London is renowned for its world-famous attractions, poor weather and unbeatable afternoon tea.
Visiting London is high up on many people's bucket-lists, as are sights like Hyde Park and London Zoo, but what are the top things to see and do in London? Read on to find out!
Iconic things to see and do in London
These spots in London are the ones we've all seen countless times in travel blogs, on Pinterest and on Doctor Who. These are the places where you are going to get your best shots of London for your Instagram:
- Big Ben
- Westminster Abbey
- Houses of Parliament
- London Eye
- Tower Bridge
- Tower of London
- The Shard
- The Gherkin
- Buckingham Palace
Big Ben is arguably London's most iconic attraction. It is actually free to go up Big Ben, but only if you are a UK resident who books at least 6 months in advance... Personally, we think seeing it from the outside is enough - it's 96 metres tall, 161 years old and like I keep saying, 100% iconic.
This is actually a trending theme in London - almost all the top spots have a 'nickname' that everyone knows (e.g. Big Ben) and then also an official name that not many people know (e.g. Elizabeth Tower).
The Houses of Parliament
Latched onto Big Ben are the Houses of Parliament (officially the Palace of Westminster). This is where the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland can be found. Most interestingly though, this is the building that Harry Potter and his pals flew past in the Order of the Phoenix.
|Photo credit: pixabay|
Westminster Abbey is a one minute walk from the Houses of Parliament. Like Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, it too has an official name no one uses (in this case, the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster).
Westminster Abbey is a must for anyone who loves the TV show Friends (Chandler was Westminster Crabbey there), anyone who loves Kate and Wills (they were married here) and anyone who loves British history (since 1066, almost every Queen and King of England/Britain has been crowned here).
Unlike most religious buildings in the UK, you do actually have to pay an entry fee (18 whole pounds)! It is probably the most famous religious building in Britain, but for £18 you may want to just settle for a photo of the outside:
You can see the London Eye from Big Ben and in this photo it looks like it's right next door:
But it's actually a whole ten minute walk away. Luckily, it's a good walk, as you get to tick off two more things from your bucket-list:
Walking over Westminster Bridge (which is a nice toothpaste green colour), and of course walking over the River Thames (which is not a nice green colour).
Should you bother going on the London Eye? Some people don't enjoy it, saying that it's too expensive and you have to queue for ages, but with a bit of forward planning you can avoid both of those things - tickets booked online and in advance are cheaper, and there's the option of buying a queue skipping ticket.
We've been on it, I'm secretly scared of heights and found it a bit much, it's up to you whether you have 'ride the London Eye' or just 'visit the London Eye' on your bucket-list.
For most of my life I thought Tower Bridge was called London Bridge. London Bridge and Tower Bridge are neighbours with just a 15 minute walk between them, but Tower Bridge is the one that everyone knows when they see a photo of it:
|Photo credit: pixabay|
The Bridge opens up in the middle to allow boat traffic through (which has priority over car traffic). During the 2012 Olympics a set of Olympic Rings hung down from the top of the bridge - and would fold up every time a boat went through (despite weighing 13 tonnes). Most importantly though, in Spice World the Movie, Posh Spice is driving the Spice bus, they approach a bridge and the gap begins to open to let a boat through. Posh Spice jumps the gap and saves the day - Tower Bridge is that bridge!!
Tower of London
As you'd expect, the Tower of London is very close to Tower Bridge (5 minute walk). In keeping with London's other iconic spots, this one also has a special official name that no one's heard of: Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress.
Parts of the Tower of London date back to as far as 1078. Among other things, it has been used as a prison (the most notably prisoner being Queen Elizabeth the First).
We like the Tower of London, perhaps the best part of which is you can see the Crown Jewels there. Entry price is fairly steep (£21.45 for adults), but the Tower of London is almost always included in '2 for 1' deals or Tesco clubcard offers or any other London vouchers that you can get your hands on.
|Photo credit: pixabay|
The Shard is one of London's most recognisable sights. As the tallest building in the European Union it towers above London. Personally, we think it's a bit of an eyesore, though it is cool that it featured in a Doctor Who episode (albeit it one of the bad ones). Nevertheless, the good thing about tall eyesores is that when you go to the top of them, you a) get a perfect view of London and b) the eyesore itself is not in your picture.
|Photo credit: pixabay|
The Gherkin is also a relatively new addition to London, but that doesn't stop it from having a nickname (the Gherkin) and an official name not many people know (30 St Mary Axe).
The Gherkin is the 10th tallest building in London, so whilst it's not as tall as the Shard, we definitely think it's better looking and more recognisable.
Harrods is a very upmarket shop which is definitely worth a look around - they don't mind you looking and not buying, but they can be a bit weird when it comes to what you wear in the shop. For example, when we went in they told Tanbay he'd have to wear his rucksack on the front (lol). However, they were very polite about it (unlike the rude Ritz employees).
The two best things about Harrods are the food court and the kids section. They have impressive, delicious food and the kids section is straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Buckingham Palace! A must see in London, even if it does look like a dodgy hospital. Be sure to be around for the Changing of the Guard, and fingers crossed you'll catch a glimpse of her Majesty herself! (Note: if the 'Royal Standard' is flying above Buckingham Palace - not the British Flag - you know Queenie is inside.)
Other useful information:
Where to stay:
Those of you who are already familiar with our travel blog will know that we love to House Sit. The good news is that there are always lots and lots of new London House Sits advertised on our preferred House Sitting website: Trusted House Sitters.
The bad news is that if you are new to House Sitting, you might not be able to get a London House Sit. House Sitting is competitive and *understandably* everyone wants to House Sit in London so competitive is even higher than usual.
London will always hold a very special place in our hearts (Laura being British and Tanbay being in love with Britain). Whilst we can't say London is our favourite European city (that would be Rome or Berlin), we also can NOT allow you to skip London on your travels, it really is like nowhere else.
If you enjoyed this post, you may like to read about our other European guides:
How to Spend an Awesome First Day in Athens
10 Free things to Do in Rome!
10 Reasons You Have to Visit the Azores
14 Free Things to Do in Helsinki
24 Hours in Awesome Tallinn
Is One Day Enough For Sightseeing in Paris?
An Afternoon in Mijas, Spain
22 Fun (and Free) Things to do in Berlin
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This post is written in association with Expedia.ie. All opinions are our own, as always.
We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same! We also want to make it clear that we sometimes use “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.