The first time I visited London was by chance. We were crossing through Europe on our way to the Far East, and we made a stop at London. Though we were there a short time, I can say that it was a memorable trip and one of the best cities I’ve ever visited. Since then, I’ve visited London several times. Not only does it offer great sites, shopping, and restaurants, but the history of England and the culture of its people are best reflected in the monuments, museums, architecture, and its famous landmarks. The city itself offers many guided package tours. The individualist can make use of the public transports such as double-decker city buses, Underground (Tube) railway system, or ferry boat rides along the Thames River to explore the city on your own. Our group took both a guided tour, a boat ride, and walks along the city using a map. It’s not possible to conclude the complete tour of London in one day, but here are some of the sites I found interesting.
London features many historical landmarks including The Buckingham Palace, home of The Queen and Prince Philip. Guided tours are available for morning hours which include Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Opportunity for a traditional Pub Lunch, and Crown Jewels on display at the Tower of London, founded by William the Conqueror in 1066. This is one of London’s most spectacular fortresses. The Beefeaters, who guard the Tower, will share the stories behind the Crown Jewels, Cullinan diamonds, Koh-i-Noor diamond, and crown used at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Other Palaces in London:
For fans of The Royal Family, a guided tour can cover the lesser known palaces including: Kensington Palace (Enchanted Palace), Eltham Palace, Eton Manor, Fulham Palace, Lambeth Palace, The Royal Mews, and more.
Designed by the famed architect John Nash, the Capital of England is the central hub of all government matters. Points of interest include:
Big Ben, Parliament House, and the Palace of Westminster
Built circa 1858 and named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the Big Ben Clock Tower forms part of the Houses of Parliament (called the Palace of Westminster), ringing out one of the world’s biggest bells weighing 13.5 tons . The light at the top of the tower, when lit, indicates that House of Commons is sitting. The nearby Victoria Tower is the tallest and largest of the Westminster towers. The Clock Tower is not open to the public so you won’t be able to climb the steps leading to the belfry.
Visitors are welcome in both House of Lords and House of Commons public galleries when the houses are sitting. A queue outside St. Stephen’s entrance takes you to the middle of the buildings. Parliament Square at the next road junction honors numerous statues in an area called St. Stephen’s Green.
Built around 1680, homes of the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer are found at the famous 10 Downing Street and 11 Downing Street (not open to the public).
A great way to check out London bridges is to take a ride along the Thames River which will directly pass under one of these: The London Bridge, Millennium Bridge, and The Tower Bridge.
Cathedrals and Abbeys
Open to tourists, but are closed on Sundays are The Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Famous for its pigeons (though tourists are not encouraged to feed them), the centerpiece here is Nelson’s Column supporting a large statue of Admiral Nelson, built around 1830s. Four bronze lions stand at the base of the column made from actual cannons used at the Battle of Trafalgar.
A central hub in the West End is a common meeting place for Londoners. At the center is Piccadilly Circus’s famous fountain featuring Eros, or the Angel of Christian Charity. A number of streets emanate from here, including Regent Street, designed by John Nash in 1812, as a boulevard for shopping leading to Oxford Circus, and Shaftesbury Avenue with its many theatres.
There’s much more to the city than tourist spots. For example, you still haven’t seen Whitehall Street, Old Truman Brewery, Royal Artillery Barracks, Chelsea Barracks, The British Library, and the Nightlife scene. That’s why packaged tours will be categorized by the “Royal Majestic London”, “The Essential London”…and so forth. Make sure to bring your camera and an enthusiasm for history, art, and culture because this is one city that never sleeps!