Towards the end of the summer, we published an article about going to Paris and keeping expectations high. It's an interesting notion, because most of us would never dream of being let down by such a city. But that's just the point. There is a kind of phenomenon among travelers where people can sometimes feel disappointed if a city does not live up to expectations. However, there are enough things to see and do in Paris to avoid that kind of feeling altogether, and I understand that London is the same.
Another of the most popular travel destinations in the world, London is a place where I personally have never had the privilege of spending much time. I've been there (as many people who visit Europe probably have), but to really experience it, it's still a must-do list item. Talking to friends who have spent more time there and doing my own research, I've put together a pretty vibrant list of things I don't want to miss, and hopefully they'll give you a reason to rightly keep your expectations in London. high too.
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The London Eye - This would have been high on my list of places to avoid, on my own. Essentially a massive Ferris wheel that dominates the London skyline, it's certainly striking - but actually riding in it feels a bit 'touristy'. As it happens, you can find many very positive reviews of the experience. The ride is slow and comfortable, and the views are probably unrivaled in London (if not most of Europe). In the end, a comprehensive description of the value of the London Eye convinced me that this should be on every London visitor's bucket list. It costs a bit of money, but the view just seems not to be missed.
London Eye London Big Ben England United Kingdom
- Located downstream from the London Eye, Tower Bridge is one of those wonderful city attractions that doubles as a sight and an activity - at least in the sense that it's perfectly walkable . If you're the type who likes to get out and experience a city intimately, I imagine walking over this beautiful bridge that crosses one of the most famous rivers in the world (the Thames) is an intoxicating experience.
A Premier League stadium
- If you follow football, you're probably aware of London's relative supremacy in the English Premier League. Home to a handful of teams, it is matched only by Manchester for footballing activities. This season alone, local club Chelsea were among the favorites for the league title, and long-distance rivals Arsenal were just outside the top four. These two clubs in particular have rich histories and tend to be competitive every season. A trip to one of their stadiums - Stamford Bridge for Chelsea and Emirates Stadium for Arsenal - would certainly seem like part of the quintessential London experience.
- When exploring London's history, it's tempting to choose the British Museum. Indeed, some believe that it is the largest museum in the world and that it is also worth a visit. But for a unique London experience, Westminster Abbey could almost be more unique. A stunning Gothic cathedral steeped in history, it is also a burial place for an extraordinary array of important figures. The chance to wander around such a solemn place where memorials exist for everyone from Geoffrey Chaucer to Laurence Olivier is something hard to pass up.
- A list of London sights could really go on, but it's wrong not to mention Buckingham Palace. The London home of Queen Elizabeth II, it's a beautiful building, arguably friendlier than some other royal houses in Europe. And, if you go at the right time, you can witness the legendary 'Changing of the Guard' ceremony featuring the palace guards who have become so firmly attached to London's image around the world.
London is home to historic landmarks, unrivaled shopping districts, famous pubs, beautiful parks and much more. It is for these reasons, even beyond its historical significance, that it remains such a popular destination for tourists. But the things I listed above are the ones that keep me excited for the day when I can spend real time exploring the city.