What to Do in London?

22 attractions you shouldn't miss

Photo of the Tower Bridge in London

In a nutshell: 5 tips for staying in London

  • Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral and The Shard are some of the absolute highlights of London.
  • While in London, you should visit at least one market. Our highlight: Borough Market!
  • Free admission to museums: not a problem at London’s Tate Modern or British Museum.
  • Walk in the footsteps of Harry Potter through real sets at Warner Bros. Studios.

These were our top highlights in London. But of course, that’s not all!

In our article we will show you 22 cool London sights sorted by category: You can just have a look at what is really interesting for you.

Map of our 22 London attractions

To start off and give you a better sense of all the London sights in this post, we made a map of our 22 highlights below.

Click here to download the map in PDF format

Map of London
The 22 best attractions in London on a map

London attractions for first-timers

You are visiting London for the first time and obviously want to check out the most popular London highlights. We put the must-sees for you in two lists. The London attractions with a camera icon are among the highlights, but a short photo stop is enough here. The other the attractions are also worth checking out from the inside. Therefore, we will describe them in more detail.

These London highlights will be described in more detail:

  • Tower Bridge
  • Tower of London
  • Westminster Abbey
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Buckingham Palace
  • The Shard
  • London Eye

London attractions for a quick photo stop:

Big Ben
Houses of Parliament
Downing Street
Windsor Castle

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is definitely one of the most impressive bridges in the world

You should plan 1 hour

Tower Bridge is, without a doubt, one of the most famous bridges in the world. 40,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day and it is lifted several times daily to let ships pass through. Read more about the exact Bridge Lift times here.

Nine meters above the Thames is a free walkway. 42 meters up, there is another walkway with a glass floor – pretty cool, but only if you’re not afraid of heights.

You will need a ticket for the glass floor and the Bridge Museum.

Get tickets for Tower Bridge

Tower of London

Tower of London
View of the Tower of London during our boat trip on the Thames

You should plan 1.5 hours

The Tower of London is especially famous for the Royal Family’s Crown Jewels, estimated at over 20 billion pounds, which are kept there.

The Tower’s history is equally interesting though: it has served as an armory, prison, execution site and even a royal residence.

Pre-purchasing tickets online is recommended, as the lines at the door are always very long.

Get tickets for the Tower of London

Admission

£30

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey in London
Westminster Abbey is one of the most important London sights

You should plan 1 hour

Only a short walk from the Palace of Westminster is the 700-year-old church Westminster Abbey. This is where the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the wedding of Kate and William took place.

As you stroll around the gravestones in the cemetery, you’ll find many famous names from British history, such as Charles Darwin.

If you pre-purchase your tickets online they are a little cheaper.

Get tickets for Westminster Abbey

Opening hours

closed on Sundays (open for church services)

Admission

£25

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s top attractions

You should plan 1 hour

St. Paul’s is a defining feature of London’s skyline and is located in the heart of the City. The cathedral’s huge dome is even bigger than that of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The entire structure is absolutely beautiful, not just the architecture, but also the paintings and exhibitions.

If you can stomach climbing more than 500 steps up the spiral staircase to the top of the cathedral, a breathtaking view of London awaits you from a height of about 111 meters.

We recommend booking your tickets online in advance. The lines at the tickets booths can take forever, especially on weekends and during the peak season.

Tickets for St. Paul’s Cathedral
Combined Ticket Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral (5% discount)

Opening hours

closed on Sundays (open for church services)

Admission

£18

Buckingham Palace

Photo of Buckingham Palace with the striking red tulip garden in the foreground cleverly obscuring the throngs of tourists.
Buckingham Palace is one of the most popular sights in London (© richie0703)

You should plan 1 hour (for the Changing of the Guard)

Nothing represents British history better than the Royal Family. So of course a visit to Buckingham Palace is an absolute must when you’re in London. The Palace is the official residence of the British Royal Family.

You can watch the Changing of the Guard at the Palace all year round. The spectacle takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. It always starts at 11 am, but you should get there by 10:30 am to get a good view.

Note: You can only visit the royal chambers between July and October. Make sure to secure your tickets well in advance online.

Get tickets for the Buckingham Palace

Opening hours

Open between July and October

Admission

£30

The Shard

The Shard
The Shard tower dominates the London skyline

You should plan 1.5 hours

The Shard really lives up to its name, jutting out of the ground like a piece of shattered glass. For a brief period, the 310-meter skyscraper even held the title of tallest building in Europe upon completion in 2012.

Its 72 floors include offices, apartments, restaurants, stores, and a 5-star hotel. The viewing platforms on the 69th and 72nd floors offer fantastic views over London.

It’s quite a bit cheaper to buy tickets online in advance than on site, but you’ll still have to wait in line to exchange your online ticket for a physical one. We recommend that you avoid visiting on weekends when the lines are particularly long.

Get tickets for The Shard

Several floors offer Michelin-star cuisine and great cocktails as well as an amazing view of London. You don’t have to pay admission here, but of course the food and drinks cost a pretty penny. You can also book a hotel room at the Shangri-La Hotel. It offers luxury rooms with a spectacular view.

Current room rates at the Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard

Opening hours

Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in winter

Admission

£28

London Eye

London Eye
The Ferris wheel has become an iconic part of London’s skyline

You should plan 1 hour

It’s the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe at 135 meters, and the view is fantastic. However, if you have to choose between the London Eye and The Shard, we would recommend The Shard.

You can find all the important information in our article with the best tips for your visit to the London Eye.

It’s a good idea to book your tickets online in advance, as they’re 10 percent cheaper that way. You can choose between a standard ticket and a fast track ticket when you book your ride. The fast track ticket grants you preferred entry to the Ferris wheel through a special entrance so you don’t have to wait in line.

Get Fast Track Tickets for the London Eye

Admission

£36

Big Ben & Houses of Parliament: More London highlights for first-timers

These attractions are in every travel guide and cannot missed on our list. You can visit these for the perfect London snapshot:

London attractions for culture lovers

You love museums, can really lose yourself in art or like to stroll through theater districts? Perfect! In this section you will find the most exciting museums in London and other attractions for real culture lovers.

Our culture highlights in London at a glance:

  • Tate Modern / Tate Britain
  • British Museum
  • National Gallery
  • Covent Garden
  • Notting Hill

Tate Modern and Tate Britain

Tate Modern
Tate Modern is located in a former power station on the banks of the river Thames.

You should plan 3 hours

Two of our favorite museums in London are Tate Modern and Tate Britain. While Tate Britain primarily shows British artists from the Tudor period to British Modernism, Tate Modern features art and architecture by modern artists from around the world.

Tate Britain and Tate Modern are two of the most important art museums in London. In Tate Britain you can find art from the Tudor period to British Modernism, Tate Modern features art and architecture by modern artists from around the world. Tate Modern will appeal to you even if you’re not really into art in general.

The buildings’ architecture alone is stunning and can turn a rainy day in London into a unique experience. The 10th floor of Tate Modern also offers a great view of the city.

And here’s the best part: Both museums are completely free to visit!

Our tip: “Tate Lates”. Visit the Tates at night, accompanied by music and a bite to eat. Late at Tate is a regular event that takes place every first Friday of the month at Tate Britain and every last Friday of the month at Tate Modern.

British Museum

British Museum
British Museum: The foyer alone is worth a visit (© phil_bird)

You should plan 2 hours

The British Museum is a world-renowned museum of cultural history and has accumulated some of the most important sculptures, antiquities, and architectural works in human history.

There’s so much to see at the British Museum that it’s impossible to take in everything at once, even if you spend the whole day.

Visiting the museum is free, but you’re encouraged to make a donation. Only special exhibits and events charge admission.

Guided tour of the British Museum

Photo of the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square in the evening, with a statue of a merman in the foreground, the brightly lit building reflected in the fountain.
The National Gallery is one of the top attractions in London, and not just for art fans.

You should plan 2 hours

The National Gallery is an art museum located directly on Trafalgar Square in the city center. It’s one of the most significant and largest portrait galleries in the world with a collection of more than 2,300 artworks from the 13th through the 19th century.

The collection includes portraits of Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Leonardo da Vinci, among many others. Admission to the National Gallery is free.

Our tip: Trafalgar Square is a wonderful spot to take a break from all the sightseeing. Its two fountains at the center are magnificent and the surrounding area is perfect for picnics, especially in the summer.

Guided tour of the National Gallery

Covent Garden

Covent Garden Market
Covent Garden Market and its lovely ambience has become a very popular tourist attraction

You should plan 1.5 hours

Covent Garden is a theatre and entertainment district in the West End. People often only associate the historic Apple Market on the car-free square with the name Covent Garden, but the area has so much more to offer.

The London Museum of Transport, the Royal Opera House, the London Film Museum, and Seven Dials are just a few worthwhile attractions in the neighborhood. And aside from all the museums and theaters, the Apple Market is one of the most beautiful photo spots in London.

Its elegant halls are the perfect place for a leisurely shopping stroll. The many singers and street performers are what make the market so special.

Notting Hill

Notting Hill
The colorful houses of Notting Hill are a popular photo spot in London

You should plan 2 – 4 hours

Notting Hill is definitely one of the most photogenic parts of the city. Or instagrammable, as our younger readers might say. The neighborhood is known from numerous films such as the eponymous rom-com starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.

The streets of Notting Hill are characterized by colorful houses and flowers.

The market on Portobello Road is one of the most beautiful markets in London, replete with second-hand fashion, antiques, and wares of all shapes and sizes. The main market opens on Fridays and Saturdays.

The annual Notting Hill Carnival takes place in August. Europe’s largest street festival offers a spectacular parade with a wide variety of colorful characters.

Guided walking tour through Notting Hill

Attractions for London experts

Have you been to London before? These London attractions are great for a second or third visit.

If you are looking for insider tips in London, you might also like this article: 11 real London insider tips.

London insider tips that are worth visiting:

  • China Town
  • Borough Market
  • Brick Lane Market
  • Sky Garden

Our tip for London connoisseurs who have plenty of time:

  • Street Art in London

Chinatown

Chinatown London
Hard to believe, but this is actually in the middle of London – Chinatown.

You should plan 1 hour

The first Chinese restaurants set up shop in London in the 1950s. Today, you’ll feel as if you’ve been swept away to the Far East. Chinese characters, dragons, lanterns and the smell of fried duck are everywhere. Even the street signs in Chinatown are bilingual.

Chinatown is a little culture shock. You can eat delicious Asian food here or stock up on typical Asian products in the stores.

Our tip: Chinatown is also the scene of many exciting events, such as the Chinese New Year celebrations. Check the Chinatown website for information on upcoming events.

Borough Market

Borough Market
We think Borough Market is one of the most beautiful markets in London

Borough Market is one of the most beautiful markets in London. It’s frequently chosen as a picturesque setting for movies, such as Bridget Jones or Harry Potter.

There are more than 130 stalls selling fruit, vegetables, natural products, meat, and fish. In addition to regional products, you’ll also find delicacies from all over the world. For example, German expats in London can enjoy a taste of home in the form of German bratwurst sold here.

You can easily spend a couple of hours here, sampling from the stalls and shopping for souvenirs. The market is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Only on Sundays it closes one hour earlier.

Our tip: Around Borough Market you’ll also find some cool London restaurants.

Opening hours

Closed on Sundays (only open in the run-up to Christmas)

Brick Lane Market

Brick Lane Market
Brick Lane Market is one of the most popular markets in London (© icenando)

You should plan 1 hour

At Brick Lane Market in Shoreditch you can find anything from antiques to vintage fashion, art, souvenirs and of course lots of delicious street food.

The market originated in the former Old Truman Brewery, which had to close in the 80s. Today it has developed into a market with over 300 stalls, some of them covered and others are simply on the street. We particularly like the fact that Brick Lane still retains the industrial charm of old London.

Our tip: It’s best to visit Brick Lane Market on a Sunday, which is the only time the street market takes place.

Streetart in London

The Fallen Shopper by Banksy
The Fallen Shopper by Banksy is one of the most famous pieces of street art in London

You should plan 4 hours (for a tour)

If you already know the classic museums in London, there is still more art than the mainstream.

Especially the neighborhoods of Shoreditch and East End are full of beautiful street art. Among them are works by internationally known artists like Banksy or Shepherd Fairey.

We recommend a guided tour, because your guide knows the coolest street art in London and you don’t have to search for a long time.

Street art tour and workshop in London

London highlights for families

If you’re traveling to London with children, you probably won’t be looking for dull museums. In our list you will find the London highlights that kids will also enjoy. We will describe the first three in more detail in a bit.

These sights in London were our highlights:

  • Hyde Park
  • Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios
  • Transport Museum London

More London attractions for families:

  • Science Museum
  • Holland Park
  • London Eye
  • Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station

Hyde Park

The Memorial Fountain for Princess Diana in Hyde Park
The Memorial Fountain for Princess Diana in Hyde Park

You should plan 1 – 3 hours

Hyde Park is one of the public royal parks in the heart of London. With an area of 1.4 square kilometers there’s plenty of space for your kids to run around and play.

The Serpentine, a snake-shaped lake running through the middle of the park, is the perfect place to cool off in the summer. From late November through January, Hyde Park hosts the Winter Wonderland with ice skating, a Ferris wheel, and a circus – perfect for families.

Our tip: On Sundays, pay a visit to Speakers’ Corner in the northeast end of Hyde Park (near Marble Arch). Since the 19th century, speakers have been coming here to stand on boxes and speak their minds about every topic under the sun. If you’re feeling brave, why not give it a go yourself?

Warner Bros. Studios

Warner Bros. Studios
At Warner Bros. Studios you can visit Harry Potter movie sets (© Christopher Dorney)

You should plan 3 hours

Why not apparate to Diagon Alley and get a few souvenirs from Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes? You can – well, almost.

At Warner Bros. Studios in London, you can visit some of the original sets, such as Diagon Alley, the Great Hall at Hogwarts, and the wizarding bank Gringotts. You’ll see the actors’ costumes and some of the iconic props like Harry’s Nimbus 2000 or Hagrid’s flying motorbike.

A truly magical experience for all Harry Potter fans, both young and old.

Harry Potter Studios Tour

London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum
The Transport Museum is a great museum for children in London (© packshot)

You should plan 2 hours

At the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, your kids can explore the world of London’s transport.

There is, for example, a restored steam engine, electric trains or the typical red double-decker buses to discover. What kid wouldn’t want to play train conductor?

The museum also tells some really crazy stories. There is, for example, an exhibition about an underground aircraft factory in a subway tunnel.

Get tickets for the London Transport Museum

More tips for families in London

London has so many fun options to offer for families. Here are some more ideas:

London highlights for shopping fans

London and fashion – the two belong together. We will show you the best places to shop in London.

Our highlights for shopping in London:

  • Oxford Street
  • Harrods
  • Camden Market

Oxford Street

Photo of red busses on Oxford Street in London
Oxford Street is what most people think of when it comes to shopping in London

Oxford Street is one of the most prestigious and famous shopping streets in all of Europe. It extends for 1.9 kilometers and offers everything from luxury brands to cheap knick-knacks.

Stores open daily. If you really want to do some serious shopping, try strolling down the street during the week; it’s pretty much impossible to shop in peace on the weekends.

Our tip: The pre-Christmas season is a magical time in London, and starting in November, Oxford Street is beautifully decorated with Christmas lights. Be sure to stop by Carnaby Street, a side street off of Oxford Street, and marvel at the lights and romantic restaurants around Kingly Court.

Harrods

Photo of the Historic Harrods department store in London
You can spend the whole day shopping at Harrods, a department store rich in tradition

Harrods is the most famous department store in London. The rich and famous have been shopping at Harrods since 1834, and for a long time the department store was the official supplier to the Royal Family.

The charm of the old building will send you into a shopping frenzy. Many of the stores are luxury boutiques like Chanel, Gucci or Prada. But there are also several “normal” stores.

Our tip: If possible, don’t visit Harrods on a Saturday, as it’s particularly crowded then.

Camden Market

Camden Market
Camden Market is probably the funnest and craziest market in London with the most unusual products

You should plan a whole day

Camden Market is not just any old market. There are around 1,000 stores offering anything from vintage fashion to art to street food. The atmosphere is like a trip back in time to the 70s and 80s. It is divided into three separate markets:

  1. Buck Street Market, right next to the Tube station, is full of stalls selling cheap, mass-produced goods.
  2. Stables Market, along Chalk Farm Road, offers alternative and vintage fashion, furniture, and second-hand items.
  3. The oldest market is located directly on Regent’s Canal. Camden Lock Market offers high-quality hand-made jewelry and clothing, decorations, and the finest street food.

London for free: Our tips for those on a budget

Big Ben
Big Ben is one of London’s attractions you can visit for free.

Are you traveling on a budget? London is not exactly a cheap destination, but with some tricks at hand, you can visit many of London’s attractions for free.

Here are our tips for free sightseeing in London:

  • walk across Tower Bridge
  • visit a free museum like Tate Modern, Tate Britain, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum or the National Gallery
  • enjoy the view in the Sky Garden
  • stroll through the markets of London
  • check out some street art in East London

General tips for your visit to London

Before you get started with your trip to the top highlights in London, here are a few quick tips to help you make the most of your visit.

Ideally, you should plan at least 3 to 5 days for your city trip to London. That’s still not much for such a big city, which is why it’s important to plan well. That’s why we prepared the perfect 3-day plan for London:

#1 Choosing the right place to stay

When choosing your accommodation, you should make sure that it’s in a central location. Here are three great and centrally located hotels in London.

Wilde Aparthotels: cool apartments in the bustling Covent Garden district, very close to the theater district
The Montague On The Garden: super stylish boutique hotel near the British Museum, especially suitable for families and first-time visitors
Treehouse Hotel London: super green hotel with a treehouse theme, close to Oxford Street

#2 Get an Oyster Card

London is huge and its must-see attractions are scattered throughout the city, so doing everything on foot is only recommended for the most ambitious exercise fanatics. For everyone else, the public transport network is excellent and is the perfect way to get around and see the sights.

You’ll need an Oyster Card to use the public transport in London. An Oyster Card is a pre-paid travel card that you simply hold against the reader before boarding a bus or entering a Tube station. It’s incredibly convenient and easy to use. Cards are available at local outlets, such as airports and all Tube stations.

Alternatively, you can also order the card before your trip and have it conveniently delivered to your home for a small fee. That way you can feel like a local and just get on the next bus or Tube when you arrive, without the hassle of looking for a vending machine.

Order the Oyster Card online

We recommend using the Citymapper app for public transport in London. It shows you how long it’ll take you to get from A to B, how much it’ll cost, and which lines to take.

Get the Android app from the Google Play Store
Get the iOS app from the Apple Store

#3 Save time and money with city passes

It may be worth buying one of the London city passes if you plan on visiting a lot of attractions that charge admission.

These discount passes grant you free admission to numerous attractions in London and save you quite a bit of money.

Another advantage is that some sights offer preferred fast track admission for pass holders. In other words, not only will you be saving money, but also a lot of time.

The following passes are available:

London Pass (includes most of the attractions)
Go City’s London Explorer Pass (the most flexible pass)
Merlin Magical London 5-in-1-Pass (a good choice for families with children)

#4 Explore London with a guided tour

If you’re visiting London for the first time or want to explore a whole other side of the city, a guided tour is a great idea.

There’s a huge range of city tours in London to suit all tastes.

Here are three cool tours, that can be booked directly online:

Bike tour through London
Boat cruise on the Thames including lunch
Harry Potter-themed tour

What are your London highlights?

That wraps up our list of the 22 must-see sights and attractions in London. Have you ever been to London? Which attractions in London were your absolute favorites? Tell us all about them in the comments. We look forward to hearing from you!