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Visiting London for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do


Visiting London for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do
Hi, I'm Helen!

South Londoner on the loose in Switzerland, with a cat and baby in tow. Trained teacher, student, and travel writer, with a passion for drama, drag, and adventure.

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Hi, I'm Helen!

South Londoner on the loose in Switzerland, with a cat and baby in tow. Trained teacher, student, and travel writer, with a passion for drama, drag, and adventure.

see more

With its historic landmarks, sprawling suburbs, and winding river, there’s much to see in London—the only problem is knowing where to start. From ancient ceremonies to modern attractions, here are our top tips for your introductory visit to the UK capital.

See the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

They're popular for a reason.

As two of London’s most famous buildings, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are must-sees for first time visitors. If you have time, it’s worth immersing yourself in the city's rich history on a tour of the interior. Alternatively, you can capture your snaps of the iconic facade and clock tower as you pass by on a walking tour or hop-on hop-off bus ride.

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Watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

You can't enjoy this anywhere else.

Unchanged for centuries, the Changing of the Guard ceremony encapsulates the pomp and circumstance of London’s royal heritage. Taking place each morning, it’s easy to check off as part of a city tour, or you can book behind-the-scenes access for a more exclusive experience.

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The Changing of the Guard ceremony is a first-timer favorite. Photo: Anthony Cruz / Viator

Enjoy afternoon tea

An English tradition.

What could be more British than afternoon tea in the capital? Experience a taste of London luxury at one of its upscale hotels, or, if you’re short on time, you can opt for a tour that includes tea service as part of a package of must-do experiences.

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Visit the Tower of London

History and royal intrigue.

As the site of the city’s oldest intact structure and home to the world-famous crown jewels, no visit to the capital is complete without a trip to the Tower of London. Book ahead of time to guarantee entry to the incredibly popular attraction, taking advantage of tours that include a guide for insight into almost a millennium of history.

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There are lots of ways to experience the Tower of London, including skip-the-line tours. Photo: Gloria Chu / Viator

Explore must-see museums

There are plenty to choose from.

With more than 200 cultural institutions registered in the capital, many of which are free to enter, it’s likely that at least one belongs on your must-see list. The Science Museum is a great choice for kids, while the British Museum boasts eight million artifacts from across the globe—take advantage of private tours to tick off highlights with ease.

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Delve into the South Bank

One of the capital's best neighborhoods.

Home to top attractions including the London Eye, SEA LIFE® Centre, and the London Dungeon, the South Bank exudes a festive atmosphere any time of the year. Skip-the-line tickets help to maximize your time in the busy district, while walking tours typically cover cultural landmarks such as the Royal Festival Hall, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the Tate Modern.

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The views from the London Eye are phenomenal. Photo: Annapurna Mellor / Viator

Cruise the Thames

Seeing London from the water is essential.

After an activity-packed trip, unwind with a journey on England’s longest river and enjoy prime views of Tower Bridge, Westminster Palace, and the Shard. River-bus services are a hassle-free and memorable way to transfer between top attractions, while lunch or dinner cruises offer a more romantic experience, ideal for a last night in London. 

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See all London tours
2,759 tours & tickets
Things to do in London
See all things to do in London
Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace
Top 5 Royal Palaces in London and How to Visit