The bustling city of London is home to some of the world’s most recognized sights, traditions, and culture. It’s no surprise that London receives over 37 million visitors a year, but the first-time visitor may not be able to decide where to start in this massive city. Here are seven attractions in London that every first-time visitor should experience.
Tower of London
Image via Flickr by D- Stanley
If you could only visit one attraction during a day in London, the Tower of London would be the best choice. The Tower of London is notorious for holding some of the most famous prisoners in history, such as Lady Jane Grey; Henry VIII’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard; and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. All were executed in the Tower of London.
There are guided tours and live reenactments here, and don’t forget to spot the ravens, either. Legend has it that the kingdom and tower would fall if its six resident ravens ever left.
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Like the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the London Eye is a beloved attraction known for its memorable views of the cityscape. Located on the South Bank of the River Thames, this giant Ferris wheel stands 443 feet high with a diameter of 394 feet. It can carry up to 800 passengers per ride.
You can experience the London Eye in many ways. In addition to the standard ticket, there are add-ons like the Champagne Experience. If you’d like to experience the London Eye in private, you can book your own capsule, but the cost is not cheap!
The London Eye is open daily and closed on Christmas Day and select dates in January for annual maintenance. Booking your tickets in advance is strongly recommended.
Image via Flickr by HerryLawford
This beautiful Gothic church has been used as the coronation and burial site for many monarchs. In recent history, it hosted the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, who are now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The cost of entry is £22 for adults and £9 for children 6 to 16 years of age. You can get free entry into this site and over 70 other London attractions if you buy the London Pass.
Hampton Court Palace
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At the height of the reign of King Henry VIII, Hampton Court was the king’s royal playground. It was the hub of social life, with lavish celebrations, games, events, and royal births.
However, Hampton Court also had its dark side. This was the place of scandal, treason, and King Henry VIII’s rocky relationships with his six wives. He divorced two and had two beheaded.
Image via Flickr by Andrew and Annemarie
A working royal residence, Kensington Palace is historic and stylish. Tour the private rooms originally made for King William III and Queen Mary II in the Queen’s State Apartments and the King’s Gallery.
A visit to Kensington Gardens is essential, too. The gardens were once part of Hyde Park and later developed as a separate park spanning 242 acres.
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The headquarters of today’s monarchs, Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms, including state rooms, guest rooms, and offices. Buckingham Palace is used to conduct royal affairs with Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II, who meets with heads of state and hosts royal events at the palace.
Buckingham Palace is open to the public in the summer months, when Her Majesty retreats to Windsor Castle. A visit to Buckingham Palace isn’t complete without experiencing a Changing the Guard ceremony. In the summer, it happens daily at 11 a.m. It’s free to watch, but arrive early to secure a good spot, as it gets crowded.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Image via Flickr by michaelseangallagher
You can tour this familiar London attraction on your own, or you can take a 90-minute guided tour of the crypt, the Chapel of St. Michael and St. George, and the Quire. St. Paul’s Cathedral is another famous site for royal weddings, as Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married here.
London is a city that offers something for everyone. It has history, entertainment, and many activities for visitors from all walks of life. Is London on your bucket list?