10 Tourist Things To See in Central London

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Things To Do - City of LondonWhen we booked our holiday apartment in London, we found ourselves located pretty much in the centre of London. I was a bit hesitant when initially choosing the place to stay, simply because I know the City of London (that’s the name of the central London neighborhood) is the business centre of the capital city. “Business centre” is the type of neighborhood I usually want to be farthest from, but as it turns out, it’s actually quite a good location to be based in while in London.

Most London hotels are in prettier and far more beautiful neighborhoods of London. But the City of London is home to so many of the main tourist attractions, so it made for a convenient location on a short trip. Thankfully there were plenty of things to do within walking distance, and with the convenience of the London Underground and the bus system, we were near enough to the (surprisingly close) trendy East London neighborhood, as well as the more commercial and touristic areas elsewhere in central London.

If you’re looking for an apartment stay in London during a short city trip, being in the City of London can’t be more convenient.

Our apartment was just steps away from the Monument—a column commemorating the Great Fire of London in 1666. Within walking distance, all of the following things to see were no further than a ten to fifteen minute walk. I’m sure there’s actually more to discover in the neighborhood, but this top ten list of things to do should be enough to keep you covered for most 2 or 3-day trips to the City.

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Things To Do and See in
(or Near) the City of London

St Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

One of London’s most iconic buildings (and trust me—there are many!), St. Paul’s Cathedral is as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. The Baroque cathedral dates back centuries and its famous dome provides a dramatic view over London.

Cost to entry isn’t cheap (£16 adults; £14 students) so if you want to splurge and have a particular passion for cathedrals, spend a few hours at St Paul’s. Otherwise, enjoy a picnic lunch in the churchyard gardens and just make sure you snap a pic from the Millennium Bridge.

St. Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD
stpauls.co.uk

View from London Monumen

The View From the London Monument

Perhaps the cheapest view of London from above (if you can handle the 311 steps up) the view from the Monument is one of London’s best. Erected by famous London architect Sir Christopher Wren, it’s the tallest isolated stone column in the world and was built in 1677—just 11 years after the fire destroyed so much of the city. The Monument is located just steps way from where the Great Fire of 1666 is believed to have started—famously caused by a spark in a baker’s shop on Pudding Lane.

The claustrophobic climb isn’t for the faint-of-heart. But trust me—when you make it to the top and see the light, it’s a view worth climbing for. Entry to the Monument is affordable (£3 adults; £2 students) and convenient. Just bring your hiking shoes.

Fish Street Hill, London EC3R 6DB
themonument.info

London Bridge

London Bridge

London Bridge is probably not what you think it is. When many think of London Bridge, they’re actually picturing Tower Bridge (see below). London Bridge is actually quite boring, but it’s conveniently located and connects the City of London to Southwark on the other side of the Thames River. While the bridge’s architecture and design is nothing to write home about, its’ story is quite funny.

The current location of London Bridge has been home to various bridges over time — many have been destroyed by the ravages of time, fire and war. So, in 1967 when the London Bridge needed repairs, the City of London decided to sell off the bridge before replacing it. As the story goes, an American businessman purchased London Bridge at the time, thinking that it was actually the significantly more iconic London Bridge. London Bridge was shipped overseas and now sits in a small town in Arizona.

On the Southwark side of London Bridge you’ll find several great tourist sites to visit. Borough Market, Southwark Cathedral and the Queens Walk are all places worth seeing.

Borough Market

Borough Market

Arguably one of London’s best markets, the Borough Market operates every day but Sundays during lunchtime and is home to some of London’s best street food operators and cheap eats. Students flock here for the good deals (expect to pay £3-£7 for a hearty lunch), and celebrities stop by on occasion. (Jude Law was rumored to have been spotted among the food stalls just a few days before my visit.)

Food stalls at Borough Market range from traditional English foods (meat pies!) to Indian curries, vegan and vegetarian options, greasy burgers and of course fish & chips. There are a few food tours through the market, but you might also consider joining a Harry Potter themed tour with MuggleTours.co.uk which starts here and walks you through notable scenes and spots of inspiration from the books & movies.

8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL
boroughmarket.org.uk

Barbican Centre

The Barbican

This complex structure is everything and nothing at once. The multipurpose Barbican Centre includes the Museum of London where you can learn more about the first days of this global metropolis—its fires and its plagues. The entire centre stands as a once perfect solution for a real state crisis. The brutalist architecture mixes fluid and solid forms, satisfying both the housing needs of London’s many citizens while providing food for the soul; libraries, workshops, cinemas and more are hidden in the Barbican core.

Some remnants of the ancient London Wall can even be spotted if you know where to look. Get lost in this architectural monster (trust me—it’s easy) and imagine how your life would be if you were one of the residents of this symmetrical nightmare. It’s a love it or hate it relationship. Guess how I feel.

Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS
barbican.org.uk

Tower of London

Tower of London

The site of some rather grisly tales from the British monarchy, the Tower of London is also one of the world’s longest running tourist attractions. Throughout it’s thousand-year history, the Tower of London has been used as a royal residence, an armory, a treasury, a zoo and the Royal Mint.

Today if you visit, you can get a glimpse of the Crown Jewels if you’re willing to splurge on a ticket (£21 adults; £18 students). Look out for special exhibitions about British Monarchy history.

London EC3N 4AB
hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

London’s most iconic bridge (though the newer Millennium Bridge could probably give it a run for its’ money), Tower Bridge is often referred to as London Bridge. The short and stubby bridge connects the Tower of London with the southern side of the Thames, but makes for some great photography.

It’s possible to visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition and get some decent panoramic views of London for under a tenner (£8 adults; £5.60 students). There are so many things to do in London, but if one thing you’re almost certain to do is get a photo of Tower Bridge—try to get one from the popular Queen’s Walk promenade along the southern side of the Thames. And for a truly special London experience, check the Tower Bridge’s official website (below) to find out the bridge lift times.

towerbridge.org.uk

Tate Modern

Tate Modern

Probably one of the most important art institutions in our world, the Tate Modern has a well deserved reputation. Surprising you with both its permanent and temporary exhibitions, the major goal when you visit it is to challenge your perceptions of aesthetics and beauty. Is this art? Or not? It doesn’t really matter.

If you get tired and need a rest from the Mondrian’s and Lichtenstein’s, then go to the store and check the products or visit the terrace for a lovely view of the Thames flowing by. As the entrance is free for everyone (the museums work mostly on donations), be generous. Art needs a place to sleep…or maybe to dream. The Tate Modern gallery is open every day, from 10 to 18 o’clock, except Fridays and Saturdays when you can hang around until 22:00.

Bankside, London SE1 9TG
tate.org.uk/visit/tate-modern

Globe Theatre

Globe Theatre

No matter if you prefer to stand like the people or sit like the nobles did centuries ago, the Globe Theatre will enchant you. The performances are simply superb. How much time do these artists need to learn their lines, to move so soft? Book in advance if you want to be certain you’ll get a place.

On stage, the usual: Laughs, cries, blood, wine and human nature. Actors screaming from above, ships moving at your side, the magic of theatre is everywhere. And if Shakespeare did his part writing these wonderful plays—and here we are ignoring all the debate about his writing—the staff would do its best to protect you from the rain, to have your food and drink ready for the intermission (preorder is amazing) and to welcome you with a smile. Sound good? Well, then be sure to visit in the summer. No winter performances. Tickets are from £5 to £39.

1 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT
shakespearesglobe.com

The Clink

The Clink

For those into the darker side of history, a visit to London’s Clink Prison Museum is a good place to start. One of England’s oldest prisons, it was the site of countless tortures since it’s operation in the 12th century. The prison was so notorious in its heyday, that it’s now become part of our everyday vernacular to refer to prisons as “the clink.”

Visits to the museum are relatively affordable (£7.50 adults; £5.50 students). Inside you’ll find torture equipment and educational guides about former prisoners and what it was like inside the prison.

1 Clink St  London SE1 9DG
clink.co.uk

Dohop

How to Get to London

Dohop.com is a flight, car rental and hotel search engine. I’ve been using them to look for cheap flights for about a year and they often bring up great deals I haven’t found elsewhere. Based in Europe, they’re a great resource for London, the UK and Europe whether you’re looking for hotels, car rentals or flights. Try a search and see for yourself!

Blogs published by Adam Groffman • Please note some posts do make me some money, but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

49 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Oh p.s. Catch the London bridge when it’s going up :) amazing. And a boat Trip on T

  2. The dungeon ;). .. Seen all that, disappointed in Tate modern, have fun x

    • Disappointed in the Tate Modern?! That just can’t be! It’s one of my favorite museums in the whole world!

  3. I’m heading to London in Aug. We only have two days in the city. What is your “must do’s?” Do you recommend a bus tour? Just trying to get the most of my time. I can’t wait!!

    • Two days isn’t much time. If you’re after museums, check out the major museums in South Kensington. I don’t typically like bus tours, but London is huge and if you want to quickly catch the sights, it’s probably got a decent chance of giving you a good overview.

  4. The London Eye is a ‘must’

  5. Thanks for the information – in planning stages of a trip right now. I couldn’t imagine the logistics involved if there wasn’t the internet!

  6. Really I enjoyed when I was first time in London. I will definitely visit these above mentioned places in my next London trip with my family. Thank you for sharing this post with us here.

  7. I’ve lived in London for 10 years now and my personal favourite (especially in summer) is to take a nice long walk in the South Bank from Tower Bridge along the river to Waterloo and see the amazing Tower Bridge, take a rest on one of the benches near Tate Modern and then continue to Waterloo where you’ll see a lot of street performers and artists.

    • I love that walk, too, Dmitriy – such a beautiful and lively part of London

  8. I really enjoy your post and all attraction that you mention in your blog is really awesome. Well London can be pretty expensive at times and it’d be impossible for me to determine a budget without knowing what types of sightseeing you plan to do. Due to that I preferred multi day bus tours for comfortable and inseparable journey. It is best for family trip also.

  9. Very interesting to read. I’m Thinking of visiting England and i wonder how expensive would it be for a week with budget accommodation. Since I earn in Thai Bahts I would love to get any suggestions on planning the trip. Thanks

    • Hey there, London can be pretty expensive at times and it’d be impossible for me to determine a budget without knowing what types of sightseeing you plan to do. I’ve got some budget tips for visiting London on the cheap here.

  10. Nice List!
    My next target is too visit London. Hope to get there all.

    • London makes for a great holiday or city break. Enjoy it!

  11. I will visit Borough Market when I go there! Thanks for the tips!

  12. Wow! really very nice!Its always very refreshing for me to visit London to meet my brother! I really like the architecture of London!

  13. London is great, true!
    That’s why I’ve moved here :D

  14. They are so beautiful I will also want to travel there.

  15. Seems like there are a whole lot of bridges in London, maybe that is where the old song comes from. That market looks pretty cool. It is hard to beat a good fresh market. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Wow! that was a compiling one. as a 4yr Londoner myself, still i haven’t got any chance to scroll some great places around within my zone. one is the Tate Moderm. Im more of Architectural Arts but hoping to drop by this art place soon. Well done Adam! love your blog.. im your new fan! :)

  17. All of the attractions mentioned in this article are within easy walking distance of each other – The City of London is only one square mile in size which is why it’s sometimes referred to as The Square Mile.

    Looking to save a bit of money when visiting London? So many tourists opt for the paper based Travelcard. It’s important to note that Oyster fares are considerably cheaper than paper ticket fares on London Underground.

    I recommend you pick up an Oyster Card at the Underground station at Heathrow or the DLR station at London City Airport. If you fly into Gatwick, Stanstead or Luton airports (the stations for these airports are outside of the Oyster network) then pick up an Oyster card at the first tube station you go through. If you’re only going to be in London for a few days (ie: less than 7 days) then add on sufficient money that covers you for the number of zones you’re likely to commute in (for most tourists zone 1 & 2 are sufficient) for each day you’re in London plus about £5 extra for the extra trip from & to the airport.

    If you’re in London for 7 or more days then go for a 7-Day zones 1 & 2 Travelcard and some cash to cover any ‘out-of zone travel’.

    Oyster has daily price capping so if you make lots of pay as you go journeys in one day, you won’t pay more than the price of an equivalent Day Travelcard.

  18. Woah the following weblog is usually fantastic i’m keen on studying your content regularly. Be on the good art! You’re sure, many people are searching all around just for this information, you could possibly enable them to greatly.

  19. Wow! Nothing beats London Bridge! It’s my favorite spot in London and definitely one of the most famous London tourist attractions. I would love to go there again and again!!!

  20. London is absolutely breathtaking. I remember traveling there with Lufthansa and staying at some amazing hotels. It’s a must do guys!!

  21. London is the fascinating destinations where people can have lots of enjoyment.

    Love to see Tower of London. Awesome place with amazing history!!!

  22. Love to see Tower of London
    The 1,000 year old fortress in the centre of London. Amazing place with amazing history!!! just love it.

  23. I haven’t been to London since I was 8 so I would love to return. Some of these attractions were new to me too. I have never heard of the Clink Museum.

  24. my, how lovely.. will get a chance to travel in-depth in London next year, hopefully.. perhaps stay a month!

    Cheers, Ink

  25. I never heard of the Clink Prison Museum! I’d like to see that place!

  26. London is such a great city.It is one of the most popular and fascinating destinations where people can have lots of enjoyment. I love London.

  27. London was the first place I lived abroad, and you point out why it’s so great: as a teen I was still able to navigate it and hit all the major sights!

  28. Hey Adam, I’ll be in London just for about 1/2 day but some good ideas here!

  29. I personally think that the British Museum should be at least top 5. Best museum in the world, yo!

    • Oh yes – London’s museums are definitely among the world’s best. This list is just for the City of London, though. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about museums!

  30. I love the natural history museum, that should definitely be on your list…and its freeee!!

    • Oh I definitely agree. It’s an incredible museum! This list is just for the area in and around the City of London though :)

  31. Miss London. I lved there ages and ages ago. I did most of these, but soo desperately need to get back to redo them all again with my kids.

  32. The Clink looks like fun. I can’t believe I missed that during all the visits I’ve made to London!

    The view from the Tate Modern’s terrace is phenomenal.

    The Tower Bridge is much better-looking than the Millennium Bridge, especially at night. I hope that the Tower Bridge continues to be the one that’s perceived as being iconic of the city. :)

  33. London is one of the most popular and fascinating destinations where people can have lots of enjoyment. I will definitely visit these above mentioned places in my next London trip for sure.

  34. we went to london not too long ago, and we didn’t see any of these… oops! well, except for london bridge. :)

  35. i will have to do all of these things in a few weeks!

  36. Wow Adam! You have really hit all of our favorites!
    It looks like you certainly enjoyed your trips and got to all the good stuff!
    Hadn’t heard of the Clink museum, but will definitely recommend it in the future!
    We’re glad you enjoyed your time! :)

  37. great picks for places – sadly there is just too much to cover in London in a few days

    • You’re definitely right about that Rebecca. London is so sprawling and there are so many things to see, it would take me a lifetime to discover it all! Hopefully this is a good enough introduction to the major tourist sites though.

  38. This was great information on places to see in Central London. I love hearing about peoples trips and vacations. By reading posts about traveling I learn a lot about the different cultures, and about what I need to see when I do get the chance to visit. So I love when I find blogs like this one!

  39. This is good information to tuck away for a future visit to London!

    • Glad to hear that Patti. London is such a great city and there are hundreds of things to do, but thankfully on my last visit these things were all nearby so it made the decision-making easy!

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