If you haven’t been to London, might we suggest you move it to the top of your queue? It’s a city that seamlessly blends old and new—responsible for bringing us both Shakespeare and Spice Girls; Newton’s laws of motion and, incidentally, roller skates; fish and chips and the best item on any lunch menu (thank you, Earl of Sandwich).
While it’s true you could spend a lifetime here and still not cover all the museums, landmarks and attractions that make it a world-class destination, you needn’t get your knickers in a twist. We’ve identified the top 10 places you should visit to get the true London experience—the full monty.
Since the Middle Ages, the streets of Trafalgar Square have served as a central meeting space for locals and spectators. Visit the largest of London’s squares and take your photo with one of the four lion statues resting majestically at the foot of Nelson’s Column.
You came to see a queen, and that you shall. Your first introduction? Cleopatra. Here at the British Museum, you’ll find one of the largest collections of human history and culture. More than 8 million works are on display, from the Rosetta Stone to the Mummy of Cleopatra.
Et tu, Brute? Lose yourself in the theater that once inspired the works of Shakespeare and other greats. This modern reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe resides just 750 feet from the original structure that burned to the ground in 1613. Like its predecessor, a crest above the main entrance bares the inscription, “Totus mundus agit histrionem,” Latin for “The whole world is a playhouse.”
Visit the oldest (and largest) occupied castle in the world. Listed as Her Majesty the Queen’s official residence, this humble abode spans 13 acres and employs nearly 150 people. With a history spanning 1,000 years, you’ll find relics like Queen Mary’s Dolls House and the tombs of 10 monarchs. Makes you wonder what’s looming in your basement.
See where justice prevails at the Palace of Westminster—more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament. Referring to the House of Commons and the House of Lords, together they comprise more than 1,000 rooms and two miles of corridors. One of its buildings, Westminster Hall, dates back to 1097. If those walls could talk…
The Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster, better known as Westminster Abbey, is where the anointing and crowing of British monarchs take place. Since invitations to coronations are few and far between, this is your chance to tour the gothic structure. You may also pay your respects to the 3,300 people buried here, including Charles Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton.
Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Tower of London is one of the city’s only surviving medieval buildings still standing today. It was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and seen by many as a symbol of oppression by the ruling class. Serving as a prison since 1100, it was an imposing compound of buildings set inside a defensive wall and moat. Legend holds that the ghosts of executed prisoners haunt the Tower today, including those of Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey and Anne Boleyn.
One of the most iconic symbols of London, the Tower Bridge was built in 1886 and is not to be confused with the London Bridge from the popular nursery rhyme. Extending over the River Thames, views of the Tower of London are in clear site, which is where the bridge gets its name. This suspension bridge is the only one of its kind and was chosen from nearly 50 designs.
From the changing of the guards to William and Kate’s balcony kiss, Buckingham Palace is perhaps the most iconic royal residence in the Western world. The grand structure boasts 775 rooms, including 19 State Rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms.
There’s one landmark in London that truly “takes the biscuit.” Officially named Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben is actually the nickname for the great bell of the clock—and it’s THE symbol of London. Big Ben’s face can be seen from almost every corner of the city and its chimes keep Londoners on time for tea. The largest four-faced chiming clock in the world, the only time the bells were silenced was in 1916 during WWI when even its face was darkened to prevent German attacks at night.
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