London architecture is diverse, some unique, some simply weird, others beautiful or of an unusual construction. If you are a first timer to London, there are some ‘must see’ architectural masterpieces. These are some of my particular favourites…
1. The Shard
Location: 32 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9SG – Nearest station is London Bridge (beside)
Some London architecture is incredibly stunning and The Shard which stands over 300m high, is the perfect example of this. It is home to a viewing gallery, bar, shops, restaurants, hotel and offices. The viewing gallery is accessed by lifts travelling at 6 metres per second. They take you up to levels 69 for indoor viewing and 72 if you prefer to be out in the open. The views from the top stretch for 40 miles. Prices start from £24 per person, booking online in advance. A cheaper alternative is to buy a drink from the bar at level 32. It is free to enter here and the views are still breathtaking, day or night. However, if you are on a budget, try to stop by just to see it from the outside.
2. Tower of London
Location: St Katharine’s & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB -Nearest station is Tower Hill tube (opposite)
The Tower of London demonstrates London architecture at its finest. An iconic castle which is the home of the Crown Jewels and to the ravens, is located opposite Tower Hill station. It is believed the Crown and Tower will fall if the ravens ever leave. Take in the wonderful views of the building from walking around the outside although, if you prefer to enter and learn more about the history, admission for an adult costs just under £25 if purchased online. You will learn interesting facts about Sir Walter Raleigh who was imprisoned at the Tower 3 times, the White Tower which was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and the famous Bloody Tower.
3. The Walkie Talkie Building
Location: 20 Fenchurch Street, London – Nearest tube is Monument – 2 minutes walk
The Walkie Talkie building is so called because of the unique shape of this commercial skyscraper. It is also home to London’s highest public garden at over 150m above the city offering 360 degree views. Entrance is free but it is recommended to book a time online for guaranteed admission. There is also a Sky Pod Bar and restaurant which has set walk in times. Chill out with a drink and admire the far reaching views.
4. Lloyd’s Building
Location: 1 Lime Street, London EC3M 7HA – Nearest stations are Monument and Bank – 5 minutes walk
The Lloyd’s building is home to Lloyd’s of London insurance company. This striking construction made from stainless steel and glass with its lifts positioned on the outside of the building, is located in the city’s financial district.
5. Thin House
Located in Thurloe Square, South Kensington – 3 minutes walk from South Kensington underground station
Unusual London architecture such as the ‘Thin House’ is certainly eye catching! The thin 19th century house is apparently just over 6ft wide to one end! It currently has a studio apartment for sale within it, priced at £925,000 via Rightmove.
6. Tower Bridge
Located on Tower Bridge Road, London SE1 2UP – Nearest tube – Tower Hill – 2 minutes walk
Tower Bridge is an iconic, late 19th Century, suspension bridge which spans the river Thames. Tickets can be purchased at around £10 for an adult to explore the walkways and the glass floor.
7. Natural History Museum
Location: Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD – Nearest station – South Kensington (opposite)
The building itself was completed in 1880 and opened in 1881 as a museum. The Natural History Museum is one of the main museums in South Kensington and is free to enter.
Location: Regent Street, London W18 5AH – Nearest tube – Oxford Circus – 7 minutes walk
Liberty is one of the most stunning buildings in London. The wonderful Grade II listed department store is Mock Tudor in style and was constructed from the timbers of 2 decommissioned Royal Navy warships.
9. The Gherkin
Location: 30 St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8EP – Closest tubes – Monument Station – 8 minutes walk – Aldgate 5 minutes walk
An iconic, energy efficient, commercial skyscraper in the city of London. Construction finished in 2003 so it is a relatively new building but is prominent on London’s skyline. The Gherkin is not open to the general public however, it is definitely worth viewing from the outside. Level 39 is home to a fine dining restaurant, Helix by Searcy’s if you wish to dine while taking in views of the city.
10. St Paul’s Cathedral
Location: St Paul’s Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD – Nearest station – St Paul’s – 2 minutes walk
St Paul’s Cathedral is a Grade I listed building and is easily recognised by its huge dome. The present cathedral dates back to the late 17th Century. A sightseeing ticket will set you back £17 if purchased online.
11. Buckingham Palace
Location: Westminster, London SW1A 1AA – Nearest tube is St James’ Park – 8 minutes walk
Buckingham Palace is the London residence of the Queen and has been the official home of other Monarchs since 1837, when Queen Victoria resided here. Originally, a townhouse was built for the Duke of Buckingham over 300 years ago and it has gradually been added to. The impressive building now has over 775 rooms. It is open to the public at restricted times of the year and prices cost £25 per adult to visit the State rooms.
12. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Location: 1 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT – Nearest station – London Bridge – 13 mins walk
The original was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s playing company and later destroyed by fire caused by a canon being fired in one of the performances of Henry III. In 1997, the reconstruction of the distinctive Globe Theatre opened on London’s Southbank. Plays or tours can be booked via the Globe Theatre’s website.
13. Ostler’s Hut
Location: Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2A 3TL – Nearest station – Holborn tube – 12 minutes walk
Ostler’s Hut is the smallest Listed building in London. It was originally built in 1860 to look after the horses while people stayed at the nearby Lincoln’s Inn, one of the Inns of Court to which barristers belong.
14. Soho Square Cottage
Soho Square Gardens, London W1D 3QP – Nearest station – Tottenham Court Road – 3 minutes walk
A mock tudor construction built in 1925 which is currently used as a shed! It stores tools for maintaining the square’s gardens. However, in the past it has been used as a bomb shelter and an electricity substation.
Suggested Further Reading:
Things to do in London – Recommended solo activities
Restaurants in London – Places I have dined at solo and enjoyed
Hotels in London – Hotels I have enjoyed staying at by myself