London is famous for a whole host of reasons, including the Royal Family, its status as a fashion capital of the world and the fact it’s a major political centre. But it’s also a mixing pot of cultures rich in history and arts.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 must-see sights that London has to offer.
1. The Tower of London
Open daily with the exception of 24th, 25th and 26th December and 1st January
Winter times (1st November to 28th February):
Tuesday to Saturday – 9 am to 4.30 pm
Sunday to Monday – 10 am to 4.30 pm
Cost: From £10
If you’re looking to learn more about British history, the Tower of London is a great attraction that the whole family will enjoy. There are 12 acres of land to explore within the walls so there’s plenty to see.
Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Tower of London started off as a military stronghold. During the 1200s an exotic royal zoo was founded and remained open until 1835.
A total of 22 executions were carried out at the tower, the last one as late as 1941. There have been plenty of alleged ghost sightings over the years, including by King Henry VI and King Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine. There are over 23,500 jewels in the tower totalling an estimated £20 billion.
Nearest tube stop: Tower Hill
2. Coca-Cola London Eye
Open daily with the exception of 25th December and 11th to 22nd January
10 am to 8.30 pm. Opening times may vary.
Cost: From £19.35
The newly renamed Coca-Cola London Eye is based in Central London, overlooking the River Thames. Much more than a Ferris wheel, it’s the world’s largest cantilevered observation wheel, standing at an impressive 133 metres tall.
On average, this attraction receives more visitors that the Taj Mahal or the Pyramids of Giza. That’s not so surprising when you consider that you can see up to 40 kilometres in all directions on a clear day. That’s as far as Windsor Castle.
The Coca-Cola London Eye can carry up to 800 people per rotation in its 32 capsules at a speed of 26cm per second.
Nearest tube stop: Waterloo
3. Buckingham Palace
30th July to 31st August 2016 – 9.15 am to 7.45 pm
1st to 25th September 2016 – 9.15 am to 6.45 pm
Price: From £21.50 (Children aged 5 and under go free)
Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom. It has been the official London residence of Britain’s monarchs since 1837. Over 50,000 tourists visit the palace each year to view the famous building and take a tour of its interior. The palace boasts an impressive 1,514 doors and 760 windows which require cleaning every six weeks.
Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms which include 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bathrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Its private gardens cover 40 acres of land. That’s the equivalent of four Wembley stadiums.
When the Ballroom of Buckingham Palace was opened in 1856 it was the largest room in London.
Nearest tube stop: Victoria
4. St Paul’s Cathedral
Monday to Saturday 8.30 am to 4 pm. Opening times may vary.
Price: From £15.50
St Paul’s Cathedral is a historical landmark that has hosted some extremely important events over the years. During World War II, St Paul’s Cathedral was struck twice by German bombs. It remained the tallest structure in London until 1962 when the BT Tower was erected.
The most famous funeral held at St Paul’s was that of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965 and the most famous wedding was that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981.
The Whispering Gallery – a steep 257 steps up – houses one of the cathedral’s best-known features. If you whisper on one side of the wall, it can be heard on the other side, 35 metres away. You can also visit the crypt beneath the cathedral, which contains over 200 tombs and memorials of national heroes.
Nearest tube station: St Paul’s
5. Big Ben
Tours are at 9 am, 11 am and 2 pm Monday to Friday (except Bank Holidays).
Price: From £18
Completed in 1858, Big Ben is over 150 years old. Housed in the Palace of Westminster, the clock is one of the most iconic sights in London. It chimes every 15 minutes without fail. The clock’s bell weighs more than 13 tons and each dial is seven metres in diameter.
The name Big Ben is actually the name of the four-faced bell inside the tower, though common misconception has led to the clock adopting the name. The clock is, in fact, called the Elizabeth Tower.
Each clock face is made up of 312 panes of glass, making a total of 1,248 pieces for the entire clock.
Nearest tube stop: Westminster
6. Natural History Museum
Open daily from 10 am to 5.50 pm
Ever since the Natural History Museum opened its doors in 1881, its contents have fascinated the public. The museum’s collection currently contains over 70 million botanical specimens, 55 million animal exhibitions, 9 million relics from various archaeological digs and 500,000 rocks and minerals.
Despite the wealth of items to see, the museum is easy to navigate. It’s divided into five collections: botany, palaeontology, entomology, mineralogy and zoology. One of its main attractions is the 26-metre diplodocus replica skeleton that greets visitors in the main hall. However, it is said this will be replaced by a 25-metre blue whale skeleton in the near future.
Nearest tube stop: South Kensington
7. The Shard
25th October to 31st March: Sunday to Wednesday 10 am-7 pm, Thursday to Saturday 10 am-10 pm
1st April to 24th October: Open daily from 10 am to 10 pm
Price: From £30.95
With 11,000 glass panels, 44 lifts and a public viewing gallery, at a height of 309.6 metres above the capital, The Shard is the tallest building in Europe and the 59th tallest building in the world. An impressive 95% of the materials used during construction are made from recycled produce.
It has 87 floors in total, 72 of which are habitable. The top 10 floors house a power station and a series of radiators. The Shard also contains three restaurants and one hotel.
The area of the glass façade is 56,000 square metres – that’s the equivalent of eight football pitches. You’ll get unrivalled views of London from the viewing area on the 72nd floor. The lifts travel at 6 metres per second so expect your ears to pop.
Nearest tube stop: London Bridge
8. Trafalgar Square
The home of Lord Nelson’s column, iconic stone lions and four famous plinths, Trafalgar Square is a must-see sight for tourists. Seventeen bus routes pass through Trafalgar Square, making it a hive of activity.
Nelson’s Column was built in honour of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who led Britain to victory during the Battle of Trafalgar. The centrepiece of the square is 52 metres tall.
Three of the plinths in Trafalgar Square commemorate three previous English Kings. The fourth plinth never had a statue built for it so it’s often used to showcase modern art displays.
Every Christmas the square boasts an impressive Norwegian Spruce Christmas tree. This is sent by Norway to honour Britain’s commitment to the country during World War II.
Nearest tube stop: Charing Cross
9. Tower Bridge
Summer hours: April to September – 10 am to 5.30 pm
Winter Hours: October to March – 9.30 am to 5 pm
Opened in 1894, the famous Tower Bridge took 432 construction workers 8 years to build, but it was well worth the wait. An average of 40,000 people, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians now cross the bridge each day. It has become one of the main landmarks of the capital.
The bridge is 224 metres long with two tall towers, which are 65 metres high. 11,000 tons of steel were used to construct the bridge’s framework. It takes five minutes to raise each half of the bridge’s central stretch to allow large ships to pass through. It’s free to cross the bridge and take in the sights of London, and if you want to learn more about the bridge’s history there’s an onsite museum you can visit. Admission fees apply.
Price: From £9 (Children aged 5 and under go free)
Nearest tube stop: London Bridge
10. Science Museum
Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm with the exception of 24th, 25th and 26th December
Over 3 million people visit the Science Museum each day and it’s easy to see why. The Science Museum is known for its entertaining interactive displays. It makes education fun for adults and children alike. In fact, it’s Britain’s most popular destination for those with a love of science, technology, engineering, medicine and design.
It hosts an unparalleled collection of historical objects and cutting-edge technology and science. There are over 15,000 objects on display including the Apollo 10 command capsule, 3D and 4D simulators, the 3D Red Arrows experience and a giant IMAX 3D cinema. For a day full of wonder and fun, the Science Museum is the place to visit.
Nearest tube stop: South Kensington
Which of these top 10 sights do you want to see the most? Take a trip to the capital and discover your new favourite places. For more information on the must-see sights of London, take a look at St George International’s interactive guide.
About St George International
St George International are a leading English school based in London. For more information about the courses they provide, visit their website or call +44 (0)203 553 9623.