London Visitor Guide

London Attractions, Activities and Things To Do!

Favourite London Attractions

This is a list of the attractions you can find on this page - click on an item to go to a particular attraction's description.

The British Library
Camden Markets
Canary Wharf
Covent Garden Markets
Downing Street
Highgate Cemetery
Houses of Parliament
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
London Aquarium
The London Eye
London Zoo
Madame Tussaud’s
Royal Courts of Justice
Royal Society of Arts

St Pancras International


The British Library

Established by the British Library Act of 1972, The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest libraries. It holds over 13 million books, 920,000 journal and newspaper titles, 57 million patents, 3 million sound recordings and much more, making it a world-class cultural and intellectual resource that serves the needs of today’s researchers as well as being the custodian of the nation’s written and spoken heritage. The British Library’s London base at St Pancras is the largest public building constructed in the UK in the 20th Century. Its total floor area of 112,000 square metres is spread over fourteen floors, with five of these being below ground.
The library’s Reading Rooms can accommodate 1,200 readers and are visited by 400,000 people each year. A Reader’s Pass is needed to consult books in the Reading Rooms but other areas of the building, including exhibition galleries, bookshop, restaurant and café, are open to the public. Many treasures are in the collections, including the Magna Carta, Lindisfarne Gospels, Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook and some Beatles’ manuscripts. The building also contains many works of art, has temporary and permanent exhibitions, and a lively events programme in its 255-seat auditorium. The collection continues to grow, with a copy of every publication produced in the UK and Ireland being received and three million items being added each year to the existing 150 million items. Documents can be searched for in the catalogue or the library’s researchers can deliver focused information.
Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday-Friday 9.30-18.00, Tuesday 9.30-20.00, Saturday 9.30-17.00, Sunday and public holidays 11.00-17.00
The British Library, 96 Euston Road, NW1 2DB
Phone: 020 7412 7332
Email: visitor-services@bl.uk Web: www.bl.uk


Camden Markets

Camden has a variety of colourful shops, restaurants, bars, pubs, club, theatres and cinemas, attracting locals and tourist alike. But it is perhaps best known for its markets, which are all easily accessible from Camden High Street. Most markets are open seven days a week, with many stalls operating from 10.00 until 18.00, although some traders stay open later. Around 150,000 people attend each week, with weekends being busiest but not all stalls being open on weekdays.
The Camden Lock Market was established in 1974 and is the original market. The Camden Lock Market Hall has over 100 traders on three floors, mainly selling arts and craft products. The West Yard market square has a range of stalls, specialist shops, cafes and restaurants with the opportunity to view canal barges and take a barge trip. The Camden Stables Market has around 500 shops and stalls offering alternative fashion, vintage clothing and collectables. The former Horse Hospital has around 40 shop units, open at the weekends only, while the Catacombs houses shop units in Victorian brick arches. A recent addition is a modern building with an assortment of small shops.
Camden Canal Market has around 150 stalls and shop units selling a range of goods but is temporarily closed due to a fire. Buck Street Market comprises narrow alleyways with about 200 stalls, mainly selling jewellery and clothing. Inverness Street has been the site of a popular fruit and vegetable market since 1900. Some stalls have recently started selling clothing, footwear and souvenirs and there are a number of bars and restaurants in the area. The main streets, comprising Camden High Street and Chalk Farm Road, are the market hub and have a variety of shops, restaurants and bars. The Electric Ballroom has a 60-stall indoor fashion market that is open on Sunday.


Canary Wharf

Although generally viewed as mainly a business district, Canary Wharf is a thriving area with an increasing residential population and a wide range of shops, restaurants, pubs and wine bars and an extensive arts and events programme. When Canary Wharf was created in 1991, it was hailed as a tremendous achievement — “the creation of a new city in four years is without doubt the most heroic feat of building this century”. Since then, the ‘new city’ has become three times bigger with over ten million square feet of commercial office space, 50,000 square feet of retail space and many other facilities added.
Canary Wharf is one of the most highly specified urban areas in the world and has been planned on a grand scale but with meticulous attention to detail. At its centre is One Canada Square, the tallest building in Britain at fifty floors and 800 feet high.
The whole estate extends to over 97 acres and has around 14.1 million square feet of office and retail space. The development comprises over thirty buildings and has more than 200 shops, bars and restaurants within four retail malls. It also has a conference and banqueting centre, two Dockland Light Railway stations, a Jubilee Line station, car parks and approximately twenty acres of landscaped open spaces. Designed as a pleasant place to work and visit, Canary Wharf has been planted with 500 trees (most between 35 and 50 years old), 40,000 seasonal bedding plants, 4,000 shrubs and 83,500 bulbs. The fountain in Cabot Square is computer controlled and can deliver a variety of water patterns. A regular programme of arts and events activities is provided.
Canary Wharf is easily accessed from all parts of London, being served by five bus routes and the Docklands Highway linking to major road routes. Alternatively, there are ten taxi ranks, commuter river services, nearby tube stations and the Docklands Light Railway.


Covent Garden Markets

With over 1000 years of history, Covent Garden Market is a historic, vibrant and exciting place to visit in the heart of London. It is the home of specialist shopping in the capital and is also a place to eat, drink and be entertained. As London’s first and best speciality shopping destination, Covent Garden Market offers an astonishing range of products and provides the ideal retail therapy experience. The market stalls and barrows in the North Hall are collectively known as The Apple Market. Its fashion traders provide a mix of styles that change constantly while jewellery, home ware and specialist arts and crafts items are on display. With more than 200 artists and craftspeople registered, the objects available alter daily. And, every Monday, the market becomes a major destination for antiques and collectibles.
Covent Garden Market has a whole range of cafes and snack bars, wine bars, pubs and restaurants that offer something to suit every taste. They make the place perfect for romantic meals, pre-theatre drinks and special occasions such as birthday celebrations. Having staged the first Punch & Judy show in the 17th Century, Covent Garden is well known as a centre of entertainment. It abounds with constant activity, including street theatre, comedy acts and all types of entertainment.
Market opening hours: Monday-Saturday 10.00-19.00, Sunday 11.00-18.00
Closed Christmas Day
Bars, Cafes and Restaurants: Daily 9.30-23.00


Downing Street

Associated with the office of the British Prime Minister since 1730, Number 10 Downing Street remains the home and office of the current Prime Minister. Originally intended as a personal gift to the first-ever Prime Minister Robert Walpole, he refused the offer and instead insisted the house be used by future "First Lords of the Treasury”. Since that time, the building has undergone major development and is now a grand residence for the most powerful politician in the country. Number 10 is also used as the Prime Minister’s office and is the workplace for many support staff, including secretaries, switchboard operators and a unit to handle correspondence.
Behind the famous black door are many well-known areas, including the staircase with its portraits of former Prime Ministers. The Cabinet Room is the setting for weekly Cabinet meetings and has been used for this purpose since 1856.
Number 10 is the venue for numerous functions, including receptions, lunches and dinners that are attended by heads of state, official dignitaries and others such as notable achievers, public service employees and charity workers. Receptions are held in the state rooms where art and historic objects are on display. Dinners and lunches for up to 12 people are held in the Small Dining Room while the State Dining Room can accommodate up to 65 people around a large U-shaped table.
The Prime Minister lives in a private flat on the second floor, which Margaret Thatcher famously described as ‘living above the shop’.
Other notable buildings in Downing Street are Number 11, the home of the Second Lord of the Treasury — the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Number 12 where the Prime Minister’s Press Office is based and Number 9, which houses the Chief Whip’s offices.


Highgate Cemetery

The West Cemetery was opened in 1839 and the East Cemetery in 1854. By 1975, both were in a dilapidated state and were eventually taken over by the Friends of Highgate Cemetery with the aim of restoring the cemetery to its former glory. The outcome has been a great success, with all major buildings and several memorials conserved or restored. The cemetery is now listed by English Heritage as of ‘outstanding historical and architectural interest’ while the landscape is listed as a Grade II* Park.
Highgate is said to have the finest collection of Victorian Funerary architecture in the country. Two of its best buildings are listed as Grade I, two as Grade II* and over sixty as Grade II. Objects of particular interest in the West Cemetery are the Lebanon Circle Vaults, the Egyptian Avenue, the Terrace Catacombs and the Julius Beer Mausoleum. At least 850 notable people are buried at Highgate Cemetery including 18 Royal Academicians, 6 Lord Mayors of London and numerous familiar names. The most visited grave is no doubt that of Karl Marx in the East Cemetery with its massive bust. Much effort has been put into the landscaping of the cemetery with more than 100 species of wildflowers and countless trees being planted. As a result, over 50 species of bird and 18 species of butterfly have been sighted in the area.
The East Cemetery is open from 10.00 on weekdays and 11.00 at weekends. It closes at 17.00 from 1 April-31 October and at 16.00 from 1 November-31 March. There is a guided tour, lasting one hour and limited to fifteen people, on the first Saturday of each month at 14.30. Tickets are sold on the day at the East Cemetery gate. The West Cemetery is only open for guided tours, which operate throughout the year. Weekday tours run daily at 14.00, must be pre-booked by telephone and do not operate December-February. Weekend tours have no advance booking and run hourly from 11.00 to 16.00 (or until 15.00 from 1 November-31 March).
Special group tours can be booked in advance.
Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s lane, Highgate, N6 6PJ
Phone: 020 8340 1834
Web: www.highgate-cemetery.org


Houses of Parliament

The home of the royal family until 1512, The Palace of Westminster is now more commonly referred to as the Houses of Parliament. It is the seat of British Government and is home to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Parliament works on behalf of the UK public by examining and questioning the Government.
Parliament is open to all members of the public. UK residents and overseas visitors can watch laws being made, attend debates, committees and judicial hearings, and visit the Archives, which hold millions of records from both houses and other historical material. UK residents can undertake a guided tour at any time of the year but must arrange a free place through their MP or a Lord. Overseas visitors can only tour when Parliament is on its Summer recess, from late July until late September, when tickets can be bought in advance or on the day. The tour, which takes around 75 minutes, is conducted by a trained guide and goes through the key areas, such as the Commons and Lords debating chambers and the Queen’s Robing Room.
UK residents only can climb the Clock Tower, popularly known as Big Ben although this is actually the nickname of its bell, and need to arrange a visit through their MP. The Clock Tower is 314 feet high and has 393 steps.
Tour times when in session: Monday-Tuesday 9.00-12.00, Wednesday 9.00-9.20 (partial tour of the Lords only from 9.25-12.00), Friday 15.30-17.00.
Visiting times during the summer recess vary for UK residents and overseas visitor tours.
Other recesses and non-sitting days: Weekdays 9.30-17.00
Closed Christmas and New Year.
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
House of Lords, London, SW1A 0PW
Phone: 020 7219 4272 (Information Office)
Email: hcinfo@parliament.uk Web: www.parliament.uk


Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Popularly known as Kew Gardens, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew became a World Heritage Site in 2003. The whole area of 300 acres has 39 listed buildings, lost monuments and follies, gardens, landscapes and botanic collections, which are located in different zones. The Entrance Zone is accessed through the Main Gate and incorporates the original Botanic Gardens. The area is mixed, with open lawns interspersed with trees and plantings, and incorporates the extensively refurbished Aroid House and Orangery.
The Riverside Zone runs along the Thames and the northern end is dominated by the Herbarium with its preserved plant collection, library, botanical art and archival collections. The oldest building at Kew, the 17th Century Kew Palace, is also here and behind it is the Queen’s Garden, a formal garden in authentic 17th Century style. The modern Sir Joseph Banks Centre for Economic Botany is one of the largest earth-covered complexes in the country.
The North Eastern Zone has historic garden plots that represent particular elements of botanic interest, such as the Aquatic Garden, the Grass Garden, the Order Beds and the Rock Garden. The Princess of Wales Conservatory is one of the most advanced glasshouses at Kew.
The Palm House Zone is a varied area that includes formal flowerbeds, an ornamental lake and open vistas. It is dominated by keynote buildings such as the Palm House, a Grade I listed building, and the Waterlily House, another classic listed building.
The Pagoda Vista Zone includes the Temperate House, the largest public glasshouse at Kew, and the Marianne North Gallery with its important botanical art collection. The South Western Zone has Queen Charlotte’s Cottage as its focal point and is a nature conservation area.
The Syon Vista Zone is a major feature that is dominated by the Vista and the Lake. The Western Zone, with its important specific collections such as the Bamboo Garden and the Azaleas Garden, is one of the more relaxing and isolated parts of Kew.
Opening hours: Daily 9.30-18.30 (earlier closing during Autumn and Winter)
Closed 24-25 December
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AB
Phone: 020 8332 5655
Email: info@kew.org Web: www.kew.org


London Aquarium

Set within the historic County Hall building on the south bank of the Thames, the London Aquarium is the first attraction of its kind in the capital. It is one of Europe’s largest exhibitions of global aquatic life, displayed in over two million litres of water, and is home to up to 400 species in over 50 displays. Exhibits include sharks, stingrays and moray eels.
The London Aquarium aims to combine education, relaxation and entertainment through a multi-sensory voyage of discovery across the rivers, lakes and oceans of the world.
Fish are fed during diving displays on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 12.00 and 12.30 in the Main Aquatic Tank. There are also several feeds and talks at different times each day. The Aquarium operates a breeding programme for fish that have become extinct in the wild or are endangered. It offers discounted rates to groups and provides excellent facilities and resource materials so everyone can make the most of their visit. A selection of set tours is available plus tours that are tailored to a particular area of interest, age or education level.
The London Aquarium can be hired for corporate and private events and an events team is on hand to suggest ideas.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-18.00
Closed 25 December
The London Aquarium, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB
Phone: 020 7967 8000 Fax: 020 7967 8029
Email: info@londonaquarium.co.uk Web: www.londonaquarium.co.uk


The London Eye

Since its opening in March 2000, The London Eye has become an iconic landmark and has won over 75 awards for national and international tourism, outstanding architectural quality and engineering achievement. At 135 metres tall, it gives panoramic views of London and as far as Windsor Castle on a clear day. The London Eye can carry 800 passengers, with each rotation taking 30 minutes, and averages 3.5 million customers each year. Visitors can choose a standard flight or from a whole host of available options and packages. A Fast Track booking allows customers to arrive just 15 minutes before departure and so avoid the queue.
A Children’s Party Capsule provides an inspirational venue for a birthday party while a Cupid’s Capsule comes complete with champagne and pink champagne truffles. A Champagne Capsule is the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion and Champagne and Wine Tasting Capsules are also available. Private capsules can accommodate up to 25 guests.
Packages are available to combine a London Eye flight with a river cruise, a visit to another attraction or a restaurant, or with an overnight stay at a nearby hotel. Individual capsules or the whole London Eye can be booked for corporate events, office parties and private celebrations, and can be combined with other choices. Special packages include hen parties, weddings and civil partnerships. An education programme uses a flight to combine history, geography and cultural lessons with information on engineering and design.
Opening hours: Daily October-May 10.00-20.00, June 10.00-21.00, July-August 10.00-21.30, September 10.00-21.00
The London Eye, Riverside Building, County Hall, Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7PB
Phone: 0870 220 2223
Web: www.londoneye.com


London Zoo

The zoo is run by the Zoological Society of London, a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Located in Regent’s Park, London Zoo is home to around 550 species. One of the zoo’s newest developments is its Blackburn Pavilion, a jungle paradise that is home to humming birds, toucans, kookaburra and many other dazzling tropical birds. Gorilla Kingdom is another new enclosure, which has taken eighteen months to build at a cost of £5.3 million and has a colony of stunning western lowland gorillas.
The Butterfly Paradise exhibit features species from several major regions including Africa, South-East Asia and Central and South America. Another relatively new enclosure is the Meet the Monkeys walkthrough, which was built to house a breeding group of black-capped squirrel monkeys in a habitat designed to recreate the Bolivian rainforests. Add to these the Aquarium, which is spread over three halls, the Clore Rainforest Lookout, a tropical biome with South American monkeys and birds, and numerous other exhibits, and the London Zoo offers a day full of interest.
As a modern zoo, London Zoo exists not only to display its collections but also to conserve wild animals and their habitats. Some of its species are now extinct in the wild and would have disappeared without zoos. The zoo has a number of refreshment establishments offering everything from hot meals to tea and coffee. Its education centre runs a variety of schools programmes and there are events and activities throughout the day.
Opening hours: Daily 10.00-17.30
Closed 25 December
London Zoo, Outer Circle, Regent’s Park, NW1 4RY
Phone: 020 7722 3333
Web: www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo


Madame Tussaud’s

With exhibits ranging from the World Leaders Zone, which features the world’s most influential figures, to the Big Brother Diary Room, Madame Tussaud’s has something for everyone. And with new exhibits and figures from the modern world being added constantly, it always remains up-to-date. Impressive themed entertainment and the imaginative use of state-of-the-art technology ensure a memorable experience.
The ‘Blush’ exhibit provides an interactive A-list party where visitors can mingle with celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz. There is also the opportunity to star in a Premier Night alongside stars from all eras, including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne and Shrek.
In the Culture Zone, visitors can meet scientists, painters and writers such as Einstein, Darwin, Picasso and Shakespeare. The Royal Zone features members of the current royal family and figures from the past, with Henry VIII from Tudor times.
The Sports Zone gives the opportunity to not only see legendry sporting figures but also take an active part. Visitors can umpire a tennis match with Boris Becker, practice putting with Tiger Woods and take a penalty with Pelé and others.
Refreshments are available at the Caffé Nero and souvenirs can be bought from the gift shop. Advance bookings of groups of 15 or more qualify for a discount and exclusive after-hours VIP tours can also be arranged.
A full educational programme is available with a stimulating learning experience. The venue is also available for private and corporate events, either on an exclusive or shared basis.
Opening hours: Daily 9.00-18.00 at weekends and UK school holidays, 9.30-17.30 at other times
Closed 25 December
Madame Tussaud’s, Marylebone Road, NW1 5LR
Phone: 0870 999 0046
Web: www.madame-tussauds.co.uk


Royal Courts of Justice

Opened by Queen Victoria in 1882, the Royal Courts of Justice became the permanent home of the Supreme Court, which replaced all previous courts. The Supreme Court consists of two courts: the High Court of Justice with three divisions dealing mainly with civil disputes (Chancery Division, Queen’s Bench Division and the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division) and the Court of Appeal that comprises a Civil Division and a Criminal Division.
The Royal Courts of Justice have been much extended from the original building to accommodate an increased workload. The West Green Building was opened in 1912 and added extra divorce courts while the Queen’s Building, opened in 1968, added a further twelve courts. The eleven-storey Thomas More Building was built to house the Bankruptcy and Companies Courts and the final addition, the Thomas More Courts, which provide twelve courts for the Chancery Division, opened in 1990. The walls and ceilings of the original courts are panelled in oak and have ornate carving. Court 4, the Lord Chief Justice’s Court, has an elaborately carved wooden royal Coat of Arms. There are over 1,000 rooms and, in the main building alone, 3.5 miles of corridors.
Public tours are run on the first and third Tuesday of each month from 11.00 to 13.00 and from 14.00 to 16.00. Café 26 provides beverages and snacks.
The Royal Courts of Justice are available for hire as a historical venue, with the Great Hall providing a majestic setting for up to 650 diners. Smaller parties can be accommodated in the Bear Garden, Painted Room, Costume Display Gallery and the West Green Building Court Lobby.
Opening hours: Daily 9.00-16.30
Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2A 2LL
Phone: 020 7947 6000
Web: www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/infoabout/rcj


Royal Society of Arts

Established in 1754, The Royal Society of Arts has sought to encourage and support innovation and creativity throughout society. It undertakes various research projects, organises events including lectures and produces a wide range of publications. Its annual awards scheme, Design Directions, sets a range of challenging projects that comment on the changing role of the designer in relation to society, technology and culture.
The RSA library stocks a contemporary collection of materials relevant to the RSA’s work and history. The RSA archive aims to preserve historical records relating to the society’s activities and administration. The RSA’s main building, which is Grade I listed, was designed by Robert Adam in the early 1770s. Behind the Georgian façade are many unexpected delights of both contemporary and traditional architecture. The RSA House is open to the public, usually on the first Sunday of each month, between 10.00 and 13.00 for self-guided tours. Visitors can see the society’s rooms and paintings, including contemporary works on loan from the Arts Council Collection. Group visits may also be possible at other times by arrangement.
Various rooms are available to hire for dinners, meetings, conferences and screenings. The RSA House is a licensed wedding venue and so can stage the ceremony as well as the reception.
RSA London, 8 John Adam Street, WC2N 6EZ
Phone: 020 7930 5115 Fax: 020 7839 5805
Email: general@rsa.org.uk Web: www.rsa.org.uk


St Pancras International

The construction of the original station was started in 1886 and completed in 1868. Its main features were the Barlow train shed, which at 689 feet long and 243 feet wide was the largest enclosed space at the time, and its red brick Gothic façade that is now Grade I listed.
After an £800 million architectural restoration and extension, St Pancras is now returned to its former glory and is the home of Eurostar and high-speed rail in the UK. St Pancras International, together with the nearby King’s Cross, also has rail connections to the North of England and Scotland, and has commuter connections through the South of England. The linked underground station has six major tube lines running through it.
The refurbishment of the Barlow shed has seen it completely reglazed and repainted, with a glass extension designed to house the extra-long Eurostar trains. The station now incorporates new artwork, including the 9-metre high Meeting Point bronze beneath the reconstruction of the original St Pancras clock and a sculpture of Sir John Betjeman.
St Pancras has the latest in technology, with passenger information points and touch-screen displays. As well as being a key transport location, it is also a grand retail and hospitality destination that is divided into four distinct zones.
The Rendezvous zone is at platform level and features Europe’s longest champagne bar, a gastro pub and a brasserie. The Circle is at street level by the main entrance and features retailers of high street brands. The Arcade and Market, set beneath the Victorian brick arches, has a number of independent and boutique retailers. The Farmers’ Market is just outside the main entrance and offers fresh produce daily.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 3.45-24.30, Saturday 5.00-24.30, Sunday 6.00-24.30
Closed 25 December
St Pancras International, Pancras Road, NW1 2QP
Phone: 020 7843 4250
Web: www.stpancras.com