Whether you cross the pond, take the Chunnel or do whatever that Harry Potter kid does to get there, London is a must during at least one of your visits to Europe. Here are our top 10 sights and things to do in London.
Ride the most popular, not free, attraction in London, the London Eye. The world’s tallest observation wheel (there really can’t be that many) reaches about 443 feet and provides views of up to about 25 miles. Book your tickets online to avoid lines and pray for a clear day.
The official residence of the Queen and the location of the obligatory changing of the guard “show” Buckingham palace is at least a necessary walk-by site. If you’re looking to watch the changing of the guard, get there early. The crowds in summer fill the square in front of the gates and the police will do their best to ensure no one climbs on the memorial statue to Queen Victoria for a better view.
One of the largest parks in London and famous for its speakers corner, Hyde Park is not only a pleasant place for a stroll but a people watchers paradise. The 350 acres hold several memorials that seem to spring up from nowhere, pedal or row boat rentals, tourists who marvel at the site of squirrels and shady trees to sleep away the time until your hostel bed is ready.
Open every day and free is a hard deal to find in Europe but you’ll be in luck if you head over to the British Museum. Housing one of the largest collections of art and artifacts from human history and culture, the museum has been around since 1759. If nothing else peaks your curiosity, visiting the Rosetta Stone which allowed man to decipher ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs is something to brag about.
If relatively modern and free is your thing then stop on in to the Tate Modern Art Museum. Established in 2000 in a converted power station and located right along the Thames, this museum houses international and modern art from the 1900’s on. The exhibits change frequently so stop on by every time you’re in town.
What is historically Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress is more commonly known as the Tower of London. The white tower for which the common name derives from is actually just a part of the entire complex which is best known as a prison. This however was not the site’s primary role as the structure was built as a royal residence. Today the Tower of London is one of the most popular tourist attractions for those who wish to see the crown jewels or the ghost of the beheaded Queen Anne Boleyn.
Now this may not be a “sight” per-se but when in London you must try the fish and chips. It’s hard to say who serves the best in the city, so I won’t, but I will say disregard your guide book and ask a local; preferably one with a bit of a belly and not wearing a suit.
The London Bridge connects the city of London to Southwark in the middle of London and for those in the know can be a huge let down. The London Bridge of today was built in 1973 and is, in a nutshell, boring. But, stopping here and quizzing your travel buddies on the name of next bridge downstream can be a hoot if not overtly arrogant. Most “newbies” to London will think that the Tower Bridge downstream is actually the London Bridge…common mistake but its fun to think you’re smarter than your friends for an afternoon.
With its first tick in 1859 the clock laid into the north end tower of the Palace at Westminster, Big Ben began its career as a national landmark. Although the name Big Ben actually just refers to the Clock and not the tower, the nomenclature has become so common place most locals won’t laugh in your face if you ask where “Big Ben” is today.
In the south east corner of Trafalgar square, if you look hard enough, you’ll see a small phone booth sized pillar with a black door. This is what many know as the world’s smallest police station. Large enough to house only one officer, the “station” was built here as a look-out post during the protests that typically took place in the area. In reality the world’s smallest police station is in Carrabelle, Florida but this one is so much fancier.