Fog, Big Ben, the Crown, and more: What is London famous for? 

They say folks in London love a good queue, have questionable taste in food (jellied eels, anyone?), and could use a bit of sunshine. Well, I say stereotypes are there to be shattered! 

Sure, we might embrace the occasional downpour and have a soft spot for a good chip butty, but London is so much more than its clichés. 

If you don’t believe me, grab your umbrella (just in case), let’s leave our taste-bud prejudices at the door, and be ready to discover the best things London is famous for, from landmarks to locations!

Landmarks

Buckingham Palace

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Location: London SW1A 1AA, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 303 123 7300

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM

Website

Originally a grand townhouse built for a fancy Duke in 1703, Buckingham Palace wasn’t always a royal residence. King George III snagged it in 1761 for his beloved Queen Charlotte, and over time, it morphed into the majestic palace we know today.

Inside, you’ll find some of the world’s most impressive art and furniture collections. Rembrandt and Canaletto deck out the State Rooms, used for fancy shindigs with important people. 

And let’s not forget the iconic Changing of the Guard ceremony! It’s a vibrant display of British pomp and tradition – and a whole lot of disciplined stomping. Yeah, we’re known for that.

Big Ben

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Location: London SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7219 4272

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Thursday – 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM
  • Friday to Sunday – 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Website

We’ve explained this to foreigners galore several times already, but it bears repeating: the grand tower at the end of the Palace of Westminster is named the Elizabeth Tower (renamed in 2012 for the Queen’s Jubilee) and Big Ben is just the bell in it.

That bell though? It’s a heavyweight, literally – a whopping 13.7 metric tons! Its booming chimes, along with the smaller quarter bells, have kept London on time since 1859.

The tower itself was known originally as the Clock Tower and it’s no slouch in the history department too. Designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin, this 315-foot-tall Victorian masterpiece has witnessed world wars, changing governments, and several million chips being fried.

The London Eye

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Location: Riverside Building, County Hall, London SE1 7PB, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7967 8021

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Friday – 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Saturday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 8:30 PM

Website

Since its grand opening in 2000, this iconic observation wheel has redefined London’s skyline. Standing 135 meters tall on the River Thames, the London Eye grants you a bird’s-eye view of the city – you can see historic landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace!

But the London Eye is not just views. Set foot into one of its 32 high-tech glass capsules, and you’ll enter a world of space and light. It’s your own floating observatory, offering a slow-motion, 360-degree panorama of London’s ever-evolving beauty.  

St Paul’s Cathedral

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Location: St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7246 8350

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Tuesday & Thursday to Saturday – 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Wednesday – 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Sunday – 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Website

Designed by the renowned Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London, this masterpiece in English Baroque style has dominated the city skyline since 1710.  

Venture inside and you’ll find architectural marvels like the Whispering Gallery, where secrets travel at the speed of sound, and breathtaking panoramic views from higher points.

More than a place of worship, St. Paul’s has been a stage for grand national events. From the funerals of Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill, and Margaret Thatcher to jubilee celebrations for monarchs, this cathedral has witnessed pivotal moments in British history.

The Shard

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Location: 32 London Bridge St, London SE1 9SG, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 344 499 7222

Opening hours:

  • Sunday to Wednesday – 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • Thursday to Saturday – 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Website

Think of The Shard as London’s sleek, stylish overachiever. It’s the UK’s tallest building, a “vertical city”, and an eye-catching addition to the skyline.

It’s also very popular for its views! The Shard’s observation deck, aptly named “The View from The Shard”, spans floors 68 to 72. This is where you’ll experience London spread out below like a giant living map. 

But The Shard isn’t just about staring out the window. This sleek giant houses fancy restaurants (think prices as high as the views), the ultra-luxurious Shangri-La Hotel, and some seriously posh apartments.

Trafalgar Square

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Location: Trafalgar Sq, London WC2N 5DS, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7983 4750

Opening hours: Open 24 hours

Website

Named for a mighty British naval victory (cue the epic music!), the square honours Admiral Nelson, whose epic leadership sank the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805. 

This square is a melting pot of history, culture, and that undeniable London buzz. It’s a great starting point to explore the city but be warned – weekends and events can get crowded.  

So, grab your camera, and some snacks to share (or not share) with the pigeons, and be prepared to soak in the electrifying energy of this iconic London landmark.

Museums and galleries

The British Museum

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Location: Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7323 8299

Opening hours:

  • Saturday to Thursday – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Friday – 10:00 AM to 8:30 PM

Website

The British Museum is a global treasure trove open to the world (quite literally since admission is free). Founded in 1753, it holds the title of the first national public museum in the world.

What else sets this place apart? Just eight million works of art and artefacts, spanning continents and civilizations! And there’s plenty for the art enthusiasts, with the iconic Elgin Marbles, a collection of classical Greek sculptures, holding court.

Plus, it offers drama. Many of its treasures were acquired during the British Empire’s reign, sparking debates about rightful ownership and the return of cultural artefacts to their places of origin.

The Tate Modern

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Location: Bankside, London SE1 9TG, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7887 8888

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Website

Since opening in 2000 within a former power station, the Tate Modern has become a London icon and a magnet for anyone who craves a dose of the bold and unexpected. 

Inside, it’s a feast of modern and contemporary art. Picasso? Yep. Dalí’s surrealism? Absolutely. Rothko’s mesmerising colours? Well, you’ll get lost in them! 

The Tate Modern curates a collection that sparks both awe and lively debate to remind us that art should be anything but boring. It’s also part of the larger Tate powerhouse, a network of galleries across the UK, each offering a unique perspective on the UK’s vibrant art scene. 

The Victoria and Albert Museum

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Location: Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7942 2000

Opening hours:

  • Saturday to Thursday – 10:00 AM to 5:45 PM
  • Friday – 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM

Website

Founded in 1852, The Victoria and Albert Museum holds a treasure trove spanning 5,000 years of dazzling human creativity. Nestled in London’s  “Albertopolis” district, the V&A is a testament to the power of art and design.

Imagine wandering through galleries bursting with everything from exquisite mediaeval tapestries to a quirky mechanical tiger (yes, really – look up Tipu’s Tiger!). 

The V&A houses over 2.27 million objects celebrating craftsmanship across civilizations and eras. You’ll find iconic fashion pieces alongside ancient treasures, breathtaking sculptures, and even the majestic Raphael Cartoons.

Parks and nature

Hyde Park

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Location: London, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 300 061 2000

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Sunday – 5:00 AM to 12:00 AM

Website

Originally Henry VIII’s private hunting grounds, Hyde Park became a public space in the 1600s. It’s hosted royal parades, grand exhibitions, and plenty of everyday picnics throughout the centuries.

It’s also huge. We’re talking about 350 acres of green space in the heart of London. It can be your escape from the urban bustle, a place for long strolls or even a brave dip in the Serpentine Lake. 

This park also transforms into a giant party venue throughout the year, by the way. Past concerts have seen legends like the Rolling Stones and Queen (the band, not Her Late Majesty). Winter brings the magical Winter Wonderland festival too, complete with ice-skating and festive markets. 

Regent’s Park

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Location: Chester Rd, London NW1 4NR, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 300 061 2300

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Sunday – 5:00 AM to 5:30 PM

Website

Designed by the famed John Nash (the guy behind Buckingham Palace), Regent’s Park oozes Regency-era charm. Grand terraces of white stucco houses frame the park, adding a touch of royal finesse to your stroll.

This park is packed with surprises too. Queen Mary’s Gardens is a floral explosion, home to over 12,000 roses! Take a boat ride on the lake, catch an open-air theatre performance, or let the kids go wild in the playgrounds.

Feeling energetic? Regent’s Park boasts sports facilities galore. Tennis courts, football pitches, even an outdoor gym!  Or take a stroll along Regent’s Canal, a picturesque waterway lined with colourful houseboats.

Kew Gardens

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Location: Richmond, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 8332 5655

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Website

This UNESCO World Heritage Site isn’t just a beautiful park, Kew Gardens is a living laboratory and a testament to our planet’s incredible biodiversity. Founded in 1840, this place showcases a dazzling collection of over 50,000 living species spread across 330 acres.

Here, you can get lost in the soaring Victorian glasshouses like the Temperate House, a haven for plants from every corner of the temperate world. You can also wander through landscapes that burst with colour each season, encountering ancient trees and vibrant flowerbeds. 

Entertainment

The West End

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The West End is theatreland. Over 40 historic theatres pack in dazzling shows, from long-running hits like “Les Misérables” and “The Phantom of the Opera” to cutting-edge new productions. 

The West End is about the whole experience too. It’s about getting dressed up, sipping a pre-show drink in a bustling pub, and feeling the energy of the crowd as the lights dim. Plus, you’re surrounded by famous restaurants, buzzing bars, and tucked-away shops to explore.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

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Location: 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7401 9919

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Saturday – 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Sunday – 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Website

Did you know that the original Globe Theatre burned down in 1613 (a fire hazard of those lively plays)? The modern Globe is a reconstruction, using traditional materials and techniques. It’s as close as you’ll get to experiencing Shakespeare as his audiences did.

The Globe has no roof over the yard – you’re at the mercy of London’s weather (bring a raincoat!). This adds to the atmosphere. Imagine a dramatic storm scene enhanced by real-life thunder!

While the Bard is the star here, the Globe hosts a range of productions – modern plays, experimental pieces, and even lively music events. There’s something for everyone.

Royal Albert Hall

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Location: Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7589 8212

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Sunday – 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM

Website

Opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria herself, it honours her beloved Prince Albert and his vision of London as a cultural hub. Don’t be fooled by its regal looks, though – initially, this beauty had a voice like a croaking frog! 

That’s why those distinctive “mushroom” shapes hang from the ceiling. They finally fixed the hall’s awful acoustics in the late 20th century.

The Royal Albert Hall is also synonymous with the Proms, a summer celebration of classical music that’s been filling the hall since 1941. But this isn’t some stuffy concert venue – it’s hosted everyone from The Beatles to Beyoncé, boxers to ballet dancers. 

Shopping and markets

Harrods

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Location: 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7730 1234

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Saturday – 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM
  • Sunday – 11:30 AM to 6:00 PM

Website

True to its motto, “Omnia Omnibus Ubique” (Everything for Everyone, Everywhere), Harrods is a treasure trove of temptations. Luxury brands shimmer on every shelf, gourmet food halls tempt you with treats, and heck, you could probably outfit a small army here. 

Did you know Harrods was the first place in England to have an escalator? It’s always been about pushing boundaries!

Throughout its history, Harrods has become a magnet for everyone from Oscar Wilde to British royalty. Walk its halls and you’ll stumble across memorials and quirky displays steeped in its rich (and sometimes peculiar!) past. It’s shopping, spectacle, and history rolled into one.

Camden Market

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Location: 54-56 Camden Lock Pl, London NW1 8AF, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 3763 9900

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Sunday – 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Website

Camden Market is where London’s wild heart beats. From a humble arts and crafts fair in the 70s to a full-blown mega-market, it’s a glorious jumble of creativity, vintage treasures, and enough food to feed a rock band.

Each market within Camden has its own vibe. The Stables Market houses an amazing mix of retro finds and quirky antiques. Buck Street Market? That’s fashion central! 

Meanwhile, the Inverness Street Market keeps things old-school with speciality shops and a traditional fruit and veg market.

Plus, live music spills out of pubs, vintage clothing racks overflow with buried treasure, and the international food scene is a whirlwind of flavours. 

Portobello Road Market

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Location: London W11 1LJ, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 3763 9900

Opening hours:

  • Monday to Saturday – 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM
  • Sunday – 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Website

Nestled in the heart of Notting Hill, this market has been a fixture for over 150 years, embodying the neighbourhood’s bohemian charm and fascination with the past. 

Its antique section is a true gem – one of the world’s largest, where rare collectables, vintage clothing whispering stories of bygone eras, and an eclectic mix of bric-a-brac await treasure hunters every Saturday. 

The atmosphere here crackles with energy – foodies will find a culinary adventure among the street eats and cosy pubs serving up hearty British classics (some with centuries of history behind them!). Fashionistas will find inspiration in the unique street style too!

Iconic symbols

Red telephone boxes

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London’s affair with the iconic red phone box began in 1926, making them practically old-timers in this fast-paced city. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (the architect behind Battersea Power Station), they were a far cry from the clunky phone booths of the past.

Sure, some red phone boxes still hold working phones (good luck finding one!), but their true purpose now is… branding.

Let’s face it, these red phone boxes are the ultimate London symbol, right up there with our double-decker buses. As such, they’re selfie magnets. 

Tourists flock to them to capture that classic shot, phone in hand (real or imaginary), with a red double-decker bus or a black cab photobombing the background.

Double-decker buses

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London’s double-decker buses’ story began way back in the 1800s, with horseless carriages evolving into the motorised giants we know and love today. The Routemaster, a mid-20th-century legend, remains a cherished symbol of London’s bustling energy.  

Today’s double-deckers are keeping pace with the times. Think sleek, modern designs, hybrid and electric engines, but don’t worry, they haven’t forgotten their charm.

Black cabs

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Forget your average Uber – hailing a black cab is like snagging your own personal time machine on wheels. These iconic black beauties are more like rolling tidbits of London history with a surprising amount of legroom!

The story starts way back in the 17th century with horse-drawn Hackney Carriages – the original cabs. Back then, they were a revolutionary way to get around, and they’ve kept evolving ever since. 

Today, you might even snag a black cab that’s a sleek TX Electric taxi – all the classic looks with a modern, eco-friendly twist. These days, black cabs come in all sorts of colours, though they’ll always be “black cabs” to us Londoners.

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