London is a popular spot for travellers for many reasons. As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, it’s a place that conjures up images of royalty, fashion, famous museums, pubs, football, theatre, British culture, Mr. Bean, and fuzzy tall hats. It’s also a common place for people to start their backpacking trip, European vacation, or holiday because it’s a central hub for literally anywhere around the world. Flights to and from London tend to be cheap and there are plenty of dirt cheap low cost carrier flights out of London as well.
Let’s say you’re in London for the first time and you’ve only got 1 or 2 days in the city since you’re transiting to somewhere else or you’re there for a business trip, where do you go and what do you do? These are for those travellers that just don’t have time to plant it all out and just want the quick hits in the city while also sneaking in a few hidden gems.
I’m going to lay out my top 10 picks for all the places and things you’ll want to do in Great Britain’s capital. Pick and choose all the things that interests you and fits in your schedule. It also helps to read this with a British accent to maximize on authenticity 😀
Why don’t we get started!
 Buckingham Palace
You didn’t think I could get away with building a list and NOT include some of the biggest and most touristy sights in the city did you? This is of course where the Queen of England lives for part of the year and you’ll know if the Royal Standard flag is flying.
When you want to be here is during the changing of the guards which happens at 11:30 AM everyday from April to July and on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting. The ceremony lasts 45 minutes and is truly the epitome of British royalty that’ll help get you your fix.
 Big Ben and Westminster Abbey
We’ve seen it in ALL the movies and we’ve seen it blow up a few times too. The Big Ben is symbolically England and something you won’t have to try too hard to get a glimpse of. There isn’t a whole lot to do other than to take photos of it from say the bridge.
This is easily combined with Westminter Abbey which is just behind. This is the famous church where all Royal ceremonies such as weddings and funerals happen. It’s a staple in British history. If you’re a big fan and would like to tour inside the abbey, there’s an entry fee of £20. All the details can be found here.
 London Eye
This is probably the biggest and baddest ferris wheel of them all that gives you one of the best views of the city. Trouble is that it is relatively expensive and is recommended to do your reservation online beforehand (up to 15% discount) where you’ll either have to pick a specific time or pay for the flex time pass. The current price is £21.20 online.
The Eye takes 30 minutes to do a full rotation in this giant clear pill shaped pod. While sure it’s a pretty touristy thing to do, I’d still recommend this to any first timer to London.
 Tower of London
Not to be mistaken for London Bridge of course but this is one of my favourite because it’s an authentic example of a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames. Serving as a royal residence, prison, armoury, and treasury during it’s time, there is a lot to explore here. Today, Tower of London is also where the Crown Jewels are kept.
Tickets are £23.10 if you purchase them online.
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 British Museum
If there’s one museum to go to in London, it’s this one. For those in North America, this museum is a souped up version the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and a mash up of The Met and The Museum of Natural History in New York City. Divided into time periods of human civilizations, The British Museum is dedicated to Human history, art and culture.
In one hour, you can zip through the museum to see:
- The Rosetta Stone
- Assyrian Lion Hunt reliefs
- Parthenon sculptures
- Lewis Chessmen
- Oxus Treasure
- Royal Game of Ur
- Mummy of Katebet
- Samurai armour
- King of Ife
If you don’t have time to go through the museum, I’d recommend just heading into the glass-roofed foyer which is absolutely stunning.
Oh and did I mention that it’s free?
 Churchill War Rooms
This one is one of my personal favourites in London as someone interested in World War 2 history. This is the secret bunker used by Prime Minister Churchill, leading government ministers, and military strategists for the war effort. Here, you’ll learn the story of Churchill’s life and legacy, Britain’s involvement in the war, and the life underground.
Tickets are £17.25 when booking online or buying in person.
 Covent Gardens
Covent Gardens is particularly great on the weekend where you can grab a cup of coffee and people watch. This is a square where you’ll find interesting shops and restaurants so it makes for a great stop for the evening as you make your way to a Broadway show or around noon to grab a bite.
 Camden Market
This is the hipster of hipster markets and you can find it right in London. This is definitely one of my favourites whenever I come to London because I know I’ll be able to find all sorts of random knick knacks, and also find local food stalls if I get hungry.
Camden Market is full of character and sprawls a massive area that’ll give you lots to do in an afternoon.
 Oxford Street Shopping
Looking for some serious retail therapy? There’s no better place to shop outside of the markets than the famous Oxford Street. If you’re short on time, I’d recommend checking out four stores ordered in priority: Primark, Selfridges, Marks and Spencer and Harrod’s.
Primark is the best discount store on the street where you’re guaranteed to find bargains on clothing. Think Century 21 or Winners but with their own line of clothing. Like Century 21 though, things can get a little chaotic here.
Selfridges is on the higher end of things but this is a department store that’s worth checking out as it’s literally on the other corner to Primark.
Marks & Spencer and Harrod’s won’t require too much introduction but both of these are institutions when it comes to department stores in London. I usually go to Marks & Spencer to pick up my stash of Percy’s Pigs and their branded stroopwafel. Harrod’s is the kind of place you’ll just want to walk through to see what all the buzz is about them but don’t expect to buy anything here.
 Theatre District
I would argue that it’s much easier to watch a Broadway show here in London than it is in New York City. I don’t know what it is but there’s higher availability of tickets (especially last minute) and prices are cheaper. That is why I’d recommend planning one evening to watch a show that you’ve been meaning to watch but just haven’t been able to. Classics like Lion King, Wicked, and Les Miserables are still playing.
There’s so much more to London just the 10 places I listed. If you’re looking for more ideas, make sure to check out these spots and their associated TripAdvisor pages to read the reviews. Find what suits your fancy and add it to your London itinerary.
- Piccadilly Circle – The Times Square of London
- Notting Hill – Made famous by the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, this is neighbourhood filled with good restaurants, fun boutique shops and a market if you come during the right day of the week
- Imperial War Museum – Tanks, planes, and all other war machines in one place
- Trafalgar Square – One of the many great squares in London that you’ll be sure to cross
- National Gallery – If you’re into fine art, this one’s for you
- Tate Modern – A contemporary art gallery that is MOMA-like. If you go there, make sure you cross the Millennium Bridge which is another great photography spot
- Borough Market – I couldn’t fit any more markets than I already did but this is another one that I love going to
- The Royal Air Force Museum London – The Brits know how to do museums and this is another example of one that is for anyone that has interest in RAF.
- The View From The Shard – The Shard opened in 2009 and as London’s newest glass skyscraper, promises fantastic views
- Sky Garden – This is new and I haven’t been here myself but from the reviews it looks to be the new cool spot for London views
- Greenwich – Ever wonder where the Prime Meridian is where longitude is defined to be 0°?
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – I’ve always wanted to get tickets for a show here
- Kensington Gardens – Beautiful garden to visit if you’re in the area
- Hyde Park – Great park when I stayed in that area for a jog or afternoon stroll if the weather is good
Mapping All The Top 10 London Spots
Well then, carry on!
Get your London Pass
Looking to save money on your trip? The London Pass gives you access to:
- Free entry to over 60 attractions, tours and museums including Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Thames River Cruise, Tower Bridge, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, and more
- Free Hop on Hop off Bus Tour to explore London and discover all of it’s iconic landmarks
- Fast Track Entry – skip the lines at selected attractions to save time during busy periods
- Optional Oyster Travelcard to cover all of your transport needs
- Free 160+ page guidebook packed with helpful tips, info and maps
- Over 20 exclusive special offers also available
A 1 day pass costs £69 for an adult and £49 for a child. 2 days is £94 and £69 respectively.