The city of London is a busy, bustling hive that stretches for over 600 square miles with plenty of exciting things to see and do. From famous landmarks and intriguing history to once-in-lifetime experiences, the city really does offer something for everyone.
To help you narrow down the perfect activities and locations for your first trip to London, follow our tips below, and enjoy London at its best.
Must-See Spots For Your First Time in London
The UK’s capital is home to hundreds of visitor attractions, and it can be difficult to know where to begin. For your first time in London, some of the classic sightseeing attractions are a good place to start:
- The London Eye: This 135m high wheel has been part of the iconic London skyline since the millennium. A ride on the observation wheel is a fun addition to your first trip to the capital, offering a fantastic view of famous sights across the city including the River Thames, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Shard, Buckingham Palace and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
- The Tower of London: For a touch of history, look no further than the Tower of London, which dates all the way back to 1066 and the arrival of William the Conqueror. This imposing Grade I listed building has been home to some of England’s most notable historic events, including the execution of King Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Today, the Tower plays host to the British Crown Jewels, and visitors can take a guided tour to get an insight into the history and culture of this famous London landmark.
- Westminster Abbey: Westminster Abbey is a stunning, largely Gothic, abbey church, near the Houses of Parliament. While already iconic, Westminster Abbey became particularly recognisable after being selected as the wedding venue of Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011. The Abbey also forms a permanent home to notable figures whose final resting places lie within its walls. These include Stephen Hawking, Sir Isaac Newton, Elizabeth I, Charles Dickens and the Unknown Soldier. Hop off at Westminster Underground Station to get to this unmissable tourist attraction.
- The British Museum: The British Museum is a fantastic experience for first-time visitors to London. The world-famous museum is home to legendary objects, including the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin marbles and Easter Island statues. If you plan on visiting, make sure you plan ahead on what you want to see most – it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re exploring these wonderful collections!
- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament: Also known as Westminster Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are home to much of the British government. It’s here that MPs and government ministers come to debate policy and decide the law of the land. The palace as it stands today dates back to 1834 and is breathtaking both inside and out.
- Buckingham Palace: The front façade of Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous sights in London and a must-see attraction for your first time in London. Visitors can take a stroll down the Mall towards the Queen’s official residence, which ends at the beautiful fountain outside the palace. If you visit at 11am, you may get to witness the famous Changing of the Guard ceremony, or choose a palace tour to get up close to see the Queen’s home and the extensive royal collections of art and furniture within the palace.
- The Natural History Museum: London’s Natural History Museum is home to creatures and specimens from all corners of the globe, offering visitors the chance to understand more about the natural world. Like the British Museum, the Natural History Museum is free to visit. Highlights include a dinosaur gallery, animated T-Rex and earthquake simulator.
- Oxford Street: London is world-renowned for its shopping, so if you want to indulge in some retail therapy, look no further than Oxford Street! Home to flagship stores of brands such as Selfridges and Primark, there are hundreds of shops lining the world’s biggest shopping high street.
- Catch a show on the West End: From musicals to traditional Shakespeare, the West End has something for just about every taste. Some of the more popular productions will require booking ahead, however you can also visit one of the many ticket booths in the district for on-the-day deals.
- The Borough Market: This popular food market is located in Southwark and dates back to the 12th Century. A wander round here is a treat for all the senses – especially taste! Within its covered stalls, you’ll find fresh produce, meat, cheese and lots of tasty lunch options for you to sample.
First Time in London Tips
Once you’ve decided what you want to do in London, it’s important to plan ahead to make sure you get the most from your trip. Here are a few top tips to get you started.
1. How many days to spend in London the first time? Before you book, have a think as to what’s the best length of time for your first trip to London. There’s so much to do in the city, you could easily spend weeks scouting out its different attractions, neighbourhoods and activities! If it’s your first visit to the capital, 3 to 4 days is a good amount of time to take in the key sights and visit the attractions you want.
2. Get familiar with the tube: The London Underground (usually called the tube) is a great way to get around London. It can be a little intimidating at first though, so it’s best to get acquainted with some basic etiquette before you hop on for your first journey.
First, don’t worry about getting lost. There are maps and attendants at all stations to help you find your way, and even if you do end up going in the wrong direction, it’s easy enough to get off at the next stop and head back.
Second, think about your method of payment. You can purchase tickets from machines at the tube station, or simply pay as you go at the barriers with contactless debit cards, prepaid Oyster cards or even Apple Pay. Just make sure you have your method of payment ready to tap against the barriers when entering and leaving stations.
Third, always stand on the right-hand side when you are travelling on escalators. This allows those who are in a rush to walk up or down the escalators on the left hand side.
3. Don’t try to squeeze too much in: It can be tempting to try and do everything on a first trip to London, but doing this can leave you exhausted and can often mean you don’t get to fully experience everywhere you want to visit. Look at what interests you most about the city, then select two or three key attractions or experiences and plan the rest of your itinerary around these.
4. Map out your days: If you’re not familiar with London, you may not realise how close some of the main tourist attractions are to each other. Plan out all the things you want to see on a map so you can see where they are in relation to each other. This’ll prevent you having to go back and forth on the tube and means you can use the time on your trip more effectively.
5. Don’t always use the underground: Although the tube is great, there are also plenty of other transport options, from the famous red London buses to river taxis which allow you to take in the famous London sights. If you’re only going only one or two tube stop distances, it might even be worth walking so you can take in more of the city.
6. Stay in central London. London is a big city, and staying outside of the centre means you’ll be using precious time just travelling into the city. Staying in central London means you will spend less time travelling and more time enjoying the city. Choose a central London hotel, and your sightseeing will begin from the moment you step out of the door!
Best Hotels in London for First Time Visitors
For your first time in London, where better to stay than one of our Amba hotels. With hotels in Marble Arch, Grosvenor and Charing Cross, you’ll be right in the centre of London and our staff will be on hand to make your first trip to the capital extra special.