Last updated: January 17, 2024
If you’re putting together a bucket list of places to travel before you kick it, it’s easy to focus on things far-flung and remote, exotic and adventurous, while missing the worthy picks right under your own nose.
The British Isles have plenty of bucket list-worthy destinations spread across them but, in terms of cities, nothing really compares to London.
You don’t serve as a central trade nexus of the Western world without becoming a great city in the process, and here are just a few reasons why London still very much lives up to that title.
One of the most impressive skylines you will ever see
For the most part, London might not be quite as tall as the steel giants found in many US cities, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its own fantastic skyline. Taking a bus tour around the city, it’s easy to see sights like Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London all within a single trip.
An architectural marvel
Even beyond the most obvious of landmarks, London offers so much in the way of architectural excellence, pulling from all over the edges. In fact some of the best London hotels are just beautiful in terms of architecture.
Be it the Baroque flavours of Greenwich and its Royal Naval Collge, the Brutalist touches of the Barbican or more.
Just wandering around the streets and looking at the buildings is one of the best free things to do in London.
Of course, every flavour of British architecture can be found too, with Victorian, Regency, Georgian, Edwardian, and much more visible depending on where you are in the city. Closer to the retail centre, you’re going to see much more in the way of modern and recent styles, such as Art Deco, as well.
It’s worth seeing from the river, as well
The River Thames is such a vital feature of the history of London, that it can feel like a trip to the city is incomplete without really taking the opportunity to really explore it.
There is a wide selection of river cruises and boat tours on the Thames, which can include things like having a classic British afternoon tea while the city provides a lovely moving backdrop, historical cruises that go over just how important the river is to the history of the city, and more.
A bulwark of spiritual history
There’s something particularly inspirational and, yes, sacred-feeling, about religious buildings that have stood the test of time. Originally founded in the 10th century, Westminster Abbey definitely brings that feeling. While many parts of the Abbey are a lot more recent, indeed, it’s still an architectural marvel, and an important place, historically, artistically, and spiritually, to the city.
Unlike many religious sites, you have to book tickets, but that’s understandable, given just how popular and how important the spot actually is.
Art, culture, and history from the world over
If you want to see some of the most impressive collections and exhibitions, be it of historical artefacts, creative masterpieces, or educational and scientific displays, then the 170+ museums of London, many of them truly at the very top of the class, are well worth seeing.
Also worth noting is that many of London’s museums are entirely free to visit. From the Natural History Museum to the V&A, the Tate Modern to the Imperial War Museum, whatever aspect of history or culture you’re interested in, the city is certain to have something for you.
It’s one of the best places to catch a live show
When you think of famous play and live performance venues, how many can you think of? Broadway is, of course, famous for being the ritziest and glitziest place for live showbiz in the world, Vegas might come into the occasion, but the West End is where people feel that the craft can truly be shown at some of its very best.
Get yourself some West End tickets, but be sure to book before you arrive in the city. Depending on what you want to see, those seats can fill up fast, so simply showing up to the theatre isn’t always the best idea.
Nightlife like no other
If you’re looking for a place to let loose in the evening, then London has what you need. It might not be called the city that never sleeps, but it certainly stays up well past its bedtime, with plenty of excellent late-night bars and pubs.
This includes a whole host of thriving clubs, not to mention more chill and classy bars, with a vibrant LGBTQ+ scene, comedy clubs, whiskey and cigar bars, and much more. Whatever type of night you want to have out, London will definitely accommodate you.
So long as you can handle the fact that it definitely is one of the more expensive places to indulge.
Visit one the fashion capitals of the world
You can count on one hand how many cities in the world are regularly referred to as a “fashion” capital. London is right up there with New York, Paris, and Milan, with London Fashion Week drawing those with a discerning eye from across the world.
Aside from turning out world-famous supermodels for every generation, London is just as famous for edgy street and boutique fashion icons. Whatever your style, it’s very easy to end up walking with a few souvenirs once you visit the more fashionable districts of the city.
A shopping Mecca
Of course, fashion plays a big role in just how great London can be for shopping, as well. It’s not fashion that London can serve in, there are world-class department stores, like Harrods and Selfridges, vintage stores, flea markets, and much more.
Take a look at some of the best streets to go shopping in, be it Oxford Street, Carnaby, or King’s Road. It’s a good idea to have a game plan because it can be easy to spend all day, or even more, in the veritable maze of shops that awaits.
There are very few truly world-class cities, but London definitely deserves to be on that shortlist. The above reasons are just a snippet of why it’s still and always will be, worth the trip.