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Best History Things To Do In London (2024)

London can be traced back to the Roman era, and although these days it is a very modern city, a lot of historical sites are still well-preserved.

If you are a history enthusiast planning a visit to London, I’ve got enough suggestions to fill up all your time.

I’ve arranged these suggestions by category rather than location. Like me, most people with an interest in history tend to favour a particular period or type of history, so I think that’s the best way to help you out. 

I tend to veer towards anything to do with Tudor history, which formed the bulk of my History A-Level course, but London has plenty of options for all types of history fanatics.

Tip: Many online articles recommend the Museum of London at London Wall, however, the information is out of date. The Museum of London has closed and will be relocating to the nearby Smithfield Market and opening in 2026. 

If you are pressed for time and need a quick recommendation – here are my top 3!

# 1

Tower of London

It’s a fantastic site to visit, with centuries of history in a beautiful building. If you want to learn about London history, this is the one for you. Jewels, prisoners and royalty – what more could you want!

# 2

The British Museum

The collection is vast and covers a huge range of human history from around the world and through thousands of years. Any history fan will find this free museum fascinating.

# 3

Natural History Museum

This museum is dedicated to natural rather than human history, so may not be for all history fans. Despite that, I think it is perhaps the best museum in London, with an incredible collection of 80 million objects.

General

The central hall in the British Museum

British Museum

The British Museum can’t really be put into a particular category, as it covers an enormous variety of time and place. From Egyptian mummies to Ancient Grecian pottery to very recent history, the collection is vast and comprehensive. 

And free!

The British Museum is in a central location so it’s easy to get to and you can pop in for a short time. You do need to book a free ticket online, but that’s easy to do.

On a weekday in term time, I booked my ticket as I was walking up to the building. During school holidays and weekends, you may need to book further in advance than just 2 minutes!

Roman History

London’s Roman Wall 

Although most structures built during London’s Roman era are long gone, there are a few remnants still standing. 

The 6-metre high Roman wall was built around 200AD, surrounding the settlement of Londinium.  A short section of this wall survives at Tower Hill, just north of the Tower of London. 

Generally, I would advise that this is best as a brief detour when visiting other sites such as the Tower of London rather than a dedicated journey just to see the wall – not much of it remains. 

Billingsgate Roman House & Baths

This Roman site requires a bit more advanced planning, as it is only accessible on a paid tour and for part of the year. 

This archaeological site is in the basement of an office block, and tours are only available on Saturdays between April and November. The site dates back to around 150AD and includes a hypocaust – the Roman version of central heating. 

London Mithraeum

A mithraeum is a temple dedicated to the worship of the Roman god Mithras. The London Mithraeum is another site in an office block – in this case the European headquarters of Bloomberg. It is free to visit but you should book online tickets in advance to guarantee entry. 

The ruins were once moved to a different site, but during the development of this Bloomberg building, they were relocated back to their original site, and so it isn’t quite as perfectly preserved as might be hoped. 

Nevertheless, it’s a great site for those interested in Roman history, and includes exhibitions of Roman artefacts as well as the ruins themselves. 

The site is located in the City of London (an older part of London that now acts as a business and financial hub).

Royal History

Tower of London in Autumn

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is a must-visit for any history lover; a remnant of medieval London. The building has been used as an armoury, prison and palace. 

Some of the most significant people to have spent time in the tower include the famous ‘Princes in the Tower’. Edward V and his brother Richard were moved to the Tower of London by their uncle upon the death of their father to keep the new young King ‘protected’. 

They were never seen again, and their uncle was proclaimed king shortly after. 

Theories abound as to what happened to them, and who might have been responsible for their death. Was it their uncle, or perhaps a member of the Tudor family who took the throne shortly after.

Another famous prisoner was Elizabeth I, imprisoned for 3 months by her half-sister Queen Mary I, and kept captive in the same apartments that held her mother, Anne Boleyn, before her execution. 

Personally, my favourite period of history is the Tudor dynasty, so I always enjoy walking the same grounds as people such as Elizabeth I. 

The Tower of London is a must-visit for first-time visitors to London interested in royal history. 

An added attraction for many visitors is the chance to see the British Crown Jewels, as well as seeing the iconic Tower Bridge next to the Tower of London. 

Wandering around the grounds at Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace is another fascinating site from Tudor England. This palace was once a favourite home of Henry VIII. 

The Great Hall is a central point of the palace and its construction dates back to Henry VIII’s reign. 

William III redeveloped and expanded the palace in the 1690s which destroyed some of the original Tudor palace, but plenty remains.

The palace also reenacts some of its history, with the opportunity to interact with historical characters through plays and events. 

Twice a year there is a Tudor joust to watch in the extensive grounds, and you can also find the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze.

The buildings are beautiful and the history is fascinating – I highly recommend a visit.

It is outside of central London, but you can still get there on public transport, by train or bus. 

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace was the birthplace of Queen Victoria and remains one of the royal residences. 

The building dates back to the 1600s and was the preferred residence of William III and his wife Queen Mary II. You can see the impressive State Rooms, used by various monarchs to receive diplomats. 

Part of the palace is dedicated to the childhood of Queen Victoria, including rooms that she once lived in, before becoming Queen at 18 years old and moving to Buckingham Palace.

Today the palace is still owned by King Charles, and several members of the Royal Family use it as their official London residence, including the Prince and Princess of Wales. 

Obviously, those areas are private residences and not open to the public, but there is still plenty to see from a historical perspective. 

Buckingham Palace

Perhaps the world’s most famous royal residence, Buckingham Palace is not only an important historical site, but culturally significant in modern-day Britain. 

It is open to visitors each summer while the monarch spends time at other locations. 

You will need to book in advance as tickets are limited and very popular for visitors to London. And I do mean weeks or months in advance, not just a few days before.

The tours provide access to the State Rooms and a guided tour of some of the highlights of the gardens. 

Religious and Architectural History

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral is an iconic building in central London. An earlier church on the site was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the current cathedral was the masterpiece of one of England’s greatest architects, Sir Christopher Wren. 

The famous cathedral dome is a notable point of the London skyline – immediately identifiable from many of the city’s viewing platforms such as The Shard. It is also featured on many London souvenirs and was London’s tallest building until 1962. 

It’s free to attend a service, but if you want to visit for sightseeing and explore the exhibitions then you will need to book a paid ticket. 

There are audio guides to help you explore the cathedral and its history, or you can book a free guided tour, depending on availability. 

The sightseeing ticket includes access to the dome itself, a 528-step climb to the Golden Gallery, as well as the crypt and other parts of the cathedral. 

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, holds immense historical significance as the coronation church of 40 British monarchs since 1066.

It is a treasure trove of royal history, with notable burials and memorials including kings, queens, and other famous figures. 

As with St Paul’s, you can attend services for free but visiting to see the other parts of the Abbey requires a paid ticket.

It’s a beautiful building, and if you’ve ever watched videos of some famous royal events such as the Coronation of King Charles III or the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it will have been Westminster Abbey that you were looking at. 

✅ Book a walking tour of Westminster, including Westminster Abbey, here!

World War II

Churchill War Rooms

The Churchill War Rooms served as the underground wartime headquarters for Winston Churchill and his government during World War II. 

Visitors can explore this fascinating site to gain insight into the crucial decision-making processes that took place here during one of the most challenging periods in modern history. 

It is quite a niche museum, but for anyone interested in military history, it’s a great one to visit. 

Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum covers conflicts including both World Wars, providing a comprehensive look into the nation’s wartime experiences. 

A visit to this museum provides an opportunity to gain insights into the sacrifices made during times of conflict and further understand the devastating impact of war on society.

There is a particularly important exhibition on the Holocaust, and although it’s a heavy subject it should never be overlooked in this sort of museum.

HMS Belfast

HMS Belfast, a WWII cruiser turned museum ship, gives history enthusiasts the chance to step aboard a piece of living history. 

Moored on the River Thames, this iconic vessel allows visitors to explore its decks, engine rooms, and living quarters. 

For history fans, a visit to HMS Belfast offers a firsthand experience of naval life during wartime and the chance to learn about the ship’s role in significant historical events.

As this ship was originally built to serve the British Armed Forces, with narrow stairs and small spaces, not all parts of it will be accessible to visitors with limited mobility, so check out their website if you have any mobility difficulties.

Legal and Political History

Houses of Parliament

The two Houses of Parliament (the House of Commons and the House of Lords) are located in the Palace of Westminster, next to Westminster Abbey. 

You can book both guided tours and self-guided audio tours around the Palace of Westminster. The tours cover the history, art and architecture of the palace, as well as how the UK government operates. 

These tours are limited to times that Parliament is not in session, which usually means they are on Saturdays. 

Note – although Big Ben is part of the same complex of buildings, you need to book that as a separate tour if you want to visit it. 

You can also watch Parliament in session – there is a viewing gallery which is free to attend in the House of Commons.

Tickets are required for attendance at Prime Minister’s Questions each Wednesday and priority is given to UK residences, but other sessions aren’t ticketed and are just a matter of turning up and seeing what the queue is like. 

Royal Courts of Justice

For a combination of history and current events, consider a tour of The Royal Courts of Justice

There are regular tours of the Royal Courts of Justice, and many of these include the opportunity to sit in on a live court case if there is a court in session at the time. Tours must be pre-booked and pre-paid. 

You’ll be able to see part of this impressive building, and learn about some of its most notable cases as well as the British justice system generally. 

Art and Culture

British Library

Most parts of the British Library are only accessible to members, as it is a working research library. However, they have a room dedicated to some of the treasures of the library’s collection which is free and accessible for all. 

Note, the British Library’s website is recovering from a major cyber attack – it’s safe to visit the website but the information available is limited.

This exhibition includes some of the world’s most important documents. The original Magna Carta, Shakespeare’s first folio and a Gutenberg Bible are all held in the Treasures Gallery. 

Unless you want to examine these documents in detail you don’t need to spend a huge amount of time here, but it’s a great quick stop of history lovers who have an interest in literature. 

The National Gallery

National Gallery

The National Gallery is a fantastic choice for history fans to visit due to its extensive collection of art spanning centuries. 

From iconic masterpieces to lesser-known gems, the gallery has a wonderful collection that is worth seeing. Whether you’re fascinated by the Renaissance period or intrigued by modern art movements, the National Gallery has it all.

Even better, it’s one of London’s many excellent free museums. So you can pop in for a very brief visit without worrying that you haven’t gotten the most out of your money. 

Next door to the National Gallery is the National Portrait Gallery, another great arts option for history lovers. It contains original portraits of many famous historical characters, starting from Tudor monarchs (my favourite section!) through to current public figures. 

V&A South Kensington

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is a great choice for history enthusiasts due to its vast collection of decorative arts and design spanning centuries. The V&A has a few sites, but I am recommending the main museum in South Kensington.

It’s a slightly alternative choice to some of the others on this list, but it is a beautiful museum to visit with many stunning exhibits. Including a piece in the entrance hall by my favourite artist, Dale Chihuly. 

Chihuly sculpture at the V&A

From ancient artefacts to contemporary fashion pieces, the museum offers a comprehensive journey through the evolution of artistic styles and cultural influences over time.

Explore intricate textiles, exquisite ceramics, and iconic fashion pieces that provide insights into the social, political, and technological changes that have shaped history. 

The museum even contains reconstructed rooms to showcase different styles of design.

It’s another free museum, but you should book a slot online in advance. 

Scientific and Maritime History

Royal Observatory Greenwich

The Royal Observatory Greenwich is an obvious choice for visitors interested in scientific and maritime history. Located at the site of the Prime Meridian, it provides the opportunity to stand at the centre of world time and space.

 From exploring historical astronomical instruments to learning about the significance of Greenwich Mean Time, visitors can immerse themselves in the rich heritage of navigation and timekeeping.

The observatory’s stunning hilltop location also offers panoramic views of London, making it a must-visit destination for both history enthusiasts and those seeking a picturesque setting to enjoy.

On the downside, I do think it is slightly overpriced for what is there. So, I would primarily recommend it to people who are particularly interested in this area of history rather than for general visits.

Museum of London Docklands

I wasn’t entirely certain that I would enjoy the Museum of London Docklands the first time I visited, but I now think it really is underrated. 

While the main Museum of London site is closed, this outpost remains open. 

It’s slightly more awkward to get to than other sites on this list as it requires using the DLR in east London rather than one of the Tube lines, but it’s worth considering. 

The museum tells the story of what was once the world’s largest dock system, covering centuries of history from early development, the slave trade and through to modern redevelopment of the Docklands area. There is a lot to see and I found it much more enjoyable than I expected. Plus, it’s free!

Cutty Sark

The Cutty Sark is a great attraction for anyone interested in maritime history. As one of the last surviving tea clippers, this iconic ship offers a unique glimpse into the world of 19th-century seafaring. 

Visitors can explore the decks, learn about life aboard a historic vessel, and immerse themselves in the fascinating stories of global trade and exploration. The Cutty Sark’s restoration and interactive exhibits make it a good choice for kids as well as adults.

Personally, it falls further down my list than some other places in this article, but then again maritime history isn’t my preferred genre. 

Scientific Discovery and Natural History

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is perhaps the best museum in London. And it’s also free.

The building is beautiful, and the collection is extensive. Although this museum isn’t focused on human history, it is still a fascinating place to visit. 

Dinosaurs, various extinct animals, geothermal forces and scientific discovery are all explored in fantastic detail.

And for those who (like me) like shiny things, a visit to the Earth’s Treasury Gallery with its collection of precious gems is always fun. 

Crime and Death In History

If your interest leans slightly more towards the macabre (no judgment here!) there are a few options. 

Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery holds a unusual appeal for history fans due to its status as the final resting place of many notable figures.

Karl Marx is perhaps the most famous person to be buried here, but other prominent people include George Eliot, Michael Faraday and more recently, George Michael and Douglas Adams,

Highgate Cemetery is still used for burials, as well as people visiting the graves of loved ones, so obviously it is particularly important to be respectful when visiting. 

Jack The Ripper

One of the world’s most infamous serial killers, the identity of Jack the Ripper remains unknown. 

There are many tours revisiting the locations of the crimes, but I would recommend a tour that focuses more on the victims than the killer.

✅ Book your tour Jack the Ripper tour here!

The tours will take you around parts of east London that are generally overlooked by visitors to London. 

Areas Of London

Westminster

The area around Westminster is one of the best parts of London for any visitor to explore, but is particularly recommended for history fans. The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and Churchill War Rooms are all in this area.

The City of London

The Tower of London, London Roman wall, Billingsgate Roman House and Baths, and the Mithraeum are all found in the area in and near the City of London. 

Central London

The British Museum, British Library, National Gallery, Royal Courts of Justice and St Paul’s are all found in the centre of London. 

Final Thoughts

I hope you now know a bit more about the best history things to do in London. The city is full of historical places and so any history lover will find something to their taste. 

To work out how to use public transport to get to each site, I have a dedicated article about how to get around London. You may also want to know more about what London is famous for.

If you are still in the planning stages and want to know how many days you’ll need in London I can help you there as well!

Happy travels and enjoy the most interesting places for London history!

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