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Top 10 Bucket-List Attractions in London

20 June 2024 | Europe, Highlights, London, Play, United Kingdom

Must-see historic and architectural landmarks in London

Trying to see as much of London in as short a timeframe as possible? By visiting some of the city’s best-known attractions, museums and historic architectural gems, you can gain insights into many aspects of London’s heritage and culture in the space of a week or two.

Many of the British Capital’s most insightful museums are completely free of charge. And you don’t need to spend a penny to admire some of the city’s most impressive landmarks during a self-guided walking tour.

Below, we shed light on ten of London’s highlights so that you can make the most of your short time in this epic and diverse city.

Must-see attractions in London

What’s covered in this article

Here’s a quick look at what’s coming up so that you can skip to the sections that best match your interests:

  • London Eye – Giant observation wheel that was the world’s tallest when constructed
  • Buckingham Palace – Official residence of the British Monarch
  • Tower Bridge – Iconic and ornate drawbridge from the late 19th century
  • Tower of London – A near-millennium-old fortress founded by William the Conqueror
  • The British Museum – UK’s largest museum showcasing the evolution of human culture
  • The National Gallery – 2,300 European masterpieces from the 13th to 19th centuries
  • Saint Paul’s Cathedral – Arguably London’s most symbolic religious building
  • Westminster Abbey – The site of every British coronation since 1066
  • The Shard – The tallest building in Western Europe with London’s highest viewing platform
  • Houses of Parliament – A Gothic Revival gem and the seat of UK Parliament

A detailed look at London’s must-see attractions

If you’re somewhat strapped for time, here are the landmarks and attractions you need to see during your short stay in the Great British Capital:

1. London Eye

Some think it’s an unforgettable experience while others believe it’s overrated. Regardless, riding the London Eye is considered a must-do activity in London on your first visit.

London Eye

During the 30-minute ride in your air-conditioned, spaceship-like capsule, you’ll reach a height of 135 metres (443 feet). From this elevation, you can take in sprawling views of the British Capital, including landmarks like Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.

If you book online, standard ticket prices for the London Eye start at £29 per adult or £19 for an Afternoon Saver Ticket. Walk-up tickets are available from £42.

  • Opening hours: Monday–Friday from 11 am to 6 pm, weekends from 10 am to 8:30 pm
  • Phone: +44 20 7967 8021
  • Nearest Tube station: Waterloo

2. Buckingham Palace

Dating back to the early 18th century, Buckingham Palace is the official residence and headquarters of the British Monarch, currently home to King Charles III.

Buckingham Palace in London on a sunny day

From July to October, you can explore 19 of the palace’s opulent State Rooms, decorated with royal collections of art, French and English furniture, candelabras and chandeliers. You may recognise the Throne Room from the official wedding photos of Prince William and Kate Middleton. When you reach the pristine gardens, you can order fit-for-royalty refreshments from the café.

Come here before 11 am to watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony, a tradition that began at Buckingham Palace in 1837. You might want to arrive before 10:15 to secure a decent vantage point before the crowds take over.

  • Nearest Tube station: St James’s Park

3. Tower Bridge

One of London’s most recognisable landmarks is the ornate, Victorian-era Tower Bridge, characterised by its two Gothic towers and bascules (drawbridge).

Tower Bridge

Besides being an architectural marvel, Tower Bridge is an excellent vantage point above the Thames, offering views of icons such as the Tower of London, the London Eye and Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Venture inside the bridge to explore the Victorian Engine Rooms, where you’ll gain insights into this incredible structure’s history.

You can also cross the elevated walkway between the two towers to soak up the river and cityscape. Head to the glass-floored deck above the drawbridge for a view with a thrill.

Ticket prices for the Tower Bridge and Engine Rooms start at GBP 13.40 per adult. You can also join a 90-minute guided tour for GBP 30.

  • Opening hours: Daily from 9:30 am to 6 pm
  • Phone: +44 20 7403 3761
  • Nearest Tube station: Tower Hill

4. Tower of London

Founded in 1066 following the invasion of England by William the Conqueror, the imposing Tower of London has been a royal palace, prison, fortress and execution site.

Tower of London

Today, you can delve into the gruesome history of London by exploring its interior, where you’ll see famous exhibits that include a medieval king’s bedchamber, collections of armour and weaponry, and – most notably – the Crown Jewels.

Ticket prices for a pre-booked time slot to visit the Tower of London start at GBP 34.80 per adult. Included in your admission fee is the Yeoman Warder (Beefeater) tour, which run every 30 minutes.

  • Opening hours: Tuesday–Saturday from 9 am to 5:30 pm, Sunday and Monday from 10 am to 5:30 pm
  • Phone: +44 333 320 6000
  • Nearest Tube station: Tower Hill

5. The British Museum

With over 50,000 objects on display from its collection of over eight million items, The British Museum is the nation’s largest and oldest public museum.

British Museum

Inside, there’s a plethora of global artefacts discovered and returned to the UK by British explorers, often controversially. Today, the museum aims to document the evolution of human culture from its origins.

This vast museum’s collections are arranged by location, with sections dedicated to Asia, Africa, Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece and the Middle East.

Some of the most famous items in the museum’s permanent collection are the Parthenon sculptures, real Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone. Also a must visit is the Great Court, which was been Europe’s largest covered public square since opening in 2000.

You can explore the permanent exhibitions at The British Museum for free. You can also book 90-minute guided tours from GBP 14 per person. Free 20-minute tours are available on Friday, when the museum stays open until 8:30 pm.

  • Opening hours: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm (8:30 pm on Friday)
  • Phone: +44 20 7323 8299
  • Nearest Tube station: Holborn

6. The National Gallery

Discover thousands of Western European masterpieces spanning the 13th to the 19th century by exploring the grand halls of the vast National Gallery, the busiest attraction of London’s bustling Trafalgar Square.

The free permanent exhibitions contain over 2,300 paintings from the late medieval era and the Renaissance to French Impressionism. Iconic pieces include Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait at the Age of 34” and Sandro Botticelli’s “Venus and Mars”.

The museum is broken down into colour-coded sections to help you find your way around, and you can also download an audio tour of the entire collection for just £5. Group guided tours by an expert start at £20 per adult.

  • Opening hours: Daily from 10 am to 6 pm (9 pm on Friday)
  • Phone: +44 20 7747 2885
  • Nearest Tube station: Charing Cross

7. Saint Paul’s Cathedral

As the fifth iteration was destroyed by the infamous Great Fire of London in 1666, the sixth and current iteration of Saint Paul’s Cathedral has been an icon of London’s skyline since 1708, when it was rebuilt on the designs of Sir Christopher Wren.

Saint Paul's Cathedral

Reaching a height of 111 metres, the dome is the cathedral’s most prominent architectural feature. Head inside the cathedral to climb the 528 steps that lead to the Golden Gallery inside the dome. You’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the Thames and landmarks like the Tate Modern.

After the climb, descend into Europe’s largest crypt to see the tombs of historical figures like the Duke of Wellington and Lord Nelson.

If you just want to admire the cathedral’s stunning architecture, you can soak up the view from the Millenium Bridge.

Ticket prices to the Cathedral Floor, Dome Galleries and Crypt start at GBP 25 per adult. You can also attend regularly scheduled services, including Evensong, for free.

  • Phone: +44 20 7246 8350
  • Nearest Tube station: St. Paul’s

8. Westminster Abbey   

For a peek into the long royal and religious history of London and the UK, explore the tombs and sacred ecclesiastical spaces of the UNESCO-listed Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey

This Gothic masterpiece has hosted 16 royal weddings and every coronation since 1066. It’s also the final resting place of 30 monarchs, including Edward the Confessor, Henry III and Edward V. There’s a fascinating story to uncover behind the shared tomb of half-sisters and sworn enemies, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I.

Westminster Abbey is also home to the tombs of some of history’s most celebrated figures, such as Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.

Besides tombs and grand halls, highlights of the abbey include a collection of memorials to historic literary legends in Poets’ Corner, the 14th-century cloisters, the Coronation Chair and a 900-year-old garden.

Ticket prices at Westminster Abbey start at GBP 29 per adult. Buy your ticket via the official website, and you can upgrade to an annual pass for free (which gives you three visits to be used in a year).

  • Phone: +44 20 7222 5152
  • Nearest Tube station: Westminster

9. The Shard

Reaching a height slightly shy of 310 metres, The Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe. This distinctive, spire-like skyscraper houses three high-end restaurants, offices, premium apartments and London’s first Shangri-la Hotel.

The Shard

If you don’t want to splash out on a high-end hotel room or a mouth-wateringly delicious and pricey meal, you can take in the cityscape of London from the viewing gallery.

Occupying four floors 244 metres above street level, The View from the Shard offers panoramic views stretching as far as 40 miles over London on clear days. Ticket prices start from GBP 28.50.

  • Opening hours: Daily from 10 am to 10 pm
  • Phone: +44 344 499 7222
  • Nearest Tube station: London Bridge

10. Houses of Parliament

The seat of the UK Government, the Houses of Parliament (officially the Palace of Westminster) is one of the most photographed buildings in London, with the most popular vantage point being Westminster Bridge above the Thames.

Palace of Westminster

The most recognisable feature of the Houses of Parliament is Big Ben, the nickname given to the 96-metre-tall clocktower that’s been keeping time in London since 1859 (Big Ben is actually the nickname of the Great Bell inside the tower rather than the tower itself).

If you want to see more than just the exterior of this iconic Gothic Revival structure, you can take a guided or audio-guided tour through many areas of the building, including the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the 900-year-old Westminster Hall. Ticket prices start at GBP 26 per adult.

  • Phone: +44 20 7219 3000
  • Nearest Tube station: Westminster

Anything to add?

London is bursting with far too many incredible attractions, cultural wonders and hidden gems to visit in a lifetime. But by visiting the iconic highlights detailed above, you can gain insights into the incredible story of this trendsetting, historic, vibrant and culturally diverse capital.

We’ll do our best to keep adding iconic attractions to this guide – and we could use your help. Which attractions do you think simply must be on every traveller’s bucket list? How do you save money when exploring London? Do you have any other tips for our community of digital nomads? Let us know in the comments below.

Josh Saunders

Josh Saunders

I've been writing my way through Europe, Asia and Oceania for just over a decade, providing SEO copywriting, editing and content strategy services to travel-industry clients ranging from startups through to Fortune 500 giants. Now, I'm on a mission to connect digital nomads with the world's best destinations for work and leisure.


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