There are countless places to visit in London, and getting around some of the most famous London landmarks is a great way to get your bearings in this amazing city. Join us in our guide to the best 25 famous London landmarks to help you make the most of your time there.
Many of the most popular landmarks in London are in the central part of the city, though a few of the best London tourist attractions are spread out around the outskirts. The good news is that you’ll probably get to see most of the central London landmarks, even if your time is at a premium – check out our 1 day London itinerary to give you an idea of what you can see there in a single day.
We’ve included the best of the famous buildings in London, both old and new. We take you to all the best-known icons of London, but also show you a few of London hidden gems you might not otherwise see. We hope you enjoy our London landmarks guide.
- 1 25 Famous London Landmarks
- 1.1 1. Buckingham Palace
- 1.2 2. Big Ben – The Most Famous London Landmark
- 1.3 3. Trafalgar Square
- 1.4 4. Westminster Abbey – Famous London Church
- 1.5 5. The London Eye
- 1.6 6. St Paul’s Cathedral
- 1.7 7. City of London Skyline
- 1.8 8. The Tower of London
- 1.9 9. The Tower Bridge London – the Most Famous Bridge in London
- 1.10 10. The Shard London
- 1.11 11. Piccadilly Circus
- 1.12 12. BT Tower
- 1.13 13. Camden Market
- 1.14 14. Tate Modern
- 1.15 15. Albert Bridge
- 1.16 16. Red Telephone Boxes
- 1.17 17. London Underground Stations
- 1.18 18. Kew Gardens
- 1.19 19. London Roman Wall
- 1.20 20. Canary Wharf
- 1.21 21. Natural History Museum
- 1.22 22. Red Double Decker Buses
- 1.23 23. British Museum
- 1.24 24. Portobello Road Market
- 1.25 25. Cutty Sark
25 Famous London Landmarks
1. Buckingham Palace
The Queen’s city centre des res, ‘Buck House’ is top of many people’s list of things to see in London, and it’s one of the city’s most famous buildings.
It’s one of the focal points of royal London, with the processional avenue The Mall – one of the most famous streets in London – leading to it. It’s also surrounded by glorious Royal Parks, and is the backdrop for the Changing of the Guard ceremony, which is the highlight of many people’s London visit.
Tip: Buckingham Palace also opens its doors to visitors between July and September each year.
Nearest Tube: Victoria or Green Park.
Other London Landmarks within walking distance – Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, 10 Downing Street
Official Site: Royal.uk :
2. Big Ben – The Most Famous London Landmark
Big Ben is the most iconic landmark London has.
It’s what the Leaning Tower of Pisa is to Italy, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris: the most obvious symbol of the city to the rest of the world. It’s now officially known as the Elizabeth Tower, and Big Ben is the name of the bell that chimes the hours inside. At the time of writing, it’s cloaked in scaffolding for the first time in (my) living memory for urgently needed restoration work. This is due to be removed some time in 2020. Before the restoration programme began, it was open to visitors on a guided tour. These are due to resume in 2021. It’s often one of the first London landmarks people see when they visit London;
Nearest Tube: Westminster.
More London Landmarks Close By – 10 Downing Street, London Eye, Westminster Abbey
Find out more about Big Ben here
3. Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is close to the official centre of London, and one of the city’s favourite meeting points.
It’s one of the busiest places in London, often the venue for events. Its name commemorates a famous naval victory by Lord Nelson, who stands 60 metres above the hubbub on top of his Column surveying the scene. The Square is actually a collection of landmarks. As well as Nelson’s Column, there are the famous bronze lions around its base, the lovely Baroque St Martin in the Fields church and the National Gallery, one of the best museums in London and, for that matter, one of the best art galleries in the world.
Tip: The Cafe in the Crypt below St Martin in the Fields is a great place for lunch or a snack, one of the best in the centre of London.
Nearest Tube: Charing Cross.
London Landmarks close by – National Gallery, Portrait Gallery, The Strand, 10 Downing Street
4. Westminster Abbey – Famous London Church
Westminster Abbey church is situated in Parliament Square, across the street from the Houses of Parliament.
It’s where the nation’s kings and queens are crowned, and the resting place for many of them, as well as many other great British figures. It should be on any London must see list: it’s also one of the country’s great Gothic churches, and is the venue for some royal weddings, including that of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011.
Tip: Get there for opening time at 9.30 am.
Nearest Tube: Westminster
5. The London Eye
The Coca-Cola London Eye has been one of the top London attractions since the day it opened.
If you plan to visit London for the first time, this vast ferris wheel is a great place from which you can get your bearings. It’s over 500 feet above the city, and gives great views across London.
Tip: If you can, keep a close eye on the weather forecast so that you get the best views possible. Your best chance of doing this, and having maximum flexibility, is during the winter ‘low season’, which isn’t especially low. Also, sunset and dusk are magical times for your ‘flight’ above the city.
Nearest Tube: Waterloo or Westminster.
6. St Paul’s Cathedral
This magnificent cathedral is one of the most enduring symbols of London, and has been top of my personal list of what to see in London since I was a kid.
The dome of the cathedral has dominated the western end of the City of London skyline since the 17th century, when it was built by Sir Christopher Wren to replace Old St Paul’s, which was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666.
It’s not just one of the finest London monuments, but one of the greatest of its age. It’s impressive enough outside, but be prepared to be blown away by the glittering golden Baroque interior.
Tip: You can also climb the dome for some of the best views in London.
Nearest Tube: St Paul’s (Central Line)
See Also: 17 Beautiful Churches In London
7. City of London Skyline
The modern skyline of the city of London, 500 metres or so to the east of St Paul’s, now dwarfs the great old cathedral.
It has long been one of the financial powerhouses of the world, and has been acquiring a skyline to match its status over the last two decades or so. Some of its skyscrapers resemble household gadgets and implements, like the Walkie-Talkie and Cheese Grater. Another, the Gherkin, is an elegant glass and steel structure in the shape of a humble vegetable. More skyscrapers are being added as we write this.
Tip: Some of the best viewpoints of the City aren’t the most obvious. The walkway just to the east of Southwark Bridge is one. The front of the DLR train from Shadwell offers another, very dynamic view of it.
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill, Liverpool Street, Monument or London Bridge.
8. The Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the most famous places in London to visit.
This fortress is over 900 years old, built by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century to consolidate his hold over his new realm. It has served as a castle, prison, home to the Royal Menagerie and now home to the Crown Jewels. It’s also home to some of the most famous London icons, the uniformed Beefeaters, or Yeomen Warders, who help show visitors around.
Tip: Don’t miss the gorgeous St John’s Chapel in the White Tower – it’s one of the most beautiful Romanesque buildings in the UK. But you’re not allowed to photograph it.
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill, and Tower Gateway on the DLR.
9. The Tower Bridge London – the Most Famous Bridge in London
One of the most beautiful bridges in London, this unique bascule and suspension bridge has spanned the Thames since the late 19th century.
Its middle section is occasionally raised to allow tall vessels to pass through. It also makes for a stunning viewpoint over the Tower of London, the City, the Shard and down river to the skyline of the financial district of Canary Wharf. It’s perennially one of the most popular places to see in London, and justifiably so.
Tip: One of the best viewpoints is from near St Katharine’s Dock, form a jetty on the riverfront. It’s also magical at dawn in winter.
Nearest Tube: Tower Hill, or Tower Gateway DLR.
10. The Shard London
The tallest building in western Europe has been around less than a decade, but it’s firmly established as one of the main places to go in London.
At over 1,000 feet in height, it’s certainly impossible to miss.The View from the Shard gives the highest view of London, which looks like a giant toytown metropolis from such a height. You can also stay there, eat there or do yoga there.
Insider Tip: You’re likely to get the best views of London from the Shard in clear weather following rain.
Nearest Tube: London Bridge
See Also: 26 Famous UK Landmarks
11. Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus is one of the best-known London tourist places, a meeting point at the busy junction of several major streets in the heart of London‘s West End.
The best-known Piccadilly sights are the statue of Eros in the heart of the square and the huge advertising screens across the street. It’s not really one of the best places to visit in London – if anything, it’s just famous for, well, being famous. Still, it’s one of the most Instagrammable places in London, and its busy future is assured for a long time yet.
Insider Tip: The best time to visit Piccadilly Circus is at dusk, but bear in mind that it’s also popular with groups of pickpockets.
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus
12. BT Tower
When I was a child, the tallest building in London was the space-age (well, it seemed like it at the time) Post Office Tower.
It was opened in 1965, and in its early years the upper area was home to a revolving restaurant (these were de rigueur back in the day). Now known as the BT Tower, it’s a very important telecommunications hub, but no longer open to the public. Nowadays it’s somewhat forgotten in Fitzrovia, but still one of the most prominent landmarks in north London. The best place to see it is from the Regent’s Park.
Insider Tip: The BT Tower is only open to the public one weekend a year – Open House Weekend, which is usually in September. The BT Tower is one of the most popular buildings to visit, so entry is decided by ballot in advance.
Nearest Tube: Goodge Street, Warren Street or Great Portland Street.
13. Camden Market
Camden became a kind of alternative cultural nexus in the 1970s, with music venues like the Roundhouse and Electric Ballroom hosting many punk gigs.
Camden Market opened in 1974, with just 16 stalls near another music venue, Dingwalls. Out of the music scene Camden became one of the main centres of London fashion.
Since then, Camden Market and Camden Stables Market have become as much a part of the London tourist trail as Big Ben and Trafalgar Square. It’s especially busy at weekends, when the throngs descend to explore the hundreds of clothes, music, craft and street food stalls.
Tip: Kim’s Vietnamese Food Hut, in the Stables part of the Market, serves fantastic food – we’ve been returning there for over a decade.
Nearest Tube: Camden Town or Chalk Farm.
14. Tate Modern
One of the newer must do in London sights is Tate Modern, home to one of the best modern art museums in the world.
It’s housed in the vast former Bankside Power Station, an awesome exhibition and performance space. It’s at the southern end of the Millennium Bridge, the famous formerly wobbly footbridge that spans the River Thames, leading directly north to St Paul’s.
Insider Tip: The Tate Modern Switch House is an extension of the original gallery, and its rooftop 65 metres above the ground offers wonderful panoramas of London and the Thames.
Nearest Tube: Southwark
15. Albert Bridge
The Albert Bridge links the suburbs of Chelsea and Battersea.
It’s a unique bridge that’s part beam bridge, part suspension bridge and part Ordish-Lefeuvre design (no, I hadn’t heard of it either). It’s another of my personal favourite London landmarks, partly because I’ve passed it hundreds of times on the Cardiff-London coach route I used. It’s a little off the beaten path in London terms, and its relatively long distance from Tube stations keeps it that way. If you’re wondering where to go in London away from the crowds, the Albert Bridge, along with nearby historic Cheyne Walk, is a great place to start.
Insider Tip: It’s lit up beautifully at night.Nearest Tube: Sloane Square or South Kensington, both around a mile (1.6km) away. The 170 bus from Victoria stops right next to it.
16. Red Telephone Boxes
The traditional red telephone boxes are among the most famous London landmarks, and they are also among the most common and widespread. They’re without doubt among the best sights in London, a huge favourite for photographers and for those selfies to send to your friends around the world
They can be found all over central London, and there are different versions. Both the K2 – which you can find on Parliament Square – and the later K6 version were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott – in 1924, and were partly inspired by the tomb of Sir John Soane in Old St Pancras churchyard.
Most of the red telephone kiosks in London are still operational, though rarely used for what they were designed for. Elsewhere in the country, they are used to house micro-libraries and even defibrillators. Their numbers have declined across the UK, but as the red phone box was voted the greatest British design of all time, many will hopefully survive in perpetuity.
Tip: Covent Garden is a good place for red phone box photos in London. As well as some examples on the Piazza, there is also a row of five red telephone boxes on Broad Court, just off Bow Street and a few steps away from the Royal Opera House.
Did You Know: Sir Giles Gilbert Scott also designed Battersea Power Station and one of the most famous landmarks in England, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral.
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden for those described above, but there are many around central London
17. London Underground Stations
The London Underground roundel and Tube station entrances are just as ubiquitous a London sight as the red K6 phone box. They are undoubtedly among the most famous landmarks in London, highly iconic in their own right, of course, saying, ”London!” as well as any other famous London landmark, even Big Ben.
The London Underground signs can be found all over the centre of London and, of course, at stations all over the wider metropolis. The best-known examples tend to be near other London landmarks, making for the perfect London photo opportunity, and these include at Westminster Tube station (with Big Ben) and on nearby Trafalgar Square with Nelson’s Column and the National Gallery in the background.
18. Kew Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are one of four World Heritage Sites in London, and it’s well worth making the trip out west to see them. The vast site, founded in 1759, is home to over 50,000 plant species, and it’s one of the best places to go in London on a sunny day, with a stroll along the glorious broad border walks or the shade of the incredible arboretum.
Kew also has an incredibly rich architectural heritage, with several outstanding buildings worthy of a place on any London landmarks list. The Palm House is one of the first buildings you’ll see at Kew, and it’s the first glass house of such a magnitude to have been built – in 1844, to a design inspired by that of a ship. Allow plenty of time at Kew (last time we spent a whole day there) which will give you enough time to explore other London treasures around the Gardens, including Kew Palace, a 17th century gem where King George III lived for some years, and, at the opposite end of the Gardens, the Great Pagoda, a superb Chinese-inspired tower offering wonderful views of the Gardens.
Getting There: Train to either Kew Gardens (London Overground – followed by a 5-minute walk) or to Kew Bridge (South Western Railway, not connected with Kew Gardens station), from where it’s a 15-20 minute walk to the Victoria Gate entrance, or a short hop on the 65 bus which leaves from Kew Bridge stop H.
19. London Roman Wall
The Roman London Wall was built around 200 AD to defend and fortify the garrison town and trading port of Londinium. The Romans built the wall from what is now Tower Gate, below the Tower of London, to a roughly rectangular plan with a series of Gates, continuing north to the modern Barbican, south to Ludgate (close to what is now St Paul’s Cathedral) and along the riverfront.
The Roman London Wall hindered development until the Middle Ages, from when it gradually ceased to have any meaningful role. Much of it was built over or destroyed, but there is one section that is very well preserved, in Tower Hill Gardens, across the street from the Tower of London. One of the oldest London historical sites, it is also graced by a replica statue of the Emperor Trajan, who ruled from 98 to 117 AD. It’s no more than a three-minute walk from the Tower of London entrance, so you can see one of the oldest landmarks in London as well as the Tower and Tower Bridge.
20. Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf is one of the most famous London landmarks, a district of high-rise towers that is essentially overspill from the crowded City of London. It’s one of the biggest and busiest financial districts in the world, which began in the 1980s as a development of docklands in the Isle of Dogs in the East End of London. We can recall when it was little more than a single skyscraper – now it’s a huge cluster of them, burgeoning and showing no sign of stopping. The best views of Canary Wharf are from across the river at Greenwich, and upriver in the City of London, the Shard and, surprisingly, as far away as Waterloo Bridge (pictured).
21. Natural History Museum
Another of London’s most famous landmarks, the Natural History Museum is one of the great museums of the United Kingdom, indeed Europe. As you approach Central London from the west, there’s a strong chance you’ll pass it, a gigantic Victorian Gothic edifice that greets you as you pass through South Kensington.
The scope of the Museum is astonishing, essentially covering the history of life on Earth and indeed beyond. What’s more, admission is free, although at the time of writing you may need to book your entry online in order to comply with ovid-19 measures. We always head for the dinosaurs which our Little Man finds particularly captivating, but with each visit we find something new to discover. It hosts a series of exhibitions, including the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year. We confess to a tiny touch of bias with this famous London landmark, as it’s where we met for the first time.
Getting there: South Kensington Tube
22. Red Double Decker Buses
One of the great, ubiquitous, universally recognised icons of London, the red London double decker bus makes it into our famous London landmarks by virtue of its near-omnipresence. OK, they move – at least that’s the idea – but they’re more often than not stuck in London traffic and you can’t possibly miss them.
The forerunner of the London double decker bus was the horse-drawn omnibus, which was introduced in 1829 – the motorised omnibus was first used in the early 20th century. All London buses were painted red from 1907 onwards, with the route number and destination n the front. While living in London we frequently used London double decker buses to get around, and they are often more convenient, and offer a far more scenic perspective. They are also considerably cheaper, especially if you’re using an Oyster card.
We loved delving into the history of London buses and the Tube at the excellent London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, which has a wonderful collection of London red double-decker buses, omnibuses, trains and more.
23. British Museum
The British Museum in Bloomsbury is a vast Neo-Classical building housing an astounding collection of cultural artefacts from around the world. The Museum was founded in 1753, but the present main building was completed over a century later, in 1857, to a design by Robert Smirke. Within 50 years even this proved inadequate due to the Museum’s ever-increasing collections, so the enormous North Wing was also added.
The Museum underwent further changes at the Millennium when the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, designed by Lord Foster, was opened. This is the largest covered square in Europe, with a glass roof covering the space between the central dome and the galleries. It’s a great improvement on the previous set-up, making the Museum easier to navigate. That said, seeing even the highlights could detain you for quite some time.
Getting there: Russell Square Tube
24. Portobello Road Market
This mile-long market in Notting Hill is one of the most famous places in London. It’s typical London in that you see so many different sides to the city in a relatively short stretch, starting at the pastel-painted houses at the southern end and ending at the junction with Gonville Road, a couple of blocks beyond the Westway Flyover.
Portobello Road Market is only in full swing on Saturdays, when all five sections open – the food and produce sections are open on weekdays. It’s best-known for its antique stalls and shops, which are open on Fridays and Saturdays, and there are usually hundreds of these stalls to browse.
Portobello Road has been used as the setting for many movie scenes, including Notting Hill and our son’s favourite, Paddington 2, where the famous Alice’s Antiques shop doubles as Gruber’s Antiques, owned by the bear’s long-standing friend.
Getting there: Ladbroke Grove (northern end) or Notting Hill Gate (southern end, better for antiques) Tube.
25. Cutty Sark
The Cutty Sark is one of the most iconic London landmarks, located close to the River thames and part of the Maritime Greenwich UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of four in London. This beautiful ship was the fastest of its time – it was launched in 1870 – and first served as a tea clipper, carrying cargo to China and returning with tea. With the advent of the steam ship a few years after its construction, it was used to transport wool from Australia, often venturing as far south as the dangerous Roaring Forties winds to save time on the journey.
Its heyday was in the 1880s and 1890s, after which it was sold to a Portuguese company. It was later acquired by a British owner and eventually opened as a museum ship in 1957. The Cutty Sark suffered devastating fire damage in 2007, but was impressively restored within just five years.
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