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Top ten things to do when visiting London for the first time

London is one of the greatest cities in the world.  It is a place you can keep coming back and see something new.  In fact, there is so much to see that sometimes it is overwhelming.  So here is the top ten things you should do when you first visit London. 1. The British Museum The British Museum is one of the greatest museums in the world and it is free.  With it ancient artifacts such as the Rosetta Stone, Sutton Hoo ship burial, Bust of Ramesses and the Mummy of Katebet the British Museum has some of the most important artifacts in the world.  The Great Court is a highlight as well as the library.  It is free and open 10-5:30 and until 8:30 on Fridays.   2. Tower of London/ Tower Bridge The Tower of London and the Tower Bridge right next to it are a definite highlight of London.  Originally established by William the Conqueror in 1066, it was originally used as a royal palace.  From 1100 until 1952 it was used as a prison.  Make sure that you visit the White Tower and inside the White Tower the 11th-century Chapel of St John the Evangelist.  The highlight of the Tower of London is seeing the Crown Jewels.  Right next to the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge and it is the most beautiful bridge in London.  The Tower Bridge looks like it is as old as the Tower of London, but it was built in the late 1800s.  You can either walk or drive across the lower level of the bridge or go to the top walkway and for a fee you can walk across and see the Tower Bridge Exhibition.
The Tower Bridge, while it looks really old, it has only been guarding London since the late 1800s.

The Tower Bridge, while it looks really old, it has only been guarding London since the late 1800s.

3. Buckingham Palace Buckingham Palace is the London residence and principal workplace of the Queen of England.  Originally built as a large townhouse for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703, later it was used as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and was known as "The Queen's House".  Buckingham Palace finally became the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837.  The major tourist attraction at Buckingham Palace is the Changing of the Guard, which is held daily during the summer months and every other day during the winter.  You can also visit the palace's state rooms which are open to the public during August and September.
Home of the Queen in London, Buckingham Palace

Home of the Queen in London, Buckingham Palace

4. Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey is one of my favorite places to visit in London.  Established in 960, Westminster Abbey is a living history of England with three beautiful gardens, a museum that has collection of royal and other funeral effigies.  Inside of the actual church it is broken up into several areas.  There you can visit the ancient Coronation Chair, the Shrine of St. Edward the Confessor.  Heading into the Lady Chapel there are many royals buried there including Elizabeth 1, Mary Queen of Scotts and George II.  Poets Corner is another favorite place, Geoffrey Chaucer is buried there and there are many memorials for other writers including Shakespeare.  The Abbey is open from 9:30-6:00, is quite expensive costing 20 pounds, and is a working church so there might be limitations to what you can see.
Westminster Abbey at night

Westminster Abbey at night

5. London Eye The London Eye is a big Ferris Wheel on the south bank of the Thames.  It is a great way to see London from above.  Opened in 2000, it is a gradual rotation and it takes approximately 30 minutes.  Make sure that you get your tickets before as it can have long lines.
Enjoying the view on the London Eye

Enjoying the view on the London Eye

6. Harrods Another can't miss destination is Harrods department store.  Harrods is the biggest department store in Europe and takes up 5-acres.  There are shop's 330 departments, basically you can buy everything there.  There is also a memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales, and Dodi Fayed the owner's son.  It is worth a visit even if shopping is not your thing.
Harrods Department store is well worth the visit even if shopping is not your thing.

Harrods Department store is well worth the visit even if shopping is not your thing.

7. Thames River Cruise Make sure that you take a cruise on the River Thames.  I have a longer post on this.  There are several different companies you can take the cruise with, they are all pretty equal. 8. Big Ben and Parliament During the Summer Recess and on Saturdays, the Palace of Westminster, home to the House of Lords and the House of Commons is open for a one hour guided tour, which includes both Chambers and other great State Rooms.  While the parliament is in session, you can watch them from public galleries.  Although the tower is actually called the Elizabeth Tower, the bell is called Big Ben, most people call the whole tower Big Ben.  You can take a guided tour will take you up the 334 stone spiral steps to the top of the 156 year old Elizabeth Tower to hear Big Ben strike the hour. big Ben day of Bombings.JPG 9. St Paul's Cathedral St Paul's Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of London. The present church was built in the late 17th century and was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren.  This reconstruction was a part of rebuilding program in the city after the Great Fire of London.  The cathedral is one of the most famous and most recognizable sights of London.  Until 1962, the dome was the highest building in London.  It cost 18 pounds to get in and there are times you cannot visit due to it being a working church, so I would check their website before coming.
St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral

10. Shakespeare's Globe Shakespeare's Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, an Elizabethan playhouse on the south bank of the River Thames. It originally built in 1599, destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt in 1614, and then demolished in 1644 because of the pressure of Puritan opinions.  Rebuilt based on what academics believed to be what the 1599 theater was like, it was opened in 1997.  You can take tours of the theater and learn about what the 1599 theater was like or in the summer season which really is Spring, Summer and fall see many Shakespeare plays and other modern plays.  This new reconstruction has become an iconic part of London.
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Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

If you are interested in other London sights, check out my post on what to see in London after you have seen the major sights.  

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