75 of the Best London Landmarks for Your London Bucket List
From medieval churches and grandiose palaces to huge green parks and epic city views, this London bucket list packs in tons of London landmarks. Whether you’re searching for the best place to partake in a classic afternoon tea or curious about free museums in London, we’ve got you covered!
There are 75-plus historic haunts and fun activities in London on this list, broken down into categories so you can scroll straight to the topics that interest you most — be that gardens, medieval castles, art galleries, shops and markets, or Harry Potter.
London Bucket List
London Landmarks and Experiences
Changing of the Guard
This famous ceremony takes place when guards switch shifts at Buckingham Palace and St. James Palace. The showmanship part in front of Buckingham starts at around 11 a.m. (check the calendar for dates) and includes inspections and music performances, but you’ll need to arrive an hour early to get a spot close to the gates or around the Victoria Memorial in front of the palace. Since this is on a lot of folk’s London bucket list, it gets crowded. If you’re not set on seeing the whole thing or want to avoid the throngs, you can watch the troop movements from St. James Palace or the Wellington Barracks (where the new guard exits and old crew retires) instead. Standing along The Mall path in front of the palace will get you views of the marching to and from St. James as well.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
The iconic clock tower and London landmark may be silenced for a few years, but you can still snap photos of the structure in its scaffolded stage, as well as the gorgeous Palace of Westminster it’s attached to. In the building, tour the Houses of Parliament with a guide or multimedia device, or attend one of the debates in the House of Commons or House of Lords. There’s also an afternoon tea service here, if you want to sip Earl Gray by the Thames.
This buzzing public space seen on many a postcard is most recognizable for its twin fountains and lion statues that surround the Nelson’s Column monument. Typically filled with camera-wielding tourists and street performers, it also fronts London’s National Gallery, which holds famous artworks dating back to the 13th century.
Often mixed up with the London Bridge, which is a pretty plain structure in its current form, Tower Bridge spans the Thames between the Tower of London and the Southwark district. Built in the late 1800s, the suspension structure is distinguishable for its two turrets that give it a castle-like appearance. You can stroll across it for free, but visiting the old engine rooms or walking 140-feet above the river on glass floors requires a ticket.
Tower of London
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Though its function is a vehicular traffic junction of a handful of busy streets, Piccadilly Circus is always packed with pedestrians, thanks to its proximity to a wealth of retail, dining and entertainment around Soho. A bronze fountain and its tiered platform here offer a little spot to sit and rest in the middle of shopping and sightseeing, in view of Times Square-esque electronic billboards plastered between Victorian-era buildings. You’ll likely stumble upon it without even trying if you’re wandering between stores, museums and theaters in the West End.
Double Decker Bus
Harry Potter Tour and Platform 9 3/4
London Palaces and Castles
Buckingham Palace & Tower of London
See the “London Landmarks” section for more info on these historic sites, the first the queen’s London residence and the latter a medieval fortress.
St. James Palace
This Tudor residence near Buckingham Palace holds royal apartments and participates in the famous changing of the guard ceremony, too. You can’t visit inside, but you can snap photos of the exterior and St. James Park across The Mall.
Next to St. James Palace, the 19th-century Clarence House has been the royal residence of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II when she was a princess, and The Prince of Wales. The home typically opens for tours in August each year.
Once a grand building in medieval times, Winchester Palace succumbed to fire and now sits in ruins next to the Thames. You can view the exterior remains for free on a quick walk by. It’s between the Southwark and London bridges on the Southwark side of the river.
A neoclassical London palace built in the late 1700s, Somerset House mostly hosts events and exhibitions. Entrance to the grounds, courtyard and fountains here is free, as are occasional tours, but you’ll need a ticket for exhibitions. You’ll find it on the Strand next to the Waterloo Bridge.
Home to the Archbishop of Canterbury (that’s the leader of the Church of England), Lambeth Palace has roots in the 13th century and sits on the South Bank of the Thames. It’s mostly closed to the public as a private residence, but occasional tours and events at the grounds and gardens offer a peek. It’s worth the photo op from the outside, though, on a stroll by.
Hampton Court Palace
Theater and the Arts
West End Theaters
With award-winning shows like the Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserable performed in its old-timey theaters, the West End district is London’s version of NYC’s Broadway. London’s TKTS booth for last-minute, discounted tickets can be found in Leicester Square a couple of blocks from Trafalgar, and this article is packed with other ideas for scoring bargain theater tickets.
Names like Monet, Michelangelo, van Gogh, and da Vinci plaster the walls at the National Gallery, located at Trafalgar Square. Free tours throughout the week introduce the museum’s collection, which spans the 13th to 19th centuries. Late hours on Fridays means you can squeeze it in when other attractions close, and there’s no charge for admission.
National Portrait Gallery
Neighboring the National Gallery, this art museum was the first of its kind, featuring paintings, photos and sculptures of famous Brits throughout history. Notable faces on display range from kings and queens of old to Elton John and Ed Sheeran. Entry is free.
This more than a century-old establishment holds a huge collection of British art dating to the 1500s. Entry is free to the gallery, which is housed in a striking columned building about a mile down the Thames from Big Ben.
This riverfront art gallery in Southwark displays modern, international pieces. The building, once a power station, is located by the Millenium Bridge across the Thames from St. Paul’s Cathedral, with views from the museum cafe and the walkways outside. Entry is free.
Royal Albert Hall
Museums and History
The British Museum
This London bucket-list museum holds an antiquities collection in the millions, including Greek sculptures from the Parthenon, medieval samurai armor from Japan, the Rosetta stone, and Egyptian mummies. The British Museum is free to visit (but make a donation if you’re able), and educational talks and tours are offered throughout the week in different zones of the facility.
Museum of London
Located in the old City of London, this institution tells the story of the U.K. capital through artifacts and displays tracing the prehistoric era to Roman occupation to medieval times to the present. Admission is free, and just outside you can see the stone ruins of the Roman walls that used to enclose the city.
The Guards Museum
If you’re fascinated by those marching redcoats, then a visit to this military exhibition is a must. It’s housed at the Wellington Barracks, and delves into the story behind the Household Cavalry and Foot Guards that watch over Buckingham and the royal palaces. Outside the gates at the barracks, you can watch the troops marching in and out during the Changing of the Guards ceremonies. Check here for current museum admission fees and hours.
Churchill War Rooms
The Household Cavalry Museum and Horse Guards Parade
The 18th-century Horse Guards building next to St. James Park houses the stables and barracks of the Household Cavalry, the mounted guards of the Queen. With a ticket to the museum here, you can see what goes on behind the scenes, watch daily inspections and guard changes, check out the horse facilities, and try on a Cavalryman helmet and uniform. Passersby can see the Horse Guards Parade Grounds and the Guards Memorial across the street.
Imperial War Museum
This museum collection that includes the Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast has an IWM London location in Southwark that preserves military and war history. The facility features everything from actual planes, rockets and vehicles used in conflict to a moving Holocaust exhibit and gallery of heroes, all with free admission.
London Transport Museum
Once you’ve mastered the tube routes and circled the city on a double decker, it’s time to uncover the history of London’s transport systems, from the days of horse and buggies and beyond. This gem in the buzzing Covent Garden district tells of how getting around the city has evolved over the years, with actual vehicles and trains on display, as well as signs, photos and maps. Tickets are required but kids are free.
The British Library
Part book heaven, part museum, this facility by the St. Pancras train station catalogues millions of items, thought to be the largest national library in existence. Among the collection are maps from the 15th century, vintage periodicals and newspapers, music scores and recordings, and the Magna Carta.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Named for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and founded during her reign, the V&A is themed around art and design. A collection of more than 2 million includes works of textile and fashion, furniture, glass and ceramics, and photography. Along with free admission, the museum offers complimentary tours with topics like the Renaissance era, performance and theater, and African heritage.
Natural History Museum
Known for its massive dinosaur displays, London’s Natural History Museum houses more than 80 million different specimens, from blue whale bones to rare minerals to a rock from Mars. Interactive and educational exhibits make it a family-friendly option, while the outdoor Wildlife Garden offers a quiet oasis full of native flora and fauna. The free facility is along South Kensington’s museum-filled Exhibition Road.
London’s Science Museum packs in all sorts of technology, space, invention and engineering exhibits. Entry is free, but things like IMAX tickets, shows and demos in the Wonderlab, and flight simulators carry a fee.
National Maritime Museum
This free Greenwich museum forms part of a complex listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List that includes the Royal Observatory. The National Maritime Museum delves into British naval history, with interactive exhibits like a ship simulator and a kids play zone.
London Gardens and Parks
Green Park and St. James Park
Neighboring Green and St. James parks front the Buckingham Palace complex and offer a necessary bit of nature in the midst of the heavy tourist zone. Shady trees line winding walkways with a bench here and there, while big green lawns draw sunseekers, readers and picnickers. Waterfowl can usually be spotted hanging out on the reflective St. James Park Lake, while a bridge across provides views of the palace in one direction and the London Eye in the other.
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Just steps from Green Park, massive Hyde Park offers a wealth of outdoor activities, as well as historic sights in the form of monuments and memorials. Walkers and cyclists frequent the huge network of paths here, and an onsite sports center also offers activities like tennis, mini golf and lawn bowling. At the east end of the 350-acre space, you can spot the white Marble Arch, designed as a triumphal piece a la Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and Speakers’ Corner, known as a historic soapbox-style speech and rally site. The central Serpentine lake is often dotted with row and peddle boats, and has a pair of art galleries on either bank. The west side of the park transitions to Kensington Gardens, notable for the massive gilded Albert Memorial erected by Queen Victoria for her late husband, and Kensington Palace Gardens, a well-manicured space of flowers and hedges.
Regents Park and Primrose Hill
Part of the Royal Parks collection, Regents Park is the central city’s sports zone, with fields for rugby, cricket, football and more, as well as walking and biking lanes. It’s also home to Queen Mary’s Garden, with a collection of 12,000 roses. A boating lake, playgrounds, an open-air performance space, zoo and food venues round out the amenities. Neighboring Primrose Hill offers stellar views of downtown London from an elevated vantage point a few miles away.
Hampstead Heath and Parliament Hill
Just 4 miles north of the river and the tourist buzz, Hampstead Heath is a sweeping space for recreation. Marked and rough-hewn paths for joggers and horseback riders weave in and out of wooded areas, while sports facilities include tennis and croquet courts and fields for football and rugby. A few of the ponds allow swimming. Like Primrose to the south, Parliament Hill here rises above the park for vistas of the London skyline.
This Royal Park a couple blocks from the river is home to the Royal Observatory Greenwich and the Prime Meridian, known as the dividing line of the earth’s longitude. In addition to the astronomical attractions, the park has a wilderness zone where deer roam, herb and flower gardens, paved trails, and a hilltop lookout over the Thames and city skyline to the west, perfect for sunsets. It’s about 5 miles southeast of the City of London in the borough of Greenwich.
Victoria Park and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
These two queenly parks are in the northeast suburbs, less than 5 miles from the old city. Victoria is one of the oldest public parks in London and features multiple recreational lakes, rose gardens, and spaces for walking, cycling and sports. The neighboring park named for Queen Elizabeth hosted the London Olympics in 2012, and its grounds are full of wetlands, waterways and play areas. You can also snap photos with the famous Olympic rings.
London Shopping Streets and Markets
Southwark’s Borough Market is one of the city’s oldest, largest, and best-known retail food venues, dating back 1,000 years. Dozens of traders gather here with stands of locally grown produce, fresh deli cuts and seafood, artisan chocolates and jams, and aromatic cheeses, breads and flowers. It’s the perfect spot to grab a coffee and pastry or order a hot lunch with international flair prepared in front of you.
With roots in the 14th century, the current Leadenhall Market has a distinct Victorian look in its covered passageways lined with shops and restaurants. It’s the place to go for designer retail therapy or for dining and drinks in a buzzing, picturesque atmosphere.
A department store to rule all department stores, Harrods could be more accurately described as an emporium, housing everything from high-end designer fashion to pastry counters. Even if you don’t care to splurge on shoes and purses here, it’s worth a visit to see the impressive Food Hall, packed with luxury cheese and charcuterie, tins of biscuits and tea, and mouthwatering chocolate truffles in the confectionery.
With everything from jazz clubs to Victorian theaters to some of the best London shopping streets, Soho’s eclectic vibes hail from a red-light district past. The nightlife still buzzes here, as does the food scene, but during the day you can head to Oxford Street to stumble upon every retailer you could imagine and Carnaby Street for fashion along pedestrian-friendly brick lanes.
A near neighbor to Soho, Covent Garden district packs in shopping, dining and theater as well. A historic covered market bearing the same name serves as a central neighborhood landmark, as does the Royal Opera House, which hosts the Royal Ballet.
Less than two miles north of King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations, this little canal-front neighborhood is known for its unique markets. It’s the place to go for antiques, vintage fashion, handmade accessories, one-of-a-kind art pieces, retro decor...you name it! There’s also tons of global cuisine at restaurants and street stands.
Notting Hill and Portobello Road Market
When you see a photo of pastel-colored row houses in London, it was likely taken in Notting Hill. This Kensington district neighborhood hosts the festive yearly Notting Hill Carnival, but it’s perhaps best known for the Portobello Road Market, which started with produce stalls but has evolved into a world of antiques and second-hand fashion.
Shoreditch and Brick Lane Market
Full of street art, independent boutiques and global food carts, Shoreditch is a trendy zone on the east side about a mile north of the old city. Graffiti-adorned Brick Lane is one of the more famous Sunday markets in London, especially for vintage and second-hand goods, while the Columbia Road Flower Market adds in some sweet fragrances and vibrant colors on weekends.
London Churches and Abbeys
Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral
You can read more about these two bucket list London churches in the landmarks section above.
This 800-year-old London church building just steps from the Thames and London Bridge once held the royal wedding of King James I of Scotland. Pop in for free to see the stained glass windows, request a quick tour from one of the cathedral guides, or join in a daily choral service in the late afternoon.
All Hallows by the Tower
Said to be the oldest church in London, this institution dates to the year 675. Though many restorations and renovations have happened since, including a post-WWII rebuild, some remnants from the early days still exist. Since it’s located just by the Tower of London, those executed on Tower Hill were often brought to the facility for temporary burial. Another claim to fame, future U.S. President John Quincy Adams and wife Louisa were married here in 1797. Free, guided tours take place on weekday afternoons for much of spring through fall.
St. Dunstan in the East Church Garden
Destroyed during the Blitz in World War II, this medieval church now shelters a public garden within its ruins. The steeple and tower designed by famous English architect Christopher Wren still stand, but flowers, ivy and benches fill the leveled-out interior. It’s about a block west from the Tower of London.
St. Helen’s Bishopsgate
Situated by the bullet-shaped Gherkin building in the old city, St. Helen’s was constructed in 1210 and is said to have been William Shakespeare’s parish church. Nearby bombings by the Irish Republican Army in the early 1990s severely damaged the building and shattered its historic windows, but it has since been repaired. The church participates in the yearly Open House London for tours, but allows visitors during the week (call ahead) and at services.
St. Olave’s Church
Long before the beloved Disney character of “Frozen” fame, there was a King Olaf II of Norway, who later became the country’s patron saint. This medieval church is dedicated to him, and is one of the rare survivors of the Great Fire of London. Visitors are allowed during the day when the building is not otherwise being used.
This elegant Trafalgar Square church with roots to the Middle Ages is well known for its evening classical music performances. During the day, you can pop in for a look around or grab a bite at a cafe housed in the crypt. A few days a week, free lunchtime concerts are offered to the public.
St. Bartholomew the Great
Adjacent to a hospital bearing the same saintly name, Great St. Bart’s was built about 900 years ago and restored throughout the 19th century. You can wander the halls and churchyard during daily visiting hours for a small fee.
St. Giles’ Cripplegate
Though is has roots in the 11th century, this Gothic-style structure was first built in the late 1300s. One of the few London churches to survive the Great Fire of London, it took big hits during other burns and was bombing in WWII. From the remaining shell and surviving bell tower, St. Giles was rebuilt using restoration plans saved from 1545, so it retains a medieval look. Outside of service times, the church typically opens on weekday afternoons.
Best London Views
Scroll up to the “London Landmarks” section for more on this epic vista on the Thames with elevated views of the Westminster district and beyond.
Golden Jubilee Bridges
This pair of pedestrian crossings sit on either side of a rail bridge near Charing Cross Station. The northern one looks toward the City of London at a bend in the river, but the southern one has an epic shot toward Westminster District, with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament on one bank and the London Eye on the other. It’s the perfect spot to catch a sunset.
A tribute tower to the Great Fire of London, the Monument sits in the heart of the old city. It was erected a few years after the 1666 tragedy, designed by the same architect who rebuilt the scorched St. Paul’s Cathedral. Reaching the top requires climbing 311 spiraling steps up the column-like structure. Sweeping platform view take in the Shard, Tower of London and Tower Bridge (which offers a combo ticket with the Monument).
This skyscraper in old London offers 360-degree city views and lush landscaping from its glass-surrounded top level dome called the Sky Garden. The public space spans three stories and features Mediterranean and South African species with year-round blooms. Tickets are free but should be booked online ahead of time to reserve a space. There are also window-filled restaurants and terraces to enjoy.
Crossing the Thames next to the Palace of Westminster, the Victorian-era Westminster Bridge is the oldest road span over the river in the central city. It’s popular with pedestrians as well, connecting the Westminster district to the South Bank. You’ll often encounter street performers in this touristy zone, and it’s a prime spot for snapping photos of both Big Ben and the London Eye.
Located behind Regents Park a couple miles north of Soho, this hilltop vantagepoint takes in a sweeping expanse from about 200-feet up for one of the best views of London’s skyline. It’s considered a protected view and is popular with visitors. The huge park nextdoor contains a rose garden, sports fields, trails and more.
Another of London’s protected viewpoints, Parliament Hill is another mile-and-a-half to the north and elevated. Amongst the buildings poking up from the city skyline, you can spot the Shard, the London Eye and the tip of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The surrounding park of Hampstead Heath is full of trails, swimming spots and athletic fields.
On the other end of the city, you can find the best London views from a hilltop in this Royal Park. Just next to the Prime Meridian and statue of General James Wolfe, a scenic platform looks toward a bend in the Thames and the skyline from the east. The borough of Greenwich is some 5 miles from the City of London.