City Sightseeing: Top London Landmarks For Your Bucket List

By Olivia Emily

5 months ago

Don’t miss these top spots


Whether you’re staycationing in the British capital or making efforts to romanticise your life in the city you call home, there are plenty of London landmarks for your bucket list. From ancient palaces to gardens in the sky, here are the best, plus how to visit.

Top London Landmarks For Your Bucket List

Buckingham Palace

(c) Mike Marrah, Unsplash

Buckingham Palace

London’s premiere palace is a must-see when you visit the city, tucked in the centre of the city yet surrounded on all sides by expansive parkland in the form of Green Park and St James’s Park. It was home to the late Queen Elizabeth II from her coronation in 1953 until the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 (when she moved to Windsor Castle), and while King Charles and Queen Camilla have chosen to stay at Clarence House while renovation work continues at Buckingham Palace, it’s still a heavily guarded, highly regal landmark. Inside, there are 775 rooms, including 19 state rooms; visitors can embark on exclusive guided tours on select dates (this year, from 11 July–29 September 2024) to glimpse into a few of them. It’s also home to The Queen’s Gallery with a year-round roster of exhibitions, plus the verdant gardens which can be explored as part of the Summer Opening.

Top Tip: Walk up the Mall to see the magnificent royal residence emerge in your distant view, and make sure you coincide your arrival with the Changing of the Guard ceremony (that’s at 11am on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday).

Details: Buckingham Palace summer tickets are £32 per person when you book in advance, plus bonus Exclusive Guided Tours are available throughout the year at the higher price of £95. Sign up to the mailing list to be the first to hear news and ticket releases at rct.uk/newsletter. Buckingham Palace, London SW1A 1AA

While You’re There: Green Park and St James’s Park surround Buckingham Palace, providing a gorgeous walk whatever the weather, with Hyde Park just beyond Green Park, too. Combine your Buckingham Palace visit with a stroll down opulent Piccadilly (with a bonus visit to Fortnum & Mason if you fancy a treat), or head back through St James’s Park to see Whitehall, the Old War Office and Churchill’s War Rooms, and more guards on horseback.

Downing Street and Whitehall signs in Westminster, London, UK.

10 Downing Street

Speaking of Whitehall, this stunning and storied district is home to another very important British figure: the Prime Minister. It has been the official residence of British prime ministers since 1735, meaning everyone from Winston Churchill to Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron to William Gladstone, have slept under its roof. Today, it’s home to Rishi Sunak, and while you sadly can’t walk up and knock on the door (safety first), this is a popular London landmark for politicos, neighboured by an array of Edwardian buildings including Churchill’s Imperial War Rooms and the Old Admiralty Building. Wander around to see a range of statues scattered about the spacious road, too.

Top Tip: Coincide your visit with the daily changing of The King’s Life Guard at Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall. This takes place at 11am everyday, and 10am on Sundays. If you miss it, there are always two mounted sentries guarding the entrance to Horse Guards on Whitehall from 10am–4pm.

Details: Visitors cannot enter 10 Downing Street, so this is a purely exterior (yet free!) site to see in London. If you’re trying to catch a glimpse of the Prime Minister himself, your best chance is on a Thursday morning when the cabinet meets. 10 Downing St, London SW1A 2AB

While You’re There: Pop into the newly opened Raffles at The OWO to experience a treasure trove of culinary delights – or even turn the visit into a spa day. Alternatively, step out onto Parliament Street and walk south towards Westminster where you’ll find Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the gothic Houses of Parliament. Alternatively, turn left onto Westminster Bridge for a view of the city; cross over the bridge to begin a trip down the South Bank and hop aboard the London Eye.

Westminster Abbey is a must-visit London landmark

Westminster Abbey, The Houses of Parliament & Big Ben

This cluster of breathtaking gothic buildings sits just down the road from 10 Downing Street, meaning you can tick off a bunch of London landmarks all in one go. Westminster Abbey is an ancient church and World Heritage Site that has been the location of the coronations of 40 monarchs since 1066, as well as being a burial site for 18 monarchs. Step inside to soak up the towering ceilings, ancient interiors with glimmering stained glass windows, the famed Poet’s Corner and the Coronation Chair – all before heading on to The House of Parliament (aka the Palace of Westminster), another ancient, neo-gothic marvel hosting guided tours on Saturdays and during Parliament’s summer recess. If you’re there long enough (we’re sure you will be), you’ll hear Big Ben bong every hour, on the hour, telling Londoners the time far and wide.

Top Tip: If you fancy saving some money, you can take a virtual tour of Westminster Abbey at westminster-abbey.org.

Details: Find Westminster Abbey at Dean’s Yard, London SW1P 3PA, with The House of Parliament and Big Ben across the street. Entry into Westminster Abbey is £29 per adult and can be booked here. Book a tour of Parliament here.

While You’re There: Cross over Westminster Bridge to see Big Ben in all of its glory, and then head north to experience the cultural hotspot of the South Bank. Here sits the Southbank Centre, the National Theatre, and the London Eye. Otherwise, head west towards Victoria and Belgravia, spotting Westminster Cathedral (another spectacular church) on route.

London Eye

The London Eye

Despite only being constructed in 2000 (hence its moniker of The Millennium Wheel), The London Eye has cemented its position in the London skyline, and its status as an iconic London landmark. If you fancy catching a glimpse of the gigantic wheel, this can be done from very many vantage points across the city. But for the full experience, you should really join the millions of tourists who ride it every year, hopping into a glass pod and enjoying the far-reaching views across the city.

Top Tip: If you know when you’re visiting London, the cheapest tickets can be bagged months in advance.

Details: Tickets start from £25.50 at londoneye.com. Riverside Building, County Hall, London SE1 7PB

While You’re There: Theatre fans should head round the back of County Hall (the pretty building to the right of the wheel in the image above), where Witness for the Prosecution is performed in an old courtroom. Then head into Southwark for a bite at one of the very many eateries.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Returning to the Royals but jumping to the opposite side of the city, this London landmark is not to be missed. Tucked on the edge of Kensington Gardens, on the opposite side of Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace is home to the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate, and has housed members of the Royal family since the 17th century. Unlike Buckingham Palace, it is open to visitors year-round (Wednesday to Sunday), welcoming royal fans to peer into The King’s State Apartments, The Queen’s State Apartments, the Jewel Room, and learn all about Queen Victoria’s childhood (this is where she was born and where she grew up).

Top Tip: If you’re not interested in going inside Kensington Palace, The Palace Gardens and The Sunken Garden (where you’ll find the statue of Diana, the late Princess of Wales) are free to visit and make for a beautiful stroll. Plus, you can soak up close-up views of the Palace all the while.

Details: Adult tickets are £20 and tickets for children under the age of 16 are £10. Kensington Palace is open Wednesday–Sunday, 10am–4pm and pre-booking is advised from hrp.org.uk. Kensington Gardens, London W8 4PX

While You’re There: Venture further into Kensington Gardens to visit the Serpentine Gallery, see the swans a-swimming on the Serpentine lake, and the Peter Pan statue. Walk a little further, and you’ll cross into Hyde Park, where you can find the tranquil Princess Diana Memorial Fountain and lots more rolling parkland. Alternatively, head south out of Kensington Gardens to soak up sights like the Royal Albert Hall and walk towards South Kensington for the museums, including the V&A and the Natural History Museum.

The London Skyline at Sunset, looking towards The Shard and 20 Fenchurch Street (Skygarden)

Sky Garden

The Walkie Talkie is one of London’s many skyscrapers, towering high over the historic City, firmly perched on Fenchurch Street. Here, you’re in the heart of London’s ancient business district – but the Sky Garden is a bubble of fun amidst the hustle and bustle. Shoot up the high speed elevator in this uniquely curved building, and you’ll find yourself in a cool, cavernous space filled with tropical plants surrounded by panoramic windows and views. Approach the edge to soak up the London skyline, tracing the winding River Thames through the heart of the city and pointing out distant destinations from Wembley Stadium to the O2 Arena.

Details: Sky Garden is free to visit, and is also home to Sky Pod Bar, Darwin Brasserie and Fenchurch Restaurant if you fancy dining in the clouds or sipping a cocktail while you soak up the views. Visitors must book a time slot ahead of time at skygarden.london, but be prepared to queue to enter even then. 20 Fenchurch St, London EC3M 8AF

Top Tip: If you intend on buying a drink while you’re there, book a table at Sky Pod Bar as this will fast track your entry into the Sky Garden (just show your reservation to the security guards on the door). You’ll also benefit from table service, plus you can get up and stroll around the garden regardless – just make sure you leave someone manning the table.

While You’re There: You’re in the heart of London’s old City here, and a stone’s throw from Bank – i.e. the Bank of England, a stunningly old building with a museum inside. There’s also Leadenhall Market and the Royal Exchange nearby if you fancy shopping in gorgeous surroundings (both are worth the visit either way), or just get lost amid the ancient winding streets. If you fancy seeing London from similarly high vantage points, the surreally tall Monument to the Great Fire of London is nearby, as is The Garden at 120 Fenchurch Street, an open air, lower and quieter answer to the Sky Garden.

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral

This iconic dome is not to be missed – and there’s even a policy in place preventing high rise structures from obscuring or blocking the view of St Paul’s Cathedral across the city. Dedicated to Paul the Apostle, a church has stood on this site since 604 CE, but the current building dates back to 1710. Built in the English Baroque style, it sits atop Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the ancient City of London (which is ironically hardly more than a gentle slope). Head inside to soak up the incredible structure and head down into the crypt.

Top Tip: Visit for one of the daily services to worship free of charge.

Details: St Paul’s Cathedral is open Monday–Saturday with sightseeing welcome when services are not taking place (usually 8.30am–4pm). Sightseeing tickets are £20 per adult and can be booked at stpauls.co.uk or purchased on the door. St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD

While You’re There: Wander over the river via Millenium Bridge to land on the South Bank right by Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern – just make sure you turn back on the bridge to see the dome in all of its glory. Or stay on the North side of the river to explore the old city, including Bank and Monument.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge & The Tower of London

It’s a common joke that London tourists mistake Tower Bridge for London Bridge, misnaming this gorgeous, twin towered bridge ‘the London bridge’. Indeed, one very wealthy American famously purchased the crumbling London Bridge in the late 1960s, painstakingly shipping it to the US and rebuilding it brick by brick, only for the boring bridge to turn out not to be the gorgeous Tower Bridge he thought it was. The Grade I listed Tower Bridge has, in fact, never fallen down like London Bridge famously has, constructed between 1886 and 1894, and standing proudly above London ever since. It is made up of two towers, which rise 200 ft above the Thames, connected by the bridge at the lower level and a horizontal walkway at the upper level, originally designed to allow pedestrians to cross the bridge even when it was raised for passing boats. Today, visitors can climb up these towers and see London from a unique vantage point. It is predated by The Tower of London, the city’s most ancient castle, founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest. It has served various purposes throughout history, including as a royal residence, a fortress, a prison, and a place for storing the Crown Jewels. Today, it is one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, attracting over three million visitors annually.

Top Tip: Combine your trip with a visit to The Gunpowder Plot, an immersive experience hosted in the Vaults.

Details: The Tower of London is open everyday. Tickets are priced at £33.60 per adult and can be purchased at hrp.org.uk. Tower of London, London, EC3N 4AB

While You’re There: Just to the west of the Tower of London sits St Dunstan in the East, a public garden woven among the ruins of a grade I listed church with a tower and steeple designed by Christopher Wren. To the east of the Tower of London is St Katharine Docks Marina, a hidden oasis with restaurants – the perfect place to watch the sunset over glimmering water.