- Life In London Magazine
- London's Top 10 Attractions
London's Top 10 Attractions
Want to know which attractions are totally unmissable? We run you through London’s top 10 sites.
When it opened in 1753, the British Museum
was the first national public museum in the world. Today around 6 million people visit each year, making it London’s most popular attraction. What began as a collection of items belonging to physician Sir Hans Sloane has grown immensely to include objects of huge historical importance such as the Rosetta Stone, a selection of Egyptian mummies, and an ancient Mexican quartz crystal skull, which some paranormal believers claim is one of the 13 crystal skulls that are capable of performing miracles. The museum is vast and it’s impossible to see everything in one day; it’s best to pick a collection or two and come back to see the rest another time, thankfully entry is free.
Despite a few initial safety worries the London Eye
has turned out to be a huge success. The wheel offers unparalleled views of London for 30 minutes, which is how long it takes for each rotation. The capsules holds 25 people, or you can splash out on a private capsule for a mere £480. A standard ticket is £17; make sure you book in advance as queuing to buy a ticket on the day can be a life-sapping experience.
This museum opened in 2000 to great acclaim. Housed within a former power station, the Tate Modern
houses an impressive collection of contemporary art divided thematically into things like “Structure and Clarity” and “Nude/Action/Body”. All the twentieth century greats are here, from Salvador Dali to Tracy Emin, including works by Piet Mondrian, Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and many many others. The Turbine Hall hosts large-scale exhibits courtesy of the Unilever Series, which have previously included works by Anish Kapoor and Olafur Eliasson. The fantastic bookshop is also worth a browse. Entry to view the permanent displays is free, while special exhibitions have an admission free.
Houses of Parliament
The iconic Houses of Parliament and the Big Ben
are often the first port of call for many tourists. The original parliamentary building dates back to the 13th century, however most of it was destroyed by fire in 1834 and subsequently rebuilt. As well as admiring the neo-gothic architecture from the outside, visitors are welcome to the catch both the House of Lords and the House of Commons in session. You can even book a tour of the building by contacting your local MP. These are free and take around 75 minutes.
The Queen’s residence and official headquarters is open to the public between June and October, when the Royals are on their holidays. As well as plentiful royal portraits, visitors to Buckingham Palace
will be able to see the Throne Room and numerous function rooms used for official ceremonies, all filled with impressive artworks and tapestries. Be warned of the airport style security checks at the entrance. Tickets are priced at £18.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Although there has been a cathedral on this site since the year 604, the current incarnation was finished in 1710, after being burnt down in the Great Fire. St. Paul’s
is the work of one architect, Christopher Wren, and it took 35 years to build. Whatever your religious persuasion this spectacular cathedral is worth a look, particularly for the fantastic views from the top. It’s a treacherous climb up 530 steps, via the Whispering Gallery, so-called because a mere whisper can be heard perfectly through the walls on the opposite side. The Crypt contains the tombs of Lord Nelson and Wren himself. Entry is £13.
The National Gallery
opened in 1824, showing the private collection of banker John Julius Angerstein. Today it provides a comprehensive selection of western European art from 1250 to 1900 (there are around 2,300 works), and is a must for any fan of classical painting. From Medieval art to Impressionism, you will find all the masters here, including famous pieces by Botticelli, Michelangelo, Velazquez, Goya and Turner. Additionally the gallery’s restaurant, Oliver Peyton’s National Dining Rooms, boasts great views of Trafalgar Square. Admission to the permanent collections is free.
Tower of London
The Tower of London
has a gruesome history, as over the centuries it’s served as prison and place of execution. In the 11th century its purpose was to serve as a fortress to defend the royals from enemy armies. During Medieval times it became a prison, and several royals were later executed here including Henry VI and Anne Boleyn. The last notable imprisonments were those of the Krays in 1952. Nowadays it’s a far more salubrious attraction, and you can expect crowds of visitors flocking here to see the Crown Jewels and the displays of royal armour. Tickets are £20.90 and guided tours are available.
Victoria & Albert Museum
Housed within an impressive building, the V&A’s
collections focus on decorative arts. Founded in 1852, it is the largest museum of its kind in the world. Among the many items on display is an intriguing selection of musical instruments, Islamic ceramics and textiles, Japanese prints and fashion from the 18th century onwards. The museum now opens till 22:00 on the last Friday of the month, with a bar and DJs in the foyer. Admission is free.
London’s most famous park hasn’t always been suitable for a relaxing walk. In the 17th century Hyde Park
was rather dangerous, as it was frequented by highwaymen and other unsavoury characters. Nowadays you’re more likely to encounter tourists, and when the weather is good, picnickers and sun seekers, as amenities include rowing in the lake, swimming and playing tennis. Speaker’s Corner, near Marble Arch, has existed since 1872 and is where anyone can stand up and voice their opinion to passers-by on a Sunday. The Diana Memorial and a monument dedicated to the 52 people killed in the July 7th bombings are also located here.