London, the largest city in the United Kingdom, is situated on the banks of the Thames River and attracts each year millions of tourists. Therefore, it became in the year 2012 the most toured city in the world, after the number of tourists that year reached 16.9 million!
The selection and number of attractions in London is very large, so that every visitor to the city will be able to find the attraction he likes. London has everything – art, street culture, music, museums, galleries, sport, restaurants, musicals, theater, history, heritage sites, churches, piazzas, parks, luxury shops, markets, and the list is still long.
It is recommended to arrive in London for at least 4-5 days. If you arrived for such length of stay, here are some routes that are a must.
First Day Tour
On the first day, the recommended starting point of your tour starts on the famous Oxford St. The street, 2.5 km long, is the main shopping street of London and therefore is a must site for shopping fans, but not only. On this street, you will find all the fashion chains that you can imagine, as well as souvenir shops and department stores. Shopping fans can read my article: Shopping in London. However, walking down this street is impressive not only for shoppers, because the buildings along the street are impressive and special. The atmosphere is bubbling and there is a lot to see and do. On Regent Street, which is perpendicular to Oxford Street are some more impressive shops headed by the large and impressive Apple store as well as the famous toy shop Hamleys. The shop was established in the year 1760 and is a haven for all – children as well as adults – who will be happy to get lost on 7 floors of dolls, puzzles, Lego, computer games, board games, costumes, and more and more.
After the visit to the shopping street, continue on Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, the square that is famous mainly for the many neons and advertising signs hanging on the buildings in the area. At the center of the square, you cannot miss the memorial fountain and the statue of Eros, “The Angel of Christian Charity”. Nearby is the famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, exhibiting distortions and weirdness, such as distorted animals, bizarre records, amusing archeological discoveries, and more. The London museum is the most famous and the largest among tens of museums in the chain (There is an entrance fee). It is also worthwhile to visit the large colorful souvenir shop Cool Britannia. This is a special and impressive shop where you can find many souvenirs characterizing London with its uniqueness and colorfulness.
A five minutes’ walk from Piccadilly is another famous and colorful shop, the M&M’s World candy shop, near Leicester Square. The walk between the colorful levels, scores of candies, the special souvenirs and even the colorful “Lab” in which you can concoct the taste you wish, will leave you with a sweet taste on your lips, even before you taste…
From Leicester Square, a street exists leading you to Chinatown. You will recognize the area because of the colorful light bulbs, the many Chinese restaurants and special atmosphere. It is advisable to tour the street and from there reach the shopping and entertainment Covent Garden Square. Here you will find many fashion shops, restaurants, bakeries, street artists and more. From the market area, continue in the direction of Trafalgar Square. This is a 20 minutes’ walk, but you can also take the “Tube” (The underground) to the Charing Cross Station. Trafalgar Square is London’s main square, memorizing Britain’s winning the war against France in the Trafalgar Battle in the year 1805. The famous symbol of the Square is obviously the Nelson obelisk standing in the midst of the Square. On the obelisk you will notice the sculpture of Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson the commander of the fleet in the Trafalgar Battle, surrounded by four bronze lions and plenty of tourists…
For the art lovers, do not miss visiting the National Gallery located next to the Square. The Gallery holds collections of more than two thousand works of art, starting with the Renaissance period to the 20th century. Entrance is Free of charge.
If you have reached the Square in the evening hours, it is recommended to continue in the direction of London Eye, known by the name “The Millennium Wheel”. This huge wheel towering to 135 meters is one of the main tourists’ hubs in the City. The Wheel is located on the Southern bank of the Thames River. In the evening, it is impressive to see the colorful wheel, but go on it only during day hours or at the beginning of sunset, but if you choose to do so on that day, you can do so for an entrance fee until the hour 21:30.
After viewing the London Eye, you can continue for an observation on top of the famous Elizabeth Tower, mainly known for the big bell on its top – the Big Ben.
Second Day Tour
You should devote your second tour day of London to continue the visit of other famous London tourist attractions. On this day, it is recommended to become familiar with the unique sites in the City, such as Buckingham Palace and Parliament Buildings.
In fact, this day begins at the ending point of the previous day. Last night you could see the Big Ben at night, all lit, and now you will visit the area during daytime, and you – like thousands of other tourists – can continue to enjoy this special place. However, the observation from the top of the tower is reserved only for the residents of Britain. The Big Ben is located at the top of Britain’s Parliament House, a very impressive building – both by size as well as design. The House of Parliament has over 1000 rooms and halls, which you can visit by a paid guided tour.
Across from the Parliament House is the impressive Westminster Abbey church. This is an antique Gothic beautiful church dating back to the 11th century. Here the kings of England are crowned and wed. A Famous wedding took place in April 2011, when the duke and duchess of Cambridge, Price William and Kate Middleton got married. Additionally, in the church are buried many kings, as well as leaders, writers and scientists such as Isaac Newton and Charles Dickens. Entrance fee is required.
After the visit to the Church, continue on Parliament Street, about 10 minute walk to 10 Downing Street, the official residence of Britain’s Prime Minister. Do not expect too much – it is reasonable that the only thing you will see is regiments of tourists and guards. From here, continue to the Horse Guards, (10-minute walk). The concourse was built in the year 1753. The Guard change ceremony takes place on every round hour between the hours of 10:00 – 16:00. It is recommended to come and see. This is a similar ceremony to the change of guards at the Buckingham Palace but less crowded and vulgar.
After your visit, continue on Whitehall Street and after about fifteen minutes of walk you will arrive at Trafalgar Square, which we discussed earlier. You should visit the area and arrive by way of Pall Mall Street to St. James Palace. The Palace was built in the year 1536 and served as the residence of the kings and queens of England for over 300 years. Currently, the palace is still used as the residence of some of the royal family members. The Palace is not open to the public.
A walk thru the park is the recommended way to arrive at another attraction, the Churchill Museum and Churchill War Room. Especially recommended for those who love history, but not only for them.
After the visit to the Museum, take the Tube to Waterloo and from here arrive at Westminster Bridge and the London Eye. The Bridge was inaugurated in the year 1862, and currently is the oldest bridge crossing the Thames River.
After the visit to the Bridge and the Huge Wheel attraction, those art lovers can continue to visit other famous sites in London, among them a must is the Tate Modern. The Museum is located inside an industrial structure and has many articles of art. This is a recommended visit and so think millions of people who visit the museum each year. A short walk from there, about 5 minutes, leads you to the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. The Theater opened in 1997 and recommended for theater lovers.
After the visit to the theater, take the Tube once more to the London Bridge Station and visit the impressive bridge. In this area, you will find additional buildings worthwhile visiting such as the Borough Market. This is a colorful market where you will find fruits, vegetables, cheeses, sausages, pastries, jams, alcoholic beverages, and more. Highly recommended for those who love markets. Less than 10 minutes away is the new Shard Tower. It rises 310 meters above the ground and offers a breath taking view of the City and in a radius of 62 km. The tower has 72 floors of offices, work spaces, restaurants, luxury apartments, hotel, swimming pool and of course the observation located on the 68-72 floors. Although the tower is impressive, not all are excited; a lot of criticism accompanied the tower construction. Some wondered whether the tower – with its luxury apartments – is useful during a period of economic crisis and a slowdown, after which many can no longer afford such a standard. Additionally, there were those that argued that the tower would lead to waste of resources and use of energy. One way or the other, the visitors can enjoy a view like no other (entrance fee required). Another attraction is located near the London Bridge; it is the London Tower Bridge. The construction of the bridge began in 1886 and last for 8 years. The bridge length is 244 meter, it is 8.6 m’ above water level and is 61 meters wide.
Third day Tour
Devote the third day of your tour for a visit at Notting Hill. It is a colorful and fashionable neighborhood located at the northwest corner of the green Kensington Gardens. The main attraction here is the Portobello Road market, offering antiquities, clothing, bags, jewelry, make-up and cosmetics, souvenirs and fashion accessories next to vegetables, fruits, pastries and other foods. The market is open all weekdays, but most recommended is to visit it on Saturday, when the streets are bustling and the selection broader.
Those who love advertising and marketing will be glad to discover a real pearl at a walking distance of 5 minutes from the market. The Advertising and branding museum, opened in London in the year 2005, and currently you can find here more than 12,000 branded and advertising items from the 19 century until now. The exhibits are very colorful and it is exciting to discover the original packaging of cosmetics from the year 1980, box games from the 30’s, consumer products from the 70’s and more; recommended and interesting. Entrance fee required, discounts for children, students and senior citizens.
After the tour of the neighborhood, take the Tube to Knightsbridge Station and from there, a short walking distance is the prestigious Harrods Department Store. It is huge, famous and extremely prestigious. The store area – with its five floors – is more than 20,000 square meters where you will find cosmetics items, clothing, jewelry, bags, books next to accessories (very expensive) for pets, a whole floor devoted for Xmas decorations, a food floor and more. Visit, wash your eyes with the prestigious items and exaggerated prices…
After the visit to the prestigious department store walk over to Hyde park. The impressive park, one of the Royal Gardens in London, spreads on an area of 2.5 square kilometers. The gardens are impressive and very pleasant for calm walking and enjoyment of the air and serenity. If you arrive on a Sunday, go to the Speakers’ Corner, in the northeastern edge of the park. In accordance with the best tradition, each Sunday many people gather in this corner making speeches to the broad public and conducting stormy discussions. You should also visit Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. The monument – inaugurated in July 2004 – is located in the southwest corner of the park. The shape of the fountain is oval and in fact, it is a fountain composed of 545 granite stone parts. The shape of the fountain symbolized Diana’s life, her sociable personality and the warm attitude towards the residents of Britain.
In addition to the sites, we broadly discussed here, it is highly recommended (!) to go to a musical in London. The productions are impressive and invested, famous around the world. Sometimes, the mere visit to the theater is an experience by itself. The selection of shows is large, but the well-known and successful are “The Lion King”, ”Les Misérable”, “Phantom of the Opera” and others.
Another, relatively new attraction is the Emirates Air Line. The cable car was inaugurated in June 2012, towards the Olympic Games in the City. The cable car departs on one side near the North Greenwich Tube station and at its other end arrives near the DLR Royal Victoria Station. Recommended and special, provides another angle of site of the City – view from above the Thames River, the ancient buildings and the tourist streets, the ride requires a fee.