When one thinks of London, several images spring to mind. A classic London red bus, a black cab, and maybe even the iconic Tower Bridge are just some of the defining symbols of London.
Whether you're planning a trip to the city or just there for a short time, this guide will give you all you need to know about what London is famous for, so you won’t have to skimp on Instagrammable opportunities when you’re touring around the city. Start planning your London stay and take a look at what London is known for in our list of 15 famous London sites and icons.
Buckingham Palace, the epitome of regal opulence, stands proudly as the official residence of the British monarch. The palace was initially built in 1705 for the Duke of Buckingham but was subsequently purchased by George III in 1762 for his Queen Charlotte, his wife at the time. Today, the palace remains in the royal family and has become a symbol of the monarchy, as well as a famous spot for tourists to congregate and snap pictures of the building and guards in their glamorous red coats and bearskins.
A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, Westminster Abbey is a living testament to centuries of British history. Hosting royal coronations, weddings, and burials, the Abbey's solemn grandeur and historical significance make it an essential stop for enthusiasts of both architecture, London’s history, and the monarchy. Located just next to Westminster Bridge, the Abby is an ideal stop after you’ve visited Buckingham Palace and before Big Ben.
Big Ben is one of the most photographed sites in London and is one of those sites you’ll find presented in the form of a keyring or fridge magnet at one of the many tourist shops in and around the city. The whole city knows about it when Big Ben chimes every hour on the hour, and catching the resonant sound is something you should aim for.
The London Eye
For a panoramic spectacle of London's skyline, the London Eye is a popular choice. This colossal observation wheel on the South Bank offers breathtaking views, creating a memorable experience for visitors looking to capture the city's beauty from a unique vantage point.
The Houses of Parliament
Also known as the Palace of Westminster, this architectural marvel not only governs the nation but also stands as a symbol of political history and significance. Its iconic silhouette along the River Thames adds to London's rich tapestry of landmarks. The buildings are best seen from the river either while standing on the South Bank or a Thames River Cruise.
Changing of the Guard
The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place outside Buckingham Palace and is a time-honoured tradition that draws crowds from around the globe. If you want to experience one of London’s most cherished treasures, this impeccable display of military precision and pageantry is a must-see and a vivid reminder of Britain's storied history in military and monarchy.
Famous Department Stores
One thing there is certainly no shortage of in London is its massive luxury department stores. For the ultimate shopping experience, no trip to London is complete without a visit to one of these magnificent hubs of designer creations and indulgent food items.
You’ll get to experience all the best in British and international luxury when you pay a visit to Harrods. With its opulent interiors and an array of exclusive offerings, a visit to Harrods is a sensory journey encompassing everything from designer fashion and fragrance brands to incredible food - and who can forget the amazing luxury toy section too?
Selfridges is a high-end department store offering a curated selection of luxury brands. Its avant-garde design and upscale shopping experience contribute to London's status as a global fashion capital.
With its Tudor-revival exterior, Liberty is a unique shopping destination known for its eclectic mix of designer goods and distinctive prints. The store's historic charm adds a touch of nostalgia to London's modern retail landscape and is the ultimate fashion hub for fashion enthusiasts.
Fortnum and Mason
Founded in 1707, Fortnum and Mason is not just a store but an institution. Renowned for its gourmet delights and elegant hampers, it is a quintessential stop for those seeking a taste of London's culinary heritage and salvation-worthy treats.
Dominating the River Thames, Tower Bridge is a triumph of Victorian engineering. Its iconic bascules, lifting to allow ships to pass, make it a symbol of London's technological prowess and a captivating sight for visitors. The best place to grab a picture of the bridge is either on the North Bank, just outside the Tower of London or on the South Bank as you approach it.
Hyde Park is the famous site of Speaker’s Corner, where many famous demonstrations have taken place in the past. Today it remains a space where individuals can come and express their opinions on current affairs in the name of free speech. The site is also London's largest royal park encompassing serene lakes, lush greenery, and recreational activities that offer a peaceful retreat, providing a contrast to the vibrant energy of the city.
London Red Buses
London's distinctive red double-decker buses are more than just a mode of transport; they're a symbol of the city's identity. If you’re not one for walking around, these buses provide an authentic London experience and great views of the city as you get from A to B.
London Black Cabs
The iconic London black cabs, with their unique design, are a reliable and ubiquitous presence on the city's streets. Their status as a symbol of London's transportation heritage adds to the city's charm. Even more impressive is the cabbies’ knowledge of the city, navigating all routes without any need for Google Maps.
Famous High-Rise Buildings
When taking in the London skyline, there are a few buildings that are impossible to miss, due to their unique design and architectural brilliance. Below are some of the key buildings to look out for next time you find yourself in front of a vista of the city of London.
Piercing the sky as Western Europe's tallest building, The Shard is a modern architectural marvel. Its glass façade and unique shape make this building unmistakable and is certainly worth a picture or two. The Shard is home to several offices and apartments as well as luxury spas and dining outlets.
Officially known as 30 St Mary Axe, The Gherkin's distinctive shape adds a futuristic touch to London's collection of modern buildings. This iconic skyscraper is a symbol of contemporary design and innovation, housing prestigious workspaces and an incredible restaurant at the top.
The BT Tower
Originally known as the Post Office Tower, The BT Tower stands as a communications hub. You can see the tower from miles away, as it is characterised by the purple British Telecom branding.
The London Underground
Beneath the city's surface, the London Underground weaves an intricate web of transportation engineering genius. Efficient and well-connected, the Tube is an integral part of London life, ensuring seamless travel across the metropolis.
West End Theatre
London's West End is famous for world-class theatre productions, including the longest-running production of the Phantom of the Opera in the world. From timeless classics to cutting-edge performances, you’ll have to ensure you catch a show in the theatre district in and around Soho. You may even see some names you recognise on stage!
The Royal Family
The Royal Family is an integral part of London's cultural identity. From Buckingham Palace to various royal residences like Kensington Palace. The monarchy is one of the key draw cards that attract tourists to the city of London. They also have an element of celebrity that surrounds them, with many fans coming to London to see how the royals live.
When is your next trip to London?
As you delve into the rich tapestry of London's history, culture, and modernity, you have to ask yourself when you’re planning on visiting the city and its famous sites. London and all its glory are waiting to be explored and certainly promise an immersive experience that will be truly unforgettable. London stands as a city where history and contemporary life come together in one bustling hub. From the regal splendour of Buckingham Palace to the avant-garde architecture of The Shard, each iconic landmark contributes to London's diverse identity.
Whether you're drawn to the rich history embedded in Westminster Abbey or seeking retail therapy in luxury department stores, London offers a myriad of experiences for every traveller. So, pack your bags, plan your itinerary, and get ready to be inspired by London’s famous offerings. And when you're looking for the perfect place to stay, consider our handpicked selection of London Serviced Apartments & Homes, offering the ideal blend of comfort and convenience to enhance your visit.
If you’re looking for more iconic sites and famous landmarks in and around the city of London, why not visit LoveToVisit and check out all the attractions on the site? You’ll discover a whole world of fun when you take your trip to the English capital.