Visiting London and don’t know where to start with your planning? It’s a common issue, especially if this is a once in a lifetime trip and you don’t want to miss a thing! London is huge and has so much to offer but a lot of the popular tourist attractions come with wait list. While there are plenty of things in London you can do on the fly, here’s a handy guide to some of the things you might want to book before you travel:
Houses of Parliament Tour
The Houses of Parliament and it’s currently silent neighbour Big Ben are some of the most recognisable buildings in the world. Until recently you could do a tour of the Victoria Tower itself (the name of the tower which holds the bell Big Ben) and watch the bells go off from inside the bell tower, until recently when the bell was silenced for repair. Thankfully the Houses of Parliament tours are still underway. You can do an audio or guided tour of these historic buildings on most Saturdays and some weekdays (parliament depending throughout the year, check the website for more details.)
When to Book: Two Weeks out (earlier in the Summer months)
Cost: £25.50 in advance or £28 on the day for the guided tour, or £18.50 in advance and £20.50 on the day for the audio tour.
The View from The Shard
This is London’s answer to NYC’s Rockefeller centre, a ticket includes admission to London’s highest viewing gallery with a level both inside and out, interactive telescopes that give you information about the city, access to the champagne bar and the most unique of all, a free return if the clouds block your view! Essential for London let’s face it! There’s plenty of optional extras like guided tours, Day & Night tickets, a VR rollercoaster experience, cocktails and more if you want to add to the experience.
When to book: The day before to skip the queues and save money
Cost: £25.95 in advance or £30.95 on the day, you can get tickets for just £18.85 if you book in advance for a Monday or Tuesday visitWhere to book: https://www.theviewfromtheshard.com/
Sky Garden is one of the best venues in London to get that coveted London skyline shot, unlike places like The Shard it’s free, and unlike other places like Primrose Hill you aren’t subject to the elements. Sky Garden is free to visit but you need to pre-book a time slot to enter, which can be booked from 3 weeks out. If you are wanting an evening, weekend or the converted sunset time frame, booking 3 weeks beforehand is essential! It’s a little more flexible if you want to go on the off midweek in the day time.
When to book: Three weeks out
Ceremony of the Keys at Tower of London
The Ceremony of the Keys has been performed at The Tower of London for over 700 years, you don’t think an ancient British institution like this could just lock up like a normal building did you? Us Brits love a bit of pomp and ceremony and this is no exception! It’s short, lasting exactly from 9.30-10.05PM and you are escorted in and out. The event is free but it’s also very popular, expect to have to book at least a year in advance. I’ve got mine booked for next summer!
When to book: One year out minimum
Originally only meant to be around for one year to celebrate the millennium, the London Eye has now become one of the most famous structures on the London skyline and created countless copies around the world. The pods show you an amazing view of London on your gentle hour trip around the wheel!
When to Book: A week before is recommended to avoid queues and get your desired time slot. There is a standby queue but these can be lengthy, especially in the summer or on weekends.
Cost: From £19.50 when bought at least 24 hours in advance or from £26 if paying on the day. Weekends are more expensive and you can add queue jumps and other extras.
I revisited this attraction earlier this year and to be honest if you are going to skip any attraction on this list I’d make it this one, but if it’s what you are after you are best to pre book to skip the lengthy queues.
When to book: 24 hours in advance or a week if you are going on a weekend, standby queues are available but are notoriously long. Bear in mind that when you get to the front doors that’s only the start of the queue, there’s much longer one inside!
Cost: From £29 when booked at least 24 hours in advanced or from £35 if paying on the day. You can get a combined ticket with the London Eye from £40.
Buckingham Palace Tour
The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are truly stunning and have been a big crowd draw since they were first open to the public a few years ago. It’s only open during the summer months (July to October) so it’s best to book these early. Tickets not out yet so sign up to newsletter to be the first to hear when they are released.
When to Book: Tickets go on sale from early November.
Cost: From £23
A West End Show
The scale of West End shows is large so my advice will have to be broad. Seeing a West End show is something that is high on a lot of people’s lists, and depending what you want to see depends how early you need to plan. If you want to see something like Harry Potter for instance you might have had to book those tickets 2 years in advance, but some of the longer running shows you can still get tickets on the day from the man stalls around Leicester Square. If you are flexible you’ll be fine, week days and matinees often have more availability.
When to Book: As soon as you can for a specific show or anytime up to the day if you are more open with shows and dates.
Cost: Anywhere from £15-£200
So that’s just a few attractions you need to plan for your trip, London is a huge city and really this doesn’t scratch the surface of what’s on offer but I’ve tried to pick the things most visitors would want to see and need to pre-book. If you have any more suggestions or you have any questions comment below.