Perhaps you’re on a flying visit to London or maybe it’s the 20th time you’ve been and you just want to take some fantastic photos to share back home. Whatever the reason, this list of pretty places in London will give you a head start to your trip.
Of course there’s always more to a pretty place than just the looks so I’ll be giving you just a little taste of the history behind the place too and also instructions on how to get there. London is a large and sprawling place so don’t expect to see all of these sights within a half day walking tour, it will take some tube hopping and also a couple of days at least if you want to make the most of the place.
I’m starting with this one because I always feel like I’ve ‘been’ to London whenever I manage to either get a glimpse of the Tower Bridge or Big Ben. It’s compulsory for a successful trip!
The bridge itself can be a bit busy but there’s a little spot that manages to give you a great view of the Tower Bridge and The Shard behind too – all the while being a really nice and quiet spot to have a sandwich. There’s also a little Tesco grocery store nearby too if you need to buy yourself something and a number of cafes too.
Tower Bridge is often referred to as London Bridge which is a different one. It’s not actually that old, it was completed in 1894, and was built because of an increase in traffic in the area and the need for more infrastructure. The Tower Bridge is unique among the many bridges along the central London Thames as it is a bascule design. This means that its central platform can lift up to allow larger boats to pass through. You can visit inside the bridge’s towers and get an amazing view of the Thames, the Tower of London and more from the top.
Ok, to get to this spot you want to walk down the road just to the side of the main road that goes over the bridge – it’s called St Katherine’s Way and it will lead you down to the waters edge with some benches and cafes.
Nearest Tube Station – Tower Hill
Not far from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge is a gorgeously cute area called Leadenhall Market. As it’s name suggests it does have a history of having a market there but nowadays you’ll find upmarket boutique shops, restaurants and cafes. The architecture is stunning and intricate and I could have stood there for ages just staring at it – it’s simply stunning!
It was used in the first Harry Potter film as one of the areas Harry and Hagrid walked through on their way to the Leaky Cauldron and as such also has a number of Harry Potter related tours going on there.
There’s been a market on this spot of London for a LONG time – goes all the way back to Roman times and parts even survived the Great Fire of London in 1666. After the fire it was rebuilt and started to take the shape that you can see now – a covered market – although it was restructured a lot during the centuries to come and what you see now has its roots in old Victorian architecture and design.
One funny story is that of a goose that managed to escape being slaughtered, despite thousands of his peers suffering that fate. He was named Old Tom and lived to the grand old age of 38 after being looked after by the stallholders and regulars!
The nearest tube station is Monument or Bank and I suggest you add in a visit to the next on your list while you’re in the area since it’s right around the corner.
I saw so many people talking about the Sky Garden and knew that I really wanted to take a look and see what all the fuss was about. The best thing about it is that it’s free to visit but don’t make the mistake of not booking in advance – you need to (I think they have some on the day tickets but don’t rely on that). You book a time slot and you need to turn up a little before that.
Advance warning – even if you do book in advance the Sky Garden generally has a little bit of a queue to get in and it does take some time to go through the security there. If it’s raining be aware that you might have to queue outside for a little bit. The security is very strict and they put your bags through a scanner – there are some things you can’t bring so check their website for more details. My daughter had her GoPro with a mini tripod and was advised that she could bring it in but couldn’t use the tripod – it’s a popular spot for photos so be aware of this rule.
The Sky garden is literally an indoor garden area in the sky, 37 floors up to be exact. There’s a viewing balcony outside where you can get the most wonderful views of the city with the Tower of London to the left, The Shard to the front and all the way to Westminster and the London Eye to the right (it’s quite a bit further away but you can just see them!). At the back of the Sky Garden you can see some more skyscrapers including The Gherkin which is another of the more recognisable buildings.
You can have a bite to eat of a drink at the food establishments in the Sky Garden – we didn’t have time to do this on our visit though.
The nearest tube station is the same as the Leadenhall Market option above – try Monument or Bank
Kensington Palace and Gardens
There is so much Royal beauty in London that I had to include one of the palaces in this list. Kensington Palace is home to William and Kate at the moment, as well as some other Royals.
Kensington Palace is known mostly as the birthplace of Queen Victoria in 1819. The palace still houses some Royals to this date but some rooms are also open if you’d like to look around inside. Outside the formal gardens as well as the wide open park is a must for anyone seeking some quiet in the busy city.
If you don’t want to include a visit inside the palace then I can highly recommend just spending some time in the outside space. Just to the right of the Palace is the sunken garden which was apparently a favourite of Princess Diana when she lived there and also the spot where harry and Meghan had their engagement photos done. If you’re there in the summer months its a must for the amazing flowers blooming.
Also outside there’s a really nice view of the palace with the Queen Victoria statue in front – you can explore at your own pace in the gardens or even take in a garden tour when they are running which are free and run by the palace.
If the hustle and bustle of London is getting to you then a couple of hours here will calm you right down – it’s amazing to have this space in the centre of the city!
The nearest tube station is Queensway Station on the Central Line.
If you love royal history you might want to check out some of the best castles near London
St Paul’s Cathedral
Towering amongst more modern buildings and being a sanctuary of peace amongst the busy world, St Paul’s Cathedral is a must see place.
There are a number of spots to take wonderful pictures – some that are probably slightly overdone are the view with a nice traditional phone box in front and also the view from One New Change which is a shopping centre directly opposite – you can see the image above. It contrasts nicely with the old church and frames it spectacularly.
I encourage you to find your own spots around the Cathedral as there are lots of areas to sit, contemplate and enjoy the world going by. It can get a bit busy at lunchtime with many workers heading there to eat lunch away from the office but that can be all the better for some people watching!
St Paul’s Cathedral was built between 1675 and 1710 and the building you see now was a replacement for one that was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren who was an important man and architect in those times. It’s also an interesting WW2 location and it famously stood in defiance against the Nazi bombing in the Second World War and was a symbol of hope for the Londoners who were suffering nightly raids.
Inside is another world as well and if you like to enjoy church interiors you’ll not want to miss this one. I haven’t been for a number of years but I remember feeling overawed at it and especially visiting the whispering gallery (although this is closed until summer 2020 at least). Do take a look inside if you have chance!
The nearest tube station is St Paul’s on the Central Line.
For something a little different I encourage you to head ever so slightly out of Central London and to Camden Market. I just recently visited here, it had always been somewhere I’d wanted to go but had never made it. The area is surrounded by canals which provide a lovely backdrop to a day of shopping! As well as the canals you’re walking amongst old industrial buildings which provide a real atmospheric feel to the area.
Camden Market has been a draw for many people going back as far as the 70s. It was where you went to get all the latest fashion and hear music and even now it’s got a real unique vibe to it. Before the market the area was highly industrialised and was known for making gin which would be transported via the canals.
The markets are open every day and I was surprised at the enormity of the area that you can explore with small, independent shops. From music to fashion to homeware – once you think you’ve seen it all you then find another place! There are vintage and antique stalls, handmade items as well as some more normal tourist fare too. If you want to get a special gift for someone then this is the place to come.
It’s a great place to spend some time with wonderful street food too with nods to so many different world cuisines and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options too.
The nearest tube station is Camden Town on the Northern Line.
When it comes to pretty houses to check out in London you’d do wrong by heading to the area called Notting Hill. This is a big area so if you’ve not got lots of time to wander around then I suggest heading to Portobello Road and the market that is often on.
It’s a Mecca for antiques, market stalls and unique and quirky shops. If you like Camden you’d like Portobello Road Market too! Antiques seems to be a real speciality in this area.
The houses around here are what helps with the prettiness, with pastel coloured terraced houses leading you down through the streets it’s a real pleasure to look at them. Come in summer and they’ll be decorated with so many flowers outside too! Notting Hill carnival takes place in August so be aware of that if you’re visiting around then.
The nearest tube station is Notting Hill Gate on the Central, Circle and District Line.
This is another area that I personally hadn’t seen much of until recently when travelling around the city with my daughter. We loved wandering the streets, taking in the different smells and sights of this small village in the centre of London!
This area hasn’t always been an enclave of Chinese people in London – it only really began in the 70s. Before that there was a community in the Limehouse area of London but much of it was damaged in the bombing of WW2. Nowadays there’s many traditional Chinese and Asian stores to look around, restaurants and takeaways.
The area of Chinatown is intriguing and it draws you in – it’s different to everything else in London. With decorations lining the street there are plenty of photo opportunities should you wish! We love exploring the asian supermarkets and buying weird and wonderful food we have no idea about!
Chinatown is easy to get to in London as it’s right by the theatre district and Leicester Square – a tourist hotspot! The nearest tube station is either Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus.
Natural History Museum
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have visited this museum since my childhood and I am forever grateful for the amazing museums that London offers for free. If you’re stuck for anything to do and you’re on a budget then museums are your friend!
The building of the Natural History Museum is a stunning masterpiece of Victorian architecture. It was built specifically as a museum rather than being a building that just eventually housed a museum and you can tell that by the wonderful interior decorations and the massive hall that can house a Blue Whale or a Diplodocus skeleton. Whether inside or outside the museum is an enchanting place to look at.
As stated before, entrance to the museum is free so there’s no reason to just hang around outside looking for pretty spots to take pictures. You’ll find plenty of those too, but do venture inside if you can. In the winter there’s also an ice rink outside the museum and with Christmas lights its a gorgeous place to visit.
The nearest tube station is South Kensington on the Circle, District and Piccadilly lines.
I’ve written about my love of Greenwich a number of times and I do really think that if you’re in London for more than a couple of days then a visit to the borough is a must. It’s not far from Central London and can be reached easily by the DLR or even by the River Boat so don’t be put off by how to get there.
Greenwich is an old Royal Borough and was even where Henry VIII was born, although the palace has been long since replaced. The park is an old hunting area and it’s a great place to escape the noise of the city. What Greenwich is mostly famous for is its maritime history and its contribution to measuringtime and of course how we even measure time now. You can see the Greenwich Meridian Line at the Royal Observatory which is where time and distance was measured from.
If you’re looking for pretty you have plenty of options in Greenwich – I really love wandering up towards the Royal Observatory in order to get an amazing view of the Canary Wharf skyline. I also love the old Royal Naval College and the amazing buildings there – the architecture is quite stunning. Don’t miss the Cutty Sark right by the river too, an old tea clipper ship – a bit odd to see the boat on land but it’s a great sight to see.
To get to Greenwich the nearest stop is Cutty Sark for Greenwich Maritime which is on the DLR line (Docklands Light Railway).
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