London. The name itself brings images of red telephone booths, the Big Ben, rainy evenings, posh accents and royal palaces. It is a city imbued with landmarks of historical significance. With palaces, museums, parks, cathedrals and abbeys; this city is a paradise for lovers of architecture and history. Whether you are a resident or a tourist, the countless attractions that the city offers will make you fall in love with it everyday. London has art, music, food, history, architecture and everything a traveler can hope to find. It is a city that has something for every one of us.
If we could, we would spend months exploring every nook and corner of this glorious city. But unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time or resources to do so. This article lists the top 20 places to visit in London which one should not miss.
20) HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast was a war ship built for the Royal Navy in 1938. It is a remnant of the Second World War: a glorious cruiser that had waged war against the Germans. When the war ended, a decision was made to preserve the ship. Now it is a floating museum moored on the River Thames near Tower Bridge. The Second World War was a global event that changed the history of the world. To visit a ship that was so intimately involved in this fight against oppression would truly be an extraordinary experience.
19) Brick Lane
Brick Lane gets its name after the area was discovered to be rich in clay used to make bricks. This Lane is a perfect illustration of diversity in London. The Great London Mosque built in 1743 has since been used as a chapel as well as a Jewish synagogue. It is also called as Banglatown due to the large number of Bangladesh residents in the area. The area is known for its exotic curry restaurants and avant-garde street art. The Brick Lane market that opens every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the center of attraction for both tourists and residents. Antique books, bizarre spices, sensational clothes and every kind of peculiar items are sold in this place of hustle and bustle. It seems like the perfect place to find an unforgettable souvenir.
18) Museum of London
The Museum of London located on the London wall is a complex showcasing the history of London from prehistoric to modern times. It is home to more than six million objects. The Museum has a series of galleries depicted chronologically. Each of them displays artefacts, pictures, diagrams and models portraying the development of London, its society and its culture in that era. Witnessing the evolution of a globally dominant city through the years is an awe-inspiring experience. Thus, this Museum deserves its place in the top 20s.
17) Royal Observatory, Greenwich
The Royal Observatory was established by King Charles II in 1675. At that time, there were no set standards for navigation or timekeeping. This observatory became the research center for astronomy, time and navigation. Later on, it was established as the site of the Prime Meridian of the world, Longitude 0* 0′ 0″. It is the line that divides the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Currently, it has state of the art galleries and a modern education center. Imagine visiting the place where time as we know it was established. Exciting, isn’t it?
16) Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms are part of an underground museum. This was the command center of the British in the Second World War. The museum also biographically depicts the life of the famous Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill was a British statesman and army officer who was responsible for leading England to victory in the Second World War. He was a brilliant orator and his first speech as Prime Minister, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” is still considered as one of the most electrifying speeches by a political figure. Visiting this place and learning the life of the man behind the victories of the War would be a humbling experience.
15) Oxford Street
Oxford Street is considered as the busiest street for shopping in Europe. It boasts of about 300 shops and half a million customers every day. The street is even more famous for its Christmas Lights tradition. Every year, the entire street is decorated with Christmas lights and lasers. A prominent celebrity is called upon to turn them on in November and they remain lit till 6th January. Celebrities like Jim Carrey, Emma Watson and Enrique Iglesias have been given this honor. Visiting this incredible location during Christmas would be a sight to behold.
14) Kensington Gardens
Kensington Gardens were originally a part of the private gardens of Kensington Palace. This park covers a whopping 270 acres. Along with Hyde Park, Green Park and St.James’s Park , it forms the green lung of the heart of London. The Gardens house the Serpentine Gallery, the Albert Memorial and the Speke’s monument. It is also home to the Elfin Oak, a 900 year old tree stump carved to look like elves and gnomes live inside of it. Something that old makes you marvel at the wonders of time and age.
13) Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s largest museum for decorative art and design. It displays an array of 4.5 million objects from a span of 5000 years. It contains sculptures and paintings from the Italian Renaissance. The museum has the most extensive collection of ceramics, textiles, glass, costumes, silver, jewellery, furniture, drawings and photographs. The Theatre Museum even has live performances and shows. The Museum offers courses for professionals in the culture and heritage sector. This mind blowing piece of architecture is a must visit for every tourist.
12) Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus is not a circus.The word circus is derived from the Latin word meaning circle. It is a road junction at London’s West End. The Circus is well known for the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, London Pavilion and the Criterion Theater. For art and music lovers, this is the place to go.
11) London Dungeon
The London Dungeon is the modern day hi-tech version of a haunted house. It depicts bloody historical events in a macabre and humorous fashion using live actors, special effects and frightening rides. Jack the Ripper, the Great London Fire and other significant events are performed here. If you love horror and haunted houses, this is a must-see place on your list.
10) Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace is the residence of the British Royal Family. Currently, it is the home of Prince Harry and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Only a portion of the Palace is open to the public. It is enough to say that the glorious architecture and the splendid decor of the Palace will blow your mind.
9) St. James’s Park
St. James’s Park is built on a land which had a hospital for leper women. It is a lovely park bordered by two magnificent palaces: Buckingham Palace and the St. James Palace. This park is known for ‘Trooping the Colour’: a parade held on the Horse Guards Parade every year on the Queen’s birthday. It is a tradition that began in the early eighteenth century and like most English traditions is still honored.
8) Tate Modern Gallery
Tate Modern Gallery is one of the world’s largest galleries for modern and contemporary art. This spectacular piece of architecture has been built on an old power station. Three circular underground oil tanks were converted into display areas with exhibition of live art and installations. A ten storey tower called The Switch was built above these tanks. It is truly an amazing place to appreciate the art and cultures of the present world.
7) National Gallery
The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is an art gallery housing about 2,300 paintings from the 13th century to the 18th century. Compared to other European museums like the Louvre or the British Museum, it is quite small. But it exhibits exceptional pieces like Jan van Eyck: The Arnolfini Portrait and Leonardo da Vinci: The Virgin of the Rocks. The art collection is impressive and worth a visit.
6) Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is one of the oldest Gothic churches of Britain. It also has an important link with the royal family as it is the site of coronations, weddings and burials. The last wedding to be held here was between Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011 which had generated worldwide excitement and celebrations. This wondrous abbey is a sight that one can never forget.
5) Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is significant to London’s history. It has been named after the Battle of Trafalgar at Spain. It has also been a common site for political gatherings and demonstrations. Nelson’s column and the fountains at the Square have architectural significance. Every year at Christmas, a Christmas tree gifted by Norway is lit up in the square. It is also a famous spot for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
4) Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the home and the headquarters of the reigning monarch of England. It is the palace that is the site for Britain’s celebrations and mourning. Investitures and state banquets are hosted by the royal family at the Buckingham Palace. Changing of the Guard is a major tourist attraction. If you ever go to London, do not miss this.
3) Tower of London
The Tower of London is another major tourist attraction of London. The magnificent Crown Jewels displayed in this Tower have attracted people from all over the world. It was also the castle that housed the Royal Menagerie. The Gothic Revival architecture of this historic castle is breathtaking.
2) Big Ben
Big Ben is the nickname for London’s iconic timepiece and refers to both the clock and the clock tower. It has become a cultural symbol of the United Kingdom and is one of the most popular filming locations in London. The chimes of the Big Ben are broadcast over television and radio at New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Day. A picture with the Big Ben in the background is a must for every tourist who visits London.
1) London Eye
The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel on the bank of the River Thames. Like the Big Ben, it is another popular cultural icon of London. It is Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel at 443 feet and offers a spectacular view of the city. To get onto this Ferris wheel and catch a glimpse of this glorious city would top all other experiences. It is definitely a top priority for all tourists.
This list is just the icing on the cake. The best of the best places in London. This historical city has monuments and heritage on every street and avenue. So add this to your bucket list and make sure you make memories in each of these places.