From awe-inspiring 11th century cathedrals or prehistoric coastlines which show remnants of the dinosaurs, little old blighty has a total of 33 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Luckily for you dear reader, four are actually in the Big Smoke with five not too far away – more on the sixth later. So, without further ado, here’s our rundown of ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in and near London for you to dig up. See what we did there?
UNESCO World Heritage Sites In London
1. The Tower of London
Kicking off this roundup of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London is one that really needs no introduction. Perhaps one of the most infamous prisons in the world, the imposing Tower of London houses the Crown Jewels and is rumoured to be one of the most haunted places in the UK – so keep an eye out for a headless Anne Boleyn or one of the two princes murdered by their uncle, King Richard III, wandering around the battlements.
It has stood for well over a thousand years, and doubles as a Historic Royal Palace. As well as visiting of your own accord, you can also join numerous guided tours to explore here throughout the year – including by the famous Yeoman Warders. This includes the famous ‘Changing of the keys’ ceremony, which has run for over 700 years – including during World Wars I and II – and forms part of the traditional ‘locking up’ of the Tower of London at 10pm every night. It’s well worth a visit! If you’re looking to explore this legendary building, then get a hold of your tickets here.
📍You’ll find The Tower of London at London, EC3N 4AB.
🚇 Nearest station is Tower Hill.
2. The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey
Another one of the most famous London UNESCO Sites here, the Houses of Parliament – Otherwise known as the Palace of Westminster – is London’s oldest palace and has been in continuous use since the 11th century. The clock tower, Big Ben, is one of the most iconic and Instagrammed places in the capital – if not the world – and nearby Westminster Abbey is England’s most important church and has been the site of coronation for all British monarchs since 1066 – not bad right?!
All three of these London landmarks can be visited on guided tours, though we’d particularly recommend paying the Abbey a visit if you’re running short on time. The legendary poet Sir John Betjeman billed its nave as the ‘best in Europe’, and even though we’re biassed, we’d have to agree. Get a hold of your tickets here.
📍You’ll find The Palace of Westminster at London, SW1A 0AA and Westminster Abbey at 20 Dean’s Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3PA.
🚇 Nearest station is Westminster.
3. Maritime Greenwich
Arguably one of London’s most beautiful spots, this UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum – where you’ll be able to discover ‘epic stories of exploration and endeavour that have shaped our world today’ – the Queen’s House Art Gallery and the famous Cutty Sark – the only ship of its kind left in the world.
While all of this is worth exploring, we’d recommend making your way to the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, which is arguably the jewel in the Royal borough’s crown. Nicknamed the ‘Sistine Chapel of England’, it’s an extraordinary place and an artistic masterpiece which is an ode to Baroque design. If you’re looking to see it in the flesh yourself, you can get a hold of your tickets here. Post-visit, head for a pint and a pie in the riverside pub the Trafalgar Tavern and soak up the cityscape views.
📍You’ll find Maritime Greenwich at Greenwich, London, SE10 8NA.
🚇 Nearest station is Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich.
4. Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
Rounding off this list of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London to visit is none other than the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew – officially the UK’s favourite and most Instagrammable garden in which to visit – and who are we to argue? It’s official!
This world-renowned spot is made up of over 50,000 living plants which can be discovered in a variety of different environments, ranging from the famous Arboretum to the Alpine rock garden – and it actually holds the title of being the world’s largest botanical garden. Not bad right? Pay a visit to the ten-story Chinese Pagoda, come face to face with a venus flytrap in the Temperate House or get a head for heights up atop the vertigo-inducing Aerial Walkway. Get your tickets here.
📍You’ll find the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Richmond, TW9 3AB.
🚇 Nearest station is Kew Gardens.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites Near London
A place of sun worship, a healing sanctuary, a sacred burial site, somewhere to get stuck in traffic at (if you know, you know)… whatever your take on Stonehenge, this 5,000-year-old English icon is one of the most important neolithic sites in the entire world.
Just shy of 90 miles from Central London, this magical and mystical place can easily be reached on a day trip, and on arrival you’ll be immersed into a world of ancient history, mythical legends, and captivating wonder via audio guide. Sign. Us. Up. Just don’t forget to bring your camera… Book onto a six-hour tour here.
📍You’ll find Stonhenge at Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP4 7DE.
🚇 Nearest station is Salisbury, though it’s a fair distance away so we’d recommend driving or coming via coach.
6. Canterbury Cathedral, St. Martin’s Church and St. Augustine’s Abbey
Founded in 597 AD, Canterbury is the UK’s oldest cathedral and is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Christians year on year. The head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, resides here, and it’s a pretty spellbinding place with a rich and absorbing history.
Perhaps the most famous story of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is that of Thomas Becket, a Royal chancellor and the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of his close friend, King Henry II. However, the relationship between the two men turned sour, and Becket was eventually killed by knights with close ties to the king. Interestingly enough, a candle burns continuously to mark the place where he was murdered. Some friends ey…
📍You’ll find Canterbury Cathedral at Cathedral House, 11 The Precincts, Canterbury, Kent. CT1 2EH.
🚇 Nearest stations are Canterbury East and Canterbury West.
7. City of Bath
A city famous for its Roman-built baths and grand Georgian architecture – which was featured in both Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte thank you very much – Bath is the only destination in the entire UK to have the whole city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Oh darling!
There’s plenty to do in this charming pocket of England. Peruse for trinkets across the Palladian-style Pulteney Bridge – yep it seriously has actual shops on it – soak your stresses away in the Thermae Bath Spa, immerse yourself in the dark world of author Mary Shelley and her famous gothic monster at the House of Frankenstein or take in the views from the tower of the mighty Bath Abbey. Go on – you know how much we love a view. If you’d like to visit the city on a day trip from London or Bristol, both can easily be arranged.
🚇 Trains arrive into Bath Spa which can be found at Dorchester Street, Bath Spa, BA1 1SU.
8. Blenheim Palace
An absolutely mahoooosivveeee country pile set amongst beautiful parkland in rural Oxfordshire, Blenheim Palace is home to the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, and was the birthplace of none other than Winston Churchill.
Constructed between 1705 and 1722, it’s of baroque design and is full to the rafters with exquisite tapestries, vast oil paintings and antique oak furniture. Don’t miss a visit to the Great Hall, which is 20-metres-tall and is adorned with paintings of the first Duke of Marlborough, or the Pleasure Gardens, which feature a butterfly house, a lavender garden and even a maze! One to take the kids to then… Speaking of kids, this is the last chance you’ll be able to take them on the Paddington™ Lo-Commotion – which features puppetry, theatrical live performances, creative activities and even a ride on a miniature train called Winston! Get involved here.
📍You’ll find Blenheim Palace at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PP.
🚇 Nearest station is Hanborough, though it’s a fair distance away so we’d recommend driving.
9. Jurassic Coast
Our penultimate entry onto this roundup of UNESCO World Heritage Sites is the Jurassic Coast – 95 miles of stunning coastal landscapes, stretching from East Devon to Dorset hugging the waters of the English Channel. It’s the only place in the world where 185 million years of geological history can be found. And that trembling glass of water? That’d be a dinosaur. Haha we’re joking Sam Neill, though there are many dinosaur footprints and fossils which have been unearthed here.
While the whole stretch is picturesque, we’d recommend making your way to Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove in Dorset. You might be fending off the crowds during the peak Summer months, and it’s a bit of a walk to get there, but boy is it worth it. Better yet – why not go for a dip?
📍You’ll find the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and East Devon. Lulworth Cove can be found at Main Road, West Lulworth, Wareham, Dorset, BH20 5RQ.
🚇 We’d recommend bringing a car if you’re wanting to explore the Jurassic Coast properly.
10. Jodrell Bank Observatory
Rounding off this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites near London is, well, one which isn’t near London at all, though it is relatively close to our friends up in Manchester. So we thought why the hell not!
Our most recent UNESCO World Heritage Site – only being made one in 2019 – it’s a world-leading science research institute which has been right at the very heart of groundbreaking discoveries and world-leading research in astrophysics and all that spacey stuff. There’s the Grade I-listed Lovell and Mark II Telescopes, four Pavilions, an arboretum and even a bloody music festival bluedot! This year saw Róisín Murphy, Young Fathers and Grace Jones headline. We’re already planning our trip next year…
📍You’ll find Jodrell Bank Observatory at Bomish Lane, Cheshire, Macclesfield, SK11 9DW.
🚇 Nearest station is Goostrey though it’s a fair distance away so we’d recommend driving.
So there you have it. A roundup of the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in London and the best UNESCO World Heritage Sites near London. From ancient cathedrals to postcard-worthy stretches of coast, there’s something for everyone here, so see where takes your fancy and hot foot your way there!