Despite London having a plethora of things to see and do, if it’s your first visit to the UK’s capital then there are simply some iconic sites you need to visit – despite the tourist factor.
Below is my compilation of some of the major sites however, one of my favourite aspects of this city is foremostly the multitude of markets on offer.
First up on my list of iconic London sites was the British Museum, where spending a few hours is super easy to do.
All museums in the UK are actually free which is a bonus, especially since London is a pretty expensive city to begin with!
Besides having collections from all over the world, the building itself is rather lovely with a contrasting white central foyer to rooms that are warm and filled with dark oak style furniture and hundreds of leather books.
When you’re all cultured out you may want to do some retail therapy and while the prices at some of London’s best department stores might not be in everyone’s budget, they are certainly worth a look in for their sheer elegance.
Harrod’s Shoe Heaven
I checked out both Selfridge’s and Harrod’s as two of the city’s most iconic department stores, but I have to say the latter’s amazing Egyptian escalators and elaborately decorated rooms made it my favourite.
A short stroll from Harrod’s is the famous Hyde Park.
If you happen to be lucky and encounter beautiful weather while you’re in London then passing an afternoon in Hyde Park is the way to go.
You can grab some amazing takeaway food from the wonderful Whole Foods near Piccadilly Circus for a picnic if you so wish.
Wandering around Hyde Park will definitely keep you busy as it’s so large and you’re bound to spot a squirrel because they. are. everywhere.
On the topic of green spaces, Primrose Hill is perhaps not as well known but it is not too far from Regent’s Park and London Zoo, and this small park gives you a nice view of the London skyline.
In addition, there are some rather lovely houses lining the surrounding streets here so it’s nice to have a stroll – I even came across a canal nearby and walked over to Camden Markets from here too.
For views of London from up high, you can climb St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Unfortunately, the fog was epic and blanketed most of the city when I went, but on a better day it would be lovely!
The view from St. Paul’s
The cathedral itself has an interesting history, which you can learn more about with a self-audio guide.
Another place that is great to visit for some wonderful pictures up above is The Shard, a newer icon of London.
A local told me there is a bar located inside the glass building and you can simply purchase a drink and then enjoy the view!
Next up on my busy couple days of walking around London was Big Ben and right across the river you’ll find the London Eye, two of the city’s most iconic features.
I don’t know why, but I just never fancied going up the Eye itself so instead I strolled along the riverbank.
Since it started epically raining, I decided to take a reprieve at the London Dungeon.
The London Dungeon can be described as a mix of theatre, entertainment rides and historical tour rolled into one.
You’ll only find tourists here as it’s up there with Madame Tussaud’s in tackiness but I quite enjoyed it all the same – especially the scenes where actors play some of the city’s most infamous criminals, such as Jack The Ripper or Sweeney Todd.
Along my walk I also stumbled upon the Globe Theatre which was pretty cool – knowing that Shakespeare had a stake in the place!
Continuing on with the historical sites of London, a visit to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge is a great way to learn more about the city’s past.
I was so lucky to see a fantastic exhibition on at the Tower while I was in town which was created to remember soldiers of WW1.
The ceramic poppies were truly beautiful to see.
I opted for the self-guided audio tour once inside and walked around seeing the Crown Jewels and learning more about this site’s colourful past.
The site was originally created by William the Conqueror, but is probably best known for its period of detaining criminals and torturing them – although it has had many uses over its long history.
Next up, Trafalgar Square. Which I actually happened upon by accident and only first recognised it because of its attachment to Harry Potter film premieres! (Massive fan, if you couldn’t tell).
You needn’t spend much time here but walking through the square is quite nice on the way to other nearby attractions, such as Piccadilly Circus.
Basically the start point for a night at the theatre, Piccadilly Circus has many beautiful venues which are located nearby and I much preferred seeing it at night time when the atmosphere feels more lively!
I wasn’t so much a fan of the Times Square-like advertisements though!
Lastly, a visit to Buckingham Palace is usually high on everyone’s list.
The Queen’s backyard
If you’re there at certain times of the year you can even go inside for a tour which is really great. I detail more about that experience here if you’re interested.
London will certainly keep you busy and as a first time visitor you’ll probably also want to visit most of its icons like I did!
Once I got around to most of these in my first couple of days though I enjoyed a variety of other things in the city from markets to theatre.
You’ll certainly never be bored in one of the most diverse places in the world.