London is one of the most popular cities in the world to visit. With its world-class museums and galleries, iconic cultural sites and unique historic attractions, the UK capital is an endlessly rewarding place to explore. If you don’t live in the city, or if you’re unable to travel there, you can still enjoy London’s sites online. Here’s my pick of the best virtual London attractions.
Virtual London map
If you need to get your bearings, Visit London has an excellent virtual map of the entire city. The map includes 360 degree images for sites such as Big Ben, the London Eye and Westminster Abbey, and you can also explore the locations from a street view. You can access the map here.
The Elizabeth Tower, the clock tower which stands at the north end of the Houses of Parliament, is generally known as Big Ben. In fact Big Ben is the name of the enormous bell which is inside the tower. The tower was completed in 1859, and is currently being refurbished. You can take an online tour of the Elizabeth Tower here.
The official London residence of The Queen, Buckingham Palace is also home to much of the Royal Collection, one of the largest and most important art collections in the world. You can access more than 250,000 items in the collection here. You can also explore parts of the palace building via these virtual tours.
The London Eye is 135 metres high and was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel when it was built in 1999. The giant observation wheel is right next to the River Thames, not far from the Houses of Parliament on the opposite bank. A trip on the London Eye gives fantastic views across the city – you can enjoy the whole experience in this video.
London Zoo is run by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) charity and opened in 1828. ZSL works for the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats and is home to thousands of animals, from gorillas, meerkats and giraffes to ants, butterflies and komodo dragons. You can explore the zoo from home via webcams, live streams, zookeeper videos and behind-the-scenes updates here.
The Sky Garden is London’s highest public garden. The landscaped gardens are housed in three storeys at the top of the building which is known as the Walkie Talkie. There’s an open air terrace and there are observation decks to enjoy panoramic views across the city. Access to the gardens are free, when they’re open, but you have to book. You can watch a video walking tour of the Sky Garden here.
Iconic Tower Bridge was originally built in the nineteenth century to ease traffic congestion. The bridge opens to let boats through approximately 1,000 times a year, or three times a day. Visitors can access the bridge’s high-level walkway and walk across its glass floor for a birds’ eye view of the streets and the river below. You can watch a video about the bridge’s glass floor here.
Tower of London
The Tower of London was founded by William the Conqueror as a military stronghold in 1066. Today the fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site and houses the crown jewels, as well as the Beefeaters (aka Yeomen Warders) who guard the building. You can enjoy a guided tour of the Tower of London here.
View from the Shard
Architect Renzo Piano’s the Shard is the tallest building in Western Europe. The building is modelled on a shard of glass and it has 11,000 glass panels on its exterior. Visitors to the building’s 72nd floor viewing platform can see up to 40 miles away. In this video, architecture critic Oliver Wainwright visits the viewing platform, 244 metres above ground.
You can see live camera views and daily time lapse views from The Shard here.
Westminster Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the place where the country’s Kings and Queens have been crowned for nearly 1,000 years. As well as housing the graves of monarchs, the Abbey is also home to the grave of the Unknown Warrior, the body of a serviceman which was brought here from France in 1920 to commemorate the members of the armed forces who died in the First World War. You can take a virtual tour of Westminster Abbey here.
Explore more of London from home
If you enjoyed this, do check out these other posts about visiting London online – click on the images to read the posts in full: