You're visiting the capital, you're really excited, and you want to know all about the very best attractions in London. No problem at all... here's our fun guide to some of the city's best-loved destinations, all famous in their own right, all legendary, all fascinating in their own way.
What not to miss in London? It's a real thrill to tick off the big attractions, the world-famous ones, but it's also brilliant fun seeking out the less-well-trodden path and discovering some unusual hidden gems. So we've given you a good list of the top attractions first, followed by a list of little beauties you might otherwise miss. Let's get on board the tourist trail... let’s go!
Top London attractions – The House of Parliament
They're vital to the nation. They're beautiful buildings, stacked with history. When you visit the Houses of Parliament you engage with the way the country's run, rich in tradition. You can take a fully guided tour or an audio tour of the Houses of Parliament and even include afternoon tea if you fancy a tasty treat while you're there. There are tactile tours for partially sighted people and private guided tours on tap, LGBT history tours and Royalty and Splendour tours for groups.
Beautiful attractions in London – Discover Buckingham Palace
Imagine living in Buckingham Palace. Wow, what a magnificent place, the ultimate in exotic and posh! This is the Queen of England's home, a fairytale sort of place in the heart of London, just a few minutes' walk from Victoria rail station. The massive golden gates, the Changing of the Guards, the pomp and circumstance – a visit to the capital isn't really complete without a look from the outside at the very least. As you can imagine, an actual tour of Buckingham Palace is quite simply amazing.
London Eye - Explore London from high up
The London Eye is 135m high. A quick calculation reveals you should be able to see at least 25 miles from the top in every direction when the weather plays nice, an amazing, extraordinary, magical sight as the city unfolds below you like a gorgeous, complex map. Some say you can even see Windsor castle when it's particularly clear.
You'll be able to spot how all the best London attractions join up, and you'll realise how close to each other they are: The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, The Shard, the River Thames itself, Buckingham Palace, The Tower and Tower Bridge... and if you like you can buy 'skip-the-line' tickets and avoid the wait.
Built in 1844, Big Ben is a really interesting place in London and one of the capital's best-loved landmarks. You can take a tour of Big Ben, and also explore the massive Elizabeth Tower that houses the great bell. The tower clock is world famous for its accuracy, housed in the tower formerly known as St. Stephen's Tower until 2012, when it was renamed Elizabeth Tower for the Queen's 60-year Diamond Jubilee. Please note, Big Ben is currently under refurbishment and will be back chiming in 2021.
Love wildlife? Come to The London Aquarium to discover 350 species from every important ocean environment in the world, plus everything from fascinating daily talks, dives and feeds to immersive, interactive journeys through their Great Oceanic Conveyor, an extraordinary glass walkway that leaves you surrounded by amazing creatures. You'll walk underneath a tropical ocean, see stingrays being fed, fall in love with the seahorses, marvel at octopuses, zebra sharks and clownfish, all with a strong focus on marine management, conservation, preservation and education. Fantastic for the kids!
The Tower of London
If you or the kids love spooky, gory stories the Tower of London deserves a place on your agenda. The Tower was built in 1078 as an act of aggression by William the Conqueror and the soldiers of the Norman Conquest, originally called The White Tower and the site of many an imprisonment and beheading. It houses a glittering collection of reproduction Crown Jewels, and the Beefeater guards and guides give totally amazing, incredibly entertaining talks about its history. This really is one of the most exciting attractions in London.
Tower Bridge was built more than 120 years ago. Its job was to ease the growing traffic jams of the time and also maintain good river access for ships taking goods to the Pool of London docks. The huge road still lifts up to let ships past, an amazing sight. This classic engineering marvel is open to visitors so you can actually see inside as well as discover its history via an excellent exhibition. You'll see the new glass floor and enjoy panoramic views from the dizzyingly high walkways as well as exploring the huge Victorian Engine Rooms.
Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square
In the heart of the capital, Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space in the West End, right in the magnificent City of Westminster. Built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly, it's one of the best places to people-watch as the crowds bustle by, a great way to soak up the big city vibe in all its thrilling glory. Regent Street, of course, offers epic shopping as well. Trafalgar Square is another sight for sore eyes, a gorgeous classical square that's home to the four famous lions and the popular Fourth Pedestal, which showcases different artworks throughout the year. Both are on the fringes of the West End's theatreland, Soho, and Covent Garden, all of which are within easy walking distance.
5 unusual London attractions – Going off-piste!
- Visit God's Own Junkyard, London's oldest sign makers and a fine source of vintage neon signs as well as home to an extraordinary neon and light artist – they're at Unit 12 Ravenswood Industrial Estate, Shernhall Street, E17 9HQ
- The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret is very cool. It's at 9a St Thomas Street, a scary museum of surgical history as well as an old, unusually very well-preserved operating theatre. The location is entirely appropriate, being on the original site of St Thomas' Hospital
- Walking is one of the best attractions in London, and it's free. Walk alongside the River Thames, for example, along the banks on either side, to discover ancient London, modern London, fabulous pubs and eateries, amazing sights and a load of hidden treats you'd never notice from a bus, train, cab or tube train
- Have tea in a 300-year-old tea shop, the Twinings Café on the Strand. It has been going since 1706 and Twining was one of the first ever merchants to bring tea to Britain. They also just happen to supply the Royals with tea and have been doing it since Victoria's day in 1837, the year she came to the throne
The London Mithraeum lets visitors find out all about Roman Londinium. You'll find it at Bloomberg’s European headquarters, 3 Queen Victoria Street, EC4N 4TQ, a fab cultural hub showcasing the ancient temple, a collection of the remarkable Roman artefacts found during recent excavations, and some great contemporary art made in response to the discoveries