Sights in London
Of course, every backpacker knows London. But do you know all the hidden attractions? We will tell you which sights in London are really worth seeing and explain how you can visit hidden attractions.
The City of London
London has about 8.96 million inhabitants. This makes London the largest city in the United Kingdom, and it is counted among the largest in the world. London is home to six airports. Only New York has exactly as many. However, with about 170 million passengers a year, London’s airports collectively set yet another world record.
London has 22 postcode areas, 32 urban areas and 73 seats in the British Parliament. This English capital is not only a city of records, but also a metropolis of special features, which is why it is one of the most visited places in the world. Moreover, the city is so big that there is something new to see or visit, hike or experience on every trip.
Whether it is the first inner-city cable car, the tallest sculpture or the smallest police station, you will find great new sights in London even after your second and third visits. You can re-experience the city and explore different parts each time. London is simply huge. It has many wholly unique historic buildings, one-of-a-kind museums and a striking skyline. London is probably one of the most famous cities in the world. For this reason, it is not uncommon for London to be referred to as the “first modern metropolis”.
The Top Sights in London
Of course, a complete list of the sights in London would go beyond the scope of this article. Otherwise, this list would be dozens of pages long. However, we have already been to London several times and would like to present our top sights to you, in addition to letting you in on one of London’s secrets.
For even London still has one or two lesser-known spots. That is what makes these sights particularly secret and valuable – at least in our opinion.
So have fun with our top tips for you!
Emirates Air Line
The Emirates Air Line connects Greenwich with Docklands. It is the world’s first inner-city cable car. Whether you really want to use it to get from Greenwich to Tower Hamlets or just to cross the Thames and back to enjoy the great view and the ride, it is worth buying a ticket!
Acelor Mittal Orbit
The Acelor Mittal Orbit is the tallest sculpture in the UK. This work of art is supposed to represent the energy of the athletes in the 2012 Olympics in an infinite cycle. In fact, the sculpture seems almost infinitely tall. If you take the lift to the top, you will not only see the whole of Stratford, but the entire Olympic village and even the London skyline.
If you want to add another record to your list, slide down the world’s longest tunnel slide. On the slide, you will be transported back down through 12 loops in less than 40 seconds. This section of the serpentine slide can even be photographed from above through a peephole. It is a very special attraction and highly recommended. Moreover, not everyone knows about it yet.
The London Eye
The London Eye is the city’s new landmark and a real attraction in its own right. Only when you look over the city through the “eye of London” can you judge whether this sight is worth the money.
As with many other attractions in London, a ride on the 135-metre-high Ferris wheel is not cheap. But you will get a great and really special view from your air-conditioned glass gondola. The half-hour ride is definitely worth it, and although you will want to take some pictures, do not forget to savor the moment during your ride on this amazing Ferris wheel.
As a personal tip, we recommend you start your Ferris wheel tour at dusk. At this time of day, the scenery of London is even more impressive. From up there, you will be able to observe how the city prepares for the night and starts to glow.
The Tower of London
The Tower of London is also called “Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London”. Within the two rings of fortifications, there are a residence, an armoury, a workshop, a storehouse, a zoo, a museum, as well as an archive and execution site.
Nowadays, however, it is visited by many tourists, and no one gets executed anymore. Apart from its impressive size, the Tower has, of course, played an extremely important role in the history of the United Kingdom. By the way, the Tower was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.
No matter if you want to catch a glimpse of the British crown jewels, skate on the ice in front of the Tower in winter, or just look for the six ravens in the Tower, paying a visit to the Tower of London is a must.
Tower Bridge is arguably the most famous road bridge in the world and was named after the nearby Tower of London. With a total length of 244 metres, it stretches across the Thames and allows around 40,000 vehicles to cross every day. The special thing about it is that not only cars drive across the bridge at a height of 9 metres, but also pedestrians are allowed to cross the Thames with ease. In addition, the bridge sections can be lifted to let ships through. Do not miss out on this spectacle!
A tour of the tower is also recommended. Not only will you learn about the history of the bridge, which was built in 1886, but you will also get to walk on the pedestrian bridge at a height of 43 metres. But be careful, this part of the bridge with its glass floor is not exactly for the faint-hearted. However, you can take spectacular photos of the roadway and the cars below.
Big Ben is actually the name of the 13.5-tonne bell in the Elizabeth Tower, which is part of the Palace of Westminster. It is the seat of the British Parliament. The government building, built in the neo-Gothic style, is already extremely imposing from the outside and is also a landmark of the city due to its importance and location.
However, it is actually worth it to have a look inside as well. You may be able to attend a session of the House of Commons. The eloquent speeches and heated debates are an experience that will stay with you for a long time.
The frequently mentioned name for the sight is nevertheless quite appropriate, because the Elizabeth Tower is certainly the motif that most people choose for their photos. In addition, Big Ben plays the well-known Westminster chime. Everyone associates this melody with the image of the tower and the British capital city, London.
Hyde Park is best known for its Speakers’ Corner. Speeches and protests have been held here since 1872. Nowadays, even rock concerts take place here, which are free of charge. But the park is also worth seeing and a must in this otherwise noisy and bustling city.
We recommend a long walk here. Afterward, you can relax on one of the many lawns and have a nice little picnic. With 140 hectares in this park alone and another 111 hectares in the adjoining Kensington Gardens, you will have plenty of space for your blanket.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Another sight that is worth seeing is St Paul’s Cathedral. Rebuilt in 1666, the cathedral is considered one of the most famous churches in the world. The 111-metre-high building stands at the highest point of the City of London and can therefore be seen from a great distance. However, definitely take a closer look at the church, which was rebuilt in the neoclassical Baroque style.
We recommend you take a walk across the Millennium Bridge, which spans across the Thames. This pedestrian bridge not only allows you to see London from a different perspective, but also takes you safely across the Thames to St Paul’s Cathedral.
The skyscraper The Shard, also called “Shard of Glass”, truly lives up to its name. At 310 metres, the building, which is mostly glass from the outside, rises into the air. The viewing platforms are located on the 69th and 72nd floors and are thus placed at a height of 221 metres and 232 metres. From here, the view over London is of course more than impressive, but unfortunately also a little expensive. Therefore, you have to consider whether you really want to climb the modern tower.
At 30 St Mary Axe, you’ll find another unusual looking building. The tower owes its nickname – the Gherkin – to its daring shape. This office tower is mainly an attraction from the outside.
But the Gherkin should not be missing in your travel pictures, because the building is considered an architectural wonder. It is known for its sustainability and energy efficiency, as the offices are arranged in a circle to allow for nature-like ventilation in the building. In addition, the inner part of the circle provides the offices with energy and water.
You cannot walk through London without crossing Trafalgar Square at least once. In fact, we recommend you walk around and look for what is probably the world’s smallest police station. This small station, which was primarily a cell for prisoners, is so well hidden that even we did not notice it the first time.
It is “hidden in plain sight”, so to speak, because it is integrated into a wall with an accompanying lantern. We think it is a very cool curiosity that not everyone knows about and that demands your full attention when looking for it. After the many impressive buildings, this station is a completely different sight.
Trafalgar Square as a whole, on the other hand, is of an impressive size and home to numerous other sights. As it has been one of the most important plazas in London for over 800 years, many historical sights are located in this public square; among them is the National Gallery, a world-class art museum. You could also simply enjoy a picnic at Nelson’s Column next to the four bronze lions.
Getting to Trafalgar Square is no problem, as 18 different bus routes pass by the square. So go for it! Buy a ticket for the red buses and take a ride to Trafalgar Square!
The Globe Theatre
Would you like to be at the centre of the world (of theatre)? You can literally do both by visiting the Globe Theatre. The Elizabethan theatre building is located on the south bank of the Thames; it is where Shakespeare’s works were performed in the 17th century. Therefore, it is probably not only the most historically significant site in the theatre world, the half-timbered building in the heart of London is also reminiscent of “the world” with its round shape.
Today’s Globe Theatre is a rebuilt theatre, as its predecessors have been destroyed several times. Both a guided tour of the theatre and, of course, a visit to one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces are always worth it.
At Camden Market, you can browse for vintage clothes, eat something delicious or buy a souvenir for someone. Either way, even if you are not too keen on shopping, we recommend a stroll through this gigantic and diverse market. This special market is easy to reach by metro or bus.
Our Secret Sights in London
As backpackers, we can point you to some hidden attractions. Even in the world-famous and much-travelled City of London, a few lesser-known spots still exist.
Allow us to introduce you to the angular alley of the Muggles. Indeed, this street seems more like a secret alley than a regular passageway. Moreover, this place is in the middle of Covent Garden’s shopping streets, teeming with locals and travellers alike.
However, between the houses at Bedfordbury 23 and 24, you will find a small gap that hardly looks like a house entrance. That is why the opening is easily overlooked. If you go through it, however, you will suddenly find yourself in a narrow and cosy alley, that will eventually lead you to a small courtyard. Even the noise of the city is reduced to a minimum here. This hidden place is perfect for lovers of little secrets.
Last but not least, let us tell you about a completely hidden gem. If you go to the Breakfast Club at 11 Southwark Street, you can eat and drink at a secret place. Here’s how:
Wait for the staff to arrive, or just go up to the bar and say the phrase: “I’m here to get lucky.” His expression will change, and he will lead you through a secret passageway down to a hidden pub.
In this speakeasy, you can order all kinds of drinks and even some interesting dishes. The prices are not too high for a London pub.
Although many people visit London, their experiences vary greatly, as London is one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world. However, London inspires almost everyone, because it has so much to offer.
You will certainly not regret a trip there. On the contrary, it will probably make you want to return to the British metropolis as soon as possible. We hope you make good use of our tips and that you find a few worthwhile sights in London! Have a nice trip!