Covering contemporary design in architecture, fashion, graphic design and product design, the Design Museum won the European Museum of the Year Award in 2018. After moving from the South bank of the River Thames to its new site in Kensington in 2016, the Museum has gone from strength to strength and really highlights how ‘design can be humanities best friend.’
Kensington Palace is currently a working Royal Palace with several members of the Royal Family living on or near the site. It has been home to the Royal family for 300 years and was the birthplace of Queen Victoria. Enjoy a tour round the palace and a visit to the Royal Courtyard.
Located in Hyde Park, The Serpentine Galleries hosts a range of indoor and outdoor exhibitions. If you are in London over summer, don’t miss a trip on the lake as well as round the gallery!
Natural History Museum:
Interested in geology, space, dinosaurs, fossils and all things natural and historical? The Natural History Museum is the one for you! Housed in one of London’s most beautiful buildings, the Hintz Hall has been home to Dippy the Dinosaur and more recently Hope the Blue Whale as well as numerous other smaller fossils. The Natural History Museum collection contains artifacts from the Jurassic period but links them up to the modern day with the annual Wildlife Photographer of The Year Competition. If you love history and science, this museum is the perfect blend of both!
Victoria and Albert Museum
Originally combined with the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum split into a separate museum covering art, fashion and design. With over 2.3 million antiques and modern pieces, the museum is home to fashion, photography, sculpture and jewellery from across the globe. Entrance to the main exhibition is free but the museum also hosts infamous paid exhibitions for example, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams and Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.
Buckingham Palace is home to The Queen of England and the administrative headquarters of the monarchy in the UK. For 10 weeks in summer, the Palace is open to visitors for them to explore the State Rooms and other special exhibitions. Within the gardens, there is a cafe serving light refreshments including tea, coffee, sandwiches and cake.
Tower of London
Officially named Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of The Tower of London, this castle is home to the Crown Jewels, the infamous Yeoman Wardens and the ravens. Legend has it that when the ravens leave the Tower, the Kingdom will fall. Located on the North Side of the River Thames, many historical prisoners were kept at the Tower and the Tower still holds an extensive armoury.
One of London’s major museums, the Science Museum covers all things science – from steam engines to rockets to medical dioramas. With 5 floors, there are 1,000s of objects on display – although the Science Museum actually holds over 300,000 in its archives. Located on Exhibition Road opposite the Victoria & Albert Museum, the two museums split in the early 20th Century and cover very different genres. Entrance to the main museum is free but some special exhibitions have an additional charge.
Hidden away behind the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street lies the Wallace Collection. Displaying 18th and 19th Century Works collected by the first four Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace, the Collection was bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace in1897. Today the Collection holds over 5,000 objects and is best known for its 18th Century French paintings.
After a beautiful day outdoors? Why not head to Kew Gardens (part of the Royal Botanic Gardens) and enjoy one of the largest and most diverse plant collections in the world. If you don’t fancy a picnic on your stroll, Kew has several cafes each offering afternoon tea and an excellent selection of food. Located only 30 minutes from the centre of London and tickets start from £13.95 for adults (free entrance for Members of Kew).
Visit the children’s garden and your young ones will be able to run, jump and play whilst learning about the different elements that plants need for survival. All sessions are 90 minutes and booking is now open online.
A Coronation Church since 1066 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Westminster Abbey hosts daily services as well as allowing tourists (and Londoners!) to explore outside of service hours. Guided tours operate daily and are one of the best ways to see the Abbey.
Due to their small nature, the Galleries have timed admission slots so do book ahead – especially at peak times!
Big Ben & Parliament
Recognised as one of London’s most iconic landmarks, Big Ben was completed in 1859 and was the largest chiming clock in the world at the time. At 315 feet, it was also the tallest.
Originally named ‘Clock Tower’, Big Ben was the colloquial name used as Sir Benjamin Hall oversaw the construction of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Since 2012, its official name has actually been Elizabeth Tower.
Big Ben is set to chime every hour and the tower also contains 4 smaller bells that ring every 15 minutes. Currently Big Ben is undergoing renovation works so you may hear it less frequently.
Adjoining Big Ben is The Palace of Westminster which serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Both are available for tours and visits by the general public when they are not in session or you can queue to watch a live session. Tour tickets can usually be purchased on the door or you can book them via your local MP if you are UK based.
Wembley Stadium is home to the England national football team and hosts the FA Cup Final, Semi Finals and The Football League Cup Final. During the 2012 Olympic Games it hosted 9 matches including the men’s and women’s football finals. It has a seating capacity of 90,000 individuals so is also used for larger concerts and special events. The surrounding area has also developed in line with the stadium and is home to a retail shopping outlet, Wembley’s own BoxPark and a Playbox which have restaurants and arcade games which the whole family can enjoy.
The O2 is a large entertainment complex in South East London which is home to the O2 arena but also a large number of restaurants, bars and pubs. The arena itself is the UK’s second largest multipurpose arena with capacity for 20,000 people. (The largest is the Manchester Arena in the North with capacity for 21,000 people.) Both the seating arrangements and the ground surface can be changed so the venue is used for a range of concerts, ice skating performances, basketball matches, exhibition spaces and conference sites. The venue can also be privately hired.
Home to the Wimbledon Championships since 1877, Wimbledon is one of London’s most famous sporting events. As one of the four tennis Grand Slam tournaments and the only one to be played on grass, the Championships attract the best names in tennis every summer.
The Championship has several famous traditions including the infamous strict white dress code and the strawberries and cream stands. The Championship is also the only Grand Slam to be patronized by a Royal Family and does not take sponsorship advertising around its courts. For the rest of the year, the All England Lawn Tennis Club operates as a private member’s club.
Lord’s Cricket Ground
Lord’s Cricket Ground (Lord’s) is commonly known as the ‘Home of Cricket’ and contains the oldest sporting museum in the world. The grounds host test matches, one day internationals, most of Middlesex County Cricket Club’s home matches and some of Middlesex’s Twenty20 games. The grounds hold up to 30,000 spectators.
The infamous pavilion was built in 1890 and visitors can take a tour round the pavilion when games are not in session. On the tour, you can normally see the Long Room, the Honours Boards and the Dressing Rooms.
With over 3 million visitors every year, this is one of London’s most popular paid for attractions. On a sunny day, you can see as far as Windsor Castle (40 km). The wheel has 32 pods and can carry 800 people in one rotation – that’s the same as 11 double decker buses!
The structure itself is 135 metres and the wheel has a diameter of 120 metres. The capsules travel at a leisurely pace of 26cm per second so you will have ample time to enjoy the views!
The Shard is London’s tallest building and is the sixth-tallest building in Europe. Comprising of 95 floors in total it houses apartments, office spaces and some exceptional restaurants. The viewing galleries must be booked in advance and are on the 69th and 72nd floor.
The building is covered in 1,000 glass panels which cover 56,000 square metres. This is equal to 8 football pitches and it takes 17 window cleaners 3 months to clean the entire exterior!
Churchill War Rooms
Located beneath the Treasury building in Whitehall, the Churchill War Rooms were ready one week before Britain joined the war in 1939. They were used throughout the Second World War and were then abandoned in 1945. The rooms were opened to the public in 1984 by Mrs Thatcher and explore Churchill’s life and Britain’s role in the war. The most popular rooms to visit are the Map Room, the Cabinet Room and the tiny Transatlantic Telephone Room – a private loo accessible only to Churchill where he was able to secretly contact the President of the Unites States.
Feeding the people of Southwark for over a thousand years, Borough Market has been dubbed the oldest food market in London! Today, the market is renowned for its exceptional fresh produce and green ironmongery. Usually, there are over 100 stalls filled with gourmet cheeses, intriguing vegetables and beautiful patisseries.
Royal Museums Greenwich Museum
The Royal Museums Greenwich contains the Royal Observatory Greenwich, the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum and Queen’s House Art Gallery. The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a totally different vibe to the rest of London.
The Royal Observatory is Home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), the Prime Meridian of the world and also London’s Planetarium. In the summer, it usually hosts the Astronomy Photographer of the Year showcasing the world’s greatest space photography. The Cutty Sark was a state-of-the-art Victorian Tea Clipper and was one of the world’s most famous ships in the 19th century. Although 3 of the decks were destroyed in a fire, restoration work has brought the ship back to its former glory. From the Cutty Sark, you also get spectacular views of the River Thames and Canary Wharf.