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 go explore the best that 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
This is proper costume drama territory. Enjoy finely cut sandwiches, dainty cakes and the tinkling of dazzling silver teapots while you enjoy a luxurious afternoon indulgence in the gold and white splendor of the Ritz Hotel’s Palm Court. It’s so popular that you can book sittings from 11.30am to 7.30pm – not strictly afternoon, but all accompanied by the delicate sounds of a pianist, harpist or string quartet.Don’t miss: A cheeky cocktail in the plush Rivoli Bar before you head home.
It’s not just because this elegant palace is located in Kensington Gardens, on the trendiest fringes of west London, that this royal residence has a certain chic style. It played host to the most fashionable salons in Georgian times, plus it was home to Queen Victoria in her youth, then to sassy Princess Margaret and then to classy Princess Diana. Now William and Kate live in apartments at the rear, while the main palace is a pretty visitor attraction, with tranquil gardens to wander.Don’t miss: Afternoon tea in the Orangery.
Big Ben is actually the nickname of the Great Bell inside Westminster’s iconic clock tower, but even locals think ‘Big Ben’ when they see the Elizabeth Tower. No matter, it looks great whatever you call it. You can’t get inside for a tour until 2020 due to maintenance work, but you’re a minute away from the river, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey here, so it’s an easy visit.Don’t miss: The photo opportunity from Westminster Bridge – the best angle for your selfie.
One of the city’s newest but most-loved icons, the slowly revolving wheel that stands by the Thames continues to be a tourist favourite. Each glass-walled pod is designed to allow everyone (who dares) views to the north, south, east and west, making this a brilliant way to get the measure of London. And each visit now starts with a fun, 4D short film before you board.Don’t miss: The ‘Champagne Experience’ option if you fancy a romantic date gliding high at sunset.
Tower Bridge is a must-do that you can enjoy from a distance and right up close. Check the website in advance and visit when there’s a planned ‘bridge lift’ (that’s when the two halves of the road lift up so that bigger boats can pass below). There are lots of tours so you can see the engine rooms, hear about its history or join a Tots at Tower Bridge family storytelling session.Don’t miss: The glass-floored walkway that now spans the bridge’s towers, 42 metres above the Thames. Breathtaking.
Where better to put a massive observation gallery than at the top of Western Europe’s tallest tower? Set across three floors, with floor-to-ceiling windows and an open-air terrace for the bravest among you, the View from the Shard has ‘tell-scopes’ so you can find out more about the landscape you’re looking at. Regular events include silent discos and yoga mornings.Don’t miss: Monthly ‘object handling’ sessions hosted by the Museum of London, where families can get hands-on with archeological finds that reveal secrets from the city’s history.
It may look different to how it was when England won the World Cup (most of London does, given that was 50 years ago), but Wembley still has a magic about it, even when you don’t have a ticket for a match or a rock concert. Take the tour and you’ll get to walk down the players’ tunnel, plus, with the use of 360-degree video, experience the atmosphere at some of the stadium’s biggest events.Don’t miss: Holding the FA Cup. Don’t be shy, this is your big moment.
Top London attractions: art and culture
Go behind the scenes of one of the world’s biggest media operations. Just around the corner from the iconic, curved original doors to Broadcasting House you’ll find the glass and steel modern grandeur of the new entrance. On a tour of the offices and studios you get to hear about the Beeb’s long history, try your hand at sound effects and reading a radio play, and see what happens when the cameras are on.Don’t miss: The chance to read a presenter’s autocue. It’s not as easy as Fiona Bruce makes it look.
Tucked behind Downing Street and Parliament Square, the War Rooms were a secret, secure bunker where Churchill and his cabinet could monitor how World War II was going, receive intelligence and give orders. Perfect for history lovers, the rooms can be seen just as they were left after 1945. You get an evocative sense of what working here, day and night during the war, must have been like.Don’t miss: The Remington Noiseless typewriter – Churchill hated noise so secretaries were issued with specially adapted silent typewriters to tap away on.
The favoured residence of George III and his family, Kew Palace is an often forgotten treasure that looks more like a massive, ornate biscuit tin than the glittering home of a royal, but in the gardens there is a wonderful little cottage built for Queen Charlotte that most definitely trumps any normal garden shed. You can only visit the Palace via Kew Gardens (it’s free with entry to Kew), from March to October, so grab your chance when you can.Don’t miss: The wax bust of the head of George III, made by Madame Tussaud herself.
Just around the corner from the National Gallery, this is the home of a stunning collection of portraits, from paintings to photography, capturing the essence of notable royalty, celebrities and our enduring fascination with the human face. From Elizabeth I and Nelson to Arthur Scargill and Darcey Bussell, the permanent collection is free to visit, with ticketed special exhibitions.Don’t miss: Portrait of the Day – a free talk on one chosen piece from the gallery’s collection, each day at 12.30pm.
It’s free, it’s right on Trafalgar Square and you’re welcome to simply swing by and stand before artistic greatness whenever you like. Perfect, whether you’ve got ten minutes in your lunchbreak to check out Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ or time to wander the entire, glorious collection of Western European paintings from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries.Don’t miss: Late sessions on the last Friday each month, with DJing, art workshops and pop-up bars so you can enjoy the collection after work.
It’s over 50 years since Laurence Olivier was the first director of the National Theatre Company, and 40 years since it moved into its permanent home on the South Bank, but the calibre of directing and performing continues to hold its own. From classics to new writing, championing rising talents alongside big-name stars, the programme always dazzles, and Travelex 15 ensures there are hundreds of seats for every performance from just £15.Don’t miss: The Platforms talks with directors and leading actors, discussing their current productions.
Built by Queen Victoria for the purposes of entertainment and enlightenment and named in honour of her dear husband, the RAH still has a magic to it, and not just when the whole place shakes to a Proms chorus of ‘Land Of Hope and Glory’. The plush curtains and balconies retain Victorian opulence and swiveling seats mean you get a great view of the stage wherever you sit.Don’t miss: In town with no ticket for a concert? Grab lunch in the café bar and simply enjoy the building’s architectural curvaceousness.
You don’t have to be super rich to see world-class opera and ballet at Covent Garden’s grand old ROH; there are reductions for students, senior citizens and those on credits, plus the weekly Friday Rush (at 1pm) is a chance to get cheap tickets for the main stage performance the next day. Alternatively, just get a sense of the drama on a backstage tour.Don’t miss: A glass of fizz in the stunningly decorative Paul Hamlyn Champagne Bar.
Don’t pass up the chance to see theatre like Londoners in Tudor times did, in what at the time was London’s home of dodgy ‘entertainment’, Bankside. The Globe has been carefully recreated to show the kind of setting Shakespeare would have written all his plays for. If you’ve never been, book groundling tickets and stand in the open-air pit like you’re at a rock festival. It makes the Bard’s poetry seem a lot less like homework and a lot more like first-rate drama.
Don’t miss: The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – the indoor Jacobean-styled theatre at the Globe, complete with a candlelit stage.
On the north side of Waterloo Bridge, sitting on Aldwych, this elegant eighteenth-century landmark hosts several art exhibitions and events at a time, incorporating the Courtauld Gallery and temporary exhibitions in the Embankment Galleries. Hell, even the courtyard (once an Inland Revenue car park) makes itself useful, with the ice rink in winter, fountains in summer and alfresco cinema and live music seasons too.Don’t miss: Grabbing a classy lunch, with options including permanent and pop-up operations overseen by the Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens..
Londoners should feel proud that, since it opened in 2000, this converted power station has become one of the world’s most esteemed art galleries. It’s a cathedral to international modern and contemporary art, now with the added Switch House tower for rooftop views and extra gallery space. It’s still free to explore and the ticketed exhibitions rarely disappoint.Don’t miss: The Tanks space for bold new ideas, live performances and interactive art.
Top London attractions: free
A working resource for printed and sound archives, the British Library is a place for studious research, yes, but also open to all, so if you just want to nip into the free Entrance Hall exhibitions during your lunch hour you might get to see a scribbled page of Beatles songwriting or a Leonardo da Vinci notebook. There are some stunning illuminated scripts and landmark-scientific items too, including very early photographs.Don’t miss: The room displaying one of the few remaining original copies of the Magna Carta.
Trace thousands of years of culture and history through artefacts gathered from all over the world. From the everyday to the ceremonial, priceless treasures fill the galleries here, and, thanks to the modern Great Court and its glass-domed ceiling, it’s a lively space, not a mausoleum. There are free daily tours and object-handling activities, and even the youngest visitors are fascinated by the Egyptian mummy.Don’t miss: The samurai armour – see what elaborate Japanese fighting kit looked like in medieval times.
Don’t just drive or take a bus round it, wander into Hyde Park’s green vastness and eventually you get to the Serpentine lake, where you can swim, go boating, board a solar-powered ferry (in summer) or sit and eat pizza whilst watching other people messing about on the water. It’s easy to take for granted this massive central London park, but life’s more fun if you stop for a stroll, a bike ride or a picnic.Don’t miss: The Diana Memorial Fountain that looks less like a fountain and more like a circular, babbling brook.
Located in the lower levels of the vast concrete complex at Barbican, the Museum of London traces history from the capital’s beginnings to the present day – you can even see some of the original Roman Wall from the museum’s windows. Find out what life was like in Londinium, sense the drama of the Great Fire of London, walk through a Victorian shopping arcade and see the stunning London 2012 Olympic Cauldron.Don’t miss: The free gallery tours, when you can get up close to that Roman wall for yourself.
Greenwich and its surrounds have been at the heart of seafaring Britain for centuries – from shipbuilding and naval affairs to royal residences and the science of navigation. The result today is that the NMM has a world-class collection of sea-related artifacts, art and treasures. Check out Nelson’s bloodstained uniform, trace Britain’s history of Empire and see the stunning Baltic Exchange Memorial Glass gallery. All for free.Don’t miss: The fun-packed Ahoy! – a hands-on play area themed to ships and the sea, especially designed for babies and under-eights.
Budding paleontologists step this way. Feel tiny next to the dinosaur skeletons, discover the weird and wonderful habits of exotic creatures great and small, see incredible fossils, meet the experts who work behind the scenes at the Darwin Centre’s Cocoon, and find out about our planet’s evolution by understanding more about creepy crawlies.Don’t miss: The tranquil wildlife garden in the grounds of the museum, teeming with fascinating little residents.
Five minutes’ brisk walk north of Oxford Circus takes you to the pretty rose garden of Regent’s Park. Venture further and you’ll find the elegant Open Air Theatre (from spring until September), the tree-lined avenues for jogging and, on a weekend, plenty of amateurs trying to rediscover their five-a-side football skills. Grab a coffee and sit out with the dog walkers.Don’t miss: Walking to the top of neighbouring Primrose Hill, for great views.
Many of London’s best museums are free to visit, making what they show just that little bit more awesome – but also very busy. Go off peak and try the hands-on experiments to understand more about the scientific world (there are specially dedicated zones to suit children of different age groups) or simply gaze on examples of incredible technology, from early computers to space hardware.Don’t miss: The new (ticketed) WonderLab with state-of-the-art interactive experiences and live demonstrations.
London’s oldest royal park and, essentially, Buckingham Palace’s front garden, St James’ Park runs alongside The Mall and offers an easy escape from the traffic noise of Trafalgar Square. The two islands in its lake are home to wildlife (see the pelicans being fed at 2.30pm daily) and there’s a Princess Diana Memorial Walk to follow if you fancy some gentle exercise.Don’t miss: Inn the Park – with mains like venison and a cocktails list, it’s the poshest park café in town.
Salute Nelson atop his massive column, pose for photos by the fountains (no paddling, please) and check out the latest modern art installation adorning the Fourth Plinth, as London’s red buses circle the busy roads around you. Check the website before you go – there are often free live events happening here, too.Don’t miss: Admiralty Arch, just across the road. From it you get a fabulous view of the Mall and Buckingham Palace.
Any self-respecting fashionista knows that what goes around comes around, so browsing centuries of textiles and design at the Victoria & Albert museum is an education in style that is still very relevant today. After the landmark ‘David Bowie is...’ exhibition, a new crowd has appreciated the depth of the V&A’s collection. It continues to fire creative minds with collections of clothes, china, jewellery, glass, photography, architectural drawings and art.Don’t miss: The Les Paul guitar (as smashed up by The Who’s Pete Townshend) in the Theatre and Performance rooms.
Top London attractions: family-friendly
In Victorian times the Cutty Sark was the fastest ship carrying goods from the Far East to London – a tea clipper of great repute. Hence its prime location in retirement: in a dry dock at Greenwich, overlooking the Thames. In recent years it’s had a massive refurbishment and now you can explore the decks, clamber into a sailor’s bunk (don’t worry, the sailor’s long gone) and hear talks by costumed characters explaining what life was like onboard.Don’t miss: The simulator that gives you a chance to navigate the ship for yourself.
Moored close to Tower Bridge, this grey warship with its guns tilted high might look a little out of place, but these days it’s a museum. Open daily, with scenes set to show you what life was like on board a working WWII warship, HMS Belfast is a lively visitor space where you can scoot around the lower levels, exploring the engine room, the kitchens, the dentist’s office and the action stations up on deck.Don’t miss: The interactive Operations Room – could you handle the wartime pressure?
Much more than a day out for keen gardeners, Kew’s meadows, treetop walkway and hothouses offer colourful wonder for anyone interested in the natural world. The landscape is dotted with sculptures, too, and there’s a play area designed with oversized, plant-shaped, wooden climbing-frames so kids can wriggle around like bugs inside them.Don’t miss: The Hive – a giant, walk-in construction with lights and sounds that reflect life inside a real beehive.
You don’t have to be a local to know that Londoners are obsessed with travel. At the LTM happily, there’s always a bus or a train to hop on, in a vast museum full of real relics of the bygone ages of London transport. Find out why tube stations were used as wartime shelters, see decades of beautiful poster artwork and find out how the latest technology will run our services in the future.Don’t miss: The interactive All Aboard galleries for small children – free with main entry.
This Regent’s Park landmark has come a long way since the days when zoos were full of homesick wildlife. ZSL does a lot of world-class animal welfare work and the carefully designed settings in which beautiful creatures from gorillas to lizards, penguins to tigers now reside give you a chance to experience nature on a happier day trip. There’s a dedicated area for small kids and daily shows for the curious of all ages.Don’t miss: Land of the Lions – a stunning walk-through experience where you can see the kings of the jungle at close quarters.
From pop stars to politicians, sporting heroes to great painters, this gallery of wax figures never fails to impress visitors with each model’s lifelike attention to detail and the attraction’s keen eye for featuring the latest hot celebs. Taking selfies with Kanye or Chewbacca is still a big draw, but there are interactive experiences too, like the Spirit of London ride, a 4D cinema and a fashion catwalk.Don’t miss: Your own five-minute Sherlock Holmes adventure where you’re immersed in Edwardian London, meeting curious characters and seeking clues to find the missing sleuth.
Also known as the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, this is a short trek north of London, but it’s worth the trip to set foot inside the Great Hall at Hogwarts. See film sets, costumes, props and exhibits that take you behind the scenes of the Harry Potter films. Changing exhibitions are included in the ticket and you get the chance to discover the secrets of the movies’ special effects.Don’t miss: A full-size Platform 9¾ and the actual steam engine that pulled the Hogwarts Express in the films.
Perfect for rainy days, Ripley’s is a lot like an old-fashioned fairground sideshow. Gallery displays and interactive exhibits introduce you to the mind-blowingly odd. Meet fascinating outsiders from history (the hairiest man, the tallest, the Cuban eye popper), see weird art (Michelle Obama made from bottle caps, Michael Jackson made from sweets, you get the idea) and lose yourself in the mirror maze. Stupendously silly.Don’t miss: The Legendary Fertility Statues. Thousands of women have claimed they got pregnant after touching them. No, really.
For centuries, Greenwich has been the location for the scientific study of the stars and of timekeeping – originally for the benefit of efficient and safer sea navigation. As a result, this is where you’ll see the Greenwich Meridian line marked out, from which point the world’s time zones are measured. You can also see the incredible instruments with which astronomers made significant discoveries about our universe, long before the digital age.
Don’t miss: The dazzling shows at the Peter Harrison Planetarium, where you can discover more about the sky at night.Book Now
You don’t have to be by the seaside to immerse yourself in the life aquatic. The London Aquarium is home to sea creatures from all over the world, from Pacific nurse sharks to Antarctic penguins (with a glimpse of what’s swimming past you in the Thames, too). It can get busy, but go off peak and meet the crocs.Don’t miss: The virtual-reality Arctic experience where you can get nose-to-snout with a polar bear.
Give the whole family a giggle on a whirlwind trip to Far, Far Away. This interactive tour starts with a breathtaking 4D ride through the sky before you crash-land near a certain ogre’s swamp and find yourself having to flee from the wicked Rumpelstiltskin. You’ll encounter a few favourite Shrek characters as you rush from place to place on your mission, including a baffling maze and some scary spills along the way.Don’t miss: The post-tour gallery where you can meet other Dreamworks characters.
Once upon a time, London turned its back on the stinky river Thames. Nowadays the South Bank is a buzzing open space lined with some of the city’s most exciting galleries, theatres and attractions. Start at the Southbank Centre, for free art and live shows, lunch at one of the many restaurants and to watch the skateboarders. Then wander east past the artists’ enclave at Gabriel’s Wharf, and onto Tate Modern and the Globe, just beyond Blackfriars Bridge.Don’t miss: Ernie’s Beach – the sandy foreshore by the Thames that’s accessible at low tide, via steps at Gabriel’s Wharf.
No ghosts or ghouls, just gory stories retold with humour, gooey props and gruesomely costumed actors as you tour through London’s nastiest historical moments. From boarding a traitor’s boat ride to the Tower of London, to a dash through the recreated streets of Whitechapel in pursuit of Jack the Ripper, to a glimpse at stinking Plague London, it’s a romp and a scream, but definitely not for the fainthearted.Don’t miss: The chance to enjoy a nerve-steadying complimentary gin cocktail in the Victorian Tavern at the end of your visit.
A thousand years of history that’s still standing, the Tower of London is a must-see. Although it’s best known for beheadings and the Crown Jewels, there’s also William the Conqueror’s White Tower to visit, the ravens to meet (beware, they’re pecky) and plenty of gruesome stories to hear, while costumed displays and hands-on activities bring history to life.Don’t miss: The Yeoman Warder’s tour. It’s free, fascinating and a usually very funny introduction to the Tower.
Inside the vast O2 on Greenwich Peninsula you can see gigs, go bowling, dine at loads of restaurants, see a movie or catch an exhibition, but why go in when you can go over? On a completely safe but nerve-jangling climb, you can ascend the roof of The O2, take in views on a walkway suspended 52 metres above ground, then edge your way back down. (That’s the weirdest bit because the path dips away in front of you.)Don’t miss: The Twilight Climb, with London lit up below you.