Ten of our favourite London tourist attractions
Check out the top things to do in London
Our top tourist attractions in London
Whether you're an old friend or it's your first time in the city, there are endless tourist attractions in London to explore.
From iconic landmarks like Big Ben and Tower Bridge, to live theatre and the London Eye, we've rounded up our top 10 London attractions to help you plan your trip.
Top local tip: If you're staying on the outskirts of the city and getting a mainline train in, check out National Rail's 2 for 1 deal – you could make some serious savings.
The best things to see in London
Star of many a film’s establishing shot, Big Ben is the best-loved of London's monuments, affectionately nicknamed for the 13.7-tonne bell housed within the Elizabeth Tower.
A recent facelift has seen Big Ben's clock restored to its full Victorian glory as it towers over the parliamentary shenanigans of the Palace of Westminster.
Its bell tolled through the Blitz, chimes in the New Year and solemnly rings out on Remembrance Day.
Sadly, unless you're a UK resident you can't have a snoop inside the Elizabeth Tower. But you can book a tour of the Houses of Parliament or pop up to the public gallery to watch a live debate.
Every English coronation since 1066 has taken place at this soaring abbey, along with 16 royal weddings. (Remember when Kate and William audaciously filled the aisle with trees?)
It’s also an imposing final resting place for monarchs, poets and great thinkers – including Elizabeth I, Charles Dickens and Stephen Hawking.
Westminster Abbey tickets give access to the Cloisters, College Garden, Chapter House and the Pyx Chamber.
But, to get a real, spiritual sense of the abbey, attend Evensong. Held every day but Wednesday, it’s hauntingly beautiful.
Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the UK monarchy. It began life as a not-too-humble townhouse before being remodelled as a palace in 1825 for George IV.
Though its façade is relatively restrained, behind it hide grand state rooms, open to the public in the summer.
Buckingham Palace guards, with their iconic red coats, are famous for their bearskin 'busbies', and perform the ceremonial changing of the guard at 11am most days.
Arrive early to get a front row spot for the best view of the guards and the marching military band.
When the London Eye opened in 2000, it quickly became one of the most famous London attractions and an instantly recognisable feature of the skyline.
Each year, over 3.75 million visitors from all over the world hop aboard for a 'flight' and enjoy the unique views of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and more.
To guarantee your spot in one of the pods, book your London eye tickets in advance.
Then join the excited riverside hubbub as you wait your turn to board.
Great Russell Street, WC1B 3DG
With artefacts spanning two million years of human history and culture, the British Museum is an enormous cabinet of curiosities.
From Egyptian mummies to antiquities, there are 80,000 objects on display, cherry-picked from a collection of over eight million pieces.
Must-sees include the Rosetta Stone, which unlocked ancient hieroglyphics, and the exquisite, fifth-century BCE Parthenon sculptures.
British Museum tickets are free, but you can add a voluntary donation when you book online.
Marylebone Road, NW1 5LR
From movie stars to world leaders, sports legends to music icons and pop-culture favourites, Madame Tussauds in London is home to hundreds of famous (if slightly waxy) faces.
With eight zones to explore, you can strike a pose with everyone from the royal family to Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.
Then, steel yourself for the Chamber of Horrors, board a black cab for a trip back through London's history or immerse yourself in Marvel Universe 4D, with its wind-chilling, water-soaking, face-flinching special effects.
London's theatre district
Bordered by Oxford Street and The Strand, the West End’s synonymous with theatre.
Broadway transfers, musicals and premières open at a dizzying rate; after dark, the area’s bright with neon lights and buzzing with expectation.
There’s a unique thrill to seeing a London theatre show, even if you’re in the gods (theatrical slang for the cheapest, highest upper-circle seats).
Afterwards, join the throng heading into Soho, in search of a restorative glass of wine or sociable late supper.
Lord it over London on one of the world’s most famous bridges, an icon of Victorian engineering.
Not to be confused with London Bridge (a much more muted affair about half a mile upstream), this combined bascule-and-suspension bridge crosses the River Thames near the Tower of London.
Join the vehicles and pedestrians pootling across the deck, or go behind the scenes with the Tower Bridge Exhibition, which spans the towers, glass-bottomed walkways and Victorian engine rooms.
Check online for bridge lift times – it’s the perfect backdrop to get creative with those selfies.
Tower of London
This Beefeater-guarded London landmark didn’t start out as a prison, but doomed nobles often ended on the wrong side of its portcullis.
Samuel Pepys, Sir Walter Raleigh, a royal flush of queens and more served time here.
It saw escapes, tragic ends, torture and treachery until 1952, when the mobster Kray brothers were some of the last prisoners to stay here.
Book your Tower of London tickets online or at the booth, then join one of the excellent tours led by a Yeoman Warder to explore the tower in all its gory glory.
London's a surprisingly green city, and you're never far from a royal park, a leafy square or even an ecological site. Here are a few of our favourite green spaces.
Once Henry VIII’s deer-hunting grounds, Hyde Park is still a favourite haunt for horse-riders and sports enthusiasts, along with plenty of people idling away the day in a deckchair. It's also host to several outdoor concerts every summer, and hiring a boat on the Serpentine is a classic London pastime.
London's Royal Parks
A Regency-era landmark on the edge of Camden Town, prettily landscaped Regent’s Park is a firm favourite with families. Soak up the scenery with a pedalo trip around the lake, then treat yourself to tea and cake at the Waterside Café. Or, catch live performances at the open air theatre, and get to know more than 750 animals at London Zoo.
On the doorstep of Buckingham Palace, St James’s Park is the unlikely home of a pod of pelicans. Their ancestors arrived from Russia as a gift to Charles II in 1664 and have been settled in ever since. For a view of the palace, along with several other local landmarks, make a beeline for the Blue Bridge.
Greenwich Park is perhaps most famous for the Royal Observatory. Wind your way up through the sweeping riverside park to stand astride the prime meridian and set your watch to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). Then, head inside to explore space and time at the fascinating planetarium and the observatory itself.
Frequently asked questions about sightseeing in London
One of the best things to do in London is take a stroll or boat ride along the Thames.
Stop off at historic sights and galleries en route, pick up a bite to eat to keep you going and take in London's unique character, from street performers and skyscrapers to cobbled streets and cosy pubs.
The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is an impressive and unique sight too, while the city's countless restaurants from every corner of the globe are a real treat for foodies.
If you're looking for fun things to do in London that won't be packed with tourists, follow the locals to a few of our favourite spots.
Or, if you're after a bit of culture, lots of London's museums and galleries run 'lates' after their doors close for the day. Think zero noisy kids, a glass of wine and everything from silent discos to stand-up comedy.
London's a great city for walking, which is perfect if you're on a budget.
A meander along the river from Westminster to Tower Bridge will take you past some of the city's key sights, including Big Ben, the London Eye, St Paul's Cathedral, Shakespeare's Globe, Borough Market and of course the Tower of London.
And all for only the cost of a coffee or ice cream to keep you going.
Many of London's museums and galleries are also free (although do donate, if you can), so pop in for a browse at world-class artifacts and works of art, all housed in incredibly beautiful buildings.