Our list of the top Central London tourist attractions covers all points of interest toward the center of town. This is a major tourist district with lots of hotels and restaurants, so it’s a great place to spend a few days or even a week.
Let’s get started with our breakdown of the top tourist attractions in Central London, all chosen with families in mind.
1. The London Eye
If you spend some time researching Central London tourist attractions, you’re likely to get tired of seeing the London Eye suggested. It’s one of the most beloved stopping points for visitors, and many locals have a fascination with it as well. It’s a massive Ferris wheel that serves as a moving viewing deck with stunning views of the River Thames and Central London.
You can buy London Eye tickets online, multi-attraction tickets that offer discounts for a select group of attractions in Central London. You’ll find the London Eye on the banks of the Thames River close to Jubilee Park, London Dungeons, and many other attractions along the Queen’s Walk. Those are all top Central London tourist attractions worth seeing.
2. The National Gallery
If you’re interested in art, the National Gallery is the place to go in Central London. It’s a large art gallery that offers free admission for all and some fun activities to keep children interested. The collection includes everything from waterlilies and windmills to thunderstorms and vibrant yellow sunflowers. It’s diverse, so there’s something of interest for every art collector or fan.
While there is never a charge to visit the National Gallery, you must reserve tickets online in advance. Some special exhibitions do require an entry fee.
3. The British Museum
With exhibits that go back more than two million years, the British Museum is home to one of the most accomplished historical collections anywhere in the world and one of the most popular Central London tourist attractions. Touching on everything from the climate to the emperors of Rome, the focus is on cultural change and human connection. If you have the patience to look through every exhibit, you’ll learn a lot and have a bit of fun in the process.
While you can visit the British Museum for free, you need to reserve tickets in advance. Entrance to the permanent collection is always free, but you may have to pay an entry fee for special exhibitions.
4. Hyde Park
When you’re ready to escape the crowded streets around most Central London tourist attractions or the little ones need a break from sightseeing, find your way to Hyde Park by the Kensington Palace and Gardens. Walk around to see a variety of monuments and dedicated fountains, including the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain. Stop off at Speakers’ Corner to check for live performers and get lost in the Rose Garden to see the blooms.
You can also take the kids to South Carriage Drive Playground, which sits on the southern end of the park. In addition to your basic swings and slides, it has climbing frames that some children find challenging and fun.
5. Somerset House
Somerset House started out as a palace designed and built almost entirely by Lord Protector and Duke of Somerset Edward Seymour in 1547. When he was executed in the Tower of London, the palace became property of the Monarchs and was used as a residential space for some members of the Royal Family.
The house has a rich history, and it was slowly opened for public use over time. Today, it’s more like a cultural center than a Royal residence. It was a part of London Fashion Week for the first time in 2009 and features a fountain court where some popular musicians have held concerts.
Somerset House is home to the Courtauld Gallery, which features some interesting artwork. There are a variety of additional exhibits plus a coffee shop and multiple cafes if you need refreshments. You can enter for free but need to reserve tickets in advance.
6. Smithfield Market
The markets of London are among the city’s biggest attractions. They’re fun to walk through, you never know what you’ll find, and they’re excellent for grabbing a bite to eat and people watching. Smithfield Market is a bit different from many others because it’s a functioning wholesale meat market. If you go early in the day, you can see the most action as the meat sellers peddle their goods.
Historically, the land now used for the market was reserved for tournaments and jousts. In the market’s early days, it was mostly used for cloth trades. Meat took over in the 20th century, and that remains the primary product on display today.
7. Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of those Central London tourist attractions that you must see at least once. Most visitors explore the tower on their first visit to the city, and many go back every time they’re in town. It’s rich in history, including some dark tales of prisoners, torture, and executions. There were also some bright, happy days in the tower’s history, and it’s now the storage place for the Royal Jewels.
We recommend taking a tour with the Yeoman Warders. Don’t skip the White Tower or the Bloody Tower and keep your eye out for the resident black ravens. You can reserve tickets online in advance to ensure you get a spot during your visit to London.
8. Barbican Centre
The Barbican Centre is a massive complex that features a cinema and large collection of artworks. The conservatory is another leading attraction because it features about 1,500 species of trees and plants, all sourced from around the world. The Culture Mile is another can’t-miss attraction, among many others.
This centre backs a versatile collection of creative thinkers and artists. It presents a variety of events throughout the year, including unexpected pop-ups at times. You can check the schedule online and reserve tickets when you see something interesting happening during your visit to London.
If you can walk up 311 steps, you can take in some of the most spectacular views in Central London. Known as the London Monument, the Monument to the Great Fire of London, or simply the Monument, it was declared completed in 1677 after about six years of construction. It remains one of the most popular London points of interest today.
The Monument was created in memory of the destruction caused by the Great Fire of London, but many tourists consider it an affordable option to see panoramic views of the city from up high. It sits at the meeting point of Monument Street and Fish Hill Street alongside an assortment of coffee shops and restaurants. You don’t need tickets to visit, so stop by whenever you’re in the neighborhood.
Exploring Central London is a great way to ease into the city when you first arrive, but you could also spend several days or longer exploring everything there is to see and do. Many attractions are close together, so you can jump from one to the next without using much transportation beyond your feet.
Check out some of the free self-guided walking tours that you can download to your phone or tablet. They take you along routes that lead to many of these top Central London tourist attractions, giving you a game plan that hits on the biggest attractions.