There are lots of things to do in London, but it might be a bit overwhelming to figure out where to go and what to see first, especially if you don’t have much time. From shopping to historical buildings and towers, to the various other stereotypes surrounding British culture, this list will give you the top touristy things you should check out while you’re in the city.
This clock tower is one of the most iconic symbols of London. Big Ben is located closest to Westminster Tube Station and is surrounded by other beautiful buildings, as well as Parliament Square. Visiting during the warmer months? You’re in luck, as there is a Tesco Express right out of the tube stop – grab some food, head on over to Parliament Square, and enjoy a nice picnic with some great views of the clock tower.
Yet another one of London’s widely-known towers is Tower Bridge. This tower is truly memorable with its bright blue accents in contrast to the old architecture and colors of the towers themselves, especially on a clear day. You can head up to The Tower Bridge Exhibition for just under £10. From London Bridge Tube Station, it’s a nice walk along the River Thames to get to the bridge, passing City Hall and Potters Fields Park along the way.
Tower of London
Directly behind Tower Bridge, you’ll find Tower of London; a historic castle that was once Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress. From the outside, there’s not too much to see, but for an entrance fee of £22.00 for adults, you can head inside the Tower of London and get your history fix for the day. You’ll come out knowing cool facts like how the Tower was breached for the first – and only – time during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381.
The Iconic Red Telephone Booth
Though not quite as popular nowadays among the streets of London, you can still find these traditional telephone booths throughout the city. And of course take lots of pictures of the phone booth, you with the phone booth, you inside the phone booth, you pretending to call someone…. You get the idea.
Wanting a 360° view of London? Then you should take a ride on the London Eye: essentially a giant ferris wheel that sends you on one complete 30 minute rotation. This observation wheel is a quick walk from Waterloo Tube Station, and is right by Jubilee Gardens where you’ll find an assortment of food stalls and buskers aplenty. The entrance fee is over £20 and the queues are quite long. If money is not an issue and you don’t fancy waiting in line for half the day, you can pay an extra £10 for a fast-track ticket.
If you’re interested in art, this gallery located in Trafalgar Square is perfect for you. Before you step into the gallery, you’ll find yourself surrounded by plenty of other tourists either sitting around the large water fountain, taking photos of the statues (where you’ll find an oddly placed giant blue chicken), or crowding around a busker putting on a performance. There is no entrance fee to go into the National Gallery and it features artwork from late medieval times to the French Impressionists.
Explore the Markets
There are quite a few popular markets throughout London. From food to clothes to unique items of all sorts, these markets have just about anything for the tourist and local alike. The most well-known markets are Borough Market (a food-market-lovers’ paradise), Camden Market (for those who are a bit quirky and stuck in the year 2000), Camden Lock (fabulous food stalls galore), and Spitalfields Market (a little bit of everything). You can read my full post on these markets here.
Fish ‘n Chips
Obviously you can’t go to the UK without stuffing your face with some delicious fish ‘n chips. Such a simple dish, yet so many restaurants struggle to get the batter-to-fish ratio right. Well, fear not my fish ‘n chip loving friends, because I found the most incredible fish ‘n chip shop in Camden Lock that had me wanting to go back for more. Regardless of where you go to get your fix, you just can’t leave the UK without having ordered this at least once.
In my last post, I didn’t exactly rave about my visit to the Palace, but it’s one of the most touristy things you can do here, so it only makes sense to include it on this list of the top touristy things to do in London. Though you’ll be greeted with an unimpressive and simple exterior, if you plan your visit accordingly you might be able to catch a glimpse (through the hoards of all the other tourists’ heads) of the Changing of the Guard Ceremony. You can also take a tour around the inside of the palace if you’re a bit disappointed with the exterior, like I was. Entrance fees begin at £20.
Take a Ride in an Original Double-Decker Bus
The vast majority of buses in London are double-decker, so there’s nothing too special about taking a ride in one of those (unless of course you’ve never been on one before, in which case you should hop on one of those and drag yourself to the top/front immediately!). However, if you get a chance to see one of the original double-decker buses, you’re in for a treat. Similar idea to the iconic red telephone booths, these buses are another great trip into London’s photogenic past.
Explore more of London’s sights and sounds by checking out this article by HotelsCombined on Where to Stay in London: The Ultimate Sightseeing Guide.