Vacation in London: The Best Sightseeing

Hi folks, welcome to my series on London, United Kingdom! Having lived as a student in London from 2011-12 and visited it multiple times, I’m sharing my knowledge of this wonderful city. I plan to post content every week. The content will largely focus on my recent trip there in June-July 2018, but there’ll also be some gems from the past. If you’d like to know more, please follow my blog.

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London is a delight for a discerning tourist, with multiple sightseeing options. I’ve already listed out my favorite museums to visit with children, the best parks and playgrounds, and best street markets. Here’s a round-up of the best sightseeing in London that can be done solo, with groups or with family.

WESTMINSTER ABBEY:

This ancient Gothic-style church in the heart of London is the venue for many royal weddings and all coronations. Its hallowed halls have many stories to tell and the place should be on everyone’s list.

Timings: Monday to Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Some days are closed for special occasions)

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: Westminster (Jubilee, District & Circle Lines)
St. James’s Park (District and Circle Lines)

By Rail: London Victoria, London Waterloo

Tickets: 22 Pounds but concession prices available for many categories

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Picture courtesy: http://www.blog.headout.com

PARLIAMENT & BIG BEN

The stunning architecture and fascinating history of the parliament will have you hooked. Unfortunately the iconic clock of Big Ben is under renovation at the moment.

Timings: Monday- Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: Westminster (Jubilee, District & Circle Lines)
St. James’s Park (District and Circle Lines)

By Rail: London Victoria, London Waterloo

Tickets: 28 Pounds but concession prices available for many categories

London-Houses-of-Parliament-from-Westminster-Bridge

Picture courtesy: http://www.free-city-guides.com

THE SUPREME COURT & INNS OF COURT:

This may appeal more to lawyers, but it’s interesting that in a country with such a vast history, the Supreme Court is a new fixture! The Inns of Court at Temple however, have a long history and are worth seeing just for their formidable Gothic architecture.

Timings: Monday- Friday 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: Westminster (Jubilee, District & Circle Lines)
St. James’s Park (District and Circle Lines)

By Rail: London Victoria, London Waterloo

Tickets: Guided tours at 3 pounds per head

UK-Supreme-Court

Picture courtesy: http://www.livelaw.in

THE BRIDGES OF LONDON

Take a stroll through the many historic bridges of the city and admire the views. You could take a boat ride along the river Thames, and stop by the South Bank for a meal with a view. My favorites are the Westminster Bridge for the sights dotted along it; the Tower Bridge for the Tower of London museum; and the Waterloo Bridge because it brings back memories of my university!

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Tower Bridge. Picture courtesy: http://www.visitlondon.com

THE LONDON EYE:

This is perhaps the best way to take in a 360 degree view of this fantastic city. Plan your trip in advance to make the most of your money and time.

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: Westminster (Jubilee, District & Circle Lines)
St. James’s Park (District and Circle Lines)

By Rail: London Victoria, London Waterloo

Tickets: 27 Pounds but concession prices available for many categories

london-eye-as-seen-from

Picture courtesy: http://www.tripadvisor.in

BUCKINGHAM PALACE:

Fancy a visit to the Queen’s Home? The State Rooms are open for public visits at certain times of the year.

Timings: 9:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the months of August-September

How to Get There:

By Rail: London Victoria or London Charing Cross.

Nearest Tube Stops: Victoria, Green Park, St. James’s Park and Hyde Park Corner.

By bus: 11, 211, C1 and C10 stop on Buckingham Palace Road.

Tickets: 24 Pounds but concession prices available for many categories

buckingham-palace

Picture courtesy: http://www.royal.uk

KENSINGTON PALACE

This royal palace is the home of Princes William and Harry and their families. The gorgeous building is adjacent to the lush greens of Kensington Gardens. Certain sections of the palace are open for public tours.

Timings: Summer: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Winter: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: High Street Kensington station: Circle and District lines; Queensway station: Central line, Notting Hill Gate station: Central, Circle and District lines

By Bus: Routes 70, 94, 148, 390 (to Bayswater Road), Routes 9, 10, 49, 52, 70, 452 (to Kensington High Street)

Tickets: 19.50 Pounds but concession prices available for many categories

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Picture courtesy: http://www.londontoolkit.com

KEW PALACE:

Though it’s a bit out of the way, this palace and its beautiful grounds deserve a visit.

Timings: Open March- September 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stop: Kew Gardens station: District line

Overground: Kew Gardens station

National Rail: Kew Bridge station

Bus: 65, 237, 391 and 267 (summer Sundays only).

Tickets: 4.50 Pounds but concession prices available for many categories

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Picture courtesy: http://www.en.wikipedia.org

ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL:

The world-famous dome of this church is a perfect example of British architecture, and a great way to observe British religious beliefs.

Timings: Monday to Saturday: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: St. Paul’s, Mansion House, Blackfriars, Bank

By Rail: City Thameslink, Blackfriars, Cannon Street, Liverpool Street

Tickets: 18 Pounds but concession prices available for many categories

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Picture courtesy: http://www.en.wikipedia.com

HYDE PARK:

The largest park in London is also its busiest and most beautiful. There’s plenty to do here so you’ll want to visit more than once! In the winter months, a large section of the park turns into Winter Wonderland- a huge carnival.

Timings: 5:00 a.m. – 12:00 a.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: Lancaster Gate, Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Knightsbridge

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COVENT GARDEN:

This quaint cobblestoned market has all the romance and charm you expect on a European vacation. There are various crafts and handmade goods on offer, and plenty of places to eat at. If you’re with children, definitely stop at the Transport Museum.

Timings: All days 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: ‘Covent Garden’, ‘Leicester Square’, ‘Holborn’, ‘Charing Cross’, ‘Embankment’

Parking is a problem so use taxis if needed

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Picture courtesy: http://www.coventgarden.london

THE LONDON ZOO:

With a huge collection of exotic animals, your children will love this place!

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: Regent’s Park, Baker Street, Camden Town

Overground: Camden Road

By Rail: Euston Station

By Bus: 274, C2

Tickets: 29.75 Pounds but concession prices available for many categories

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Picture courtesy: http://www.mylittleadventure.com

MADAME TUSSAUDS

Even though the franchise is now in India, the original showroom in London is very popular and houses some of the best statues. The ‘House of Horrors’ is particularly freaky!

Timings: Monday- Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Saturday-Sunday: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stop: Baker Street station on the Bakerloo, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Circle and Jubilee Lines

By Rail: Marylebone Rail Station

Tickets: 30.95 Pounds but concession prices available for many categories

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Picture courtesy: http://www.365tickets.ie

TRAFALGAR SQUARE & THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

This iconic square is known as the place where crowds congregate for political rallies as well as largescale celebrations. The National Portrait Gallery, containing world-class artwork looks on to the square.

Timings (for National Portrait Gallery): 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: ‘Covent Garden’, ‘Leicester Square’, ‘Holborn’, ‘Charing Cross’, ‘Embankment’

Tickets: Admission is free but donations are welcome

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Picture courtesy: http://www.commons.wikimedia.org

THE TATE MUSEUMS

The Tate Britain showcases British art from the year 1500 to the present, and the Tate Modern houses British and international modern and contemporary art from the year 1900 to the present.

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Tate Modern is open from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday

How to Get There:

Tate Britain: Pimlico: Victoria Line Vauxhall: Victoria Line, Westminster: Jubilee, District and Circle Lines

Tate Modern: Southwark: Jubilee Line,  Blackfriars: District and Circle Line, St Paul’s: Central Line

Tickets: Entry Free

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Picture courtesy: http://www.britannica.com

THE BRITISH MUSEUM

There’s a bit of everything in this museum, from Britain’s colonial past to treasures from around the world.

Timings: 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (open till 8:30 p.m. on Fridays)

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stop: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Russell Square, Goodge Street

By Bus: 1, 8, 19, 25, 38, 55, 98, 242 Stop on New Oxford Street

Tickets: Entry Free

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Picture courtesy: http://www.artfund.com

THE MUSEUMS STREET (My Coinage)

The Natural History Museum has a beautiful ornate building and fascinating natural exhibits. The Science Museum is modern and marvellous. The Victoria & Albert Museum is a great place to explore different curios. The best part is they’re all located on the same road and are free to enter.

Timings:  10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Open Everyday

How to Get There:

Nearest tube stop: South Kensington and Gloucester Road, both on the District, Circle and Piccadilly Lines.

Bus routes: 14, 49, 70, 74, 345, 360, 414, 430, C1, 9, 10, 52, 452 and 70.

Taxis are a good option but avoid driving as parking is scarce.

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The Natural History Museum. Picture courtesy: http://www.news.sky.com

PICCADILLY CIRCUS, SOHO, SHAFTESBURY AVENUE & CHINA TOWN

Piccadilly Circus is the tourist hub, with a frenzy of activity at all hours of night and day. Visit Soho to sample the chicest bars and clubs. Take a stroll down Shaftesbury Avenue, the performing theatre district, and catch one of the many popular shows on London’s West End. Finish with an authentic Chinese meal at China Town.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: Piccadilly Circus via Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines

By Rail: Charing Cross station

Picadilly-Circus

Picture courtesy: http://www.strawberrytours.com

SOMERSET HOUSE

This gorgeous building (earlier a public records office), turns into an ice-skating rink in the winter months and hosts London Fashion week twice a year. I love it because it was part of my college building!

Timings: 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: Temple (Circle & District lines), Covent Garden (Piccadilly line), Charing Cross (Bakerloo & Northern lines), Embankment (Circle & District lines)

By Rail: Charing Cross, Blackfriars, Waterloo

Tickets: Entry Free

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Picture courtesy: http://www.en.wikipedia.org

GREENWICH

Make a day trip where you can visit the main attractions like the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory, the Maritime Museum, the Greenwich Market, the Cutty Sark Ship and have a lovely picnic in the Greenwich park.

Timings: 6:00 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.

How to Get There:

Nearest Tube Stops: North Greenwich on the Jubilee Line

By Train: Connecting trains depart from Cannon Street, Waterloo, London Bridge and Charing Cross and go to Greenwich, Maze Hill and Blackheath.

By DLR (Dockland Light Railway): Cutty Sark and Greenwich stations

By Bus: 53, 54, 177, 180, 188, 199, 202, 286, 380, 386

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A view of London from Greenwich Park. Picture courtesy: http://www.visitlondon.com

TIPS FOR SIGHTSEEING:

  1. Sightseeing can be extremely expensive. You can score great deals on websites like Groupon.com, Londonpass.com, or by booking online beforehand
  2. Another advantage of booking online is that you can avoid the long lines at the venue
  3. Children, students with valid photo ID, senior citizens all have discounted rates
  4. Carry water as it can be quite expensive
  5. Wear comfortable walking shoes and layered clothing as London is known for its erratic weather
  6. Avoid going on the weekends if possible
  7. Beware of pickpockets and thieves
  8. The open top bus tours are a great option for those who don’t want to walk too much
  9. It becomes dark after 4:00 p.m. in the winter months, so plan your trips accordingly

That’s it for the sightseeing folks! Don’t forget to check out my other London posts (linked below), and stay tuned for posts related to food in London.

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*Featured image courtesy: http://www.free-city-guides.com

Check out my other London posts here:

The Best Street Markets in London

The Best Parks & Playgrounds

Budget-Friendly Shopping in London

The Best London Museums for Kids

Review of Ivy Lettings- An Apartment Rental Service in London

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