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Despite living in London my entire life I still never fail to look in wonder every time one of the iconic London Landmarks. From the 13th century gothic Westminster Abbey to the futuristic Walkie Talkie Building, if there is one thing London does well it is architecture. Whether you are local or a tourist visiting London for a long weekend, a trip is not complete without viewing a few of the famous landmarks in London.
I have compiled a list of my favourite iconic London building and structures in order to help you get the most of your visit to the capital. This list ranges from the icons of London’s skyline to lesser thought of London Landmarks, such as Hampton Court Palace, which often get missed.
Famous Landmarks in London You Have To Visit
Alongside being an iconic London structure, Tower Bridge is a suspension bridge on River Thames. Two Victorian Gothic style towers connect a walkway and bascule bridge, allowing river traffic to pass below.
Tower Bridge is a staple in the London skyline and one of the most recognisable structures of the city. However, one of the most interesting Tower Bridge facts is daily, some 40,000 people cross it in both directions and however, the frequency of the bridge lifting depends on the season – the bridge lifts more frequently in winter months than summer months.
If you are interested in visiting the Tower Bridge Walkway for a different view of London, be sure to book tickets in advance to confirm your entry.
Closest Tube Station: Tower Hill and London Bridge
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
Sitting proudly alongside the River Thames is potentially the world’s most famous clock, Big Ben. But did you know the official name for Big Ben is actually the Elizabeth Tower? It is actually the bell within the tower which is called Big Ben which first struck in September 1859.
Attached the Elizabeth Tower you will find the Houses of Parliament, which is home to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Houses of Parliament are the official meeting place for parliament, but as the UK is a constitutional monarchy, they are technically owned by the reigning monarch.
Closest tube station: Westminster
The London Eye, or The Millennium Wheel as it is also known as is the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel and was launched in the year 2000 to celebrate the new Millennium. The 32 capsules on the London Eye are representative of the 32 London boroughs
Today, it is one of the most famous landmarks in London and is the UK’s most visited paid tourist attraction.
On a clear day, views from the London Eye span up to 40km in all directions and offers one of the best views of the city, especially when riding at sundown.
Closest tube station: Waterloo and Westminster
The Natural History Museum
Without a doubt my favourite places as well as the most beautiful building in London. The Museum is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, palaeontology and zoology.
Although commonly referred to as the Natural History Museum, it was officially known as British Museum (Natural History) until 1992, despite legal separation from the British Museum itself in 1963.
At present, all museums in London are free to enter, however, you may incur charges to visit certain exhibitions within the museum.
Closest tube station: South Kensington
Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarchy of the United Kingdom, aka The Queen making it one of the most popular destinations for tourists visiting the city.
Visitors are able to distinguish if the Queen is home by the flag. If the Royal Standard flag (the official flag of Queen Elizabeth II) is flying the sovereign is home, however, if the British flag is flying it means she is not and if the British flag is flying at half-mast, there is national mourning.
Tourists can visit the Royal Palace, but it is only open to the public a couple of months a year: between July and October. Combine your royal afternoon with a visit to one of London’s themed afternoon teas.
Closest tube stations: Victoria, Hyde Park Corner and Green Park
Visit more: Beautiful Castles and Palaces to visit in London
The Millenium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge, officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge, is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames in London, linking Bankside with the City of London.
It is also famous for being in many movies, such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where Death Eaters cause the collapse of the bridge after Cornelius Fudge refuses to step down as the Minister of Magic. Making it a perfect location to start a London Harry Potter walking tour.
When crossing the Millennium Bridge – look down. You will see some of the smallest and most overlooked street art in all of London. An artist has made it a mission to quickly paint pictures on all the pieces of chewing gum that have been left onto the bridge, and walked on by the public. The tiny pictures run the entire length of the bridge.
Nearest tube stations: St. Paul’s Cathedral and London Bridge Station
A gothic cathedral church and World Heritage Site, Westminster Abbey is the most famous religious landmark building in London. The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of 17 monarchs.
It has also played host to 16 Royal weddings, including the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Visitors can explore, view and learn more history about Westminster when purchasing tickets in advance. However, if you have no plans to visit London anytime soon you can also learn the mysteries and stories of historic London with a comprehensive tour of the great city online.
Immerse yourself in the live, online experience as your guide talks you through London’s horrible past and tells you the ghost stories that have captured people’s imaginations for over 100 years. Purchase now for just £5.
Closest tube station: Westminster
Piccadilly Circus is not exactly a building or a bridge, it is a road junction, yet it is still counted as one of London’s famous landmarks. Being surrounded by Leicester Square and Regent Street, it is personally not in one of my favourite parts of London, but if you are visiting London for the first time, it is worth taking a look.
Piccadilly Circus is like New Yorks answer to Time’s Square, just not quite as impressive. However, you can get some awesome photos in this area of the classic double-decker red buses passing through the city with the advertising screen backdrop.
Nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus
After visiting Piccadilly Circus I recommend walking down in Covent Garden and following some of my recommendations for the best bars in Covent Garden.
The Shard is a 95-storey supertall skyscraper, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and one of the newest iconic London buildings to join the skyline (2013). There are a ton of interesting facts about The Shard, however, the one I enjoy most an impressive 95% of the construction materials are recycled.
The Shard was conceived as a building with multiple uses: a vertical city where people could live, work and relax. Alongside the popular ‘View from The Shard‘ inside the 1,016 feet high building, you will also find bars, restaurants, a hotel and even residential flats.
You can even enjoy a view over London from the restroom at 244m high.
Nearest tube station: London Bridge
The Gherkin (St Mary Axe)
St Mary Axe informally known as The Gherkin, is a commercial skyscraper in London’s primary financial district, the City of London. Totalling 500,000 sq ft, The Gherkin is London’s most instantly recognizable tower, covered in enough energy-efficient glass to cover 5 football pitches it makes for impressive photos.
Inside, the building is mainly used as offices alongside restaurants and cafes.
Closest tube station: Bank and Aldgate
Located in the City of Westminster, Trafalgar Square is a public square with a memorial statue for Admiral Nelson, after his victory in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The four bronze panels at the base of the column depict some of Nelson’s battles. The lions, designed by Sir Edwin Landseer, are said to protect Nelson’s Column.
Alongside being a public square, this particular London City landmark is a place for cultural celebrations, commercial events, rallies and demonstrations. It is safe to say something is always happening in Trafalgar Square.
Closest tube station: Charing Cross and Leicester Square
St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s is your chance to visit an Anglican cathedral while visiting central London. The present cathedral is at least the fourth to have stood on the site. It was built between 1675 and 1710 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London.
At 365 feet high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1963. The dome remains among the highest in the world. Today its traditional architecture is a staple of London’s skyline, a wonderful juxtaposition against the newer, modern buildings across the city.
Hampton Court Palace
So Hampton Court Palace is slightly out of central London, based in Richmond-upon-Thames, but I adore this building and think it is a great addition to any London itinerary.
The stunning Tudor palace has been home to many royals since its opening in the early 16th century, however, its most famous resident was King Henry VIII. Here The King used it to demonstrate magnificence and power in every possible way, through lavish banquets, extravagant court life and fabulously expensive art.
An interesting fact about Hampton Court Palace is it is the place where Henry’s fifth wife Catherine Howard was arrested and later executed at the Tower for adultery and treason. Many say her ghost still lives in the ground searching for mercy.
Alongside visiting the Palace, you can also take time to visit the stunning grounds, famous maze as well as take a walk along the river. I adore this part of London and really believe it is worth the journey out further.
Closest train station: Hampton Court Palace.
The Walkie Talkie Building (20 Fenchurch Street)
20 Fenchurch Street is a commercial skyscraper in London, however, over recent years it has gained the nickname ‘The Walkie Talkie Building’ due to its distinctive shape. Since 2013, the £200 million building has soared over the top of the financial district.
The reason I have placed this one as part of my list London’s top landmarks is that it is home to the Sky Garden. The Sky Garden is one of the best viewpoints in London and it is free, you just have to make sure you book your tickets in advance.
Nearest tube station: Bank, Monument and Cannon Street
The 02 (Previously known as the Millennium Dome)
I have added this one in the list of famous landmarks in London more for its looks than what it is now.
The 02 Arena, which is now a 20 000 capacity concert hall, cinema and dining area. However, it was first built to celebrate the new millennium (hence the prior name of the Millennium Dome) during this time it an interactive entertainment centre.
Personally, unless you are visiting for a concert, the 02 is nothing to shout about inside, but, I do encourage you to take a visit to ride the Emirate’s Skyline. The Skyline cable car takes you from one side of the Thames to the other with an incredible view of The 02 as well as the Financial District in the background.
Nearest tube station: North Greenwich
Feeling brave? You can book to climb The 02 Arena and take in the incredible view from the top:
Royal Albert Hall
Another one of London’s concert halls, however, the Royal Albert Hall is much grander than the previously mentioned. The Royal Albert Hall was first opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, in memory of her husband, Prince Albert who died a few years previously.
Today the Royal Albert Hall is one of London’s most treasured and distinctive buildings, hosting the most famous artists from classical to rock.
Closest tube station: South Kensington
A Map of the famous landmarks in London: