The Must-Visit Places When You’re in London

Ok, so they’re tourist attractions. But wait! Even if you’re a London born-and-bred, it pays to visit the most popular sights to see the city through the eyes of a newbie. The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions put together a list of the most visited sights in the UK. Nine of the top 10 are in London. Let’s see what they’re raving about.

British Museum

Founded in 1753, the British Museum is home to some world-famous objects, such as the Rosetta Stone, Parthenon sculptures and even Egyptian mummies. Their remarkable collection spans over two million years of human history. The museum’s total collection consists of some 8 million objects, but only  about 1% of them are on display at any one time. Last year, the museum was visited by 6.7 million people.

Entrance: free.

The National Gallery

Not far behind is the National Gallery – displaying over 2,000 Western European paintings from the middle ages to the 20th century, it attracted 6.4 million visits last year. And it’s really no wonder as Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Turner, Renoir and Van Gogh are all represented. Even if you’re not the artsy type, the works of these great artists can not be missed.

Entrance: free

Southbank Centre

Created in 1951 for the Festival of Britain, the Southbank arts centre takes up an impressive 21 acres of London on the banks of the Thames, making it the largest single-run arts centre in the world. You can enjoy music, dance, art, performance and spoken word, and visit a wide range of restaurants, cafes, shops and markets. It also makes for a great walk along the river Thames.

Entrance: free.

Tate Modern

A member of the Tate art galleries family, Tate Modern, as the name implies, exhibits modern and contemporary art from around the world. Works by household names such as Cézanne, Bonnard, Matisse, Picasso, Rothko, Dalí, Pollock, Warhol and Bourgeois can all be seen here. It’s currently showing a major exhibition by South African artist Marlene Dumas.

Entrance: free; charges apply for special exhibitions.

Natural History Museum

Having attracted almost 5.4 million visitors last year, the museum looks after more than 80 million different specimens spanning billions of years. Highlights include the popular Dinosaurs gallery and Mammals display with the life-size model blue whale. You can even look into laboratories where scientists are at work. The museum’s “virtual dive” of the Great Barrier Reef, which they say is similar to Google Street View but on the sea floor, will be available from 27th March.

Entrance: free; charges apply for special exhibitions.

Science Museum

Science Museum is the most popular science and technology museum in Europe, and rightfully so. It is home to over 15,000 objects, including the world-famous Apollo 10 command capsule and Stephenson’s Rocket. And it wouldn’t be a science museum without some awesome interactive galleries bringing to life the first scientific principles and contemporary science debates.

Entry: free; charges apply for the IMAX 3D Cinema, simulators and some special exhibitions.

V&A South Kensington

The Victoria & Albert museum in South Kensington represents 3,000 years of human years. The museum’s extensive collection of design, fashion, photography and architecture can occupy you for the whole day and their recently opened Alexander McQueen exhibition is a definite must-see. Other exhibitions planned for this year explore public life and take a closer look at luxury.

Entry: free; charges apply for special exhibitions and events.

Tower of London

Although the Tower of London has a grim reputation as a place of torture and death, it was also London’s first zoo. Marvel at the Crown Jewels or join an iconic Beefeater on a tour to hear their bloody tales. Between August and November last year, the Tower of London was filled with 888,246 ceramic poppies to coincide with the centenary of World War I. Created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, the poppies, were later sold to raise money for charity.

Entrance: £10 to £22.

Somerset House

Cue the hipsters! Home to London’s Fashion Week, Somerset House is currently exhibiting 80 photographs of beards. In the summer, you can enjoy the spectacle of their 55 fountains and in winter skate on the most popular ice rink in the city. They also house open-air concerts and family workshops.

Entrance: free.


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