When people think of London, they imagine busy streets, crowded pubs, and the British monarchy (the Queen of the United Kingdom). There are plenty of reasons to visit this vibrant city as London has something to offer everyone, no matter your interests.
London is not only one of the busiest cities in the world, but it is also home to some of the best contemporary architecture you can find globally. Since there are many attractions and famous landmarks of London to explore, trying to figure out what to prioritise over a weekend in London can be difficult.
This is why I've put together this list of famous London landmarks to visit to make sure you tick off the most important ones on your London bucket list.
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Using the map of London, you can explore all the landmarks.
Big Ben is a historic landmark in London and has become one of the major and most easily recognisable landmarks of the city. The name "Big Ben" is the name for the clock in Elizabeth's Tower - the tallest tower in the Palace of Westminster. The clock weighs an impressive 13 tons. It is a must-see on your four days in London itinerary.
This historical monument was built in 1843 as an addition to the Palace of Westminster after the old building was destroyed by a fire in 1834. The idea to construct Big Ben was that of Charles Barry, but the design itself was created by the architect Augustus Pugin.
Aside from the fact that this wonderful historical clock has been functioning normally for more than a century, it still takes you back in time when around it. For example, you can learn stories of how Big Ben survived a bomb that managed to destroy the House of Commons Chamber during the Second World War.
Even though Big Ben is not open to the public, you can still enjoy its architecture and design from a distance, especially at night when it is lit up.
The Monument to the Great Fire of London is a structure that commemorates one of the famous events that occurred in London's history. The renowned event is the Great Fire of London, which affected the city.
This monument serves as a way of remembering how the city survived the effects of the fire. The 202-foot structure was completed in 1677. Christopher Wren and Dr Robert Hooke did the design of the monument.
The impressive building manages to draw in about 200,000 visitors every year. Many tourists climb to the top of the monument by using the 311 spiral steps inside. If you are comfortable with and can take the stairs, you will be rewarded with great views of London at the top.
Certificates are awarded to visitors who manage to reach the top - to prove that they have actually made it. If you want to learn about the Great Fire of London and enjoy some fantastic views of the city, it is worth visiting this landmark!
Queen Elizabeth II is probably one of the most powerful and well-known women in the world. Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen and is itself one of the major landmarks in London, England. Construction of Buckingham Palace began in 1703 and was completed in 1853 in the neoclassical architectural style.
For a royal day out in London, you'll, of course, have to pay a visit to Buckingham Palace. It is one of the most historic royal palaces still open today with 775 rooms, including 19 State Rooms and 78 bathrooms.
The State Rooms are one of the main attractions of the Palace. These richly-decorated rooms are where the Queen receives and entertains her visiting dignitaries and subjects. Another draw at the Palace is The Grand Staircase made with bronze.
When touring Buckingham Palace, you will also come across many unique paintings of famous artists like Vermeer, Poussin, Canaletto and Claude. One thing you must take note of is that Buckingham Palace is only open to visitors during the summer.
The National Gallery is one of the most famous art museums in the world. Constructed in 1937, it attracts more than 4 million tourists yearly. Unlike many other museums, this one is free to enter, so you don't have to worry about paying an admission fee.
Before the museum was moved to Trafalgar Square, all the art collections were in Angerstein's former townhouse at No. 100 Pall Mall. Although the museum began with 38 paintings, it needed a change of location because of its increasing art collections.
Today, the National Gallery is home to some of the largest and most diverse painting collections globally. The museum also hosts several temporary exhibits annually.
Since the museum is free, it is usually crowded, so I recommend planning your day around the crowds. If you have no problem getting up earlier in the morning to explore, then this would be the best time to head to this attraction to skip the large groups.
Touring the mystical cathedrals and abbeys of London and the country is a must-do experience in England. The construction of the current Westminster Abbey began in 1245 by Henry III, and since then, it has become England's main religious building.
Westminster Abbey receives more than a million visitors annually, making it one of the most famous landmarks in London. The Abbey is a World Heritage Site and has been the location for royal occasions since 1066, including 16 royal weddings.
It is also where all of the British monarchs have been crowned - all the way from the time of William the Conqueror (except for Edward V and Edward VIII).
Westminster Abbey serves as a historical museum and the final resting place for some of the distinguished people in England's history too. It includes attractions like The Lady Chapel, the Poet’s Corner, and the Royal Tombs as well.
The Poet's Corner and the Royal Tombs are probably the most-visited attractions at Westminster Abbey. The Abbey still works as a church, so it is closed on Sundays and during religious events. It is open to visitors throughout the year.
Madame Tussauds London attracts an average of 2.5 million visitors annually, making it one of the most famous attractions in London. Madame Tussaud was a French artist known for her wax sculptures.
Madame Tussauds London is a wax museum that was founded by the popular artist in 1835 on Baker Street, one of the most famous streets in London, to exhibit her wax masterpieces. She later moved the museum to its current location in 1894.
The wax museum is divided into sections like the Chamber of Horrors, areas for religious leaders and the political. You can check out the wax sculptures of notable people like Justin Bieber, The Beatles, and even Queen Elizabeth II.
The Chamber of Horrors contains wax life-like sculptures of icons like Adolf Hitler and Vlad the Impaler from Transylvania. This is the place to be if you want to take pictures with the wax version of your favourite personalities.
Tower Bridge is one of the tourist attractions you can't afford to miss because it is one of the famous monuments in London. It was built between 1886 and 1894. The Bridge is one of the most-visited landmarks globally with more than 40,000 people using it daily.
One everyday activity done by tourists who visit the Tower Bridge for the first time is to walk across it while taking pictures along the way. The Bridge spoils you with a fantastic view of the River Thames.
If you are lucky enough, you might even get the opportunity to witness the lifting of the drawbridge when a large ship passes through it. Visiting the Tower Bridge introduces you to its history and provides you with beautiful panoramas of London.
For one of the best views of the Tower Bridge, consider staying at one of London's quirky hotels, such as the ME London.
Sky Garden is one of the modern but still equally famous attractions in London. Since its opening in 2015 on the 43rd floor of the "Walkie Talkie" building, the Sky Garden has gained a lot of popularity and has become one of London's best gardens to visit.
This attraction serves as a public park for visitors on top of a commercial building. Since the Garden is located on the 43rd floor, you will get a fantastic view of London at the top. You can pass by the Darwin Brasserie on the 36th floor if you want to grab a quick bite to eat before or after visiting the Sky Garden.
Before you plan your visit to the Sky Garden, you need to book a ticket on their website, which is free. The ticket gives you a pass from the ground floor of the Walkie Talkie building up to the top floor. Booking 3 weeks in advance is the recommended time frame to ensure you get a slot and don't end up disappointed.
The first thing you need to know about the British Museum is that it is the largest museum in England and also the oldest public museum in the world. It was established in 1753 with its first collection being that of the Irish Scientist Sir Hans Sloane.
The Museum was opened to the public in 1759. It boasts of having collections of art from various parts of the world, including a collection of Roman, European, Etruscan, Middle Eastern and European galleries.
When you visit the British Museum for the first time, you will realise that the museum itself is a work of art. With its Greek Revival architectural style, the museum has a way of impressing its visitors.
No entry fee is required before you enter, which makes it even more worth a visit. Visiting the British Museum allows you to view some of the best art pieces in the world.
Just like Hyde Park, Regent's Park was also acquired by Henry VIII and used as a hunting area until 1649. In 1811, John Nash was hired by King George IV to redesign the park for the royal family, which lead to the building of various infrastructure found in the park today.
Regent's Park was not opened to the public until around the 1930s, and it has been popular ever since. The beauty of the 395-acre park is enough for you to visit it. It is home to many wildlife creatures, boasting of 200 species of birds and more than 650 waterfowl.
Aside from watching these birds do their thing in nature, you can go on a romantic picnic with your significant other. This is the place to be if you want to escape urban city life and enjoy nature's gifts.
The White Tower, popularly known as the Tower of London, is definitely one of the must-see historical landmarks in London. It was constructed almost 1000 years ago in 1097, and this old monument has been used as an execution site, prison, and royal residence.
The walls of the Tower of London are rich in history, making it one of the most-visited landmarks in the city. Aside from the history lessons taught by the Tower, there are many other activities and sites for you to do and see once inside the walls.
If you love history, especially European landmarks and history, I recommend you visit the Tower of London. The White Tower is actually the oldest structure in London.
Another reason to visit the Tower is to observe the "Beefeaters". These guards, also known as Yeoman guards, are ceremonial guards residing in the building. Previously, they were in charge of watching the prisoners, but today, they give tourists a guided tour of the historic tower.
The Science Museum of London was founded in 1857, and it is one of the historical landmarks in London. It is the most-visited science and technology-related museum in Europe, with more than 3 million people coming through it annually.
The museum has more than 15,000 science-related objects on display, including the famous Apollo 10 command capsule and Stephenson's Rocket.
Whether you like or dislike science, I think the Science Museum is a must-see tourist attraction in London. You don't necessarily need to know about physics, chemistry, or biology to be impressed with the collections housed by the museum.
St. Paul's Cathedral's construction started in 1675 and ended in 1710 by Sir Christopher Wren. It was designed in the baroque-architectural style. The same architect was in charge of the London Bridge and the Houses of Parliament.
St. Paul's has been used as the location for many important events. For example, the wedding between Prince Charles and Diana in 1981 was held here, including the funeral of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Entering the cathedral introduces you to the eight scenes of the life of St. Paul, as painted by Thornhill, with the Nave being the large central part of the church. The cathedral has 257 steps which lead to the Whispering Gallery.
Visiting St. Paul's Cathedral without climbing these stairs makes your visit incomplete. If you want to explore more of the church, you also have the option of walking an extra 121 steps to the Stone Gallery or 150 steps to the Golden Gallery.
Another famous attraction of the cathedral is the Crypt. The Crypt is the final resting place of important figures like the Duke of Wellington. As you tour the cathedral, you will notice the vital role it plays in the city's history.
Ever since the Tate Modern opened in 2000, it has quickly risen to be one of the famous places in London to visit. This art gallery generates an estimated 100 million euros annually. The Tate Modern was previously the Bankside Power Station, but it was converted into an art gallery in 1994 by Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron.
The art exhibited in the Tate Modern is quite different from the art displayed at the Tate Britain. Tate Britain displays historic art while the Tate Modern showcases modern art collections, with the oldest dating back to the 1900s.
At the Tate Modern, you can also find a room called The Tanks consisting of three oil tanks that have been converted to show video and performance art.
The Palace of Westminster is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the same time, it is the heart of British Politics. The Houses of Parliament, or the Westminster Palace, is designed in the gothic-architectural style. It is the meeting place for the two Houses of Parliament, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
The current palace was built in 1847 after a fire destroyed the original building. Attractions like Westminster Hall, Central Lobby, The Lords Chamber, and The Commons Chamber are some of the reasons why people visit the palace.
Westminster Hall is the oldest hall you can find in the palace. The Central Lobby is the official meeting area for the Members of Parliament.
The Palace of Westminster is a great place to visit as long as you are interested in politics. One downside for visitors is that the palace is not open year-round. Visitors are allowed to visit the palace on Saturdays, or during July and August.
Borough Market is London's oldest food market, which has been in existence for over a century and dates back to the year 1014. This market is not only popular in the UK, but it is also one of the most famous markets in the world.
The present structure of the market was built during the 1850s. Borough Market was built in a way that the environment is always kept in check. For example, low-energy lighting is used, and rainwater is collected and used to water the plants.
When you are in London, and you are looking for markets that offer a wide range of food products, the Borough Market is your best bet. From fishmongers to butchers and grocers plus more, the market has everything you might need.
If you are looking for takeaway or gourmet food, you can also find street vendors selling tasty dishes from around the world here. Every time you visit the Borough Market, you get the opportunity to experience something new.
Hyde Park opened to the general public in 1637, and this was by order of King Charles, but it was not the reason why the park came into existence. In 1536, the park was acquired by Henry VIII, the first member of the royal family. The primary reason he acquired this large area of space was to turn it into a hunting ground.
Hyde Park covers a ground area of about 350 acres, serving as the habitat for over 4,000 animals alongside ornamental flower gardens and a large lake. When you travel to London for the first time, you will probably notice that the city is highly developed with not that many green spaces.
The park is a nice contrast to this and provides the most outdoor space in London - a great break from the concrete structures of the rest of the city.
With several activities being held at Hyde Park, ranging from festivals and shows, the park is always active with many tourists. This is the perfect place to be in London if you want to relax and enjoy nature after a stressful day.
The Natural History Museum in London is one of the most impressive buildings in the city. It is home to more than 70 million objects, with at least thousands of items added each year. This makes the museum one of the largest collections of natural history in the world.
The museum was founded in 1754, with the collections provided by Sir Hans Sloane. Sir Hans Sloane was the same man responsible for establishing the British Museum. He later realised that the natural history collection at the British Museum was not impressive enough, so he decided to fund a second one.
The Natural History Museum was moved to its current location in 1881. It is one of the places in London where you can take the whole family to have fun.
Whether this is your first time visiting or are a frequent visitor, the tours at the museum always have something to offer. Take note that every tour takes about two hours to complete.
The London Eye opened in December 1999, with official rides beginning in 2000. This is one of the more modern tourist attractions in London. You can locate the famous landmark in the heart of London, opposite the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.
Looking at the London Eye for the first time, you might think it is just one large Ferris Wheel, but it is actually an Observation Wheel.
One reason I recommend The London Eye to people is the fact that it allows you to view the city at a continuously changing 360-degree angle. Since the wheel is above the River Thames, you get the chance to see more than five landmarks of London as the wheel goes around.
The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain was built with 545 pieces of Cornish granite, with each piece shaped by a computer-controlled object, but pieced together using traditional methods. The fountain was built as a memorial for Princess Diana as the name suggests, and was opened in 2004.
The design of the fountain was made in a way that reflects the lifestyle of Princess Diana. Water flows from the highest point of the fountain in two directions as it cascades, swirls up and then bubbles before it meets the calm pool below.
Princess Diana was an open person, so the fountain gives a detailed representation of her character. The fountain can make you feel at home just by viewing it.
The Barbican Centre is the largest arts centre in Europe and home of the London Symphony Orchestra. It was opened to the public in 1982 after it took a decade of construction work. The arts centre is one of the places in London that is child-friendly.
The Barbican Centre has two theatres, two art galleries, five conference rooms, three cinemas, two trade exhibition halls, a conservatory, foyers, and shops. The famous arts centre offers visitors a variety of entertainment ranging from music, theatre, dance, and film. If you are with kids, they will never get bored.
The Wallace Collection is a national museum which exhibits art collections that were compiled by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and the illegitimate son of the fourth Marquess, Sir Richard Wallace.
In 1897, Lady Wallace, the widow of the late Sir Richard Wallace, handed the museum to the British Nation. The museum is housed in the historic Hertford House located in Manchester Square, Westminster.
The museum opened in 1900 showcasing fine and decorative arts collected from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. It has over 5,000 pieces of art which have been collected over the years by the four generations of the Hertford family.
As a condition granted by the British Nation, no piece of art is supposed to leave the collection, even if it is on loan. There are many historical objects housed in the Wallace Collection, which can give you an idea of how the family lived in the past.
The famous transportation system in London is something that cannot be seen in every city in the world, and this is one way London stands out.
The London Transport Museum has been in existence since the 1920s, and it contains 450,000 items collected over 200 years all about the transport history of the city.
The transport museum is divided into many galleries. Starting from the first floor, the first thing you will notice is the 19th-century collection - from this floor onwards other major centuries are covered.
Kids can easily enjoy the museum as they get the opportunity to learn about the transportation system in London through the various interactive and physical exhibits.
The main gate opening up into Chinatown in London is grand and consistent in architectural style to the facades of the buildings along Wardour Street - the main street of London's Chinatown. London's Chinatown is filled with Chinese bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores, and souvenir shops.
After visiting the Chinatown Gate, I suggest you stay a bit longer and explore Chinatown itself. The small town in London has beautiful buildings and streets which have been decorated with Chinese symbols like dragons and lanterns.
Once you enter Chinatown through the gate, you enter a new world different from that of the city of London.
HMS Belfast is definitely one of the famous monuments in London. This structure is actually a floating museum. HMS Belfast was initially built as a Royal Navy light cruiser in 1936 and was launched for its first operation in 1938.
It was used as an important vessel from 1939 to 1963. For example, Britain used the HMS Belfast during their naval blockade against Germany in 1939. After being used for all the historical battles, the vessel was finally retired in 1963, and in 1978, it eventually became a branch of the Imperial War Museum.
The historic warship is full of war stories. Visitors are allowed to explore all the nine decks of the ship.
30 St Mary Axe, popularly known by the locals as "The Gherkin," is one of the must-see famous buildings in London.
The Gherkin is a skyscraper that was completed in December 2003 but was not opened until April 2004. The building has been covered with 24,000 square metres of glass to make it look as if it were an egg. It measures a height of 180 metres, with 41 floors containing offices, a restaurant and a cocktail bar.
The Gherkin is an architectural masterpiece that attracts many visitors, and it has been included in the "1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die" book. The building is not opened frequently for those who want to explore the entire structure.
Even though this is unfortunate, it does not stop you from visiting the Iris bar or the Helix restaurant located on the top floors. On the top floors, you also get a fantastic view of the city.
The Shard is one of the masterpieces of the architect Renzo Piano. Ever since the Shard opened in February 2013, the beautiful skyscraper has been a site that many visitors travelling to London want to see.
The Shard stands at the height of 309.6 metres, making it the tallest building in the United Kingdom and the sixth-tallest building in all of Europe. When you are in London, there are only a handful of places that offer you with decent views of the city, and the Shard is one of them.
The 72-floor building comprises of wall-to-wall glass and gives you a 360-degree view of London. Even though this is obvious, it is the main reason why people go to see the building in the first place.
Kensington Palace is one of the historical landmarks of London, England. The famous rich history of the palace began when it was first built in 1605 by Sir George Coppin.
The Palace was the birthplace of Queen Victoria, and today, it is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Kensington Palace is a representation of over 400 years of royal history.
You can start your tour by visiting The Queen’s State Apartments. Even though many stories shared about the Queen's State Appartments are not merry, it is still part of history.
You can also spend the day trying to figure out how Queen Victoria lived her life by going through her letters, jewellery and clothes. You can try out the Georgian board games presented to visitors who are willing to play as well.
The iconic Royal Albert Hall is one of the historic buildings opened by Queen Victoria. The Queen dedicated the building to her late husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg.
It was opened in 1871, and since then, it has hosted some of the most outstanding performances in the world. Some of these performances include ones from the Beatles, Winston Churchill and Adele.
Royal Albert Hall is still active, hosting more than 300 events annually ranging from comedy shows, charity events, and live orchestra performances. If you happen to be in London during the summer, you can visit during the annual BBC Proms series of classical music concerts.
Trafalgar Square is a popular public square located in the City of Westminster, Central London. John Nash was the architect in charge of the square's design during the 1820s, and it was constructed in the 1830s.
The public square is so popular to the extent that it has been featured in many award-winning movies, like the Children of Men, Casino Royale, and The Avengers.
Trafalgar Square is home to other famous attractions, such as the National Gallery, Nelson's Column, and St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The public square also hosts a range of events annually; check their website for more information in advance of your visit.
Taking the opportunity to visit Trafalgar Square gives you access to historical statues and contemporary art.
London is a busy city that has many things to offer visitors either during the day or at night. Even during the night, the city is alive with people enjoying themselves by going to the bar with friends or simply going for a walk.
Deciding to travel to London for your vacation promises to be magical and memorable. If you took the time to read through this London travel guide that includes many exciting London attractions for you to visit, I'm sure that you would have found some perfect places to add to your London bucket list or itinerary.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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