22 attractions in London: the best sights to see [+map]
Are you planning a city trip to London and want to see the most beautiful sights in London? That's great! Our London insider Friederike will give you an overview of all the must-see attractions in London, so you'll be ready for your first visit!
London is one of the destinations that definitely belongs on your bucket list of places you have to visit at least once in your life.
There’s so much to see that not even native Londoners know every inch of the city. So how are visitors supposed to find their way around and know exactly what to see in London?
Well, that’s what our website does best: Our list of 22 must-see attractions in London will help you make the most of your time in the city. So let’s get started with some great travel tips from our London expert Friederike.
Buy tickets for attractions in advance
There’s a lot to see in London, but sightseeing can be pretty expensive. Except for the museums, where admission is generally free, many of the highlights will set you back between 20 to 30 pounds each.
Tickets are usually a bit cheaper if you pre-purchase them online. You can save a couple of pounds per attraction, and those small savings can add up quickly if you visit several sights. At certain attractions, using an online ticket can also speed things up for you, e.g. by allowing you to skip the line.
We recommend purchasing tickets in advance for the following must-see London attractions:
|Price per person||Tickets|
|Tower of London||£35|
London attractions on a map
We’ve highlighted all the London sights and attractions we’ll be covering in this post on the map below to give you a better sense of where they’re located.
Big Ben is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London. The name specifically refers to the largest and heaviest bell in the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster. It weighs over 13 tons and has been ringing every hour on the hour since 1859.
However, the name Big Ben is often used as a synonym for the entire tower. It was officially renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee, but for most Londoners the world-famous building will always be known as Big Ben.
Located directly on the Thames, the tower stands 96 meters tall and features four large clock faces, each facing in a cardinal direction.
Houses of Parliament / Palace of Westminster
Welcome to the seat of the British Parliament. Until the 16th century, the Palace of Westminster was the principal residence of English kings. Since 1512, the Palace has served as a government building. The building underwent major reconstruction work after a devastating fire broke out in 1834.
The Palace is located in the City of Westminster, directly on Parliament Square. Big Ben is on the north side of the Palace.
The most important chambers out of more than 1,100 rooms are the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The fate of the country is decided here, unfortunately not always for the best.
You can visit the Houses of Parliament and even participate in debates and committees. Various tours are offered on the Parliament website.
Only 300 meters’ walk separate the Palace of Westminster from the famous church bearing the same name, Westminster Abbey. Over a million visitors flock to the 700-year-old church every year.
The walls of the building have already survived 17 monarchies and have set the scene for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and the wedding of Kate and William, among others.
The many tombs in Westminster Abbey are also particularly impressive. A number of famous figures from British history have been laid to rest here, including Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin.
If you pre-purchase your tickets online, it costs you less.
closed on Sundays (open for church services)
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s is a defining feature of London’s skyline and is located in the heart of the City of London, about 300 meters from the River Thames. The cathedral’s huge dome is even bigger than that of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The church hosted the Golden Jubilee celebrations for the Queen in 2002, and Prince Charles and Diana got married here as well.
The entire structure is absolutely beautiful, not just the architecture, but also the paintings and exhibitions. Definitely worth a visit. 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.
closed on Sundays (open for church services)
Tower of London
Chillingly beautiful: The Tower, known as the royal palace of death and torture, sounds far from inviting, but it should definitely be on your list of must-see attractions.
Construction on the Tower began in 1066, and up until the 19th century, it was primarily used for military purposes. It served as an armory, workshop, prison, and execution site. It was also home to London’s very first zoo. Even some kings took up residence in the fortress.
Today, visitors can experience a huge exhibition about the building and its history. But above all else, the Royal Family’s crown jewels, estimated at over 20 billion pounds (!), attract visitors in droves. Can you imagine how they sparkle and glitter?
Pre-purchasing tickets online is recommended, as the lines at the door are always very long.
The road bridge over the Thames is named for the nearby Tower of London. Since its completion in 1894, the bridge is raised several times a day to let ships pass through. It’s also raised to mark special occasions, such as the Queen’s Jubilee or Winston Churchill’s funeral procession.
Built to regulate 19th-century port traffic, Tower Bridge is still an important traffic artery connecting north and south, with 40,000 vehicles crossing it every day.
The high-level walkways, 42 meters above the Thames, have been converted into a bridge museum celebrating the construction and history of the bridge. If you’re feeling especially brave, be sure to walk across the glass floor. If you time it just right, you may be lucky enough to see the bridge being raised underfoot.
An online ticket costs £11 for an adult. Of course, you can always just cross the bridge for free.
Nothing represents British history better than the Royal Family. The British are proud of their monarchy and they aren’t afraid to show it. Throughout the city you can buy printed mugs, posters, and figurines of 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. The London attraction also hosts foreign heads of state.
Note: Would you like to see the royal chambers with your own eyes? Then you need to come to London between July and October, because that’s the only time visitors are admitted to the Palace. Make sure to secure your tickets well in advance online.
Our tip: 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.
Open between July and October
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. It’s located by the Thames in Southwalk.
Its 72 floors include offices, apartments, restaurants, stores, and a 5-star hotel. The viewing platform on the 69th floor offers a very nice view over London. And if that isn’t enough, there’s a second viewing platform on the 72nd floor.
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 the weekends when the lines are particularly long. If you don’t want to wait at all, you should buy a fast track ticket for an additional fee.
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.
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in winter
Tate Modern and Tate Britain
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.
Even if you don’t care much for art, Tate Modern is still well worth a visit. 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, including St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Shard.
And here’s the best part: Both museums are completely free to visit!
Our tip: 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.
The giant room in the center of the museum alone is a must-see attraction. The sight of the architecture will take your breath away.
The British Museum is a world-renowned museum of cultural history which opened its doors in 1753 and has since 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. The collection is so fascinating and remarkable that it draws six million visitors every year.
Visiting the museum is free, but you’re encouraged to make a donation of five pounds. Only special exhibits and events charge admission.
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.
About 6.5 million visitors per year come here to flock here to admire the paintings of the British Royal Family and their entourage. It’s fun to wander from century to century while trying to put yourself in the shoes of the people in the paintings.
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.
Welcome to the heart of the West End! Completed in 1819, this public square is the nerve center where London’s most important streets meet. Regent Street and Piccadilly Street converge here.
The illuminated billboards give off a similar vibe to Times Square in New York. For example, one of the largest Coca-Cola ads in the world lights up Piccadilly Circus at night.
Due to its central location, the square is a major tourist hotspot, especially on weekends and in the evenings, when the crowds pour in to see the musicals. Nevertheless, the square is incredible, and you should certainly take the time to enjoy the lights and soak up the atmosphere.
Notting Hill is definitely one of the most photogenic parts of the city. Or instagrammable, as our younger readers might say.
The streets of Notting Hill are characterized by colorful houses and flowers. Strolling through the streets of Notting Hill will make you feel a bit like Julia Roberts or Hugh Grant in the hit movie of the same name.
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. During the week, residents buy fresh fruit and vegetables here. Sometimes you can even spot real movie stars shopping here alongside bargain hunters.
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: definitely a must-see event!
The first Chinese restaurants set up shop in London in the 1950s. Since the 1970s, the small neighborhood in the West End has become known as Chinatown because of its large Asian community.
Walking down the streets of the neighborhood, you’ll feel as if you’ve been swept away to the Far East. Chinese characters are everywhere, dragons and lanterns decorating the stores, and fried ducks hanging in the restaurant windows. Even the street signs in Chinatown are bilingual.
So if you want to take a short trip to Asia, this is your chance. In addition to the countless Chinese restaurants, you can also take your pick from Korean, Malaysian, Vietnamese, or Japanese cuisine.
For a truly fascinating experience, try visiting a Chinese supermarket or one of the local Asian bakeries with fancy cakes and other baked goods on display.
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.
Oxford Street is one of the most prestigious and famous shopping streets in the city and one the busiest in all of Europe. It’s often the first port of call for tourists who’ve come to London on a shopping spree.
Oxford Street extends for 1.9 kilometers in the Mayfair district 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 Oxford Street is decorated with Christmas lights and angels hovering over it. 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.
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 theatres, 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. In addition to the many entertainment options, Covent Garden also has an endless array of restaurants and bars to choose from.
Our tip: Covent Garden has so many wonderful tiny streets hidden away from the noise and the crowds. Just take a little detour and you might discover little oases of calm in the middle of the city! One of the places is the delightful Neal’s Yard, a colorful miniature village full of little shops, cafés, and restaurants.
Borough Market is one of London’s most time-honored institutions. It’s been around since the 13th century, always at its current location by the River Thames.
Nowadays, Borough Market is a very impressive food market that’s frequently chosen as a picturesque setting for movies, e.g. for 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.
Our tip: Visit the market during the week when it’s not as busy and some of the vendors offer free samples.
The market opens Monday through Saturday, but certain stalls only open from Wednesday to Saturday.
Closed on Sundays (only open in the run-up to Christmas)
Camden Market isn’t so much a market as a collection of different markets on Camden High Street in the borough of Camden. Over 300,000 people visit the more than 1,000 stalls in north London every week.
Vintage fashion, art, street food, and small stores set up shop here 50 years ago and tourists love this little trip back in time to the 1970s and 80s as much as locals.
Camden Market consists of three separate markets:
- Buck Street Market, right next to the Tube station, is full of stalls selling cheap, mass-produced goods.
- Stables Market, along Chalk Farm Road, offers alternative and vintage fashion, furniture, and second-hand items.
- 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.
Our tip: You should also consider visiting Camden at night. There are many clubs and bars in this neighborhood. One of our favorite places is Gabeto Club, located right in Camden Lock Market.
Hyde Park is one of the public royal parks in the heart of London. With an area of 1.4 square kilometres, it’s one of the largest and most famous metropolitan parks in the world.
The Serpentine, a snake-shaped lake running through the middle of the park, is the perfect place to cool off in the summer. Many Londoners spend their free time here enjoying the greenery. On royal birthdays, gun salutes are often fired in the park. Several open air events are also held here throughout the year.
From late November through January, Hyde Park hosts the Winter Wonderland with ice skating, a Ferris wheel, and a circus unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
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?
St. James’s Park
The oldest of London’s royal parks spans more than 23 acres and is located in the City of Westminster district, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace and Downing Street.
With a bit of luck, you can see owls, woodpeckers, swans, and lots of squirrels by the lake in the middle of the park. There are even pelicans. They are fed daily at 2:30 pm.
The romantic bridge in the park overlooking Buckingham Palace is a very pretty spot.
Harrods is the most famous department store in London and one of the oldest shopping temples in the world. 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 escalators alone, which combine modern technology with traditional elements, will amaze you and make your visit to the department store a very memorable experience.
It’s really easy to get lost in the huge building, as it’s built like a maze with one store next to another. But don’t panic, there are maps and the sales assistants are very helpful. And there are almost as many salespeople at Harrods as there are handbags from Armani to Versace.
In the lead-up to Christmas, the department store is a wonderful place to get into the holiday spirit and buy some gifts. In addition to all the famous designer brands, there’s also a souvenir section and a Christmas world full of amazing keepsakes to take home.
Our tip: Whatever you do, don’t visit Harrods on a Saturday. It’ll be incredibly crowded and you’ll feel as if you have to race through the store to avoid being trampled by the crowds.
A relatively recent addition to the London skyline, the London Eye has quickly become as iconic a landmark as Big Ben or Tower Bridge.
It’s the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe at 135 meters and is located in the heart of the city on the south bank of the Thames. The original idea was to take it down after 5 years, but that plan was quickly abandoned due to its runaway success.
The capsules offer enough space for 25 to 28 people and a ride takes about 30 minutes. You can see up to 40 kilometres on a clear day, sometimes even as far as Windsor Castle.
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.
General tips: Planning a hassle-free sightseeing trip 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.
London is a dauntingly big city, especially for a first-time visitor, so you should allow at least 3 to 5 days for your visit. Of course, that’s still not a lot of time for such a huge place, which is why planning ahead is so essential.
#1 Choosing the right place to stay
When choosing your accommodation, you should make sure that it’s in a central location with good Underground connections so you can get to the most important sights as quickly as possible.
If you haven’t picked a hotel yet, make sure to check out our in-depth posts on where to stay in London, with information about the different neighborhoods and hotel tips:
#2 Get an Oyster Card
London is enormous 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 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.
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.
#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 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:
Our detailed comparison will help you figure out which pass is right for you:
#4 Explore London with a guided tour
If you’re visiting London for the first time or want to explore another 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. These are some of our favorites:
That wraps up our list of the 22 must-see sights and attractions in London
What are your favorite sights? Which attractions in London are an absolute must-see? Do you have any questions about your upcoming visit to London? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!