Whether you like the idea of a monarchy or not, the allure of a palace and Royalty attracts thousands of visitors to Buckingham Palace every day.
The 45-minute-long Changing of the Guards Ceremony takes place at 11:30am, daily from April to July, and every second day for the rest of the year. Get there early for a prime spot at the fence.
The state rooms are opened from late July to early October and are as beautiful as you would imagine. The Royal Mews (Royal Carriages Museum), and the Queen’s Gallery (which holds art exhibitions) are open to visitors year-round.
ST PAUL’S CATHEDRAL
My second favourite church in Europe after St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, St Paul’s Cathedral is an essential stop each time I visit London. Built by Sir Christopher Wren in the late seventeenth century, an original church on the same land dates back to as early as the year 604.
The church holds regular public services and is often used for state functions such as the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria in 1897, Sir Winston’s Churchill’s funeral, and Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee in 2012.
Make sure you visit the Whispering Galley on the first floor of the dome, when you whisper into the wall on one side of the dome, it can be heard by someone on the other side. Yelling doesn’t work, which I have watched many tourists attempt, so just whisper softly.
Be aware of the opening hours of this Cathedral as it closes at 4:30pm and last entry is at 4:15pm, Monday to Saturday. I have been caught out countless times!
The interior of St Paul’s Cathedral is astounding but you will have to visit for yourself as photos are not permitted inside. The best views and photographs of St Paul’s exterior is from Millennium Bridge, which was also featured in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince film.
The iconic ‘Coronation Church of England’ receives a whopping one million visitors each year.
Westminster Abbey displays the Coronation Chair built in 1296 for King Edward I upon the Stone of Scone. This Abbey has played host to 16 Royal weddings and coronation of the British Monarchs since 1066.
The abbey also houses the graves of Sir Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Lord Byron, Lewis Carroll, Captain James Cook, and many other historical figures.
THE TOWER OF LONDON
Built in 1066 by William the Conqueror, over the centuries the tower fortress has been the setting of a Norman palace, it was the execution site of three English Queens and is current housing the English Crown Jewels.
The line to visit the Tower of London can seem endless, so save yourself the wait and book your tickets online.
The Yeoman Warders’ tours (Beefeater tours) are entertaining and informative, I highly recommend taking these tours which run every 30 minutes and is usually included in the entry ticket price.
Often confused as London Bridge, Tower Bridge is the postcard perfect image of what a suspension bridge should look like. It is in fact a combined suspension and bascule bridge, bascule meaning a counterweight drawbridge design.
Designed and built in a Victorian Gothic Design to complement the nearby Tower of London, this Bridge was completed in 1894 after eight years of construction and today is one of the iconic symbols of London and England itself.
There is an exhibition inside of the two towers featuring the Victorian Engine rooms as well as a glass walkway between them that sits more than 40 meters above the river from where you can watch the traffic beneath your feet and if you’re lucky the bridge opening and closing.
CHURCHILL WAR ROOMS
This is one of my favourite London Attractions!
Under the Imperial War Museums care, this museum is broken into Churchill’s Bunker, the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum. Not only can you get to wander through the secret bunker, the heart and home of Britain’s WWII war plans but Churchill’s personal and political life is examined thoroughly.
This Ferris wheel gives you great views of Big Ben and Parliament from the South side of the Thames at a whopping £20 – £30 depending on the package you choose. If you are travelling with a family or in a group that adds up pretty quickly…
Taking as many photos of this icon when you can but in my opinion there are other places in the city where you can get an excellent view at a better price.
My Favourite view? When you are in St Paul’s Cathedral if you can manage the 528 steps climb to the top of the Dome for the same sweeping views of London, it is included in the price of your entry to the Cathedral. Why pay twice?
PARLIAMENT & BIG BEN
The Houses of Parliament is officially called The Palace of Westminster but has earned its name from the two houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom that meet there.
The ‘old’ palace burnt down in 1834 and the ‘new’ palace we see standing today is a Gothic design by Charles Barry that took over 30 years to complete.
A feast for the eyes, the intricacies of the design is perfection, take a walk around the exterior to appreciate it properly.
The most famous feature of the Palace of Westminster is the Elizabeth Tower, also referred to as the clock tower, housing the ‘Big Ben’ Bell.
Historians don’t agree on how the third heaviest bell in Britain (weighing 13.8 tonnes) was named ‘ Big Ben’ though you will find many theories depending on what you read.
90 minute guided tours are available through the House of Lords and House of Commons on most Saturdays and weekdays when Parliament is not in session.
Admire Nelson’s Column commemorating Admiral Nelson who dies in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. This square is flanked by The National Portrait Gallery and the quaint Church, St Martin-in-the-Fields.
NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
On the northern side of Trafalgar Square, this world class gallery is free and houses an amazing array of the faces and leader’s from Britain’s fascinating history. On Thursday and Friday evenings they are open until 9pm for anyone interested in a late art session (they close at 6pm every other day).
Opened in 1974, The London Dungeon has become an enthralling theatrical showcase of London’s bloody history and infamous characters.
Located in the Western edge of Hyde Park, this royal residence is the official home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will & Kate) and was once the residence of Diana, Princes of Wales, and Queen Victoria. You are able to walk through the King and Queen’s Staterooms and the gardens.
The Orangery, built in 1704 by Queen Anne is the perfect place to enjoy an elegant breakfast, lunch or even a high tea like a true Royal Family Member.
Built on the original site of the Elizabethan playhouse destroyed in 1613, the circular thatched-roof theatre ‘seek to further the experience and international understanding of Shakespeare in performance’.
They offer guided tours and a gift shop.
Need a shopping fix!? Join the crowded bustle that zig zags in and out of the high street shops.
You will find all the main stream favourites; Top shop, Miss Selfridge, River Island, Mango, Zara, to name a few off a very long list.
It is a very long street but the main bustle happens in and around Oxford Circus Station. Regent Street, which crosses over Oxford Street, is also worth a visit.
Piccadilly Circus is London’s version of Times Square with double story video screens playing all day and night.
The intersection hub of five main roads and a great walking point to get to Soho, Chinatown, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square areas.
Good luck finding anything affordable in this mega designer department store.
The interior design is stunning and worth a visit if you can bare the crowds!
FREE WALKING TOUR
This is not a sight exactly but I highly recommend taking the Free Sandeman’s walking tour across London to gain a proper insight into the history and stories of the streets.
I have taken this free tour at least four times and constantly learn new things! They also offer themed tours such as the ‘Grim Reaper Tour’, an ‘Ale tour’ as well as a day trip to Oxford.
HYDE & ST JAMES’ PARK
350 acres of blissful English gardens, Hyde Park is the perfect place to laze about in the scant London sun. The green space was originally created by Henry VIII as hunting grounds in 1536 and wasn’t opened to the public until 1637.
There are many sights and memorials within the park such as the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial, London Bombings Memorial, Speaker’s Corner as well as hosting summer concerts, the Proms, Winter Wonderland and many more throughout the year.
Jump on a ferry from Embankment (tube station) and glide down the River Thames, past Shakespeare’s Globe and Canary Wharf to Greenwich, the ancient maritime borough of London.
Make sure you visit the Royal Observatory and take your photo straddling the Greenwich Mean Line.
My favourite thing to do in Greenwich, which is often overlooked, is visiting the Painted Hall and Chapel at Greenwich University, originally built as the Royal Naval College. Both rooms are remarkable and unlike many sights across Europe, the entrance is free.
There is a covered market in Greenwich from Tuesday–Sunday, sprawling green parks, and a world renown planetarium.
Free, Free, Free! This plethora of a museum contains over eight million works dedicated to human history. Not only are there artefacts from Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and the Far East to Modern times the building itself is artwork alone.
As you approach the main entrance on Great Russell Street 44 Greek Ionic Columns stand triumphantly, the interior design of the museum has changed over time, each room as breathtaking as the next.
My ‘stand out’ things to see? The Parthenon Marbles from the Acropolis, Athens dated from 447 BC and the Rosetta Stone inscribed with King Ptolemy V degree from Memphis, Egypt in 196BC.
VICTORIA & ALBERT MUSEUM
The V & A Museum houses over 4.5 million astonishing objects of decorative arts meaning ‘ceramics, glass, textiles, costumes, silver, ironwork, jewellery, furniture, medieval objects, sculpture, prints and printmaking, drawings and photographs’ from across the world.
My favourite section to visit is the Caste Courts, which comprises of two vast rooms of plaster copies of the most famous sculptures in the world.
It sounds odd but thanks to the foresight of conservationists, most of the originals of these castes are now destroyed and the copy remains the only true depiction of what once was.
Highlights include Trajan’s Column from Ancient Rome, Spain’s Portico de la Gloria and the Pulpit of Pisa’s Cathedral.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
This vast museum holds a staggering 80+ million items covering specimens from the prehistoric era to modern day discoveries and research.
They constantly hold fascinating exhibitions of photography, illustration, 3D film and interactive experiences like Darwin’s Cocoon and museum sleepovers for Kids and Adults.
The main entry to this Museum is off Exhibition Road, tucked in behind the Natural History Museum.
This gem of a Museum brings to life all things brought to the world through scientific design, from Britain’s Industrial Revolution to Watson and Crick’s double helix to the Apollo 10 command capsule.
One of London’s free museum the Tate Modern showcases modern and contemporary Art.
Housed in a former Bankside Power Station the museum houses artwork by Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Warhol, Pollock and many other world famous artists.
Not only is the museum entry free but it is open until 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights!
TIP – There are several well known bars and restaurants with sweeping views along the Thames, my favourite (though all very pricy) include The Oxo Tower, Tate Modern’s Cafe and the restaurant and bar and lounge in The Shard.
A sister museum to Tate Modern, this gallery showcases British art from 1500 to present day as the name suggests.
Personally I prefer the Tate Modern but art is so subjective neither is ‘better’. They are just down the river from one another so you van visit both!
THE RITZ LONDON
Let’s be honest, not many of us will be able to spend a night in this 5-star luxury hotel in Piccadilly. Even if you would like to have a decadent afternoon tea or a drink at the bar a strict dress code is enforced.
Do visit this hotel just to gaze up at the beautiful exterior designed in a french style as it was designed by Charles Mewes who designed The Ritz in Paris.
THE MONUMENT TO THE GREAT FIRE
Stop at The Monument a 62 metre Doric Column which was effected on the sight where the Great Fire of London began in 1666.
ROYAL ALBERT HALL
A breathtaking Concert Hall on the edge of Kensington Gardens that was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871. Whether you are attending an event or merely gazing in awe at its facade this building is sure to impress.
FORTNUM & MASON & BURLINGTON ARCADE
Fortnum & Mason is an exquisite department store across the street from the beautiful Burlington Arcade, both are a stunning architectural showcase selling items with the price tag to match.
The ‘West End’ is an area around Leicester Square in vibrant Covent Garden and is the heart of the Theatre World in London.
2013 saw a record of 14.5 million people attend a West End show. Tickets can be expensive so if you aren’t strapped for time there are many last minute ticket booths in and around Leicester Square as well as several legitimate websites you can visit such as Timeout and Lastminute.
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So who am I…? Hi! My name is India.
I am a nomadic Australian who has wandered the world full time exploring over 60 countries and 5/7 continents.
After ten years on the road, I have launched my own website – Travelling Notebook – to share the knowledge I have gained on the road and the images I have collected over the years with fellow adventurers. Keep reading…
I am a freelance travel writer, photography and videographer, based in London. If you need specific travel advice or would like to collaborate please send an email my way!
Always say yes to adventure!