First-Timers Guide to Must-See Attractions in London
London is probably one of the most photogenic cities in the world; each of the Big Smoke’s 32 boroughs is breathtakingly beautiful in their own way.
Honestly, you could spend days traveling through the city and still not see everything that the city has to offer.
Iconic landmarks like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower Bridge have shown up in hundreds, if not thousands of movies and TV shows. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to London. The city has dozens of must-see attractions that the average person might not know about.
That, dear reader, is where we come in. Today, we’re going to show you some of London’s most amazing attractions. Some of these attractions are well-known landmarks, while others are exclusive hotspots. Either way, you’ll want to store your luggage before heading to any of the following locales.
The London Mithraeum
Let’s start things off with one of London’s rarest attractions. The London Mithraeum is one part museum, one part ancient temple of the Roman God Mithras. Best of all, the Mithraeum is 100% free to visit.
- The Temple of Mithras is a “multi-sensory experience” that lets guests tour a reconstructed sanctum.
- Guests are invited to browse the Mithraeum’s vast collection of 14,000 Roman artifacts.
- The Bloomberg SPACE displays world-class contemporary art like Susan Hill’s London Jukebox.
Big Ben and Parliament
Just as the Statue of Liberty symbolizes New York City, Big Ben symbolizes London. There are babies in Brazil that could probably identify Big Ben – this attraction is just that famous. Think of every major motion picture that’s ever been produced. If a scene took place in London, chances are that Big Ben popped up on screen.
What’s even crazier about all this is that Parliament is located right next to Big Ben! Two of London’s most iconic attractions are within walking distance of each other. To clarify, Big Ben is the name of the gigantic clock that you see up there. The actual tower is called the Elizabeth Tower, after Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
No one really knows who Big Ben is named after. Some argue that the Benjamin Hall – a prolific London architect – is the clock’s namesake. Others argue that Big Ben shares a name with Benjamin Caunt, a legendary boxer from the 19th Century. Either way, Big Ben, Elizabeth Tower, and Parliament are all must-see attractions.
Buckingham Palace was built way back in 1837. Since then, Britain’s Royal Family has called the palace home. With a whopping total of 775 rooms, Buckingham Palace makes for a cozy and spacious home.
Most of the time, visitors are barred from entering Buckingham Palace. But there is one exception to this trend; each Summer, Queen Elizabeth allows guests to visit the palace’s 19 State Rooms! As you can imagine, thousands of people visit the palace. You’ll need to book your visit way ahead of time if you want to go.
The Kew Botanic Royal Gardens isn’t just a plant conservatory, it’s also a dedicated science center. Guests can learn about more than 50,000 species of plants here. Here are just a few of the exhibits you can find in the gardens:
- An Arboretum filled with more than 14,000 trees.
- The Agius Evolution Garden.
- The Lake and Sackler Crossing.
- Edible plants at the Kitchen Garden.
Simply put, the Kew Gardens is a one-of-a-kind attraction. You can learn about all kinds of exotic plants here, then snag some souvenirs from the gardens’ gift shop.
Tower Bridge is probably one of the easiest landmarks to visit in London. After all, you don’t need to buy any tickets just to walk or drive by it. If you’re looking for a hands-on experience, that’s a different story. Here’s what guests can expect from a tour of Tower Bridge:
- A guided tour of both of the bridge’s towers.
- The opportunity to walk along the West Walkway.
- A chance to stroll over Tower Bridge’s Glass Floor.
- An up-close look at Tower Bridge’s Engine Room.
This bascule bridge is definitely worth the price of admission. There’s a big difference between casually checking out Tower Bridge and getting an in-depth tour.
Westminster Abbey is touted as a Royal Church by many Londoners. That’s because numerous coronations have been held here since 1066. The Abbey wouldn’t receive its Gothic makeover until the 13th Century; Henry III requested the overhaul in 1245, but such an ambitious project wasn’t completed until the late 1300s.
These days, the Abbey is open to visitors from all walks of life. Daily services are held here, and the legendary Westminster Abbey Choir performs on a regular basis. Last but not least, the Abbey acts as the final resting place of at least 17 English monarchs.
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is another of London’s must-see attractions. The first version of this church was built in 604, making it centuries older than the Westminster Abbey. But those early buildings didn’t last long; Vikings repeatedly sacked these structures, beginning a cycle of destruction and reconstruction that lasted for years.
It wasn’t until 1148 that the first portion of the Cathedral was finally completed – the Cathedral quire. Centuries later, the completed version of St Paul’s Cathedral is a beauty to behold. Guests can attend worship services and world-class concerts, as well as simply admire the Cathedral’s beauty.
The Shard is much younger than the other attractions we’ve discussed, but that doesn’t make it any less significant. The Shard was initially a humble office building until Italian architect Renzo Piano worked his magic. He transformed that office into a sprawling, 95-story skyscraper.
Piano envisioned the Shard not just as an extremely tall building, but as a “vertical city.” From top to bottom, the Shard features an observatory, apartments, a hotel, office spaces, and restaurants. You have to visit the observatory ASAP. From here, you can catch glimpses of London’s other must-see attractions!