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- Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2009
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The great thing about London is that most of the main attractions are either free or very good value. All the major museums and galleries are free entry and there's enough variety among these to keep you occupied for a pretty long time, but we've made it easy for you by putting everything in one place.
For each attraction mentioned below there's a pin on the map so you've no excuse for getting lost now!
View London in a larger map
The British Museum
Although this list isn’t compiled in any particular order of importance I thought it right to mention the British Museum first. In the last few years the London Eye has become the tourist’s favourite must see attraction but before that it was all about the British Museum. Housing over seven million objects this giant museum is one of the biggest in the world and includes the largest collection of Egyptian antiquities outside of Cairo among countless other fascinating departments.
Museum of London
Charting the birth and rise of London from prehistoric times The Museum of London displays a wide ranging collection of pieces from archaeological finds to social documentation. As with most of Londons museums there’s a strong emphasis on family fun, so expect lots of hands on activities (even more so when some reconstruction work is completed in 2010).
Speaking of family fun make sure to check out the Science Museum which is extremely interactive and you’ll find out all about our industrial past from the origins of power, to transport and right through to space flight.
London's Art Galleries
The British home of international modern art is housed within a disused, oil-fuelled, power station - the former Bankside Power Station – on the banks of the Thames. Entry is free and you’ll be treated to works by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Dalí, Pollack and many more!
The founding member of the Tate chain of museums that includes the Tate modern, Tate St. Ives and Tate Liverpool, The Tate Britain is home to the permanent collection of historic British art but also rotates between contemporary collections from well known British artists.
The Tate Modern and Tate Britain are connected via a brightly coloured speedboat which shouldn’t be missed. Ask about it once you’re in one or the other.
National Portrait Gallery
Home, unsurprisingly, to a massive selection of portraits of historically famous and important British people. The artists who’s work is on display may not be well known but it’s all about the subjects who are captured using all types of medium from paint to film.
The National Gallery
Adjoining the National Portrait gallery, and facing onto Trafalgar Square, is the National Gallery which many say is London’s equivalent to The Louvre in Paris. Although a lot smaller in scale than its French counterpart The National Gallery still houses over 2300 paintings and, to those who’ve been to The Louvre, is a lot easier to get around!
London's Royal Parks
Londons parks are the perfect refuge from the buzz of the city and are always kept looking great. Up around Marylebone you’ll find Regents Park which has over 100 acres of sports facilities and some very impressive rose gardens that are a favourite hangout for relaxing locals. For some of the best views of Buckingham Palace you should head to St. James’s Park with your camera and some bread for the ducks! Hyde Park is massive so you might want to set aside an afternoon just to explore it. If you explore for long enough you’ll find the Diana Memorial, horse rides and the Peter Pan Statue among many other attractions.
London's South Bank Walk
If you’re looking for a walk while you’re in London then I can’t recommend a stroll along the South Bank enough. Not only is it a popular route but you’ll also take in a surprising number of sights along the way. If you start at Westminster Bridge you’re already within a few seconds walk of Big Ben, The House of Commons and Westminster Abbey, a trio of world famous sights.
As you start on your walk up the South Bank you’ll pass by Londons number one visitor attraction, The London Eye, which attracts over 3.5 million visitors a year. Standing at 135 meters tall it’s the largest observation wheel in the world and is open until 9pm most nights, which is a spectacular time to go up (It’s quite expensive though at £17 per adult).
Continuing along the bank you’ll find all sorts of artists at work with some using sand to make temporary sculptures and other using spray paint on impressive grafitti walls. Just after you pass by the Tate Modern you’ll come to The Globe Theatre, which fans of Shakespeare will know all about and others can learn as they pass by.
At the end of your South Bank walk you’ll pass the modern city hall building and find yourself at Tower Bridge, one of Londons most iconic landmarks, which gets its name from the building closest to it; The Tower of London.
Other Major London Attractions
Your camera will be packed full of photos from your time in London and Buckingham Palace will probably be responsible for taking up quite a bit of memory. Official residence of the Royal Family and open 60 days of the year to the public this is one sight not to be missed. There’s also a daily changing of the guard at 11am.
St. Pauls Cathedral
Another of Londons most visited sites is St. Pauls Cathedral which is the seat of the Bishop of London and many say famous architect Sir Christopher Wrens best work.
The Old Bailey
Just around the corner you’ll find The Old Bailey which is arguably the world’s most famous criminal court. That may not sound like much fun but you can actually go in and watch proceedings from the public galleries! How often do you get to spend a day in court? (Some readers may have more court time than others)
Usually packed with tourists milling about, taking photos and eating their packed lunches Trafalgar Square is an iconic setting that has seen numerous demonstrations and events down through the years. It’s also home Nelsons Column and the National Gallery which we’re mentioned above.
Close by there’s an important place that all tourists should know about; The London Visitor Centre. Pick up all your maps and tips from the staff and also make sure to enquire about the London Sightseeing Bus Tour which is a brilliant way to get around the city and hop on and off as you please.
Just a short stroll from Trafalgar Square you’ll find Covent Garden and it’s famous market. The Covent Garden Market is not only a great market but also a centre for great street performances and entertainment. Close by you’ll find loads of great restaurants, pubs and shops that make it a perfect area to relax in.
If you’re in London to see a gig then the chances are you’ll be going to The Millennium Dome but if there’s no gig I’d suggest to steer clear as, other than a few restaurants, there’s not a lot going on. It’s a cool place to get a few photos but the main reason I’m mentioning it is because it’s on the route of London’s Water Taxis! If you’re going from one side of the city to the other there’s no better way than on a water taxi, and seeing as though a lot of Londons main attraction are along the Thames it might even be worth paying £12 for a hop-on hop-off ticket. Either way I found these a great way to travel and would recommend to everyone (A single ticket is £5)
By: Eóin White