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Top Visitor Attractions in Central London

Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament from the South Bank of The River Thames

Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament from the South Bank of The River Thames

Identifying the Top Visitor Attractions in Central London

Central London has more than its fair share of visitor attractions, historic monuments and sites worth seeing. While this is in most ways a benefit to any visitor, it can also be confusing in terms of what to see, when to visit and in what order the visits should be made - especially when time may be at a premium.

This page is therefore intended to provide an overview of some of the top visitor attractions in Central London, brief details of each and precisely where to find them in the city. This will hopefully help visitors to Central London to better identify the principal places which they would like to visit in advance and develop at least a rough schedule for their tour.

Clicking once on any of the photos on this page will cause them to open in a new window, in larger form, and allow them to be viewed in considerably greater detail.

A very warm welcome to London...

Locations of these Top Visitor Attractions in Central London

Big Ben Viewed from the South Bank of The River Thames

Big Ben Viewed from the South Bank of The River Thames

Big Ben Viewed from Westminster

Big Ben Viewed from Westminster

Big Ben

There is often a considerable amount of confusion surrounds Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster. This is because a great many people believe that Big Ben is the name given to the clock tower, when Big Ben is actually the largest bell contained within the tower. The clock tower has four faces and is the largest clock tower of this type in the world.

Big Ben is often perceived as being the symbol and even emblem of time in Great Britain. On the 31st December each year, TV and radio stations throughout the land broadcast the sound of Big Ben strike twelve midnight Greenwich Mean Time and the New Year celebrations begin in earnest. On a more solemn note, Big Ben also chimes the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, on Remembrance Day each year in the UK.

Getting Around in Central London

The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament Viewed from Westminster Bridge

The Houses of Parliament Viewed from Westminster Bridge

The Houses of Parliament

As well as Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster also contains both of the British Houses of Parliament. There is the Lower House, the House of Commons, where members are elected, and the Upper House, the House of Lords, where members are appointed.

Obtaining access to the Houses of Parliament is not always easy. Conditions of access vary dependant not only upon the time of year and what proceedings may be under way within the chambers but also upon whether the visitor is a UK resident or overseas visitor. It is always best to check with the official website as close to the time of making a visit as possible for full details. The link may be found below:

Visiting the UK Parliament

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the Central London home of HM the Queen and is probably the residence with which she is most associated on a global scale. Although Buckingham Palace is very much the public face of the British Monarchy, it is also a working establishment where royal duties of all types are administered. The Palace is the venue for formal receptions of many types and royal banquets held for visiting Heads of State from overseas.

The daily Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace is very popular with visitors to Central London.

St Paul's Cathedral from the North Bank of the River Thames

St Paul's Cathedral from the North Bank of the River Thames

St Paul's Cathedral from the South Bank of the Thames

St Paul's Cathedral from the South Bank of the Thames

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St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral is one of the more striking features on the Central London skyline. The present Cathedral is actually the fourth to occupy the site over fourteen centuries, its predecessor being destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666.

St Paul's Cathedral as it stands now was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was 35 years in the building, between 1675 and 1710. It has hosted countless events of monumental significance over the centuries, including in recent times the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and the formal services to mark both the Golden Jubilee and 80th birthday of HM the Queen.

St Paul's Cathedral is open to sightseers from Monday to Saturday but is open for worship only on Sundays. It also has its own dedicated souvenir shop, many of the more popular products from which may be purchased online. The hyperlink at the top of this section will provide full details.

The London Eye

The London Eye

The London Eye

The London Eye is a giant ferris wheel, which perhaps at first appears as though it would be more at home in a fairground or carnival. It was built in 1999, at which time it was the largest ferris wheel in the world.

The views which The London Eye affords across London and - on a clear day - far beyond are breathtaking and the venue is extremely popular with visitors to London. There are a series of special events held on The London Eye throughout the year and booking online prior to making a visit can eliminate a lengthy waiting period, or even disappointment altogether. There are also discounts available for online bookings and full details are contained on The London Eye's home site:

The London Eye

Central London: A Video View from The London Eye

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

Dating back to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, The Tower of London has a long, intriguing and often bloody history. It has been used over the centuries for a wide variety of purposes, from a residence for kings and queens to a maximum security prison. The Tower of London to this day remains home to theBritish Crown Jewels.

The guards at the Tower of London are officially The Yeoman Warders but they are much more commonly known as Beefeaters.

The ravens which are kept at The Tower of London are a symbol of a centuries' old, dark prophecy. It was alleged that should the last raven ever leave The Tower of London, the monarchy and the famous white tower would fall and a great disaster would befall all of England.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

There can be little doubt that Tower Bridge is the most famous of all the Central London bridges which span the River Thames. The bridge dates back to the late 19th century and is so named due to its proximity to the Tower of London.

There is a story which is told of an American millionaire, Robert McCulloch, purchasing the old London Bridge in the 1960s, thinking that he was in fact purchasing Tower Bridge. The rumour was vociferously denied, however, by all parties concerned and although the story may sound good in the telling, the facts are at best, "Dubious..."

Quick Quiz: How well do you know Central London?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What is the major river that flows through Central London?
    • The Clyde
    • The Seine
    • The Thames
  2. In which part of London are the Houses of Parliament?
    • Westminster
    • Chelsea
    • Fulham
  3. What is the name of the railway system which operates beneath the streets of London?
    • The London Underground
    • The London Metro
    • The London Subway
  4. Which currency unit would you be most likely to spend in Central London?
    • Euro
    • Dollar
    • Pound
  5. Who designed the present day St Paul's Cathedral?
    • Sir Christopher Wren
    • Isambard Kingdom Brunel
    • William Adam
  6. Which type of birds are kept at the Tower of London?
    • Parrots
    • Ravens
    • Budgerigars
  7. What is the Central London home of Queen Elizabeth II?
    • The Tower of London
    • The House of Lords
    • Buckingham Palace
  8. What does the London Eye most resemble?
    • A cathedral
    • A wheel
    • A tower
  9. Which Central London observatory gives it name to a time zone?
    • Woolwich
    • Greenwich
    • Norwich
  10. What is reputedly eaten by the guards at the Tower of London?
    • Beef
    • Pork
    • Pizza

Answer Key

  1. The Thames
  2. Westminster
  3. The London Underground
  4. Pound
  5. Sir Christopher Wren
  6. Ravens
  7. Buckingham Palace
  8. A wheel
  9. Greenwich
  10. Beef

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 3 correct answers: You may want to try reading this page again...

If you got between 4 and 6 correct answers: Good effort but some further research is required

If you got between 7 and 8 correct answers: Well done - above average!

If you got 9 correct answers: You definitely score an A+!

If you got 10 correct answers: Wow - you must be a Londoner!

Readers' Poll: Make your Selection!

Have you ever visited Central London? What were the highlights of your trip?

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on May 29, 2016:

Thank you livetech and I hope your friend has a wonderful time in London. It is an amazing city to live in or even to visit with so much to see and do.

Paul Levy from United Kingdom on May 24, 2016:

Excellent information, have shared this article with a friend that is going to London next week.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on January 08, 2012:

Thanks, Mouhamed. At this point, I don't have the photos to do Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly Circus but will hopefully add them in time.

mouhamed bouhawell on January 07, 2012:

I advise to make texts about trafalgar sqare and piccadilly circus

mouhamed bouhawell on January 07, 2012:

thx this site really helped me keep it on ^.^

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on November 10, 2011:

Hello, akz. Congratulations on a very respectable quiz score! I hope you have a wonderful time in London at Christmas. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

akz on November 10, 2011:

thanks for the information about London, im going to London this 25th December, exactly Christmas. (: hoping my holiday will be the best. i took the quiz and got 80%, not bad for a person who stayed inLondon when i was just a baby. i didn't even remember a thing. haha.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on April 11, 2011:

Thank you Discussion Forum London, for the visit and the comment. I loved my time living in London and it was a pleasure to construct this page.

Discussion Forum London on April 10, 2011:

The beauty of London places explored very well in the photos too. Thanks a lot.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on October 12, 2010:

Thank you, Victoria

Isn't amazing how we can sometimes forget the beauty or importance of things which are right on our own doorstep and that we see almost every day?

Thanks for your visit and I'm gald that you liked it. :)

Victoria Stephens from London on October 11, 2010:

I went on the London Eye not that long ago. The view is defiantly breathtaking and the capsules are a lot bigger inside than they first look. A ‘must go on’ for anyone wanting to see London in its full glory. I took a cruise along the River Thames below it too, which had equally spectacular views.

It’s pretty much right on my door step, but I forget how just how special London is sometimes until someone reminds me. Thank you for sharing.

Brilliant hub, lots of useful information.x

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 30, 2010:

@s.prakash - Thank you. Glad you liked it.

@Frank J - Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the site and it proved a learning point in some way. You are so right about learning something every day - it probably applies to every one of us!

Frank J on September 30, 2010:

Loved your work but was sure that Brunel designed St Paul's. Googled it and you're write. Learn something every day...!

s.prakash on September 30, 2010:

Thanks to share the great information about London.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 29, 2010:

Thanks, Irenemaria. I hope that you get to London and see all of these places and more.

irenemaria from Sweden on September 27, 2010:

The Sterling airlines has so cheap flights to London from where I live. Now I have a chance to know where to go and what to see, thanks to you. Congrats to the prize too.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 27, 2010:

@Les Trois Chenes - Yes, there are of course many times more great attractions in Central London than it was possible to feature on this page. Hopefully, the ones listed will serve as a starter for ten and allow visitors to at least get their bearings in the city and begin to get a feel for what is on offer. Thanks also for the congratulations message.

@William F Torpey - Glad you enjoyed it, William. I first visited London as a very small child and did so several times over many years but it was not until I actually went to live there that I began to get any true level of appreciation for the number of activities on offer.

@WannaB Writer - That's a really good score for anyone. The quiz is of course just intended as a bit of fun and hopefully a memory aid. Thanks for the comment and congratulations.

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on September 26, 2010:

Congrats on your Treasure of the Day Win. I can't believe I got 90% on the quiz BEFORE I read the Hub. Then I found after reading it that the answers were all there.

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on September 26, 2010:

I've never been to London, Gordon Hamilton, but I've always found it a fascinaating place. Thanks for the tour. The quiz was fun.

Les Trois Chenes from Videix, Limousin, South West France on September 26, 2010:

What about all the museums and art galleries? (ok I know - I lived in London and there's enough to keep you going for years!) Good start.....

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 25, 2010:

Thanks mtsi and Purple Perl, I hope that you both manage to get to visit London and have a wonderful time when you get there.

Esther Shamsunder from Bangalore,India on September 25, 2010:

Hope to visit London next year. Thanks for this virtual tour. Will be bookmarked.Congrats too !

mtsi1098 on September 25, 2010:

England looks fantastic, I cannot wait to see it live one day...congrats

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 24, 2010:

@Barbara - You must know London fairly well by now, Barbara. Interesting idea about the hotels - hadn't thought of that before.

@stephhicks - Thank you. That is a good performance on the quiz under the circumstances.

@MPG Narratives - Thank you. Glad that you liked it.

@micamyx - Thanks for the comment. I hope that you find the information useful and have a great trip. I'm sure you will - London is a fascinating city.

micamyx` on September 24, 2010:

I'm going to London this December. Thank you for making this hub!

Maria Giunta from Sydney, Australia on September 23, 2010:

What a great looking hub and very good information too. Congrats on your win, well done Gordon.

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on September 23, 2010:

Love that quiz widget! I scored 90% (and I haven't been to London in over 20 years!) Beautiful hub - very well done!

Barbara @moderncomfortfood on September 23, 2010:

For several decades, I've wound up spending several days in London about three times a year, usually in transit to somewhere else. What I figured out long ago is that it's best -- and not much more costly overall -- to stay in some absurdly expensive place in Mayfair (with poky little rooms and creaky floors) and hoof it to virtually all of the places you mention.


My favorite attractions? Watching city dogs romp in Green Park, birdwatching in St. James Park, and Wigmore Hall.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 23, 2010:

Thank you very much, Brian. I very much enjoyed my time spent living in London and do miss it in many ways.

BRIAN SLATER on September 23, 2010:

hi- i know london very well, but for those that don't this hub will be very useful- good use of London Map.

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