London is one of the most visited cities in the world. London Heathrow is the main airport with numerous daily flights into and out of the city making it one of the busiest in the world. There are many sites to see and things to do in London when you travel. Being a popular tourist destination, it receives many tourists so be sure to purchase your tickets early to avoid long lines. London has luxurious hotels with scenic views of the famous sites in the city. When touring the city some prefer to go on guided tours or hire a car and drive themselves around. Planning a trip can be stressful so I’ve made a list of the 10 must see places in London.
1) The London Eye
Also called the Millennium wheel, the London Eye is located on the South Bank of River Thames in London. The cantilevered observation wheel is the tallest in Europe and fourth tallest in the world. It has 32 capsules numbered 1 to 33 excluding number 13. In 2013, a passenger capsule was turned to a royal capsule to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. The wheel lights up in different colours throughout the year celebrating different occasions. From the London Eye you can see many of the city’s landmarks. They include Tower of London and The Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s cathedral and many more. It takes about 30 minutes to make a rotation so be sure to purchase your ticket online to avoid long lines.
2) Big Ben
The great bell of the striking clock is Big Ben not the whole tower structure as most people think. Standing at the Palace of Westminster, the 96 meter tower has 334 steps to the belfry. Using Victorian mechanisms, it keeps locals punctual as its time is accurate and precise. It has a few lightbulbs on each face for visibility. Each hour the clock chimes and smaller bells are heard every 15 minutes. Penny coins are used for time adjustment and removing or adding the coins can alter the seconds of time. Unfortunately, Big Ben is temporarily closed for maintenance so no tours are taking places but are set to resume soon. However, people are still allowed to visit the Palace of Westminster.
3) Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the dwelling place of the Queen and where royal and national events take place. It’s surrounded by Green Park and St James Park and sits in the heart of London. The Palace covers 39 acres and has a shocking 775 rooms. The gorgeous state rooms are open to the public when the Queen is not in the residence. Changing of the Guard, a ceremony where new soldiers come replace those currently protecting the Palace is a famous site. The changing of the guard takes place on certain days starting at 10:45 am. The literal handover happens at 11:00am and is accompanied by music. While at the Palace be sure to check out the Queen’s gallery which has about 450 works. Just behind the Buckingham Palace is the Clarence House which is the residence of the Prince of Wales. The Household Cavalry Museum, Guards Museum and the Victoria Monument can also be found here.
4) Palace of Westminster
A tour of the Palace of Westminster will give you an insight into British Politics and learn how Big Ben and the Parliament were constructed. A copy of the Magna Carta and numerous royal and parliamentarian portraits are part of the vast historical art and cultural collections displayed in the Palace. During construction the House of Lords went over budget and its very lavish decoration is proof. In the middle of the house lies a 24 karat gold throne that has a few angels, a gilt crown, heraldic shields and knights and is upholstered in scarlet velvet. The Westminster Hall, going back to 1097, is the oldest hall of the Houses of Parliament. The central lobby is where Members of Parliament meet each other. Inside the Palace of Westminster there is a pub, hair salon, gym and post office. They offer guided tours online, however you can still go physically.
5) Madame Tussauds
Madame Tussauds is a famous wax museum named after Marie Tussaud, a wax sculptor who founded it in 1835. On display at the museum are wax figures of famous sports stars, public and historical figures, politicians and the Royal Family. In the museum’s history exhibit, you can find sculptures by Marie Tussaud that survived. There is also a wax figure of Madame Tussaud that she did of herself a few years before she died. Incredible Hulk is the largest while Tinker Bell is the smallest figure made by Madame Tussauds. Inside the museum there are a bunch of things to do from strutting down the catwalk, riding the Spirit of London Ride or going for the Star Wars Experience. Be sure to buy your ticket early to avoid queueing.
6) Tower Bridge
Most people incorrectly think this is the London Bridge, further down the river is where we find the London Bridge. Bascules is the name of the 2 levered sections in the central span and each weighs 1,100 tons. There is a huge cavern underneath the bridge to counterbalance the bascules. It was officially opened by the Prince of Wales more than 120 years ago. Tower bridge gets its name from the Tower of London which is on one side of the bridge and it influenced the final design of the bridge. The bridge usually opens once a day to allow boats to go through but you’ll need to book in advance. Things you can do at the Tower Bridge include enjoying the breathtaking view of London as seen from the bridge. You will also experience the high level walkway, glass floors and visit the engine rooms. Be sure to check the times you can visit then get a ticket.
7) St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is an Anglican church built between 1675 and 1711. It has one of the biggest domes in the world and there we find the Whispering Gallery. The Whispering Gallery is a famous site in the building due to how well sound travels in it. This is attributed to the special way the dome was built. Inside there are different art types representing various time periods and memorials to notable Britons. Sir Christopher Wren as the architect, got the honour of being the first person to be buried in the tomb. The cathedral has hosted burials and weddings of famous figures. Masses usually take place at St Paul’s so check out the timings on their website to plan a visit. They also allow sight seeing and guided tours, tickets can be purchased on their website.
8) Tower of London
Originally built by William the Conqueror, in 1066, the Tower has been standing for over 900 years. The Tower of London had many roles including a prison, arsenal, a place of execution, a royal palace, jewel house, royal zoo, fortress and a jewel house. About 6 ravens are kept at the Tower of London each with clipped wings to avoid them going too far from home. This is purely due to the superstition that the kingdom will fall if the ravens leave. Things to do in the Tower of London include visiting the Jewel House, touring the Royal Mint, seeing the Medieval Palace, going to the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula and Tower Green, where executions took place. Head over to their official website to see their opening times along with ticket prices.
9) Oxford Street
Previously Tyburn Road, is a road in the City of Westminster. It runs from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch via Oxford Circus. It has about 300 shops attracting thousands of visitors daily making it one of the busiest shopping streets in Europe. In some ways, Oxford Street is similar to Champs-Elysees in Paris and Istiklal Caddesi in Istanbul. While on the Street you can dine at fancy restaurants that offer cuisines of different countries like India and Mexico. Anyone who loves fashion will love the street as it is home to popular clothing stores. The Flying Horse is the only remaining pub on Oxford street but don’t let this talk you out of visiting, it is a beautiful place to be in. Coffee shops and cafes are many for those who wish to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy street. The red buses that pass through Oxford Street are also popular among tourists and are photographed a lot.
10) The British Museum
Opened in 1759, the British Museum was the first national museum built making it the oldest museum in the world now. Electricity was installed in the museum in 1879 and it is among the first buildings in London to have electricity. The British Museum houses over 8 million artifacts from all over the world. Due to the large amount of artifacts collected, the museum had to open London’s Natural History museum that holds natural history specimens. Further, a large amount of manuscripts and books prompted the creation of a new site, the British Library. The Elgin marbles, the Rosetta Stone and Oxus Treasure are the most popular exhibits in the museum. There are plenty of things to do and see at the museum so be sure to wear comfy shoes when visiting. Don’t forget to buy your ticket to avoid long lines.
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