Must-see tourist attractions in London
24 MARCH, 2016 CULTURE ERIN O’NEILL
There’s plenty to see around London, whether you’re a new arrival or a returning enthusiast of England’s capital. Undoubtedly one of the top tourist destinations in the world, and for very good reason, some of the finest historic sites, top-class attractions and immersive cultural activities can be found in the centre of London. We’ve listed just a few of the best things to see and do with your time in the big city.
The Tower of London
For history enthusiasts, it’s hard to beat the Tower of London. Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Tower represents nearly 1000 years of history – from the beheading of Anne Boleyn, and the imprisonment of Guy Fawkes, to the Royal Menagerie of lions, tigers and bears that made their homes in the great fortress – its dramatic intrigue and fascinating history make it an unmissable attraction.
While you’re here, take a peek at the famous Crown Jewels, and embark on a tour with a Yeoman Warder (popularly known as Beefeaters) who will entertain you with talks of torture, conspiracy and treachery within the Tower’s great walls. Make sure to keep an eye out for the Tower’s legendary guardians, the ravens - legend says that the Tower will fall if the six ravens ever leave the fortress. Those with a fondness for the paranormal will enjoy discovering more about the phantom residents of the castle, which include the ghost of Arbella Stuart and a spectral grizzly bear.
A trip to London wouldn’t be complete without seeing the majestic Buckingham Palace, London residence of reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. Comprised of 775 rooms, over 77,000 square metres and boasting gardens of more than 40 acres - including a helicopter landing area, lake and a tennis court - it is a spectacular venue. It is still the centrepiece of Britain’s monarchy, housing the offices of those who support the Queen’s duties, and acting as a venue for great Royal ceremonies and State visits.
Don’t miss the Changing of the Guard, a colourful ceremony where one regiment of Household Troops – or Lifeguards - takes over from the previous one; it takes place daily at around 11:30am, and is well worth taking the time to see. In the months of August and September, while the Queen makes her annual visit to Balmoral, the Palace’s 19 state rooms are open to visitors. These rooms house some of the Royal family’s greatest treasures, including paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin and Canaletto.
The London Eye
A trip on the London Eye is the perfect way to take in the impressive sights of London’s sprawling urban landscape. Situated on the South Bank of the River Thames, opposite the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, on a clear day you can see 40 kilometres in all directions from one of their 32 capsules.
The experience showcases breathtaking views of the capital and its famous landmarks; you’ll be able to spot St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, the Shard and many more. A trip on the Eye takes around 30 minutes, and you could even opt to upgrade your flight, with a private capsule or champagne experience. For visitors and locals alike, the stunning 360 degree views from this famous Ferris wheel are something that can’t be missed.
The West End
From extravagant musicals to hard-hitting dramas, London is famed for its world-class stage shows in the West End. Catch a performance of The Lion King; a retelling of Disney’s beloved film that has been met with critical acclaim and praise since its theatrical debut in London in 1999, or Wicked, the show-stopping musical based on The Wizard of Oz, telling the tale from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West. If musicals aren’t your thing, there is a revolving door of plays, often featuring famous faces, on offer throughout London.
In town until mid-May, Jean Genet’s play The Maids, featuring Uzo Aduba of Orange is the New Black fame, is an intense psychological thriller, telling the story of two maids who fantasise about the death of their mistress. Literature fans should make sure to visit Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a reconstruction of the building where the great playwright penned many of his works. Regular performances of Shakespeare’s greatest shows are staged here, and keeping with authenticity, there are no spotlights, microphones or amplification, and all music is performed live on period instruments.
Enrol on a course at our language school and you'll get to experience what London has to offer while you study.