Top 5 tourist destinations in London
According to Planet Ware, here are the top 5 most attractive destinations for tourists when they visit London.
1. Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard
One of Britain's most iconic buildings, Buckingham Palace is also the scene of London's most popular display of pomp and circumstance, the Changing of the Guard. Drawing crowds at 11:30 am regardless of the season, this colorful and free display of precision marching and music also takes place at St. James's Palace, after which you can follow the band along The Mall as they march between sites.
Buckingham Palace was built in 1837 and has been the London residence of the Royal Family since Queen Victoria's accession. If you're wondering whether the Queen is in, look at the flagpole atop the building: if the royal standard is flying day and night, she's at home. On special state occasions, she and members of the Royal Family may even emerge on the central balcony.
Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guard. Photo: Planet Ware
When the Queen's away at her summer palace in Scotland, visitors can purchase tickets for tours of the State Rooms, the Queen's Gallery, and the Royal Mews.
One of the best ways to tour the palace, see the Changing of the Guard, and experience a traditional afternoon tea, is on a 4.5-hour Buckingham Palace Tour Including Changing of the Guard Ceremony and Afternoon Tea. This tour is a very efficient way of seeing the highlights in a short period of time, and having a knowledgeable guide to explain the history makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable and relevant for first time visitors.
2. The Tower of London and Tower Bridge
From prison to palace, treasure vault to private zoo, the magnificent Tower of Londonhas fulfilled many different roles down the centuries. One of Britain's most iconic structures, this spectacular World Heritage Site offers hours of fascination for visitors curious about the country's rich history - after all, so much of it happened here. Inside the massive White Tower, built in 1078 by William the Conqueror, is the 17th-century Line of Kings with its remarkable displays of royal armaments and armor.
The Tower of London and Tower Bridge. Photo: Planet Ware
Other highlights include the famous Crown Jewels exhibition, the Beefeaters, the Royal Mint, and gruesome exhibits about the executions that took place on the grounds. The adjacent Tower Bridge, its two huge towers rising 200 feet above the River Thames, is one of London's best-known landmarks (fascinating behind-the-scenes tours are available).
For the best use of your time, especially during the busy summer season, purchase the Tower of London Entrance Ticket Including Crown Jewels and Beefeater Tour in advance, to bypass the ticket office lines. This ticket guarantees the lowest price, helps avoid the crowds, and saves time and hassle.
3. The British Museum
Displaying one of the world's finest collections of antiquities, the British Museum contains more than 13 million artifacts from the ancient world. With priceless objects from Assyria, Babylonia, China, Europe, and elsewhere, it's hard to know where to begin. But most tourists head first for the museum's most famous exhibits: the controversial Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, the colossal bust of Ramesses II, the Egyptian mummies, and the spectacular hoard of 4th-century Roman silver known as the Mildenhall Treasure.
|The British Museum. Photo: Planet Ware|
In addition to a well-stocked, on-site bookshop boasting an exhaustive array of titles on ancient history, archaeology and art history, there's a shop selling kids' games and souvenirs, along with one that sells replica sculptures and jewelry. For those able to linger longer, the museum offers a variety of lectures and workshops, plus a restaurant and café.
Address: Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London
4. Big Ben and Parliament
Nothing screams "London" more emphatically than the 318-foot tower housing the giant clock and its resounding bell known as Big Ben. It's as iconic a landmark as Tower Bridge, and the tolling of Big Ben is known throughout the world as the time signal of the BBC. Below it, stretching along the Thames, are the Houses of Parliament, seat of Britain's government for many centuries and once the site of the royal Westminster Palace occupied by William the Conqueror.
|Big Ben and Parliament. Photo: Planet Ware|
Tours of the parliament buildings offer a unique chance to see real-time debates and lively political discussions. From Parliament Square, Whitehall is lined by so many government buildings that its name has become synonymous with the British government.
5. National Gallery
Ranking among the top art museums in the world, London's National Gallery represents an almost complete survey of European painting from 1260 until 1920. The museum's greatest strengths are in its collections of Dutch Masters and Italian Schools of the 15th and 16th centuries. Among its highlights are a cartoon (preliminary sketch) of the Madonna and Child by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo's The Entombment, Botticelli's Venus and Mars, van Gogh's Sunflowers, and The Water-Lily Pond by Monet.
Address: Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, London
|National Gallery. Photo: Planet Ware|