Mary Poppins, Abbey Road and the Beatles who cross the street, the Queen who drinks tea and the angry period of punk: this, and much more, is London. The English capital never loses its charm and the numerous monuments to be seen absolutely attract thousands of tourists.
If you also have “London’s calling” and you have a crazy desire to taste “Fish & Chips”, plan a visit to London. Thanks to this guide you will discover what are the 10 things to see absolutely in the capital of the United Kingdom.
1. Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery
It is a majestic square that represents a bit the heart of London, as the main arteries of the city branch off from it, including the Strand, the road that leads to the City, The Mall, the avenue that leads to Buckingham Palace and Whitehall the path that leads to the House of Parliament. The square also overlooks one of the most famous museums in the world, the National Gallery.
The National Gallery houses an incredible collection of over 2,300 paintings from various eras. It can be visited for free, but the purchase of a guided tour is particularly recommended to better appreciate the various works thanks to the tales and explanations of art experts.
2. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is the residence of the English monarchy, a majestic palace that consists of 775 rooms and a large royal park that extends over 20 hectares.
Only in summer is it possible to visit the West Wing, where there are the state apartments and the royal stables. Here are the wonderful carriages used by the royal family on official occasions.
At 10:45 am make sure you are at Buckingham Palace, you can watch the change of Her Majesty’s Guard, a ritual that has been taking place every day since 1660. Attention to the number of guards: if there are 4, it means that the Queen is at home. The changing of the guard takes place on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday (weather permitting).
If you intend to visit the state apartments, we recommend that you purchase your ticket before departure. If, on the other hand, you only want to witness the changing of the guard, you can opt for a tour of royal London which includes other iconic places such as Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben.
3. Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster
The building that houses the English Parliament (the House of Parliament or Palace of Westminster) is a fine example of neo-Gothic architecture. It consists of 1200 rooms that house the seats of the two chambers of the English Parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The main attraction of this huge complex is, without a doubt, Big Ben, or the Clock Tower, famous for hosting what is considered the most accurate clock in the world. It is mistakenly believed that Big Ben is precisely the name of the clock, in truth it is the name of the bell, made to be installed by Benjamin Hall, weighing 13 and a half tons. Tourists can visit the two chambers and attend parliamentary debates for free, whereas only British citizens are allowed to visit the Clock Tower.
4. Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Built from the ashes of the original cathedral, razed to the ground by the fire that hit London in 1656, today’s building is a beautiful example of the English Baroque style. What looks like a single large dome is instead made up of three domes: the external one, a second one that can only be seen inside, and a third one between the two, not visible, which supports the skylight. The fascinating cathedral has always been chosen to host the most significant events in the city, such as the funeral of Churchill, the celebrations of the Queen Mother’s hundredth birthday, the marriage of Lady Diana with Prince Charles.
5. Tate Modern, Tate Britain
The museum complex called Tate Gallery consists of the union of several collections scattered throughout the United Kingdom, two of which are located in London: Tate Britain and Tate Modern.
The former houses British art memorabilia from the 16th century to the present, the latter is one of the most avant-garde modern art galleries in the world and houses works by Picasso, Kandinsky, and Van Gogh.
The two galleries are about 40 minutes’ walk from each other and are both included in the London Pass, a special card that gives free access to about 80 London attractions.
In the immediate vicinity of Tate Modern, there is also Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, the modern reconstruction of the famous Globe Theater which hosted the Shakespeare theater company.
6. British Museum
The British Museum houses one of the most extensive and valuable collections of archaeological finds in the world. If you want to visit it properly, reserve at least one full day. Walking in the different exhibition areas it is possible to observe finds that testify to the origins of our history.
This is a truly unique experience, considering that admission to the museum is completely free. The objects preserved here are about eight million and include the first stone engravings of the prehistoric era, the very first coins, many examples of hieroglyphics but also Chinese ceramics and works of art of the twentieth century. The British Museum also houses the famous “Rosetta stone”, the stone that allowed scholars to decipher the ancient scriptures.
7. Tower of London
The Tower of London, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is part of a fortified complex that originally served to protect the Normans from the incursions of the citizens of the City and other invaders. The White Tower, built by William the Conqueror, houses the wonderful St. John’s Chapel, a splendid example of Norman architecture. The fortress has performed, in its over 1000 years of history, various functions: it was a royal residence and state prison, a place of executions, a royal zoo, it hosted the jewels of the Crown and was also the seat of the mint of the kingdom. The sixteenth-century costumed guards, the iconic “Beefeaters”, still guard the fortress today, together with the Ravens, birds of the raven family with a legendary history. It is said that King Charles II believed that if the six ravens guarding the fortress had abandoned it one day, the monarchy and the Tower would also have fallen.
8. Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is the most famous drawbridge in the world and connects the Tower of London to the Southwark area. It offers one of the most appreciated and photographed views of the city, especially when it is illuminated.
Visitors can walk the glass walkway located 42 meters above the Thames that connects the two towers, in the neo-Gothic style. When it was built it had to allow the passage of even very large ships on the river, for this reason, it had a hydraulic mechanism that exploited the power of steam. Since the seventies, it has been replaced by a diesel-powered system, although the Victorian Engine Rooms, located in the North tower, can be visited and house the vintage gears.
9. Camden Market
After art, history, and culture, visitors to London can also devote themselves to healthy shopping, in one of the most particular areas of the English metropolis. In Camden you can take home something unique, sifting through the vintage shops and those that remember that, right here, the punk movement has developed.
Just for music lovers, a very special walking tour is dedicated that allows you to appreciate the most authentic charm of Camden, to discover its musical myths and legendary pubs.
10. Hyde Park
During your visit, the time to relax will also come and there is no better place in London than Hyde Park. If you can find one of the rare sunny days, you can walk along the wide and organized avenues of this large urban park, perhaps visiting the Lady Diana Memorial, with its beautiful fountain. Depending on the time of year you may find the large winter funfair or one of the many spring and summer music festivals.
If you have enough time at your disposal, you can take advantage of an interesting combined tour that allows you to appreciate the nature of Hyde Park and the museums of South Kensington.