Sightseeing in London can be a daunting task – let’s face it, in a city where there’s something different to see around every corner, it can be hard to know where to start. If you’re planning your visit, I’ve chosen the most iconic London tourist attractions for your trip.

London is one hell of a city. Even now, after growing up in the city, it still has the capacity to take me by surprise  – so I can only imagine what it’s like to come to London as a tourist.

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge

Where should you start? What should you skip? Are London’s tourist attractions really worth it?

Not so familiar with London and want to know where to begin? You’ll love this indispensable guide – all the London sightseeing hotspots that you shouldn’t miss from your London itinerary.

PSST. When you’re done, you should also check out these other handy London guides.

Top London Attractions You Need to Visit

The London Eye

The London Eye
The London Eye

One of London’s best loved and most iconic attractions is the London Eye – it’s amazing to take in the views of the city from the enclosed ‘gondolas’.

You can book a regular ticket online, or you might like to splash out for a champagne experience or to skip the queue.

Read More: 20 Cool Facts about the London Eye

The Tower of London

Tour the (in)famous Tower of London, and find out more about its 900-year history. It’s had many uses over the years – as a palace, prison and even a zoo – but today it’s famously the home of the Crown Jewels.

Prepare to be dazzled by the Royal Family’s riches – I recommend booking ahead through Get Your Guide so that you can skip the line.

Read More: 15 Castles in and Near London You Need to Visit

Tower Bridge

It’s one of the most iconic London tourist attractions, and certainly unmissable during your visit to the capital.

Views of Tower Bridge
Views of Tower Bridge

This 19th century bridge across the Thames is an instantly recognisable symbol of London, so be sure to take a tour (you can book online) and get some great photos. Want to know more? Read these curious facts and figures behind the bridge.

Read More: London Bridge Area Guide: What to See + What to Skip

The Shard

The United Kingdom’s tallest building dominates the London skyline, and offers incredible views from its three-storey viewing platform, The View at the Shard.

The Shard
The Shard is the tallest building in London

Book your ticket online, or perhaps grab some cocktails in one of their charming bars.

Read Next: Using the London Pass – The Most Cost-Effective Way to See London’s Biggest Sights

Buckingham Palace + The Changing of the Guard

Pay a visit to Buckingham Palace, perhaps the world’s most famous residence. If you’re lucky, you might even spy a royal.

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

It’s well worth coinciding your visit with the pomp of The Changing of the Guard ceremony. It starts at around 10.45am, but it’s a good idea to arrive early to get the best spot.

You can book a tour of the palace and ceremony online.

Read More: The Changing of the Guard: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

Tour the imposing Houses of Parliament, stopping in at where anarchist Guy Fawkes was tried for his attempts to blow up the parliament some 400 years ago.

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
Big Ben is currently under renovation

You’ll find another of the most famous places in London attached to the Houses of Parliament… Big Ben – perhaps the world’s most famous clock, and an essential stop on your London sightseeing tour!

Unfortunately Big Ben is currently undergoing restoration works so it’s mostly covered in scaffolding. One of its iconic clock faces has been left uncovered though.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square and Nelson's Column
Nelson’s Column + Trafalgar Square

Named in the 1830s to commemorate the famous Battle of Trafalgar, Trafalgar Square is one of central London’s most bustling squares.

Be sure to check out the statues (including the ever-changing fourth plinth) and the world’s smallest police station.

Covent Garden

Covent Garden Market
Covent Garden Market

Much loved Covent Garden really does have something for everyone – think great restaurants, luxury boutiques and charming bars.

Then, of course, there are the many West End theatre companies. Definitely try to catch a show if you can!

Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square

Explore one of London’s best known areas, the crazy city hub of Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square.

Here, you’ll find many great restaurants and attractions – and you might even spot some A-Listers attending a movie premier at Leicester Square.

Museum Mile – Natural History Museum, Science Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum

Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum

Tick off three of London’s tourist attractions within a mile. You’ll certainly learn something at all of them, with the Natural History Museum and Science Museum focused on – you guessed it – science, while the Victoria & Albert Museum revolves around art and design.

Best of all, like many of London’s museums – they’re completely free! Perfect for free sightseeing in London.

Read More: Cool Museums in London That You Can Visit for Free

National Gallery & National Portrait Gallery

The National Gallery
The National Gallery

London has long been amongst the world’s great cities, so it’s fitting it has a number of the art world’s greatest masterpieces on show. Several of these, such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, are on show at the National Gallery.

Then, stop by to check out the famous faces at the National Portrait Gallery.

Tate Modern

The Tate Modern
The Tate Modern

London’s Tate Modern is a must for any art lover – it houses possibly the world’s most impressive collection of modern art.

The collection is expansive, so it’s a great idea to get a tour of the highlights. You can book tickets or guided tours at the Tate website.

The Southbank

The Southbank is a bustling riverside area filled with great restaurants, cafes and bars, as well as some of the city’s best theatre venues.

It’s free to walk around (or you can take a guided tour), but you might like to book a ticket to a show at either the Southbank Centre or the National Theatre.

Westminster Abbey

London’s most famous and beautiful church is a definite must-see in the city. Rebuilt in the 13th century (but with a history that goes back even further), it is now on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

To visit as a tourist you’ll need to buy a ticket either online or at the abbey, but you can enter free as a worshipper. Doing a tour is worthwhile to find out more about the history of the Abbey.

British Museum

Museums don’t come much more impressive than the expansive British Museum. Its dazzling collection hosts artefacts from the world’s greatest civilisations such as the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Greeks.

Entrance to the museum itself is free, but you may like to take a guided tour to help bring the huge collection to life.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Sitting atop Ludgate Hill – the highest point in London – St Paul’s Cathedral is a spectacular 13th century cathedral.

St Paul's Cathedral

To tour the Cathedral you’ll need to buy a ticket online or at the door – I recommend getting a fast track ticket. It is open from Monday to Saturday for tours, and on Sunday for worship.

Sky Garden

Sky Garden sits at the top of the Walkie Talkie building and is, IMHO, one of the best places to see London from above. What’s more? It’s completely FREE.

Sky Garden
Taking in the views

The gardens are located on the 31st to 34th floor, offering 360 views of London and its biggest landmarks.

Be warned, it can get busy (really busy). Check out this guide to visiting Sky Garden + how to beat the queues before you go.

Borough Market

Borough Market
Borough Market

Borough Market, aka foodie heaven, is an absolute must and one of my favourite famous places in London. It’s famed for being one of the best places to find street food in London – deservedly so.

Here you’ll find a dazzling variety of fresh produce as well as smallgoods and other delicacies. It’s free to visit, but you might like to take a foodie tour like this craft beer one so you don’t miss any of the best bits.

Read More: The Insider’s Guide to Visiting Borough Market

Royal Observatory, Greenwich

It’s most famously the “Prime Meridian”, where Greenwich Mean Time is measured, but the Royal Observatory is also home to some impressive exhibits.

Permanent features include a planetarium and gallery, while there are often great events and talks as well. You can book ahead online and enjoy a free audio tour with your ticket.

Read More: Top Things to do in Greenwich

Hampton Court Palace

Just outside of central London lies Hampton Court Palace, an impressive royal residence that is one of two remaining that once belonged to Henry VIII.

To enter the palace and admire the opulence you’ll need to buy tickets. It’s cheapest to book them online, although they are available at the gate.

The Globe Theatre

Shakespeare Globe

For a unique theatrical experience, check out the Globe Theatre on the south bank of the Thames.

Reconstructed to look like Shakespeare’s famous theatre, it puts on many great shows and events. You can also tour the theatre and check out the museum exhibits.

The Barbican

It may not be London’s prettiest building (though personally, that’s up for debate – I happen to think it looks awesome) but it’s one of the largest and best arts and creative hubs in Europe.

Here, you’ll find a selection of galleries, a theatre and a library. There’s even a beautiful conservatory, although it’s only open on selected Sundays.

Read More: Why You Need to Visit the Barbican Conservatory

Horse Guards Parade

Everyone knows about the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, but the Horse Guards Parade at Saint James’ Park is also a historic and fascinating sight.

The horse guards are stationed most of the day, and there is the changeover parade at 11am every day except Sundays, when it is at 10am.

Warner Bros Studio Tour

The young and the young-at-heart will have a spectacular time at Warner Bros Studio Tour, a stunning theme park based on your favourite movies like Harry Potter.

Hogwarts in Warner Bros Studios
It’s time to go to Hogwarts!

To experience the fun, you’ll need to buy tickets ahead of time. These can be bought online as either an entry ticket only, or with transfers and a tour.

Read More: Harry Potter in London – Discovering Filming Locations, Cool Spots and More

Madame Tussauds

It’s become a worldwide sensation, but the original – and the best – Madame Tussauds wax museum is located in London. You’ll be able to spot all your fave celebs.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the door – it can be good value to combine a visit to Madame Tussauds with other nearby attractions.

Sea Life

Discover what’s under the sea at Sea Life, a huge aquarium in London with colourful fish, jellyfish and even sharks. It’s an interesting and informative experience.

Tickets can be booked ahead of time online.

ZSL London Zoo

London’s huge metropolitan zoo has been delighting visitors since it opened in 1828, making it the world’s oldest scientific zoo. You can spot an amazing variety of animals from all over the world.

Your best bet is to purchase your tickets ahead of time for the best price and stress-free entry. I highly recommend getting a skip-the-queue ticket.

Somerset House

The palace today
And so the Somerset House we know today was born

Beautiful Somerset house is an incredibly beautiful Georgian building standing on the edge of the Thames. Originally built as an aristocratic private residence, it is today open to the public and features many exhibitions, events and restaurants.

It’s generally free to enter but certain events and exhibitions may have a charge. Check online and purchase your tickets if needed.

Read More: The Insider’s Guide to Visiting Somerset House

Up at the O2

Feeling brave? Keen to take in some unique views from London’s favourite concert venue? If so, strap yourself in for Up at the O2 – a guided climb across the roof of the building.

Although it’s totally safe, it’s sure to get your blood pumping – plus you’ll get some fab views. Be sure to book your spot online ahead of time.

Arcelor Orbit Slide

How does making your way down the world’s longest and tallest slide sound? Pretty amazing, right? If you agree, check out the Arcelor Orbit Slide. Originally built in celebration of the 2012 Olympics, it’s still around, delighting visitors.

The slide is great fun and the views are exceptional as well. Tickets can be purchased online ahead of time.

Afternoon Tea

Best Afternoon Teas

It doesn’t get more British than indulging in a tasty afternoon tea, complete with sandwiches, scones, jam and cream. Since it’s such an institution, there are many great places in London to have one – from the Barbican Conservatory (selected Sundays only) to one of the Shard’s eateries.

Advance bookings are suggested if you’re visiting one of the more well-known places.

Read More: The Best Afternoon Teas in London

Kew Gardens

Take a break from the hustle and bustle of London and retreat to the beautiful and relaxing Kew Gardens. This green oasis in southwest London is believed to be the largest and most diverse botanical garden on earth.

You can book single visits online, or if you’re a local, you might like to consider becoming a member for free entry year-round.

Churchill War Rooms

Learn more about former Prime Minister Winston Churchill and World War II in his underground London bunker. It’s amazing to think that the Churchill War Rooms were the epicentre for Britain’s response to the Second World War.

Book your tickets online for the best price and convenience – you might want to do so a couple of days in advance if you’re visiting during peak season. A popular tour combines a visit with nearby Westminster – perfect for history buffs.

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast

There’s no better way to learn about Britain’s naval history than actually being on board a retired naval vessel. Even if you only have a casual interest in military history, the HMS Belfast is well worth a visit to find out about life on board and Britain’s navy.

Tickets can be bought online – you might like to consider a tour to find out more about the ship and its history.

London Transport Museum

London Transport Museum
London Transport Museum

It might sound like an unusual choice for a museum, but the London Transport Museum is totally fascinating. It’s got an interesting collection related to transport in the city, with a few hands-on exhibits that are great fun.

You can book your ticket in advance online.

London Dungeon

Learn about the dark underbelly of London at the London Dungeon – the city’s spookiest attraction. Part live performance, part museum and part theme park, it’s a fun-filled way to learn about the darker side of London’s history.

Buying your tickets in advance online.

Hyde Park

Sprawling Hyde Park offers both entertainment and relaxation, making it a definite must-see on any London sightseeing map. There’s lots of beautiful green space, but it also plays host to some of the world’s best concerts and live performances.

Entry to the park is free, but you’ll have to cough up some pounds for most live events.

Highgate Cemetery

London’s most famous cemetery is the resting place for some 170,000 – most notably, Karl Marx, although there are many other famous figures. It’s a peaceful and beautiful place.

The cemetery is privately owned and operated. Entrance to the East Cemetery (home of Karl Marx) is by guided tour only, but you can do a self-guided tour of the West Cemetery. It’s best to buy your tickets in advance. It can be combined with a tour about Victorian London.

St James’s Park

St James's Park
St James’s Park

Another royal park that’s often used in royal ceremonies (including the Trooping of the Colour), St James’s Park is a gorgeous green oasis. It’s especially beautiful in spring, when there are many amazing blooms. There are even pelicans, whose ancestors were gifted to the monarchy centuries ago.

Entry to the park is free, however there are some paid events that do require tickets, including guided tours of the garden.

Sightseeing London: Tips For Making the Most of Your Trip

Sightseeing Passes

Sightseeing passes can be a great way to save money if you’re planning to visit a number of London attractions.

London Explorer Pass

The London Explorer Pass is a London sightseeing pass that gives you access to 3, 4, 5 or 7 of London’s most famous attractions.


I like this pass because you don’t need to choose what attractions you want to see at the time of purchase. You simply select how many “credits” you want to load it up with, and then use it as you wish. You have up to 30 days to use them.

The list of participating attractions is really good, and includes most big names like the Tower Bridge Exhibition, the London Eye, SEA Life and the London Dungeon. Depending on what attractions you choose, you can save up to 35% on the admission price.

Of course, how much you’ll save depends a little on what attractions you choose. I’d advise using the pass for the most expensive London attractions, as that’s where you’re likely to see the most value.

Overall, this pass is a great option if you’re not planning on seeing heaps of attractions. Those hoping to tick off lots of sites in London might find it a little too restrictive.

The London Pass

The London Pass is a fab pass that allows you free entry into over 80 great attractions, including the big names like the View from the Shard and the London Eye.

The added bonus of this card is that it also comes with transport credit and a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. So, it’s definitely a very comprehensive pass that’s ideal for those who want to see as much as possible in London.

You even get a guidebook, which is a great keepsake.

You can choose a duration between 1 and 10 days for the card, which runs consecutively from the first day you use it. It presents better value the longer you are planning on staying in London; for example, a 5 day pass is less than twice the price of a 1 day pass.

If you have a few days in London and you’re hoping to squeeze a lot in, this is a great option. Note that you’ll probably want to get up early to make the most of it.

Transport

Getting around London can seem a little overwhelming at first if you’re not used to it – but don’t worry, you’ll soon be navigating the Tube like a real Londoner.

The Tube is the most efficient way to get around to inner city locations. It’s quick and reliable, and there’s no chance of getting stuck in any nightmare-ish London traffic.

There are also public buses (yep, including red double deckers). They can be a little bit slower but are a good alternative and allow you to take in some views.

For reaching sights a little further outside central London, there is the overground train network.

Unless you have a sightseeing pass that includes transport, your best bet is to get an Oyster card which you can fill up with credit for using public transport including the tube, bus and London Overground.

If you want to throw your budget to the wind, then there’s also your traditional Black Cabs. They do tend to be quite expensive and prone to getting stuck in traffic, but it is a quintessentially London experience. Uber works, too.

London Sightseeing Tours: Tours on Foot

There are many great walking tours of London that will introduce you to some of the city’s top sights.

London: Top 30 Sights and Transport Museum

Get ready to strap on your walking shoes as this tour covers a lot of ground in just one day. If you want a comprehensive walking tour around London, then this is a great option.

On this London: Top 30 Sights tour, you’ll enjoy London icons like the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, the London Eye and the Globe Theatre. Entrance to the Transport Museum is also included in the price.

London Private Welcome Tour

Get acquainted with London by spotting the most famous attractions, and meeting a local Londoner.

As this London Private Welcome Tour is a private walking tour, your guide can help tailor the itinerary to your interests and timeframe.

London Sherlock Holmes Tour

Want to see a different side of London? If so, this Sherlock Holmes tour is great fun.

It takes in many of the sights and spots that inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create the world’s most famous detective. It will also go past many of the backdrops for Benedict Cumberbatch’s modern portrayal in the BBC’s Sherlock.

Definitely a fun way to enjoy a different take on London. Other popular themed tours include Harry Potter walking tours and Jack the Ripper tours.

London Sightseeing: Bus Tours

Another great option for exploring the city is taking a London sightseeing bus. There are a few available, depending on your interests.

The Original Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour

You know the drill – hop aboard this brightly coloured bus for a fun-filled adventure dropping by London’s most famous attractions. Hit all the highlights at your own pace, spending as much or as little time as you want at each one.

With this Original Hop On Hop Off bus tour, you can pick from 24 or 72 hours, depending on how long you have in the capital.

London by Night 90 Minute Bus Tour

See a different side of London once the sun sets on this London by Night bus tour. Over an hour and a half, you’ll travel around the city taking in the best after dark sights like Big Ben, the London Eye and Harrod’s.

Your professional guide will give you some interesting tidbits about the history of the city, making this a fun and informative tour.

Public Bus

On a budget or not a fan of organised tours? No problems – the public bus is a great alternative. All you’ll need is an Oyster card loaded up with some credit, and a map of some description.

The best routes for sightseeing include:

  • No 11, which will take you past St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. It starts at Liverpool Street and ends at Victoria Station.
  • No 9, which takes in sights including Trafalgar Square, the Royal Albert Hall and St James’s Square. It travels from Kensington to Covent Garden.
  • RV1, which travels the picturesque route between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, taking in beautiful views along the way.

Walking

Another option for exploring London Town is simply to make up your own itinerary and head out for a walk. There are so many hidden gems in the city, that simply getting lost down the maze of streets and alleys is a fine way to spend an afternoon.

What to Pack For a London Trip

When deciding what to pack for your London sightseeing trip, you’ll want to think about the weather. Things in London can be a bit, er, unpredictable – so you’ll want to bring a warm jacket and a brolly (that’s an umbrella).

I recommend picking some comfy, flat shoes for those cobbled streets – although if you’re brave enough to join the brave souls who tackle the city in heels, more power to you!

A camera, of course is non-negotiable to capture all those views of those famous London tourist attractions.

Visiting London? Here are my Insider Tips.

Looking for a place to stay in London? Artist Residence is one of my favourite boutique hotels as is Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, but both are costly. Safestay Holland Park is a good budget option. Read my guide to the Best Places to Stay in London for more tips on where to stay.

Looking to explore? These are the London sightseeing spots you shouldn’t miss or you can delve deeper in my guide to the best things to do in London.

If you do want to visit some of the bigger attractions, consider whether buying the London Pass will work out cheaper for your trip – it’s often worth it if you plan to see a lot in the course of a few days to a week.

London Sightseeing Map

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London sightseeing

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