Big Ben, The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye...the list goes on and on. There’s nothing quite like the experience of hopping on a red double-decker bus and seeing some of the most recognizable sights in the world. This city is endlessly popular with travelers from all over the world, and with its famous landmarks and iconic sights, the number of things to see and do in London can easily overwhelm first-time visitors. I've spent quite a bit of time in London, and I'd like to share a few tips to make your first trip a success!
London is a very large city and about nine million people call it home. Even though getting around is easy, it's important to stay in an area most suited to what you'd like to do in your time there. You'll find a very wide variety of neighborhoods to choose from. Here are a few of the most popular areas:
Covent Garden is filled with cobblestone streets, all the shopping your heart could desire, and the top theaters. You can easily walk to the London Eye, British Parliament, Big Ben, and Travalgar Square.
Mayfair/St.James is where you want to be if you're looking to spend time around Buckingham Palace. You'll also find a lot of history, antique shops, beautiful architecture, and lots of green space.
South Kensington is the place to stay if you want a local experience. There are beautiful gardens, amazing pastry shops, the iconic Hyde Park, and Kensington Palace.
Shoreditch is the artsy trendy area. It is full of art galleries and street art.
Notting Hill is quaint and charming with colorful Victorian homes. It may seem familiar when you arrive because lots of movies have been filmed here. All the major attractions are just a short tube ride from this neighborhood.
A first trip to London just isn't complete without seeing the top attractions. There are so many, but here are the ones I recommend you don't miss.
Buckingham Palace is one of the city's most popular attractions. Make sure to tour it's staterooms and see the famous changing of the guards.
Explore the British Museum, which was founded in 1753. It contains collections and art from all over the world.
The Palace of Westminster, home of Big Ben, is one of London’s most recognizable attractions. Located on the north bank of the Thames, the palace, also known as the House of Parliament, is where the House of Lords and House of Commons meet to govern the country.
The Tower of London is the historic castle that served as a prison and fortress from 1100 to 1952. England’s Crown Jewels have been preserved in the Tower since the time of Henry III. There are great tours here to help you learn about some of its famous prisoners like Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I.
Piccadilly Circus, in London’s West End, might be compared to Tiimes Square in New York City. Locals and visitors enjoy its restaurants and clubs and people watching.
The London Eye is a giant Ferris Wheel that offers amazing views of the city for riders. Each year, nearly four million people visit this attraction, which opened in 2000. Since then, it has become a popular feature of the London skyline.
Tower Bridge is another immediately recognizable landmark of London. It often gets called the London Bridge, but that is actually a different bridge crossing the same river. You can walk across Tower Bridge for free, but if you want to cross the high-level deck or through the towers you have to pay for a tour. Make sure you pose for a picture here!
Windsor Castle, the home of Queen Elizabeth II, is currently the oldest and longest continually occupied castle in the world. It was originally built in the 11th century by William the Conquerer, but there have been many renovations, upgrades, and expansions since then. The castle is located on the outskirts of London, but it is relatively easy to get out and back to the city center. There are plenty of transportation options and tours available.
Trafalgar Square commemorates a British navy victory in the battle of Trafalgar. Today the square features lots of sculptures, art, fountains, and even commonly protestors. You can learn a lot about British history just by walking around the square and reading all the plaques.
Westminster Abbey is one of the most famous churches in the world. Originally it was a Catholic church, but now belongs to the Church of England. The gothic architecture is incredibly old, but this famous building has been the site of countless coronations, funerals, and royal weddings (this is where Prince William and Kate got married).
London is truly an amazing place and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. You won't run out of places to visit or experience in England's capital while you're here.