London is a historic city that offers plenty of modern luxuries. Iconic landmarks like Big Ben, Parliament, and the Globe Theater seem to be around every corner, making the fast-paced capital city the perfect antidote for when you need a break from a sedentary routine. However, the city is too large to typically take in all the sights in one trip, so if you’re planning a visit, you may be wondering which are the best things to do in London.
Known for its rainy weather, red double-deckers, and afternoon teatime, London is a world-class metropolis that consistently draws a crowd. In fact, 21 million people visited England’s capital in 2019, according to the City of London, though those numbers were significantly lower in 2020 and 2021.
But now that Covid travel restrictions are lifting, tourists and business travelers are flocking back to the modern metropolis with an old-world charm. The food and clothing markets are bustling again and the bucket-list tourist sights, both ancient (from Roman ruins to aged estates) and modern (looking at you, London Eye), are as busy as ever.
With so many sites to see, restaurants to try, and pubs to visit, you may think planning your visit will be an overwhelming task to do on your own. Well, you don’t have to worry, as StudyFinds went to the experts to pin down the best things to do in London based on what was most recommended across the board. Have you been to The Swinging City? Let us know your suggestions in the comments below!
The List: Best Things to do in London, Per Travel Experts
1. The British Museum
Featuring art and historical artifacts from all over the world, the British Museum is one of the most popular places to visit in London. It’s also free to visit! “The sprawling neoclassical architecture is a tourist attraction in itself,” says The Tour Guy. “Once inside, you’ll want to visit the collections in the Enlightenment Room, which is full of quaint English curiosities and inventions from the Victorian age when England led the scientific enlightenment.”
“The British Museum is both an architectural beauty and a trove of some of the world’s most noted antiquities,” states U.S. News & World Report. “From the Rosetta Stone to the Parthenon Sculptures to Mesopotamian objects, the British Museum is a history buff’s dream containing artifacts in the millions.
“With almost six million visitors trooping through its doors annually, the British Museum in Bloomsbury is Britain’s most-visited attraction,” writes Lonely Planet. “It is crammed with such an array of treasures (many of which, controversially, were taken from other countries), you could probably spend your whole trip navigating the vast and hallowed collection of artifacts, art and age-old antiquity, and still not be done.
2. Tower of London
You can experience more than 1,000 years of British history exploring the Tower of London. Condé Nast Traveler writes of this famous site, “Built by William the Conqueror in 1066, this uncompromising slab of a building has been many things—including the site where Henry VIII ordered the execution of two of his wives. Now the Tower is most famous as the home of the Crown Jewels.”
“The Tower of London … was used as both a prison and a royal residence and now houses the crown jewels,” states Earth Trekkers. “For an educational but slightly gory look at British history, don’t miss the Beefeater tours held daily. … It is very entertaining and you learn a lot about the Tower of London.”
And Tripadvisor writes, “The Tower of London is one of the top sights to see in the city right in front of the majestic Tower Bridge. This historic castle with over 1,000 years of history is home to the Crown Jewels, the iconic ‘Beefeater’ Yeoman Warders, and the legendary ravens that have kept the kingdom from collapsing. Inside the White Tower, the oldest building of the castle, is an 11th-century chapel and historic Royal Armouries collections.”
3. Buckingham Palace
Don’t miss this landmark of not just the capital city, but of the whole United Kingdom. You can also catch the famous changing of the guard here, too. Lonely Planet writes of the landmark, “Built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham and then purchased by King George III, Buckingham Palace has been the Royal Family’s London lodgings since 1837 when Queen Victoria moved in. On a tour, visitors can get a peek at the State Rooms – a mere 19 of the palace’s 775 rooms – and wander through the stunning gardens.”
“Buckingham Palace is the most famous of the royal residences in London (others include Kensington Palace and Kew Palace); even if you don’t pay to tour the public portion of the building it’s worth stopping by,” writes London On My Mind. “If you see the Union Jack flag flying, that means King Charles isn’t there currently. However, if you see the Royal Standard flag (it’s yellow, red, and blue), wave to the windows, as he may be looking!”
U.S. News & World Report notes that Buckingham Palace is “opulently accented with chandeliers, candelabras, paintings by Van Dyck and Canaletto, and exquisite English and French furniture, these rooms display some of the most magnificent pieces from the Royal Collection. Along with the grand interiors, the State Rooms, where kings and queens have entertained guests on both official and ceremonial occasions, are also a witness to history.”
4. St. Paul’s Cathedral
This historic cathedral is a must-see for London visitors. Sign up for a guided tour or take in the grounds at your own pace. Condé Nast Traveler calls it “One of the most famous cathedrals in the world.” It writes, “Its towering dome is probably second on the definitive list of symbols of London after Big Ben. It’s awe-inspiring, magical yet somber and reflective, a place for prayer whether you’re religious or not.”
“This magnificent building is not only a historic landmark but a buzzing gathering place for tourists,” writes The Tour Guy. “They can be found sitting on the steps around the entrance and lunching in its surrounding gardens. The awesome baroque architecture is the work of Britain’s greatest architect Sir Christopher Wren.”
Earth Trekkers notes that “St. Pauls’ Cathedral is another very famous landmark.” It goes on, “The present day cathedral was consecrated in 1697 after the Great Fire of London in 1666 destroyed the old St. Paul’s Cathedral. … On a visit here, you will see the interior of the cathedral, the crypt, and climb the 528 steps to the dome for panoramic views of London.”
5. Westminster Abbey
It’s an icon of London. Coronations, royal weddings, and the burial sites of some of Britain’s most famous are just a few reasons to visit Westminster Abbey.
“This medieval church … offers a magnificent peek at London’s far-reaching history,” notes U.S. News & World Report. “Westminster Abbey is generally busy – and the staff keeps you moving at a pretty swift pace – so do a little research ahead of time to avoid missing your personal must-sees.”
The Blonde Abroad gushes that it’s “One of the greatest churches in the world, it is stunning from the exterior, and I highly recommend going inside for a full tour around the 700-year-old building. … A true pillar of English history.”
“Explore a thousand years of history as you admire the beautiful Gothic architecture and stunning stained glass,” writes The Broke Backpacker. “The Abbey complex is fairly large, so plan on budgeting at least 1-2 hours to explore it in its entirety.”
You might also be interested in:
- Best Hotels In London
- Best Places to Live in London
- Best Places to Live in the United Kingdom
- Best Things to do in Glendale, Arizona
- Condé Nast Traveler
- The Blonde Abroad
- U.S. News & World Report
- Earth Trekkers
- London on My Mind
- The Tour Guy
- Lonely Planet
- The Broke Backpacker
- One Week In
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.