London is the administrative, business and cultural capital of the UK and has been influenced by invaders and immigrants ever since the Romans founded it over 2000 years ago, as Londinium. As you’d expect from a city that’s been around that long, London has an endless supply of attractions for the visitor, from the ancient to the thoroughly modern.
The good news for travelers and tourists coming to London is that many of the most popular museums and galleries are free to enter, and an extensive public transport system makes them easily accessible.
From world-famous cathedrals and churches, royal palaces, excellent parks to unique buildings and landmarks, London has enough to keep any visitor’s schedule full during their trip.
Here are some of London’s most popular attractions:
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
The Palace of Westminster is the home of Britain’s House of Commons and House of Lords where Members of Parliament debate and pass the laws of the land. Big Ben is the famous clock tower on the north end of the palace that chimes every hour.
Free to enter and home to priceless historical documents like the Magna Carta, da Vinci’s notebooks, Shakespeare’s notes, and more, as well as an ever-growing collection of volumes published in the UK.
This is the Queen’s home when she’s in town. The interior of the palace is open to visitors only between late July and early October, when the on-site café offers espresso drinks topped with the insignia of the Royal Crown.
Changing of the Guard
Actually two different ceremonies, one involves the Foot Guards at Buckingham Palace, and the other the horse-mounted Life Guards at Horse Guards Parade by St James’s Palace.
The Golden Hinde
A full-scale replica of Sir Francis Drake’s most famous seafaring vessel is docked by the South Bank of the Thames, and both self-guided tours and Tudor-costumed special events are available.
Pronounced Less-ter, this touristy, bright and colorful swath of the West End is home to a wide array of theaters, cinemas and nightclubs.
One of the world’s largest observation wheels, the smoothly-revolving Eye offers amazing views of the city’s historic center and the Thames River. Visited by almost 4 million people annually, the Eye has now surpassed the Egyptian Pyramids as the world’s most popular tourist attraction.
Despite its dense population, London has a staggering 5,000+ acres of parkland. The city center is filled with fine grassy areas, including Hyde Park, Regent’s Park and Green Park.
Located on the north side of Regent’s Park, the zoo houses over 600 species of animals.
Museums in London
London is one of the world’s greatest cities for museums, and many — both Tates, the Natural History and British Museums, the Victoria & Albert and more — offer free admission.
Overlooking the bustle of Trafalgar Square, this is one of the most elegant and fascinating museums in London, offering a comprehensive introduction to England’s history and culture.
National Portrait Gallery
Near the National Gallery, this unique museum was created in 1856 to display portraits of Britain’s most celebrated citizens.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Along the South Bank of the Thames, this reconstruction of Shakespeare’s famous theater holds year round tours. Performances on the open-air stage are held from May to September.
St Paul’s Cathedral
The finest creation of 17th-century British architect Sir Christopher Wren, magnificent St. Paul’s is one of the largest and most important cathedrals in the world and one of London’s most-visited landmarks.
Visually synonomous with London, though often confused with London Bridge, its upstream neighbor, the Tower Bridge is quite possibly the most-photographed structure in Great Britain.
Long an important gathering place in London, the Square plays host to several of the city’s iconic attractions, buildings and monuments.