The Ultimate Guide to London’s Sights
The city of London is an icon in its own right. It is the home of the most famous royal family in the world; has survived and rebuilt after the brutal bombings of Nazi Germany; is the birthplace of the modern department store; and home to some of the most celebrated playwrights and writers in the world. London has shaped the world in more ways than can be counted. The best trip to London is one tailored to your desires, but don’t miss these essential places to get the most out of your trip.
Shakespeare’s Globe is a recreation of The Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare wrote his plays in the Elizabethan era. This theatre stays true to its Elizabethan roots, and there are no microphones used during a performance – the actors count on the projection of their voice and the unique shape of the theatre to ensure their voice is heard. While you can get tickets for as little as £5 for standing room, I recommend spending a bit more and getting a seat.
For after-play dinner and drinks, visit The Swan, located right beside the Globe. Situated on the banks of the Thames, there are stunning views of the river and St. Paul’s Cathedral that make your dining experience even more enchanting. While they’ve got the classics down, don’t pass on their phenomenal seasonal drink menu.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is steeped in history from its first role as a palace of the Royal family to its last and most iconic role as a royal jail; the tower is not to be missed. Here you can see the Crown Jewels and the burial place of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VII and Queen that changed England forever.
An indoor shopping market filled with unique shops, Leadenhall Market is arguably most famous for being the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series. Unleash your inner Potterhead and explore the original Diagon Alley without the large crowds at the studio lot.
No trip to London is complete without a trip to Trafalgar Square and a picture with the iconic four lions. Visit in the early morning to avoid the large crowds.
National Portrait Gallery
There are plenty of museums and galleries in London that are fantastic, but if you only have time for one, then the National Portrait Gallery is the one to visit. Located in Trafalgar Square and home to the works of the greats, including Van Gogh, Monet, Da Vinci, and more, the National Portrait Gallery is the perfect place to spend endless hours exploring.
Westminster Abbey and Big Ben
No visit to London is complete without visiting Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. For almost a thousand years, the abbey has performed the coronations of England’s Kings and Queens. While the current abbey was rebuilt in the 1500s after a devastating fire, there has been an abbey at Westminster since 960.
Selfridges, the birthplace of the modern department store, is a must-visit in London. Experience the service and luxury shopping experience that changed the way the western world shops and don’t leave without a little something in the iconic yellow bag. The chocolate truffles and teas are always a good idea.
Buckingham Palace Gardens
While Buckingham Palace is only open to the public in the late summer when the Queen is away to Balmoral, the palace gardens are open to the public year-round, and there is no better way to enjoy London than spending the afternoon strolling through the gardens and enjoying a picnic. Located in central London, the palace is close to other must-sees including Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, and the National Portrait Gallery.
Walk down South Bank of the Thames
The best afternoons in London are spent strolling aimlessly, and there is no better place to stroll around London than the South Bank of the Thames. From the south bank, you have easy access to London’s top attractions, but you also have the most beautiful view of London throughout your walk. Watching the sunrise or the sunset on the south bank is a view to remember.
There is no shortage of things to do in London, plays to be seen, pubs to be discovered, shops to roam, WWII war rooms to visit, and castles to explore. Head down to London Town; there are plenty of memories ready to be made!
Know Before You Go
- If you invest in the Oyster card, you can gain passage to the underground railway system as well as the bus system.
- Gin and Tonic is a popular drink in Britain. The City of London Gin Distillery allows you to create your very own gin.
- You can get a city tour through SmallCarBigCity. They’ll drive you around in your own Mini Cooper, which can add a fun dimension to exploring the city.