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London ★★★

Sunset over Parliament and Big Ben in London, London, London (Photo by Paolo Fernandez)
Sunset over Parliament, Big Ben, and the Thames River in London

One of the world's greatest cities, packed with amazing museums, iconic monuments, fabulous restaurants and pubs, and West End theaters.

London. Big Ben and the British Museum, bobbies and Beefeaters, Hampstead Heath and Piccadilly Circus, fish 'n' chips and Buckingham Palace, giant black taxicabs and Sherlock Holmes, the Crown Jewels and the dome of St. Paul's.

London is home to some of the world's foremost museums—and, amazingly, the best ones are free—exhaustive collections of global antiquities (The British Museum), paintings (The National Gallery for Old Masters, Tate Britain for Old Brits, and Tate Modern for cuting edge contemporary), historical artifacts (The Museum of London), decorative arts (The V&A), World War II (The Churchill War Rooms), scientific instruments (Greenwich Royal Observatory), and film memorabilia.

You can catch a play or musical on the West End, dance in cutting-edge clubs, and drink in the same pubs where Shakespeare got sloshed.

You can shop the market stalls of Portobello Road, the tailors of Saville Row, and the well-stocked warrens of Harrods, possibly the world's grandest department store.

London truly is one of the world's greatest cities, and you could spend a lifetime here and not exhaust its attractions. Still, you can cram quite a lot into less than a week.

Tips

Get the London Pass

This sightseeing pass (with an optional transport add-on) looks frighteningly pricey at first—but then again, so are many of the top sights it covers, and for many visitors it will save you money.

Also, it lets you skip the ticket lines at a few of the best sights where the queues can be quite long.

There are far more details (and strategies for getting the most out of it) on our London Pass page, but in brief: If you plan to hit at least three of London's major sights in one day (or four over two days)—say, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, a Thames cruise, and Windsor Castle—it will save you money. » more