The most popular attractions in the UK capital, as ranked by TripAdvisor
1. British Museum
The colossal British Museum – dedicated to human history, art and culture – was established in 1753, and first opened in 1759 on a different site. The current building in Bloomsbury includes the spectacular glass-roofed Great Court, which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000. The museum’s permanent collection includes some 8 million works, with 330,000 from the Middle East including the most important collection of Mesopotamian antiquities outside Iraq. It is also controversially home to the Elgin Marbles, amid calls by some to return the sculptures to Greece. While entry to the museum is free, an admission charge usually applies to non-members wanting to access the special exhibits.
2. V&A – Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum houses over 4.5 million objects, and is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
3. The National Gallery
The National Gallery houses Britain’s national collection of paintings in the Western European tradition from the 13th to the 19th centuries. The gallery is open 361 days a year, with free entry.
4. Tower of London
This historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames was founded in 1066, with its White Tower built by William the Conqueror about 12 years later. With its defensive walls and moat, the castle has been used as a royal residence, armoury, treasury and even a prison. Many public figures who had fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, have been held here, leading to the phrase “sent to the Tower”. It also earned a reputation as a place of torture and death – although not always fairly given more executions were held at Tower Hill on the north of the site. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the priceless Crown Jewels, learn the legend of the Tower’s ravens, and see the swords and armour on display.
6. Churchill War Rooms
Housed in a once-secret WW2 bunker beneath the streets of Westminster, this museum offers a glimpse into both Britain’s war effort and the life of the Prime Minister of the time. In the Cabinet War Rooms, you can walk in the footsteps of Winston Churchill and see the Map Room, which has remained exactly as it was left on the day the lights were switched off in 1945. The Churchill Museum also tells the wartime leader’s story, with letters and objects dating back to his early childhood.
7. Houses of Parliament
Parliament is open to those wanting to attend debates, watch committee hearings or tour the historic buildings that are home to the House of Commons and House of Lords. UK residents and overseas visitors can book tickets for a guided or self-guided audio tour of the Houses of Parliament on Saturdays and on most weekdays during Parliamentary recesses. UK residents (but not overseas visitors) can also book a free tour via their MP, as well as visits to the Elizabeth Tower clock tower to see the famous Big Ben bell. Places on the clock tower tours – which take visitors up 334 stone spiral steps – are limited and can only be booked via residents’ local MPs.
9. Big Ben
See above about how to visit the famous London bell.
10. St. James’s Park
Every year millions of Londoners and tourists visit St James’s Park, the oldest of the capital’s eight Royal Parks.