11 Things to See & Do in London
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | December 9th, 2015
London is a fascinating city bursting with history, culture, and fun. Located around the famous Thames River, this capital is packed with numerous sights and activities, all easily accessible by foot or public transportation. There are hundreds of interesting things to see and do in London, but here are eleven favorites.
Most famously known for being the national symbol of the United Kingdom, Big Ben is the nickname for the Houses of Parliament's clock bell and tower. Standing at over 300 feet high, Big Ben can be seen from many different angles around London. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to tour the inside of this intricate clock tower, but seeing it from the outside is more than enough. Its shiny gold color and mesmerizing architecture is not to be missed.
Located beside the Thames River, the London Eye is a giant ferris wheel that sits across from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Visitors climb aboard a capsule and enjoy some of the best views in all of London. Prices start at £26 / $34 USD for a thirty minute rotation. If you're looking to add a little extra romance to your ride, reserve Cupid's Capsule, where you'll enjoy a private experience with champagne and chocolates.
Tower Bridge is a beautifully constructed suspension bridge that crosses the Thames River. This pedestrian friendly bridge also has a unique bascule center that raises so large ships can pass through. Tickets can be purchased online (at least 24 hours in advance) for visitors who want a glimpse inside the intricate Victorian engine rooms or climb one of the bridge towers for panoramic city views. Ticket prices start at £8 / $10 USD per adult.
Westminster Abbey is a 700 year old Gothic style church where numerous coronations and ceremonies for prominent individuals occur. Important events such as Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, Princess Diana's funeral, and Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding all took place at Westminster Abbey. Visitors can buy entry tickets inside the abbey Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am until 3:30 pm. Sundays are closed for service only. Tickets cost £20 / $26 USD when purchased online and £22 / $28 USD at the door. Ticket cost includes a free audio guide of the abbey.
Buckingham Palace has been the home and administrative offices for the reigning monarchs of the United Kingdom since 1837. During the summer months, the Queen makes her yearly visit to Scotland allowing visitors to tour the palace while she is away. Get a glimpse inside the lavish State Rooms, view the stunning Grand Staircase, and enjoy a cup of English tea in the Palace Cafe. Tours usually run from late July until early October, and you can reserve tickets on their booking website. Tickets cost £23 / $30 USD per adult. If you aren't visiting during the summer months, or you cannot make it to a tour, the Changing of the Guards ceremony is a spectacular sight to see, and it is free to view. The times vary day to day, so check the website for the most current information.
St. Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral located on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in London. When you purchase a sightseeing ticket, you'll be able to see the beautiful cathedral floor, climb the dome to the Whispering Gallery, head down to the crypt's to see where the nation's heroes are buried, and head up to the Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery where you'll experience amazing views of London. St Paul's is open for viewing Monday through Saturday from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm (the last entry ticket is sold at 4pm). The Cathedral is closed on Sundays for worship services. Tickets can be purchased on the website for £16 / $20 USD per adult. At the door, tickets cost £18 / $24 USD.
Eat Fish & Chips
You can't go to London and not nosh on this traditional English meal. Lightly battered fish, crispy chips (aka 'fries' to us Americans), and a side of mashed peas makes this meal a real crowd-pleaser. Walk into almost any London pub and they will most likely have fish and chips on the menu. Across the street from the British Museum, The Museum Tavern has some of the best fish and chips in the area. Grab a cold pint, and enjoy one of the most famous dishes in the UK.
Make a Call from the Red Telephone Box
London's red phone boxes are an iconic part of the city. You'll find hundreds all over town, a lot of them near the most popular attractions. These days, the booths allow you to make a call or send a text. Some more advanced booths can even send an email or fax. Give someone a ring while you're in town, and let them know it's London calling.
Tip: The booths that say 'telephone' are coin operated, and the booths that say 'phone card' take credit cards.
Ride in a Hackney
A hackney, or hackney carriage, is the proper name for London's unique taxicabs. Today, the taxis have been updated to a new modern version of the original style, and still remain a fun way to get around town.
See a Show
With over 200 theatres located in the city, there are numerous shows to choose from every night of the week. While in town, we saw the musical Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. The interior of the theatre is absolutely gorgeous and the show was mesmerizing. I highly recommend seeing a show, or two, while visiting this buzzing city.
Take a Day Trip to Stonehenge
London has enough sights to easily fill anyone's vacation week, but if you're looking to get out of the city for a bit, I highly recommend a day trip out to Stonehenge. Located about 90 minutes west of London, Stonehenge is an unbelievable prehistoric monument that is easily reached by car or bus. Go marvel at one of the most unique Ancient Wonders of the World, and try to guess how and why it was created.