London, the capital city of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland has an epic history and has influenced the entire world since the Middle Ages. Its magnificent old buildings, world-class shopping, grand hotels, and eccentric bars and clubs make it a dream destination for everyone.
And if you visit London to explore all the things it’s famous for, you’ll find that there is much more than the Royals at Buckingham Palace and Big Ben.
London is also famous for…
One of the best archetypes of London’s long and diverse history is the Tower of London. With its oldest part dating back to the Middle Ages, the tower has played a vital role in British history. It was part of the Norman Conquest, a torture chamber for prisoners, and has been visited by famous people from Queen Elizabeth I to notorious London Gangsters.
Today, the Tower of London stands proudly among modern skyscrapers as a reminder of the city’s rich history and is home to the famous Crown Jewels of England. It’s visited by more than two million people every year. It’s almost as popular as Big Ben!
Westminster Abbey is the most famous abbey in the world. With its origins as far back as 960 AD, the abbey has been a part of the Christian Church for all of England’s history as we know it. The imposing structure has hosted coronations, weddings, and funerals for the Royals. The abbey hosted the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. Princess Diana and Charles Darwin’s funerals were held at Westminister Abbey, and it’s the final resting place of Charles Dickins and Issac Newton.
London is famous for being a paradigm for modern parliamentary democracies. This type of government and the concepts of parliamentary sovereignty and rule of law has long been used in other parts of the world. The UK parliament sits at the Palace of Westminster, a place of great beauty and history. Visitors can go inside and see parliament in action.
The scenic River Thames provides a gorgeous backdrop for the London skyline. At 346 km (215 miles), it’s the longest river in England and definitely something that makes London famous.
It’s easy to find a restful spot along the river. You can also dine at a waterfront restaurant or take a ferry across the Thames. Over the years, several bridges called the London Bridge have spanned the river to Southwark in southeast London. The current concrete and steel London Bridge opened in 1973.
Often confused as the London Bridge, Tower Bridge is a world-famous iconic symbol of London. Completed in 1894, it has been the site of many thrilling stunts over the years, thanks to its see-saw style opening. Tourists can visit the tower to learn its history or travel beneath it on a River Thames cruise.
Historic value, religious significance, and architectural beauty make St.Paul’s Cathedral one of the most famous landmarks in the world. The Anglican cathedral is perched on London’s highest point and is part of the city’s skyline. The church was a city-wide project to revive London after the Great Fire of 1666. The cathedral is the mother church of the Diocese and the seat of the Bishop of London. Religious services are still held here as global visitors come to marvel at the structure.
London is well-known as a city that embraces the traditional and the contemporary. Built in 2012, the Shard is the cutting edge of the city’s skyline. The ultra-modern 72-story building is the tallest in the UK and the EU, and the sixth tallest building in all of Europe. The Shard is occupied by luxurious apartments, offices, bars, and restaurants. Visitors can experience breathtaking views from the top observation deck or have a gourmet meal in one of the swanky restaurants.
First unveiled on New Year’s Eve 1999, the London Eye (also called the Millennium Wheel), quickly became one of London’s most popular tourist attractions. Located on the South Bank of the River Thames, the London Eye is an observation wheel standing 135 meters (442 ft) tall. A spin on the big wheel is a thrilling ride that gives the rider breathtaking panoramic views of the city. Visitors can also enjoy the London Eye 4D experience.
Hyde Park is located in the heart of London and is the city’s largest royal park. The park is a lovely green space in the city, but Speaker’s Corner is what it’s famous for. At Speaker’s Corner, anyone can stand up and make a speech for passers-by to stop and listen or even participate in a debate. The speeches are usually on contemporary or political issues. George Orwell, Karl Marx, and Vladimir Lenin are among the famous who have exercised their freedom of speech in Hyde Park.
Like other big cities, London is made up of hundreds of distinct neighborhoods, some of which have gained international fame – especially on Instagram! Camden is a cool, quirky neighborhood and a favorite for Actress Kate Moss and singer Amy Winehouse before her death. Tourists love to explore the vintage stores and visit the street food market near the canal for delicious flavors and smells.
Notting Hill is another world-famous London neighborhood and one of the most affluent. The Richard Curtis films Love Actually and Bridget Jones were partially filmed in Notting Hill. This colorful part of the city is also known for the popular Notting Hill Carnival that celebrates the Caribbean culture.
Covent Garden, another famous London neighborhood is the busiest. It features an extensive collection of posh boutiques, bars, and restaurants along the cobbled streets of central London.
London is famous for its fascinating theatres, museums, and galleries. The legendary Globe Theatre was founded by the world-famous playwright William Shakespeare who wrote for the Queen and King. The original theatre was destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt and destroyed again during the English Civil War, and opened as a modern building in 1997 where visitors come to watch Shakespeare’s plays.
The Tate Modern, one of four Tate galleries in the UK features the world’s best British and international contemporary art. The exhibits at the Tate are ever-changing.
London’s Natural History Museum is world-famous for both its grand entranceway and impressive collection of artifacts.
Other museums popular with world travelers include the Cartoon Museum, the Freud Museum, and the Magic Circle Museum.
London has long been famous for its literature and film. The whole world is familiar with the literary character Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle’s genius detective. Sherlock Holmes resided in the once fictional 221B Baker Street. Visitors can now visit a real museum at the same address. The museum is a must-see for fans of the Sherlock Holmes stories, films, and TV series.
London is famous for its elegant shopping and dining. Oxford Street stays busy with throngs of shoppers and is a must-do for first-time trips to London.
Harrods, a globally recognized brand has been a London institution since the 1800s attracting customers with its striking architecture, luxury goods, food courts, and iconic green shopping bags which have become a status symbol. More than a department store, Harrods is a part of London’s history.
London is also famous for its huge number of Michelin star restaurants. If you can only choose one exclusive restaurant while in London, make it the restaurant at the Savoy, one of the city’s best-known luxury hotels. You don’t have to be a hotel guest to dine there.
London has hundreds of grand, enormous statues, but perhaps the most intriguing ones are the odd, off-beat statues scattered around the city like hidden gems. The smallest statue in London can be found on Philpot Lane, a statue of two mice gnashing on a piece of cheese. The tiny statue is in memory of two builders who fell to their death while arguing over a sandwich.
One of the most obscure statues in London is found outside Edgeware Station. It depicts a window cleaner on a ladder looking up at the enormous building in front of him. It is said to represent the fact that one should always look upward.
The works of the renowned London street artist Jonsey can be spotted hidden around the city. Most of the small statues are made of bronze since Jonesy had a connection with a bell foundry. They often have environmental themes.
Called the “Tube” by the Brits, London Underground is the world’s oldest subway system. Built way back in 1863, the Tube is still the easiest and most convenient way to get around the city. Approximately 1,265 billion use the Tube every year. The famous subway system makes it easy to explore London. It’s so popular you’ll often see the Tube symbol on t-shirts, accessories, and London souvenirs.
London is well known as a city of many cultures, and every year the city hosts a myriad of cultural and artistic events with varying themes. Some of the most popular events include the Chinese New Year celebration at Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square. It features singers, dancers, and Chinese food stalls.
Celebrating the opera, the Covent Garden Festival is held in May outdoors when the London weather is at its best.
The Notting Hill Carnival mentioned in the above section of Famous Neighborhoods is a lively festival celebrating the Afro-Caribbean culture with colorful costumes, lively music, and over 300 food stalls.
In October, the Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival features the costumed Pearlies, a tradition that originated in 19th Century Victorian London. The highlight of the event is the harvest service held at the church of St Martin in the Fields.
The Brits have long been known for their perfect cup of tea. They will sip a cuppa anytime, and afternoon teas are a ritual. Tea isn’t grown in London, but the city has the world’s best tea bars, shops, and tea rooms. Visitors can share in the popular tradition along with a freshly baked scone.
Everyone around the world knows that the UK is the home of fish and chips. The fried British meal was invented in London, and the first place to get fish and chips opened in 1860 on Cleveland Street. No visitor should leave London without having a serving of fish and chips. Fortunately, they’re easy to find as fish and chips are served all around the British capital. You’ll find them in restaurants, fish bars, hotels, and pubs.
London and the UK are world-famous for their old established pubs. They have been a part of British culture for the past five centuries. More than a place to chug a pint, these pubs serve as places to chat with friends and form relationships. You’ll find lots of pubs around town to eat, drink, and be merry like the Mayflower. Located in the Rotherhithe district, it’s the city’s oldest pub. It’s surrounded by cobbled streets and beautiful river views.
The Dickens Inn is another popular pub. You’ll find it in St. Katerine’s Docks where the outdoor balcony has incredible city views including the Tower of London and the Shard.
The pubs serve burgers, club sandwiches, and of course, fish and chips.
London has a few iconic sights that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. Like the bright red double-decker buses that line the streets of London traffic. And the city’s black taxi cabs are as iconic as the yellow ones in New York City. Another odd sight in London is the old bright red telephone boxes. They’re no longer needed since everyone has mobile phones, but the dazzling boxes still remain on almost every street in central London.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.