So, you’ve booked your hotel in London city – now’s the time to get planning the finer details of your break. There are so many amazing attractions in the capital that it can be hard to know exactly what to put on your itinerary – especially if this will be your first visit. Luckily, it’s pretty hard to go wrong – but we think there are several places that particularly stand out.
So, for a little inspiration on where to go and what to see, our list of top ten London attractions is a brilliant place to start.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the capital’s most famous buildings. A royal palace and fortress, it is perched on the Thames and dates all the way back to the 11th century. Today, it’s home to the Crown Jewels and is a top tourist attraction, but in its lifetime it’s also been a royal residence, prison, torture chamber, the Royal Mint and even a menagerie!
Having such an incredible and unusual history, it’s easy to see why this attraction is so popular. The Crown Jewels are, as you’d expect, a real highlight – but what you really shouldn’t miss is the White Tower. This is the oldest part of the complex of buildings that makes up the Tower of London, and it was built specifically to inspire fear – both to keep the locals in check and to deter would-be invaders from overseas!
There are few places in such magnificent condition that can boast 1,000 years of history; Westminster Abbey is one of them. This spectacular church has been the site of coronations since 1066, and the current building dates all the way back to the 13th century.
A treasure trove inside and out, the abbey is one of UK’s most important Gothic buildings. Remember to take the time to admire the outside before heading inside to discover its amazing selection of paintings, tombs, stained glass and more. There is a truly staggering collection of monuments and memorials here, which commemorate some of the most famous names in British history; see how many you recognise.
The official residence of the Queen, Windsor Castle is the world’s largest and oldest inhabited castle – impressive, eh? This spectacular royal residence has acted as the home of England’s monarchs (39 in total) for around 1,000 years, so it’s easy to see why it’s such an unmissable attraction.
Part of the appeal of a visit is that it’s a working royal palace, which means it’s still used for State functions, rather than simply boasting historical status. Come here and you can explore the stunning State Apartments, which are laced with amazing works of art and much more.
Currently the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kensington Palace has a long and fascinating history. It was in this very building that Queen Victoria grew up, and for a time it was home to Diana, Princess of Wales.
Explore Kensington Park and The Royal Gardens
Today, you can visit and see how the royals live. Discover the grand King’s Staircase, which is famous for its magnificent painting, and the King’s State Apartments. The Queen’s State Apartments, meanwhile, are home to much intriguing history. Beyond the palace walls, Kensington Gardens are beautiful and well worth exploring – especially on a sunny day!
The ultimate place in the UK to see a theatrical production, Shakespeare’s Globe is a truly stunning theatre. It’s a modern reconstruction of the original Globe theatre, designed to look every inch like a theatre from Shakespeare’s day. Today, it is famous for performances of the bard’s plays, but you can also see more modern titles here too.
If you’re not able to catch a play, visit the Globe Exhibition & Tour instead. The exhibition looks at the life of England’s most famous writer, as well as the capital and theatre as he would have known them. The tour, meanwhile, will not only show you around the theatre, but bring it to life with vibrant stories of its past.
Tower Bridge Exhibition
London’s most famous bridge, Tower Bridge is a stunning attraction, and a brilliant place to come if you want to tick off one of the capital’s icons. Thanks to the Tower Bridge Exhibition, you can do more than admire it from afar, since this gives you the opportunity to visit its amazing Victorian Engine Rooms and even bravely step onto its glass walkway 42 metres above the River Thames!
This glass floor is the bridge’s newest attraction, and it’s definitely one for thrill-seekers. As you step onto it, you can gaze straight down at the mighty Thames, and all those classic red London buses looking so much like toy cars.
Hampton Court Palace
Located in Greater London, Hampton Court Palace involves a bit of a journey from the heart of the city – but it’s well worth the trip. This stunning building was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey by King Henry VIII, who promptly claimed it for himself when Wolsey fell out of favour.
There are some amazing things to see here for all ages. History lovers, for instance, will adore the Great Hall, which is sumptuously decorated. Hampton Court Maze, meanwhile, is oodles of fun for everyone, and is in fact the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze.
Churchill War Rooms
Also unmissable for history lovers is the Churchill War Rooms. Providing a window into the days of Sir Winston Churchill and his government planning tactics during World War II, this shelter was no ordinary wartime bunker.
Visit to learn more about all extraordinary things that came to pass here. Be transported into the past in the Map Room, which has been perfectly preserved from Churchill’s time. Learn more about the life of Churchill and those who worked alongside him during the dark days of the war.
London Bridge Experience
Perhaps the most fun way to learn about the capital’s history, the London Bridge Experience is always a winner with families – though be warned, it can be a bit scary for particularly young children!
Come here to discover a whopping 2,000 years of gruesome history, learning all about the famous bridge’s grisly past. But you won’t just be looking at static exhibits – no, the beauty of this attraction is that it’s fully interactive, meaning you can meet colourful characters along the way who will really bring the past to life. Expect lots of laughs – and one or two frights!
A cruise along the River Thames
If you like the sound of something a little more relaxing, why not take a cruise along the River Thames? Companies like City Cruises offer regular trips along the waterway, which are brilliant for sightseeing away from the heaving crowds. This particular operator provides trips setting off from piers near to major landmarks including the London Eye and the Tower of London.
Plus, you can also get hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tickets that mean you not only admire major attractions from the water, but get off and visit them too. You can pick from unlimited trips for 24 or 48 hours, making this a brilliant alternative to the Tube.