If you are planning on visiting London in the United Kingdom in the coming weeks or months and you would like to know what there is on offer for you to do during your stay, then this brief guide of some of my favorite places to visit will hopefully give you some useful pointers and ideas. There is a fantastic array of things to see and do in London! Too many things in fact to cover in one article, or indeed in one visit, so you would have to pick your favorites from the bunch and visit more than once! Are you an art gallery lover? Or a history enthusiast?
I have put together a brief collection of some of my favorite places to visit in London. I apologize that it would be impossible to list the full amount of galleries, theaters, museums and restaurants London truly has to offer, but that is where searching online will bring you further results. Nevertheless, I hope this little collection of London attractions will provide you with some guidance or ideas for your trip to the UK and I hope you enjoy reading it.
So here are 5 of my favorites...
1. Buckingham Palace
Address: City of Westminster, London, SW1A 1AA
Certainly up there as one of the most popular attractions in London, Buckingham Palace is, as I am sure you are aware, the working headquarters of the British Monarchy. Where The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh live and carry out their official and ceremonial duties.
The Palace was opened in 1703 and you can of course visit some of the nineteen State Rooms which are incredible to behold in person. If the high ceilings don’t manage to wow you, then the rich tapestries and antiques, history and paintings certainly will! You may chose to take one of the guided tours and you can book these in advance online.
Buckingham Palace also has a lovely cafe called ‘The Garden Cafe’ and ‘The Garden Shop’ is where you can buy a wide range of British and Royal souvenirs. You may also be lucky to be visiting on one of the alternate days when the British Army conduct the Changing of the Guard. This lasts approximately 45 minutes and is a great sight to behold.
Overall, Buckingham Palace is well worth a visit. An average tour going around would last 2 to 2 ½ hours, which still leaves you with plenty of time to visit another attraction in London on the same day. I would recommend booking online in advance, and certainly on getting to the Palace in the early morning. As with most things in London, it can be very popular, especially during the school and summer holidays.
The Palace is within 5 minutes easy walking distance of London Victoria Railway Station. Nearby Underground stations are Victoria, Green Park and Hyde Park Corner.
Address: Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG
Let us now move on to The British Museum on our whistle-stop tour! An amazingly large building, you can learn about everything in history here, be it the Ancient Egyptians or Medieval Europe 1050-1500. Their website has a detailed floor plan which is great to explore ahead of your visit because as I have found, it is very easy to get lost as the Museum is very large!
They have frequent exhibitions, some of which are paid admission which you can book in advance online, and many more which are free admission. Daily schedules will vary, so it would be advisable to check their website ahead of your visit for more information. There are three floors to the Museum, but lifts and ramps ensure disabled access is covered too.
I would thoroughly recommend the free daily activities which include object handling and art materials. These will especially appeal if you are visiting with children. The Egyptian section is always very popular among school groups. Admission being free means you can learn so much or just have a browse around if you feel like it.
The nearest underground stations are Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square and Goodge Street.
3. The London Eye
Address: London, SE1 7PB
Iconic in both its stature and reputation, The London Eye, which opened back in March 2000, is essentially a giant Ferris wheel with fantastic views over the City of London. It is located opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. It is also known as the 'Millennium Wheel' and is 135 meters high.
Depending on the weather, you can see the City of London for many miles and it really is a very memorable experience. One rotation takes about 30 minutes but you can wonder around the pod and get really good views over the City of London in that time from all angles. Although it is true that heavy queues can build up, so as with most things, you will definitely be waiting for a shorter duration to get on if you arrive early.
However, there are lots of different ticketing options including fast tracking online, so explore the website and you could find a good deal. It is the type of attraction I will probably go on again as the view is always evolving, and in different weather and seasons the landscape will always vary.
The London Eye is within easy walking distance of Waterloo Station and Embankment, but Charing Cross Station is also really close by.
4. SEA LIFE London Aquarium
Address: County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7PB
This is a fantastic attraction, especially for animal lovers and families with children. The Gentoo penguins are certainly one of the main features, and they are adorable and incredible to watch swimming, as there is a glass window so you can really get up close to see them.
In addition, you can observe sharks, jelly fish, sea horses, turtles, stingrays or even lobsters! Not only are the creatures astonishing, but the lighting and atmosphere inside and around the tanks really takes you on a journey around the building. The minute I walked in, I could sense the effort they have gone to in making the Aquarium a full sensory experience for everyone and it really makes for an exciting trip! Their gift shop is also very appealing with an extensive range of souvenirs.
Waterloo is the nearest train station and the Aquarium is right next door to the London Eye as you can see; it's actually in the building in the picture opposite, so exactly the same travel information as above applies. The nearest tube stations are Westminster and Waterloo. I would recommend walking from Waterloo Station.
5. The National Portrait Gallery
Address: St Martin’s Place, London, WC2H 0HE
Founded in 1856, the National Portrait Gallery is at the very heart of London and highlights a wide range of art through history. From Tudor and Elizabethan portraits, Georgian and Regency portraits, right through to contemporary and more in-between, you could certainly discover something new here.
With storytelling and Art Workshops for children, to specific events focusing on individual artists, the gallery is a great place to explore as well as to learn about art. The Portrait Restaurant, Cafe and Bar will be sure to cater for your needs. Their shop is located on the lower level, but there are lifts as well as stairs down, and their gift shop has everything you could imagine from books to jewelry and greetings cards of some of the art in the gallery.
It is the type of gallery that everyone in the family will enjoy and one which Londoners themselves frequently re-visit. Outside the National Portrait Gallery you'll often also find many street performers gathering as they also do around Covent Garden in London. Admission is free which is another bonus reason to pop in and take a look around.
Charing Cross Station is very near and both Leicester Square and Embankment Station are also relatively near by.
Finally, if you are travelling by public transport in London, then I would strongly recommend purchasing an Oyster Card. These are available at most stations (certainly at the larger central ones such as Charing Cross or Waterloo), and you can even purchase them online. They are loadable cards which can save you money on buses as well as the over ground and tube trains in London. It could even work out cheaper for you than buying daily travel cards.
Here is a You Tube London Travel Guide video from Hostel Bookers which goes into the hidden gems London has to offer.