Things to Do & See in London

Below I have split London’s top attractions into categories, along with basic visitor information. This information is accurate as of June 2014. There will be a separate page dedicated to special and seasonal events that happen throughout the year.

Historical

-Westminster Abbey
Entry is £18 per adult. Concession & child prices available. Opening times vary. Fascinating walk through history with dozens of historical figures buried here. Audio guides available. Westminster Station (Jubilee, District or Circle Line)

british museum

British Museum

– British Museum
Free entry. Open 10am – 5.30pm every day, open til 8.30pm on Fridays. This is an enormous museum and you would need days here to see the whole thing. I suggest you get a map or buy a guidebook, pick the areas that interest you the most and see those first. Relics from all over the world and all throughout history. Tottenham Court Road Station (Central or Northern Line) or Holborn Station (Piccadilly or Central Line)

– Houses of Parliament
This is generally only for looking from the outside. Guided tours are available on designated dates throughout the year and are often booked well in advance. Tours are also available for residents upon arrangement with their local MP. Westminster Station (Jubilee, District or Circle Line)

IMG_2103

Tower of London

– Tower of London
Entrance is £22 or £20.90 if booked online for adults. Concession & child prices available or Historic Palaces membership gets you in for free. This is an excellent attraction where you can see the crown jewels, take a tour by the Yeoman Warder (recommended), see the spot where people like Anne Boleyn were beheaded and see lots of exhibits and displays about medieval history. Note that this is virtually a whole-day excursion. Tower Hill Station (Circle or District Lines) or Tower Gateway Station (DLR)

– British Library
Free entry. Opening times vary. You might wonder why a library would rate as a tourist attraction! The main attraction at the British Library is the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery, which contains such items as the Magna Carta, Gutenberg Bible, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, Shakespeare’s first folio and original Handel, Mozart, Beatles and Jane Austen manuscripts. The library also hosts travelling exhibitions which might be worth checking out. King’s Cross Station (Northern, Piccadilly, Circle, Victoria, Metropolitan or Hammersmith & City Lines)

– Tower Bridge
Either just admire it from the outside or visit the exhibition inside. Entry is £9 or £8 online per adult. Concession & child prices available. If you time your visit right you can even watch the lifting of the bridge. Tower Hill Station (Circle or District Lines) or Tower Gateway Station (DLR)

– St Paul’s Cathedral
Entrance £16.50 or £15 online per adult. Concession and child prices available. Open 8.30am – 4.30pm Mon – Sat. Impressive cathedral and probably Christopher Wren’s most famous work. Excellent view of London from the top of the dome. Interesting crypt underneath it with tombs of famous people. St Paul’s Station (Central Line) or Mansion House Station (Circle or District Lines)

– Hampton Court Palace
Entrance £18.20 or £17.05 online per adult. Concession and child prices available. If you want to see the maze or garden alone you can get discounted entry. Hampton Court Palace is a far more basic exhibition than the Tower of London, and I’m not really convinced is worth the price. We have Historic Palaces membership which gets us in for free. Hampton Court Railway Station

– Cutty Sark
Entrance £13.50 for adults. Concession and child prices available. You can also buy combination tickets with the Observatory. The Cutty Sark was a tea clipper which holds the record for the fastest journey under sail from Australia to London. It has been restored and is now essentially a walk-through museum. Cutty Sark Station (DLR)

natural history museum

Natural History Museum

– Natural History Museum
Free entry. Open 10am – 5.50pm. Does what it says on the tin – a museum of natural history. I have only seen a fraction of it and that was pretty fascinating. Kids will love the dinosaur section. South Kensington Station (Circle, District or Piccadilly Lines)

– Old Royal Naval College
Free entry. Another of Christopher Wren’s masterpieces. Impressive to view from the outside but you can also visit the Painted Hall and the Chapel inside. Cutty Sark Station (DLR)

– National Maritime Museum
Free entry. Open 10am – 5pm.  ‘The world’s largest maritime museum, filled with inspirational stories of exploration and endeavour at sea and packed to the gunwales with intriguing objects and fascinating galleries’. Cutty Sark Station (DLR)

– Royal Observatory
Entrance £7 or £11.50 with a Planetarium show as well.  £17 for combo ticket with the Cutty Sark. Concession and child prices available. Open 10am – 5pm. Here you can straddle the Prime Meridian (0 degrees longitude) as well as explore exhibitions on the quest for longitude, space and astronomy. Cutty Sark Station (DLR)

Royal London

– Buckingham Palace
There are multiple areas you can visit in Buckingham Palace, each with their own admission fee or you can pay £34.50 for entry to everything. Concession and child prices available. Opening times varyGreen Park Station (Jubilee Line) or St James’s Park Station (District or Circle Lines)

– Changing of the GuardIMG_2013
Free. Daily during summer, every second day in the off-season. Instead of cramming in front of Buckingham Palace with hundreds (or thousands) of other people where you won’t get a good view, you will get a better view of the guards if you try this alternative. Start at the Mall, somewhere between Marlborough Rd and the palace by about 11am. At around 11.15, the guards will begin marching out from St James’s Palace (on Marlborough Rd), down the Mall right past you to Buckingham Palace. Once they are done, head immediately to the other side of St James’s Park to Birdcage Walk opposite the parade ground where you will see other guards assembling. Then they too will march out onto Birdcage Walk and towards the palace to participate in the Changing of the Guard. There was one occasion I attended where the second group was not there, in the middle of winter. In very wet weather the Changing of the Guard will not happen. Green Park Station (Jubilee Line) or St James’s Park Station (District or Circle Lines)

– Windsor Castle
Entry is £18.50 or £10 when the state apartments are closed. Opening times vary. Concession and child prices available. If you wish to also visit the Great Kitchen or do the Conquer the Tower tour, this will cost extra. There is also a Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle. Windsor & Eton Riverside Railway Station

– Kensington Palace
Entry is £16.50 or £15.40 online per adult. Concession and child prices available, and the Historic Palaces membership gets you in for free. Home to Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George. I have not visited here yet so cannot comment on whether it is worth the price or not. Queensway Station (Central Line) or High Street Kensington (Circle or District Lines)

– Household Cavalry Museum
Entry £7. Concession and child prices available. Open 10am – 6pm except in winter when it closes at 5pm. A ‘living museum about real people doing a real job in a real place’. Observe troopers working with the horses, read about the troopers’ training and personal stories and enjoy the interactive displays. Charing Cross Station (Bakerloo or Northern Lines)

War & Military

– Cabinet War Rooms
Entry £17.50. Concession and child prices available. Open 9.30am – 6pm. This is a museum located in the underground bunkers in which Churchill’s top-secret Cabinet War Rooms were located during World War 2. Many rooms are dressed as they were during the war, with a few untouched since they were closed at the end of the war. One section is dedicated to Churchill himself. Westminster Station (Jubilee, Circle or District Lines)

belfast– HMS Belfast
Entry £15.50. Concession and child prices available. Open 10am – 6pm except in winter when it closes at 5pm. Some ladders and decks may be closed during bad weather. The HMS Belfast is a warship from World War 2 which still floats in the Thames and now operates as a museum. Explore all 9 decks on board. London Bridge Station (Northern or Jubilee Lines)

– Imperial War Museum
Currently no entry fee price on the website, although this may be posted when the museum reopens in July 2014. Opening times will be 10am – 6pm. Will contain galleries and exhibits on WW1, WW2, British art from WW1, the Holocaust, Secret War, A Family in Wartime and the family-friendly Horrible Histories exhibition (among others). Lambeth North Station (Bakerloo Line) or Elephant & Castle Station (Bakerloo or Northern Lines)

Pop Culture

hogwarts

Hogwarts replica at the Harry Potter studio tour

– Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour
Entrance is £31. Child prices are available. Note that you must pre-book your tickets. You cannot buy tickets at the door and popular visiting times (eg. school holidays) sell out weeks in advance. When you book your tickets it will ask you to select a time slot. Make sure to choose as early in the day as possible as you can easily spend a whole day here. While there is no time limit to how long you can spend there (up until closing time), you won’t be allowed in earlier than your ticket says. This is a fantastic attraction for Harry Potter fans displaying costumes, sets and props from the movies, including Diagon Alley and the Great Hall. You can have your photo taken flying on a broomstick and the audio guide is narrated by Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy). I also recommend the top quality souvenir guidebook (which is cheaper if you buy it as part of your ticket price rather than on its own). It’s worth noting that at different times of year (eg. Halloween and Christmas) the sets are dressed appropriately, and there are often workshops and demonstrations run during school holidays. Watford Junction Railway Station (recommended to take rail rather than Overground as express rail trains are much faster). 

– Harry Potter book & film sites
Not only was the Harry Potter studio located in London, but many film locations can be found in the city, as well as locations mentioned in the books. I have created a page dedicated to Harry Potter film and book locations in London.

– TV studio recordings
Free. Sign up to Applause Store for the opportunity to get tickets to watch studio recordings of shows such as QI, Top Gear, Britain’s Got Talent, X Factor and many others. When tickets become available you can put your name down, and you’ll be notified if you’ve been allocated a ticket. Note that these recordings are always over-booked in case people don’t turn up, so you still have to turn up early as it’s first in best dressed (although if you miss out you are given priority [guaranteed] tickets for another recording). The draw-back of this is that you do need to be prepared weeks (sometimes months) in advance and you need to be prepared to dedicate an entire afternoon to it.

– Sherlock Holmes Museum (221B Baker St)
Entry £10. Child prices available. Open 9.30am – 6pm. Actually located on Baker St, and although the house number was not originally 221 (the street is not long enough), it has been officially re-numbered by the Westminster City Council. A museum dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, and downstairs there is a gift shop with all manner of Sherlock paraphernalia, including the Robert Downey Jr movies and BBC TV show. Baker St Station (Bakerloo, Circle, Metropolitan, Hammersmith & City or Jubilee Lines)

Visual Arts

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National Gallery at night

– National Gallery
Free entry. Open 10am – 6pm, open til 9pm on Fridays. Contains 13th – 19th century paintings in the western european tradition. Charing Cross Station (Bakerloo or Northern Lines)

– National Portrait Gallery
Free entry. Open 10am – 6pm, open til 9pm on Thurs & Fri. Houses the portraits of over 195,000 British men and women from the 16th century onwards – some famous, some not. Charing Cross Station (Bakerloo or Northern Lines)

– Tate Modern
Free entry. Open 10am – 6pm, open til 10pm Fri & Sat. A collection of modern art housed in what used to be a train station. London Blackfriars Station (Central or District Lines) or Southwark Station (Jubilee Line)

– Tate Britain
Free entry. Open 10am – 6pm. A collection of  British art in a Grade II listed Victorian building. Pimlico Station (Victoria Line)

– The Courtauld Gallery
Entry £6 except for Monday when it’s £3. Concession and child prices available. Open 10am – 6pm. Housed in Somerset house, this collection encompasses the early Renaissance through to the 20th Century and is particularly known for its Impressionist artwork, although also includes drawing, prints, sculpture and decorative arts. Temple Station (Circle or District Lines)

Performing Arts

– West End Productionwicked
There are dozens of productions on the West End every week. Musicals, plays and comedies over a range of prices. Some popular ones are The Lion King, Wicked, Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Mousetrap, and Matilda. Prices vary enormously between shows, but generally the cheap tickets are around £17 – £30 while the best seats in the house can easily go for £100+.  We sat in the Circle (back tier) for Wicked at the Apollo Victoria and thought the view was fine, though not excellent. You certainly don’t need binoculars or anything like that. We sat in the Royal Circle (middle tier, Row G) for The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre and had a very good view. I certainly would not feel the need to pay an extra £30+ to sit in the stalls (at the bottom). I would suggest the Shows in LondonOfficial London Theatre or London Theatre websites for booking tickets.

– Concerts/Tours
Top British and international acts frequently perform in London, often at the O2 stadium. There are many online ticket sellers, although the cheapest can vary depending on the concert. You can check who might be performing when you’re in town at the O2 website, London TimeOut and all the other regular ticket sales websites.

IMG_2532– Shakespeare Play at the Globe Theatre
Throughout summer there are multiple Shakespearean plays being shown at the Globe theatre. It is not the original theatre that Shakespeare’s company performed in, as that was destroyed by fire, but has been rebuilt as accurately as possible, with the addition of fire sprinklers! Tickets for plays start at £5 for ‘groundling’ tickets (standing space in the yard) through to £45 for tiered seating with the best view in front of the stage. Yard tickets have the added bonus of the action sometimes moving among the crowd. You can also visit the Globe Exhibition which costs £13.50. Concession and child prices available, opening hours 9am – 5pm. London Bridge Station (Jubilee or Northern Lines) or Mansion House Station (Circle or District Lines)

Outdoors & Views

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Squirrel at Hyde Park

– Hyde Park
One of London’s biggest parks, in its upper-class west, Hyde Park is home to the Serpentine lake, Kensington Palace and countless birds, squirrels and rabbits. Hire a paddle boat (expensive), a Barclays bike (cheap) or take a picnic for the wide open green spaces. Hyde Park Corner or Knightsbridge Stations (Piccadilly Line), Marble Arch, Queensway or Lancaster Gate Stations (Central Line)

– Regent’s Park
While it still has its share of wide open green spaces, Regent’s Park has more manicured gardens than Hyde Park, and is also home to the London Zoo. Paddle boats and Barclays bikes are available here too, although fewer rabbits and squirrels. Baker St Station (Jubilee, Bakerloo, Circle, Metropolitan or Hammersmith & City Lines) or Regent’s Park Station (Bakerloo Line)

– Hampstead Heath
They say Hampstead is good for a bit of celebrity-spotting (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t spent any time there besides the park) as celebrities such as Emma Watson, Ricky Gervais, Emma Thompson and Christopher Ecclestone have lived or do live (or work or play) in the area. Hampstead Heath is the biggest park in the area and is mostly open green spaces and wooded forest-y areas. Apparently in summer you can swim in some of the ponds there but I’m not sure I’d be game. Hampstead Heath also has Parliament Hill which gives you a good (if distant) view of the London skyline. Hampstead Heath Station (Overground)

London_Eye_-_TQ04_26– The London Eye
Possibly the most famous ferris wheel in the world, the London Eye was built for the millennium celebrations then never taken down. £20.95 or £17.95 online per adult for a standard ticket. Concession and child prices available. One ‘flight’ takes half an hour. Waterloo Station (Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo or Waterloo & City Lines)

– The View from the Shard
This is London’s highest viewing platform, at 244m. £29.95 on the day or £24.95 if booked at least a day in advance. Child prices available. Alternatively you may want to pay a visit to one of the bars near the top of the Shard and have a drink or two… probably a cheaper cost for the view (although unlikely to be 360 degrees I imagine). London Bridge Station (Jubilee or Northern Lines)

– Southbank
A walk along Southbank is basically just a nice walk along the river, going past a few gardens, Sherlock filming locations and food vans. You’ll also walk past the London Eye, a few ferry terminals and any number of bridges where you can cross over to the city. London Bridge Station (Jubilee or Northern Lines) or Waterloo Station (Jubilee, Northern, Bakerloo or Waterloo & City Lines)

Famous Place Names & Monuments

These really need no introduction…

– Piccadilly Circus
– Oxford St
– Whitehall
– King’s Cross Station
– Nelson’s Column
– Trafalgar Square
– Leicester Square
– 10 Downing St

It is worth noting that most museums and attractions charge extra for special exhibitions, regardless of what the regular entrance fee is. 

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