Arts & Culture

Character and culture: What makes London such a unique city to visit

Cities around the world have their own personality and quirkiness. While Paris is the ‘city of love’ and New York ‘never sleeps’, London has so much culture that you can never get tired of visiting this vibrant capital.

In the words of Samuel Johnson, the renowned 18th-century English writer, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” 

Why visit London? With endless reasons to visit, this article explores some must-see cultural attractions around the capital, including the popular, the historic and the quirkiest for an exciting trip that will bring you back time and time again. 

Visit London for the Royal Attractions

London has been the seat of the British monarchy for centuries, so it’s no surprise it offers visitors ample opportunities to experience England’s regal heritage. A private London tour will guide you through all things regal, or you might prefer a Royal Tour for a time-saving way to experience Britain’s royal heritage. 

Perhaps the most iconic Royal landmark is Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the reigning monarch since 1837. The grand architecture and opulent staterooms dazzle visitors on tours of the Palace that are only available when the Royal Family is not in residence. Nearby, a must-see is the Changing of the Guard held regularly outside Buckingham Palace. This is a memorable and colourful display of pomp and ceremony as the Queen’s Guard exchanges duty.

Just down the road lies Westminster Abbey, the site of Royal weddings and coronations for the past 1,000 years. Within its Gothic interior lie the tombs of monarchs such as Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. Across from the Abbey are the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and the striking parliament buildings overlooking the River Thames. 

No trip to London is complete without a visit to the Tower of London, the notorious 1,000-year-old fortress that once held Royal prisoners. Today it houses the Crown Jewels, the dazzling collection of crowns, sceptres and orbs used today in Royal ceremonies. The Tower is also home to the Yeoman Warders, better known as Beefeaters, the Royal Bodyguards with tales of the Tower’s bloody history.

With its ties to Kings and Queens past and present, London offers visitors ample opportunity to follow in Royal footsteps and learn more about the regal timeline that defines much of London’s rich past. This rich heritage connected to England’s monarchy makes London a uniquely regal city to experience.

Visit London for the “Exclusively Made in London”

London has a unique history of design and elegant craftsmanship. In part, this is thanks to the city’s industrious past as the traditional marketplace of the world and a melting pot of art, history and traded goods. From clocks and timepieces to famed Gentlemen’s tailors, many innovations and institutions hail from London and have had a worldwide impact. 

Royal jewellers, Garrards of London, for instance, was established in 1735 and continues to design bespoke jewels for the Royal Family today. London is famed for its significant inventions, too. Greenwich has a diverse history of royalty, seafaring, science and engineering and is regarded as the birthplace of ‘Mean Time’, the meridian line representing the world’s Prime Meridian. In Greenwich, the first mechanical clock was created in the 17th century, bringing standardised timekeeping to the world. Today, Maritime Greenwich is one of four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London in a nod to its prestigious royal, military and scientific past. 

Visitors come to Saville Row for England’s finest tailored suits, where expert cutters have created garments for Kings and movie stars at London fashion institutions like Gieves & Hawkes and Huntsman & Sons for years. Nearby is the original Burlington Arcade, a luxury Victorian shopping gallery specialising in fine jewellery and watches by expensive London brands. This rich tradition for bespoke goods and crafted pieces continues today. Dotted around the capital are a wealth of specialist watchmakers, custom-made cufflink designers and unique jewellers reflecting London’s reputation for tailored elegance. 

The city’s creative spirit also shaped modern commerce and has left a legacy throughout London that attracts tourists in their droves. Liberty of London opened its Tudor-inspired department store in 1875, selling its signature fabrics and luxury goods that defined the Aesthetic Movement. Meanwhile, in 1860, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home pioneered animal welfare, creating the first rescue shelter for abandoned pets. A dedicated museum, shop and cafe attracts animal lovers from around the world to this brilliantly rejuvenated part of the city.

Visit London for the Historic Quirks and Heritage Signs

Beyond its famous landmarks, London hides a quirky history, hidden gems and little-known parts waiting to be discovered. The city’s Blue Plaques shed light on intriguing historical facts and famous people who lived in London and contributed to its vast cultural splendour in some way. The commemorative blue signs are installed outside buildings connected to notable people or events. For example, a plaque at 18 Folgate Street marks the 17th-century home of diarist Samuel Pepys, while one at 221b Baker Street honours the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. 

London’s winding streets are dotted with these blue circular plaques that offer glimpses into the city’s fascinating past. Keep an eye out while exploring different neighbourhoods to uncover hidden histories, from Sir Isaac Newton’s old apple tree to abandoned ‘ghost’ Underground stations. You never know what delightful piece of London lore you may stumble upon!

Other unusual trivia includes that London was once home to the first-ever ATM machine, installed in 1967. And the world’s first traffic light towers over the road in Westminster near the capital’s famous Houses of Parliament. If you are also interested in English politics, explore Westminster streets in Whitehall and discover Churchill’s War Rooms. Trafalgar Square’s fountains flow with water pumped from an artesian well beneath the site – the water is still perfectly drinkable today!


Visit London for the War Memorials and West End Theatres

In addition to Churchill, London also houses significant war memorials commemorating those who served in past wars. The Cenotaph in Whitehall honours Britain’s war dead, while the impressive Battle of Britain Monument pays tribute to pilots who defended the city’s skies. Visitors can head to London’s Imperial War Museum to learn about famous battles and put time aside to tour the HMS Belfast, a WW2 warship permanently moored along the Thames.

London’s West End theatres provide world-class entertainment, and this area is necessary for dramatic culture vultures! See a show in one of the grand performance venues concentrated around Shaftesbury Avenue and Oxford Street. Historic stages like the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and London Palladium have hosted premieres and stars for over a century. With so many landmarks, memorials and theatres to experience, visitors may need multiple trips to take in all the attractions defining this vibrant, multifaceted city.

inside theatre seats

Although London is a bustling and cosmopolitan metropolis, it has an unbeatable cultural reputation that has evolved over centuries. Today, a capital steeped in tradition is beneath the modern high-rise buildings and industrial trappings. London’s distinct character prompts visitors to repeat their London trip, never growing tired of its appeal.