Brick Lane London

10 Places to See in London

Vast numbers of tourists flock to London each year – around 30 million, to be more precise – and with good reason. An undisputed cultural powerhouse, entertainment mecca and sightseeing paradise, England’s capital city’s reputation for being one of the best in the world is well deserved. What’s more, lots of its best-known tourist destinations are FREE. Yes, we know, the words ‘free’ and ‘London’ are unlikely bedfellows, but believe it or not, London has a whopping 1,389 tourist attractions that cost precisely nothing to visit.

With so much to pack into a trip to London, it can be hard to know where to start. No need to worry – we’ve got your back and pulled together 10 of our favourite places to see in the capital. Some are big-hitting iconic landmarks – veritable rights of passage for any visitor to London – others are hidden gems that will take you off the beaten track. So, grab your map and travelcard (or just an iPhone will do nowadays), and get ready to explore the delights of London town!

1.  South Bank

Situated, unsurprisingly, on the South Bank of the River Thames, this London gem is a lively mixture of commerce and entertainment. Whilst only a mile or so long, the stretch of waterside that is the South Bank is packed with restaurants, bars and cultural venues, including the London Eye, the London Aquarium and the BFI IMAX. If you’re on a budget, you can’t go far wrong by spending a couple of hours taking in the sights and sounds of the area, stopping to watch a show by one of the scores of street performers who use it as their stage, and marvelling at the skills of the tribe of skateboarders ready to show off their latest trick and always up for a laugh with spectators.

2.  Covent Garden

No list of places to see in London would be complete without a mention of the resplendent Covent Garden. Situated in London’s vibrant West End, Covent Garden is a hub of entertainment and shopping, where high-end retailers rub shoulders with bohemian craft stalls and world-class street performers. Meandering around the area surrounding the 17th-century St Paul’s Church, with its majestic architecture and outdoor eateries, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in Rome – not that you’d want to; you’re in London after all!

3.  British Museum

Located in the magnificent Bloomsbury area of London, with its Georgian squares and pretty streets, the British Museum explores 2 million years of all things human. With collections including fascinating artefacts ranging from Egyptian Mummies to the Rosetta Stone, the museum is a celebration of the history of mankind, with all our magnificent achievements and quirks. Better still, it’s free.

4.  Brick Lane

A little off the beaten track but still pretty central, Brick Lane is an iconic street in London’s East End. A firm favourite with visitors and locals alike, the melting pot of cultures that gives the area its unique personality hits you as soon as you arrive. Prepare for a sensory overload, as the smells of the best curry houses in London fuse with the vibrant colours of the street art and shouts of the market traders. Whether you fancy scouring the vintage shops for lost treasures, picking up a world-famous Brick Lane bagel or even belting out a power ballad or two at All Lanes Karaoke (why not?!), Brick Lane has you covered.

5.  Hyde Park

The largest of London’s eight Royal Parks, Hyde Park is an oasis of tranquillity amidst the hustle and bustle of the capital. The park has hosted countless major historic events, including the UK’s first Pride march, and is home to the iconic Speaker’s Corner where the likes of Christabel Pankhurst and Karl Marx delivered rousing speeches. It’s the perfect place to relax and unwind after a shopping spree around Oxford and Regent Street, just a stone’s throw away, or to work off some of your trip’s excesses by taking a jog (ok, stroll) through the beautifully maintained gardens, or even a dip in the Serpentine. Brrrr!

6.  Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum takes visitors on a fascinating journey through the history of our planet.  Home to 80 million exhibits ranging from specimens collected by Charles Darwin on his travels, to meteorites, great auk eggs – a species of bird now extinct – and of course, dinosaurs! The museum, with its world-famous collection of dinosaur fossils, is a must-see for any little (or big!) dinosaur lovers, who will be in their element meeting Sophie the Stegosaurus, the most complete Stegosaurus skeleton in existence, and getting up close and personal with the king of the dinosaurs – the T Rex. Plus, it’s another of London’s free attractions. What’s not to love?

7.  Borough Market

Borough Market, situated not far from London Bridge, is London’s oldest food market, and a foodie’s paradise. With over 100 stalls, including delicatessens, bakeries and cheesemakers, your taste buds won’t know what’s hit them after a couple of hours sampling some of the capital’s finest fare. The market is particularly special around Christmas time, when the atmosphere is festive, the lights twinkle, and the scent of mince pies and mulled wine fills the air.

8. Leadenhall Market

Leadenhall Market is worth a visit for the stunning architecture alone. Its magnificent arches and cobblestones, and its old-world charm, make it a much sought-after location for films, music videos and events. Remember when Hagrid led Harry through Diagon Alley to the Leaky Cauldron in the first Harry Potter film? Yep, that was the magnificent Leadenhall Market. Situated in London’s finance district – the City – the market’s shops, restaurants and bars are pretty up-market, but there’s a wonderfully old-fashioned ‘London’ pub – the Lamb Tavern – where you can enjoy a pint of real ale alongside the City workers who unwind there after a long week.

9. Houses of Parliament

We see them most days on the TV, but there’s nothing quite as awe-inspiring as standing in front of the magnificent buildings that have housed Parliament for over 900 years. You can head inside this hallowed turf to watch a Parliamentary debate or take part in a guided tour, or simply admire from outside. The juxtaposition of hordes of tourists from around the Globe taking selfies whilst the great and the good (or whatever else you choose to call them) of the political world go about their business, is, in itself, a sight to behold.

10. Columbia Road Flower Market

We’ve gone with somewhere a little different to end our list – Columbia Road Flower Market. A favourite with locals, Columbia Road Flower Market is an East End market in the truest possible sense. Over 50 different flower stalls battle for your trade every Sunday morning, so be prepared for shouting and banter aplenty as the friendly stallholders engage in some cockney rhyming slang and savvy Londoners haggle over a particularly pretty houseplant.

The market can get very busy, so it’s best to go early to avoid the crowds and bag some bargains. Once you’ve had your fill of beautiful blooms, perfect plants and fabulous flowers, you can stroll around the independent shops and art galleries before partaking in a sugar hit in one of the cute cupcake shops or relaxing in a traditional London boozer. Perfect!

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