London is one of the most visited cities in the world, and for good reason. With its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning architecture, there is no shortage of things to see and do in this vibrant city. From the iconic Big Ben to the bustling Borough Market, London is full of landmarks that are a must-see for any traveler. Whether you are visiting for the first time or have been before, these 10 landmarks should be on your list of must-see attractions.
As someone who lived in London for 10 years, I can say without a doubt that this city holds a special place in my heart. One of my favourite things about living in London was walking past the iconic landmarks that dot the sky line. Seeing the decks of Tower Bridge rise up over the Thames and the large boats sail through never failed to take my breath away. And on the opposite end of the Thames the London Eye offered unparalleled views of the city, an iconic landmark I took all my guests to when they visited. And Trafalgar Square always held a special place in my heart – I would occasionally have lunch there, sitting on the fountains and taking in the bustling energy of the crowds.
Living in London as an expat gave me the opportunity to truly appreciate all that this incredible city has to offer, and I can’t wait to share my insider tips with my readers.
Big Ben, the iconic clock tower located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, is one of the most recognizable landmarks in London. It’s not just a clock tower, but a symbol of the city and the country itself. What makes Big Ben special is not just its impressive architecture or sheer size, but its history and significance.
The clock tower has been standing tall for over 150 years and has witnessed some of the most important events in the country’s history. It’s a testament to the resilience and strength of the British people. Although the bells were silent for the last few years due to renovation works, they are finally ringing again, bringing joy and excitement to the people of London and the world. Big Ben is not just a clock tower, it’s a part of London’s identity and a source of inspiration and pride.
The British Museum is an iconic London landmark that draws visitors from all over the world. What makes this museum so special is not just its extensive collection of over 8 million artifacts from all over the world, but also its unique ability to engage and inspire visitors.
I used to work near the museum and had the opportunity to truly explore and appreciate the museum’s vast collection, from the well-known Rosetta Stone and Greek Marbles to lesser-known treasures hidden away in each room. What’s remarkable about the British Museum is that it offers a glimpse into the history and cultures of civilizations that span thousands of years, from ancient Egypt to modern-day Japan. It’s a place that inspires the imagination, encourages curiosity, and broadens perspectives.
Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or simply curious about the world, the British Museum is a must-visit landmark in London that will leave you in awe. The building itself is astonishingly beautiful with the stunning atrium that houses the rotating visiting exhibits from across the globe.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is an iconic landmark in London that has a rich history and many fascinating stories to tell. The iconic Warders of the Tower, the Beefeaters, bring these bloody stories to life in their tours. They regale visitors with tales of the Tower’s most famous residents, from Anne Boleyn to Guy Fawkes. The story of the ravens is also a significant part of its history. Legend has it that if the ravens ever leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall. To prevent this from happening, the ravens are carefully looked after by the Beefeaters. Visiting the Tower of London is a must-do activity for anyone interested in history, architecture, and the fascinating stories that make up London’s past.
Tower Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in London and is instantly recognizable with its unique design and impressive size. Completed in 1894, Tower Bridge was an engineering marvel of its time and still remains an important part of London’s infrastructure.
Tower Bridge has played an essential role in London’s history, both as a means of transport and as a symbol of the city. It was designed to allow ships to pass through the busy river while still allowing road traffic to flow. The bridge’s two towers are instantly recognizable and have become a symbol of London across the world.
One of the things that make Tower Bridge special is the museum inside, which offers visitors a glimpse into the bridge’s history and the workings of its engineering of the raising mechanisms. Visitors can also experience walking on the glass walkways high above the bridge’s roadway, which offers stunning views of the River Thames and the surrounding city.
When I first moved to London back in 2012 Tower Bridge had been freshly repainted ahead of the Summer Olympics being hosted in London. It was an incredible site to behold especially as I had old photos from the 60s to compare what it looked like then and now.
One of my favorite landmarks is Trafalgar Square – the central location is easy to get to and presents more than just the square to look at. Flanked by the National Gallery, Admiralty Arch and St. Martin’s in the Field this is one of the top tourist destinations to stop at and admire the architecture and views from. There is something awe inspiring about the view from the National Gallery looking down through Trafalgar Square and seeing Big Ben that really inspires visitors.
The square is named after the Battle of Trafalgar, which was a significant naval victory for the British in 1805. One of the things that makes Trafalgar Square special is the towering Nelson’s Column (the same height as the mast of Nelson’s ship) at its center which is topped by a statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson. The square is also home to several beautiful fountains which were added in the early 20th century. The fountains are a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, and during the summer months, many people can be found sitting on the edges of the fountains enjoying lunch and the scenery. The fourth plinth, which was originally meant to hold a statue, but remained empty for nearly a century. It is now used to display contemporary art installations which rotate every few years.
Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic and important landmarks in London. It is the official residence of the British monarch, and has been the home of the Royal Family since Queen Victoria’s accession in 1837. The palace is a symbol of British history and tradition, and is a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world.
One of the most popular events at Buckingham Palace is the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place several times a week during the summer months. A friend of mine, a Guard who performs Changing of the Guard, shared with me the recommendation to arrive early to secure a good spot on the “Birthday Cake” (the Victoria fountain) to watch the performance.
The London Eye is a large enclosed ferris wheel located on the South Bank of the River Thames, and has become an iconic modern landmark in London. It was initially built as the “Millennium Wheel” in 1999 as a temporary attraction but later became a permanent fixture due to it’s popularity.
One of the main draws of the London Eye is the incredible views it offers of the city. From the top of the wheel, visitors can see some of London’s most famous landmarks, including the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace. On a clear day, it’s even possible to see as far as Windsor Castle.
The London Eye is one of the main attractions I always took my out of town visitors to. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident of the city, a ride on the London Eye is a must-do activity, offering unparalleled views and a unique perspective on one of the world’s greatest cities.
Borough Market is one of the oldest and most iconic food markets in London. It’s located in Southwark, near London Bridge, and has a history dating back to the 13th century. Over the years, the market has become known for its incredible selection of food, including fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, baked goods, and more. For visitors there is plenty of fresh made made on site and for locals there are plenty of fresh ingredients to take home. I’m particularly fond of buying pies from Pieminister and making them at home. Another favorite stall of mine is full of spices from around the world and for every use case. Borough Market is a beloved and iconic landmark in London, offering a unique and unforgettable culinary experience that’s not to be missed.
Hyde Park is one of the largest and most iconic parks in London, spanning over 350 acres of land in the heart of the city. What I fell in love with was that it offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. When I moved to London I lived near Hyde Park’s Lancaster Gate entrance, which is home to the stunning Italian Fountains. I fell in love with Hyde Park, perhaps due to proximity to my flat, but also due to it’s ease of access, breadth of offerings and a general sense of peace.
The park has a rich history dating back to the 16th century, when it was used as a hunting ground by Henry VIII. Over the years, it has been transformed into a beautiful public space, complete with gardens, walking paths, lakes, and monuments.
Inside the park there is the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, built in honor of the late Princess of Wales, and designed to represent her life and spirit. Kensington Palace is located within Hyde Park itself and has a rich history, serving as the home of many royals over the years, including Queen Victoria and Princess Diana. Today, it’s open to the public and visitors can tour the palace and its beautiful gardens.
For many locals and visitors alike, Hyde Park is a beloved landmark in London, offering a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Whether you’re taking a stroll through the gardens, enjoying a picnic by the lake, or exploring the many attractions in the park, there’s always something to discover and enjoy in this iconic London landmark.
Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is an iconic London landmark that houses the two chambers of the UK Parliament – the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The palace’s architecture, including its iconic clock tower (Big Ben) is a symbol of British political power and history. The palace has stood on the banks of the River Thames since the 11th century and has undergone many changes over the centuries. The infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605, led by Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the palace and assassinate King James I. Fortunately, the plot failed, and the palace survived. Today, the Palace of Westminster is the center of British political life and an important symbol of democracy.
The Palace of Westminster is open to the public – either to tour as a visitor and explore the architecture and history – or to attend debates. Visitors can also see the famous chambers of the House of Commons and House of Lords, as well as Westminster Hall, St. Stephen’s Hall, and the Queen’s Robing Room. I’d recommend booking tickets in advance as they often are sold out.
More Iconic London Landmarks
London is a city full of history, culture, and iconic landmarks that offer visitors a glimpse into its rich past and present. As an expat who lived in London for 10 years, I can attest to the fact that these landmarks are not just tourist attractions, but rather an integral part of daily life in London. From the impressive architecture of the Palace of Westminster and the Tower of London, to the peaceful surroundings of Hyde Park and the bustling atmosphere of Borough Market, each landmark offers a unique experience that makes London so special. Whether you’re visiting for the first time or are a seasoned traveler to London, these iconic landmarks are a must-see, providing a glimpse into the heart and soul of one of the world’s most vibrant and fascinating cities.
By no means is this article an exhaustive list of London Landmarks, and I would be remiss to not include a few honorable mentions:
- St. Paul’s Cathedral – A magnificent cathedral designed by Christopher Wren that has become a symbol of London.
- Westminster Abbey – A historic church that has been the site of coronations, royal weddings, and burials of notable figures.
- The Shard – A skyscraper that dominates the London skyline and offers stunning views from its observation deck.
- Piccadilly Circus – A busy intersection that is known for its neon signs and is a popular tourist destination.
- The Globe Theatre – A reconstructed version of the historic theater where Shakespeare’s plays were first performed.
- Natural History Museum – A museum that showcases the wonders of the natural world, including dinosaur skeletons and rare specimens.
- Covent Garden – A historic district known for its markets, street performers, and theaters.
- Royal Albert Hall – A world-famous venue for classical music concerts and other cultural events.
- Cutty Sark – A historic clipper ship that has been restored and is now a museum showcasing the history of the tea trade.
- The Royal Observatory – An observatory that houses the Prime Meridian and offers stunning views of London from its hilltop location.
- Victoria and Albert Museum – A museum that showcases decorative arts, design, and fashion from around the world.
- Camden Market – A historic market that is home to hundreds of stalls selling food, clothing, and other goods.