- London breathes culture, art and fun 24 hours a day.
- Royal parks, palaces and museums are a few things you can do for free in London.
- While the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, the Royal Family is still a big part of London’s culture.
London is a vibrant city with attractions that reflect the centuries-old traditions of the English, but it’s also a melting pot of cultural influences from all over Europe. From its various world-famous attractions to the history and presence of the monarchy, London is as unique as it is diverse. Here are some of the things you won’t want to miss on your trip there.
Experience the Art and History of Soho
Famous for its bohemian atmosphere in central London, the Soho neighborhood is full of pubs, nightclubs, restaurants, art galleries and lively jazz halls. It’s also a stronghold of theaters, where one can always find a production of a musical or play running.
One of the most exciting places to visit in Soho is Carnaby Street, an area that rose to fame in the 1960s thanks to the Swinging London movement, which had a powerful influence on music and fashion.
The street was filled with record stores and designer boutiques representing the movement, and it’s where band members of The Beatles, The Who and Sex Pistols cultivated their styles. Today, Carnaby Street is still a popular shopping and dining district for tourists.
Meet at Piccadilly Circus
While still in central London, you’ll find one of the city’s famed locations: Piccadilly Circus. Here, the word circus, from the Latin word meaning “circle,” represents a round open area that serves as a function between streets. As such, Piccadilly Circus is a central gathering point for tourists and locals looking for lively nightlife.
With its oversized billboards, illuminated signs and enormous digital screens, Piccadilly Circus is reminiscent of New York’s Times Square. In a similar fashion, you’ll find dozens of popular shops, cinemas, bars and famous buildings such as the Criterion Theater and the London Pavilion.
Visit Inspiring Museums With Free Admission
London is home to many museums. Fortunately, many of them won’t charge you a single pence for admission. The most noteworthy among them is The National Gallery.
The National Gallery houses paintings brushed by some of humanity’s greatest artists, including Renoir, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Pablo Picasso, to name a few. The collection features over two thousand paintings from the 13th to the 20th century.
Other museums without admission fees include:
- The Wallace Collection: A collection of 25 galleries with various works of art.
- Natural History Museum: A museum filled with some of history’s most significant relics.
- Tate Modern: One of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art, featuring the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol.
Stroll Through Camden Town, Amy Winehouse’s Neighborhood
Located in North London, Camden Town became famous thanks to the late British singer Amy Winehouse. She loved Camden Town and frequented it often, so many of her fans draw an association between Camden and Winehouse.
Camden Town is also a hotspot for alternative music and fashion lovers. There are many options for restaurants, bars and famous pubs, where Amy and other British singers and musicians performed early in their careers.
Despite musical influences, however, Camden Town was well known for its conic open market, which features a variety of shops spread through labyrinths of streets. The shops have a boutique flair, selling unique clothing, exclusive decorative art, books and antiques.
Visit the Movie Sets of Notting Hill
With its colorful houses and charming streets, Notting Hill gained worldwide fame thanks to the 1999 movie of the same name. The fact is, the neighborhood really is as charming as the movie depicts it, and it’s worth a visit.
Walking through the neighborhood, you’ll encounter the famous Portobello Road Market, where you can buy a little bit of everything, such as food, flowers, crafts, clothes and antiques. Although the fair takes place every week, on weekends there are more exhibitors and visitors.
Sip Champagne On the London Eye
Located on the banks of the River Thames, the London Eye is one of the “darlings” of London tourism. It has its reasons, of course. The Eye is a 120-meter high Ferris wheel with 32 cabins holding up to 25 people.
As the London Eye spins, passengers get a panoramic view of the city. On a clear day, you can see landmarks like Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the English Parliament.
A complete revolution of the wheel takes 30 minutes, so you might want to pay a little extra to sip a glass of Pommery Brut Royal champagne while witnessing the view in motion.
Discover the Truth of Big Ben
First, it’s helpful to clarify some confusion surrounding one of England’s most significant symbols. Big Ben is the popular name for the 14-ton bell that sits inside the tower. And though the bell is officially called the Great Bell, few seem to remember it.
Over time, the name Big Ben gained in popularity, and today it’s used to refer to the ensemble consisting of Elizabeth Tower, the Great Bell and the clock.
Located north of the Palace of Westminster, Elizabeth Tower is 106 meters high. On each side is a clock measuring seven meters in diameter.
Explore the Palaces of the British Monarchy
The British Royal Family attracts attention, not only from their subjects but from millions of people around the world. As such, two palaces belonging to the monarchy are popular tourist destinations.
The most famous is Buckingham Palace, the official family residence since 1837 and the working royal place. The monarchical home has 775 rooms, including 259 bedrooms, 78 bathrooms and 92 offices.
The other royal tourist destination is Kensington Palace, a residence that’s been a part of the royal estate since the 17th century. It’s the palace where Queen Victoria spent much of her childhood. Tourists are welcome to visit certain palace areas, such as the royal rooms and gardens.
Visit the Famous Tombs at Westminster Abbey
The stage for coronations, weddings and funerals for the Royal Family, Westminster Abbey is nearly a thousand years old, making it one of the oldest religious buildings in England. It’s also the final resting place for countless influential people, including writers, scientists and members of the Royal Family.
Inside the Abbey are thousands of tombs spread across floors, placed on walls and stored in columns. Many notable individuals are buried here, including Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin.
In addition to the tombs within the Abbey, there are memorials dedicated to other important figures from history. You can also visit the first coronation throne, built in 1301, and stroll through the garden of the former monastery that once stood in its place.
Discover the Tower Bridge From Above
Inaugurated in 1894, Tower Bridge is popular with tourists for its beautiful architecture and a privileged location near the Tower of London. As a bascule bridge, the bridge rises four times per day so that ships on the River Thames can pass through.
While you can stroll the sidewalks on each side of Tower Bridge, you’ll have a better experience booking the Tower Bridge Exhibition tour. During the tour, you’ll explore the interior of the bridge, learn about its construction and have the opportunity to stroll the glass walkways atop the bridge.
Finally, when visiting Tower Bridge, don’t confuse it with its “less attractive sister” that also spans the River Thames, the London Bridge.
Explore a Royal Park
In the past, Regent’s Park was a private estate reserved solely for members of the Royal Family. Now open to the public, it’s one of the most popular parks in London.
Designed by John Nash in 1811 with an area of more than 295 acres, the park was originally designed as hunting grounds and leisure for members of the monarchy. It also features a plethora of attractions, including:
Queen’s Mary Rose Garden with more than 12,000 roses of 400 different varietiesLondon Zoo, created in 1828, now contains over 750 animal speciesPrimrose Hill, with over 100 species of birds.
Give a Speech at Hyde Park
Another royal park that can’t be left off your itinerary is Hyde Park, a historical park full of monuments, fountains and statues.
One of Hyde Park’s most curious attractions is Speakers’ Corner. The spot has served as a venue for political speeches and public debates, with influential figures such as George Orwell, Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin having given speeches there.
Once you’ve concluded your visit to London, you’ll undoubtedly have some opinions on this exciting city. Perhaps you can head to Hyde Park and share your thoughts. After all, an 1872 act of parliament set Speakers’ Corner aside for public speaking, so go ahead and give a speech of your own.