Here we’ll list some of the more famous of London’s attractions, which are also the best free sights in London.
The Houses of Parliament
St. Margaret Street, Westminster W1
The beautiful buildings of the Houses of Parliament (or the “Palace of Westminster” to give it its official name) sit alongside the Thames and contribute much to London’s architecture and design. The buildings are just as impressive viewed close up or at a distance. It is in fact possible to take a tour of the Houses of Parliament (although you need to purchase tickets for this – price £15 for adults and £6 for children) that lasts 75 minutes, which takes in much of the important parts of the building, as well as explaining the workings of Parliament. Tours are only possible on (most) Saturdays throughout the year, or Mondays to Saturdays during the Summer Opening of Parliament (approximately late July to early September and mid-September to early October).
Actually the clock tower of the above Houses of Parliament, so not technically a separate thing! Completed in 1858, it has now become one of the main (if not the) symbols of London. Big Ben’s famous hourly chimes are synonymous with London. In fact, Big Ben is the nickname given to the bell inside, although the whole structure is commonly referred to as Big Ben. The proper name for the tower is the Elizabeth Tower, named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. It is possible to climb the tower (which is, in fact, free) but this is only open to UK residents and such a visit must be arranged via your local MP – see Climb Big Ben.
Piccadilly Circus, W1
Underground: Piccadilly Circus
Home to the Eros statue (which isn’t actually a statue of Eros at all, apparently – see the Wikipedia entry for Piccadilly Circus) and the neon signs above the “circus” which occupy a space used by firms for advertising since the early 1900s.
Westminster Bridge Road, SE1 7JB
A ride on the London Eye isn’t free, but you can still admire this wonderful structure from the outside – even from quite a way along the river. Opened in 2000, it’s unbelievable to think that the London Eye was only supposed to be a temporary attraction – especially when you consider that it’s now the most popular (paid) tourist attractions in the country, attracting over 3.5 million visitors a year. Not to mention that New Year’s Eve celebrations in London – the large-scale fireworks – are centred around the Eye.
London Budget Tip: If you do want to treat yourself to a ride – they’re actually called “flights” – book online and you’ll save 20% on the normal ticket price.
Tower Bridge Road, SE1 2UP
Underground: Tower Hill
Opened in 1894, Tower Bridge has become one of London’s iconic landmarks. Be sure to view it from a distance, as well as crossing it – and try and time it so you’re there for when it opens; it usually opens several times a day, with exact timings on the website. (Don’t try and cross the bridge at that time…of course.) You can also visit the Tower Bridge Exhibition (tickets must be purchased for this, which is housed within the towers of the bridge, its high-level walkway and the engine rooms of the bridge.