One of the city’s newest but most-loved icons, the slowly revolving wheel that stands by the Thames continues to be a tourist favourite. Each glass-walled pod is designed to allow everyone (who dares) views to the north, south, east and west, making this a brilliant way to get the measure of London. And each visit now starts with a fun, 4D short film before you board
SEA LIFE London Aquarium
You don’t have to be by the seaside to immerse yourself in the life aquatic. The London Aquarium is home to sea creatures from all over the world, from Pacific nurse sharks to Antarctic penguins (with a glimpse of what’s swimming past you in the Thames, too). It can get busy, but go off peak and meet the crocs.
The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour
Also known as the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, this is a short trek north of London, but it’s worth the trip to set foot inside the Great Hall at Hogwarts. See film sets, costumes, props and exhibits that take you behind the scenes of the Harry Potter films. Changing exhibitions are included in the ticket and you get the chance to discover the secrets of the movies’ special effects.
The London Dungeon
No ghosts or ghouls, just gory stories retold with humour, gooey props and gruesomely costumed actors as you tour through London’s nastiest historical moments. From boarding a traitor’s boat ride to the Tower of London, to a dash through the recreated streets of Whitechapel in pursuit of Jack the Ripper, to a glimpse at stinking Plague London, it’s a romp and a scream, but definitely not for the fainthearted
As anyone knows who saw The Queen being collected by James Bond before her helicopter drop into the Olympic Stadium for the London 2012 opening ceremony, Buckingham Palace is the working headquarters of the Monarchy. From daily meetings to huge ceremonial occasions with heads of state from all over the world, this is where it all happens.
Tower of London
A thousand years of history that’s still standing, the Tower of London is a must-see. Although it’s best known for beheadings and the Crown Jewels, there’s also William the Conqueror’s White Tower to visit, the ravens to meet (beware, they’re pecky) and plenty of gruesome stories to hear, while costumed displays and hands-on activities bring history to life.
Houses of Parliament
Audio tours of the Houses of Parliament offer a unique combination of one thousand years of history, modern day politics and stunning art and architecture. The audio commentary brings to life this trip through the House of Lords and House of Commons. Tours take around 60 to 75 minutes and feature leading Parliamentary figures such as Mr Speaker and Black Rod.
ArcelorMittal Orbit and slide
The curly-wurly red scaffolding tower lords it over the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from its position right alongside the Olympic Stadium. Designed by the artist Anish Kapoor and structural engineer Cecil Balmond, it stands 114.5m (376ft) tall – with lifts (and a 455-step staircase) up to two platforms. There are also two of Kapoor’s entertaining distorting mirrors inside and some newly installed digital telescopes so that you can get closer to the views.
Trace thousands of years of culture and history through artefacts gathered from all over the world. From the everyday to the ceremonial, priceless treasures fill the galleries here, and, thanks to the modern Great Court and its glass-domed ceiling, it’s a lively space, not a mausoleum. There are free daily tours and object-handling activities, and even the youngest visitors are fascinated by the Egyptian mummy.
From pop stars to politicians, sporting heroes to great painters, this gallery of wax figures never fails to impress visitors with each model’s lifelike attention to detail and the attraction’s keen eye for featuring the latest hot celebs. Taking selfies with Kanye or Chewbacca is still a big draw, but there are interactive experiences too, like the Spirit of London ride, a 4D cinema and a fashion catwalk. Don’t miss: Your own five-minute Sherlock Holmes adventure where you’re immersed in Edwardian London, meeting curious characters and seeking clues to find the missing sleuth.
Wimbledon All England Tennis Club and Lawn Tennis Museum
Release your inner Andy Murray at the site of the world’s oldest tennis tournament. The tour takes in the history of lawn tennis, there is memorabilia dating as far back as 1555, while new additions to the collection include Andy Murray’s outfit from the London 2012 Olympics, when he took home the gold medal, and a series of tennis posters from 1893 to 2015. You can also go on behind-the-scenes tours of the grounds and facilities – including Centre Court – and get a 360-degree view of the arena from a special viewing platform.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul’s is a true London icon. Buy the sightseeing ticket to walk around inside the Cathedral, venturing down to the Crypt to see the tombs of Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Christopher Wren, and climbing up into the dome. Here the circular walkway around the inside edge of the dome is called the Whispering Gallery – the acoustics enable you to be heard right across the other side of the walkway even when you talk softly.
Emirates Airline Cable Car
Enjoy fantastic views over the city, Canary Wharf, the Thames Barrier and the Olympic Park from The Emirates Air Line, the UK’s first urban cable car. The 1.1-kilometre route provides a river crossing between terminals close to the Excel Centre at Royal Docks and the O2 Arena at Greenwich. ‘Night Flights’ are available during summer, which offer a longer journey time, music and video entertainment and some rather impressive views of London after-dark.
Like the Pantheon Crypt in Paris, where you can see the tombs and memorials to great figures from history, Westminster Abbey is a popular attraction to peruse the graves, tablets, busts and stone dedications.There are daily tours available, which look at highlights around the Abbey. These don’t need to be booked in advance but it’s worth checking what times these are running on the day you want to visit. All entry tickets include a free audio guide for each person.
The V&A is one of the world’s – let alone London’s – most magnificent museums. Some 150 grand galleries on seven floors contain countless pieces of furniture, ceramics, sculpture, paintings, posters, jewellery, metalwork, glass, textiles and dress, spanning several centuries. Highlights include the seven Raphael Cartoons painted in 1515 as tapestry designs for the Sistine Chapel; the finest collection of Italian Renaissance sculpture outside Italy; the Ardabil carpet, the world’s oldest and arguably most splendid floor covering, in the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art; and the Luck of Edenhall, a thirteenth-century glass beaker from Syria.
Tower Bridge is a must-do that you can enjoy from a distance and right up close. Check the website in advance and visit when there’s a planned ‘bridge lift’ (that’s when the two halves of the road lift up so that bigger boats can pass below). There are lots of tours so you can see the engine rooms, hear about its history or join a Tots at Tower Bridge family storytelling session
Up at the O2
Inside the vast O2 on Greenwich Peninsula you can see gigs, go bowling, dine at loads of restaurants, see a movie or catch an exhibition, but why go in when you can go over? On a completely safe but nerve-jangling climb, you can ascend the roof of The O2, take in views on a walkway suspended 52 metres above ground, then edge your way back down. (That’s the weirdest bit because the path dips away in front of you.)
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
The immaculate parklands to the north launched in summer 2013, their paths and waterways enhanced by the new Timber Lodge with its cafe. Next came the Zaha Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre, which is open for public swimming and diving sessions, followed by the VeloPark, home to road, track, BMX and mountain biking, and the southern section of the park. The latter comprises all the remaining parkland, including children’s play areas, four walking trails, a couple of dozen public artworks, plus the attraction of ascending the ArcelorMittal Orbit
St Mary Axe is an insignificant street named after a vanished church that is said to have contained an axe used by Attila the Hun to behead English virgins. It is now known for Lord. Foster’s 30 St Mary Axe, arguably London’s finest contemporary building. The building is known as ‘the Gherkin’ (and, occasionally, more suggestive nicknames) for reasons that are obvious. Go up 28 floors and enjoy spectacular 360-degree views from this instantly recognisable buildin