Originally Published: September 10, 2013

London is filled with quirky and unusual things to see and do but if it’s your first visit to London then there are a few things you need to tick of your list. These are London’s main tourist attractions for a reason and it’s because they are the biggest, the best, the oldest, the grandest and the ones overflowing with history and culture.

So before you delve into the quirky side of London, take a couple of days to explore the most popular tourist attractions that London has to offer.

Photo by David Stanley.
Tower of London – Photo by David Stanley.

London’s Most Popular Tourist Attractions

Tower of London

The Tower of London is the world’s longest running tourist attraction for a good reason. The tower and the surrounding buildings are incredible and you could happily spend hours wandering through the narrow corridors and grand halls imagining what life was like in the tower nearly 1,000 years ago.

You’ve also got the gory history of murder and torture, the surprising animal models that represent London’s first zoo as well as exquisite armours and the chance to visit the King’s chambers. And let’s no forget the Crown Jewels which are kept safely in the Jewel House, ready and waiting to dazzle the two million people who visit each year.

Buckingham Palace

You can’t visit London without taking a trip to see the official residence of The Queen. Buckingham Palace is open to visitors from July to September and you have the opportunity to see the state rooms and also the royal gardens. The state rooms are beautifully furnished with lavish ornaments and they’re still used by the royal family when entertaining their guests.

If you’re visiting the palace between May and July you’ll have the chance to see the ceremonious Changing of the Guard. This takes place at around 11.30am and you’ll be able to see the colourful tradition that regularly attracts a huge crowd of spectators.

Night shot of the London Eye.
The London Eye at night. Photo by Mostaque Chowdhury.

London Eye

If you want to see London from a different perspective than a ride on the London Eye is a must. At 135 meters tall, this is the highest Ferris wheel in Europe and the most popular paid attraction in the UK.

The best time to ride the London Eye is around sunset so you can see the city at that lovely ‘magic hour’ which is perfect for photography. You’ll also see London come to life for the evening as all the lights begin to twinkle.

St Paul’s Cathedral

Arguably one of the most spectacular buildings in all of London, St Paul’s Cathedral stands tall and proud as an iconic monument in the centre of the city. You can marvel at the beautiful domed cathedral from the outside or take a multimedia tour inside to really get to know St Paul’s.

If you’re feeling energetic then you can climb up into the dome, first visiting the Whispering Gallery with incredible acoustics before catching your breath and climbing up to the Golden Gallery. From here you can enjoy the break-taking panoramic view across London which will make that climb well worth it.

London's iconic Big Ben.
Classic tourist attractions in London – the Underground and Big Ben. Photo by Anthony Kelly.

Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Big Ben is the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and is another iconic symbol in London. You can take a tour to the top of the bell, officially named the Great Bell which is housed within the Elizabeth Tower. It’s another energetic London tour that takes you up the 334 stone spiral steps where you will wait to hear Big Ben strike the hour. You’ll go behind the clock face and visit the mechanism room to see how Ben works. It can be difficult to get on one of these brilliant tours and UK residents must book through their local MP.

You can also take a guided tour around the Houses of Parliament with the option to add on afternoon tea to make it an even more traditional day out.

So which of these popular London tourist attractions will you be trying first?

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Eating London Tours offer a 3.5 hour walking food tour through London’s most characteristic borough — East London. The popular tour visits classic East London attractions and restaurants.

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