London is a city full of history and character – so unmistakable is the atmosphere here that you are incapable of thinking you could possibly be anywhere else. This is partly thanks to the capital’s many landmarks, the majority of which are instantly identifiable at any angle. From the extraordinarily picturesque Tower Bridge that reaches both crossways to cover the Thames and skywards with its iconic towers, to the always-bustling Piccadilly Circus with its gigantic television screens, you’re never likely to be lost if you know London’s landmarks.
One of the best aspects of staying in Paddington in West London is that you are guaranteed you’re not far from any of the must-visit icons below. A 20-minute ride on the Underground – affectionately referred to as the Tube thanks to the shape of its tunnels – is enough to plant you straight into the middle of the capital.
“Did you get your Tower Bridge photo?” That’s what everyone will be asking you when you return home from your trip to London. It’s a mandatory part of the experience to seek out this Thames-spanning icon and get a photo with it in the background. While it’s perfectly acceptable to do it during the day, it’s all the wiser to wait until night has fallen and the bridge is lit up like a Christmas tree against the dark backdrop of the London skyline, making for a particularly picturesque occasion.
You can get to Tower Bridge from London Paddington by hopping on the Jubilee Line and heading to London Bridge. From there, you can walk along the banks of the Thames in an easterly direction until you find the perfect angle. Whether it’s a group selfie or an expertly prepared tripod shot, you can’t leave London without a photo of Tower Bridge.
There’s nothing like the heart of London, and while the capital has a number of major spots where you can guarantee something will be happening, Piccadilly Circus is among the most famous. Its busy roads – main arteries to the city – are always chock full of black cabs and crimson buses, making it the perfect place to get a picture of the London cityscape. The central fountain with its Eros statue is one of the most iconic meeting places in the metropolis and, day and night, you’ll find people sat on the steps leading up to it. Then there are the huge screens that dominate the square – one of the most famous sights in the world. Off one end, Regent’s Street and world-class shopping. Off another, London’s vibrant West End and dozens of theatres. You can’t really go wrong.
Piccadilly Circus is best reached from Paddington by travelling along the Bakerloo Line, getting off at Piccadilly Circus, which is right next to the Eros statue.
Another buzzy centralised spot in London, Trafalgar Square is an absolute heaven for bohemians, street artists, museum goers and pigeons. Seated atop his column, Admiral Lord Nelson surveys London’s West End, including the nearby National Gallery which is free and well worth a look around if you’re into your paintings. Particularly beautiful are the four bronze lions that guard the column – these are more often than not being ridden by tourists who have pulled themselves onto their backs. Regardless, they’re a magnificent spectacle.
It’s really worth visiting Trafalgar Square when there is some kind of event going on. The public space hosts many a festival every year – it’s worth checking the calendar for details – and many are reflective of London’s spectacularly multicultural lifestyle. One weekend, the Square will be occupied by sushi stalls and taiko drummers. The next, it will resemble a Malaysian food market. Gay Pride, Japan Matsuri and Chinese New Year are just a handful of the great occasions that see the square come alight with laughter and joy each year.
It’s easy to get to Trafalgar Square from Paddington – the Underground operates services to Charing Cross via the Bakerloo Line. From there, it is just a minute walk to the square itself.
The O2 Arena
North Greenwich is home to the O2 Arena, once known as the Millennium Dome thanks to its gigantic round structure. Inside, it is considered one of the best entertainment venues in London, encompassing a cinema, restaurants, VIP experiences and an enormous stadium arena. During the kinder months, it’s even possible to embark on the Up at The O2 experience, which sees you traipsing over the very top of this iconic structure to get a great view of London’s financial district. From there, you’ll be able to make out dozens of the capital’s landmarks, that your guide will happily tell you about during the course of the trip.
The O2 is situated in north Greenwich and and can be accessed via the Jubilee Line. However, for a real experience, get off the Tube at Westminster and hop on one of the clippers for a stylish trip down one of the world’s most famous rivers.
The London Eye
Unlike the Millennium Dome, the Millennium Wheel was built on schedule and according to budget, and holds a special place in the hearts of Londoners if only for this reason. Everytime they look at it, they think “Yes! It CAN be done!” Embarking on a trip in one of its space-age capsules is a worthwhile experience and you’ll be able to witness every inch of this incredible city from top to bottom. Even on a misty day, it’s a wonderful thing to do. Those who are in London to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday are also advised to check the Eye’s worthwhile list of unique experiences, such as a VIP dinner over the roofs of te city. Fantastic stuff.
You can reach The London Eye by heading to Waterloo on the Bakerloo Line, or Charing Cross. Both allow you to walk to the South Bank, where you will be able to spot the London Eye instantaneously.
The London Dungeon
The Eye’s rather macabre companion on the South Bank is the ever entertaining London Dungeon, which offers visitors an interactive trip through the capital’s long and incredible history. With the help of dressed up characters from times of old, you’ll have the opportunity to investigate the violent killings linked to Jack the Ripper, narrowly escape the razor of demon barber Sweeney Todd and take the dreaded journey from Traitor’s Gate to the gallows. It’s thrilling stuff and, while it gets the adrenaline pumping, you never feel unsafe or purely terrified. The hour-long experience is situated right next to the London Eye and is unmissable thanks to the bloodstained actors that can usually be seen standing outside.
A prime shopping destination? Or a place where you can get a good London pale ale during the evening? A spot to observe fine entertainment? Or an excellent eating district? Covent Garden is one of those destinations that has a bit of an identity crisis. This is good news though since anyone can enjoy themselves here. Explore the nooks and crannies of the old market building where curious shops and restaurants boast everything from paella to moomin merchandise. Sit up at the plaza where you’ll find all manner of street entertainers doing extraordinary tricks. Many a young British comic has started his journey in Covent Garden, among them Eddie Izzard.
Covent Garden Underground Station is on the Piccadilly Line but its lift-only access means its narrow corridors are packed with commuters at peak times. For this reason Transport for London asks travellers to get off at Green Park or Leicester Square, both of which are five minutes from Covent Garden.
St Paul’s Cathedral
The extraordinary St Paul’s Cathedral overlooks the Thames and can be seen across London. Architect Sir Christopher Wren certainly had a stroke of genius when he drew up the plans one day. Famed for its enormous domed roof which can be observed from several points in London, the cathedral miraculously survived the Blitz bombing and has a fascinating history. Venture inside to witness its vaulted ceilings and gorgeous whispering gallery – the doors open for sightseeing from 8:30am and remain open until 4pm, with only a brief interruption at 12:30pm for Eucharist. As you step through the incredible corridors, know that you are following in the footsteps of royalty. You can even climb to the top of the Stone and Golden galleries for unrivalled views over London. An absolute treat.
St Paul’s Cathedral is best accessed from West London via the Circle Line. The building has its very own stop, but it’s also worth hopping off at Bank and enjoying the walk around London’s most famous financial institution on your way to the place of worship itself.
Few royal families in the world maintain a global audience as large as the British monarchy. Be it the New York Times speculating on baby names or Tokyo Today comparing photos of Diana and Kate, they’re always courting controversy or inspiring debate. You can get in on the action best by coming along to Buckingham Palace, where you can learn about the history of the Royal Family and uncover some of the secrets behind the most famous monarchy in the world. However, it’s worth being aware that attractions at Buckingham Palace open at different times and on different days, depending on whether you’re there in the summer or the winter. It’s worth checking before you travel.
Buckingham Palace is easily reached from Paddington by hopping on the Jubilee Line and heading to Green Park. Signposts will then point you to the world-famous attraction.