Cosmopolitan and at the same time provincial, ultra-modern and simultaneously old-fashioned, London England has consistently ranked among the most popular tourist destinations in the world. For that reason, it comes as no surprise that MasterCard – in 2014-2015 – ranked it as the no. 1 tourist destination in the world. In fact, in 2015 London welcomed 18.82 million overnight visitors beating out many other popular tourist cities such as New York City and Paris.
Visitors to this ancient city (40 AD) are challenged by its variety of attractions and the eclectic mixture of fellow tourists. So how does one narrow down which sites to see in a city this famous? There are countless things to see in London but here are just a few attractions:
The London Eye
Located on the South Bank of the Thames River, The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel measuring 443 feet high. The London Eye (also known as the Millennium Wheel due to it having been first opened in the year 2000) attracts more than 3.5 million people a year as it slowly winds and gives its riders a spectacular view of London and the Thames River. One full revolution takes approximately 30 minutes which is ideal for some people since it is there that many have chosen to propose each year.
Located at the northern point of the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben is the second largest four-faced clock in the world and its chime is among the most instantly recognizable sounds in the world. The clock actually came into being after the Palace of Westminster was destroyed by a fire in 1834. It was decided that among the new buildings for the Houses of Parliament there would be a tower and a clock and thus one of England’s most iconic monuments was conceived. Unfortunately, due to the layout of the Elizabeth tower, there is limited visitor capacity for the clock each year. However, that does not stop visitors from taking pictures of the famous clock.
Every child in America grows up learning the song ‘London Bridge is Falling Down.’ What many don’t realize is that the song is based on real history. Back in 43 AD (when London was known as Londinium) the Romans built several bridges across the River Thames. Many did not survive for one reason or another. What we now know as London Bridge is an ancestor of many bridges that have spanned the River Thames.
Tower of London
The Tower of London is a castle/fortress in central London that is infamous for having held many famous criminals such as Lady Jane Grey. Today the crown jewels are the most popular attraction of this 900-year-old structure.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
The Globe Theatre houses a tribute to the world’s greatest poet and playwright – William Shakespeare. The tour takes visitors back to 16th century Elizabethan London to experience Shakespeare’s era. Anyone interested in the Bard should take this tour.
Abbey Road Studios
Finally, in what is probably one of the most difficult streets to cross in the world is London’s famous Abbey Road. Abbey Road is highly celebrated in rock history as the place The Beatles recorded many of their LPs including their 11th LP named for the studio there and the street. Every year rock fans travel there to recreate the infamous “zebra crossing” on the album’s cover.
Yes, London continues to be a must-stop destination for the well-traveled tourist and a source of pride for its residents. It has a rich history and ancient lineage that earns it a high place among the most visited tourist spots in the world.