Things to do in London: Attractions and places to visit

The London Skyline 5. Tower Bridge. Panorama. Nikon D3100.DSC_0625-0629. (Robert Pittman)  [flickr.com]  CC BY-ND 
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Historic neighborhoods, architectural wonders, majestic buildings, unparalleled shopping streets, the picturesque Thames and magnificent oases in London’s royal parks define the incredibly attractive image of the vibrant capital.

The metropolis is one of the most visited cities in the world and is particularly appreciated for its numerous historical and cultural highlights and the cosmopolitan atmosphere of its inhabitants.

Below you will find the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in London.

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1. Buckingham Palace

The stately Buckingham Palace building in London’s central Westminster district is the residence of the monarchs of the United Kingdom. In the imposing palace there are 775 rooms, of which only a small part have been opened to the public. The state chambers are located on the main floor, the impressive outer vault of the façade is part of the music room and the adjoining Blue and White Salons. A 50 m long picture gallery presents masterpieces by Rubens, Vermeer, Van Dyck and Rembrandt. Throughout the year, visitors can take the opportunity to admire the Royal Collection in the Queen’s Gallery.

Also the annual special exhibition in summer and from February to November the royal stables “Mews” belong to the visitor magnets to explore. During the months of August and September, when the Queen is in Scottish Balmoral, visitors can also visit the magnificent state chambers. A very special highlight is the 40-minute ceremony of the changing of the guard of the Royal Guard, which begins every morning from April to July at 11 a.m., and every second day from August to March.

2. The Tower of London

One of London’s most important sights is undoubtedly the Tower of London, southeast of the City, built in 1066 by William the Conqueror. The impressive fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most visited attractions in the metropolis and attracts tourists from near and far with its magnificent crown jewels exhibition. The world-famous Guardians of the Tower, the Yeoman Warders or Beefeaters, offer a lot of interesting information and insights into the almost 1000-year history of the Tower during an entertaining tour, among other things through the numerous weapons and prison chambers.

Closely linked to the Tower are its legendary eight ravens, which many regard as a sign of welfare and prosperity in the United Kingdom. Even today, salute shots are fired from the 62 cannons in the Tower for royal festivities, parliamentary openings and state visits. Interested visitors can also attend the centuries-old key ceremony that takes place every evening.

3. Westminster Abbey

In 1245, Westminster Abbey was built in high Gothic style in the City of Westminster at the behest of King Henry III. It is located west of the Westminster Palace. For many centuries this has been the historic venue for all British coronation ceremonies and royal weddings and baptisms, as well as the final resting places of English monarchs and many other noble personalities. Westminster Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasts an impressive central nave and the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier”, while the longitudinal nave houses the tombs of such literary greats as Chaucer, Dickens, Browning and Tennyson as well as the world-famous musician and composer Georg-Friedrich Händel.

The main entrance to the west of the church is decorated with a masterfully crafted portal. Westminster Abbey is home to four wonderful gardens: Garth, Little Cloister, College Garden and St. Catherine’s Garden, all of which are well worth a leisurely stroll and a deeper experience of the enchanting atmosphere of this special place. In the immediate vicinity of Westminster Abbey is the impressive Anglican church “St. Margaret’s Church”, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Big Ben & The Houses of Parliament

London’s most striking landmark is definitely the 96 m high Big Ben Bell Tower, whose official name has been Elizabeth Tower since 2012 and which belongs to the Parliament Building. The name Big Ben refers to the massive 13760 kg bell in the tower, which strikes the famous Big Ben carillon at every hour. The Houses of Parliament, the House of Lords and House of Commons, are located in Westminster Palace, the brilliant neo-Gothic building on Parliament Square in the City of Westminster.

The UNESCO World Heritage listed building complex is open for guided tours during the summer months, where visitors have the unique opportunity to visit the Royal Gallery, the Lords Chamber, the Central Lobby and Member Lobby as well as the world famous Commons Chamber and the over 900 year old Westminster Hall. The Houses of Parliament are among the most striking sights in London.

5. The British Museum

A visit to one of the largest museums in the world, the British Museum on Great Russell Street, is also an absolute must for London guests! Built in 1848, the monumental museum building in classicist style is an exhibition venue for over 8 million exhibits and unique collections of particular cultural and historical value.

Numerous highlights await the more than 5 million tourists each year, the wonderful exhibitions of ancient Egypt or antiquity, the Rosetta Stone or the Elgin Marbles of the Parthenon, invaluable art objects from Asia, Africa and important works of great masters and artists can visit. A very special highlight is the huge library in the Musem with its incomparably impressive reading room with light dome.

6. London Zoo

The largest and oldest zoological garden in Europe was opened in 1847 and is located in the heart of England. Over 752 different animal species and 18500 different animal species live in this park, which is located in the northern quarter near Regent’s Park.

The numerous tours through the modernized Zoological Garden lead past the 6000 m² Gorilla Kingdom and many other fascinating animal areas, such as the “Asian Big Cats”, “Giants of the Galapagos”, the tropical free flight hall Blackburn Pavillion as well as the “Gorilla Kingdom” and the divided aquarium are a real magnet for zoo visitors of all ages.

7. St. Paul’s Cathedral

One of the most important churches in the country is the much admired St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London, just above the Thames, which was designed and built from scratch by the famous architect Sir Christopher Wren after the destructive London fire in 1666. The 158 m long cathedral is a perfectly shaped architectural masterpiece, whose enormous dome is equipped with a 750 t lantern, inside of which a fabulous Whispering Gallery has been created at a height of 30 m. The cathedral’s interior is a magnificent building with a dome and a large roof.

It is one of the most famous sights in London. The bishop’s church is the venue for important state festivities and ceremonies of the British monarchy. The last resting place of numerous prominent personalities, such as Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir Christopher Wren, Sir Alexander Fleming or Joseph Mallord William Turner, are in the crypt of the cathedral, while visitors can also visit the monuments of Florence Nightingale and Sir Winston Churchill.

8. Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge is a representative road bridge that characterises the traditional tourist image of London with its magnificent twin towers in Gothic style. Built in 1895, the drawbridge is used not only for road traffic but also for shipping, as the road bridge, which is only a few metres above the Thames, can be raised on both sides when larger ships want to pass.

The bridge is passable around the clock free of charge for visitors waiting for the highlight, namely the opening of the bridge for passing ships. At a height of 42 m, the newly opened, transparent pedestrian walkway with a fantastic glass view of the bridge is located, while the footpath on the east side also serves as an exhibition area. Even the old machine rooms of the Tower Bridge with their impressive bridge opening mechanisms are open to interested visitors.

9. Victoria Park

What would a stay in London be without visiting the enchanting Victoria Park! The largest and most popular park in East London at 0.9 km², it attracts over 12 million visitors a year to its charming East Park and West Park scenery. In the middle of the enchanting Victoria Park Lake, where ducks, swans and geese are romping around, there are three small islands as well as an impressive water fountain. Park guests can take a rowing boat over to one of the small islands and visit the masterfully created Chinese pagoda there. Fantastic meadows and admirable rose gardens as well as the “Victoria and Alexandra Playground” make every child’s heart beat faster. The impressive Chinese Pagoda, built on one of the islets, can be reached by rowing boat.

Sport is a big part of Victoria Park, where more than 17 regattas are held every year and various traditional football clubs and cricket clubs are located and active. An audio-supported walk along the “Memoryscape Trail” provides a lot of interesting information about the history of the park and its numerous highlights. The Trees of the World Trail takes you past 14 magnificent specimens of endogenous tree cultures. Victoria Park London has repeatedly been voted the best local park for its attractive design and environmentally friendly management, awarded the “Green Flag” and certified as a “Green Heritage Site”.

10. Hop on Hop off Bus Tour

During this comfortable bus tour along the most important sights, visitors have the opportunity to get on and off as often as they like with a 24-hour ticket for the “Hop on Hop off Tour Bus” and explore the most important attractions of the metropolis. The ticket price also includes a city walk and a boat trip on the Thames, which allows guests to admire the fairytale emblematic skyline of London from the river.

There are more than 60 stopovers each on the four different bus routes, which are used every 10 to 20 minutes and where tourists get off, can visit one or more sights such as the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St. Pauls Cathedral or Trafalgar Square in peace and quiet and then take the next bus to the next highlight. Bus travellers are accompanied by a travel guide or multilingual audio guide.

More things to do and activities for your London holiday

Best time to visit London

We recommend the following months as best time to travel for exploring the attractions and acivities of London:

May, June, July, August, September, and October

You can find more information about the weather, including all climate data, on our climate page for London.

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