How to skip the line at London’s most popular tourist attractions (+ best times to visit)
London is the best city in the world, there – I said it! The English capital has an array of fantastic sights, free museums, royal palaces, historic churches and fun tourist attractions that will surely make your visit a successful one. And I should know: I used to live there! London is one of the most visited city in the world, so wait times can be brutal. Don’t waste time by joining the tourists in the queue at these busy tourist attractions. In this article I’ve included my best tips on how to avoid waiting in line, the best times to visit and how to save money on the most popular London tourist attractions. Enjoy your trip!
London Travel Guide
- 73 Things to Do in London
- Best Free Museums in London
- 13 Free Things to Do in London
- 6 Airports Around London: Which Should You Choose?
- London Neighborhood Guide
1. The London Eye
The world-famous London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel, located near the Big Ben right next to the Thames. In total, it is 135 meters tall and has a diameter of 120 meters. It is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, offering 30 minutes rides with some spectacular views of the city, especially of the Big Ben. When it first opened in 2000, it was even the biggest Ferris wheel in the world! This iconic attraction is ALWAYS busy, I’ve never not seen a line for it, especially in high season. Wait times can vary from 30 minutes to over 2 hours, depending on the day. The busiest times to visit are on weekends and sunny days as well as holidays. The shortest queues are generally in the mornings after opening and after 17:00. The best views are to be had during sunset, when the setting sun paints London in a golden light.
SKIP THE LINES: The best way to beat the long lines is to book your tickets online. This is also cheaper than getting your tickets on the day of your visit. With a skip-the-line ticket you can just pick up your tickets at the fast track ticket booth, and then bypass the line to get on the London Eye. You can book your tickets here and either get standard admission or fast track entry, whichever works best for your schedule. Tourists who booked this ticket note the fast track admission was “well worth the extra fee”.
LONDON EYE + CRUISE: If you really want to experience the best of London, why not get a ticket for the London Eye and combine it with a river cruise over the river Thames. I’ve personally done a cruise on the river, and it’s absolutely lovely to see the city from this angle. Sip some bubbles while you cruise under the famous Tower Bridge and wave at the Big Ben. The hop-on-hop-off element means you can get off at whatever destination that piques your interest, and its an original way to beat the London traffic, for sure! Buy your combination ticket here.
Since the opening hours change per week, it is recommended to check out their website for an up-to-date time schedule.
Riverside Building County Hall,
Westminster Bridge Road,
London, SE1 7PB,
2. The Tower of London & Tower Bridge Experience
The beautiful Tower Bridge and Tower of London are two of the most famous buildings on Londons skyline, and a delight for visitors. Here are some tips to make the most of your time visiting these attractions.
TOWER OF LONDON: This building is by far one of my favourites in the city. I love how the old fortress strikes a contrast with the glistering high rises of the financial city heart of London. The building from 1078 has operated as a fortress, royal palace, prison, museum and more over the many centuries it has existed. Visitors can witness the Crown Jewels, which are kept in the fortress. Lines, sadly, are always incredibly long. The best times to visit are on weekday mornings, and the best times to avoid are weekends and holidays. However, you can always get stuck behind a school class visiting the Tower on a field trip.
With this online ticket you get access to the Tower of London for about the same price as you would pay at the ticket booth, but without having to stand in line at the door. It is still recommended you go early in the mornings, because it tends to get very crowded, especially during the summer months. Buy your entry tickets for the Tower of London here, and make sure you won’t miss out on this beautiful building.
Opening hours Tower of London:
Tower of London,
London, EC3N 4AB,
TOWER BRIDGE: You can walk across the Tower Bridge, possibly the most famous bridge in the world, for free, but did you know you can enter it as well? Inside you will find exhibitions and guides who will tell you stories set during the Victorian time and learn all about its history. Get some awesome views over the Thames from the top of the tower and make your trip to London complete. Order your ticket for the the Tower Bridge Exhibition here.
COMBINATION TICKET: Of course, if you want to visit both attractions, you can always opt for the combination ticket to visit the Tower of London as well as the Tower Bridge. This VIP Early Access ticket gives you early entry to the London Tower where you can witness the opening ceremony and get a 3-hour guided tour. Afterwards you can head to the Tower Bridge Experience without having to stand in line with the skip-the-line entry ticket. All in one ticket! You can book this combination ticket here.
Opening hours Tower Bridge:
Summer Opening Hours:
April – September 10:00 – 17:30 (last admission)
Winter Opening Hours:
October – March 09:30 – 17:00 (last admission)
Tower Bridge Road,
London, SE1 2UP,
3. Westminster Abbey
One of London’s most iconic buildings is the glorious Westminster Abbey. This beautiful church has centuries of history and stories to tell. Originally built 960, it was rebuilt between 1245 and 1517 in a Gothic style. The abbey has seen many coronations, as well as royal weddings. A definite must-visit for your London trip.
WAIT TIMES & BEST TIMES TO VISIT: The best time to visit would be in the early morning. It can get incredibly busy, especially during the summer peaks. On Wednesday the Abbey is open until 18:00, it isn’t as busy around this time, so going then is recommended. And the tickets will be half the price if you buy at the door on Wednesday! On Sunday the church is open for worship only. This means you can still go inside to pray for free when it will be less crowded. Do take note, however, that you won’t be able to visit the tombs and monuments during this time.
Booking a ticket online does save you time. An entry ticket comes with a free audio-guide, revealing the Abbeys history and its many stories. This is especially handy for those visiting during the summer peaks. As a cherry on top, this ticket provides speeded up entry, meaning you’ll have more time to explore the Abbey and less time to stand in the cold!
Daily from 9:30 to 15:30
Wednesday from 9:30 to 18:00
Address:20 Deans Yard
4. St. Paul’s Cathedral
Located at the highest point of the city of London, on top of Ludgate Hill, stands the spectacular St. Paul’s Cathedral – my personal favourite sight! St Paul’s is an Anglican cathedral and one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. Its dome dominates the city’s skyline and was once the tallest building in London. Ludgate Hill has always held cathedrals and churches, but the current design as you know it was built after the previous cathedral was completely destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666.
WAIT TIMES & BEST TIMES TO VISIT: The best time to visit is early in the morning, around the opening hours. It can get especially crowded during the summer peaks, so visiting early is your best call. There will most likely still be a line, but this will only get longer during the day.
SAVE MONEY & TIME: The best tip is to buy your ticket for St. Paul’s Cathedral online. This skip-the-line ticket not only allows you to bypass any queues, it is also considerably cheaper than buying your ticket at the door (20GBP). This ticket gives you access to the cathedral floors, the crypt, three galleries and a panoramic view of London from the dome. You’ll receive a multimedia guide and are able to register for a free guided tour around the cathedral upon entry.
Monday – Saturday from 7:30 to 5:00
Sunday from 8:00 to 6:00
The Chapter House,
St Paul’s Churchyard,
London, EC4M 8AD
5. Buckingham Palace
The beautiful Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic sights of London, as this is the official residence of the monarchy: the home of Queen Elizabeth. As she actually lives and works here, visitors are usually only able to visit the State Rooms during the dates the Queen is away – roughly two months a year. You can find the exact dates for 2018 here. If you’re not in luck, you can always visit The Queens Gallery and most days out of the year you’ll also be able to visit the Royal Mews, where you’ll find the royal stables. If you just want to see the changing of the guards ceremony, you can find the dates on which there is a ceremony here.
VISITING BUCKINGHAM PALACE TICKETS: This ticket includes entrance to the palace (on the days it’s open), a tour guide to show you around the lavish State Apartments, a look at the Royal Collection, including beautiful Sèvres porcelain and the gardens. You’ll receive an audio guide and are also see the changing of the guards ceremony. During the tour you’ll learn all about the royal residence.
Opening Hours State Rooms:
21 July – 21 August 2018 from 9:30 to 17:15
1 September – 30 September 2018 from 9:30 to 16:15
Opening Hours Royal Mews:
1 February – 25 March 2018 from 10:00 to 15:15 (Last admission)
26 March – 3 November 2018 from 10:00 to 16:15 (Last admission)
4 – 30 November 2018 from 10:00 to 15:15 (Last admission)
Buckingham Palace Road,
London SW1W 0QH,
6. The Shard
The Shard is a large skyscraper building made out of glass, built to resemble a shard of glass (hence it’s name!). The pyramid-shaped building holds an observatory on top showing one of the most spectacular views of the city. With its 309,6 meters, this giant skyscraper is the fifth tallest building in Europe and even holds the highest viewing platform in Western Europe (!). You’ll find the very best views of London on floors 68, 69 and on the viewing platform on floor 72 including a 360-degree view! Watching all the tiny cars and people whizz by below makes the city feel so much more smaller.
BEST TIMES TO VISIT & WAIT TIMES: Since tickets for The Shard are pre-booked and in a 30-minute time slot, there is not much of a waiting time for going up. This does mean, however, that spaces are limited. So booking in advance is strongly recommended. There is of course also the option to go either during the day, where you can get a nice clear overview (if the weather permits it) of London, or go during the night, where you get a nice night time view of the city.
THE SHARD TICKET: With this ticket you’ll be able to exchange your voucher for a ticket, so you won’t have to wait in line at the ticket booth. Admission is based on time slots, so if you’re planning to visit on weekends, make sure to exchange your ticket early so you’ll be able to get your preferred time slot. You can even decide to get a nice glass of champagne with this ticket, so you can sip it while watching the sun set over the city of London and the lights flicker on. There is no time limit on your visit so you’re welcome to stay as long as you like.
The opening hours for The Shard can vary from day to day, so checking their website for up-to-date time schedules is recommended.
32 London Bridge St,
London SE1 9SG,
7. The London Dungeon
One of London’s most touristy and fun attractions is the London Dungeon. This tourist attraction is located along London’s South Bank and is for those of you who like their history lessons to be on the macabre side. It features 18 shows and 3 rides, where you will be indulged in the history of London, meeting many of the infamous characters such as Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd. So for those who like their creepy and dark stories, you can’t leave London without having been on one of these tours.
WAIT TIMES & BEST TIME TO VISIT: It is strongly recommended to book your ticket in advance to avoid having to stand in line at the ticket booth (especially during peak hours it can get quite busy). The tours are set in time-slots, so it won’t be too crowded once you are inside. This means that once it’s full, it’s full. So while you can buy tickets at the door, it is not guaranteed you will get in.
STANDARD TICKET: Buying your tickets for the London Dungeon online is cheaper than buying them on the door where they will be 30GBP for adults. There are set time-slots you can choose from so your entry will be guaranteed. Book your standard admission ticket here.
For more information on shows and admissions please visit their website.
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri from 10:00 to 17:00
Thurdsday from 11:00 to 17:00
Saturday & Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00
Westminster Bridge Road,
London, SE1 7PB
What is your best advice to skip the queues in London?
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