Great Britain has many wonderful cities to experience, and London is its crown jewel. Yet seeing all that London has to offer can easily take more than a week! If you’re short on time, keep reading for our top five favorite London attractions. You should be able to see all of these in just a couple days.
Getting around in London is painless with many transportation options. The underground subway system will be your go-to as it is reliable and straightforward to navigate. Hop-on-hop-off buses are another great way for tourists to see many of the best sights. They typically include a comedic commentator to provide interesting facts along the way. We utilized the Big Bus company during our stay which included a scenic boat ride on the Thames.
1. Tower of London
The Tower of London is a spectacular place to take a step back in time. Upon entering the castle, villagers recruited tourists to partake in a trebuchet demonstration! They selected Alison to help launch water balloons across the moat. Even though my team lost, I had a blast! After the demonstration, a “Beefeater” lead us on a tour around the grounds sharing tales of famous prisoners and beheadings. We really enjoyed it! Following the tour we wandered around the the grounds to see prison cells, torture chambers, suits of armor, and the authentic crown jewels. There were also great views of Tower Bridge from inside the castle. The historic atmosphere and entertaining guides made this our most memorable stop in London!
2. Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is located just around the corner from Big Ben and is filled with amazing architecture and history. However, if you want to go inside Westminster you have to either pay a tour fee or attend a church service. We decided to attend the 10am Sunday service and I’m so glad we did! A boys choir sang throughout the service and the whole church echoed with heavenly sounds. The music hung high around the ceiling arches and low into the graves of England’s kings and queens. It was a surreal and spiritual experience. We highly recommend it.
3. The British Library
While the British Library is a little further away from many of the popular attractions, it is an awesome stop for history buffs and museum goers alike. We paired it with King’s Cross Station before catching a train out of London. The treasure room is free admission and they have some very unique exhibits. We saw several different prints of the Bible, old versions of the Torah and Quran, Shakespeare’s texts, the first written sheet music, Beetles’ lyrics, literature of Jane Austin and Charles Dickens, and scientific letters from DaVinici, Galileo, and Charles Darwin. Very cool!
4. Big Ben and the London Eye
These two worthy attractions are closely located so we decided to group them together. Big Ben is the great bell within the iconic clock tower attached to the Houses of Parliament. If you’re interested in Britain’s government system, they have options available that allow you to go inside. However it is still admirable from the street below. Immediately across the river from Big Ben is the London Eye. Although tickets are a bit expensive for this glorified 30 minute Ferris wheel ride, we thought it was worth the money and wait to enjoy the beautiful views of the city and Big Ben. This area is worth visiting during the day as well as the night as the buildings light up brightly and colorfully at night.
5. Buckingham Palace
If you’re a fan of the British Royal Family then Buckingham Palace is a must see. Although you can’t enter the palace, the grounds, gates, and gardens are so prestigious they are worth seeing in person. Like most tourists, we went to watch the changing of the guards. In order to beat the rush we arrived an hour early, but there were already lots of people lining the gates! Thankfully we got a decent viewing spot. The ceremony consisted of a fanfare of marching bands and lots of guards with tall, fluffy hats. It was fascinating to witness such a traditional and historic process.
King’s Cross Station
This is a great stop for Harry Potter fans to catch a glimpse of Platform 9 3/4. Check out all the wizard wannabes and get in line for your photo op! Spoiler Alert – this looks nothing like it does in the movies. There are also many Harry Potter tours throughout London which we heard are nice but didn’t have time to catch.
London has many famous bridges spanning the Thames. The oldest river crossing, made popular by the song, is the London Bridge (not pictured). London Bridge has been rebuilt many times and today is actually pretty plain. The Tower Bridge, on the other hand, is stunning. This iconic bridge opened in 1894 and is often confused as the London Bridge. For an admission fee, you can ride to the top of the towers and cross the high walkway. The London Millennium Footbridge opened in year 2000 and boasts an impressive cable suspension system.
What are your favorite sights in London?