When many people think England they think London. The heart of the financial economy of the UK, largely based in London, makes up about 1/6 of the European Union’s economy. Home to red telephone boots, The Tube, Hackney carriages, Big Ben, and proper pints, London is one of the largest, most iconic, and most expensive, cities in Europe.
While it’s difficult to see every site in London on a single trip, there are definitely many “not to be missed” historic and cultural sites. I have compiled a list of some of my favorite sites in London to help you get the most out of your limited time here.
A great place to start your visit to London, Trafalgar square is right in the heart of the action, with views of both the National Gallery and Big Ben, and easy walking distance to the Parliament building and Westminster Abbey. Named after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Trafalgar square has been an important meeting center in London for hundreds of years.
Westminster Abbey is a breathtaking example of gothic architecture right in the heart of London. Construction on the Abbey began in 1245 by Henry the III, with the iconic western towers constructed in the 18th century by Nicholas Hawksmoor.
The Abbey has been the location for every royal coronation since 1066. Some of the countries most famous monarchs and citizens are buries at the Abbey including Edward I, Henry V, Henry VII, Elizabeth I, Charles II, Geoffrey Chaucer, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin.
Big Ben / Parliament
Officially known as the Palace of Westminster, the Parliament building houses the House of Lords and the House of Commons, the legislative branch of UK politics. As one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in London it is not to be missed. The clock tower was completed in 1859, most people know it as “Big Ben”, but the official name of the tower is The Elizabeth Tower, with Big Ben referring only to the name of the bell within the tower.
The National Gallery
One of the foremost art museums in the world, the National Gallery hosts a remarkable collection of art ranging from Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, to Van Eyck, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Rubens and Rembrandt. The museum is located in Trafalgar Square, and best of all, it’s free!
Camden Lock Market
Camden Market located in Camden Town, adjacent to the Camden Locks on the Regent Canal hosts a wide range of local crafts, clothes, and an impressive world food court. Home to a young, eclectic, tattooed hipster crowd, this market has a lot of character and something for everybody. The Camden Market is a great place to spend an afternoon but does get quite busy on Sundays, arrive early on weekends.
Described by Benjamin Disraeli as “perhaps the finest Street in Europe.” The Strand is a street in central London running from Trafalgar Square to Temple Bar. Once running alongside the Thames River, the Strand is named after the old English word for beach.
A great street to take a stroll, enjoy classic London architecture or get a bite to eat. Notable attractions are the Twinings Tea Room, The Savoy theater, and the Royal Courts of Justice.
Sneak outside the Strand to adjoining Fleet Street and enjoy one of the oldest public houses in London, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese.
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the UK royalty, most famous for the State Room, Palace and Garden tours and the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony.
The Changing of the Guard takes place daily from April through July, and on alternate days during the rest of the year, be sure to check the schedule online as dates can change.
You have several options to view the ceremony, the best view and the most crowded are directly in front of the palace, or you can get good views from the steps of the Victoria Memorial, directly across from the Palace entrance, arrive at least an hour early.
To observe the procession of the new guard (but not the ceremony) you can stand on Spur Rd (south of Victoria Memorial) or the west end of Birdcage Walk (south of St. James Park) and observe the new guard as they proceed from Wellington Barracks.
For a description of the ceremony, a detailed timeline, and a map of locations click here.
If parks could talk Hyde Park would describe itself as one of the greatest parks in the world. Hyde Park covers 350 acres in central London, boasts two large monumental entrances, and was home to the renowned Crystal Palace built during the Great Exhibition of 1851. Speakers Corner in the Northeast corner near Marble Arch is a must visit attraction where lively debate and discussion devolves into almost any topic imaginable.
- Big Ben
- buckingham palace
- Camden Lock Market
- Hyde Park
- London Markets
- National Gallery
- The Strand
- Top Destinations
- Trafalgar Square
- Westminster Abbey