Traveling London is an exciting adventure, there is so much to see and do it’s hard to fit it all into one trip but using the following guide will help you plan your visits to the top landmarks in London.
Buckingham Palace is another official residence of the British monarchy but it also serves as the administrative headquarters. Like Kensington Palace, the state rooms are also open to the public every year for most of August and September. This palace is most often used by the reigning royalty to host visitors and more than 50,000 guests are invited to participate in official events each year.
Trafalgar Square is the largest square in London and is considered a central meeting site for many since the Middle Ages. Back in the Middle Ages the site was known as Charing and then Charing Cross. In the center of the square is Nelson’s Column in honor of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson. Throughout the square are a number of other statues and two fountains. Circling the square are many historical buildings that are also great stops for tourists.
Big Ben is a nickname for the bell of the clock in the Palace of Westminster but the nickname often is used to refer to the clock tower itself. The first clock tower in Westminster was built in 1288 but was destroyed in 1834 and the new one was built in its place. The tower is a famous tourist attraction but the interior is not open to the public, well actually it’s not open to non-U.K. residents. The clock is known for its accuracy but small adjustments must be made regularly, this is done by putting a penny on or taking a penny off of the top of the pendulum. One penny creates a 0.4 second adjustment.
Parliament is the where all official government activities take place for the United Kingdom. It is where laws are made, debates are held, and the House of Commons and House of Lords meet to complete their elected duties. Parliament is open to the public and visitors can watch committee hearings and debates. Although debates are open to the public year round, foreigners are only allowed to tour Parliament during the Summer Opening.
Westminster Abbey is actually nickname for The Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster and is the traditional site of English and British coronations and burials. According to tradition the Abbey was first founded in the 600s, proven origins are in the 960s or early 970s. It wasn’t until around 1045 to 1050 that a stone Abbey was built on the location. And the present church didn’t come into being until 1245. Tours are open to the public regularly and guests can attend mass if they wish.
Located on the Thames Embankment, Cleopatra’s Needle is an obelisk that was originally constructed for Tuthmose III. The originally hieroglyphics praised Tuthmose and later ones were added by Ramesses II to celebrate his victories. The area is decorated with other touches of Egyptian art and architecture and seem pleasingly out of place on the riverbank.
Piccadilly Circus in London is much like Times Square in New York, it’s a famous road junction in the center of the city. Built in 1819, Piccadilly Circus originally connected the major shopping district of Piccadilly and Regent Street but now has grown into tie in the theater district and several other major streets. If you’re out and about in London it’s almost impossible to miss Piccadilly Circus.
Tower Bridge in London is a very recognizable structure situated over the River Thames. The two towers on the bridge are connected at the top by walkways, cars actually drive along the lower portion. Each day more than 40,000 people, both motorists and pedestrians, cross the bridge. Because the Tower Bridge is such an iconic structure it’s often called the London Bridge but the London Bridge is actually further upstream and not nearly as impressive.
The Tower of London began in the early 1080s as a stone tower created by William the Conqueror and was something totally unique in its day. Throughout the centuries the monarchs that followed added to the fort, turning it into a massive structure that serves as a fortress, palace and prison. There are a number of things to do at the Tower of London during your visit and many exhibits to see including the crown jewels, Henry VIII’s arms and armor, the Medieval Palace and Tower Green, the site of many noted executions. But one of the sites that many visitors don’t catch a glimpse of are the many ghosts of the Tower of London, keep your eyes peeled in case you’re lucky enough to see one of these elusive attractions.
Since 604 AD a cathedral dedicated to St. Paul has stood on this site. Today’s structure is the fourth such cathedral and dates back to 1675. The cathedral is a cornerstone for the Christian faith in London and has served as the church of choice for many significant events throughout the centuries. In 2010 the cathedral will celebrate its 300th anniversary (construction wasn’t officially completed until 1710) and multiple celebrations and events will be held in honor of this iconic structure.
Kensington Palace has been a residence for the British Royal Family since the 17th century and is considered the primary residence of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess of Kent. It is probably best known as the primary residence of Diana, Princess of Wales until her death. Visitors can tour the state rooms which are opened to the public. As you can imagine there are a great deal of stories, some true some not, associated with Kensington Palace.
These are just a few of the most popular landmarks in London, there are several others that top tourist lists of things to see and do. It’s difficult not to get overwhelmed by the historical significance of almost everything around you. London is an incredible place to visit and there’s a little bit of something for everyone’s tastes.
Photo credit: Wikipedia