London is one of those must-see cities that is usually on the top of every traveler’s bucket list, consistently ranking it as a top tourist destination year after year. And it’s no wonder. London is an energetic world-class city home to an eclectic mix of medieval history, royalty, cutting-edge fashion, theater, and iconic landmarks.
With all that London has to offer, many visitors often find themselves without enough time to see and do it all, let alone know where to start their adventure. If your stay in the city is limited the best place to start your London vacation is with a walk through the Westminster area. A tour through this compact area is the perfect way to check off many of London’s most famous landmarks all in one day.
London Walking Tour – 17 Must-See Sights in Historic Westminster
1| Trafalgar Square
This will be the starting point for your walking tour. If your hotel is not within walking distance, numerous tube and bus routes intersect at Trafalgar Square. This vibrant busy square, filled with street performers and tourists from all over the world, is home to Nelson’s Column and the famous Lion Statues. After exploring this area and taking a few selfies, your next stop is the National Gallery, which you will find just steps away.
2| The National Gallery
The National Gallery, one of London’s popular attractions, is a world-class art museum home to over 2,300 masterpieces. Here you will view works by artists such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt and more. The best part of the museum is the admission — its free.
3| The National Portrait Gallery
Next up is the National Portrait Gallery, located just behind the National Gallery. Admission to this museum is also free, providing you with the opportunity to view over 10,000 portraits of famous British citizens, including the Beatles, Florence Nightingale, and British Monarchs.
4| St. Martin-in-the-Fields
This historic church is located on the northeast corner of Trafalgar Square and is worth a peek. What makes St. Martin-in-the-Fields unique is visitors have the opportunity to experience dining in a crypt. It may sound creepy, but the architecture is stunning and it is a popular place for a quick meal or cup of tea. Admission is free and if you visit on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays you will have the added enjoyment of a free lunchtime concert.
After visiting the sights around Trafalgar Square, walk towards the Admiralty Arch and walk The Mall leading you towards Buckingham Palace.
5| The Admiralty Arch
This impressive building with massive arches sits at the entrance of The Mall, a lush tree-lined street that borders St. James Park and ends at Buckingham Palace. As you walk thru the Admiralty Arch and begin your walk down The Mall, be sure to stop at the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Memorial.
6| King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Memorial
Halfway between the Admiralty Arch and Buckingham Palace, you will find the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Memorial. This bronze statue pays tribute to both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
7| Queen Victoria Memorial
As you make your way to the end of The Mall, the Queen Victoria Memorial, a magnificent towering gold topped marble statue, welcomes you to the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The statue sits in the center of the gorgeous semi-circular formal flower beds. From here, the view of Buckingham Palace is simply breath-taking.
8| Buckingham Palace
No trip to London is complete without seeing Buckingham Palace in person. If you plan to watch the changing of the guards, do come early to secure a good spot to view it. The entire procession begins at 10:45 am and ends at 11:30 and is free to watch. The portion that takes place in front of the palace occurs at 11:00 am. If you are interested in a tour of Buckingham Palace do note that it is open to the public during select times of the year with paid admission. Click here for more information.
Now it’s time to head off to visit the Guards Museum. On the way, feel free to take a detour through St. James Park, one of the many serene Royal Parks of London. This peaceful oasis is a perfect place to recharge before continuing your walk.
9| Guards Museum
As you leave Buckingham Palace, continue along the perimeter of St. James Park and follow Birdcage Walk until you reach the Guards Museum. This fascinating military museum contains artifacts from the long history of the five regiments of the Foot Guards. Admission is 8 GBP.
10| Churchill War Rooms
Taking a tour of this unique museum will transport you back in time to the days of the London blitz. Every room is left in the exact condition as it was during the time the bunkers served as Churchill’s headquarters during World War II. Yes, the lines can sometimes be long, but there is a reason why — this place is a hidden (no pun intended) gem. Admission is 21 GBP.
11| Westminster Abbey
After exiting the Churchill War Rooms, your next destination is Westminster Abbey. This stunning Gothic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is regarded as one of the finest medieval architectural buildings in the world. With over a thousand years of history, the Abbey has been the site of royal weddings, coronations, and funerals. Many of Britain’s most famous and influential citizens are buried here. No cameras or video is allowed inside. Admission is 20 GPB.
12| The Houses of Parliment
Just steps away from Westminster Abbey is the iconic building of the Houses of Parliment. Tours are available and visitors can watch debates and committees, but many visitors come for the spectacular views of the building. Admission varies depending upon audio or guided tours.
13| Big Ben
Big Ben, which is the nickname for the bell itself, is actually called the Elizabeth Tower. The clock tower is a neo-gothic style and is the largest four-faced striking clock in the world. It is attached to the Houses of Parliment and is considered a London icon. If you want the best views of both Big Ben and the Houses of Parliment, then continue with the walking tour across the Westminster Bridge to London’s Southbank. Here you will have the opportunity to take beautiful landscape photos of the building.
14| The London Eye
Once you cross the Westminster Bridge, you will be in London’s Southbank entertainment and commercial district. Although this area is not part of Westminster, the proximity of the location makes it an easy place to add to a Westminster tour. The central attraction of Southbank is the London Eye, however, there is much more to discover if you have the time and energy. Besides the “Eye” you will also find the Sea Life London Aquarium, the London Dungeon, and the Jubilee Gardens. If you want to take the 45-minute spin on the London Eye, the admission starts at 22.95 GBP.
When you have finished exploring the Southbank area, travel east to the Golden Jubilee Bridge and walk across it to Victoria Embankment. The view of Big Ben, The House of Parliment, and the London Eye are picture postcard perfect.
15| Scotland Yard
As you walk down Victoria Embankment, you will pass Scotland Yard. Formally known as the New Scotland Yard, it is the headquarters of London’s MP. Located across the Thames from the London Eye, this building has been featured in countless motion pictures.
16| 10 Downing Street
The walk continues past 10 Downing Street. For over 275 years this address has been one of the most important political buildings in the world. It is the headquarters of the Government of the United Kingdom and official residence of the British Prime Minister. From here you will head to the last stop on the walk.
17| Horse Guards
If you make it here by 4 pm, you will be able to witness the Four O’Clock Parade or Dismounting Ceremony that takes place in the courtyard. The Horse Guards is located in a historic building that borders Whitehall and the Horse Guards Parade. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the Household Cavalry Museum for a look behind the scenes at what goes into the various ceremonies. Admission is 8 GBP.
After visiting the Horse Guards, you can make your way back to Trafalgar Square to complete the tour.
If you plan to visit the museums mentioned, do check out the London Pass. This pass is a convenient and money saving tool if you plan to visit several paid admission attractions.
Spots to eat were not included in the walking tour, as London is filled with so many great places to have lunch and/or a quick snack along the route.
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