With so many beautiful sites and exciting activities, London makes it challenging for visitors and even locals to select the best ones to include in their itinerary. The combination of historical landmarks, vintage architectural aesthetics, and vibrant culture offers an amazing cocktail of memorable experiences.
Now, out of the many touristy spots in town, there’re specific must-see sites for every visitor. These places form a big part of its identity and tell tall tales of its existence. This article will take you through the top 5 classic sites in the city so that you know where to start your tour next time you’re in town.
The Top 5 Sites to Visit in London
1. Buckingham Palace
As the administrative headquarters of the British monarch, Buckingham Palace is a significant historical landmark and a classic site for anyone who wants to experience royalty firsthand.
To start with, this architectural masterpiece was built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham. It became the British Monarch’s London residence in 1837 when Queen Victoria ascended the throne. Through the years, the palace has undergone numerous changes, like being opened to paying public for the first time in 1993 to raise funds for restoring the Windsor Castle.
Since then, visitors can purchase tickets that grant them access to different parts of the palace. Usually, the 19 state rooms out of the total 775 majestic rooms are open to the public during the summer months.
The main highlights of your tour will be
- The ballroom: This is the largest state room. It features plaster statutes, a beautiful throne canopy, and an overall regal splendour. It’s mainly used to host state banquets.
- The throne room: This 17th-century styled room features a pair of throne chairs made for the coronation of the Queen in 1953. They also served as the coronation chairs for King Charles III and Queen Camilla. Additionally, the room features a single throne chair for Queen Victoria and another pair of throne chairs for King George V and Queen Mary.
- The white drawing room: This is one of the principal reception rooms. It features exquisite English and French furniture and porcelain.
- The grand staircase: This is an architectural beauty that ushers you to more rooms on another floor of the palace. It features full-length portraits of members of the royal family.
- The picture gallery: This is a 47-metre-long art gallery filled with the best royal painting collection. The pieces are from different iconic artists and are changed regularly.
- The music room: This room has one of the best English flooring craftsmanship. It’s where guests assemble before dinner or a banquet, and royal babies get christened.
- The palace garden: This is lush greenery covering 17 ha. It features a lake, beautiful rose flowers, a tennis court, and a helicopter landing area. It’s used to host garden parties and other royal celebrations.
- The changing of the guard ceremony: This is a must-see spectacle involving marching troops, bands, and live music. Everything is done in sync and to a fault. You must arrive at the palace before 11.00 to witness the event.
2. The British Museum
Over 2 million years of human history, art, and culture are what you get when you visit the British Museum in London. The place features millions of unique pieces and niche galleries that depict specific events and cultures. For example, the Egyptian galleries, print galleries, and enlightenment galleries, to name a few.
Entry is free, and you can wander around the vast space as you please. However, you should book a time slot online to avoid any inconveniences since the place is always overflowing with visitors. It’s usually open from 10:00 AM until 8:30 PM.
Notable displays to look out for include the rosetta stone, Egyptian galleries, Chinese ceramics, and Parthenon sculptures. You’ll need a detailed map of the building to guide and help you find specific rooms easily. Ideally, you could also use the audio guides ($8).
During the tour, you can catch a break and enjoy the famed afternoon tea at the cafe on the ground floor or the restaurant on the third floor. Finally, before you leave, you should check out the bookshop for souvenirs.
3. The London Eye
Catch panoramic views of London’s skyline from one of the biggest attractions in the city. The London Eye is located along the Thames River and features 32 climate-controlled capsules that accommodate up to 25 visitors. At its highest point of 135 metres, you have a 360 degrees view of London stretching up to 40km on a clear day. Therefore, you can see many iconic landmarks like Big Ben, the Shard, the tower bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The trip takes 30 minutes and offers nothing but amazing views. Be sure to bring a camera and take some pictures. You can even book a capsule for you and your loved ones to enjoy the experience together. If you book in the evening, you might be able to capture the beautiful London sunset.
4. Westminster Abbey
This gothic Anglican church in Westminster is home to British history dating back to 1066. It has served as the coronation ground for 40 monarchs, a burial site for monarchs, philosophers, poets and statesmen, and even hosted at least 16 royal weddings.
The entire structure of Westminster Abbey is a beautiful piece of architecture. Inside, the roofing stands at about 102 feet and features designs that took centuries to complete. Also, there’re side chapels, a chapter house and pyx chamber, and other repurposed rooms.
The roof, wall, and floor decor are a sight to behold. From crystal chandeliers to 14th and 15th-century paintings depicting the apocalypse and a custom cosmati pavement, the artistry is profound.
5. The Borough Market
Finally, you must see one of London’s oldest and latest food markets. The borough market is the perfect place to experience London’s culinary culture. With tens of food stalls and restaurants producing delicious delicacies, you have a wide variety to satisfy your taste buds.
Even though it gets crowded on certain days, feel free to engage the vendors about their delicious dishes to help you learn.