London is famous for so many things that if I list them all, this post will become more like a novel. Being the center of the world for centuries, the United Kingdom’s capital city has a signature style that enchants millions of travelers every year.
Combining global icons with vintage buildings and trendy neighborhoods, multicultural London is a dream destination for tourists from all over the world. The city is so recognizable that there’s a big chunk of people who think it’s not even a city but a separate country.
From a legendary clock tower to the classical red double-deckers, prepare for an adventure like no other because we’re about to find out what is London famous for!
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
The clock tower most people know as Big Ben is a prime symbol of the city and definitely something London is known for all around the globe. Built in 1859, the impressive tower overlooks the capital from 96 m (316 ft) high, which equals 334 steps for anyone who wants to see the famous landmark from the inside.
A lesser-known fact about the tower is that Big Ben is not its actual name. Its officially called the Elizabeth Tower (named after Queen Elizabeth), while Big Ben is the giant bell inside.
The clock tower is situated right next to another prime London construction – the houses of parliament. Rebuilt between 1840 and 1876 (original houses were destroyed in 1834), the prime building of the UK’s government is an architectural gothic masterpiece. It was smartly built right next to the river so that an angry mob may never be able to surround it.
Buckingham Palace and its Guards
Buckingham Palace, aka the residence of the Royal Family, is one of the prime London attractions. It was constructed for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 but was later acquired by King George III to be used as a private residence for Queen Charlotte.
The vintage palace is an emblematic building for every Royal Family subject and a top thing to check out for every London visitor.
Since you probably won’t be able to see the Queen herself, the main show of Buckingham Palace would be the changing of the guard. You know, the red guys with big funny heads who never move? Yeah, these guys.
Around 11:00 AM, the regiments change their shift with a pompous ceremony that even includes a brass band. It’s pretty entertaining, but if you want to take a good photo, I recommend getting there at least an hour early.
Westminster Abbey is one of the uppermost churches there are and something London is famous for worldwide. Founded in 960, the gorgeous gothic temple is where British monarchs have been coronated, buried, and married for centuries.
The first coronation in the Westminster Abbey, the one of William the Conquerer, took place in 1066 and started a tradition that still lives to this day. The abbey was a venue for 16 royal weddings and a burial site of 3,300 prominent British citizens, including 16 monarchs.
See Also: What is Greece Famous For?
If you’ve asked me 20 years ago, what is London famous for, my answer would’ve been Tower Bridge. Actually, I didn’t really know the bridge’s name, but it was the only thing I’ve ever seen from London. A Tower Bridge postcard with some red double-deckers.
Completed in 1894, the picturesque bridge is featured in pretty much every major Holywood production set in the UK. If you ever find yourself in London, it’s good to know that you can actually go inside the bridge, where you can learn more about its history, and walk on its second level that features a glass floor. It’s a bit scary but a pretty fun thing to do.
If you’re into taking top photos and videos, I recommend a River Thames cruise that passes under the bridge. It gives a unique perspective and looks great on camera.
Since the times of the Roman Empire, the River Thames has played a vital role in British history and London’s development. The longest river in the country, Thames, is one of the key factors that helped London become a dominating trading capital of the world for… well, pretty much its entire history.
While the river is a beloved part of the city today, and we can’t imagine the London landscape without it, there were periods in the past, where no one would’ve gone near it voluntarily. During Victorian times, or more precisely 1858, all the junk, human waste, and butchered animals that were usually disposed of in the river, combined with the intense summer heat to produce a funny named event that must’ve been horrible to experience – The Great Stink of London.
If you ask a shopaholic what is London known for, the answer will come immediately – Oxford Street. The finest shopping street in England is THE place in Europe to shop till you drop.
From premium stores of every major brand there is, to tacky souvenir stalls, you better sew your wallet tight before you visit because this street is specialized in making you spend more and more without even realizing it.
If you’re not that much into shopping, you still should visit Oxford Street. The setting is quite beautiful, especially around Christmas, and makes up for a great photo.
See Also: What is Morocco Famous For?
Please mind the gap. If you’ve ever ridden the London subway, you’re probably sick of this line already. Hate it or not, the London underground, also known as The Tube, is the oldest subway on the planet and something the city of London is known for all around the world.
It was built in 1863 (wow!) and to this day is the easiest and most convenient way to move around town. It’s used by approximately 1,265 billion people (double wow!) per year and makes exploring this magnificent city as easy as Sunday morning.
The Tube is so popular that its symbol is often used on fashion accessories, t-shirts, and other London memorabilia.
Red Double-Deckers and Black Cabs
A signature trait of the city and something the landscape of London is known for everywhere is its public buses and taxis. The giant red double-deckers and the tiny black cabs are symbolic to the city as much as Big Ben is.
What most people don’t know is that the London buses weren’t always red. Around a hundred years ago, the double-deckers were all sorts of colors, depending on their routes. While this seems way more practical, the iconic red color makes them impossible to miss and creates a unique city atmosphere.
Speaking of the cabs, there’s no mandatory color, but the authentic ones, the real classical London cabs, are the tiny black ones. Everything in them just screams genuine London, and riding in one feels like a vintage London tour.
The original black cabs are a bit more expensive, but there’s a good reason for that. To drive one of those, you have to pass a test where you name every single street and alley in town. Every. Single. One!
Red buses, black cabs, and red phone booths – the holy trinity of London cultural icons. While pretty useful once, today, the phone booths are more of photo props than actual telephone booths. They are still relatively easy to find in the center of London and are constantly surrounded by tourists.
The phone boxes’ design goes back to 1925 when Sir Giles Gilbert Scott won a competition to replace the old red and white boxes, which have proved to be unpopular, with something more modern. The entirely red color was chosen to complement the buses and the post boxes. Good job, Sir Scott!
See Also: What is Portugal Famous For?
Standing over 300 m (1,000 ft) tall and shaped like a glass icicle, the Shard is the symbol of modern London. Being one of the greatest cities on Earth, London blends vintage buildings and notable landmarks with contemporary masterpieces and skyscrapers, and that’s what creates its one-of-a-kind atmosphere.
The Shard was built in 2012, has 72 habitable floors, and is the tallest building in the United Kingdom. If you are lucky enough (and you can afford it), you may spend a night or two in the Shangri-La hotel situated between the 34th and 52nd floors. If not, you can still enjoy a memorable dinner, drink or just check out the view in one of the Shard’s many restaurants, bars, and photo tours.
London is one of the greenest cities on the planet. In fact, the UK’s capital has so many parks and green spaces that, according to the UN’s definition, the city is actually a forest. I kid you not my friend; London has more than 8 million trees, covering roughly 21% of its land area.
While there are countless small parks in the city, the most popular parks are the big ones – Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, The Green Park, and St. James’ Park.
Hyde Park is the most prominent city park, situated conveniently in the heart of London. It offers various activities, including rowing boats on the Serpentine man-made lake or taking part in a centuries-old tradition to listen to the orators of the Speaker’s corner.
Here comes the most popular answer to what is London famous for – the rainy weather. Indeed the thing people associate with London the most is not Big Ben, the red double-deckers or the phone booths; it’s the rain. London is a synonym for bad weather, but is it really that bad?
Would I shock you if I tell you that rainy London is not that rainy and cities like Rome, Paris, and Barcelona all receive more rain per year? Well, I, for once, was pretty shocked.
While the rain is less, the rainy and gloomy days are certainly way more, so I wouldn’t say London’s reputation is undeserved. The UK’s capital experience more than a hundred rainy days per year, so packing an umbrella in your suitcase is pretty much mandatory.
Football (not the American one) is the most popular sport on the planet. The most popular league of the most popular sport is the English Premier League. And the city with the highest amount of teams inside the Premier League is…you guessed that right, London.
The city has long-lasting football traditions and is home to some of the biggest clubs on the planet, including Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur. It’s also home to plenty of other regular Premiership squads such as West Ham United, Crystal Palace, and Fulham.
The most famous stadium in the country, which is also one of the most legendary stadiums in the world, Wembley, is likewise situated in northwest London. It has hosted pretty much all of the biggest football games there are, including Olympic finals, European Championship finals, World Cup finals, and the local FA cup finals.
Being one of the greatest cities on Earth and the capital of an empire that used to rule the planet for centuries, it’s hardly a surprise London is known to be home to some of the most prominent museums out there.
And boy, oh boy, what museums they are! There’s no museum geek out there who doesn’t have at least one of the London heavyweights on their bucket list. And unlike the other top museum-towns, the London museums are such high quality you can’t pinpoint the best one. The top contenders are the V&A art museum, the Natural History Museum, and the British Museum.
V&A or The Victoria and Albert Museum was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It’s the world’s largest museum for decorative arts, design, and sculpture, with a permanent collection of 2,27 mln (wow!) objects.
The Natural History Museum is the pride of London and is featured in countless Holywood productions. It’s easily the most prominent natural history museum in the world, displaying around 80 million items (double wow!) separated into five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology, and zoology.
The British Museum is located in the Bloomsbury area of London and is probably my favorite one. Established in 1753, this all-kinds-of-stuff museum displays around eight mln objects (can’t miss giving another wow! here) that paints an interconnected portrait of the world’s cultures. The objects of biggest interest are the Rosetta stone, the Sophilos Vase, and the Bust of Ramesses the Great.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
The last answer to what is London famous for is a remarkable church – St. Paul’s Cathedral. Being one of London’s most beautiful and beloved landmarks, St. Paul is an integral part of the city landscape since 1710.
It’s one of Sir Christopher Wren’s most notable projects and part of London’s reconstruction plan after the devastating Great Fire of London of 1666.
While the current design strongly reminds Vatican City’s St. Peter’s basilica, the early plans for St. Paul were quite different.
One of Sir Wren’s first proposals was a design based on a…pineapple. It’s not a joke; the prominent architect saw pineapples as ‘a symbol of peace, prosperity, and hospitality‘ and believed it would be a great emblem for the city. Unfortunately, it was declined for being too extravagant.
That’s all from me, I hope now you know what London is famous for.
If you haven’t planned your trip there yet, find out how I plan my trips!
I have 28 bucket list ideas for England. See my impossible bucket list of 1700+ adventures!
Have you been to London?
Some of the above are affiliate links and I will earn a percentage of the sale if you purchase through them at no extra cost to you. This helps keep my site running – so thanks in advance for your support!