London is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The city is home to some of the world's most famous landmarks, including Big Ben, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace. It's also a great place to enjoy some of the world's best theater, music and museums.
Here are our top picks for things to do in London as a first-time visitor:
1. See Big Ben and Westminster Abbey
Big Ben is one of London's most recognizable landmarks. The clock tower is part of the Palace of Westminster, which houses both houses of Parliament -- the House of Commons and House of Lords. The Houses are open to visitors on weekdays between October and April, when Parliament is in session [source: VisitBritain].
Westminster Abbey is one of London's most historic buildings. It was founded in AD 960 by Edward the Confessor, who was crowned king in 1042 [source: Westminster Abbey]. The abbey has been used for coronations and royal weddings throughout its history. Today it serves as a place for worship and as a museum that displays many important historical artifacts from England's past [source: Westminster Abbey].
2. See Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace occurs every day at 11 a.m., except Sundays [source: VisitBritain]. This ceremony features soldiers from the Queen's Household Division marching from their barracks to Buckingham Palace to replace soldiers who have been on duty since 7 a.m., when they were first posted outside Buckingham Palace [source: VisitBritain].
3. See St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral has stood on Ludgate Hill since 1675 [source: St Pauls Cathedral]. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, who also designed many other famous buildings in London, including Trinity College in Cambridge and Hampton Court Palace [source: St Pauls Cathedral]. Inside St Paul's are several famous paintings by artists such as John Constable and William Hogarth that depict scenes from British history [source: St Pauls Cathedral].
4. Enjoy Shakespeare
Shakespeare wrote 37 plays during his lifetime, but only 23 have survived over time [source: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust]. Many people visit Shakespeare's birthplace -- Stratford-upon-Avon -- to see where he lived and wrote his plays [source: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust].
However, you can also visit many places where Shakespeare performed his plays or where he lived while writing them in London. For example, you can see where he performed at The Globe Theatre or visit his home on Silver Street where he lived while writing "Macbeth."
5. See Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge was built between 1886 and 1894 by engineer Sir John Wolfe Barry to help alleviate traffic congestion in London during that time period [source: Tower Bridge Exhibition Centre]. It spans more than 1,000 feet (305 meters) across the Thames River between Tower Hill on the north side and Tooley Street on the south side [source: Tower Bridge Exhibition Centre].
6. Enjoy Tate Modern
Tate Modern is one of Europe's largest modern art museums with more than 150 galleries displaying works by artists like Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein [source: Tate Modern].
7. Explore Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is home to several famous landmarks , including Nelson's Column, the National Gallery and the Royal Air Force Memorial. It was named after the Battle of Trafalgar, which took place in 1805 [source: VisitBritain].
8. See Westminster Bridge
Westminster Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that connects Westminster and Lambeth. It was built in 1824 to replace an earlier bridge that was destroyed by a flood [source: Westminster Bridge]. The bridge is famous for its views of Big Ben and Parliament Square, as well as its statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert [source: Westminster Bridge].
To see these attractions and more, everyone should visit London.