The first time we went to the UK was back in 2017. At that time, my sister just moved to the UK with her husband, and so my parents and I decided to visit her there. Even though she lived (and still lives) in Nottingham, we spent most of our time in London on our first visit.
Before I start the list, I think it’s also worth mentioning that we stayed at Premier Inn Hub. Based on our research, Premier Inn Hub has one of the most affordable accommodation rates in London and the hotel locations are usually near the hottest tourist areas in the city.
I’ve stayed at the hub by Premier Inn London Westminster Abbey and the hub by Premier Inn London Goodge Street. I really enjoyed my stay on both occasions. The rooms were small but clean and modern. The breakfast was mainly continental – not a lot of selection – but enough. As of writing, their Westminster Abbey branch has 4.6 (Excellent) score out of 2,002 reviews in Google. And their Goodge Street branch also has 4.6 (Excellent) score out of 882 reviews.
While their Westminster Abbey branch is literally across the church, their Goodge Street branch requires 10 minutes walking to reach Tottenham Court Road Station – one of the main shopping districts in the city. The hotel has a modern look to it and is easily accessible via public transport.
Places to Visit in London
Anyhow, when you visit London, here are some of the top places to visit and things to do:
1. The Buckingham Palace
What’s the best place to start a tour other than The Buckingham Palace. It is one of the biggest cultural landmarks and historical landmarks in Britain. In fact, the first Royal to live at The Buckingham Palace was Queen Victoria back in 1873, and the Palace is still the place where the current Queen – Queen Elizabeth still resides.
One way to tell whether or not the Queen is home is through the flag. If the UK’s National Flag is raised, it means she is NOT home. However, if the Royal Standard Flag is raised, it means she is home.
2. St. James’ Park
St. James’s Park is the oldest Royal Park in London. It is also surrounded by some of the city’s most famous landmarks. If you stand on the Blue Bridge, you’ll be able to see places such as Buckingham Palace, Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) , and the London Eye (video here). You’ll also be able to find ducks, geese, and pelicans in the park. This family of water birds were given as a present by the Russian ambassador back in 1664.
Aside from this warning that it’s not encouraged due to bird flu, I couldn’t find any sources that say it’s not allowed to feed the water bird family at St. James’ Park .
When I was there, people seemed to be free feeding these animals some bread crumbs – but be informed because it seems that bread is not good for ducks. So if you’d like to spend some quiet afternoon at St. James’ Park – bring something that is actually safe for ducks and geese to eat.
3. Westminster Abbey
Just seven minutes away from St. James’ Park is the famous Westminster Abbey. It’s one of the best places to visit in London because it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site back in 1987. It has also hosted a number of coronations and other royal ceremonies since 1066. One of the most recent royal events that took place in the church is the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011.
The church is also a place where some famous poets and other historical figures are buried and commemorated. Isaac Newton is buried in Westminster Abbey, for example.
Westminster Abbey is open from Sundays to Saturdays. On Sundays though, it is only open for services. It’s also possible to take photos inside the church, but you must be aware of the photography restrictions in place.
4. Elizabeth Tower
If someone mentions London, it’s impossible to miss the iconic Houses of Parliament or more popularly known as the Big Ben. Similar to the Eiffel Tower, the Big Ben has become a symbol of London in most souvenir shops made as keychains, fridge magnets, or miniature versions for display. But aside from that, why is it one of the most worth it places to visit in London?
The Big Ben is actually known for its accuracy and for the massive bell inside the clock tower. The bell weighs more than 13,760kgs, and the clock was designed by a series of architects throughout time.
In June 2012, the house of commons announced that the clock tower was renamed Elizabeth Tower in honor of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. Five years after it was renamed, the Elizabeth Tower underwent a conservation project in an effort to preserve the tower for future generations. Public tours of the Elizabeth Tower are said to resume by winter of 2022.
5. Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is always confused as the London Bridge all over the internet. Googling the terms “London Bridge” will give you a lot of wrong results, so make sure to get your info correctly.
The Tower Bridge is a movable bridge, a type of bridge that can move to give way to passing boats or ships. The bridge was completed in 1894 and was designed to have two high level walkways so that pedestrians could still use the bridge when it was open. However, it closed down from 1909-1982 because a number of prostitutes and theives started multiplying in the walkway.
People can cross the bridge for free, but there’s an option to go to the higher level and see the panoramic view of the city. You’ll find glass floors on the high-level walkways which are built 42 meters (138 ft) above the river. The paid experience includes Victorian Engine Rooms and photo exhibitions about the lives of the people who maintained the bridge. The timed entry ticket allows for an approximately one hour to 90 minutes of your visit.
6. Covent Garden
Once you’re finished sightseeing the first batch of prominent sites in London, you can take a break by going to Covent Garden. The Garden is situated at the heart of the West End, meaning it’s surrounded by about 20 theatres.
Covent Garden has a beauty quarter – for anyone who’s into fragrance and cosmetics. You can find shops such as Aesop, Chanel, Dior, Nars, and more. The place also has a selection of famous restaurants offering cuisines from around the world. And for people who are always in the mood for drink, Covent Garden also houses stylish coffee shops, tea salons, and trendy bars and pubs you can think of.
What makes it extra special is that there are street performers from time to time. It’s just a place you can’t miss when you’re looking for an extraordinary experience.
7. Leicester Square
London’s entertainment district doesn’t stop at Covent Garden. If you’ve ever heard of Broadway, Leicester Square is home to casinos, cinemas, and numerous theatres.
If you are interested to see a West End show, you can first head towards the Leicester Square Gardens. There, you’ll find a red TKTS booth which offers half-price and discounted tickets for selected shows. Make sure to book in advance to get the best rates.
From Covent Garden, start walking towards Shaftesbury avenue and that’s where you’ll find the Palace Theatre, Sondheim Theatre, Gielgud Theatre, Apollo Theatre, and Lyric Theatre. You can find a mind-blowing list of spots to visit in this link.
In Leicester Square, you’ll also find Chinatown, Japan Centre, M&M’s World, and the biggest LEGO store in the world.
8. Piccadilly Circus
If visiting the Covent Garden is not lively enough for you, make sure to put Piccadilly Circus as your next stop. It is one of the liveliest areas in London offering a variety of shops, restaurants, and traditional English pubs.
It has the same vibe as Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing and New York’s Times Square but minus the tall buildings.
While there are a lot of souvenir shops in Piccadilly Circus, one of the places you can go and check out is Fortnum & Mason – a department store famous for the variety and quality of its food products.
9. Kensington Palace
If you enjoy more quiet spaces and peaceful sceneries than the ecstatic nightlife of the city, then maybe Kensington Palace is the perfect next destination. Aside from the beautiful architecture and the serene garden it has to offer, it’s the perfect place to explore the birthplace of Queen Victoria and the home of the young royals today.
Kensington Palace is the current official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Duke and Duchess of Kent, Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, and the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
If you are familiar with Princess Diana of Wales, you might have read that she admired the Sunken Garden at the Palace. And that’s why in 2017, the garden was redesigned into The White Garden in her memory.
Visitors can walk through some areas of the Palace but some fees are required to do so. If that’s not within your budget then you don’t have to enter the Palace, but you can still add it as a place to go as it is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 10:00-18:00. They do close on specific times in the year.
10. Hyde Park
One of London’s Eight Royal Parks, Hyde Park is yet another place you should go to if you prefer serene ambiances. What makes Hyde Park different from St. James’ Park is the number of activities you can do in the former.
Hyde Park has 350 acres of green space including 400 trees and a large lake. Some of the things you can do there include taking a walk around the park, swimming in Serpentine Lido, playing tennis, riding a horse, jogging, or cycling.
11. King’s Cross and St. Pancras Stations
This one is not really a tourist attraction, but for anyone who has more time on their hands and who loves Harry Potter, you shouldn’t miss visiting King’s Cross station. A one minute walk from St. Pancras Station.
At King’s Cross, you’ll find the station where students in all Harry Potter movies board the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9 ¾. You’ll also get the chance to take a picture with a half luggage cart disappearing into the wall. There is always a line for photo-taking so maybe if you book in a hotel near those stations, you can get a chance to take a picture without wasting time in a queue.
Across the wall where you can take a photo is a Harry Potter shop, where they sell hundreds of merchandise items from the book and movies.
You can extend your shopping options in St. Pancras station, as there are a lot of interesting shops to visit anyway.
I hope this list gives an overview of why you should visit some of the most famous landmarks in London. If you think I missed to include other places in London that are worth it to visit, let me know in the comments section below.