If you’re an infrequent visitor to London and plan to hit the tourist trail then the last thing you’ll want is to be pointed in the direction of the underwhelming, the uninspiring or the instantly forgettable. There’s enough of that where you live, which is why you’re visiting London!
Our guide features London’s best galleries, museums, landmarks, historical sites, shopping areas and entertainment zones, all guaranteed to provide the ultimate London tourist experience. The attractions we’ve highlighted are unashamedly well known, but do you really want to be returning home to tell your friends about the fantastic thimble shop in Pimlico you visited? Or would you rather rave about the phenomenal view of one of the world’s great cities from the top of The Eye, or that you’ve actually seen the beauty of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers with your own eyes?
London has a multitude of varied and exciting attractions but these are the ones without which, your trip just wouldn’t be the same!
Britain’s busiest high street and London’s best known shopping area is chock-a-block full of the largest branches of the nation’s most popular shops – over 300 in fact. Many of the biggest high street names have their flagship stores here and the street also boasts the oldest record shop in the world (HMV at number 363). It’s not all hardcore shopping though – light entertainment is often provided in the form of chanting Hari Krishnas skipping along the pavement. If you can’t find what you want to buy in Oxford Street, you haven’t got much of a hope elsewhere.
Nearest Tubes: Marble Arch, Bond Street, Oxford Circus, and Tottenham Court Road
If you’re after a more bohemian approach to shopping than the Oxford Street experience, then get yourself up to Camden. One of London’s coolest areas has a seemingly endless array of shops and stalls selling such items as clothing (new, second hand and retro), customised Doc Martins and trainers, jewellery, bootleg CDs and DVDs and craft ware. Open daily; it’s a multi cultural experience with some great little food outlets dotted all over.
Nearest Tube: Camden Town
Tower of London
Built by Billy The Conqueror nearly a thousand years ago, this is one of the best preserved and most famous historic landmarks in the world. Full of the history of executions and imprisonments and offering the spectacle of the Beefeaters, the ravens and the crown jewels as well as the majesty of the building itself, this remains THE essential place of historic interest to visit when in London. camelotintl.com/tower_site/index.html
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Britain’s best known place of worship and certainly one of its most recognisable buildings, having so often been the centrepiece of state occasions. The cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built 300 years ago following the destruction of the previous building by the Great Fire Of London. An awe inspiring feat of architecture, steeped in history and featuring works of art, monuments, mosaics and the Whispering Gallery, the Cathedral is also still a busy working church. So booking your wedding here during the summer months might just be a bit tricky.
Nearest Tube: St Pauls
The National Gallery is home to one of the greatest collections of European art in the world. Featuring works painted between 1250 and 1900, the collection includes such well known pieces as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Botticelli’s Venus And Mars and Constable’s Hay Wain. Sadly, the work of the great Rolf Harris is too recent and too Australian to be included – see the Tate Modern.
Nearest Tube: Charing Cross. Admission: Free
Founded over 250 years ago, it could be said that the British Museum is one of London’s oldest and most prized exhibits – the museum building itself is one of Britain’s greatest architectural landmarks. Housed inside is a collection of art and antiquities from ancient and living cultures the world over spanning two million years featuring the Rosetta Stone, the Easter Island statue and the earliest known image of Christ.
Nearest Tubes: Tottenham Court Road, Goodge Street, Russell Square & Holborn. Admission: Free
Undoubtedly the quickest way to take in all of London’s major attractions is by jumping on the Eye. There’s not much of the city that can’t be seen from the top of what has become one of the London skyline’s most dominating features. To further enhance your flight on this modern day feat of engineering, you can even order champagne to be served in your capsule (not recommended for the easily nauseas). http://www.londoneye.com
Nearest Tubes: Waterloo & Westminster.
If random blobs of paint on canvas and piles of rusty old engine parts is your idea of art, then get yourself down to the Tate Modern. Created in a disused power station on the banks of the Thames, the gallery has become one of London’s most fascinating attractions since opening in 2000. The collection features works by Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Pollock and Warhol and represents all the major movements since 1900. Sadly, the work of the great Rolf Harris is too art like to be included – see the National Gallery.
Nearest Tubes: Southwark & Blackfriars. Admission: Free (however donations are gratefully received)
Formerly a fruit and vegetable market, ‘The Garden’ is now a constant and varied hive of activity. It has a hugely diverse selection of shops, eateries, bars, a market selling art, crafts, antiques and souvenirs, historic buildings, theatres, the Royal Opera House and fantastic free entertainment provided by street entertainers and musicians. If you can’t find something to capture your interest at Covent Garden then you must be harder to please than Simon Cowell on a bad day.
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden.
Undoubtedly one of the most famous sights of London without visiting which, a trip to the capital would be incomplete. Not only are tourists drawn to see Nelsons Column, the fountains, the lions, the annual gift of a huge Christmas tree from Norway and the pigeons (dirty little so and sos), but it is where the masses flock to in times of national celebration or when there is cause to demonstrate. Trafalgar Square truly is the meeting place of the nation.
Nearest Tube: Charing Cross.