London: A beginner’s guide

London is huge, fast-paced and packed with world-class things to see, do and experience. With so many options it can be hard for a first-time visitor to know where to start, here’s my guide for the must-dos on your first visit to the city.

Elevated view over London city skyline at sunset

Getting Around
London has a vast network of public transportation options, including the Tube, buses, trains, and boats. Try and use public transport where you can, save time on getting around by buying an Oyster card. It’s a quick and easy way to pay for journeys on bus, Tube, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail, and most National Rail services in London.

Trafalgar Square, VIew of fountain at national gallery museum

Things to do
The world-famous British Museum exhibits works from prehistoric to modern times and from around the world. You can see the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection. The architecture of the museum is nearly as impressive as the collection it holds, the Great Court is incredibly impressive and definitely worth a visit.

The Tate Modern sits grandly on the banks of the river Thames and is Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art. Housed in an old power station, the Turbine Hall runs the length of the whole building and you can see amazing works of art by Cézanne, Picasso, Pollock and Warhol.

With a permanent dinosaur exhibition, the National History Museum has an unbelievable collection of the biggest and rarest animals in the world. You can see a life-sized blue whale and a 40-million-year-old spider.

You’ll find the National Gallery in the heart of Trafalgar Square. It’s a huge space filled with western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th century, discover works from Van Gogh, da Vinci and Renoir.

The London Eye

The London Eye is located in the heart of London. At 135m, the London Eye has become a modern symbol of the city. You’ll get 360-degree views of the city and its famous landmarks. The glass capsule will give you a unique perspective of London. Make sure and book your tickets in advance because it gets very busy.

If you want an even higher view, visit The Shard. It’s nearly twice as high as any other building in London. There are indoor viewing platforms on floor 68 and 69 and if you’re feeling brave head up to level 72 for unobstructed, 360-degree views in the open-air. Views stretch up to 40 miles and you’ll see the likes of St Paul’s Cathedral and Wembley Stadium.

London Bridge

The Tower of London takes you back to the London of William the Conqueror, you’ll learn about the history from the Beefeaters who run tours and still live within the walls. You can see the Crown Jewels on display. Exit the Tower via the middle moat and walk a short distance to take in the stunning view of Tower Bridge before walking up the steps to walk over it.

british royal guards the military band performing the changing of guard at buckingham palace london

Buckingham Palace is possibly the most iconic building in the country, depending on what time you visit you might be lucky enough to see the Changing the Guard ceremony. See the Queen’s New Guard exchange duty with the Old Guard – all active British Army soldiers in traditional red tunics and bearskin hats.

Just in case you wanted to see Big Ben, it’s worth mentioning that the world’s most famous clock is currently undergoing restoration works and covered in scaffolding. The work is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

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