London is a fantastic, metropolitan city that offers just about anything you could imagine. Hidden gems lie around every corner: hipster cafes, fancy restaurants, quirky food spots, modern art exhibits, and so on. However, sometimes it’s nice to join the tourists. So grab your fanny packs and let’s take a look at the most popular spots.
First off is Big Ben. Big Ben is actually the nickname for the Great Bell in the clock tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, but it quite often refers to the tower and the palace as a whole. The palace is the seat of the Houses of Parliament and is known for its neo-gothic architecture and its gorgeous location on the Thames River.
For all visitors of London, Big Ben is a must. The Clock Tower is a British cultural icon and most definitely a picture worth taking. Sadly, there in August of 2017 there began a four year schedule of renovation work on the tower. A lift is being installed and the clock dials are to be reglazed and repainted. So, you’ll have to wait until the 2020s to see the tower. And excluding New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday, Big Ben will not ring until renovation work is completed. Sorry!
Next, of course, is Buckingham Palace. Aside from the obvious beauty of the palace and its gardens, Buckingham is famous for housing the royal family. I will admit to standing outside the palace gates, hoping desperately to see the queen or one of the princes. No such luck. You are allowed to tour Buckingham’s lavish State Rooms, but only from late July to late September.
In all honesty, Buckingham is a bit overrated. There are tons of tourists, you never see royalty, and the queen’s guard are usually too far away to get a good picture. Not to mention, pickpockets are known to prey on the tourists there.
If you do see Buckingham Palace, you should definitely take a walk in St. James Park and Green Park, which are directly next to the palace. It’s nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Enjoy a bit of greenery. Watch the swans and ducks and geese fly by or float on the pond. Relax. Have a picnic.
Also, if you’re visiting Big Ben, you should walk to Buckingham Palace. Aside from the parks, there are also several beautiful churches and buildings like the Methodist Central Hall.
The final place I’d highly recommend is Covent Garden. Once the site of a fruit-and-vegetable market, Covent Garden is now a popular shopping spot and major tourist location on the West End of London. There are many specific places in Covent Garden to visit, such as the Royal Opera House (often simply called Covent Garden) or the Covent Garden Piazza. However, the neighborhood is incredibly charming and generally just a pleasant place to walk around. If you want, you can stop to watch the street performances which go on all at all times of the year. Or maybe stop in one of the many restaurants, cafes, and pubs. Because of its competitive location, every food spot is guaranteed to be high quality. You can also be sure of great variety: from a killer burger to hipster vegan food. Anything you want is right there.