8 Must-See Attractions For First-Time London Visitors
If you’re visiting London for the first time and have a few days of vacation, then be sure to put these eight attractions at the top of your itinerary.
1. British Museum
The British Museum is a world-renowned human history and culture museum that’s been open to the public since 1759. It houses a permanent collection of more than 8 million works of art and artifacts from all around the world that date from prehistoric to modern times. Some of its collection includes the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and several mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection. Visiting the Museum is free and is the perfect place for any history buffs or antiquities lovers. As one of the best museums some have said they’ve ever been to, the British Museum has something for people of all ages to see and learn.
2. Tower of London
The Tower of London, which includes 20 towers, has more than 900 years worth of history as a royal palace, fortress and prison. Spend an afternoon or even a full day here with the different exhibitions, tours and other family activities offered. If you’re visiting London for the first tim, the White Tower is a must-see as it’s a very important historic building and an iconic symbol of London and its heritage. If you have time, go on a Yeoman Warder tour, where you’ll be entertained with tales of treachery, torture and passion about the Tower from a Tower guard.
3. Buckingham Palace
You can’t visit London for the first time and not visit the official London residence of Britian’s sovereigns since the mid-1800’s. Buckingham Palace is the current London home of The Queen, as well as the Monarch’s administrative headquarters. There are 775 rooms furnished and decorated with beautiful and priceless pieces of furniture and art from the Royal Collection. The State Rooms are open to Palace visitors all year so you should plan on spending at least two hours on your visit.
4. Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey is a 700-year-old church located in the heart of London. Several royal weddings and coronations have taken place here. Since it’s known as a living pageant of British history, it stays busy and the staff usually keeps visitors moving at a fairly quick pace on their guided tours. You can also choose an audio guide and go about the Abbey at your own pace. Either way, taking pictures or videos aren’t allowed inside Westminster Abbey at any time so be sure to take lots of mental pictures.
5. Houses of Parliament (and Big Ben)
Located on the banks of the Thames are the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. Take a guided tour inside the Houses of Parliament into the Commons and the Lords chambers, which are offered on Saturdays and certain weekdays when Parliament is on recess. You can also see the famous giant clock tower known as Big Ben, but unfortunately only UK residents can actually tour it.
6. Royal Museums Greenwich
The Royal Museums Greenwich has four places for you to check out if you’re visiting London for the first time. The National Maritime Museum is the leading maritime museum of the UK and the largest one in the world. Next, is the Royal Observatory Greenwich, which houses London’s only planetarium and the biggest refracting telescope in the UK. It’s also the home of Greenwich Mean Time, also known as the Prime Meridian of the World. Then, there’s the Queen’s House, a 17th-century royal villa filled with a wonderful collection of fine paintings. Last, you can come aboard and go beneath the famous Cutty Sark. This ship is one of the fastest and last surviving tea clippers of her time.
7. Tower Bridge
Come to Tower Bridge, a Victorian bridge that’s one of the most famous ones in the world that crosses the River Thames, to get a beautiful view and plenty of pictures of London. A full visit to Tower Bridge Exhibition or a personal guided tour lasts about 1 hour and 30 minutes and lets you see all of Tower Bridge and hear all about its history and inner workings.
8. London Eye
Come to London Eye to get a bird’s-eye view of London’s South Bank at more than 400 feet up in the sky. On one of this giant Ferris wheel’s 32 capsules, which can hold up to 25 people, you’ll spend roughly 30 minutes checking out the city of London and 50 of its famous landmarks. For a more personal experience, get a private capsule or go for the romantic and private Cupid’s capsule, complete with a bottle of champagne and a box of luxury chocolates.
Visiting London for the first time, you want to take in as much of the city as you can. Although your time is most likely limited on your trip, take in these eight attractions and you will get the most out of London that you can as a first-time tourist. Before booking your trip, check out some of these nice London hotels.
Only in town for a day? Read where to go in London in 24 Hours to be sure you experience the city highlights.