London holds a special place in this traveler’s heart, since it was the first international city I visited. I’ve since been back on a few more occasions, and have even gone with first time visitors. One of my initial thoughts about the city? It’s huge! Having lived in New York, I was used to the small, compact island of Manhattan. London is much more spread out! London is one of those cities, like New York, where you can live for years and still not see everything. So where’s a first time visitor to start? If you only have a week (or even just a few days) to explore, here are the top sights to check off the list.
Buckingham Palace: The Queen’s official residence is grand, opulent and the site of so much history. Try and catch the changing of the Guard, which happens daily at 11:30. You’ll have to navigate the crowds, but seeing the pomp and circumstance of it first hand is worth it. Finish with a leisurely stroll down the mall.
Tower of London: This former palace, prison and fortress has a colorful history as the site of executions and wild animals. You’ll be in awe of the Crown Jewels, and marvel at the fabulously dresses Beefeaters patrolling the grounds. Certain spots offer clear views of Tower Bridge that make wonderful photo ops.
Tate Galleries: London has some of the best museums in the world, and art lovers like me can take advantage of 2 FREE galleries right along the riverbank. Start at Tate Britain for British art and sculpture, then head to the Tate Modern to see works by contemporary artists like Monet, Warhol and Dali. Hop on the Tate Boat and enjoy a ride along the Thames while shuttling between the museums.
London Eye: Yes, it’s touristy and expensive, but it’s also one of the best ways to get an amazing 360 degree view of the city.
Kensington Palace: Any Royal watcher knows this is the home of Will and Kate, which instantly makes it intriguing. Buy a ticket and you’ll be able to tour the palace’s state rooms, exhibits and gardens. If time allows, indulge in afternoon tea at The Orangery for a quintessential British experience.