10 Best Attractions and Activities to help you discover all London has to offer
By Emma Wallis
With all of the things to do and see in a city, deciding how to spend your time can be quite an agonizing decision. 10best has narrowed all of the available attractions in London to a list of the most appealing and reputable, to aide in your decision making. You can rest easy knowing that any choice you make from our list is sure to please.
London is packed full of history, art, science, innovation and entertainment. It is pretty hard to be bored in London, but among the famous tourist sites, like the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, there are also novel and cheap or free ways to enjoy the capital at its best. Hope on a vintage bus for instance to enjoy your own private tour. Or take a river trip all the way from Greenwich to Kew Gardens; in Greenwich you'll learn about the capital's maritime past, and power through Empire, and in Kew, you'll see some of the plants and trees that were brought home from the four corners of the globe and curated in London. If you feel like chilling out for a day, take a picnic into Hyde Park and just relax, look up at the trees, feed the ducks and forget for a minute the cares of the world. If you feel like flying high then the London Eye or the Cable cars are for you; both will give you a bird's eye view of this Megalopolis.
10 Piccadilly Circus
Perennially busy and illuminated by neon advertising, this intersection joins Regent and Coventry Streets, Shaftesbury Avenue, and Piccadilly. The highly commercialized area is generally a sea of tourists who come to be part of the spectacle, motion, and shopping at Waterstone's, Virgin Megastore, and Lillywhites. A focal point of the Circus is a fountain topped by a winged statue of Eros (actually titled "The Angel of Christian Charity"). As an aside: The name "Piccadilly" derives from "picadils," stiff collars that were a sartorial specialty of a 17th-century tailor. TUBE: Piccadilly Circus (08701 566 366)
9 Victoria & Albert Museum
The "V&A South Kensington" occupies a gorgeous facility near Kensington Gardens and displays an extensive collection of decorative arts. In fact, it boasts more than 4 million objects in 146 galleries. Highlighting cultures from around the world, exhibits are organized by country, material and time period. Indian art is well-represented and awe-inspiring. Past exhibits have included a showcase of Art Nouveau sculptures and paintings from around the world. Recently, the museum has started to include fashion and couture in its collections, and has weekly evening openings and parties in the museum which effectively shakes off the fustier image of old museums. TUBE: South Kensington (20-7942-2000)
8 St. Paul's Cathedral
Sir Christopher Wren's architectural masterpiece should be at the top of any sightseeing list. The sprawling cathedral is notable for its artistry and design, but it also offers a fascinating glimpse of England's religious history. Plus, it affords one of the best views of the Thames and the London skyline from its dome -- although you must tackle 530 narrow steps to get there. The Whispering Gallery, the crypt, the treasury and the chapels surrounding the main transepts are fascinating as well. Doors open for sightseeing at 08.30 and close at 16.00. Although it's still free to worship there, you now have to pay if you want to visit the cathedral. Costs are listed on the website, where you can book tickets, but a family ticket is 31 pounds and a single adult ticket is 13 pounds. TUBE: St. Paul's (20-7236-8350, 20-7236-4128)
7 Tower of London
The Tower of London draws tourists who are taking a growing interest in some of the more lurid, murderous aspects of London's history. This vast, imposing brick building has been the site of many bloody events, including the murder of future kings, incarceration of historical figures, and political beheadings. Kids love the stories told by Beefeater guides, and adults relish the Crown Jewels, although folks have to view them quickly, because visitors are hurried by to accommodate everyone. Find out what will happen if the ravens kept at the tower ever leave London. One of London's most interesting attractions, and also one of its most popular -- go early. TUBE: Tower Hill (20-3166-6000, 870-750-4466)
6 Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is a sightseeing must. Queen Victoria moved into the vast mansion in 1837; since then, generations of royals have made the palace their home. Although wandering the grounds and taking photos of the elaborate exterior are always popular, the interior (some of which is open only during late July to September) is a treasure trove of art, furniture, sculpture and decorative goods. Walk around the corner to the Royal Mews to see the queen's coaches and horses. Admission is by timed ticket, available by phoning 20-7766-7300 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. TUBE: Victoria or Green Park or St. James's Park (20-7766-7300, 20-7839-1377)
5 Hyde Park
Flush against Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park is probably London's most familiar and most popular park. It's more than a mile square and includes the Serpentine Lake, Marble Arch, the Diana Memorial Fountain and the well-known (and still-used) Speaker's Corner. The British take pride in freedom of expression, and this park is where orators show up to speak their minds, usually to crowds of tourists. Popular recreational activities in Hyde Park include rollerblading, football (soccer), and lawn bowling. A must-see for London visitors. TUBE: Hyde Park Corner or Marble Arch (20-7298-2100)
4 Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Spread across 300 acres, these gorgeous gardens are a year-round wonderland of sights, scents, and beauty. Horticultural specimens from around the world can be found either on the grounds or in a number of climate-controlled greenhouses. You'll also find lakes, pathways, and other eye-catching landscape features, including a Chinese pagoda. Tropical to arctic-adapted plants mesmerize visitors, who get a broad overview of the entire complex at the visitors center. A gift shop is available as well where you can buy everything you can think of to do with gardens, beautiful pots,scented soaps, and lots of other things that would be great as special presents for the folks back home. TUBE: District line, Richmond train (20-8332-5655, 20-8332-5000)
About four miles from the centre of London, the Greenwich district attractions are legion. They include the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory, Queen's House, Millennium Dome, wonderful Greenwich Park, and the clipper Cutty Sark. In addition to straddling two time zones at the prime meridian (where Greenwich Mean Time is established), visitors enjoy plenty of charming pubs, restaurants and shops. There's also a great market that'll keep you browsing for quite a while. TUBE: DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to Greenwich. Thames Clipper (takes Oyster cards) back in to town. (87-0608-2000)
2 Tate Modern
The Tate Modern is breath taking even before you've seen whatever collection it's showing at the time you visit. Housed in an old turbine room, just walking down the walkway in to the entrance gives you an artistic experience in itself. Nestled between Shakespeare's Globe theatre and the arts complex of the South Bank Centre and the Hayward gallery, you could spend all day on this stretch of river and not have finished taking things in. The Tate has shown any number of contemporary artists from Ai Wei Wei's porcelain soya beans, to Olafur Eliasson's artificial sun which had people dancing, worshiping and interacting throughout the vast hall. TUBE: Southwark (20-7887-8888)
1 London Eye
London offers many places to catch great panoramas of the skyline and the Thames, but this attraction is one of the best. Run by British Airways, the Eye opened to great acclaim at the start of the new millennium; well-managed ticketing ensures that the wait is never more than a half-hour, despite the Eye's overwhelming popularity. The 30-minute guided "flight" reaches a peak of 450 feet (it's the tallest observation wheel in the world) and offers 360° views. During the day, guides point out all the sights within a 25-mile radius, giving folks a good introduction to the city's layout. At night, when London is lit up, the view is even more amazing. A must-see. If you purchase a Fast Track ticket in advance (on-line or via phone), you can skip the usually lengthy queues. TUBE: Waterloo (87-1781-3000, 87-0990-8883)
About Emma Wallis
London gives Emma a warm fuzzy feeling every time she gets back to her home city. As a writer and broadcaster she travels extensively round Europe and the world, but is always happy to return to London town. All that travel means she knows what she looks for as a visitor to a new city: insider knowledge, tips, and the feeling that she's found something that few travellers get to experience. Emma enjoys keeping her fingers on the capital's pulse, in order to make sure that everyone enjoys her favourite city, as much as she does.
Read more about Emma Wallis here.