist attraction" and one of the best to visit with the little ones thanks to its mind-blowing wax reproductions of 250 of the most popular characters in the history of cinema, politics, music, sport or show business.
In addition, it now includes several super fun immersive experiences set in the universes of Sherlock Holmes, Star Wars, Marvel, and the history of London aboard the Spirit London Ride. Check out the different types of tickets for Madame Tussauds.
22. Shop in Candem Town
To get a different souvenir of your trip to the city of London you must visit this picturesque and popular neighborhood that houses the largest market in the city with more than 1,000 stores and street stalls where you can eat while listening to live music.
23. The best art at the National Gallery
This renowned art gallery houses an impressive collection of paintings by such geniuses as Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Velázquez, and Goya, among many others.
24. Visit Shakespeare's Globe
If you have seen the famous movie 'Shakespeare in Love', you can get an idea of what you will see in this visit to the reconstruction of the original Elizabethan theater where Shakespeare's most famous plays were performed. Here, you will learn about playwriting in 16th century London and have a traditional afternoon tea.