One of the biggest challenges when visiting London is not what to see but how to see as much as possible. With over two millennia of history, it is a city replete with impressive landmarks and architectural marvels, alongside a host of contemporary skyscrapers and cultural hotspots. A destination with itineraries for every type of traveler, London has long been solidified as an arbiter of a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Technicolor jewels from centuries past, whimsical gardens bursting with greenery from around the globe and abbeys fit for a princess, London is rounded off with charm at every corner and bend.
Here are attractions that can’t be missed.
Tower Of London
Many of the countries most explosive (truly) historical events have happened from here. The execution of three queens, the imprisonment of Elizabeth I, and of course as well as a fortress and prison, this tower has housed the royal jewels for the last 900 years. Today, 150 people still live within these stone walls—mostly ceremonial Beefeaters and their families—while 2.5 million people from around the world visit each year. The Leonardo Royal Hotel London City and the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London are just some of the hotels in the area.
From street food to fashion, London does markets better than most. Borough Market eats up a huge corner of land across from London Bridge, including a glass-covered site and a maze of nearby streets and stalls. Historic records show there has been a market on this site since 1276 and today, it sells everything from Lebanese falafel to bulging Greek olives to succulent Japanese dumplings to seared Korean BBQ. There’s also a host of jarred delights to gift and take home. If you want to stay in this part of town, consider Hotel Novotel London City South or ibis Style London Southwark.
Easy to access from central London, Kew is home to one of the world’s largest collection of plants, as well, its a specialist hub for horticulture, scientific research, conservation and wildlife. Thees Royal Botanic Gardens stretch out across 300 acres of green and grassy land. As well, there are a host indoor greenhouses and enclaves, the tropical Palm House, Temperate House, and the Princess of Wales conservatory. Try a tree-top walk and stop for coffee in one of the three cafes along the way.
St Paul’s Cathedral
An icon around the world, created by architect Sir Christopher Wren between 1675 and 1711, St Paul’s Cathedral is an architectural marvel, as well known around the world as Big Ben or the Houses of Parliament. Today, there are still religious services, as well as musical performances and multimedia art exhibitions, all worth a visit. There are a bunch of hip hotels in the area, including Club Quarters Hoteland Leonardo Royal Hotel.
Once a Herculean power station is now gorged with the masters of Modern Art—including Picasso, Dali, Warhol, and Rothko. Grey, gritty and abstract, the industrial interiors lend themselves to this style of Technicolor art. Visit the rooftop restaurant, a hidden gem of the city, with its soaring views of the Shard (home of London’s Shangi-la hotel), Thames and St Pauls, impressive art collection and perfectly executive menu.
Covering some 350 acres of central London, not only is Hyde Park a green hideaway, but it’s also a cultural hub. Inside the Serpentine Gallery, you can find world-class art; it’s a magnet for rockstars, as each summer they host concerts with the likes of Paul Simon, Neil Young and Bob Dylan performing; or for something more sedate, take one of the pedal-boats out for a spin. Enjoy park views throughout your entire stay by booking the JW Marriott Grosvenor House London.
Royal Albert Hall
A West London cultural must, this exquisite domed building of Royal Albert Hall houses a huge range of entertainment each day—from the acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil to laugh-out-loud comedy routines to well-known musical performances to Blockbuster films projected against a live performance of the score, and so much more. You might even spot one of the Princes in the Royal box.
Don’t expect to see anywhere near the entirety of the collection at the British Museum, as its the countries largest and one of the grandest in the world. Collections are organized based on geography, with an artifact from around the world, including ancient Egypt, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Greece and Rome. For a bit of focus, try a guided highlights tour or stay for one of the free 30-minute talks to get a feel for the place. The Radisson Blu Edwardian Kenilworth Hotel offers chic lodging just across the street from the museum.