London tourist attractions

Top London sights

London’s calling: Europe’s most diverse metropolis is jam-packed with awesome attractions. The only difficulty is deciding where to start.

  1. Tower of London
  2. Tate Modern
  3. Harrods
  4. Houses of Parliament and Big Ben
  5. National Gallery
  6. British Museum
  7. Covent Garden
  8. St Paul’s Cathedral
  9. Buckingham Palace
  10. London Eye

London sightseeing - think Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s - brings millions of tourists to the UK capital every year. And for good reason, too. The city dominates the national horizon: this is where most of the country’s news and money are made, and it’s where the central government resides. Bring it on.

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1. Tower of London

Crème de la crème of London attractions is the Tower of London. One of the most perfectly preserved medieval fortresses in the country, it sits beside the Thames surrounded by a wide, dry moat. The Tower is chiefly famous as a place of imprisonment and grisly death. Join one of the free guided tours, given by the Tower’s beefeaters - these ex-servicemen relish hamming up the gory stories.

Nearest tube station: Tower Hill

Visit for: Bloody tales and the crown jewels

2. Tate Modern

The Tate Modern is - in a word - mighty. Opened in 2000 as the world’s largest modern art gallery, astonishingly it has since doubled in size. The stupendously large Turbine Hall is famed for its huge installations, while eight hundred works are on display in the main galleries. Curators have shunned the usual chronological approach, going instead for hanging works by theme - meaning you’ll find works by the likes of Picasso, Brancusi, Lichtenstein, Riley and Hepworth alongside newer names.

Nearest tube station: Southwark

Visit for: Mind-boggling exhibitions

3. Harrods

London’s most famous department store, Harrods , is an enduring landmark of quirks and pretensions - not least its dress code (no clothing revealing intimate parts of the body). It’s noted for its Art Nouveau tiled food hall, the huge toy department and its range of designer labels. Bring a fat wallet.

Nearest tube station: Knightsbridge

Visit for: Shopping with a price tag

4. Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The Houses of Parliament are one of the best-known London tourist attractions and the ultimate symbol of a nation once confident of its place at the centre of the world. The city’s finest example of Victorian Gothic Revival, the complex is distinguished above all by the gilded clock tower popularly known as Big Ben - after the thirteen-ton main bell that strikes the hour.

Nearest tube station: Westminster

Visit for: Awesome architecture

5. National Gallery

Despite housing more than 2300 paintings, the main draw of the National Gallery is not so much the collection’s size, but its range, depth and quality. A quick tally of the Italian masterpieces, for example, includes works by Uccello, Botticelli, Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, Veronese, Titan, Raphael, Michelangelo and Caravaggio. A similar selection of greats from Spain, the Low Countries and France are on display, while British art is also well represented.

Nearest tube station: Charing Cross

Visit for: Sublime fine art

6. British Museum

One of the great museums of the world and king among London attractions, the British Museum contains an incredible collection of antiquities, prints, drawings and books. Built in 1823, the building itself is the grandest of London’s Greek Revival edifices, while the collection of Roman and Greek antiquities is unparalleled. It’s most famous for the Parthenon sculptures - better known as the Elgin marbles after the British aristocrat who walked off with the statues in 1801. Further highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Lindow Man and Lewis chessman.

Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road

Visit for: A history lesson

7. Covent Garden

Covent Garden is one of London’s chief tourist attractions, thanks to its buskers, pedestrianized piazza and old Victorian market hall. Some three centuries ago the piazza was the great playground of eighteenth-century London. Nowadays, the market is pretty, but touristy, while the streets to the north boast some very chic boutiques. For those with deep pockets, this is the time and place to splurge.

Nearest tube station: Covent Garden

Visit for: Street performers with pizzazz

8. St Paul’s Cathedral

If you haven’t yet tired of imposing architecture, make for St Paul’s Cathedral. Designed by Christopher Wren and completed in 1710, the cathedral remains a dominating presence in the City, despite the encroaching tower blocks. It’s topped by an enormous lead-covered dome that’s second only in size to St Peter’s in Rome, and its showpiece west facade is particularly magnificent.

Nearest tube station: St Paul’s

Visit for: Striking religious architecture

9. Buckingham Palace

The colossus that is Buckingham Palace has served as the monarch’s permanent residence since Queen Victoria’s reign. For two months of the year, the hallowed portals are nudged open to the public. For the other ten months of the year, the palace is closed to visitors - not that this deters the crowds who gather in force to watch the iconic Changing of the Guard ceremony. Searching for London holidays? Why not pick a place to stay near the royal residence - you'll be in excellent company.

Nearest tube station: Green Park

Visit for: Royal opulence

10. London Eye

Standing at an impressive 443ft high, the lastminute.com London Eye is the largest Ferris wheel in Europe, weighing over 2000 tonnes - yet as simple and delicate as a bicycle wheel. It’s constantly in slow motion, which means a full-circle ‘flight’ in one of its 32 pods should take around thirty minutes - that may seem like a long time, but in fact passes incredibly quickly.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo

Visit for: Mesmerizing views

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