Must-Do Delights in the UK Capital
London is one of the most exciting and diverse capital cities in the world. Its architecture reveals the city’s hundreds of years of history, yet modern attractions are around every corner. London is a cultural fusion, boasting diverse dining options, museums, bars, and attractions representing every corner of the globe. From the iconic London Eye, Big Ben and the Tower of London to Tower Bridge, the city offers a treasure trove of must-see landmarks. Regardless of the season, London's enchanting outdoor areas, such as the Royal Parks, are perfect for leisurely strolls and picnics. In winter, explore winter markets, art galleries and world-renowned shopping streets - there are simply endless activities to fill your time.
1. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Before you start lacing up your comfiest shoes, there’s an even better way to see many of the city’s best sights more efficiently. Jump on one of London’s hop-on, hop-off bus tours to jump out at as many of the attractions as you please. The classic double-decker buses allow you to sit on the top deck, meaning you can take some great snaps. They also provide an audio commentary along the way about all of London’s best landmarks, which include Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, among many others.
2. Museums & Galleries
London is a museum lover’s dream as there are loads within the city. Head to South Kensington, where most of them are concentrated, such as the Science Museum, which is brilliant fun for kids; the Natural History Museum, with its famous giant whale skeleton, or the Victoria & Albert Museum, which displays impressive artworks. Other museums to consider, if you have more time, are the Design Museum, the National Gallery & Portrait Gallery and Tate Britain.
3. The British Museum
Into the city near Holborn, you can also find the British Museum, which houses art and artifacts from across the world. The museum is renowned for its impressive exhibitions that include the Rosetta Stone, plus an entire area dedicated to ancient Egypt. Not all of London’s museums are free, but the British Museum, as well as the three mentioned above, are, making them a perfect activity to fill your time, especially if you’re faced with London’s famously rainy weather.
4. Tower Bridge
Often mistakenly referred to as London Bridge, Tower Bridge is an iconic landmark of the city, recognized from miles away thanks to its two intricately designed towers and drawbridge in the middle, which still works today. Even just walking along the bridge offers breathtaking views across the City of London, the Shard and down the River Thames. You can also purchase tickets to climb up one of the towers, where there is an exhibition about the history of the bridge and an area encased in glass that offers excellent if somewhat nerve-wracking, views of the bridge down below.
5. The Royal Parks
London is home to several stunning Royal Parks, as they’re known, which include Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James’ Park, Regent’s Park and many many more. If you’re staying in central London, check out St. James’ Park, which sits right next to Buckingham Palace, making for a lovely photo stop or picnic opportunity. Further towards London’s West End is Hyde Park, one of the biggest parks in the city that seemingly stretches forever. It’s home to gardens and pathways, a vast lake where you can rent a paddle boat, and Kensington Palace, home to royal family members present and past.
6. The Tower of London
A stunning former royal palace, the Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that played a pivotal role in British history, offering an immersive journey into London's rich past. Guided tours allow you to delve into the medieval White Tower, check out the renowned Crown Jewels and uncover the chilling stories of the Tower's prisoners and executions. A visit to the Tower of London is a captivating historical experience, typically lasting half a day. The massive palace also has a gift shop and cafe, but the nearby area also has plenty of local eateries and bars.
7. The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
The Houses of Parliament is home to the UK's government and is an iconic symbol not just in London but of the entire United Kingdom. The towering Big Ben is part of this complex and is known for its chimes that have rung since 1859. Luckily for those planning to visit soon, Big Ben finally finished undergoing a major renovation to make it shiny and new, and if you book in advance, there are limited tickets to climb to the top. With these, you can sometimes get access to explore the Houses of Parliament too, but if not, it’s enough to admire their stunning Gothic architecture from nearby Parliament Square.
8. The Shard
For a modern perspective on London, head to The Shard. This striking glass skyscraper is Western Europe's tallest building and provides panoramic views from its viewing platforms for just £25. The 72nd floor offers an open-air experience, and there are many exclusive restaurants and bars on other high floors, in case you’re keen to dine out with an epic view of the city.
9. West End
London's West End is one of the world’s best theater districts, only rivaled by Broadway in New York. You can catch award-winning musicals, plays and operas at iconic venues like the Royal Opera House, the Coliseum, and other West End theaters. There’s also a tonne of cinemas and restaurants around Leicester Square, perfect for catching a film before heading to the city’s famous Chinatown nearby. Just a stone’s throw is Oxford Street and Regent Street, which are London’s biggest and best shopping streets.
10. Tate Modern
Housed in a unique converted power station, the Tate Modern is a must-visit attraction for any art or design enthusiasts. The expansive museum holds an impressive collection of modern and contemporary works, including pieces by renowned artists like Picasso, Warhol and David Hockney. There are always changing exhibits that are weird and wonderful, and the South Bank of the Thames, where it sits, is full of street performers, restaurants and entertainment.
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