Top things to do in London: 13 beautiful sights to see [+ map]
London photographer David Bailey once said: "If you are curious, London is a wonderful place to go". And he is right - in the English metropolis of London on the Thames there is an infinite amount to discover. I'll show you the most unforgettable places in this post.
If you are curious about which tourist attractions you must see in London, you should definitely read on. There are some real gems hidden in this article - literally!
I'll also tell you the best places to stay, restaurants, and the most important information about culture, travel, and Brexit. If you just can't get enough of London, I'll show you additional attractions and insider tips for London.
Hi! We are Biggi & Flo
We are two adventurous travelers who are drawn to faraway places. On our travel blog, written with a lot of heart and soul, you will find exciting tips and reports on the topics of travel, outdoor and photography.Advertising notice: All links marked with * are affiliate links. If you order something through this link, we receive a small commission - nothing changes in the price.
The top 13 things to do in London at a glance
Here is a list of the top 13 coolest things to do in London. Most of the cool sights to see are very centrally located, but since you need a little more time for many of them, you should plan about a week for your trip to London. Of course, you can also limit yourself to the most important places to see from your point of view during a long weekend.
- Tower of London
- Tower Bridge
- The Shard
- Millennium Bridge & St Paul’s
- Trafalgar Square
- Piccadilly Circus
- Oxford Street
- Hyde Park
- Buckingham Palace
- Palace of Westminster with Big Ben
- Westminster Abbey
- London Eye
Tip: To explore London and its many sights at a reasonable price, we recommend the Go City Pass London (order here*).
Map of all top sights in London
1. Tower of London
Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London – this is the official name of the famous first sight. The complex covers an area of 7.3 hectares and includes several buildings and areas. Even the two inner rings of the original three rings of fortresses can still be seen today.
The Tower of London was built in the 11th century as a fortress of William the Conqueror against the potentially hostile citizens of the city of London. It was eventually remodeled in the 19th century but has been considered a tourist attraction for about 600 years.
Throughout its history, the Tower has served as a residence, armory, zoo, museum, mint, prison, and execution site, among other things. For example, Anne Boleyn, the second of Henry VIII’s six wives, was beheaded and buried here.
Today, in addition to reconstructions of the living quarters and changing exhibitions with historical exhibits, you can also admire the Queen’s crown jewels, which are said to be worth more than 20 billion pounds.
What another thing you can do in the Tower of London? Every half hour, you can also take part in a tour with one of the famous Yeoman Warders, known colloquially as “Beefeaters”, which is included in the ticket. You will learn exciting and curious information about the Tower.
Did you know, for example, that at least six ravens are kept there at any time? Supposedly, this goes back to a centuries-old legend that if the ravens ever left the Tower, the kingdom and the Tower of London would perish. Incidentally, all of the ravens – there are currently seven – have a name.
Tower of London (Google Maps)
March through October daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., in winter daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Sunday and Monday from 10 a.m.
Adults pay 26 pounds
Tower Hill (Circle and District Line)
2. Tower Bridge
Right next to the Tower of London is another famous landmark, which also gets its name from it. The Tower Bridge was built in neo-gothic style and opened in 1894.
Particularly characteristic building elements are its two towers and the blue, white, and red metal elements, which are based on the colors of the national flag.
The 65-meter-high bridge towers are connected at a height of 43 meters by two walkable pedestrian walkways. They house a bridge museum where pictures and models show the construction and history of the bridge.
There is also a glass-floored section through which you can look out over the river and the road that crosses Tower Bridge. Access to the pedestrian walkways is via the northwest tower on the Tower of London side.
Tip what thing to do: The Thames River Cruise from Westminster to Greenwich is an unforgettable fun thing to do (book here*).
Tip: You can get an excellent view of Tower Bridge from London Bridge, which was the only bridge over the river until 1739.
Tower Bridge (Google Maps)
9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Adults pay 8.80 pounds
Tower Hill, London Bridge
Below this bridge, on the southern side of the Thames, is also one of the top things to do in London – The London Bridge Experience. This is an interactive scary tour through the old walls, similar to the London Dungeon, a chamber of horrors with real actors. You can read more about it in the article about the best insider tips in London.
2-4 Tooley Street (Google Maps)
Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (shows from 11 a.m.), Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (shows from 10 a.m.)
Adults pay 19.95 pounds
Monument, London Bridge
3. The Shard
Another thing to do in London is the Shard, which is located about a five-minute walk from London Bridge, it is London’s tallest building at 310 meters. The completely glazed skyscraper was built from 2009 to 2013 and tapers towards the top, which is why it is named “The Shard”.
The 72 usable floors include offices, apartments, stores, a restaurant, and a hotel. A unique viewing floor (online ticket*) is also part of the ensemble – it is almost twice as high as any other viewpoint in the city.
32 London Bridge Street (Google Maps)
Depends on events
Adults pay at least 25 pounds
London Bridge, Borough
⭐ Recommended travel guide for your city trip to London
One of the best travel guides for London is “Rick Steves London“. Among other things you will find in the guide Rick’s strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites. You can order “Rick Steves London” here*.
4. Millennium Bridge & St Paul’s
One more famous thing to do is to visit another sightseeing bridge is the Millennium Bridge, which Harry Potter fans, in particular, will recognize. In the sixth part of the film series, it falls into the Thames through spectacular special effects. In reality, of course, the pedestrian bridge is still standing. But for all fans of the books and films about the wizard, here are the most magical places to visit in London.
The Millennium Bridge was designed by the British star architect Norman Foster. The suspension bridge is characterized by its unique design with two columns and eight curved supporting cables.
At the northern end of the Millennium Bridge is St Paul’s Cathedral. It is one of the largest cathedrals in the world. Originally, another Episcopal church stood on this site, but it was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is in the classical Baroque style, replaced it.
In addition to the impressive interior of the cathedral with a dome including a whispering gallery and a crypt, St Paul’s today is best known for its magnificent views. The Whispering Gallery, where whispered words can be heard through the curvature of the walls on the opposite side of the dome, can be reached after 257 steps.
Note: The Whispering Gallery will remain closed until further notice.
After another 271 steps, you finally reach the highest viewing platform around the dome, called the Golden Gallery. The climb up a narrow spiral staircase is unfortunately a bit tedious, but you will be rewarded with a breathtaking panoramic view over London. Between Whispering Gallery and Golden Gallery, you will also find the Stone Gallery, a viewing gallery halfway up.
In any case, a guided tour of the city is always worthwhile, on which you will learn many exciting facts (book here*).
St Paul’s Churchyard (Google Maps)
Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., exhibitions from 9:30 a.m.
Adults pay 20 pounds
St. Paul’s (Central Line), Mansion House (Circle und District Line)
5. Trafalgar Square
The Trafalgar Square is the largest public square in London and is a very cool thing to do there. It has been one of the central meeting places since the Middle Ages. It was named after the naval battle of Cape Trafalgar in 1805, and is commemorated today by a statue of Admiral Lord Nelson, who died in the battle, in the center of the square. By the way, Nelson’s Column, with a total of 51 meters, is as high as the admiral’s former ship.
Other monuments and fountains adorn the square. There is also the National Gallery, which I will link to later. Also, a church as well as the South African and a section of the Canadian embassy are located there.
There is also a direct axis from Trafalgar Square to Parliament, which is right next to Big Ben. Therefore, you have a great view of both sights, which I will of course show you later.
By the way, the Ministry of Defense and 10 Downing Street, residence of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, are also located on this route.
What to do in London by night: Here you can book an unforgettable sightseeing bus tour with an open upper deck*.
Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross (Google Maps)
open 24 hours
Charing Cross (Bakerloo und Northern Line), Embankment (Bakerloo, Circle, District und Northern Line), Leicester Square (Northern und Piccadilly Line)
6. Piccadilly Circus
First, however, we turn to another breathtaking thing to do in London- one of the most famous squares and meeting places. Piccadilly Circus was originally a crossroad, but today it is characterized by large neon signs. Some even compare the square with Times Square in New York.
Two other prominent buildings that frame Piccadilly Circus are the London Pavilion – a former music hall – and the Criterion Theatre.
Also very well-known is the central point of the square, which is the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain. The memorial fountain to the Earl of Shaftesbury is now also known as the Eros Fountain, although the winged figure made of aluminum on the top was actually not supposed to represent Eros at all, but the Angel of Christian Charity.
Incidentally, the name Piccadilly comes from a 16th-century tailor who lived and worked in what is now the area of the square and made much-worn collars with fine lace at the time. These were called piccadills, from the Spanish picadillo for “perforated”.
Tip: Explore London in no time with the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus (to the bus ticket including Thames River Cruise Pass*)
Piccadilly Circus (Google Maps)
Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo und Piccadilly Line), Leicester Square (Northern und Piccadilly Line)
7. Oxford Street
Via Regent Street, you come directly from Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Street – a fun thing to do in London! With a length of almost two kilometers, it is the most important shopping street in the city. What’s in the Oxford Street to do? You will find countless department stores and stores.
Already in ancient times, a street ran along with this spot, which was known as Tyburn Street. The name comes from the river Tyburn, which today runs completely underground.
The Crossrail construction project will also provide an additional rail line, the Elizabeth Line, to relieve the subway and free Oxford Street from buses. The shopping street will then finally be converted into a pure pedestrian zone in 2020.
If you’re in London for the Advent season, don’t miss the Christmas lights. The “Christmas Lights” in Oxford Street, Regent Street, and the whole city are an unforgettable and unusual thing to do in London. Here you can find the most beautiful Christmas markets in London.
Address: Oxford Street (Google Maps)
Underground: Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Central und Victoria Line), Bond Street (Central und Jubilee Line), Marble Arch (Central Line)
8. Hyde Park
At the western end of Oxford Street is the Marble Arch. This white Carrara marble arch, modeled after the Arch of Constantine in Rome, also gives its name to the nearest subway station.
Directly behind it begins the well-known Hyde Park, which, together with the adjacent Kensington Gardens, covers an area of 2.5 km² and is thus one of the largest and most popular sights in London. The two parks are two of eight Royal Parks that form the city’s “green lung”. I will briefly introduce you to three other royal parks in Insider Tips in London.
In the famous Speakers’ Corner at Marble Arch, anyone can give a talk on any topic without registration since 1872. The British royal family is the only taboo subject. While great names like Karl Marx, Lenin, and George Orwell have spoken to the people at this popular gathering place, today you will find more bizarre characters there.
Hyde Park also has a large lake for swimming and rowing, a horse-riding track, a bowling alley, and extensive green spaces. Various events take place there and you can also discover many monuments and other great places in the park.
Address: Hyde Park (Google Maps)
Underground: Clockwise around Hyde Park from Speaker’s Corner: Marble Arch (Central Line), Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line), Knightsbridge (Piccadilly Line), High Street Kensington (Circle and District Line), Queensway (Central Line), Lancaster Gate (Central Line)
Opening hours: daily from 5 a.m. to midnight
At the southern end of Hyde Park is another fun thing to do in London. It is Harrods, the most famous department store in London and one of the largest and most exclusive in the world.
The company was founded in 1834, while the current building was built between 1894 and 1903 in an eclectic style. The facade is illuminated by no less than 12,000 lamps, almost 300 of them have to be replaced every day. What is to see in Harrods? One of the highlights in London is the food halls in art nouveau style and the exclusive assortment inside Harrods.
You should at least have a look at this department store. However, you must keep in mind that Harrods is one of the most expensive places to shop in London, so care is taken to ensure an appropriate appearance for visitors.
87-135 Brompton Road (Google Maps)
Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (box offices don’t open until 12 p.m. on Sunday)
Knightsbridge (Piccadilly Line)
10. Buckingham Palace
This list is rounded off by four world-famous sights, which are things you simply need to do in London. The first is Buckingham Palace, whose grounds immediately adjoin the southeast corner of Hyde Park. The Queen’s official residence was built in 1703 as a townhouse for a duke. After numerous extensions, the magnificent building now comprises three wings around an inner courtyard.
Queen Victoria was the first monarch at the palace in 1837. In her honor, a 26-meter high monument with a golden statue, the Victoria Memorial, was built in front of Buckingham Palace and is a well-known photo motif with the palace in the background.
A well-known highlight is the “Changing the Guard”, for which thousands of tourists gather on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace at least every other day at 11 am. You can find the exact calendar here and more information on the thirty-minute ceremony here. You should be there at least an hour in advance to get a good seat. Also, be aware that the changing of the guard can be canceled on short notice, especially in bad weather. There are also guided tours of the “Changing the Guard”*.
Every year between the end of July and September, the west wing of the palace is also opened to the public, as the Queen is in Scotland at this time. Tickets for this can be found here.
The Queen’s Gallery (online ticket*) is a public art gallery in the palace and can be visited all-the-year, as can The Royal Mews, the royal riding stables. In all, Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms.
Address: Buckingham Palace Road (Google Maps)
Underground: Victoria (Circle, District und Victoria Line), St. James’s Park (Circle und District Line), Green Park (Jubilee, Piccadilly und Victoria Line), Hyde Park Corner (Piccadilly Line)
11. Palace of Westminster with Big Ben
A palace of a different kind is the Palace of Westminster – another stunning thing to do in London. The building complex in predominantly neo-gothic style is also known as the Houses of Parliament and is the seat of the British Parliament in London. This consists of the House of Commons (lower house) and the House of Lords (upper house).
The building was almost completely destroyed in a fire in 1834 and was later rebuilt. The oldest surviving parts are Westminster Hall, built in 1097, and the Jewel Tower, built around 1365.
On the other hand, the most famous element of the Palace of Westminster and one of the most famous landmarks in London is Big Ben. The clock tower is officially called Elizabeth Tower, only the heaviest of the five bells is theoretically called Big Ben. Originally, there was a prison in the tower for members of Parliament, which was used for the last time in 1880.
You can visit the Palace of Westminster mostly on Saturdays and on various other days. You can find a calendar and the different ticket options here. You can also attend political debates for free.
Address: Westminster (Google Maps)
Underground: Westminster (Circle, District und Jubilee Line)
12. Westminster Abbey
The Palace of Westminster is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, along with St Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey. This is why it is an extraordinary thing to do in London. The church is located just across the street to the west of the Houses of Parliament.
Traditionally, monarchs are crowned and buried here – royal weddings also take place in the Abbey. In addition, famous people such as Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens are buried here.
Westminster Abbey was built in 1245 in the style of the french high gothic and belongs today to the Church of England, which split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Both from the outside and inside, Westminster Abbey is an absolutely impressive highlight in London.
Here you can find all information about prices and opening hours – and here you can buy your ticket online*.
20 Dean’s Yard (Google Maps)
Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday until 1:30 p.m.
Adults pay from 21 pounds when purchased online
Westminster (Circle, District und Jubilee Line), St. James’s Park
13. London Eye
The last thing to do in London that you cannot miss is the London Eye. Where to visit it? From the Westminster complex, you just have to cross the Thames over Westminster Bridge and turn left.
The London Eye is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe with a height of 135 meters. It was opened in 2000 after a construction period of two years. Originally, the London Eye was only supposed to operate for about five years, but it was so popular that it was left standing.
It has 32 glassed-in and air-conditioned gondolas, each of which can hold a maximum of 28 people. The wheel spins at an extremely slow speed of just under 1 km/h, so it takes about 30 minutes to complete one revolution. In good visibility conditions, you can even see up to 40 kilometers away.
Especially at night, you have a spectacular view of the Palace of Westminster with Big Ben, which is in the immediate vicinity on the other side of the Thames!
The Queen’s Walk (Google Maps)
Daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.
Adults pay from 27 pounds, Fast Track Ticket: 37 pounds
Waterloo, Westminster, Embankment
Culture in London
One of the most visited tourist attractions in London is the Madame Tussauds wax museum (buy an online ticket*). Those who prefer classic museums also have a huge choice. The best of them are for example the British Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Tate Modern art museum, the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world’s leading art and design museum.
Tip: The London Pass* gives you access to over 80 attractions in the city.
The famous Royal Albert Hall hosts all kinds of events, from symphony concerts to boxing matches. If you want to see a musical in London, the West End district, London’s “Broadway,” is the place to be.
Shakespeare lovers should not miss the Globe Theatre. It was built in 1599, reconstructed on its old site in the 20th century, and has served as a location for numerous theatrical performances. Even today you get very stunning impressions there!
If you are enthusiastic about the British royals, you should also stop by the Kensington Palace (online ticket*). As the name suggests, it is located at Kensington Gardens, which directly adjoins Hyde Park.
An interesting secret place is the Leake Street Tunnel which is made famous by Banksy (Google Maps), where graffiti is allowed and even desired. A result is a place with great street art.
One last very impressive sight is the Neasden Temple, the second largest Hindu temple in the UK. This popular tourist attraction is located in the northwest of the city.
If you’re a fan of murder mysteries or supernatural phenomena and want to experience the dark side of London, check out the insider tips in London. There you will also find additional sights.
For all fans of magic, I have the right article about London for Harry Potter fans. There you will find the most magical attractions of the city as well as inspirations and locations of the movies and books.
For all creepy fans: On the tour in the footsteps of Jack the Ripper you will learn a lot about the dark side of the city (book here*). The Harry Potter tour* is also worth doing.
Foods & Drinks in London
As a multicultural capital, London naturally has culinary highlights from all over the world to offer. Indian food can be found frequently. A pretty cool tip is Dishoom, which is present in several places and is based on old Iranian cafes in Mumbai. The result is a super tasty mix of cultures and influences.
Borough Market near London Bridge is also well-known among foodies. Its origins can be traced back to the 13th century or even further, making it one of the oldest food markets in London.
Those looking for something authentically British should have an original Full English Breakfast. You can find the hearty dish with scrambled eggs, bacon, baked beans and much more at an unbeatable price at the Regency Café, for example, or at the somewhat less well-known Liz Café (Google Maps).
If you want to try a traditional Afternoon Tea with canapés, scones and, of course, tea, you can do so in almost every luxury hotel in the city. Much more affordable options-but still around 20 to 35 pounds per person, though including a glass of champagne-can be found at The Ivy Chelsea Garden or the Roast, for example.
A final unusual insider tip is the Evans & Peel Detective Agency. This bar in the style of a speakeasy from the days of Prohibition in the U.S. attaches great importance to discretion and secrecy. It can happen that you first have to describe an exciting criminal case at the entrance in order to be allowed into the “detective agency”. However, the bar is a unique experience!
By the way, I’ll show you the best rooftop bars in the city in the article with the best insider tips in London.
Tip: On this culinary tour*, you’ll visit some of the city’s most famous restaurants and taste many famous British dishes.
City passes and local transport tickets
Depending on which and how many sights you want to visit, one of the following City Passes can be really worthwhile. The London Pass is valid for 1, 2, 3, 6, or 10 days and over 80 attractions. It costs between 75 and 199 pounds for adults and between 55 and pounds 149 for children (as of March 2020).
The London Explorer Pass* includes 3, 5, or 7 attractions and is valid for over 20 sights at a price of 64, 94, or 114 pounds (as of March 2020). The Turbopass London is valid for 1 to 7 consecutive days and includes around 15 attractions. It costs between 76.90 and 159.90 pounds without and between 99.90 and 207.90 pounds with a local transport ticket.
However, I would rather recommend one of the first two passes and an additional local transport ticket. Almost everyone in London has the “Oyster Card” anyway because it is valid for all means of transportation in the metropolis. For tourists, the Visitor Oyster Card is a good option, which costs 5 pounds plus shipping and can then be topped up, again and again, depending on use. However, you have to order the card online before your trip, because you can’t get it in London itself.
There you can only buy the regular Oyster Card, which costs the same and works the same. However, certain offers are omitted, such as the “daily capping” – which means that you never pay more on a day than a corresponding daily ticket would cost. This feature is only available with the Visitor Oyster Card. You should charge about 15 pounds for two days.
By far the most popular means of transportation in London, which you can also use with the Oyster Card, is the London Underground, called “Tube”. The London Underground is the oldest in the world and has a total of 270 stations and 11 lines. With it, you can reach pretty much all the important sights.
Perhaps you have already discovered that I have always noted the nearest stations of the Underground at the individual attractions so that you can find your way faster.
⭐ A very useful map, on which you can search for the nearest subway stations, can be found here.
There are several ways to get to London. First of all, there are six airports – Heathrow, Stanstead, Gatwick, London City, Luton, and Southend. Depending on your airline, you’ll probably arrive at one of the first three.
For Heathrow, Stanstead, and Gatwick, there’s also an airport express for each, which will get you into the city center quickly. The whole thing costs between 5.50 and 20 pounds, details can be found on the respective websites.
By train, you can reach the island from mainland Europe through the Eurotunnel, while by car you usually take the ferry from Calais to Dover, which you can book for example here.
For all those who are wondering what the situation looks like with a trip to England and a city trip to London since Brexit on January 31, 2020, I have briefly summarized the most important information here (as of March 2022).
Since 2021 you need a passport to enter London. This means that you also need international health insurance. Roaming charges for your cell phone will also apply in England.
A visa requirement is not to be introduced for the time being. The Visit Great Britain site says: “Citizens of the EU, EEA, and Switzerland can continue to enter the UK without a visa for vacations or short trips. In most cases, a stay of up to six months is possible.”
You can also continue to rent a car with your German driver’s license (EU) without any problems. However, you should take the International Motor Insurance Card, called the Green Insurance Card, with you as proof of motor vehicle liability insurance.
Always check the important websites for an up-to-date status of the situation.
Where to stay in London – the best tips
The 5-star Montcalm Royal London House Hotel (check rates here*) scores with a rooftop terrace including breathtaking views over London’s rooftops. The exclusive Shangri-La Hotel (check prices here*) also has 5 stars and is in a prime location in London’s tallest building – The Shard.
The 3-star Motel One London-Tower Hill (check rates here*) is also only about 800 meters from Tower Bridge and boasts excellent guest reviews.
The Luxurious Apartment “N22” (check prices here*) is an apartment with a garden view, which is not very common in London. It will take you a little longer to get to the south of the city center, but the Piccadilly Line will get you from Wood Green Station to Piccadilly Circus in about 25 minutes.
Facts and figures
- Nearly 9 million people live in Greater London
- London was founded in 50 A.D. by the Romans as a settlement called “Londinium”.
- Today, the metropolis is divided into 32 boroughs and the City of London, which originated from the original settlement on the Thames River
- According to visitor figures, the top 3 sights in London are Parliament, Big Ben, and Harrods
- From the corner of Regent Street and Wigmore Street, you can visit a whopping 164 Starbucks stores within an 8-kilometer radius
- Where Buckingham Palace stands today was probably once a brothel
- The most curious things end up in the lost and found office of the London Underground. These include a prosthetic leg, 15,000 pounds in cash, and an allonge wig, which is still worn by judges in the U.K.
- London’s twin cities include Berlin (here’s where to find the best sights in Berlin) and New York (here’s where to find the best sights in New York)
Für unsere Leserinnen und Leser aus Deutschland: Hier findest du die Top-Sehenswürdigkeiten in London auf Deutsch.