Which highlights and attractions are not to be missed on your holiday in London? Here you will find a list of the top 10 sights of London!
The attractions you may remember from your English lessons take shape on a trip to London: Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, St. Paul's Cathedral, the Thames, the Royal Family, fish'n'chips, Shakespeare, the Globe Theatre,...
The list of top sights that you must not miss on a city trip to London seems endless! Fortunately, most of the must-sees are densely packed in the centre of the world metropolis and are easily accessible by public transport.
Tip: Many entrance fees are reduced with the London Pass. Some London attractions, such as the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey, can even be visited free of charge.
Table of contents
Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, in Parliaments Square are home to the British Parliament and thus the government of Great Britain.
Until 1529, the English kings resided in the Houses of Parliament. Only Henry VIII moved his residence to Whitehall Palace. A major fire in 1834 destroyed the original building. Today's magnificent Gothic building was faithfully rebuilt after the Second World War according to 19th century designs.
The 96-metre-high bell tower at the north-west corner of the London Houses of Parliament is known all over the world. "Big Ben" is not the name of the tower itself (that is the Elizabeth Tower), but the 13.5 tonne bell inside it. Every hour it rings a melody from Handel's "Messiah".
London's landmark, however, may only be climbed by British citizens. Guided tours of the Houses of Parliament are available and visitors can even attend debates on Saturdays during the summer months.
The Queen of England no longer lives with her family in the Houses of Parliament, but in nearby Buckingham Palace. This was originally built as a town house for John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby. Queen Victoria was the first to make the magnificent palace the seat of the British Crown. International banquets and official state receptions are held in the 19 State Rooms and the Grand Ballroom.
In front of the impressive façade of Buckingham Palace, the ceremonial changing of the guard takes place every day at 11:30 (every second day from August to March). The otherwise completely motionless infantry soldiers with their distinctive red uniforms and bearskin caps suddenly start to move. The Changing of the Guards lasts three quarters of an hour and can be visited free of charge.
The palace of the Queen of England can unfortunately only be visited from the outside. Except in summer, when the Queen stays at Balmoral, the majestic rooms and the largest private garden in London can be visited from the inside.
Tower of London
Theinfamous Tower of London is almost 1,000 years old, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably one of the most feared buildings in Europe's history. Various prisoners once stewed in the defiant 11th-century fortress until they were led to the scaffold.
In the meantime, everyone who visits the Tower of London is allowed to leave the old walls alive again; the last execution took place on 14 August 1941. The entire history of the fortress and the British monarchy can be traced in the Fortress Museum. The Crown Jewels of the Royal Family are also kept here. The treasure is said to be worth an incredible 20 billion pounds!
Incidentally, there are always 6 ravens in the Tower of London, because according to a 17th century legend, without them the fortress tower would collapse and bring great disaster upon England.
Directly adjacent to the Tower of London is the neo-Gothic Tower Bridge, probably London's most famous bridge and one of the most beautiful in the world. It was opened in 1894, and since then it has carried pedestrians and motor traffic over the Thames for 244 metres between the two 65-metre-high towers.
A highlight of the Tower Bridge exhibition is the glass floor by the pedestrian crossing - a somewhat queasy feeling to look down from here and across the rooftops of London into the distance. The unfolding of the bridge for passing ships is most spectacular to watch from here.
Westminster Abbey was built between 1245 and 1269, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and probably the most famous church in England. Here, right next to the Houses of Parliament, British kings are crowned and buried, as are other important figures from England's history. Accordingly, the final resting places of great celebrities are here, including Elizabeth I, Mary Stuart, Isaac Newton or Charles Dickens.
In the lower church, a small museum provides information about the history of Westminster Abbey and the past kings of England.
Tip: Admission to Westminster Abbey is free from 5 pm! Plus, there's a free sample of the church choir - an acoustic experience in the hallowed halls!
Probably the best view of the British metropolis is offered by the London Eye, built in 1998. From Europe's largest Ferris wheel, the view from a height of 135 metres stretches up to 40 kilometres into the countryside. Glass gondolas guarantee a breathtaking panoramic view for up to 30 people, which can be enjoyed for half an hour.
At the turn of the year, the London Eye with its spectacular fireworks is one of the centres of New Year's Eve celebrations. However, if you want to be there live, you have to buy extra tickets.
Tip: If you want to avoid the queue, you can buy slightly more expensive tickets for the London Eye online.
The British Museum is one of the oldest museums in the world. It was founded in the 18th century and is thus older than the United States of America. The British Museum in London shows the history of all mankind, from ancient Egypt through the heyday of the Greeks to the present day.
And the best thing about it: admission is completely free! For this very reason, if you are very interested, you should plan several visits to really enjoy the exhibitions. The abundance of exhibits is almost too much in one day, even for the hardy!
By the way, "Night at the Museum" with Ben Stiller was filmed in the British Museum.
St Paul's Cathedral
Next to Westminster Abbey, the St Paul's Cathedral is the second most important church when it comes to London's sights. London's main church is where Prince Charles and Lady Dianagot married, Admiral Nelson was buried and the Queen's 50th anniversary was celebrated.
St Paul's Cathedral was built as a new Episcopal church during London's reconstruction after the devastating fire in the city centre in 1666. Its construction took around 40 years and its magnificence was to surpass even St Peter's in Rome.
But St. Paul's Cathedral is not only historically but also architecturally of enormous importance. With its gigantic dome and 365-foot lantern, the neo-classical baroque building is one of the largest cathedrals in the world. A whispering gallery and the largest bell in Britain can also be found here. From the vantage point at the foot of the lantern, a fantastic view over London's sea of houses reveals itself.
Trafalgar Square commemorates the fateful naval battle of Trafalgar in 1805, when Lord Nelson won victory over the Spanish and French, securing England's supremacy at sea. Accordingly, an impressive statue of the famous admiral is enthroned on Trafalgar Square, flanked by two fountains.
Together with the square, it marks the vibrant centre of London at the intersection of the major shopping streets Whitehall, The Mall and Pall Mall.
And some London landmarks can also be found here. The National Gallery is one of London's most important art museums and the Anglican church of St Martin-in-the-Fields is the church of the Royal Household and the Admiralty. The latter is most notable for its Greek-style portico, which was first heavily criticised and then often imitated around the world.
Hyde Park is London's largest park and one of the most famous in the world. Here, amidst the noise of cars and reinforced concrete, you will find a green oasis used by locals for lunch breaks, walks, sports and picnics. In summer, Hyde Park plays host to a wide variety of music, thanks to numerous open-air concerts.
With an area of 142 hectares, Hyde Park is even bigger than Monaco! Among the numerous paths, meadows and woods, the Serpentine Lake with rowing boats, bathing and fishing facilities, the beautiful rose garden, a riding arena and a bowling alley are among the most popular attractions.
PICTURES: Top sights of London