Best things to do in London: United Kingdom’s capital mixes a rich historical past with modern fun attractions
London is the capital and the largest city of the United Kingdom, founded by the Romans in 43 AD, during the peak of the Roman Empire expansion. It has survived through the centuries, becoming one of the most prosperous and globalized cities in the world. It is considered one of the richest destinations in Europe when we speak of culture, fashion, entertainment, and history. Between royal weddings, coronations and the nostalgia of having been the capital of the largest empire that ever existed, those who travel to London can enjoy must-see attractions in the most diverse areas, with tours for all tastes and ages.
The British capital has one of the greatest collections of art and culture in its museums, besides theaters, incredible buildings in many varied architectural styles, lively bars, restaurants with food from all over the planet. With more than eight million inhabitants, a fantastic transport network and quality services, it’s easy to explore its hundreds of attractions.
London is one of the most sought-after attractions for any traveler who wants to go to Europe and it receives over 20 million tourists a year. The English capital is one of the most important and influential financial centers in the world, which makes it a strong influence in politics, finance, education, entertainment, media, fashion, arts and culture.
Symbolized by the red buses and iconic buildings, such as the unmistakable Big Ben, London is a city that has a strong local identity and enchants the tourists who visit it. Even if it is considered an expensive destination, the city offers so many accommodation and restaurant options that you can find attractions of all price ranges. Here are some of the places to visit in London:
What to do in London
Big Ben and the Parliament Palace
Political power and English monarchy headquarters, the Parliament Palace is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. Located on the banks of River Thames, it is notorious because of the world’s most famous watch. The Big Ben is the name of the bell inside the Elizabeth Tower. It has easy access by subway and is in one of the most attractive regions of the city to explore on foot.
It was built in 1859 and marked the peak of the Victorian era, symbolizing British punctuality and dictating the time and pace of the greatest world power of the time. Its structure is going through a renovation process.
Despite having been elected by the British as one of the ugliest buildings in the city, this grand palace is the official residence of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Much sought after by tourists who wish to see the changing of the guard, the place is also usually open during the summer months for public visitation. Its interior has a great variety of works of art and centenary furniture.
The palace faces a beautiful square with Queen Victoria’s statue, the monarch who crowned the building as the royal power headquarters, as well as having made England the global leadership during her reign.
This sensational Ferris wheel allows visitors to have a unique view of the city. The view, on the banks of the River Thames, lets you appreciate the capital’s distinctive skyline, that brings hundred year old buildings with modern business centers together. The visit during the day and the night provides different experiences and, if you have the time, you can even ride both ways.
To get on this adventure, you can buy tickets online, or versions with or without a boarding queue, which is especially helpful during high season.
Museum of Natural History
Beyond a surprising dinosaur exhibition, the Museum of Natural History shows one of the largest and rarest Animal Kingdom collections in the world. A life-sized blue whale replica, giant dinosaur skeletons and a 40 million year old spider are only some examples of what you can find. Not to mention the breathtaking building in itself. For special exhibition, though, you must buy a ticket.
One of the city’s main fortresses, this tower tells countless stories and holds a rich collection on the city’s past. It is worth the tour, which takes place at various times throughout the day and shows the place’s past to visitors, with its famous royal prisoners. Inside, you can see the magnificent jewels of the British crown, as well as mazes and rooms that show what life was like in London during the Middle Ages.
National Gallery and Trafalgar Square
Two tourist spots in one, you can’t miss the view of Trafalgar Square, one of the main squares in the city. It was named and modeled to celebrate the British navy’s victory against Napoleon Bonaparte. Despite the numerical disadvantage of the English fleet, the war tactics used by Admiral Nelson changed the game. He is honored with a large column in the middle of the square.
Surrounded by stores, restaurants and tea houses, one of the most complete museums in the country, the National Gallery, is worth going into. Covering numerous artistic movements such as romanticism, cubism, classicism, modernism and much more, it is one of the city’s main cultural centers. Exploring the work of renowned artists such as Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Renoir and several others is worth the trip.
For history buffs, the British Museum is home to one of the largest and most diverse collections on the planet. With arqueological pieces from Sumerian, Egiptian, Chinese and several other civilizations, you can get a glimpse into humanity’s past like in no other museum. Such as the Louvre, in Paris, France, the best idea is to keep a great part of your day to appreciate the pieces and works in the proper manner.
Among the city’s many parks, this is perhaps the most famous in the British capital. This is the perfect answer to relax, have picnics, lie in the shade of a tree or play sports. Hyde Park is near several of the city’s important landmarks, such as The Mall Street and Buckingham Palace. Its lake, its beautiful and colorful gardens and the always well cared for and trimmed lawn are an invitation to relax at the end of the day.
Meet the place where the British monarchs are buried. This magnificent church is one of the most important temples in the nation, keeping the crypts of personalities and geniuses of English history. Its magnificent structure rises majestically and is only a few meters from the Parliament House and the Big Ben.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Considered the main temple of the Anglican Church, St. Paul’s Cathedral is the symbol of London’s resistance, having been bombed during World War II. It was rebuilt using parts of the original materials and its interior holds an impressive collection of sacred art works. The audio tour offered for rent introduces visitors to the particularities of the building and allows them to learn more about its history.
You can climb to the top of its dome and have a 360° panoramic view of London. Despite the many steps, the view and photos make up for the sacrifice.
One of the most famous bridges on the planet, the Tower Bridge is a British capital landmark. Opened in 1894, it solved two of the city’s traffic problems: the intense increase of carriages and cars on the roads and the increase in the size of ships on the River Thames. Its drawbridge mechanism allows large vessels to pass. You can climb one of the towers, where there is an exhibition about its construction and history. The view from the top can get you great pictures.
Other Places to Know in London:
- Borough Market
- St. James’s Park
- Churchill’s War Rooms
- Victoria and Albert Museum
- Imperial War Museum
- Covent Garden
- King Cross Station
- Greenwich Observatory
How to Get to London
The easiest way to get to London is by two of its busiest airports: Heathrow International Airport (LHR) and Gatwick Airport (LGW). Other than that, in case you are coming from continental Europe, you can get the Eurostar, a train that connects Paris to Dover, taking the Eurotunnel. You can also get a train from Brussels.
Best Season to Visit London
London is famous for its unpredictable and rainy weather, leading to many jokes all over Europe. Because of that, it’s best to take an umbrella and at least on jacket, just in case. The most recommended time to have fun in the city, with the best weather, is between the months of May and October.