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Top London attractions

Overwhelmed by the sheer number of London attractions to visit? Follow our guide to the top London attractions, landmarks and sightseeing spots you'd be mad to miss

© Stewart Marsden

With so many top London attractions to tick off, your city sightseeing checklist could get very long indeed. So where do you start? Whether you live and work in the capital or you're just visiting for the day, let us be your guide with our round-up of the London attractions that simply cannot be missed. Check out our list of 101 things to do in London for more inspiration and explore the best the city has to offer. 

A handful of London attractions are free, but for those requiring tickets, you can buy your London attractions tickets here.

Top London attractions: icons

Buckingham Palace

A chance to see world famous art, glimpse regal opulence and get inside HRH’s HQ. The home of Elizabeth II, The Queen's Gallery is where you can see her personal collection of treasures, including paintings by Rembrandt. The State Rooms are accessible to visitors in August and September and for special tours on certain dates throughout the year (when the Queen isn’t home).

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St James's Park

London Zoo

It’s no longer about cages and snoozing animals hidden in the leafy distance – now you can walk through a special enclosure for ring-tailed lemurs and watch them run along ropes right in front of you, or step into a spider enclosure with some of the creepiest crawlies on earth, and, new for 2016, you can pass through the Land of the Lions and get closer than ever before to the world’s most feared predators.

Read more
Regent's Park

Tower Bridge

One of the most famous river crossings in the world, Tower Bridge is actually only 120 years old. Still, the fact that it lifts up in the middle when large vessels are passing underneath makes it an icon that most children probably picture in their minds when singing ‘London Bridge is falling down’. Planes have flown through it and in 1952 a double-decker bus really did ‘leap’ over the gap when the bridge started to lift without warning.

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Bermondsey

London Eye

The London Eye first started turning in 2000 and remains the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. But wordy technical definitions aside, it’s simply a gloriously over-sized ferris wheel that carries its passengers in space-age pods on a elegantly paced journey to 135 metres up above the Thames and back down again. On a clear day you can see as far as Windsor Castle, 25 miles away.

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South Bank

Westminster Abbey

Like the Pantheon Crypt in Paris, where you can see the tombs and memorials to great figures from history, Westminster Abbey is a popular attraction to peruse the graves, tablets, busts and stone dedications. Seventeen kings and queens are buried here, along with dukes, countesses and history’s ‘celebs’ – Darwin, Dickens, Hardy, Behn, Olivier, etc. Tributes to over 3,000 departed souls are located all over the Abbey’s chapels and cloisters, including the famous Poets’ Corner in the South Transept.

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Westminster

Kensington Palace

One of the exciting aspects of all London’s Historic Royal Palaces is that they invite you into spaces and places where hundreds of years of incredible British events actually took place. No need to use your imagination while looking at little models in a museum – you can walk down the same corridors Henry VIII did, see where Anne Boleyn was beheaded and look out of the windows where King George’s party guests would have stood gossiping. 

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Kensington

View from the Shard

With 360° views, 244 metres from the ground, The View from The Shard is one of the city’s very best vantage points. Since opening to the public in early 2013 it’s also become one of the capital’s favourite spaces for events like yoga sessions and silent disco nights. Open seven days a week, 364 days a year, The View from the Shard is more than a mere photo opportunity.

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London Bridge

St Paul's Cathedral

The iconic landmark that now stands in the city is St Paul’s Cathedral Mk VI at least – designed by Christopher Wren after its predecessor burnt down during the Great Fire of London in 1666. Amazingly, despite the devastation caused to many of the City of London churches all around it, the Cathedral survived the bombs of the Blitz and was the focus of celebration and mourning in 1945. 

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St Pauls

Big Ben

The world’s most celebrated clock is also a pedant’s dream. Big Ben is just the main bell, not the tower – we all know that. But then the über-pedants insist that the edifice isn’t even called St Stephen’s Tower, as the regular pedants hold, but is officially The Clock Tower. Designed by architect Charles Barry as part of the Palace of Westminster, The Clock Tower was completed in 1859. 

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National Maritime Museum

Free to visit, the National Maritime Museum is at the heart of the Royal Museums Greenwich (which also includes the Queen’s House next door, Cutty Sark about five minutes away, and the Royal Observatory up the hill). For hundreds of years, Greenwich was at the heart of maritime Britain – for commerce, travel and naval interests. As a result, the collection at the National Maritime Museum is an unparalleled treasure trove of artefacts, models, maps, art and memorabilia.

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Greenwich

Houses of Parliament

Guided tours of the Houses of Parliament offer a unique combination of one thousand years of history, modern day politics and stunning art and architecture. The audio commentary brings to life this trip through the House of Lords and House of Commons. Tours take around 60 to 75 minutes and feature leading Parliamentary figures such as Mr Speaker and Black Rod.

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Westminster

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace goes down in history as the playground of the Tudors and today, some of the most inspiring parts of the Palace to visit are the sixteenth-century quarters that still stand proud. These include the extensive kitchens, which once had to prepare two meals a day for a court of 600 people. With spice rooms and cellars for the king’s treats (Italian olives, French wines, locally caught game) they’re a bit like a modern Shoreditch deli run on an army canteen scale.

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London

Top London attractions: art and culture

British Museum

One of the world's oldest museums, the British Museum is vast and its collections, only a fraction of which can be on public display at any time, comprise millions of objects. When it was opened in 1759 it was the first national museum to be open to the public anywhere in the world. It was free to visit (and still is) so that any ‘studious and curious persons’ could pass through its doors and look upon the strange objects collected from all over the globe. 

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Bloomsbury

National Gallery

Established in 1824 as a new art collection for the enjoyment and education of all, the National Gallery first consisted of 38 pictures. There are now over 2,300 works of art, from medieval classics to world-famous pieces by the French Impressionists. The new museum opened in 1838, located in Trafalgar Square because it was deemed to be at the heart of London – easy for rich people to visit from the west by carriage and also convenient for poor people coming by foot from east London. 

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Trafalgar Square

Royal Opera House

Having secured its position as one of the world’s great opera houses following a turn-of-the-century refurbishment, the Royal Opera House has been able to conduct something of a PR campaign: in a bold move to woo new audiences, the opening performance of 2008’s ‘Don Giovanni’ was made exclusive to Sun readers at knockdown rates and beamed live to a chain of cinemas, and the Ignite Festival draws punters in with a terrific range of art installations, films and performances. 

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Covent Garden

Shakespeare's Globe

The modern Shakespeare’s Globe only holds about half the capacity of the original, but you can still get a rich feel for what it was like to be a ‘groundling’ (the standing rabble at the front of the stage) when you come to see a play here, in the circular, open-air theatre. However, a visit here isn’t just a history lesson. The theatre productions here are among the best in London.

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South Bank

Churchill War Rooms

Few would dispute that Winston Churchill’s unique leadership and ability to distil Britain’s fortitude during World War II played a major part in the victory against Hitler and Nazi Germany, making the War Rooms all the more appealing for anyone with a fascination for the era. Beneath Westminster, the Cabinet War Rooms were at the heart of Churchill’s wartime strategies. They were built and completed a week before war broke out.

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Whitehall

V&A

The V&A is one of the world’s – let alone London's – most magnificent museums, its foundation stone laid on this site by Queen Victoria in her last official public engagement in 1899. It is a superb showcase for applied arts from around the world, appreciably calmer than its tearaway cousins on the other side of Exhibition Road. Some 150 grand galleries on seven floors contain countless pieces of furniture, ceramics, sculpture, paintings, jewellery, metalwork, glass, textiles and dress, spanning several centuries. 

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Brompton

Royal Albert Hall

Built as a memorial to Queen Victoria's husband in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall's vast rotunda was once described by the monarch as looking like 'the British constitution'. It has been the venue for the Proms since 1941, despite acoustics that do orchestras few favours. The splendid exterior is matched by the regal red-and-gold interior which is crowned by a domed stained-glass skylight. 

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Knightsbridge

Tate Modern

Thanks to its industrial architecture, this powerhouse of modern art is awe-inspiring even before you enter. Built after World War II as Bankside Power Station, it was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of Battersea Power Station. The power station shut in 1981; nearly 20 years later, it opened as an art museum, and has enjoyed spectacular popularity ever since.

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South Bank

Kew Palace

One of the lesser known royal residences in London and only open from spring to autumn each year, Kew Palace is a rare chance to glimpse family life among kings, queens, princes and princesses. Built by a rich Flemish merchant in 1631, this pretty, red-brick villa was designed as a riverside country residence convenient for London. The house then had a succession of tenants before George II’s wife Caroline spotted the house and deemed it a suitable home for their three eldest daughters when the royal family was in residence at Richmond Lodge nearby.

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Kew

National Theatre

Arguably the greatest theatre in the world, the Royal National Theatre is also one of London's most iconic landmarks and perhaps this country's foremost example of brutalist architecture. It boasts four auditoriums – Olivier, Lyttelton, Dorfman and Temporary – a firm foothold on the West End thanks to 'War Horse' and 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time', and its NT Live programme beams its greatest hits to cinemas across the globe. 

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South Bank

Somerset House

The original Somerset House was a Tudor palace commissioned by the Duke of Somerset. In 1775 it was demolished to make way for an entirely new building, effectively the first purpose-built office block in the world. Today it houses a formidable art gallery, a beautiful fountain court, a terraced café and a classy restaurant. Having replaced the Hermitage Rooms and Gilbert Collection on the river side of the building in 2008, the Embankment Galleries explore connections between art, architecture and design.

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Temple

Top London attractions: family-friendly

London Zoo

It’s no longer about cages and snoozing animals hidden in the leafy distance – now you can walk through a special enclosure for ring-tailed lemurs and watch them run along ropes right in front of you, or step into a spider enclosure with some of the creepiest crawlies on earth, and, new for 2016, you can pass through the Land of the Lions and get closer than ever before to the world’s most feared predators.

Read more
Regent's Park

London Eye

The London Eye first started turning in 2000 and remains the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. But wordy technical definitions aside, it’s simply a gloriously over-sized ferris wheel that carries its passengers in space-age pods on a elegantly paced journey to 135 metres up above the Thames and back down again. On a clear day you can see as far as Windsor Castle, 25 miles away.

Read more
South Bank

Buckingham Palace

In its choice location, surrounded by parkland and close to the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace has been a high-class address for centuries, though much of the magnificence dates back only as far as John Nash’s extravagant upgrade during George IV’s reign, and it was in the twentieth century that George V and Queen Mary had the famous grand façade in Portland stone added to the front. 

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St James's Park

The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour

What do you do when you’ve made a hit series of eight amazing films and avid fans from all over the world are still baying for more? Take a lesson from Warner Bros, that’s what. With their special exhibition, ‘The Making of Harry Potter’, Warner has done an excellent job of keeping the Hogwarts magic alive. For ten years, the warehouses and film lot at Leavesden, just outside Watford, were the base for the Harry Potter movie series.

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Abbots Langley

London Eye

The London Eye first started turning in 2000 and remains the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel. But wordy technical definitions aside, it’s simply a gloriously over-sized ferris wheel that carries its passengers in space-age pods on a elegantly paced journey to 135 metres up above the Thames and back down again. On a clear day you can see as far as Windsor Castle, 25 miles away.

Read more
South Bank

Tower of London

Despite the exhausting crowds and long climbs up stairways, the Tower of London remains one of Britain's finest historical attractions. After all, who wouldn’t want a close-up with the crown of Queen Victoria or the prodigious codpiece of King Henry VIII? Located beside the equally impressive Tower Bridge in Tower Hill, the buildings of the London landmark span a whopping 900 years of history. 

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Tower Hill

Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Robert Ripley, dubbed ‘the modern Marco Polo’, was a proper little action man, always in search of a good story. His regular cartoon feature for an American newspaper made him a celebrity in the early twentieth century, as he travelled and collected exotic artefacts from around the world. His cartoons were turned into a series of books, radio show and eventually a TV show, which saw him become the first person ever to broadcast underwater.

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Piccadilly Circus

Kew Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew are 250 years old, but there’s plenty here for the modern outdoor adventurer. You can still wander the old Victorian Palm House and indulge in a little old-fashioned promenading like someone in a BBC costume drama, but these gardens, originally developed in the back yard of the royal palace favoured most by George III, are one of two national bases for research and education into botanical studies.

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Kew

View from the Shard

With 360° views, 244 metres from the ground, The View from The Shard is one of the city’s very best vantage points. Since opening to the public in early 2013 it’s also become one of the capital’s favourite spaces for events like yoga sessions and silent disco nights. Open seven days a week, 364 days a year, The View from the Shard is more than a mere photo opportunity.

Read more
London Bridge

Shrek's Adventure! London

The Shrek’s Adventure! London experience starts the moment you’re greeted by hosts and hostesses in 1950s-style uniforms at the entrance. Your ‘Dreamworks Tour’ group is briskly ushered up into the main departure lounge and from here, your chosen trip, ‘the Shrek Adventure’, is due to set off in a red double-decker bus. Only thing is, something seems to have gone wrong with the technical details… 

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South Bank

SEA LIFE London Aquarium

It’s hard to imagine, when you’re standing outside County Hall, that you’re going to find sharks and penguins inside what used to be a boring old council building. But give them their dues – Sea Life has created a pretty impressive aquatic wonderland right here in Zone One. You can go at your own pace, but Sea Life London Aquarium follows a set route, so you won’t miss anything.

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South Bank

Top London attractions: free

Natural History Museum

Both a research institution and a fabulous museum, the NHM opened in Alfred Waterhouse’s purpose-built Romanesque palazzo on the Cromwell Road in 1881. Now joined by the splendid Darwin Centre extension, the original building still looks quite magnificent. The pale blue and terracotta façade just about prepares you for the natural wonders within. Taking up the full length of the vast entrance hall is the cast of a Diplodocus skeleton.

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Brompton

Regent's Park

Regent's Park is one of London's most popular open spaces, covering 410 acres in north-west London. Originally a hunting ground for Henry VIII, it remained a royals-only retreat long after it was formally designed by John Nash in 1811; only in 1845 did it open to the public as a spectacular shared space. Attractions run from the animal odours and noises of London Zoo to the enchanting Open Air Theatre. 

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Regent's Park

British Library

A copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland is sent to The British Library – an institute that has amassed a collection of more than 150 million items and adds some 3 million new items each year. The public can apply for access to the reading rooms, or simply explore the permanent and temporary exhibits in the John Ritblat Gallery. 

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Euston

British Museum

When the British Museum was opened in 1759 it was the first national museum to be open to the public anywhere in the world. It was free to visit (and still is) so that any ‘studious and curious persons’ could pass through its doors and look upon the strange objects collected from all over the globe. Centuries before television, this was a chance for anyone to stand in front of specimens and antiquities and connect with other cultures, ancient and contemporary. 

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Bloomsbury

Hyde Park

At 1.5 miles long and about a mile wide, Hyde Park is one of the largest of London's Royal Parks. The land was appropriated in 1536 from the monks of Westminster Abbey by Henry VIII for hunting deer and, despite opening to the public in the early 1600s, was only frequented by the upper echelons of society. London's oldest boating lake, The Serpentine, is at the bottom of Hyde Park. It's not especially beautiful but is home to ducks, coots, swans and tufty-headed grebes, and is also of great historic interest. 

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Kensington

National Gallery

Established in 1824 as a new art collection for the enjoyment and education of all, the National Gallery first consisted of 38 pictures, put on display at a house on Pall Mall while a purpose-built gallery was constructed. There are now over 2,300 works of art, from medieval classics to world-famous pieces by the French Impressionists. 

Read more
Trafalgar Square

V&A

The V&A is one of the world’s – let alone London's – most magnificent museums, its foundation stone laid on this site by Queen Victoria in her last official public engagement in 1899. It is a superb showcase for applied arts from around the world, appreciably calmer than its tearaway cousins on the other side of Exhibition Road. Some 150 grand galleries on seven floors contain countless pieces of furniture, ceramics, sculpture, jewellery, metalwork, glass, textiles and dress, spanning several centuries.

Read more
Brompton

Green Park

The green, triangle-shaped expanse of leafy land just beyond the Ritz is Green Park. Penned in at two corners by St James's Park and Hyde Park, it was enclosed by Charles II in 1668 as a hunting ground before opening to the public in 1826. Today, the mini park plays host to lunching commuters and tourists in almost equal measure; the latter often found to be lounging on Green Park's alluring stripy deckchairs before being stung with a small fee by the roaming ticket man.

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St James'

Tate Modern

Thanks to its industrial architecture, this powerhouse of modern art is awe-inspiring even before you enter. Built after World War II as Bankside Power Station, it was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of Battersea Power Station. The power station shut in 1981; nearly 20 years later, it opened as an art museum, and has enjoyed spectacular popularity ever since.

Read more
South Bank

Next up: the best museums in the capital

Top 10 museums in London

Let Time Out point you in the direction of the capital's finest museums and galleries, and the exhibitions and events they have to offer. 

Read more
By: Things To Do Editors

Comments

4 comments
Uber M
Uber M

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vantoj j
vantoj j

I am never in London and very excited to visit all the places in London have no transportation to travel.Then someone suggested me to book a cab from AirportsFirst Taxi. Are their services good?

Robbertjack
Robbertjack

I really like your listed places but some of these are one of my ever best places like as Buckingham Palace and Royal Museums Greenwich . I also explored its other attractive places that are not mentioned there like The London Eye and London Aquarium; both of these places are also worth seeing attractions of this region. I am going there again after my hoover dam visitor center tour to be impressed by http://travelarroundtheworld.blog.com/2013/11/05/hoover-dam%E2%80%93significant-landmark-that-stands-out-unique-in-constructional-elegance/.

armida t
armida t

Nice post thanks for sharing. Also I suggest some other London Tourist attraction -

British Museum - This extremely popular museum displays an array of objects dating from pre-historic times all the way to the modern era.

The London Eye - A ride in the London eye will give you panoramic views of London historical structures, modern buildings and beautiful bridges.

The Tower of London - You can take a tour of the tower to discover the palace, place of execution, prison, jewel house, arsenal, and even a zoo.

Westminster Abbey - This Gothic Church is spectacular in every way. The beautiful and intricate architecture makes it a marvellous sight.

The London Shard - London’s newest landmark, The Shard has a viewing gallery has three levels, begin at level 69 which has interactive touch screen telescopes that allow you a detailed view of London’s beautiful buildings and monuments, then proceed to level 72 which is an open air viewing gallery that lets you gaze all the way up through the shards of glass atop the building.

London Aquarium - The perfect tourist spot to explore if you are looking for a day out with the family. Children love this place! It has about 500 species of aquatic animals on display. There are also some 30 odd sharks of different sub-species.