Is it the best city in the world?
Yes there’s no denying this city is one of my favourites and that’s not least because, even after living here on and off for years, I still haven’t explored it all!
Because London really is the capital where you could spend a lifetime and not see everything. And that’s exactly why I wanted to bring you this list of the top 25 famous buildings in London you have to visit.
From historical houses to bustling markets, iconic new builds to ceremonial royal specials, here’s the 25 London landmark you must see, no matter whether this is your first, or your final, time in the city…
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I thought it might be best if I divided this list into different types of famous buildings in London, so that you can pick and choose which suits you best.
Kicking things off, we have the historical classics…
#1 Big Ben
It’s not the clock, but the bell.
Yes did you know that Big Ben is actually the name given to the bell that chimes and not the famous clock face or the clock tower!
Nevertheless, this huge icon and central timekeeping figure, is an absolute must-see when you visit the city.
Sitting at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, this UNESCO-listed gem is a London iconic and seeing it, up close, is something you just can’t miss!
#2 Tower Bridge
And straight in with another London classic, Tower Bridge is another landmark in this city you simply can’t miss.
Huge and instantly recognisable, this gigantic bridge spans the River Thames between Southwark and the amazing Tower of London.
Woven into the fabric of the city, some form of river-spanning structure has been in place here since the Roman ages, which only makes this famous London building even more special in my opinion.
#3 Trafalgar Square
Less a famous building and more a famous square, there’s no way I could put together this list of London landmarks and not mention the iconic Trafalgar Square.
Nearby London’s Charing Cross station, in the heart of the city, this flagship space is famous for its statues, Nelson’s Column and the empty 4th plinth, along with the National Portrait Gallery that sits behind it.
It’s a central hub of political demonstrations in the city, as well as a spot that most travellers want to see, especially before they walk down The Mall to Buckingham Palace.
#4 St Pauls Cathedral
And next up, it’s one of the most famous religious buildings in London, yes St Paul’s Cathedral is not only one of the most recognisable structures in London, but its rooftop Galleries also give one of the best views of the city too.
Honestly, climbing up here is an epic way to take in the London skyline and definitely makes buying a ticket to visit St Paul’s worthwhile.
Learn all about how and when to visit this Cathedral for the best view in this post.
#5 House of Parliament
And last but not least on this list of the top historical classics in London, it’s the good old Houses of Parliament.
Otherwise known as the Palaces of Westminster, this seat of democracy and governance is the heartland of Parliamentary power across the UK and is the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
Sitting on the North Bank of the Thames, this great structure can be snapped from the outside or, during non-covid times, tours of the venue can also be enjoyed.
And from the historical to the modern, now we check out those famous new buildings in London – the best modern structures that make this city the great melting pot it is…
#6 The Shard
A major London icon, viewable across the skyline of the city in pretty much every direction, The Shard is a huge building that encompasses office spaces, shops and even a hotel as part of its offering.
However, it’s really all about eating in one of the restaurants here if you want to take in the elevated views; otherwise head to one of London’s great free vantage points, such as Primrose Hill in Regent’s Park or Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath, to see The Shard from miles away!
#7 Battersea Power Station
Down in southwest London, the Battersea Power Station might not be the most attractive famous London building in many peoples’ eyes, but it is something of a city icon, thanks to its Modernist structure and its flagship regeneration credentials.
Now housing homes, as well as bars, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues, this massive, Grade II listed, former power station (yes the clue is in the name!), tells quite the story about how London is a city that is constantly able to reinvent itself!
#8 The Gherkin
Back in the City of London, it has to be said The Gherkin has always looked more like a bullet to me but, to everyone else, it apparently looks like a gherkin!
This distinctive black and glass tall building, with its wrap-around, tapered look is otherwise known as 30 St Mary Axe, so search for this on Google if you want to find it!
That said, if you’re anywhere near Liverpool Street, Monument or Aldgate, you can’t really miss looking up and ticking this one off your bucket list.
#9 The Walkie Talkie
And not far away – just a little closer to the River Thames – I’m delighted to say the Walkie Talkie building does look more like the informal name it has been given than The Gherkin!
A rectangular building, with an almost ergonomic structure and lots of glass, the Walkie Talkie (which is otherwise known as 20 Fenchurch Street), is filled largely with office space.
However, thanks to its amazing Sky Garden – which is def one of the best free viewing points you can experience in the city, in fact, it’s the highest public garden in London – this is definitely one of the most famous additions to the capital’s skyline.
#10 London Eye
And another addition to the city’s skyline, down by the river but this time on the southside, is the huge wheel that is the London Eye.
A great tourist attraction, I definitely think enjoying a ride in one of the eye’s capsules for some amazing elevated views of the city, is absolutely one of the best things to do in London, especially if it’s your first time here.
A superb way to orientate yourself and take in many of the famous buildings on this list, grab your skip the line tickets for the London Eye in advance here.
And now we move onto those famous London landmarks that boast some pretty impressive regal connections
Even if you’re not a fan of the Monarchy, it’s hard to visit London and not see at least one of the buildings connected to the Royal family.
A classic part of the history of London and the UK in general, whether you’re a fan of The Crown or not, it’s hard to ignore the pomp and grandeur this famous family bring to the city.
#11 Buckingham Palace
Straight in at number 11 on this list of the most famous buildings in London you have to visit, it’s the Queen’s classic home, Buckingham Palace.
Situated at the end of the Mall, near Green Park, unless you book to tour the State Rooms and Gardens during the summer months, you can only peer at the Palace through the gates.
Still, it’s worth it in my opinion especially if you time your visit with the free spectacle that is the Changing of the Guards – it’s classic English tradition at its most eccentric!
#12 Hampton Court
Now we move to the home of a former Royal, that of Henry VIII.
Set a little out of London – actually, it’s in the county of Surrey, but is largely still considered to be part of the capital – Hampton Court is currently cared for by a non-profit organisation called Historic Royal Palaces.
Book tickets in advance of your visit here and get ready to enjoy some amazing gardens, as well as historic exhibitions and festivals that are great for adults and kids alike.
#13 Kensington Palace
Next up on the Royal connections list, it’s time to head to the home of some current members of the Royal Family, and that is the beautiful Kensington Palace.
Situated by Kensington Gardens, which runs alongside one end of Hyde Park, this grand palace was once the childhood home of Queen Victoria and the marital home of Princess Diana.
Now Wills and Kate live here, so it’s quite amazing that you can still visit parts of it, as well as some of the exhibitions that run here, care of the Historic Royal Palaces organisation.
#14 Tower of London
Another amazingly famous building in London also run by Historic Royal Palaces – it’s the Tower of London!
Surely one of the city’s most iconic structures, if not its oldest, some of the walls here date back as far as the Roman times, when the city of Londinium was first founded!
Since then, age after age, ruler after ruler, the Tower took shape and went from palace to prison.
Now an amazing place to visit and feel like you are wandering through a history book, The Tower of London is somewhere you certainly can’t miss!
Grab your skip-the-line VIP tour tickets for the Tower of London and Tower Bridge here.
#15 Westminster Abbey
And last but not least on this list of famous buildings in London with Royal connections, we come to Westminster Abbey.
Like St Pauls, this another of the city’s classic Christian structures, but having been the setting of many a royal wedding and funeral, it does have some pretty special connections to the House of Windsor.
Tours of Westminster Abbey can be enjoyed, otherwise general entrance tickets will allow you to access parts of this huge Church and learn more about its history, as well as its future.
And from famous buildings to foodie paradises, next on this list of London landmarks, it’s time to turn our attention to some of the city’s most famous market places.
Many have now been converted into amazing modern spaces with shops and cafes, but they all still retain parts of their iconic heritage features too – how delightful!
If you’re a big market fan, then Spitalfields Market in east London, as well as Portobello in west London didn’t make this top-list, but are well worth a visit too.
#16 Covent Garden Market
Sitting right near theatreland, and now converted into a wonderful shopping area, the old market of Covent Garden, and its surrounding square, still very much retain an authentic feel with tons of stalls and street performers still to be found here.
The festive period is a particularly wonderful time to visit, when the who area is beautifully illuminated.
There’s also some great museums and fantastic cafes in Covent Garden, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from The Royal Opera House, The Strand and Leicester Square.
#17 Leadenhall Market
Next up, it’s another classic market in London, the wonderful Leadenhall, which dates back to the 14th century and is Grade II listed.
In the vicinity of Bank and Liverpool Street Stations, this is one of the grandest markets with its highly decorative architecture making it something of an icon.
Now filled with bars, this is a great place to head for a drinks and to feel the buzz of London at its best.
#18 Borough Market
And last but not least on this list of the top London markets, Borough Market (just south of the River and very near to London Bridge) is an absolute foodie paradise.
With stalls offering everything from bread and meat to fish and cheese, coffee and chocolate, this is one place to go (or perhaps avoid!) if you’re feeling a bit peckish!
There’s also a street food element here where you can grab some great dishes from around the world as you wander round and ogle at all the top deli and fresh produce goods on offer.
It’s not cheap here, but it is delicious!
And now we move onto the cultural spaces on this list of top London landmarks.
After all, if London is famous for anything, it’s as a city of art and culture, a capital that looks forward as well as back.
#19 Victoria and Albert Museum
Over in South Kensington in West London, there’s no doubt the Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the city’s best… and its revolving exhibitions really are amazing too!
But it’s not just what’s inside that’s incredible here, because the wonderfully ornate and recognisable huge, red brick exterior is worth a look too!
Founded in 1852, this is the world’s largest museum of applied and decorative arts and design, which means it contains a huge amount of incredible artifacts you shouldn’t miss the chance to explore.
#20 Royal Observatory in Greenwich
And from west London to south of the river, now we move to the wonderful area of Greenwich, which sits on the river and is home to a lovely market, high street, museum and park too.
I should know – I used to live near here back in the day!
However, it’s not the market, high street, museum or park I want to draw your attention to here, although they are all great and worth a visit too!
No instead, it’s the amazing Royal Observatory, which is actually located on top of a hill within the park.
The place where the world time system is measured from, the Meridian Line can be walked here, this awesome space also houses London’s only planetarium and is the historic home of British astronomy too.
Plenty to get your teeth into here, the Observatory is a beautiful building which, elevated above the park and river, is pretty striking to say the least!
Get your tickets here.
#21 Tate Modern
And from the historic to the modern, the Tate Modern infact.
One of the UK’s leading contemporary art museums, the Tate Modern is situated along the Southbank at the end of the Millennium Bridge – which is another London landmark you should visit by the way!
The Tate Modern’s straight-edged urban structure makes it instantly recognisable and again, this is another famous London budling you need to visit for the outside, as well as what’s inside!
Entrance to the permanent collections at the Tate Modern are free, so don’t miss your chance to check it out… you can honestly spend hours here.
#22 Alexandra Palace
And now we travel up to north London to the “people’s palace”.
Sitting at an elevated level up near Muswell Hill, Alexandra Palace gives amazing views over the city and the walk up here through Highgate Woods – if you come that way – can’t be missed!
There’s often some great gigs and events being run in this historic public space, otherwise the stroll up there to take in the view and the building is well worth it.
#23 Royal Albert Hall
This Grade II listed icon on the edge of South Kensington in west London, is one of the world’s most famous concert halls and its distinctive round structure seats over 5000 people.
Opened by Queen Victoria in 1871, it has since hosted concerts by some of the world’s most famous artists in the world of classical music, jazz, rock and pop.
Even if you can’t get a ticket to see someone there, this place is well worth a walk by… and a snap!
And finally we come to London’s greens spaces!
I could go on and on here about the number of parks I love in this city, because there really as so many to choose from, but I think I’ve done very well and kept it to a maximum of 2!
Here they are…
#24 Victorian Greenhouse at Kew
In at number 24, it’s the fabulous botanical Kew Gardens down in southwest London and the wonderful Victorian Greenhouse here, which has to be one of London’s most famous buildings.
Beautifully restored and absolutely massive, this place was founded in 1840 and is now a World Heritage Site.
It has to be seen to be believed, so get your admission tickets here!
#25 Regent’s Park
And of course, how could we get through this list and not mention Regent’s Park.
One of the grandest, oldest and most central parks in London, Regent’s Park is home to Primrose Hill, London Zoo, an outdoor sports arena, a boating lake, an open-air theatre and a whole heap of other areas and attractions – it’s massive and you could easily spend a day here, taking it all in!
One of London’s eight Royal Parks (my other fav is Windsor), Regent’s Park covers an area of 395 acres and is free to enter daily from dawn to dusk.
London Mini Travel Guide
When to Visit London?
I’d definitely recommend visiting London in the summer, when the better weather at this time will allow you to enjoy all the wonderful attractions, gardens, markets, squares, stations and statues of this world-class city.
Just remember weekends, especially during the school summer holidays can get very busy here and are probably best avoided!
Accommodation tends to be cheaper mid-week and out of season too!
How Long to Visit London For?
How long is a piece of string?!
Look, you could easily spend a month (or a year!) in London and not see it all!
To take in the 25 famous buildings on this list, as well as some of the other fun this city has to offer, I’d recommend a minimum of 4-6 days.
Top London Tours & Passes
A great way to get acquainted with London and its famous buildings, especially if this is your first trip to the city, is to enjoy a bus, boat, walking or cycling tour.
There’s loads of different ones to choose from here, so check out my pick of the bunch and book the one that suits you best – it will provide a great intro to this city’s history, culture and geography.
Otherwise, if you’re looking for a full arranged tour that takes in London, as well as some other great cities in the UK or Europe, check out these top-rated options I highly recommend:
- European Wonder – 18-39 year olds
- European Horizons – 10 days / 18-35 year olds
- Great Britain – 7 Days
- Britain and Ireland Discovery – 22 Days
And if you plan to visit a lot of attractions in the capital, I’d also consider grabbing a London Pass – this is a great way to keep the costs of visiting lots of attractions (and getting around the city) down.
Check out these top options:
- London Pass – Choose from 1, 2, 3, 6, or 10 day options. This pass is best for short-term London visitors and includes many of the attractions and landmarks mentioned in this post.
- London Explorer Pass – Pick a 2, 3, 5 or 7 attraction pass and experience London over 60 days. This option is better for longer-term London visitors and includes many of the buildings mentioned in this post.
Where to Stay in London?
There’s just too many different areas of London, let alone accommodation choices, to name here, so I’m going to concentrate on the budget end of the market and the east of London, because these are what I know best!
East London tends to be known for being quite liberal, arty, progressive, young and alternative, so if that’s your vibe too, check out these good affordable options in what is the most fun part of the city IMO!
- Hackney Travelodge
- Prime Backpackers Angel
- KIP Hotel Shoreditch
- Kingsland Locke Shoreditch
- Mama Shelter London
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So there you have it, my list of the 25 most famous buildings in London you can’t miss.
Which on the list is your favourite and which are you still yet to see?
Tell me all in the comments box below…