It has one of the most famous addresses in the world and the most photographed door in England, yet many don't even bother including 10 Downing Street in their London travel because they can't even get close to it. But even though you can't even step inside 10 Downing Street, let alone walk down Downing Street, just snapping a photo of the iconic front black door is a tourist activity in itself.

10 Downing Street is essentially London's White House, and has been the official address for British prime ministers since 1735. The first residential home which was built on the site of 10 Downing Street was constructed by Sir Thomas Knyvett in 1581; (who was perhaps best known for arresting Guy Fawkes after the gunpowder plot). Some of the many famous political figures who once lived and/or worked at 10 Downing Street include Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Pitt the Younger, Robert Walpole, Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone and David Lloyd George.

Both the first and second world wars were directed from inside 10 Downing Street, and some of the many key decisions related to the British Empire were developed here as well; (such as the building of the British nuclear bomb, the Great Depression, and many more).

10 Downing Street also stretches all the way to 12 Downing Street (because of its interconnected corridors and buildings which make up much of the street), and many important world leaders visit 10 Downing Street throughout the year whenever the British prime minister hosts a reception or charitable event.

10 Downing Street, gates. By David Holt 10 Downing Street, heads of state dinner
10 Downing Street, police. By Eric Huang 10 Downing Street, security sign. By David Holt 10 Downing Street, sign. By Dave Storm

10 Downing Street Highlights

10 Downing Street's front door is said to be the most photographed front door in all of Britain, and can only be seen when looking through the gates from Whitehall; (where you can see the single white stone step and the black steel door with the number “10” on it). The door was originally made of oak, but was replaced with blast-proof material in 1991 after an IRA bomb exploded in the nearby garden.

For those with good eyesight and/or a camera with a good zoom, you should be able to see the front door's black iron knocker (in the shape of a lion's head) as well as the brass letter box with the “First Lord of the Treasury” inscription.

The iconic black bricks of the house are also famous (although they are actually yellow underneath). They were blackened by the London smog during the 19th century, and as a result were painted black during the 1960s since people were accustomed to seeing them that way.

Inside 10 Downing Street is a treasure trove of architectural delights that very few people get to see (unless you're famous, or a royal, of course). Its main staircase is perhaps one of the most famous highlights of the house, as the walls along the staircase are lined with portraits of past British prime ministers.

Special Tips

  • For the best views, you can get a clear shot of 10 Downing Street when taking a ride on the top deck of a double decker bus (specifically on route #11). You can also get a good view of 10 Downing Street when taking a ride on the London Eye as well.
  • If you're hoping to snap a photo of the prime minister entering or leaving the residence, be sure to bring a good camera with an extra good zoom.
  • If you're lucky, the armed police officers may be friendly enough to pose for a photo with you or answer your questions.
  • Try to avoid lingering around Downing Street during a protest or demonstration; (although this only happens on rare occasions).