Ah, London. A true melting pot of a city with nearly 2,000 years history. Each year, the city evolves and changes. We’ve chosen 20 of its best attractions for you, from medieval castles, palaces and promenades and museums to music venues. What are you waiting for? Start exploring.
St Paul’s Cathedral
The green dome of St Paul’s is as iconic in London as Tower Bridge or Big Ben. Sir Christopher Wren built the cathedral for the Bishop of London in the 17th century after the Great Fire of London destroyed it. There’s been a church here since the 6th century – this was the heart of the Roman’s capital. Today don’t miss the memorials dedicated to famous Britons – everyone from Nelson to Florence Nightingale.
Arcelor Orbit Mittal
This strange structure of twisted red metal is the Arcelor Orbit Mittal. It was built in 2012 to mark the Olympics, held mostly out in East London, around Stratford. In 2016 they added a long slide, the longest tunnel slide at 178 metres which you can now whizz down.
London’s packed full of the oldest this or the oldest that and Kew is no exception. It’s the oldest botanical gardens and London’s largest UNESCO heritage site. 30,000 types of flowers and plants and 14,000 trees call this place home and its staff are constantly leading the field in botanical research. It’s a beautiful place to spend an afternoon.
Did you know London has the oldest zoo in the world? It’s just under 200 years old and often leads the way in education and zoology. New for 2017 are the overnight lodges that you can stay in and have an after hours tour. You’ll wake up to the sounds of the monkeys for coffee and a fry up.
Only a couple of decades ago, Ferris Wheels were confined to travelling fairs and theme parks. Then London went and got itself the London Eye, now an iconic part of the skyline. Some summers there are exclusive events, DJ sets and gigs in the pods where you can take bubbly up with you and take in the view from 135 metres up. It’s officially London’s most popular attraction.
Blame Madame Tussaud for the whole creepy wax work experience. London’s Baker Street wax work museum is one of the most popular on the planet – possibly because of the quick rate they get new celebs up and posing. You can pose with the Queen, meet Star Wars’ BB8 or Benedict Cumberbatch.
Since its inception in 2000, the Tate Modern has become a flash point for modern art in the capital. Its turbine hall has seen some of the most contentious installations and its summer blockbusters don’t pander to the crowds. An additional wing, the Switch House, was opened earlier this year.
Tower of London
Keeper of the Crown Jewels, the medieval Tower of London was built by William the Conquerer in 1078 and for nearly a thousand years has played a role in the monarchy of the UK. Once a palace, it was used as a prison for a couple of centuries (Elizabeth I did a stint here before she became queen). It’s also been the Royal Mint, but is now the ceremonial home to the Queen’s jewels.
London Bridge might be falling down but the one you’re really thinking of is Tower Bridge – with its Gothic towers and drawbridge. You can climb inside the structure and the top adjoining bridge has a glass floor for you to see the traffic and river below. The engine rooms will captivate all engineering lovers.
SEALIFE London Aquarium
Right next door to the London Eye is the SEALIFE London Aquarium, home to fish, sharks, penguins and lots more marine life. Great for kids, the large tanks and varied fish keep everyone amused – even on a rainy day – and there’s a new feature on jellyfish this year.
The Old Vic
One of the only big theatres in London to not be in the West End, The Old Vic sits by Waterloo station. Kevin Spacey’s 11 year tenure saw the theatre blossom and it now runs some of the most stellar and intense productions in town.
Arguably the most famous central park in London, Hyde Park is also the biggest. It’s one of four Royal parks in London, founded by Henry VIII in the 16th century. It’s home to the Serpentine, a man made lake added centuries later, which hosts an the annual summer pavilion design competition. Come summer, the park is full of picnickers, rowers, swimmers and runners.
Imperial War Museum
The Imperial War Museum can be found in Lambeth, not far from the South Bank and is housed in the former Bethlem Royal Hospital. It doesn’t just focus on the two world wars, you can also learn about the role and impact war has had on our lives today. There is a permanent exhibition on the Holocaust and revolving exhibitions about other conflicts.
The stretch of the River Thames from Waterloo to Tower Bridge is known as the South Bank and is always busy with strollers and runners, arts lovers and music fans. Along the stretch you’ll find the brutalist National Theatre and Southbank Centre, the low slung British Film Institute, the OXO Tower and the Tate Modern. For many, a stroll along the South Bank is as London as it gets.
Oxford Street is the heart of London’s consumer centre, mixing together the high street stores and designer shops around the edges of Soho – the trendy, formerly seedy central area. You’ll find British department stores like Liberty’s and Selfridges as well as legendary toy store Hamley’s on Regent Street.
Queen Elizabeth has been installed in Buckingham Palace for 65 years as Queen, as she also grew up among its long corridors and pretty gardens. The palace was originally built for the Duke of Buckingham, but famous British architect John Nash converted it into a palace. The Changing of the Guard happens daily at 11.30am during the summer.
The View from the Shard
A new addition to the London skyline, the Shard opened in 2013 at London Bridge. It has the city’s highest observation deck (level 72) where you can take in the curves of the Thames and on a clear day see for 40 miles. There are sometimes events up here like special yoga practices or discos.
Victoria & Albert Museum
The Victoria & Albert Museum (or V&A to any Londoner) is one of the most forward thinking museums in London that focuses on art and design with a treasure trove of over 4,000 objects. Here you’ll find huge blockbuster exhibitions that have focused on David Bowie, Madonna and this summer, it’s the turn of Pink Floyd. The museum opens late the last Friday of every month for drinks, late night events and themed DJ sets.
That’s nothing compared to the stash of artefacts the British Museum can call on – it has eight million pieces in its collection. The huge Bloomsbury based museum charts human history and achievement and was once the biggest building site in Europe. Today you can find exhibitions on ancient civilisations, Japanese art and American design.
Royal Albert Hall
London’s premier concert venue, the Royal Albert Hall, is a gorgeous example of the investment in arts made in Victorian London. Since 1871, it has hosted some of the biggest names in classical and modern music and has held the annual Proms concerts since 1941.