Almost everybody would enjoy a weekend in London, but is that enough time to truly experience the British Capital?
We are constantly bombarded with tourist information when visiting any city. Every street is another advert for another attraction, and making the right decision when visiting the city is no easy decision. With so many options and people to please, much of the advertising and attractions can end up feeling rather glib. Finding those gems hidden within the sea of mediocre choices can feel rather tiring, especially if you only have a limited amount of time in a city and especially when you don’t have a lot of time to organise your day. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of top London attractions which we believe would float anyone’s boat, giving you the chance to choose what would suit you and your family. Whether it is the best restaurants’ in town, history rich buildings spanning back centuries or just some good old fashioned fun, we have exactly what you’ll want to see. After all, London spans back millennia whilst arguably being the entertainment capital of Europe. That’s why it is so steeped in great places to fill up any holiday or business trip, regardless of whether you’re staying at hotels in Bayswater or a youth hostel in Camden.
Tower of London
The Tower of London was founded as far back as the late 11th century after William the Conqueror of France took England from King Harold. Since then the large tower has grown and become one of the bastions of the city, defending against invaders into the 15th century. It also had a history as an exotic animal menagerie and a prison for the famous murdered princes in the tower. As far back as the 1960’s, the tower was used as a prison for infamous criminals such as the Kray Twins. Whilst now it is primarily used as the resting place of the crown jewels, visitors can explore the rich history of the building and find out about the building which has withstood the creation of London as we know it today.
Harrods is a department store based in the affluent Kensington area of London. This world famous department store is made up of 5 acres worth of departments, selling everything from luxury food, clothes and even banking services. It’s no wonder then, that Harrods is the primary tailor of the royal family and that the entire buildings 330 departments cover a whopping one million feet. This department store could not only take up a whole afternoon of your trip, but an entire weekend! For those looking for a great souvenir from London for the family, the Harrods Hampers are famous for their all-encompassing basket set of traditional British foods.
Palace of Westminster
As the capital of the UK, London of course is home to where all of the important decisions in the country are made. Westminster, formally known as the Palace of Westminster is where the House of Lords and the House of Commons meet to debate and pass new legislation which could affect the way that the country is run. It is here that you can find Westminster Abbey and Elizabeth Tower, more commonly known as Big Ben, the iconic clock tower facing the River Thames. Tours are available of the Houses of Parliament, whilst tours to the top of Big Ben have stopped since renovation began on its bells.
West End bites to eat
Restaurants aren’t exactly few and far between in London. The range of cultures which have been melded into the hot pot of the city means there are thousands to choose from, all a wide variety of cuisines and fusions which will make your mouth water. If it’s Taiwanese street food you’re after, then look no further than Bao, whilst the Sri Lankan inspired Hoppers is also a Soho must visit. Barrafina is a chain of Barcelona style tapas joints off Drury Lane, Covent Garden and Dean Street which serves mouth-watering tortilla, croquets and prawns. Funny hwo so much great food can be found in such a small area of the city!
If you don’t mind leaving London for the day, then LEGOLAND Windsor may be a great weekend day out for you and the family. With a range of thrilling rides which cater to all ages, LEGOLAND is a theme park which oozes charm whilst ticking every box for each family member. Take a trip through the sky on a dragon on the Dragon Knight Roller coaster, or take a splash in a pirate’s cove with Pirate Falls. What’s more, most of the park is made from Lego, most eye-catching in the miniature renditions of world sites such as the pyramids, and you guessed it, London!
Bookend your day with a little bit of culture at the National theatre on London’s iconic South Bank. Not only can you find amazing theatre productions starring some of today’s leading actors but you can also find absorbing bookshops, top notch restaurants’ and lively bars, all on the glimmering boardwalk of the South Bank. Whether you’re here merely for a drink or to engage in the best new writing on stage today, then the National Theatre is a must attend venue. At the moment you can catch Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston in Network alongside countless other shows running into next year. If you have kids interested in the theatre, then the National Theatre’s youth groups often hold workshops which you can apply for.
Buckingham Palace is the current official residence of the English Monarchy, acting as the administrative headquarters. Found behind a large iron gate guarded by red suited palace guards, Buckingham Palace is a worldwide attraction due to its grand nature and leafy surroundings of St James Park, Green Park and Hyde Park. The palace was built as a townhouse in 1703 and bought by King George III to sue as his Queen’s house in 1763. Nowadays you can book tours around the palace, giving you a unique insight into the opulent history of the British monarchy. The Palace was extended by famous architect John Nash and counterpart Edward Blore whilst the interior holds many secrets about the interior lives of generations upon generations of the Royal Family.
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is located next to Hyde Park and is one of the largest and varying concert halls in the city. Dedicated to Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, the hall was planned by Prince Albert, inspired by the success of the Great Exhibition and opened by Queen Victoria in 1871. Since 1941 the hall has held the “Proms” events every summer with a capacity of up to 5272 seats. If you’re lucky enough to visit London during a time when the Royal Albert Hall is putting on a show, then snap up a ticket and witness events as varying as rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd to Elton John, to awards ceremonies such as the BAFTA’s and some of the best classical musicians in the world today.
Located on the Bankside of London, the Tate Modern Gallery is one of the most popular galleries in the city. Part of the Tate Group of national art galleries, the former bankside Power Station showcases work spanning from 1900 to the modern day. With a range of permanent and temporary exhibits, the main galleries are free to enter whilst temporary showcases are ticketed. Not only is the Tate Modern a great place to find the best in modern and contemporary art, but it also hosts Late at Tate shows, where guests are treated to live DJ sets, performances and late night revelries which are enough to quell any party goers needs. It is not often that you find such a multi-faceted art venue, promoting the best in all mediums, whether it is sculpture, video installations or paintings. The main exhibition spaces include galleries focusing on Materials and Objects, media networks, architecture, performers and participants and even works focussing on the themes of living cities.
The Tate Britain is a counterpart to the Tate Modern and focuses on the works of contemporary and historical British artists. Based on the Millbank, near Pimlico on the other side of the river to the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain was formerly known as the National Gallery of British Art. Having been opened in 1897, the gallery became the Tate Britain when the Tate Modern was opened in the year 2000; the Tate Gallery became the Tate Britain. It now houses thousands of pieces of British art including that of J W Turner and a retrospective on David Hockney. It’s easy to see why it is such a popular venue, the galleries holding art spanning hundreds of years, from the Tudor period to the Modern day. The Tate Britain is a frequented gallery by art school students such as those studying at the nearby Chelsea School of Art.
Hyde Park is one of the most popular parks in the city, spanning 300 acres of land into one of London’s best attractions. Here you can find hundreds of varieties of plant life alongside swimming lagoons, bird life and cultural events which truly represent what London stands for. On top of this, you can find a wide range of architectural sculptures and historical memorials around the park. Many of these are a blend of the two, and for any guest at accommodation in Bayswater London, you’ll find the park within walking distance. We’ll warn you now though, 300 acres is rather a lot and between the Diana memorial playground and the Speakers Corner, you could be in for a real stretch of the legs. That’s why it’s great that there are so many cafes dotted around, including the Serpentine Café which serves up award winning food and drinks. If you’re looking for a touch of the artistic, then head to the Serpentine Gallery too see works by artists as progressive as Grayson Perry and Frank Gehry. The park is also home to such music festivals as British Summertime and Proms in the Park making the summer jam packed whilst Winter Wonderland is the go to for Hyde Park cold seasons. Guests can also enjoy Kensington Gardens, a Garden next to Hyde Park created for Caroline of Brunswick which incorporates a Dutch sunken Garden design with vast swathes of open fields and Kensington Manor. With so much on offer, Hyde Park is perfect for both a brisk winter walk and a leisurely summer stroll.
With over 8 million works, the British Museum in Bloomsbury is one of the world’s most popular museums. Dating back to the year 1753, this free museum attracts millions of people into its grand and looming halls each year, due to its huge collections of architecture and objects from thousands of years of human existence. It is one of the most extensive explorations into human culture, making it a must for any budding anthropologist, and for that matter any family with children interested in archaeology. From the ancient samurai’s to a real life Egyptian Mummy, you can find feats of human creation which will make your mind boggle. With an original collection from Sir Hans Sloane, a respected physician of the 18th century, the collections began to expand as British colonialists reached further into the world.
Natural History Museum
Part of the South Kensington three, the Natural History Museum is one of London’s largest museums and explores the natural history of the earth. This means that exhibits range from the geological to the biological, many of the exhibits amassing great skeletons and fossils of now extinct creatures. Form taxidermy Dodos, to looming dinosaur skeletons, the Natural History Museum will not only introduce you to the history and formation of earth, but wow you with its Victorian architecture. With collaborators as famous as Charles Darwin, this museum is an all-encompassing look into our very existence and gives adults and children alike the chance to explore botany, palaeontology and zoology.