The City of London is the place where London began to be London.
This area of London stands out for two main reasons. The first is its contrast: tall and modern buildings like Gherkin or Walkie Talkie intermingle with old buildings like Leadenhall Market, Tower of London or St Paul ‘s Cathedral. And the second is for being the only part of the city that has its own jurisdiction (different from the rest of London), its own mayor and its own security forces.
Today, The City of London is one of the most important financial district in the world.
- Things to do in The City of London
- 📍 Tower of London
- 📍 Sky Garden
- 📍 Leadenhall Market
- 📍 St Paul’s Cathedral
- 📍 The Monument to the Great Fire of London
- 📍 St Dunstan in the East
- 📍 Tower Bridge
- 📍 Host Café
- 📍Tours and free tours around The City of London
- 📍 St Katharine Docks
- 📍 The Gherkin
- 📍 Royal Exchange
- 📍 Postman’s Park
- 📍 Bank of England Museum
- 📍 One New Change
- 📍 The Garden at the 120
- 📍Museum of the order of St John
- 📍Barbican centre
- 📍 Map to visit the City of London
Things to do in The City of London
📍 Tower of London
The Tower of London, located on the banks of the Thames, is one of the most famous buildings in London.
This fortress is the former residence of the British royal family. This is where Anne Boleyn was executed and where the Crown Jewels are currently housed. In addition, the Tower of London is protected by the Tower Guards (called Yeoman Warders or Beefeaters) and the Ravens.
The entrance to the Tower of London costs 34€ (included in the London Pass) and the approximate duration of the visit is 3-4 hours minimum. The entrance fee includes a 1 hour tour in English where you can learn more about the famous Beefeaters and what life was like at the Tower of London.
Also here is celebrated an ancient tradition that not everyone knows about: the ceremony of the keys. This ceremony, which dates back to the 14th century, symbolizes the closing of the doors of the Tower of London. You can attend it by booking a ticket in advance. But it is important for you to know that it is totally forbidden to take videos or photographs, and silence must be observed during the half-hour ceremony.
📍 Sky Garden
Sky Garden is a public garden located in the skyscraper known as the Walkie Talkie. It also has several restaurants and cocktail bars inside. Admission is free, which makes it one of the best places to visit for free in London.
Tickets sell out easily and can only be booked up to 3 weeks in advance. So I recommend you set an alarm or notification to get one. You can book them here.
You can also book a table at some of their restaurants and enjoy a post-meal walk around the premises.
📍 Leadenhall Market
Leadenhall Market has been a market since the Middle Ages. During the Roman period, it was a food market, and today it is a Victorian-style covered market with restaurants and small stores. It is characterized by its elegant style in cream and maroon colors and its impressive entrances, all represented with a large stone arch.
Also, as a fun fact, this place was the setting for the first Harry Potter movie. In one of the scenes, Hagrid and Harry walk through one of the alleys of this market to get to Leaky Cauldron Pub. Did you know that there are Harry Potter tours in London? You can book your ticket here.
📍 St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most important buildings to visit in London. Winston Churchill’s funeral or the wedding ceremony of Diana of Wales and Prince Charles are some of the events that have taken place inside this iconic building.
During the Great Fire of London in 1666, St. Paul’s Cathedral was completely ruined and had to be rebuilt practically from scratch, giving rise to the majestic cathedral it is today. In addition, St Paul’s Cathedral is considered the second largest cathedral in the world, after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
St Paul’s Cathedral is such an important place for the city of London that even its view is protected. That is, there is an urban law that prohibits the construction of buildings of certain characteristics in some parts of the city to prevent St Paul’s Cathedral from being seen from those places.
The entrance to St Paul’s Cathedral costs 24€ and is included in the London Pass. Inside you can visit the crypt where lie the remains of illustrious figures of history, the Whispering Gallery – which has a peculiar acoustics – and the Golden Gallery, located 85 meters high and with stunning views of London.
📍 The Monument to the Great Fire of London
This monument, located on the corner of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill, pays tribute to the great fire that swept through the City of London in 1666. It is also the tallest stone column in the world (over 60 meters high). It can be visited for free with the London Pass. But, be prepared to climb the 311 stairs it has!
📍 St Dunstan in the East
This place is one of those unknown corners that appear in few guidebooks or travel articles. St Dunstan in the East, now turned into a spectacular public park, is the story of an ill-fated church that was rebuilt twice and kept falling into ruins.
The City is the oldest part of the city, where the Great Fire of London originated that wiped out most of the city, including this church. In addition, also during World War II, St Dunstan in the East suffered severe damage. The decision was not to rebuild the church again and to transform it into a somewhat different London park.
📍 Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge, or London Bridge to some (including me the first time I came to London), is London’s most iconic landmarks and one of the main symbols of the city. Its real name is Tower Bridge, although many of us assumed it was London Bridge.
Crossing Tower Bridge is one of the essential things to do in London, but did you know that you can visit its interior? Admission is free with the London Pass and gives you access to the inside of Tower Bridge. In addition to visiting the engine room, you can cross this famous bridge through its glass platform. You can book tickets here.
📍 Host Café
Host Café is one of those places in London that I would like to keep secretly just for myself. It’s a small coffee shop located inside St Mary Aldermary, offering hot drinks, sandwiches and pastries.
It is open Monday to Friday, 7am to 3pm. They also offer special packages for those who wish to telecommute from there and book a table.
📍Tours and free tours around The City of London
📍 St Katharine Docks
The most central dock in the city is located right next to the Tower of London and is called St Katharine Docks. These former warehouses specialized in luxury goods, and although most have been transformed into modern offices and spectacular restaurants, the structure of its central warehouse, known as Ivory House, still remains.
You can have a coffee at White Mulberries, a pint at its famous brewery The Dickens Inn – which dates back to the 18th century – or take a boat to Greenwich and Westminster. The Thames river trip lasts 30 min/1 hour and allows you to cruise down this famous river and see London’s must-see sights from a different perspective. You can book your tickets here.
📍 The Gherkin
Located at 30 St Mary Axe, The Gherkin is famous for its peculiar, rocket-like structure clad entirely in glass. It is one of the city’s best-loved and best-known skyscrapers. It stands on the former Baltic Exchange building, destroyed by a bomb of the IRA terrorist group.
Searcys at the Gherkin is a restaurant/bar located in this building, ideal for enjoying dinner or cocktails overlooking the City. In addition, the restaurant on its top floor is exclusive to members of its own club.
📍 Royal Exchange
This former London financial institution is one of the most elegant buildings in the City. Once a meeting place for traders, it is now a luxury shopping center located in the heart of the financial district. Ladurée, Fortnum & Mason and Tiffany & co. are some of the brands you can find in Royal Exchange.
📍 Postman’s Park
It is a small and quiet park located in this part of the city, ideal to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the city.
📍 Bank of England Museum
The Central Bank of England is one of the places you can’t miss in this area of London. Sir John Soane is the architect of the current Bank of England building; I tell you this detail because this gentleman (Sir John Soane) also has his own museum in Holborn.
During your visit to the Central Bank of England you will learn about the workings of the bank, its financial system and its history through interactive exhibits and illustrations.
📍 One New Change
This is an open secret that you probably already know about.
One New Change is a shopping mall located near St. Paul’s Cathedral. On its top floor it has a free rooftop terrace with an amazing panoramic view of its famous cathedral. In addition, also on this rooftop is located Madison, a cocktail bar ideal for a drink with a view.
📍 The Garden at the 120
Continuing with places with breathtaking views is The Garden at the 120. This public garden, with free access, is located in the skyscraper 120 Fenchurch St. From here you can see the Tower of London, The Shard, Sky Garden and The Gherkin, among other buildings.
Also in this building is 14 Hills, a restaurant with breathtaking views as you can imagine.
📍Museum of the order of St John
Unlike the National Gallery, the British Museum or the Natural History Museum, this museum goes largely unnoticed by most tourists. Admission is free and it is open from Thursday to Saturday. Inside you will learn the history of this ancient religious military order that began caring for sick pilgrims in the 11th century in Jerusalem.
This center is one of London’s largest and most comprehensive art institutions. It has a concert hall, two theaters and two cinemas, numerous galleries, a public bookshop, restaurants, cafes and the second largest orangery in London.