London is an action-packed city that is full of culture, a wide range of delicious food, and offers a ton of activities. There are so many things to see and London offers a diverse range of experiences that will satisfy any type of traveler. It’s extremely difficult to pack everything into one trip and maybe that’s what draws people to travel there. You could make several trips there and have a different experience every time.
I am going to list all the must-see attractions for the first-time visitors. These are the destinations that you definitely do not want to miss while you are visiting this action packed city!
Must-See Attractions for First-Time Visitors
Buckingham Palace & Changing of the Guard
First and foremost, it’s important that you go to Buckingham Palace and watch the changing of the guard. It’s definitely cooler to see them actually move and do their formations rather than seeing them pretend to be statues while wearing their funny hats. The New Guard exchange starts at about 10:45 am with the actual exchange occuring at 11:00 am. The ceremony lasts about 45 minutes and is accompanied with music. It is quite the spectacle and occurs every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday if weather is permitting and there aren’t any conflicting large events. The even it free and is a very popular attraction. Be sure to check the schedule and arrive early to ensure that you get a good spot.
The palace does offer tours of some of the famous state rooms during the Summer months (21 Jul 2018 – Sunday, 30 Sep 2018). Tickets can be purchased from the Royal Collection Trust and the prices are as follows:
- Adult £24.00
- Over 60/ Student (with valid ID) £22.00
- Under 17/ Disabled £13.5
- Under 5 Free
- Family £61.50 (2 adults and 2 under 17s)
The London Eye
If you are a sucker for amazing views and would love to get a spectacular view of the iconic city of London, then a visit to the London Eye is site that you won’t want to miss. This is the famous ferris wheel that you see in the cityscape photographs of London.
The capsules offer panoramic views of the city and one revolution takes about 30 minutes. I suggest buying your tickets ahead of time from their official website to arrive prepared. Lines can be long during the height of their tourist season and they do offer Fast Track tickets that allow you to wait in a shorter line, but these tickets do cost more. They do offer tons of packages, therefore I will not list them here, but here is a link to find more information about the options. General admission tickets start at £22.95 if you book online. Average savings are about 15% if you buy your tickets in advance.
I always thought this bridge was called London Bridge like the song from my childhood. “London bridge is falling down, falling down…” You know which song I’m talking about. So I kept searching for London Bridge like a dummy, only to find out that I was looking for Tower Bridge. Silly me. The song tell you what happened to London Bridge! It fell down! haha! The famous and iconic bridge you should visit when you are in London is called Tower Bridge.
Tower Bridge is an amazing engineering feat. It is a combined bascule and suspension bridge that crosses the River Thames and was built in 1886. The upper level allows you to cross a glass walkway, which offers a unique view of the busy bridge below. There is a tour available, but I myself have not experienced the walkway nor the tour. I’ll link the official website for reference just in case you want to take a visit.
I do feel that you should at least see the bridge while you are in London because it is a symbol that represents the city. It’s crazy to see bascules/leaves open to allow river traffic to pass. The leaves raise to an 86 degree angle.
Tower of London
If you are as obsessed as I am about jewelry, then you MUST SEE the Crown Jewels that are displayed at the Tower of London! To me, it seems like like the biggest perk of being a Royal! So much sparkle! The Tower of London is known as London’s Castle. It is a secure fortress, a royal palace, and was an infamous prison. It makes sense that they would store and display their working collection of jewels in a secure fortress. The British Crown Jewels have been stored here for safe keeping since 1661.
Although the jewels are enough to make me want to revisit London, the Tower of London also offers an impressive collection of armor that has been worn throughout the history of Great Britain. So there is definitely something to see for the guys too! *wink*
The Tower of London an important piece of British history because it has served as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public record office, and even stores the treasures of monarchy. It has also been used a prison for figures that have fallen into disgrace. The most famous prisoners include Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh. There is a fantastic view of red poppies during the spring and summer.
Here is a link to the page where you can purchase tickets in advance, find their hours of operation, and location. Planning ahead is always advised when planning your London itinerary.
Buying your tickets ahead of time online is always cheaper!
- Adult: £22.70
- Child: £10.75
This area of London commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar that took place during the Napoleonic Wars with France and Spain in 1805. It is a public Square in the heart of London that is used for community and political gatherings and events. It is full of statues, monuments, and fountains. Trafalgar Square has been a significant landmark since the 13th century. Trafalgar Square hosts cultural events and performances throughout the year, so you never know what you’ll find when you wander through. The unique architecture, stone lions, and other statues keep you company as you take in your busy surroundings. It’s a unique area that you can enjoy while watching the hustle and bustle of the surrounding busy streets and sea of people.
Loved the architecture of the historical buildings that surround this square. Parliament Square is an open green space that has trees to its west and is surrounded by many important iconic buildings. It is overlooked by Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court, and Whitehall. The gothic style architecture takes you back in time. The court itself has several statues that commemorates individuals that have made a large impacts on society such as: Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, and other notable figureheads. The famous Big Ben clock tower is attached to Parliament and so you definitely need to stop by and see that as well. This is one of London’s main tourist attractions and for very good reasons because there is so much to see. I would devote a significant amount of time to tour this area as there is so much to see.
Places to Shop
An open air market that has a ton of cafes, boutiques, and venders of produce. It’s open on either end to the elements outside, but it is covered with a glass roof. It’s a pretty unique structure and is a good place to grab a quick lunch, dessert, or shop the cute boutiques. Here is a link to their official website so you can see the shops and stores that they offer to determine if you want to go visit.
I haven’t experienced this market firsthand, but I hear that it’s an excellent place to visit. I plan to take a peek then next time I visit London. This is a market that has a bunch of vendors of fruits, meats, fish, bakeries, and boutiques under one roof. A lot of the artisan vendors offer samples, therefore it’s a fun place to sample new items and shop. It does have an open air feel similar to Convent Garden. Here is the official website so that you can find the specific vendors and shops to see if you want to pay this place a visit.
This is where you can do your shopping of all the popular brands you love. This is a large shopping district in London. There are lots of shops along long stretches of streets where you can find brands that are popular in both the UK and the world. This is where you can also find the more exclusive British brands for clothes, makeup, and accessories.
Where I Stayed During My Visit
I stayed in the W hotel in London. It’s a very posh and modern hotel with very unique design. The hotel room is one of the most unique hotel rooms that I have ever stayed in. It was one large open concept room. I’ll admit that it was a pricey hotel choice, but it did provide a unique experience that I will never forget. One of the strangest things were that the toilet and shower were little closets in the large open room (mirrored closets on the left-hand side when looking at the bed in the bottom right picture). Hotels in London can be quite small due to the high cost of real estate in this city, therefore the amount of space in the rooms provided in these rooms were quite generous in size. The location of this hotel was very centrally located and had a unique lounge on the top floor.
Just like the plethora of shows that are present on Broadway and Off-Broadway, there is a huge variety of big name plays, musicals, and live entertainment events that are shown in theaters across London. I saw Chicago and Jersey Boys during my first visit to London and it was AWESOME! Of course it depends on whether this is something you typically enjoy in the first place, but if you like live entertainment as much as I do, you should definitely take advantage of all the live entertainment options in this city. I would definitely book in advance because I really wanted to see Phantom of the Opera while I was there, but it was completely sold out! If there is something specific you want to see, it’s your best bet to book the seats in advance to ensure your ability to enjoy that experience. Here is the link to all the current showings of the latest musicals and plays.
Best Ways to Get Around in London
London does have a very large and well-connected Subway/Metro system. So it’s a convenient source of transportation. There will be convenient metro stops at most of the tourist attractions.
Another unique and fun way to get around the cite while still being able to stop at top tourist destinations is to pay for a tour pass on one of the many double decker bus tours. Not is it a cool way to take in the city sites from the top level of a double-decker bus, but you get to experience a double decker bus! It’s so different that the buses we normally encounter in America! These bus tours take you through London and a tour guide tells you about various facts about the various parts of the city you drive through, which is a nice way to get extra expert information about the local areas, but they have many stops throughout the city where you can get on and off the bus as you please. This way tourists can go visit the various attractions and rejoin the bus tours. The buses are always on a continuous cyclical route, so you never have to wait very long before the next bus arrives.
This is a pretty detailed list of all the hot spots in London for first-time visitors. If you are planning an extended visit, you will be able to add to your itinerary beyond these suggestions, but I thought it was important the provide a thorough list with all relevant information about the places you absolutely can not miss. I plan to mention options that a little off the beaten path in later posts, therefore you should continue to check out my blog for future tips, tricks, and suggestions.
Thank you for supporting me and my blog. I hope you find this information helpful. Is there anything you would add to this must-see list? Was this information helpful? Comment below to let me know. I love hearing from you. I am here for you guys, so I want to provide content you care about.
All links in this post are provided for informative reasons only. I do not receive any compensation for these recommendations. Let me know if you want any additional information!
Until next time!