Westminster and Southbank
Some of the main sights to see in London are grouped around these areas that sit on opposite sides of the Thames, within easy walking distance of each other.
From the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye, you can visit them all in a morning.
If you haven’t been to London before, Buckingham Palace may be at the top of your ‘to do’ list. Take a tour of the state rooms and see how the other half live, or stay outside and watch the Changing of the Guard. During the summer months this takes place every morning at 11am. Crowds get very bad close to kick off, so aim to get there at least 40 minutes before it starts to get a good view at the front. If you’re visiting during the rest of the year, the ceremony is every other day, so check online to make sure you don’t miss it.
After Buckingham Palace, take Birdcage Walk along the edge of St James Park towards the river. You’ll pass the statue of Winston Churchill and, behind that, Westminster Abbey on your right and Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament up ahead. You can visit the Parliament building or take a tour and even have afternoon tea by the river.
The tower housing Big Ben is currently undergoing renovation works, due to be completed by 2021, so it may be obscured by scaffolding for a while.
South of the river
Walk across Westminster Bridge – you’ll get fabulous views back across the river for some photos. Take the riverside walk heading east towards the London Eye. You’ll pass in front of the London Aquarium, a great place to while away a few hours with the kids, especially if the weather is bad.
If you've got a head for heights, take a trip in one of the glass pods of the London Eye, queues can be long but the views over London are stunning. For an extra £10 (booked in advance) you can get fast track tickets and avoid the wait.
Continuing further east, you’ll come to the Southbank Centre. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea from an architectural point of view, unless brutalist concrete is your thing, but as a center of the arts it’s well worth a visit. With a fabulous location, right on the river by Waterloo Bridge, it’s easily accessible and there is always something worth seeing at one of the venues. The Royal Festival Hall is London’s leading venue for classical music, while the Hayworth Gallery is world-renowned for contemporary art and, with films, lectures and exhibitions going on at the British Film Institute, there should be something for everyone.
The Southbank area really comes alive in good weather when people spill out on to the terraces of the bars and restaurants along the river to soak up the sunshine so, find yourself a table, order a pint of British beer, and relax with the locals.