Hours: The public can attend debates on Mon-Fri, and take tours during Aug/Sep, and most Saturdays
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It’s surprisingly difficult to come up with a top ten list of London landmarks, because do you begin with Big Ben or Tower Bridge? St. Paul’s or Buckingham Palace? In the end we plumped for Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
Big Ben is like the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty: show a photo of it to anyone in the world and they will straight away know where you’ve been. And is there a more spectacular government building than the Houses of Parliament? And if you think the outside is impressive then just wait until you get inside. The rooms wouldn’t look out of place in a Royal palace! And technically that’s exactly what it is: a palace. It’s proper name is the Palace of Westminster, and a suite of rooms were built especially to parade the monarch into the House of Lords.
Most tourists are happy to take a photo of the outside and move on, but we definitely recommend looking inside. The easiest way to do it is on a Saturday tour. If you don’t want to spend any money then you can watch the MPs debating in the House of Commons instead. Craig has been to both and written a review of the tour and House of Commons on his blog. He’s also been to the House of Lords and PMQs.
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun, Apr-Sep); 9.30 AM to 5.30 PM (Mon-Sun, Oct-Mar); Last entry 30 mins before closing – Cost: Adults £9.80; Children £4.20 (5-15); Infants free (under-5); Family ticket £22.00
|Awful 15%||Poor 8%||Okay 15%||Good 46%||Great 15%|
Tower Bridge is a mock-gothic building built in the 19th-century. It looks medieval, but under that stone cladding is a skyscraper of steel struts. You’d never know it by standing on the riverbank, though – it’s one of London’s most fabulous pieces of Victorian architecture.
We always recommend skipping the exhibition inside because it’s just a few movies and a look at the old engines, but you might want to go inside anyway for the view at the top. They’ve installed a bit of glass floor up there now, so if you’re feeling brave you can tip-toe across and see the thundering buses and lorries under your feet.
If you want to get the best photo of Tower Bridge then try and visit when the drawbridge is open.
Check out Craig’s review of Tower Bridge to see what he thought of the exhibition.
Hours: 8.30 AM to 4.30 PM (Mon-Sat); Closed (Sun, except for services); Last entry 30 mins before closing – Cost: Adults £18.00; Children £8.00 (6-17); Infants free (under-6); Family ticket £44.00
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Big Ben might be London’s most famous landmark, but St. Paul’s Cathedral is the most most beautiful. And just think… if it wasn’t for the Great Fire of London wiping out the town we never would have had it, because this was thirty-year project by the country’s greatest-ever architect: Sir Christopher Wren.
There are lots of interesting things to see inside, like the tombs of Nelson and Wellington in the crypt, but you’ll get the biggest thrill from climbing up the domes. The Whispering Gallery is the easiest one, and has a bizarre acoustic effect which lets you hear what people are saying on the other side of the room. The exterior domes are a bit harder to climb (and a bit scarier too!), but will give you a great view of the skyline outside. We also recommend a attending a Choral Evensong service.
Hours: 10 AM to 5.30 PM (Sun-Mon, Mar-Oct); 9 AM to 5.30 PM (Tue-Sat, Mar-Oct); 10 AM to 4.30 PM (Sun-Mon, Nov-Feb); 9 AM to 4.30 PM (Tue-Sat, Nov-Feb); Last entry 30 mins before closing – Cost: Adults £28.00; Children £13.00 (5-15); Infants free (under-5); Family ticket £70.00
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See Big Ben is the most famous London landmark, St. Paul’s is the most beautiful… and the Tower of London is probably the most historic. Parts of this World Heritage Site are an incredible 1,000 years old and were begun by William the Conqueror in 1066.
Every tourist has heard of Traitor’s Gate. eThat’s where the poor prisoners were boated in off the river before being locked up in a dungeon. And every tourist has heard of the Bloody Tower as well – that’s where Richard III had the two little princes smothered in their beds. And what about Tower Green? Where Henry VIII executed his troublesome wives? Another popular place to visit is Waterloo Barracks, where the Queen keeps her Crown Jewels.
We definitely recommend joining one of the Yeoman Warder Tours where you’ll get led around by one of the famous Beefeaters. And if you you’re one of those organised types who plans your holiday a few months in advance then try and get a ticket for Ceremony of the Keys.
Have a read through Craig’s reviews to see what you fancy doing. He’s written about the Tower, the Yeoman Warder Tour, Twilight Tour and Ceremony of the Keys. He’s even attended on of the Sunday services.
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They don’t let you walk down the actual street anymore (it’s blocked off with fifty big cops standing behind a black iron gate), but it’s still worth standing outside Downing Street.
What you need to do is peer through the gate and look for a shiny black door halfway down the street. It has a curved frame outside with a lamplight hanging from the top – that’s No.10 Downing Street, the traditional home of the British Prime Minister. If you don’t mind standing there for half-an-hour then you might get lucky and see a fleet of black cars driving out. The PM might be inside one of those.
Craig has reviewed Downing Street on his blog.
Hours: 9.30 AM to 7 PM (Mon-Sun, last week of Jul and Aug); 9.30 AM to 6 PM (Mon-Sun, Sep); Last entry 1¾ hours before closing – Cost: Adults £24.00; Children £13.50 (5-16); Infants free (under-5); Family ticket £61.50
|Awful 0%||Poor 0%||Okay 13%||Good 13%||Great 75%|
Windsor Castle might be the Queen’s favourite home, but Buckingham Palace is the one that every tourist wants to see. Staring at the famous balcony hoping she pops her head out is something we all do, along with watching the soldiers marching back and forth behind the iron railings in their big bearskin hats.
You can only get inside the place during the Summer Opening (Aug-Sep) and Evening Tour (Jan), but don’t miss the opportunity if you have it. You’ll get to see the velvety-red Throne Room and big Ballroom where she hands out the gongs.
Tourists love the Changing the Guard ceremony as well (it’s No.1 on our London Bucket List). You have to get there in plenty of time if you want a decent spot though, so read through Craig’s review before you go for some tips.
Hours: Closed (middle 2 weeks of Jan); 11 AM to 6 PM (1st and 4th week of Jan, Feb-Mar, last 2 weeks of Apr, first 3 weeks of May, Sep-Nov, first 3 weeks of Dec); 10 AM to 8.30 PM (first 2 weeks of Apr, last week of May, Jun-Aug, last week of Dec) – Cost: Adults £26.00; Children £21.00 (3-15); Infants free (under-3); Family ticket £94.00
|Awful 8%||Poor 0%||Okay 0%||Good 23%||Great 69%|
The London Eye is the newest landmark on this list, but it straight away became one of the capital’s most popular attractions when it was built for the millennial celebrations.
It’s one of the largest observation wheels in the world, giving visitors a 360 degree view of the skyline for up to 25 miles. You get a great view of Big Ben and Parliament (maybe the best view of them from anywhere in London), and a distant view of Buckingham Palace nestled behind the trees St. James’s Park. The dome of St. Paul’s looks pretty great rising in the distance as well.
You can read Craig’s review of the London Eye on his blog.
|Awful 17%||Poor 0%||Okay 33%||Good 33%||Great 17%|
Nelson’s Column celebrates the life of the country’s greatest naval hero: Admiral Nelson. He’s the guy that ruined Napoleon’s invasion plans by beating the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar. Unfortunately he also got shot and killed by a French marksman at the end, so that’s why we gave him this landmark in the centre of the city.
His lofty seat stands 185-feet above the street, guarded by four huge bronze lions and a couple of bright blue fountains. You’ll notice that the tourists love climbing onto the backs of the lions for a scary selfie (we don’t recommend that you try it – if you fall off you’ll break your neck!).
Whilst your standing in Trafalgar Square you might like to visit the National Gallery on the northern edge, or walk through Admiralty Arch and up The Mall towards Buckingham Palace. Big Ben and Downing Street are only a short walk down Whitehall.
Check out Craig’s review of Nelson’s Column on his blog.
Hours: 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM (Mon-Tue, Thu-Fri); 9.30 AM to 7 PM (Wed); 9.30 AM to 4.30 PM (Sat, May-Aug); 9.30 AM to 2.30 PM (Sat, Sep-Apr); Closed (Sun, except for worship); Last entry 1 hour before closing – Cost: Adults £22.00; Children £9.00 (6-16); Infants free (under-6); Family ticket £45.00
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Westminster Abbey probably deserves a much higher position in our Top 10 list for its historical significance, but if you show someone a photo of the Abbey then they might not recognise it – not like they would with Big Ben, Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s. So that’s why it only made No.9.
If you just concentrate on its history, though, then this place is without equal. This is where you’ll find the tomb of Edward the Confessor. This is where Henry V is buried (Henry V from the Battle of Agincourt). Or how about Edward III, the prototype for a chivalrous knight? Or Elizabeth I, the queen who defeated the Spanish Armada?
You can also see the famous Coronation Chair that has played a role in every coronation service since William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066.
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The final spot on our Top 10 list goes to Piccadilly Circus. Or, more specifically, the lighted advertising signs on the side of the building. If you come here at night then they throw out as much light as the sun, and you’ll get one of your best photos of London right there.
The Eros fountain is another favourite photo for tourists. They climb up the steps and sit on the side, and then get someone to take a shot of them kissing their missus (they all think it’s a statue of Eros but it’s not – it’s actually the Angel of Christian Charity).
Craig has reviewed Piccadilly Circus on his blog.
But what about the rest…
We mentioned at the start that it’s hard to limit this list to just ten landmarks, because there are so many more that deserve to be on it. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and The Shard are instantly recognisable now, and so is the Royal Albert Hall. And what about the soldiers outside Horse Guards? And the O2 Arena? Kensington Palace? Windsor Castle? Even iconic vehicles like the black taxi and double-decker bus probably deserve to be on here.
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