The London Eye

Top 10 To Do List for First-Time Visitors to London

When visiting London for the first time, it can seem a bit overwhelming knowing what to see and what to miss out. Because, let’s be honest, you’re not going to manage to see everything even if you’re here for a couple of weeks.

So to help, we’ve narrowed down the list to the top 10 things you should be sure to see. And then there’s nothing else for it but to plan a second visit, because even those who live for an extended time in this great city will always find something else on the never-ending list of things to do

1. Buckingham Palace

The Queen’s official residence of Buckingham Palace is an amazing place, and just has to be at the top of the list. Boasting 775 rooms, this palace is perhaps one of the most famous buildings in the world. And if you visit in the summer months of July to September, it’s possible to go inside.

Another thing not to miss is the pomp and circumstance that is Changing of The Guard, which happens daily at 11:30hrs from April through July, and on alternate days the rest of the year.

The closest tube stations are Green Park, Hyde Park Corner and Victoria, or you can also use the infamous London Buses to get there.

2. Trafalgar Square

The true centre of London, Trafalgar Square, is famous for Nelson’s Column, the Fourth Plinth and the infamous Lion Statues. It’s also home to the wonderful National Gallery – well worth a visit for some culture and a gentle stroll through the ever-changing exhibitions that are on show.

3. The London Eye

This giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames offers a wonderful vista over the whole city. On a clear day you can see for miles, and spot many of the landmarks London is famed for.

It’s a popular attraction, so for ease and speed be sure to book tickets online before you visit. That way you not only get a cheaper ticket, but also get fast track entry and can make the most of every minute you have in the metropolis, rather than waiting in a queue with the hundreds of other tourists who weren’t as well organized as you…

3. A River Thames Boat Trip

For an alternative view of London, take a boat trip along the famous River Thames. There are plenty of choices as to how to do this. You can take a 2-hour cruise, enjoy an evening cruise that includes dinner and music, or even take a duck tour on a World War II amphibious landing craft with an experienced London guide.

There are many companies that run River Thames tours, including City Cruises for a bit of luxury, or an adrenaline fuelled RIB boat tour for those who enjoy a spot of speed.

4. Harrods

You can’t come to London without stepping through the doors of the famed department store that is Harrods. Located in upmarket Knightsbridge, this is the store that promises that if it doesn’t stock what you’re looking for, then they’ll locate it for you.

If shopping is your thing, then be sure to put a good few hours aside for your visit, as you’re going to need it. Even if you’re not really into shopping, a look at the wonderful food hall is definitely not to be missed.

5. A West End Theatre Show

There’s nothing like going to the theatre in London. And there are shows to suit every taste imaginable.

If you like musicals, then choose from such delights as The Lion King, Les Miserables, Wicked or The Phantom of the Opera.

A top tip for obtaining discount theatre tickets is to visit the Ticket Booth in Leicester Square on the day you wish to see a show. You can get tickets up to half price here. But the top shows sell out early, so be sure to arrive early.

6. Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

This iconic building along with its famous clock tower is an awe-inspiring sight. You can visit inside the Houses of Parliament, and even watch a debate in the House of Commons if you wish.

Although it’s a great place to visit during daylight hours, at nighttime it becomes even more magical as the whole building is lit up. And there are some great restaurants and bars in the area, making for a great end to a day of sightseeing.

7. St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is one of London’s best-known sights. You can visit most days from 08:30hrs until 16:30hrs, and tickets can be purchased on site or online beforehand.

This is a huge cathedral, so be sure to allow a good couple of hours to explore. And if your legs can stand the climb (and you’re not claustrophobic), the climb up to the Whispering Gallery definitely shouldn’t be missed.

8. The Tower of London

One of London’s Historic Royal Palaces, the Tower of London is perhaps the best place in London where you can feel all of history bearing down upon you. Be sure to join the queue to see The Crown Jewels – we guarantee it’s worth the wait to see this spectacular display.

9. The Shard

For a while the tallest skyscraper in Europe, The Shard is a building that had Londoner’s divided when it was first built. You either love its modern good looks, or you hate them.

But whatever your view of this spikey building, there’s no denying the amazing vista you get when stood on London’s highest viewing platform at the top. In fact, it’s so high that if you concentrate hard, you can even feel it gently swaying in the breeze. It’s a seriously popular attraction, so be sure to book your tickets online before you go.

10. Greenwich

The delightful area of Greenwich is often missed out on many people’s first visit to London, which is a shame. This World Heritage Site is home to the famous National Maritime Museum and is the location of the Greenwich Meridian, where all time is taken from.

It’s a wonderful place to while away a day, with superb eateries and markets to explore.