A visit to the “Big Smoke” wouldn’t be complete without seeing some of the famous London landmarks. These destinations are what make London the world-class city and tourist attraction that it is!
These iconic landmarks of London range from centuries-old buildings and monuments steeped in history to sparkling modern skyscrapers.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a local, there is something enthralling about visiting the London icons. An eclectic variety of architecture adds to its charm and helps to make it one of the most popular cities in the world.
Map of Famous Landmarks in London
If you’re planning on adding stops at some of the city’s most famous landmarks to your London itinerary, then this map will help you plan!
You’ll find all the London landmarks within this blog post pinned on the map below, with the exception of the “Quirky London Landmarks.”
Click the image below or here to access an interactive Google Map.
Top 10 Famous London Landmarks
First up are my top 10 famous London landmarks. These are the destinations that personify London; the ones that no trip would be complete without!
If you’re a first-time visitor to London then make sure you don’t leave the Big Smoke without at least ticking these top 10 off your London bucket list.
Before we get started, you will notice that I mention the London Pass a lot in this blog post. This city pass includes entrance to many of the London’s top attractions. Additionally, it will often provide “skip the line” access, as well as discounts at many other places. If you’d like to know more, I have written all about it in our London itinerary. I have even included how to calculate its trip-by-trip value to see if it’s worth getting one for your visit!
Big Ben is perhaps the most recognisable clock in the world and the most famous London landmark. When you think of London, undoubtedly you will conjure up an image of this famous clock tower perched alongside the Houses of Parliament as it majestically overlooks the River Thames.
With construction completing in 1859, the famous four-faced clock has been accurately keeping time for over 150 years. Today, its iconic architecture is firmly etched in most people’s vision of London. If there is one true must-see on every London bucket list, Big Ben is it.
Pro Tip: It is a beautiful sight to behold any time of day. However, there is something magical about seeing the clock face lit up at night!
Fun fact: While you’ll find Londoners and tourists alike referring to the clock tower as Big Ben, this is not its official name! It was originally named The Clock Tower (imaginative, I know!) then renamed in 2012 to the Elizabeth Tower to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
The nickname was first given to the Great Bell (the enormous bell inside the clock tower.) The Great Bell weighs more than 13 tons (13,760 kg)! Although no one knows exactly where this name came from, the nickname is used today to encompass the tower, bell and clock.
Unfortunately, Big Ben isn’t looking quite so impressive at the moment as it undergoes some necessary renovations. The good news is that the scaffolding will always allow for one face of the clock to be visible.
If you’re a UK resident, it is normally possible to tour the interior. To do so, you must request a tour from a Member of Parliament or House of Lords (and be able to climb all 334 steps unaided without assistance!). Unfortunately, all tours have been suspended during renovations. Check the Parliament website for more info.
Houses of Parliament
Alongside Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament is perhaps the most famous landmark in London. Formally known as the Palace of Westminster, it is the meeting place of the British government.
Following a great fire in 1834, nearly all of the original Palace of Westminster was destroyed. The present-day building was constructed in a gothic architectural style between 1840-1870, and continues to sit proudly on the bank of the River Thames. Tucked away within these walls, the Great Hall is all that remains of the medieval Old Palace.
The Palace of Westminster, along with Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church, are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Many important historical events have taken place within these three famous buildings over the centuries.
While most are content to marvel at its glorious architecture from outside, it is also possible to visit the Houses of Parliament at certain times. Within it, you can discover plaques commemorating many famous figures as well as the impressive architecture of the Great Hall. Check the official Houses of Parliament website for more information or book a guided tour that includes access to the Houses of Parliament.
As one of London’s defining landmarks, Tower Bridge is one of my favourite places to visit in London. Despite being the most famous bridge in England, if not the world, it is often mistakenly referred to as London Bridge (which is, in fact, the next bridge along to the west and rather uninteresting).
Constructed between 1886 and 1894, it has become a prominent feature of the city. Today, the bridge is still essential for crossing over the Thames, with over 40,000 people crossing Tower Bridge every day.
What many people don’t know is that the bridge regularly lifts to allow ships to pass! Bridge openings typically happen every day and it’s an impressive sight. You can find the lift times listed on the Tower Bridge website.
For those interested in photography, this impressive landmark provides numerous photo opportunities for some great shots of London. There is even a hidden little sandy beach by the river near Tower Bridge for the perfect Insta-worthy shot. Check out our most Instagrammable places in London post for details on how to find it and more ‘gram inspiration!
If you want to learn more about the extensive history of Tower Bridge, or take in some stunning panoramic views, then you should consider a visit to the “Tower Bridge Experience.” Entrance costs £9.80 when booked online but is also covered by the London Pass. Included in this experience is a walk along the high-level walkway and, if you’re brave enough, over the glass walkway suspended above the bridge.
Tower of London
Dating back to the 11th century, the Tower of London is another of London’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Despite there being some beautiful castles near London, the Tower of London is the only castle actually within central London.
Having stood for over 1000 years, this historical monument has served many different purposes from a fortress to a prison, royal mint, and even a zoo!
Since the 1600s, the Tower has also been home to the royal family’s most precious possessions — the coronation regalia known as the Crown Jewels. They are carefully watched over by the Yeoman Warders, or Beefeaters, considered England’s most powerful soldiers.
Today, the Queen’s Crown Jewels are still kept here and guarded by the Beefeaters. However, the Tower is now also one of London’s most popular tourist attractions and the Beefeaters also serve as tour guides. In fact, it is the most popular paid attraction in all of England!
If you’d like to see the Crown Jewels and learn more about the history of the Tower of London, tickets cost £25 and are available on the Tower of London website. Alternatively, you can book a group tour with skip the line tickets.
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St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece and one of London’s most iconic buildings. This magnificent cathedral has been a significant part of the London skyline for over 300 years and was the tallest building in London from the time of its completion in 1710 until 1967.
To this day it remains such an important London landmark that views of it are protected from many areas. These views include King Henry VIII’s Mount in Richmond, Primrose Hill, and Parliament Hill.
A walk around the perimeter of this spectacular church will allow you to marvel at its grandeur and impressive exterior. However, it is also well worth visiting inside to explore the depths of St Paul’s.
Once inside this massive building, you can ascend the 528 steps to reach the top of the Dome and take in panoramic views of London. You can also explore the crypt, where you’ll discover the resting places of several notable people including Christopher Wren, Admiral Nelson, and The Duke of Wellington.
A list of the top 10 landmarks in London would be incomplete without including the Queen’s official residence; Buckingham Palace. The stunning architecture is as regal and opulent as you may expect with its sheer grandeur, carved intricacies, gold decorated gates, and elaborately uniformed guards.
However, this was not always the case! The building was originally known as Buckingham House and almost became the British Museum back in the 17th century.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, it was extended and today the royal residence has 775 rooms and the largest private garden in London.
My favourite view of Buckingham Palace is from The Mall. This famous London street leads directly up to the palace and is coloured red to imitate a giant red carpet! It also gives you a great view of the Victoria Memorial, a monument to Queen Victoria.
Changing of the Guard
Witnessing the changing of the guard ceremony is one for the London bucket list for first-timers to the city. It’s also one of the best things to do in London with kids. As it only occurs on certain days, make sure you check the times and best spots to observe the ceremony on the Changing Guard website. Due to its popularity, be prepared for huge crowds and to be stuck there for some time.
If you just want to see a horse and guard, then there’s always (at least every time I’ve passed!) two stationed at the front of Horseguards.
Dating back to 960 AD, this royal church and UNESCO site is a truly iconic building. It has been the place of many important events over its 1000 years of history.
Since 1066, Westminster Abbey has been England’s coronation church, as well as the burial site for many previous monarchs.
Westminster Abbey has also hosted 16 royal weddings, the most recent nuptials being those of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011.
With its gothic architecture, Westminster Abbey is perhaps even more beautiful inside. Those that are visiting for worship can do so for free. However, tourists wishing to visit all the tombs, monuments, or the Abbey Museum will require a ticket. If you decide to buy a London Pass, entrance to Westminster Abbey is included.
If you’re in London at Christmas (which is a beautiful time to be in the city!), be sure to visit the Abbey for a Christmas service.
The most recently added London landmark is the London Eye, which was constructed in 1999 and opened on Dec 31, 1999 to mark the turn of the millennium. At the time of its construction, the London Eye was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world at 443ft (135m). It held this title until 2006 when it was surpassed by the Star of Nanchang in China.
While riding the London Eye is one of the top things to do in London for many, I honestly find it very underwhelming and think it’s a waste of money! I’ve been on it three times now, most recently in summer 2020, and I just can’t get excited about it!
There are so just too many better viewpoints in London. I recommend investing your money in a cocktail with a view instead.
However, the London Eye itself has become an iconic feature of the London skyline and ranks as one of the best London photo spots. While I don’t personally recommend riding the ferris wheel, make sure you do take in visit to at least get that requisite vacation photo or Insta-worthy shot!
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Trafalgar Square has been a significant London landmark since the 1200s, when it was used as the courtyard for the King’s Mews (horse stables) during the reign of King Edward I.
It wasn’t until the early 1800s that development took place, slowly transforming Trafalgar Square into the public square we see today. Officially given its name in 1830, it serves as a monument to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar fought in 1805.
Nelson’s Column was added in 1843, paying tribute to the admiral who lost his life during this battle. Then later in 1867, the four famous bronze lions were created.
Today, Trafalgar Square is surrounded by some of London’s top attractions, including the National Gallery. It also holds many public, family-friendly events throughout the year, ranging from Chinese New Year to Pride in London.
Piccadilly Circus is like the London equivalent of Times Square… but smaller and with more charm! Lying in the heart of Theatreland, it is a hugely popular tourist attraction, filled with theatres, cinemas, bars and restaurants.
The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain (more commonly, and incorrectly, referred to as the “Statue of Eros”) also serves as a common meeting place.
While I’d recommend that you avoid eating here (it’s a tourist trap that only offers overpriced, crappy food), Piccadilly Circus is a great place to soak up the buzz of the city for anyone who doesn’t mind a crowd!
Famous London Landmarks: Museums, Galleries and Entertainment Venues
London is home to some of the world’s best museums, galleries, theatres, sports grounds, and music venues. As well as being famous for their collections or shows, these places are renown London landmarks for their architecture, and are also part of the building blocks of the city.
The British Museum is not only the oldest museum in England but also the world’s oldest public museum. Founded in 1753 and opening its doors to the public in 1759, it has enamoured visitors for over 250 years. Today, it is consistently England’s most visited attraction.
It is home to around 8 million artefacts, including mummies and the Rosetta Stone. In addition to its impressive collection, it is worth visiting the British Museum just to admire its phenomenal architecture, particularly that of the Great Court.
Perhaps the best thing about visiting the British Museum is that, like most of the museums in London, general entry is free of charge.
South Kensington Museums
South Kensington is the proud home of three of London’s greatest museums; the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. All within minutes walk of each other, these museums hold a wealth of treasures.
The Natural History Museum is by far my favourite museum in London. Having grown up with a fascination of the natural world, I’ve always loved wandering the dozens of exhibitions while exploring 4.5 billion years of our Earth’s history.
Founded in 1754, the Natural History Museum is now home to 80 million specimens. However, only a small percentage of these are on display at any given time.
While the collections are incredible, it is worth visiting just to admire the building itself. Both the interior and exterior are decorated with elaborately moulded terracotta tiles. When inside, look closely at the walls as you’ll find, sculptures of living and extinct fauna and flora adorning the tiles and bricks.
However, it is well worth taking the time to explore the other nearby museums. The Science Museum is an excellent one for kids, with over 15,000 objects on display highlighting the importance of science and its achievements over the years.
The Victoria and Albert Museum is the world’s leading museums of art, design and performance. Housing a collection of over 3.5 million objects, you can discover over 5000 years of human design and creativity.
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Royal Albert Hall
Opened in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall has been one of the premier performance venues for nearly 150 years. Each year, over 300 events are hosted here including various music performances, comedy shows, charity events, and tennis. During the summer, the BBC Proms series of classical musical concerts are held here.
As well as attending a performance, you can also take a variety of guided tours, dine at one of the restaurants, or indulge in a music-themed afternoon tea.
Shakespeare’s Globe is a world-renowned open-air performing arts centre and a cultural landmark.
Built in 1997, Shakepseare’s Globe is a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre, for which William Shakespeare penned his great works. The original theatre was built in 1599 before being destroyed by fire in 1613, then rebuilt in 1614 only to be demolished in 1644.
The present-day Shakespeare’s Globe sits on Bankside approximately 230m from the original site and has been constructed to resemble the 1599 version of the Globe Theatre as much as possible. However, due to health and safety reasons the current venue only holds an audience of 1400 (compared to 3000 in the original theatre!).
Wembley Stadium is the national stadium of England and the home of English football. It is owned by the Football Association. At 90,000 seats, it is the largest stadium in the UK and the second-largest in Europe.
The stadium is crowned by the Wembley Arch; a 134 metre-high structure arching over the stadium and supporting the roof structure. This feature has become a landmark of the London skyline, visible from many points all over the city.
As well as hosting many different football games, Wembley Stadium also has a series of other events including rugby and American Football matches.
While attending an England football match would be the ideal way to visit Wembley Stadium, you can also take guided tours. If you have a London Pass a tour is included within your ticket.
The O2 is an enormous entertainment complex on the Greenwich peninsula in South East London. Previously known as the Millennium Dome, it was initially built to house the “Millennium Experience” exhibition to celebrate the turn of the millennium.
In 2007, the site was reopened after a huge redevelopment and remains the biggest entertainment district in London. It is now most famous for being home to the O2 Arena.
The 02 Arena is the first purpose-built music venue in London since the Royal Albert Hall was built in 1871. It can host up to 20,000 people for some of the world’s biggest live events.
Within The O2 there is also the Indigo Arena with a capacity of 2800, Icon Outlet shopping with over 60 shops, a cinema, an exhibition space, a bowling alley, a trampoline park, piazzas, restaurants and bars.
For a really unique London experience, you can even climb over this London landmark and take in the views from the top! Book your tickets here.
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Modern Architectural Landmarks in London
While London has an extensive history, dating back to Roman times when the capital was known as Londinium, many of its most famous architectural landmarks have been built in the last few decades.
Modern glass and steel skyscrapers starkly contrast the weathered bricks of historical London buildings, creating a beautiful juxtaposition of styles in a way that is uniquely London.
With an impressive 95 stories, the Shard is London’s tallest skyscraper and a prominent landmark on the city’s skyline. Towering at 310m (1020ft) high, it is the tallest structure in Western Europe and provides breathtaking views over London.
Since it opened in 2013, its distinctive shape, along with its height, has made it one of the most recognisable buildings in London. It also offers some of the best 360° panoramic views the city has to offer.
The vistas from The Shard on floors 68, 69 and 72 provide views at almost double the height of any other viewpoints in London. Entrance to London’s highest view is included in the London Pass. Otherwise, book your tickets online in advance for £20.
There are also bars on some of the upper levels with ceiling-to-floor windows and spectacular views, albeit not quite as impressive as those from the top. You can pop into one of the bars and catch a sneak peek for free. However, I’d recommend buying a cocktail (with the money you saved on the entrance ticket) and take some time to enjoy the scene.
The Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe)
Nestled into the primary financial district, The Gherkin is one of the most famous buildings in London. Formally known as 30 St Mary Axe, it is more commonly referred to as “The Gherkin” due to its pickle-like appearance!
After two years of construction, the modern 180-metre high skyscraper was opened in 2004. Its exterior is covered with 24,000 square metres of glass, the equivalent of five football pitches! Despite the building’s shape, only the lens at the very top is made of curved glass.
Designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster, The Gherkin has won many architectural awards.
While most of the building contains offices and is not open to the public, the top floor is home to a restaurant and bar which provide breathtaking, uninterrupted views of the city.
Sky Garden and the Walkie Talkie Building
Also located in the historic City of London financial district is another modern behemoth nicknamed for its distinct appearance. The Walkie Talkie building, or 20 Fenchurch Street as it is formally known, has become a famous London landmark since its opening in 2014.
However, this notoriety wasn’t always positive! During construction in 2013, it was in the press for being responsible for melting parts of cars! Sunlight reflecting from the glass reached temperatures of 91°c (196°F) on a nearby road. Accordingly, modifications were made to prevent this from happening in the future!
Today, the Walkie Talkie building is perhaps better known for being home to Sky Garden, one of the slightly more hidden attractions in London.
Sky Garden is the highest public garden in London and boasts stunning 360° panoramic views of the city amidst a lush urban jungle. Set over three levels are themed, landscaped gardens. Find yourself immersed in prehistoric forest comprised of tree ferns and fig trees, as well as flowering plants from the Mediterranean and South Africa.
Take time to explore the observation decks and open-air terrace (all of which are naturally ventilated, so expect a similar temperature to outside). There are also two restaurants and a bar where you can enjoy the view with a bite to eat or a cocktail if you prefer.
One of the great things about visiting Sky Garden is that it’s free. However, you should book a ticket in advance via the Sky Garden website.
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One Canada Square, Canary Wharf
The area of Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs is perhaps a famous London landmark in its own right as the secondary central business district of London. However, the most recognisable building in the area is One Canada Water, which is also the third tallest building in the UK.
With its pyramid-shaped roof reaching 235m (seen to the left in the photo above), One Canada Water can be seen from all over the city. At the top of the pyramid is a flashing light, used as an aircraft warning device.
Built in 1991, it is one of the older “modern skyscrapers”. In fact, it is often considered the second true skyscraper to have been built in London.
Today, the building continues to be primarily office space with some retail on the lower level. There are unfortunately no observation areas.
Located in Southwark near Tower Bridge, City Hall is the headquarters for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. Opened in 2002, its unusual bulbous shape was designed to help the building with sustainability.
It distinct structure minimises sun exposure, helping to optimise energy performance. By reducing its surface area, the building does not get too hot in the summer, nor lose too much heat in the winter.
I’ve always enjoyed observing this blob-like building and its juxtaposition against the more historical Tower Bridge. It reminds me of a giant woodlouse!
Side note: Its shape has been referred to “as a glass testicle” by two previous London Mayors. I haven’t been able to look at it in quite the same way again after discovering that… and now you won’t be able to either!
As the name suggests, Millennium Bridge was opened in 2000 and was the first bridge to be built over the River Thames in 100 years. Since then it has quickly become an important crossing over the Thames and a London icon.
The impressive steel suspension footbridge connects the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe on the south bank of the Thames with St Pauls on the north.
After being open only two days, Millennium Bridge was famously closed for almost 2 years and earned the nickname the “wobbly bridge”. This was due to a huge and alarming swaying motion felt by pedestrians on the bridge.
Do not fear — it has since been resolved and although you may feel a little wobble at times, it is perfectly safe! It also makes for some incredible London photo opportunities.
The bridge has gained notoriety with Harry Potter fans due to its appearance in the opening scene of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. If you’re a Potterhead, then consider booking a Harry Potter Walking Tour to learn more about this and many other London landmarks that have appeared in the popular movies.
As you cross Millennium Bridge, look closely and you may discover one of London’s hidden gems in plain sight! Hidden pieces of art painted on chewing gum designed by the artist Ben Wilson can be seen dotted all over the bridge.
Installed in 2016 after being constructed in Beijing in the Qing dynasty style, the new Chinatown Gate has fast become a landmark in London’s West End.
The ornate gate marks the entrance to Chinatown. Here, you’ll find yourself immersed in streets decorated with Chinese symbols including dragons and lanterns, as well as Chinese street signs.
After admiring the vibrant gate, take some time to explore Chinatown. Despite being on the doorstep of Theatreland, the atmosphere of Chinatown transports you thousands of miles away.
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Other Famous Landmarks in London
These other famous landmarks in London didn’t quite fit neatly into the other categories, but are still iconic parts of the city. So here they are in their own little section!
There are eight royal parks in London: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, St James’ Park, Regent’s Park, Greenwich Park, Richmond Park and Bushy Park. With the exception of Richmond and Bushy Park, they are all located within the city centre.
The eight parks comprise a total of 5000 acres of green spaces, all of which are free to visit and open year-round. They are perfect places to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a picnic or walk.
Filled with their own extensive histories, these parks are an integral part of London. Most of the parks have links back to Henry VII, many of which he acquired as hunting grounds. Although, it wasn’t until many years later that the parks were open to the public.
Of the eight royal parks, St James’ Park is the oldest. In the 13th century, a leper hospital was found here in what was once a marshy watermeadow. It was from this hospital that the park took its name. Since 1664, St James’ Park has also been home to pelicans, which were originally a gift from a Russian Ambassador to King Charles II in 1664!
While Regents Park is the largest of the Royal Parks in central London, covering an area of 410 acres, it is nearly 3 times smaller than Bushy Park (1100 acres) and 6 times smaller than Richmond Park (2360 acres).
The latter two parks are the only royal parks in London to still be home to deer. You can find red and fallow deer roaming freely in these parks, as they have since the 1600s. Between the two parks, there are nearly 100 deer.
Located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Kensington Palace has been a royal residence for over 300 years and is a historical landmark in London. Originally known as Nottingham Villa, King William and Queen Mary chose this place as their country retreat in 1689 and tasked Sir Christopher Wren with transforming the modest mansion into a palace.
Since this time, it has been sculpted by the many royals that have resided here. It is famously the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria, before she moved to Buckingham Palace in 1837.
It has continued to be the home for royals, being the former home of Princess Diana and the current official home of the Duke and Duchess of Kent.
The palace opened certain areas to the public in 1899, which you can still visit today. Tickets to visit the King and Queen’s State Apartments are required and cost £17, or are included in the London Pass. However, access to Kensington Palace Gardens is free to the public and is a beautiful place to stroll around.
Monument to the Great Fire of London
The Monument to the Great Fire of London was built between 1671 and 1677 to commemorate the Great Fire of London and to celebrate the rebuilding of the city. More commonly known simply as the Monument, it is a reminder of one of the key events that shaped London.
The monument was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and it stands at 61 metres high (202 feet); the exact distance between the monument and the site where the fire began in Pudding Lane.
Today, you can access the viewpoint at the top for some beautiful views of the city. However, you will have to climb a spiral staircase comprised of 311 stairs (although it felt like a thousand!) and pay a small entrance fee.
As the political hub of the UK, Downing Street is one of the most famous streets in London. It is the official residence of the Prime Minister at No. 10 and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at No. 11.
The famous front door of No. 10 is easily recognisable, often appearing on the news as the Prime Minister speaks of current events from his home.
The road is not accessible to the public and there are large black gates at the end of Downing Street. To be able to enter this famous street, you must be a scheduled visitor, Parliamentary pass holder, or member of the accredited press. These restrictions have been put in place due to security risks over the years.
Fortunately for me, I have a friend who works there and was able to visit this London landmark for a photo! Although honestly, while it’s certainly a famous spot, it’s not the most exciting of the attractions in London!
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Quirky London Landmarks
While when you think of London landmarks you may think first of all the wonderful buildings and impressive architecture scattered around the city, these quirkier London landmarks are integral parts of its character.
Running through the heart of the city and passing by many of the other famous London landmarks, the River Thames has helped to shape the capital.
While synonymous with London, what few realise is that the Thames is also England’s longest river. It spans 215 miles from its source in the Cotswolds to the coast and is home to a diverse ecosystem.
The tidal river has been intrinsically entwined with the development of London and has been a key trading route for centuries. Today, it is still an essential route with over five million tonnes of materials being transported along the Thames each year.
It is well worth taking a cruise along the Thames to enjoy a different view of London’s most famous sights. Jump aboard a Hop On Hop Off Thames River Cruise or the Thames Clipper to experience the city from a different vantage point.
Red Phone Boxes
Dotted all around the city, the red telephone box is a quintessential London landmark and a famous British icon. I mean, have you really been to London if you haven’t snapped a photo with a red phone box?!
Since 1924, these red phone boxes have graced the streets of London and the rest of Britain. Over the years there have been six different designs with small differences.
They have become so entwined with the image of London that you’ll see them adorning many different souvenirs from key rings to t-shirts in any gift shop.
Nowadays, over 5000 traditional red telephone boxes remain in London, so you won’t have to look too far to find one.
Red Double Decker Buses
The red double decker buses are as much a part of the fabric of London as the many famous buildings. Nothing lets you know you’re in London more than seeing a big red bus drive by, except maybe the rain!
Surprisingly, the double decker buses actually originated from Paris in 1828, although at this time they were horse-drawn carriages still. The first London bus service began in 1829, inspired by the services in Paris, and provided a route between Paddington and Bank.
It wasn’t until 1923 that the first engine-powered double-decker bus appeared in London and by 1924 there were over 200 independent buses (or pirate buses as they were known then). It was due to this that the biggest bus operator, the London General Omnibus Company, painted their buses red to stand out from the competition.
These resplendent vehicles can be spotted all over the city and, as well as adding a great splash of colour to photos, they really are a great way to get around London.
Originally known as the Hackney Carriage, some form of London taxi has been in existence for centuries. However, they were horse drawn until 1903 when the first motorised taxi cab hit the roads of London.
The black cab we now recognise as a symbol of London didn’t come to being until the middle of the last century. Nowadays, the boxy black cab with its orange light can be seen throughout the streets of London.
Black cabs are the only vehicles in London licensed to pick you up curbside, without a reservation. All other taxis must be booked in advance!
In order to become a black taxi driver (aka “cabby”), a London knowledge exam must first be passed which can take up to 4 years to complete. To pass this test, they must remember 320 routes through London, 25,000 streets and 20,000 London landmarks and places of interest! Suffice to say, cabbies are extremely knowledgeable of London streets!
However, while convenient, they are also one of the most expensive ways to travel in London. If you do want to experience London in one of its most iconic vehicles, you can even book a private black cab London tour.
The London Underground, or Tube as its more commonly known, dates back to 1863 when the world’s first underground passenger railway, the Metropolitan Railway, opened.
Since then it has expanded to include 11 lines which collectively transport 5 million passengers per day. The development of the tube has also shaped the city, providing mobility in a way that would not have otherwise been possible.
Today, both the underground map and the logo have become an iconic part of London’s identity.
Final thoughts on London’s famous landmarks
London is truly a treasure trove when it comes to landmarks. With an extensive history dating back millennia, it’s no surprise that there are so many beautiful buildings with interesting histories to discover.
Add to that some modern architectural marvels, renown transport, stunning green spaces, and world-class attractions, and you’ll just scratch the surface of what makes London such a special city.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to the most iconic London landmarks. As always, we love to hear your feedback so leave us a comment below and let me know what you think. Do you have a favourite landmark? Or have I missed one from this list?
And finally, before you go, you may enjoy some of our other London guides:
- The PERFECT London Itinerary
- Most Famous Streets in London
- Ultimate London Bucket List
- Non Touristy Things to do in London
- Most Instagrammable Places in London
- Notting Hill Colorful Houses
- Best Castles near London
- Quotes About London to Inspire You
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