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London's Iconic Landmarks: Must-Sees for First-Time Visitors

City Guide September 22, 2023
Nannybag - London's Iconic Landmarks: Must-Sees for First-Time Visitors

 

So, you're visiting London for the first time? Lucky you! This incredible, enormous city is so packed with rich history, beautiful art, and vibrant culture that knowing where to start can almost seem challenging! While there's a lot more to the city than simply visiting the main "bucket-list" sites, these are the most visited places in the city and are must-sees for a reason.

So, we've compiled a short list of all the best things to do and see when in London and a brief bit of practical information to help you make the most of your visit to these incredible sites.

One more thing to remember - most of these places won't allow you to bring luggage with you as you enter, so why not check out Nannybag, a luggage storage service that operates in London, allowing you to store items in safe locations all around the city for only £6 per bag per day? Download the app or use their simple website to book a storage spot. Now, onto the list…

 

The London Eye

The London Eye, the iconic, enormous Ferris Wheel built to celebrate the new millennium, is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames. It offers breathtaking panoramic city views from its 32 large glass capsules throughout a 30-minute ride. The attraction is open daily from morning until late evening. Ticket prices vary depending on the type of experience you choose, such as standard entry or fast-track admission, but buying an adult ticket online costs around £30.

The London Eye was officially opened in March 2000 and has since become a valid symbol of the city; it was initially intended to be temporary, but its popularity led to its permanent installation. Fun Fact: The London Eye is Europe's tallest Ferris wheel, standing at an impressive 135 meters (443 feet) tall.

 

British Museum

The British Museum is located in Bloomsbury and houses a vast collection of art and artifacts from all over the world, spanning over two million years of history. To get there, take the Underground and get off at Tottenham Court Road or Holborn station. The museum is open daily, and admission is free, although there may be charges for special exhibitions, and can often be a pretty long queue on busy days.

The British Museum was established in 1753 and was the first national public museum in the world. It holds numerous famous objects, including the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles, housed in a truly incredible building - an imposing Georgian exterior and a modern, glass-lined interior hall. The museum's collection is so extensive that only a tiny fraction of its treasures are displayed at any time.

 

Nannybag - London's Iconic Landmarks: Must-Sees for First-Time Visitors

 

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey is a magnificent Gothic abbey in the heart of London, near the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most significant religious buildings in the United Kingdom. To reach Westminster Abbey, take the Underground and leave Westminster station. It's free to enter; you can even attend a ceremony there.

Westminster Abbey has a rich history dating back over a thousand years. She has been the venue for numerous royal weddings, coronations (like the recent coronation of King Charles), and burials. Did you know that the Abbey's construction began in 1245 and took nearly 100 years, with continuous additions and alterations over the centuries?

 

Buckingham Palace

Generally, near the top of any London traveler's bucket list, Buckingham Palace serves as the official residence of the British monarch and is located in the City of Westminster - your best bet is to get a tube to Victoria or Green Park, from where it's an enjoyable walk.

It symbolizes the British monarchy and is known for its Changing of the Guard ceremony, which you can watch every day at 11 am. The palace is open to the public during the summer months, and ticket prices and opening hours can be found on their website, as there are a few different options.

The palace has 775 rooms, including 19 staterooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, and 78 bathrooms, as well as expansive gardens and the Royal Mews, the stables. A good thing to know is that you can get unique, reserved numbers tours of Buckingham Palace when it is not open to the public, but these must be reserved quite a few months in advance!

 

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a bustling public square in the heart of London, beside Charing Cross Station. It is known for its iconic Nelson's Column, commemorating Admiral Horatio Nelson's victory in the Battle of Trafalgar, a naval battle off the coast of Spain in which Britain defeated Napoleon's forces. Trafalgar Square has historical significance and is often the site of public gatherings and celebrations, such as the famous Christmas Tree lighting ceremony or New Year's Eve celebrations.

Notable landmarks and places to visit surround it: the National Gallery and St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, some famous statues, and just all-around impressive, grand architecture. The square's famous lion sculptures at the base of Nelson's Column were cast from the bronze of captured French cannons!

 

Tate Britain

Tate Britain is an art museum located on the banks of the River Thames, near Vauxhall (where there's a tube station). It showcases an extensive collection of British art, ranging from historical pieces and portraits to contemporary and modern art. The museum is open daily from 10 am - to 6 pm, and admission is generally free, although there may be charges for special exhibitions.

Tate Britain was established in 1897 and has since become one of the leading art institutions in the UK. It houses works by the greatest painters Britain has ever produced, such as William Blake and J.M.W. Turner. Tate Britain's collection includes the most extensive works by Turner, one of Britain's most celebrated landscape painters.

 

Nannybag - London's Iconic Landmarks: Must-Sees for First-Time Visitors

 

Tower of London

The Tower of London is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames, a little east of the city's historic center. It is known for its rich history as a royal palace, fortress, and prison and its often spooky and gruesome history; this is one of the best places to visit for anyone getting a better idea of London's history.

The castle is open to the public from 9 am - 5.30 pm every day, and tickets cost £33.60 for an adult, although there are concessions. The Tower of London dates back to the 11th century and has witnessed significant events in British history. It is home to the Crown Jewels, a collection of stunning royal regalia. Did you know - that the Tower of London houses a group of resident ravens, and according to legend, as long as they remain in the tower, the kingdom will not fall?

 

Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, is an iconic landmark on the banks of the River Thames. It is the seat of the UK government and houses the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The most famous feature of the Houses of Parliament is the clock tower known as Big Ben, which refers to the bell inside but, of course, now has come to refer to the clock tower as a whole.

A weird fact is that. To visit the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, you can take the Underground and get off at Westminster station. Guided tours allow visitors to explore the historic building and witness debates.

 

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is world-renowned in Kensington, the intelligent West London neighborhood. It is dedicated to showcasing the diversity of life on Earth through its extensive collection of specimens and exhibits. To reach the Natural History Museum, take the Underground and get off at South Kensington station.

The museum is open daily, and admission is free, although there may be charges for special exhibitions. The museum's collections include fossils, minerals, animal specimens, and interactive displays. Fun Fact: The museum's grand entrance hall features a colossal skeleton of a diplodocus, known as "Dippy," which has become a beloved symbol of the museum.

 

Regent's Park

Regent's Park is a fantastic spot for a day out. It's a sprawling green oasis, perfect for picnics, long walks, or simply soaking up the sun. The Park boasts breathtaking gardens, serene lakes, and charming walking paths. Don't forget to visit the famous Queen Mary's Gardens, where you'll find a dazzling array of roses in full bloom during summer.

If you're traveling to Regent's Park, the best way to get here is to hop on the Underground; the Park has its own station, on the Bakerloo Line. Entry to the Park is free and open from 5 am every day till dusk (depending on the season).

You can also rent boats on the lake or enjoy a game of tennis on one of the well-maintained courts. The Park is home to the London Zoo, open from 10 am - 6 pm daily. Regent's Park is a great family day out, so grab a blanket, pack some snacks, and prepare for a relaxing time in one of London's most beautiful green spaces.

 

Nannybag - London's Iconic Landmarks: Must-Sees for First-Time Visitors

 

Tate Modern

If you're an art enthusiast visiting London, the Tate Modern is an absolute gem you don't want to miss. Located on the vibrant South Bank of the River Thames, this contemporary art museum is housed in a former power station, adding a unique industrial charm to its atmosphere. Inside, you'll find a vast collection of modern and contemporary artworks showcasing masterpieces from renowned artists like Picasso, Warhol, and Hockney. The museum offers various exhibitions, installations, and interactive displays catering to all tastes and interests.

The nearest underground stations are Southwark and Blackfriars. Entry to the museum is free, but some special exhibitions often require paid entry tickets. Check the museum's website before to see if anything tickles your fancy. And, if you get hungry while enjoying the art, the Tate Modern has several cafés and restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat, including a fantastic rooftop terrace with stunning views of London's skyline.

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