What’s your favourite kind of attraction when you visit a city? London is a true metropolis to fit every flavour. The British capital is bursting with attractions, historic landmarks, restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife. With so many options, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer selection. Whether you are in London for a few days or a few weeks, these are some of the must-see attractions and the most iconic landmarks you simply can’t leave off your travel itinerary.
See the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
As the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II for more than 60 years, and a history that stretches back much further, Buckingham Palace is one of those places you just have to see at least once in your lifetime. A fence surrounds the palace, and the ubiquitous British guards stand to attention solemnly to protect the structure. Seeing the palace at any time can be exciting, especially if the residence flag is raised and the Queen herself is at home. However, the absolute best time to visit Buckingham Palace is for the official Changing of the Guard. This ceremony marks the end of one guard shift, and new guards take their place. Once per day, this extravagant ceremony is held just inside the palace gates. The event is free, but you will want to check the schedule and show up at least 30 minutes early in order to get a good view of the action.
Whisper in St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral, built in the 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren, is one of the most famed churches in the world as well as being the seat of the Bishop of London. Although the enormous building was damaged slightly in the Great Fire of London, today it stands with an impressive dome and an unparalleled English Baroque style. While the architecture and history of St. Paul’s are enough for it to be a major attraction in London, one of the worst-kept secrets is the remarkable acoustics. As you enter the cathedral, don’t be surprised if you see people whispering into the walls, seemingly talking to bricks and marble. In actuality, these odd-looking people are actually trying out the whispering gallery! The whispering gallery is the name for the fact that whispering quietly into the wall at one side of the cathedral actually produces sounds to anyone listening at the other side of the building’s wall more than 61 m away.
Stroll Through Hyde Park
Although London is a densely populated and staggeringly multicultural city, it also boasts a number of green spaces and public parks, which can be a wonderful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. In between sightseeing or visiting museums, strolling through Hyde Park in South Kensington can be a fantastic way to pass the time. For more than 150 years, Hyde Park has been associated with revolution, progression, and protests. It is home to the Speaker’s Corner, traditionally a place where anyone who wanted to speak publicly was allowed to do so. The park is also full of monuments, sculptures, beautiful historic homes around the perimeter, and even a small lake in the centre of the park called the Serpentine. When the weather is nice, you can even rent paddle boats or kayaks and enjoy being out on the water. Along the banks of the Serpentine, it is hard to remember you are actually in the heart of the busy British capital city.
Catch a Show on the West End
If you love the theatre, you won’t want to miss the West End, the British equivalent of Broadway, and home to some of the largest, most historic and best-known theatres on the planet. Although the theatre district is almost always referred to as the West End, keep in mind that this location is typically recognised as Leicester Square on maps and signs. Leicester Square plays host to more than one dozen theatres, a list that include the Adelphi, the Savoy Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre, and Prince of Wales Theatre. You can catch a variety of big-name productions on the West End, and there is a big percentage of musicals in particular. If you simply want to experience a theatre performance, and you are not picky about which one it is, visiting a TKTS booth around London can help you snag discounted tickets for shows held that day.
Visit an Iconic British Department Store
London has its fair share of shopping malls, pedestrian-friendly high streets, and souvenir shops, but one of the best ways to get your shopping fix is with a trip to one of iconic and historic department stores. Harrod’s, perhaps the most famous department store in the world, was founded in 1843 and now occupies a whopping 93,000 square metres. Believe it or not, Harrod’s actually has a dress code just to get in the door, so you will want to dress your best for the occasion. Other major department stores worth a visit include Selfridge’s, opened in 1909, and John Lewis, opened in 1864. Both of these stores are found on Oxford Street, and they have become a truly iconic part of the city.
Explore as Many Museums as Possible
Like most international world cities, London is home to an astonishing number of museums and galleries. Unlike most other cities, however, many of London’s museums offer entirely free admission. For art, history, and culture lovers, this is a dream come true, and you might want to include as many of these free attractions as possible. Just a few of your many options will include the 250 year old British Museum, which houses more than 7 million different objects, the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Science Museum, the Museum of London, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, commonly called the V&A.
If you have the chance to spend time in London, these are the top attractions, things to do, and landmarks you will not want to miss.
Which London attraction are you looking forward to the most on your trip?