50 Reasons London is the World's Best Destination

London skyline. (photo via Stewart Marsden / iStock / Getty Images Plus)
Scott Hartbeck
by Scott Hartbeck
Last updated: 10:45 AM ET, Tue June 26, 2018

It's the Unofficial Capital of the World

Not only is the London the capital of the UK, you could make a case that it's the de facto hub of the world. Hundreds of nationalities live side-by-side here and travelers only benefit by experiencing this melting pot. Throw in the fact that London's location on the globe makes it easily reachable by flights from nearly every corner of the planet and you've got a compelling case for global capital.

There's No Language Barrier

English has become the international language of travel and experiencing this English city is made exponentially smoother by a lack of language barrier for English speakers. You will be able to read all the street signs, Tube maps and restaurant menus without a problem here and you'll even have a fighting chance deciphering some of the locals' Cockney accents.

Look Kids, Big Ben

You've may have seen it a million times on television but nothing beats meeting Big Ben in person. This famous clock and the tower it crowns is currently being renovated-which means that it's clad in scaffolding-but that doesn't ruin the fun of getting up-close-and-personal with this piece of history.

Houses of Parliament

Located next door to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament are the home of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Sitting right beside the River Thames, their Perpendicular Gothic Revival spires are a sight to behold and you can even take a tour inside to see the inner workings of British politics.

Piccadilly Circus

Piccadilly Circus is the Times Square of London and one walk through this electric space will get you buzzing. High profile advertisements have adorned this space for over a century and after its recent renovation, it is now home to one of the most impressive HD screens in the world. Don't skip saying hi to the iconic winged statue of Eros sitting atop the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain.

The Tremendous Tube

Call it the London Underground and you'll definitely sound like a tourist because everyone here knows it as the Tube. And take one step onto the adoringly diminutive compartments and you'll know exactly how it got its nickname. Regardless, from its groundbreaking (and ultra-cool) station map to its famous stations, it has become as synonymous with London as Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.

Sensational St. Paul's

Designed by the legendary architect/astronomer/all-around legend Sir Christopher Wren, the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral is London's most stately skyline feature. Tour the inside of this ancient house of worship to experience the enchanting Whispering Gallery and treat your eyes to a feast of fanciful frescoes and marvelous mosaics.

The Sounds of Royal Albert Hall

This regal concert hall was christened by Queen Victoria herself and is arguably the most iconic music venue in the country. Stop by in summer to catch the Proms-a series of orchestral concerts put on by the BBC-that features a show rollicking finale called the Last Night of the Proms, featuring patriotic tunes.

Potter Heads Are Kept Happy

London is home to two high-end Harry Potter sights. One of the most iconic spots this side of Hogwarts, the 9 and 3/4th platform at King's Cross Station should be your first stop followed by a trip to The Making of Harry Potter attraction on the outskirts of town-where you can walk on movie sets, sip butterbeer and just generally be surrounded by magic.

A River Runs Through It

The River Thames runs like a ribbon across the center of the city and many many of the most revered sights in London reside on its banks. Whether you take a long walk along its South Bank (one of best free things to do in the city) or enjoy a dinner cruise out on the water, it's hard to walk away from the Thames without being impressed.

You Can Get Inside Wartime Winston's Head

When London was being assaulted by German airstrikes during World War 2, Winston Churchill was able to direct the country's defense from an underground bunker. At the Churchill War Rooms, visitors can tour the subterranean space and learn all about what the city endured during the Blitz-a tragic yet important chapter in London's modern history.

Oxford Street Has You Covered For Shopping

If you like to shop, then you'll love Oxford Street. Here, you will be surrounded by endless opportunities for acquisition, and whether your receiving retail therapy from an international chain a British born-and-bred department store you'll have a blast. Time your trip with Christmas to see the street twinkle with holiday cheer.

Brixton Rocks

London is a patchwork of places and a visit to Brixton shows off both the past and present of London neighborhood life. While the borough has undergone a massive amount of gentrification this millennium, there's still traces of the old buzz that made it a hub of live music and Caribbean culture.

The Queen Lives Here (Sometimes)

Queen Elizabeth II is London's most famous part-time resident and when she is in town, she bunks down at Buckingham Palace. The crowds don't flock here to necessarily see her though, as it's the famous shift-changing undertaken by the bright red jacket wearing guardsman that is the star attraction.

Covent Garden is Always a Good Time

A stone's throw from the world-renowned theaters of the West End, you'll find a show of a different kind taking place at Covent Garden. In this district, stylish shoppers mingle with eccentric street performers in front of a gorgeous historic market. There's always something going on here and a trip is guaranteed to add a splash of fun to your trip.

The British Museum is Stacked with Artifacts

The largest museum in the country, the British Museum's halls are lined with displays from nearly every era of antiquity. It's hard to pick a highlight here as the museum could keep anyone awestruck for days, but the opportunity to see the hieroglyphic-solving Rosetta Stone in person is high on the list.

Trafalgar Square is Splendid

Trafalgar Square is where Londoners gather to celebrate (or protest) and where tourists go to scale statues of lions and play with pigeons. Those lions are protecting a statue of Admiral Nelson, who perished in the famous Battle of Trafalgar. You'll also find yourself here if you visit the renowned National Gallery.

Hyde Park Offers Peace

A calming green space in the heart of the city, Hyde Park is arguably London's prettiest park. Stroll along the banks of the Serpentine Lido in the summer to catch swimmers in action, pay your respects at the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain or just relax in the grass. Swing by the "only in London" Speaker's Corner to see locals spouting off about the issues of the day.

You'll Love the London Museum

Once you've learned all about world history at the British Museum, then make your way here to gain insight into the past and present of London. Learn about everything from fires and plagues to the quirky Pearly Queens and (if you dare) analyze a piece of the infamous Fatberg that blocked the city's sewers a few years back.

The Food is Fantastic

London is without a doubt of the best places in Europe to eat. Here, you can sit down at a hip street food stall located in a shipping container for lunch, treat yourself to traditional Afternoon Tea and then go out for a meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant for dinner.

Especially at Borough Market

Speaking of food, this place is a downright foodie paradise. Whether you give your pounds to the vendors plating up food from around the world in the courtyard or the restaurants inside, you are guaranteed a good meal at Borough Market. And the structure itself is as beautiful as can be, too!

The Skyline is Truly Unique

While London is indeed a medieval city, it's the new kids on the block that are making the skyline so memorable. There's the Gherkin (because it resembles a pickle and that's what they call pickles here), the Shard (hey, it definitely resembles a piece of glass) and the Walkie-Talkie (or Brick Phone) that resembles a bulky, ironically-cool cell phone. Love them or hate them, they have come to symbolize modern London.

The Tower of London Always Impresses

For centuries, prisoners were put up here and no trip to the city is complete without taking a turn in "The Tower". Take a guided tour of this complex to hear the history of the grounds and details about all the things it was used for before it became a prison. You're certain to walk away enlightened and shocked at how little you knew about this world-famous sight.

Theater Lovers Can Go Gaga at the Globe

This marvelous modern recreation of the venerable venue that hosted Shakespeare's works is a must-visit for any fan of the theater. The Globe hosts performances during summertime but even if you visit during the offseason you can still tour the theatre and gain an insight into the world of William Shakespeare.

Westminster Abbey Will Amaze

This royal church may sit in the shadows of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, but its history looms larger than both combined. It's been the site of coronations for nearly 1000 years and in addition to stunning architecture, inside you will find the tomb of monarchs and poets/writer spanning nearly every era of British history.

Kew Gardens is Gorgeous

London might be located in Northern Europe, but you can still get your fill of tropical plants here. You will find that and very much more at Kew Gardens-a beautiful botanic garden-famous for its Victorian glasshouse. The Temperate House is the largest of its kind in the world, and inside you can walk among over 10,000 varieties of plant life.

You Won't Believe the View from Hampstead Heath

This park in North London is set on the fringes of one of London's coolest neighborhoods (Hampstead) and it offers fresh of breath air and breathtaking views. Walk the wooded paths inside the park or park yourself for a picnic with a sweeping view of London's skyline.

Somerset House is All Class

This grand building on the banks of the Thames encapsulates what is so special about London. The site originally hosted a palace that was a playground of royals but was rebuilt as a resplendent government structure. Nowadays? Well, stop by for galleries, outdoor movies in the summer and ice skating around Christmas.

Sherlock Holmes' Baker Street is Real

London has been the backdrop for countless works of fiction, but not many streets have become as synonymous with one particular character as Baker Street has with a one Sherlock Holmes. Stop 221b Baker Street to see his "residence" and peruse the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

The Underground is Full of Secrets

You're bound to be smitten with riding on the Tube, but did you know it has lots of secrets? For starters, the entire Tube system is full of disused and otherwise obscured stations that few get the chance to visit. And during summer, the London Transport Museum offers tours that shed an informative light on this hidden world.

The London Eye is Awesome

This fantastical Ferris wheel was originally scheduled to be a temporary celebration of the new millennium, but nearly two decades later, it's still going strong. Yes, the London Eye proved too popular to take down and one ride will show you why-and offer an unforgettable view of the city from the sky.

Hampton Court is One Heck of a House

Located a short train ride from the center of London, this palace offers a step back in time and an insight into the life, times and wives of Henry VIII. Walk the corridors and learn tales of the past on a guided tour or simply stroll the riverside gardens and contemplate the tumult that took place here during his reign.

The Tate is Modern Art

Once your eyes have tired of taking in historical artistic delights, make your way to the Tate for Britain's best collection of modern art. Like many of the finest museums in London, the Tate is free to enter and here you will see the full spectrum of contemporary paintings, exhibitions and art installations.

Tower Bridge is Regal

Seeing Tower Bridge is one of those "pinch me, I'm in London moments". Its twin Gothic towers make it hands down the grandest span over the Thames and it has become an iconic symbol of the city. Visitors can tour the inside to learn about its history and see how the bridge works. (Just don't confuse it with London Bridge, which is actually a nondescript crossing located further down the river).

Wimbledon is Ace

So very much more than just a series of tennis matches, Wimbledon is the epitome of summer in the city. Time your trip to coincide with the tournament-and take part in the Pimms & strawberry sun-soaked fun-or arrive any time of year to explore the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum, which includes a stop at Centre Court.

You Know You Always Wanted to Go to Notting Hill

When it comes to international name recognition, no London neighborhood can match Notting Hill. While we have Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts to thank for that, even travelers who haven't seen Notting Hill are bound to be dazzled by the colorful Portobello Road market and the collection of shops and cafes on the surrounding streets.

The East End Is Perpetually in Style

The East End is one of London's most eclectic areas and it offers both a glimpse into the city's gory past and a preview of what's going to be cool tomorrow. Spend morning boozing at one of the district's brunch restaurants, afternoon accessing the stock at secondhand shops and your night taking a bloodcurdling Jack the Ripper tour.

Kensington Palace is Posh Yet Accessible

Adjoining Hyde Park, Kensington Palace has been a royal residence for over 400 years. The most famous current residents are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate to you and me), but surprisingly large sections of the home and grounds remain open to the public. Visit for yourself to gain an insight into the royal lifestyle and to gain some inspiration for your next home and garden project.

Shoreditch is Sort-of Cool

The hippest of the hip can be found hanging in Shoreditch and after one visit to this East End neighborhood, you might just see a bump in your cool factor, too. Stroll the graffiti-clad streets before popping into the Old Spitalfields Market to find a vintage find before showing it off at a "rough on the outside, right on-trend on the inside" cocktail bar.

Even the Buses Belong on a Bucket List

They may seem like a relic from the past, but these bright red beauties still plod up and down the streets of London. So much more than just a photo opportunity, London's double-deckers are a fine way to get around the city. Even if you don't take a ride, you're bound to be taking a picture beside one.

Soho Sizzles

From its West End shows to its robust collection of scintillating shops and boisterous bars, Soho comes to life at night. Start your evening off by taking in an acclaimed onstage production before going to a nightclub to watch performances that last until the wee hours of the morning.

Brick Lane Still Beckons

This East End street has long been known as the place to go in London to get your hands on an authentic curry, but now the cool crowd has moved in, too. You'll still want to try a spicy curry, but now you can follow it up with a swing through a hipster-approved cocktail bar or Third Wave coffee shop.

High-End Shopping Heaven

Oxford Street is where the masses shop, but London is home to several enclaves of exclusive shopping, too. Swing over to Fortnum & Mason department store (purveyors to the Queen) before bouncing to Bond Street for more jewelry and exclusive boutiques than you can shake a diamond-crusted stick at.

Camden Market is Quirky Cool

Camden Town has become synonymous with its namesake colorful market, which is located around a series of locks and canals. A favorite of locals and visitors alike, you'll find hundreds of vendors here selling everything from homemade crafts and clothes to global street food.

The Emirates Air Line Has Arrived

One of the newer attractions in London, the Emirates Air Line is a gondola service that soars above the Thames-connecting Greenwich Peninsula and the Royal Victoria Dock. While some use the service to commute above the crowds, visitors love the fact that it shows off a whole different side of the capital.

Even the Cabs Are One-of-a-Kind

As entrenched on the London streetscape as the red double-decker bus, London Black Cabs offer a fun way to get around and way more authentic than an Uber. Get in, stretch your feet in the spacious back seat and listen to the tales your cabbie has to tell-they're known for being characters and oracles of London knowledge.

The Walls Tell Tales

In most cities, you walk past buildings that have connections to historically significant people all day without even knowing it, but not in London. There are over 900 Blue Plaques dotted around the city and each one points out the connection between a notable former resident and the structure that stands today.

Nothing Beats a Pint at a London Pub

While there aren't quite as many as there once used to be in London (a tragic side effect of the rising property value in the city and changing tastes) there are still hundreds of lively watering holes where you can whet your whistle. Some have historical value some are just neighborhood haunts, but almost all have a story to tell.

The Bookshops Rock

For centuries, England has been a haven for writers and the modern residents of London adore their literature. You'll find scores of independent bookshops hidden all over the city and an afternoon spent perusing their shelves for a new favorite writer can become an unexpected trip highlight.

London Is a Premier Soccer City

The world has gone positively crazy for Premier League Soccer, and in London, you have the chance to watch several top-flight clubs. Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea are the highest profile teams that call London home, but it's also the city of Fulham, West Ham and Crystal Palace. Even if you don't catch one of their games, a tour of one of their stadium's is a must-do for soccer fans.

Look no further than London to have all your travel dreams come true.

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Scott Hartbeck

Scott Hartbeck

Born in the USA but now based in England, Scott has been writing about travel for over 10 years. He specializes in Europe, rail...

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CEO of Zenbiz Travel, LLC

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