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84 Best things to see & do in London

  • London, Greater London, United Kingdom (UK)

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Sarah Barrell
  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

View from afar of the tower during the daytime

Bucket List Experience

Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the UK’s most iconic and impressive historical attractions. Yes, it’s stuffed with tourists but for good reason: inside, you’ll get up close to the Crown Jewels, including the Queen’s crown and the armour of the great Tudor King, Henry VIII. Its White Tower is the oldest intact building in London, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century.

The resident Yeoman Warders (or Beefeaters) give excellent free tours of the various wings, uncovering some gruesome stories from the Tower’s role as a prison in the Middle Ages. This is where ‘traitors’ were executed – the water gate entrance, built by Edward I, witnessed a stream of prisoners enter the Tower for execution, including Anne Boleyn, Sir Thomas More and Catherine Howard. The unfortunate’s head would be displayed on a spike at London Bridge afterwards.

Look out for the resident ravens – legend has it that if they desert the tower, the kingdom will fall.

Adult price: £25

Good for age: 4+

  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior view of the front of the gallery during the daytime with queue pf people outside

Bucket List Experience

National Gallery

The hallowed galleries of the National are home to one of the greatest collections of Western European paintings in the world. There are more than 2,300 works on display here.

Step out of the bustle of Trafalgar Square into the palatial building to take a tour of the classics, from the Italian Renaissance to the French Impressionists.

Good for age: 18+

  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

View of the building from the River Thames, showing parliament and Big Ben

Bucket List Experience

Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

There has been a Palace at Westminster since at least the 10th century, but the neo-Gothic buildings that comprise the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben were built over a period of 23 years, between 1837-60. Designed by Sir Charles Barry and AWN Pugin, the building is set on a huge concrete plate on the banks of the Thames to keep the building stable. There are over 1,000 rooms, 100 staircases and three miles of passageways over four floors.

Today this is where the British Government meets, and although many visitors see these distinctive buildings as simply part of London’s historic skyline, it’s well worth venturing beyond the elegant facades to have a look inside.

Sit in on ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ in the House of Commons or take a guided tour focusing on the decorative splendour of the House of Lords. You can also climb the Elizabeth Tower, which holds the clock famously known as Big Ben.

Good for age: 13+

  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior view of the palace during the daytime

Bucket List Experience

Buckingham Palace

Adopted as the British monarch’s official London residence on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, the world’s most famous – if architecturally bland – royal palace is viewed by most visitors from the outside only. Walk up the Mall to get the most impressive view, and once you’ve mingled with the crowds, dip into leafy St James’ Park for coffee with the squirrels, who eat out of the hands of passersby.

In the summer months, the State Rooms and gardens open up to visitors; you can take your own picnic if visiting the gardens, and there are pre-bookable Gardener’s Tours for green-fingered visitors.

Good for age: 8+

  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior view of the museum during the daytime

Bucket List Experience

British Museum

A must-do on every London visitor’s itinerary, the imposing, colonnaded British Museum truly lives up to the hype. One of the oldest museums in the world (established 1753), its enormously rich collection of more than seven million artefacts, many collected and brought back to London from across the world by British explorers and archaeologists during the days of the British Empire.

The ethics may be questionable, but it has ensured thousands of ancient relics that may otherwise have been lost have been safeguarded. Discussions go on about the rights of returning many of these artefacts to their original countries, but for the moment they are still on display to be enjoyed and marvelled at.

The addition in 2000 of a soaring, glass-domed atrium – the Great Court, designed by Norman Foster – brought a dash of contemporary cool to a historic landmark.

Good for age: 13+

  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

View of the great dome sticking out above the skyline

Bucket List Experience

St Paul’s Cathedral

Instantly recognisable, and one of London’s best-loved monuments, St Paul’s Cathedral was the greatest achievement of 17th-century architect Sir Christopher Wren. Taking 33 years to build, it was declared officially complete on Christmas Day 1711 (although work continued for some time after) and remained the tallest building in London until 1967. Through astonishing luck – or perhaps divine intervention – St Paul’s survived (virtually unscathed) the 1940 World War II bombing blitz – and the ensuing fire – that flattened or destroyed almost every other building for miles around it.

Still the second largest cathedral in the UK, the church is famed for the height of its vast dome (111m) and the incredible acoustics of the Whispering Gallery. Legend has it that if you stand on one side of the gallery and whisper along the wall, someone listening on the opposite side (33m away) will be able to hear you.

Adult price: £17

Good for age: 13+

  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

Front facade view of the museum

Bucket List Experience

Natural History Museum, London

From the 25m blue whale skeleton that hovers over the central atrium to the theatrically-lit Earth Hall, exploring the natural forces behind our planet’s existence, the NHM is a spectacle from start to finish.

Adults and kids alike will be entranced by the elegantly-arranged collection spread over 43 galleries. Its treasures – everything from dinosaur fossils to diamonds and Martian meteorites – entice Londoners back for multiple visits.

Designed by Alfred Waterhouse in 1873, the museum is an outstanding example of Gothic Revival architecture, its facade designed with delicate columns, articulated arches and carvings of plants and animals.

Good for age: 4+

  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

Close up of a lily pad during the daytime

Bucket List Experience

Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

Although founded officially in 1840, these renowned, UNESCO-listed botanical gardens have been around since the 1750s. They now showcase 30,000 species of plant over around 300 acres – and paired with Wakehurst in Sussex forms the largest botanical garden in the world.

It’s not just for visual enjoyment, there’s a strong conservation purpose here too. The gardens are a world leader in plant science and conservation. The Herbarium and Fungarium contain over 8 million preserved plant and fungal specimens from all over the world.

The Victorian Palm House is a centrepiece, alongside energy-efficient modern hothouses, an aquarium in the Princess of Wales Conservatory, and a raised treetop walkway (200m long and 18m high) through a woodland glade. Also look out for ‘The Hive’, a 17m-high, multi-sensory experience to highlight the extraordinary life of bees.

The gardens offer a year-round programme of tours and talks plus stunning site-specific art exhibitions – all adding up to a memorable, nature-inspired day out for anyone.

Adult price: £13

Good for age: 4+

  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

Exterior view of the palace on a sunny day

Bucket List Experience

Hampton Court Palace

A Tudor royal pleasure palace set in 60 acres of gorgeous formal gardens and 750 acres of parkland. Anyone with the remotest interest in English history will get a kick out of exploring this sprawling Tudor and Baroque estate, where the infamous Henry VIII lived, loved and held lavish banquets.

Navigating the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze, commissioned around 1700, is something of a rite of passage for British kids, with families often opting to visit the gardens alone (maze-only tickets are available). But don’t miss the Great Hall and royal apartments, the elaborate dome in the Chapel Royal or the gallery – reputedly haunted by Henry’s fated fifth wife, Catherine Howard.

You can also play Mary Poppins with a walk on the palace roof, on guided summertime tours that take in the intricate brickwork and chimneys and give VIP views of the estate.

Adult price: £25

Good for age: 4+

  • London, United Kingdom (UK)

External view of the grand church during the daytime

Bucket List Experience

Westminster Abbey

Despite religious wars and changing affiliations through the centuries, Westminster Abbey has been the traditional place of royal coronations, and the resting place of monarchs – since William the Conqueror arrived in 1066. In recent times, the Abbey has hosted the funeral of Princess Diana and the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton.

The current building was built on the orders of King Henry III in 1245. It has also become a final resting place for prominent citizens – poets, actors, scientists and military leaders. It contains the remains of 3,300 notables, including 16 monarchs and 8 Prime Ministers.

Today, you can see the Coronation Chair, a throne where all British monarchs (bar two) have been crowned since 1066, Henry VII’s chapel, and towers built by Sir Christopher Wren and his protege, Nicholas Hawksmoor. You can pay your respects to the British pillar of science, Sir Isaac Newton. Poets’ Corner, in the South Transept, is a shrine to Britain’s most famous poets and writers, many of whom are buried or commemorated here. The tradition started when Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English Literature, was interred here.

Good for age: 18+