Unearth the cultural offerings of London


The city of London has numerous attractions and this can make it hard to discover the true must-see cultural destinations that are on offer.

Here is our guide to the places that anyone looking to discover more about British culture should make sure they visit during their stay in the capital.

The British Museum

The British Museum is beyond doubt one of the world’s great collection of artefacts – in fact it is home to more than eight million of them!

Of course, you will not be able to see everything all in one visit, so it is best to try to put together a list of things that should not be missed.

On the museum’s ground floor can be found a special section dedicated to everything related to ancient Egypt. One of the highlights is the famous Rosetta Stone, which was used by scientists to decode Egyptian hieroglyphics.

It is also hard to miss the very large head and torso of Pharoah Rameses II that stands above anyone visiting the main Egyptian room. If you are still keen to discover more about the period, then head to the British Museum’s extensive collection on mummification.

Another must see in the museum is the collection of items that look at Japanese culture. The Mitsubishi gallery is an area dedicated to Japanese art as well as a spectacular set of Samurai armour.

Of course a visit to the British Museum would not be complete without seeing the infamous Elgin Marbles.

At the heart of an ongoing dispute between Britain and Greece, these are fascinating friezes that were originally on display at the Acropolis in Athens.

The marble friezes depict a fight between the Lapiths and the Centaurs and are simply stunning, despite their poor condition.

Entry to the museum is free and there are lots of tours on offer each day. Although there is no parking close by, it is located close to a number of public transport links and is only a short distance from lots of other London attractions.

The National Gallery

If you fancy immersing yourself in art, then the National Gallery is a must. Located in Trafalgar Square in the City of Westminster, the gallery has an extensive collection of over 2,300 paintings dating from the mid-13th century to 1900. It is among the most-visited art museums in the world, with some five million passing through the gallery each year, and it is home to some of the most influential works of art in history.

The National Gallery is open every day from 10am to 6pm and then 10am to 9pm on Fridays.  It is also worth making some time to visit the gallery’s shops, which sells a whole host of items that are ideal gifts or souvenirs.

There are three shops to be found in the gallery – near the Portico entrance, the Getty entrance and in the Sainsbury Wing.

The nearest London Underground stations are Charing Cross and Leicester Square – both just three minutes away from the gallery, while Embankment is around five minutes’ walk. There are also a number of buses that pass by the gallery.

Royal Opera House

For fans of opera then a visit to London’s Royal Opera House is a must. Located in Convent Garden, it is one of the UK’s leading opera houses and performing arts venues.

It is home to not only the Royal Opera but also the Royal Ballet and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. The building is actually the third on the site as the previous houses were destroyed in fires in 1808 and 1856.

The main auditorium seats 2,256 people – making it one of the largest venues in the capital – and the Grade 1 listed building provides a great backdrop for the top quality performances.

If you don’t have time to take in a performance, you can still have a look around the building as they are daily tours that offer a glimpse into the behind the scenes world. There is also the chance to lunch at the Amphitheatre Restaurant or visit the on-site gift shop that sells a wide range of opera-related goodies.

Those travelling by tube to the Royal Opera House should disembark at Covent Garden/Holborn stations as they are just a short walk from the venue.

Unfortunately, there is no specific parking at the Royal Opera House, however, the nearest NCP car parks are around five minutes’ walk away at Drury Lane and Shelton Street.

Tower Bridge

Anyone visiting London for the first time should ensure they get a glimpse of the world-famous Tower Bridge. This amazing structure offers stunning views of the City of Westminster and the River Thames.

Completed in 1894, the bridge is an iconic symbol of the capital and has undergone extensive restoration over the years.

One of the latest additions is the creation of a glass walkway 42 metres above the times – if you time your visit right you can also see the bridge opening underneath your feet.

There is a special Tower Bridge Experience that provides a great chance to learn more about the structure.

One of the other benefits of Tower Bridge is that it is well-placed in the heart of London and surrounded by lots of other great attractions, such as the Coca-Cola London Eye.

Opened in March 2000, the giant Ferris wheel is located on the South Bank of the River Thames and offers amazing views of the surrounding area.  It is the largest cantilevered observation wheel in the world at 135 ft and on a clear day it is possible to see up to 40 km.

It takes 30 minutes to do a full rotation – giving passengers plenty of time to take some fab snaps.

Also close to Tower Bridge is the Design Museum, which explores the culture and history of some of the most iconic designs in the world of fashion, graphics and manufacturing.

The museum is open every day from 10am to 5.45pm and is a must for anyone fascinated by design.

Royal Botanic Gardens

Kew Gardens is a great place for anyone enjoying London hotel deals to visit and it is easily accessible from the centre of the capital. Established in 1759, the gardens are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offer the chance to see some of the world’s finest plants and exotic specimens.

One of the highlights is the treetop walkway opened in 2008. At 18 metres high and 200 metres in length, the walkway allows visitors to pass through a tree canopy. Be warned though, the walkway is made from perforated metal and is designed to flex and sway in the wind!

Kew Gardens Station on the District Line is the closest London Underground station to Kew – on exiting the station it is around 400 metres to the main entrance.

For those driving, then Kew Gardens car park can be found near Brentford Gate. There are around 300 spaces.

There is free parking available on Kew Road (A307) after 10am every day, but drivers are advised to double-check any parking restrictions in place, especially in residential areas.