London has something for everyone. History buffs looking to brush up on the British narrative will delight in the Tower of London. Admirers of art or theater will praise the National Gallery and the West End Theatre District, while fans of the monarchy can't skip Buckingham Palace. Although London lives up to its reputation as one of the most expensive cities to visit, it does boast an array of attractions that are free to visit, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, among others. If you're overwhelmed by the amount of things to do, consider signing up for one of the city's top tours to enjoy the guidance of a local.
1 - British Museum
The British Museum is both an architectural beauty and a trove of some of the world's most noted antiquities. In fact, many travelers it's the best museum in all of London. What's more, it's free to visit. From the Rosetta Stone to the Elgin Marbles to the Lindow Man, the British Museum is a history buff's dream containing artifacts in the millions.
2 - Tower of London
Although its exterior might be grim and even unimpressive (especially when compared to stately Buckingham Palace), the Tower of London's interior is always bustling with activity. The tower, which actually comprises multiple towers – 12 of which can be explored by the public – offers something for everyone. If you're enchanted with the history of the monarch, don't miss the famous crown jewels exhibition.
3 - Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace, the London home of Queen Elizabeth II, is open for tour (except for the queen's private quarters, of course) in the summers and select dates during the winter and spring. On the tour, you'll have access to the 19 State Rooms where the queen and members of the royal family host guests for state, ceremonial and official affairs. Opulently accented with chandeliers, candelabra, paintings by Rembrandt and Rubens, and exquisite English and French furniture, these rooms display some of the most magnificent pieces from the Royal Collection.
4 - Westminster Abbey
This medieval church, graced by many royal weddings and coronations, offers a magnificent peek at London's far-reaching history. Westminster Abbey is pretty much always busy – and the staff keeps you moving at a pretty swift pace – so do a little research ahead of time to avoid missing your personal must-sees.
5 - Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens
Once the recreational stomping grounds for King Henry VIII, this long swath of green stretching from Kensington Palace in the west to Oxford Street in the east is now open to the public and a must-visit for travelers looking for a relaxing moment away from the city's hustle and bustle. Among Hyde Park's meandering foot and bike paths and flourishing flora and fauna, you'll find a few standout attractions that are worth exploring.
6 - National Gallery
Sitting in Trafalgar Square, London's National Gallery features a labyrinth interior so large that it requires a color-coded map to navigate. The museum features paintings in the Western European tradition from the 13th to 19th centuries, including Italian Renaissance masterpieces and French Impressionist works. Among its 2,300 in-house pieces, visitors will find famed paintings, such as Botticelli's "Venus and Mars" and Van Gogh's "Sunflowers."
7 - Tower Bridge
Along with Parliament and Big Ben, Tower Bridge is London's next must-see architectural marvel, not to mention the most famous bridge that crosses the Thames. Construction on the bridge started in 1886, which means it's practically modern by London standards, but Tower Bridge stands out for its stunning detail and moveable roadways that lift up when large ships need to pass through. The views from the bridge are an added bonus. From the elevated sidewalks visitors get a prime view of the Tower of London, St. Paul's Cathedral's iconic dome and one of the newest additions to London's skyline, The Shard.
8 - Tate Modern
Located on the South Bank along the Thames, the Tate Modern is part of a group of four museums (all named Tate) that house the 70,000 artworks that comprise the national collection of British art. As its name suggest, this Tate holds the more contemporary-style pieces than its three other counterparts, making it more of a hit or miss among travelers. Dalí and Picasso, among many British artists, are represented inside this repurposed power plant – but you'll find the works are scattered. Art is grouped by theme rather than by artist.
9 - Churchill War Rooms
The Churchill War Rooms are the underground bunker that Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his war cabinet used to shelter from bomb raids and plot their steps during World War II. The maze-like corridors tell the story of this volatile time period, centering on the larger-than-life leader that Churchill was.
10 - Victoria and Albert Museum
The palatial Victoria & Albert Museum, named in honor of the 19th-century royal couple, is known more commonly in its shortened form – the V&A. Located in South Kensington, this free museum is a compendium of applied art across a number of genres, disciplines and time periods. The collections are arranged by categories, such as architecture, textiles, furniture, drawings, jewelry, and so on, making it slightly easier to navigate this mammoth museum. Among the permanent collections, the V&A also offers diverse temporary exhibitions and free guided tours, along with free weekly public lectures.
11 - Natural History Museum
Located in Kensington, this museum brims with more than 70 million different specimens and exhibits, from dinosaur bones to a simulated earthquake. The Natural History Museum is also a favorite among families, so you'll find it crawling with kids. To help you better navigate the museum's various exhibits, consider downloading the free Natural History Museum App for your smartphone. Along with interactive maps of the museum's interior, it also features audio guides, as well as behind-the-scenes info on its vast collections.
12 - Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament, composed of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, fill the massive Palace of Westminster. Guided and self-guided tours (which come highly recommended by recent travelers) take visitors through multiple areas of the building, including Westminster Hall (the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate), the House of Commons Chamber and the Royal Gallery, to name a few. If you're not interested in perusing the halls that make up the U.K.'s governing body, many travelers say that simply admiring the iconic structure's impressive exterior is enough, and an absolute must-do for anyone visiting London.
13 - St. Paul's Cathedral
Besides Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral is arguably the second must-see church in London. With its imposing dome, one of the largest in the world, St. Paul's forms a predominant spot along London's skyline. It's also a survivor: Although an older incarnation burnt during the Great Fire of London, Sir Christopher Wren's dome (completed in 1711) survived numerous World War II bombings.
14 - The London Eye
The London Eye (the giant Ferris wheel found in many London panoramas) located on the River Thames is meant to deliver great views – not a thrilling ride. It circles around slowly, offering an unbeatable bird's-eye perspective of London's South Bank. However, those with a fear of heights should beware: When you're more than 400 feet high, the 360-degree views can be a bit disconcerting.
15 - Camden
Camden is a well-known cultural neighborhood in north London. Known for its alternative culture, the crowds here are filled with goths, punks, rockabillies and tourists alike. Camden has a vibrant body mod community and you will find a number of piercing and tattoo shops in this part of town.
Camden Market is eclectic and diverse, featuring street food from international cuisines, and lots of stalls selling trinkets and unique artwork to take home. Rummage through vintage clothing racks, find a used book to take on your travels, or visit one of the city’s best vegan bakeries at Cookies And Scream.After your shopping spree, stroll down to Camden Lock to relax by Regent’s Canal or walk along the water all the way to King’s Cross.