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Top Things to Do in Westminster

More Than Just Buckingham Palace

Updated: March 11, 2024

This post covers the top things to do in the Borough of Westminster in Central London. We also offer several other posts that could be of help.

The Borough of Westminster is referred to us as Royal London.

Here you will find the likes of Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, and the Horse Guards Parade, just to name a few spots associated with the U.K.'s royal family.

It's also the administrative center of U.K. politics, with the likes of 10 Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament.

We've put our experiences as local tour guides who lead hundreds of tourists each week through Westminster to great use in compiling this list of the best Westminster attractions.

And the question of what to do here is an oft-asked one in our popular London Travel Tips Facebook group.

The group is comprised of locals (including our tour guides), veteran London visitors, as well as newbies to the city.

You don't need to be a member to read the posts, comments, and recommendations, so check it out once you are done reading this post.

Note that Westminster is accessible via a number of London Underground Stations:

  • Westminster Station
  • St. James's Park Station
  • Victoria Station
  • Green Park Station
  • Hyde Park Corner.

1 - Go Sightseeing

The City of Westminster is the most target-rich area for major tourist attractions and a great place to go sightseeing.

We offer a pay-what-you-wish guided tour (our Royal London Tour) most days of the week as well as a GPS-led audio tour that you could take any time you wish.

Westminster is also home to many Harry Potter sights and we have a tour for this as well.

There are also hop-on-hop-off bus tours that make. 

Whenever either the House of Commons or the House of Lords is in session, it’s free for the public to go inside and sit in the public galleries.

2 – Sit in the Public Galleries at the Houses of Parliament

The Houses of Parliament, located in the Palace of Westminster, is open to visitors to tour!

In fact, it's one of our picks for the best free things to do in London.

3 – Take a Tour of Westminster Abbey

One of the most famous churches in the world, Westminster Abbey is the burial location of many of our kings and queens.

It was also the site of the most recent coronation in May of 2023.

It has played host to royal weddings throughout the centuries - perhaps the most famous being that of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 2011.

There are tours of Westminster Abbey available daily, but there is a way to enter for free.

Throughout the day on Sunday, Westminster Abbey is open for services.

Members of the public can attend for the purpose of worshiping without paying an entrance fee.

Please note that attending a service here does not give access to walk throughout the church and visit the monuments, but will give guests the opportunity to sit in the central nave.

4 – Watch the Changing of the Guard

Some of the best free entertainment around, the Changing of the Guard takes place every day in summer (May, June, July) and every other day the rest of the year and makes an excellent activity for the kids (young and old alike!).

Get yourself to Buckingham Palace, or line up along the Mall, well before the official start time of 10:45, or take a look at our guide on how to get the best experience.

Speaking of Buckingham Palace, did you know that you could tour the palace, galleries, and stables

5 - Embark on a Thames River Cruise

There are a couple of landings in Westminster (Westminster Pier near Westminster Bridge being the most commonly used) used by riverboats to tour the Thames.

There are many types of boat cruises for you to choose from.

  • Hop-on-Hop-off Cruises
  • Tourist Cruises
  • Speed Boat Thrill Rides
  • Lunch and Dinner Cruises

Read our post reviewing the different cruises, with routes to Greenwich and Canary Wharf as well as westwards towards Putney, available to you.

6 – See the Churchill War Rooms

Where Winston Churchill won the war and led the heads of the armed forces during World War II, the Cabinet War Rooms here are comprised of the underground bunker where Churchill worked – and occasionally lived – during the war.

Somewhat of a time capsule, the War Rooms are open to the public who have bought tickets and also includes a museum dedicated to the life of Churchill himself.

Our post provides tips on tickets, discounts, and generally planning a visit.

7 - Take a Ride on the London Eye

At 135 m (443 ft) in height, this tallest Ferris Wheel in Europe was originally built for the Millennium celebrations in 2000.

Riders get great views of London in a climate-controlled car.

Not technically in the City of Westminster, the London Eye is just a short walk from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

8 – Visit the London Dungeon

The London Dungeon recreates various macabre historical events with interactive exhibits, thrilling rides, and a dose of gallows humor.

Like the London Eye, the London Dungeon is just across the Thames River from Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster.

Get our tips on ticket discounts and planning your visit.

9 – Watch the Changing of the Household Cavalry Guards at Horse Guards Parade

A public courtyard containing the official entrance to Buckingham Palace, Horseguard’s Parade is named after the members of the Household Cavalry who are partially based here.

Mounted and Dismounted Sentries protect the entrance 24 hours a day and their Changing of the Guard ceremony can be viewed by the public seven days a week.

Read more here.

10 – See Big Ben

The most famous clock in the world, Big Ben is a ‘must-see’ for any visit to London!

BigBen parliament

Actually the name of the BELL inside the clock tower, Big Ben rings at the top of every hour.

As of 2023 the Queen Elizabeth Tower (better known as Big Ben), one of London's most iconic landmarks, will also be open to the public. Find out more at their website.

11 - Visit Trafalgar Square

A public space in the heart of the city, Trafalgar Square is a bit like London’s common room.

It was here that Londoners gathered to celebrate the end of WWII, and it’s been the focal point of numerous protests and political demonstrations throughout the years.

Overseeing it all is Admiral Lord Nelson, his statue is perched atop a 169-foot stone column (conveniently known as Nelson's Column) surrounded by huge statues of lions - an incredibly popular backdrop for photographs.

Perched on the northern edge of the square is the National Gallery, a free museum where you will find works by famous artists such as Monet, van Gogh and da Vinci - just to name a few!

12 - Get an Amazing View at Westminster Cathedral

The mother church of the Roman Catholic Church in England, Westminster Cathedral is just down the road from the far more famous Westminster Abbey.

Built between 1895 to 1903, the Neo-Byzantine architectural style is truly striking.

The Cathedral is built entirely of brick and the interiors feature beautiful mosaics and plenty of gold leaf.

Looming over it all is a 284-foot tall tower with a viewing gallery that is open to the public, offering stunning views over the Westminster area - and adult tickets are just £6.00. 

13 - Picnic in a Royal Park

Hyde Park

Covering 350 acres and featuring a recreational lake, numerous statues and monuments, beautiful blooms, and even an art gallery, Hyde Park is one of the most-visited Royal Parks in London.

Visitors come to picnic, visit the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, see the pet cemetery, or attend any of the numerous events that happen throughout the year like concerts in the summer and Winter Wonderland during the holidays.

Sprawling and beautiful, Hyde Park offers loads to explore.

St James's Park

Often overlooked in favour of the more famous Hyde Park, St. James's Park is a charming oasis in the footsteps of Buckingham Palace.

Home to a family of swans (owned by the crown), the royal bird keepers, and a ghost or two, this park is well worth a visit while you're in the area!

Expect to enjoy a water fountain, marvel at views of Whitehall and the London Eye, see the Royal pelicans and ducks, and spot the parrots while you're here.

14 - Wander Through Kensington Gardens

Although technically not in Westminster, Kensington Gardens sits adjacent to Hyde Park, and the two are easily visited together.

Kensington Gardens is a beautiful collection of green spaces, water fountains, statues, and manicured royal gardens.

The Gardens are also home to Kensington Palace, the current residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as their three children.

15 - Find Hidden Treasures in Covent Garden

A beautiful London locale, Covent Garden’s covered market is a destination for millions of shoppers, bargain hunters and window shoppers every year.

The cobbled streets around the market house restaurants, pubs, and interesting shops as well as numerous West End theatres.

With street performers, seasonal decorations, hidden alleyways, and beautiful buildings, Covent Garden is always worth a visit.

16 - Get a Glimpse of Tudor Architecture at St. James's Palace

Originally built by King Henry VIII in the 1530s, St. James’s Palace is currently home to the Royal Court of the King.

This is where new monarchs are proclaimed after the death of the current Sovereign, where royal babies are christened, and is the home of three princesses: Anne, Beatrice, and Alexandra.

With incredible Tudor architecture, stunning detail, and a beautiful gatehouse, St. James’s is an oft-missed treasure.

17 - Visit the Prime Minister at Number 10 Downing Street

Number 10 has been the home of Britain’s Prime Ministers since 1732 when the country’s first PM, Sir Robert Walpole, was gifted three houses on the street by King George II.

10 Downing Street

These days it is hard to get a great glimpse of Number 10 Downing Street, but it’s not entirely hidden from public view.

Iron gates and armed officers on either end of the street mean it’s not possible to get close to Number 10, but from the east gate, you can get yourself a decent view of Number 10 - as well as the nearby numbers 9, 11, and 12.

18 - See All That Buckingham Palace Has to Offer

The most famous of the British sovereigns' palaces, Buckingham Palace is right in the centre of the city, on the western edge of Westminster.

London Buckingham Palace

The palace is open for sightseeing throughout the summer holidays, and occasionally during the rest of the year, when the King is not in residence.

However, throughout the year, the Queen’s Gallery and Stables are open to the public.

The Gallery features a rotating series of exhibitions made up of pieces from the Royal Collection Trust and the Royal Mews is a collection of equestrian stables, where royal carriages and cars are housed when not in use by the royal family.

19 - Take a Stroll Through a Little Known Park

Adjacent to the Palace of Westminster sits Victoria Tower Gardens, a beautiful little garden that sits on the northern edge of the River Thames.

This quiet little park contains numerous pieces of art and memorials and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Westminster.

Sitting in the shadows of, and named after, the Victoria Tower - which is used for parliamentary archive storage - this little park is a hidden gem

20 - Walk in the Footsteps of Kings at the Banqueting House

The last surviving part of The Palace of Whitehall, the Banqueting House is a beautiful example of Neo-classical architecture.

The location for feats, masques, parties…and execution, The Banqueting House has seen its’ fair share of history.

Banqueting House London

The crowning glory of the building is the stunningly painted and decorated ceiling, a masterpiece by Peter Paul Rubens, featuring a Heavenly depiction of King James I.

The last surviving building of its kind, The Banqueting House is a real treasure.

21 - Explore the Affluence of Belgravia

Partially in Westminster and partially in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, Belgravia is one of London’s most affluent districts.

Beautiful white buildings surrounded manicured green squares, with occasional shops and pubs dotted throughout the neighbourhood.

A classically beautiful and elegant district, Belgravia has been home to numerous famous faces - think politicians like Margaret Thatcher, Baldwin, and Chamberlain, gentry like the Duke of Westminster, royalty like George Fitzclarence and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands…and many, many more.

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About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: March 11th, 2024
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