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Touring London

See also London Transportation Information

This tour covers the central areas of London: Westminster/Whitehall/St James, Bloomsbury/Fitzrovia, City of London, Covent Garden/Soho/Holborn/the Strand, Kensington/Chelsea, Knightsbridge/Belgravia, Marylebone/Regent’s Park, Mayfair/Piccadilly, and South Bank. Most visitor attractions and amenities are found in these areas.

For information on Greater London’s attractions further afield including Docklands, Greenwich, Hampstead, Hampton, Kew, Windsor, Barnes, Bexley/Bexley Heath, Camden, Chiswick, Clerkenwell/Islington/the East End, Dulwich, Ealing, Edmonton, Edgeware, Notting Hill, Richmond, Tottenham, Wembley and Wimbledon see our Greater London page.

Check our London Articles for more and be sure to visit our Attractions section for short listings of the London/Greater London places to visit with more details.

Shepherd St pub by Barbara Ballard London is vast, noisy, dirty, frantic, expensive, the underground, tradition, and royalty. London is interesting architecture, history and culture, the theatre, a collection of neighbourhoods, the Thames River, a world class city, and much, much more.

London has many more attractions than most visitors are aware of and allow time for. Depending on the length of your trip and your interests, you will need to pick and choose.

St Paul's Cathedral by Barbara Ballard First-time visitors go for the long-time big names: the Tower of London, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Parliament buildings, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, the British museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. These are definitely on the “A” list, but do tend to be crowded and time consuming in tourist season—expect long line-ups and delays. Go early when possible.

Double decker bus courtesy of and copyright Visit Britain However, London is much more than the big 7. To make it easier to plan a visit, we have divided London into areas (boundaries not written in stone—every guidebook uses their own system). Experiencing the attractions of London area by area saves lots of travelling time, whether on bus or the underground. Buses are more pleasant as you take in the sights, but slower, and it’s less easy to figure out the routes required, and more changes may be needed. For bus routes and information go to London Transport

The underground is fast but not handicapped friendly (the Jubilee line is an exception) and requires good leg muscles to go up and down all the steps and broken escalators. It’s easy to figure out, however, and there are many helpful and friendly underground employees to answer your questions.

Thames River view by Barbara Ballard Walking is another option. Walk the Jubilee trail beside the Thames river, or go on a London history walk. The London Walks is one company that puts on various themed walks in different parts of London. Pick up one of their brochures, which are found in many spots around town or visit their website for full details of the walks and the dates. You do not need to book ahead. Be warned that the walks usually last two hours and move at a very swift pace (not recommended for handicapped) and go regardless of the weather.

Westminster/Whitehall/St James/the Strand

Buckingham Palace and St James Park by Barbara Ballard This is the political and royal centre of London and the area most visited by tourists. It’s the location of Buckingham Palace. Here you will see the well-known Changing of the Guards ceremony. Go at least one hour before the scheduled time as huge crowds collect here in tourist season. The Queen’s Gallery and Royal Mews are in the same grounds as Buckingham Palace. The gallery has changing exhibitions of collections belonging to the queens and kings over the centuries. The Mews houses the coaches, horses and cars of the royals. St James Park is an urban oasis leading up to the palace. In good weather you can picnic in the grounds beside the lake.

Big Ben and Houses of Parliament by Barbara Ballard The Houses of Parliament is the seat of government. Tours are available but you need to book ahead. Big Ben is the famous clock in the Parliament building tower. The newest attraction in this area is the Household Cavalry Museum. It’s a fascinating insight into the lives of the men and horses in the Household Calvary.

Westminster Abbey by Barbara Ballard Another museum in this section of London is the Tate Britain, home to the national art collections (regional galleries are located in Liverpool and St Ives, Cornwall). Westminster Abbey is the burial place of kings and poets and the site of the coronation of royalty. During tourist season line-ups are long, and the cost to get in is high. Insider Tip: Go for a service for free entry.

Jewel Tower by Barbara Ballard The Jewel Tower, a medieval tower that was part of the original Palace of Westminster is across from the Parliament buildings. Built by Edward III in 1365, it was used to house his jewels and treasures. Under the care of English Heritage, it now holds an exhibition on Parliament and its history.

Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum by Barbara Ballard The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms gives a fascinating insight into World War II times while the Banqueting House,created for James I by Inigo Jones, dates back to the 17th century.

St Martin-in-the-Field church, made famous by the movie ‘Mary Poppins’ is in Trafalgar Square as is the National Gallery, home to western European paintings and Nelson’s column. The National Portrait Gallery has a collection of more than 100,000 portraits of famous people.

Our articles on attractions in this part of London:
Banqueting House
Buckingham Palace
Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms
National Gallery
Household Cavalry Museum

British Museum A long-standing artistic centre of the city, this is the former home turf of famous writers and artists. It’s also the location of the world famous British Museum (allow several days if you want to take it all in or just choose one gallery of interest if all you have is a couple of hours) and the Dickens House Museum, former home of the famous writer Charles Dickens. This area is also the site of the British Library, a must-visit place for researchers. Tours are offered. Kings Place is a music and visual arts venue with two commercial art galleries and touring exhibitions. The London Cartoon Museum has a collection of over 750 historic cartoons and caricatures.

Our articles on attractions in this part of London:
British Museum
Dickens House
London Cartoon Museum

City of London (the Square Mile)

City of London coat of arms by Barbara Ballard This area was where London began. It has its own local authority, the Corporation of London and its own Lord Mayor. Originally this was the only financial centre of the city. The Bank of England Museum is a fascinating look at British currency over its many centuries of development. Allow at least two hours to take it all in.

Traitors' Gate at Tower London courtesy of and copyright Historic Royal Palaces The most famous attraction in this area is the Tower of London where numerous nefarious deeds took place over the centuries. In addition to the Crown Jewels (a dazzling experience) the Tower has one of the largest armour collections in the world.

Tower Bridge by Barbara Ballard All Hallows by the Tower is London’s oldest church. Also in this area is the historic St Mary-le-Bow and St Paul’s Cathedral where Charles and Diana were married. Built in 1666 to Wren’s design, it has the third largest dome in the world. A part of the old London Roman wall can be seen at the Museum of London. The museum tells, in displays and artefacts, the history of the city from earliest times. Allow at least two hours; it’s a great museum. Tower Bridge has an interesting exhibition in one of its towers.

Great Fire of London memorial tower by Barbara Ballard The London Monument to the 1666 Great Fire has 311 steps to climb for a 360 degree view of the city. The golden orb at the top is a symbol of the fire. Lovers of silver will want to visit the London Silver Vaults, where the world’s largest retail collection of antique silver is on display.

Our articles on attractions in this part of London:
Museum of London
Tower of London
Bank of England Museum

Covent Garden/Soho/Holborn

National Gallery and Trafalgar Sq courtesy of and copyright Visit Brtian This area is known for its museums and theatres. The Sir John Soane’s Museum houses collections from Roman to Renaissance times while Somerset House, built in the 18th century, houses collections of gold, silver, and decorative objects. The Courtauld Institute of Art, in the grounds of Somerset House, is the place for fans of impressionist and post-impressionist art. Benjamin Franklin House, a Grade I listed home of the American statesman, is located in this area.

Horse drawn double decker at London Transport Museum by Barbara Ballard The London Transport Museum conserves the capital’s transport history. Collections cover a wide spectrum of materials and media, including vehicles, rolling stock, posters, signs, uniforms, photographs, and engineering drawings. Plan on a minimum two hour visit. It’s a unique and fascinating museum. After your visit grab a bite to eat in Covent garden market and browse the shops in the area.

Our articles on attractions in this part of London:
Sir John Soane’s Museum
Somerset House
London Transport Museum

Kensington and Chelsea

Albert Memorial by Barbara Ballard There’s a lot to see in this area with its large park, home to Kensington Palace where Queen Victoria was born. The orangery now serves as a restaurant. The Albert Memorial in the park is a tribute by Queen Victoria to her husband. Across from the park is the Royal Albert Hall, a concert venue.

Victoria and Albert Museum courtesy of and copyright Victoria and Albert Museum The area is replete with museums: the Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and the immense Victoria and Albert Museum where you can spend a full day just walking around.

Victorian Leighton House Museum has 700 paintings by Lord Leighton, Millais, Edward Burne-Jones and others. Linley Sambourne House belonged to an ancestor of Antony Armstrong-Jones, a husband of Princess Margaret. Everything in the house, including Sambourne’s furniture is original.

The famous Hyde Park and Speaker’s corner are found here. Hyde Park is an extension of Kensington Gardens, the two separated by the Serpentine, a body of water. The Serpentine Gallery has a collection of modern and contemporary art. Another park in this area is Holland Park where peacocks roam amongst roses and iris. The Chelsea Physic Garden , founded in 1673 as an apothecaries' garden to train apprentices in identifying plants, has 5000 medicinal plants. Chelsea Football Club Museum will appeal to followers of football.

Our articles on attractions in this part of London:
Kensington Palace and Gardens
Leighton House
Linley Sambourne House

Knightsbridge and Belgravia

Harrod food floor by Barbara Ballard This is a noted shopping area that includes Sloane Square and Sloane Street’s upmarket stores. Harrod’s Department Store is like any other department store except for its food floor—worth a look—but don’t plan to eat at the various counters; the food is exorbitantly priced. Instead buy a baked goodie to take away. Harvey Nichols department store is nearby.

Victorian Carlyle’s House was home to Thomas Carlyle and a gathering place for the literary crowd including Dickens, Browning, and Tennyson. The Saatchi Gallery of Modern Art holds one of the world’s largest contemporary art collections.

Marylebone and Regent’s Park

Regent's Park lake by Barbara Ballard This section of London is an urban neighbourhood with some interesting shops and eating spots along Marylebone High Street. Regent’s Park, once a royal hunting ground, is home to the London Zoo and gardens. Rent a boat to row on the lake. The Sherlock Holmes Museum is all about the famous detective. The Wallace Collection is a national museum full of paintings, furniture, arms and armour and more. Madame Tussard’s Wax Museum is another nearby attraction. John Nash’s church All Souls built in 1822-4 provides a venue for concerts when not used for religious services.

Our articles on attractions in this part of London:
Wallace Collection

Mayfair and Piccadilly

This is an up-market area where Bond Street shopping has made a name for itself. Oxford St is another well known shopping area. Fortum and Mason’s Food Floor is especially delicious. Pick up goodies for a high class picnic. Burlington Arcade, a covered promenade built in 1819, is in the Piccadilly area—walk east from The Green Park tube station down Piccadilly to reach it.

Wellington Arch with angel on top by Barbara Ballard Apsley House, the London palace of the 1st Duke of Wellington, designed and built by Robert Adam in 1771-78, is at Hyde Park corner. It holds the Wellington museum with the Duke’s collection of paintings, silver, sculpture, furniture, medals and memorabilia. The Wellington Arch was once the entrance to Buckingham Palace before being moved here. It is surmounted by a sculpture of the angel of peace. Climb to the top for a view over the park. Exhibits tell its history.

Spencer House by Barbara Ballard Spencer House is the 18th century townhouse of the first Earl Spencer (ancestor of Diana, princess of Wales). Handel House Museum was the home of baroque composer George Handel from 1723 to 1759. The Georgian interiors have been restored. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum provides light entertainment.

The Fleming Collection holds works by famous Scottish artists from 1770 to the present. The Royal Academy of Arts has a major collection of British art works from the18th century to the present, housed in a listed historic mansion.

Our articles on attractions in this part of London:
Spencer House

South Bank (Bankside)

Millenium Bridge by Barbara Ballard You can walk along the Thames River on the Millennium Bridge (a pedestrian walkway) in this revitalized area. Start at Westminster bridge and head towards Southwark bridge. There’s the Florence Nightingale museum, the Garden Museum London, the Royal Festival Hall, the Bankside Gallery, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and the Tate Modern Museum (strictly for lovers of modern art).

Visit Southwark Cathedral at the far end of the walkway. A good view can be had of London from the top of the London Eye.

The Imperial War Museum has six floors of exhibits and displays. The Southbank Centre is a venue for music, dance and the visual arts. For a different experience visit the Clink Prison Museum and see original artefacts and hear the stories of the historic prison experience.

Our articles on attractions in this part of London:
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
The London Eye
Garden Museum

Our London Accommodation Reviews:
Greengarden House, Egerton House Hotel, Aethenaeum Hotel, Draycott Hotel, 51 Buckingham Gate, Holiday Inn Heathrow, Kensington Court Apartments, Le Meridien Hotel, Hoxton Hotel
Indigo Hotel London, Montague on the Gardens, Goring Hotel

The official Visit London website is Visit London

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Our London Accommodation Reviews:
23 Greengarden House
Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments
Draycott Hotel
Egerton House Hotel
Goring Hotel
Holiday Inn Heathrow
Hoxton Hotel
Indigo Hotel
Kensington Court Apartments
51 Buckingham Gate
Montague on the Gardens
Le Meridien Hotel

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