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  • Writer's pictureYllara Maia

Exploring the Top 10 Must-See Sights in London

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

Steeped in history and buzzing with life, London is truly a magnificent city that I visit time and again. Home to numerous iconic landmarks, it's impossible to see everything in one trip! That's why I have put together an exclusive list of the 8 must-see sights when you're visiting this amazing metropolis - these locations absolutely need to be on your bucket list.

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Where to Stay In London

Before we dive into our ultimate list of the top ten must-see attractions in London, let's go over where you should stay if you're visiting London for the first time.

For new visitors and those taking shorter trips, I always recommend that you stay in or around Covent Garden. This central area in the West End is perfect for tourists who want to get the most out of London in a short period of time.

It's also the perfect location for avid sight-seers. If you stay in this neighborhood, you'll have easy access to London's most iconic attractions like the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Circus, and Trafalgar Square.

Thanks to the city's excellent transportation system, it's also extremely convenient to get to East London from this area. For our top picks for hotels and stays in Covent Garden, click the link below.

In this blog post, we go over a complete list of London's best neighborhoods based on factors such as safety, convenience, and price range. Now, let's go over the top attractions that you must to see while exploring London.

1. The Big Ben

This iconic clock tower is the ultimate symbol of the United Kingdom, and it's an absolute must-see when visiting London. Contrary to what everybody thinks, ”Big Ben“ is actually the name of the bell inside the tower.

The tower itself is called the Elizabeth Tower, which is made up of 11 floors. If you're planning a trip to London, get excited! The extensive renovations that have been going on for the last few years have finally ended, and the clock now stands (uncovered) in all of its glory for everyone to see.

Now that all the scaffolding has finally been removed from Big Ben, admiring the world’s most famous clock from the streets of London is worth the visit. Unfortunately for international tourists, only UK residents get to tour inside the structure.

So, don’t be fooled by tours offered online thinking that you will be allowed in. However, they do offer guided tours of the Palace of Westminster and the Houses of Parliament (which is attached to Big Ben) for £29.

Still, just getting to stand outside and look up at this beautiful piece of architecture is a can't-miss experience. One of my favorite ways to see the clock tower is by taking a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus tour.

All of the tour buses will drive right past it, giving you a closer look than you would get from the streets. It's also one of the best ways to see the city if you're short on time.

2. Tower Bridge

Yet another iconic London landmark and one of the prettiest bridges ever built, Tower Bridge opened in 1894 and still stands proudly across the River Thames. Whether you chose to admire it from a distance or walk along the bridge, this engineering marvel can be seen from every angle around the City of London.

Everybody mistakes Tower Bridge for the London Bridge, but they are actually very different. London Bridge is a plain concrete structure located to the east of Tower Bridge. Although it's the oldest bridge in the city, most tourists don't even recognize it when they see it for the first time.

Some of the best ways to see Tower Bridge are to walk across it, take a river boat cruise, or explore inside the towers. You can easily walk across the bridge through its pedestrian walkways on either side.

On my second trip to London, my hotel was a quick 8-minute walk to Tower Bridge. We loved it so much that we crossed it on foot every day. It's something you never get tired of seeing.

Keep in mind that this is a working bridge and not just a tourist attraction, so there are a lot of locals passing through it. If you've visited London before, you'll also know that the bridge opens up for boats from time to time, which is worth stopping if you'd like to watch.

If you have extra time, I recommend visiting the inside of the towers. It opens daily from 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM, with the last admission being at 5:00 PM. An entry ticket costs £11.40 for adults and £5.70 for kids.

You can either purchase individual tickets here, or you can choose to buy a London Pass. Entrance to Tower Bridge, along with several other tourist landmarks are included with the pass. This will give you access to both towers, walkways, glass floors, and the engine rooms.

The walkways connect both towers and are a perfect location to get a great view of the city. If you wish to learn more about the history of the bridge from an expert, they also offer guided tours of the structure for £20.

However, if you're on a budget, a self-guided tour is also very rewarding. This is one of my favorite activities to do while in London. The view from the walkway is just beautiful and strolling through the glass floors is trippy, but a lot of fun.

3. The London Eye

If you wish to take in the stunning views of London, then look no further than the iconic London Eye! As a walk-in Ferris wheel, passengers can walk right into one of its capsules and enjoy a slow ride as it moves over the cityscape.

The enormous wheel attaches to several pod-like structures large enough to fit up to 25 people. You are free to walk around the capsule, or sit down and enjoy the ride. The top half of the pods are made of glass, making it the perfect observation spot for a beautiful view of the city.

The London Eye is one of London's priciest activities. The standard ticket to ride the attraction costs £36 if you buy it on the day of. However, I always recommend buying a ticket ahead of time so you don't have to wait in line at the ticket office.

Beat the crowds and get your tickets online in advance! While arriving early may work for some London attractions, this one only opens its doors at 11 AM. So don't miss out on any of the fun - book your tickets below.

For those who are willing to splurge, there is the possibility of reserving a private pod for an exorbitant price tag of £625. For the rest of us regular people though, opting for regular tickets and utilizing Google's "popular day & times" feature should do just fine!

Even though the lines move pretty quickly, I recommend avoiding the weekends if you want to ride the wheel with fewer people in your pod. Regardless, expect to deal with some crowds since this is a popular destination in the city center.

4. Buckingham Palace

If you are a fan of the British Royal Family, or The Crown has piqued your interest lately, visiting Buckingham Palace should be at the top of your list! Although only a few sections of this grand home are open to visitors, it's still worth exploring.

After all - It has been hosting some monarchy for more than three hundred years and counting! The most iconic parts of this royal residence, in my opinion, are its incredibly crafted wrought iron gates.

This is one of the most sought-after photo spots for everyone visiting London, and for good reason. Another major thing to experience when you visit Buckingham Palace is the Changing the Guard ceremony.

This spectacle takes place at 11 AM (weather permitting) on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. During the summer, it can take place every day at that same time, but this is subject to change depending on the weather.

If you're not sure about when to go and are afraid to miss it, it might be best to book a guided tour of Westminster. By doing this, you will receive a wealth of information and your guide can do the worrying for you!

If you’d like to visit the inside of the palace, tickets to see the State Rooms cost £30 for adults over 25 and £19.50 for a “young person” ages 18-24.

The State Rooms are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so plan accordingly before you go. On other days of the week, the palace is open for tours beginning at 9:30 AM until 7:30 PM. If you come in either September or October, it closes at 6:30 PM.

Make sure you check their website before visiting since opening times can also change depending on special events. I cannot stress this enough when I say to search online for any special events that are going on during your visit.

During our last trip to London, Queen Elizabeth II had recently passed away and the entire city was in chaos. You could barely stand for a picture outside of the palace and everything was pretty much closed on the day of the funeral.

Always do your research and plan ahead before you visit London. If all you want to do is take a photo by the gates of the palace, this should be a quick stop for you.

Consider heading over to Hyde Park next and taking a break before continuing to your next stop. Hyde Park is just a short walk from Buckingham Palace, and it's one of the many green spaces around the city.

5. Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is a World Heritage site with thousands of years of history. So many legendary events have taken place here, including royal weddings, coronations, and burials of several monarchs.

Founded in 960 AD, the Abbey has been a place of worship and gathering for hundreds of years. Westminster Abbey offers free worship services, which you can visit for free on any day. If you are simply there to tour the church, however, there is an entry fee.

General admission costs £27 and will give you access to the Cloisters, College Garden, Chapter House and the Pux Chamber. If you choose to buy a ticket online, I recommend picking a day with the earliest possible entry time.

If you want to visit the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Gallery, which is a space never before open to the public, that is an additional £4.5 for adults, and children 17 and under can get in for free.

Other can’t-miss things to see while visiting Westminster Abbey are the Coronation Chair, Poet’s Corner, and the Royal Tombs. Several big names in history, such as Mary Queen of Scots, Stephen Hawking, and Sir Isaac Newton were buried here.

With so much to see and explore, it can take a couple of hours to see everything that Westminster Abbey has to offer to its visitors. I recommend coming here as soon as it opens at 9:30 AM and hopefully on a sunny day, so you can experience the light interacting with the glass and the rest of the architecture.

Whenever you're visiting a city that is well-known for its tourism, it's always wise to book and purchase tickets ahead of time in order to get the most out of your experience. If visiting Westminster Abbey is on your bucket list, I highly recommend booking a guided tour of Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.

Although you won't be able to go up the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben), like we mentioned before, you will get to go inside the building that's attached to it while learning all about it from an expert.

The Abbey is very close in distance to Big Ben and only a few minutes walk from the London Eye, so you should have no problem hitting all of these spots in central London in a day.

6. Tower Of London

If you only have a limited amount of time to explore London, then make sure that the Tower of London is at the top of your itinerary. It's without a doubt one of the most exciting places to experience in this vibrant city!

This famous landmark and World Heritage Site has been standing for hundreds of years and was also used as a royal palace and a legendary prison during some of the most famous reigns in history. Several known names were sent to be imprisoned at the tower, like Anne Boleyn and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Today, it is basically a museum and one of London's most visited tourist attractions. Surrounded by a protective wall, the Tower of London is like its own miniature city, made up of a collection of medieval structures that have grown larger over time.

The White Tower (the castle that lies in the center) is the oldest building in the complex and is a must-see during your visit. An admission ticket to the Tower of London costs about £30 and gives you access to the fortress, the palace, and the prison.

You can check out medieval suits of armour at the Royal Armouries, tour where the kings and queens used to live and discover the graffiti that prisoners left behind while awaiting their fate. You have the option of walking around on your own, paying £4 for an audio guide, or taking a guided tour with one of the warders.

Yeomen Warders, also known as Beefeaters, are the guards that care for and live within the tower. The tours are of no additional cost, and it is the only way to get admission into the church in the tower.

Tours leave every 30 minutes and are extremely informative and fun. If you're totally into history and would like more time at the tower, you can book an early access tour with a Beefeater. You'll get to skip the queue and get an outdoor walkthrough before going inside.

The Tower of London opens its doors for visitors daily at 9 AM in the summer and closes at 5:30 PM. Since the place is massive and there is just so much to see, I would plan to spend the whole day here if you want to experience all of it.

We did a brief walkthrough of the entire complex and which took about 3 hours. By the time we got to the White Tower, the place was closing up and we had to leave. My recommendation is to get in line as soon as the place opens and go straight to the White Tower.

This is where the medieval armories are held, and it's definitely worth the climb up to the entrance (trust me). After that, head over to see the Crown Jewels. I've seen many crown jewels from several royal families in Europe, and none of them have come close to England's.

As I said, there is a lot to do and see in the Tower of London, and the only way to truly experience it is by reserving an entire day to explore it. Make sure to head over as soon as it opens to get the most out of your day here.

Don't worry, there is a cafeteria inside the premises if you get hungry and modern toilets so you won't have to use the medieval ones in the tower. The Tower of London is also located right next to Tower Bridge, so you can easily visit both on the same day.

7. Piccadilly Circus

If you want to get a feel of London as a modern city, head over to Piccadilly Circus. This "circus", which is just a fancy word for circle, is a much classier version of Times Square. Piccadilly is a road junction located in London's West End, and it's famous for its intertwining streets, beautiful architecture, and giant LED screens.

If you're into sightseeing, here you'll find the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (a.k.a the "Eros statue") and the iconic Regent Street. Other than checking out these touristy spots, there is a lot more to do in or near Piccadilly Circus.

This area is also the home of London's theatre district, so you can stop to watch several Broadway plays for a much cheaper price. I noticed the significant difference in pricing while looking for something to do at night in London - and I was shocked by how cheap it was.

So if you've been dying to watch the Lion King but could never afford it in New York, come watch it in London! If you're not into theatre, don't be discouraged. For all my foodie friends, there are lots of great places to eat around this area, and London's Chinatown is right next door.

If you're into Chinese food, consider taking a walking food tour of Chinatown. We stopped at a handful of food spots during our visit, and all of them had long queues snaking around the corners.

As we know, if there's an abundance of people queuing up for something then it must be good. Needless to say, Chinatown did not disappoint; everything we tried was delicious. All in all, Piccadilly has everything you could possibly need.

From iconic monuments to numerous shopping malls and exciting activities, this area of London is an ideal spot for a fun-filled evening! With countless eateries serving superb cuisine, this is one of London's best areas for aa night out.

It's also a great location to stay in during your visit. Multiple train lines stop at or near Piccadilly, so getting around will be super easy and stress-free. Check out our top picks for hotels in this area and other recommended areas to stay in London.

8. Shakespeare's Globe Theater

If you're into history, theatre, or art, taking a tour of Shakespeare's Globe would be a great activity for you. Built to model the original Globe Theater, this place really takes you back in time. There are a few things you should know before visiting.

For starters, this is a working theater and they have Shakespearean plays running throughout the year. With that being said, the opening hours that are shown online are for the box office, gift shop, and restaurants.

Guided tours of the space are only offered twice daily, one at 10 AM and one at 12 PM, and they require booking in advance. If you show up on the day of at any other time outside of that window, you will be sent away unless you're dining in or buying a ticket to see a play.

So, if you're really interested in touring the inside of the theater, you can find more information about tour times and pricing on their website. I highly recommend doing a guided tour because it's fun and incredibly informative.

You'll get an inside scoop on how the theater works along with lots of stories and historical facts. The only thing better than doing a tour is watching one of Shakespeare's plays in the Globe Theater.

They pride themselves in keeping the show running the original way, as they did it back in the old days. This is a theater experience like no other, and one that is definitely worth trying while in London. If you have the extra time, head over to South Bank and visit Shakespeare's Globe.

9. St. Paul's Cathedral

If you're looking for an incredible landmark to visit in London, then you absolutely must check out St Paul's Cathedral. This impressive cathedral is the mother church of London. decide to visit, make sure you plan enough time because it's a big place.

Inside the cathedral, there are tons of works of art and pieces of history that date as far back as the 17th century. You can also take part in a guided tour which will give you an in-depth look at the architecture and décor inside.

If you can, make sure you go up the grand staircase to the Whispering Gallery. Here, you'll be able to hear someone speaking on the other side of this circular hall all the way from the opposite end. It's truly an amazing experience that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.

The views from St Paul's Cathedral are also priceless. Make sure you climb up to the top of the dome and head out onto the balconies. From here, you'll be able to look out over London in all its glory. It's one of those sights that just takes your breath away.

St Paul's Cathedral is super close to Shakespeare's Globe. Just cross Millennium Bridge from South Bank and keep walking straight. This is also one of the best views of the cathedral's dome, so make sure to snap a picture!

10. The National Gallery & Trafalgar Square

London is a city that is rich in history and one other thing - museums! With such a plethora of choices, like the Natural History Museum, Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert Museum or British Museum to name just a few; your holiday in London will truly be one for indulging in.

If you don't have much time in London, however, the National Gallery should be at the top of your list. Located in Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery has an impressive collection of artworks from the 13th century up until today

Even if you're not a fan of art, there are other cool things to see like the Rosetta Stone. You should still enjoy the National Gallery as it's free to enter and full of interesting artifacts.

There are even guided tours that can help bring the paintings to life in a unique way. If you do decide to visit the National Gallery, take some time to enjoy Trafalgar square.

Here's where you'll find the iconic fountains and the lions that guard them, which attract tourists from all over the world. You will be overwhelmed by how much beauty and history there is in one place.

King's Cross Station (Optional)

If the famous boy wizard is one of the reasons why you're going to London in the first place, make sure to check out King's Cross Station. The railway station is situated in Camden, right at the edge of central London.

For any Potterhead out there, the chance to experience Platform 9 and 3/4 - the spot where it all began for Harry and his friends taking the Hogwarts Express - is nothing short of a dream come true.

Here you'll find familiar movie locations, a small gift shop, and an opportunity for you to get pictures with a cart going straight through the platform.

However, if you want to see the original Hogwarts Express - along with all of the actual sets and props from the movies - consider going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour London.

Visiting the studio was such an incredible experience, that we have an entire blog post dedicated to it. Make sure to check it out if you're a Harry Potter fan.

The London Pass

If you plan on visiting at least three of the sights mentioned above, consider buying a London Pass. It's basically an all-access ticket that includes entry to many of London's most famous landmarks.

Not sure if it's worth getting one? In our new post we go over everything you need to know about the pass to determine if it's worth the price. Read our blog post to find out if the London Pass is right for you.

With these tips in mind, your next visit to London should be a breeze! I hope this can help you narrow down your itinerary for your next visit to the beautiful city of London. Until we meet again my fellow ultimate tourists - safe travels!

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