TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

For those visiting London for the first time, a whirlwind tour of the city’s most famous landmarks is just the ticket. 

However, for repeat visitors and seasoned travelers, there are a number of lesser-known attractions that are just as much worth visiting as their more famous counterparts. 

From all-day activities to quick day trips from London, you’ll find a list of alternative tourist sites to see when visiting London. 

If you haven’t seen all the typical sights, read on for 13 of the best tourist attractions in London.

Table of Contents

British Museum

The British Museum is the largest in the world. It’s free to enter and has a collection of over 8 million objects worldwide, including paintings, sculptures, and relics. The museum also has an extensive collection of books and journals available for everyone to read.

The British Museum was originally part of a collection called “The King’s Library.” This was started by George II when he became king in 1727 to preserve books from being destroyed during conflicts like the Civil War or World War II (which happened later).

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the monarch of the United Kingdom. It is one of the world’s most famous and recognized buildings, described as “the world’s most famous address.”

The palace has been a focal point for British society, hosting state ceremonies such as coronations and weddings. It is also the setting for many significant events in British history, including political crises like the abdication crisis and decisions such as Winston Churchill’s wartime leadership from his war rooms in the basement. 

The palace has 775 rooms, including 19 staterooms known as principal apartments. Buckingham Palace was originally built between 1703-1705 by John Sheffield, 1st Duke of Buckingham and Normanby, for King George II at £20 million (equivalent to about $27 billion today).

London Eye

The London Eye is the world’s highest observation wheel, standing 443 feet tall. This iconic structure is located on the banks of the River Thames and can be seen from many different parts of London. 

It was designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield, who also created a similar design for the original Ferris Wheel in Chicago, USA.

Forget your troubles as you slowly make your way up to the top of this enormous structure, where you will be rewarded with views over all of London, as far as Wembley Stadium and Canary Wharf on a clear day. 

You can admire significant landmarks such as Buckingham Palace and St Paul’s Cathedral while sweeping past them in style!

The London Eye consists of 32 air-conditioned capsules which rotate around a central axis, giving passengers panoramic views over some of Europe’s most famous landmarks, including Tower Bridge and Big Ben (but not included). Each capsule seats 25 people comfortably, so there’s plenty of room for everyone!

The London Eye has become one of Britain’s most popular tourist attractions since it opened back in 1999 and today attracts around 3 million visitors per year from all over the world.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is a royal palace in Kensington, London. It is a royal residence, with the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Grade I-listed building houses almost one thousand rooms and has been home to many members of royal families in history.

Kensington Palace is also a public attraction for people who want to see where some of their favorite royals live or people who just like looking at expensive things. 

If you’re planning on visiting this lovely palace and its surrounding gardens, make sure to check out our tips below:

  • Make sure you have your ticket ready before entering the gates! You’ll need it for entry into the grounds and parking area.
  • There’s no need for strollers in this part of Kensington—there are plenty of places around where parents can rest while kids play outside.

St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is a popular tourist attraction. It’s also famous for weddings, concerts, conferences, and school trips. A cathedral is a trendy place for tourists to visit as well.

Big Ben

Big Ben is the nickname of the Great Bell of the clock at the north-eastern end of the Palace of Westminster in London. 

The bell was originally named “the Great Bell” but known as Big Ben since 1859. It is still unclear who gave it this name, although there are several theories explaining how it came about. 

According to one famous story, it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall (1802–1869), a commissioner of works who oversaw its installation and later served as MP for Bath (1847–65). 

Another theory is that it was named after heavyweight boxer Benjamin Caunt (1774–1848), who reportedly sparred near St Stephen’s Tower, where the bell hangs; however, this seems unlikely given that Caunt died long before construction even began on Saint Stephen’s Tower itself!

Trafalgar Square

Located in the center of London, Trafalgar Square is one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s named for a famous navy battle in 1805 and commemorates Admiral Horatio Nelson’s victory over Napoleon Bonaparte. 

The square is home to several statues, including that of Charles I, a lion, and the fourth-largest standing column in the world (the Nelson Column).

In addition to being an excellent spot for picnicking or people watching, there are plenty of other things to do here too:

  • Take your picture with the lions on either side of Nelson’s Column—they’re not real!
  • Enjoy live music at its fountains on summer evenings or during festivals like New Year’s Eve or Chinese New Year celebrations.
  • Watch street performers such as mimes and jugglers who perform throughout this lively square.

National Gallery

The National Gallery is one of the largest art museums globally, and its collection holds over 2,300 years of Western European paintings and sculptures. To find out more about some of these works, consult our guide to the gallery’s most famous pieces:

  • The oldest painting in the museum (and one of its most expensive) is Jan van Eyck’s “Arnolfini Portrait.” The 1434 oil-on-panel work depicts Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife Giovanna Cenami posing for their wedding portrait. Scottish banker John Malcolm purchased it for £100,000 at Christie’s auction house in 1892—an extraordinary sum at that time—and it remains one of only three surviving examples by this Flemish master.
  • Raphael’s “The School Of Athens” (1509–1510) is considered one of his most outstanding achievements as an artist; this fresco depicts Plato addressing a group of philosophers as Aristotle points upward toward heaven above them all—a reference to God as supreme knowledge.

The gallery contains many other famous paintings from throughout history: Monet’s “Water Lilies,” Botticelli’s “Birth Of Venus,” Rembrandt’s “Syndics Of Amsterdam,” Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”—the list goes on!

Tower of London

The Tower of London is a historic fortress located in the City of London, on the north bank of the River Thames. It’s been named one of the most famous castles in the world, and it has been used as a royal residence, prison, and mint.

The tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1078. Since then, it has served several purposes: 

  • as a royal residence; 
  • a prison for important political figures such as Sir Thomas More; 
  • an armory; 
  • a mint (where coins were made); 
  • a zoo; 
  • observatory; 
  • jewel house; 
  • home to ravens that are believed to have guarded its walls since time immemorial!

Victoria & Albert Museum

If you’re looking for an afternoon of culture, the Victoria & Albert Museum is it. The building itself is stunning, with its stunning glass façade and sloping floors that mimic the nearby hills.

The V&A houses the world’s most extensive collection of decorative arts and design, spanning over 4.5 million objects from all corners of the globe – from fashion to furniture to jewelry to sculpture and more. 

The museum was founded in 1852 by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert—hence its name—and was opened to the public in 1857; today, it welcomes around five million visitors every year!

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is a public museum of natural history in London. Founded in 1881, its unique standing in the world of museums reflects its extensive collections, which by 2012 comprised some 80 million items within five main areas: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology, and zoology. It is the second most visited museum in the United Kingdom after the British Museum.

  • The museum’s exhibitions include Animal Attractions: 
  • Dinosaur House; 
  • The Life Galleries – Mammals; 
  • Birds; 
  • Insects & Spiders; 
  • Dinosaurs & Fossils (including old favorites such as Diplodocus carnegii); 
  • Rocks Rocks Rocks (includes minerals and rocks); 
  • Science Live! – where visitors can meet real scientists working on exciting projects and try their hand at making a fossil or learning about DNA. 

The Power Within section explores how electricity works with interactive displays, including Van de Graaff generators that demonstrate potent forces at work inside lightning or even a light bulb filament glowing red hot under high voltage conditions.; Out There…In Space! 

Takes you behind the scenes to see how space exploration takes place today through video material filmed on board NASA missions.; 

Living Planet features life-sized models of animals found worldwide – be careful not to step on them!

The Natural History Museum is also an important center for field research and one of only two museums in London. 

You may grant access 24 hours per day, seven days per week, to allow staff from any other institution to visit without booking prior permission first (the other one being Kew Gardens).

Tate Modern

Tate Modern is a modern art gallery housed in the former Bankside Power Station, right on the Thames. 

It’s located in the center of London and is free to visit for all ages. It’s also one of the most-visited museums in London, with 5 million visitors coming through its doors every year! 

The Tate Modern has over 100 galleries and hosts incredible exhibitions every year, including this year’s “Van Gogh Alive,” which features more than 200 oil paintings from his career.

Royal Museums Greenwich

The Royal Museums Greenwich is a cluster of five museums in the heart of London. This cluster includes:

  • The National Maritime Museum, 
  • the Queen’s House and Cutty Sark, 
  • Jewel Tower, 
  • Old Royal Observatory

The site is also home to two restaurants (one in the National Maritime Museum and another at Old Royal Observatory). Visitors can tour these five specific sites by purchasing one ticket that covers admittance to each attraction.

Royal Museums Greenwich is open:

from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm Monday through Thursday, 

9:30 am until 5:00 pm on weekends and bank holidays, 

and 11 am – 5 pm on Fridays. 

Tickets cost £19 for adults over 18 years old; £16 for seniors over 60 years old; free for children under 16 years old.

Conclusion

For most visitors, the chance to explore a new city begins and ends with the typical tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace or Big Ben. 

However, if you’d like to take your trip off the beaten path and explore some places that fall just outside of London proper, there are plenty of places to go. 

You’ll never run out of things to see and do with an entire day in your hands. If you’re only in London for a short time, I’d recommend trying out one or two of these activities to get the most out of your vacation.