From Big Ben to Piccadilly Circus, London's top attractions are not far from each other. Here are some top sights to check off your list.
Many of London’s most famous sites are within walking distance of each other. If you’ve only got a day to explore the British capital, make the most of it with an action-packed itinerary that includes the following stops. As you sightsee, don’t forget to grab a pint and a bite to eat at one of the city’s numerous pubs along the way. The iconic watering holes have been sources of good food and drink for centuries in Britain.
Big Ben’s distinctive chimes are a sound that is synonymous with London. Located at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, the clock was built in 1859. The two houses of parliament meet (and conduct vigorous debates) at the palace.
Nearby, Westminster Abbey is one of London’s most notable churches. All coronations of English and British monarchs have been held in the abbey since 1066. From the abbey, take the famous “bird cage walk” to reach Buckingham Palace, the London residence and administrative headquarters of Queen Elizabeth, the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Head across the Thames on Westminster Bridge to find less stately but still fascinating cultural spots you can also tour during the day. Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, originally built in 1599 and reconstructed in 1997, hosts theatrical productions in summer and winter. Meander through the covered Borough Market, the city’s oldest fresh produce market and a great place to find affordable and traditional street foods, such as meat pies and Scotch eggs.
The Tate Modern, London’s national museum of modern and contemporary art, is also on the South Bank. If your feet start getting tired, take a ride on the Coca-Cola London Eye to get a bird’s eye view of 55 iconic landmarks in 30 minutes.
City of London
One of the most recognizable bridges in the world, the Tower Bridge is a combined suspension bridge and drawbridge built in 1896. Hidden within the twin towers are walkways and Victorian era engine rooms. Head west from the north side of the bridge to visit the Tower of London, a fortress and historic castle once used as a prison and now home to the Crown Jewels.
Continue farther west to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. The original church on the current site dates back to 604 AD. Built in the late 17th century, the current cathedral was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren, who was influenced by Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Known as “the People’s Church,” it’s the church where Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married.
The West End of London is home to Soho, Chinatown, the theater district, Covent Garden, and Carnaby Street, the center of 1960’s swinging fashion. Carnaby Street, along with Regent Street and Oxford Street, are a shopper’s delight. Just off Regent Street is the famous department store Liberty, where you can find fabrics and vintage William Morris prints of the Victorian era. Just up the block is the London Palladium, where The Beatles played their first London gig.
Piccadilly Circus, reminiscent of New York’s Times Square with its flashy neon signs and video displays, has been the site of political demonstrations and is a popular meeting spot for locals and visitors. On the eastern edge of the West End, you’ll find Covent Garden, formerly the site of a produce market and now a popular shopping destination. It’s also home to the Royal Opera House and London Transport Museum.Pubs
A trip to London, even for a day, isn’t complete without a stop (or two) at a pub. Fortunately, many great pub choices are located in close proximity to major attractions.
The Grenadier has royal heritage and is a short walk from Buckingham Palace. Originally the Officers Mess for The First Royal Regiment of Foot Guards, it’s easily recognizable by its red, white, and blue color scheme and the sentry box out front.
Anchor Bankside is located near Globe Theater, and the pub claims that Shakespeare himself drank here. Over the years, it has been a tavern, a brothel, and a brewery. The Nags Head, located near St. Paul’s Cathedral and the posh shopping area of Knightsbridge, is quirky and cozy and filled with curiosities.
The Lamb & Flag is a historic pub in Covent Garden that was a favorite of Charles Dickens. Once a rough and tumble establishment, the pub atmosphere has mellowed considerably over the years. The Dog & Duck in Soho is another pub with literary roots. George Orwell was a regular, and it attracts everyone from pre-theater diners to celebrities. The current building dates back to 1897 and has an intricate Victorian interior with glazed tiles and mirrors.
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