London Sights & Attractions
What to See and Do in London
London's most famous landmark is BIG BEN, the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament. Within walking distance is one of the most famous addresses in the world, 10 DOWNING STREET, the official home of the British prime ministers since the 18th century. Buckingham Palace is the official royal residence, and you may visit it on a guided tour. It's your chance to take a look at the royal art collection in the State Rooms, which includes works by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Canaletto. The English kings and queens are crowned at the Gothic Westminster Abbey, the city's oldest church. It is also the resting place of the British monarchs and contains an impressive collection of tombs.
Westminster Cathedral with its Byzantine appearance and colorful mosaics is also worth visiting, although the city's main cathedral is St. Paul's. It is Europe's second largest, and its dome (which provides fantastic city views) still dominates London's skyline (go on a private tour of St. Paul's Cathedral).
You can admire many of the city's landmarks from the Tower Bridge, a 19th century construction that is one of the city's icons. After taking a look at its pinnacled towers, step inside for the interactive displays bringing its history to life.
Herzog & De Meuron transformed a power station into the Tate Modern, an exciting museum of international modern art. Its 20th century collection is one of the best in the world, going from Auguste Rodin's "The Kiss" sculpture to pop art to 21st century artists (go on a private tour of Tate Modern).
Another popular destination for modern art is the Serpentine Gallery, located in a 1930s tea room in Hyde Park. Check the website for the current exhibition.
The Design Museum is also worth a look, the first in the world dedicated to design. You'll see furniture, housewares, and office equipment in the permanent collection, together with temporary exhibitions of international design.
The ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) is also an interesting stop for those who enjoy contemporary culture. It showcases a wide range of art forms, with lively exhibitions and events covering visual arts, music, and film.
The National Gallery housed inside a grand neo-classical building includes works by Leonardo da Vinci, Diego Velasquez, and Rembrandt. It is one of the most important museums in the country, but if you only have time for one museum in London, make it the British Museum. It attracts millions of visitors every year, with an outstanding collection stretching from prehistory to the present times. The major highlights are the extraordinary sculptures in the Egyptian and Greek collections (go on a private tour of the British Museum).
Another major collection is that of Tate Britain, formerly called Tate Gallery before the opening of the Tate Modern (see above). This is a space dedicated to British art, with the collection showing works from the 16th to the 21st century (including examples by Francis Bacon, David Hockney, and Henry Moore). (Go on a private tour of Tate Britain)
Also outstanding is the Victoria and Albert Museum, home to the world's biggest collection of decorative arts. Favorite exhibits include the dress collection from the 17th century to the present, the rooms filled with Victorian decorations, and the greatest collection of Indian art outside India.
The London Eye is a technological masterpiece attracting millions of visitors to the banks of the Thames since it opened in 2000. It is a giant ferris wheel offering spectacular city views from its 32 capsules holding up to 25 people each (get your London Eye tickets here).
The city's skyline is also dominated by Norman Foster's skyscraper 30 St Mary Axe ("The Gherkin"), a London icon since 2004. The same architect is also responsible for the CITY HALL building, shaped like a giant egg.
Another modern landmark is the MILLENNIUM BRIDGE, a steel suspension bridge opened in 2004 for pedestrians to cross the Thames. It's a scenic way to go between the Tate Modern and St. Paul's Cathedral.
The Tower of London is the city's most visited site, a medieval fortress that houses the precious crown jewels and a collection of armor (skip the Line -- get your Tower of London tickets here.)
London is one of the world's top shopping cities and even if you don't plan to do any shopping you must experience its markets and shopping streets. Do some window-shopping in KNIGHTSBRIDGE and walk around Covent Garden's Piazza and central market before heading to Camden Market. In Convent Garden be sure to walk down the attractive traffic-free Neal Street and Neal's Yard, and in Camden expect to see all kinds of merchandise, from vintage fashion to furniture.
Pass by PICCADILLY CIRCUS at night, marking the entrance to the cosmopolitan Soho district with its famous, dazzling neon displays. From there you can walk to TRAFALGAR SQUARE, the city's meeting point for rallies and public meetings, and known for its fountains and lion statues.
TOURS & DAYTRIPS
Go on a Tour of London by bus, walking, or on a privately guided trip, or leave the city on a daytrip to nearby attractions such as Stonehenge.