If you have never been to London, you are in for a treat! No matter where you live in the world you will have heard about various places to visit and things to do and yes, they must be done on your first visit to the great British capital! Getting around London couldn’t be easier as the main landmarks are within a relatively short distance. The best way is to buy a ticket for one of the ‘hop on hop off’ buses and do just that! So, let us now have a look at the top 10 great things to see in London.
1. Buckingham Palace
Standing at the end of the Pall Mall with its distinctive red tarmac, Buckingham Palace is the famous London residence and main administration center for Queen Elizabeth II – the British monarch. The distinctive 19th-century palace is a busy working palace but the beautiful State Rooms are open to the public during the summer months. Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms and landscaped gardens where every Summer the queen hosts her famous garden parties.
2. Changing of the Guard
This quintessentially English ceremony takes place in front of Buckingham Palace every day of the year. Soldiers of the Household Cavalry which comprises of Lifeguards with white plumes in their bearskins and Blues & Royals with their red plumes, guard Buckingham Palace and St James’ Palace. Each weekday the ceremony of Changing the Guard begins at 09:30 ( an hour later at weekends) The soldiers have been performing the ceremony since 1660. The guards leave their Hyde Park barracks at 09:28 weekdays and 10:28 at weekends.
3. Big Ben
The iconic face of the Big Ben clock tower is recognized throughout the world and marks the start of the New Year for millions of people. Big Ben is situated at the western end of the Palace of Westminster. The tower was built in 1859 and at the time, its clock was said to be ‘ the most accurate four-faced striking clock in the world’. Since then its chimes have been heard on British television and radio. The clock marks two important moments each year. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the chimes of the bell lead the nation in two minutes’ silence in honor of those who have given their lives in conflict on Armistice Day. At the end of December, as the final minutes of the year tick away, millions of people the world over, listen to Big Ben chiming in the New Year
4. St Paul’s Cathedral
There has been a church dedicated to the Apostle Paul, standing on Ludgate Hill, since AD 604. The current distinctively styled cathedral was one of 40 churches designed in the city in an English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century.
There is much to see at the cathedral including the famous Whispering Gallery and also the graves of many famous people including Napoleon, Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and more recently, Lady Margaret Thatcher. The designer of this beautiful cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren is also buried there.
Over the years, St Paul’s Cathedral has been the setting for many State occasions including the wedding of HRH The Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer (29 July 1981) and the Diamond Jubilee and 90th Birthday celebration services for HRH Queen Elizabeth II (16 March 2016).
5. Tower Bridge
Situated close to the Tower of London, Tower Bridge is an iconic symbol of London and its most famous bridge. Built between 1886-1894 it was a huge engineering achievement – a combination of a suspension and 1,000-tonne bascule. The opening bridge was powered by coal until 1976 when it became powered by electricity. In the beginning, the bridge opened 20-30 times a day and up to 80 engineers worked tirelessly to keep the bridge in good working order.
Along with enjoying the display that celebrates the bridge’s architecture and feat of engineering, visiting Tower Bridge also gives visitors the chance to walk on its glass walkway which is 42 meters above the pavement giving a completely new view on London buses and pedestrians underneath.
6. The Tower of London
Sitting on the north bank of the River Thames is the famous Tower of London home to ravens, Beefeaters and the beautiful collection of Crown Jewels which comprise 140 ceremonial items many of which have been used for such Royal events as the Coronation.
The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 just 12 years after the Norman Conquest. The general layout that can be seen today, dates from the 13th century. For many years it was home to the monarch but during the 16th and 17th century it became known as the prison for many disgraced figures including Elizabeth 1 and Sir Walter Raleigh. During the First and Second World Wars, it was used as a prison for those convicted of treason.
The Tower of London is well worth seeing and today is a World Heritage site.
7. The London Eye
See the whole of London in a fun way! The London Eye is the largest Ferris wheel in Europe and is 135 meters (443 feet) tall. Situated on the South Bank, the London Eye opened to the public on 31 December 1999 to mark the new Millennium and today is one of the capital’s most popular attractions…albeit not as tall as the observation deck on the Shard which stands 245 metres higher!
8. The Shard
Dominating the London skyline is the Shard a 95 story glass-clad skyscraper. The Shard is certainly very distinctive s it is a pyramidal shape, designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. At a height of 309.7 meters (1,016 feet), it is the tallest building in the UK and EU. The Shard took three and a half years to construct and was completed in 2012. The Shard opened to the public on 1 February 2013.and has a viewing gallery and an open-air observation deck which is situated on the 72nd floor (244 meters. 800 feet). The Shard is a mixture of office accommodation, residences (floors 73-85) and restaurants (floors 53-65). The Shard definitely offers visitors a birds-eye view of London with its famous landmarks and the River Thames.
9. Hyde Park
There are eight Royal Parks in London and Hyde Park is the largest and most famous. The park covers 350 acres and is about 1.5 miles long and about one mile wide with more than 4,000 trees. It was created by Henry VIII In 1536 for hunting deer. By 1872 Speakers’ Corner was established and it became a popular venue for those wanting to speak publicly or to make a demonstration with political or religious topics.
The Serpentine is the oldest boating lake in the UK and Hyde Park also has the memorial fountains dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales. There are ornamental gardens and the perimeter of the park is popular with cyclists, horse riders and skaters. Hyde Park is also a popular venue for large music festivals. Since 2007, the park has hosted the Winter Wonderland which is the No 1 Christmas extravaganza with three million visitors each year.
10. London Zoo
If you fancy getting up close to a wide variety of animals, London Zoo is situated on the northern edge of Regent’s Park. The zoo opened in 1828 and was originally a scientific zoo for the study of different species. Today, there are more than 200 different species to see and a total of more than 20,000 mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.
Apart from being one of the world’s oldest zoos, London Zoo was the first zoo to house reptiles, to build an aquarium, have a house dedicated to insects and to have children’s zoo.
Each day there is a wide range of special features to enjoy including a nature trail, bird breakfast time, a penguin show, gibbon time and ‘animals in action’ flying show.
Updated: November 20, 2019