What Tourist Places To Go To When In London
1. TOWER OF LONDON
If British history is something that interests you – this place is drenched in it. Built following the Norman Conquest in 1066, this grand palace/prison has born witness to some of the UK’s most important moments. For over 300 years until the reign of Charles II, the coronation procession would start at the tower and finish at Westminster Abbey. Anyone who posed a threat to the monarch would traditionally end up in the prison (a young Elizabeth I was one of them) and peak time for overcrowding was during the Reformation.
Its first prisoner in 1100, The Bishop of Durham (and Chief Tax Collector) Ranulf Flambard, escaped during the feast of Candlemas with the help of a rope smuggled in a gallon of wine and some easily tempted drunken guards. Its last prisoners in 1952 were the Kray Twins.
View the writing on the prison walls, the medieval torture devices and the Crown Jewels of England. Learn more about the story of the Princes in the Tower, the dynasty of the Tudors and the role of the tower during the First and Second World War. You will not be disappointed.
To avoid the throngs of people, aim to get there when it opens at 9am.
2. HYDE PARK
Formally the hunting ground of Henry VIII and home of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Hyde Park is a beautiful city park. A large lake, 4,000 trees, parrots (look out for them), a meadow and ornamental gardens; transport you from bustling city life into a relaxing paradise. A place to cycle, to swim, to horse ride, to go boating and perfect for a picnic. But if you haven’t brought your lunch – then there are 2 wonderful lakeside restaurants.
But that is not all…. If you are visiting in July you could be lucky enough to get tickets to the British Summer Time Music Festival. Visit between November and January and you can ice skate at the Winter Wonderland. Visit the Serpentine Gallery all year round.
Look out for memorials, fountains and statues across the park. Exercise your right to free speech in Speakers Corner – where the Chartists, Suffragettes and the Stop the War Coalition have all protested before you.
3. BUCKINGHAM PALACE
Home to the Queen and Prince Philip, the centre of state occasions, a place of national celebration and mourning; Buckingham Palace is central to modern British pageantry. See the Changing of the Guard on the forecourt https://changing-guard.com/changing-the-guard-buckingham-palace.html
Take the Buckingham Palace Tour. Experience the majesty of the Grand Staircase, the Throne Room and the State Rooms, with their works of art, candelabra and damask wallpaper – where the monarch receives her subjects and visiting dignitaries.
4. CARNABY STREET
Located in Soho, within easy walking distance of Oxford Street and Regent Street (Hamleys Toy Store). Currently home to 100 shops, 60 restaurants, bars and cafes; Carnaby Street has long had a reputation for being cool. The arrival in 1934 of Jazz Club - the Florence Mills Social Club – provided a meeting place at the time for supporters of Pan-Africanism. But it was the 1960s mods and hippies of Carnaby Street that created the lasting image of ‘Swinging London.’
Famous for the clothing boutiques – where, according to Time Magazine ‘the girls and boys buy each other’s clothing’, Mary Quant and the mini skirt, the Marquee Club and its famous performers – The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Small Faces…
The gathering scooters outside the Lambretta shop remain to this day.
Vintage lovers - we recommend a visit to Cahoots, a tube-themed cocktail bar https://cahoots-london.com/ Booking is essential.
Note: Visit Brick Lane for some quality Vintage Shopping.
5. LONDON DUNGEON
London Dungeon began life as a macabre history museum in 1974. Today, it is an interactive experience, immersing you in the dark side of London’s history – with 18 shows, 2 rides and 20 actors.
Special effects and performers work on all your senses to transport you (thankfully briefly) to moments in history that you will be very glad that you missed the first time round. Highlights include the Black Death, Jack the Ripper, Sweeney Todd, trials and the Gunpowder Plot.
Expect to jump and scream with fear and laugh with relief! If you have children – this place is a must!
Book to avoid disappointment https://www.thedungeons.com/london/en/
Note: The London Eye is nearby, so, if you are lucky enough to be here on a clear day – you can get some excellent views of London.
6. VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM
Anyone with an interest in art, design, culture or the history of objects will be in heaven.
Home to the largest museum of decorative arts and crafts in the world, the V&A also hosts a variety of art and cultural exhibitions to a consistently high standard.
The Theatre and Performance section is a must see. Take Victorian Afternoon Tea in the world’s oldest museum restaurant. The shop is incredible. You could spend hours in here.
Note: if there is any time left the Natural History Museum is just down the road.
7. FORTNUM AND MASON
At a time when the internet is unpicking the high street, Fortnum and Mason reminds us of how pleasurable the shopping experience can be.
Established in 1707, everything Fortnum and Mason sells is quality. If money is no object treat your family and friends to one of their famous hampers (between £125-£550).
A more moderate treat would be to take Afternoon Tea in the Diamond Jubilee Salon (which will currently cost you £44 – Feb 2017). Take to The Parlour for tea and ice cream (£21.95).
8. WESTMINSTER: BIG BEN, HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT AND WESTMINSTER ABBEY
Big Ben is one of the most iconic landmarks of the UK – when that clock towers over you, at 96 metres tall, you know that you have arrived in London.
Tour the Houses of Parliament. Built in 1016 and witness to 1,000 years of politics, the Houses of Parliament boasts impressive art and architecture too – definitely worth a visit.
Westminster Abbey, a place of coronations, royal weddings and burials. Look out for the Coronation Chair, Poets’ Corner and the Grave of the Unknown Warrior.
9. THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE
Look out for tickets for performances from £3 and you won’t get more of a bargain here in London.
The Royal Opera House is a beautiful building in Covent Garden (plenty to see here – including street performers!) and the ballet/opera experience is sublime.
Note: if ballet/opera isn’t your thing – then London has plenty more to choose from. Head to Theatre Land for musicals and plays. The Globe for Shakespeare. And for film The Barbican, Leicester Square (Prince Charles Cinema is a personal favourite!)
10. THE SHARD
Want impressive views of London without getting on a Ferris wheel or into a helicopter?
Twice the height of any other view platform in London, The Shard offers 360 degree views for 40 miles. Book tickets http://www.the-shard.com/viewing-gallery/
At 1,016 ft high, The Shard is the highest building in the UK, the fourth tallest in Europe, but only the 105th tallest in the world.
Come and relax in the many restaurants and bars. Other experiences include film screenings, fitness events and family days. Every Saturday night at 10pm there is a Silent Disco.
Architect Renzo Piano: "I foresee the tower as a vertical city, for thousands to work in and enjoy, and for millions to take to their heart."