With a heritage dating back to Roman times, London is absolutely bursting with historical landmarks. But if you had to narrow it down to just five must-see places, what would you choose? How would you pick London’s top five historic attractions? They don’t have to be expensive to visit, but they should be the oldest, most spectacular things a person can see in London. Here are our top five selections: if you’re strapped for time or money in London and you want to see only the most impressive places, this is the list for you.
The Tower of London
Construction began on this ancient fortress in 1066, the year William the Conqueror made the first steps towards creating the England we know today. It’s on the north bank of the Thames next to Tower Bridge, so you really get two attractions for the price of one! During its long history it has been a castle, a zoo and a prison, complete with plenty of grisly tales and a reputation for ghostly encounters. Today it holds the Crown Jewels, which you can see as part of an entertaining and very educational guided tour. Don’t forget to get your photo taken with the Tower’s traditional guards, the Beefeaters!
Just minutes from the Park Grand London Hyde Park, this spectacular palace and London icon is the Queen’s city residence – except in summer, when she goes on holiday! You can tell whether the Queen is really there by looking to see whether the palace is flying the Union flag – if it’s up, that’s a sign that she’s at home. Plenty of tourists experience the Palace for free by watching the Changing of the Guards each day outside the palace gates, which makes for excellent photos filled with beautiful horses and smart soldiers with feathers in their hats. You can also take a tour inside Buckingham Palace and see the breath-taking state rooms and ornamental gardens for yourself.
You know your photos of your London holiday won’t be complete without a snap of Big Ben. It’s the biggest chiming clock with four faces in the world and some would say the ultimate symbol of London. Fun fact: “Big Ben” is actually the name of the bell inside the clock. The clock tower that holds it is really named Elizabeth Tower, after the Queen herself!
Also known as Westminster Palace, this is the building of which Big Ben is a part. Its oldest part was once a Saxon church and it’s now over 900 years old – you can see its age in the ancient wooden beams. It was part of a monastery called West Minster, which is why the church that now stands nearby is called Westminster Abbey; meanwhile St Paul’s Cathedral was once known as Eastminster. The Houses of Parliament has been bombed, burnt down, almost blown up, and seen plenty of coups and political drama. Guided tours cost about £20 and you’ll learn some fascinating things about Britain’s history and all the odd traditions that still exist to this day, as well as the chance to see inside the rooms where the British Parliament meets.
St Pancras Station
Once fallen into disrepair after WWII bomb damage, the ornate façade of St Pancras has been restored back to its full glory and is now a Grade I heritage listed building. You’ll get plenty of excellent photos and since it’s also part of King’s Cross St Pancras station, it’s very easy to reach from anywhere in London. The surrounding neighbourhood is undergoing some renewal too and it’s now a lovely place for a stroll and some food on a mild evening when you’re done with sightseeing.