Get to know London’s architectural treasures on these specialised tours that showcase some of the city’s most incredible buildings. Immerse yourself in the Brutalist beauty of the Barbican Centre, delve into the political history of the Houses of Parliament, wander through Kensington Palace’s regal gardens, explore centuries-old pubs, or venture into the picturesque Cotswolds. Here’s our guide to top London tours for architecture lovers.
(WA= Wheelchair Accessible)
Image Courtesy of Get Your Guide
Explore London’s Brutalist scene
Between the mid-1950’s and 70’s, Brutalism well and truly thrived across the capital, established as a movement against mainstream architecture. These days serve as an important snapshot into the history of London and its people. On this Brutalist Architecture and History Tour, you’ll get to discover the history of Brutalism through some of London’s central neighbourhoods. Your local guide will lead you through the journey of post-war buildings, engaging in captivating discussions about Modernist monumental architecture and delving into its profound cultural, social and environmental impact on a global scale, including discussing the ongoing debates surrounding the future of these iconic sites.
Brutalist Architecture and History Tour | Central London
Get political on this Houses of Parliament walking tour
Get right into the heart of British democracy on this Houses of Parliament tour, which takes you on a journey through British politics. Explore inside Parliament, where most tours are usually only led by audio guides, and enjoy a visit with an informed London guide. Hear all about the history of the building as you wander around the rooms and antechambers, including the Chamber of the House of Lords and the unelected Upper House, hearing tales about the rooms that forged the British empire. Enjoy admiring the striking Gothic architecture and listen to stories about the national heroes buried in the crypts – including Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit Westminster Hall, an ancient, Mediaeval meeting place that’s served as a political function space for almost 1,000 years. Enjoy an up-close look at the rooms where TV crews don’t visit, including the Division Lobbies.
The building is a hit amongst architecture fans; much of it dates back to when King Henry III reigned and is a testament to the Gothic style of architecture. Each part of the church is unique in its own way; the Pyx chamber still has original Medieval Masons’ Marks inscribed on the walls, and the columns in the main arches are made of Purbeck marble – a fossiliferous limestone found in the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. Inside, there’s also a luxurious sculptured chantry chapel that exudes elegance, built over Henry V’s tomb as he requested in his will. Each section tells its own story through how and when it was built.
Houses of Parliament Tour | Westminster
Stroll around Kensington Palace and enjoy an afternoon tea
Kensington Palace has played a vital role in shaping the history of Britain’s monarchy since it was built in the 1600s, so it feels right to include it on our list of top London tours for architecture lovers. The palace is a complex building in terms of architecture and has had many notable architects working on it over the years, including Wren, Hawksmoor, Vanbrugh and more. Building initially commenced at the start of the 17th century and was completed in 1899, with many members of the Royal family calling it their home in-between, always leaving their architectural mark by making changes here and there throughout their stay. The Palace houses a whopping 547 rooms, kitted out with regal furniture, paintings and rooms decorated in different styles by different monarchs over many years. A fun fact: Queen Victoria was even born in the palace.
While the Monarchy remains a controversial topic within the UK, there’s no doubt that this beautiful Jacobean mansion is a sight to behold with its Gothic style. On this Kensington Palace Gardens tour, you’ll enjoy a peaceful stroll around the manicured palace gardens, admiring the water features, Sunken Garden and flora maintained year-round. You’ll be led by a guide who will fill you in with interesting insights and the history of the royal family along the way before stopping by the Kensington Palace Pavilion for a British afternoon tea. Expect classics like egg mayonnaise and smoked salmon sandwiches and traditional scones with cream and jam, or jam and cream (it’s an ongoing British debate of which ingredient goes first. So whatever floats your boat).
Kensington Palace Gardens Tour with Royal High Tea | Kensington | WA
Image Courtesy of The Viaduct Tavern
See some of the city’s most interesting pubs
London’s pub history runs deep, rooted in the history and heritage of the UK, boasting an impressive array of over 3,500 establishments, some of which have welcomed drinkers since the 14th century. Unsurprisingly, London has earned a well-deserved reputation as a thriving hub for pub enthusiasts, and this Tour of London’s Historic Pubs grants you the opportunity to fully explore it alongside an expert Londoner. Follow your guide through the City of London via Fleet Street, Blackfriars and Holborn as you visit iconic pubs renowned for their drinks and atmosphere. Hear facts about the pubs as you visit each one and sample drinks along the way. Each and every pub in London tells a story through architecture, with the latter end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th being a prime time for pub architecture. Many were designed solely to lure paying punters to drink and stay for long periods of time, meaning they were built to be eye-catching, equally inside and out. So, keep your eyes peeled for the different styles of each pub you visit, whether that be an Edwardian or Victorian establishment, and be sure to pay attention to the small details. Either way, you’ll pass all kinds of buildings throughout the tour as you traverse some of London’s most popular and interesting streets.
Historical Pubs Walking Tour | City of London
Visit the rolling hills of the Cotswolds
There are few places as quintessentially British as the Cotswolds; think lush rolling hills, quaint cobbled streets and pockets of picturesque villages surrounded by vast pastures. It’s easy to head on a day trip to visit this slice of English countryside, and the best way to do so if you want to keep the planning to a minimum is by heading on a Cotswolds Tour from London. Hop on a comfortable air-conditioned coach and head for the rural hills, where you’ll be met with stone-built villages and a warm, old-world atmosphere. The style of architecture in the Cotswolds is often referred to as the storybook style, which is fitting since every building looks like it’s been plucked straight from a fairytale. It encompasses everything the archetypal English countryside village has been defined to be, with most of the buildings constructed in the region’s signature sandy-coloured limestone. It’s for sure one of the most picturesque and historic areas in the UK, and any trip here feels like a giant leap back in time to a bygone era. Expect to see buildings dating back to the Mediaeval Ages when the area was a hub for Wool Trading, and reminders of a Roman time, with well-preserved Roman and Romano-British villas nestled amongst the lush rolling hills. Before stopping for a traditional two-course English lunch at an old Cotswold hotel restaurant, you’ll have ample time to stroll around the towns and villages, including places like Burford, Bibury and Stow-in-the-Wold. Get your cameras ready for this one.
Lunch in the Cotswolds – Tour from London | Cotswolds
Learn about Brutalism at the Barbican
The Barbican is at the epicentre of Brutalist architecture, so it’s no surprise they host their own architecture tours. The 90-minute New Perspectives tour is an excellent way to get acquainted with brutalism; it’s led by an expert guide who will take you around the Barbican and surrounding Brutalist estate, over high walks, through leafy courts and to lesser-explored corners. You’ll get to learn about the vision and ambition behind the design of the buildings whilst gaining an insight into the site’s past, present and future.
New Perspectives Tour | Barbican Estate
Roam around the historic Tower of London
The Tower of London is arguably one of the most impressive historic establishments in London, so it’s only fitting to include it in our roundup of top London tours for architecture lovers. On this Tower of London tour, you’ll get to skip the crowds and enjoy early access so that you’re one of the first visitors of the day. Explore over 1,000 years of British history, listening to your Blue Badge guide (London guides that have detailed, in-depth knowledge of London’s highlights) as they tell interesting facts and stories about the tower’s fascinating and, at times, sordid happenings. Roam around this UNESCO World Heritage Site, built as a fortress on the Thames by William the Conquerer in 1066 as a way to assert his power, hearing stories along the way. The huge White Tower is a fine example of Normal Military architecture, and inside, you’ll find a beautiful 11th-century Romanesque chapel and an incredible Royal Armouries collection. The Tower of London perfectly demonstrates how royal buildings have evolved from the 11th to the 16th centuries, offering a valuable glimpse back in time and allowing us to reimagine what went on between the walls of each structure. Stroll across Tower Green, the home of many grisly executions, including two of Henry VIII’s wives, before seeing the priceless Crown Jewels. The Imperial State Crown has a whopping 2,868 diamonds. Finish the tour with a sightseeing City Cruises flexible one-way ticket to round off your London experience.
Tower of London Tour | Tower Hill | WA