Places to visit in London
You could spend weeks in London and not see it all. With an array of things to do, it is hard to choose what places to visit in London.
The city offers a mix of old and new to make it a memorable destination any time of the year. Exploring London by foot is a great way to see the city. You can move at your own pace and spend time at sites where you want to discover more.
Some sites will be best accessed by the London tube system. The tube is relatively easy to figure out and there are many people willing to help if you get confused. There are also several downloadable app that can help you navigate the train lines and departures.
If you have seven days to spend in the city, below is a daily schedule to maximise your time and hit the city highlights. Here is some places to visit in London.
Day 1: London Eye
The London Eye, previously known as the Millennium Wheel, is one of London’s top tourist attractions. The massive observational Ferris wheel structure stretches 444-feet into the air and offers breathtaking views of the city. Built in less than 16 months the amazing structure is set along the River Thames. The design of this unique structure is a latticed bicycle wheel with cantilevered supported sides. When you enter the London Eye you ride in an egg- shaped capsule held in place by two huge ring bearings. The unique construction provides a 360-degree panoramic view of London. A ride on the London Eye takes approximately 30 minutes.
The London Eye is a great place to start your trip because it not only gives you wonderful views, but it can help you set your bearings in the city.
Elizabeth Tower, more popularly known as Big Ben, is located on the north end of the Palace of Westminster. The structure is technically part of the House of Parliament. The famous four-faced clock landmark was completed in 1858 and has been under renovations since August of 2017.
Edward the Confessor built the first Abbey; construction on the current Abbey began in 1245 under Henry III. Since 1066, all coronation ceremonies have taken place in the Abbey. Until 1760, most monarchs were buried here, and it has hosted 16 royal wedding including Prince William and Catherine Middleton, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, and Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones. There are several famous Britons buried at the Abbey including Newton, Charles Darwin and William Wilberforce.
London offers many magnificent architecture structures, both historical and modern. One modern masterpiece is the Shard. Completed in 2015, the building mixes offices, restaurants, bars, a hotel, and residential space. During construction the team used top-down construction, in which the foundations were dug while the building’s core was being built upwards.
Tower of London
Located on the north bank of the River Thames its official name is Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, and it is one of London’s oldest buildings. The 1,000-year-old castle is a secure fortress used throughout history as a palace and prison. You could spend hours exploring the castle’s expansive castle and gardens. There are several exhibits including the Crown Jewel collection which include 23,578 gemstones. You can also stop by and visit the ravens, known as the guardians of the Tower. There are tours offered but you are also able to explore on your own.
There are several bridges to see throughout London. For centuries, London Bridge was the only bridge that crossed the River Thames. The original structure was made of wood and in fact has ‘fallen down’ several times. Viking leader Olaf Haraldsson pulled the bridge down in 1014 and the bridge crumbled in 1281 (due to ice damage), 1309, 1425 and 1437. The bridge also suffered a devastating fire in the seventeenth century.
This bridge also crosses the River Thames and is located close to the Tower of London. You have likely seen this bridge in pictures or on t.v. The iconic symbol of London is sometimes confused for London Bridge. The bridge consists of two towers that are tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways. The bridge is open to pedestrians and vehicles.
Day 2: Buckingham Palace
Although the Royal Family has owned the palace since 1761, they didn’t live there until 1837 when Queen Victoria moved in. Today it is the residence and administrative headquarters of the monarchy and often plays a central role for state occasions and royal events. You may have seen The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge waving to the crowd at The Mall shortly after the wedding from Buckingham Palace. The palace is open for tours certain times of the year, check the schedule before arriving. The famous changing of the guards takes place at the palace, be sure to check the schedule because the ceremony doesn’t take place every day. Pay attention to the flag at the top of the palace. If the Queen is home then the royal standard flag will be atop the palace, if she is away the union flag is flown.
Be sure to stop and see historic coaches, carriages and the working royal stables at The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace. The collection includes the Gold State Coach, the four ton coach needs eight horses to move at a walking pace. The Gold State Coach has been used for every coronation since George IV in 1821. You can get a picture of yourself sitting in a replica landau and also learn how to harness a horse.
This iconic space in Westminster was built around Charing Cross. The public square offers a nice spot to sit and take in London or enjoy one of many public gatherings. The square is surrounded by museums, galleries, and historic landmarks. There are several historic statues and fountains you can enjoy while you snack on a sandwich, pastry, sweet or coffee from Cafe on the Square that is open daily. Trafalgar Square hosts many events throughout the year and sets off fireworks to ring in the New Year.
London is home to many museums but if you love art you should stop by the National Gallery. Located in Trafalgar Square the museum is masterfully designed, the building alone is worth the trip. Their collection of art includes more than 2,000 pieces from famous artists such as DaVinci, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Renoir. There are many amazing pieces but some must see paintings are Venus and Mars by Botticelli, The Madonna of the Pinks by Raphael, Sunflowers by Van Gogh, The Water-Lily Pond by Monet and The Entombment by Michelangelo.
Day 3: Hampton Court Palace
Take time to check out where Henry VIII, his wives and children lived. With more than 1,000 rooms, 18 courtyards, and 750 acres of gardens everything about the palace is designed to impress. Palace highlights include the hammerbeam roof and Abraham tapestries. Open daily at 10 a.m. there are certain areas that are accessible without an admission fee.
London is known for it’s rainy days so I would suggest that investing in a good, but stylish rain jacket, would be a great idea. Below is one of my favourites. Click on the picture to find out more!
Day 4: Kew Garden
Kew garden is one of the most famous botanical gardens in the world and the research base for two botanical studies. You can enjoy more than 300 acres of botanical wonders and its beautiful Victorian glasshouse. The garden has an extraordinary diversity of plants and more than 14,000 trees. Visit and learn about the history of the country in plants and nature. There is always something new to experience at Kew Garden. There is a fee to get into The Gardens that normally opens at 10 a.m. daily and close at 6:30 p.m
Day 5: Kensington Palace and Garden
For more than 300 years Kensington Place has been the residence to Britain’s young royal families. It was the childhood home of Queen Victoria and the place where she met Prince Albert. The palace is divided into two halves. The public rooms, including the States Apartments, are part of the palace that you can visit. There is a separate, private side where members of the Royal Family live. The grounds include an expansive garden including the Sunken Garden.
Located in Central London Hyde Park was the private hunting ground for King Henry VIII before opening to the general public in 1637. You can stroll among its towering trees and appreciate its monuments. A memorial to Princess Diana was opened within the park in 2004. There are benches and resting areas to sit and enjoy a coffee.
Day 6: British Museum
This is the single most popular attraction in the entire country. Originally created to house Sir Hans Sloans collection, today the museum is dedicated to human history, art and culture. Offering more than eight million pieces of work the museum highlights include many artifacts such as the Mummy of Katebet, Samurai Armour and Easter Island Head. You can also see The Rosetta Stone which was crucial to understanding the language of ancient Egypt.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Built in the late 17th century on the site of another Saint Paul’s this landmark is one of the city’s most symbolic. During the London Blitz the cathedral was amazingly missed. If the doomed structure reminds you of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican City that is because St. Paul’s Cathedral’s design was heavily influenced by Saint Peter’s Cathedral. The cathedral was the site where Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s held their royal wedding. There is a free observation deck.
The center of all shopping in Europe is Oxford Street. It offers bustling streets, shops, restaurants and boutiques. It is one of the busiest shopping streets with half a million visitors daily. Choose from approximately 300 shops to find something to bring back to remember your tour. One popular stop is Primark which is a destination store for every season’s must haves.
Day 7: Greenwich Park
Overlooking the River Thames Greenwich Park is an amazing mix of 17th century landscape, gardens, and a rich history that dates back to Roman times. The park offers more than 183 acres to explore including the popular rose garden, the herb garden contains a wide variety of culinary herbs, Queen’s Orchard is an enclosed area of approximately 0.3 hectares, and London’s largest herbaceous border. Greenwich Park is open at 6:00 a.m. for pedestrians and 7:00 a.m. for traffic all year round. Wearing comfortable shoes to explore this site.
The market comprises more than 120 stalls selling antiques, art, and other treats. Royal Observatory Greenwich is the home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). The prime meridian line located here divides the east and west hemispheres marking zero degrees longitude on a map. In the late 19th century every town kept their own local time with no international standards, Greenwich was chosen to keep time and then came known as the center of world time.
Old Royal Naval College
Stretching along the banks of the River Thames the Old Royal Naval College is the architectural centerpiece of Maritime Greenwich. The site was originally constructed to serve as the Royal Hospital. The Royal Naval College was a Royal Navy training establishment between 1873 and 1998, providing courses for naval officers. The venue is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no charge for entry but there may be a ticket purchase required for certain exhibitions, performances and workshops.
National Maritime Museum
There is a sizable collection of historic displays at the National Maritime Museum. The history of British shipping and the men who have sailed and fought in them are exceptionally well presented and meticulously explained at the museum. It is also a great place to view beautiful stained glass pieces. There are a variety of fabulous ship models, many are interactive displays that are superbly done and imaginatively presented.