Your family travel bucket list isn’t complete if you don’t have at least a few iconic places in London on the must-see list.
Beyond spectacular skylines, beautiful gardens, and panoramic vistas that stretch for miles, the city boasts a thriving nightlife, street performers, heart-pumping adventures for thrill seekers, and scrumptious dining options that range from street vendors to gourmet restaurants operating with multiple Michelin stars.
There are more historical and cultural attractions in London than you can see in a week. Whether you’re planning a romantic weekend or a family vacation, there are endless ways to fill your itinerary with experiences that you will never forget.
But back to your bucket list. What London experiences are most worthy of occupying space on your list? Only you can decide that, but we recommend the following iconic places in London. We’ll break it down into iconic places soaked with history and attractions that will get your heart pumping. We all need a little of both on our bucket lists.
1. Tower of London – Visit the spectacular tower of stone built by William the Conqueror on the northern shores of the River Thames more than 900 years ago. It’s now home to the Royal Jewels, but it’s the tower’s history that catches a lot of attention today. Once utilized as a residence for members of the Royal family, the tower was also once used to house prisoners and as barracks for the army.
2. Buckingham Palace – If you want to see how the Royals live, head to Buckingham Palace. It has served as a primary residence for members of the Royal family since the 1830s and is one of the most luxurious palaces in the UK. It’s also a leading destination for many Royal festivities and events. It serves as the center of life for the Monarch’s administrative staff as well.
3. London Eye – Also known as the Millennium Wheel, the London Eye is a massive Ferris wheel that delivers spectacular views of the city from up high. It stretches more than 440 feet into the air and looms over the Thames River with a prominent position on the river’s southern bank. It’s one of the most popular paid attractions in London and is included in many bundled attraction deals.
4. Tower Bridge – You can see pictures of London’s Tower Bridge all over the internet. Located close to the Tower of London, it’s one of the most well-known suspension bridges in the world. Don’t mistake it for London Bridge, which is located upstream and has a remarkable history and appearance of its own. The glass walkway allows you to see city life from a new angle.
5. Westminster Abbey – This spectacular church has been the backdrop for every Royal coronation since 1066. It’s also the chosen destination for many Royal celebrations and events. While it serves as a place of worship for many, many visitors are most impressed by its elaborate architectural design. Some of the most noteworthy spots to explore include the Coronation Chair, Royal tombs, and Poet’s Corner.
6. The Shard – This 72-story skyscraper offers some of the most spectacular views of London along with a variety of upscale hotels and restaurants. Local businesses rent office space on some floors as well. The Shard is like a thriving city contained within a stunning glass building that stretches into the London sky dramatically. If your bucket list demands you see London from the highest viewing deck possible, the 72nd floor of the Shard will do the trick.
7. Kensington Palace – Head to the Kensington and Chelsea borough to find this beautiful palace surrounded by the Kensington Gardens. It’s used as a residence for some younger members of the Royal family and is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London. It’s well known as the former home of Princess Diana and is currently the venue for summer parties and other select Royal events.
8. London Bridge – This iconic bridge connects Central London to Southwark. Some of the city’s biggest attractions and most popular restaurants are located within a few miles of the bridge on both sides. The river has been bridged in this location for nearly 2,000 years, but there were a couple bridges that came before the one you may add to your bucket list today.
9. Regent Street – Add Regent Street to your bucket list if you’re up for high-end shopping and some of the best restaurants in the city. This is a leading shopping venue for fashion enthusiasts, and it’s a great place to window shop even if you don’t have the budget to buy. This is where you go to see some of the finer things in London.
10. Leadenhall Market – If Regent Street isn’t your thing, this covered market located at a historic spot may get you excited. Browse the boutiques for hours and stop off at a pub or café for refreshments. If you’re a Potterhead, you may appreciate that this market is the real life Diagon Alley from one of the films. It’s also a great place to go for a walk, shop, or find a bite to eat.
1. The O2
The O2 is an entertainment complex that includes live events and shows plus bars, restaurants, and a movie theater. You can go bowling or jump the day away at the Oxygen Freejumping trampoline park, which contains a Ninja Warrior obstacle course, dodgeball courts, and other fun sections spread across two floors.
The highlight for thrill seekers is an attraction called ‘Up’ at the O2. Buying a ticket to Up at The O2 allows you to climb over the entertainment complex’s roof to enjoy stunning views from the top. It takes about 90 minutes to complete the climb, and you can buy tickets that allow you to enjoy a meal once at the top. You can climb at day or night, and there’s even a perfectly timed sunset climb.
Seasoned climbers aren’t the only ones who can add the O2 to their bucket lists. A guide goes with you on the climb and you’re fitted with safety gear, so even beginners with zero climbing experience can enjoy this experience safely.
2. High Ropes and Ziplining Adventures
Walk and glide through the treetops with Go Ape. Fly down one of the world’s longest city ziplines with Zip Now London. London isn’t all about museums and the Royal family. It’s also one of the most picturesque cities when it comes to gardens, parks, squares, and cozy green spaces tucked throughout the streets.
What better way to experience the great outdoors than to walk through the trees or zip over the streets while dangling from a line? There are a variety of experience vendors offering this type of active entertainment throughout London. Go Ape and Zip Now London are just examples of the fun you can have when you add ziplining or high ropes courses in London to your bucket list.
3. Kayaking on the River Thames
There are multiple adventure companies that will take you out for a kayaking trip on the River Thames. Some offer canoeing as well. Here are some of the top picks:
The Thames River is central to life in London. Kayaking on the river allows you to see some of the city’s biggest attractions from a more distant view out on the water while giving you the sunshine and time outdoors that you may crave on an active vacation.
While seasoned kayakers enjoy pedaling through the river, you don’t need experience to add this to your bucket list. There are kayaking and canoeing tours for all skill levels.
4. London Helicopter and Speedboat Tours
Tours are among the most popular London attractions, and some are designed to get your blood pumping. You can head out on the water in a speedboat to experience the River Thames at daring speeds or take to the air and see the city from incredible heights. Both experiences are adventurous enough to warrant taking up space on your bucket list.
For London speedboat tours, check out Thames Rockets, ThamesJet, or Thames RIB Experience. Some of the best helicopter tours of London are offered by Heli Air, Adventure Experiences 001, and The London Helicopter.
5. London Bungee Jumping
One of the most Instagram-worthy and iconic places in London happens to be a crane! London has a lot of tall buildings, so why not jump off one of them? Virgin Experience Days take you to the top of a crane 160 feet in the air, dangle you by your ankles, and then release you to enjoy beautiful views of the Thames River and Central London as you soar through the clouds.
The UK Bungee Club is another option. They schedule bunging jumping events throughout the city at different locations, so you have to watch their website to get in on the action. The events may include bungee jumping, free falling, and other thrilling experiences.
Most of these events will allow you to purchase a voucher that is good for at least six months. That gives you some flexibility when timing your jump. Keep in mind that the weather may delay a jump, so you shouldn’t schedule it right at the end of your trip to London.
Now that you’ve learned about some of the most iconic places in London, what additions should you make to your bucket list? There are so many options that it may feel overwhelming. We recommend asking yourself which of these iconic places and experiences get you excited. Imagine yourself at each of these places and pay attention to how you feel.
You can see and do a lot in London even if you only have a couple days to explore. Not every experience on your itinerary has to make an appearance on your bucket list, so choose only those that really get you excited.