London, one of the oldest cities in Europe, has existed for more than two millennia. Founded by the Romans, then repeatedly attacked by the Vikings, and nearly destroyed during “The Great Fire” of 1666, London is so steeped in suffocating history that it officially contains four World Heritage Sites.
London is for living, albeit at a soberingly high cost for everything. However, it is an amazing city to enjoy, with something new and exciting to discover just around the corner or just a short tube or double-decker ride away.
A diverse and international city, but still distinctly British, any visit to London is always full of new encounters. You can savor the diversity of almost any cuisine you can think of while people-watching on the street. With so much to do, you can also take time to relax on a park bench while enjoying the view of people wandering through the verdant gardens of Hyde Park or one of the many other city parks.
Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The lavishly furnished State Rooms of the Palace are open to the public from late July to September. I suggest you get tickets well in advance as they usually sell out much sooner. These large rooms are adorned with pieces from the Royal Collection, including pieces painted by leading European artists, including Rembrandt.
The changing of the guard
The Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace takes place, weather permitting, at 11:30 a.m. every other day during the fall, winter and spring, and every day during the summer months. Everyone should see this, it’s interesting. We recommend you arrive 15 to 30 minutes before.
St James’s Park
Opposite the palace is the beautiful St. James’s Park, a large and popular park with a lake in the middle and flower gardens in the warmer months. At the opposite end is Horse Guards Parade, where mounted military ceremonies are held. It was once the official entrance leading to Buckingham Palace, but mounted sentries of the Queen’s Household Cavalry can still be seen today.
the london eye
One of the most popular attractions in central London is the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel that faces the River Thames. The Eye offers great views of the city as there are few skyscrapers in London. With 32 oval-shaped capsules that hold up to 25 passengers each, with plenty of room to walk around inside, you can see the city from many angles. A trip takes about 30 minutes.
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
As one of London’s most recognizable features, Big Ben is not actually the name of a tower, but rather the name of the largest of the five bells within the east tower, or clock tower, at the Palace of Westminster, too. known as Parliament. Designed in the Gothic Revival style and standing some 16 stories tall, the beautiful structure can be seen from many areas of the city, including the London Eye. The east tower is now known as Elizabeth Tower after Queen Elizabeth to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee on the throne.
The interior of this famous clock tower is not open to foreign visitors, but the exterior can be admired from the street or from across Westminster Bridge.
The Palace of Westminster has been the scene of several interesting treason trials. In these hallowed halls, Braveheart was sentenced to death in 1305 and after Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up Parliament, met the same fate in 1606. Today Guy Fawkes Day is unofficially celebrated.
In the heart of London is Westminster Abbey, one of the oldest and most important examples of Gothic architecture in Britain. The Abbey has paintings, historical artifacts and beautiful stained glass windows. Some of the most recognized people in the country have been buried here. At least 16 royal weddings have taken place at the Abbey, including the most recent of Prince William and Lady Catherine Middleton. It is the traditional place for coronations.
Organ recitals can be heard every Sunday afternoon. The Abby also has a museum that includes a collection of royal burial effigies, medieval glass, and the coronation chair of Mary II. A true part of British history, Westminster Abbey is an exceptional building.
Tower of London
Overlooking the River Thames is the Tower of London, which was built in the 11th century, until the Tudor period, it was a royal residence. Part of it was also used as a royal prison. One of the most famous and disturbing events that occurred in the Tower was the illegal imprisonment of the 12-year-old Prince Edward, the rightful heir to the throne of England, and his younger brother, Richard, in 1483. They are believed to have been murdered by the opportunistic, future King Richard III. Thus, the Tower of London has a prominent role in English history and is recognized today as a World Heritage Site.
The Tower is made up of several buildings located within a moat and defensive walls. The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror, the famous Norman invader, in 1078 and he used it to screen out other potential invaders and counter-usurpers. But Londoners of the time saw it as a symbol of Norman foreign oppression and the Anglo-Saxon majority bitterly resented it.
Today the main room has a timeline of five hundred years of royal armour, including that of Henry VIII, which was made extra large. The Royal Palace has a recreation of King Edward I’s bedchamber as it would have looked during his lifetime.
the crown jewels
One of the most interesting sections of the Tower of London is the vault that contains the Crown Jewels. The Royal Collection includes the regalia and vestments worn by the sovereign during important state ceremonies, as the collection has great cultural and patriotic significance. Some of the most fascinating pieces you can see include the Imperial State Crown, St. Edward’s Crown, the Scepter with Cross, the Sovereign’s Orb, and any other pieces covered with gold, diamonds, and other precious and semi-precious stones. If you like that stuff, that’s awesome.
Piccadilly Circus, an old road junction in London’s West End dating back to Roman times, has a similar vibe to Times Square in New York City. Located near major shops and theaters, it’s a bustling place with throngs of tourists and locals of all ages, huge illuminated billboards, and classic red double-decker buses. directly below this circus or intersection is the Piccadilly Circus ‘Underground’ tube station, the London Underground which provides easy access.
Enjoying a show in London’s West End is well worth it. From musicals to theater, the incredible costumes, singing, dancing, and sets are likely to at least hold your interest, and you might even be openly enthralled while watching one of these productions. If you haven’t booked a ticket in advance, head to Leicester Square where you can find a box office selling tickets for that night’s performances. It’s a great way to get a very reasonable price for a seat at one of these amazing shows.
A visit to the largest square in London, Trafalgar Square, which has been a meeting point since the Middle Ages, you can often find impromptu performances, meet interesting people and a variety of backpackers, and watch other activities in the square with the Nelson’s Column, flocks of pigeons, and the famous stone lions.
Above all, London is a city of people, a place where you can meet other like-minded people. It is a stimulating, adventurous and very sociable place. There is never a bad time to visit London; and any visit to this fascinating city will leave you wanting more.