Among the famous grand cities of the Old World, London ranks at the very top in terms of things to see and do. A simple walking trip by the river Thames alone can take you on a stroll along the city’s famous buildings and other attractions.
For the peripatetic visitor, you might want to know that London is one of the planet’s most-visited places. For first-timers, the things that you want to see in London (Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, Marble Arch, the London Eye, etc.) can sometimes be a killer when it comes to deciding what comes first.
Of course, no one ever misses taking a selfie outside the Buckingham Palace.
London may have some unique things that don’t usually go within your regular guidebook. Tate Modern, Britain’s national museum of modern and contemporary art ranks as one of the most visited places in the city. It’s easy to lose your day inside with its exhibits.
But you need to drop by at the Borough’s Market where you will get to sample the many delis and restaurants open all week. Across the river is St. Paul’s Cathedral. Going there, you need to cross the £18.2 million Millennium Bridge, nicknamed the “Wobbly Bridge.” (The wobble had already been fixed.)
The London Eye
It is a huge Ferris wheel, it is for tourists and it can take you for a spin. Now a main feature in London’s skyline, it offers the best views of the city from its 32 capsules (10 tons each and holds up to 25 people). The more than 55 London landmarks can be seen in just 30 minutes.
However, the glass capsule can be slow to some people, but at the top of the 443-foot wheel, you will have a glorious view of the city and its famous landmarks. They serve champagne at night (“champagne flights”). There’s dinner and more drinks at nearby Skylon, a lounge and bar overlooking the Thames with floor to ceiling windows.
British Museum / London’s National Gallery / Natural History Museum
There’s a trio of museums (and galleries) which features some of the world’s most important artifacts from prehistoric times up to this day. The British Museum has the important Rosetta Stone, ancient Parthenon sculptures and Egyptian mummies.
The National Gallery, touted as the crowning glory at Trafalgar Square, has some very important art collections from the 13th century to the present. Works by Van Gogh, Botticelli, da Vinci, Renoir, Titian and others are on display. (You need tickets for these.)
The Natural History Museum has the biggest, tallest, and rarest animals in the world (life-sized blue whale, 40-million year old spider, and many more.)
Stonehenge is some few miles away from London but it certainly is worth visiting and be awed at one of the world’s greatest mysteries that’s still unsolved. The 3,500-year old ancient monument is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. (You can take a side trip to the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral where the famous Magna Carta is housed.)
Getting the spirit of London will take some more days for the average tourist. The other surprise is meeting the city folks, a happy mix of some 7.5 million people that speak more than 300 languages all in all.