Top 12 Sites in London

London today is a huge multi cultural
City but it’s main attractions remain those that showcase its long and royal history and its role at the centre of a global empire . Here is a selection of some of its most popular sites

Tower of London

0870 756 6060
Tower Bridge, E1
Tower Hill tube
(Mar-Oct)Mon-Sat 9 am – 5pm, Sun 10am – 5pm
(Nov-Feb) Tue-Sat 9am-4pm, Sun-Mon 10am-4pm

This is a must see for anyone who wants to get a slice of English history. The Tower of London is home to some of the most harrowing and infamous stories and the famous ravens and beefeaters. Founded by William the Conqueror in the C10th, it was in this Tower that Anne Boleyn was executed, Guy Fawkes interrogated, Richard II and Elizabeth I incarcerated and the young Princes were allegedly murdered. The building itself is spectacularly preserved and one of the towers still has C16th graffiti on its walls. The rooms are expertly presented giving a comprehensive but palatable history of the kings and queens of England. And of course a visit to the Tower would not be complete without viewing the crown jewels. Even for the most history shy visitors to the capital, this is a fascinating trip through the backbone of London and should not be avoided (well worth the entry fee) Go early on in the day because there is so much to look at and the beefeaters stop doing tours at 4pm.

St Catherine’s Dock
The area around the Tower of London is well developed and St Catherine’s Dock is a pretty little corner of London with old and new ships docked there. Perfect for a little bit of fresh air and a bite to eat.

The British Museum

020 7636 1555
Great Russell St, WC1
Tottenham Court Road/Russell Square Tube

From the controversially held Elgin Marbles to the Rosetta stone, the perfectly preserved mummies of Egypt and the enormous King George III library , the British Museum is home to some of the most impressive treasures of the world. The museum is totally free and London’s most popular attraction. As with so many of London’s attractions, the building itself is an architectural feat and the stunning glass ceiling in the Great Court designed by Norman Foster in 2000 is well worth a look. Again with so much under one roof and completely free, you can’t fail to find something in here you want to see, and although ambling around is good for the energetic among you, it may be worth having an agenda in mind with so much to see.

The London Eye

South Bank SE1, near Waterloo tube
0870 5000 600

There is nothing better than putting things into perspective and when you go on the London Eye you see the city from a totally different viewpoint. It takes approximately 30 minutes to complete the ride and on a bright blue day you can see for miles. Built as part of London’s Millennium project, the wheel is up there as one of the best and more unusual must dos in London, not to mention the fact that it is the World’s biggest observation wheel.

Buckingham Palace

020 7321 2233
open Mar-Oct 11am-4pm
Victoria/Green Park/Hyde Park Corner/St James’ Park.

For some visitors this is a bit of a let down. The building is no fairy tale palace and though impressively large, isn’t as remarkable as St Paul’s or the Tower of London. But the fact that it’s the King’s office seems to make up for the fact that it struggles with the wow factor. Built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 and later remodelled for George IV by Nash, the palace as you see it today has evolved over the years right up to the most recent classical façade in 1913. Visitors can look around the State Rooms and the garden during summer months.

Buckingham Palace is the setting for one of London’s institutions, the Changing of the Guards. The brief explanation “it’s that thing on all the post cards, ” the full explanation, “ever since 1660 Household troops have guarded sovereign palaces. When the official residence changed from the palace of Whitehall to St James’ palace in 1689 and then again to Buckingham Palace in 1837, the Queen’s guard remained at St James’ Palace and a detachment guarded Buckingham Palace. “ Daily during the Summer months and every other day at all other times, the spectacle begins at 11:30am and lasts for 45 minutes.

Trafalgar Square

As a hot spot, this is the best place to get crapped on with thousands of other people in London. Designed by John Nash and built between 1829-1843 to commemorate Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, this is a popular tourist spot famous for the pigeons, the fountains, the four lions sat around the centre (designed by Edward Landseer in 1867) and of course the column which stands 185 foot high with an additional 17 feet for the statue at the top. Often used for rallies and festivals, the square is a honey pot with hundreds of people milling around daily. Surrounding the square is the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, Pall Mall, the Strand, St Martin-in-the-Fields church and South Africa House. You can also glimpse Whitehall running away from the square, Admiralty Arch (erected in honour of Queen Victoria in 1910) and the Mall beyond that and Canada House (1827.)

The National Gallery
020 7839 3321

The National Portrait Gallery

020 7306 0055
Established in 1856 the gallery contains the faces of over 9000 famous Britons. Recent exhibitions have included Lucien Freud and Mario Testino.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Mon-Sat 09.00-17.00, Sun 10.30 – 17.00
020 7246 8348
St Paul’s tube

Built by Sir Christopher Wren in 1710 after the original Norman structure was burnt in the fire of London in 1666, St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the world’s most stunning cathedrals and was the first protestant buildings to be erected.

The dome is one of the most recognisable buildings in London at 110metres high, and contains the Whispering Gallery, where a whisper can be heard 100 feet away. Inside is even more spectacular with some of the finest examples of craftwork and an array of masterpieces including ‘The Light of the World’ by Holman Hunt. Gold and stone galleries fill the cathedral and aside from the fact that it is a working religious building and contains generations of art and sculpture alongside commemorations of famous figures through history, the cathedral offers some of the best views of London. St Paul’s has seen both Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II’s jubilee ceremonies, Winston Churchill’s funeral and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.Btitish heroes, the Duke of Wellington and Lord Horatio Nelson are both entombed here.

Piccadilly Circus

This area of London is the centre of the action with roads leading to Regent Street, The Mall, Soho and Leicester Square. Most recognisable for it’s two famous landmarks, the statue of Eros and the huge TV screens advertising our capitalist world in big neon lights. A general meeting point for tourists rather than natives, this is a must see.
8. The Tate Modern

020 7887 8734
Bankside, SE1 near Southwark/Blackfriars tube.
10am – 10pm FRI /SAT, 10am – 6pm SUN-THUR

Whilst some visitors to the capital would not want to put a day wandering around a converted factory looking at neon lights and blank canvases on their top 10 list of things to do a million miles from home, the Tate Modern is London’s best collection of modern art. Towering over the Thames and with a lovely view across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s cathedral (a must see in the dark,) the tate Modern’s x floors house a vast collection of paintings and sculptures from Monet to a Rothko, x to x. Some are better than others and even if you don’t like modern art, the museum does have the advantage of being free and spacious for those of you who hate crowds.

The Tate Britain

020 7887 8008
Millbank, SW1 near Pimlico tube
10am – 5.30pm (free)

Another popular attraction for visitors to the capital, the Tate is home to many of the finest works of art in the world. Matisse, Picasso, Pollock, Constable, Hogarth are just a few of the pieces hung inside the walls of the Tate. Exhibitions are constantly changing here and recent years have seen Monet’s work grace the walls temporarily.

Globe Theatre

020 7902 1500
New Globe Walk, Bankside SE1
Near Mansion House/Monument/Canon Street Tube
10am – 5pm

The globe is the recently rebuilt original theatre which staged Shakespeare’s masterpieces for the first time. Rebuilt using 400 year old materials the theatre looks totally authentic and displays original costumes from early productions to add to its magic, along with a major Shakespeare exhibition. With visitors attractions like editing a page of Hamlet and a video explaining Elizabethan special effects, this is a great London attraction which will soon be as notorious and frequently visited as the big 5. The atmosphere is created to perfection and you can even watch Shakespeare’s plays being performed here. (details from the ticket office hot line)

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

020 7219 4272

One of the most spectacular buildings in London (and certainly the most recognisable) the houses of Parliament stand tall on the banks of the river Thames dominating Westminster. Parliament itself has 2 miles of passages with over 1,000 rooms. As home to the House of Lords and House of Commons where Lords and ministers convene, this is the centre of political activity. Built by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin in 1840, the style is neogothic. If you take a tour though the Houses of Parliament you will see Westminster Hall, a 72 metre room which has witnessed some of the defining moments in constitutional history. The trial of Thomas More, the investiture of Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector, debates about the deposition of many of the Kings of England, the madness of King George III and the rise of George IV. At the South end the Union Jack flies from the Victoria Tower when Parliament is in session. On the north side, Big Ben has rung in the New Year across London since 1924. The name Big Ben refers to the bell, which was named after Benjamin Hall, the commissioner of works when the tower was completed in 1858.

Westminster Abbey

020 7222 7110
SW1 near Westminster tube
MON-FRI 9am – 4.45pm SAT 9am – 2.45pm, Sundays services only 020 7222 5152

Westminster Abbey is the finest example of a gothic church. Built by Edward the Confessor in the 11th Century, he died before it was completed, but can be found buried behind the high altar. All coronations since William the Conqueror have taken place here and most monarchs are buried in the church from Henry III to George II. The main things to see inside the Abbey are the stunning decorations and stone work in the Henry VII Chapel, Poets Corner, where Chaucer, Tennyson and Dryden were laid to rest , the coronation chair built in 1300 for Edward I and the tomb to the unknown soldier.

Hampton Court Palace

0870 752 7777
East Molesey, Surrey, Hampton Court Rail
Mon 10.15-4.30pm, Tue-Sun 9.30am – 4.30pm

Built in 1525 by Thomas Wolsey who presented it to King Henry VIII, the palace is a mixture of Tudor and English Baroque architecture set in stunning grounds best known for its maze. This was said to have been Henry VIII’s favourite residence and he spent 3 of his honeymoons here, baptized his son here and his final marriage to Catherine Parr happened in its grounds. After his death the palace continued to play an important part in history as the setting for the 1604 conference which resulted in the King James Bible. Then in 1647 Charles I was imprisoned and Oliver Cromwell auctioned the palace off before changing his mind and reclaiming it. The Palace continued to undergo changes under each monarch and stands today as one of our finest palaces. This is the oldest Tudor Palace in England and visitors can look at the state apartments, Tudor kitchens and be shown round by costumed guides. How very authentic!

The Palace can be reached by overland train to Hampton Court station from waterloo, bus, or better still boat from Westminster, Richmond or Kew.


Destination – England