One of the most cosmopolitan cities on the planet, London is a terrific place to visit. Regardless of whether you’re drawn to this remarkable place for its royal palaces, historic churches, world-class museums, innovative architecture, diverse food scene, or legendary soccer clubs—or you’re hoping to experience a little bit of everything while in town—you’ll encounter no shortage of incredible attractions here to keep you busy for the duration of your trip and then some.
The greater London area is famous for its high concentration of royal palaces, many of which are still in use by members of the royal family today. Kensington Palace and its surrounding gardens are the stately home of the Prince and Princess of Wales, while Windsor Castle is the world’s oldest castle still in use as a private residence. Members of the reigning monarch’s family have been making use of its opulent rooms for personal enjoyment and official state visits for centuries now.
For many London visitors, one of the biggest highlights of a trip to England’s capital city is a stop at Westminster Abbey. Renowned as one of the world’s most iconic churches, Westminster Abbey is the site where dozens of kings and queens have had their coronation ceremonies—and the same place a significant number of them were laid to rest. Another religious institution that’s a major London tourist attraction is St. Paul’s Cathedral, where royal weddings and state funerals often take place. For those visitors whose minds are always putting together an efficient itinerary, St. Paul’s is just down the street from the legendary Tower of London and nearby Tower Bridge.
Given its rich history, it comes as no surprise that London is home to a fabulous assortment of museums devoted to a wide variety of subjects. The British royal family’s Royal Collection is considered the largest private art collection in the world, and art lovers won’t want to miss the chance to view some of its many masterpieces for themselves on the walls of various London-area attractions like The Queen’s Gallery, Apsley House, and Hampton Court Palace. Families with an eye out for an interactive, kid-friendly museum or two will love the Household Cavalry Museum, where they can watch the changing of the guard and see a working stable, and The Postal Museum, a relatively new attraction that features a miniature train ride through underground mail tunnels that the entire group won’t soon forget. And when it’s time to take a step back and soak it all in, The View from The Shard observation deck provides spectacular sky-high sightlines of the whole metropolis.
Keep reading for more information regarding some of London’s most popular tourist attractions, including a bunch more museums, gardens, historic sites, and even a zoo.
Occupying a Victorian-era warehouse that once served as a hub of London’s bustling ice trade, the London Canal Museum charts the evolution of the city’s canals from centers of commerce to places of recreation. Highlights here include historic artifacts, a restored narrowboat cabin, and an original ice well.
The only surviving residence of the influential American statesman, the Benjamin Franklin House is a roughly 300-year-old historic home located in the heart of London. Visitors today can learn about the two decades Franklin spent living here via an Historical Experience or an Architectural Tour.
The poet John Keats lived in this Hampstead home between the years 1818 and 1820. It was here he met Fanny Brawne, who would exert tremendous influence over the shape of his life and career, and wrote famous poems like “Ode to a Nightingale” and “La Belle Dame sans Merci.”
Located in a pair of historic Greenwich houses, the Fan Museum permanent collection contains some 7,000 hand fans, the oldest of which dates back one thousand years. The museum regularly hosts temporary exhibitions that shed light on the long, rich history of the hand fan.
Britian’s only museum solely focused on modern Italian art, the Estorick is renowned for its extensive collection of works by early twentieth century artists belonging to the Italian Futurist movement. Visitors will also find here related temporary exhibitions, a garden café, and gift shop.
The Guards Museum is a small museum located near Buckingham Palace that tells the story of the Foot Guards from the seventeenth century to the present day. The museum’s permanent collection contains historic artifacts, uniforms, weapons, and more.
One of the oldest surviving buildings that comprise the historic Palace of Westminster, the Jewel Tower dates to the fourteenth century. An architectural treasure, it once stored the royal family’s most prized possessions. Today it houses a small museum with exhibits on the history of Parliament and the attraction itself.
This distinctive attraction tells the story of one of the world’s oldest children’s charities. Highlights here include historic artifacts, multiple paintings by William Hogarth, and a large collection of memorabilia pertaining to the life and work of the composer George Frideric Handel.
This small museum pays tribute to the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. Visitors will encounter historic artifacts like Nightingale’s iconic black dress, legendary lamp, and wheelchair among interactive exhibits that tell the story of British nursing from the Crimean War to the present day.
This groundbreaking museum honors the history, art, and design of British gardens through a host of informative displays, temporary exhibitions, and of course, beautifully maintained gardens. It features a critically acclaimed café and medieval tower offering visitors wonderful views of central London.
The Cartoon Museum collects, preserves, and displays original comics, cartoons, and graphic novels by some of the most famous British cartoonists from the past 300 years. The museum also organizes special temporary exhibitions highlighting a variety of cartoon-related subjects and artists.
The Guildhall Art Gallery contains the City of London’s art collection, which is most notable for its fine selection of Victorian paintings headlined by Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata. The 2,000-year-old remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre are preserved here, too.
This Hampstead museum is dedicated to preserving the legacy of pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and his influential daughter, Anna Freud. Located in a restored house that was owned by the Freuds for five decades, the museum is most notable for possessing Freud’s famous psychoanalytic couch.
The London Bridge Experience is an interactive walkthrough attraction where visitors can experience centuries of British history as a parade of gruesome sights, horrifying sounds, awful smells, and infamous characters. A trip to London Bridge Experience also includes admission to the London Tombs, an acclaimed immersive scare maze.
The Museum of Brands profiles some 200 years of consumer culture along its Time Tunnel, where visitors will find a staggering selection of mass-produced goods on display as part of a distinctive permanent exhibit. The attraction also possesses a lovely outdoor café.
Located in the author’s only surviving London home, the Charles Dickens Museum features five floors of rooms carefully restored to appear just as they would have nearly 200 years ago when the acclaimed author lived and worked here. This historic house is full of rare books, manuscripts, and personal objects that once belonged to Dickens.
Southwark Cathedral is a striking example of Gothic architecture located near modern London marvels like The Shard. Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the historic place of worship, pick up a souvenir from its cathedral shop, and enjoy coffee and pastries at its café.
Located on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, the Royal Mews is where the British royal family’s historic coaches, carriages, and cars are stored alongside a world-class collection of horses. Highlights here include the Gold State Coach and a replica of Queen Victoria’s favorite carriage.
This expansive museum, located in a nineteenth-century warehouse on West India Quay, is full of informative galleries and thought-provoking exhibitions that tell the history of London’s docks, their centrality to the growth of the British Empire, and England’s role in the transatlantic slave trade.
Shrek’s Adventure London is an interactive adventure show featuring live performers playing the roles of beloved characters from the DreamWorks Animation family of films. As you walk through this immersive space, you’ll be tasked with creating a magic potion that can free Shrek from prison.
This kid-centric museum is full of interactive exhibits and playful galleries that cover three centuries of transportation services in London. Highlights of a visit here include historic locomotives, trams, buses, city maps, and posters, as well as a transport-themed playzone and multiple fun-filled, hands-on activity areas.
The Design Museum is an award-winning museum highlighting popular designs from across the world that have shaped contemporary life. Its permanent collection contains artifacts from architecture, fashion, homeware, graphic design, and more. Buzz-worthy temporary exhibitions are frequent hits here, too.
Nicknamed simply “The Monument,” this historic landmark commemorates London’s Great Fire of 1666. The biggest highlight of a visit to The Monument is the chance to see the city from a 200-foot-high viewing platform that can be reached by climbing a spiral staircase of over 300 steps.
This live theatrical performance takes visitors on an interactive tour through some of the darkest moments in British history, all while subjecting participants to 90 minutes of jump scares, pungent smells, and face-to-face encounters with notorious characters like Sweeney Todd, Guy Fawkes, and Jack the Ripper.
London’s Natural History Museum is one of the city’s most popular attractions for kids and families. Visitors will encounter galleries full of dinosaur skeletons, meteorites, ancient fossils, botanical specimens, and more within the terracotta-covered walls of this architectural treasure.
The London branch of this popular international aquarium brand is home to an array of sharks, penguins, turtles, stingrays, and assorted tropical fish. It also offers visitors a number of interactive, immersive, and VIP experiences.
Since its opening in 1871, Royal Albert Hall has established itself as one of the most famous performance venues in the world. Visitors to the hall today can take a guided tour, catch a free exhibition, enjoy a drink or meal, or partake in the timeless ritual of afternoon tea service.
Equal parts entertaining and educational, this expansive museum has loads of interactive exhibits devoted to outer space, engineering, mathematics, communication technologies, and video games, just to name a few. It also has an IMAX theatre and several in-house dining options.
The original London location of the popular Madame Tussauds brand is comprised of eight distinctive zones containing life-like wax figures of celebrities, movie stars, musicians, superheroes, royals, and more. It also features a Marvel Universe 4D movie, Chamber of Horrors, and Spirit of London ride.
The official London residence of the reigning British monarch for nearly two centuries now, Buckingham Palace ranks as one of the world’s most recognizable addresses. Highlights of a tour here include regal spaces like the Throne Room, the White Drawing Room, the Grand Staircase, and the Picture Gallery.
The London Eye is a 450-foot-tall observation wheel comprised of 32 pods, each one capable of holding 25 people. One revolution of the wheel takes approximately 30 minutes, during which time visitors enjoy unparalleled views of London from a variety of breathtaking angles.
Jason’s Trip is a tour company offering boat rides down the scenic Regent’s Canal. This 45-minute, one-way excursion runs between Little Venice and Camden Lock or vice versa. Along the way you’ll see Regent’s Park, the London Zoo, Primrose Hill, and Maida Hill Tunnel.
Uber Boat by Thames Clippers stops at 24 different piers along the Thames. You can use it to travel from one popular London attraction to another, or as a budget-friendly sightseeing cruise. The company’s River Roamer ticket option even grants passholders unlimited one-day hop-on, hop-privileges.
Ranger’s House, a historic Georgian mansion located alongside Greenwich Park, houses the Wernher Collection, a 700-piece collection of Renaissance paintings, medieval sculptures, precious jewelry, and more. Its single biggest draw is a fifteenth-century copy of Botticelli’s Madonna of the Pomegranate.
Located in a historic former police station, the Bow Street Police Museum contains an assortment of artifacts and displays that chart the development of law enforcement in London while detailing some of the site’s most famous investigations and prisoners.
This well-established tour company offers three-dozen different sightseeing tours that highlight filming locations of popular movies and TV shows throughout London. Popular Brit Movie Tours products include the London Film Walk, the Harry Potter London Walk, and the Doctor Who London Tour.
Brit Icon Tours operates two-hour walking tours that showcase some of London’s most popular neighborhoods, important cultural figures, and unforgettable historical events. Popular Brit Icon Tours include Notting Hill Tour, Jack the Ripper Walking Tour, Shakespeare London Walk, and the Agatha Christie London Tour.
The London branch of this internationally recognized tour company offers their classic one-day hop-on, hop-off bus tour experience that takes you around to the city’s top attractions, as well as a two-day version that also includes a one-way river cruise and three distinctive guided walking tours.
London Top Sights Tours organizes guided walking tours on a host of local themes like Harry Potter, Jack the Ripper, and the Tube. Their most popular tours are the Palaces and Parliament Tour and the 30+ London Sights Tour, a whopping five-hour experience that runs twice daily.
London Bicycle Tour Company operates several popular guided bike tours that depart from Lambeth near the South Bank entertainment district and take visitors to such major London attractions as Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. James’ Park, and more.
This distinctive museum relates the 500-year history of so-called “postal communications,” charting the impact of mail service in the United Kingdom and beyond. The Postal Museum is home to thousands of historic artifacts, multiple interactive permanent exhibits, an educational play space for kids, and the Mail Rail Ride.
Apsley House is the palatial home of the man who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. Today Apsley House contains the Wellington Museum, which features a renowned art collection and historic memorabilia from the Duke’s illustrious military career.
Wellington Arch is a triumphal arch located on a sizable traffic island between Hyde Park and Green Park, not far from Apsley House and Buckingham Palace. Wellington Arch is adorned by an imposing bronze sculpture, and its hollow interior contains exhibit spaces and viewing platforms.
Located within Horse Guards, squarely in the heart of Westminster, the Household Cavalry Museum features an eighteenth-century stable and a small museum tracing the history of the British Army’s Household Cavalry. A changing of the guard takes place here every hour.
Located approximately 12 miles southwest of London, Hampton Court Palace is a historic royal palace dating to the sixteenth century. Much favored by Henry VIII, and greatly expanded by King William III, Hampton Court Palace is famous for its gardens, Great Hall, Chapel Royal, and overall air of stately luxury.
The Queen’s Gallery is an art museum located within Buckingham Palace that presents a curated selection of notable artworks from the Royal Collection, including paintings, drawings, photographs, and various decorative arts items. Exhibitions at The Queen’s Gallery change out on a regular basis.
Designed by Christopher Wren and intended to serve as a home for retired sailors, Old Royal Naval College has had a long and fascinating history. Today it’s best known as the site where you’ll find the Painted Hall, a remarkable attraction routinely called “Britain’s Sistine Chapel.”
Famed as one of the fastest clipper ships of the nineteenth century, the Cutty Sark has been lovingly restored to resemble how it would have appeared during its heyday on the high seas. Visitors can walk the main deck of this historic vessel, helm the ship’s wheel, and marvel at the elaborate rigging overhead.
The Royal Observatory at Greenwich is most famous as the site where the Prime Meridian of the World was defined. Dating to 1676, this historic facility also features the Great Equatorial Telescope, the Peter Harrison Planetarium, a host of historic clocks, and the iconic red Time Ball of Flamsteed House.
Windsor Castle is the world’s oldest castle still in use as a royal residence, and it stands today as one of the foremost symbols of the British royal family. Highlights of a contemporary visit to Windsor Castle include the Grand Reception Room, Crimson Drawing Room, St. George’s Chapel, and the many artistic masterpieces that line its walls.